Fathers of the Church

Epistle Xl: to Cyriacus, Patriarch of Constantinople

Description

This epistle is from Book XIII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. In it Gregory beseeches Cyriacus to forego the proud title of "ecumenical patriarch" that his predeccessor, John IV, had taken.

Provenance

St. Gregory (b. 540 in Rome) was elected pope at the age of 50, serving from 590 to 604. In 14 years he accomplished much for the Church. England owes her conversion to him. At a period when the invasion of the barbarian Lombards created a new situation in Europe, he played a great part in winning them for Christ. At the same time, he watched equally over the holiness of the clergy and the maintenance of Church discipline, the temporal interests of his people of Rome and the spiritual interests of all Christendom. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade the taking of money for many services, and emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and victims of plague and famine. Gregory also reformed the liturgy, and it still contains several of his most beautiful prayers. The name "Gregorian chant" recalls this great Pope's work in the development of the Church's music. His commentaries on Holy Scripture exercised a considerable influence on Christian thought in the Middle Ages. Following his death in 604, his numerous epistles, including the following letter, were compiled into the Papal Register of Letters.

by Gregory the Great in 603 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Cyriacus, &c.

Observing diligently, most dear brother, how great is the virtue of peace from the Lord's voice, which says, My peace I give unto you (Joh. xiv. 27), it becomes us so to abide in the love thereof as in no wise to give place to discord. But, since we cannot otherwise live in its root except by retaining in mind and in deed the humility which the very author of peace has taught, we entreat you with befitting charity, that, treading down with the foot of your heart the profane elation which is always hostile to souls, you make haste to remove from the midst of the Church the offence of a perverse and proud title, lest you should possibly be found divided from the society of our peace. But let there be in us one spirit, one mind, one charity, one bond in Christ, who has willed us to be his members. For let your Holiness consider how hard it is, how indecent, how cruel, how alien from the aim of a priest, not to have that peace which you preach to others, and so abstain from offending your brethren out of pride. But study this rather, how you may prostrate with the sword of humility the author of vain and profitless elation, to the end that in such a victory the grace of the Holy Spirit may claim you as a habitation for Himself, so that what is written may be plainly fulfilled in you; the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (2 Cor. vi.

We commend to you in all things the bearer of these presents, our most beloved common son, the deacon Boniface, that in whatsoever may be needful he may find, as is becoming, the succour of your Holiness.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/XIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.