MUCH of the fire and vigor of Peter’s letters — some of them so unwavering a mirror of twelfth-century ecclesiastical life — has been infused into his sermons. It is characteristic of this man who warned newly elevated bishops against using their offices to endow their families that he should call people and priests, alike, to stern accounting. The first passage is an excerpt from a lengthy reconstruction of a free-ranging “Sermon to the People.” the second is from Sermon LVI — to Priests. MPL 207:752-53, 727-28. Translation of Ne.Mpp. 201-02, 208-09 from Vol. IV of Giles’ edition.
But to us worldly men, who are not only in the world, but of the world, — who are set in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation, crooked and perverse ourselves, — who are often intoxicated and sickened with the cup of Babylon, — to us, I say, I think that meditation, which impresses with the fear of the Judge, Who will judge the world by fire, is highly useful and profitable; that Judge by Whom the saints will judge the people, by Whom the miserable daughter of Babylon will have her own retribution returned upon her, — a wretched and eternal retribution. O blessed souls of the saints, who, while yet in the flesh, live above the flesh; while yet men, show forth the life of angels! O truly blessed, whose it is to gather the most sweet fruits of contemplation; whose it is to possess a harbour, as it were, of tranquillity in this great and wide sea; who are neither driven from their course by the rushing wind of fear, nor tossed by the tumult of the stormy ocean! O thrice and four times happy, before whose eyes is the love of their Redeemer, the love of their Father, and of their Country, and that continually; and who know the fear of the Judge and of hell, only at a distance! They, indeed, forgetting the things behind, press forward to the things that are before (Phil. 3:13): they not only despise, but are ignorant of fear; and that dread which at first introduced love, being cast out, they, so to speak, cannot help loving ever since the time that they were first inflamed by such affection. It is for them to be anointed with the oil of the good Samaritan; it is for us to use the wine of compunction: it is for them to draw water with joy out of the wells of the Saviour (Isa. 12:3), to be satisfied with the pleasures of His house, to be given to drink of the water of the wisdom of salvation (Ps. 36:8; D. 35:9); it is ours to mingle our drink with weeping (Ps. 102:9; D. 101:10), to be fed with the bread of tears (Ps. 80:5; D. 79:6), to have the plenteousness of tears which the Lord giveth to drink. They always sit at the banquet with their Father, the Merciful and Gentle, the Giver of all good things with benedictions. Let us continually turn our eyes to the Judge — the severe, the jealous, the strict Examiner, not only into our works, but into every idle word. There is no readier way by which we may obtain their happy 174 condition, no easier access, no more profitable advance. This way is strait in the ingress, more tolerable in the progress, more fruitful in the egress. This is the beginning of the road that leads to our Country; for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10; D. 110:10).
Certainly a devout and prudent Priest, while he stands at the Divine table, will think of nothing else but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:2). He will set before the eyes of his heart the humility of Christ, the patience of Christ, His Passion and sorrows; the reproaches of Christ — the spittings, the scourging, the spear, the Cross, the Death; he devoutly and solicitously recalls and crucifies himself in the memory of the Lord’s Passion. . . . O how awful, how perilous a thing, my brethren, is the administration of your office! because ye shall have to answer not only for your own souls, but for the souls committed to your charge, when the Day of tremendous Judgment shall come! And how shall he keep another man’s conscience whose own is not kept? For conscience is an abyss — a most obscure night: and what, then, of the wretched Priest who has undertaken this night, and to whom they cry, Watchman, what of the day? Watchman, what of the night (cf. Isa. 21:11)? What is that most wretched Priest to do who feels himself loaded with sins, implicated with cares, infected with the filthiness of carnal desires, blind, bowed down, weak, straitened by a thousand difficulties, anxious through a thousand necessities, miserable with a thousand troubles, precipitate to vices, weak to virtues? What shall he do — the son of grief — the son of eternal misery — who neither kindles the fire of love in himself, nor in others? Surely he is prepared for the fuel and the consumption of fire! A fire is kindled in the fury of the Lord (cf. Jer. 15:14); and it shall burn even to the nethermost hell. A place is appointed for him with everlasting burnings; the 175 worm is prepared which dieth not, — smoke, vapour, and the vehemence of storms; horror, and a deep shade; the weight of chains of repentance that bind, that burn, and that consume not! From which may that Fire deliver us Who consumes not, but consummates — which devours not, but enlightens every man that cometh into the world. May He illuminate us to give the knowledge of salvation unto His people; Who liveth and reigneth ever with the Father and the Holy Ghost, God to all ages of ages.