DPPL 27: Saint Gregory the Great

STA altar at night smallOn the border between antiquity and the Middle Ages was the great pope to whom we attribute much in the Roman Rite:

27. Mention must be made of the pontificate of the great pastor and liturgist Pope St. Gregory VII (590-604), since it is regarded as an exemplary reference point for any fruitful relationship between the Liturgy and popular piety. Through the organization of processions, stations and rogations, Gregory the Great undertook a major liturgical reform which sought to offer the Roman people structures which resonated with popular sensibilities while, at the same time, remaining securely based on the celebration of the divine mysteries. He gave wise directives to ensure that the conversion of new nations did not happen without regard for their own cultural traditions. Indeed, the Liturgy itself could be enriched by new legitimate cultic expressions and the noble expressions of artistic genius harmonized with more humble popular sensibilities. He established a sense of unity in Christian worship by anchoring it firmly in the celebration of Easter, even if other elements of the one mystery of Salvation (Christmas, Epiphany, and Ascension) were also celebrated and the memorials of the Saints expanded.

It’s interesting to contrast the openness of the early Church to new expressions in comparison to the stranglehold the Tridentine stasis had on much of Roman Catholicism during a time when it may have been sorely needed.

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to DPPL 27: Saint Gregory the Great

  1. Liam says:

    The post-Tridentine stasis had a least a two-fold foundation that we should remember before we impliedly condemn it:

    1. The reforming impulse: we tend (quite erroneously) to equate Reformer=Protestant in the 16th century, whereas in fact many serious Reformers remained Catholic. Not every Catholic pope or bishop was Pius IV (who himself was a famous Reformer earlier in his career), who blocked/stymied sessions of Trent. So, *within* the Catholic Church, there were significant people who shared part of the view of the Protestant Reformers that the liturgical culture of the Late Middle Ages was decadent and in need of reform. So, the reforming impulse brought with it skepticism about free-wheeling localism in matters liturgical.

    2. The dawn of the modern: the printing press and the rise of early modern state governments (which were more authoritarian and less collegial than their medieval predecessors) not only helped promote the Protestant Reformation, but also the Tridentine reforms, in a more thorough fashion than would have been the case a half millennium earlier. (Though it’s interesting to note that it took generations for some Tridentine reforms to get enforced in France – in an era of declining papal power – and that it wasn’t until Pius X that some important sacramental/liturgical reforms were taken in hand.)

    The cross-currents are complex, and have more sobering implications than many appear to realize. It’s one example buttressing my maxim: always keep in mind how my solutions to today’s problems may deepen them, just in different ways. I don’t use that as a rationalization for fatalism – far from it – but to remember the myriad cognitive blindspots that accompany us on journey….

    * * *

    Btw, it’s worth noting the high esteem in which St Gregory the Dialogist (as Pope St Gregory I is typically titled in the Byzantine tradition, in part to differentiate him from several other important St Gregorys…like Gregory the Theologian (Nanzianzus) and Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Thaumaturgus) is held in the Eastern traditions.

  2. Guys, are you declaring that my patron wasn’t a federalist? ;-)

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