Gregory the Great: A far greater thing was it to overcome death by rising from the sepulchre than to preserve life by descending from the Cross Tuesday, Apr 21 2015 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThere are two lives; one of which we knew, the other we did not know of.

The one is mortal, the other immortal; the one linked with human infirmity, the other to incorruption; one is marked for death, the other for resurrection.

The Mediator between God and man, the Man Jesus Christ, came, and took upon Himself the one, and revealed to us the other.

The one He endured by dying; the other He revealed when He rose from the dead.

Had He then foretold to us, who knew His mortal life, the Resurrection of His Body, and had not visibly shown it to us, who would believe in His promises?

So, becoming Man, He shows Himself in our flesh; of His own will He suffered death; by His own power He rose from the dead; and by this proof He showed us that which He promises as a reward.

But perhaps someone will say: Of course He rose: for being God He could not be held in death. So, to give light to our understanding, to strengthen our weakness, He willed to give us proof, and not of His Resurrection only.

In that hour He died alone; but He did not rise alone from the dead. For it is written: And many bodies of the saints that had slept arose (Mt. 27:52). He has therefore taken away the argument of those who do not believe.

And let no one say: No man can hope that that will happen to him which the God-man proved to us in His Body; for here we learn that men did rise again with God, and we do not doubt that these were truly men.

If then we are the members of our Redeemer, let us look forward to that which we know was fulfilled in our Head. Even if we should be diffident, we ought to hope that what we have heard of His worthier members will be fulfilled also in us His meanest members.

Had He come down from the Cross, He would not have proved to us the power of patience. He waited for the little time left, He bore with their insults, He submitted to their mockery, He continued patient, and evoked our admiration; and He Who refused to descend from the Cross, rose again from the sepulchre.

More did it matter so to rise from the sepulchre than to descend from the Cross. A far greater thing was it to overcome death by rising from the sepulchre, than to preserve life by descending from the Cross.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Sermon on the Holy Day of the Resurrection, 6-7, in M.F. Toal: The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: Volume 2 – From the First Sunday in Lent to the Sunday After the Ascension, pp.241ff.

Gregory the Great: From Faith to Vision, from Belief to Contemplation Thursday, May 8 2014 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistI am the good shepherd. I know my own – by which I mean, I love them – and my own know me.

In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it.

[…] Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.

Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him.

In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me, and I give them eternal life.

Shortly before this he had declared: If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture.

He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity.

These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens.

May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us.

To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast.

Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it.

Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homily 14, 3-6 (from the Office of Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Easter) @ Crossroads Initiative.

Gregory the Great: Our Life shall be Resplendent in the Glory of the Eternal Sun Sunday, Dec 8 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistOn Luke 21:25-33.

When these things come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand (Luke 21:28).

It is as if the Truth openly warns His elect by saying: when the evils of this world mount up, when dread of the judgment is shown even by the trembling powers, lift up your heads, that is, be joyful in your hearts, because the world, of which you are not friends, is drawing to its end; the redemption you have been seeking is coming close.

[…] Whoever does not rejoice at the approaching end of the world, testifies that he is its friend, and by this he is revealed as an enemy of God.

But let this be far from the faithful, far from the hearts of those who believe through their faith that there is another life, and who love it in very deed.

Let them grieve over the ruin of the world who have planted the roots of their hearts deep in the love of it, who neither look for the life to come, nor are even aware that it is.

But we who have learned of the joys of our heavenly home must hasten to it as speedily as we may.  We should desire to go there with all haste, and to arrive by the shortest way.

And with what miseries does not the world urge us forward?  What sorrow, what misfortune is there, that does not press upon us?  What is this mortal life but a way?  And what folly would it be, let you carefully consider, to be weary with the fatigue of the way, and yet not eager to finish the journey!

That the world is to be trodden on, and despised, Our Redeemer then teaches us, by a timely similitude: Behold the fig tree and all the trees: when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. 

