“The Pastoral Rule”
of St. Gregory the Great (Dialogus).
Liber Pastoralis Curae.
Description of the book.
Part I: who should take on the pastoral rule in the Church.
Part II: The Life of a Pastor.
Part III: Admonitions.
Part IV. Conclusion: Time for Self Examination.
Other Works of St. Gregory; Complete and Partial Editions; Translations, Recensions.
The fourth of our patristic commentaries on the pastoral life, that of Pope Gregory I of Rome was written in the sixth century, some two centuries later than those of Gregory The Theologian and John Chrysostom. This commentary was written in the West, although Gregory wrote at least a small part of it in Constantinople.
Sixth century Italy (as virtually all Western Europe) was not a happy place. The so called Barbarian Invasions were radically changing the Imperial order in Western Europe. Already in the 400s Italy was fundamentally changed. The last Western Roman Emperor had been overthrown in 476 AD. In 488 the Ostrogoths had invaded Italy. Ravenna was taken by the Ostrogoths in 493. In 527 Emperor Justinian comes to power in Constantinople. He tries to reassert the Byzantine authority in Italy and the west. Shortly after his death in 568, The Lombards conquered northern Italy.
Many of the barbarians who entered Western Europe came as Arians. The Visigoths in Spain were Arian as were the Lombards. The exception was the Franks. In 496 King Clovis was baptized as a Catholic. The pagan Anglo Saxons had invaded England in 451. The British Christians were driven into what today is Wales.
In the sixth century there are some rays of hope. The Franks were Catholic. The Visigoths of Spain formally left Arianism and became Catholic at the Synod of Toledo in 598 under King Reccared. (Here comes the Filioque) This was the world inherited by Pope Gregory I. In Rome the old civil government had broken down. Gregory would be challenged in ways few popes have ever been challenged.
Born in c. 540 AD, Pope Gregory I (aka Gregory Dialogus) came from a family of senatorial rank in Rome. At least one member of this family had already served as a pope. At the age of 32 Gregory became the civil Prefect of Rome. Several years later, in 575 AD at the death of his father, Gregory left the imperial service and chose the monastic life. (Here we go again.) He turned his family home into a monastery. He also built six more monasteries on his family estate in Sicily. After living the monastic life in a very austere form, Gregory was asked by Pope Pelagius II to become his representative in Constantinople in 579 AD. A position he held for about six years. Gregory continued to live the monastic life in Constantinople. Although he became acquainted with the important people of Constantinople, Gregory claims that did not learn Greek.
Sixth century Italy was in dire straits. It was being overrun by the Lombards. Gregory was not able to get the help he wanted from Constantinople. After his recall to Rome, Gregory returned to his monastery but remained an advisor to Pelagius II. Upon the death of Pelagius, Gregory, who was a deacon at the time, was elected as pope. Gregory would have preferred to have remained in his monastery, but he rose to become one of the greatest popes. He was the first monastic pope.
When he ascended to the papacy the civil government of Rome had broken down. Famine, pestilence and the Lombards were in control. Gregory took over the city, spiritually and materially. He preached repentance in the face of a plague and provided food for the starving of the city. He reorganized the papal properties in Italy, Africa and Dalmatia. He organized the defense of the city, paid the army and appointed generals. He brought about reforms in the church. He established strong links with the churches of Spain (which was leaving Arianism in 589 and becoming Catholic) and Gaul (which was plagued with a host of heresies). He sent missionary monks to England to convert the Anglo Saxons. He did not like Canon 28 of Chalcedon which gave the title of Ecumenical Patriarch to Constantinople. He was a strong defender of rights of the papacy. He has been called the father of the medieval papacy.
Among his writings that survive are 850 letters, His Dialogues, his Exposition on Job, (with its threefold sense of scripture: the literal, mystical and especially moral sense), and his famous Pastoral Rule.
Liber Pastoralis Curae.
At the very beginning of his papacy Pope Gregory wrote the document that is known by two names: The Book of Pastoral Rule (Liber Regulae Pastoralis) and also as The Book of Pastoral Care (Liber Pastoralis Curae). The title Book of Pastoral Rule is the way Gregory refers to the document in his letter to Bishop Leander of Seville, to whom the book was originally sent. The title, Book of Pastoral Care comes from the opening words of the document. The book was addressed to John, Bishop of Ravenna. The terms Pastoral Rule and Pastoral Care give us an insight into how Gregory saw the Pastoral Office, (ruler and caregiver?) which in this instance is the office of the bishop. (Although it was clearly written for the bishop, a large amount of what he writes is applicable to the pastoral work of the priest as well.) In an earlier work, his Commentary on the Book of Job, which he wrote in Constantinople, Gregory sketches a plan the Pastoral Rule. This is actually the prologue to Book Three of the Pastoral Rule.
As Gregory tells Leander of Seville, he wrote this work at the very beginning of his papacy. He comes from a background in civil administration, papal diplomacy, papal advisor, monk and deacon. He did not serve as a priest or bishop prior to becoming the Bishop of Rome.
The Pastoral Rule was well accepted in Gregory’s own lifetime. The Patriarch of Antioch, at the request of the Byzantine Emperor (Maurice), translated the book into Greek. It was taken to England by Gregory’s missionary Augustine of Canterbury where 300 years later it was translated and paraphrased in the West Saxon language at the request of King Alfred the Great, who apparently sent a copy to every bishop in his kingdom. In the later Carolingian kingdom, a copy was given to each bishop at his consecration.
There is no question that Pope Gregory is indebted to St. Gregory The Theologian. In fact Pope Gregory admits this. Part Three of the work actually develops the pastoral approach begun by the earlier Gregory. As Pope Gregory says, "Since..., we have shown what manner of man the pastor ought to be, let us now set forth after what manner he should teach. For as long before us Gregory Nazianzen of reverend memory has taught, one and the same exhortation does not suit all…" He then, as we will see, goes on to develop this approach to pastoral work which had already been formulated by Gregory the Theologian.
Description of the book.
The Pastoral Rule consists of four parts. (The translation in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers refers to them as Part One, Two, Three and Four.)
Part one addresses the question of "who" should take on the pastoral rule in the Church; it consists of eleven chapters.
Part Two, which also consists of eleven chapters, discusses the "lift" of the Pastor, and the moral qualities he must have.
Part Three, by far the longest part of the book, addresses "How the ruler, while living well (righteously), ought to teach and admonish those that are put under him." The bishop is the admonisher and teacher of the community. Part Three of the Rule tells him how to carry out this ministry. What follows is a series of Admonitions. There are 36 Admonitions which instruct the pastor how to deal with people. Each of the Admonitions takes the form of comparisons. Each Admonition begins with the words "Differently to be admonished are...." for example "the poor and the rich"; "men and women"; "celibates and married people" and so forth. Most of the document is an instruction not about the sacramental ministry of the pastor, but on how he is to deal with people. And how they are to be taught and led.
Part Four of the Pastoral Rule is a very brief chapter on the importance of self examination on the part of the pastor.
