When once the church had departed from the ancient and simple religion and worship service, as it did in the last century, there was hardly anything to limit the extent of this worldly corruption. Abuses of the worship service multiplied daily, and the superstitions were nourished as the furnished the basis for the income of the church. The teachers and instructors of the people degenerated from the level of the apostolic teachers and their aim seemed to be nothing more than to sink the multitude of common people into an abyss of ignorant superstition. The people, on the other hand, accepted a blind veneration for the clergy and a zeal for ridiculous ceremonies. Most of the teaching of this century was a case of the blind leading the blind, for the teachers were grossly ignorant themselves.
To see what depths the church had sunk to, we have only to see what the church taught concerning the worship of images and saints, the fire of purgatory, the need for good works, the observing of human rights to attain salvation and the power of relics to heal the mind and body. Nothing could be more ridiculous than the solemnity and liberality with which Gregory the Great handed out wonder-working relics, and nothing more lamentable than the eagerness with which the ignorant multitudes received them. For example, they believed that a portion of rancid oil that had burned in a lamp at a saint’s tomb had the power to defend them from all dangers both temporal and spiritual.
Gregory the Great, during this century, prescribed a new method of observing Holy Communion.Baptism was celebrated now, except in cases of great necessity, only on great festivals. An incredible number of temples arose during the century in honor of various saints. Although there were a large number of places of worship before this, these temples now took on the aspect of being a place to purchase favor and protection. There were a large number of festivals added to the church now. To a large degree, they were designed to take the place of pagan festivals formerly celebrated. In many cases, Christian saints merely took the place of pagan gods formerly worshipped.
We find the church at the end of the century spiritually depressed, numerically growing and organizationally strong. However, it was facing one of the greatest and most powerful enemies ever to attack the church, which would come at it in the Seventh Century.