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Derek Olsen

A Compositional Taxonomy for Gregory the Great’s Forty Gospel Homilies—Handout

The Macro-structure of the Forty Gospel Homilies:

Exegetical Exposition Line by line ( in ordine ) Line by line (in ordine)

Subsequent Discourse Drawn from last line of the text Drawn from a theme of the text Based Drawn from last line of the text Drawn from a theme of the text Based on the Liturgical OccasionSubsequent Discourse Subsequent Discourse

o

Hom 1-2, 4, 6-7, 9, 11-14,17-22, 25-27, 29-40

Summarily or ThematicallyOccasion o Hom 1-2, 4, 6-7, 9, 11-14,17-22, 25-27, 29-40 o Hom 3, 5, 8, 10,

o

Hom 3, 5, 8, 10, 15-16, 23-24, and 28

o

Hom 3, 13, 21, 22, 25, 27, and 29

The Micro-structure of the Forty Gospel Homilies

Priscian‟s Praeexercitamina : steps for amplifying a sententia: 1

The maxim itself (sententia)

“It is not fitting for a man who sits as a counselor to sleep the night away” (Illiad, 2.24)

1. Praise (a laude breui)

 

2. Paraphrase; brief restatement (a simplici

“It is not proper that a man who sits in a place of power, governing many, should be overcome by sleep from the setting of the sun until it risers again.”

expositione ipsius sententiae)

3. Explanation (a causa)

“A chieftain should ever be watchful, but sleep destroys the vigilance of anyone.”

4. Contrast (a contrario)

Just as no harm results if a private citizen sleeps the whole night through, so it would be unthinkable for a king not to spend sleepless vigils considering the safety of those who depend upon him.”

5. Comparison (a comparatione)

“Just as governors must keep watch over the common good while others are sleeping, so an emperor must look after his territories.”

6. Example (ab exemplo)

“Hector, watching and awake all night, sent Dolon as a spy among the ships of the Greeks.”

7. Testimony; another‟s judgment (ab iudicio)

“Sallust also agrees with this saying, „Many men, wholly given to greed and sloth, pass like ignorant and untrained vagrants through life.‟”

8.

Exhortation (a conclusione; exhortatione)

“So it behooves us, when we undertake necessary tasks, to take thought over them with very great care and watchfulness.

1 English from “Priscian the Grammarian: Fundamentals Adapted from Hermogenes”, translated by Joseph M. Miller, pages 52-68 in Readings in Medieval Rhetoric, edited by Joseph M. Miller, Michael H. Prosser, and Thomas W. Benson (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1973).

The movement of the concluding discourse of Gregory’s Homily 35 2

1. Exposition of v. 19/Excursus on Patience

1.1. Citation of text: v. 19 “By your patience you will gain possession of your lives”

1.2. Paraphrase “Possession of life is based on the possession of patience, since patience is the root and guardian of all of the virtues.”

1.3. Explanation: definition of the virtue 1.3.1.Testimony: about the virtue [1 Cor 13:4; Matt 5:44]

1.4. Contrast: on the vice of impatience

1.5. Comparison: patience like a war in the heart 1.5.1.Citation: “Better a patient man than a brave one, a man master of himself than one who takes cities” [Prov 16:32] 1.5.2.Paraphrase: “Taking cities is a smaller victory because the places we conquer are outside of ourselves; a greater one is won by patience, because a person overcomes himself, and subjects himself to himself, when patience brings him low in bearing with others in humility.” 1.5.3.Explanation: the moral psychology of patience as a war; the devil may attack fiercely, then return slyly. Only steadfast patience will overcome 1.5.4.Comparison: driving home the correspondence between cases with rhetorical questions : “Whom do these resemble except those victorious on the field of battle, but later through their own carelessness are captured within the confines of the city? Whom do they resemble but those attacked with serious illness, who survive it, but die of a slight recurring fever?”

1.6. Example: the martyrs are examples of patience and even today we can imitate their examples 1.6.1.Explanation: patience is itself a kind of martyrdom 1.6.2.Scriptural Example: The Sons of Zebedee who drink the same cup of suffering as Jesus [Matt 20:22-23]; one dies as a martyr, the other lives as a martyr through his patience through suffering 1.6.3.Local Example of the virtue of patience in the abbot Stephen [in Dialogues 4.19]

1.7. Explanation (Testimony?? See Conf. 1.19): On the three sources of trialsGod, Satan, our neighbors

1.8. Hortatory Conclusion

2 Quotations are from Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies, translated by David Hurst (CS 123; Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian, 1990), 305-310.