Friday, September 03, 2021

Gregorius Magnus

 Today was the feast of Pope St. Gregory I, the Great, Doctor of the Church. Born in Rome to a senatorial family, he became Prefect of Rome, the highest civil office in the city, at the age of thirty-three. After the death of his father, he converted the part of his family estate within Rome itself into a monastery, the Monastery of St. Andrew (later St. Gregory the Great on the Caelian, which as an institution still exists in a later building on the same bit of land), and lived there for a while in prayer. He was ordained a deacon of Rome by Pope Pelagius II; in those days, deacon of Rome was still an extremely important ecclesiastical position, since they did a lot of what is currently done by the College of Cardinals. In 579, the Pope chose him to be apocrisiarius, a kind of ambassador, to Constantinople; the aristocratic Roman fit in very well with the aristocracy of New Rome, although his primary mission -- to get Imperial help against the Lombards in northern Italy -- was largely a failure. He returned to his monastery in 585 but was elected Pope in 590. He hated the office, but performed it exceptionally well. Rome was deluged with refugees from the Lombard invasions and food began to go short; he built a highly innovative system of charitable relief for the poor to distribute relief, one that was able to handle the problem. He died in 604.

From his Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Book One, Tenth Homily):

Almighty God so acts in the hearts of men as He does in the regions of the earth. For He could grant all fruits to any region but if one region did not need the fruits of another it would not have communion with the other. Thus it happens that He gives to this abundance of wine but to another of oil; He makes this region to abound with a multitude of cattle but that one with a wealth of pulses so that when that one offers what the other lacks, and the other renders what that one did not bring, countries at the same time separate from each other are joined together by the communion of grace. As therefore the regions of the earth, so are the minds of the Saints when they transfer to each other what they received, like the regions disburse their fruits to regions, so that all are joined in a single charity.

[Saint Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Tomkinson, tr., Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies (Etna, CA: 2008) pp. 203-204]