Gregory the Great 'ad populum': A reading of "XL homiliarum in evangelia libri duo"

Jeremiah Patrick Coffey, Fordham University


This dissertation is prompted by a fascination with the variety of Christian experience and by a desire to investigate the popular religion of the early Middle Ages, a period whose importance for the history of the Christian West is often underestimated. It attempts an exposition of the ordinary experience of being Christian in late sixth century Rome through a reading of The Gospel Homilies of Gregory the Great. This work is ideally suited to such a purpose, first because Gregory is a recognized master of the Christian experience who had a tremendous influence on the religious culture of the Christian West, and second in that it is a collection of forty homilies preached to the people at various station churches in and around Rome in the years 590-592. The experience of being Christian is first viewed as a coherent whole by an analysis of five key texts by which the whole collection can easily be arranged. This analysis yields indications of a complex of beliefs and a consequent way of life which suggests the questions to put to the entire text. These questions are essentially the questions of the later medieval biblical hermeneutic: what does the text say about the human past (the fruit of allegory), what does it say about the human future (the fruit of anagogia), and how does the text suggest that one live as a consequence (the fruit of moralia). In the following chapters the Gospel Homilies are thus seen to refer to an experience framed by beliefs about the human fall and redemption by Christ in the past, and about the imminent judgment before the severe judge in the future; in the context of these beliefs Gregory is seen as a true pastor animarum who urged his listeners in so far as they were exiles who had been shown the way home by Christ, to despise this world and to long for their heavenly home, and in so far as they were soon to face their final scrutiny, to fear judgment and to convert to a life of good works. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

Subject Area

Theology|Religious history

Recommended Citation

Coffey, Jeremiah Patrick, "Gregory the Great 'ad populum': A reading of "XL homiliarum in evangelia libri duo"" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8809465.