Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Holy Orders’ Category


Banx-Cartoons-Punch-1983-03-02-47

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.

Read Full Post »


Fulton

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.

Read Full Post »


armor

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

“up-armor”.

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.

Read Full Post »


bishops

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.

 

Read Full Post »


 

Fulton

A Good Bishop

 

In today’s lengthy selections from St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care, we get down to basics as we come to the end of Book I. First, St. Gregory discusses the attributes of the man who ought to be bishop. These clearly have their basis in I Timothy iii.1, et seq. and are echoed in “The Form for Ordaining or Consecrating a Bishop”, 1928 Book of Common Prayer, p. 549. The list is extensive, although not exhaustive. (Book I, Ch. 10)

The saint follows this chapter with a tract on the man who should not be elevated to the episcopate. (Book I, Ch. 11) The very same admonitions turn up in the negative, like a reversed image in a glass. Take care in reading these somewhat colorful physical and medical descriptions. St. Gregory casts the negative attributes in mostly physical terms, but they are but outward signs of deficiencies, sins and analogous spiritual illnesses in the inner man.

What manner of man ought to come to rule.

The man who ought to ascend to the episcopacy should by all means be an example of good living who already lives spiritually, dying to all passions of the flesh. He should disregard worldly prosperity, and should be afraid of no adversity. The proper candidate should desire only inward wealth, and whose intention the body, in good accord with it, thwarts not at all by its frailness, nor the spirit greatly by its disdain. He is one who is not led to covet the things of others, but gives freely of his own.

With respect to justice, the man who ought to rule is, through the bowels of compassion, quickly moved to pardon, yet is never bent down from the fortress of rectitude by pardoning more than is proper. He perpetrates no unlawful deeds, but deplores those perpetrated by others as though they were his own. Out of affection of heart, he sympathizes with another’s infirmity, and so rejoices in the good of his neighbo

 

r as though it were his own advantage.

The strong candidate so insinuates himself as an example to others in all he does that among them he has nothing, at any rate of his own past deeds, to blush for. The man who ought to be bishop43e studies so to live that he may be able to water even dry hearts with the streams of doctrine. As a “prayer warrior”, he lready learned by the use and trial of prayer that he can obtain what he has requested from the Lord, having had already said to him, as it were, through the voice of experience, “While you are yet speaking, I will say, Here am.” (I Isaiah 58:9)

If perchance any one should come to us asking us to intercede for him with some great man, who was incensed against him, but to us unknown, we should at once reply, “We cannot go to intercede for you, since we have no familiar acquaintance with that man.” If, then, a man blushes to become an intercessor with another man on whom he has no claim, with what idea can anyone grasp the post of intercession with God for the people, who does not know himself to be in favour with Him through the merit of his own life?
Essentially, how can a man ask of Him pardon for others while ignorant whether towards himself He is appeased? In this matter there is yet another thing to be more anxiously feared; namely, lest one who is supposed to be competent to appease wrath should himself provoke it on account of guilt of his own. For we all know well that, when one who is in disfavor is sent to intercede with an incensed person, the mind of the latter is provoked to greater severity. Wherefore let one who is still tied and bound with earthly desires beware lest by more grievously incensing the strict judge, while he delights himself in his place of honour, he become the cause of ruin to his subordinates.

What manner of man ought not to come to rule.

Wherefore let everyone measure himself wisely, lest he venture to assume a place of rule, while in himself vice still reigns unto condemnation; lest one whom his own guilt depraves desire to become an intercessor for the faults of others. For on this account it is said to Moses by the supernal voice, “Speak unto Aaron; Whosoever he be of your seed throughout their generations that has a blemish, he shall not offer loaves of bread to the Lord his God.” (Leviticus 21:17).

