Gregory the Great, Dialogues (1911) Book 4. pp. 177-258.
Chapter Six: that as the life of the soul remaining in the body, is gathered by the motion of the members: so the life of the soul, after death in holy men, is to be found out by the virtue of miracles.
Chapter Twenty-six: By what means it happens, that those which lie dying do prophesy of things to come: and of the death of a certain advocate: of that also which was revealed to the monks Gerontius and Mellitus: of the death of a boy called Armentatius, and of the diversity of tongues.
Chapter Thirty-five: how sometime souls ready to depart this world, that know not one another, know yet what torments for their sins, or like rewards for their good deeds, they shall receive. And of the death of John, Ursus, Eumorphius, and Stephen.
Chapter Thirty-six: of those souls which seem as it were through error to be taken out of their bodies: and of the death and reviving of a monk calleo Peter: of the death, likewise, and raising up again of one Stephen: and of the strange vision of a certain soldier.
Chapter Fifty-five: what is available for the soul after death: and of a Priest of Centumcellis, who was desired bv a certain man's spirit, to be helped after his death, by the holy sacrifice: and of the soul of a monk called Justus.
Chapter Fifty-seven: of one that was taken by his enemies and put in prison, whose irons fell off at the time of the sacrifice: and of one Baraca, a mariner, that was by the holy sacrifice delivered from drowning.
Chapter One; how carnal men give the less credit to those things which be eternal and spiritual; because they know not by experience, what they hear others to speak of.
After that the first Parent of mankind was for his sin banished from the joys of Paradise, he fell into the misery of this ignorance and banishment, which to this very day we do all endure: for his sin was the cause that he could not any longer see those joys of heaven, which before by contemplation he possessed: for during the time of his residence in Paradise, he usually heard God talking with him, and by purity of heart and heavenly vision, was present with the quires of the blessed Angels. But after his fall he lost that light of soul, which before abundantly he enjoyed. From whom we being by carnal propagation derived, that live now in this dark ignorance of banishment, do hear indeed of an heavenly country, and how it is inhabited by the Angels of God; and that the souls of just and perfect men do there keep them company. But yet such as be carnal, because they can not by experience know those invisible creatures, doubt whether there be any such, seeing with their corporal eyes they cannot behold them: from which doubt our first Parent was altogether free: for although he was exiled from the joys of Paradise, yet did he still keep in memory what he had lost, because he had before beheld the same: but these |178 men can not by any means call to mind such things as they hear others speak of, because they never had of them any former experience as our first father Adam had. For it is in this case as if a woman big with child should be put in prison, and be there delivered of a son, which never went forth, but were there continually brought up: for if his mother should tell him of the sun, moon, stars, mountains: and speak of the fields, the flying of birds, and running of horses; her child, that had continually been brought up in the prison, and acquainted with nothing else but black darkness, might well hear what she said, but with a doubt whether it were true or no, because experience taught him not any such thing. Even so, men that are born in this dark world, the place of their banishment, do hear that there be wonderful, strange, and invisible things: but because they are not acquainted with any else but terrestrial creatures, which only be visible, they doubt whether there be any such invisible things as are reported of, or no: for which cause the Creator himself of all things both visible and invisible, and the only begotten Son of the eternal Father, came into this world, for the redemption of mankind: and sent the holy Ghost unto our hearts, that quickened by him and his grace, we should believe those things which as yet by sense or experience we cannot possibly understand: and therefore so many of us as have received this spirit, the heavenly pledge of our inheritance, make no doubt of God's invisible and immortal creatures: and whosoever as yet is not settled in this belief, out of all question, he ought of reason to give credit to the words of them that be more learned and holy, and believe them that, through the grace of God's holy Spirit, have experience of those things that be invisible: for he were a very foolish child, that thought his mother lied, when she spake of light in other places, because himself, where he was, beheld nothing else but the darkness of the prison.1 |179
PETER. That you say doth wonderfully content me: yet he who believeth not that there be any invisible things, out of question in mine opinion is an infidel: and he that is an infidel, in that thing whereof he doubteth seeketh not for faith, but for reason.
Chapter Two: that an infidel liveth not without faith.
GREGORY. I speak boldly yet truly, that an infidel liveth not without faith: for if I demand of him, who is his father or mother, straightways he will tell me, such a man and such a woman: and if I press him further, whether he doth remember the time when he was first conceived, or the hour when he was born into this world, he will answer me, that he never knew or saw any such thing: and yet for all this doth he believe that which he never beheld, seeing he believeth, without all doubt, that such a man was his father, and such a woman his mother.
PETER. I must needs confess, that I never knew before this time that an infidel had any faith.
GREGORY. Infidels have faith, but not in God, for then they were not infidels: but worthily are they by the former reason to be blamed, and thereby also to be provoked to embrace true faith: for if concerning their visible body, they believe that which they never saw, why do they not also believe some things which with their corporal eyes they cannot behold?
Chapter Three: that God creates three kinds of spirits with life.
For that our soul doth live after the death of the body, reason doth teach us, assisted and holpen with faith: for almighty God created three kinds of spirits having life. One altogether spiritual without body: another with a body, but yet which dieth not with the body: the third that which is both joined with the body, and also together with the body doth die. The spirits that have no bodies be the Angels: they that have bodies but die not with them, be the souls of men: those |180 that have bodies and die together with them, be the souls of cattle and brute beasts. Man, therefore, as he is created in the middle state,2 inferior to Angels and superior to beasts, so doth he participate of both: having immortality of soul with the Angels, and mortality of body with beasts, until the day of doom: for then the glory of the resurrection shall take away and consume the mortality of the body: for being then reunited to the soul, it shall be preserved for ever: as the soul joined to the body is preserved for God. Neither shall the bodies of the damned, lying in torments, ever perfectly perish: for though they always decay, yet for ever shall they continue: and as they sinned both with soul and body, so living always in body and soul, they shall always die without end.
PETER. All your discourse is consonant to that reason which Christian religion teacheth: but I beseech you, if there be so great difference betwixt the souls of men and beasts as you affirm, why doth Solomon speak in this manner? I have said in mine heart of the sons of men, that God would prove them, and shew them to be like unto beasts: therefore there is one death of men and beasts, and their state is both alike: and prosecuting afterward more exactly that opinion of his, thus he writeth: As a man dieth, so do beasts die: all things breathe alike, and man hath nothing more than beasts. After which words, he addeth also this general conclusion: All things are subject to vanity, and all things go to one place: of the earth they were made, and into the earth they return again.3
Chapter Four: of Solomon's question, to wit: The death of men and beasts is all one.
GREGORY. Solomon's book, in which these sayings are found, is called Ecclesiastes: as much to say properly as The Preacher. And in a sermon the manner is to have an opinion set down, by means whereof the tumultuous |181 sedition of common people may be appeased: and whereas divers have divers opinions, yet are they all, by the Preacher's arguments and reasons, brought to unity and agreement: and therefore this book is called The Preacher: because in it Solomon doth as it were take upon him the person and words of the unruly vulgar sort, and by way of inquisition speaketh those things, which haply ignorant men through temptation do verily think: and therefore so many questions as he doth by way of enquiry propound, so many divers persons doth he in a manner take upon himself: but the true Preacher doth, as it were with his hand, compound all their doubts and disagreements, and bring them all to concord and unity of opinion, when as in the end of his book he saith: Let us all together hear an end of speaking: Fear God, keep his commandments, for this is every man.4 For if in that book he had not by his discourse taken upon him the person of divers, why did he admonish all to make an end of speaking, together with him, and to hear?
He, therefore, that in the conclusion of the book saith: Let us all together hear: doth give evident testimony of himself, that he took many persons upon him, and that he spake not at all as of himself: and therefore some things there be in that book, which are moved by way of disputation, and other some which by reason give satisfaction: some things which he uttereth in the person of one that is tempted, and who as yet followeth the pleasures of the world: and some other things, in which he disputeth them according to the rule of reason, and to draw the mind from vain pleasure and delight: for as there he saith: This, therefore, seemeth unto me good, that a man should eat and drink, and take joy of his labour 5: so afterward he addeth: It is better to go unto the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting.6 For if it be good to eat and drink, it seemeth better to go unto the house of feasting |182 than to the house of mourning: and therefore by this it is evident, that he uttered that former saying in the person of frail men, and pronounced this latter according to the rule of reason: and therefore doth he straight-ways set down the grounds of his reason, and sheweth what commodity is gotten by going to the house of mourning, saying thus: For in that we are put in mind of the end of all men, and the living man thinketh what he shall be.7 Again there we find it written: O young man, rejoice in thy youth:8 and yet a little after is added: for youth and pleasure be vain things.
Seeing, therefore, he doth afterward reprove that for vain, which before he seemed to allow: plainly doth he declare that he spake those words as it were of carnal concupiscence, and the other of a right and true judgment. Therefore as he doth, in the first place, express the delight of carnal things, and pronounceth it to be good to cast away all care, and to eat and drink: so afterward, with reason and judgment doth he reprove that, when he saith that it is better to go unto the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting: and though he saith that a young man ought to rejoice in his youth, yet doth he utter that as proceeding from the resolution of a carnal mind; seeing afterward, by definitive sentence, he reproveth both youth and pleasure, as vain things. Even so and in like manner, doth our Preacher set down the opinion of man's suspicion, as it were in the person of those that be weak, and subject to temptation, when he saith: The death of man and beasts is one, and their condition both alike: as man dieth, so they also die: all things do breathe alike, and a man hath not any more than beasts: who, notwithstanding, afterward putteth down his own opinion, proceeding from judgment and reason, in these words: What hath a wise man more than a fool, and what a poor man, but that he may go thither where life is?9 He |183 therefore that said: A man hath no more than beasts: said also with mature deliberation, that a wise man hath not only more than a beast, but also more than a foolish man, to wit, that he goeth to that place where life is: in which words he doth also teach us, that man's life is not in this world, seeing he affirmeth it to be elsewhere: wherefore man hath this more than beasts, because they after death do not live: but he doth then begin truly to live, when by mortal death he maketh an end of this transitory life: and therefore long after he saith: Whatsoever thy hand can do, instantly work: because with them in hell whither thou goest, there shall be neither work, nor reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom:10 how then is the death of man and beasts all one, and how is their condition and state alike? or how hath not a man more than beasts, when as they after death live not, and the souls of men, after the death of their bodies, be for their wicked deeds carried to hell, and do not die when they depart this life? But in both these sayings, which seem contrary each to other, it is made manifest that the Preacher speaketh the truth: uttering the one of carnal temptation, and yet afterward, upon deliberation and according to truth, resolutely setteth down and defineth the contrary.
PETER. Glad I am, that ignorant I was of that question which I demanded: seeing I have, by means thereof, come to so exact an understanding of that which before I knew not. But I beseech you to take it patiently, if I also, like to this our Preacher, take upon me the person of weak and frail men: that I may the better, as it were by their demanding of questions, be profitable to them in their weakness and infirmities.
GERGORY. Why should I not bear with you, condescending to the infirmities of your neighbours? when as Paul saith: To all men I became all things, that I might save all:11 and surely you are the more to be reverenced, for |184 condescending to their weakness upon charity, and therein do you imitate the steps of an excellent preacher.
Chapter Five: of a question concerning the soul, which goeth invisibly out of the body: to wit, whether there be any such thing, seeing it can not be seen.
PETER. It chanced so, that I was present when one departed this life. Who suddenly, as he was a speaking, gave up the ghost; and whom before I heard talking with me, in an instant I saw dead: but whether his soul went out of the body or no, that I did not see: and it seemeth very hard to believe that thing, which no man can behold.
GREGORY. What marvel is it, Peter, that you saw not the soul departing out of the body, seeing you behold it not when it remaineth in the body? What? do you believe me to have no soul, because, whiles you now talk with me, you can not see it? The nature of the soul is invisible, and therefore invisibly doth it depart out of the body, as it doth invisibly remain in the body.
PETER. That the soul hath life, so long as it remaineth in the body, easily do I perceive by the motion thereof: for if the body were destitute of the soul, the members could not possibly move at all: but that the soul liveth when it is out of the body, by what motions or actions I should gather, desirous I am to be informed by you: to the end that by such things as I do see, I may know that thing which I can not see.
GREGORY. Though not with any great subtlety of discourse, yet confidently do I affirm it to be most true, that as the power of the soul doth quicken and move the body, so the power of God doth fill all things which he hath created; and to some things doth he give life by breathing it into them; to other things he vouchsafeth life in another manner: and upon some other things he bestoweth only a being, without any life at all. Seeing, therefore, you doubt not but that God is the creator and |185 preserver of all things, that he doth fill and embrace all things, that he doth excel all things, and also maintaineth them, that he is incircumscriptible and invisible: so neither ought you to doubt, but that he is served with invisible creatures, seeing they that serve ought to be somewhat like unto him upon whom they attend, and so, consequently, that we ought not to doubt, but for as much as he is invisible in himself, that they also be of the same nature: and what creatures can these be else but his holy Angels, and the souls of just men? Wherefore, as you know, when you see the body move, that the soul remaineth in the body, and you gather this from the body which is lowest: so ought you to think of the life of the soul that departeth from the body, deducing a reason from God who is the highest: to wit, that the soul liveth invisibly, seeing it is to remain in the service of the invisible Creator.
PETER. All this is very well said: yet our mind can hardly be brought to believe that, which with our corporal eyes we can not behold.
GREGORY. Seeing St. Paul saith, that faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the argument of things not appearing:12 truly are we said to believe that which can not be seen, and by no means to believe that which with our eyes we do behold: yet in few words to bring you home again to yourself, I say, that no visible things be seen but by the means of invisible: for although your bodily eye beholdeth all sensible creatures, yet could it not behold any such thing, did it not receive force from that which is invisible: for take away the soul, which none doth see, and in vain be the eyes opened to look upon anything. Take away the soul from the body, and the eyes, out of all question, may remain still open as before. If, then, our eyes did see of themselves, how cometh it to pass, that now the soul is gone, they see nothing at all? Learn |186 then by this, that visible things themselves are, not seen, but by means of them that be invisible. Let us also imagine that we saw before us the building of houses, huge timber and stones to be lifted up, great pillars to hang upon engines: what, I pray you, effecteth all this? the visible body that with hands draweth and moveth those huge and massy things, or the invisible soul that giveth life to the body? for take away that which is not seen in the body, and straightways all those things, which before did move, will remain without any motion at all. By which we may easily gather, that nothing can be disposed of in this visible world, but by another creature which is invisible: for as almighty God either by inspiration, or by replenishing those creatures which have reason, doth both quicken and move those things which be invisible, so, in like manner, those things which be invisible do give motion and sense to carnal bodies which are visible.
PETER. Willingly overcome with these reasons alleged, I confess that I am enforced almost to think that these visible things are nothing: whereas before, taking upon me the person of weak and unlearned men, I doubted whether there were any invisible creatures or no; wherefore your whole discourse doth very well please me: yet, as 1 am assured of the life of the soul by the motion of the body, so desirous I am to know by some sure and certain demonstrations, that the soul doth also live, after it is departed from the body.
Chapter Six: that as the life of the soul remaining in the body, is gathered by the motion of the members: so the life of the soul, after death in holy men, is to be found out by the virtue of miracles.
GREGORY. Herein most ready I am to satisfy your request; and for proof of this point, no difficulty do I find: for think you that the holy Apostles and martyrs of Christ would have contemned this present life, and |187 offered their bodies to death, had they not known that their souls did most assuredly live for ever? You confess that you know the life of the soul remaining in the body by the motion thereof: behold, then, how these that lost their lives for Christ, and believed that souls lived after death, be renowned for their daily miracles. For sick persons come unto their dead bodies, and be cured: perjured persons repair thither, and be possessed with devils: possessed with devils visit them, and are delivered: lepers come, and be cleansed: dead folk are brought, and they be raised up again. Consider then in what sort their souls do live in those places where they live, whose dead bodies live also in this world by so many miracles. If then you gather the life of the soul remaining in the body by the motion of the members: why do you not likewise, by the dead bones which work miracles, infer that the soul doth live after the death of the body?
PETER. No solution, as I think, can overthrow the force of this reason alleged: by which we are constrained through visible things to believe those which we see not and be invisible.
Chapter Seven: of the Departure of men's souls.
GREGORY. A little before, you complained for that you could not see the soul of one when it departed out of his body: but that was your fault, who desired with corporal eyes to behold an invisible thing, for many of us, that by sincere faith and plentiful prayer, have had the eye of our soul purified, have often seen souls going out of their bodies: and therefore now I think it necessary to set down both how, and in what sort, men's souls departing out of their bodies have been seen: and also what wonderful things have been revealed unto them, at the time of their departure: that by this means examples may satisfy our wavering and doubtful minds, which reason can not so fully persuade. Wherefore to begin. I remember that, in the second book of this work, |188 I told you how venerable Benedict (as by relation of his own monks I learned) being far distant from the city of Capua, beheld the soul of Germanus (Bishop of the same place) at midnight to be carried to heaven in a fiery globe: who, seeing the soul as it was ascending up, beheld also, in the largeness of his own soul, within the compass of one sunbeam, the whole world as it were gathered together.
