Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)
(On the Passion: When Jesus went up into the boat.)
2. The boat is the Cross of Jesus Christ, by means of which we reach the shore of our eternal homeland. A boat is narrow at bow and stern, but wide in the middle. In the same way the Cross was constricted at beginning and end (the fastening of hands and feet with nails, and the giving up of his spirit), being full of anguish. The middle, when he prayed for his crucifiers, promised the kingdom to the thief, and commended his mother to the disciple, was as it were ‘wide’. Regarding this boat, see the Gospel: Jesus entered the boat and took ship across the sea, etc. (Pentecost XIX).
His disciples followed him. This is what the Lord says in Jeremiah:
Thou shalt call me father, and shalt not cease to walk alter me. (Jr 3,19)
Blessed is that soul which can say to Jesus what Ruth said to Naomi:
Whithersoever thou shalt go, I will go;
and where thou shalt dwell, I also will dwell. (Rt 1,16)
If the Lord be God, follow him. (1R 18,21)
Truly, he is the Lord our God, who ascended the Cross to redeem us. Let us follow him, then, bearing the cross of penance. He says: If any man would follow me, etc. (Mt 16,24). The Natural History tells us that the female leopard has a sweet scent, which wonderfully affects cattle. Whenever they get her scent, they hasten together and follow her. The alabaster jar of ointment has been broken on the Cross, and it has filled the whole world with its fragrance (cf. Mc 14,3 Jn 12,3). Let the disciples follow, then. Let Christians run in the fragrance of the Crucified.
His disciples followed him. It says in the fourth book of Kings that
when the sons of the prophets were cutting wood, it happened that the iron axe-head of one of them fell in the water. He cried out to Eliseus, saying: Alas, my lord, for this same was borrowed. Eliseus replied: Where did it fall? and he showed him the place. Then he took some wood and threw it in, and the iron floated. He said: Take it up; and he put out his hand and took it (cf. 2R 6,4-7).
The iron stands for the human race, which by the weight of sin became separated from the wood and fell into the waters of sorrow and guilt. Christ the true Eliseus freed it by the wood of the Cross and the waters of Baptism. The iron floats to the wood, when the converted sinner subjects himself to carry the Cross of Christ.
There follows: And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves; but he was asleep. (Mt 8,24)
When Jesus slept on the Cross in the sleep of death, his disciples, who reckoned nothing of the Cross, fell from the firmness of faith; but they roused him, when they sought the Resurrection.
He upbraided them with their incredulity, saying: O foolish and slow of heart to believe... Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? (Mc 16,14 Lc 24,25-26)
He ‘commanded the winds and the sea’ when unbelief ceased.
(On the devil’s temptation and the succour of Jesus Christ: "When anyone boards the boat of penance".
3. Morally. When anyone boards the boat of penance, a great storm arises in the sea. The sea is the heart; Jeremiah says:
The heart of man is deep and unsearchable. Who can know it? (Jr 17,9)
Wonderful are the surgings of the sea (Ps 92,4), when it is tossed high by pride, and bursts its bounds by ambition; when it is overclouded by sorrow, troubled by vain thoughts, and foaming with lust and gluttony. These are the creeping things without number (Ps 103,25).
Behold, a great tempest arose in the sea. There is a concordance in the prophet Jonah:
The Lord sent (i.e. allowed to be sent) a great wind into the sea: and a great tempest was raised in the sea, and the ship was in danger to be broken. And they were greatly afraid, and the sea tossed and swelled upon them. (JON ,
Similarly, in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke says:
There arose against the ship a tempestuous wind, called Euraquilo. And when the ship was caught and could not bear up against the wind, giving up the ship to the winds, we were driven. (Ac 27,14-15)
Only those who embark on the boat of penance feel the movement of the sea, the blast of the wind and the roaring of the waves. Those who oppose it, feel it. As Moses says in Exodus:
Since the time that I went in to Pharao to speak in thy name, he hath afflicted thy people. (Ex 5,23)
That is to say, when the devil is rejected he rises in rage and stirs up a storm in the sea. So Mark says:
And crying out and greatly tearing him, he went out of him. (Mc 4,38)
4. There follows: But he was asleep. Mark puts it like this:
He was in the hinder part of the ship, sleeping peacefully upon a pillow. (Mc 4,38)
Let us see what is meant by Christ’s sleep, the stern of the ship, and the pillow. Christ’s ‘sleep’ is sluggishness of faith; the ‘stern’ is the end of our life; the ‘pillow’ is the pampering of the flesh. Faith in Christ slumbers when the flesh is pampered:
How long wilt thou be in deliciousness, O wandering daughter? (Jr 31,22)
The soft-living will not possess the kingdom of God (cf. 1Co 6,10). When our flesh wallows in pleasure, our faith in Christ sleeps, and the soul closes its eyes in the ‘stern’.