This is as if he were openly to say: as from the fruit on the trees you know that summer is near, so from the ruin of the world you may know that the kingdom of God is likewise near.

From which it may be truly gathered that the fruit of the world is ruin. To this end it arises, that it may fall. To this end it germinates, that whatever it has brought forth from seed will be consumed in disaster.

But happily is the Kingdom of God compared to summer, because then the clouds of our sadness will pass away, and the days, of our life shall be resplendent in the glory of the eternal Sun.

Gregory the Great (c. 540-604): Homilies on the Gospel  (PL 76, 1077-1081; Homily 1), Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: When the Words of Exhortation have Established Truth in Our Minds, the Lord Comes to Live Within Us Friday, Oct 18 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistBeloved brothers, our Lord and Saviour sometimes gives us instruction by words and sometimes by actions.

His very deeds are our commands; and whenever he acts silently he is teaching us what we should do.

For example, he sends his disciples out to preach two by two, because the precept of charity is twofold-love of God and of one’s neighbour.

The Lord sends his disciples out to preach in two’s in order to teach us silently that whoever fails in charity toward his neighbour should by no means take upon himself the office of preaching.

Rightly is it said that he sent them ahead of him into every city and place where he himself was to go.

For the Lord follows after the preachers, because preaching goes ahead to prepare the way, and then when the words of exhortation have gone ahead and established truth in our minds, the Lord comes to live within us.

To those who preach Isaiah says: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. And the psalmist tells them: Make a way for him who rises above the sunset.

The Lord rises above the sunset because from that very place where he slept in death, he rose again and manifested a greater glory. He rises above the sunset because in his resurrection he trampled underfoot the death which he endured.

Therefore, we make a way for him who rises above the sunset when we preach his glory to you, so that when he himself follows after us, he may illumine you with his love.

Let us listen now to his words as he sends his preachers forth: The harvest is great but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest.

That the harvest is good but the labourers are few cannot be said without a heavy heart, for although there are many to hear the good news there are only a few to preach it.

Indeed, see how full the world is of priests, but yet in God’s harvest a true labourer is rarely to be found; although we have accepted the priestly office we do not fulfil its demands.

Think over, my beloved brothers, think over his words: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may be able to labour worthily on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, that after we have taken up the office of preaching our silence may not bring us condemnation from the just judge.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homily 17, 1-3, from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Luke @ Universalis.  


Gregory the Great: “The Wing of the Ostrich is like the Wings of the Heron and of the Hawk” Thursday, Oct 3 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThe wing of the ostrich is like the wings of the heron, and of the hawk (Job 39:13).

Who can be ignorant how much the heron and the hawk surpass all other birds in the swiftness of their flight?

But an ostrich has the likeness of their wing, but not the celerity of their flight.

For it cannot in truth rise from the ground, and raises its wings, in appearance as if to fly, but yet never raises itself from the earth in flying.

Thus, doubtless, are all hypocrites, who, while they simulate the conduct of the good, possess a resemblance of a holy appearance, but have no reality of holy conduct.

They have, in truth, wings for flight, in appearance, but in their doing they creep along the ground, because they spread their wings, by the semblance of sanctity, but, overwhelmed by the weight of secular cares, they are not at all raised from the earth.

For the Lord in reprobating the appearance of the Pharisees, reproves, as it were, the wing of the ostrich, which did one thing in action, and made a show of another in its colour; saying,

Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful to men outwardly, but are within full of dead men’s bones; even so do ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of covetousness and iniquity (Matthew 23:27-28).

As if He were saying: The beautiful show of your wings seems to raise you up, but the weight of your conduct weighs you down to the lowest depths. Of this weight it is said by the Prophet, Ye sons of men, how long will ye be heavy in heart? (Psalm 4:3).

The Lord promises that He will convert the hypocrisy of this ostrich, when He says by the Prophet; The beasts of the field shall honour Me, the dragons and the ostriches (Isaiah 43:20).

