Saint Peter Chrysologus
|Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church|
Imola, Province of Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, North-Central Italy
|Died||31 July 450|
Imola, Province of Bologna, Emilia-Romagna region, North-Central Italy
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church|
4 December (General Roman Calendar 1729-1969)
Peter Chrysologus (Greek: Ἅγιος Πέτρος ὁ Χρυσολόγος, Petros Chrysologos meaning Peter the "golden-worded") (c. 380 – c. 450) was Bishop of Ravenna from about 433 until his death. He is known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna.
Peter was born in Imola, where Cornelius, bishop of Catholic Diocese of Imola, baptized him, educated him, and ordained him a deacon. He was made an archdeacon through the influence of Emperor Valentinian III. Pope Sixtus III appointed Peter as Bishop of Ravenna circa 433, apparently rejecting the candidate whom the people of the city of Ravenna elected. At that time Ravenna was the capital of the West, and there are indications that Ravenna held the rank of metropolitan before this time.
The traditional account, as recorded in the Roman Breviary, is that Sixtus had a vision of Pope Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Apollinaris of Ravenna, the first bishop of that see, who showed Peter, a young man, the next Bishop of Ravenna. When a group from Ravenna arrived, including Cornelius and his archdeacon Peter from Imola, Sixtus recognized Peter as the young man in his vision and consecrated him as a bishop.
People knew Saint Peter Chrysologus, the Doctor of Homilies, for his very simple and short but inspired sermons, for he was afraid of fatiguing the attention of his hearers. His piety and zeal won universal admiration. After hearing oratory of his first homily as bishop, Roman Empress Galla Placidia supposedly gave him the surname Chrysologus, meaning "golden-worded." His sermons are historically significant in that they reveal Christian life in fifth-century Ravenna. The Emperor's mother, Galla Placidia, patronized many projects of Bishop Peter.
In his extant homilies, Bishop Peter explained Biblical texts briefly and concisely. He also condemned Arianism and Monophysitism as heresies and explained the Apostles' Creed, the mystery of the Incarnation, and other topics in simple and clear language. He dedicated a series of homilies to Saint John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peter advocated daily reception of Eucharist. He urged his listeners to confide in the forgiveness offered through Christ. His surviving works attest to the Church's traditional beliefs about Mary's perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ's Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors. He shared the confidence of Saint Pope Leo I the Great (440-461), another doctor of the Church.
A synod held in Constantinople in 448 condemned Eutyches for Monophysitism; Eutyches then appealed to Peter Chrysologus but failed in his endeavour to win the support of the Bishop. The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (451) preserves the text of letter of Saint Peter Chrysologus in response to Eutyches; Peter admonishes Eutyches to accept the ruling of the synod and to give obedience to the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Saint Peter.
St Peter died circa or after 450 during a visit to Imola, the town of his birth. Older reference books say he died on 2 December, but a more recent interpretation of the ninth-century "Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis" indicated that he died on 31 July.
When in 1729 he was declared a Doctor of the Church, his feast day, not already included in the Tridentine Calendar, was inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 4 December. In 1969 his feast was moved to 30 July, as close as possible to the day of his death, 31 July, the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
A contemporary portrait of Saint Peter Chrysologus, found in the mosaics of the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Ravenna, depicts him among the members of the eastern and western imperial family, showing his extraordinary influence.