Fathers of the Church
Epistle XXVII: to Anastasius, Bishop
by Gregory the Great in 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d
Gregory to Anastasius, Bishop of Antioch.
I have received through the hands of our common son the deacon Sabinianus the longed for letter of your most sweet Holiness, in which the words have flowed not from your tongue but from your soul. And it is not surprising that one speaks well who lives perfectly. And, since you have learnt, through the Spirit teaching you in the school of the heart, the precepts of life—to despise all earthly things and to speed to the heavenly country,—in proportion as you have advanced in good you think what is good of others. But, when I heard many things said in the letters of your Blessedness in praise of me, I understood your intention; how that you wished to describe not what I am, but what I ought to be. But as to your saying that I ought to remember my manner of life, and on no account give place to the malignant spirit who seeks to sift souls, I indeed recollect myself to have been always of bad manner of life, and hasten to overcome and put an end to this my manner of life, if I can. If however, as you believe, I have had anything good in me, I trust in the help of Almighty God that I have not forgotten it. But your Holiness, as I see, by the words of sweetness at the beginning and the words that follow, has wished your letter to be like a bee, which carries both honey and a sting, satiating me with the honey and piercing me with the sting. But meanwhile I return to meditation on the words of Solomon, That better are the wounds of one that loves than the kisses of a flattering foe (Prov. xxvii. 6). Thus, as to your saying that we ought not to give occasion of offence for no cause at all, this is what your son, our most pious lord (for whose life we ought continually to pray) has already written repeatedly; and what he says out of power I know that you say out of love. Nor do I wonder that you have made use of imperial language in your letters, since there is a very close relationship between love and power. For both presume in a princely way; both ever speak with authority.
And indeed on the receipt of the synodical epistle of our brother and fellow-bishop Cyriacus it was not worth my while to make a difficulty on account of the profane title at the risk of disturbing the unity of holy Church: but nevertheless I took care to admonish him with respect to this same superstitious and proud title, saying that he could not have peace with us unless he corrected the elation of the aforesaid expression, which the first apostate invented. You, however, ought not to say that this is a matter of no consequence, since, if we bear it with equanimity, we are corrupting the faith of the Universal Church; for you know how many not only heretics but heresiarchs have issued from the Constantinopolitan Church. And, not to speak of the injury done to your dignity, if one bishop is called Universal, the Universal Church comes to ruin, if the one who is universal falls. But far, far be this levity from my ears. Yet I trust in Almighty God that what He has promised He will soon fulfil; Whosoever exalteth himself shall be humbled (Luke xiv. 11).
So much, in the midst of many occupations. I have briefly replied to what you have said in your letters: for what I ought not just now to express in writing remains imprinted on my mind. I beg your Blessedness always to recall me to your memory in your holy prayers, that so your intercessions may rescue me from temporal and eternal ills. Pray moreover zealousy and fervently for the most serene lord the Emperor; for his life is very necessary for the world. I refrain from saying more, for I doubt not that you know.
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/XII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.