St. Peter Chrysologus
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Peter Chrysologus (380-450) meaning “Peter the Golden-worded”, was Bishop of Ravenna from about 433 until his death. He is known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna. He is revered as a saint by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729. His surviving works attest to the Church’s traditional beliefs about Mary’s perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ’s Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors. The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (451) preserves the text of letter of Saint Peter Chrysologus in response to Eutyches, who had been condemned for the heresy of Monophysitism. In it, Peter admonishes Eutyches to accept the ruling of the synod and to give obedience to the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Saint Peter. In his extant homilies, Peter also condemned Arianism and Monophysitism as heresies and explained the Apostles’ Creed, the mystery of the Incarnation, and other topics in simple and clear language. Peter died in 450. A contemporary portrait of Saint Peter Chrysologus, found in the mosaics of the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Ravenna, depicts him among the members of the eastern and western imperial family, showing his extraordinary influence.
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Quotes and Excerpts:
“Where are they who think that the Virgin’s conceiving and the Virgin’s giving birth are just like those of other women? Theirs is of the earth, hers is of heaven. Hers is by divine power, theirs by human weakness. Theirs is in the passions of the flesh, hers in the tranquillity of the Divine Spirit and in a human body at rest. Blood was quiet, flesh was still, her members slept, and the Virgin’s womb was entirely unmoved in that heavenly visit, while the Author of flesh was clothing Himself in a garment of flesh
and becoming a Heavenly Man, who would not only restore the earth to man, but would even give him heaven. A Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remains.”
-Sermon 117 (Written in 432 A.D.)
“We exhort you in every respect, honorable brother, to heed obediently what has been written by the most blessed pope of the city of Rome, for blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, provides the truth of faith to those who seek it. For we, by reason of our pursuit of peace and faith, cannot try cases on the faith without the consent of the bishop of Rome”
-Letter to Eutyches 25:2 [A.D. 449]).
“As for those who seek to cloud the issue with Greek confusion, blaspheming by calling Mary anthropotókos (mother of a man] or christotokos [Mother of Christ] so as to deny her the title Theotókos, just let them come and hear the clarity of the Latin language: “That which is born in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1;20). And that which is born of the Holy Spirit is spirit, because God is spirit.”
-Sermon 145:6. (Written 432 A.D.)
“Even before the angel announced God’s plan, the Virgin’s dignity was announced by her name; for the Hebrew word Mary is rendered in Latin as Domina [“Lady”]. Hence the angel calls her Lady, so that the fear proper to servitude might leave her, the Mother of the Master. For her Son’s authority decreed and brought it about that she should be born and named Lady.”
-Sermon 142:2 (Written in 432 A.D.)
“”Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:42). The Virgin is truly
blessed, for she possessed the splendor of virginity and achieved the dignity of motherhood. She is truly blessed, for she merited the grace of a heavenly conception and wore the crown of integrity. She is truly blessed, for she received the glory of the divine Son and is queen of all chastity.“
-Sermon 143:7 (Written in 432 A.D.)
“She conceives as a virgin, she gives birth as a virgin, and she remains a virgin. Therefore, her flesh knows the power of the miracle but does not know pain. In giving birth, it gains in integrity and knows nothing of physical suffering.”
-Sermon 117:3 (Written in 432 A.D.)
“When someone conceives as a virgin, gives birth as a virgin, and remains a virgin, this is not normal; it is a sign. It is not the work of logic but of divine power. Nature’s maker did it, not nature. It is not common but unique. It is divine, not human. Therefore let hapless Philosophy cease trying to explain it.”
-Sermon 148:1 (Written 432 A.D.)
“His holy soul was inflamed, struck by the newness of the affair. His bride was pregnant but a virgin; she was full of promise but not empty of chastity; she was troubled by the conception that had taken place, yet she felt sure of her own integrity. She was clothed in her maternal role but not despoiled of the honor of virginity. What should her husband do in such a situation? Accuse her of a crime? But he himself was the witness of her innocence. Reveal her sin? But he himself was the guardian of her good reputation. Charge her with adultery? But he himself was the assertor of her virginity.
-Sermon 145:1 (Written 432 A.D.)
