Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)
Humble your spirit, then, because, as Ecclesiasticus says:
The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds; and till it come nigh he will not be comforted. (Si 35,21)
Origen8 says, "One saint praying is worth more than many sinners fighting. The prayer of the saint penetrates heaven: how can it fail to overcome earthly enemies?" Augustine9 says, "There is great power in pure prayer, which is like a person entering God’s presence, and doing what he commands. The flesh cannot come there." And Gregory10 says, "To pray truly is not just to send forth words; but bitter groans of compunction." Humble your spirit, then, because every one that humbles himself will be exalted. Ecclesiasticus says:
He hath lifted him up from his low estate, and hath exalted his head from tribulation, and many have wondered at him. (Si 11,13)
1 BREVIARIUM ROMANUM, Lauds Hymn in Passiontide
2 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Lk 18.12
3 GREGORY, Moralia XX,15,40; PL 76.161
4 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Ps 48.19
5 AUGUSTINE, Regula, 6; PL 32.1381
6 BERNARD, In festo Annuntiationis, sermo 3,10; PL 183.398
7 SENECA, Epistola 2
8 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Num 31.4
9 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Ps 87.3
10 GREGORY, Moralia XXXIII,22,43; PL 76.701
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Jesus, going out of the coasts of Tyre, which is divided into two clauses.)
(First, a theme for a sermon on the preacher and prelate of the Church, and on the nature of bees, and the properties of iron: The smith sitting by the anvil.)
1. At that time: Going out of the coasts of Tyre, Jesus came by Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. (Mc 7,31)
It says in Ecclesiasticus:
The smith sitting by the anvil and considering the iron work.
The vapour of the fire wasteth his flesh: and he fighteth with the heat of the furnace.
The noise of the hammer is always in his ears;
and his eye is upon the pattern of the vessel he maketh.
He setteth his mind to finish his work,
and his watching to polish them to perfection. (Si 38,29-31)
The blacksmith who works in iron represents the holy preacher of the Church, who makes spiritual weapons. He should sit by the anvil, the study and exercise of Holy Scripture, to exercise himself in what he preaches. We beat upon the anvil, shaping with our blows, striking and beating hard. Natural History teaches that bees fly in the air as if to exercise themselves; then they return to the hive and feed. In the same way, preachers should first exercise themselves in the air of contemplation, with a desire for heavenly blessedness, so that afterwards they may eagerly feed themselves and others with the bread of God’s word.
He must consider the iron-work, the iron mind of his hearers, so that from it he may fashion the weapons of virtue, to fight against the powers of the air. With iron we strike and subdue others; with iron we till the soil to bring forth fruit. Steel (in Greek, chalybs) is named after the river Chalybs, where iron is tempered to the finest and keenest edge. Iron will not rust if it is coated with white-lead, gypsum and liquid pitch; or if it is coated with deer-marrow, or with white-lead mixed with rose-oil. White-lead is a material used by painters, composed of tin and lead. Gypsum (a Greek word) is like chalk, and most suitable for signs and embellishments on buildings. Likewise note that the iron of the human mind is tempered to the finest edge in the river of tears. It will be free from the rust of sin if it is coated with ‘white-lead’ and the other things. We must now see what these things signify: white-lead, gypsum, pitch, deer-marrow and rose-oil.
White-lead is made from tin and lead, and it represents the Humanity of Christ. This was ‘tin-like’ in the Nativity, as Zechariah says:
They shall rejoice and shall see the tin stone in the hand of Zorobabel. (Za 4,10)
The tin-stone represents the divine and human nature which our Zorobabel, Jesus Christ, had in the hand of his power. ‘Lead’ refers to the Passion, as Jeremiah said:
The bellows have failed, the lead is consumed in the fire. (Jr 6,29)
(On this, see the first clause of the Gospel: I am going to him who sent me (Easter IV)). ‘Gypsum’ is the spotless life of the saints; ‘pitch’ is humility and poverty; ‘deer-marrow’ is mercifulness towards our neighbour; and ‘rose-oil’ is bodily chastity. Whoever coats the iron of his mind with all these will assuredly be totally free of the rust of sin; so it is well said: considering the iron work.
There follows: the vapour of fire wasteth his flesh. The vapour of fire is the fervour of holy zeal, which should burn away the flesh (the carnality) of the preacher or prelate. As the Apostle says, Who is weak and I am not weak? (2Co 11,29). And he fighteth with the heat of the furnace, that is, he battles against the temptation of the flesh, and its vices.
The noise of the hammer, etc. When the metal has been heated and softened, the hammer strikes it and shapes it. The hammer is God’s word, of which Jeremiah says:
Are not my words as a fire, and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? (Jr 23,29)
When the preacher strikes the mass of iron with this hammer, he inflicts the fear of torment, and his own hearing should be changed by the impact. Woe to him who strikes others, and remains insensible himself. He should say with Isaiah, Shall not I, that make others bring forth groans of compunction, myself bring forth? (cf. Is 66,9). Shall not I groan? Or else the hammer may ring out, Depart, ye cursed (Mt 25,41), which should always echo in the ears of the heart. So the text implies a change, or renewal, since he should always have a ‘newness’ in view.
His eye is on the pattern of the vessel. The preacher’s gaze (his ‘eye’) should be on the pattern of the vessels, chosen souls, so that he may make more similar. He shapes according to a pattern. He setteth his mind to finish his work, so that he may say with the Lord, I have finished the work thou gavest me to do (Jn 17,4). And his watch to polish them to perfection: he should bring the imperfection of souls to his own perfection, curing the deaf and dumb with the finger of holy action and the spittle of divine preaching, as in today’s Gospel: Jesus, going out of the coasts of Tyre, etc.
