St Peter Chrysologus, 400-450. Doctor of Homilies, Feast July 30th.
What can the only doctor of the Church, who was born in the fifth century, enlighten us about our faith today? Plenty! Even though we can hardly pronounce his name and he is largely unknown, Peter can teach us much knowledge of God, especially through his homilies. None of the doctors have a more powerful message than what this holy bishop has to say to us in the new millennium. Peter's fame and his significant contributions to the Church come from his brief, but powerful homilies. His extraordinary zeal to learn and assist others to learn about Christ are his telling trademarks. His unswerving loyalty and obedience to the Church reveal his fascinating faith, holiness and profound love for God and neighbor.
Let us reflect on Peter's priceless advice from one of his homilies: "There are three things, my brethren, which causes faith to stand firm, devotion to remain constant and virtue to endure. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains and mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting are one. They give life to each other."
If there are any words more provocative and exact for Christian perfection then it should include Peter's counsel above. This wise gospel message contains an abundance of beatitudes and gifts of the Spirit. His expression is at the heart of Jesus daily messages for everyone. Peter's homilies have the power to renew us.
Homilies can be like sweet music to the ear and joy to the heart. The homily during the Catholic Mass is a vital part of the Liturgy of the Word. It follows the reading of the gospel and is the explanation and elaboration on the celebration of the Word. This part of the liturgical service, offered immediately before the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, prepares its members to fully enter into the worship of God. It also prepares us to be empowered and enlighten to fully partake of the holy meal. Each liturgical celebration of the Mass is an extension of that Last Supper that the Lord shared with friends. He changed Himself during this meal into precious food that fortifies us and enables us to proceed on our spiritual journey. More importantly, this meal fortifies us and enables us by transforming us into Himself.
The theme of transformation is at the heart of Christ coming. Christ physically and spiritually touches us to change us dramatically. His daily messages in the gospel have the power to make us new creatures. His Body is not symbolic. It is real Food. Only faith discovers God's Flesh.
By looking back upon St Peter's words and reflecting we will get a better perspective of God's Word. One way for transformation to take place is to be aware of a false doctrine that surfaced in Peter's day called Monophysitism. This false teaching and heresy that Peter spoke out against states that Jesus had only one nature and not two. This is insidious because it is false and limits. It does not encourage us to approach Jesus who is like us-human, in addition to being the Word, the Divine Being. If Jesus is only human, how can He unite us to the divine and transform us? If He is only divine, how can we feel comfortable as humans and identify with Him in a transforming manner?
The Church through the wisdom of Peter and others stated in the Chalcedonian doctrine that Jesus is both human and divine. He came to divinize our fallen human nature into His. We must of course pray and do God's holy will as He did in order to be graced with divinization and unity. By attentively listening and earnestly attempting to imitate the lessons of homilies we can be transformed. God's spirit will alert us to any information that could mislead or prevents us from intimate union with Jesus Christ. This could happen due to our misinterpretation of the homily than the speaker.
When a priest, deacon or laity delivers a homily, we ought to pray both for the speaker and ourselves. Why? To be on the same wavelength as the Holy Spirit who is inspiring the listeners and the speaker. It really doesn't matter who is speaking as long as they are speaking their best. God will do the rest. We should not get "hung up" on the preciseness, originality and the style of the speaker. It is God's word and message. Its application will be most significant to us when we are attuned to the Holy Spirit. God has a way of getting the message across regardless of the speaker. God can write straight lines with crooked lines.
The word of God is power. It is a two-edged sword that cuts into the marrow and joints of the body. It enkindles and quickens the spirit. The Spirit is able to change and transform us. Before each homily there is a beautiful prayer from the liturgy requesting that God would cleanse our heart, mind and lips with a burning coal as the prophet Isaiah. As we place the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips and heart, we might ask for the same cleansing fire in order that the word of God penetrates our mind, senses and spirit. Our intelligence and memory will be bathed with light; our imagination and curiosity clothed with grace and our senses will be restored to perfect order and orientation.
Rengers' book, listed in the sources, starts writing about Saint Peter Chrysologus, the Golden-Worded, with this quote from Peter's 96th sermon - "May our God deign to give me the grace of speaking and you the desire of hearing."
