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Excerpt from

Moralia on Job

  St Gregory the Great 

(Volume I Book IV)

52.  We must also know, that those three modes of being sinners are more easily corrected as they come in their order downwards; but the fourth is not corrected but with difficulty.  And hence our Saviour raises the damsel in the house, the young man without the gate, while Lazarus He raises in the grave; for he that sins in secret is as yet lying dead in the house, he is already being carried without the gate, whose iniquity is done openly, even to the shamelessness of commission in public; but he is pressed with the sepulchral mound, who, in the commission of sin, is over and above pressed and overlaid with the use of habit.  But all these in mercy He restores to life; in that it is often the case that Divine grace enlighteneth with the light of its regard those that are dead not only in secret sins, but likewise in open evil practices, and that are overlaid with the weight of evil habit.  But our Saviour knows indeed of a fourth being dead from the disciple's lips, yet never raises him to life; in that it is hard indeed for one, whom, after continuance in bad habit, the tongues of flatterers too get hold of, to be recovered from the death of the soul; and of such an one it is said with justice, Let the dead bury their dead. [Luke 9, 60]  For ‘the dead bury the dead,’ as often as sinners load sinners with their approval.  For what else is it to ‘sin,’ but to lie down in death? and to ‘bury,’ except it be to hide?  But they that pursue the sinner with their applauses, bury the dead body under the mound of their words.  Now Lazarus too was dead, yet he was never buried by the dead.  For the believing women, who also gave tidings of his death to the Quickener, had laid him under the ground.  And hence he forthwith returned back to the light; for when the soul is dead in sin, it is soon brought back, if anxious thoughts live over it.  But sometimes, as we have likewise said above, it is not false hope that cuts off the mind, but a more deadly despair pierces it.  And whereas this totally cuts off all hope of pardon, it supplies the soul with the milk of error in greater abundance.