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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXXV: to Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria


This epistle is from Book X of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory asks for prayers, as he has been confined to bed by gout for two years. He also addresses a possible misinterpretation of a letter that Eulogius received.


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 Eulogius, &c.

In the past year I received the letters of your most sweet Holiness; but on account of the extreme severity of my sickness have been unable to reply to them until now. For lo, it is now almost full two years that I have been confined to my bed, afflicted with such pains of gout that I have hardly been able to rise on feast-days for as much as three hours space to solemnize mass. And I am soon compelled by severe pain to lie down, that I may be able to bear my torment with intervening groans. This pain of mine is sometimes moderate, and sometimes excessive: but neither so moderate as to depart, nor so excessive as to kill me. Hence it comes to pass that, being daily in death, I am daily debarred from death. Nor it is surprising that, grievous sinner as I am, I am long kept confined in the prison of such corruption. Whence I am compelled to exclaim, Bring my soul out of prison, that I may confess thy name (Ps. cxli. 8). But, since I am not yet worthy to obtain this by my prayers, I beg that the prayer of your Holiness may afford me the aid of its intercession, and deliver me from the weight of sin and corruption into that liberty, which you know well, of the glory of the children of God.

Your to me most sweet and ever to be honoured Blessedness has informed me in your letter that our common son Anatolius, deacon of the city of Constantinople, had written to you to say that certain monks from the parts about Jerusalem had come to me to make some enquiry concerning the error of the Angoitae, and you say that he begged your Holiness to write to me to express your opinion with respect to this enquiry. But neither have monks come to me from the parts about Jerusalem to make any enquiry, nor do I think that the said our common son can have told you in his letters what was not the case; but I suspect that the interpreter has mistaken the meaning of his letters. For the same deacon, now more than two years ago, wrote to me that monks had come from the aforesaid parts to the city of Constantinople making such enquiries, and he desired to ask me what I thought. To him, long before I received your letters, I made the very same reply against that same heresy as I found afterwards in the epistle of your Holiness: and I returned great thanks to Almighty God that concerning all questions the Fathers of the Romans and of the Greeks, whose followers we are, have spoken with one spirit. For in many parts I found this your epistle to be as though I had been reading the writings of the Latin Fathers against the aforesaid heresy. And consider how much I must love and praise the excellence of my most holy brother, in whose mouth I recognised the venerable Fathers, whom I love so much. Praise therefore be to Him, to Him be glory in the highest, of whose gift the voice of Mark still cries aloud in the See of Peter; from the effusion of whose spirit, when the priest enters into the Holy of Holies for searching into mysteries, spiritual bells resound in holy Church, as in the tabernacle, from the words of preaching. Right, then, and highly to be praised is your preaching. But we implore the Almighty Lord to keep you long even in this life, that from the organ of God, which you are, the voice of truth may in this world sound more widely. And for me, I pray you, intercede, that the way of this pilgrimage, which has become too rough for me may with speed be finished, to the end that I, who cannot by my own merits, may by yours be able to attain to the promises of the eternal country, and to rejoice with the citizens of heaven.

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.

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