Chapter Eight: of the Departure of the soul of Speciosus, a Monk.
By the relation also of the same monks, his disciples, I understood how two noble men that were brethren, and very well learned in humanity, the one called Speciosus, the other Gregory, entered into religion, there to live virtuously under the direction of his rule: whom the venerable father placed in a Monastery of his, hard by the city of Teracina.13 These men, whiles they remained in the world, were very rich, but for the redemption of their own souls, they had given all to the poor, and led their life in the same Monastery. One of these twain, to wit Speciosus, being sent upon business of the Monastery to the city of Capua: his natural brother Gregory in the meantime, sitting at table at dinner amongst the other monks, rapt in spirit, beheld his brother's soul, though so far distant, departing out of his body: which forthwith he told unto the other monks, and straight after in all haste took his journey to Capua, where he found his brother newly buried; and there understood how he died at that very hour, in which he saw his soul going out of his body.
Chapter Nine: of the soul of a certain anchoret.
A certain religious man, and one of great credit (at such time as I lived in the Monastery), told me that certain sailing from Sicily to Rome, as they were in the midst of the sea, beheld the soul of a certain servant of God carried to heaven, who had been an Anchoret in the land of Samnium. Landing afterward in the same |189 place, and making enquiry of that thing, they understood that holy man to have departed this life upon that very day in which they saw his soul ascending to heaven.
Chapter Ten: of the departure of abbot Hope's soul.
Whiles I lived as yet in my Monastery, I understood, by the relation of a very reverent man, a certain thing which I will now tell you. A venerable father there was, called Hope, who had built an Abbey in a place called Cample,14 distant almost six miles from the old city of Nursia. This man almighty and merciful God, by temporal affliction, preserved from everlasting misery, and gave him great grace and quiet of mind: for how dearly he loved him, yea, at that very time when he sent him affliction, was afterward made apparent to the world, when he vouchsafed perfectly to restore him to his former health. This man therefore was, for the space of forty years, punished with such a continual blindness of his eyes, that he could not so much as behold any light at all. But because none in adversity can without the help of God's grace stand: and unless the same merciful father, who sendeth punishment, giveth also patience: straightways his chastising of our sins doth by impatience more increase them: and so it pitifully falleth out, that our sin is by that very thing made greater, by which an end of all sin might very well have been expected. God therefore seeing our infirmity, together with affliction, by his sweet providence keepeth and preserveth us; and is in his correction which he sendeth his chosen children in this world, so just with mercy, that they may become such to whom afterward he may justly shew mercy: and therefore, though he did lay his cross of blindness upon this venerable man, yet did he not leave him destitute of inward light: for as his body was wearied with pain, so, by the providence of God's holy Spirit, his soul was refreshed with heavenly comfort. |190
At length when he had continued forty years in this kind of blindness, our good Lord restored him to his former sight, giving him also to understand that he was shortly to leave this world: and therefore admonished him to preach the word of life unto all such Abbeys as were about him; and that for as much as himself had received the light of his body, he would go and open unto them the spiritual light of the soul: who forthwith obeying God's commandment, visited the foresaid Abbeys, and preached unto them such precepts of good life as himself before had in conversation practised. Returning after fifteen days to his own Abbey, he called his monks together, and in their presence received the Sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord, and straightways began, together with them, the mystical hymns of the Psalms: afterward, falling with attention to his prayers, whiles they continued on their singing, he gave up the ghost: at which very time all the monks saw a dove coming out of his mouth, which in their sight flying forth through the top of the oratory being then opened, ascended up into heaven. And surely it is to be thought, that his soul, by divine providence, did in that manner appear in the likeness of a dove, that almighty God might thereby shew with what a true and simple heart that holy man had always served him.
Chapter Eleven: of the Departure of a Priest's soul, called Ursinus.
Neither must I forget that which the reverent Abbot Stephen (who not long since died in this city, and whom you knew very well) told me to have happened in the same province of Nursia. For he said that a Priest dwelt in that country, who in the fear of God governed the church committed to his charge: and although, after he had taken orders, he did still love his old wife as his sister, yet did he avoid her as his enemy: and never would he permit her to come near him upon any occasion, abstaining wholly from all |191 intercourse of familiarity. For this is a thing proper to holy men, oftentimes to deprive themselves of those things which be lawful, to the end they may remain the more free from such as be unlawful: and therefore this man, not to fall into any sin, utterly refused all necessary and requisite service at her hands.
When this reverent man had long lived in this world, the fortieth year after he was made priest, by a great and vehement ague [he] was brought to the last cast: his old wife, beholding him so far spent, and to lie as though he had been dead, put her head near unto him, to see whether he did breathe or no: which he perceiving, having yet a little life left, enforced himself to speak as well as he could, and in great fervour of spirit brake out into these words: "Get thee away, woman: a little fire is yet left, away with the straw." After she was gone, his strength somewhat increasing, he began with great joy to cry out: "Welcome, my Lords, welcome, my Lords: why have you vouchsafed to visit me, your unworthy servant? I come, I come: I thank you, I thank you": and when he did often repeat these and the like words, his friends that were present asked him to whom he spake, to whom with a kind of admiration he answered: "What? do you not here behold the holy Apostles? Do you not see the chief of them, St. Peter and St. Paul?" And so, turning himself again towards them, he said: "Behold I come, behold I come": and in speaking those words, he gave up his happy ghost. And that he did indeed verily behold the holy Apostles, he testified by that his departure with them. And thus it doth often fall out, by the sweet providence of God, that good men at their death do behold his Saints going before them, and leading as it were the way, to the end they should not be afraid at the pangs thereof; and that whiles their souls do see the Saints in heaven, they may be discharged from the prison of this body, without all fear and grief. |192
Chapter Twelve: of the soul of Probus, Bishop of the City of Reati.
Concerning which thing I must also tell you that which the servant of God, Probus (who now in this city liveth in an Abbey), gave me to understand of an uncle of his, called also Probus, who was Bishop of the city of Reati.15 For he said that, being grievously sick and in great extremity of death, his father, whose name was Maximus, caused many physicians to be sent for, to see whether by their skill he could any ways be helped; who all upon the feeling of his pulse, gave sentence of speedy death. When dinner time was come, and the day somewhat far spent, the venerable Bishop, more careful of their health than of his own, desired them that they would go up with his old father into the higher part of his palace; and after their great pains, to refresh themselves with a poor dinner. Whereupon all went up, and none remained with him, but a little young boy, who, as Probus saith, is yet living. The little boy, standing by his bedside, suddenly saw certain men coming in to the man of God, apparelled in white stoles, whose faces were far more beautiful and bright than the whiteness of their garments: whereat being amazed and afraid, he began to cry out, and ask who they were: at which noise the Bishop also looking up, beheld them coming in and knew them, and thereupon comforted the little boy, bidding him not to cry, or be afraid, saying that they were the holy martyrs St. Juvenal and St. Eleutherius that came to visit him: but he, not acquainted with any such strange visions, ran out at the doors as fast as he could, carrying news hereof both to his father and the physicians; who, going down in all haste, found the Bishop departed: for those Saints, whose sight the child could not endure, had carried his soul away in their company.
Chapter Thirteen: of the death of a Nun called Galla.16
Neither will I conceal that which I |193 received by the relation of those that are grave and of good credit. In the time of the Goths, an honourable young maid called Galla, daughter to Symmachus the Consul, was bestowed in marriage: whose husband, before the year came about, departed this life: and though both plenty of wealth and her young years were great allurements to a second marriage, yet she made choice rather to be married spiritually to God, in which after mourning everlasting joy doth follow: than to become again subject to carnal matrimony, which always beginneth with joy, and in conclusion endeth with sorrow. But because she had a passing high colour, the physicians told her that, unless she did marry again, that she would through abundance of heat, contrary to nature, have a beard like unto men: which afterward fell so out indeed: but the holy woman little regarded outward deformity, which inwardly in her soul was enamoured with the beauty of the heavenly spouse; and feared not if that in her became foul, which she knew that her celestial spouse did nothing love. Wherefore straight upon the death of her husband, casting off her secular habit and attire, she rendered herself for the service of God to that Nunnery which is by the church of the blessed Apostle St. Peter; where she lived for the space of many years in prayer and simplicity of heart, and bestowed alms plentifully upon needy and poor people. At length, when almighty God determined to bestow upon her an everlasting reward, he sent her a cancer in one of her breasts. Two candles she had usually in the night time burning before her bed; for loving light, she did not only hate spiritual darkness, but also corporal. One night, lying sore afflicted with this her infirmity, she saw St. Peter standing before her bed, betwixt the two candlesticks, and being nothing afraid, but glad, love giving her courage, thus she spake unto him: "How is it, my Lord? what? are my sins forgiven |194 me?" To whom (as he hath a most gracious countenance) he bowed down a little his head, and said: "Thy sins are forgiven thee; come and follow me." But because there was another Nun in the Monastery which Galla loved more than the rest, she straightways beseeched him that sister Benedicta might go with her: to whom he answered that she could not then come, but another should: "and as for her," quoth he, "whom you now request, thirty days hence shall she follow you": and when he had thus said, he vanished out of her sight. After whose departure, she straightways called for the mother of the Convent, and told her what she had seen and heard: and the third day following, both she and the other before mentioned departed this life: and she also, whose company Galla desired, the thirtieth day after did follow them. The memory of which thing continueth still fresh in that Monastery, so that the Nuns which now live there (receiving it by tradition from their predecessors) can tell every little point thereof, as though they had been present at that time when the miracle happened.
Chapter Fourteen: of the departure of a poor man, sick of the palsy, called Servulus.17
Here also we have to know that oftentimes, at the death of God's servants, heavenly musick is heard, to the end that whiles they give willing ear to that melody, the soul may have no leisure to feel, when it departeth from the body. For I remember that, in my Homilies 18 upon the Gospel, I told how in that porch which is in the way to St. Clement's Church, there lay a certain man called Servulus, whom I doubt not but you also do remember: who, as he was poor in wealth, so rich in merits. This man had long been afflicted with sickness: for from the first time that I knew him, to the very last hour of his life, never can I remember but that he was sick of the palsy, and that |195 so pitifully, that he could not stand, nor sit up in his bed: neither was he ever able to put his hand unto his mouth, or to turn from one side to the other. His mother and brethren did serve and attend him, and what he got in alms, that by their hands he bestowed upon other poor people. Read he could not, yet did he buy the holy scriptures, which very carefully he caused such religious men as he entertained to read unto him: by means whereof, according to his capacity, though, as I said, he knew not a letter of the book, yet did he fully learn the holy scripture. Very careful he was in his sickness always to give God thanks, and day and night to praise his holy name.
When the time was come, in which God determined to reward this his great patience: the pain of his body strook inwardly to his heart, which he feeling, and knowing as his last hour was not far off, called for all such strangers as lodged in his house, desiring them to sing hymns with him, for his last farewell and departure out of this life: and as he was himself singing with them, all on a sudden he cried out aloud, and bad them be silent, saying: "Do ye not hear the great and wonderful musick which is in heaven?" and so whiles he lay giving of ear within himself to that divine harmony, his holy soul departed this mortal life: at which time, all that were there present felt a most pleasant and fragrant smell, whereby they perceived how true it was that Servulus said. A monk of mine, who yet liveth, was then present, and with many tears useth to tell us, that the sweetness of that smell never went away, but that they felt it continually until the time of his burial.
Chapter Fifteen: of the departure of a Nun called Romula.
In the same Homilies, I remember likewise, how I told a certain thing, which Speciosus, my fellow-Priest, doth also verify to be most true.19 At such time as I entered into religion, there dwelt in this city, |196 near to the church of our blessed Lady, a certain old woman, called Redempta, living in the habit of a Nun, a disciple of that Hirundina, which was famous for virtue, and led an eremitical life (as they say) in the mountains by the city of Praeneste.20 This foresaid Redempta had two scholars, which wore the same habit that she did: the one called Romula, and the name of the other, which yet liveth, I can not tell, though by sight I know her very well. These three together in, one little house lived a poor life, yet rich for piety and virtue: and of these twain Romula far excelled the other in merit of life: for she was a woman of marvellous patience, passing obedient, a great observer of silence, and one that with great zeal bestowed her time in continual prayer.
But because it often falleth out, that they whom the world think to be perfect, have yet in the eyes of almighty God some imperfection (as many times unskilful men do commend seals of arms as excellently well engraven, which yet the cunning workman doth better consider, and laboureth to make more perfect), this foresaid Romula fell into such a pitiful palsy, that she was fain to keep her bed: where she lay, deprived almost of all the use of her members: which great cross, notwithstanding, drew her not to any impatience, but rather the sickness of her body was the health of her soul, and the cause of her greater increase in virtue: for the less she could do in other things, the more she did in prayer and devotion. Upon a certain night she called for Redempta (who, as I said, brought them both up as her daughters), saying: "Come, mother, come, mother": who straightways with her other disciple rose up, and (as myself and many more have heard it from their own mouths) when they were about midnight by her bedside, suddenly there came a light from heaven, which filled all that cell: and such a brightness there appeared, that it put them both into a |197 wonderful fear, and, as themselves did afterward report, all their body became cold, in such sort, that there they stood amazed: for they heard a noise, as it were of many that came in, and the cell door shaken and thrust open, as though there had been a great press of people: and as they said, they heard a great company come in, yet they saw nobody, and that by reason of great fear and much light: for both fear did make them to hold their eyes downward, and the brightness of such plenty of light did so dazzle them, that they could not behold anything. Straight after that light followed a wonderful pleasant smell, which did greatly comfort their fearful hearts. Romula, perceiving that they could not endure that abundance of light, with sweet words comforted Redempta, that stood trembling by her bedside, saying: "Be not afraid, mother; for I shall not die at this time": and when she had often repeated those words, by little and little the light vanished away, but yet the sweet smell remained still, and so continued both the next and the third day after. Upon the fourth night, again she called for that her mother, and when she was come, she desired to receive the Sacrament, and so she did; and behold, before Redempta or her other disciple departed from her bedside, suddenly they heard two quires singing before the door without: and as they said, they perceived by their voices that the one was of men, that began the psalms, and the other of women that answered: and whiles these heavenly funerals were in celebrating before the cell door, that holy soul departed this life, and was carried in that manner up into heaven: and the higher those two quires did ascend, the less did they hear that celestial musick, until at length they heard no more: and beside that sweet and odoriferous smell, which before they felt, vanished quite away.
Chapter Sixteen: of the departure of the holy virgin Tarsilla.21
Sometime also for the comfort of |198 the soul that departeth, there appeareth unto it the author himself of life, and rewarder of all virtue: for proof whereof I will here report that which I remember also to have spoken of in mine Homilies, concerning mine aunt Tarsilla: who, in the company of two others of her sisters, had for continuance in prayer, gravity of life, singularity in abstinence, arrived to the top of perfection. To this woman, Felix, my great-grandfather, sometime Bishop of this see of Rome, appeared in vision, and shewed her the habitation of everlasting light, speaking thus: "Come with me, and I will entertain you in this dwelling place of light." Shortly after, taken with an ague, she was brought to the last cast: and as when noble men and women lie a dying, many do visit them for the comfort of their friends: so divers both men and women, at the time of her departure, were come, which stood round about her bed: at what time she, suddenly casting her eyes upward, beheld our Saviour coming: whereupon, looking earnestly upon him, she cried out to them that were present: "Away, away: my Saviour Jesus is come": and so, fixing her eyes upon him, whom she beheld, her holy soul departed this life: and such a wonderful fragrant smell ensued, that the sweetness thereof gave evident testimony that the author of all sweetness was there present. Afterward, when her dead body, according to the manner, was made ready to be washed, they found that, with long custom of prayer, the skin of her arms and knees was, like a camel's, become hard: and so her dead body gave sufficient testimony, what her living spirit had continually practised.
Chapter Seventeen: of the departure of a young maid called Musa.
Neither must that be forgotten, which the servant of God before mentioned, called Probus, used to tell of a little sister which he had, called Musa: for he said that one night our blessed Lady |199 appeared unto her in vision, shewing her sundry young maids of her own years, clothed all in white: whose company she much desiring, but yet not presuming to go amongst them, the Blessed Virgin asked her whether she had any mind to remain with them, and to live in her service: to whom she answered that willingly she would. Then our blessed Lady gave her in charge, not to behave herself lightly, nor to live any more like a girl, to abstain also from laughing and pastime, telling her that after thirty days she should, amongst those virgins which she then saw, be admitted to her service. After this vision, the young maid forsook all her former behaviour: and with great gravity reformed the levity of her childish years: which thing her parents perceiving, and demanding from whence that change proceeded, she told them what the blessed Mother of God had given her in commandment, and upon what day she was to go unto her service. Five and twenty days after, she fell sick of an ague; and upon the thirtieth day, when the hour of her departure was come, she' beheld our blessed Lady, accompanied with those virgins which before in vision she saw to come unto her, and being called to come away, she answered with her eyes modestly cast downward, and very distinctly spake in this manner: "Behold, blessed Lady, I come, behold, blessed Lady, I come": in speaking of which words she gave up the ghost, and her soul departed her virgin's body, to dwell for ever with the holy virgins in heaven.
