Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: aphorism, Psalms 119:97-102, Luke 4:16-30, St. Gregory the Great, Pope Gregory I Literary Works

Monday, September 3, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog:  
aphorism, Psalms 119:97-102, Luke 4:16-30, St. Gregory the Great, Pope Gregory I Literary Works

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week! 

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Today's Word:  aphorism   aph·o·rism  [af-uh-riz-uhm]

Origin:  1520–30; French aphorisme  < Late Latin aphorismus  < Greek aphorismós  definition, equivalent to aphor ( ízein ) to define ( see aphorize) + -ismos -ism

a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton).


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalms 119:97-102 

97 How I love your Law! I ponder it all day long.
98 You make me wiser than my enemies by your commandment which is mine for ever.
99 I am wiser than all my teachers because I ponder your instructions.
100 I have more understanding than the aged because I keep your precepts.
101 I restrain my foot from evil paths to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your judgements, because you yourself have instructed me.


Today's Gospel Reading - Luke 4,16-30

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.’
And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’ But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself,” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own country.” ‘ And he went on, ‘In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country. 
‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a town in Sidonia. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many suffering from virulent skin-diseases in Israel, but none of these was cured—only Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff, but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away.
• Today we begin the meditation on the Gospel of Luke, which will extend three months until the end of the liturgical year. Today’s Gospel speaks about Jesus’ visit to Nazareth and the presentation of his program to the people of the Synagogue. In the first moment the people were admired. But, immediately, when they become aware that Jesus wants to accept all, without excluding anyone, people rebel and want to kill him.

• Luke 4, 16-19: The proposal of Jesus. Urged by the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned to Galilee (Lk 4, 14) and begins to announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He goes to the community, teaches in the Synagogue and arrives to Nazareth, where he had grown. He was returning to the community, in which he had participated since he was small, and during thirty years. The following Saturday, as it was the custom, Jesus went to the Synagogue to participate in the celebration and he stands up to read. He chooses the text of Isaiah which speaks about the poor, of the prisoners, of the blind and the oppressed (Is 61, 1-2). This text is an image of the situation of the people of Galilee at the time of Jesus. The experience which Jesus had of God, the Father of Love, gave him a new look to evaluate the reality. In the name of God, Jesus takes a stand to defend the life of his people and, with the words of Isaiah, he defines his mission: (1) to announce the Good News to the poor, (2) to proclaim liberty to captives, (3) to give sight to the blind; (4) to release the oppressed, and taking the ancient tradition of the prophets, (5) to proclaim “a year of grace from the Lord”. He proclaims the Jubilee Year!

• In the Bible, the "Jubilee Year” was an important Law. Every seven years, at the beginning (Dt 15, 1; Lv 25, 3) it was necessary to restore the land to the clan of origin. All had to be able to return to their own property; and this way they prevented the formation of large estates and families were guaranteed their livelihood. It was also necessary to forgive their debts and to redeem the persons who were slaves. (Dt 15, 1-18). It was not easy to have the Jubilee Year every seven years (cf. Jr 34, 8-16). After the exile, it was decided to have it every fifty years (Lv 25, 8-12). The objective of the Jubilee was and continues to be: to re-establish the rights of the poor, to accept the excluded and to re-integrate them into the society to live together with others. The Jubilee was a legal instrument to return to the original sense of the Law of God. This was an occasion offered by God to make a revision of the path being followed, to discover and to correct the errors and to start again from the beginning. Jesus begins his preaching proclaiming a Jubilee “A year of grace from the Lord”.

• Luke 4, 20-22: To unite the Bible and Life. Having finished the reading, Jesus updates the text of Isaiah and says: “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening!” Taking the words of Isaiah as his own, Jesus gives them a full and definitive sense and he declares himself Messiah who comes to fulfil the prophecy. This way of updating the text provokes a reaction of discredit on the part of those who were in the Synagogue. They were scandalized and do not want to know anything about him. They do not accept that Jesus is the Messiah announced by Isaiah. They said: “Is he not the son of Joseph?” They were scandalized because Jesus speaks about accepting the poor, the blind and the oppressed. The people do not accept Jesus’ proposal. And, thus when he presents the project of accepting the excluded, he himself is excluded.