The Spirit also empowers us with divine receptivity, interpretation and insight on how to apply the words in our daily life. It also encourages us to act charitable as Christ did. The more we desire to be instructed by the word of God the more we will be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ being the Word is an all-powerful and effective instrument for all, especially, sinners. We need to be transformed because sinners are imprisoned and attached to selfish ways. The Spirit of God and the Word of God desire to rush in upon us and united us with our Father in perfect accord and unity. We take on and are clothed with God's attributes. We become divinized when we are prepared, tuned-in, expect and hope. We will expect more from God as our confidence develops. God is just and merciful to those who expect and hope. God will give supernatural light and graces to both parties-the speaker and the listener to penetrate us in homilies
Our faith can be fortified with each homily with harmonious attunement. When we turn the ears of our heart toward God, we become more prepared to receive the meaning of God's words. Blessings and graces are constantly being given to us when we cooperate and are attuned to the Holy Spirit. We should be reminded of Jesus' words regarding homilies: he who hears you, hears me. Each homily provides new and different directions and advice.
Christianity, in Peter's era, was in the process of becoming both religiously and politically, a dominant presence in the European world.
Peter's fame came as a preacher. He got the gospel message out to the parishes, communities and churches. In Peter's day it was the forum for proclaiming the word of God. Homilies today are enlightening forces throughout the world even though constant media communications and endless talk bombard us.
When one communicates with God's Holy Spirit through listening, talking, writing, or praying, there is something extra special that happens. It is not just communication. Depending on the receptivity and willingness of the receiver, the spirit-filled communicator makes common to all what God possesses. More importantly, one receives what primarily belongs to God. It is not only from the speaker. They are the borrowed instrument by which God communicates.
What exactly did Peter have that was so special? Holiness! His name "Chrysologus" means literally " he of the golden words". Peter, according to contemporary accounts, was a spellbinding preacher not necessarily for what he said but how and with what spirit he said it.
A spirit-filled homily can begin to change your life, inspire you to make a resolution, encourage you to alter your attitude or reveal how to behave differently. Nearly anyone can convey or transfer something intangible such as a word, a message or a story. But to get the message across effectively with great results requires first a clear, sincere, inspired message. Secondly, readiness and preparation on the part of the listener is critical. We need to accept and receive the full impact of the speaker and message. St Peter Chrysologus was that type of person who was greatly infused with God's words in his homilies. The new catechism provides excerpts from his homilies.
Peter was a vigorous defender of truth and proponent of Christian morality. What he had to say was so emotional that it may take your breath away. In fact, it often took Peter's own breath away, and at times, he often appeared speechless in trying to formulate the truth he had to convey. His message was bigger than life. How does one describe the indescribable riches and treasures of the gospels except to stutter and stammer? One can't describe God. One only experiences God.
The life, action and words of Jesus Christ reveal the infinite mercy and wisdom of God. His life can impress and touch each of us with God's incomparable and incomprehensible perfect example and model. Every gesture, glance, posture, feeling, expression, breath and touch that the Redeemer showed or enacted has the power to transform us instantly if we allow it. God is alive now. Scripture says that God is from everlasting to everlasting. This might sound redundant to the "worldly" person. However, to the reverent and spiritually sensitive, each word of scripture, or a homily based upon the gospel is as a precious mirrow to their soul and has profound and personal depth and meaning.
Peter wanted to learn more about God and share it with others. With this great quest and attitude for learning, God touched him. And because of God, his attitude and quest for knowing God, he became most passionate. This desire and energy provided fire, warmth and excitement to his exhortations, sermons and homilies. NEXT TO VIRTUE, LEARNING WAS, IN PETER'S VIEW, THE GREATEST IMPROVER OF THE HUMAN MIND AND THE MAIN SUPPORT OF TRUE RELIGION.
He was afraid of fatiguing the attention of his listeners and spoke for brief time-limits. He also spoke with such vehemence that he sometimes became speechless from the excitement he was aiming to share with those who were listening to him.
Human ignorance is sad but spiritual ignorance is a pitiful condition and state that we allow ourselves to sink into or become trapped and immersed. It hides or distorts the truth and doesn't motivate us to want to learn or change. Our reluctance to hear God's words in sermons, homilies and religious discussions places us into a state of listlessness, lethargy and indifference that cripple us spiritually and leads to moral quicksand. This condition sinks our minds into ignorance or misconceptions or blocks the truth. Our vices victimize us. Our hidden sins camouflage virtue. God hides goodness from the proud and lukewarm and reveals truth to the pure, simple and those attentive and prepared for His Word. Peter would also tell us that the devil tries to destroy beginnings. He is ferocious and has an insatiable cruelty and jealousy for us to gain heaven especially since he was tossed out. Many of Peter's sermons inform us of his vicious lies, diabolical snares and enviable cunning.
