GuerricOn Genesis 32:22-33 and Matthew 11:12 (“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force”).

See also here (Gregory the Great) and here (Charles Wesley).

Did not the untiring wrestler, the patriarch Jacob, do violence to God?

As it is written, he was strong against God and prevailed, wrestled with him until morning perseveringly and with all his might held fast to him when he asked to be let go.

I will not let you go, he said, unless you bless me.

I say that he wrestled with God, for God was in the angel with whom he wrestled. Otherwise the angel would not say: Why do you ask for my name? and Jacob would not say: I have seen the Lord face to face.

It was a good sort of violence then that extorted a blessing; happy the wrestling in which God yielded to man and the vanquished rewarded the victor with the grace of a blessing and the honour of a holier name.

What if he touched the sinew of his thigh and it withered, and so he went limping? A man will readily sacrifice his body and soon be comforted for the harm done when it is compensated for by such a gift, especially the man who could say: I have loved wisdom more than health and all beauty.

Would that not only the sinew of my thigh but the strength of my whole body would wither, provided I might win but one blessing from an angel.

Would that I might not only limp with Jacob but also die with Paul so as to obtain the grace and name of Israel as an everlasting gift.

Jacob bears a withered hip, but Paul a dead body, because the mortification of the body’s members begun by the first practices of the prophets was brought to completion by the gospel.

Jacob goes limping, because in part his thoughts dwell on the things of the world while his other foot he bears raised up from the earth.

Paul’s thoughts dwell only on the things of God whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knows; he is wholly free in spirit and flies up to heaven.

So to you, brethren, we say, you whose set purpose it is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission.

Guerric of Igny (c.1070/80-1157): Sermon 2 on the Feast of the Nativity of St  John the Baptist (PL 185, 167-169), @ Dom Donald’s Blog.