Peter Damian: St Romuald – Summit of Perfection Wednesday, Jun 19 2013 

PeterDamianRomuald lived in the vicinity of the city of Parenzo for three years.

In the first year he built a monastery and appointed an abbot with monks. For the next two years he remained there in seclusion.

In that setting, divine holiness transported him to such a summit of perfection that, breathed upon by the Holy Spirit, he foresaw many future events and comprehended with the rays of his intelligence hidden mysteries of the Old and New Testament.

Frequently he was seized by so great a contemplation of divinity that he would be reduced to tears with the boiling, indescribable heat of divine love.

In this condition he would cry out: Beloved Jesus, beloved, sweet honey, indescribable longing, delight of the saints, sweetness of the angels, and other things of this kind.

We are unable to express the ecstasy of these utterances, dictated by the Holy Spirit. Wherever the holy man might arrange to live, he would follow the same pattern.

First he would build an oratory with an altar in a cell; then he would shut himself in and forbid access.

Finally, after he had lived in many places, perceiving that his end was near, he returned to the monastery he had built in the valley of Castro.

While he awaited with certainty his approaching death, he ordered a cell to be constructed there with an oratory in which he might isolate himself and preserve silence until death.

Accordingly the hermitage was built, since he had made up his mind that he would die there. His body began to grow more and more oppressed by afflictions and was already failing, not so much from weakness as from the exhaustion of great age.

One day he began to feel the loss of his physical strength under all the harassment of increasingly violent afflictions. As the sun was beginning to set, he instructed two monks who were standing by to go out and close the door of the cell behind them; they were to come back to him at daybreak to celebrate matins.

They were so concerned about his end that they went out reluctantly and did not rest immediately. On the contrary, since they were worried that their master might die, they lay hidden near the cell and watched this precious treasure. For some time they continued to listen attentively until they heard neither movement nor sound.

Rightly guessing what had happened, they pushed open the door, rushed in quickly, lit a candle and found the holy man lying on his back, his blessed soul snatched up into heaven. As he lay there, he seemed like a neglected heavenly pearl that was soon to be given a place of honour in the treasury of the King of kings.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Life of St Romuald, chapters 39 and 61 @ Universalis.

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Peter Damian: Then God Bends Down, Cradles the Fallen Figure and Whispers Words of Consolation Thursday, Feb 21 2013 

PeterDamianYou asked me to write you some words of consolation, my brother. Embittered by so many tribulations, you are seeking some comfort for your soul.

[…] Consolation is already within your reach, if your good sense has not been dulled. My son, come to the service of God. Stand in justice and fear. Prepare your soul; it is about to be tested.

These words of Scripture show that you are a son of God and, as such, should take possession of your inheritance.

What could be clearer than this exhortation? Where there is justice as well as fear, adversity will surely test the spirit.

But it is not the torment of a slave. Rather it is the discipline of a child by its parent.

Even in the midst of his many sufferings, the holy man Job could say: Whip me, crush me, cut me in slices! And he would always add: This at least would bring me relief, yet my persecutor does not spare me.

But for God’s chosen ones there is great comfort; the torment lasts but a short time. Then God bends down, cradles the fallen figure, whispers words of consolation.

With hope in his heart, man picks himself up and walks again toward the glory of happiness in heaven.

Craftsmen exemplify this same practice. By hammering gold, the smith beats down the dross. The sculptor files metal to reveal a shining vein underneath. The potter’s furnace puts vessels to the test. And the fire of suffering tests the mettle of just men.

The apostle James echoes this thought: Think it a great joy, dear brothers and sisters, when you stumble onto the many kinds of trials and tribulations.

When men suffer pain for the evil they have perpetrated in life, they should take some reassurance. They also know that for their good deeds undying rewards await them in the life to come.

[…] Do not be depressed. Do not let your weakness make you impatient. Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face.

Let the joy of your mind burst forth. Let words of thanks break from your lips. The way that God deals with men can only be praised.

[…] He pins people down now; at a later time he will raise them up. He cuts them before healing; he throws them down to raise them anew.

The Scriptures reassure us: let your understanding strengthen your patience. In serenity look forward to the joy that follows sadness.

Hope leads you to that joy and love enkindles your zeal. The well-prepared mind forgets the suffering inflicted from without and glides eagerly to what it has contemplated within itself.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Sermons, bk.8,6, @ Universalis.

Peter Damian: Saint George – Consumed with the Fire of the Holy Spirit, Armed with the Invincible Standard of the Cross Monday, Apr 23 2012 

Saint George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier for Christ.

Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to the poor.

Then, free and unencumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of the battle, an ardent soldier for Christ.

Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defence of the faith.

As for Saint George, he was consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king.

And he acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause.

Of course, the supreme invisible arbiter was there, who sometimes permits evil men to prevail so that his will may be accomplished.

And although he surrendered the body of his martyr into the hands of murderers, yet he continued to take care of his soul, which was supported by the unshakeable defence of its faith.

