THE student will have to look to the Gomorrah and other broadsides against clerical excesses to discover Damian in the role of a fiery reformer. Able cardinal as well as friend and abettor of Pope Gregory VII, Peter was also a confirmed renunciant. Like many others of his age, he found it no waste of social energy to nurture in monastic community the inward yearnings of the soul. Preached to such congregations, rather than to the people and the clergy as a whole, his sermons here exemplified have almost a mystic exaltation such as that found in his nostalgically beautiful poem, “On the Joys and Glory of Paradise.” MPL 144:543-45, 764-66. The translation of Ne.Mpp. 58-60, 62-63, is from the ed. of Constantine Caietanus (Paris, 1663, 4 Vols. In 1, folio), 17, 110.
But when I consider Thee, Lord Jesus, my admiration and my compassion increases. Why dost Thou go to the Jews who lie in wait for thy soul? They are betrayers and murderers; trust not Thyself to them, for they love Thee not; they will not pity Thee; they will condemn Thee to a most base death. Why dost Thou hasten to endure such mocking, such scourging, such blaspheming? to be crowned with thorns, to be spit upon, to have vinegar given Thee to drink, to be pierced with the spear, to die, and to be laid in the sepulchre? In this Thy resolution, in this Thy design, my soul, when I consider it, is overwhelmed. I grieve with Thee, Lord Jesus, over the miseries of Thy Passion. The advice of Peter, Thy friend, is that which I should have given, who said, Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not happen unto Thee (Matt. 16:22). It is not meet that the Son of God should taste of death. But this differs from Thy counsel, Who art determined to undergo Thy Passion. What then? Are we to follow the advice of Peter or of Jesus? of the servant or of the Lord? of the disciple or of the Master? But the servant is not greater than his Lord, nor is the disciple more learned than his Master (John 13:16). We must acquiesce, therefore, in the determination of the Lord and Master, Who needs no other counsel; lest it be said to us with Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou savourest not the things that be of God (Mark 8:33). For Peter knew not that Christ had from the beginning foreordained His Passion, that by death He might destroy our death, and by rising again might restore our life.
That, then, which Divine Wisdom had foreordained, He desired wisely to accomplish. He willed, according to the words of the Prophet, to be humble and poor, to ride upon an ass, and so to enter into Jerusalem; as the Evangelist relates, saying, When Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem, and was come to Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, then sent He two of His disciples, saying: Go in to the village over against you, and ye shall straightway find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them unto Me (Matt. 21:1-2). This village is the world, which rages against the Lord and His disciples, not only by persecuting them with reproaches and injuries, but by inflicting on them a most cruel death. By the ass and the colt which 126 were tied in the village are signified the people of the Jews, and that of the Gentiles, both of them in bondage to the chain of their sins. The ass, accustomed to the yoke, typifies the Jewish people, that were subject to the yoke of the law. The colt, that was wanton and unbridled, denotes the Gentiles, who walked after the lusts of their own hearts. The two disciples sent into the village are the preachers of the two Testaments, endued with twofold charity, the love of God and the love of our neighbour; or else Peter and Paul, of whom one was the Apostle of the Jews, the other of the Gentiles. Whence the same Paul: For He, Who worked in Peter his Apostleship, worked also with me among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:8). These loosed both people from the error of infidelity, and, by the word of their preaching, brought them to the faith of Jesus Christ. The Lord sat upon them, because He justified them by faith in Him; as it is written, The soul of the righteous is the seat of wisdom. Concerning the justification of both, the Apostle thus writes: Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is One God Which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith (Rom. 3:29-30).
Give ear, therefore, to the counsel of thy God, not only reigning with the Father, but as thy most sweet friend, hanging upon the Cross; for neither can He be deceived, because He is wisdom, nor doth He desire to deceive thee, for whom he Endured such ignominy and such pain. If any one, saith He, will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me (Matt. 16:24). Hear a counsel, not a precept. For if it were such a precept that we must obey it whether we would or not, we might look for perpetual trouble; but when He saith, If — if any man will follow Me, He has put it in our own power whether we will keep the same course or not. A mighty labour, indeed; but an incomparable reward. After Me, He 127 saith. We must go after Him, because he is the Truth, that we may not be deceived; through Him, because He is the Way, that we may not err; to Him, because He is the Life, that we may not die. I, saith He, am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). It follows, Let him deny himself. Our first parent, when he had been circumscribed by prefixed limits of obedience, roamed forth into the open country of an evil liberty. He had it in command to prefer the Will of his Creator to his own; but using, or rather abusing, his own will, when he desired to make himself happy, he destroyed himself. Driven, therefore, from that happy inheritance, he obtained exile for a country, death for life, ignominy for glory. If thou wouldest, therefore, return to thine inheritance, deny thine own will.