Church History: 500-600
It was golden for Rome because of the reign of Pope Gregory the Great, who institutionalized much of what we know as modern Catholicism.
What marks Gregory the Great’s appointment as a turning point in world history, let alone Church history, was that he firmly established the supremacy and power of the Bishop of Rome, over the other bishops, expanded the realm of the Roman Church to Britain, greatly increased the wealth of papacy possessions, organised a highly respected army to defeat the enemies of Rome, and developed a chant which became known as the Gregorian Chant.
- It was Gregory the Great who laid a foundation for successive popes to introduce spurious doctrines and practices into the Church. Among his doctrines were:
- Salvation based on grace and the merits of man
- The idea of purgatory as a place where souls would be purified prior to their entrance to heaven
- Church tradition was equal in authority to the Bible
- The Mass as a re-sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood
- The invocation of the saints in order to gain their aid
- And, the sacramental hierarchical system of the institutionalised Church (sacerdotalism).
Monasteries would be critically important conduits socially and politically in the life of the church in this period.
“Justinian’s legislation dealt with almost every aspect of the Christian life: entrance into it by conversion and Baptism; administration of the sacraments that marked its several stages; proper conduct of the laity to avoid the wrath God would surely visit upon a sinful people; finally, the standards to be followed by those who lived the particularly holy life of the secular or monastic clergy. Pagans were ordered to attend church and accept Baptism, while a purge thinned their ranks in Constantinople, and masses of them were converted by missionaries in Asia Minor. Only the orthodox wife might enjoy the privileges of her dowry; Jews and Samaritans were denied, in addition to other civil disabilities, the privilege of testamentary inheritance unless they converted. A woman who worked as an actress might better serve God were she to forswear any oath she had taken, even though before God, to remain in that immoral profession. Blasphemy and sacrilege were forbidden, lest famine, earthquake, and pestilence punish the Christian society. Surely God would take vengeance upon Constantinople, as he had upon Sodom and Gomorrah, should the homosexual persist in his “unnatural” ways.
Justinian regulated the size of churches and monasteries, forbade them to profit from the sale of property, and complained of those priests and bishops who were unlearned in the forms of the liturgy. His efforts to improve the quality of the secular clergy, or those who conducted the affairs of the church in the world, were most opportune. The best possible men were needed, for, in most East Roman cities during the 6th century, imperial and civic officials gradually resigned many of their functions to the bishop, or patriarch. The latter collected taxes, dispensed justice, provided charity, organized commerce, negotiated with barbarians, and even mustered the soldiers. By the early 7th century, the typical Byzantine city, viewed from without, actually or potentially resembled a fortress; viewed from within, it was essentially a religious community under ecclesiastical leadership.”
Church and state become completely intertwined in this century in the East and West.
Dionysius Exiquus (d. c. 550), a monk in Rome, establishes modern system of dating, using events after Christ as “Anno Domini,” in the year of our Lord.
Muhammed is born in 570…and a new enemy of Christianity with him.
The Visagoths who sacked Rome in the last century also took Spain…and when King Recared the Visagoth converted to Catholicism (and repudiated Arianism) he brought the faith that continues strong in these countries to this day.