Saint Peter’s Chains

san pietro in vincoli 034From a Sermon by St John Chrysostom, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

Nothing is so glorious as a bond for Christ’s sake, as the chains that were bound around those holy hands; more glorious is it to be a prisoner for Christ’s sake than to be an Apostle, than to be a Teacher, than to be an Evangelist.  Is there any that loves Christ, he will understand what I am saying.  Is any transported and fired with devotion for the Lord, he knows the power of these bonds.  Such an one would rather choose to be a prisoner for Christ’s sake, than to have the Heavens for his dwelling.  More glorious than any gold were the hands he was showing to them, yea, than any royal diadem.  Yes, no jewelled tiara bound around the head invests it with such glory, as an iron chain for Christ’s sake.  Then was the prison more glorious than palaces, yea, than heaven itself.  Why say I than palaces?  Because it contained a prisoner of Christ.
They that love, even though it be not God, but man, they know what I am saying, since they are more delighted to suffer for, than to be honoured by those they love.  But to fully understand these things belongs to the holy company, the Apostles, I mean, and them alone.  For hearken to what the blessed Luke says, that “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name”.  To all others indeed it seems to be foolishness, that to suffer dishonour is to be counted worthy, that to suffer dishonour is to rejoice.  But to them that understand the love of Christ, this is esteemed of all things the most blessed.
Were any to offer me my choice, the whole Heaven or that chain, that chain I would prefer.  Were any about to change me into one of those powers, that are in Heaven, that are round about the throne, or into such a prisoner as this, such a prisoner I would choose to be.  Nothing is more blessed than that chain. Would that I could be at this moment in that very spot, (for the bonds are said to be still in existence,) to behold and admire those men, for their love of Christ.  Would that I could behold the chains, at which the devils fear and tremble, but which Angels reverence.

Responsory.  Behold || an Angel of the Lord stood, and * A light shined in the room: and he striking Peter on the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly; and the chains fell off from his hands.  V. Wisdom forsook not the just, but delivered him from sinners: she went down with him into the pit. * A light … Glory be … A light …