Theology of the Heart: Teachings of the Saints
One of Us Is Called To Be Both a Sacrifice To God and His Priest
Saint Peter Chrysologus
reading was taken from a sermon of
St. Peter Chrysologus (Sermon 108, PL 52, 499-500) and is in the
Office of Readings for Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter.
I appeal to you by the mercy
of God. This appeal is made by Paul, or rather, it is made by God
through Paul, because of God's desire to be loved rather than feared, to
be a father rather than a Lord. God appeals to us in his mercy to avoid
having to punish us in his severity.
Listen to the Lord's appeal: In me, I want you to see your own body,
your members, your heart, your bones, your blood. You may fear what is
divine, but why not love what is human? You may run away from me as the
Lord, but why not run to me as your father? Perhaps you are filled with
shame for causing my bitter passion. Do not be afraid. This cross
inflicts a mortal injury, not on me, but on death. These nails no longer
pain me, but only deepen your love for me. I do not cry out because of
these wounds, but through them I draw you into my heart. My body was
stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of
my all-embracing love. I count it no less to shed my blood: it is the
price I have paid for your ransom. Come, then, return to me and learn to
know me as your father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and
boundless charity for piercing wounds.
Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. By this exhortation of
his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.
How marvelous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the
victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the
offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to
immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he
is to offer God for himself. The victim remains and the priest remains,
always one and the same. Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest
who immolates cannot kill. Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a
body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being
The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your
bodies as a living sacrifice. Brethren, this sacrifice follows the
pattern of Christ's sacrifice by which he gave his body as a living
immolation for the life of the world. He really made his body a living
sacrifice, because, though slain, he continues to live. In such a victim
death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive. Death itself
suffers the punishment. This is why death for the martyrs is actually a
birth, and their end a beginning. Their execution is the door to life,
and those who were thought to have been blotted out from the earth shine
brilliantly in heaven.
Paul says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as
a sacrifice, living and holy. The prophet said the same thing: Sacrifice
and offering you did not desire, but you have prepared a body for me.
Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest. Do
not forfeit what divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of
holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your
helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection.
Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has
given you. Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of
prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar.
Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God
desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for
self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of
your free will.
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