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CHAPTER I

Of the origin and interpretation of Gerard’s name

(1)

THE venerable Master Gerard, called the “Great,” was a citizen of the city of Deventer, born of honourable parents of that same place, and tenderly nurtured by the loving care of his family; the name which he inherited from his earthly parents was apt enough, but by Divine providence it was afterwards changed for a better; for he who had exchanged his former manner of life for a new mode of living, justly deserved that his name too should have a godly signification by reason of his signal virtues, as the following narrative will show.

(2) His name Gerard may be interpreted as meaning one “gerens artes,” that is, “cultivating the arts,” because being given up to literary studies he was deeply learned in the liberal arts and in many sciences: or again the interpretation may be “gerens ardorem”—one who cultivates a burning zeal—because, being mercifully prevented by the grace of God, his inner man was inflamed by 6the love of Christ, and moved by an irresistible impulse to enhance the Glory of God: or thirdly one may say that he was rightly named Gerard as being one “gerens ardua”—cultivating that which is on high—because being wholly turned to God, he during his life did mighty and lofty deeds, lifting his mind earnestly to the contemplation of heavenly things, and by his preaching converted many peoples to the amending of their lives. His life, his words, his character, and his teaching were a light and a flame to all this land of ours: so in fact, as in name, he was “great” in the world—endowed with wealth, honour, learning, and high place: yet his greatness stood out more conspicuously from his contempt of worldliness, and his imitation of the lowly life of Jesus Christ, and also from the abundant harvest of followers whom he brought to Him, as the traces left behind him do clearly show.

(3) This man therefore shall be held in perpetual memory, a man who in our own day was a teacher, following the regulations of the orthodox faith; and one who by his pious example restored the position of our Holy Religion. Although for a long time he mixed carelessly and thoughtlessly in the concerns of this world, yet, after his conversion, his life was truly exemplary, being spent in the deepest humility and devotion, in holy poverty and frequent fasting, a life too which he ended well and with a happy issue of his strife.

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