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Epistle XI.

To Brunichild, Queen.

Gregory to Brunichild, Queen of the Franks1919    Four Vatican mss. and Cod. Colbert give a date to this epistle, viz. “mense Octobris, indictione prima,” i.e. Oct. a.d. 597.  The Benedictine editors assign it, from certain internal evidence to the following year, and have therefore placed it in this ninth Book of the Epistles.  There is this additional reason for placing it later than a.d. 597.  Its first purpose is to reply to a request from queen Brunechild that a pallium should be sent to Syagrius, bishop of Augustodunum (Autun).  Now Autun was in the kingdom of Burgundy, which was reigned over at that time by Brunechild’s younger grandson Theoderic II.  But it was not till the year 599, according to Gregory of Tours (Hist. Franc. xi. 19), that she had been expelled from the kingdom of Austrasia, and taken up her residence with Theoderic.  She had previously been guardian of her elder grandson Theodebert II., who reigned over Austrasia, having his capital at Metz, and she was more likely to have sought the pall for the bishop Autun after she had become the virtual potentate of the Burgundian kingdom than previously; and indeed she seems to be evidently addressed as ruling the country to which the letter refers.  The date assigned to this epistle by the Benedictine editors, viz. Indiction 2 (i.e. from September 598 to September 599), is consistent with these circumstances..

With what firmness the mind of your Excellency is settled in the fear of Almighty God you shew in a praiseworthy manner, among the other good things that you do, by your love also of His priests; and great joy for your Christianity is caused us, since you study to advance with honours those whom you love and venerate as being truly Christ’s servants.  For it becomes you, most excellent daughter, 7it becomes you to be such as to be able to subject yourself to a lord above you.  For in submitting the neck of your mind to the fear of the Almighty Lord you confirm your dominion also over subject nations, and by subjecting yourself to the service of the Creator you bind your subjects the more devotedly to yourself.  Wherefore, having received your letters, we signify to you that your Excellency’s earnest desire has greatly pleased us, and we have been desirous of sending the pallium to our brother and fellow-bishop Syagrius2020    Bishop of Augustodunum (Autun), one of the bishops to whom Augustine had carried commendatory letters from Gregory on his progress to England (VI. 54).  The see of Augustodunum was under the metropolitan jurisdiction of Lugdunum (Lyons); and Brunechild, for some reason, appears to have desired to have it invested with peculiar dignity.  She afterwards founded a church, a nunnery, and a hospital there (see XIII. 6).  It is to be observed that the sending of the pallium to a bishop did not in all cases imply metropolitan jurisdiction.  It did not in this case.  See Epistle CVIII. to Syagrius, in which he is told that the Metropolitan of Lyons was to retain his position unimpaired; only that the bishop of Autun was thenceforth to be next to him in place and dignity., inasmuch as the disposition of our most serene lord the Emperor is also favourable, and, so far as we have been informed by our deacon, who was the representative of our Church at his Court, he is altogether desirous that this thing should be granted2121    We observe here the requirement of the Emperor’s consent for sending the Pallium to a see not previously thus dignified., and many good reports have reached us of our aforesaid brother both on your testimony and that of others; and especially we learnt what his life is from John the Regionarius2222    It seems not to be known with any certainty what the title Regionarius, thus used absolutely, implies, though no doubt some honourable function.  John the Deacon (Vit. S. Gregor.) speaks of Gregory’s father Gordianus, a layman, as having been a Regionarius.  As to Notarii regionarii, Sub-diaconi regionarii, Defensores regionarii, cf. VIII. 14. on his return to us.  And hearing what he did in the case of our brother Augustine, we bless our Redeemer, because we feel that he fulfils in his deeds the meaning of his name of priest.

But there have been many hindrances which have meanwhile prevented us from doing this thing.  First indeed, that he who had come to receive this pallium is implicated in the error of the schismatics2323    Meaning those who were out of communion with Rome with regard to “The Three Chapters,” see I. 16, note 3.  There were some in Gaul, as well as in Istria and elsewhere, who long refused assent to the condemnation of the Chapters by the fifth Council.  Cf. IV. 2, 3, 4, 38, 39; XVI. 12.; further, that you wished it to be understood that it was sent, not on your petition, but from ourselves.  But there was this besides; that neither had he who desires to use it requested it to be granted him by a special petition addressed to us:  and it was by no means right for us to concede so great a matter without his request; especially as an ancient custom has obtained, that the dignity of the pallium shall not be given except when the merits of a case demand it, and to one who urgently requests it.  Still, lest we should seem perchance to wish, under pretext of any excuse, to put off the desire of your Excellency, we have provided for the pallium being sent to our most beloved son Candidus the presbyter, charging him, with befitting precaution, to deliver it in our stead.  Hence it is requisite that our above-written brother and fellow-bishop Syagrius must hope for it, when he has of his own motion drawn up a petition with some of his bishops; and this he must give to the aforesaid presbyter, to the end that he may be in a position to obtain properly the use of the same pallium with the favour of God.