With respect to physical infirmities, if he be blind, if he be lame, if he have either a small or a large and crooked nose, if he be broken-footed or broken-handed, if he be hunchbacked, if he be blear-eyed (lippus), if he have a white speck (albuginem) in his eye, if chronic scabies, if impetigo in his body, or if he be ruptured. (ponderosus). (Leviticus 21:18) That man is indeed blind who is unacquainted with the light of supernal contemplation, who, whelmed in the darkness of the present life, while he beholds not at all by loving it the light to come. Such an one knows not whither he is advancing the steps of his conduct. So it was that Hannah, prophesying, “He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness.” (I Kings 2:9)

The man who is lame who does indeed see in what direction he ought to go, but, through infirmity of purpose, is unable to keep perfectly the way of life which he sees, because, while unstable habit rises not to a settled state of virtue, the steps of conduct do not follow with effect the aim of desire. So it is that St. Paul says, “Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12-13)

One with a small nose is he who is not adapted for keeping the measure of discernment. For with the nose we discern sweet odours and stenches: and so by the nose is properly expressed discernment, through which we choose virtues and eschew sins. Whence also it is said in praise of the bride, “Your nose is as the tower which is in Lebanon.” (Canticles 7:4) Why? Because Holy Church, by discernment, espies assaults issuing from this or that quarter, and detects from an eminence the coming wars of vices.
However, there are some who, not liking to be thought dull, busy themselves often more than needs in various investigations, and by reason of too great subtlety are deceived. Wherefore this also is added, Or have a large and crooked nose. For a large and crooked nose is excessive subtlety of discernment, which, having become unduly excrescent, itself confuses the correctness of its own operation. But one with broken foot or hand is he who cannot walk in the way of God at all, and is utterly without part or lot in good deeds, to such degree that he does not, like the lame man, maintain them however weakly, but remains altogether apart from them.

The hunchbacked is he whom the weight of earthly care bows down, so that he never looks up to the things that are above, but is intent only on what is trodden on among the lowest. Should he ever hear anything of the good things of the heavenly country, is so pressed down by the weight of perverse custom, that he lifts not the face of his heart to it, being unable to erect the posture of his thought, which the habit of earthly care keeps downward bent. Of this kind of man the Psalmist says, “I am bent down and am brought low continually.” (Psalm 38:8) The fault of such as these the Truth in person reprobates, saying, “But the seed which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard the word, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of life, and bear no fruit.” (Luke 8:14) The blear-eyed is he whose native wit flashes out for cognition of the truth, and yet carnal works obscure it. For in the blear-eyed the pupils are sound; but the eyelids, weakened, become gross; and even the brightness of the pupils is impaired, because they are worn continually by the flux upon them. The blear-eyed, then, is one whose sense nature has made keen, but whom a depraved habit of life confuses. To him it is well said through the angel, “Anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see.” (Revelation 3:18) For we may be said to anoint our eyes with eye salve that we may see, when we aid the eye of our understanding for perceiving the clearness of the true light with the medicament of good conduct.

The man who has a white speck in his eye is not permitted to see the light of truth, in that he is blinded by the arrogant assumption of wisdom or of righteousness. For the pupil of the eye, when black, sees; but, when it bears a white speck, sees nothing. By analogy, we may understand that the perceiving sense of human thought, if a man understands himself to be a fool and a sinner, becomes cognizant of the clearness of inmost light. If it attributes to itself the whiteness of righteousness or wisdom, it excludes itself from the light of knowledge from above, and by so much the more fails entirely to penetrate the clearness of the true light, as it exalts itself within itself through arrogance.

As of some it is said, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:22) That man who has chronic scabies whom the wantonness of the flesh without cease overmasters. For in scabies the violent heat of the bowels is drawn to the skin; whereby lechery is rightly designated, since, if the heart’s temptation shoots forth into action. It may be truly said that violent internal heat breaks out into scabies of the skin. It now wounds the body outwardly, because, while sensuality is not repressed in thought, it gains the mastery also in action. St. Paul had a care to cleanse away this itch of the skin when he said, “Let no temptation take you but such as is human.” (I Corinthians 10:13) It is as if it is human to suffer temptation in the heart; but it is devilish, in the struggle of temptation, to be also overcome in action.

