21 July 2007

St Peter Chrysologus Excerpt

Salt indeed is a healthy seasoning for all food, if it is used in limited amounts; otherwise, used immoderately, both the salt itself is ruined, and it destroys what it seasons. For an excessive amount makes bitter what a moderate amount could have made tasty. So too the reasoning faculty that is in us, if it should have moderation, provides flavor, gives birth to understanding, produces prudence, enlarges the heart, increases ability, gives mature expression to what must be said, puts eloquently what must be heard, becomes delightful to itself, and becomes perfectly delightful for those who partake of it. And certainly that reasoning faculty will be sweet as honey which will let nothing bitter come out of its mouth.

We have made these introductory remarks, so that our reasoning may be kept within the bounds of moderation in interpreting the Gospel, so as not to ruin the food of life, the divine nourishment, the heavenly flavor, but so as to preserve them for us with most judicious sobriety, according to the words of the Apostle: “To know no more than it is right to know, but to know in sobriety.” (Rom 12.3) But now let us listen to what the Lord has said.

There was a certain rich man (Lk 16.1). And who was this man if not Christ? Who is rich except the One who in our poverty kept possession of all the riches of creation? There was a certain rich man. He often used to say this to the Jews, so that they would understand that the opulence of divinity belonged to him even in the poverty of his humanity.

and he had a steward. Who is this, if not the human being to whom the possession of the world had been completely entrusted for cultivation? …

And a charge against him was brought before him. Therefore, was it a rumor that he believed, did he come to know it because of news spread by a rumor? Far from it! But at issue was that those things which he knew, which he was concealing out of kindness, he then began to investigate since the earth was making the accusation—“The cry of your brother’s blood is shouting out of the earth.” (Gen 4.10) The earth is shouting, heaven is shouting, the angels were grieving, since by then the whole story was circulating around the world.

that he had squandered his property. Earlier we read that this man’s younger son had squandered his property (Lk 15.13), now it is asserted that the steward had squandered his goods. Just as the same Christ is God and man, and the same is father and head of the household, correspondingly it is the same person who is both steward and son. Here we have diverse circumstances, a change in names, but no difference in persons.

and he summoned him. He summoned him by means of the Gospel. … And what does he not do by means of the Gospel, by means of which he criticizes behavior[?] [H]e lays bare what was hidden, he exposes one’s conscience, he reproves offenses, he enumerates sins, and to the one who persists in them he threatens punishment, although to the one who changes his ways he promises pardon in return[.] … He ascribes what he knows to what he has heard, because he does not wish to hasten the sentence against the guilty, and he calls into his presence the convict as if he were only accused, since he is so eager to forestall condemnation with pardon.

Give an account of your stewardship; you will no longer be able to be steward. Why does he join such severity with such kindness? Why does he remove him from stewardship before receiving his report? … As man he now asks for an account, as God he announces what is now at hand and what will be. … He asks for an account, not to exact, but to forgive. He asks, in order to be asked; he asks here, so as not to ask there; he asks in this age, so as not to ask at the judgment; he is in a hurry to ask, in order that the time of punishment not preclude time to make amends.

Source: The Fathers of the Church: St Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons, Volume 3 (Catholic University of America Press, 2005) 110.175-177

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