Monday, September 3, 2012

Gregory the Great (540 - 604)

The son of a Roman senator and himself the one time  mayor of Rome Gregory entered monastic life. His brilliant administrative skills were impossible to cloister away, eventually he was elected and became one of the finest organizational bishops the church has ever fostered. In the face of widespread invasions and the collapse of secular Romes power base he reorganized the Western Church in such a way that it became a viable institution for preserving Western culture.
Although Gregory  was resolved to retire into the monastic lifestyle of contemplation, he was unwillingly forced back into the  world of politics he no longer wanted to be a part of , Gregory bemoaned the burden of office and mourned the loss of the undisturbed life of prayer he had once enjoyed as a monk. 

The state in which Gregory became pope in 590 was a ruined one. The Lombards held the better part of Italy.  the economy had come to a standstill. Enemies camped nearly at the gates of Rome. The city was packed with refugees from all walks of life, who lived in the streets and had few of the necessities of life. The seat of government was far from Rome in Constantnoble, which appeared unable to undertake the relief of Italy. 

 Gregory a sincere and compassionate man reorganized the churches operation to meet the needs of a collapsing political structure  and established a system of charitable relief of the poor in Rome. The philosophy under which he devised this system is that the wealth belonged to the poor and the church was only its steward. He received lavish donations from the wealthy families of Rome, who, following his own example, were eager to expiate to God for their sins. As a result the church began  receiving  and amassing donations of many different kinds of property : consumables such as food and clothing; investment property: real estate and works of art; and capital, or revenue-generating property, such as the Sicilian latifunda, or agricultural estates, staffed and operated by slaves, donated by Gregory and his family. 

For good or ill a new political, economic and  social discipline was birthed to power in the West.

The mainstream form of Western plain chant  standardized in the late 8th century, was attributed to Pope Gregory I and so took the name of Gregorian chant.

 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  to evangelize the Anglo Saxon's of England, which would eventually lead to the council of Whitby and the integrating of the Indigenous Celtic church into the Roman Catholic fold.

 Deeply convinced "that Illiterate men can contemplate in the lines of a picture what they cannot learn by means of the written word, he encouraged the proliferation of the arts as a way of imparting the gospel to the masses.

 Gregory was among those who mistakingly  identified Mary Magdalene  Mary of Bethany, and the woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears in the synoptic gospels...  establishing  Mary Magdelne  as the prostitte from who seven demons were cast out. Today Biblical scholars distinguish the three figures.

 Gregory is also well known for his writings, which were prolific, over 40 sermons on the gospels, 22 on Ezekiel, 2 on the Song of Songs, a commentary on Job, Dialogues ( a collection miracles, signs and wonder, healing antidotes ), The Rule for Pastors, and copies of some 854 letters have survived.

Gregory is acknowlagded as a Father in both the Eastern and Western Church.

compiled from several sources

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