I render thanks to my God, that for my sake so many holy men have been gathered together to treat of the truth of faith and good works, and, as befits such, to judge of the matters under dispute with a just judgement, through senses sharpened to the discernment of good and evil. Would that you did so more often; and though you have not always leisure to maintain this canonical practice
(Nicaea can. 5; Turon. (567) can. 1)once or twice a year, in view of the stormy discords of this age, yet as speedily as may be, though it be too seldom, you should be imbued with this as your chief study, that all the dilatory might be made afraid and the zealous be encouraged to greater progress. Yes, I say, thanks be to God, that even on my account the occasion of a holy synod has been produced for you over the Easter controversy. May our Lord Jesus Christ, that prince of pastors
(1 Pet. 5. 4.), vouchsafe that your council be of use to the profit of His church; and may God Himself, Who is wont to stand in the congregation of the gods
(Ps. 81. 1), with His presence inspire the hearts of His people entirely to obey His will through strength of the commandments, so that you may not only treat of the affair of Easter, which has already been long discussed and long decided in diverse ways by different authorities; but also of all the necessary canonical observances, marred as they have been by many, which is a more serious matter, and while the day of judgement is now nearer than it was, you might embark upon some still severer precept of the evangelical religion and apostolical tradition; for if you carefully consider the commandments of the gospel, I am not surprised that they are found to contain the contrary to some men's characters.
But let it be enough to have indicated that each will need to be moulded to the example of his redeemer and the pattern of the true shepherd, Who first preaching humility
(Matt. 4. 17; Matt. 11. 29), and adding seven beatitudes to the first, which is poverty of spirit
(Matt. 5. 3), taught man so fully to follow [His] footsteps
(cf. 1 Pet. 2. 21), that by following after righteousness
(Matt. 5. 10)he might attain to the true circumcision of the eighth day; since the eighth beatitude concludes with martyrdom
(cf. Hieron. In Matt. 5 10), for the reason that a man is not only righteous by his
p.15acts, but also a martyr by his suffering for righteousness' sake, seeing that he is desirous of the heavenly kingdom, and he is crowned
(cf. 2 Tim. 2. 5)with those who strive alike. Thus when, as it is written, He who says that he believes in Christ, ought also himself to walk even as Christ walked
(1 Ioann. 2. 6)that is, both poor and humble and ever preaching truth under the persecution of mankindand again, They that will live a godly life in Christ, shall suffer persecution
(2 Tim. 3. 12), and that Faith without works is dead in itself
(Iac. 2. 17 et 20), and the Lord replies to fools who rely on faith alone, That I have not known you
(Matt. 7. 23), and to those who believe well and keep saying Lord, Lord
(Matt. 7. 21), He declared, that they shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and when men cannot be His disciples [or worthy of Him], who have not abandoned all that they possess
(Luc. 14. 33), let each examine himself, whether he has firmly fulfilled or borne these duties, lest he should be estranged from the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, since the son should not be degenerate, and the disciple should not contradict the master in his preaching; For he that does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep is a thief and a robber
(Ioann. 10. 1), and he who shuns
(cf. Ioann. 10. 13)the toil of chastising and opposing sinful men is a hireling
(cf. Ioann. 10. 13), not a son ever to abide in the church.
I have touched these matters briefly for this reason, that if you are willing for us juniors to teach you fathers, you may ever keep in work and word this saying of the true shepherd, which His sheep knowfor they do not hear the voice of strangers, but flee from him
(Ioann. 10. 5)whose voice they know not, which, unless it be exemplified in practice, does not agree with the voice of the true shepherd. Nor can a discourse proceeding from the mouth of a hireling effectually enter the minds of those whom he instructs, for it bears this token, that he does not himself first hear the word that coming from his mouth is heard not; and what the master begins by slighting in his actions, he cannot with bare speech transmit for an example of obedience.