For what is expressed by the word ‘dragons,’ but minds openly wicked, which ever creep along the earth in most grovelling thoughts?

But what is designated by the word ‘ostriches,’ but those, who pretend that they are good, who retain a life of sanctity in appearance, as a wing for flight, but use it not in act?

The Lord, therefore, says that He is glorified by the dragon, or by the ostrich, because He frequently converts both the openly wicked, and the pretendedly good, to obey Him from their inmost thought.

Or certainly, the beasts of the field, that is the dragons and ostriches, glorify the Lord, when that Gentile people, which had before been a member of the devil in this world, exalts the faith which is in Him.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 31, 11 (on Job 39:13) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: “Will the Rhinoceros be Willing to Serve Thee?” (2) Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist(September 3rd is the feast of St Gregory the Great)

Following on from here…

Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? (Job 39:9).

But at the very beginning of the rising Church – when the might of the wealthy was raising itself against her, and was panting for her death – who could then believe that she would subdue those stiff and stubborn necks of the haughty, and would bind them, with the gentle bands of faith, when tamed by the yoke of holy fear?

For she was tossed about, for a long while, in her beginnings, by the horn of this rhinoceros, and was struck by it, as though to be utterly destroyed. But by the dispensation of Divine grace, she both gained life and strength by death, and this rhinoceros, wearied with striking, bowed down his horn.

And that which was impossible to men, was not difficult to God, who crushed the stubborn powers of this world, not by words, but by miracles. For behold we observe daily the rhinoceroses becoming slaves, when we see the mighty of this world, who had before, with foolish pride, relied on their own strength, now subject to God.

The Lord was speaking, as it were, of a certain untamed rhinoceros, when He was saying; A rich man will hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23). And when it was replied to Him; And who will be able to be saved? He immediately added; With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matt. 25:26).

As if He were saying: This rhinoceros cannot be tamed by human strength, but yet it can be subdued by Divine miracles. Whence it is here also fitly said to blessed Job, as representing Holy Church; Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? i.e. As Myself, Who bore for a long while with his resisting the preaching of men, but yet suddenly overpowered him with miracles, when thus I willed it.

As if He said more plainly; Are they who are proud with foolish haughtiness, subjected to thy preaching, without My assistance? Consider therefore by Whom thou prevailest, and in every thing wherein thou prevailest bow down thy feeling of pride.

Or certainly, what wondrous works are wrought at last by the Apostles, who subject the world to God, and bend the pride of the mighty of this world, when subdued to His power, is brought before the notice of blessed Job, to bring down his confidence, in order that blessed Job may think the less highly of himself, the more he beholds such stubborn souls gathered together to God by others.

Let Him say then; Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? i.e. As it will serve Me, by means of those, whom I shall have sent.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 31, 1-2 (on Job 39:9) @ Lectionary Central.

Gregory the Great: “Will the Rhinoceros be Willing to Serve Thee?” (1) Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

St-Gregory-the-Dialogist(September 3rd is the feast of St Gregory the Great)

Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee? (Job 39:9).

The devil, through envy, inflicted the wound of pride on healthful man in Paradise; in order that he, who had not received death when created, might deserve it when elated.

But since it is competent for Divine power, not only to make good things out of nothing, but also to refashion them from the evils which the devil had committed the humility of God appeared amongst men, as a remedy against this wound inflicted by the proud devil, that they who had fallen through imitation of their haughty enemy, might rise by the example of their humbled Creator.

Against, therefore, the haughty devil, God appeared amongst men, having been made a humble Man. The mighty of this world, that is, the members of the haughty devil, believed Him to be as despicable, as they saw Him to be lowly.

For the more the wound of their heart swelled up, the more it despised the soothing remedy. Our medicine therefore being spurned by the wound of the proud, came to the wound of the humble. For God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (1 Cor. 1:27).