2. There are two things to note in today’s Gospel: The going out of Jesus from the region of Tyre, and the healing of the deaf and dumb man. The first begins, Jesus, going out of the coasts of Tyre. The second continues, And they bring to him one deaf and dumb. We shall concord with these clauses some texts of Ecclesiasticus.
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: Have regard to thy covenant, O Lord. The Epistle of blessed Paul to the Corinthians is read: Such confidence we have, which we will divide into two parts and concord with the two clauses of the holy Gospel The first part is: Having such confidence.The second is: Who also hath made us fit.
(On the sin of lust and pride, and on the nature of serpents, and the three ways that the avaricious extort: My son, hast thou sinned?)
3. Let us say, then:
Going out of the coasts of Tyre, Jesus came by Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. (Mc 7,31)
Allegorically. Tyre means ‘narrowness’, and it stands for Judea, to which the Lord said in Isaiah:
The bed is straitened, the covering is short, and it cannot cover both. (cf. Is 28,20)
So, Arise and let us go hence (Jn 14,3). And going from there he came by Sidon, which means ‘hunting’; that is, he came by the preaching of the Apostles, to whom he says in Jeremiah:
I will send my hunters, and they shall hunt them. (cf. Jr 16,16)
He came to the sea of Galilee, meaning ‘a wheel’. That is, he passed to the Gentiles who were in the bitter sea of sin, and on the wheel of temporal things. Through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. The Decapolis was a region of ten cities, across the Jordan. It represents the ten Commandments, which the Lord gave the nations to observe.
Literally. Mark does not say that Jesus entered the region of Decapolis, nor that he crossed the sea. He says that he came to the sea, to a place which looked towards the middle of the Decapolis region, situated far across the sea.
Let us see what is the moral significance of Tyre and its borders, of Sidon, of the sea of Galilee, and of the Decapolis. The journey is made from the borders of Tyre to the sea of Galilee, by way of Sidon. This represents the journey of life, the path of righteousness of which Isaiah says:
The way of the just is made right: the path of the just is right to walk in. (Is 25,7)
Tyre means ‘narrowness’, and Sidon the ‘hunting of sorrow’. Tyre is the world, to whose narrowness there is a concordance in Ecclesiasticus:
My son, hast thou sinned? Do so no more:
but for thy former sins also pray that they may be forgiven thee.
Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent:
for if thou comest near them, they will take hold of thee.
The teeth thereof are the teeth of a lion, killing the souls of men.
All iniquity is like a two-edged sword:
there is no remedy for the wound thereof. (Si 21,1-4)
Note these three: the serpent, the lion’s teeth, the sword. The serpent stands for lust, the lion’s teeth for avarice, and the sword for pride.
The serpent loves the shade, and is slippery. It flees from a deer, but kills a lion; and it signifies lust, which loves shadows and lives in shady people- the luke-warm and the lazy. It easily slides into the soul, so that its head may not be crushed. Therefore, "nip it in the bud." It flees from a deer (a humble penitent), because he flees from it; Fly fornication (1Co 6,18). But it kills a lion, the proud man. Before being ruined by lust, the heart is built up by pride, the root of all sin (cf. Pr 18,12 Si 10,15).
Teeth are what we chew our food with. The front teeth are called incisors, the next canines, and then molars. And note that avaricious greed is of three kinds. Some bite in such a way as to take just a part, not the whole. Others are like the canine teeth: lawyers and legal experts who for a fee will bark like dogs in any cause. Others are like molars, the powerful and the usurers who grind the poor. But:
The Lord will break the teeth of sinners and the grinders of the lions. (cf. Ps 57,7)
The sword, sharpened at both edges, (commonly called a ‘spade’) is pride which kills the soul with a double death. Fly, then, the serpent of lust, the teeth of avarice and the sword of pride. These are the borders of Tyre, in which is narrowness and affliction of spirit. Solomon says of it, in Proverbs:
The eyes of fools are in the ends of the earth. (Pr 17,24)
Boundaries divide areas of land; those bound in the toils of sin are divided from the portion of the saints.
(Against prelates of the Church: Her feet shall carry Tyre afar off.)
4. Isaiah says of this Tyre:
Her feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn.
Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, that was formerly crowned,
whose merchants were princes, and her traders the nobles of the earth?
The Lord of hosts hath designed it, to pull down the pride of all glory
and bring to disgrace all the glorious ones of the earth. (Is 23,7-9)
Tyre is the world, crowned with a crown of pride, dignity and excellence. Her ‘merchants’ are princes, the prelates of the Church, of whom the Apocalypse says: Thy merchants were the princes of the earth (Ap 18,23). These are the Ismaelite merchants who, as Genesis tells, sold Joseph into Egypt. The true Joseph, Jesus Christ, is sold today by merchant archbishops, bishops and other prelates of the Church. They run to and fro, they buy and sell and sell again truth for lies, and oppress justice with their simonies. Remember that we use the term ‘business’ sometimes to refer to a legal action or lawsuit, and sometimes for any activity as opposed to idleness. It is ‘busy-ness’, as opposed to idleness. The businessman is busy about his trade.
The ‘traders’ are hypocritical abbots and priors and false religious, who under a cloak of religion sell the false goods of fake holiness in the market-place of worldly vanity, for the coin of human praise. Tyre, then, with her traders and merchants, will be led into captivity: but how? Indeed, by her own feet on which she now runs about. They will be
the means by which she is carried off to sojourn in the exile of hell. Who could have thought it, that the princes and nobles of the earth, prelates and religious who seem to speak with God face to face, who have the keys of the kingdom of heaven, should be led off to the exile of eternal death? And so the damned, their subjects and parishioners, will say to the prelates damned in hell:
Thou also art wounded as well as we; thou art become like us.
