On Saturdays, I have been trying to give you some short writings from the Church Fathers. Part of the reason for this is that it is good to hear and read what those who have gone before us in the faith. Today's devotion comes from Peter Chrysologus (Peter the golden-worded). Peter Chrysologus 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.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
Devotion - From a Sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus
While rebellious Judea strives to Vanquish its Creator and raise unholy hands for the murder of its Author, it has removed peace from the earth, it has dissolved the harmony of the universe, and it has so ruptured what joined the elements together, that it was drawing the whole world back to its ancient chaos. And so it puts day to flight with night, it attacks light with darkness, it removes heaven from the universe, it makes the earth quake, it mingles the dead with the living, it jumbles together those who dwell in the lower and the upper worlds, and with the whole order among creatures disrupted it leaves absolutely nothing that is peaceful or harmonious. That is why when Christ returned from the underworld [from His descent into hell], so that he might restore peace to the universe, he exclaims: Peace be with you! (Lk 24:36)
2. While the disciples were speaking, it says, Jesus stood in their midst and said to them: “Peace be with you!” (v. 36) It was well that he added with you, because the earth had already stood firm, day had returned, the sun had come back, and the physical structure of the world already had its order restored. But war was still raging for the disciples, and the conflict between faith and faithlessness was brutally crushing them. The turbulence of the Passion had not shaken the earth as severely as the disciples’ hearts, and so the battle between belief and unbelief, tenacious in its struggle, was devastating to their spirits.
A vast host of thoughts was weighing heavily on their minds, and their bodies, although strong, were being broken by attacks of despair and hope. The ideas and deliberations of the disciples were being borne to and fro between Christ’s many miraculous signs and the wide variety of his sufferings, between the manifestations of his divinity and the weaknesses of his flesh, and between what he lost in death and what he gave in life.
At one moment their spirit was being raised up to heaven, the next moment their soul came crashing down to earth, and with such a storm seething deep within them they were unable to find any calm harbor, any peaceful port. When Christ the Scrutinizer of hearts sees this, he who gives orders to the winds, who has command over storms, and merely at his nod changes tempests into tranquility, right away he strengthens them with his peace, as he says:
3. Peace be with you! It is I. Do not fear (v. 36). “It is I, the One who was crucified, dead, and buried. It is I, in and of myself God, but for your sake a man. It is I, not a spirit in the form of flesh, but Truth itself in the flesh. It is I. Back from the dead, I am alive; back from the underworld, I am from heaven. It is I whom death has fled, at whom hell has trembled, whom Tartarus, shuddering, has confessed as God.
“Do not fear: Peter, on account of your denial; John, on account of having fled; all of you, on account of having deserted me, of forming judgments about me with every one of your thoughts devoid of faith, and of still not believing even though you see me. Do not fear, it is I, who have called you by means of grace, have chosen and pardoned you, have sustained you by my steadfast kindness, have supported you with my love, and out of goodness alone I now take you back, because when a father receives his son, and when affection recovers its own, neither one is able to see any faults.”
O Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for the peace that You give that removes our fear and reconciles us to our Heavenly Father. Amen.
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