Sermon of St. Gregory

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Sermon of St. Gregory,

Sermon xiv on the Holy Gospels

Some persons are accustomed to question by what Spirit Jesus was led into the desert, on account of the words a little farther on: Then the devil took Him into the holy city; And again: The devil took Him to a very high mountain. But without any question at all, it is appropriate to believe it was the Holy Spirit who led Him into the desert; His own Spirit led Him where the evil spirit would find Him and tempt Him. When, however it is said that He, God and man, was taken up by the devil into a very high mountain, or into the holy city, the mind shrinks from believing, and the ears of man dread to hear it. Yet we know that this is not incredible when we think what was done on other occasions.

Truly, the devil is the head of all the wicked: and all the wicked are members belonging to this head. Was not Pilate a member of the devil? Were not the Jews who persecuted Christ, members of the devil, and the soldiers who crucified Him? Why, then, should we wonder that He allowed Himself to be taken up into a mountain by the devil, by whose members He even allowed Himself to be crucified? Therefore, it was not unfitting that our Redeemer should will to be tempted, who came to be slain. It was, indeed, just that He should, by His own temptations overcome our temptations, even as He came to conquer our death by His own.

But we ought to know that temptation passes through three stages: suggestion, pleasure in the temptation, and consent. And when we are tempted, we often experience pleasure in the temptation, or even give our consent; for we are conceived of sinful flesh, and in us we carry what is subject to attack. But God who took flesh in the womb of a Virgin, and came into the world without sin, allowed no contradiction within Himself. He could, then, be tempted by suggestion: but the pleasure of sin could never force its way into His mind. And therefore those temptations of the devil were external to Him, and were not from within.

Meditations for Each Day of Lent – Thursday After the Third Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Thursday After the Third Sunday

The preaching of the Samaritan woman

The woman therefore left her water-pot, and went her way
into the city.–John iv. 28.

This woman, once Christ had instructed her, became an apostle. There are three things which we can gather from what she said and what she did.

1. The entirety of her surrender to Our Lord. This is shown:

(i) From the fact that she left lying there, almost as if forgotten, that for which she had come to the well, the water and the water-pot. So great was her absorption. Hence it is said, The woman left her water-pot and went away into the city, went away to announce the wonderful works of Christ. She cared no longer for the bodily comforts in view of the usefulness of better things, following in this the example of the Apostles of whom it is said that, Leaving their nets they followed the Lord (Mark 1. 18).

The water-pot stands for fashionable desire, by means of which men draw up pleasures from those depths of darkness signified by the well, that is, from practices which are of the earth earthy. Those who abandon such desires for the sake of God are like the woman who left her water-pot.

(ii) From the multitude of people to whom she tells the news, not to one nor to two or three but to a whole city. This is why she went away into the city.

2. A method of preaching.

She saith to the men there: Come, and see a man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not He the Christ?–John iv. 29.

(i) She invites them to look upon Christ: Come, and see a man–she did not straightway say that they should give themselves to Christ, for that might have been for them an occasion for blasphemy, but, to begin with, she told them things about Christ which were believable and open to observation. She told them He was a man. Nor did she say, Believe, but come and see, for she knew that if they, too, tasted of that well, looking that is upon Our Lord, they, too, would feel all she had felt. And she follows the example of a true preacher in that she attracts the men not to herself but to Christ.

(ii) She gives them a hint that Christ is God when she says, A man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done, that is to say, how many husbands she had had. She is not ashamed to bring up things that make for her own confusion, because the soul, once it is lighted up with the divine fire, in no way looks to earthly values and standards, cares neither for its own glory nor its shame, but only for that flame which holds and consumes it.

(iii) She suggests that this proves the majesty of Christ, saying, Is not he the Christ? She does not dare to assert that He is the Christ, lest she have the appearance of wishing to teach others, and the others, irritated thereat, refuse to go out to Him. Nor, on the other hand, does she leave the matter in silence, but she puts it before them questioningly, as though she left it to their own judgment. For this is the easiest of all ways of persuasion.

3. The Fruit of Preaching.

They therefore went out of the city and came unto Christ.–John iv. 30.

Hereby it is made clear to us that if we would come to Christ, we too must go out of the city, which is to say, we must lay aside all love of bodily delights.

Let us go forth therefore to Him without the camp (Heb. xiii. 13). 

Saint Gregory the Great

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Saint Gregory the Great

Pope, Doctor of the Church

Saint Gregory the Great was a Roman of noble Christian birth, the son of a canonized Saint, his mother, Saint Silva; and he was the nephew of two others, Saints Tarsilla and Emiliana. At thirty years of age he became the Prefect of Rome, the highest civil dignity of that city. On his father’s death in 574 he gave his great wealth to the poor, turned his house on the Caelian Hill into the monastery which now bears his name, and for several years lived as a perfect monk. His famous exposition of the Book of Job dates from his monastic years.

The Pope drew him from his seclusion in 578 to make him one of the seven deacons of Rome; and for seven years he rendered great service to the Church as what we now call Papal Nuncio to the imperial court at Constantinople. He had been sent there to obtain assistance against the Lombard invasions, but returned with a conviction which was a foundation of his later activity, that no help could any longer be obtained from that court. When he was recalled to Rome he became Abbot of his Monastery, then known by the name of Saint Andrew’s.

While still a monk the Saint was struck by the sight of some fair-complexioned boys who were exposed for sale in Rome, and heard with sorrow that they were pagans. And of what race are they? he asked. They are Angles. Worthy indeed to be Angels of God, said he. He at once obtained permission from the Pope to set out to evangelize the English. With several companion monks he had already made a three-days’ journey when the Pope, ceding to the regrets of the Roman people, sent out messengers to overtake and recall them. Still the Angles were not forgotten, and one of the Saint’s first cares as Pope was to send, from his own monastery, Saint Augustine and forty more monks to England.

On the death of Pope Pelagius II, Saint Gregory was compelled to take upon himself the government of the Church, and for fourteen years his pontificate was a perfect model of ecclesiastical rule. He healed schisms, revived discipline, and saved Italy by converting the wild Arian Lombards who were laying it waste; he aided in the conversion of the Spanish and French Goths, who also were Arians, and kindled anew in Britain the light of the Faith, which the Anglo-Saxons had extinguished in blood. He set in order the Church’s prayers and chant, guided and consoled her pastors with innumerable letters, and preached incessantly, most effectively by his own example. Many of his sermons are still extant and are famous for their constant use of Holy Scripture. His writings are numerous and include fourteen books of his letters.

Saint Gregory I died in 604, worn out by austerities and toils. The Church includes him among her four great Latin doctors, and reveres him as Saint Gregory the Great.

Reflection. The champions of faith prove the truth of their teaching no less by the holiness of their lives than by the force of their arguments. Never forget that to bring others to God you must first see to your own soul.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).