Archive for January, 2018


Today, in a lengthy selection from Book II, Chapter 4 of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. This section exhorts the “ruler” to be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech. Perhaps it is best summed up in the aphorism attributed to the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, that it is, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Likewise, there is a warning to the bishop or priest who fails to speak the truth, particularly to curry favor with others.
Finally, St. Gregory cautions against the clergyman who preaches without knowledge. All of these things tear down the community of the faithful. It seems that, in the life of the Church, the more things change the more they stay the same.

I have taken the liberty of placing emphasis on the portions of the tract that seem particularly germane in light of pronouncements made in various corners of Christendom great and small.

The ruler (bishop or priest) should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech, unless he either say what ought to be suppressed or suppress what he ought to be saying.

As incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. Too often improvident rulers, fearing to lose human favour, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right. According to the voice of the Truth, they serve the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings. (John 10:12) since they fly when the wolf comes if they hide themselves under silence.

So it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, saying, “Dumb dogs, that cannot bark.” (Isaiah 56:10. Again He complains, saying, “You have not gone up against the enemy, neither opposed a wall for the house of Israel, to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:5) Now to go up against the enemy is to go with free voice against the powers of this world for defense of the flock; and to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord is out of love of justice to resist bad men when they contend against us.

For a shepherd to have feared to say what is right, what else is it but to have turned his back in keeping silence? But surely, if he puts himself in front for the flock, he opposes a wall against the enemy for the house of Israel. Hence again to the sinful people it is said, “Your prophets have seen false and foolish things for you: neither did they discover your iniquity, to provoke you to repentance.” (Lamentations 2:14)

In sacred language teachers are sometimes called prophets, in that, by pointing out how fleeting are present things, they make manifest the things that are to come. Such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security. Similarly, they do not at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding.

The language of reproof is the key of discovery, because by chiding it discloses the fault of which even he who has committed it is often himself unaware. Thus, St. Paul says, “That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9)
Likewise, through Malachi it is said, “The priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth. (Malachi 2:7) Again, through the prophet Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet.” (Isaiah 58:1)

It is true that whosoever enters on the priesthood undertakes the office of a herald, so as to walk, himself crying aloud, before the coming of the judge who follows terribly. Wherefore, if the priest knows not how to preach, what voice of a loud cry shall the mute herald utter? So it is that the Holy Spirit sat upon the first pastors under the appearance of tongues (Acts 2:3); because whomsoever He has filled, He himself at once makes eloquent.

So it is that it was enjoined on Moses that when the priest goes into the tabernacle he shall be encompassed with bells. (Exodus 28:33); that is, that he shall have about him the sounds of preaching, lest he provoke by his silence the judgment of Him Who beholds him from above. For it is written, “That his sound may be heard when he goes in unto the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he die not.” (Exodus 28:35)For the priest, when he goes in or comes out, dies if a sound is not heard from him, because he provokes the wrath of the hidden judge, if he goes without the sound of preaching.

Aptly also are the bells described as inserted in his vestments. For what else ought we to take the vestments of the priest to be but righteous works; as the prophet attests when he says, Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness Psalm 131:9? The bells, therefore, are inherent in his vestments to signify that the very works of the priest should also proclaim the way of life together with the sound of his tongue.

When the ruler prepares himself for speaking, let him bear in mind with what studious caution he ought to speak, lest, if he be hurried inordinately into speaking, the hearts of hearers be smitten with the wound of error and, while he perchance desires to seem wise he unwisely sever the bond of unity. For on this account the Truth says, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” (Mark 9:49)

By salt is denoted the word of wisdom. Let him, therefore, who strives to speak wisely fear greatly, lest by his eloquence the unity of his hearers be disturbed.
So it is that St. Paul says, “Not to be more wise than behooves to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety.” Romans 12:3. Thus, in the priest’s vestment, according to Divine precept, to bells are added pomegranates. (Exodus 28:34) For what is signified by pomegranates but the unity of the faith? For, as within a pomegranate many seeds are protected by one outer rind, so the unity of the faith comprehends the innumerable peoples of holy Church, whom a diversity of merits retains within her.

So, then, a ruler should be unadvisedly hurried into speaking, the Truth in person proclaims to His disciples this which we have already cited, “r3Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. (Mark 9:49) It is as though He should say in a figure through the dress of the priest: Join pomegranates to bells, that in all you say you may with cautious watchfulness keep the unity of the faith.

Rulers ought also to guard with anxious thought not only against saying in any way what is wrong, but against uttering even what is right overmuch and inordinately; since the good effect of things spoken is often lost, when enfeebled to the hearts of hearers by the incautious importunity of loquacity; and this same loquacity, which knows not how to serve for the profit of the hearers, also defiles the speaker. So, it is well said through Moses, “The man that has a flux of seed shall be unclean Leviticus (15:2) For the quality of the speech that is heard is the seed of the thought which follows, since, while speech is conceived through the ear, thought is engendered in the mind. Consequently, also by the wise of this world the excellent preacher was called a sower of words (seminiverbius). (Acts 17:18)

So it is that he that suffers from a flux of seed is pronounced unclean, because, being addicted to much speaking, he defiles himself by that which, had it been orderly issued, might have produced the offspring of right thought in the hearts of hearers. While he incautiously spends himself in loquacity, he sheds his seed not so as to serve for generation, but unto uncleanness. Thus, St. Paul also, in admonishing his disciple to be instant in preaching, says, “I charge you before God and Christ Jesus, Who shall judge the quick and the dead by His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word, be instant opportunely, importunely.’” (II Timothy 4:1) In truth importunity mars itself to the mind of the hearer by its own very cheapness, if it knows not how to observe opportunity.

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We welcome our local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism!  We have agreed on an initial basis to host their meetings in the parish hall on Tuesdays (parish events excepting) from 1800-2100. The SCA is a non-profit (501(c)(3)), educational group that re-creates the Western European Middle Ages in pre-1600 times.

They say “re-create” because instead of re-enacting specific historical events, they choose aspects of pre-1600 life to re-create through the use of a “persona”: a character that they create that could have lived in the Middle Ages.

People in the SCA study and re-create martial activities including armored combat, fencing, archery, siege weapons and more. Their artisans research, create and teach music, poetry, cooking, singing, dancing, metal-smithing, tailoring, armoring, etc. Through the hard work of dozens and even hundreds of volunteers, SCA hosts events all over the country every weekend. You can find out more about them here http://atlantia.sca.org/offices/chatelain/welcome-to-the-sca

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Today, we resume Book II (Ch. 3) of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. The subheading of this book spells out its contents, “Of the Life of the Pastor.” Here, the saint explores the idea that the ruler as bishop should be always “chief in action”. While some of the language is a bit stilted, the St. Gregory’s meaning is clear and reinforced by the image of the vestments to be “put on” by the ruler: the bishop should be an example in his way of life to clergy and lay people alike.  Absent a godly life and personal example, clothes do not make the man.

The ruler should always be chief in action that by his living he may point out the way of life to those that are put under him. His life should stand as an example so that the flock, which follows the voice and manners of the shepherd, may learn how to walk better through example than through words. He who is required by the necessity of his position to speak the highest things is compelled by the same necessity to exhibit the highest things. The voice that more readily penetrates the hearer’s heart is that which the speaker’s life commends, because what he commands by speaking he helps the doing of by showing.

It is said through the prophet, “Get you up into the high mountain, you that bringest good tidings to Sion.” (Isaiah 40:9) This means that he who is engaged in heavenly preaching should already have forsaken the low level of earthly works, and appear as standing on the summit of things. In this way he will so much the more easily should draw those who are under him to better things as by the merit of his life he cries aloud from heights above. So it is that under the divine law the priest receives the shoulder for sacrifice, and this the right one and separate to signify that his action should be not only profitable, but even singular. (Exodus 29:22) He should not merely do what is right among bad men, but transcend even the well-doers among those that are under him in the virtue of his conduct.