• Luke 4, 23-30: To overcome the limits of race. In order to help the community to overcome the scandal and to help them understand that his proposal formed part of tradition. Jesus tells two stories known in the Bible, the story of Elijah and the one of Elisha. Both stories criticise the mental closeness of the people of Nazareth. Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath (1 K 17, 7-16). Elisha was sent to take care of the foreigner of Syria (2 K 5, 14). Here arises the concern of Luke who wants to show that openness already comes from Jesus. Jesus had the same difficulty which the communities at the time of Luke were having. But the call of Jesus did not calm down people, all the contrary! The stories of Elijah and Elisha produced even greater anger. The community of Nazareth reaches the point of wanting to kill Jesus. But he keeps calm. The anger of others does not succeed in drawing him away from his own path. Luke tells us that it is difficult to overcome the mentality of privilege and of mental closeness.

• It is important to notice the details used in the Old Testament. Jesus quotes the text of Isaiah up to the point where it says: “to proclaim a year of grace from the Lord”. He does not quote the rest of the phrase which says: and a “day of vengeance from our God”. The people of Nazareth throw stones at Jesus because he pretends to be the Messiah, because he wants to accept the excluded and because he has omitted to read the phrase about vengeance. They wanted the day of Yahweh to be a day of vengeance against the oppressors of the people. In this case, the coming of the Kingdom would not have been a true change or conversion of the system. Jesus does not accept this way of thinking; he does not accept vengeance (cf. Mt 5, 44-48) His new experience of God Father/Mother helped him to understand better the sense of the prophecies.
Personal questions
• The program of Jesus is to accept the excluded. Do we accept everybody or do we exclude some? Which are the reasons which lead us to exclude certain persons?

• Is the program of Jesus truly our program, my program? Who are the excluded whom we should accept better in our community? Who or what thing gives us the strength to carry out the mission which is entrusted to us by Jesus?

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day: St. Gregory the Great

Feast Day:  September 3
Patron Saint: n/a

Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I (Latin: Gregorius I) (c. 540 – 12 March 604), better known in English as Gregory the Great, was pope from 3 September 590 until his death. Gregory is well known for his writings, which were more prolific than those of any of his predecessors as pope.

Throughout the Middle Ages he was known as “the Father of Christian Worship” because of his exceptional efforts in revising the Roman worship of his day.

He is also known as St. Gregory the Dialogist in Eastern Orthodoxy because of his Dialogues. For this reason, English translations of Orthodox texts will sometimes list him as "Gregory Dialogus". He was the first of the popes to come from a monastic background. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and one of the Latin Fathers. He is considered a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and some Lutheran churches. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim. The Protestant reformer, John Calvin, admired Gregory and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good pope. He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.

Early life

The exact date of Gregory's birth is uncertain, but is usually estimated to be around the year 540, in the city of Rome. His parents named him Gregorius, which according to Aelfric in An Homily on the Birth-Day of S. Gregory, "... is a Greek Name, which signifies in the Latin Tongue Vigilantius, that is in English, Watchful...." The medieval writers who give this etymology do not hesitate to apply it to the life of Gregory. Aelfric, for example, goes on: "He was very diligent in God's Commandments."

When Gregory was a child, Italy was retaken from the Goths by Justinian I, emperor of the Roman Empire ruling from Constantinople. The war was over by 552. An invasion of the Franks was defeated in 554. The Western Roman Empire had long since vanished in favor of the Gothic kings of Italy. After 554 there was peace in Italy and the appearance of restoration, except that the government now resided in Constantinople. Italy was still united into one country, "Rome", and still shared a common official language, the very last of classical Latin.

From 542 the so-called Plague of Justinian swept through the provinces of the empire, including Italy. The plague caused famine, panic, and sometimes rioting. In some parts of the country, over 1/3 of the population was wiped out or destroyed. This had heavy spiritual and emotional effects on the people of the Empire. As the fighting had been mainly in the north, the young Gregorius probably saw little of it. Totila sacked and vacated Rome in 547, destroying most of its ancient population, but in 549 he invited those who were still alive to return to the empty and ruinous streets. It has been hypothesized that young Gregory and his parents, Gordianus and Silvia, retired during that intermission to Gordianus' Sicilian estates, to return in 549.

