Friday, 8 May 2015

Isabela Stoian: Synonymy and Antonymy in St. Gregory the Great's Gospel Homilies

The numerous series of synonyms and antonyms in the Gospel Homilies render the teachings of Gregory the Great clear and properly received by the public. Synonymy has a specific intention and surpasses the simple need for variety. Such is the case of caro and corpus, which are used without a clear distinction. However, caro seems to be more connected to the idea of sin. On the other hand, corpus is seen as a whole, unitary, and as a symbol for what is earthly, not necessarily for sin. This is maybe one reason for which Christians do not eat caro Christi but corpus Christi.
Antonyms are usually used in pairs with a particular purpose, frequently that of emphasizing the differences between this world and the other world, between wicked and right persons, between humanity and divinity. The most interesting antonyms are those created by opposing terms that originally express non-opposing ideas. For instance, Gregory urges the congregation to know the Truth of God non per fidem, sed per amorem. [...] non ex credulitate, sed ex operatione - Hom. Ev. XIV, 5. When he opposes the terms fides and amor, credulitas and operatio, he points out the difference between the active and the passive forms of getting to know God and of serving Him.
Through synonyms and antonyms, not only did Gregory wrap his profound ideas in the coat of lexical variety, but he also emphasized theological concepts, making his speeches clear and complex.

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