He who has impetigo in his body whosoever is ravaged in the mind by avarice; which, if not restrained in small things, does indeed dilate itself without measure. For, as impetigo invades the body without pain, and, spreading with no annoyance to him whom it invades, disfigures the comeliness of the members. So avarice, too, exulcerates, while it pleases, the mind of one who is captive to it. As it offers to the thought one thing after another to be gained, it kindles the fire of enmities, and gives no pain with the wounds it causes, because it promises to the fevered mind abundance out of sin.
The comeliness of the members is destroyed, because the beauty of other virtues is also hereby marred. It exulcerates as it were the whole body, in that it corrupts the mind with vices of all kinds. As St. Paul attests, saying, “The love of money is the root of all evils.” (I Timothy 6:10)

The ruptured one is he who does not carry turpitude into action, but yet is immoderately weighed down by it in mind through continual cogitation. One who is indeed by no means carried away to the extent of nefarious conduct; but his mind still delights itself without prick of repugnance in the pleasure of lechery. For he may be said to be ruptured who, letting all his thoughts flow down to lasciviousness, bears in his heart a weight of turpitude; and, though not actually doing deeds of shame, nevertheless in mind is not withdrawn from them. Nor has he power to rise to the practice of good living before the eyes of men, because, hidden within him, the shameful weight presses him down.

Whosoever, therefore, is subjected to any one of these diseases is forbidden to offer loaves of bread to the Lord, lest in truth he should be of no avail for expiating the sins of others, being one who is still ravaged by his own.

And now, having briefly shown after what manner one who is worthy should come to pastoral authority, and after what manner one who is unworthy should be greatly afraid, let us now demonstrate after what manner one who has attained to it worthily should live in it.

Read Full Post »


 

robin hood

Robin Hood and the Bishop (1847)

 

Today, we have the sharpest admonition yet from St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. Through the eyes of St. Paul the Apostle, the saint warns against those who seek the office for power and position. We clearly have gone a long way in the West from those times when consecration as a bishop was nigh on to a guarantee of martyrdom. (Book I, Chapter 8)

Of those who covet pre-eminence, and seize on the language of the Apostle to serve the purpose of their own cupidity.

For the most part, those who covet pre-eminence seize on the language of the Apostle to serve the purpose of their own cupidity, where St. Paul says, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (I Timothy 3:1) However, while praising the desire, the Apostle immediately turns what he has praised to fear when at once he adds, but a bishop must be blameless. (I Timothy 3:2)

When St. Paul subsequently enumerates the necessary virtues, he makes manifest what this blamelessness consists in. So, with regard to their desire, he approves them, but by his precept he alarms them. It is as if he is saying plainly, “I praise what you seek; but first learn what it is you seek.” If you neglect to measure yourselves, your blamefulness will appear all the fouler for its haste to be seen by all in the highest place of honour. The great master in the art of ruling impels by approval and checks by alarms; so that, by describing the height of blamelessness, he may restrain his hearers from pride, and, by praising the office which is sought, dispose them to the life required.

Nevertheless, it is to be noted that this was said at a time when whosoever was set over people was usually the first to be led to the torments of martyrdom. At that time, therefore, it was laudable to seek the office of a bishop, since through it there was no doubt that a man would come in the end to heavier pains. So it was that even the office of a bishop itself came to be defined as a good work, when it is said, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. (I Timothy 3:1) Wherefore he that seeks, not this ministry of a good work, but the glory of distinction, is himself a witness against himself that he does not desire the office of a bishop. Inasmuch as that man not only does not love at all the sacred office, but even knows not what it is, who, panting after supreme rule, is fed by the subjection of others in the hidden meditation of his thought, rejoices in his own praises, lifts up his heart to honour, exults in abundant affluence. In this way, worldly gain is sought under color of that honour by which worldly gains should have been destroyed. When the mind thinks to seize on the highest post of humility for its own elation, it inwardly changes what it outwardly desires.

