May 22, 2019

First Sermon On Mid-Pentecost (Peter Chrysologus)


On the Middle of Pentecost

By Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Ravenna

1. Although some things seem hidden by the depth of their mystery, nevertheless, no solemnity which the Church observes is fruitless. Commemorating a divine feast does not depend on the disposition of our wills, but it must be celebrated in view of its own merits. A true Christian spirit has never entertained the idea of putting up for discussion feasts which have solid grounding in the tradition of the Fathers and in the very seasons themselves, but desires to treat them with due reverence and speaks of them with nothing but respect.

2. "In the middle of the festival," it says, "Jesus went up to the Temple" (Jn. 7:14). What temple? "You are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you" (1 Cor. 3:16). The Lord today goes up to the temple of our heart, he who so mercifully came down in our bodily form. And how God goes up to the apex of the human heart, the blessed prophet explains when he sings: "Blessed is the man whose help is from you, O Lord; you have gone up to his heart" (Ps. 83:6 LXX; Ps. 84:5).

And so, "in the middle of the festival the Lord went up to the Temple," he who was about to furnish us with the perfect festival from heaven. Whatever sublime dimension, whatever tendency toward heaven was contained in human hearts, the weight of the Lord's Passion had bent it all the way down to hades. For certainly it is for that reason that Christ remains and lingers on the earth during the forty days. And if one may say so, he delays his Father's plan, and he keeps his Father's embrace in abeyance, until in every way he should raise up and remold everything unto the glory of his Ascension. So, that person who does not have Christ ascend to his temple here does not ascend to heaven with Christ.

3. "He went up to the Temple and was teaching them, and the Jews marveled and said: 'How does this man know his letters, since he has not been taught?'" (Jn. 7:14-15) Well do they marvel that Christ knows what he has not learned, since they themselves have proven not to know the precepts of the Law which they have learned and teach, when the Lord says: "You are a teacher in Israel, and you have no knowledge of these things" (Jn. 3:10). The Jews, who are so rebellious, marvel, they do not want to believe, they know how to marvel, they refuse to understand, but they do have the power to be ignorant! The Jews marvel as they say: "How does this man know his letters, since he has not been taught?"

That a virgin gave birth, you disparage, you do not marvel; that God is perceived and functions in our body, you deny and refuse to admit; that the blind man sees, that the deaf hears, that the lame walks, that the dead rises, and that Christ utters all the secret mysteries of God, do you not marvel at these? Is this the only thing that causes you to marvel, namely, that he knows although he has not been taught? This is he who has not been taught, but has bestowed knowledge. He it is who has created the intelligence through which letters are fashioned. Does an expert in the Law wonder why the Author of all things has not been taught his letters? It is clearly because God, the Origin of all, is in your midst, he who brings into existence what was not; since he has not been taught, he teaches.