And a work was wrought upon the poor, for the wealthy proud ones afterwards to wonder at. For while they behold in them new virtues, they were afterwards astounded at the miracles of those, whose life they before despised. And thence, returning immediately with fear to their own hearts, they dreaded that sanctity in miracles, which they had scorned in precepts.

Mighty things were therefore confounded by the weak; because while the life of the humble rises to veneration, the pride of the haughty has fallen.

Because therefore blessed Job is a type of Holy Church, and Almighty God foresaw that, in the early times of the rising Church, the mighty of this world would refuse, with the stubborn neck of their heart, to undertake its light burden, let Him say: Will the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee?

For the rhinoceros is quite of an untamed nature, so that, if it is ever taken, it cannot in any way be kept. For, as is said, it dies immediately from being unable to bear it.

[…] What is, therefore, designated by this rhinoceros, but the mighty of this world, or the supreme powers themselves of the kingdoms therein, who, elated by the pride of foolish boasting, whilst they are puffed up by false honour without, are made inwardly destitute by real miseries? To whom it is well said; Why boastest thou, O dust and ashes? (Sirach 10:9).

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 31, 1-2 (on Job 39:9) @ Lectionary Central.

Benedict XVI: Gregory the Great – “The Preacher Must Dip His Pen into the Blood of His Heart” Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

Pope_Benedictus_XVI(September 3rd is the feast of St Gregory the Great)

He was a passionate reader of the Bible, which he approached not simply with a speculative purpose:

from Sacred Scripture, he thought, the Christian must draw not theoretical understanding so much as the daily nourishment for his soul, for his life as man in this world.

For example, in the Homilies on Ezekiel, he emphasized this function of the sacred text:

to approach the Scripture simply to satisfy one’s own desire for knowledge means to succumb to the temptation of pride and thus to expose oneself to the risk of sliding into heresy.

Intellectual humility is the primary rule for one who searches to penetrate the supernatural realities beginning from the sacred Book.

Obviously, humility does not exclude serious study; but to ensure that the results are spiritually beneficial, facilitating true entry into the depth of the text, humility remains indispensable.

Only with this interior attitude can one really listen to and eventually perceive the voice of God.

On the other hand, when it is a question of the Word of God understanding it means nothing if it does not lead to action.

In these Homilies on Ezekiel is also found that beautiful expression according which “the preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart; then he can also reach the ear of his neighbour”.

Reading his homilies, one sees that Gregory truly wrote with his life-blood and, therefore, he still speaks to us today.

[…] Of notable importance and beauty are also the Homilies on the Gospel.

[…]  The guiding principle, which links the different homilies, is captured in the word preacher: not only the minister of God, but also every Christian, has the duty “to preach” of what he has experienced in his innermost being, following the example of Christ who was made man to bring to all the good news of salvation.

[…] The expectation of the fulfilment of all things in Christ…ended by becoming the guiding reason of his every thought and activity. From here sprang his incessant reminders to be vigilant and to perform good works.

[…] The great Pontiff insisted on the Pastor’s duty to recognize daily his own unworthiness in the eyes of the Supreme Judge, so that pride did not negate the good accomplished.

For this the final chapter of the Pastoral Rule is dedicated to humility: “When one is pleased to have achieved many virtues, it is well to reflect on one’s own inadequacies and to humble oneself: instead of considering the good accomplished, it is necessary to consider what was neglected”.

All these precious indications demonstrate the lofty concept that St Gregory had for the care of souls, which he defined as the ars artium, the art of arts.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): St Gregory the Great (General Audience, 4th June 2008.

Gregory the Great: The Soul Rapt in the Light of God is Dilated in the Divine Perfections Thursday, Aug 22 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWhile as yet the monks were at rest, the man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose up before the night office and stood at the window making his prayer to Almighty God about midnight.

Suddenly, looking forth, he saw a light glancing from above, so bright and resplendent that it not only dispersed the darkness of the night, but shone more clear than the day itself.

