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For myself and for the bishops (verses 1-220)

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Author: St. Gregory the Theologian

The work of St. Gregory the Theologian For myself and for the bishops is one of the most censored patristic works, although it was created in the so-called “Golden Age” of the Orthodox Church – the time of the ecumenical councils, when the Cappadocian fathers made a decisive contribution to formulate the dogmas of faith. It was written under the influence of the saint’s impressions of church life in the capital, Constantinople, whose department he headed. St. Gregory the Theologian comes face to face with the constant intrigues, with the inner life of the bishopric. Distraught, he left his chair after the end of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381.

The coordinates of the text in Patrologia graeca are: 37:1166-1227.

For myself and for the bishops

Surely I should, inspired by the commands of the One,
Whoever suffered may bear the insult caused by me
Whoever suffered may bear the insult caused by me
and in suffering I must hold my tongue.
Thus, if the battle is brought to an end,
5. I could hope for a fuller reward.
Indeed, the reward is fuller with those who toil the most,
and scarcer in those who cannot bear toil.
But not to make it seem like the bad guys are ruling the roost
above all and that their path is smooth
10. and yet no one opposes them, yet I
I consign their deeds to the last fire,
who conquers all and cleanses righteously.
Even if we did not learn about everything due to some tricks,
yet I will smite the murderers with my humble speech,
15. for indeed those who judge wrongly are murderers,
shedding the blood of innocent souls:
all whom I have raised and led forward.
But I will say what I will, not at all afraid of reproach,
of what is forbidden to all,
20 and which I hate more than anything.
I, of course, will not start naming names,
lest it appear that I reveal what should remain hidden
(besides, I don't remember everyone equally) –
lest my mouth dare go too far.

25. It is true, I know many worthy of great praise,
but whoever dwells among the wicked (and even worse than the wicked),
he must be caught and tamed at once. 
My verbal sword will cut through vice.
If you speak against my speech,

30. you will openly accuse yourself.
So this is my way: anyone can hit me,
I learned long ago to bear the blows of the stones.
You can trust a lion, a leopard can be trained
and even the snake may flee, though you fear it,
35. But beware of only one thing – bad bishops,
disregarding "the dignity of their throne."
Everyone can get a high position, but not everyone - grace.
Turn your gaze to the sheepskin, examine the wolf behind it!
Convince me not with words, but with your deeds.

40. I detest the doctrines to which life itself appears to be opposed,
praising the beauty of the grave, I am disgusted
from the stench of the rotting corpses inside.
- How so? What does that mean? Why do you, ever brilliant orator,
don't you say something nice this time too?

45. For it is characteristic of the sufferer to pour out his grief:
before God, before friends, before parents, before neighbors, before guests,
or in the last case – before the future times and the coming generations.
But I will begin my speech a little further,
no one can say that the laborer

50. receives a reward for his labor in this life: anyone who says so is joking.
Everything ends its course in night and darkness,
God tests some with fire, and covers others in darkness,
until the fire lights up everything.
A man lived a hard life,

55. moaned, spent sleepless nights, shed tears,
confined himself even to simple bed and food,
cared for the study of the inspired Scriptures,
he constantly whipped himself and tore his soul.
What else have I missed? What did I do that I shouldn't?

60. Some other man plucked the fruits of his youth,
laughed, sang, indulged in gluttony,
of all pleasures, of feelings.
He did not impose prohibitions on himself, he was like a stallion without a bridle.
Then misfortunes began to happen to the first man,

65. (indeed hardly exactly miseries, since none of this here concerns the sages,
what most people think they are
and the other man, successful in everything, was also successful in this,
to be considered highly virtuous.