Listening and desiring to learn more about the things of God is a great gift. It can begin anew every time we hear a homily. We might petition God to inspire us through many people and not only those in the pulpit, but also, in the workplace, with neighbors and with all those we meet daily in our current activities and conversations.
It is nearly impossible to be a Christian unless we grow. If we fail to use our talents, God permits us to become what we choose. Many people are depressed daily. What is most sad to see and hear is that many people are often possessed, obsessed, suppressed and repressed. Our human condition without grace weakens into oppression and depression. Often, trials, tests and challenges that God permits cause these. However, in many instances, human nature experiences these painful ordeals because we fail to cooperate or allow ourselves to be moved or touched by grace, gifts or God's Spirit. These gifts and graces, God bestows abundantly each day on those who ask, seek and pray in Jesus' name.
Sin robs us of God. All sin cheats us. Evil steals away our life and the joy of living. We are all sinners and therefore we would be wise to beseech God to allow us to be aware of His love for us poor sinners and help us detest sin. Ask God for distaste for sin. Sin blinds us and we hardly recognized we are sinners. We need insight. We need inner perception. We need interior clarity of mind and heart to be aware of evil and its surreptitious trickery. Human nature without grace has a tremendous propensity and proclivity for mendacity, pride and selfishness. Pray daily for daily perfection. It is available when we believe. We pray to believe. We pray to love. We pray to become human and divine as Our Lord and become all that He revealed.
Life is a learning process and as long as we are attempting to better others or ourselves God will help us grow spiritually. Desire is hope for improvement and betterment. Peter's homilies, and all spiritual messages, especially from the scriptures and the gospels, will exhort us to become more fully human as Jesus Christ and to expand one's knowledge and the love of God.
All creation shouts to us about God's goodness and gifts. The heavens reveal the majesty of God. Every creature tells us about God's power and love. Homilies can be silent and audible. Peter would say with St Francis de Sales that a modest demeanor is a silent sermon. All created things, be it beauty or ugliness, small or large, strong or weak, tall or short, black or white cries aloud the sublime gifts of the Creator. God's message and awe are implanted and imparted in the entire Creator's work.
Homilies have a way of piercing the rough edges of our mind and heart by melting the frozen (fixed dispositions and attitudes) and warming the chill (lack of ardor or piety). Virtues and vices can make or break us. Homilies can shake us up, startle and make us realize our condition, state of mind and level of sincerity toward God and disposition of our souls. Inspired homilies inform us of God's holiness surrounding us. Then, prejudices, bias and contempt will ebb away and have less a hold on us.
Peter Chrysologus was a master homilist. Homilies are not just words. They are more than communication. When one speaks with God's Spirit, homilies can impart profound truths from the heart and mind of God. They are God's designs and secrets for each of us in a personal and intimate manner. Homilies are invitations to " take heart" and learn to seek God's heart and mind. St Peter's message is the same as St Gregory of Nyssa who said: " to find God is to go on seeking God". Homilies invite us home to heaven-to the heart of love and life in God.
Jesus Christ, the master Homilist, par excellence, taught Peter that God's Spirit is the same for each of us. He said heaven is where the heart is and the heart is where heaven is. A homily can plunge us into the kingdom of God. Take heart (be confident) and cry to Peter for his golden words of wisdom. His words will register and reveal in you spiritual insights. All homilies have the power to have a major impact offered during the Mass. Go to Mass more frequently. Hope to become more learned as well as more holy through God's graces and touches received during the homily. Learning and holiness through homilies go hand and hand with learning to sharing God.
Peter wholeheartedly defended the humanity of Jesus Christ. During the 5th century Christ's humanness came under intense question and disbelief. Heresies spread during this era. A priest, Nestorian, perpetuated the Nestorian heresy. It stated that Christ was divided. On the other hand, Peter insisted that Jesus Christ, as a person was one undivided. Chrysologus' inspiring words helped defeat and quiet the attacks on Christ's humanity. For that reason, Peter may also be considered the doctor of Christ's Humanity for his staunch defense of the "Everlasting Man". He defended Christ by stating: "
we can not judge on matters of faith without the consent of the Roman Bishop (Pope)."