Thy pride is brought down to hell, thy carcass is fallen down.
Under thee shall the moth be strewed, and worms shall be thy covering. (Is 14,10-11)
That is the kind of bed that bishops, prelates, abbots and false religious will have, who now (as Amos says) sleep upon beds of ivory, and are wanton on your couches (Am 6,4), just like horses and cattle in the fields. The Lord of hosts has known this, that he might pull down to hell all the proud glory of prelates, and lead down to the ignominy of eternal shame all the nobles of the earth, who are as haughty as hawks, and as fine- feathered as herons, but will go crawling on their bellies. Ecclesiasticus says: A greater punishment is ready for the more mighty (Sg 6,9). So, lest the just man who is a member of Jesus Christ should be led a-wandering with faithless Tyre, let him go out, I pray, with Jesus Christ from the borders of Tyre; as it is said: Jesus, going out of the coasts of Tyre.
There follows: He came by Sidon to the sea of Galilee. Regarding the meaning of Sidon, see in the Gospel: Jesus went from there and retired into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon (Lent II(B)). Galilee means ‘passing through’. The sea of Galilee is the bitterness of penance, through which we pass from vice to virtue, and from virtue to greater virtue. Regarding the bitterness of penance, see the Gospel of the five loaves (Lent IV).
There follows: In the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. Decapolis means ‘ten cities’, and it was a region containing ten towns. These ten cities are the ten virtues which Ecclesiasticus enumerates in praise of Simon son of Onias.
(A moral sermon on the life of the just man, and on the properties of clouds, the sun and the rainbow, on a rainy day: Simon the son of Onias, etc.)
5. Simon, the high priest, the son of Onias...
shone in his days as the morning star in the midst of a cloud,
and as the moon at the full.
And as the sun when it shineth, so did he shine in the temple of God:
and as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds,
and as the flower of roses in the days of spring,
and as the lilies that are on the brink of the water,
and as the sweet-smelling frankincense in the time of summer...
and as a massy vessel of gold, adorned with every precious stone.
As an olive tree budding forth,
and a cypress-tree rearing itself on high. (SI 5,
(We omit two items from the passage, As a bright fire, and frankincense burning in the fire, because these seem to be included in the shining sun and the sweet-smelling frankincense. From this text we can derive a sermon for any feast of holy Mary, and for the feast of an apostle, a martyr or a confessor.)
Simon means ‘hearing sadness’, and he stands for the just man who, whether eating, drinking or doing anything else, hears in the grief of his heart that terrible trumpet-call: Arise, you dead, and come to the judgement of the Lord. He is called ‘son of Onias’ (‘sorrowing to the Lord’). He is a son of that sorrow in which alone he seeks to please the Lord. The title ‘priest’ (someone who deals in holy things) is a fitting one, since he offers himself to the Lord in an odour of sweetness. Note carefully, too, that the life of a holy man is said to resemble the morning star, the moon, the sun, the rainbow, the rose, the lily, sweet-smelling incense, a gold vessel, a budding olive, and a cypress- tree. Behold the Decapolis, the region of ten cities of which the Gospel says: and you shall be over ten cities (Lc 19,17).
The life of the just man is like the morning star in the midst of a cloud, that is, in the midst of worldly vanity. When cloud covers the ground, we fear thieves. When it disperses, the sun shines with renewed brightness. When you touch it, you feel nothing. When clouds arise, it is a sign of stormy weather. When they depart, it means calm weather. A cloud seems to be a very great thing: one minute it covers the whole earth, next minute you do not know where it has gone! Worldly vanity is just the same. A thief (the devil, or sin) can hid amid worldly splendour, and so the just man is much afraid when he experiences the smile of temporal blessings. Fly, you just man! "There is a snake hiding in the grass," there is a thief hiding in the cloud!
When this cloud disperses, when the empty show of the world is despised, the sun of grace shines more brightly. As the prophet says:
Unto you that fear God, the sun of justice shall arise. (cf. Ml 4,2)
When you try to touch it, there is nothing there. As the psalm says:
They have slept their sleep:
and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands. (Ps 75,6)
It says ‘men of riches’ rather than ‘riches of men’, because they are slaves to money! When the clouds gather, it is a sign of stormy weather. When worldly glory lifts you up, it is a sign of your damnation! St Augustine says, "There is no surer sign of eternal damnation than to have worldly wealth at your beck and call." When the clouds roll away it means fair weather, the perfection referred to in the text, If you would be perfect (Mt 19,21).
A cloud looks big. Someone established in worldly glory looks more important than he is, just like a balloon full of wind looks big; but the pin-prick of death will show how insignificant he is. A cloud can cover the entire earth, making it dull and overcast. The damp valleys breathe out mist. Alas, the whole earth is covered with a cloud that prevents men seeing clearly. The psalmist says:
They are covered with their iniquity against God,
and their wickedness towards their neighbour. (Ps 72,6)
Fatness (the abundance of temporal things) hath covered his face, and his fat (riches) hangeth down in his sides. (Jb 15,27)
At one moment the cloud covers the earth, the next minute you do not know where it has gone. As Job says:
If his pride mount up even to heaven, and his head touch the clouds: in the end he shall be destroyed like a dung-hill, and they that had seen him shall say: Where is he?