70. I, uttering these words, am a witness to the above written,
I was above the things visible to sensual eyes,
and my mind was directed only to the immaterial.
I left my fame, my estate, my hopes, my literary work,
I felt luxury in being delivered from luxury,

75. and I enjoyed my life with the little piece of bread. I was freed from insults
(however, you must expect everything, even if you are a sage).
But someone, tearing me away from the blessings, led me directly to my expectations
in foreign lands. Who it was I will not name.
Was it the Spirit of God, were my sins the cause of this,

80. that I received recompense for my exaltation.
But the formal reason was this: the assembly of the shepherds and the Orthodox people, although they were not yet numerous.[1]
Finally a faint ray of light was seen:
people already had the opportunity relatively freely
to profess the Orthodox faith;

85. little by little they began to breathe again
peacefully amidst the evils that surround them.
[For formerly,] amid chattering tongues and many delusions,
they suffered but had no protection.
Is it even possible for a rose to enjoy growing among thorns,
or of the ripe grape among the sour ones?

90. So this is [how things stood when] I, the pious stranger, came,
yielding to exhortations and many pleas,
the refusal of which would have been a display of excessive pride.
But when I came, leaving the land of Cappadocia,
which for all is a pillar of true faith,

95. (but I have not abandoned the people or any of my duties,
all these are, in their essence, tricks of the enemies, their lying speeches -
a clumsily contrived cover for their envy).
Now I want you to say what happened next,
since you are witnesses of my labor.

100. There is nothing unfavorable, rude or harmful
said or done during these more than two years?
Except for one thing, that I spared the bad people,
who from the beginning pelted me with stones for bearing this patiently.
It is true, at least a little was truly pious,

105. because thus I became empathetic with Christ's sufferings.
You see what the poor offer as a gift to God.[2]
But we can even impute this to ourselves as guilt if we wish:[3]
Someone had said that the sensual mind is like rot,
bone corrosive. I was convinced of this
from my own experience:

110. my body, formerly strong as copper, but now weary of care,
already bending to the ground. But nothing more than myself I can give,
though even if I give all, I shall still have to give more.
And what else can happen to one who has become attached to a weak friend.
However, the time has come for me to return again to the speech I had begun.

115. They called me, and I gathered the people,
who was among wolves,
I watered the thirsty flock with the word, I sowed the faith rooted in God,
I spread the light of the Trinity to those who were previously in darkness.
I was like leaven in milk and like medicine

120. because of the strength of his convictions. Some had already joined [the true faith],
others were near, and still others were coming.
Everyone's mood, which was previously furious, changed,
And true teaching in response produced love:
this moderate favor could be developed to full success.

125. They know about this in Happy Rome[4] (here I
I mainly mean those who are in charge) –
these people unexpectedly honored me with some respect[5]
and they think that one should have at least a small part of the glory,
to be first in honor instead

130. indeed, they are far more powerful than all!
When I was with them, I was honored,
and even today, when I left them, they condemn the wicked.
Well, they can't do anything more than that either,
and I myself have not asked them to do anything, "O city, city!"

135. (if we exclaim in the spirit of the tragedy.[6]
But my "honorable and well-behaved" co-pastors,
bursting with envy, (don't you know the Frasonides look-alikes,[7]
indolence does not tolerate culture)
they chose as an ally my bodily infirmity, which accompanies my monastic labors

140. and which must be respected by all,
who have labored at least a little in the name of God,
they pleaded, among other things, that I did not aspire to the power of such a great throne,
at that time when the whole world was torn by strife.[8]
And so, incited by the demon, they made this charge,

145. loved ones gladly drove me away,
throwing me out like excess cargo from an overloaded ship.
Well, in the eyes of the bad guys, I was a burden because I reasoned soberly.
Then they will raise their hands up as if they are clean,
and they will offer God "from the heart" the cleansing Gifts,

150. in order to sanctify the people with the words of the sacrament.
These are the same people who treacherously drove me out of there
(though not quite against my will, as it would be a great disgrace to me
to be one of those who sell their faith).
One of them, being descendants of publicans,

155. they can think of nothing else but collecting illegal taxes,
the others come from money exchange shops
the third - from the field, blackened by the sun,
the fourth - from his occupation with the pick and hoe,
others - leaving the sea craft and the army,

160. still smelling of ship holds or with body marks.
They imagine that they are the helmsmen of the people
and they don't want to give up even a little bit.
At the same time, others, even with
unwashed soot from the forge,

165. are ready to be flogged or ready to be sent to turn the millstones.
If, before they repay their masters,
have the opportunity to interrupt their work, they are immediately proud
and seduced some of the people,
sometimes with conviction, sometimes with coercion.