Intent upon pleasure, it pays no heed to the wretched end of its life.
There follows: His disciples came to him and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish.
Without a doubt, the man in whom the faith of Christ sleeps will perish. It should be reawakened with renewed devotion, with the cry of confession and with the hand of holy activity.
Then, rising up, he commanded the winds and the sea.
This is similar to what Job says:
Who shut up the sea with doors?
And I said: Hitherto shalt thou come, and shalt go no farther.
And here thou shalt break thy swelling waves. (Jb 38,8)
As if to say, only the Lord shuts the sea up as though with doors, the bitter sea of persecution and the devil’s temptation. Temptation only comes when he pleases, and it recedes when he pleases; and when he makes it cease, he says: Here shalt thou break thy swelling waves. Isaiah says:
The yoke shall putrefy at the presence of the oil, (Is 10,27)
meaning that temptation will cease at the presence of Jesus’ mercy. So when we are tempted by the devil, we should say with heartfelt devotion: "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who commanded the winds and the sea, I command you, devil, to depart from me."
And there came a great calm. This is what Anna says in the book of Tobias:
This I am sure of, that every one that worshippeth thee,
that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned;
and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered;
and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to thy mercy.
For thou art not delighted in our being lost,
because after a storm thou makest a calm,
and alter tears and weeping thou pourest in joyfulness. (Tb 3,21-22)
5. And because one cannot have peace of mind without love of neighbour (for where there is love, there can be no anger or indignation) the Apostle urges us to have this, in today’s Epistle:
Owe no man anything, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the Law... Love therefore is the fulfilling of the Law. (Rm 13,8)
Love binds us together. I am bound to every man by a debt of love, which I am ever bound to pay. If I fulfil it as I should,
From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me, (Ga 6,17)
for I owe no-one anything, but this alone. Whoever asks something other than this from me is no longer walking according to love:
Love of neighbour worketh no evil. (Rm 13,10)
11 He means Sarah.
To you, Jesus Christ, beloved Son of God the Father, who work all our good, be all praise, all glory, all honour and all reverence. You are Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. By the kindness of your mercy and the infusion of your piety, you have granted me, unworthy as I am, to attain the long-desired end of this work.
And so, dear brothers, I the least of all of you, your brother and servant, have somehow composed this work on the Gospels around the year, for your comfort, for the edification of the faithful, and for the remission of my sins. I humbly pray and beseech you, that when you read this work you will remember me, your brother, before God the Son of God, who offered himself to God the Father on the wood of the Cross.
I ask also, that if you find in this work anything edifying, comforting, well-expressed or well-composed: you will refer all praise, all glory and all honour to the same blessed Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And if you find anything badly put, dull, or less well-
expressed: put it down to my weakness, blindness and lack of wisdom. And if anything be found in this volume that should be erased or corrected, I commit it to the discrete polishing of the wise of our Order, for clarification and emendation.
Praise be to the Father invisible; praise be to the Holy Spirit; praise be to Jesus Christ the Son, the Lord of heaven and earth. Amen. Alpha and Omega. Glory, honour and reverence, praise and blessing, without end for ever. Amen.
Copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
He shone as the morning star in the midst of a cloud,
and as the full moon in its days;
and as the sun when it shineth...
and as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds,
and as the flower of roses in the days of the spring,
and as the lilies that are on the brink of the water,
and as the sweet-smelling frankincense in the time of summer:
as a bright fire,
and frankincense burning in the fire,
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 50,6-11)
Behold the twelve precious stones in Aaron’s diadem! Behold the twelve stars in the crown of the glorious Virgin, in whose praise, and according to the four festivals of her Nativity, Annunciation, Purification and Assumption, we mean to divide this text of Ecclesiasticus into four sermons, and briefly concord it with each festival, as our Lady herself shall grant.
