When the Spirit whispers – 3 September 2018

Today, 3 September, we commemorate Gregory the Great. He was Pope from 590 until 604. He is called ‘great’ not just because of his church leadership, diplomacy and mission activities, but because he was good. He was the first monk made Pope. It was he who sent Augustine and other monks on mission to England to convert Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.

Here he sits, swamped by the enormous cope that he is wearing. It signifies the office that he holds, the spiritual weight that he carries. The cope is rich and opulent, his other ecclesiastical garments equally splendid. He is sitting working on a sermon. What he needs is wisdom, to know the mind of God. The Spirit draws close in the shape of a dove. Gregory closes his eyes to hear what is whispered. We know that he receives direction, because the finger of his right hand intimates the way that he should go, what it is that he should preach.

Here the heart of church leadership is depicted for us all, not just for those who carry high ecclesiastical office. No matter who we might be, and what responsibilities we carry, the most essential thing is to hear the Spirit speak to us, that we might each find our way to the heart of God.

This painting is from the Roman School, dated around 1620. The artist is not known.


The only true riches are those that make us rich in virtue. Therefore, if you want to be rich, beloved, love true riches. If you aspire to the heights of real honour, strive to reach the kingdom of Heaven. If you value rank and renown, hasten to be enrolled in the heavenly court of the Angels.

Gregory the Great

He who is required by the necessity of his position to speak the highest things is compelled by the same necessity to exemplify the highest things.

Gregory the Great

Merciful Father,
who chose your bishop Gregory
to be a servant of the servants of God:
grant that, like him, we may ever long to serve you
by proclaiming your gospel to the nations,
and may ever rejoice to sing your praises;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Common Worship, Collect of Gregory