St Gregory the Dialogist: Do You Edify Others by the Virtue of Charity?

Feast of the Holy Martyrs Terrence and Eunice

Gregory_the_Great_Square_4.jpegBECAUSE WE have already shown how the pastor should live, let us now demonstrate what he is to teach. Indeed, long before us, Gregory Nazianzus of blessed memory taught that one and the same exhortation is not suited for everyone because not everyone shares the same quality of character. For example, what often helps some people will cause harm in others, just as herbs that are nutritious to some animals will kill others or the way that gentle hissing will calm a horse but excite a puppy. Likewise, the medicine that cures one disease will spur another, and the bread that fortifies a grown man can kill a young child. Therefore, the discourse of the teacher should be adapted to the character of his audience so that it can address the specific needs of each individual and yet never shrink from the art of communal edification. For, if I may say so, what are the minds of an attentive audience if not the taut strings of a harp, which a skillful musician plays with multiple techniques so as to produce a beautiful sound? And it is for this reason that the strings produce a melody, because even though they are played with one pick, they are not played with one type of stroke. And so every teacher, in order to edify all by the single virtue of charity, ought to touch the hearts of his audience with the same common doctrine but by distinct exhortations.

—St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule


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