Fathers of the Church

Epistle LIX: to Theoderic, King of the Franks

Description

This epistle is from Book XI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. In it Gregory asks Theoderic to order a synod to be assembled so that the widespread simonaical heresy can be condemned in his kingdom. He also informs Theoderic that some monks will be traveling through France to England to assist Augustine, and he asks the king to help them on their way.

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 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Theoderic, &c.

The letter of your Excellency, which is the index of your heart, has so shewn, in its flow of lucid language, what great prudence is conspicuous in you, along with royal power, that there can be no doubt of the truth of whatever fame has reported in your praise. And inasmuch as you signify, by what you say in praise of it, that our exhortation has so pleased your royal mind that you wish whatever you know to pertain to the worship of our God, to the veneration of Churches, or to the honour of priests, to be both carefully established and in all ways guarded, we appeal to you with a renewed exhortation, with a view to your greater reward, that you would order a synod to be assembled, and, as we have before written, cause corporal vices in priests and the pravity of simoniacal heresy to be condemned by the definition of all the bishops, and to be cut off within the limits of your kingdom, and allow not any longer money to have more effect than the precepts of the Lord. For, since all avarice is the service of idols, whosoever does not watchfully guard against it, and especially in the bestowal of ecclesiastical honours, is subjected to the perdition of infidelity, even though he may seem to hold the faith which he disregards. As, then, against external enemies, so also against adversaries of souls among yourselves, take ye earnest heed, that on account of this your faithful opposition to God's enemies you may both reign prosperously here under His protection, and also come hereafter by the leading of His grace to eternal joys.

Furthermore, what benefits your Excellence bestowed on our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine on his progress to the nation of the Angli we have been told by certain monks who have returned to us froth him. Wherefore, returning abundant thanks, we beg that you will deign to afford your support in full measure to these monks also who have been sent to him, and to aid them on their onward journey, so that the more amply you shew your kindness to them, the greater return you may expect from Almighty God, whom they serve.

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.