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Monday, 11 March 2013

DoC. St. Gregory the Great; Part 74

“There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection.” 

There are people who believe in some golden age of the Church when there were no sinners and no need for reformers.

Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church was a reformer who did not mince words about specific needs of reform.

Indeed, he practiced a great severity upon himself in order to be purified to a greatest, a relationship with God which all trusted and admired. Yet, his job was huge-in a time of great upheaval and immorality in the Church.

I am beginning his statements on perfection with a well-known one of the three stages, which he calls conversion, purgation and perfection. 

To show the depth of his own call and the call he demanded of his clergy, I post this timely letter.

Like all the Doctors, he wrote so much one is spoiled for choice, but as this is pertinent to this day, I start here. There is a connection in the spiritual life between greed and sexual sin. More later....and nothing will shock a  reader in 2013 in this letter.

To Virgilius, Bishop of Arelate (Arles) .
Gregory to Virgilius, etc.
Since by the testimony of Holy Writ avarice is called the service of idols, with what earnestness it ought to be banished from thetemple of God is acknowledged; and yet (we say it with groaning) by some priests this is not regarded. For fierce cupidity holds the heart captive, and persuades one that what it commands is lawful, and so proceeds as to slay with the same sword both the giver and the receiver. What safe place, then, can hereafter be of avail against avarice, if the Church of God is opened to it by bad priests? How can he keep the sheepfolds inviolate who invites the wolf to enter? Alas for shame! He pollutes his hands by an unlawful bribe, and thinks to lift up others by his benediction, while himself prostrate under his own iniquity, and captive notwithstanding to his own ambition. Since then this evil of rapacity has never entered the citadel of your mind, and you say that you have your hands unpolluted in the matter of ordinations, give thanks to Almighty God, and acknowledge yourselves to be His debtors in that under His protection you have remained unharmed by the contagion of this disease. But this good in you will profit you less than it might have done if you have not carefully forbidden this thing in others also. As in yourself this evil had displeased you, you ought to have been zealous against it in your brother also. For, seeing that the divine precepts admonish us to love our neighbours as ourselves, it is no small fault to disregard them, and not to fear for others what for ourselves we shrink from. Even now, therefore, most beloved brother, give your mind to repairing what you have lost in others through your negligence in correction, and restrain whomsoever you can from this wickedness, and insist on a synod being assembled for rooting out this same heresy, to the end that, with reward to your Love, what shall have been condemned, God granting it, by the ordinance of all may be better guarded against by all.
Furthermore, it has come to our ears that our brother and fellow bishop, Serenus of Massilia (Marseilles), receives bad men into his intimate society, so as to have, in fine, as his familiar friend a certain presbyter. who, after lapse, is said to wallow still in hisiniquities. This you ought to enquire into closely. And, if it should prove to be so, let it be your care so to correct this matter in our stead that both he who has received such a one may learn not to encourage him by familiarity, but rather to constrain him by punishment, and he who has been received may learn to wash away his sins with tears, and not to pile up iniquity by uncleanliving. Let your Fraternity hold as commended to you in all respects the monks whom we have sent to our brother and fellowbishop Augustine, and take pains so to succour them for proceeding on their way, and so to concur with them, that through your assistance they may be able, under the protection of God, to arrive speedily at their destination.