PETER. Seeing mankind is subject to many and innumerable vices, I think that the greatest part of heaven is replenished with little children and infants.
Chapter Eighteen: how certain young children are hindered from heaven by their parents' wicked education: as is shown by the example of a blasphemous young boy.
GREGORY. Although we ought not to doubt, but believe that all infants which be |200 baptized, and die in their infancy, go to heaven; yet no point of our belief it is, that all little ones which can speak do come unto that holy place: because some little children are kept from heaven by their parents, which bring them up wickedly and in lewd life. For a certain man in this city, well known to all, some three years since had a child, as I think five years old, which upon too much carnal affection he brought up very carelessly: in such sort that the little one (a lamentable case to speak of) so soon as anything went contrary to his mind, straightways used to blaspheme the name of God.
This child, in that great mortality which happened three years since,22 fell sick, and came to the point of death: and his father holding him at that time in his arms, the child (as they say, which were then present) beheld with trembling eyes certain wicked spirits coming towards him: at which sight he began to cry out in this manner: "Keep them away, father, keep them away": and crying so out, he turned away his face, and would have hid himself in his father's bosom: who demanding why he was so afraid, and what he saw: "O father," quoth he, "there be blackamoors come to carry me away ": after which words straightways he blasphemed God, and so gave up the ghost. For to the end God might make it known to the world for what sin he was delivered to such terrible executioners, he permitted him at his very death to iterate that sin, for which his father, whiles he lived, would not correct him: so that he which through God's patience had long lived a blasphemer, did at length, by his just judgment, blaspheming end his life, that the father might both know his own sin, and also how, by neglecting the soul of his little son, he nourished and brought up not a little sinner for hell fire. But now to surcease from further speech of this sad and melancholy matter, let us prosecute, as we have begun, our former joyful narration. |201
Chapter Nineteen: of the departure of the man of God called Stephen.23
By the relation of the same Probus, and other religious men, I came to the knowledge of such things as in my Homilies I told to mine auditors, concerning the venerable father Stephen. For he was a man, as Probus and many more affirm, who had no wealth in this world, nor cared for any, loving only poverty for God's sake: in adversity always did he keep patience: secular men's company did he avoid: and his desire was always to pray and serve God: of whom I will here report one excellent virtuous act, that by one, many other which he likewise did, each man may ponder with himself. This man, therefore, having upon a time carried his corn, which he reaped with his own hands, into the barn, being the only substance upon which he and his disciples were to live all the year: a certain wicked wretch, pricked forward by the devil, set it all on fire: which another perceiving, ran in all haste and told it to the servant of God: and after he had done his message, he added these words, saying: "Alas and woe, father Stephen, what an ill chance hath befallen you." To whom straight ways, with a pleasant countenance and quiet mind, he answered: "Nay, what an ill chance and misery is befallen him that hath done this: for to me what hath happened?" By which words of his it appeareth, to what great perfection he was arrived, that took so quietly the loss of all his worldly wealth, and was more sorry for the other's sin than grieved for his own loss; and more thought what his neighbour had inwardly lost in his soul, than what himself had outwardly lost in his substance. When this man lay a dying, many came to visit him, and to commend their souls to his, that was now leaving this world: and standing about his bed, some of them beheld Angels coming in, but yet were not able to tell it unto others then present: others there were that saw nothing, but yet such a great fear fell |202 upon them all, that none could endure to remain in that place, when his soul departed the body: and therefore all of them, terrified and wholly possessed with fear, fled away: by which they perceived of what power he was, that received his soul going out of this world: seeing at that time no mortal creature could endure to be there present.
Chapter Twenty: how sometime the merit of the soul is not so truly declared at the time of the departure as afterward.
But here we have to understand, that sometime the merit of the soul is not so truly known at the time of the departure, as it is afterward: and therefore divers holy martyrs have suffered many great torments at the hands of infidels: who afterwards, at their dead bones, were famous for signs and miracles, as before hath been noted.
Chapter Twenty-one: of the two Monks of Abbot Valentinus.24
For the virtuous man Valentinus, who afterward, as you know, was in this city Abbot of my Monastery, having had before in the province of Valeria the government of another Abbey: into which, as he told me, the cruel Lombards entered in, and hung up two of his monks upon a tree, who in that manner ended their life. When evening was come, both their souls began in that place to sing so plainly and distinctly, that they also who had killed them, hearing that kind of musick, became wonderfully afraid. All the prisoners likewise that were there present heard it, and afterward witnessed the same: which strange melody God's providence would have known, to the end that mortal men living yet upon earth might thereby learn how that, if they serve him truly in this world, that they shall after death verily live with him in the world to come.
Chapter Twenty-two: of the departure of abbot Suranus.
At such time as I yet lived in the |203 Monastery, I understood by the relation of certain religious men, that in the time of the Lombards, in this very province called Sura 25 and not far off, there was an holy Abbot called Suranus, who bestowed upon certain prisoners, which had escaped their hands, all such things as he had in his Monastery: and when he had given away in alms all his own apparel, and whatsoever he could find either in the monks' cells or in the yards, and nothing was left: suddenly the Lombards came thither, took him prisoner, and demanded where his gold was: and when he told them that he had nothing, they carried him to an hill hard by, where there was a mighty great wood in which a certain prisoner that ran away from them had hid himself in an hollow tree. There one of the Lombards, drawing out his sword, slew the foresaid venerable Abbot, whose body as it fell to the ground, suddenly all the hill together with the wood did shake, as though the earth by that trembling had said, that it could not bear the weight of his holiness and virtue.
Chapter Twenty-three: of the departure of a Deacon belonging to the church of the Marsori.26
Another Deacon also there was in the province of the Marsori, a man of holy life, whom the Lombards had taken, and one with his sword had cut off his head. But as his body fell to the ground, he that slew him was possessed by a devil, and so he fell down at the holy man's feet, shewing thereby that he was delivered to the enemy of God, because he had so cruelly slain the friend of God.
PETER. What is the reason, I beseech you, that almighty God suffereth them to be put to death: whom afterward he doth make known to the world, that they were holy men and his dear servants?
Chapter Twenty-four: of the death of the man of God, that was sent to Bethel.
GREGORY. Seeing we find it written, that what death soever the just man |204 dieth, that his justice shall not be taken from him: what hurt cometh to God's elect servants (walking no question the way to everlasting life), if for a little while they have some pitiful end? and perhaps it proceedeth from some small sin of theirs, which by such kind of death God's pleasure is that it should be purged. And hereof it cometh that reprobates receive superiority and power over others, who at their death be so much the more punished, for that they used their cruel authority against God's servants: as the foresaid wicked and wretched man, whom God suffered not to triumph over that venerable Deacon, though he permitted him to kill his body: which thing to be true we learn also out of holy scriptures. For that man of God which was sent against Samaria, because contrary to God's commandment he did eat in his journey, was slain by a lion; and yet in the same place we read, that the lion stood by the man's ass, and did not touch his dead body.27 By which we perceive that his sin of disobedience was by that his death pardoned: because the same lion that feared not to kill him, presumed not yet to touch his dead carcass: for licence he had for the one, but no leave was granted for the other, because he that was culpable in his life, having his sin of disobedience now punished, was just by his death; and therefore the lion that before slew the body of a sinner, preserved afterward the corpse of a just man.
PETER. Your discourse pleaseth me very well: yet willing I am to know whether, before the resurrection, the souls of just men do enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Chapter Twenty-five: whether the souls of just men be received into heaven, before the general resurrection of our bodies.
GREGORY. This thing, speaking generally of all just men, can neither be |205 affirmed nor denied: for the souls pf some just men, remaining as yet in certain mansions, be deferred from heaven; by which stay of theirs, what else do we learn, but that they lacked somewhat of perfect justice? And yet is it more clear than day that the souls of them that be perfect, do, straight after death, possess the joys of heaven: the truth whereof Christ himself assureth us, when he saith: Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles be gathered together; 28 for where our Saviour is present in body, thither, without all question, do the souls of just men assemble themselves; and St. Paul saith: I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.29 He, therefore, that doubteth not Christ to be in heaven, how can he doubt that St. Paul's soul is in the same place? which Apostle speaketh also of the dissolution of his body, and his dwelling in heaven in these words: We know that if our terrestrial house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have a building of God; an house not made with hands, but everlasting in heaven.30
PETER. If just men's souls be already in heaven: what then shall they receive for a reward of their virtuous and just life at the day of judgment?
GREGORY. Whereas now their souls be only in heaven, at the day of judgment this further increase of joy shall they have, that their bodies also shall be partakers of eternal bliss, and they shall in their flesh receive joy: in which, for Christ's sake, they suffered grief and torments. In respect of this their double glory, the scripture saith: In their land, they shall possess double things; 31 and it is written of the souls of the just, that, before the day of resurrection: To every one of them white stoles were given; and it was said to them: that they should rest yet a little time, until the number of their fellow-servants and brethren were complete.32,33 They, therefore, that now receive but |206 one stole, in the day of judgment shall every one have two: because now they rejoice only for the felicity of their souls, but then shall they enjoy the endless glory of body and soul together.
PETER. I grant it to be as you say: but what, I beseech you, is the reason that oftentimes those which lie a dying do prophesy and tell of many things to come?
Chapter Twenty-six: By what means it happens, that those which lie dying do prophesy of things to come: and of the death of a certain advocate: of that also which was revealed to the monks Gerontius and Mellitus: of the death of a boy called Armentatius, and of the diversity of tongues.
GREGORY. Sometime the soul itself by reason of the spiritual nature which it hath, doth foresee some thing which will so fall out; and sometime souls, before their departure, come to the knowledge of future things by revelation; sometime also, when they are straightways to leave the body, by heavenly inspiration they penetrate with their spiritual eyes the secrets of heaven. For that the soul, by reason of the spiritual nature which it hath, doth know things to come, certain it is, by that which happened to a certain advocate in this city, who died two days ago of a pain in his side. For a little before his death, he called for his boy, to give him his apparel, that he might rise up and walk: who, supposing him not to know what he said, refused to do what he willed him. Whereupon he rose up, put on his clothes, and said that he would go to the church of St. Sixtus, which is on the Appian way:34 and when not long after, his sickness increasing, he departed this life, determined it was, that his body should be buried in the church of St. Januarius the martyr, which standeth upon the way called Praenestine. But because they which had the care of his burial thought it too far off, suddenly they resolved upon a new course: and so, going forth |207 with his corpse by the Appian way, not knowing what he had said, they buried him in that church which before he had mentioned: and seeing it is well known that he was a man given to the world, and one that sought after earthly gain, how could he know that which fell out, but that the force and spiritual nature of his soul did foresee what should become of his body?
That those also, which lie a dying, do oftentimes by divine revelation foretell what shall happen afterward, we may learn by such things as have fallen out amongst us in divers Abbeys. For ten years since, there was a monk in my Monastery, called Gerontius, who, lying sore sick, saw by vision in the night time, certain white men beautifully apparelled to descend from above into the Monastery, and standing by his bed-side, one of them said: "The cause of our coming hither is to choose out certain of Gregory's monks, to send them abroad unto the wars": and forthwith he commanded another to write in a bill the names of Marcellus, Valentinian, Agnellus, and divers others, whose names I have now forgotten: that being done, he said further: "Put down also the name of him that now beholdeth us." By which vision he being assured of that which would come to pass, the next morning he told the monks, who they were that should shortly die out of the Monastery, adding also that himself was to follow them. The next day the foresaid monks fell more dangerously sick, and so died all in that very order which they were named in the bill. Last of all, himself also departed this life, who had foretold the departure of the other monks before him.
Likewise in that mortality which, three years since, lamentably afflicted this town, there was in the Monastery of the city of Portus,35 a young monk called Mellitus, a man of wonderful simplicity and humility, whose last day being come, he fell desperately sick or the common |208 disease: which when venerable Felix, Bishop of the same place, understood (by whose relation myself have learned this story), very careful he was to visit him, and with sweet words to comfort him against death: adding, notwithstanding, that by God's grace he might live long in this world. To whom the sick man answered that his time was at hand, saying that there came unto him a young man with letters, willing him to open and read them: which when he had done, he said that he found both his own name, and all the rest of them which, the Easter before, had been baptized by that Bishop, written in letters of gold: and first of all he said that he found his own name, and afterward the rest of them that were christened at that time: by which he made no doubt but that both himself and the rest should shortly depart this life, and so it fell out, for he died that very day: and after him followed all those which had before been baptized, so that, within the space of a few days, no one of them was left alive. Of whom no question can be made, but that the reason why the foresaid servant of God saw them written in gold, was because their names were written in heaven in the everlasting sight of God. And as these men, by divine revelation, knew and foretold such things as were to come: so sometimes souls, before their departure, not in a dream but waking, may have some taste of heavenly mysteries. For you were well acquainted with Ammonius, a monk of my Monastery, who whiles he lived in a secular weed and was married to the daughter of Valerianus, a lawyer in this city, continually and with all diligence he followed his business: by reason whereof he knew whatsoever was done in his father-in-law's house. This man told me, how, in that great mortality which happened in this city, in the time of that noble man Narses,36 there was a boy in the house of the foresaid Valerianus, called Armentarius, who was very simple and passing humble: when, |209 therefore, that mortal disease entered that lawyer's house, the foresaid boy fell sick thereof, and was brought to the point of death: who suddenly falling into a trance, and afterward coming to himself again, caused his master to be sent for, to whom he told that he had been in heaven, and did know who they were that should die out of his house. "Such and such," quoth he, "shall die, but as for yourself, fear nothing, for at this time die you shall not. And that you may be assured that I have verily been in heaven, behold I have there received the gift to speak with all tongues: you know well enough that ignorant I am of the Greek tongue, and yet will I speak Greek, that you may see whether it be true that I say or no." Then his master spake Greek, and he so answered him in that tongue, that all which were present did much marvel. In the same house there was a Bulgar, servant to the foresaid Narsus, who in all haste, being brought to the sick person, spake unto him in the Bulgarian tongue; and the boy that was born and brought up in Italy, answered him so in that barbarous language, as though he had been born and bred in that country. All that heard him thus talking wondered much, and by experience of two tongues which they knew very well that before he knew not, they made no doubt of the rest, though they could make no trial thereof. After this he lived two days, and upon the third, by what secret judgment of God none can tell, he tare and rent with his teeth his own hands and arms, and so departed this life. When he was dead, all those whom before he mentioned did quickly follow after; and besides them, none in that house died at that time.
PETER. A very terrible thing it is, that he which merited so great a grace, should be punished with so pitiful a death.
GREGORY. Who is able to enter into the secret judgments of God? Wherefore those things which in divine |210 examination we cannot comprehend, we ought rather to fear than curiously to discuss.
Chapter Twenty-seven: of the death of Count Theophanius.37
And to prosecute what we have already begun, concerning the prophetical knowledge of those that die, I will now tell you that which, when I was in the city of Centumcellis, I understood by the relation of many, touching Theophanius, Count of that place. For he was a man of great mercy and compassion, and one that did many good works, but especially he was given to good housekeeping and hospitality. True it is that, following the affairs of his earldom, he spent much time about earthly and worldly business, but that rather of necessity and duty than according to his own mind and desire, as his virtuous end afterward declared. For when the time of his death was come, there arose a great tempest, which was likely to hinder the funerals; whereat his wife, pitifully weeping, asked him in this manner: "What shall I do? or how shall we carry you to be buried, seeing the tempest is so terrible, that none can stir out of doors?" To whom he answered thus: "Weep not, good wife, for so soon as I am dead you shall have fair weather": and when he had so said, he gave up the ghost: and straightways the air became clear, and the tempest ceased. After this miracle one or two more followed. For whereas his hands and feet were with the gout before swollen and festered, and by reason of much corrupt matter, did savour and smell: yet when he was dead, and his body after the manner came to be washed, they found his hands and feet so sound and whole, as though they had never been troubled with any such sores at all. Four days after his burial, his wife was desirous to have the marble stone that lay upon him changed: which being done, such a fragrant and pleasant smell came from his body, as though, instead of worms, spices had sprung out of that corrupt carcass: of which |211 strange thing when I did in my Homilies make public mention, and certain incredulous persons doubted thereof: upon a day, as I was sitting in the company of divers noble men, those very workmen, which had changed the tombstone, came unto me about business of their own: whom in the presence of the clergy, nobility, and common people, I examined, touching that miracle: and they all affirmed it to be most true, saying that they were in a strange manner replenished with that sweet smell: and they added also certain other things concerning his sepulchre, that made the miracle greater, which, not to be over long, I mean to pass over with silence.