Part One (Who should hold the position of Pastor or Bishop?)
As Pope Gregory begins his treatise he notes that John of Ravenna had reproved him for wanting to hide from the burdens of pastoral care. It is interesting that our three prominent authors on the pastoral life each begin their treatise and their pastoral life by explaining why they had initially avoided the pastoral office.
Gregory now will express his feelings about the pastoral office which is a heavy burden. He writes this so that anyone who might be free from such responsibility might "not unwarily seek them and that he who has so sought them may tremble for having got them."
Gregory then explains how he has written his instruction in four parts. "We must consider after what manner every one should come to supreme rule (bishop); and duly arriving at it, after what manner he should live; and living well, after what manner he should teach; and teaching aright, with how great consideration every day he should become aware of his own infirmity...."
Excerpts and Content of the book.
Part I: who should take on the pastoral rule in the Church.
"No one" Gregory says, "presumes to teach an art till he has first, with intent meditation, learnt it. What rashness is it, then, for the unskillful to assume pastoral authority, since the government of souls is the art of arts! For who can be ignorant that the sores of the thoughts of men are more occult than the sores of the bowels?" And, he says, "How often do men who have no knowledge of spiritual precepts fearlessly profess themselves physicians of the heart...." They want to be teachers and rulers and they covet superiority to others. Some who are totally unfit have become pastors. Ironically, "this unskillful ness of the shepherds doubtless suits the wishes of those they rule....the blind leading the blind.
The bishop is then, the physician, the teacher, the ruler. He must not be a novice in these matters.
Some, while intellectually prepared... "who have investigated spiritual precepts with cunning care."..."and (then) what they have penetrated with their understanding they trample on in their lives." What they preach with their words, they deny with their lives. "No one" he says, "does more harm in the church than the one who had the name and rank of sanctity, while he acts perversely." Unfortunately no one takes him to task. And out of reverence for his rank, the sinner is honored. Such a person should fly from the pastoral office considering what the Lord said about scandalizing the little ones who believe in him.
The pastor must not only understand the mysteries of faith. He must live them. He must not be a fraud. If he is anything less, out of fear he should run from the office.
The next issue is the desire for honors.
No one who is unequal to the office or who through a desire for preeminence should dare to become a pastor. Consider the example of Christ himself He (who) could have reigned over men if he chose, chose not to do so, giving an example to all men. He avoided glory, honor, prosperity and preeminence, choosing rather the cross. Even when a man has learned humility in the school of adversity, if he comes to a position of power and authority, he becomes changed and elated by his familiarity with glory.
The virtue of humility will be severely tested in the life of anyone who holds authority.
In chapter 4 Gregory becomes very practical. Here Gregory seems to be saying that those in positions of authority end up with "too much on their mind." "Often the care of government when undertaken, distracts the heart in diverse directions; and one is found unequal to dealing with particular things, while with confused mind divided among many (things)." He then quotes Ecclesiastes "My son, meddle not with many matters." (I think Pope Gregory is really on to something here. As priests we find ourselves trying to do a hundred things at the same time. Have you ever noticed the typical priest’s desk and office? Mine is a mess. I can assure you that I have had a "confused and divided mind" on many a day.
There are some men who actually are very capable of ruling in the church but they run away from it and not always for the highest of motives. "They are" he says "exalted by great gifts, who are pure in zeal for chastity, strong in the might of abstinence, filled with the feasts of doctrine (i.e., good theologians) humble in the long-suffering of patience, erect in the fortitude of authority, tender in the grace of loving kindness, strict in the severity of justice." And when called they to undertake the supreme office or rule. They forget that the gifts they have received were not just for themselves, but for the good of other people. And so, these men are ardent for the studies of contemplation only, and they shrink from serving their neighbor by preaching.
"….they long for a secret place of quiet, then long for a retreat for speculation..." (Have we heard these words before?) These Gregory judges harshly. He says that "they are guilty in proportion to the greatness of the gifts whereby they might have been publicly useful."
And if a man claim humility as a reason for not taking on the office of pastor, then true humility would mean that the man should not reject what the church asks him to do.
In chapter seven Gregory looks at the pastoral office from the perspective of the preacher. The man who accepts the office of pastor must know something about preaching. Some he says are drawn to preaching for praiseworthy reasons. But sometimes we find people that are drawn to it by kind of compulsion. In modern times these are the people who volunteer to speak at the funerals of their friends.
There are in the church the Isaiah’s who say "here am I Lord send me" and the Jeremiah’s who say "Ah Lord, I cannot speak." These holy men were motivated by the right reasons. Isaiah had his lips purged and Jeremiah eventually did what the Lord commanded him. Here I think we have to examine our own personal motivation for preaching. Do we see it as an important part of our ministry? Do we see ourselves as servants of God’s Word or are we preaching our own words?
About those who seek higher office for unworthy motives, Gregory says that "for the most part those who covet preeminence seize on the language of the Apostle where he says... "If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." That, he says is absolutely true. But we must not forget that at that time the bishops were the first ones "to be led to the torments of martyrdom." "And 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." We do not have too many people volunteering for martyrdom.
Pope Gregory is a pretty good psychologist. He shows us a profound insight into the dynamics of human motivation. We sometimes fool ourselves into believing that we have the best of intentions when we set out to do something. He says "for the most part those who covet pastoral authority mentally propose to themselves some good works besides, and, though desiring it with a motive of pride, still muse how they will effect great things: and so it comes to pass that the motive suppressed in the depths of the heart is one thing, another what the surface of thought presents to the muser’s mind."
Such a man will eventually forget his good intentions and be taken over by pride. It is very hard to learn humility in high places. Examine your past life, he says, and see if you have been able to learn humility and not be flattered by praise. Do not forget that as a prelate, you are going as a physician to your people. Be sure that you are not sick yourself.
Gregory now concludes Part One of the Pastoral Rule by summarizing the characteristics of the man who should rule and also the characteristics of the man who should not rule.
The man who should rule is one who: is already living an exemplary spiritual life. He must be one who dies to his own passions of the flesh; who disregards worldly prosperity; who is not afraid of adversity; who desires only inward wealth; who is not thwarted from his work by the frailty of his body; he must not be one who covets things; but one who freely gives away his own possessions; he must be quick to be compassionate and pardon, but on the other hand he must not "bend down from the fortress of rectitude (or righteousness); he must not perpetrate evil deeds; he must sympathize with the infirmity of other people, and rejoice in the good of his neighbor as those it was his own. He should have nothing to blush for in his past life; he must be one who studies.... so that he may water the dry hearts with the streams of doctrine; he must be a man of prayer.... "One who has already learned by the use and trial of prayer that he can obtain what he has requested from the Lord...."; if you are going to intercede with God for your people, you have to be on familiar terms with God. It is very dangerous to trying to appease the wrath of God for other people when you are on bad terms with God to start with yourself.
Chapter 11. The man who should not come to the rule.
"Wherefore let every one 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." Very simply the man coming to the pastoral office cannot live a life filled with vices.
