Friday, 11 March 2016

Feast of St Gregory the Great

The readings for the feast are set out below (nb the second half of reading 11, as well as reading 12 and the Benedictine responsories do not appear to be available online).

Nocturn I: Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 39:1-14

Reading 1: The wise men will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be occupied in the prophets.  He will keep the sayings of renowned men, and will enter withal into the subtleties of parables. He will search out the hidden meanings of proverbs, and will be conversant in the secrets of parables.  He shall serve among great men, and: appear before the governor.

Reading 2: He shall pass into strange countries: for he shall try good and evil among men.He will give his heart to resort early to the Lord that made him, and he will pray in the sight of the most High. He will open his mouth in prayer, and will make supplication for his sins.

Reading 3: For if it shall please the great Lord, he will fill him with the spirit of understanding: And he will pour forth the words of his wisdom as showers, and in his prayer he will confess to the Lord.  And he shall direct his counsel, and his knowledge, and in his secrets shall he meditate.

Reading 4: He shall shew forth the discipline he hath learned, and shall glory in the law of the covenant of the Lord. Many shall praise his wisdom, and it shall never be forgotten. The memory of him shall not depart away, and his name shall be in request from generation to generation. Nations shall declare his wisdom, and the church shall shew forth his praise.

Nocturn II: Readings on the life of the saint

Reading 5: Gregory the Great was a Roman, the son of Gordian the Senator, (and was born about the year of our Lord 540.) As a young man he studied philosophy, and afterwards discharged the office of Praetor. After his father's death he built six monasteries in Sicily, and a seventh in honour of St Andrew, in his own house at Rome, hard by the Church of Saints John and Paul at the ascent of the hill Scaurus. In this monastery of St Andrew, he and his masters, Hilarion and Maximian, professed themselves monks, and Gregory was afterwards Abbot. Later on, he was created a Cardinal Deacon, and sent to Constantinople as legate from Pope Pelagius to the Emperor Tiberius Constantine. Before the Emperor he so successfully disputed against the Patriarch Eutychius, who had denied that our bodies shall verily and indeed rise again, that the Prince threw the book of the said Patriarch into the fire. Eutychius himself also, soon after fell sick, and when he felt death coming on him, he took hold of the skin of his own hand and said in the hearing of many that stood by: I acknowledge that we shall all rise again in this flesh.

Reading 6:Gregory returned to Rome, and, Pelagius being dead of a plague, he was unanimously chosen Pope. This honour he refused as long as he could. He disguised himself and took refuge in a cave, but was betrayed by a fiery pillar. Being discovered and overruled, he was consecrated at the grave of St Peter, upon the 3rd day of September, in the year 590. He left behind him many ensamples of doctrine and holiness to them that have followed him in the Popedom. Every day he brought pilgrims to his table, and among them he entertained not an Angel only, but the very Lord of Angels in the guise of a pilgrim. He tenderly cared for the poor, of whom he kept a list, as well without as within the city. He restored the Catholic faith in many places where it had been overthrown. He fought successfully against the Donatists in Africa and the Arians in Spain. He cleansed Alexandria of the Agnoites. He refused to give the Pall to Syagrius, Bishop of Autun, unless he would expel the Neophyte heretics from Gaul. He caused the Goths to abandon the Arian heresy.

Reading 7: He sent into Britain Augustine and divers other learned and holy monks, who brought the inhabitants of that island to believe in Jesus Christ. Hence Gregory is justly called by Bede, the Priest of Jarrow, the Apostle of England. He rebuked the presumption of John, Patriarch of Constantinople, who had taken to himself the title of Bishop of the Universal Church, and he dissuaded the Emperor Maurice from forbidding: soldiers to become monks.  Gregory adorned the Church with holy customs and laws. He called together a Synod in the Church of St Peter, and therein ordained many things; among others, the ninefold repetition of the words Kyrie eleison in the Mass, the saying of the word in the Church service except between Septuagesima inclusive and Easter exclusive, and the addition to the Canon of the Mass of the words M Do Thou order all our days in thy peace. He increased the Litanies, the number of the Churches where is held the observance called a Station; and the length of the Church Service.

Reading 8: He would that the four Councils of Nice, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon should be honoured like four Gospels. He released the Sicilian Bishops from visiting Rome every three years, willing them to come instead once every five years. He was the author of many books, and Peter the Deacon declareth that he often saw the Holy Ghost on his head in the form of a dove when he was dictating them. It is a marvel how much he spoke, did, wrote, and legislated, suffering all the while from a weak and sickly body. He worked many miracles. At last God called him away to be blessed for ever in heaven, in the thirteenth year, sixth month, and tenth day of his Pontificate, being the 12th day of March, in the year of salvation 604. This day is observed by the Greeks, as well as by us, as a festival, on account of the eminent wisdom and holiness of this Pope. His body was buried in the Church of St Peter, hard by the Private Chapel.

Nocturn III: Sermon of St Leo

Reading 9: When the Lord, as we read in the Evangelist, asked His disciples Who did men, amid their divers speculations, believe that He, the Son of Man, was; blessed Peter answered and said Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father, Which is in heaven and I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Reading 10: Thus therefore standeth the ordinance of the Truth, and blessed Peter, abiding still that firm rock which God hath made him, hath never lost that right to rule in the Church which God hath given unto him.In the universal Church it is Peter that doth still say every day, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, and every tongue which confesseth that Jesus is Lord is taught that confession by the teaching of Peter. This is the faith that overcometh the devil and looseth the bands of his prisoners. This is the faith which maketh men free of the world and bringeth them to heaven, and the gates of hell are impotent to prevail against it. With such ramparts of salvation hath God fortified this rock, that the contagion of heresy will never be able to infect it, nor idolatry and unbelief to overcome it.

Reading 11: This teaching it is, my dearly beloved brethren, which maketh the keeping of this Feast to-day to be our reasonable service, even the teaching which maketh you to know and honour in myself, lowly though I be, that Peter who is still entrusted with the care of all other shepherds and of all the flocks to them committed, and whose authority I have, albeit unworthy to be his heir. [incomplete]

Gospel: St Matthew 16:13-19

And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? [14] But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. [15] Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? [16] Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. [20] Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.


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