a pastor. His solution was a merger, in which private contemplation readied a pastor for his public ministry. This formulation was a comfort to bishops engaged in active ministries, since contemplation was not only their past, but also their future goal. It furthermore precluded men from becoming bishops out of private ambition and pride. The essence of leadership was service: 'all who govern should be happy not when they command people but when they help them'. Gregory's insistence on the need for humility in episcopal service had a powerful influence in the medieval West, for kings and civil magistrates as well as for bishops and clerics. In the early seventh century, Bishop Honorius of Rome recommended that the king of Northumbria read the works of Gregory, 'your preacher'. With this interest in Gregory's 'Shepherd book' as a handbook for civil rulers it is not surprising that the first English translation was by a Christian monarch, King Alfred of Wessex.31

Another model for rulers was, of course, the first Christian emperor, Constantine himself. In his representation of his own authority he had probably chuckled when he identified himself as a bishop. But it was precisely that sort of patronising pun, with its unstated implication that bishops were in fact the peers of an emperor, that had allowed episcopal leadership gradually to become a model for kings and emperors throughout Christendom. The emperor Theo-dosius started his reign as a new Constantine. At his inauguration he wore Constantine's imperial robe, and his imperious behaviour during his reign sometimes recalled his predecessor's meddlingin ecclesiastical affairs. Upon his death in 395 Theodosius was buried with Constantine at Constantinople. Soon, however, these emperors were sharing their mausoleum with the patriarchs of the Eastern capital. In death, as in life, emperors now had to acknowledge the authority and prestige ofbishops. Theodosius may have had his confrontations with Ambrose at Milan, but in the end he seems to have acknowledged the bishop's supremacy. As Ambrose remembered the emperor's deathbed, 'with his last breath, he asked for me'. Augustine too, longbefore he became a bishop himself, had immediately recognised Ambrose's authority. 'That man of God welcomed me like a father, and he cherished my arrival satis episco-paliter.' For subsequent Christian leaders, whether ecclesiastical, imperial, or royal, the great bishops of late antiquity had set the standards for governing 'like a proper bishop'.32

31 All who govern: Gregory the Great, Regulapastoralis 2.6. Your preacher: Bede, H. E. 2.17.

32 Constantine's robe: George the Monk, Chronicon 9.8. Mausoleum: Sozomen, H. E. 2.34.

Lastbreath: Ambrose, Deobitu Theodosii35. Ambrose's authority: Augustine, Confessiones

0 0

Post a comment