The Sermon for her Nativity:
As the morning star in the midst of a cloud, and as the full moon in its days.
On the Annunciation:
As the sun when it shineth.. and as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds.
On the Nativity of the Lord:1
As the flower of roses in the days of the spring, and as the lilies that are on the brink of the water.
On the Purification:
As the sweet-smelling frankincense in the time of summer: as a bright fire, and frankincense burning in the fire,
On the Assumption:
As a massy vessel of gold, etc.
(As the morning star.)
1. Let us say, then: The glorious Virgin Mary was as the morning star, etc.
The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven: enlightening the world. (Si 43,10)
In these three words, three things are to be noted, which shone forth wonderfully in the birth of the blessed Virgin: namely, the joy of the angels, in the words ‘the beauty of heaven’. There is a legend2 that a certain holy man, while devoutly praying, heard the angels in heaven singing a sweet melody. When a year had passed, he heard the same again, on the same day. He asked the Lord to show him the meaning of this; and received the reply that on that day blessed Mary was born, and for her Nativity the angels in heaven gave praise to God. That is why the birthday of the glorious Virgin is celebrated on this day. The purity of her birth is expressed by ‘the glory of the stars’. Just
as star differeth from star in glory (1Co 15,41), so the birth of the blessed Virgin differs from the birth of all other saints. The illumination of the whole world is expressed by ‘enlightening the world’. The birth of the blessed Virgin gave light to a world covered by darkness and the shadow of death. Hence the words of Ecclesiasticus are apt: As the morning star in the midst of a cloud, etc.
2. The morning star is called Lucifer, because it shines more brightly among all the other stars, with what is properly called ‘radiance’. Lucifer, going before the sun and heralding the morning, scatters the shades of night with the brightness of its light. The true morning star, or Lucifer, is blessed Mary; who, born in the midst of a cloud, put to flight the shadowy cloud, and in the morning of grace heralded the sun of justice to those who sat in darkness. And so the Lord says of her in Job:
Canst thou bring forth Lucifer in its time? (Jb 38,32)
When the time of mercy came, the time to build the Lord’s house, the acceptable time and the day of salvation, then the Lord brought forth ‘Lucifer’- blessed Mary- to be the light of the people. They should say to her what the people said to Judith, in that book:
The Lord hath blessed thee by his power,
because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought.
Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God,
above all women upon the earth.
Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth,
who hath directed thee to the wounding of the head of the prince of our enemies.
Because he hath so magnified thy name this day,
that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men. (Jdt 13,22-25)
Blessed Mary, then, was like the morning star in her Nativity; of which Isaiah says:
There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse: and a flower shall rise up out of his root. (Is 11,1)
Note that blessed Mary is called a ‘rod’ because of five qualities which it has: length, straightness, firmness, gracefulness and flexibility. In the same way, blessed Mary has
‘length’ in contemplation; ‘straightness’ in the perfection of her justice; ‘firmness’ in the stability of her mind; ‘gracefulness’ in her poverty; and ‘flexibility’ in her humility. She is the rod, sprung from the root of Jesse, who was the father of David, from whom was descended Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ (Mt 1,16). So in today’s Gospel we read: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, etc. (Mt 1,1).
(A moral sermon for the same feast on penitence: There shall come forth.)
3. There shall come forth a rod out of the root, etc. Let us see what is the moral significance of the root, the rod and the flower. The root is humility of heart; the rod is rightness of confession and discipline of satisfaction; and the flower is the hope of eternal beatitude. Jesse means ‘island’ or ‘sacrifice’, and so he stands for the penitent, whose mind should be like an island. An island is situated in the salty sea; so the mind of the penitent is situated in the ‘sea’ of bitterness, beaten by the waves of temptation, yet standing immovable. He offers a sacrifice of justice to the Lord in the odour of sweetness. The root of this Jesse is humble contrition, from which arises the rod of right confession and the discipline of well-judged affliction. Note, too, that the flower arises not from the top of the rod, but from the root: A flower shall rise up out of his root, because the ‘flower’, the hope of eternal life, does not spring from bodily affliction but from humility of mind.
