Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gregory the Great

Today marks the traditional feast of P. Gregory I, surnamed Magnus, one of the brightest lights of the Catholic priesthood. A tireless reformer, writer, and lover of monasticism, Gregory is known for his revisions of the Roman Rite of the liturgy, for his Scripture commentaries, and perhaps most popularly for his Dialogues, which serve as an early collection of hagiography and monastic history. The voluminous Moralia in Job was not only a Scripture commentary of the highest order, but a source of allegorical imagery that would influence Western iconography for many centuries. He is said to have been so impressed by the natural virtues of the pagan Emperor Trajan that he beseeched God to raise the man from the dead so that he could receive baptism; the Almighty promptly granted the pope's request, and the pagan emperor soon found himself plucked from the fires of Hell and admitted into the joys of Heaven.

So exalted were his writings that Gregory is often depicted, as above, with the Divine Dove speaking in his ear, as though his writings were inspired like the Holy Writ itself. During his own life he was occasionally painted in art with a square nimbus, an iconographical oddity permitted for the depiction of living, holy men. His feast is celebrated on this day (of his death) even among the heretics and schismatics, with the 1969 neo-kalendar being the sole exception.

From Lauds:
Deus, qui animae famuli tui Gregorii aeternae beatitudinis praemia contulisti: concede propitius; ut qui peccatorum nostrorum pondere premimur, ejus apud te precibus sublevemur.

O God, who hast blessed the soul of thy servant Gregory with an everlasting blessing, mercifully grant that we, who groan under the burden of our sins, may by his prayers be relieved.

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