Gregory had been born into a wealthy noble Roman family with close connections to the church. The Lives in Latin use nobilis but they do not specify from what historical layer the term derives or identify the family. No connection to patrician families of the Roman Republic has been demonstrated. Gregory's great-great-grandfather had been Pope Felix III, but that pope was the nominee of the Gothic king, Theodoric. Gregory's election to the throne of St Peter made his family the most distinguished clerical dynasty of the period. The family owned and resided in a villa suburbana on the Caelian Hill, fronting the same street, now the Via di San Gregorio, with the former palaces of the Roman emperors on the Palatine Hill opposite. The north of the street runs into the Colosseum; the south, the Circus Maximus. In Gregory's day the ancient buildings were in ruins and were privately owned. Villas covered the area. Gregory's family also owned working estates in Sicily and around Rome.

Gregory's father, Gordianus, held the position of Regionarius in the Roman Church. Nothing further is known about the position. Gregory's mother, Silvia, was well-born and had a married sister, Pateria, in Sicily. Gregory later had portraits done in fresco in their former home on the Caelian and these were described 300 years later by John the Deacon. Gordianus was tall with a long face and light eyes. He wore a beard. Silvia was tall, had a round face, blue eyes and a cheerful look. They had another son whose name and fate are unknown.

The monks of St. Andrew's (the ancestral home on the Caelian) had a portrait of Gregory made after his death, which John the Deacon also saw in the 9th century. He reports the picture of a man who was "rather bald" and had a "tawny" beard like his father's and a face that was intermediate in shape between his mother's and father's. The hair that he had on the sides was long and carefully curled. His nose was "thin and straight" and "slightly aquiline." "His forehead was high." He had thick, "subdivided" lips and a chin "of a comely prominence" and "beautiful hands."

Gregory was well educated, with Gregory of Tours reporting that "in grammar, dialectic and rhetoric ... he was second to none...." He wrote correct Latin but did not read or write Greek. He knew Latin authors, natural science, history, mathematics and music and had such a "fluency with imperial law" that he may have trained in law, it has been suggested, "as a preparation for a career in public life." While his father lived, Gregory took part in Roman political life and at one point was Prefect of the City In the modern era, Gregory is often depicted as a man at the border, poised between the Roman and Germanic worlds, between East and West, and above all, perhaps, between the ancient and medieval epochs.

Monastic years

“Gregory had a deep respect for the monastic life. He viewed being a monk as the 'ardent quest for the vision of our Creator. 'His three paternal aunts were nuns renowned for their sanctity. However, after the two eldest passed away after seeing a vision of their ancestor Pope Felix, the youngest soon abandoned the religious life and married the steward of her estate. Gregory's response to this family scandal was “many are called but few are chosen." Gregory's mother Silvia herself is a saint. On his father's death, he converted his family villa suburbana, located on the Caelian Hill just opposite the Circus Maximus, into a monastery dedicated to the apostle Saint Andrew. After his death it was rededicated as San Gregorio Magno al Celio. In his life of contemplation, Gregory concluded that “in that silence of the heart, while we keep watch within through contemplation, we are as if asleep to all things that are without."  It seems to some that Gregory was not always forgiving, or pleasant for that matter, even in his monastic years. For example, a monk lying on his death bed confessed to stealing three gold pieces. Gregory forced the monk to die friendless and alone, then threw his body and coins on a manure heap to rot with a curse, “Take your money with you to perdition”. Gregory believed that punishment of sins can begin, even on one's deathbed. However, this was done to help the monk to repent of his sin, and not out of a misplaced anger. The penance from St Gregory did in fact help him to repent, and afterwards St Gregory offered 30 Masses to free the monk from Purgatory. He later appeared to his brother and said that he has been released and is in Heaven. Eventually, Pope Pelagius II ordained him a deacon and solicited his help in trying to heal the schism of the Three Chapters in northern Italy. However, Italy was not healed until well after Gregory was gone.