There is a concordance to this in today’s Gospel, in which Matthew, describing the genealogy of Christ, starts with Abraham and then mentions David and the exile in Babylon. In Abraham, who said: I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes (Gn 18,27), we see humility of heart. In David, whose heart was right with the Lord: I have found David a man according to my own heart (Ac 13,23), we see rightness of confession. In the Babylonian exile we see the discipline of affliction and the bearing of tribulation. If this three-fold generation comes in you first, then you will reach the fourth generation, that is, of Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary. Of her birth today is said: As the morning star in the midst of a cloud.
4. There follows: And as the full moon shineth in its days. Blessed Mary is called a ‘full moon’ because she is perfect in every way. The half-moon is imperfect, having markings and horns; but the glorious Virgin had no spot in her birth, because she was sanctified in her mother’s womb and guarded by angels; and no horns of pride in her days, so that she shines fully and perfectly. She is called ‘light’, because she scatters the darkness.
We ask you then, our Lady, that as you are the morning star, you may by your splendour drive away the cloud of the devil's suggestions which covers the earth of our minds. Do you, who are the full moon, fill our emptiness and scatter the darkness of our sins, so that we may be able to come to the fulness of eternal life, to the light of unending glory. May he grant this, who brought you forth to be our light, who made you to be born on this day, that he might be born of you. To him be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(As the sun when it shineth)
1. As the sun when it shineth... and as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds, Ecclesiasticus says:
(The sun is) an admirable vessel, the work of the Most High. (Si 43,2)
Blessed Mary is called a ‘vessel’, because she is "the bride-chamber of the Son of God, the guest-room of the Holy Spirit, and the banqueting hall of the Holy Trinity."3 Ecclesiasticus says:
He that made me rested in my tabernacle. (Si 24,12)
This vessel is an admirable work of the Most High, that is, of the Son of God, who made her in whom he himself took flesh to be more beautiful than all other mortals, holier than all other saints.
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. ()
The third book of Kings says of this admirable work, that Solomon carved on the doors of the temple cherubims and figures of palm-trees and reliefs (cf. 1R 6,32). Blessed Mary is the gate of heaven and the door of paradise. On her the true Solomon has engraved ‘cherubim’ (the angelic life and the fulness of charity), ‘palm-trees’ (which stand for victory over the enemy, the evergreenness of perseverance and the heights of contemplation), and ‘reliefs’ (outstanding heavenly qualities, humility and virginity). All these were engraved by the hand of Wisdom upon the blessed Virgin. It is well said of her, then: As the sun when it shineth.
(On the same text, on the nature and chastity of the elephant.)
2. Note that blessed Mary was like the shining sun at the angel’s Annunciation; as a bright rainbow at the conception of the Son of God; and as the rose and the lily at his Nativity. The sun has three properties: brightness, whiteness and heat, which correspond to the three utterances of Gabriel. The first is: Hail, full of grace; the second: Fear not; the third: The Holy Spirit will come upon you.
When he says: Hail full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women-
there is the brightness of the sun. We can relate this to four virtues, each of which you may find shining threefold in Mary. From temperance she derived control of the flesh, modesty of speech and lowliness of heart. She showed prudence when she was silent though troubled, when she understood what she heard, and when she replied to what was proposed. She possessed justice when she gave to each its proper due. She followed custom with a steadfast heart in her espousal, in her Son's circumcision, and in her legal purification. She showed compassion to the afflicted when she said: They have no wine; and communion with the saints when she was persevering in prayer with the Apostles and the women (cf. Ac 1,14). From fortitude or greatness she undertook the intention of virginity, she held to it, and showed faith in so great a matter.
According to St Bernard,4 the twelve stars in the crown of the woman (cf. Ap 12,1) represent the twelve privileges of the Virgin- four heavenly privileges, four bodily, and four of the heart.
The heavenly privileges are: Mary’s generation, the angelic salutation, the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the ineffable conception of the Son of God.
The bodily privileges are: her outstanding virginity, her undefiled fruitfulness, her unburdensome pregnancy, her painless child-bearing.
The privileges of her heart are: devout humility, modest meekness, unfaltering faith, martyrdom of the heart (whereby a sword pierced her soul).
