Week F in Lent
Fussing about Filioque
6th Century of Common Era
Day 32 of 40:
Gregory the Great
Patron saint of choirboys and singers, Gregory probably didn’t invent Gregorian chants. He was Benedict’s biographer (see Saturday) and the last of the ‘Doctors’ of the western church, after Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome.
Senator’s son, Governor of Rome at 30, Gregory had a midlife crisis, tried the monastery, but soon returned to active public life, and ended his life and century as Pope Gregory, the Great.
Organization and diplomacy, not ideas, made Gregory great – a bit like emperor Justinian earlier this week. This pope was stronger than his contemporary emperors in declining Rome, and challenged the power of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the turf wars between east and west. Gregory regained authority in Spain and France, and sent missionaries of England, through these administrative skills.
Realigning barbarian allegiance to Rome, rebalancing from their Arian alliances, shaped the future of medieval Europe. Gregory saw Franks, Lombards and Visigoths aligning with Rome in religion, if not subservient politically. Gregory asserted the primacy of the Roman see, establishing papal power for the centuries to come.
Not only a capella chants, but purgatory doctrine are associated with Gregory. There we’ve got both the soundtrack for the age which followed, and the disciplinary threat which would motivate obedience, and ultimately motivate reformation of his ecclesiastical order.
Gregory won in the west, in his lifetime, and left a legacy for ages to follow. Ironically, when he was 30, Mohamed was born, the beginning of a new age that would sweep over the east, through northern Africa, and into the same Iberian peninsula Gregory had coaxed into Trinitarian Roman orbit.
What’s so great about Gregory?
What’s the value of papal order?
What’s the cost of that construction?