Therefore let us all together, whether clergy or monks, first frankly execute these true and unique rules of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thus thereafter, laying aside the swelling growth of pride, seek to record a unanimous verdict on the rest. If we all choose to be humble and poor for Christ's sake, Who for our sakes became poor though He was rich
(2 Cor. 8. 9), then, with our various lusts laid aside and our mortal cares cast out from the sinful clay, by humility and by the willing poverty which the gospel teaches, as it were with the causes of disagreement and difference cut off, all the sons of God shall mutually enjoy between themselves a true peace and entire charity, by the likeness of their characters and the agreement of their single will. For great harm has been done and is done to the church's peace by difference of character and diversity of practice; but yet if, as I have said, we first hasten by the exercise of true humility to heal the poisons of pride and envy and vain glory, through the teaching
p.17of our Saviour Who says for our example, Learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart
(Matt. 11. 29), and so on, then let us all, made perfect with no further blemish, with hatred rooted out, as the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, love one another
(cf. Ioann. 13. 35)with our whole heart. And if there be some variety of traditional practice, as there is over Easter, while the humble cannot strive, nor does the church have such a custom
(1 Cor. 11. 16), while those will soon know more truly, who with the same purpose and the same desire of knowing truth seek jointly what they may more rightly follow, when none is vanquished except error, and when none boasts in himself but in the Lord; let us then seek together, I beseech you, my most loving fathers and brethren, and let us see which be the more true traditionyours, or that of your brethren in the West. For, as I have noted in the book of my reply, which I have now sent you, though it was written three years ago, all the churches of the entire West do not consider that the resurrection should take place before the passion, that is, Easter before the equinox, and they do not wait beyond the twentieth moon, lest they should hold a sacrament of the New Testament without authority of the Old. But this I leave to another time; for the rest, I have informed the holy father in three books of their opinions upon Easter, and in a short pamphlet I have further ventured to write the same to your holy brother Arigius.
One thing therefore I request of your holiness, that with peace and charity you bear my ignorance and, as some say, my proud impudence in writing, which has been extorted by necessity, not pride, as my very baseness proves; and since I am not the author of this difference, and it is for the sake of Christ the Saviour, our common Lord and God, that I have entered these lands a pilgrim, I beseech you by our common Lord, and entreat you by Him Who is to judge the quick and the dead
(2 Tim. 4. 1), if you deserve His recognition Who shall say to many, Amen I say to you that I never knew you
(Matt. 7. 23), that I may be allowed with your peace and charity to enjoy the silence of these woods and to live beside the bones of our seventeen dead brethren, even as up till now we have been allowed to live twelve years among you, so that, as up till now we have done, we may pray for you as we ought. Let Gaul, I beg, contain us side by side, whom the kingdom of heaven shall contain, if our deserts are good; for we have one kingdom promised and one hope of our calling in Christ, with Whom we shall together reign
(cf. 2 Tim. 2. 12 (et Rom. 8. 17)), if indeed we first suffer here with Him, that also together with Him we may be glorified. I know that to many this verbosity of mine will seem excessive; but I judged it better that you too should know what we here discuss and ponder amongst ourselves. For these are our rules, the commands of the Lord and the apostles, in these our confidence is placed; these are our weapons, shield and sword,
p.19these are our defence; these brought us from our native land; these here too we seek to maintain, though laxly; in these we pray and hope to continue up till death, as we have seen our predecessors do. But do you, holy fathers, look what you do to your poor veterans and aged pilgrims; as I judge, it will be better for you to comfort them than to confound.
I however did not venture to appear before you, lest perhaps when present I might strive contrary to the apostle's precept when he says, Do not strive with words
(2 Tim. 2. 14), and again, If any man is quarrelsome, we have no such custom nor has the church of God
(1 Cor. 11. 16); but I admit the inmost convictions of my conscience, that I have more confidence in the tradition of my native land in accordance with the teaching and reckoning of eighty-four years and with Anatolius, who was commended by Bishop Eusebius the author of the ecclesiastical history and by Jerome the holy writer of the catalogue, for the celebration of Easter, rather than to do so in accordance with Victorius who writes recently and in a doubtful manner, and without defining anything where it was needed, as he himself bears witness in his prologue, and who, after the age of great Martin and great Jerome and Pope Damasus, under Hilary covered a hundred and three years with his compilation. But do you yourselves choose whom you prefer to follow, and whom you rather trust, in accordance with that saying of the apostle, Prove all things, hold what is good
(1 Thess. 5. 21). Far be it then that I should maintain the need to quarrel with you, so that a conflict among us Christians should rejoice our enemies, I mean the Jews or heretics or Gentile heathenfar be it indeed, far be it; for the rest, we may agree in some other way, so that either each should remain before God
(1 Cor. 7. 20)in the condition in which he was called, if both traditions are good, or else both books should be read over in peace and humility without any argument, and what agrees better with the Old and New Testament should be maintained without ill-will at any. For if it is of God that you should drive me hence from the place of seclusion, which I have sought from overseas for the sake of my Lord Jesus Christ, it will be my part to use that prophetic speech, If on my account this storm is upon you, take me and cast me into the sea, that this tempest may recede from you in calm
(Ion. 1. 12); yet let it first be your part like those mariners to seek to save the shipwrecked by the bowels of godliness, and to draw the ship to land, as they, though Gentiles, did, according to the scripture, which says, And the men sought to return to land and could not, for the
p.21sea ran and the swell increased the more
(sqq. Ion. 1. 13). Finally as my last word I advise, admittedly with presumption, that, since many [walking on] the roomy and broad roadway
(cf. Matt. 7. 13-14)of this age hasten towards the narrow crossing, if some few
(cf. Matt. 7. 13-14)are found, who pass through the strait and narrow gate, that leads to life
(cf. Matt. 7. 13-14)according to the Lord's command, you should rather help them on to life than hinder them, lest perhaps you also with the Pharisees be smitten by the word of the Lord, saying, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, since you shut the kingdom of heaven before men
(Matt. 23. 3), and Neither do you enter yourselves, nor do you allow them that are entering to enter
(Matt. 18. 3).