The heavenly privileges can be related to: The Lord be with you; the bodily to: Blessed art thou among women; and those of the heart to: Full of grace. 3
3. When he says: Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus- there is the whiteness of the sun. How could she conceive the whiteness of the eternal light, as a mirror without spot, unless she herself were white? And so, in Canticles, the Son says of her whiteness:
Thy belly is as ivory, set with sapphires. (cf. Ct 5,14)
Ivory comes from the tusk of an elephant, and is white and cold. It therefore denotes a two-fold purity, mental (whiteness) and bodily (coldness). Both these were present in the bridechamber of the glorious Virgin. Natural History tells us that the elephant is tamer and more obedient than any other wild animal. It takes instruction well, it understands, and so it can be taught to show reverence to a king. It has good sense. Yet it shuns the very scent of a mouse, an animal said to be generated from the moisture of the earth. In this respect it resembles the blessed Virgin, who was more humble and obedient than any other, and who adored the king she bore. The mouse, generated from earthly moisture (greedy pleasures), represents lust. The blessed Virgin shunned not only these things, but the very scent of them. She trembled even at the coming of the angel. In the same way, anyone who wants to live chastely in Christ Jesus should flee not simply the
mouse of lust, but its very scent! No wonder they ought to flee from fornication, if the elephant, as big as a mountain, runs away from a mouse!
(Against lust: I will destroy the name of Babylon.)
4. So the Lord says by Isaiah:
I will destroy the name of Babylon,
and the remains, and the bud, and the offspring. (Is 14,22)
The just man, Nazirite of the Lord, should destroy ‘the name of Babylon’, that is, all kinds of luxurious living. So we read:
Let old matters depart from your mouth; (1S 2,3)
Let my mouth not speak the works of men. (Ps 16,4)
‘And the remains’, those images of lust which often remain after sin has been put away; ‘and the bud’, the wandering lust of the eyes, of which Isaiah says:
Out of the root of the serpent shall come forth a basilisk,
and his seed shall swallow the bird. (Is 14,29)
From the root of the serpent (the devil’s prompting, or the consent of the mind) there comes forth a basilisk; because as St Augustine says,5 "The shameless eye is herald of the shameless heart." And his seed (the flattering word, the winning smile) swallows the bird (the just man). Alas! How many birds are swallowed by this unhappy process, this excess! And so the offspring (every circumstance of lust) must be destroyed and exterminated; in order that the belly (the mind) may be as ivory. It is well said then: His belly is as ivory, set with sapphires.
The sapphire is a stone sky-blue in colour, and the devil will not come near a house where it is. The sapphire represents heavenly contemplation; the devil will not approach a mind in which it is found. Yet because there is not always time for contemplation, the text speaks of being ‘set’ with sapphires. It is as though to say that the sapphires are not a total covering, and the contemplative live is not always to be insisted on. The womb of the glorious Virgin was as ivory set with sapphires, because she surpassed all in the whiteness of virginity, as regards the body; and in the beauty of contemplation, as to the soul.
(On the same text, on the reason why leaves or foliage fall from a tree; and on the four colours which are in the heavenly bow.)
5. When he says: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, behold, the heat (of the sun)! Heat sustains and nourishes all living things, and the lack of it results in weakness and death. Death is the extinction of natural heat in the heart, due to a lack of moistness and the coming of its contrary. The cause of leaves falling is the removal of the heat that feeds them. In winter-time, when cold dominates the outside of trees and plants, the heat flees from its contrary and hides in the roots. When it increases there, it draws to itself moisture from the upper branches and extremities, so that this increase in heat is moderated and the lower parts do not burn. When their sustenance is withdrawn, the leaves are bound to fall from the upper parts. The grace of the Holy Spirit is ‘heat’, and if it withdraws from the human heart the moisture of compunction fails, and the unhappy soul falls into the depths of sin. When the cold of wickedness approaches, the heat of the Holy Spirit flees from its contrary, and so the soul is despoiled of all its goods. The entry of vice brings about the departure of virtue. So the book of Wisdom says:
The Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful,
and will withdraw himself from thoughts that are without understanding;
and he shall not abide when iniquity cometh in. (Sg 1,5)
That is to say, he is snatched away, together with all his goods, because of the entry of wickedness. But when heat returns, the earth conceives and germinates plants, and brings forth fruit. Just so, when the Holy Spirit came, the blessed earth conceived and gave birth to the blessed fruit, removing every curse. Yes, The Holy Spirit will come upon you. Blessed Mary was ‘as the shining sun’ at the angel’s Annunciation.
