Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church (†450, Feast—December 4)

St. Peter Chrysologus

The same divine Providence, which would not that the Church should be deprived of the consolation of keeping, during Advent, the feast of some of the Apostles, who announced to the Gentiles the coming of the Messias, has also willed that the holy doctors, who defended the true Faith against heretics, should be represented during this Season. Two of them, St. Ambrose and St. Peter Chrysologus, shine as two brilliant stars in the firmament of the Church during Advent. It is worthy of note, that both of them were the zealous avengers of that Son of God Whom we are preparing to receive. The first was the valiant opponent of the Arians, whose impious doctrine taught that Jesus, the object of our hopes, is merely a creature and not God; the second was the adversary of Eutyches, whose sacrilegious system robs the Incarnation of the Son of God of all its glory, by asserting that, in this mystery, the human nature was absorbed by the Divinity.

It is this second doctor, the holy Bishop of Ravenna, that we are to honor today. His pastoral eloquence gained for him a great reputation, and a great number of his sermons have been handed down to us. His veneration and love towards Mary, the Mother of God, who, in that very age, had triumphed over Her enemies by the decree of the Council of Ephesus, inspired him with thoughts and language which are extremely fine. Let us take a passage from the sermon on the Annunciation: "God sends to the Virgin an angelic messenger, who, whilst he brings graces, gives Her the entrusted pledge, and receives Hers. Then does Gabriel return with Mary's plighted troth. But, before ascending to Heaven, there to tell the consent promised him by the Virgin, he delivers to Her the gifts due to Her virtues. Swiflty does this ambassador fly to the Bride, that he may assert God's claim to Her as His own. Gabriel takes Her not from Joseph, but he restores Her to Christ, to Whom She was espoused when She was first formed in the womb." St. Peter Chrysologus here asserts the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. If Mary was espoused to the Son of God from the first moment of Her existence, how could original sin ever have been in Her?

Let us now listen to our Holy Mother the Church, who thus speaks of our Saint:

Peter, surnamed, for his golden eloquence, Chrysologus, was born at Forum Cornelii in Aemilia, of respectable parents. Turning his mind to religion from his childhood, he put himself under Cornelius, the Bishop of that city, who was a Roman. In a short while he made such progress in learning and holiness of life, that in due time, the Bishop ordained him deacon. Not long after, it happened that the Archbishop of Ravenna having died, the inhabitants of that city sent, as usual, to Rome the successor they had elected, that this election might be confirmed by the holy Pope Sixtus III. Cornelius, who was also sent in company with the deputies of Ravenna, took with him the young deacon. Meanwhile, the Apostle St. Peter, and the holy Martyr Apollinaris, appeared to the Roman Pontiff in his sleep. They stood with the young levite between them, and ordered the Pontiff to make him, and none other, Archbishop of Ravenna. The Pontiff, therefore, no sooner saw Peter than he recognized him as the one chosen by God; and rejecting the one presented to him, he appointed Peter to the metropolitan Church of that city, in the year of Our Lord 433. At first the deputies from Ravenna were dissatisfied at this decision of the Pope; but, having been told of the vision, they readily acquiesced in the divine will, and received the new Archbishop with the geatest reverence.

Peter therefore, although reluctant, being consecrated Archbishop, was conducted to Ravenna, where he was received with the greatest joy by the Emperor Valentinian and Galla Placidia, the emperor's mother, and the whole people. On his part, he told them that he asked of them but this, that since he had not refused this great burden for their salvation's sake, they would make it their study to follow his counsels, and to obey the commandments of God. The people had a custom of assisting at certain games on January 1st, which consisted of theatrical performances and dances; the Saint repressed these by the severity with which he preached against them, saying: "He that would play with the devil, can never enjoy the company of Jesus." At the command of Pope St. Leo I, he wrote to the Council of Chalcedon against the heresy of Eutyches. He answered Eutyches himself by another epistle.

In his sermons he was so earnest that at times his voice completely failed him. On one occasion his people were so affected and so moved to tears, that the whole church rang with their sobbings and prayers, and the Saint afterwards thanked God that He had turned the failure of his speech into the gain of so much love. After having governed that church about 18 years, in a most holy manner, he calmly passed out of this life on the 3rd of December, about the year 450.

Strengthen our faith, most holy Doctor, for the love we stand in need of comes from faith. Destroy the heresies which lay waste the vineyard of our Father; and uproot that frightful pantheism, which is the form under which the heresy thou didst combat is still among us. May the numerous churches of the East abjure the heresy of Eutyches which still reigns so supreme amongst them, and gives them the knowledge of the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation only to blaspheme it. Pray that the children of the Church may show to the judgments of the true Popes that perfect obedience, to which thou didst urge the heretic Eutyches.

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