Apocrisiariate (579–585)

In 579, Pelagius II chose Gregory as his apocrisiarius (ambassador to the imperial court in Constantinople). Gregory was part of the Roman delegation (both lay and clerical) that arrived in Constantinople in 578 to ask the emperor for military aid against the Lombards. With the Byzantine military focused on the East, these entreaties proved unsuccessful; in 584, Pelagius II wrote to Gregory as apocrisiarius, detailing the hardships that Rome was experiencing under the Lombards and asking him to ask Emperor Maurice to send a relief force.[30] Maurice, however, had long ago determined to limit his efforts against the Lombards to intrigue and diplomacy, pitting the Franks against them. It soon became obvious to Gregory that the Byzantine emperors were unlikely to send such a force, given their more immediate difficulties with the Persians in the East and the Avars and Slavs to the North.

According to Ekonomou, "if Gregory's principle task was to plead Rome's cause before the emperor, there seems to have been little left for him to do once imperial policy toward Italy became evident. Papal representatives who pressed their claims with excessive vigor could quickly become a nuisance and find themselves excluded from the imperial presence altogether". Gregory had already drawn an imperial rebuke for his lengthy canonical writings on the subject of the legitimacy of John III Scholasticus, who had occupied the Patriarchate of Constantinople for twelve years prior to the return of Eutychius (who had been driven out by Justinian).Gregory turned himself to cultivating connections with the Byzantine elite of the city, where he became extremely popular with the city's upper class, "especially aristocratic women". Ekonomou surmises that "while Gregory may have become spiritual father to a large and important segment of Constantinople's aristocracy, this relationship did not significantly advance the interests of Rome before the emperor". Although the writings of John the Deacon claim that Gregory "labored diligently for the relief of Italy", there is no evidence that his tenure accomplished much towards any of the objectives of Pelagius II.

Gregory's theological disputes with Patriarch Eutychius would leave a "bitter taste for the theological speculation of the East" with Gregory that continued to influence him well into his papacy. According to Western sources, Gregory's very public debate with Eutychian culminated in an exchange before Tiberius II where Gregory cited a biblical passage ("Palpate et videte, quia spiritus carnem et ossa non habet, sicut me videtis habere") in support of the view that Christ was corporeal and palpable after his Resurrection; allegedly as a result of this exchange, Tiberius II ordered Eutychian's writings burned. Ekonomou views this argument, though exaggerated in Western sources, as Gregory's "one achievement of an otherwise fruitless apokrisiariat". In reality, Gregory was forced to rely on Scripture because he could not read the untranslated Greek authoritative works.[34] Gregory left Constantinople for Rome in 585, returning to his monastery on the Caelian Hill. Gregory was elected by acclamation to succeed Pelagius II in 590, when the latter died of the plague spreading through the city. Gregory was approved by an Imperial iussio from Constantinople the following September (as was the norm during the Byzantine Papacy).


Amid all his burdens and anxieties, it seems that the Pope had never forgotten the English slaves whom he had once seen in the Roman Forum. Pope Gregory had strong convictions on missions. "Almighty God places good men in authority that He may impart through them the gifts of His mercy to their subjects. And this we find to be the case with the British over whom you have been appointed to rule, that through the blessings bestowed on you the blessings of heaven might be bestowed on your people also.”

Papacy (590–604)

Although Gregory was resolved to retire into the monastic lifestyle of contemplation, he was unwillingly forced back into a world that, although he loved, he no longer wanted to be a part of. In texts of all genres, especially those produced in his first year as pope, Gregory bemoaned the burden of office and mourned the loss of the undisturbed life of prayer he had once enjoyed as a monk. When he became Pope in 590, among his first acts was writing a series of letters disavowing any ambition to the throne of Peter and praising the contemplative life of the monks. At that time, for various reasons, the Holy See had not exerted effective leadership in the West since the pontificate of Gelasius I. The episcopacy in Gaul was drawn from the great territorial families, and identified with them: the parochial horizon of Gregory's contemporary, Gregory of Tours, may be considered typical; in Visigothic Spain the bishops had little contact with Rome; in Italy the territories which had de facto fallen under the administration of the papacy were beset by the violent Lombard dukes and the rivalry of the Jews in the Exarchate of Ravenna and in the south.