Gregory quotes a text from the Book of Leviticus reminding Christian priests that in the Old Testament times even a physical blemish was enough to disqualify you for the priesthood. Here is the text "If he be blind, if he be lame, 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 bleareyed, if he have a white speck in his eye, if he have chronic scabies, if impetigo in his body, or if he be ruptured...." These were disqualified.
Gregory then goes on to interpret this text in rather unusual way. It becomes an allegory. Each of these physical blemishes is a sign of some spiritual failing. The blind man is unacquainted with spiritual contemplation; the lame man cannot walk in the way of the Lord, and so forth. His interpretation of the large nose leaves me a bit puzzled. He says "For a large and crooked nose is excessive subtlety of discernment, which, having become unduly excrescent (meaning it protrudes out too far and is too big), itself confuses the correctness of its own operation."
Part II: The Life of a Pastor.
Chapter 1. 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 neighbour to every one in sympathy, exalted above all in contemplation; a familiar friend of good livers through humility, unbending against the vices of evil-doers through zeal for righteousness; not relaxing in his care for what is inward from being occupied in outward things, nor neglecting to provide for outward things in his solicitude for what is inward. But the things which we have thus briefly touched on let us now unfold and discuss more at length.
Chapter 2. That the ruler should be pure in thought.
The ruler should always be pure in thought, inasmuch as no impurity ought to pollute him who has undertaken the office of wiping away the stains of pollution in the hearts of others also; for the hand that would cleanse from dirt must needs be clean, test, being itself sordid with clinging mire, it soil whatever it touches all the more. For on this account it is said through the prophet, Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord (Isai. ]ii 11). For they bear the vessels of the Lord who undertake, on the surety of their own conversation, to conduct the souls of their neighbours 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. Hence by the divine voice it is enjoined (Exod. xxviii. 15), that on the breast of Aaron the breastplate (1) of judgment should be closely pressed by binding fillets; seeing that lax cogitations should by no means possess the priestly heart, but reason alone constrain it; nor should he cogitate anything indiscreet or unprofitable, who, constituted as he is for example to others, ought to shew in the gravity of his life what store of reason he carries in his breast. And on this breastplate it is further carefully prescribed that the names of the twelve patriarchs should be engraved. For to carry always the fathers registered on the breast is to think without intermission on the lives of the ancients. For the priest then 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. And it is also well called the breastplate of judgment, because the ruler ought ever with subtle scrutiny to discern between good and evil, and studiously consider what things are suitable for what, and when and how; nor should he seek anything for himself, but esteem his neighbours' good as his own advantage. Hence in the same place it is written, But thou shall put in the breast? late of Aaron doctrine and truth (2), which shall be upon Aaron's breast, when he goeth 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 (Ibid. 30). For the priest's bearing the judgment of the children of lsrael 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. And while he shews 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. But 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. And 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, however, cannot but knock at the ruler's mind: but it is necessary 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.
Chapter 3. That the ruler should be always chief in action.
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, and that the flock, which follows the voice and manners of the shepherd, may learn how to walk better through example than through words For 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. For that voice more readily penetrates the hearer's heart, which the speaker's life commends, since what he commands by speaking he helps the doing of by shewing. Hence it is said through the prophet, Get thee up into the high mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion (Isai. xl. 9): which 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, and by 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. Hence under the divine law the priest receives the shoulder for sacrifice, and this the right one and separate (Exod. xxix. 22); to signify that his action should be not only profitable, but even singular; and that 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, as he surpasses them in the dignity of his order. 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; that he may not only in his breast entertain right thoughts, but with the shoulder of work invite those who behold him to things on high; that 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 Exod. xxix. 5) the 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; so that walking, as S. Paul says (2 Cor. vi 7), in the armour of righteousness an the right hand and an the left, while he strives only after those things which are before, he may decline on neither side to low delight. Him let neither prosperity elate nor adversity perturb; let neither 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 shew with how great beauty of the ephod he is covered on each shoulder. Which ephod is also rightly ordered to be made of gold, blue, purple, twice dyed scarlet, and flue twined linen (Exod. xxviii. 8), that it may be shewn by how great diversity of virtues the priest ought to be distinguished. Thus in the priest's robe before all things gold glitters, to shew that he should shine forth principally in the understanding of wisdom. And with it blue, which is resplendent with aerial colour, is conjoined, to shew that through all that he penetrates with his understanding he should rise above earthly favours to the love of celestial things; test, 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, and as it were in virtue of a royal power, rebut them, in that he has regard ever to the nobility of inward regeneration, and by his manners guards his right to the robe of the heavenly kingdom. For it is of this nobility of the spirit that it is said through Peter, Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. ii. 9) With respect also to this power, whereby we subdue vices, we are fortified by the voice of John, who says, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God (John i. 12). This dignity of fortitude the Psalmist has in view when he says, But with me greatly honoured have been Thy friends, O God; greatly strengthened has been their principality (Ps. cxxxviii. 17). For truly the mind of saints is exalted to princely eminence while outwardly they are seen to suffer abasement. But 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. And, further, this charity, since it consists in love at once of God and of our neighbour, has, as it were, the lustre era double dye. He then who so pants after the beauty of his Maker as to neglect the care of his neighbours, or so attends to the care of his neighbours 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. Hence 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? And 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. And, since the merit of affliction of the flesh profits among the other virtues, fine twined linen shews white, as it were, in the diverse beauty of the ephod.
Chapter 4: That the ruler should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech.
The ruler should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech; lest he either utter what ought to be suppressed or suppress what he ought to utter. For, as incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. For often improvident rulers, fearing to lose human favour, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right; and, according to the voice of the Truth (Job. x. 12), serve unto the custody of the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings; since they fly when the wolf cometh if they hide themselves under silence. For hence it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, saying, Dumb dogs, that cannot bark (Isai. lvi. 10). Hence again He complains, saying, Ye 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 (Ezek. xiii. 5). Now to go up against the enemy is to go with free voice against the powers of this world for defence 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, 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, Thy prophets have seen false and foolish things for thee: neither did they discover thine iniquity, to provoke thee to repentance (Lam. ii. 14). For 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. And such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security: neither do they at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding. For 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. Hence Paul says, That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers (Tit. i. 9). Hence through Moloch; it is said. The priest's lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth (Malac. ii. 7). Hence through Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet (Isai. lviii. 1). For 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? For hence it is that the Holy Spirit sat upon the first pastors under the appearance of tongues (Acts ii. 3); because whomsoever He has filled, He himself at once makes eloquent. Hence it is enjoined on Moses that when the priest goes into the tabernacle he shall be encompassed with bells (Exod. xxviii. 33); that is, that be 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 goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord and when he cometh out, that he die not (Exod. xxviii. 35). For the priest, when he goeth in or cometh 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 Thy priests be clothed with righteousness (Ps. cxxxi. 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. But, 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 ix. 49). Now 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. Hence Paul says, Not to be more wise than behaveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety (Rom. xii. 3). Hence in the priest's vestment, according to Divine precept, to bells are added pomegranates (Exod. xxviii. 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. Lest then a ruler should be unadvisedly hurried into speaking, the Truth in person proclaims to His disciples this which we have already cited, Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (Mark ix. 49). It is as though He should say in a figure through the dress of the priest: Join ye pomegranates to bells, that in all ye say ye 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. Hence it is well said through Moses, The man that hath a flux of seed shall be unclean (Levit. xv. 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. Whence also by the wise of this world the excellent preacher was called a sower of words (seminiverbius) (Acts xvii. 18). Wherefore, 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; and, while he incautiously spends himself in loquacity, he sheds his seed not so as to serve for generation, but unto uncleanness. Hence Paul also, in admonishing his disciple to be instant in preaching, when he says, I charge thee 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 (3) (2 Tim. iv. 1), being about to say importunely, premises opportunely, because in truth importunity mars itself to the mind of the hearer by its own very cheapness, if it knows not how to observe opportunity.