In order, then, that the charge you bear may be of fruit to you before the eyes of our Creator, let the solicitude of your Christianity be diligently on the watch, and suffer no one who is under your dominion to attain to holy orders by the giving of money, or the patronage of any persons whatever, or by right of relationship; but let such a one be elected to the episcopate, or to the office of any other sacred order, as his life and manners have shewn to be worthy; lest if, as we do not expect, the dignity of the priesthood should be venal, simoniacal heresy, which was the first to come up in the Church, and has been condemned by the sentence of the Fathers, should arise in your parts, and (which God forbid) should weaken the powers of your kingdom.  For it is a serious matter, and a wickedness beyond what can be told, to sell the Holy Spirit, who redeemed all things.

But let this also be your care, that, since, as you know, the excellent preacher entirely forbids a novice to accede to the ruling position of priesthood, you suffer no one to be consecrated bishop from being a layman.  For what sort of master will he be who has not been a disciple?  Or what kind of leadership can he supply to the Lord’s flock who has not been previously subjected to a shepherd’s discipline?  If, then, any one’s life should be such as to shew him worthy of being promoted to this order, he ought first to serve in the ministry of the Church, to the end that by the experience of long practice he may see what to imitate, and learn what to teach; lest perchance the newness of his charge bear not the burden of government, and occasion of ruin arise from the immaturity of his promotion.

Moreover, how your Excellency conducted yourself towards our brother and fellow-bishop Augustine, and how great charity, through the inspiration of God, you bestowed upon him, we have learnt from the relation of divers of the faithful; for which we return thanks, and implore the mercy of Divine Power to keep 8you here under its protection, and cause you to reign, as among men, so also after a course of many years in life eternal.

Furthermore, those whom the error of the schismatics severs from the unity of the Church, strive ye, for your own reward, to recall to the unity of concord.  For on no other ground are they enveloped so far in the blindness of their ignorance but that they may escape ecclesiastical discipline, and have licence to live perversely as they please, since they understand neither what they defend nor what they follow.  But as for us, we venerate and follow in all respects the synod of Chalcedon, from which they take to themselves the clouds of a pestiferous excuse; and, if any one should presume to diminish or add anything with regard to the faith thereof, we anathematize him.  But they are so impregnated with the taint of error that, giving credence to their own ignorance, they reject the universal Church, and all the four patriarchs, not with reason, but with malicious intent; so that he who was sent to us by your Excellency, when he was asked by us why he stood separated from the universal Church, acknowledged that he did not know.  But neither what he said nor what else he gave ear to had he the power of knowing.  As to this also we no less exhort you, that you should restrain the rest of your subjects under the control of discipline from sacrificing to idols, being worshippers of trees, or exhibiting sacrilegious sacrifices of the heads of animals; seeing that it has come to our ears that many of the Christians both resort to the churches and also (horrible to relate!) do not give up their worshipping of demons.  But, since these things are altogether displeasing to our God, and He does not own divided minds, provide ye for their being salubriously restrained from these unlawful practices; lest (God forbid it!) the sacrament of holy baptism serve not for their rescue, but for their punishment.  If therefore you know of any that are violent, if of any that are adulterers, if of any that are thieves, or bent on other wicked deeds, make haste to appease God by their correction, that He may not bring upon you the scourge due to unfaithful races, which, so far as we see, is already lifted up for the punishment of many nations; lest, if—as we do not believe will be the case—the wrath of Divine vengeance should be kindled by the doings of the wicked, the plague of war should destroy the sinners whom the precepts of God recall not to the way of rectitude.  We must, then, needs make haste, with all earnestness and continual prayer, to betake ourselves to the mercy of our Redeemer, wherein there is a place of safety and great security for all.  For whoso steadfastly abides there, him danger crushes not, nor fear alarms.

We have sent the volume, as you desired us by letter, to our aforesaid most beloved son Candidus the presbyter, to be offered to you, being in haste to be sharers in your good purpose.  May Almighty God keep you under His protection, and by His outstretched arm defend your kingdom from unbelieving nations, and bring you after long courses of years to eternal joys.  Given in the month of October, the first indiction2424    See note 1..

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