6. Further, she was ‘as a bright rainbow’ in the conception of the Son of God. A rainbow is caused by the conjunction of sun and cloud, and it has four colours: violet, blue, gold and flame. So, when the Sun of Justice, the Son of God, entered this day into the ‘cloud’ of the glorious Virgin, the Virgin herself became ‘as a bright rainbow’, the sign of the covenant of peace and reconciliation, amid clouds of glory: that is, between God and sinners. So Genesis says:
I will set my bow in the clouds,
and it shall be a sign of a covenant between me and the earth. (Gn 9,13)
Note that two clouds are implied: the wrath of God and the guilt of man. God and man were at war with one another, God wielding the sword of wrath to strike man and cast him into death, and man wielding the sword of guilt as he mortally sinned against God. But after the Sun entered the Virgin, peace and reconciliation came about, because he himself, the Son of God and of the Virgin, made satisfaction to the Father for man’s guilt,
and restrained God's anger lest it strike man. These clouds are called ‘clouds of glory’, inasmuch as they are dispelled by the glorious Virgin.
Note that the violet colour of the rainbow represents the poverty of blessed Mary, the blue her humility, the gold her charity, and the flame (for a flame cannot be cut or injured by a sword) her spotless virginity. Of this rainbow, Ecclesiasticus says:
Look upon the rainbow, and bless him that made it: it is very beautiful in its brightness.
It encompasseth the heaven about with the circle of its glory. (Si 43,12-13)
Look upon the rainbow: that is, consider the beauty, holiness and dignity of blessed Mary; and bless with heart and mouth and deed her Son, who made her thus. In the brightness of her holiness she is very beautiful, beyond all daughters of God. She has encompassed the heaven about (that is, she has enclosed the divinity) within the circle of her glory, her glorious humanity.
We implore you, then, our Lady and only hope, to enlighten our minds with the brightness of your glory; to cleanse them with the whiteness of your purity; to warm them with the heat of your visitation; and to reconcile us to your Son, so that we may be found fit to attain the brightness of his glory. May he grant this, who at the angel’s Annunciation took from you this day his glorious flesh, and willed to dwell nine months in your bride- chamber. To him be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(I will be as the dew.)
7. I will be as the dew: Israel shall spring as the lily, and his root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus.
His branches shall spread, and his glory shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as that of Libanus. (Os 14,6-7)
In that day, the mountains shall drop down sweetness, and the hills shall flow with milk and honey. (Jl 3,18)
The bright day signifies the time of grace, in which the ‘mountains’ (preachers) drop down the sweetness of preaching, and the ‘hills’ (those who hear the preaching) flow with the milk and honey of the Lord’s Incarnation. Note: the text says that the mountains ‘drop’; and indeed what they preach is but a ‘drop’ in comparison with the divine mercy which has saved us, not in works of justice (Tt 3,5), our justice. The hills ‘flow’, because when they have received the 'drop' of preaching, the hearers should overflow with faith in
the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, who says (in Hosea, towards the end): I will be as the dew, etc.
8. The Son of God is compared to the dew in virtue of three qualities. Dew comes down in the morning, it comes gently, and it brings refreshment in the heat. The Son of God came down upon the Virgin in the ‘morning-time’ of grace. It says in Exodus:
In the morning a dew... appeared in the wilderness, small, and as it were beaten with a pestle, like unto the hoar-frost on the ground..., and the taste thereof like to flour with honey. (Ex 1,
This refers to the manna. The ‘wilderness’ is the blessed Virgin, of whom Isaiah says:
Send forth, O Lord, the lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from Petra of the desert, to the mount of the daughter of Sion. (Is 16,1)
A lamb, not a lion; a ruler, not a destroyer; from the blessed Virgin to the Church which is the daughter of Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem. The blessed Virgin is called ‘Petra (a rock) of the desert’, because a rock cannot be cultivated, and that serpent the devil, who (as Solomon says) ‘cultivates shadows’ can find no path upon it (cf. Pr 30,18-19). She is a ‘desert’, untilled and unsown with man’s seed, but made fertile by the working of the Holy Spirit.
