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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XLI: to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria

Description

This epistle is from Book XIII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. In it Gregory strongly urges Eulogius to rid the Alexandrine Church of the simonaical heresy.

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 Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria.

A conversation having arisen one day between me and my familiar friends about the customs of churches, one who had studied the art of medicine in the great city of Alexandria told us that he had a fellow-student attending the same lectures, a boy of extreme depravity, who, he said, had been suddenly ordained a deacon. And he added that he had procured ordination by bribes and gifts; for he acknowledged that this custom had prevailed in the holy Alexandrine Church. On hearing this I was amazed, and exceedingly surprised that the tongue of the most holy and blessed man the lord Eulogius, which recalls so many heretics to the catholic faith, has not extirpated simoniacal heresy from the holy Alexandrine Church. And who will there be whose exhortation or correction will be able to amend this, if his great and admirable teaching shall have left it without amendment?

Wherefore, for the absolution of your soul, for the increase of your reward, that your works may be in all respects perfect before the eyes of the tremendous Judge, you ought to make haste utterly to pull up and eradicate simoniacal heresy, which was the first to arise in the Church, from your most holy See, which is our's.

For on this account it comes to pass that the holiness of ecclesiastical orders falls away from very many, because persons are promoted to these orders, not for their life and deeds, but for bribes. But if meritorious character, and not bribes, be sought after, unworthy persons will not come to ordination. And by so much the more will reward begin to accrue to you as any good men who have been promoted to sacred orders shall have devoted themselves to the care of winning souls.

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.