By Frank A Kmietowicz

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Every phrase in this passage pointed to the Devil and his pride. But the world seemed to be full of people prone to the same vice. Often, their pride took the form of seeking a good reputation. Gregory knew of those who, having received the gift of teaching, swelled up in the wish to appear great before others (Mor. 4); those who took great care to act in a way which would please human eyes (Mor. 60); and hypocrites who refused corporeal gifts so as to gain praise (Mor. 62). The case which gave him most concern was that of the pleasure which someone who had done something good would experience when praised, for it was often the case that, after some good deed was praised, the mind of the person who did it was altered and came to take pleasure which it had not sought.

People who always act with deceit cannot imagine that others will act towards themselves in a straightforward way (Mor. 44). Not surprisingly, Gregory was more able than most people to place himself in the situations of others. That different people can interpret the same thing in different ways explains why God can be said to appear both tranquil and wrathful at the last judgment, because this is how he will appear to people with good and bad consciences, respectively; in a similar way, when a guilty person appears before an earthly judge, he thinks that the judge is hostile to him, not because of the behaviour of the judge but because he remembers his guilt, whereas an innocent person is confident (Mor.

A sympathetic commentator who knew Gregory’s works well, the English author Bede, queried Gregory’s self-evaluation. 89 But Bede, who had entered a monastery as a boy, wrote as someone with no experience of the trials of public life. It is noteworthy that Gregory often expressed his unease at his situation in letters addressed to other holders of high office (cf. p. 3), whom he may have found more sympathetic to his concerns than Bede was. Let us now turn to another area of Gregory’s inner life.

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Ancient Slavs by Frank A Kmietowicz

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