Chapter 5: That the ruler should be a near neighbour to every one in compassion, and exalted above all in contemplation.
The ruler should be a near neighbour to every one in sympathy, and exalted above all in contemplation, so that through the bowels of loving-kindness he may transfer the infirmities of others to himself, and by loftiness of speculation transcend even himself in his aspiration after the invisible; lest either in seeking high things he despise the weak things of his neighbours, or in suiting himself to the weak things of his neighbours he relinquish his aspiration after high things. For hence it is that Paul is caught up into Paradise (2 Car. xii. 3) and explores the secrets of the third heaven, and, yet, though borne aloft in that contemplation of things invisible, recalls the vision of his mind to the bed of the carnal, and directs how they should have intercourse with each other in their hidden privacy, saying, But on account of fornication let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife her due, and likewise the wife unto the husband (1 Car. vii. 2). And a little after (Ibid. v. 5), Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer, and come together again, that Satan tempt you not. Lo, he is already initiated into heavenly secrets, and yet through the bowels of condescension he searches into the bed of the carnal; and the same eye of the heart which in his elevation he lifts to the invisible, he bends in his compassion upon the secrets of those who are subject to infirmity. In contemplation he transcends heaven, and yet in his anxious care deserts not the couch of the carnal; because, being joined at once to the highest and to the lowest by the bond of charity, though in himself mightily caught up in the power of the spirit into the heights above, yet among others, in his loving-kindness, he is content to become weak. Hence, therefore, he says, Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? (2 Cor. xi. 29). Hence again he says, Unto the Jews I became as a Jew (1 Car. ix. 20). Now he exhibited this behaviour not by losing hold of his faith, but by extending his loving-kindness; so as, by transferring in a figure the person of unbelievers to himself, to learn from himself how they ought to have compassion shewn them; to the end that he might bestow on them what he would have rightly wished to have had bestowed upon himself, had he been as they. Hence again he says, Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for you (2 Car. v. 13). For he had known how both to transcend himself in contemplation, and to accommodate himself to his hearers in condescension. Hence Jacob, the Lord looking down from above, and oil being poured down on the stone, saw angels ascending and descending (Gen. xxviii. 12); to signify, that true preachers not only aspire in contemplation to the holy head of the Church, that is to the Lord, above, but also descend in commiseration downward to His members. Hence Moses goes frequently in and out of the tabernacle, and he who is wrapped into contemplation within is busied outside with the affairs of those who are subject to infirmity. Within he considers the secret things of God; without he carries the burdens of the carnal. And also concerning doubtful matters he always recurs to the tabernacle, to consult the Lord before the ark of the covenant; affording without doubt an example to rulers; that, when in the outside world they are uncertain how to order things, they should return to their own soul as though to the tabernacle, and, as before the ark of the covenant, consult the Lord, if so, they may search within themselves the pages of sacred utterance concerning that whereof they doubt. Hence the Truth itself, manifested to us through susception of our humanity, continues in prayer on the mountain, but works miracles in the cities (Luke vi. 12), thus laying down the way to be followed by good rulers; that, though already in contemplation aspiring to the highest things, they should mingle in sympathy with the necessities of the infirm; since charity then rises wonderfully to high things when it is compassionately drawn to the low things of neighbours; and the more kindly it descends to the weak things of this world, the more vigorously it recurs to the things on high. But those who are over others should shew themselves to be such that their subjects may not blush to disclose even their secrets to them; that the little ones, vexed with the waves of temptation, may have recourse to their pastors heart as to a mother's breast, and wash away the defilement they foresee to themselves from the filth of the sin that buffets them in the solace of his exhortation and in the tears of prayer. Hence also it is that before the doors of the temple the brazen sea for washing the hands of those who enter, that is the lover, is supported by twelve oxen (1 Kings vii. 23, seq.), whose faces indeed stand out to view, but whose hinder parts are hidden. For what is signified by the twelve oxen but the whole order at pastors, of whom the law says, as explained by Paul, Than shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn (1 Car. ix. 9; ex Deut. xxv. 4)? Their open works indeed we see; but what remains to them behind in the hidden retribution of the strict judge we know not. Yet, when they prepare the patience of their condescension for cleansing the sins of their neighbours in confession, they support, as it were, the laver before the doors of the temple; that whosoever is striving to enter the gate of eternity may shew his temptations to his pastor's heart, and, as it were, wash the hands of his thought and of his deed in the layer of the oxen. And for the most part it comes to pass that, while the ruler's mind becomes aware, through condescension, of the trials of others, it is itself also attacked by the temptations whereof it hears; since the same water of the layer in which a multitude of people is cleansed is undoubtedly itself defiled. For, in receiving the pollutions of those who wash, it loses, as it were, the calmness of its own purity. But of this the pastor ought by no means to be afraid, since, under God, who nicely balances all things, he is the more easily rescued from his own temptations as he is more compassionately distressed by those of others.
Chapter 6. That the ruler should be, through humility, a companion of good livers, but, through the zeal of righteousness, rigid against the vices of evildoers.
The ruler should be, through humility, a companion of good livers, and, through the zeal of righteousness, rigid against the vices of evil-doers; so that in nothing he prefer himself to the good, and yet, when the fault of the bad requires it, he be at once conscious of the power of his priority; to the end that, while among his subordinates who live well he waives his rank and accounts them as his equals, he may not fear to execute the laws of rectitude towards the perverse. For, as I remember to have said in my book on morals (Lib. xxi., Moral, cap. 10, nunc. n.) it is clear that nature produced all men equal; but, through variation in the order of their merits, guilt puts some below others. But the very diversity which has accrued from vice is ordered by divine judgment, so that, since all men cannot stand on an equal footing, one should be ruled by another. Hence all who are over others ought to consider in themselves not the authority of their rank, but the equality of their condition and rejoice not to be over men, but to do them good. For indeed our ancient fathers are said to have been not kings of men, but shepherds of flocks. And, when the Lord said to Noe and his children, Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth (Gen. ix. 1), He at once added, And let the fear of you and the dread of you be upon all the beasts of the earth. Thus it appears that, whereas it is ordered that the fear and the dread should be upon the beasts of the earth, it is forbidden that it should be upon men. For man is by nature preferred to the brute beasts, but not to other men; and therefore it is said to him that he should be feared by the beasts, but not by men; since to wish to be feared by one's equal is to be proud against nature. And yet it is necessary that rulers should be feared by their subjects, when they find that God is not feared by them; so that those who have no dread of divine judgments may at any rate, through human dread, be afraid to sin. For superiors by no means shew themselves proud in seeking to inspire this fear, in which they seek not their own glory, but the righteousness of their subordinates. For in exacting fear of themselves from such as live perversely, they lord it, as it were, not over men, but over beasts, inasmuch as, so far as their subordinates are bestial, they ought also to lie subdued to dread.