PETER. I perceive now that my former question is sufficiently satisfied: yet another remaineth which troubleth my mind, and that is, seeing you affirmed before that holy men's souls which depart this life be now in heaven, it followeth consequently that the souls of the wicked be also in hell: and yet ignorant I am whether it be so or no, for man's imagination cannot conceive how the souls of sinners can be tormented before the day of judgment.
Chapter Twenty-eight: that, as we believe the souls of just and perfect men to be in heaven; so we ought also to believe that the souls of the wicked, after their departure from the body, be in hell.
GREGORY. If, by the testimony of holy scripture, you believe that the souls of holy and perfect men be in heaven: by the same reason ought you also to believe that the souls of the wicked be in hell: for as just men do rejoice and be glad at the retribution qf eternal justice, so necessary it is that the wicked at the same justice should be grieved and tormented: for as heavenly felicity doth glad the elect, so we ought to believe that, from the day of their departure, fire doth afflict and burn the reprobate.
PETER. With what reason can we believe, that corporal fire can hold and torment an incorporal thing? |212
Chapter Twenty-nine: the reason why we ought to believe, that corporal fire can hold and torment the spirits that be without bodies.
GREGORY. If a spirit without a body can be holden and kept in the body of a living man: why, likewise, after death, may not an incorporal spirit be holden and kept in corporal fire?
PETER. The reason why an incorporal spirit in every living man is kept in the body, is, because it doth quicken and give life to the body.
GREGORY. If an incorporal spirit, Peter, may be kept in that to which it giveth life: why also, for punishment, may it not be kept there, where it continually dieth? And we say that a spirit is holden by fire, to the end that, in the torment thereof, it may both by seeing and feeling be punished: for the soul by seeing of the fire is afflicted, and burned it is, in that it seeth itself to be burned: and so it falleth out, that a corporal thing may burn that which hath no body, whiles that an invisible burning and sorrow is drawn from visible fire, and the incorporal soul by means of corporal fire may be tormented with a spiritual and incorporal flame: although out of the Gospel we also learn that the soul is not only tormented by seeing the fire, but also by the feeling thereof: for the rich glutton, as our Saviour saith, was buried in hell. And he giveth us to understand that his soul was kept in fire, in that he telleth us how he did beseech Abraham, speaking to him in this manner: Send Lazarus, that he may dip the top of his finger into the water and may refresh my tongue: because I am tormented in this flame.38 Seeing, then, truth itself assureth us that the sinful rich man was condemned into fire, what wise man can deny that the souls of the reprobate be detained in fire?
PETER. Both reason and testimony of scripture draweth my mind to believe what you say: but yet, when I think |213 not of them, it returneth again to his former opinion: for I neither see, nor can perceive, how a corporal thing can hold and torment that which is incorporal and without body.
GREGORY. Tell me, I pray you, whether do you think that those Angels which fell from heaven have bodies or no?
PETER. What man that hath his wits will say that they have any bodies?
GREGORY. And whether do you think that the fire of hell is corporal or spiritual?
PETER. I make no doubt but that it is corporal, seeing most certain it is that bodies be burned therewith.
GREGORY. And as certain it is that, at the day of judgment, our Saviour shall say to the reprobate: Go into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels.39 If, then, the devil and his angels, though without bodies, shall be tormented with corporal fire, what marvel is it that the souls after their departure, and before they be united again to their bodies, may in like manner suffer corporal torments?
PETER. The reason you give is very plain, and therefore now there is not any further doubt touching this question, that doth trouble my mind.
Chapter Thirty: of the death of King Theodoricus, who was an Arian heretic.
GREGORY. Seeing with such difficulty you are brought to believe, I think it worth my labour to let you understand such things concerning this very point, as I have received from them that be of good credit. Julian, who died almost seven years since, and had a worshipful office in this church of Rome,40 in which now by God's providence I serve, used often to visit me (living as yet in my Monastery) and to talk with me of spiritual things for the good of both our souls. This man, upon a day, told me this story. |214
"In the time of king Theodoricus 41," quoth he," my wife's father, being then in Sicily, was to return into Italy. The ship in which he came arrived at the island of Liparis: where he understood that there dwelt a certain solitary man of great virtue, whom he thought good, whiles the mariners were occupied about mending of their ship and tackling, to visit, to talk with him, and to commend himself to his prayers: and so he did in the company of others. When they were come to the man of God, amongst other talk which they had, he asked them this question: 'Do you,' quoth he, 'hear that king Theodoricus is dead?' to whom they quickly answered: 'God forbid: we left him alive at our departure from Rome; and before this present we never heard of any such thing.' Then the servant of God told them that certainly he was dead: 'for yesterday,' quoth he, 'at nine of the clock, he was without shoes and girdle, and his hands fast bound, brought betwixt John the Pope and Symmachus the Senator, and thrown into Vulcan's gulph, which is not far from this place.' When they heard this news, carefully they wrote down the time, and at their return into Italy, they understood that king Theodoricus died upon that very day, in which his unhappy passage out of this world and punishment was revealed to the servant of God." And for as much as he had, by miserable imprisonment, been the death of Pope John, and also killed Symmachus, justly did he appear to be thrown of them into fire, whom before in this life he had unjustly condemned.
Chapter Thirty-one: of the death of Reparatus.
At the same time, when I first desired to lead a solitary life, a certain old man called Deusdedit, passing well beloved of the whole city, and one also that was my friend and familiar acquaintance, told me that, in the time of the Goths, a certain worshipful man, called Reparatus, came to die; who lying a long while with |215 his countenance changed, and his body stiff, many thought in very deed that he had been dead: and when divers of his friends and family wept for his departure, all on a sudden he came to himself, to the great admiration of his mourning household. Being returned thus to life, he bad them in all haste to send a boy to the church of St. Lawrence in Damaso 42 (so called of him that built it) and quickly to bring word what was become of Tiburtius the Priest. This Tiburtius, as the speech went, was much given to a dissolute and wanton life; and Florentius, who at that time was a Priest in the same church, remembereth full well his conversation and manner of life. When the messenger was gone, Reparatus, that was returned to life, told them that in the place where he was, he saw a great wood-pile made ready, and Tiburtius brought forth and laid upon it, and there to have been burnt with fire. "Then another fire," quoth he, "was prepared, which was so high that it reached from earth to heaven": but although they demanded for whom it was, yet did he not tell them: for when he had spoken these words straightways he died: and the boy, which was sent to see what was become of Tiburtius, returned with news, that he found him, a little before his coming, departed this life. By which we may learn that, seeing this Reparatus was carried to the places of torments to see them, returned afterward to life to tell what he had there beheld, and straight after left this world: that he saw not all these things for himself, but for us that yet live, and have time granted to amend our wicked lives. And the reason why Reparatus saw that great wood-pile burning, was not that we should think that the fire of hell is nourished with any wood: but because he was to make relation of these things to them that remained still in this world, he saw that fire prepared for the wicked, to be made of the same matter of which our fire is, to the end that, by |216 those things which we know and be acquainted with, we should learn to be afraid of those, which yet we have not seen nor have any experience.
Chapter Thirty-two: of the death of a Courtier 43: whose grave burned with fire.
Maximianus, Bishop or Syracusis, a man of holy life, who for a long time in this city had the government of my Monastery, often told me a terrible story, which fell out in the province of Valeria. A certain courtier, upon Easter even, was godfather to a young maid, who, after the fast was ended, returned home to his house: where drinking more wine than enough, he desired that his god-daughter might tarry with him: whom that night, which is horrible to speak of, he did utterly undo. In the morning, up he rose, and with guilty conscience thought good to go unto the bath, as though the water of that place could have washed away the filthiness of his sin, yet he went and washed himself. Then he began to doubt, whether it were best to go unto the church or no; fearing, on the one side, what men would say, if he went not upon that so great a festival day; and on the other, if he did go, he trembled to think of God's judgment. In conclusion, shame of the world overcame him, and therefore to the church he went: where yet he remained with great fear and horror, looking every instant that he should have been delivered to the devil, and tormented before all the people. At that solemn mass, though he did wonderfully shake for fear, yet he scaped free from all punishment: and so he departed very joyfully from church: and the next day after, came thither without any fear at all: and so merrily and securely he continued for six days together, thinking with himself that either God saw not that his abominable sin, or else that mercifully he had pardoned the same. Upon the seventh day, by sudden death he was taken out of this world. And being buried, for a long time after, in the sight of the |217 whole town, a flame of fire came out of his grave, which burnt his bones so long, until it consumed the very grave itself, in such sort that the earth which was raised up with a little bank, appeared lower than the rest of the ground. By which fact almighty God declared what his soul suffered in the other world, whose dead body flaming fire consumed in this. To us also he hath left a fearful example, that we may thereby learn what the living and sensible soul suffereth for sin committed, when as the sensible bones by such a punishment of fire were burnt to nothing.
PETER. Desirous I am to know whether in heaven the good know the good, and the wicked in hell know one another.
Chapter Thirty-three: that in heaven the good know the good: and in hell the wicked have knowledge of the wicked.
GREGORY. The truth of this question we find most clearly resolved in those words of our Saviour before alleged: in which, when it is said that: There was a certain rich man, and he was clad with purple and silk, and he fared every day magnifically: and there was a certain beggar called Lazarus, that lay at his gate full of sores, desiring to be filled of the crumbs that fell from the rich mans table, and none did give him, but the dogs also came and licked his sores; straightways it is there also said, that: Lazarus died, and was carried of the Angels into Abrahams bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried in hell: who, lifting up his eyes, being in torments, saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, and he cried saying: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger into water for to cool my tongue, because I am tormented in this flame. To whom Abraham answered: Son, remember that thou diddest receive good things in thy lifetime, and Lazarus likewise evil.44 By which words, the rich man, having no hope of |218 salvation for himself, beginneth to make suit for his friends, saying: Father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldest send him unto my father s house, for I have five brethren, for to testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. In which words we see plainly, that the good do know the good, and the bad have knowledge of the bad. For if Abraham had not known Lazarus, never would he have spoken to the rich man being in torments, and made mention of his affliction and misery past, saying: that he had received evil things in his life. And if the bad did not know the bad, never would the rich man in torments have remembered his brethren that were absent: for shall we think that he knew not them that were present with him, who was so careful to pray for them that were absent?
By which we learn also the answer to another question, which you demanded not: and that is, that the good do know the bad, and the bad the good. For Abraham knew the rich man, to whom he said: Thou hast received good things in thy life: and Lazarus, God's elect servant, was also known to the rich reprobate, whom by name he desired that he might be sent unto him, saying: Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger into water, and cool my tongue: by which mutual knowledge on both sides, the reward likewise to both parts increaseth, for the good do more rejoice, when they behold them also in felicity whom before they loved: and the wicked seeing them, whom in this world not respecting God they did love, to be now punished in their company, tormented they are, not only with their own pains, but also with the pains of their friends. Beside all this, a more wonderful grace is bestowed upon the Saints in heaven: for they know not only them with whom they were acquainted in this world, but also those whom before they never saw, and converse with them in such familiar sort as though in times past they had seen and known one another: |219 and therefore when they shall see the ancient fathers in that place of perpetual bliss, they shall then know them by sight, whom always they knew in their lives and conversation. For seeing they do in that place with unspeakable brightness (common to all) behold God, what is there that they know not, that know him who knoweth all things? 45
Chapter Thirty-four: of a certain religious man, that at his death saw the Prophets.
For a certain religious man of my Monastery, that lived a virtuous life, dying some four years since, saw at the very time of his departure (as other religious men do report, that were present) the Prophet Jonas, Ezechiel, and Daniel, and by their names called them his Lords, saying that they were come unto him: and as he was bowing his head downward to them for reverence, he gave up the ghost: whereby we perceive what perfect knowledge shall be in that immortal life, when as this man, being yet in corruptible flesh, knew the Prophets whom he never saw.
Chapter Thirty-five: how sometime souls ready to depart this world, that know not one another, know yet what torments for their sins, or like rewards for their good deeds, they shall receive. And of the death of John, Ursus, Eumorphius, and Stephen.
And sometime it happens that the soul, before it departeth, knoweth them with whom, by reason of equality of sins or rewards, it shall in the next world remain in one place. For old Eleutherius, a man of holy life, of whom in the former book I spake much, saith that he had a natural brother 46 of his, called John, who lived together with him in his Monastery, who, fourteen days beforehand, told the monks when he was to die: and three days before he departed this life, he fell into an ague, and when his time was come, he received the mystery of our Lord's |220 body and blood: and calling for the monks about him, he willed them to sing in his presence, prescribing them a certain anthem concerning himself, saying: Open unto me the gates of justice, and being gone into them, I will confess unto our Lord: this is the gate of our Lord, just men shall enter in by it;47 and whiles the monks about him were singing this anthem, suddenly with a loud and long voice he cried out, saying: "Come away, Ursus": straight after which words his soul departed this mortal life. The monks marvelled, because they knew not the meaning of that, which at his death he so cried for: and therefore after his departure, all the Monastery was in sorrow and affliction. Four days after, necessary business they had, to send some of their brethren to another Monastery far distant: to which place when they came,, they found all the monks in great heaviness, and demanding the reason, they told them that they did lament the desolation of their house: "for four days since," quoth they, "one of our monks died, whose life kept us all in this place": and when they inquired his name, they understood that it was Ursus: asking also at what hour he left this world, they found that it was at that very instant, when he was called by John who died with them. Out of which we may learn that the merits of either were alike; and that in the next world they live familiarly together in one mansion, who at one time like fellows departed this life.
Here also will I tell you what I heard from the mouths of my neighbours, at such time as I was yet a layman, and dwelled in my father's house, which descended to me by inheritance. A certain widow there was not far from me, called Galla, which had a young man to her son, whose name was Eumorphius: not far from whom dwelt one Stephen called also Optio.48 This Eumorphius, lying sick at the point of death, called for |221 his man, commanding him in all haste to go unto Stephen Optio, and to desire him without all delay to come unto him, because there was a ship ready, to carry them both into Sicily.49 But because his man refused to go, supposing that through extremity of sickness he knew not what he spake, his master very earnestly urged him forward, saying: "Go thy way, and tell him what I say, for I am not mad, as thou thinkest." Hereupon away he went towards Stephen, but as he was in the midst of his journey, he met one that asked him whither he was going, and when he told him, that he was by his master sent to Stephen Optio: "You lose your labour," quoth the other, "for I come now from thence: and he died this very hour." Back again upon this news he returned to his master, Eumorphius: but before he could get home, he found him dead. And so, by conferring their meeting together, and the length of the way, apparent it was that both of them, at one and the self same instant, departed this mortal life.
PETER. Very terrible it is that you say: but what, I pray you, is the reason, that he saw a ship at his departure? Or why did he say that he was to go into Sicily?
GREGORY. The soul needeth not anything to carry it: yet no wonder it is, if that appeared to the soul being yet in the body, which by means of the body it had oftentimes before seen: to the end that we should thereby understand whither his soul might spiritually be carried. And in that he said he was to go into Sicily, what else can be meant thereby, but that there be in the islands of that country more than in any place else, certain gaping gulfs of torments, casting out fire continually? and as they say that know them, daily do they wax greater, and enlarge themselves: so that the world drawing to an end, and so, consequently, more coming thither to be burnt in those flaming dungeons, so much the more do those places of torments open and become wider. Which |222 strange thing almighty God, for the terror and amendment of the living, would have extant in this world, that infidels which believe not the unspeakable pains of hell, may with their eyes see the places of torments, which they list not to credit when it is told them. And that both the elect and reprobate, whose life and conversation hath been alike, shall after death be carried to like places, the saying of our Saviour doth teach us, though we had no examples to prove the same; for of the elect himself saith in the Gospel: In the house of my Father there be many mansions.50 For if there were not inequality of rewards in the everlasting felicity of heaven, then were there not many mansions, but rather one: wherefore there be many mansions, in which divers orders and degrees of God's saints be distinguished, who in common do all rejoice of the society and fellowship of their merits, and yet all they that laboured receive one penny, though they remain in distinct mansions: because the felicity and joy which there they possess is one, and the reward, which by divers and unequal good works they receive is not one but divers: which to be true our Saviour assureth us, when, talking of his coming to judgment, he saith: Then I will say to the reapers: Gather up the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn.51 For the Angels, which be the reapers, do then bind up in bundles the cockle to burn, when like with like are put together in torment: as the proud to burn in hell with the proud, carnal with the carnal, covetous with the covetous, deceitful with the deceitful, envious with the envious, and infidels with infidels: when therefore those that were like in sinful life, be condemned to like torments, then be they as it were cockle bound together in bundles to be burnt.