Today, divisions reign abundantly in religion. Why? The basic reason is different beliefs, attitudes and opinions. The Catholic Church requires submission to the Pope in matters of faith and when he speaks from the "chair".
Submission to others in humility is central to Christianity. Obedience promotes unity and peace. The man of the golden words declared: "if peace of the Church causes joy in heaven, then division must give birth to grief." Union with God and unity among all are common goals in life.
It is consoling to note that the risen, radiant Redeemer breathes the Spirit of love into us when we pray, cry or act justly. God's love buoys us up, when we are down, sinking morally or in turbulent waters (tempted). The Spirit of the Resurrected One (who descended into death) was raised up. His power enabled Him to ascend to heaven. The same power will give us vivacity and resilience when we sin. The Spirit of love is both a promise and a power to defeat the power of sin. Sin has its own power and promise. They are all seductions and lies. By exercising radical obedience and submission to God, as Christ, we too will share in Christ's glorious state now and after death. We need to be reminded that Christ learned obedience so we too can learn. Peter's homilies remind us of God's gift and graces so that we can learn. We should be eager to learn and be obedient as Jesus.
The mystery of Jesus Christ as true God and true Man is a profound truth and belief. Catholics acknowledge this sublime mystery when we participate in the Mass and say the creed. The best way to grasp it is to submit and accept the mystery of the Incarnation in simple faith. Logic and reason are not the answers to accept this pure gift. God's revelation to all creatures that have ever lived, and who will be born in the many tomorrows, is somehow intricately connected to the Eternal Word. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. This Eternal Word, externalized in expression and humanized in Flesh, born of a woman, is an immeasurable treasure and adorable blessing. In matters of faith, to receive this gift, requires humility, submission and acceptance of others despite opinions, preferences and personal values or belief.
Our saint, Peter, assures us that we only become fully human by wanting to expand our knowledge whether sacred or secular according to our talents, gifts and opportunity.
St Peter Chrysologus has been declared a doctor of the Church after nearly 1500 years. Unfortunately, many have nearly forgotten him. But the Church in Her wisdom through Benedict XIII in 1729 has entered his name into the august class of doctors. Many doctors and Christians down through the ages hold fast to this Jewish Carpenter as a lovely reminder that all flesh is sacred because of the Eternal Man-God. To hear about Him in sermons and homilies as Peter proclaimed years ago and others express today is a divine blessing, each and every time. There is something always new about this infinite Human Being Who desires our thoughts, feelings and affections daily. He earnestly wants to unite us to Himself in order to transform us and be supportive for others.
Unity is the essential life of a Christian as it is the essence of God. The Creator urges us to imitate the very best. To help reach closeness with God, our saint wants us to fast at times. The Church tells us that it is a necessary discipline. Peter tell us only one thing about fasting: it obtains! Obtains what? The spirit of gratitude. We ought to be grateful that we have the ability to fast because many people can not. However, with God's Holy Spirit to guide us we do not only have to perform traditional fasting such as the absence of food and drink. We can fast with our eyes and all of our senses by restricting them lawful pleasures and preoccupation. We need to discern how to do this. Spiritual advice, a wise spiritual director, books and listening to homilies might fill the bill. If we are open to God, His message will get through and penetrate us with transforming results.
Fasting has not been dwelt upon too much with the doctors. Perhaps the Church has emphasized fasting in times past more than today. Jesus mentions fasting in the gospels. One would never fathom or exhaust the spiritual pleasure or the supernatural knowledge of Jesus' words. Whether He talked about fasting or any subject, there is always an infinite depth to be discovered in His words. It is with God's Spirit that we can truly understand Jesus' words and grasp their meaning.
In addition to the doctors and Jesus' words about fasting, Mary, His Mother, has some priceless advice about the subject and effects of fasting. Obviously, these are not taken from the gospels because the focus there is on Jesus and His inexhaustible "Good News". Although the Church takes no definitive stance about many of Mary's words in apparitions and appearance, one particular event going on for nearly twenty years ought to be looked upon with an open mind.
I have mentioned apparitions only rarely. The Church has approved very few and takes no position on some because they are still going on presently. I want to say a few things about Medjugorge because if the Church later approves this happening we will have twenty years of messages (homilies) from the Mother of God. Who can speak better about the Messiah of God than the Mother of the Messiah of God?