But commonly a ruler, from the very fact of his being pre-eminent over others, is puffed up with elation of thought; and, while all things serve his need, while his commands are quickly executed after his desire, while all his subjects extol with praises what he has done well, but have no authority to speak against what he has done amiss, and while they commonly praise even what they ought to have reproved, his mind, seduced by what is offered in abundance from below, is lifted up above itself; and, while outwardly surrounded by unbounded favour, he loses his inward sense of truth; and, forgetful of himself, he scatters himself on the voices of other men, and believes himself to be such as outwardly he hears himself called rather than such as he ought inwardly to have judged himself to be. He looks down on those who are under him, nor does he acknowledge them as in the order of nature his equals; and those whom he has surpassed in the accident of power he believes himself to have transcended also in the merits of his life; he esteems himself wiser than all whom he sees himself to excel in power. For indeed he establishes himself in his own mind on a certain lofty eminence, and, though bound together in the same condition of nature with others, he disdains to regard others from the same level; and so he comes to be even like him of whom it is written, He beholdeth all high things; he is a king over all the children of pride (Job xli. 25). Nay, aspiring to a singular eminence, and despising the social life of the angels, he says, I will place my seat in the north, and I will be like unto the Most High (Isai. xiv. 13). Wherefore through a marvellous judgment he finds a pit of downfall within himself, while outwardly he exalts himself on the summit of power. For he is indeed made like unto the apostate angel, when, being a man, he disdains to be like unto men. Thus Saul, after merit of humility, became swollen with pride, when in the height of power: for his humility he was preferred, for his pride rejected; as the Lord attests, Who says, When thou wast little in thine own sight, did I not make thee the head of the tribes of Israd (1 Sam. xv. 17)? He had before seen himself little in his own eyes, but, when propped up by temporal power, he no longer saw himself little. For, preferring himself in comparison with others because he had more power than all, he esteemed himself great above all. Yet in a wonderful way, when he was little with himself, he was great with God; but, when he appeared great with himself, he was little with God. Thus commonly, while the mind is inflated from an affluence of subordinates, it becomes corrupted to a flux of pride, the very summit of power being pander to desire. And in truth he orders this power well who knows how both to maintain it and to combat it. He orders it well who knows how through it to tower above delinquencies, and knows how with it to match himself with others in equality. For the human mind commonly is exalted even when supported by no authority: how much more does it lift itself on high when authority lends itself to its support! Nevertheless he dispenses this authority aright, who knows how, with anxious care, both to take of it what is helpful, and also to reject what tempts, and with it to perceive himself to to be on a par with others, and yet to put himself above those that sin in his avenging zeal.
But we shall more fully understand this distinction, if we look at the examples given by the first pastor. For Peter, who had received from God the principality of Holy Church, from Cornelius, acting well and prostrating himself humbly before him, refused to accept immoderate veneration, saying, Stand up; do it not; I myself also am a man (Acts x. 26). But, when he discovers the guilt of Ananias and Sapphira, he soon shews with how great power he had been made eminent above all others. For by his word he smote their life, which he detected by the penetration of his spirit; and he recollected himself as chief within the Church against sins, though he did not acknowledge this, when honour was eagerly paid him, before his brethren who acted well. In one case holiness of conduct merited the communion of equality; in the other avenging zeal brought out to view the just claims of authority. Paul, too, knew not himself as preferred above his brethren who acted well, when he said, Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy (2 Cor. i. 23). And he straightway added, For by faith ye stand; as if to explain his declaration by saying, For this cause we have not dominion over your faith, because by faith ye stand; for we are your equals in that wherein we know you to stand. He knew not himself as preferred above his brethren, when he said, We became babes in the midst of you (1 Thess. ii. 7); and again, But ourselves your servants through Christ (2 Cor. iv. 5). But, when he found a fault that required to be corrected, straightway he recollected himself as a master, saying, What will ye? Shall I came unto you with a rod (1 Cor. iv. 21)?
Supreme rule, then, is ordered well, when he who presides lords it over vices, rather than over his brethren. But, when superiors correct their delinquent subordinates, it remains for them anxiously to take heed how far, while in right of their authority they smite faults with due discipline, they still, through custody of humility, acknowledge themselves to be on a par with the very brethren who are corrected; although for the most part it is becoming that in our silent thought we even prefer the brethren whom we correct to ourselves. For their vices are through us smitten with the vigour of discipline; but in those which we ourselves commit we are lacerated by not even a word of upbraiding. Wherefore we are by so much the more bounden before the Lord as among men we sin unpunished: but our discipline renders our subordinates by so much the freer from divine judgment, as it leaves not their faults without retribution here. Therefore, in the heart humility should be maintained, and in action discipline. And all the time there is need of sagacious insight, lest, through excessive custody of the virtue of humility, the just claims of government be relaxed, and lest, while any superior lowers himself more than is fit, he be unable to restrain the lives of his subordinates under the bond of discipline. Let rulers, then, maintain outwardly what they undertake for the benefit of others: let them retain inwardly what makes them fearful in their estimate of themselves. But still let even their subjects perceive, by certain signs coming out becomingly, that in themselves they are humble; so as both to see something to be afraid of in their authority, and to acknowledge something to imitate with respect to humility. Therefore let those who preside study without intermission that in proportion as their power is seen to be great externally it be kept down within themselves internally; that it vanquish not their thought; that the heart be not carried away to delight in it; lest the mind become unable to control that which in lust of domination it submits itself to. For, lest the heart of a ruler should be betrayed into elation by delight in personal power, it is rightly said by a certain wise man They have made thee a leader: lift not up thyself, but be among them as one of them (Ecclus. xxxii. 1). Hence also Peter says, Not as being lords over God's heritage, but being made ensamples to the flock (1 Pet. v. 3). Hence the Truth in person, provoking us to higher virtuous desert, says, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are greater exercise authority upon them. It shall not be so among you, but whosoever will be greater among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the San of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister (Matth. xx. 25). Hence also He indicates what punishments are in store for the servant who has been elated by his assumption of government, saying, But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites (Match. xxiv. 48, seq.). For he is rightly numbered among the hypocrites, who under pretence of discipline turns the ministry of government to the purpose of domination. And yet sometimes there is more grievous delinquency, if among perverse persons equality is kept up more than discipline. For Eli, because, overcome by false affection, he would not punish his delinquent sons, smote himself along with his sons before the strict judge with a cruel doom (1 Sam. iv. 17, 18). For on this account it is said to him by the divine voice, Thou hast honoured thy sons more than Me (Ibid. ii. 29). Hence, too, He upbraids the shepherds through the prophet, saying, That which was broken ye have not bound up, and that which was cast away ye have not brought back (Ezek. xxxiv. 