Paths of Love: The Discernment of Vocation

Texts of Gregory cited in the book

Here you will find a compilation of the texts of St. Gregory the Great cited or mentioned in the book Paths of Love.

  • Not to go forward, is to go backwards

    • Those who do not even begin good things are to be admonished in a different way than those who begin, but do not at all complete what they have begun. For those who do not even begin good things need first not to build up what they may wholesomely love, but to demolish those things in which they are wickedly occupied. For they will not follow the things they hear of and have not experienced, unless they first come perceive how pernicious the things that they have experienced are, since neither does one desire to be lifted up who does not know that he has fallen, nor does one who feels not the pain of a wound seek healing remedies. First, then, they must be shown how vain the things they love are, and then afterwards it must be carefully made known to them how profitable are the things that they pass by. Let them first see that what they love should be shunned, and afterwards they will perceive without difficulty that what they shun should be loved. For they will sooner accept the things which they have not experienced, if they recognize as true whatever discourse they hear concerning the things that they have experienced. So then they will learn to seek truly good things with full desire, when they have learned with certainty of judgment how vainly they have held to what was false. Let them hear, therefore, both that present good things will soon pass away from enjoyment, and yet the account to be given of them will endure, without passing away, for vengeance, since both what pleases them is now withdrawn from them against their will, and what pains them is reserved them, also against their will, for punishment. Thus may they be wholesomely filled with alarm by the very things in which they harmfully take delight, so that when the stricken mind, seeing the deep ruin of its fall, perceives that it has reached a precipice, it may retrace its steps backward, and, fearing what it had loved, may learn totruly love what it once despised.
    • But, on the other hand, those who in no way complete the good things they have begun are to be admonished to consider with cautious circumspection that when they fail to accomplish purposes, they tear up with them even the things that had been begun. For if what is seen to be a thing to be done grows not through assiduous purpose, even that which had been well done decreases. For the human soul in this world is like a ship ascending against the flow of a river: it is never permitted to stay in one place, since it will float back to the lowest parts unless it strives for the highest. If then the strong hand of the worker does not carry to perfection the good things it has begun, the very laxness in working fights against what has already been done. For hence it is said by Solomon, "He who is feeble and slack in work is a brother to him that wastes his works" (Proverbs 18:9). For in truth he who does not carefully follow through with the good things he has begun imitates in the slackness of his negligence the hand of the destroyer. Hence it is said by the Angel to the Church of Sardis, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I find not your works complete before my God" (Revelation 3:2). Thus, because the works had not been found complete before his God, he foretold that those which remained, even such as had been done, were about to die. For, if that which is dead in us be not kindled into life, that which is retained as though still alive is extinguished too. They are to be admonished that it would have been more tolerable for them not to have laid hold of the right way than, having laid hold of it, to turn their backs upon it. For if they had not looked back, they would not grow weak with any torpor with regard to their undertaken purpose. Let them hear, therefore, what is written, "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to have turned backward" (2 Peter 2:21). Let them hear what is written: "I would that you were cold or hot: but, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to spew you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). For he is hot who both takes up and completes good purposes; but he is cold who does not even begin any to be completed. And as transition is made through lukewarmness from cold to heat, so through lukewarmness there is a return from heat to cold. Whosoever, then, has lost the cold of unbelief so as to live, but in no wise passes beyond lukewarmness so as to go on to burn, he doubtless, despairing of heat, while he lingers in pernicious lukewarmness, is in the way to become cold. But, as before lukewarmness there is hope in cold, so after cold there is despair in lukewarmness. For he who is yet in his sins loses not his trust in conversion: but he who after conversion has become lukewarm has withdrawn the hope that there might have been of the sinner. It is required, then, that every one be either hot or cold, lest, being lukewarm, he be spewed out: that is, that either, being not yet converted, he still afford hope of his conversion, or, being already converted, he be fervent in virtues; lest he be spewed out as lukewarm, in that he goes back in torpor from purposed heat to pernicious cold. (Pastoral Rule III, ch. 34)
  • Those who cannot control themselves should marry

    • Those who are not joined in marriage should be admonished to observe heavenly precepts all the more closely, in that no yoke of carnal union bends them down to worldly cares, that, as they are free from the lawful burden of marriage, the unlawful weight of earthly anxiety by no means press them down, that the last day find them all the more prepared, as it finds them less encumbered; lest from being free and able, and yet neglecting to do better things, they therefore be found deserving of worse punishment. Let them hear how the Apostle, when he would instruct teach persons the grace of celibacy, did not despise marriage, but thrust away the worldly cares that are born of marriage, saying, "I say this for your profit, not to cast a snare upon you, but for that which is fitting, and to secure your undivided attention to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). For from marriage proceeds earthly anxieties, and therefore the teacher of the Gentiles encouraged his hearers to better things, lest they should be bound by earthly anxiety. The man, then, whom, being single, the hindrance of secular cares impedes, though he has not subjected himself to marriage, has still not escaped the burdens of marriage. The single are to be admonished not to think that they can have intercourse with disengaged women without incurring the judgment of condemnation. For, when Paul inserted the vice of fornication among so many execrable crimes, he indicated the guilt of it, saying, "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). And again, "But fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). They are therefore to be admonished that, if they suffer from the storms of temptation with risk to their safety, they should seek the port of marriage. For it is written, "It is better to marry than to burn" (1 Corinthians 7:9). They come, in fact, to marriage without blame, if only they have not vowed better things. For whosoever has proposed to himself the attainment of a greater good has made unlawful the less good which before was lawful. For it is written, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). He therefore who has been intent on a more resolute purpose is convicted of looking back, if, leaving the larger good, he reverts to the least. (Pastoral Rule III, ch. 27)

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