02 March 2006

St Peter Chrysologus Again

Each day of Lent has its own set of propers. Today's Gospel was the episode from St Matthew's Gospel of the centurion beseeching Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant. Here is a portion from a sermon on this text by St Peter Chrysologus.

[The centurion in effect says]: "I call him mine [i.e., my servant], because he is lying down; if he were yours, Lord, he would not be lying down. The prophet attests to this when he says, 'Come, now bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord. (Ps 133[134].1) You who 'stand' [do] not 'lie down.' Your servants stand, the servants of human beings lie down. May my servant-boy who is lying down rise in order to be yours. He is mine because he is paralyzed; may he now be healed so as to be yours. He is mine because he is badly afflicted; so that he be yours, may be now be in no pain.

"Lord, it is not fitting for your servants to be subjected to evils. The pain of your servants is an injury to you. The force of evils should not take hold of your servants. Your servants, althought they suffer evils, do not suffer for punishment, but undergo them for crowns; for them adversities are not causes of distress, but causes of victory. Servants of human beings are the ones who suffer evils unwillingly, because their masters are unable to help them in their desperation. But you, O Lord, whom the powers serve, whom cures obey, to whom healing remedies submit, how will you regard him as your servant while you see that he is the slave of such diseases?

"Your goodness is known among the wicked, even the godless acknowledge your kindness, and outsiders proclaim your mercy: am I to say that he is yours, even though your benevolence does not seek him out as he lies ill? He lies at home and is badly afflicted. (Mt 8.5) And so, the magnitude of the affliction does not allow me to bring him and present him to you, lest the infirmity of the servant, if made public, cause him both pain and shame."

The centurion moved the Judge by making so great and heartfelt an appeal, and he was so effective that the Lord of heaven himself willed to go to his servant. I shall come, said Christ, and cure him. Brothers, the centurion did not coerce the Author of compassion to show compassion, nor did he compel Christ to go to that for which Christ had come; but rather the centurion is taught in this way to perceive and understand why Christ came to the servant in a servant, why God came to man in a man. Assuredly he came to raise the prostrate, to set back on their feet those who had been knocked down, to free those in shackles (see Ps 145[146].7-8), and, since he himself is the most kind bearer of his own creation, to carry those whom no one as yet was able to bring and present. (The source is the same as yesterday's citation, only pp. 71-72)


Nathan Beethe said...

Father Fenton,
I'm just curious where you get the propers for the days in Lent. I am not familiar with a list of them. Thanks a lot!

fr john w fenton said...


The propers we use at Zion are the historic pre-Reformation propers. One source for these is the Flurheym Messbuch von 1529. With few exceptions, these propers correspond with those in the Tridentine Missal. For the weekdays in Lent, the lectionaries are identical. Hence, since the Flurheym Messbuch is in German and hard to find, easily accessed English sources are the 1962 Roman Missal or the Anglican Missal.