This is what Mary said about fasting and is taken from the book entitled WORDS FROM HEAVEN. Fasting stops wars, suspends the law of nature, reduces punishment, defeats evil, purifies the heart, sanctifies, cures illness, brings the kingdom nearer and Mary encourages us to practice fasting. It prepares us daily for the coming of Christ. This book is based on Medjugorje. The messages in the past have been found from http://www.catholic.net/.
Three of the six visionaries have received all 10 secrets (as of 2/5/00) The other three have already received 9 of the 10 secrets. When these remaining three have received the 10 secrets, God's warning will take place. (This is not the end of the world but a sign that all will know that the Medjugorge events for nearly 20 years are authentic.) Our Lady is telling us that she wants prayer, fasting, reading the bible, reconciliation and liturgical functions like going to communion. These will avert many maladies that could happen. Some things have already been averted thanks to prayer and fasting.
Father Gambero's book listed in the Sources states that St Peter "expressed his unbounded admiration for the mystery wrought in the Mother of the Lord and the greatness of her vocation." He sees her greatness as tied in a certain way to God's own greatness to the point of thinking that it is impossible to comprehend God correctly without reflecting on the mystery of Mary. He mentions the miracle of her virginity, her spouse St Joseph, the Eve-Mary parallel, devotion to her and much more. "She nursed Him who nurtured every living thing". Father goes on to say that Mary had two spouses. Mary's divine marriage with her Son compared to the human marriage with St Joseph.
In reality, Mary has many more spouses. One is the Church. The Church is Mary's mystical or Heavenly Spouse. Joseph was Her earthly Spouse. Joseph is the patron of the Church and Mary is the patroness of the Church. She is also its Mother, Model and Messenger.
Father Christopher Rengers' book, already mentioned, has this to say about St Mary. "All of us receive our truest value from our union with Christ. The closer our union, the more do we share in His life and the more glory do we give to God. This basic thought brings St Peter Chrysologus logically to the first one who was most closely and most uniquely united to Christ, His own Mother.
Let those come and hear who ask who He is whom Mary brought forth: "That which is begotten in her of the Holy Spirit." Let those come and hear who have striven to becloud the clarity of the Latin tongue by a whirlwind of Greek, and have blasphemously call her anthropotokos ("mother of the human nature") and Christotokos ("Mother of Christ") in order to rob her of the title Theotokos ("Mother of God"). (Sermon 145).
Apart from Our Lord, the singular messenger who speaks not from earth but from heaven, is the Mother of God. That is Mary. Certainly Her messages usually given to Her seers, must be approved by the Catholic Church to be authentic and trustworthy. Her words are from heaven and can be trusted. Her words from Guadeloupe, Fatima and Lourdes, to mention only three, are most powerful and fruitful and we should heed them.
Mary always understood that Her Son would do the talking and teaching when He lived on earth. She has been silent for a long time through divine providence. God has allows Her a more visibile presence in the past generation unlike any others. We certainly do not need her words. In fact, Mary would tell us to focus on the gospel and do what Jesus tells us as She mentioned to the servants at Cana.
The Church always recommends Holy Scripture as the authentic word of God. The gospels are always apart of Her main liturgical events. The reverence, the rubrics and the reading of Holy Writ, the Church treats with tremendous respect and honor.
However, Mary words should not be ignored. There is much to be gained when we look at the beauty, sound, context, texture, elegance, power and meaning of Her words. If Her words and messages do not come from heaven, it is obvious that no words will ever come from heaven. No one can utter the words that She speaks unless God dwells within Her.
Therefore, we would be wise to explore and ponder Mary's powerful messages when She speaks to her seers on earth. There are many Church approved books about genuine apparitions. The book that I mentioned, Words from Heaven, which happens to be about Medjugorje, is only one of hundreds of books containing aspects of the gospels.
We must also remember that Jesus wants us to listen to the Woman in Heaven who taught Him how to speak on earth. She is Jesus' seer beyond all the rest and it would be unwise to fail to listen to the Seat of Wisdom.
Links associated with St Peter Chrysologus:
Katherine Rabenstein's inspiring list of saints including St Peter Chrysologus in the folowing link:
Homilies abound on the Internet. Exciting samples:
"He is The Bread sown in the virgin, leavened in the Flesh, molded in His Passion, baked in the furnace of the Sepulchre, placed in the Churches, and set upon the Altars, which daily supplies Heavenly Food to the faithful."
- St. Peter Chrysologus (400-450)