4). For one who had been east away is brought back, when any one who has fallen into sin is recalled to a state of righteousness by the vigour of pastoral solicitude. For ligature binds a fracture when discipline subdues a sin, lest the wound should bleed mortally for want of being compressed by the severity of constraint. But often a fracture is made worse, when it is bound together unwarily, so that the cut is more severely felt from being immoderately constrained by ligaments. Hence it is needful that when a wound of sin in subordinates is repressed by correction, even constraint should moderate itself with great carefulness, to the end that it may so exercise the rights of discipline against delinquents as to retain the bowels of loving-kindness. For care should be taken that a ruder shew himself to his subjects as a mother in loving-kindness, and as a father in discipline. And all the time it should be seen to with anxious circumspection, that neither discipline be rigid nor loving-kindness lax. For, as we have before now said in our book on Morals (Lib. xx., Moral n. 14, c. 8, et ep. 25, lib. 1), there is much wanting both to discipline and to compassion, if one be had without the other. But there ought to be in rulers towards their subjects both compassion justly considerate, and discipline affectionately severe. For hence it is that, as the Truth teaches (Luke x. 34), the man is brought by the care of the Samaritan half dead into the inn, and both wine and oil are applied to his wounds; the wine to make them smart, the oil to soothe them. For whosoever superintends the healing of wounds must needs administer in wine the smart of pain, and in oil the softness of loving-kindness, to the end that through wine what is festering may be purged, and through oil what is curable may be soothed. Gentleness, then, is to be mingled with severity; a sort of compound is to be made of both; so that subjects be neither exulcerated by too much asperity, nor relaxed by too great kindness. Which thing, according to the words of Paul (Heb. ix. 4), is well signified by that ark of the tabernacle, in which, together with the tables, there as a rod and manna; because, if with knowledge of sacred Scripture in the good rulers breast there is the rod of constraint, there should be also the manna of sweetness. Hence David says, Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me (Ps. xxiii. 4). For with a rod we are smitten, with a staff we are supported. If, then, there is the constraint of the rod for striking, there should be also the comfort of the staff for supporting. Wherefore let there be love, but not enervating; let there be vigour, but not exasperating; let there be zeal, but not immoderately burning; let there be pity; but not sparing more than is expedient; that, while justice and mercy, blend themselves together in supreme rule, he who is at the head may both soothe the hearts of his subjects in making them afraid, and yet in soothing them constrain them to reverential awe.
Chapter 8. That the ruler should not set his heart on pleasing men, and yet should give heed to what ought to phase them.
Meanwhile it is also necessary for the ruler to keep wary watch, lest the lust of pleasing men assail him; lest, when he studiously penetrates the things that are within, and providently supplies the things that are without, he seek to be beloved of those that are under him more than truth; lest, while, supported by his good deeds, he seems not to belong to the world, self-love estrange him from his Maker. For he is the Redeemer's enemy who through the good works which he does covets being loved by the Church instead of Him; since a servant whom the bridegroom has sent with gifts to the bride is guilty of treacherous thought if he desires to please the eyes of the bride. And in truth this self-love, when it has got possession of a ruler's mind, sometimes carries it away inordinately to softness, but sometimes to roughness. For from love of himself the ruler's mind is inclined to softness, because, when he observes those that are under him sinning, he does not presume to reprove them, lest their affection for himself should grow dull; nay sometimes he smooths down with flatteries the offence of his subordinates which he ought to have rebuked. Hence it is well said through the prophet, Woe unto them that sew cushions under every elbow, and make pillows under the head of every stature to catch sows (Ezek. xiii. 18); inasmuch as to put cushions under every elbow is to cherish with bland flatteries souls that are falling from their uprightness and reclining themselves in this world's enjoyment. For it is as though the elbow of a recumbent person rested on a cushion and his head on pillows, when the hardness of reproof is withdrawn from one who sins, and when the softness of favour is offered to him, that he may lie softly in error, while no roughness of contradiction troubles him. But so rulers who love themselves undoubtedly shew themselves to those by whom they fear they may be injured in their pursuit of temporal glory. Such indeed as they see to have no power against them they ever keep down with roughness of rigid censure, never admonish them gently, but, forgetful of pastoral kindness, terrify them with the rights of domination. Such the divine voice rightly upbraids through the prophet, saying, But with austerity and power did ye rule them (Ezek. xxiv. 4). For, loving themselves more than their Maker, they lift up themselves haughtily towards those that are under them, considering not what they ought to do, but what they can do; they have no fear of future judgment they glory insolently in temporal power; it pleases them to be free to do even unlawful things, and that no one among their subordinates should contradict them. He, then, who sets his mind on doing wrong things, and yet wishes all other men to hold their peace about them, is himself a witness to himself that he desires to be loved himself more than the truth, which he is unwilling should be defended against him. There is indeed no one who so lives as not to some extent to fail in duty. He, then, desires the truth to be loved more fully than himself, who wishes to be spared by no one against the truth. For hence Peter willingly accepted Paul's rebuke (Galat. ii. 11); hence David humbly listened to the reproof of his subject (2 Sam. xii. 7); because good rulers, being themselves unconscious of loving with partial affection, believe the word of free sincerity from subjects to be the homage of humility. But meanwhile it is necessary that the care of government be tempered with so great skill of management that the mind of subjects, when it has become able to feel rightly on some subjects, should so advance to liberty of speech that liberty still break not out into pride; lest, while liberty of the tongue is perchance conceded to them overmuch, the humility of their life be lost. It is to be borne in mind also, that it is fight for good rulers to desire to please men; but this in order to draw their neighbours by the sweetness of their own character to affection for the truth; not that they should long to be themselves loved, but should make affection for themselves as a sort of road by which to lead the hearts of their hearers to the love of the Creator. For it is indeed difficult for a preacher who is not loved, however well he may preach, to be willingly listened to. He, then, who is over others ought to study to be loved to the end that he may be listened to, and still not seek love its own sake, lest he be found in the hidden usurpation of his thought to rebel against Him whom in his office he appears to serve. Which thing Paul insinuates well, when, manifesting the secret of his affection for us, he says, seven as I please all men in all things (1 Cor. x. 33). And yet he says again, If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. i. 10). Thus Paul pleases, and pleases not; because in that he desires to please he seeks that not he himself should; please men, but truth through him.
Trans. J. Barmby in The Book of Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great, in Library of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, Vol. XII, (New York: 1895) [reprinted since by variety of publishers], p. 9-15, 20
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Part III: Admonitions.