170. They aspire to the heights, like a dung beetle to the sky,
rolling a ball no longer made of manure
and without bowing their heads as before.
They think they have power over heaven,
even though they talk all kinds of nonsense

175. and they cannot even count how many their hands and feet are.
But is this not a great evil, unworthy of the episcopal office,
oh dear? Let's not think primitively
and for such great [deeds] to judge wrongly
(although I prefer being in the position of being humiliated).

180. Episcopacy, indeed, is not the worst thing. [On the contrary]
it is absolutely necessary that the bishop should be chosen from among the most worthy, I myself choose
the most worthy, if not the most worthy, at any rate not the worst
(if of course my opinion counts for anything).
And this is important, especially now, when chatter is raging like a hurricane

185. and enters into great cities and assemblies.
And if they abide [in the true faith] steadfastly, then this
can be of great benefit to them,
and if they do not reside - too much harm.
Therefore, you must choose the most worthy people.
Well, people of mediocre ability,

190. even if they prove themselves diligently, they cannot overcome the best.
This is the judge's opinion, far from lying in the highest degree.
But tax collectors and fishermen will stand before me,
as the evangelists were. Well, you
were also weak in their eloquence,
but they caught the whole world as with a net with their simple words.

195. Even the wise men caught in their fishing nets,
so that in this way the miracle of the Word becomes even more evident.
This opinion is supported by many people,
against whom mine is directed,
a short but extremely clear speech.
Give me the faith of at least one of the apostles,

200. [so] to give up my money, my traveling bag and staff, to be half-dressed, to have no sandals,
to live day by day, to be rich only in my hope,
to be inexperienced in verbal mastery,
to be the one for whom it is impossible to think that
rather speaks flattery [than tells the truth],

205. not to delve into the study of foreign teachings.
If someone comes along who has these qualities, I'll take it all in too:
the man without the gift of speech, the dishonest, the ignorant, the shepherd of the oxen.
After all, the righteous way of life hides the external flaws.
Be one of them, and even if you were a frog-catcher [not a fisherman],

210. we will exalt you to the angelic choirs. So show me at least
one thing. But can you deliver from demons,
to cure leprosy? Raise the dead from the grave?
Can you stop paralysis?
Give your hand to the sufferer and end his illness!

215. Only in this way can you convince me to ignore knowledge.
If something consists of two parts, a praiseworthy part and a blameworthy part,
and you only consider the first part,
and the other you surround with your silence,
then you insidiously distort the truth about things.

220. Matthew was a publican, but he is
deserved respect not as a publican, but as a man filled with the Spirit.
Peter was the leader of the disciples, but he was "Peter" [hard as a rock!].
Not as a fisherman, but because he was filled with zeal,
his way of life makes me respect his fishing net too.

[1] In 378, the Council of Antioch invited St. Gregory to become Archbishop of Constantinople (note trans.).

[2] The poor can only give their bodies (note trans.).

[3] In the sense, we cannot offer even our body, because we have ruined it; see: Prov. 14:30: “A meek heart is life to the body, but envy is rot to the bones” (note trans.).

[4] Constantinople – The New Rome (note trans.).

[5] At the end of 380, imp. Theodosius granted to St. Gregory the temple “St. Apostles” (note trans.).

[6] “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles (note trans.).

[7] Character from Menander’s “Invisible” (note trans.).

[8] The so-called “Antiochian” schism, which arose in the Nicaean camp (note trans.).

(to be continued)

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