The breast also together with the shoulder is assigned to him for eating, that he may learn to immolate to the Giver of all that of himself which he is enjoined to take of the Sacrifice. He is empowered not only in his breast to entertain right thoughts, but with the shoulder of work invite those who behold him to things on high. He may covet no prosperity of the present life, and fear no adversity; that, having regard to the fear within him, he may despise the charm of the world, but considering the charm of inward sweetness, may despise its terrors.

Wherefore by command of the supernal voice (Exodus 29:5) the bishop or priest is braced on each shoulder with the robe of the ephod that he may be always guarded against prosperity and adversity by the ornament of virtues. Walking, as St. Paul says II Corinthians 6:7, in the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, he strives only after those things which are before. He may decline on neither side to low delight.

Neither should prosperity elate nor adversity perturb him. Neither let smooth things coax him to the surrender of his will, nor rough things press him down to despair; so that, while he humbles the bent of his mind to no passions, he may show with how great beauty of the ephod he is covered on each shoulder. This ephod is also rightly ordered to be made of gold, blue, purple, twice dyed scarlet, and flue twined linen. (Exodus 28:8) As a result, it may be shown by how great diversity of virtues the priest ought to be distinguished. In the priest’s robe before all things gold glitters, to show that he should shine forth principally in the understanding of wisdom.

With gold there is blue, which is resplendent with aerial color, is conjoined, to show that through all that he penetrates with his understanding he should rise above earthly favors to the love of celestial things. This is a reminder lest, while caught unawares by his own praises, he be emptied of his very understanding of the truth. With gold and blue, purple also is mingled, which means, that the priest’s heart, while hoping for the high things which he preaches, should repress in itself even the suggestions of vice. It is if by virtue of a royal power, he may rebut them, in that he has regard ever to the nobility of inward regeneration. Accordingly, his manners guard his right to the robe of the heavenly kingdom. For it is of this nobility of the spirit that it is said through St. Peter, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.” (I Peter 2:9) With respect also to this power, whereby we subdue vices, we are fortified by the voice of St. John, who says, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. (St.John 1:12)

This dignity of fortitude the Psalmist has in view when he says, “But with me greatly honored have been Your friends, O God; greatly strengthened has been their principality.” (Psalm 138:17) For truly the mind of saints is exalted to princely eminence while outwardly they are seen to suffer abasement.

With gold, blue, and purple, twice died scarlet is conjoined, to show that all excellences of virtue should be adorned with charity in the eyes of the judge within; and that whatever glitters before men may be lighted up in sight of the hidden arbiter with the flame of inward love. Further, this charity, since it consists in love at once of God and of our neighbor, has the luster of a double dye.

He then who so pants after the beauty of his Maker as to neglect the care of his neighbors, or so attends to the care of his neighbors as to grow languid in divine love, whichever of these two things it may be that he neglects, knows not what it is to have twice dyed scarlet in the adornment of his ephod. But, while the mind is intent on the precepts of charity, it undoubtedly remains that the flesh be macerated through abstinence.

So, with twice dyed scarlet fine twined linen is conjoined. For fine linen (byssus) springs from the earth with glittering show: and what is designated by fine linen but bodily chastity shining white in the comeliness of purity? It is also twisted for being interwoven into the beauty of the ephod, since the habit of chastity then attains to the perfect whiteness of purity when the flesh is worn by abstinence. Since the merit of affliction of the flesh profits among the other virtues, fine twined linen shows white, as it were, in the diverse beauty of the ephod.

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Here is one of the thornier parts of Book II of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care, in which the saint explores the appropriate conduct and life for the man who has the attributes of a bishop and has been consecrated.  Given recent sad experiences in the Church, West, East and Via Media, these are important admonitions for bishop and priest alike.  The armor imagery is particularly apt, particularly when considered in light of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians.  In sum, if you are going to talk the talk, you had best walk the walk, and that with the appropriate spiritual


That the ruler should be pure in thought.