As a dream that fleeth away he shall not be found, he shall pass on as a vision of the night.
The eyes that had seen him shall see him no more,
neither shall his place any more behold him. (Jb 20,6-9)
The glory of a sinner is like dung (cf. 1M 2,62), but the glory of the just man is like the morning star in the midst of a cloud: Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, Lot in the midst of Sodom, Job, brother of dragons and ostriches (Jb 30,29), Daniel in the lions’ den.
6. There follows: as the moon at the full. The full moon shines all night long; and the just man sees all kinds of sin, and suffers with all of them.
And: as the sun when it shineth, Just as motes become visible in the rays of the sun, so our defects are shown up by the life of the just man. A mote is the tiniest speck of dust, but in the sun’s rays it becomes visible. Why do we blind men not see our defects? Because we do not gaze upon the bright life of the saints. Job saw these motes when he said: I shall look upon men and shall say: I have sinned (Jb 33,27). The sun draws even drops of water to itself, and the just man converts little ones to God. The sun gives light, it is hot and round; the just man gives light to his neighbour, he is warm towards God, and well-rounded in his life. This is what the Apostle says: We should live soberly and justly and godly in this world (Tt 2,12).
And: as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds. A rainbow is caused by the refraction of the sun’s rays in a watery cloud. This watery cloud is the just man, moist with compassion for his neighbour and with damp tears. He receives the rays of the true sun in himself, and then like a cloud sheds the rain of doctrine upon others. The rainbow’s spectrum extends from red to purple, the red being the love of God, the purple being compassion for one’s neighbour. The rainbow shines in the bright clouds, and the just man, though ‘cloudy’ in men’s eyes, and despised, is bright to God.
And: as the flower of roses in the days of spring. There are two characteristics of the rose, its thorns and its sweet scent. The thorn pricks, the flower delights. So the life of the just man contains the thorn of compunction and the scent of delight; and this is in the days of spring, because he rejoices in adversity just as in time of prosperity.
And: as the lilies that are on the brink of the water. Lilies represent purity of mind and body, as Canticles says:
My beloved is gone down into his garden... to gather lilies.
I to my beloved, and my beloved to me, who feedeth among the lilies. (Ct 6,1-2)
There is always something growing in a garden. Whereas other ground brings forth fruit once a year, a garden is never without some fruit. The soul of the just man is a garden that continually bears fruit, and is never unfruitful. The beloved goes down into his garden, when the Son of God infuses grace into the soul, and takes his rest in its inward and outward purity. I belong to my beloved, says the just soul, and he belongs to me:
The Lord is the portion of my inheritance (Ps 15,5). He is my inheritance, and I am his.
The lilies are on the brink of the water, that is, of this fallen world, because the just man keeps his purity of life even in the midst of temporal abundance.
And: as the sweet-smelling frankincense in the time of summer. The incense-tree is cut in summer to prepare for the autumn gathering. Likewise, the just man is troubled in this present world, but in the world to come he will receive the fruit of eternal life. Regarding this, see more fully in the sermon: My house shall be called a house of prayer (Pentecost X).
And: as a massy vessel of gold. The hollowness of a vessel enables it to hold what is poured into it; likewise, humility of heart in a just man makes him capable of receiving grace. A convex shape repels what is poured upon it. The just man is indeed a massy vessel of gold: a vessel because he is humble, of gold because he is bright and precious, massy because he is full of the solid hope of immortality (cf. Sg 3,4). He is also adorned with every precious stone, that is, every kind of virtue.
And: as an olive tree budding forth. An olive because he is merciful, budding forth because to himself the just man always seems to be a beginner. ‘Budding’ suggests a joyful fruiting: The Lord loveth a cheerful giver (2Co 9,7).
And: as a cypress-tree rearing itself on high. The cypress is a tall tree with a rounded top. This top is the mind of the just man, rising up in the roundness of divine love, lifted up in the height of contemplation.
Blessed is the man who dwells in these ten cities. These are the cities of refuge, and whoever flees to them will be saved (cf. Dt 19,2-3). So, if you go out with Jesus from the coasts of Tyre, and come by Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis, you will be able to say like blessed Paul in today’s Epistle:
Such confidence we have, through Christ, towards God. Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God. (2Co 3,4-5)
Only the man who goes out with him from the coasts of Tyre can have confidence towards God through Jesus Christ. Contempt for earthly things gives birth to confidence in eternal things. The grace which goes before us and follows us is from him alone; so the Apostle adds: not that we are sufficient to think anything (anything good) as if it were our own, protecting us because it originated in us; but our sufficiency is from God.
(On the five rivers and their meaning, and on the three parts of an arrow: Who filleth up as Phison.)
7. There is a concordance to this in Ecclesiasticus:
Who filleth up Wisdom as the Phison, and as the Tigris in the days of new fruits.
Who maketh understanding to abound as the Euphrates, who multiplieth it as the Jordan in the time of harvest.
Who sendeth knowledge as the light,
and riseth up as Gehon in the time of the vintage. (Si 24,35-37)
Five rivers are mentioned here, to denote every perfection in this world and in heaven. The way of perfection has three stages, beginners, proficients and perfects. Phison means ‘change of mouth’, Tigris ‘arrow’ and Euphrates ‘fertile’.
Jesus Christ is like Phison to beginners, those who a short time before spoke the language of Egypt, but now speak the language of Canaan (‘exchange’). Before, their faces were darkened by the sun, but now they are bright. Just as the river Phison abounds and floods, so Christ makes wisdom to abound in beginners, so that they relish the things of God, who previously relished the things of the flesh (cf. Rm 8,5).
He is like the Tigris to proficients, in the days of new growth and bearing seed. It is then that the Tigris overflows. An arrow has three parts: the wooden shaft, the iron tip, the feathered flight which makes it fly straight. Christ wounds the hearts of penitents with the wood of his Passion, the iron of fear and the feather of his love; and daily they progress, and like the good seed they grow from virtue to virtue, every day.
He is like the Euphrates to the perfect, whose senses are full of fertile virtues. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the Apostle says:
Strong meat is for the perfect; for them who by custom have their senses exercised to the discerning of good and evil. (He 5,14)
We should note that the perfection of heaven consists in three things: the glorification of the soul, and of the body, and the vision of God Three and One. Thus we may say: Who multiplieth the Jordan in the time of harvest. The Jordan rises from two springs, which stand for the double robe of overflowing glory. The time of harvest is eternal happiness. The Jordan is said to multiply waters, because in the time of harvest it flows with a great volume of water, increasing its waters when other streams are failing. It will be like that in eternal bliss. The delights of evil men will fail, but robe upon robe of eternal glory will be multiplied for the blessed.
God will then be to us like Gehon, illuminating the Church Triumphant with the Vision of himself, there in his presence, and making it fruitful, and satisfying it in the time of vintage (regarding which, see the first clause of the Gospel: A certain man made a great supper (Pentecost II). The Apostle says well, then: Our sufficiency is from God.
We ask you, then, Lord Jesus, to make us go out from Tyre, and come by Sidon to the sea of penitence, amid the region of Decapolis; and to make us so abound in the perfection appropriate to this life’s journey, that we may be made fit to go up to the perfection of glory. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A theme for a sermon on the human heart, and the bodily senses: The king that sitteth on the throne.)
8. There follows, secondly:
And they bring to him one deaf and dumb; and they besought him that he would lay his hand upon him. And, taking him from the multitude apart, he put his fingers into his ears: and spitting, he touched his tongue. And, looking up to heaven, he groaned and said to him: Ephphetha, which is, Be thou opened. And immediately his ears were opened and the string of his tongue was loosed. (Mc 7,32-35)
Let us see what is the moral significance of the deaf and dumb man, the hand of Jesus, the taking from the multitude apart, the fingers, the spittle and the groaning of Jesus. Deafness arises from the reception of unclean fluids in the ears. Dumbness is the inability to enunciate words, but to make only a senseless noise, the emission of the voice through the nose, like the bellowing of an animal. Solomon testifies that life issues from the heart of a man (cf. Pr 20,8); which is a well-spring of heat that gives life to the limbs, and nourishes them.
The heart is like a king, ruling and organizing the city of the body, as Ecclesiasticus says:
The king, that sitteth on the throne of judgement, scattereth away all evil with his look. (Pr 20,8)
A throne is a firmly based seat: when the heart of man is at rest, sitting upon a throne of firmness and constancy, it scatters all evil and malice of the body with its look, its discretion. This king has five special ministers, the five bodily senses. Of these, two are particularly important and close to him, the ears and the tongue. By his ears, he knows what is going on around him; with his tongue he expresses his inner thoughts. Thus Ruth said to Boaz:
Thou hast spoken to the heart of thy handmaid. (Rt 2,13) and Isaiah:
Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem. (Is 40,2)
and the Psalm:
The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom; (Ps 36,30)
that is, shall speak the wisdom he has meditated. But if the ears are blocked up with filth, and the tongue is tied, what shall that king, the heart, do? His kingdom is destroyed, because the ministers by whom the business of the kingdom, the secret plans and royal decrees, are carried out are destroyed. What is to be done, then? Only one course of action remains: to take the deaf and dumb man to Jesus, and ask him to lay his hand upon him.
The king is the human spirit, the ears are obedience, the tongue is confession.
Regarding the ears of obedience, Job says:
With the hearing of the ear, I have heard thee: but now my eye seeth thee.
Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes. (Jb 42,5-6)
In this text there are five things to note: obedience, contemplation, confession, satisfaction, and the remembrance of our lowliness and weakness.
9. Obedience is expressed by: With the hearing of the ear, I have heard thee. The sense of hearing receives the vibration of the air. The ear takes it in readily. I hear, I perceive with my ears. Obedience is ‘respectful listening’. When the voice of your superior (as it were ‘air’, with nothing earthly about it) vibrates in your ear, you should hear not just with your ear, but with the sense of hearing in your ear, and the affection of your inmost heart. You should say with Samuel: Speak, Lord, your servant is listening (1S 3,10)
Contemplation is expressed by: But now my eye seeth thee. You will not see unless you are obedient. If you are deaf, you will be blind too. Obey with the affection of your heart, so that you may see with the eye of contemplation. As Ecclesiasticus says:
God set their eye upon their hearts. (cf. Si 17,7)
God sets the eye upon the heart when from an obedient heart he infuses the light of contemplation. Zechariah says:
The Lord is the eye of man and of all the tribes of Israel. (Za 9,1)
When the first man was obedient in paradise, the Lord was his eye; so:
Having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, he brought them to Adam to see (i.e. to make him see) what he would call them.(Gn 2,19)
But when he was disobedient, it was not God but the devil who was his blinded eye:
The woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold:
and she took of the fruit thereof and did eat.(Gn 3,6)
‘All the tribes of Israel’ means penitents, who, as long as they are wholeheartedly obedient to their superiors, are the true Israel which sees God (cf. Gn 32,34).
Confession is expressed by: Therefore I reprehend myself- I accuse myself in confession. This was no dumb or deaf man, but one who heard clearly, and rightly reprehended himself. So he says elsewhere, I tear my flesh with my teeth (Jb 13,14). These are the words of a true penitent: I tear my flesh, my carnal nature, with the teeth of my self-accusation. Canticles says:
Thy teeth as flocks of sheep, that are shorn, which come up from the washing. (Ct 4,2)
This flock of shorn sheep is the assembly of penitents, who go up from virtue to virtue from the washing of tears, whereby they are made whiter than snow. Let your teeth, brother, be like this flock of shorn sheep: that is, reprehend yourself and do penance, just as they do.
Satisfaction is expressed by: I do penance. Penance is, as it were, a penalty; and a man who repents punishes in himself the evil that he has acknowledged. ‘Penance’ and ‘penalty’ are related; by it the soul is afflicted and the flesh mortified.
The remembrance of lowliness and mortality is expressed by: In dust and ashes. Ashes are made by fire, and represent the remembrance of our lowliness. Alas! The tall cedar of paradise was burned to ashes by the devil’s fire; so Joel:
To thee, O Lord, will I cry: because fire hath devoured the beautiful places of the wilderness,
and the flame hath burnt all the trees of the country. (Jl 1,19)
(See the Gospel: Jesus went out and retired to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon (Lent N(B))). Dust represents our mortality: Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return (Gn 3,19). Whoever lacks the affection of obedience and the tongue of confession is truly deaf and dumb. ‘Deaf’ and ‘defile’ sound alike. Jeremiah says in Lamentations:
Her filthiness is on her feet. (Lm 1,9)
The ‘feet’ are the affections of the soul, by which she is made deaf when the defilement of vice sticks to them. Isaiah says:
All tables were full of vomit and filth, so that there was no more place. (Is 28,8)
Where there is ‘vomit’ (the repetition of sin) there is abominable filth, which so stops up the ears of the heart that there is no more room for obedience. The Lord complains of this deaf man in Isaiah:
Who is deaf, but he to whom I have sent my messengers?...
Thou that hast ears open, wilt thou not hear? (Is 42,19-20)
Natural History tells us that when a deer’s ears are pricked up, it hears very keenly, and at once knows the hunter that seeks to kill it. But if its ears are down, it hears nothing, and is unaware of the one who kills it. Isaiah says:
He waketh in the morning: in the morning he wakeneth my ear,
that I may hear him as a master. (Is 50,4)
Awaken your ears like a deer, then, you deaf man! Hear your master, and so become aware of the demon huntsman’s cunning. But if you lower your ears and despise obedience: believe me, you will be slain!
(On confession: Out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber.)
10. There are some dumb folk who mumble in confession, stammering as they confess their sins, which they are more ashamed to own up to that to commit! St Augustine says, "Shame is the main part of penance." This is a wholesome shame, leading to glory, when someone is ashamed of his sin and, being ashamed, reveals it in confession. So Isaiah says:
Be thou ashamed, O Sidon: saith the sea. (Is 23,4)
The sea of inner bitterness brings it about that the man who confesses outwardly feels shame. And so Ezekiel says:
Out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber. (Ez 1,4)
Amber is composed of gold and silver. The red blush of confession is represented by gold, the sound by silver; and so the amber of confession comes from the midst of the fire of contrition. This amber does not belong to the dumb man, of whom it is told that: They brought to him a deaf and dumb man and besought him to lay his hand on him.
The hand is the tool of the entire body, and a man’s means of defence. It carries food to his mouth, and it does all kinds of work. The ‘hand’ represents the Word Incarnate, whom the Father has given as the supreme help to the body which is the Church. This help is, first, admonition. This great Gift admonishes us to love the Father who gave it. Isaiah says of this gift:
As if the children of Israel should bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. (Is 66,20)
That is, the children of Israel (the faithful) should bring an offering (faith in the Word Incarnate) in a vessel (a pure heart) into the house of the Lord (Holy Church).
This hand strengthens the Church, and strengthens the soul. As Isaiah says:
Sion, the city of our strength: a Saviour, a wall and a bulwark, shall be set therein. (Is 26,1)
A wall is a fortification that protects the city within. Sion (Holy Church) is the city of our strength, and outside it there is no salvation, in it our Saviour has been set as a wall and bulwark; the ‘wall’ being his divinity and the ‘bulwark’ his humanity. The Church is strengthened by the Word Incarnate, and remains secure.
This hand bears food to the whole Church. So the Psalm says:
Thou openest thy hand: and filest with blessing every living creature. (Ps 144,16)
When Christ extended his hand upon the Cross, and willed that, so extended, it should be opened by the nail, he poured out the treasure of mercy through that opening and filled every living creature with blessing. Every living creature, that is animated and moves by the spirit. Every living creature, meaning every soul animated by the spirit of contrition and moved daily by it from virtue to virtue.
This hand does all kinds of work: creation, restoration, infusion of grace, eternal blessedness. All this is meant by: They besought him to lay his hand upon him.
(A moral sermon on contempt for the world: Two angels, etc.)
11. There follows: And taking him from the multitude apart. A ‘multitude’ suggests an unruly crowd. Someone who is to be cured must be removed from unruly thoughts, undisciplined actions and loose talk. We are told in Genesis that two angels took Lot by the hand, and brought him forth, and set him outside the city (cf. Gn 19,16-17). These two angels are the fear and the love of God, which still take Lot’s hand when they restrain a sinner’s deeds, and lead him from the crowd of unruly thoughts, and set him
outside the city of bad habits.
(On the five fingers of Jesus Christ, and their meaning.
A sermon on the Nativity of the Lord: The potter sitting at his work.)