“The woman, who had received the leaven of perfidy from the devil, received the leaven of faith from God. He hid it in three measures of four, that is to say, in three periods of human history; namely, from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Moses, and from Moses to Christ. Thus the woman, who in Adam ruined the entire mass of the human race with the leaven of death, restored the entire mass of our flesh in Christ with the leaven of the Resurrection. Then the woman, who had baked the bread of suffering and sweat, baked the bread of life and salvation.”
-Sermon 99:5 (Written 432 A.D.)
“Through Christ, she became the true Mother of all the living, who in Adam had become the mother of all the dead. Christ willed to be born in this way, so that, as death came to all through Eve, so life might return to all through Mary.
For Mary corresponds to the typology of the leaven, she bears its
likeness, she authenticates the figure, since she receives the leaven of the Word from above and receives his human flesh into her virginal womb, and, in her virginal womb, she transfuses the heavenly man into the entire mass [of dough].”
-Sermon 99:5 (Written 432 A.D.)
“”Mary and the other Mary came to see the tomb” (Mt 28:1). She who had taken perfidy away from paradise hurries to take faith from the tomb; she, who had snatched death from the hands of life, hastens to snatch life from the hands of death. “Mary came.” The name is that of the Mother of Christ; that is, the Mother came, the woman came, so that she who had become the mother of the dying might become now the Mother of the living, and so that what had been written might be fulfilled: “She was the Mother of all the living (Gen 3:20).”
“He who is not awestruck by this Virgin’s spirit and who does not admire her soul is ignorant of how great God is. Heaven trembles, angels quake, creation cannot bear it, nature is helpless–yet a girl carries God in her womb; she receives him into herself and offers him a dwelling place. ‘
“It would have been enough to say: ‘When Mary was betrothed.’
(Mt 1:18) What is the meaning of a betrothed woman who is a mother? If she is a mother, then she is not betrothed; if she is betrothed, then she is not yet a mother. ‘When Mary his Mother was betrothed.’ Betrothed, because of her virginity; Mother, because of her fertility; a mother who knows not man, though she does know birth. And how could she not have been a mother before his conception, seeing that she was a Virgin Mother after giving birth? When was she not a birthgiver, she who gave birth to the Creator of the world? Virgin nature brought about the origin of things, while corrupt nature put an end to things. In the same way, a virgin is mother of things, and a stepmother is always the corruption of things. It is a virginal task for a virgin, by God’s power, to regenerate what another virgin generated by God’s power. God and virginal integrity form a heavenly couple; virginity united to Christ forms a perfect union of virtue.
What the Virgin conceives is the honor of the Spirit and not a burden of the flesh. What the Virgin bears is a mystery of God, not a conjugal secret. The birth of Christ is a work of divine majesty, not of human weakness; that the fesh suffered no injury pertains solely to the glory of divinity.
“When his Mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they
lived together, she was found with child by the Holy Spirit” (Mt
1:18). Why is the mystery of heavenly innocence entrusted to a betrothed woman and not to an unattached woman? Why cause anxiety for the groom and for the bride? Why should such great virtue be considered a crime and the entire work of salvation a threat? Why should the modesty of innocent persons have to undergo such a trial? Why should modesty surrender, chastity grow weary, faith be wounded, accusations arise, the facts cry out for attention, so that every possibility of an excuse is taken away? How could a betrothed woman excuse herself if they accused her of having conceived? How could she take advantage of an exterior defender when there is an internal witness to the facts? What shall we think, brothers? Consider that, in the Gospel, signs, letters, syllables, words, names, and persons always have a divine significance.
A betrothed woman was chosen, so that Christ’s Church might
already be symbolically indicated as bride, according to the words of the prophet Hosea: ‘I will make you my bride in justice and right; I will make you my bride in mercy and benevolence, and I will espouse you in fidelity” (Hos 2:19-20). Thus John says: ‘He who has a bride is the bridegroom’ (Jn 3:29). And blessed Paul: ‘I have promised you to one Bridegroom, to present you to Christ as a chaste virgin’ (2 Cor 11:2). She is truly a bride, who regenerates the new infancy of Christ by a virginal birth.”
-Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 146: 3-5
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