Part Three of the Pastoral Rule takes up two thirds of the entire book (The final section, Part IV is only two pages. Here after discussing the active life of the pastor brings him back into himself).
Part three consists of 40 chapters. It is a series of "admonitions" or instructions to the pastor on how he should treat people of differing categories.
Pope Gregory begins with a Prologue in which he admits his indebtedness to Gregory the Theologian:
Since, then we have shown what manner of man the pastor out to be, let us now set forth after what manner he should teach. For, as long before us, Gregory Nazianzen of reverend memory has taught, one and the same exhortation does not suit all, inasmuch as neither are all bound together by similarity of character. For the things that profit some often hurt others; seeing that also for the most part which nourish some animals are fatal to others and the bread which invigorates the strong kills little children. Therefore according to the quality of the hearers ought the discourse of the teachers to be fashioned, so as to suit all and each for their several needs, and yet never deviate from the art of common edification.
Gregory now lists the different kind of people that the pastor must deal with and how he must discriminate between the various groups: He begins by saying "Differently to be admonished are these that follow:" (This is how he will begin each of his Admonitions)
Men and women; poor and rich; joyful and sad; prelates and their subordinates; servants and masters; the wise and the dull; the impudent and the bashful; the forward and the fainthearted; the impatient and the patient; the kindly disposed and the envious; the simple and the insincere; the well person and the sick; those who fear scourges and those who have grown so hard in iniquity as not to be corrected by scourges; the quiet and those who talk too much; the slothful and the hasty; the meek and the passionate; the humble and the proud; the obstinate and the fickle; the generous and the stingy; the lovers of strife and the peacemakers; those who do not understand the sacred law, and those who speak about it without humility; those who actually could preach, but refuse because of their humility, and those whom imperfection or age (young?, old?) should not preach, but in their rashness they feel compelled to do so; those who are successful in worldly matters, and those who covet things but are unsuccessful; those who are bound by wedlock, and those who are free from the ties of wedlock; those who have had the experience of carnal intercourse, and those are ignorant of it; those who deplore sins of deed, and those who deplore sins of thought; those who bewail their misdeeds, but keep on doing them, and those who have given up their misdeeds but don’t bewail them; those who actually praise their own misdeeds, and those who may condemn their misdeeds but keep on doing them; those who are overcome by sudden passion, and those who act with premeditation; those who often sin in small ways, and those who do not sin often, but sin in very serious ways; those who never even begin to do good deeds, and those who never seem to finish what they begin; those who sin in secret and do good publicly; and those who do their good deeds in secret and permit their faults to be known.
"What profit is it for us to run through all these things collected together in a list, unless we also set forth, with all possible brevity, the modes of admonition for each?
And that is exactly what he does. Some admonitions are very brief and to the point, while with others he takes his time. (It would not be possible to comment on all the various admonitions, but we can look at least a few.)
Gregory begins with men and women. "Differently, then, are to be admonished are men and women; because on the former (the men) heavier injunctions, on the latter (women) lighter are to be laid. That those may be exercised by great things, but these winningly converted by light ones." Gregory is talking about "injunctions" or admonitions. In serious matters you have to talk to men in a different way than you talk to women.
In like manner you can’t admonish the old in the way you might admonish a young person. Severity might help the young to improve; but with older people you will have to exercise kindness. "Rebuke not the elder, but entreat him as a father." I Tim. V 1)
Gregory admits that people have different temperaments. Some are usually happy while others are often depressed. "Different," he says, to be admonished are the joyful and the sad.... before the joyful are to be set the sad things that follow upon punishments; but before sad the promised glad things of the kingdom. "Some are not made joyful or sad by circumstances, but are so by temperament. And to such it should be intimated that certain defects are connected with certain temperaments; that the joyful have lechery close at hand, and the sad wrath. Hence it is necessary for every one to consider not only what he suffers from his particular temperament, but also what worse things press on him in connection with it...."
The next admonition is for those in high authority in the church. Here he distinguishes how differently one must admonish a prelate, and how one admonishes one subject to authority. The prelate should not command more to be fulfilled than is just; and the subject, that he submits with humility. Those in authority should model themselves after the "living creatures" from Ezekiel who have eyes round about and within. Those in authority must with "circumspection... have eyes with and without." Subjects should not rashly judge their superiors. We should not offend against those who are set over us, for if we do so, we go against the ordinances of Him who set them over us.
Every pastor comes across people that are bright and knowledgeable, and those who are not so bright. To those who are brilliant, especially in worldly matters, the pastor must tell them to "leave off knowing what they know...." The dull should be told to seek out what they do not know. The brilliant might think themselves wise. As St. Paul says in I Cor 111.18 "If any man seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he be wise."
If you are dealing with someone who is really impudent, "nothing but hard rebukes restrains him from vice. The timid and the bashful can be corrected by gentle reminders."
Some people seem to bubble over with enthusiasm while others are very patient. Each must be dealt with differently. The hurried must be told that they might be carried away headlong by human emotions and find themselves in situations that they did not plan for. They might find themselves doing evil things that they might not be aware of. On the other hand patient people may be able to suffer difficult situations for a long time, but, they might actually be in jeopardy of negating the good they do with their patience but actually coming to hate those who trouble them. Unless patience is followed with love, it can be turned into hatred and seeking after vengeance.
Some people praise good deeds and virtue, but unfortunately while they esteem these things they don’t act accordingly.
Other people are crafty and insincere. Gregory advises the pastor to remind these sorts of people of how very difficult it is to be a good liar and consistently insincere. ."..the insincere are to be admonished to learn how heavy is the labor of duplicity, which with guilt they endure." (Liars have to have perfect memories.) "There is" insists Gregory "nothing safer for defense than sincerity, not easier to say than the truth."
Those who enjoy good health must be reminded that good health is a gift. This gift should be used to gain the health of the soul. Good health should not be used for an occasion of sin. It is a precious gift that can be lost. The health of the flesh can be lost through vices; the flesh then is worn with afflictions. On the other hand, those who are sick should be firm in their belief that they are sons of God. They should remember the great sufferings that the Lord endured for our salvation.
There are those who are overly silent and those who talk too much. To the overly silent Gregory would say that they may well suffer from what he calls "loquacity of the heart." "Thoughts seethe the more in the mind..." This man is exalted into pride by his ability to remain silent. And pride leads to all other vices. Their pain can be like a closed up sore that pains all the more. On the other hand, idle words and too much speaking can lead to hurtful words.
Differently to be admonished are the meek and the passionate. When the meek come to authority they suffer from a kind of sloth. At first they are too lax; but this can eventually lead to be strict beyond need. On the other than, the passionate are swept up in a frenzy of mind by the impulse of anger. They turn the lives of the subjects into utter confusion.