PETER. You have given a sufficient reason for satisfaction to my demand: yet I beseech you to inform me |223 further, what the cause is, that some be called out of this world, as it were through error: who afterward return again to life, saying that they heard how they were not the men which were sent for out of this life.
Chapter Thirty-six: of those souls which seem as it were through error to be taken out of their bodies: and of the death and reviving of a monk calleo Peter: of the death, likewise, and raising up again of one Stephen: and of the strange vision of a certain soldier.
GREGORY. When this happeneth, Peter, it is not, if it be well considered, any error, but an admonition. For God of his great and bountiful mercy so disposeth, that some after their death do straightways return again to life, that having seen the torments of hell, which before when they heard they would not believe, they may now at least tremble at, after they have with their eyes beheld them. For a certain Sclavonion, who was a monk and lived with me here in this city in my Monastery, used to tell me that at such time as he dwelt in the wilderness, that he knew one Peter, a monk born in Spain, who lived with him in the vast desert called Evasa 52: which Peter (as he said) told him how, before he came to dwell in that place, by a certain sickness he died, and was straightways restored to life again, affirming that he had seen the torments and innumerable places of hell, and divers, who were mighty men in this world, hanging in those flames; and that as himself was carried to be thrown also into the same fire, suddenly an Angel in a beautiful attire appeared, who would not suffer him to be cast into those torments: but spake unto him in this manner: "Go thy way back again, and hereafter carefully look unto thyself, how thou leadest thy life": after which words his body by little and little became warm, and himself, waking out of the sleep of everlasting death, reported all such things as happened about him: after which time he bound |224 himself to such fasting and watching, that though he had said nothing, yet his very life and conversation did speak what torments he had seen and was afraid of: and so God's merciful providence wrought in his temporal death that he died not everlastingly.53
But because man's heart is passing obdurate and hard, hereof it cometh that though others have the like vision, and see the same pains, yet do they not always reap the like profit. For the honourable man Stephen, whom you knew very well, told me of himself, that at such time as he was upon business resident in the city of Constantinople, that he fell sick and died; and when they sought for a surgeon to bowel him, and to embalm his body, and could not get any, he lay unburied all the night following: in which space his soul was carried to the dungeon of hell, where he saw many things, which before when he heard he little believed. But when he was brought before the judge that sat there, he would not admit him to his presence, saying: "I commanded not this man to be brought, but Stephen the smith ": upon which words he was straightway restored to life, and Stephen the smith, that dwelled hard by, at that very hour departed this life: whose death did show that the words which he heard were most true. But though the foresaid Stephen escaped death in this manner at that time, yet three years since, in that mortality which lamentably wasted this city (and in which, as you know, men with their corporal eyes did behold arrows that came from heaven, which did strike divers), the same man ended his days: at which time a certain soldier being also brought to the point of death, his soul was in such sort carried out of his body, that he lay void of all sense and feeling, but coming quickly again to himself, he told them that were present, what strange things he had seen. For he said (as many report that know it very well) that he saw a bridge, under which a black and |225 smoky river did run, that had a filthy and intolerable smell: but upon the farther side thereof there were pleasant green meadows full of sweet flowers, in which also there were divers companies of men apparelled in white: and such a delicate savour there was, that the fragrant odour thereof did give wonderful content to all them that dwelt and walked in that place. Divers particular mansions also there were, all shining with brightness and light, and especially one magnificent and sumptuous house which was a building, the brick whereof seemed to be of gold, but whose it was, that he knew not.
There were also upon the bank of the foresaid river certain houses, but some of them the stinking vapour which rose from the river did touch, and some other it touched not at all. Now those that desired to pass over the foresaid bridge, were subject to this manner of trial: if any that was wicked attempted to go over, down he fell into that dark and stinking river; but those that were just and not hindered by sin, securely and easily passed over to those pleasant and delicate places. There he said also that he saw Peter, who was steward of the Pope's family, and died some four years since, thrust into a most filthy place, where he was bound and kept down with a great weight of iron: and inquiring why he was so used, he received that answer, which all we that knew his life can affirm to be most true: for it was told him that he suffered that pain, because when himself was upon any occasion to punish other, that he did it more upon cruelty than to shew his obedience; of which his merciless disposition none that knew him can be ignorant. There also he said that he saw a Priest whom he knew: who coming to the foresaid bridge, passed over with as great security, as he lived in this world sincerely.
Likewise, upon the same bridge he said that he did |226 see this Stephen, whom before we spake of, who being about to go over, his foot slipped, and half his body hanging beside the bridge, he was of certain terrible men, that rose out of the river, drawn by the legs downward: and by certain other white and beautiful persons, he was by the arms pulled upward: and whiles they strove thus, the wicked spirits to draw him downward, and the good to lift him upward, he that beheld all this strange sight returned to life, not knowing in conclusion what became of him. By which miraculous vision we learn thisvthing concerning the life of Stephen, to wit, that in him the sins of the flesh did strive with his works of alms. For in that he was by the legs drawn downward, and by the arms plucked upward, apparent it is, that both he loved to give alms, and yet did not perfectly resist the sins of the flesh, which did pull him downward: but in that secret examination of the supreme judge, which of them had the victory, that neither we know, nor he that saw it. Yet most certain it is, that the same Stephen, after that he had seen the places of hell, as before was said, and returned again to his body, did never perfectly amend his former wicked life, seeing many years after he departed this world, leaving us in doubt whether he were saved or damned. Whereby we may learn, that when any have the torments of hell shewn them, that to some it is for their commodity, and to others for their testimony: that the former may see those miseries to avoid them, and these other to be so much the more punished, in that they would not take heed of those torments, which they both knew and with their eyes beheld.
PETER. What, I beseech you, was meant by the building of that house in those places of delight, with bricks of gold? For it seemeth very ridiculous, that in the next life we should have need of any such kind of metal. |227
What is meant by the building of the house in those pleasant places. And of one Deusdedit, whose house was seen to be built upon the Saturday.54
GREGORY. What man of sense can think so? but by that which was shewn there, whosoever he was, for whom that house was built, we learn plainly what virtuous works he did in this world: for he that by plenty of alms doth merit the reward of eternal light, certain it is, that he doth build his house with gold. For the same soldier who had this vision said also, which I forgot before to tell you, that old men, and young, girls, and boys, did carry those bricks of gold for the building of that house: by which we learn that those to whom we shew compassion in this world, do labour for us in the next. There dwelt also hard by us a religious man, called Deusdedit, who was a shoemaker, concerning whom another saw by revelation that he had in the next world an house a building; but the workmen thereof laboured only upon the Saturday. Who afterward enquiring more diligently how he lived, found that whatsoever he got by his labour all the week, and was not spent upon necessary provision of meat and apparel, all that upon the Saturday he bestowed upon the poor in alms at St. Peter's church: and therefore see what reason there was, that his building went forward upon the Saturday.
PETER. You have given me very good satisfaction touching this one point: yet desirous I am further to know, what the reason was that some of those habitations were touched, by the stinking vapour, and some were not; and what is meant by the bridge and river which he saw.
GREGORY. By the representation of these things, Peter, are expressed the causes which they do signify. For the bridge, by which he beheld God's servants to pass unto those pleasant places, doth teach us that the path is very |228 strait which leadeth to everlasting life:55 and the stinking river, which he saw running beneath, signifieth that the filthy corruption of vice in this world doth daily run to the downfall of carnal pleasure. And that some of the habitations were touched with the stinking vapour, and some were not, what is meant else, but that there be divers which do many good works, yet in their soul they are touched with the delight of carnal sins? and therefore very great reason there is, that in the next world such should taste of a stinking vapour, whom filthy carnality did delight in this; and therefore blessed Job, perceiving the pleasure of the flesh to be stinking, pronounceth this sentence of the wanton and carnal man: His sweetness be worms.56 But those that do preserve their heart free from all pleasure of carnal thoughts, have not their houses touched with any such stinking vapour: and here we have also to note, that he saw one and the same thing both to be a vapour and also to have an ill savour, because carnal delight doth so obscure the soul which it hath infected, that it can not see the brightness of true light: for the more pleasure it hath in the inferior part, the more darkness it hath in the superior, which doth hinder it from the contemplation of heavenly mysteries.
PETER. Is there any text of holy scripture, to prove that carnal sins be punished with stinking and bad savours?
Of the punishment of the men of Sodom.
GREGORY. There is: for in Genesis 57 we read that our Lord rained fire and brimstone upon the city of Sodom: that both fire might burn them, and the stench of brimstone smother and kill them: for seeing they burnt with the unlawful love of corruptible flesh, by God's just judgment they perished both by fire and an unsavoury smell; to the end they might know that they |229 had, by the pleasure of their stinking life, incurred the sorrows of eternal death.
PETER. Concerning those things which before I doubted of, I find myself now so fully satisfied, that I have not any further question to move.
Chapter Thirty-seven: who the souls of some men, being yet in their bodies, do see some spiritual punishment: and of that which happened to the boy Theodorus.58
GREGORY. We have also to know that sometime the souls, whiles they are in their bodies, do behold some spiritual punishment: which yet happeneth to some for their own good, and to others for the edification of them that hear thereof. For there was one Theodorus (which story I remember that in mine Homilies to the people I have also spoken of) who was a very unruly lad, and, more upon necessity than of his own good will, in the company of his brother entered into my Monastery: and so little pleasure he took in spiritual talk, that it was death to him to hear anything tending to the good of his own soul, for he was so far from doing any good work, that he could not endure to hear thereof: and he would openly protest, sometimes by swearing, sometimes in anger, and sometimes in scoffing sort, that he never meant to take upon him the habit of a religious life. This untoward boy, in the late mortality which consumed the greatest part of this city, was grievously strooken: whereof he lay sore sick: and being at last come to the point of death, all the monks repaired to his chamber, to pray for the happy departure of his soul, which seemed not to be far off: for the one half of his body was already dead, and only in his breast a little life remained, and therefore the nearer they saw him to his end, the more fervently did they commend him to God's mercy. Whiles they were thus busied, suddenly he cried out to them, and with great clamour went about |230 to interrupt their devotions, saying: "Depart and away, for behold I am delivered over to a dragon to be devoured, and your presence doth let him, that he can not dispatch me. My head he hath already swallowed up in his mouth, and therefore go your ways, that my torments be not the longer, and that he may effect that which he is about to do: for if I be given him to devour, why do you keep me here in longer pain?" At these fearful words the monks said unto him: "Why do you speak thus, good brother? Bless yourself with the sign of the holy cross": to whom he answered: "Willingly I would, but I can not, I am so loaden with this dragon's scales." Upon these words the monks fell prostrate upon the earth, and in great zeal with tears they prayed to God for his delivery out of the enemy's hands, who mercifully heard them, for upon a sudden the sick person began to cry out, and say: "God be thanked, behold the dragon that had me to devour, is fled away, and overcome with your prayers, here he could not tarry. Now, I beseech you, make intercession for my sins, for I am ready to turn unto God, and wholly to renounce all kind or secular life ": and thus he that was half dead, as before was said, reserved now to a longer life, turned to God with his whole heart: and so, after he had put on a new mind, and was a long time punished with affliction, then his soul departed from the miseries of this mortal life.
Chapter Thirty-eight: of the death of Chrisorius 59: and of a certain Monk of Iconia.
But Chrisorius on the contrary (as his kinsman Probus, of whom I made mention before, told me) was a substantial man in this world, but as full of sin as of wealth: for he was passing proud, given to the pleasures of the flesh, covetous, and wholly set upon scraping of riches together. But when God determined to make an end of so many sins, he sent him a great sickness; and when |231 his last time drew near, in that very hour in which his soul was to leave the body, lying with his eyes open, he saw certain cruel men and black spirits stand before him, pressing upon him to carry him away to the pit of hell: at which fearful sight he began to tremble, to wax pale, to sweat, and with pitiful outcries to crave for truce: and often with faltering tongue to call for his son Maximus (whom, when I was a monk, I knew also to profess the same kind of life), saying: "Come away, Maximus, with all speed. Never in my life did I any harm to thee, receive me now in thy faith." His son, greatly moved at these outcries, came unto him in all haste: and his whole family lamenting and crying out, repaired also to his chamber: none of all which beheld those wicked spirits, which did so urge and vex him: but by his trouble of mind, by his paleness and trembling, they made no doubt of their presence: for he was so affrighted with their terrible looks, that he turned himself every way in his bed. Lying upon his left side, he could not endure their sight: and turning to the wall, there also he found them: at last, being very much beset, and despairing of all means to escape their hands, he cried out with a loud voice: "O truce till to-morrow, O truce till to-morrow": and crying out in this sort he gave up the ghost. This being the manner of his death, certain it is that he saw this fearful sight not for himself, but for us: that his vision might do us good, whom God's patience doth yet with fatherly long sufferance expect to amendment. For what profit reaped he by seeing those foul spirits before his death, and by craving for that truce which he could not obtain?
There is also now dwelling amongst us a Priest of Isauria called Athanasius, who telleth a very fearful story which in his time happened, as he saith, at Iconium. For there was in that place, as he reporteth, a Monastery |232 called Thongolaton 60, in which there lived a monk that was had in great account: for he was of good conversation, and in his life very orderly: but, as the end declared, he was far otherwise than he outwardly appeared: for though he did seem to fast with the rest of the monks, yet did he secretly take his meat: which vice of his none of the other monks ever understood. But at length it came forth by this means: for falling grievously sick, so that no hope of life remained, he caused all the monks of the Convent to be called together, who all willingly came, verily thinking that, at the departure of so notable a man, they should have heard some sweet and good exhortation: but it fell out far otherwise, for with great trouble of mind, and trembling of body, he was enforced to tell them that he died in a damnable state, saying: "When you thought that I fasted with you, then had I my meat in secret corners: and behold, now I am delivered to a dragon to be devoured, who with his tail hath enwrapped fast my hands and feet: and his head he hath thrust into my mouth, and so he lieth sucking and drawing out of my breath ": and speaking these words he departed this life, and had not any time given to deliver himself by penance from that dragon which he saw. By which we learn, that he had this vision only for the commodity of them that heard it, seeing himself could not escape from the enemy which he beheld, and into whose hands he was given to be devoured.
PETER. Desirous I am to be informed, whether we ought to believe that after death there is any fire of Purgatory.
Chapter Thirty-Nine: whether there be any fire of purgatory in the next world.
GREGORY. Our Lord saith in the Gospel: Walk whiles you have the light:61 and by his Prophet he saith: In time accepted have I heard thee, and in the day of salvation have I holpen thee:62 which the Apostle St. Paul expounding, saith: Behold, |233 now is the time acceptable; behold, now the day of salvation.63 Solomon, likewise, saith: Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, work it instantly: for neither work, nor reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom shall be in hell, whither thou dost hasten.64 David also saith: Because his mercy is for ever.65 By which sayings it is plain, that in such state as a man departeth out of this life, in the same he is presented in judgment before God. But yet we must believe that before the day of judgment there is a Purgatory fire for certain small sins: because our Saviour saith, that he which speaketh blasphemy against the holy Ghost, that it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.66 Out of which sentence we learn, that some sins are forgiven in this world, and some other may be pardoned in the next: for that which is denied concerning one sin, is consequently understood to be granted touching some other. But yet this, as I said, we have not to believe but only concerning little and very small sins, as, for example, daily idle talk, immoderate laughter, negligence in the care of our family (which kind of offences scarce can they avoid, that know in what sort sin is to be shunned), ignorant errors in matters of no great weight: all which sins be punished after death, if men procured not pardon and remission for them in their lifetime: for when St. Paul saith, that Christ is the foundation: and by and by addeth: And if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: the work of every one, of what kind it is, the fire shall try. If any man's work abide which he built thereupon, he shall receive reward; if any mans work burn, he shall suffer detriment, but himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.67 For although these words may be understood of the fire of tribulation, which men suffer in this world: yet if any will interpret them of the fire of Purgatory, which |234 shall be in the next life: then must he carefully consider, that the Apostle said not that he may be saved by fire, that buildeth upon this foundation iron, brass, or lead, that is, the greater sort of sins, and therefore more hard, and consequently not remissible in that place: but wood, hay, stubble, that is, little and very light sins, which the fire doth easily consume. Yet we have here further to consider, that none can be there purged, no, not for the least sins that be, unless in his lifetime he deserved by virtuous works to find such favour in that place.