Upon this sight a marvellous strange thing followed, for, as he afterwards related, the whole world, compacted as it were together, was represented to his eyes in one ray of light.

As the venerable Father had his eyes fixed upon this glorious lustre, he beheld the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, carried by angels to Heaven in a fiery globe.

Then, for the testimony of so great a miracle, with a loud voice he called upon Servandus the Deacon, who…looked forth, and saw a little stream of light then disappearing, and wondered greatly at this miracle.

[…] It fell out so, that he who was sent found the most reverend Bishop Germanus dead, and on enquiring more exactly, he learned that his departure was the very same moment in which the man of God had seen him ascend.

[…] In a soul that beholds the Creator, all creatures appear but narrow; for, should we partake never so little of the light of the Creator, whatsoever is created would seem very little.

Because the soul is enlarged by this beatific vision, and so dilated in the Divine perfections, that it far transcends the world and itself also.

The soul thus rapt in the light of God is in her interior lifted up, and enabled above itself, and while thus elevated it contemplates itself, and it easily comprehends how little that is which before it was not able to conceive.

So the blessed man who saw the globe of fire with the Angels returning to Heaven could not possibly have beheld those things but only in the light of God.

What wonder then if he saw the world at one view who was in mind exalted above the world?

But whereas I said that the whole world compacted as it were together was represented before his eyes, it is not meant that heaven and earth were straitened by contraction, but that the mind of the beholder was dilated, which, rapt in the sight of God might, without difficulty, see all that is under God.

Therefore, in that light which appeared to his outward eyes, the inward light which was in his soul ravished the mind of the beholder with higher things, and shewed how mean are all inferior things.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Life of Our Most Holy Father Benedict, 35.

Gregory the Great: The Wandering of the Heart the Inpouring of the Holy Spirit Friday, Aug 9 2013 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistWho made a weight for the winds and weighed the waters by measure (Job 28:25).

Souls receive weight, that they should not henceforth with light motion glance off from their aim at God, but be made to settle into Him with immoveable weightiness of constancy.

Still was that people lightly moved to and fro, of which it is said by the Prophet, And he went on frowardly in the way of his own heart.  I have seen his ways: and I let him go (Isaiah 57:17,18).

But weighty counsel in heart banishes all inconstancy of wandering.

There are souls, that with light motion are now after one set of objects, now after another.

Almighty God, because He does not estimate lightly these very light waverings of men’s minds , by abandoning passes judgment on the wandering of the heart.

But when through grace He regards the wandering mind, He fixes it into stedfastness of counsel.

And so it is rightly said now, And made weight for the winds. Because when God deigns to regard with mercifulness the light motions of the mind, He directly fashions that mind to matureness of constancy.

[…]  Whence it is also subjoined; And he weigheth the waters by measure.

[…] By water we have the Inpouring of the Holy Spirit represented, as when it is said in the Gospel, He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

Where the Evangelist following on added; But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive (John 7:38,39).  Again, by water sacred knowledge is denoted, as it is said; And give him the water of wisdom to drink (Sirach 15:3).

By water likewise not only the tide of peoples drifting away, but also the minds of good men that follow the preachings of faith, are denoted, as the Prophet saith, Blessed are ye that sow upon all waters (Is. 32:20).

And it is said by the Psalmist; The voice of the Lord is upon the waters (Psalm 22[29]:3).  In this place, then, what is denoted by the title of ‘waters,’ saving the hearts of the Elect, which by the understanding of Wisdom, have now received the hearing of the heavenly voice?

Touching whom it is rightly said; And weigheth the waters by measure. The Saints, so long as they are in this life, are transported on high by the Holy Spirit bearing them up.

In order that they may not swell high with any self-elation, they are kept down by certain temptations. And in order that they may never have the power to advance as much as they have the wish – lest they should be exalted by pride – there takes place in them a kind of measure of their very virtues.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 19, 7-9 (on Job 28:25) @ Lectionary Central.

« Previous PageNext Page »