by Fr Richard Heilman | September 3, 2021 4:57 AM
Around 590 A.D., Rome suffered a terrible plague causing many deaths. Pope St. Gregory the Great pleaded for the angels’ help to fight this epidemic. The pontiff celebrated Masses and tirelessly processed through Rome with prayers and incense.
St. Michael later appeared on top of the castle – Castel Sant‘Angelo – with his sword.
In the book The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, author Jacobus de Voragine writes:
“The plague was still ravaging Rome, and Gregory ordered the procession to continue to make the circuit of the city, the marchers chanting litanies. An image of the Blessed Mary ever Virgin was carried in the procession.”
“And lo and behold! The poisonous uncleanness of the air yielded to the image as if fleeing from it and being unable to withstand its presence: the passage of the picture brought about a wonderful serenity and purity in the air. We are also told that the voices of the angels were heard around the image, singing…”
“Then the pope saw an angel of the Lord standing atop the castle of Crescentius, wiping a bloody sword and sheathing it. Gregory understood that that put an end to the plague, as, indeed, happened. Thereafter the castle was called the Castle of the Holy Angel.”
Pope St. Gregory the Great then built the St. Michael statue on top of the castle, representing his protection over Rome and the Church.
I’ve come to understand that we have, in this era of “revolt against reverence,” removed the very gateway into the Divine Life. I agree (and I pray you do too) with Pope St. Gregory the Great who, wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order:
“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).
As you can see, the entry point into the Divine Life is “Fear of the Lord.” What is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …
“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, ‘My whole being trembles before you, your ruling fills me with fear’” (Ps 119:120).
Fear of the Lord, or awe and wonder, is the gateway; this is the trigger that ignites all of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. This Gift of Awe and Wonder, very simply, transforms the unspiritual man into the spiritual man. This is the Gift of the Holy Spirit that awakens our understanding of the majesty and “divinity” of Jesus Christ. Once we “truly” believe this, our actions will conform to our beliefs.
All of our restoration and evangelical efforts must begin by making every effort to lead souls to receive this first “Gateway Gift of the Holy Spirit” … Awe and wonder!
See my sermon that speaks to this:
Source URL: https://www.romancatholicman.com/todays-sermon-pope-gregory-the-great-reveals-the-very-doorway-into-the-divine-life/
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