St Gregory the Dialogist: Are You Seeking the Heavenly Country?

Feast of the Holy Great Martyr Margaret

Gregory_Great_Square.jpgAND SO IT was well said to Ezekiel: “Take a tile, lay it before you, and draw on it the city of Jerusalem.” And it was added: “And lay siege to it, and build forts, and lift a mound, and make camp against it, and set battering rams around it.” For his own defense, it was added: “And take an iron pan and you will set a wall of iron between you and the city” (Ezek. 4.1-3). For indeed, what does the prophet Ezekiel symbolize but the image of a teacher? For it was said to him: “Take a tile, lay it before you, and draw on it the city of Jerusalem.” For indeed, holy teachers “take a tile” when they take hold of the earthly hearts of their audience in order to teach them. And they “lay the tile before them” because they take custody of it by focusing their entire attention to it. By “drawing the city of Jerusalem,” they struggle with their greatest effort to teach those who have earthly hearts about a vision of heavenly peace. And because the knowledge of heaven is useless unless it is also known that great temptations of the crafty enemy assail us in this life, it is also added: “And lay siege to it and build forts.” Indeed, holy preachers lay siege around the tile upon which the city of Jerusalem is drawn when they show an earthly mind (especially one that is already seeking the heavenly country) how violently the vices attack us in this life. For when it is shown how each sin attacks us, it is as though the voice of the preacher was laying a siege around the city of Jerusalem.

Moreover, the spiritual director should not only make known how it is that the vices attack us, but he should also explain how the virtues protect us. Thus it is rightly said: “And you will build forts.” For certainly, the holy preacher “builds forts” when he demonstrates which virtues resist which vices. And because the war of temptation increases when virtue begins to thrive, it was also rightly added: “And lift a mound, and make a camp against it, and set battering rams against it.” For the preacher “lifts a mound” whenever he articulates the great burden of increasing temptation. And he “makes a camp against Jerusalem” when he forewarns those of his audience who have good intentions about the crafty and nearly undetectable attacks of the enemy. And finally, he “sets battering rams against it” when he makes known the darts of temptations that assail us from all sides in this life and how they are able to breach the protective wall of the virtues. And even if the spiritual director touches upon all of these things, he will jeopardize his own salvation unless he becomes inflamed with the spirit of zeal for the correction of each individual.

—St Gregory the Dialogist, The Book of Pastoral Rule

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