Read Full Post »


AUgustines consecration

Today, we have a double serving from St. Gregory the Great’s treatise entitled Pastoral Care. We learn first about the humble bishop. (Book I, Chapter 6) This is the man who, like St. Augustine who, through fear of the episcopacy, fled from cities in which an election was necessary. Would that this were the case in modernity!

Our second section from Book I, Chapter 7 addresses the differences between those who preach out of the love of Christ, and those who are “compelled” by weight of office to preach to the people of God.

That those who fly from the burden of rule through humility are then truly humble when they resist not the divine decrees.

There are some also who fly by reason only of their humility, lest they should be preferred to others to whom they esteem themselves unequal. Theirs, indeed, if it be surrounded by other virtues, is then true humility before the eyes of God, when it is not pertinacious in rejecting what it is enjoined to undertake with profit. For neither is he truly humble, who understands how the good pleasure of the Supernal Will ought to bear sway, and yet contemns its sway. But, submitting himself to the divine disposals, and averse from the vice of obstinacy, if he be already prevented with gifts whereby he may profit others also, he ought, when enjoined to undertake supreme rule, in his heart to flee from it, but against his will to obey.

That sometimes some laudably desire the office of preaching, while others, as laudably, are drawn to it by compulsion.

Although sometimes some laudably desire the office of preaching, yet others are as laudably drawn to it by compulsion. We plainly perceive, if we consider the conduct of two prophets, one of whom offered himself of his own accord to be sent to preach, yet the other in fear refused to go.

For Isaiah, when the Lord asked whom He should send, offered himself of his own accord, saying, “Here I am; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) Jeremiah is sent, yet humbly pleads that he should not be sent, saying, “Ah, Lord God! Behold I cannot speak: for I am a child.” (Jeremiah 1:6) From these two men different voices proceeded outwardly, but they flowed from the same fountain of love. For there are two precepts of charity; the love of God and of our neighbour. Wherefore Isaiah, eager to profit his neighbours through an active life, desires the office of preaching; but Jeremiah, longing to cleave sedulously to the love of his Creator through a contemplative life, remonstrates against being sent to preach.

So it was that what the one laudably desired the other laudably shrunk from. The latter, lest by speaking he should lose the gains of silent contemplation. The former, lest by keeping silence he should suffer loss for lack of diligent work. But this in both cases is to be observed, that he who refused did not persist in his refusal. Further, he who wished to be sent saw himself previously cleansed by a coal of the altar’ lest anyone who has not been purged should dare to approach sacred ministries, or any whom supernal grace has chosen should proudly gainsay it under a show of humility.

Since it is very difficult for anyone to be sure that he has been cleansed, it is safer to decline the office of preaching. However, (as we have said) it should not be declined pertinaciously when the Supernal Will that it should be undertaken is recognized. Both requirements Moses marvellously fulfilled, who was unwilling to be set over so great a multitude, and yet obeyed. For perhaps he were proud, were he to undertake without trepidation the leadership of that innumerable people; and, again, proud he would plainly be were he to refuse to obey his Lord’s command.

Thus in both ways humble, in both ways submissive, he was unwilling, as measuring himself, to be set over the people. Yet, as presuming on the might of Him who commanded him, he consented. Hence, then, hence let all rash ones infer how great guilt is theirs, if they fear not to be preferred to others by their own seeking, when holy men, even when God commanded, feared to undertake the leadership of peoples. Moses trembles though God persuades him; and yet every weak one pants to assume the burden of dignity; and one who can hardly bear his own load without falling, gladly puts his shoulders under the pressure of others not his own: his own deeds are too heavy for him to carry, and he augments his burden.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »