Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Denis the Carthusian

I have come not to bring peace, but division

“I have come to cast fire upon the earth.” In other words, I have come down from the highest heaven and appeared to men and women through the mystery of the incarnation in order to light the fire of divine love in human hearts.

“And how I wish it were already ablaze!” How I wish it were already kindled, fanned into flame by the Holy Spirit, and leaping forth in good works.

Christ foretells that he will suffer death on a cross before the human race is inflamed by the fire of this love; for it was by his most holy passion that he won so great a gift for humankind, and it is chiefly the recollection of his passion that kindles the flame of love in Christian hearts.

“There is a baptism which I must undergo.” By divine decree there remains for me the duty of receiving a baptism of blood, that is, of being bathed, soaked upon the cross not in water but in my own blood poured out to redeem the whole world.

“And what constraint I am under until that has been achieved”—until my passion is love and I say: It is accomplished. For Christ was impelled incessantly by the love within him.

The way to attain the perfection of divine love is then stated. “Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth?” In other words: Do not imagine that I have come to offer people a sensual, worldly, and unruly peace that will enable them to be united in their vices and achieve earthly prosperity.

“No, I tell you, I have not come to offer that kind of peace, but rather division”—a good, healthy kind of division, physical as well as spiritual.

Love for God and desire for inner peace will set those who believe in me at odds with wicked men and women, and make them part company with those who would turn them from their course of spiritual progress and from the purity of divine love, or who attempt to hinder them.

Good, interior, spiritual peace consists in the repose of the mind in God, and in a rightly ordered harmony. To bestow this peace was the chief reason for Christ's coming. This inner peace flows from love.

It is an unassailable joy of the mind in God, and it is called peace of heart. It is the beginning and a kind of foretaste of the peace of the saints in heaven—the peace of eternity.


(On Luke's Gospel: Opera omnia XII, 72-74)


Denis the Carthusian (1408-1471), whose family name was van Leeuwen, was educated at Cologne and entered the Charterhouse at Roermund in 1423. His biblical commentaries cover both Old and New Testaments

He was strongly influenced by the writings of Pseudo-Denis and was himself a mystic: he was afterwards to be known as “Doctor Ecstaticus.”

He also took a practical interest in ecclesiastical discipline and in 1451 accompanied Nicholas of Cusa on a mission of Church reform and preached a crusade with him.

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson