Today's Gospel in Art - Feast of Saint Gregory the Great

  • Patrick van der Vorst

The Mass of Saint Gregory the Great by Adriaen Ysenbrandt, 1520  © The Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The Mass of Saint Gregory the Great by Adriaen Ysenbrandt, 1520 © The Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Gospel of 3rd September 2020 - Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 'But you,' he said 'who do you say I am?'

Then Simon Peter spoke up, 'You are the Christ,' he said 'the Son of the living God.'

Jesus replied, 'Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.'

Reflection on the Painting

Today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Saint Gregory the Great. He was a Benedictine monk and became the first monk to be pope, ruling from 590 to 604. Gregory was known as the Father of Christian Worship because of his reforms to the Roman liturgy. We all probably best know him for the Gregorian chant which is named after him (although we don't know exactly the degree to which he actually helped compose this style of music). He is therefore also the patron saint of musicians, singers, teachers and students.

A master in the Bruges painters' and saddle-makers' guild in 1510, Adriaen Ysenbrandt painted the panel we are looking at today. It depicts Saint Gregory the Great saying Mass. While celebrating Mass one day, Pope Gregory became aware of a disbeliever in the congregation. It was on his mind as to why that was and how he could bring the man back to God. So Saint Gregory prayed for a sign that would leave no doubt about the real presence of Christ in the Mass for the man to witness. The next Mass the man was present, Christ materialised above the altar as the Man of Sorrows, displaying the stigmata and surrounded by the instruments and symbols of his Passion. In our painting we see Saint Gregory as being the first to see the vision and thus he kneels and gazes up at Christ, with his hands spread out, mirroring Christ's hands. Those around him remain as yet unaware of the miracle.

Saint Gregory the Great, as successor of Saint Peter, who was handed the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven in today's reading, pray for us.


Today's story -

Christian Art -

Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Adriaen Ysenbrandt

We Need Your Support

ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.

Please support our journalism by donating today.