But someone will say; Are we really not entering the kingdom of heaven? Why can you not by the Lord's grace, if you become as little children
(Matt. 18. 3), that is, humble and chaste, simple-hearted
(cf. Rom. 16. 19)and guileless in evil, [yet] wise in goodness
(cf. Rom. 16. 19), easy to be entreated and not retaining anger in your heart? But all these things can very hardly be fulfilled by those who often look at women and who more often quarrel and grow angry over the riches of the world. Thus our party, once renouncing the world, and cutting off sins' causes and strifes' incentives at the start, consider that they may more easily fulfil the Lord's word in nakedness than wealth. For before the acquisition of these four qualities there is no entrance to the kingdom of heaven, as St. Jerome witnesses to three and Basil to the fourth, who expound the character of children in accordance with the tenor of the gospel saying, For a child is humble, does not harbour the remembrance of injury, does not lust after a woman when he looks on her, does not keep one thing on his lips and another in his heart
(Hieron. In Esaiam 8. 18, In Matt. 18. 3; Basil. (transl. Rufin.) Interrog. 161 et 163). And these, as I have said, will be better maintained by one who is still and sees that God Himself is Lord
(cf. Ps. 45. 11), than by one who sees and hears all manner of things. Let none disparage the benefits of silence; for unless they grow lax, the secluded live better than the social, except for that still stricter life which has the greater reward; for where the battle is more stubborn, there is found a crown of higher glory. But yet, as says St. Gregory, they are not credited with private virtues who do not avoid notorious ills
(Greg. Reg. Past. iii. 35). Therefore knowing this, St. Jerome bade bishops imitate the apostles, but taught monks to follow the fathers who were perfect
(Hieron. Epist. lviii. 5). For the patterns of clergy and of monks are different, and widely distinct from one another. Let each maintain what he has grasped; but let all maintain the gospel, and both parties, like single harmonious members of one body, follow Christ the head of all
(cf. Eph. 1. 22)by His own commands, which were revealed by Him to be accomplished in charity and peace. And these two cannot be perfectly accomplished, save by truly humble and unitedly spiritual men, who fulfil Christ's commands, as the Lord Himself bears witness, If ye love Me, keep My commandments
(Ioann. 14. 15), this is My
p.23commandment, that ye love one another, as I also have loved you
(Ioann. 15. 12), for in this shall all know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another
(Ioann.13. 35). Thus unity of minds and peace and charity then can be assured, spread abroad in the bowels of believers by the Holy Ghost, when all alike long to fulfil the divine commands; for the fiction of peace and charity between the imperfect will be such as is the measure of disagreement in their practical pursuits. Therefore, that we may love one another in charity unfeigned
(2 Cor. 6. 6), let us carefully ponder the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, and hasten to fulfil them when understood, that by His teaching the whole church may hasten to the heavenly places with one impulse of unbounded zeal. May His free grace afford us this, that we all may shun the world and love Him only and long for Him with the Father and the Holy Ghost, to Whom is the glory unto ages of ages.
For the rest, fathers, pray for us as we also do for you, wretched though we be, and refuse to consider us estranged from you; for we are all joint members of one body, whether Franks or Britons or Irish or whatever our race be. Thus let all our races rejoice in the comprehension of faith and the apprehension of the Son of God
(Eph. 4. 13), and let us all [hasten to] approach to perfect manhood, to the measure of the completed growth of the fulness of Jesus Christ
(Eph. 4. 13), in Whom let us love one another, praise one another, correct one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, that with Him in one another we may reign and triumph. Pray pardon my verbosity and presumption as I toil beyond my strength, most long-suffering and holy fathers and brethren all.