Gregory is credited with re-energizing the Church's missionary work among the non-Christian peoples of northern Europe. He is most famous for sending a mission, often called the Gregorian mission, under Augustine of Canterbury, prior of Saint Andrew's, where he had perhaps succeeded Gregory, to evangelize the pagan Anglo-Saxons of England. The mission was successful, and it was from England that missionaries later set out for the Netherlands and Germany. The preaching of the Catholic faith and the elimination of all deviations from it was a key element in Gregory's worldview, and it constituted one of the major continuing policies of his pontificate.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he was declared a saint immediately after his death by "popular acclamation". In his official documents, Gregory was the first to make extensive use of the term "Servant of the Servants of God" (servus servorum Dei) as a papal title, thus initiating a practice that was to be followed by most subsequent popes.

Feast day

Tomb of St. Gregory at St. Peter's, Rome
The current Roman Catholic calendar of saints, revised in 1969 as instructed by the Second Vatican Council,[83] celebrates St. Gregory the Great on 3 September. Before that, the General Roman Calendar assigned his feast day to 12 March, the day of his death in 604. This day always falls within Lent, during which there are no obligatory memorials. For this reason his feast day was moved to 3 September the day of his episcopal consecration in 590.[84] The Eastern Orthodox Church and the associated Eastern Catholic Churches continue to commemorate St. Gregory on 12 March. The occurrence of this date during Great Lent is considered appropriate in the Byzantine Rite, which traditionally associates Saint Gregory with the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, celebrated only during that liturgical season. Other Churches also honour Saint Gregory: the Church of England on 3 September, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church in the United States on 12 March. A traditional procession is held in Żejtun, Malta in honour of Saint Gregory (San Girgor) on Easter Wednesday, which most often falls in April, the range of possible dates being 25 March to 28 April. The feast day of St. Gregory also serves as a commemorative Day for the former pupils of Downside School, the so-called Old Gregorians. Traditionally, the OG ties are worn by all of the society's members on this day.


  • ^ Christian Life and Worship (Dissertations in European Economic History), 1948, 1979, Gerald Ellard (1894–1963), Arno Press, ISBN 0-405-10819-2 ISBN 9780405108198, p. 125. [1]
  • ^ F.L. Cross, ed. (2005). "Gregory I". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • ^ F.L. Cross, ed. (1515). "Institutes of the Christian Religion Book IV". Institutes of the Christian Religion Book IV. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • ^ "St. Gregory the Great". Web site of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  • ^ Richards, Jeffrey (1980). Consul of God. London: Routelege & Keatland Paul.
  • ^ Gregory mentions in Dialogue 3.2 that he was alive when Totila attempted to murder Carbonius, Bishop of Populonia, probably in 546. In a letter of 598 (Register, Book 9, Letter 1) he rebukes Bishop Januarius of Cagliari, Sardinia, excusing himself for not observing 1 Timothy 5.1, which cautions against rebuking elders. 5.9 defines elderly women to be 60 and over, which may apply to everyone. Gregory appears not to consider himself an elder, limiting his birth to no earlier than 539, but 540 is the typical selection. Dudden (1905), page 3, notes 1–3.
  • ^ Aelfric; Elizabeth Elstob (translator); William Elstob (1709). An English-Saxon Homily on the Birth-day of St. Gregory: Anciently Used in the English-Saxon Church, Giving an Account of the Conversion of the English from Paganism to Christianity. London: W. Bowyer. pp. 4.
  • ^ Elizabeth goes on to state that "Paulus Diaconus, who first writ the life of St. Gregory, and is followed by all the after Writers on that subject, observes that 'ex Greco eloquio in nostra lingua ... vigilator, seu vigilans sonat." However, Paul the deacon is too late for the first vita, or life.
  • ^ The name is Biblical, derived from New Testament contexts: grēgorein is a present, continuous aspect, meaning to be watchful of forsaking Christ. It is derived from a more ancient perfect, egrēgora, "roused from sleep", of egeirein, "to awaken someone." Thayer, Joseph Henry (1962). Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm's Wilke's Clavis Novi Testamenti Translated Revised and Enlarged. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
  • ^  "Servus servorum Dei". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.


Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


Today's Snippet :  Pope Gregory I's Literary Synopsis


Liturgical reforms

Pope Gregory I
John the Deacon wrote that Pope Gregory I made a general revision of the liturgy of the Pre-Tridentine Mass, "removing many things, changing a few, adding some". In letters, Gregory remarks that he moved the Pater Noster (Our Father) to immediately after the Roman Canon and immediately before the Fraction. This position is still maintained today in the Roman Liturgy. The pre-Gregorian position is evident in the Ambrosian Rite. Gregory added material to the Hanc Igitur of the Roman Canon and established the nine Kyries (a vestigial remnant of the litany which was originally at that place) at the beginning of Mass. He also reduced the role of deacons in the Roman Liturgy.

Sacramentaries directly influenced by Gregorian reforms are referred to as Sacrementaria Gregoriana. With the appearance of these sacramentaries, the Western liturgy begins to show a characteristic that distinguishes it from Eastern liturgical traditions. In contrast to the mostly invariable Eastern liturgical texts, Roman and other Western liturgies since this era have a number of prayers that change to reflect the feast or liturgical season; These variations are visible in the collects and prefaces as well as in the Roman Canon itself.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Gregory is credited with compiling the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. This liturgy is celebrated on Wednesdays, Fridays, and certain other weekdays during Great Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.

Gregory wrote over 850 letters in the last 13 years of his life (590–604) that give us an accurate picture of his work. A truly autobiographical presentation is nearly impossible for Gregory. The development of his mind and personality remains purely speculative in nature.

"Gregorian" Chant

"Gregorian chant" is a system of writing down reminders of chant melodies, known as neumes, that was devised by monks in the early 9th century to aid in unifying the church service throughout the Frankish empire. Charlemagne brought cantors from the Papal chapel in Rome to instruct his clerics in the “authentic” liturgy. A program of propaganda spread the idea that the chant used in Rome came directly from Gregory the Great, who had died two centuries earlier and was universally venerated. Pictures were made to depict the dove of the Holy Spirit perched on Gregory's shoulder, singing God's authentic form of chant into his ear. This gave rise to calling the music "Gregorian chant". Gregorian chanting is a type of plainsong or plainchant.


Gregory is commonly accredited with founding the medieval papacy and so many attribute the beginning of medieval spirituality to him.[45] Gregory is the only Pope between the fifth and the eleventh centuries whose correspondence and writings have survived enough to form a comprehensive corpus. Some of his writings are:
  • Sermons (forty on the Gospels are recognized as authentic, twenty-two on Ezekiel, two on the Song of Songs)
  • Dialogues, a collection of miracles, signs, wonders, and healings including the popular life of Saint Benedict
  • Commentary on Job, frequently known even in English-language histories by its Latin title, Magna Moralia
  • The Rule for Pastors, in which he contrasted the role of bishops as pastors of their flock with their position as nobles of the church: the definitive statement of the nature of the episcopal office
  • Copies of some 854 letters have survived, out of an unknown original number recorded in Gregory's time in a register. It is known to have existed in Rome, its last known location, in the 9th century. It consisted of 14 papyrus rolls, now missing. Copies of letters had begun to be made, the largest batch of 686 by order of Adrian I. The majority of the copies, dating from the 10th to the 15th century, are stored in the Vatican Library.
Opinions of the writings of Gregory vary. "His character strikes us as an ambiguous and enigmatic one," Cantor observed. "On the one hand he was an able and determined administrator, a skilled and clever diplomat, a leader of the greatest sophistication and vision; but on the other hand, he appears in his writings as a superstitious and credulous monk, hostile to learning, crudely limited as a theologian, and excessively devoted to saints, miracles, and relics".

Controversy with Eutychius

In Constantinople, Gregory took issue with the aged Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople, who had recently published a treatise, now lost, on the General Resurrection. Eutychius maintained that the resurrected body "will be more subtle than air, and no longer palpable". Gregory opposed with the palpability of the risen Christ in Luke 24:39. As the dispute could not be settled, the Byzantine emperor, Tiberius II Constantine, undertook to arbitrate. He decided in favor of palpability and ordered Eutychius' book to be burned. Shortly after both Gregory and Eutychius became ill; Gregory recovered, but Eutychius died on 5 April 582, at age 70. On his deathbed Eutychius recanted inpalpability and Gregory dropped the matter. Tiberius also died a few months after Eutychius.