Let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven’s army but follow his example.

Let us be inspired to strive for the reward of heavenly glory, keeping in mind his example, so that we will not be swayed from our path, though the world seduce us with its smiles or try to terrify us with naked threats of its trials and tribulations.

We must now cleanse ourselves, as Saint Paul tells us, from all defilement of body and spirit, so that one day we too may deserve to enter that temple of blessedness to which we now aspire.

Anyone who wishes to offer himself to God in the tent of Christ, which is the Church, must first bathe in the spring of holy baptism; then he must put on the various garments of the virtues.

[…] He who is reborn in baptism is a new man. He may no longer wear the things that signify mortality. He has discarded the old self and must put on the new. He must live continually renewed in his commitment to a holy sojourn in this world.

Truly we must be cleansed of the stains of our past sins and be resplendent in the virtue of our new way of life.

Then we can be confident of celebrating Easter worthily and of truly following the example of the blessed martyrs.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Sermon 13, On St George @ Universalis.

Peter Damian: With Great Care Hide this Treasure in the Receptacle of Your Heart Friday, Apr 15 2011 

How many greater gifts will come to you in the truly blessed life that lies before us, is, I must admit, beyond my capacity to discuss, nor is it within my power to lay them out before you.

It will suffice only to refer in summary to the indescribable outcome of this exchange, for this is what awaits those who have perfectly left the world:

Things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love Him.

Therefore, hide this treasure, namely Christ, our God and Lord, who became both redeemer and ransom for us –

He who both promises and is the reward held out to us who is the life of men and endless existence of the angels.

With great care hide this treasure, I say, in the receptacle of your heart.

With it in your possession cast away all concern for anything else in this world.

Take delight in speaking with him in unremitting prayer, and in this way constantly nourish yourself at the feast of holy thoughts.

Let Him be your food and also your raiment.

But if it should happen that you are also in need of some tangible convenience, do not hold back,  but place your trust in the firm promise He made to you when He said:

Set your mind on God’s kingdom before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well.

For if He could satisfy the thirsty throng of Israelites by commanding water to gush from that dry, metallic rock,

if for long periods of time He could serve heavenly manna to the hungry,

if He could order vast flocks of quail to light in the camp of those people who complained of their lot,

would He be unable to provide for the necessities of one little man who is constantly requesting His assistance?

And for Him who for almost forty years kept the clothes of that great multitude intact, would it be difficult to replace your tattered old garments with new ones?

Truly, we of little faith, must urge ourselves to hold fast to Christ, for fainthearted diffidence makes Christ a pauper, while full confidence causes Him to be rich and generous in dispensing His gifts.

Take care to be concerned only with those things that He commands, and let there be no doubt at all about those that He promises.

Let the tax collector feel safe when the debtor is prompt to pay.

There is no reason to be apprehensive when He who never lies has given His word.

The creditor can breathe easily when Truth itself is bound to His promise.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Letter 165, translation @ Vultus Christ (Dom Mark Kirby).

Peter Damian: Each Person, through the Mystery of the Sacrament, is Believed to be the Church in its Fullness Monday, Feb 21 2011 

The Church of Christ is united by a bond of mutual love so strong that not only is it a single entity subsisting in many mem­bers, but in each member it is also mysteriously present in its plenitude.

So it is that the entire universal Church is rightly said to be the one and only bride of Christ, and each person, through the mystery of the Sacrament, is believed to be the Church in its fullness.

One in all and entire in each, holy Church is single in the plurality of its members thanks to the unity of faith, and manifold in each of them thanks to the bond of charity and the diversity of charisms, for they all come from One.

Although holy Church is thus diversified by the multiplicity of its members, it is nevertheless entirely fused into one by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

[…] This Spirit, therefore, is undoubtedly both one and multiple, one in majestic essence, multiple in diverse gifts; he fills the Church, and causes it to be both one in its universal extension, and whole in each of its parts.

[…] If those who believe in Christ are one, then through the mystery of the Sacrament the entire Body is present where bodily eyes see but a single member.

Solitude prevents no one from speaking in the plural; nor is it inappropriate for the multitude of believers to speak in the singular, for through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is present in each and fills all, it is clear that the solitude is full of people and the multitude forms a unity.

Our holy Fathers regarded this intimate relationship and com­munion of believers in Christ as so certain that they included it in the creed stating the Catholic faith, and commanded us frequently to call it to mind along with the other basic elements of Christian belief.

For immediately after we say: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church” we add: “the communion of saints”.

Thus in the very act by which we bear witness to the God in whom we believe, we also affirm the communion that marks the Church which is one with him.

For this communion of saints in the unity of faith is such that, because they believe in one God, are reborn in one Baptism, and are strengthened by the one Holy Spirit, they are admitted, through the grace of adoption, into the one everlasting life.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Liber Dominus Vobiscum, 5-6, 10 (PL 145:235-6, 239); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Sunday of the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.