Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30 - Peter of Ravenna, Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church


Peter of Ravenna, (406-450) is perhaps better known as "Peter Chrysologus." Chrysologus means, roughly, "golden worded." Peter received this title--and the title "Doctor of Homilies"-- because of his incredible gift for oratory. Though he was a clearly gifted speaker and preacher, his other contributions cannot be overlooked.

Peter was not simply a gifted speaker because of the quality, pitch, or timbre of his voice. It wasn't because of a use of vocal techniques and attention-grabbing phrases.Rather, it came from two desires worthy of emulation: a desire not to bore those who listen and a desire to explain important things in comprehensible ways. Assuredly, any speaker can make subjects of difficulty sound challenging or obtuse--in point of fact, many do so because of the boost it grants their ego--but it takes a gifted speaker to make difficult subjects comprehensible. Peter devoted his life to making the faith accessible under the assumption that if it was accessible, then it would be interesting and it it would be accessed. Peter is so well remembered, then, not because of personal talent but because of a drive to communicate important teachings with precision. For preachers, Peter should be a role-model and mentor.

Beyond his speaking, though, Peter was committed to orthodox teaching and belief and the unity of the Church in the face of temptations to split and schism. When Eutyches was condemned at the synod of Constantinople, he appealed to Peter to intervene on his behalf with the pope and, yet, Peter refused the request on grounds of promoting unity within the Church. Peter advised Eutyches to prefer unity over argumentation. In doing this, Peter hoped to offer Eutyches a way to be welcomed back into the Church he was rejecting and hoped to offer the comforting embrace of the Church to another.

Additionally, he would preach and sensibly defend orthodoxy against Arianism and Monophysitism. In these sermons, he argued for the unity of the church in mercy and love behind a united and orthodox doctrine that would nourish and form Christians throughout the world. Peter had a great love for the Church and demonstrated it in the way he defended her while inviting people in.

Perhaps the best tribute to a man like Peter of Ravenna is to share some of his especially quotable words. These words, given to him by the Spirit, inspired many and fought for unity within a fracturing and struggling Church. Peter, worthy of emulation for all preachers and Christians, should be remembered alongside his words:

"[Jesus] 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." 

"The devil does not wish to possess a man, but to destroy him. Why? Because he does not wish, he does not dare, he does not allow the man to arrive at the Heaven from which the devil fell. Jealousy, envy, pride and anger, to name only a few capital sins, rage in Lucifer, the prince of devils."
 

"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."
 

"Brothers, let us be sinners by our own admission, so that with Christ's forgiveness we may be sinners no more."
 

"God receives sinners, but God does not allow those whom he receives to remain sinners. The approach of the sinner does no harm to God. God sanctifies the sinner who draws near to him. O Pharisee, Christ does not receive sins when he receives sinners, because God is the recipient not of the offense, but of the human being. So the Pharisee should not have been looking at the condition the sinners were in when they arrived, but at their condition upon their return."

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