The ruler should always be pure in thought. No impurity ought to pollute him who has undertaken the office of wiping away the stains of pollution in the hearts of others also. The hand that would cleanse from dirt must needs be clean, lest, being itself sordid with clinging mire, it soil whatever it touches all the more.

On this account it is said through the prophet, “Be clean that bear the vessels of the Lord Isaiah.” (52:11) They bear the vessels of the Lord who undertake, on the surety of their own conversation, to conduct the souls of their neighbors to the eternal sanctuary. Let them therefore perceive within themselves how purified they ought to be who carry in the bosom of their own personal responsibility living vessels to the temple of eternity.

Thus, by the divine voice it is enjoined that on the breast of Aaron the breastplate of judgment should be closely pressed by binding fillets. (Exodus 28:15) “Lax cogitations” should by no means possess the priestly heart, but reason alone constrain it. The ruler should not cogitate anything indiscreet or unprofitable. He is who constituted to be example to others, ought to show in the gravity of his life what store of reason he carries in his breast. On his breastplate, the names of the twelve patriarchs should be engraved.

To carry always the fathers registered on the breast is to think without intermission on the lives of the ancients.

The bishop or priest walks blamelessly when he pores continually on the examples of the fathers that went before him, when he considers without cease the footsteps of the Saints, and keeps down unlawful thoughts, lest he advance the foot of his conduct beyond the limit of order.

It is also well called the breastplate of judgment, because the ruler ought ever with subtle scrutiny to discern between good and evil. He should studiously consider what things are suitable for what, and when and how. He should not seek anything for himself, but esteem his neighbors’ good as his own advantage. So it is in the same place it is written, “But you shall put in the breastplate of Aaron doctrine and truth , which shall be upon Aaron’s breast, when he goes in before the Lord, and he shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his breast in the sight of the Lord continually.” (Exodus 18:30) For the priest’s bearing the judgment of the children of Israel on his breast before the face of the Lord means his examining the causes of his subjects with regard only to the mind of the judge within, so that no admixture of humanity cleave to him in what he dispenses as standing in God’s stead, lest private vexation should exasperate the keenness of his censure.

While the ruler shows himself zealous against the vices of others, let him get rid of his own lest either latent grudge vitiate the calmness of his judgment, or headlong anger disturb it. When the terror of Him who presides over all things is considered (that is to say of the judge within), not without great fear may subjects be governed. Such fear indeed purges, while it humiliates, the mind of the ruler, guarding it against being either lifted up by presumption of spirit, or defiled by delight of the flesh, or obscured by importunity of dusty thought through lust for earthly things. These things cannot but knock at the ruler’s mind. It is necessary, however, to make haste to overcome them by resistance, lest the vice which tempts by suggestion should subdue by the softness of delight, and, this being tardily expelled from the mind, should slay with the sword of consent.

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Today, we come to Book II of St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. The subheading of this book spells out its contents, “Of the Life of the Pastor.” Here, the saint explores the appropriate conduct and life for the man who has the attributes of a bishop and has been consecrated. It is both a practical and moral treatise.

How one who has in due order arrived at a place of rule ought to demean himself in it.

The conduct of a prelate ought so far to transcend the conduct of the people as the life of a shepherd is wont to exalt him above the flock. For one whose estimation is such that the people are called his flock is bound anxiously to consider what great necessity is laid upon him to maintain rectitude.

It is necessary, then, that in thought he should be pure, in action chief; discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech; a near neighbor to everyone in sympathy, exalted above all in contemplation; and a familiar friend of good livers through humility. He should be unbending against the vices of evil-doers through zeal for righteousness. He should never relax in his care for what is inward from being occupied in outward things, nor neglect to provide for outward things in his solicitude for what is inward.
Now, let us unfold and discuss more at length the things which we have touched on briefly so far.


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