Today we celebrate the feast of St Peter Chrysologos.
Like all good saints, Peter is the stuff of legend, a legend alluded to in the collect which speaks of God having pointed him out and chosen him to rule and instruct his church – a reference to the story that as the pope was looking for a person to fill the see of Ravenna he had a vision telling him to appoint Peter, who, at that time, was only a lowly deacon.
Whatever the case, Peter became bishop in around 420, just as Ravenna was becoming the capital city of the western empire – so a diocese of importance.
Peter saw one of his chief roles as bishop as being to preach, something witnessed to by the vast number of homilies he left behind, 167 in total – hence the reference to him in the collect as ‘illustrious Doctor,’ that is to say, illustrious teacher, and also the soubriquet he bears, Chrysologos, Golden-Word.
In one of his homilies, St Peter notes, Sermonis brevitas amica, brevity is the sermon’s friend – and so following his advice, let me conclude.
It is providential that we celebrate St Peter’s feast at the start of the Advent season, in our preparation for Christmas, for he has left us some 23 sermons on the Nativity cycle, including a number on the Annunciation, which was the great pre- Christmas theme of the Ravenese church in Peter’s time.
Commenting on the message of the angel that Christ’s Kingdom will have no end, he tells us that, if we want to enter this eternal kingdom, we need now to take up the arms – the weapons – of Jesus Christ, and fight for it, sober and vigilant, watching against evil, watching against sin – exactly what we heard St Paul saying in the epistle for Sunday, where he exhorted us to stand ready and stay awake, casting off the works of darkness and putting upon ourselves the armour of light.
And this is a message we all must take to heart. For only thus can we fruitfully prepare to celebrate the Birthday of the Lord: only thus shall we be able to stand before Him unashamed when He come again to be our Judge.