Chapter Forty: of the soul of Paschasius the Deacon.68
For when I was yet in my younger years, and lived.a secular life, I heard from the mouth of mine elders, who knew it to be true: how that Paschasius, a Deacon of this Roman church (whose sound and eloquent books of the holy Ghost be extant amongst us), was a man of a wonderful holy life, a marvellous giver of alms, a lover of the poor, and one that contemned himself. This man, in that contention which, through the exceeding hot emulation of the clergy, fell out betwixt Symmachus and Lawrence, made choice of Lawrence to be Bishop of Rome: and though he was afterward by common consent overcome, yet did he continue in his former opinion till his dying day: loving and preferring him, whom the Church, by the judgment of Bishops, refused for her governor. This Deacon ending his life in the time of Symmachus, Bishop of the Apostolic see: a man possessed with a devil came and touched his dalmatic, as it lay upon the bier, and was forthwith delivered from that vexation. Long time after, Germanus, Bishop of Capua (before mentioned), by the counsel of physicians, for the recovery of his health went to the baths: into which after he was entered, he found there standing in those hot waters the foresaid Paschasius, ready to do him service. At which |235 sight being much afraid, he demanded what so worthy a man as he was did in that place: to whom Paschasius returned this answer: "For no other cause," quoth he, "am I appointed to this place of punishment, but for that I took part with Lawrence against Symmachus: and therefore I beseech you to pray unto our Lord for me, and by this token shall you know that your prayers be heard, if, at your coming again, you find me not here." Upon this, the holy man Germanus betook himself to his devotions, and after a few days he went again to the same baths, but found not Paschasius there: for seeing his fault proceeded not of malice, but of ignorance, he might after death be purged from that sin. And yet we must withal think that the plentiful alms which he bestowed in this life, obtained favour at God's hands, that he might then deserve pardon, when he could work nothing at all for himself.
PETER. What, I pray you, is the reason, that, in these latter days, so many things come to light, which in times past were not known: in such sort that by open revelations and manifest signs, the end of the world seemeth not to be far off?
Chapter Forty-one: why in latter times so many things be known, concerning men's souls: which in former ages were not heard of.
GREGORY. So it is, for the nearer that this present world draweth towards an end, so much the more the world to come is at hand, and sheweth itself by more plain and evident tokens. For seeing, in this world, we know not one another's cogitations, and, in the next, men's hearts be known to all, what fitter name can we give to this world than to term it night, and what better to the next, than to call it day? But as, when the night is almost spent, and the day beginneth to break, darkness and light be in a certain manner joined together, until the light of the day following doth perfectly banish away the dark |236 remnants of the former night: even so, the end of this world is, as it were, mingled together with the beginning of the next, and with the darkness of this, some light of such spiritual things as be in that doth appear: and so we see many things which belong to that world, yet for all this, perfect knowledge we have not any, but as it were in the twilight of our soul behold them before the rising of that sun of knowledge, which then abundantly will cast his beams over all.
PETER. I like very well of your speech, yet, in so worthy a man as Paschasius was, this doubt doth trouble me, how he was after his death carried to any place of punishment, seeing the touching of his garment upon the bier did dispossess a wicked spirit.
GREGORY. Herein appeareth the great and manifold providence of almighty God, by whose just judgment it fell out, that Paschasius for some time entertained inwardly sin in his soul, and yet in the sight of the world wrought miracles by his body after his death, who in his lifetime did, as they know, many good works: to the end that those which had seen his virtuous life, should not be deceived concerning the opinion of his great alms; and yet himself should not without punishment have remission of his sin, which whiles he lived he thought to be no sin, and therefore did not by tears wash it away.
PETER. I understand very well what you say, but by this reason I am driven into such straights, that I must stand in fear both of those sins which I know, and also of those which I know not. But because a little before you discoursed of the places of torments: in what part of the world, I beseech you, are we to believe that hell is, whether above the earth or beneath the same?
Chapter Forty-two: in what place of the world we ought to believe that hell is.
GREGORY. Touching this point I dare not rashly define anything: for some have been of opinion that hell was in some place |237 upon the earth; and others think that it is under the earth: but then this doubt ariseth, for if it be therefore called hell, or an infernal place, because it is below, then as the earth is distant from heaven, so likewise should hell be distant from the earth: for which cause, perhaps, the Prophet saith: Thou hast delivered my soul from the lower hell;69 so that the higher hell may seem to be upon the earth, and the lower under the earth: and with this opinion that sentence of John agreeth, who, when he had said, that he saw a book sealed with seven seals: and that none was found worthy, neither in heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, to open the book, and loose the seals thereof:70 he added forthwith: and I wept much: which book, notwithstanding, afterward he saith was opened by a lion of the tribe of Juda. By which book, what else can be meant but the holy scripture, which our Saviour alone did open: for being made man, by his death, resurrection, and ascension, he did reveal and make manifest all those mysteries which in that book were closed and shut up. And none in heaven, because not any Angel; none upon earth, because not man living in body; not any under the earth was found worthy: because neither the souls departed from their bodies could open unto us, beside our Lord himself, the secrets of that sacred book. Seeing, then, none under the earth is said to be found worthy to open that book, I see not what doth let, but that we should believe that hell is in the lower parts, under the earth.
PETER. I beseech you: Is there one fire in hell, or, according to the diversity of sinners, be there so many sorts of fire prepared in that place?
Chapter Forty-three: whether there is one fire in hell, or many.
GREGORY. The fire of hell is but one: yet doth it not in one manner torment all sinners. For every one there, according to the quantity of his sin, |238 hath the measure of his pain. For as, in this world, many live under one and the same sun, and yet do not alike feel the heat thereof: for some be burnt more, and some less: so in that one fire, divers manners of burning be found, for that which in this world diversity of bodies doth, that in the next doth diversity of sins: so that although the fire be there all alike, yet doth it not in one manner and alike burn and torment them that be damned.
PETER. Shall those, I pray you, which be condemned to that place, burn always, and never have any end of their torments?
Chapter Forty-four: whether those that be in hell shall burn there for ever.
GREGORY. Certain it is, and without all doubt most true, that as the good shall have no end of their joys, so the wicked never any release of their torments: for our Saviour himself saith: The wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, and the just into everlasting life.71 Seeing, then, true it is, that which he hath promised to his friends: out of all question false it cannot be, that which he hath threatened to his enemies.
PETER. What if it be said that he did threaten eternal pain to wicked livers, that he might thereby restrain them from committing of sins?
GREGORY. If that which he did threaten be false, because his intent was by that means to keep men from wicked life: then likewise must we say that those things are false which he did promise: and that his mind was thereby to provoke us to virtue. But what man, though mad, dare presume so to say? For if he threatened that which he meant not to put into execution: whiles we are desirous to make him merciful, enforced we are likewise (which is horrible to speak) to affirm him to be deceitful.
PETER. Willing I am to know how that sin can justly |239 be punished without end, which had an end when it was committed.
GREGORY. This which you say might have some reason, if the just judge did only consider the sins committed, and not the minds with which they were committed: for the reason why wicked men made an end of sinning was, because they also made an end of their life: for willingly they would, had it been in their power, have lived without end, that they might in like manner have sinned without end. For they do plainly declare that they desired always to live in sin, who never, so long as they were in this world, gave over their wicked life: and therefore it belongeth to the great justice of the supreme judge, that they should never want torments and punishment in the next world, who in this would never give over their wicked and sinful life.
PETER. But no judge that loveth justice taketh pleasure in cruelty: and the end why the just master commandeth his wicked servant to be punished is, that he may give over his lewd life. If, then, the wicked that are tormented in hell fire never come to amend themselves, to what end shall they always burn in those flames?
GREGORY. Almighty God, because he is merciful and full of pity, taketh no pleasure in the torments of wretched men: but because he is also just, therefore doth he never give over to punish the wicked. All which being condemned to perpetual pains, punished they are for their own wickedness: and yet shall they always there burn in fire for some end, and that is, that all those which be just and God's servants may in God behold the joys which they possess, and in them see the torments which they have escaped: to the end that they may thereby always acknowledge themselves grateful to God for his grace, in that they perceive through his divine assistance, what sins they have overcome, which they behold in others to be punished everlastingly. |240
PETER. And how, I pray you, can they be holy and saints, if they pray not for their enemies, whom they see to lie in such torments? when it is said to them: Pray for your enemies.72
GREGORY. They pray for their enemies at such time as their hearts may be turned to fruitful penance, and so be saved: for what purpose else do we pray for our enemies, but, as the Apostle saith, that God may give them repentance to know the truth, and recover themselves from the devil, of whom they are held captive at his will? 73
PETER. I like very well of your saying: for how shall they pray for them, who by no means can be converted from their wickedness, and brought to do the works of justice?
GREGORY. You see, then, that the reason is all one, why, in the next life, none shall pray for men condemned for ever to hell fire: that there is now of not praying for the devil and his angels, sentenced to everlasting torments: and this also is the very reason why holy men do not now pray for them that die in their infidelity and known wicked life: for seeing certain it is that they be condemned to endless pains, to what purpose should they pray for them, when they know that no petition will be admitted of God, their just judge? And therefore, if now holy men living upon earth take no compassion of those that be dead and damned for their sins, when as yet they know that themselves do some thing through the frailty of the flesh, which is also to be judged: how much more straightly and severely do they behold the torments of the damned, when they be themselves delivered from all vice of corruption, and be more nearly united to true justice itself: for the force of justice doth so possess their souls, in that they be so intrinsical with the most just judge, that they list not by any means to do that which they know is not conformable to his divine pleasure.74 |241
PETER. The reason you bring is so clear, that I cannot gainsay it: but now another question cometh to my mind, and that is, how the soul can truly be called immortal, seeing certain it is that it doth die in that perpetual fire.
Chapter Forty-five: how the soul is said to be immortal and never to die: if it be punished with the sentence of death.
GREGORY. Because there be two manner of lives, consequently also there be two manner of deaths.75 For one kind of life there is, by which we live in God, another which we received by our creation or generation: and therefore one thing it is to live blessedly, and another thing to live naturally. The soul, therefore, is both mortal and immortal: mortal, because it loseth the felicity of an happy life: and immortal, in that it always keepeth his natural life, which can never be lost, no, not when it is sentenced to perpetual death: for in that state, though it hath not a blessed life, yet it doth retain still the former being and natural life: by reason whereof it is enforced to suffer death without death, defect without defect, and end without end: seeing the death which it endureth is immortal, the defect which it suffereth never faileth, and the end which it hath is infinite, and without end.
PETER. What man is he, though never so holy, that, cometh to leave this mortal life, hath not just cause to fear the unspeakable sentence of damnation? for although he knoweth what he hath done, yet ignorant he is not, how straightly his works shall be examined and judged.
Chapter Forty-six: of a certain holy man that was afraid when he came to die.
GREGORY. It is even so, Peter, as you say. And yet sometime the only fear of death doth purge the souls of just men from their smaller sins, as you and I have often heard of a certain holy man that was very much afraid when he came to |242 die: and yet, after he was dead, appeared to his disciples in a white stole, reporting to them in what excellent manner he was received, when he departed out of this world.
Chapter Forty-seven: how some by divine revelation are discharged from fear at their death. And of the manner how the monks Anthony, Merulus, and John departed this life.
Sometime also almighty God doth by divine revelation strengthen the minds of them that be fearful, to the end that they should not be afraid of death. For a certain monk there was, called Anthony, that lived together with me in my Monastery, who by daily tears laboured to come to the joys of heaven: and when as he did very carefully and with great zeal of soul meditate upon the sacred scriptures, he, sought not so much for cunning and knowledge, as for tears and contrition of heart, that by means thereof his soul might be stirred up and inflamed: and that by contemning all earthly things, he might with the wings of contemplation fly unto the kingdom of heaven. This man upon a night, by revelation, was admonished in this manner: "Make yourself ready, because our Lord hath given commandment for your departure": and when he answered, that he had not wherewith to defray the charges of that journey: straightaway he heard these comfortable words: "If you take care for your sins, they be forgiven you"; which thing though he had heard once, and yet for all that was in great fear, another night he had again the same vision: and so after five days he fell sick of an ague, and as the other monks were praying and weeping about him, he departed this life.
Another monk there was in the same Monastery, called Merulus, who was wonderfully given to tears and bestowing of alms: and no time almost passed him, except it were when he was at meat or asleep, in which |243 he did not sing psalms. This man, by vision in the night, saw a crown made of white flowers to descend upon his head: and straight after falling sick, he died with great quiet and joy of mind. Fourteen years after, when Peter, who now hath the government of my Monastery, went about to make a grave for himself hard by Merulus' sepulchre, such a fragrant and pleasant smell, as he saith, came out of it, as though it had been a storehouse of all manner of sweet flowers. By which it appeared plainly, that it was very true, which before he had seen by vision in the night.
Likewise in the same Monastery there was another, called John, who was a young man of great towardness, and one that led his life with great circumspection, humility, sweetness, and gravity. This man falling sore sick, saw in his great extremity by vision in the night an old man to come unto him, who touched him with a wand, saying: "Rise up, for you shall not die of this sickness: but make yourself ready, for you have not any long time to stay in this world": and forthwith, though the physicians despaired of his health, yet he recovered, and became perfectly well. The vision which he saw he told to others, and for two years following, as I said, he served God in such sort, that his great devotion surpassed his young years. Three years since another monk died, who was buried in the churchyard of the same Monastery, and when we had ended all his funerals, and were departed, this John, as himself with pale face and great trembling told us, remained there still, where he heard that monk which was buried to call him out of the grave: and that it was so indeed, the end following did shew: for ten days after he fell sick of an ague and so departed this life.
PETER. Willingly would I learn whether we ought to observe such visions, as be revealed to us by night in our sleep. |244
Chapter Forty-eight: whether dreams are to be believed: and how many kinds of dreams there be.
GREGORY. Concerning this point, Peter, you must understand that there are six kind of dreams. For sometime they proceed of too much fulness or emptiness of the stomach: sometime by illusion: sometime both by thought and illusion: sometime by revelation: and sometime both by thought and revelation. The two first all by experience know to be true: and the four latter we find mentioned in holy scripture. For if dreams did not sometime proceed by illusion from our secret enemy, never would the wise man have said: Dreams have made many to err, and hoping in them have they been deceived:76 and again: Ton shall not be soothsayers, nor observe dreams: by which words we see how they are to be detested, that are compared with sooth-sayings. Again, if dreams did not sometime proceed both of thought together with illusion, the wise man would not have said: Dreams follow many cares.77 And if sometime also they did not come by mystical revelation, Joseph had never known by dream that he should have been exalted above his brethren:78 neither the Angel would ever in a dream have admonished the spouse of our Lady to fly away with the child into Egypt.79 Again, if sometime they did not also proceed both from thoughts and divine revelation, never would the prophet Daniel, disputing of Nabuchodonosor's dream, have begun from the root of his former thoughts, saying: Thou, O king, diddest begin to think in thy bed, what should happen in times to come; and he that revealeth mysteries did shew thee what things should come: and a little after: Thou diddest see, and behold as it were a great statue: that great statue and high of stature did stand against thee, &c.80 Wherefore, seeing Daniel doth with reverence insinuate that the |245 dream should come to pass, and also declareth from what cogitation it did spring, plainly do we learn that dreams sometimes do come both of thought and revelation together. But seeing dreams do grow from such divers roots, with so much the more difficulty ought we to believe them: because it doth not easily appear unto us, from what cause they do proceed. Holy men, indeed, by a certain inward spiritual taste, do discern betwixt illusions and true revelations,81 by the very voices or representations of the visions themselves: so that they know what they receive from the good spirit, and what they suffer by illusion from the wicked: and therefore, if our mind be not herein very attentive and vigilant, it falleth into many vanities, through the deceit of the wicked spirit: who sometime useth to foretell many true things, that, in the end, he may by some falsehood ensnare our soul.
Chapter Forty-nine: of one who in his dream had long life promised him, and yet died shortly after.
As not long since it is most certain, that it befell to one that lived amongst us, who, being much given to observe dreams, had one night in a dream long life promised him: and when as he had made provision of great store of money for the maintenance of his many days, he was so suddenly taken out of this life, that he left it all behind him, without ever having any use thereof, and carried not with him any good works to the next world.
PETER. I remember very well who it was: but let us, I pray you, prosecute such questions as we began to entreat of: Doth any profit, think you, redound to men's souls, if their bodies be buried in the church?
Chapter Fifty: Whether the souls receive any benefit, if their bodies be buried in the church.
GREGORY. Such as die not in mortal sin receive this benefit by having their bodies buried in the church: for |246 when their friends come thither, and behold their sepulchres, then do they remember them, and pray unto God for their souls: but those that depart this life in the state of deadly sin, receive not any absolution from their sins, but rather be more punished in hell, for having their bodies buried in the church: which thing shall be more plain, if I do briefly tell you what concerning this point hath chanced in our time.