Identification of three figures in the Gospels

Gregory was among those who identified Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, whom John 12:1-8 recounts as having anointed Jesus with precious ointment, an event that some interpret as being the same as the anointing of Jesus that the synoptic Gospels recount as performed by a sinful woman.In line with this interpretation, the Gospel reading for the feastday of Mary Magdalene in the Roman Missal from the Tridentine edition of Pope Pius V to the 1969 revision by Pope Paul VI was the account of this event in the Gospel of Luke. Preaching on the Lucan passage, Gregory remarked: "This woman, whom Luke calls a sinner and John calls Mary, I think is the Mary from whom Mark reports that seven demons were cast out."Today Biblical scholars distinguish the three figures, but they are still popularly identified.

Famous quotes and anecdotes

  • Non Angli, sed angeli – "They are not Angles, but angels". Aphorism, summarizing words reported to have been spoken by Gregory when he first encountered pale-skinned English boys at a slave market, sparking his dispatch of St. Augustine of Canterbury to England to convert the English, according to Bede. He said: "Well named, for they have angelic faces and ought to be co-heirs with the angels in heaven." Discovering that their province was Deira, he went on to add that they would be rescued de ira, "from the wrath", and that their king was named Aella, Alleluia, he said.
  • Ecce locusta – "Look at the locust." Gregory himself wanted to go to England as a missionary and started out for there. On the fourth day as they stopped for lunch a locust landed on the edge of the Bible Gregory was reading. He exclaimed ecce locusta, "look at the locust", but reflecting on it he saw it as a sign from Heaven since the similar sounding loco sta means "stay in place." Within the hour an emissary of the pope arrived to recall him.
  • “I beg that you will not take the present amiss. For anything, however trifling, which is offered from the prosperity of St. Peter should be regarded as a great blessing, seeing that he will have power both to bestow on you greater things, and to hold out to you eternal benefits with Almighty God.”
  • Pro cuius amore in eius eloquio nec mihi parco – "For the love of whom (God) I do not spare myself from His Word." The sense is that since the creator of the human race and redeemer of him unworthy gave him the power of the tongue so that he could witness, what kind of a witness would he be if he did not use it but preferred to speak infirmly?
  • “For the place of heretics is very pride itself...for the place of the wicked is pride just as conversely humility is the place of the good.”
  • Non enim pro locis res, sed pro bonis rebus loca amanda sunt – "Things are not to be loved for the sake of a place, but places are to be loved for the sake of their good things." When Augustine asked whether to use Roman or Gallican customs in the mass in England, Gregory said, in paraphrase, that it was not the place that imparted goodness but good things that graced the place, and it was more important to be pleasing to the Almighty. They should pick out what was "pia", "religiosa" and "recta" from any church whatever and set that down before the English minds as practice.
  • "For the rule of justice and reason suggests that one who desires his own orders to be observed by his successors should undoubtedly keep the will and ordinances of his predecessor." In his letters, Gregory often emphasized the importance of giving proper deference to last wills and testaments, and of respecting property rights.
  • “Compassion should be shown first to the faithful and afterwards to the enemies of the church.”
  • "At length being anxious to avoid all these inconveniences, I sought the haven of the monastery… For as the vessel that is negligently moored, is very often (when the storm waxes violent) tossed by the water out of its shelter on the safest shore, so under the cloak of the Ecclesiastical office, I found myself plunged on a sudden in a sea of secular matters, and because I had not held fast the tranquillity of the monastery when in possession, I learnt by losing it, how closely it should have been held." In Moralia, sive Expositio in Job (“Commentary on Job,” also known as Magna Moralia), Gregory describes to the Bishop Leander the circumstances under which he became a monk.
  • "Illiterate men can contemplate in the lines of a picture what they cannot learn by means of the written word."


