SEPTEMBER 3, 2004, FEAST OF ST GREGORY THE GREAT- 1COR 4: 1-50; LK 5:33-39
WHEN THE BRIDEGROOM IS TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM, THEN IN THOSE DAYS, THEY WILL FAST. Today we commemorate a saint who was a monk and founder of a monastery and who maintained as his ideal the life of tranquil regularity that had proved so fruitful for his spiritual and human development. Gregory the Great, who had served as prefect of Rome, however, felt he was obliged to answer the call of higher authority when Pope Pelagius, as it seems, ordained him and entrusted him with major responsibilities for the Church. Though he was endowed by nature with superior gifts of intelligence and prepared by his training for a life of administration, yet he felt that the duties that he willingly accepted prevented him from experiencing the contemplative graces he had known in his monastic years. Perhaps it was the tension arising from the ambiguity of his vocation as bishop of Rome and his abiding attraction for the tranquility of the ordered life of the monastery that impelled him to examine his motivations and dispositions so energetically that he became one of the most effective pastors the Church has known in her long history.
Gregory took great pains to understand himself and the persons entrusted to his care. He worked so assiduously and so effectively at this knowledge and its implications for life lived according to the Gospel, that he developed into the most influential teacher for generations of bishops, priests and monks, indeed, for all the faithful seriously striving to live a spiritual life. He labored deliberately and steadily for the understanding that he so effectively translated into action and explained in his written work. He understood the need to give more attention to a balanced life of practical action that harmonized with the knowledge of the heart in its struggle to get free from sin and live according to the example and teaching of Christ.. He called this effort to attain such a balance of practice and inner understanding ‘consideratio’ and viewed it as the proper concern of the Christian. This consideration seeks to establish the right relation between the inner life and the duties of one’s state, especially those deriving from ordination to God’s service. Such consideration is a preparation for the contemplative life which is possible only after one has learned such a life of virtue that balances service and duties with personal knowledge of the Scriptures.
Gregory was thoroughly convinced that God continues to call us to a life of union with himself. The Scriptures are given us by the Lord who, as today’s Gospel informs us, speaks of himself as the bridegroom whose presence is joy for the heart. But we discover this joy only by undertaking this work of consideration that enables us effectively to purify the heart and train it for perceiving the loving presence of God. Scripture itself is a gift of God’s love to us and Gregory urges us to go to it in order to discover the depths of the Lord’s very self. Let his words be our guide as we too consider his teaching today. He speaks to us today: “Learn the heart of God in the words of God that you might the more ardently aspire after eternal realities.”
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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