Pastors have to deal with both the glutton and the abstinent. Those who eat too much find themselves being carried away by talking too much, by levity of conduct, and the stings of lust are excited. The one who abstain may find himself being impatient, and guilty of pride. For those who eat too much, they should remember the rich man in the story of Lazarus. When he got to hell, it was his tongue that suffered most. Jeremiah reminds us that it was "the chief of cooks that broke down the walls of Jerusalem." And according to Gregory, the chief of cooks is the belly. The virtue of abstinence is actually a "small virtue." "For a man fasts not to God but to himself, if what he withholds from his belly for a time he gives not to the needy, but keep to be offered afterwards to his belly."
In Admonition 24, Gregory speaks of people that are probably familiar to pastors of every age. Here he speaks of "sowers of strife" on the one hand and "peacemakers" on the other. Sowers of strife should be reminded just who it is they are following. They are disciples of the apostate angel himself. But peacemakers should be aware it is possible for them to be making peace among people that it is better not to make peace between. Unity between people who do good is very desirable, but unity among those who do evil is quite another thing.
Admonition 28 speaks of how the pastor must treat the married differently from the single. The married must be reminded that as they seek to please one another, they must not forget to please God. "Husbands and wives are to be admonished to remember that they are joined together for the sake of producing offspring; and, when giving themselves to immoderate intercourse, they transfer the occasion of procreation to the service of pleasure….they may actually "exceed the just dues of wedlock."
The single are to be reminded that they are not bound by wedlock. They observe heavenly precepts all the more closely in that no yoke of carnal union bows them down to earthly cares. They are not bound by the many earthly cares of the married. More is expected of them. But if they suffer from the storms of temptation with risk to their safety, they should seek the port of wedlock.
For those unmarried persons who have committed sins of the flesh, they should be reminded of the great benevolence of God and the bosom of His pity toward us. Those who have preserved virtue should be should be told to fear falling into sin.
Finally, in your preaching the pastor should not preach deep subjects to weak souls; and most important it is more important to preach by the quality of your life than it is with your words. (Those interested may read all the various admonitions.)
Part IV. Conclusion: Time for Self Examination.
The pastor or preacher, if is successful, may find that "the mind of the speaker is elevated in itself by a hidden delight in self-display"…..
"But since often, when preaching is abundantly poured forth in fitting ways, the mind of the speaker is elevated in itself by a hidden delight in self-display, great care is needed that he may gnaw himself with the laceration of fear, lest he who recalls the diseases of others to health by remedies should himself swell through neglect of his own health; lest in helping others he desert himself, lest in lifting up others he fall. For to some the greatness of their virtue has often been the occasion of their perdition; causing them, while inordinately secure in confidence of strength, to die unexpectedly through negligence. For virtue strives with vices; the mind flatters itself with a certain delight in it; and it comes to pass that the soul of a well-doer casts aside the fear of its circumspection, and rests secure in self-confidence; and to it, now torpid (dormant-dead in the water), the cunning seducer enumerates all things that it has done well, and exalts it in swelling thoughts as though superexcellent beyond all beside. When it is brought about, that before the eyes of the just judge the memory of virtue is a pitfall for the soul; because, in calling to mind what it has done well, while it lifts itself up in its own eyes, it falls before the author of humility." In other words, if you do something good, for your sake — not God’s — give God the glory.
St. Gregory concludes:
"See now, good man, how, compelled by the necessity laid upon me by thy reproof, being intent on showing what a Pastor ought to be, I have been as an ill-favored painter portraying a handsome man; and how I direct others to the shore of perfection, while myself still tossed among the waves of transgressions. But in the shipwreck of this present life sustain me; I beseech thee, by the plank of thy prayer, that, since my own weight sinks me down, the hand of thy merit may raise me up?"
Other Works of St. Gregory; Complete and Partial Editions; Translations, Recensions.
Of the writings commonly attributed to Gregory the following are now admitted as genuine on all hands: "Moralium Libri XXXV"; "Regulae Pastoralis Liber"; "Dialogorum Libri IV"; "Homiliarum in Ezechielem Prophetam Lobri II"; "Homiliarum in Evangelia Libri II"; "Epistolarum Libri XIV." The following are almost certainly spurious: "In Librum Primum Regum Variarum Expositionum Libri VI"; "expositio super Cantica Canticorum"; "Expositio in VII Psalmos Poenitentiales"; "Concordia Quorundam Testimoniorum S. Scripturae." Besides the above there are attributed to Gregory certain liturgical hymns, the Gregorian Sacramentary, and the Antiphonary.
"Opera S. Gregorii Magni: (Editio princeps, Paris, 1518); ed. P. Tossianensis (6 vols., Rome, 1588-03); ed. P. Goussainville (3 vols., Paris, 1675); ed. Cong. S. Mauri (Sainte-Marthe) (4 vols., Paris, 1705); the last-named re-edited with additions by J. B. Gallicioli (17 vols., Venice, 1768-76) and reprinted in Migne, P.L., LXXV-LXXIX. "Epistolae," ed. P. Ewald and L. M. Hartmann in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Epist.," I, II (Berlin, 1891-99); this is the authoritative edition of the text of the Epistles (all references given above are to this edition); Jaffe, "Regesta Pontif," (2nd ed., Rome, 1885), I, 143-219; II, 738; Turchi, "S. Greg. M. Epp. Selectae" (Rome, 1907); P. Ewald, "Studien zur Ausgabe des Registers Gregors I." in "Neues Archiv," III, 433-625; L.M. Hartmann in "Neues Archiv," XV, 411, 529; XVII, 493; Th. Mommsen in "Neues Archiv," XVII, 189; English translation: J. Barmby, "Selected Epistles" in "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," 2nd Series, XII, XIII (Oxford and New York, 1895, 1898), "Regula Pastoralis Curae," ed. E. W. Westhoff (Munster, 1860); ed. H. Hurter, S.J., in "SS. Patr. Opuse. Select.," XX; ed. A. M. Micheletti (Tournai, 1904); ed. B. Sauter (Freiburg, 1904); English translations: "King Alfred's West Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care," ed. H. Sweet (London, 1871); "The Book of Pastoral Care" (tr. J. Barmby) in "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," 2nd Series, XII (Oxford and New York, 1895). "Dialogorum Libri IV": very many editions of the whole work have appeared, and also of Bk. II, "Of the Life and Miracles of St. Benedict," separately; an old English translation has been reprinted by H. Coleridge, S. J. (London, 1874); L. Wiese, "Die Sprache der Dialoge" (Halle, 1900); H. Delehaye, "S. Gregoirele Grand dans Phagiographie Grecque" in "Analecta Bolland." (1904), 449-54; B. Sauter, "Der heilige Vater Benediktus nach St. Gregor dem Grossen" (Freiburg, 1904). "Hom. XL in Evangelia," ed. H. Hurter in "SS. Patrum Opuse. Select.," series II, Tom. VI (Innsbruck, 1892). G. Pfeilschifter Gregors der Gr." (Munich, 1900). "Magna Moralia," Eng. tr. in "Library of the Fathers" (4 vols., Oxford, 1844); Prunner, "Gnade und Sunde nach Gregors expositio in Job" (Eichstätt, 1855).