  • ^ Smith, William; Henry Wace (1880). A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines: Being a Continuation of 'The Dictionary of the Bible': VolumeII Eaba – Hermocrates. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 415. The dictionary account is apparently based on Bede, Book II, Chapter 1, who used the expression "...impalpable, of finer texture than wind and air."
  • ^ "Hanc vero quam Lucas peccatricem mulierem, Ioannes Mariam nominat, illam esse Mariam credimus de qua Marcus septem daemonia eiecta fuisse testatur" (Patrologia Latina 76:1239)
  • ^ Ingrid Maisch, Mary Magdalene: The Image of a Woman through the Centuries (Liturgical Press 1988 ISBN 9780814624715), chapter 10
  • ^ Gietmann, G. (1911). "Nimbus". The Catholic Encyclopedia. XI. New York: Robert Appleton Company
  • ^ Saraceni, Carlo; Emil Kren; Daniel Marx (1996). "St. Gregory the Great". Web Gallery of Art. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
  • ^ Rubin, Miri, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture, pp. 120–122, 308–310, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-43805-5, ISBN 978-0-521-43805-6 Google books
  • ^ Smith, William; Samuel Cheetham (1875). A dictionary of Christian antiquities: Comprising the History, Institutions, and Antiquities of the Christian Church, from the Time of the Apostles to the Age of Charlemagne. J. Murray. pp. 549 under diaconia.
  • ^ Mann, Horace Kinder; Johannes Hollnsteiner (1914). The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages: Volume X. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd.. pp. 322.
  • ^ Deanesly, Margaret (1969). A History of the Medieval Church, 590–1500. London, New York: Routledge. pp. 22–24. ISBN 0-415-03959-2, 9780415039598.
  • ^ Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, II.i.
  • ^ a b Hunt, William (1906). The Political History of England. Longmans, Green. pp. 115.
  • ^ The earliest life written a generation earlier than Bede at Whitby relates the same story but in it the English are merely visitors to Rome questioned by Gregory (see Holloway, who translates from the manuscript kept at St. Gallen). The earlier story is not necessarily the more accurate, as Gregory is known to have instructed presbyter Candidus in Gaul by letter to buy young English slaves for placement in monasteries. These were intended for missionary work in England: Ambrosini & Willis (1996) page 71.
  • ^ Homilies on Ezekiel Book 1.11.6. For the text in manuscript see Codices Electronici Sangalienses: Codex 211, page 193 column 1, line 5 (External links below.)
  • ^ Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book I section 27 part II. Bede is translated in Bede; Judith McClure, Bertram Colgrave, Roger Collins (editors, translators, contributors) (1999). The Ecclesiastical History of the English People: The Greater Chronicle ; Bede's Letter to Egbert. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-283866-0, 9780192838667.



  • Cantor, Norman F. (1993). The Civilization of the Middle Ages. New York: Harper.
  • Cavadini, John, ed. (1995). Gregory the Great: A Symposium. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Dudden, Frederick H. (1905). Gregory the Great. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.
  • Ekonomou, Andrew J. 2007. Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes: Eastern influences on Rome and the papacy from Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D. 590–752. Lexington Books.
  • Gardner, Edmund G. (editor) (1911. Reprinted 2010). The Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great. Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. ISBN 978-1-889758-94-7.
  • Richards, Jeffrey (1980). Consul of God. London: Routelege & Keatland Paul.
  • Straw, Carole E. (1988). Gregory the Great: Perfection in Imperfection. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Leyser, Conrad (2000). Authority and Asceticism from Augustine to Gregory the Great. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Markus, R.A. (1997). Gregory the Great and His World. Cambridge: University Press.
  • Ricci, Cristina (2002). Mysterium dispensationis. Tracce di una teologia della storia in Gregorio Magno. Rome: Centro Studi S. Anselmo. (Italian). Studia Anselmiana, volume 135.
  • "Documenta Catholica Omnia: Gregorius I Magnus". Cooperatorum Veritatis Societas. 2006.,_Magnus,_Sanctus.html. Retrieved 2008-08-10. (Latin). Index of 70 downloadable .pdf files containing the texts of Gregory I.
  • "Complete English translation of Gregory's Moralia in Job.". . Found on the website: Lectionary Central.
  • Gregory the Great (2007). "Homiliae in Ezechielem I-XXII" (in mediaeval Latin written in Carolingian minuscule). Codices Electronici Sangallenses: Codex 211. Stiftsbibliothek St.Gallen. Retrieved 2008-08-10. Photographic images of a manuscript copied about 850–875 AD.
  • "St Gregory Dialogus, the Pope of Rome". Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 2008-08-10. Orthodox icon and synaxarion.
  • Women's Biography: Barbara and Antonina, contains two of his letters.