Chapter Fifty-one: of a certain Nun that was buried in the church, which appeared with her body half burnt
Felix, Bishop of Portua, a man of holy life, who was born and brought up in the province of Sabina, saith that there lived in that place a certain Nun, which, though she were chaste of her body, yet had she an ungracious and foolish tongue: which departing this life, was buried in the church: the keeper whereof, the night following, saw her by revelation brought before the holy altar, where she was cut in two pieces, and the one half was burnt in the fire, and the other was not touched at all. Rising up in the morning, he told unto others what a strange vision he had seen, and shewed them the very place in which she was burnt, the marble whereof appeared with the very marks and signs of a fire upon it, as though that woman had been there burnt in very deed with corporal fire. By which we may plainly see, that such as have not their sins pardoned, can reap small benefit by having their bodies after death buried in holy places.
Chapter Fifty-two: of the burial of Valerianus.
John also, an honourable man, one of the governors of this city,82 and one that is of great gravity and credit, as all know, told me how one Valerianus, that was a gentleman of the city of Bressa, departed this life, whose body for money the Bishop was content should be buried in the church. This Valerianus, even to his very old age, led a light and wanton life: refusing utterly to give |247 over sin and wickedness. That very night in which he was buried, the blessed martyr Faustinus, in whose church his body lay, appeared to the keeper thereof, saying: "Go, and bid the Bishop cast out that stinking carcass which he hath here buried, and if he will not do it, tell him that thirty days hence he shall die himself." This vision the poor man was afraid to report unto the Bishop, and though he were admonished the second time to do it, yet he refused: and so upon the thirtieth day, the Bishop going safe and sound to bed (never fearing any such thing), suddenly departed this life.
Chapter Fifty-three: of the body of Valentinus, that was after his burial cast out of the church.
There be also at this time here in the city our venerable brother Venantius, Bishop of Luna, and Liberius,83 a noble man and one of very great credit: both which do say that themselves know it, and that their servants were present in the city of Genua, when this strange thing happened. One Valentinus, who had an office in the church of Milan, died there, a man in his life time given to wantonness and all kind of lightness, whose body was buried in the church of the blessed martyr Sirus. The midnight following, a great noise was heard in that place, as though some body by force had been drawn out from thence: whereupon the keepers ran thither, to see what the matter was, and when they were come, they saw two very terrible devils, that had tied a rope about his legs, and were drawing him out of the church, himself in the mean time crying and roaring out: at which sight they were so frighted, that they returned home again to their beds: but when the morning was come, they opened the grave in which Valentinus was buried, but his body they could not find, and therefore they sought without the church to see where it was, and so found it thrown into another place, with the feet still bound as it was drawn out of |248 the church. Out of which, Peter, you may learn that such as die in mortal sin, and cause their bodies to be buried in holy ground, are punished also for that their presumption: the holy places not helping them, but rather the sin of their temerity accusing them.
Chapter Fifty-four: of the body of a dyer buried in the church, which afterward could not be found.
For another thing also which happened in this city, the company of dyers dwelling here do testify to be most true, and it is concerning one that was the chief of their profession, who departed this life, and was by his wife buried in the church of St. Januarius the martyr, near to the gate of St. Lawrence: whose spirit the night following, in the hearing of the sexton, cried out of his grave, saying: "I burn, I burn": and when he continued a long time crying so, the sexton told it to the dyer's wife, who thereupon sent certain of his own profession to the church, to see in what case his body was in the grave, who so cried out in that pitiful manner: and when they had opened it, there they found his garments safe and sound, which be still kept in the same church, for a perpetual memory of that which happened: but his body by no means could they find, as though it had never been buried there: by which we may gather to what torments his soul was condemned, whose body was in that sort turned out of the church. What profit, then, do holy places bring to them that be buried there, when as those, that be wicked and unworthy, be by God's appointment thrown out from those sacred places?
PETER. What thing is there, then, that can profit and relieve the souls of them that be departed? |249
Chapter Fifty-five: what is available for the soul after death: and of a Priest of Centumcellis, who was desired bv a certain man's spirit, to be helped after his death, by the holy sacrifice: and of the soul of a monk called Justus.
GREGORY. If the sins after death be pardonable, then the sacred oblation of the holy host useth to help men's souls: for which cause the souls sometime, of them that be dead, do desire the same: for Bishop Felix, whom we spake of before, saith that a virtuous Priest, who died some two years since, and dwelt in the diocese of the city of Centumcellis, and was pastor of the church of St. John in the place called Tauriana, told him that himself did use (when he had need) to wash his body in a certain place, in which there were passing hot waters: and that going thither upon a time, he found a certain man whom he knew not, ready to do him service, as to pull off his shoes, take his clothes, and to attend upon him in all dutiful manner. And when he had divers times done thus, the Priest, minding upon a day to go to the baths, began to think with himself that he would not be ungrateful to him that did him such service, but carry him somewhat for a reward, and so he took with him two singing breads 84: and coming thither he found the man there ready, and used his help as he was wont to do: and when he had washed himself, put on his clothes, and was ready to depart, he offered him for an holy reward that which he had brought, desiring him to take that courteously, which for charity he did give him. Then with a sad countenance, and in sorrowful manner, he spake thus unto him: "Why do you give me these, father? This is holy bread, and I cannot eat of it, for I, whom you see here, was sometime lord of these baths, and am now after my death appointed for my sins to this place: but if you desire to pleasure me, offer this bread unto almighty God, and be an intercessor for my sins: and by this shall you know that your prayers be heard, if at your next coming you find me not here." And as he was speaking these words, he vanished out of his sight: so that he, which before |250 seemed to be a man, shewed by that manner of departure that he was a spirit. The good Priest all the week following gave himself to tears for him, and daily offered up the holy sacrifice: and afterward returning to the bath, found him not there: whereby it appeareth what great profit the souls receive by the sacrifice of the holy oblation, seeing the spirits of them that be dead desire it of the living, and give certain tokens to let us understand how that by means thereof they have received absolution.
Here also I cannot but tell you that which happened three years since in mine own Monastery 85. A certain monk there was, called Justus, one very cunning in medicine, and whiles I remained in the Abbey, served me very diligently, attending upon me in my often infirmities and sickness. This man himself at length fell sore sick, so that in very deed he was brought to the last cast. A brother he had, called Copiosus, that had care of him, who yet liveth. Justus perceiving himself past all hope of life, told this brother of his where he had secretly laid up three crowns of gold; but yet they were not so closely conveyed, that they could be concealed from the monks: for they, carefully seeking, and tossing up all his medicines and boxes, found in one of them these three crowns hidden. Which thing so soon as I understood, very much grieved I was, and could not quietly digest so great a sin at his hands, that lived with us in community, because the rule of my Monastery was that all the monks thereof should so live in common, that none in particular might possess anything proper to himself. Being, therefore, much troubled and grieved at that which had happened, I began to think with myself what was best to be done, both for the soul of him that was now dying, and also for the edification and example of those that were yet living. At length I sent for Pretiosus, Prior of the Monastery, and gave him |251 this charge: "See," quoth I, "that none of our monks do so much as visit Justus in this his extremity, neither let any give him any comfort at all: and when his last hour draweth nigh, and he doth desire the presence of his spiritual brethren, let his carnal brother tell him that they do all detest him, for the three crowns which he had hidden: that, at least before his death, sorrow may wound his heart, and purge it from the sin committed: and when he is dead, let not his body be buried amongst the rest of the monks, but make a grave for him in some one dunghill or other, and there cast it in, together with the three crowns which he left behind him, crying out all with joint voice: 'Thy money be with thee unto perdition'; and so put earth upon him." In either of which things my mind and desire was, both to help him that was leaving the world, and also to edify the monks yet remaining behind, that both grief of death might make him pardonable for his sin, and such a severe sentence against avarice might terrify and preserve them from the like offence: both which, by God's goodness, fell out accordingly. For when the foresaid monk came to die, and carefully desired to be commended to the devotions of his brethren, and yet none of them did either visit him, or so much as speak to him: his brother Copiosus told him for what cause they had all given him over: at which words he straightways sighed for his sin, and in that sorrow gave up the ghost. And after his death, he was buried in that manner, as I had given in commandment: by which fact all the monks were so terrified, that they began each one to seek out the least and basest things in their cells, and which by the rule they might lawfully keep: and very much they feared, lest some thing they had, for which they might be blamed.
Thirty days after his departure, I began to take compassion upon him, and with great grief to think of his |252 punishment, and what means there was to help him: whereupon I called again for Pretiosus, Prior of my Monastery, and with an heavy heart spake thus unto him: "It is now a good while since that our brother which is departed remaineth in the torments of fire, and therefore we must shew him some charity, and labour what we may to procure his delivery: wherefore go your way, and see that for thirty days following sacrifice be offered for him, so that no one day pass in which, for his absolution and discharge, the healthful sacrifice be not offered": who forthwith departed, and put my commandment in execution. In the mean time, my mind being busied about other affairs, so that I took no heed to the days how they passed: upon a certain night the same monk that was dead, appeared to his brother Copiosus: who, seeing him, enquired of his state in this manner: "What is the matter, brother? and how is it with you?" to whom he answered thus: "Hitherto have I been in bad case, but now I am well; for this day have I received the communion": with which news Copiosus straightways coming to the Monastery, told the monks: and they diligently counting the days, found it to be that in which the thirtieth sacrifice was offered for his soul: and so, though neither Copiosus knew what the monks had done for him, nor they what he had seen concerning the state of his brother, yet at one and the same time both he knew what they had done, and they what he had seen, and so the sacrifice and vision agreeing together, apparent it was that the dead monk was by the holy sacrifice delivered from his pains.
PETER. The things you report be passing strange, and yet full of joy and comfort.
Chapter Fifty-six: of the life and departure of Bishop Cassius. 86
GREGORY. And that we should not call in question, or doubt of that which the dead |253 report, we have, for confirmation of the same thing, the facts of the living. For Cassius, Bishop of Narni, a man of holy life, who did usually every day offer sacrifice unto God (and whiles he was at the mysteries of those sacrifices, did also immolate himself in tears), received from our Lord this message by one of his Priests. "Do that thou doest: work that thou workest: let not thy foot cease, let not thy hand cease, upon the nativity of the Apostles thou shalt come unto me, and I will give thee thy reward." And so, seven years after, upon that very day of the Apostles, after he had ended the solemnity of Mass and received the mysteries of the sacred communion, he departed this life.
Chapter Fifty-seven: of one that was taken by his enemies and put in prison, whose irons fell off at the time of the sacrifice: and of one Baraca, a mariner, that was by the holy sacrifice delivered from drowning.
That also which I have heard is known to many, to wit, how one was by his enemies taken and put in prison, with irons upon him: for whom his wife caused upon certain days sacrifice to be offered: who, long time after, returning home to his wife, told her upon what days his bolts used to fall off: by whose relation she found that it was upon those very days in which sacrifice had been offered for him. By another thing likewise, which happened seven years since, the very same truth is confirmed. For when Agathus, Bishop of Palermo (as many faithful and religious men both have and still do tell me), was, in the time of my predecessor of blessed memory, commanded to come to Rome, and in his journey fell into such a tempest at sea, that he despaired of ever coming to land: the mariner of the ship, called Baraca (who now is one of the clergy, and serves in the same church), governed another small vessel, tied to the poop of the former ship: the rope whereof breaking in pieces, away it went with man |254 and all, and amongst the huge mountains of waters, quickly vanished out of sight. The ship in which the Bishop was, after many great dangers, at length arrived all weather-beaten at the island of Ostica: and when three days were past, and the Bishop could hear no news of the foresaid mariner that was so violently carried away with the storm, nor see him in any part of the sea, very sorry he was, and verily believed that he had been drowned: and so upon great charity bestowed one thing upon him being yet alive, which was not due unto him until he was dead: for he willed that the sacrifice of the healthful oblation should be offered unto almighty God for the absolution of his soul: which being done accordingly, and the ship new rigged, away he departed for Italy, where, arriving at Portua, he found the mariner alive, whom he verily supposed to have been drowned: upon which good chance altogether unlooked for, very glad he was, and demanded of him, how it was possible that he could escape so many days, in so great a danger and so terrible a tempest: who told him, how in that storm he was tossed with that little ship which he governed, and how he did swim with it being full of water: and so often as it was turned upside down, how he gat upon the keel, and held fast there: adding also that, by striving and labouring thus continually day and night, at length, with watching and hunger, his strength began to fail him: and then he told how, by the singular providence and mercy of God, he was preserved from drowning: for as even to this very day he still affirmeth, so then did he verify the same to the Bishop, telling him in this manner. "As I was," quoth he, "striving and labouring in the sea, and my strength began to fail me, suddenly I became so heavy of mind, that methought I was neither waking nor yet asleep: and being in that case in the midst of the sea, I saw one come, who brought me bread to refresh my |255 tired body: which so soon as I had eaten, I recovered my strength again; and not long after, a ship passing by took me in, and so was I delivered from that danger of death and set safe a land. The Bishop, hearing this, enquired upon what day this strange thing happened, and he found by his relation, that it was that very day in which the Priest in the island of Ostica did sacrifice for him unto God, the host of the holy oblation.
PETER. That which you report, myself also heard at my being in Sicily.
GREGORY. I, for my part, do verily believe, that the reason why, by God's providence, this thing falleth out thus apparently to them that be living, and think nothing thereof, is that all may know how, if their sins be not irremissible, that they may after death obtain pardon and absolution for them, by the oblation of the holy sacrifice. But yet we have here to note, that the holy sacrifice doth profit those kind of persons after their death, who in their life time obtained that such good works as were by their friends done for them might be available to their souls, after they were out of this world.
Chapter Fifty-eight: of the virtue and mystery of the holy sacrifice.
And here also we have diligently to consider, that it is far more secure and safe that every man should do that for himself whiles he is yet alive, which he desireth that others should do for him after his death. For far more blessed it is, to depart free out of this world, than being in prison to seek for release: and therefore reason teacheth us, that we should with our whole soul contemn this present world, at least because we see that it is now gone and past: and to offer unto God the daily sacrifice of tears, and the daily sacrifice of his body and blood. For this sacrifice doth especially save our souls from everlasting damnation, which in mystery doth renew unto us the |256 death of the Son of God: who although being risen from death, doth not now die any more, nor death shall not any further prevail against him: yet living in himself immortally, and without all corruption, he is again sacrificed for us in this mystery of the holy oblation: for there his body is received, there his flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there his blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful. Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always represent the passion of the only Son of God: for what right believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the Priest, the heavens be opened, and the quires of Angels are present in that mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible?
Chapter Fifty-nine: how we ought to procure sorrow of heart, at the time of the holy mysteries: and of the custody of our soul after contrition.
But necessary it is that, when we do these things, we should also, by contrition of heart, sacrifice ourselves unto almighty God: for when we celebrate the mystery of our Lord's passion, we ought to imitate what we then do: for then shall it truly be a sacrifice for us unto God, if we offer ourselves also to him in sacrifice. Careful also must we be, that after we have bestowed some time in prayer, that, as much as we can by God's grace, we keep our mind fixed in him, so that no vain thoughts make us to fall unto dissolution, nor any foolish mirth enter into our heart: lest the soul, by reason of such transitory thoughts, lose all that which it gained by former contrition. For so Anne deserved to obtain that which she craved at God's hand, because after her tears, |257 she preserved herself in the former force of her soul: for of her thus it is written: And her looks were not any more changed to divers things.87 She therefore, that forgot not what she desired, was not deprived of that gift which she requested.
Chapter Sixty: that we ought to pardon other men their sins, that we may obtain remission of our own.
I We have also further to know, that he doth rightly and in good sort demand pardon for his own sin, who doth forgive that which hath been done against himself. For our gift is not received, if, before, we free not our soul from all discord and lack of charity: for our Saviour saith: If thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.88 Wherein we have to consider, that whereas all sin by a gift is loosed, how grievous the sin of discord is, for which no gift is received: and therefore we ought, in soul and desire, to go unto our neighbour though he be far off, and many miles distant from us, and there to humble ourselves before him, and to pacify him by humility and hearty good will, to the end that our Creator, beholding the desire of our mind, may forgive us our own sin, who receiveth a gift for sin. And our Saviour himself teacheth us, how that servant, which did owe ten thousand talents, by penance obtained of his Lord the forgiveness of that debt: but yet because he would not forgive his fellow-servant an hundred pence, which were due to him, that was again exacted at his hands, which before was pardoned.89 Out of which sayings we learn, that if we do not from our heart forgive that which is committed against us, how that is again required at our hands, whereof before we were glad that by penance we had obtained pardon and remission. |258
Wherefore, whiles time is given us, whiles our judge doth bear with us, whiles he that examineth our sins doth expect our conversion and amendment: let us mollify with tears the hardness of our heart, and with sincere charity, love our neighbours: and then dare I speak it boldly, that we shall not have any need of the holy sacrifice after our death: if, before death, we offer up ourselves for a sacrifice unto almighty God.
[Footnotes moved to the end and combined with editorial notes]
1. Chapter. I. p. 178. There is a certain resemblance here with the famous opening of the seventh book of Plato's Republic; but Gregory, in spite of his residence at Constantinople, knew hardly any Greek, and the analogy is probably accidental.