There follows: He put his fingers into his ears. The fingers are the proper extensions of the hand. The first is the thumb, stronger than the rest; with the second we point and salute in greeting; the third is the middle finger; the fourth is the ring finger, also called the ‘medical’ finger because doctors use it to apply ointment; the fifth is the ‘ear’ finger, because we use it to scratch our ears. We note that the ‘hand’ of the Incarnate Word also has these five fingers: the ‘thumb’ being his Conception, the ‘pointing’ finger his Nativity, the ‘middle’ his preaching’, the ‘medical’ his working of miracles, and the ‘ear’ his Passion.
The thumb is shorter than the rest, but stronger. It represents the humility of the Son of God, who constricted himself into the womb of the glorious Virgin. Ecclesiasticus says: He boweth down his strength before his feet (Si 38,33). His ‘feet’ means his humanity, his ‘strength’ his divinity: so he humbles and bows down the strength of his divinity before the feet of his humanity. In his birth, the angel pointed out salvation as with a finger, saying:
This day is born to you a Saviour...
and this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find a babe, etc. (Lc 2,11-12)
The middle finger is his preaching, announcing the kingdom of heaven to all. ‘Middle’ suggests moderation, measuredness. He measured out the word of life to each, according to their capacities and abilities. The ‘medical’ finger is the working of miracles. As Ecclesiasticus says:
Honour the physician for the need thou hast of him. (Si 38,1)
The ‘ear’ signifies obedience:
He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, (Ph 2,8)
wherein he completed the work his Father had given him to do (cf. Jn 17,4). As Ecclesiasticus says:
The potter sitting at his work, turning the wheel about with his feet, who is always carefully set to his work. (Si 38,32)
The potter is Jesus Christ, who ‘sits’ (humbles himself) at his ‘work’ (the salvation of mankind), and with the ‘feet’ of his humanity turns the ‘wheel’ of human nature, so that those who had been hastening towards death might hasten towards life. He is always carefully set to his work for us, until the work is completed- as he said at the end: It is finished (Jn 19,30). With these five fingers the Lord healed the deafness of the human race.
(A sermon on the Nativity, and on the six wings of the Seraphim: One flew to me.)
12. There follows: And spitting, he touched his tongue. To spit is to emit saliva, a salty fluid secreted from the head. It is said that if a snake tastes the saliva of a man who is fasting, it dies. We use the term ‘saliva’ when it is in the mouth, ‘spittle’ when it is spat forth. The Lord’s spittle is the savour of Wisdom, which says:
I came forth from the mouth of the Most High. (Si 26,5)
The Lord spits upon the tongue of the dumb man, to make him speak; and he touches it in order to shape a mouth, which had long uttered only animal noises in confession of sin, to utter words of wisdom through contact with his holiness. There is something similar in Isaiah, where it says:
And one of the seraphims flew to me: and in his hand was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: Behold, this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquities shall be taken away, and thy sin shall be cleansed. (Is 6,6-7)
The two seraphim represent the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son flew to the Redemption of the human race, so that being Son of God in his divine nature, he might be son of man in his human nature; yet not two sons but one Son. This seraph (as Isaiah himself had already said) had six wings, those six characteristics which the prophet enumerates:
His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God, the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace. (Is 9,6)
He was Wonderful in his Nativity. As Jeremiah says:
The Lord will make a new thing on the earth, etc. (cf. Jr 31,22)
He was Counsellor in his preaching:
If you would be perfect, etc. (Mt 19,21)
He was God in working miracles:
God himself will come and save you.
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free. (Is 35,5-6)
He was Mighty in his Passion, when with hands nailed to the Cross he did battle against the powers of the air. What could be mightier than to conquer one’s enemy with hands bound? He was Father of the world to come in the Resurrection. Rising from the dead, he bestowed on us the same hope of rising in the world to come. There he will be like a father to us, taking us to himself as his own children. He will be Prince of peace to us in eternal blessedness, when he will make us sit down, and passing will minister to us (cf. Lc 12,37).
There is a concordance to these six in Ecclesiasticus, where he says to the Father: Renew thy signs, and work new miracles.
Glorify thy hand and thy right arm.
Raise up indignation and pour out thy wrath.
Lift up the adversary and crush the enemy.
Haste the time and remember the end. (Si 36,6-10)
The Father renewed signs and worked new miracles in the Birth of his Son. A sign is a visible thing which has a further meaning to be understood. The first Adam was made of the virgin earth, signifying that the second Adam was to be born of the blessed earth, the Virgin Mary. It was a miracle that the fire burned and the bush was not consumed, and when Aaron’s rod budded without moisture. The bush and the rod signify the Virgin Mary, who with unspotted virginity and without pain brought forth the Son of God. Thus God renews signs and works new miracles. He glorifies his hand in preaching, and his right arm (the same Son by whom he made all things) in working miracles. As he himself said in John: Glorify me, Father (Jn 17,5). He raises up indignation and pours out wrath upon the devil, in his Passion. He lifts up the adversary (human nature) in the Resurrection, and so crushes the enemy (the devil). The enemy is afflicted by nothing so much as by seeing his adversary raised up in glory. He hastens the time to come quickly to judgement, rendering to each what he deserves. Hasten the time to give your people peace! The Lord will give us peace (Is 26,12). He remembers the end that he will give the wicked, according to their works. Let us say, then, One of the seraphim flew to me.
There follows: And in his hand was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar. The word used means, strictly, a ‘chalk’: a little piece of stone mixed with earth, easily crushed on account of its smallness. Here it means ‘charcoal’. This ‘chalk’ is the humanity of Jesus Christ, which because of his humility was mixed with ‘earth’ (sinners), and crushed by the Jews; yet was a burning coal to us, purging our vices. He held this in his ‘hand’, the power of his divinity, having taken it with the tongs of a two-fold love from the altar of the glorious Virgin. Tongs are a smith’s tool, holding the heated metal in an iron grip. The tongs which smiths use resemble the forceps or tweezers used by tailors, doctors and barbers to grip threads or hairs.
Blessed Mary is indeed an altar. The word suggests ‘altitude’, which may mean distance upwards or downwards. An altar is an elevated structure on which sacrifice is offered. Blessed Mary was both ‘high’ in her sublime contemplation, and ‘low’ in her humility. She was an altar burning with the fire of divine love, offering herself to the Lord in an odour of sweetness (cf. Ep 5,2).
And he touched my mouth, etc. This is what is spoken of in today’s Gospel: Spitting, he touched his tongue. The seraph touched Isaiah’s mouth with the coal, and cleansed his sin. Jesus Christ touched the tongue of the dumb man with spittle, and he spoke. He touches the sinner’s mouth with the coal of his humanity, and his tongue with the saliva of his divinity, so that he may confess his sin, speak rightly, and be cleansed.
(On the preacher: Him that is liberal of his bread.)
13. There follows: And looking up to heaven, he groaned and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. He taught us to groan, and to lift up our heart’s treasure to heaven, which by our sorrow is purged from the frivolous joys of the flesh. So it is said: I roared with the groaning of my heart (Ps 37,9). He said to him: Ephpheta. With the heart we believe unto justice; but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rm 10,10). And at once his ears were opened to obey, and the band of his tongue was loosed to confess. Note what is said: He spoke rightly. He speaks rightly, who confesses his sin with all its circumstances, and with the intention of not sinning again.
He speaks rightly, too, who witnesses by works to what he preaches with his mouth. There is a concordance to this in Ecclesiasticus:
The lips of many shall bless him that is liberal of his bread;
and the testimony of his truth is faithful. (Si 31,28)
He who faithfully dispenses the bread of God’s word, and does not hide the testimony of truth, will be blessed in this present life and in that which is to come. How many people there are today who are liberal in their words, but leprous in their deeds! In Exodus we read that Moses appeared ‘horned’ (cf. Ex 34,30). Origen comments, "Why did only the face of Moses appear glorious, while his hand was leprous and his feet without glory?
Because he made him remove his shoes, when he called him from the bush." The same may be said of those preachers who make a splendid show in their preaching, but are unclean in their works. They are shoeless, not true husbands to the Church, and they deserve to be spat in the face, because they are unwilling to raise up children to their dead brother, Jesus Christ (cf. Dt 25,5-10). Indeed, if there are children, they kill them by their bad example. The Psalm says:
The floods have lifted up, O Lord: the floods have lifted up their voice. (Ps 92,3)
They should first lift themselves up, and then their voice, so that it may be said: He spoke rightly.
(On the testament and what it means.)
14. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
God also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament, not in the letter but in the spirit. For the letter killeth but the spirit quickeneth. (2Co 3,6)
See how the Epistle is concordant with the Gospel, and the Introit of the Mass with the Epistle. In the Gospel it says that the Lord put his fingers in the ears of the deaf man, and in the Epistle it says that the Law was written on stone by the finger of God. In the Introit we sing: Have regard to thy covenant; and we read in the Epistle: Who hath made us fit ministers of the new testament.
Let us say, then: Who hath made us fit ministers of the new testament. A minister is one of lesser station, who performs some manual duty. A testament takes effect only after the death of the testator: as the Apostle says: A testament is of force after men are dead (He 9,17). Fit ministers of the new testament are those who first hear, with the five fingers of Jesus Christ in their ears; and then speak: ‘Come!’ Those who speak rightly look upon themselves as the least in the congregation of the faithful. They perform their duty with hand and with work, so as worthily to administer the word of the New Testament, and they are given force in the death of Jesus Christ.
The Introit speaks of this:
Have regard, O Lord, for thy covenant:
and do not leave to the end the souls of thy poor.
Arise, O God, judge thine own cause,
and forget not the voices of them that seek thee. (cf. Ps 73
Lord Jesus Christ, have regard to your covenant, which you have confirmed to your children with your blood; lest you should die intestate. Give them to speak your word with confidence. Do not leave to the end the souls you have redeemed, the souls of your poor who have no inheritance apart from you. Uphold them, Lord, with the staff of your strength, because they are your poor. Lead them, do not desert them, lest without you they stray. Guide them to the end, so that finding their fulfilment in you, their end, they may attain to you, their end. Arise, Lord, who now seem to sleep, overlooking the sins of men for the sake of repentance (Sg 11,24), and judge your cause (that is, distinguish from the wicked, like wheat from the chaff, the souls for whose sake you were led before Pontius Pilate). As the Psalm says:
Thou hast maintained my judgement and my cause. (Ps 9,5)
Do not forget the voices of them that seek you, for that is the meaning of the Gospel words, He spoke rightly. He spoke (that is the voice) rightly (of them that seek the Lord). God does not forget the voice of such a one; indeed, he stores him in the treasury of his glory, to receive an eternal reward.
We ask you, then, Lord Jesus, to open our ears with the fingers of your Incarnation, and to touch our tongue with the spittle of divine Wisdom, so that we may obey, praise and bless you, and attain to you who are blessed and glorious. Grant this, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Let every faithful soul say: Amen. Alleluia.
Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)