THE Anselm of the Cur-Deus-Homo, the moving prayers, and the unspectacular sermons is not three different persons. But he needs to be appreciated for all these aspects of his deep researching in the mind and his humble commitment, in faith, to God’s truth. The almost monotonous placidity of his allegorized homilies seems unreal in the face of the endless vexations that beset this Italian monk and theologian as Archbishop of Canterbury. Perhaps in the sermons preserved to us in such paucity he was addressing an exclusively monastic audience during his calmer years at Bec. MPL 158:597-602. Translation from Ne.Mpp. 80, 86-90.
Matt. 14:22. And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitude away. In this lection, according to its mystical interpretation, we have a summary description of the state of the Church, from the coming of the Saviour to the end of the world. For the Lord constrained His disciples to get into a ship, when He committed the Church to the government of the Apostles and their followers. And thus to go before him unto the other side, — that is, to bear onwards, towards the haven of the celestial country, before He Himself should entirely depart from the world.
And when Peter was come down out of this ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus (Matt. 14:29). This has been fulfilled, and still is fulfilling, when holy preachers are sent forth to heathen nations. For Peter comes down out of the ship as often as any holy doctor descends from the bosom of the Church, his Mother, where he has been educated, and goes with pious condescension to them that are without, that he may show them the way of salvation. And he walks upon the water while he both conquers and tramples on temptation, and while he subdues to himself the multitudes by causing them to believe in Christ. Walks, I say, and not stands: because he is ever more and more entirely forgetting the things which are behind, and more and more reaching forth to those things which are before (Phil. 3:13), and advancing in the daily increase of virtues. And all these things he doth, that he may come to Jesus, Who is the Saviour and the Immutable Truth; to the end that, laying hold of Him, and keeping close to Him, he may possess in Him true salvation and immutability.
It follows: But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me (Matt. 14:30). The boisterous wind is the vehement endeavour of evil spirits to stir up the hearts of men, and make them restless in the persecution of the faithful; or else mightily to seduce them to evil. And that wind will then indeed be boisterous, when Satan, in the latter days, shall 137 be let loose in his full strength against the righteous. And this appears now to be set forth in this sentence; in which Peter, who typifies the order of preachers, is related to have feared when he saw the wind boisterous. For who, even among those that are perfect, shall not fear, when that savage persecution shall rage everywhere, under Antichrist? And when he fears he will sink a little, because on account of the horror of the torments which shall be inflicted on the saints, and from his wonder at the deceiving signs which shall be done by the followers of Antichrist, he will fluctuate a little in his heart, and will somewhat, in the baser part of his mind, give way to thoughts, by which, unless the Hand of Christ raise him, he may easily be altogether whelmed. But because he is elect, he will cry to Christ, Lord, save me: and so by His help he will be raised up. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened (Matt. 24:21-22).
Whence it here also aptly follows: And immediately Jesus stretched forth His Hand and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt (Matt. 14:31)? For the Saviour quickly stretches forth His Hand of salutary help to each of those that are His, because He will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able to bear. And He will quickly catch him — that is, will hold him and lift him up by a certain power of Divine assistance. O thou of little faith, saith He, wherefore didst thou doubt? Whose faith will not be shaken in that tribulation, when the martyr who shall pour forth his blood for Christ shall be able to work no miracle, and the torturer shall perform miracles before his very eye? Let us consider, therefore, what will be that temptation of the human soul; for whose courage will not then be utterly shaken from the very depths of his thoughts, when he who tortures by cruelty is also illustrious with miracles? For which such iniquity and deceit will Antichrist and his ministers be then let loose against the righteous, that the hearts of even the blessed shall be struck with no small fear. Whence it is written: Insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). Which we must understand to be said, not because the elect can fall, but because they will tremble with great terror, as if they were about to fall.138
We may notice, also, that this commotion of the waves, and tottering or half-sinking of Peter, takes place even in our time, according to the spiritual sense, daily. For every man’s own besetting sin is the tempest. You love God; you walk upon the sea; the swellings of this world are under your feet. You love the world; it swallows you up; its wont is to devour, not to bear up, its lovers. But when your heart fluctuates with the desire of sin, call on the Divinity of Christ, that you may conquer that desire. You think that the wind is then contrary when the adversity of this world rises against you, and not also when its prosperity fawns upon you. For when wars, when tumults, when famine, when pestilence comes, when any private calamity happens even to individual men, then the wind is thought adverse, and then it is held right to call upon God; but when the world smiles with temporal felicity, then, forsooth, the wind is not contrary. Do not, by such tokens as these, judge of tranquillity of the time; but judge of it by your own temptations. See if you are tranquil within yourself; see if no internal tempest is overwhelming you. It is a proof of great virtue to struggle with happiness, so that it shall not seduce, corrupt, subvert. Learn to trample on this world; remember to trust in Christ, And if your foot be moved, — if you totter, — if there are some temptations that you cannot overcome, — if you begin to sink, cry out to Jesus, Lord, save me. In Peter, therefore, the common condition of all of us is to be considered; so that, if the wind of temptation endeavours to upset us in any matter, or its billows to swallow us up, we may cry to Christ. He shall stretch forth His Hand, and preserve us from the deep.
It follows: And when he was come into the ship, the wind ceased (Matt. 14:32). In the last day He shall ascend into the ship of the Church, because then He shall sit upon the throne of His glory; which throne may not unfitly be understood of the Church. For He Who by faith and good works now and always dwells in the Church, shall then by the manifestation of His glory enter into it. And then the wind shall cease; because evil spirits shall no more have the power of sending forth against it the flames of temptation or the commotions of troubles: for then all things shall be in peace and at rest.
It follows: Then they that were with Him in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God (Matt. 14:33). They who remain faithfully in the Church amidst the tempest 139 of temptations, will approach to Him with joy, and entering into His kingdom with Him, will worship Him; and praising Him perpetually, will affirm Him of a truth to be the Son of God. Then, also, that will happen which is written concerning the elect raised from death: All flesh shall come and shall worship before My Face, saith the Lord (Isa. 66:23). And again: Blessed are they that dwell in Thy House; they will be always praising Thee (Ps. 84:4; D. 83:5). For Him, Whom with their heart they believe to righteousness, and with their mouth confess to salvation, Him they shall see with their heart to light, and with their mouth shall praise to glory, when they behold how ineffably He is begotten of the Father: with Whom He liveth and reigneth, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God to all ages of ages. Amen.