2. Chapter III. p. 180. "Man, therefore, as he is created in the middle state." Cf. Dante in the De Monarchia (iii. 16).
3. 1 Eccles. 3, 17-20.
4. 1 Eccles. 12, 13.
5. 2 Ibid. 5, 18.
6. 3 Ibid. 7, 2.
7. 1 Eccles. 7,2.
8. 2 Ibid. 11,9.
9. 3 Ibid. 6, 8.
10. 1 Eccles. 9, 10.
11. 2 1 Cor. 9, 22.
12. 1 Hebr. 11, 1.
13. Chapter VIII. p. 188. The monastery founded by St. Benedict at Terracina has been already mentioned, Bk. II. chap. 22.
14. Chapter X. p. 189. Venerabilis pater nomine Spes. "Cample" is, perhaps, Campello sul Clitunno, nearer Spoleto than Norcia.
15. Chapter XII. p. 192. For "Read" (Reate) read "Rieti." A St. Juvenal was Bishop of Narni in the fourth century, but he was not a martyr ; St. Eleutherius (not to be confused with St. Gregory's friend, the Abbot of that name), Pope and martyr, suffered death under the Emperor Commodus in 189.
16. Chapter XIII. pp. 192, 193. The Roman patrician and Christian philosopher, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, was consul in 485, and afterwards Head of the Senate ; he was put to death by Theodoric in 525 (cf. below, chapter 30). He was the father-in-law of Boethius, and Galla was therefore the sister of the latter's wife, Rusticiana. It was to this Galla (Ad Gallant viduam) that St. Fulgentius of Ruspe addressed his treatise, De Consolatione super morte mariti et de statu viduarum (In Migne, P.L. LXV., coll. 311-323). Another Symmachus, the son of Boethius, was consul in 522 ; but chronological considerations make it clear that his grandfather is the person whom St. Gregory means.
17. Chapter XIV. p. 194. The story of Servulus is told by St. Gregory in his 15th Homily. (Homiliarum in Evangelia, Lib. I. Homilia 15.)
18. 1 Homelia 15.
19. Chapter XV. p. 195. Homiliarum in Evangelia, Lib. II. Homilia 40.
20. Chapter XV. p. 196. Praeneste, or Palestrina, was always a haunt for hermits and ascetics in the Middle Ages. For a later instance, that of the beata Margherita Colonna, see Maud F. Jerrold, Vittoria Colonna, pp. 32, 33.
21. Chapter XVI. p. 198. The story of Tharsilla, or Tarsilla, is told at greater length in the Homilies (Lib. II. Homilia 38). Tharsilla, Gordiana, and Emiliana were the three sisters of St. Gregory's father, Gordianus ; one, Gordiana, returned to the world and married. The Pope Felix, whom St. Gregory describes as atavus meus, was probably the third Pope of that name, who was Bishop of Rome from 483 to 492, famous for his struggle with the patriarch Acacius of Constantinople. He was a married man before taking priest's orders, but his exact relationship with St. Gregory is uncertain. This story curiously suggests the apparition of St. Gregory himself to the dying Santa Fina, painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio at San Gimignano.
22. Chapter XVIII. p. 200. He refers to the great pestilence that devastated Rome at the beginning of 590, during which he was elected Pope on the death of Pelagius II.
23. Chapter XIX. p. 201. In the Homilies (Lib. II. Homilia 35), St. Gregory speaks of Stephen as "pater monasterii juxta Reatinae urbis moenia constituti." Cf. above, Bk. IV. chap. 11.
24. Chapter XXI. p. 202. Cf. note on Bk. III. chap. 22.
25. Chapter XXII. p. 203. Sura is the present Sora in the valley of the Liris (included in the modern province of Caserta), still famous for the abbeys in its neighbourhood.
26. Chapter XXIII. p. 203. For "Marsori" read "Marsi" (Ecclesia Marsorum). The district indicated is the modern Abruzzi.
27. 1 3 Kings 13, 24-28.
28. 1 Luke, 17, 37.
29. 2 Philipp. 1, 23.
30. 3 2 Cor. 5, 1.
31. 4 Isai. 61, 7.
32. 5 Rev, 6, 11.
33. Chapter XXV. p. 205. This appeal to these two texts in Isaiah and the Revelation of St. John, for evidence of the resurrection of the body, became a traditional one with mediaeval theologians. Thus Dante, answering St. James as to the object of the Christian's hope (Par. xxv. 88-96) :
"Le nuove e le scritture antiche
Pongono il segno, ed esso lo mi addita.
Dell' anime che Dio s'ha fatte amiche
Dice Isaia che ciascuna vestita
Nella sua terra fia di doppia vesta,
E la sua terra e questa dolce vita.
E il tuo fratello assai vie piu digesta,
La dove tratta delle bianche stole,
Questa rivelazion ci manifesta."
34. Chapter XXVI. p. 206. The church of San Sisto is on the Via Appia within the city ; it was given by Honorius III. to St. Dominic in the thirteenth century, and is now occupied by Dominican nuns. The Via Praenestina runs from the Porta Maggiore (Porta Praenestina) to Palestrina. ['Way that is called Appia' replaced by 'Appian Way' in online text].
35. Ibid. p. 207. Portua (more properly Portus, the Portus Traiani) is the modern Porto, an important commercial seaport under the Empire, but now a village two miles from the sea. ['Portua' replaced by 'Portus' in online text]
36. Ibid, p. 208. Patricii Narsae temporibus. The Narses meant is evidently the famous Armenian eunuch who reconquered Italy from the Goths and governed Rome for the Empire from 552 to 567 ; not the Narses, a contemporary of St. Gregory, to whom several of the Pope's letters are addressed. ['Narsus' replaced by 'Narses' in online text]
37. Chapter XXVII. p. 210. Centumcellae is the present Civita Vecchia. "Earl" is the translator's equivalent of comes, or "count," the chief military officer of a district. St. Gregory relates this story in his Homilies (Lib. II. Homilia 36). ['Earl' replaced by 'Count' in online text.]
38. 1 Luke 16, 24.
39. 1 Matt. 25, 41.
40. Chapter XXX. p. 213. Julianus hujus Romanae Ecclesiae secundus defensor has already been mentioned, Bk. I. chap. 10. He was the second of this name to hold the office of "defender." Cf. note on Bk. I. chap. 4.
41. Ibid. p. 214. Theodoricus (Thiuda reiks), whom we call Theodoric the Goth, was born in 454, invaded Italy as the delegate of the Emperor Zeno in 489, and, by his capture of Ravenna from Odoacer in 493, founded the short-lived Ostrogothic kingdom. In 500, he came to Rome as a pacific and beneficent sovereign, hailed by the Romans as a new Trajan, pledging himself to maintain the Roman laws for the benefit of the Roman People. He restored the walls and decreed the preservation of the monuments of the city, "King of the Goths and Romans in Italy," he ruled nominally as the representative of the Emperor at Byzantium. Himself an Arian, Theodoric during the greater part of his reign treated Arians and Catholics with the same impartial justice as he did Goths and Romans in the political field. But the reconciliation between the Byzantine Court and the Holy See in 519, the consequent tendency of the Roman Senate towards Constantinople rather than towards Ravenna, and the increasing bitterness between Arians and Catholics both in East and West, gradually alienated the King from his Catholic and Roman subjects, and he finally degenerated into a religious persecutor and suspicious tyrant. The philosopher Boethius was tortured to death by his orders in 524 or 525 ; Symmachus, the Head of the Senate, was executed in 525 ; and Pope John I. (cf, above, Bk. III. chap. 2) died in the King's dungeons at Ravenna in May, 526. Theodoric followed his victims to the grave on August 30, 526, the day on which, according to his decree, all the Catholic churches in Italy were to have been surrendered to the Arians. At some uncertain date, his body was cast out of his magnificent tomb at Ravenna : Agnellus of Ravenna, who wrote in the first half of the ninth century, states that it had been done before his time (Liber Pontificalis, in Migne, P.L. cvi. col. 535) ; but there seems no foundation for the assertion of Fra Salimbene, the thirteenth-century chronicler of Parma (Cronica, ed. Holder-Egger, pp. 209, 210), that it was St. Gregory the Great himself who ordered this work of desecration to be carried out. The crater mentioned in this unpleasant legend is either that of Vulcano or Stromboli, two of the Lipari islands.
42. Chapter XXXI. p. 215. San Lorenzo in Damaso, the basilica of St. Lawrence near the site of Pompey's theatre, was founded by Pope St. Damasus (366-384).
43. Chapter XXXII. p. 216. "Courtier" is here, as before, the translator's equivalent for curialis. Cf. above, note on Bk. II. chap. II.
44. 1 Luke 16, 19-25.
45. Chapter XXXIII. p, 219. "For seeing that they do in that place with unspeakable brightness (common to all) behold God, what is there that they know not, that know him who knoweth all things." Cf Dante, Par. xv. 55-63, xxi. 82-102.
46. Chapter XXXV. p. 219. A "natural brother" (germanus frater) means a brother according to the flesh, not merely a fellow-monk.
47. 1 Psalm 118, 19-20.
48. Ibid. p. 220. Optio was not Stephen's name, but his military rank. The right reading is not cui cognomen Optio fait, "whose surname was Optio," but qui in numero optio fuit, "who in rank was adjutant."
49. Ibid. p. 221. This allegorical ship is possibly the ultimate source of the boat that conveys the souls of the redeemed from the mouth of the Tiber in Dante's Purgatorio.
50. 1 John 14, 2.
51. 2 Matt. 13, 30.
52. Chapter XXXVI. p. 223. Evasa appears to be the island of Ibiza in the Balearic Archipelago.
53. Ibid. pp. 223-226. This famous and important chapter may be regarded as the germ of the later mediaeval visions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The Bridge is the "Bridge of Dread," said to be of Oriental origin, which occurs in so many of the later visions of the other world (though not in the Divina Commedia ) ; this is its first appearance in the West, the Latin version of the Visio Sancti Pauli, in which (though not in the original Greek) it also occurs, being later. The sumptuous house of gold, which is being built for an unnamed person, is the ultimate source of the empty throne seen preparing (probably for St. Bernard) in the vision of Tundal (Visio Tnugdali, ed. cit., p. 54), and for Henry VII. in the Divina Commedia (Par. xxx. 133-138). The episode of the priest, who passes safely over the bridge, is dramatically expanded in the vision of Tundal (ed. cit., pp. 15, 27).
54. Ibid. p. 227. In the usual version of the Latin text, the arrangement of the chapters is different. The story of Deusdedit forms chapter xxxvii., the story of the boy Theodorus being included with those of the deaths of Chrysaorius and the monk of Iconium as chapter xxxviii.
55. 1 Matt. 7, 14.
56. 2 Job 24, 20.
57. 3 Gen. 19, 24.
58. Chapter XXXVII. p. 229. The story of Theodorus (without his name) is told by St. Gregory in the Homilies (Lib. II. Homilia 38).
59. Chapter XXXVIII. p. 230. Chrysaorius in the Latin text.
60. Ibid. p. 232. St, Gregory calls this monastery in Greek Tw~n Gala&twn, that is, "of the Galatians."
61. 1 John 12, 35.
62. 2 Isai. 49, 8.
63. 1 2 Cor. 6, 2.
64. 2 Eccles. 9, 10.
65. 3 Psalm 118, 1.
66. 4 Matt. 12, 32.
67. 5 1 Cor. 3, 11-15.
68. Chapter XL. pp. 234, 235. Pope Anastasius II., whom Dante (Inf. xi. 7-9) condemns as a heretic, died in November 498. Two rival conclaves met: the one, which represented the majority, was held in the Lateran, and elected the Sardinian deacon Symmachus to the papacy; the other, which favoured a reconciliation with the Emperor (Anastasius I.), in S. Maria Maggiore, chose for Pope the Archdeacon Laurentius, who was a Roman. After a violent struggle, an appeal to the arbitration of Theodoric resulted in the general recognition of Symmachus. The struggle was afterwards renewed, until Laurentius finally withdrew in 505. In the synod (Synodus palmaris) which was called in 501 to investigate the charges against Symmachus, the famous principle of the Church of Rome was established : Summa sedes a nemine judicatur. Cf. Grisar, Geschichte Roms und der Papste im Mittelalter, nos. 308, 309. Paschasius died a few years before the death of Symmachus (514) ; he is venerated as a saint on May 31. A work on the Holy Ghost, De Spiritu Sancto libri duo, is attributed to him, and identified with the "rectissimi et luculenti de Sancto Spiritu libri," of which St. Gregory here speaks (Migne, P.L. lxii.); but its authenticity has been disputed, and it is included by Augustus Engelbrecht among the works of Bishop Faustus o. Riez (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. xxi., Vienna, 1891.) A letter from Paschasius to Eugippius, the biographer of St. Severinus, is extant (In Migne, tom. cit., and ed. Pius Knoell in Corp. Script. Eccles. Lat., vol. ix. pars 2, Vienna, 1886). The scene of this apparition is laid by St. Gregory in Angulanis thermis, that is, the baths of Angulus, or Paterno, near the modern Castel Sant' Angelo in the Abruzzi. This story of Paschasius is cited by mediaeval writers on the place of Purgatory as implying that souls are punished in the places on earth where they committed their faults. In his Commentary upon the Sentences of Peter the Lombard (In Lib. IV. Sententiarum, dist. xx. pars i. art. i. q. 6), St. Bonaventura combats this theory, declaring that the case of Paschasius was a special dispensation, and not according to the general purgatorial rule; for "it appears altogether incredible, or at least improbable, that all the souls who sinned in Paris should be punished in Paris."
69. 1 Psalm 86, 13.
70. 2 Rev. 5, 1-3.
71. 1 Matt. 25, 46.
72. 1 Matt. 5, 44.
73. 2 2 Tim. 2, 25-26.
74. Chapter XLIV. p. 240. This doctrine of St. Gregory's, that the faithful do not pray for the souls of those whom they suppose to be in Hell, is more explicitly stated in the Moralia (lib. xxxiv. cap. 19) : "The Saints do not pray for the unbelieving and impious that are dead, because they shrink from the merit of their prayer, concerning those whom they already know to be condemned to eternal punishment, being made void before that countenance of the just Judge." This is curiously inconsistent with the popular legend, first heard in the eighth century, that St. Gregory, moved by the tale of the justice and humility of Trajan towards the poor widow whose son had been slain, prayed and obtained that the soul of the Emperor might return from Hell to his body to win his salvation. This inconsistency is noticed by St. Thomas Aquinas, who discusses the story at some length (Summa Theologica, III. supl. Q. 71, A. 5 : Utrum suffragia prosint existentibus in Inferno). Dante speaks of the legend of Trajan and St. Gregory, in two famous passages (Purg. x, 73-93; Par. xx. 106-117).
75. Chapter XLV. p. 241. "Two manner of deaths," duobus etiam modis mors debet intelligi. Cf. Rev. xxi. 8 : "which is the second death." Thus Dante speaks of the souls of the lost, che la seconda morte ciascun grida (Inf. i. 117).
76. 1 Ecclus. 34, 7.
77. 2 Eccles. 5, 2.
78. 3 Gen. 37, 5-10.
79. 4 Matt. 2, 13.
80. 5 Daniel 2, 29-31.
81. Chapter XLVIII. p. 245. This power of saints, to "discern betwixt illusions and true revelations," is emphasised by St. Catherine of Siena.
82. Chapter LII. p. 246. In the Latin text, this John is described as in hoc urbe locum praefectorum servans, that is, vicar of the prefect or Rome. Bressa (Brixia) is the modern Brescia, of which St. Faustinus (martyred in the second century) is one of the patron saints.
83. Chapter LIII. p. 247. This Liberius, a contemporary ot St. Gregory, is not to be confused with the Liberius mentioned in Bk. II. chap. 35. The office that Valentinus held was ecclesiae Mediolanensis defensor (Cf. Book I. chap. 4, notes). St Syrus, who is specially venerated at Genoa, was Bishop of Pavia, and was martyred about 96.
84. Chapter LV. p. 249. "Two singing breads," duas oblationum soronas ; apparently, two unconsecrated hosts.
85. Ibid. p. 250. The monastery is, as usual, St. Gregory's convent of Sant' Andrea, on the Caelian Hill. In the Rule of St. Benedict, we read : "The beds shall be frequently searched by the abbot to guard against the vice of hoarding. And if any one be found in possession of something not allowed by the abbot, let him be subjected to the severest punishment" (chap. 55, Gasquet's translation).
86. Chapter LVI, p. 253. Cassius, Bishop of Narni, died in 558. The story of his death is told at greater length in the Homilies Lib. II. Homilia 37).
87. 1 1 Kings 1. 18.
88. 2 Matt. 5. 23-24.
89. 3 Matt. 18. 27.
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