Let it be said, then: A dew appeared in the wilderness, the Son of God in the blessed Virgin. He was that Manna, ‘small’ in his conception and birth, and ‘as it were beaten with a pestle’ in his Passion, wherein he was lashed with scourges, slapped and beaten, smeared with spittle. He was ‘like the hoar-frost on the ground’ in the preaching of the Apostles, for:
Their sound has gone forth over all the earth. (Ps 18,5)
His taste will be sweet ‘as flour mixed with honey’ (his humanity with his divinity) in the blessedness of our heavenly homeland. The Son of God may well say: I will be like the dew, coming down upon the Virgin in the morning time of grace.
He also resembles the dew in coming down gently; as the Psalmist says:
He shall come down like rain upon the fleece:
and as showers falling gently upon the earth. (Ps 71,6)
Note that rain comes down in one way, hail in another. Rain comes down gently, to make fertile; hail comes violently, to make sterile. In his first coming, Christ was like rain
coming down upon the fleece, the Virgin; at his second, he will be like hail, striking the wicked with the sentence of death. So David says;
Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds which fulfil his word. (Ps 148,8)
The fire will be that which burns without consuming, of which it is said: Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire (Mt 25,41). The hail will strike, as Jeremiah says: A violent storm upon the head of the wicked (Jr 30,23). The snow covers all, as in Job:
They that fear the frost (temporal punishment)
the snow shall fall upon them (eternal death). (Jb 6,16)
The ice which freezes and the stormy winds which never cease will be 'the portion of their cup' (Ps 10,7), of their punishment, who drink from the golden cup of Babylon (the world), which is in the hand of that harlot, concupiscence of the flesh. In his first coming, though, the Son of God was like rain coming down upon the fleece. The book of Judges tells how the dew came upon Gideon's fleece (cf. Jg 6,37-38). St Bernard6 says of this text, "The Son of God poured himself entirely upon the fleece of the Virgin, and afterwards upon the dry ground of the world to irrigate it."
(On the same text, on the wool of a sheep and on the nature of butter and cheese.)
9. The Son of God came to make himself a woollen garment from the Virgin, who may be called a ‘sheep’ because of her innocence. She is our Rachel (whose name means ‘sheep’), whom the true Jacob found beside the well of humility (cf. Gn 29,10). Alternatively, the sheep is Adam, who could say: I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost (Ps 118,176). Natural History tells us that a woollen garment from a sheep that has been torn by a wolf will teem with worms. The wool of our flesh, derived from that sheep (our first parent) who was torn by the wolfish devil, teems and rots with the worms of our unruly impulses. It was to cleanse us from defilement of flesh and spirit that Christ took on unbroken wool, such as the sheep had before the wolf's tearing. Isaiah says of him:
He shall eat butter and honey. (Is 7,15)
"Note that a sheep yields both butter and cheese. Butter is soft and moist, cheese hard and dry. Butter represents the innocence of our nature as it was before sin; cheese the punishment and dryness due to it after sin."7
Cursed be the earth in thy labour,
(that is, cursed be your flesh because of the sin you have committed) it will bring forth thorns and thistles, (Gn 3,17)
(the greater and lesser pains that pierce.) "Christ, however, ate not cheese but butter, because he took on our nature as it was before Adam sinned," not as it was after sin. He put on not just sackcloth, but the merit of sackcloth; not sin, but the punishment for sin.
"He was like a bee settling upon a flower, the blessed Virgin of Nazareth (which means ‘flower’)." Of this bee, Ecclesiasticus says:
The bee is small among flying things:
but her fruit hath the chiefest sweetness. (Si 11,3)
"In his first coming he brought the honey of mercy; at his second he will pierce with the sting of justice."
Mercy and judgement I will sing to thee, O Lord. (Ps 100,1)
Behold how he comes down gently like rain on the fleece!
(On the same text, on the same matter: Behold a mighty wind.)
10. Regarding this gentleness, it says in the third book of Kings:
And behold... a great and strong wind... overthrowing the mountains and breaking the rocks in pieces: the Lord was not in the wind. And alter the wind an earthquake: the Lord was not there, either. And alter the earthquake a fire: nor was the Lord there. And alter the fire, the whisper of a gentle breeze: the Lord was there. (cf. 1R 19,11-12)
In today’s Gospel you can find these four things: the ‘great wind’ was the angel’s greeting, promising great things. It was spoken to the strongest of women by Gabriel, whose name means ‘strength’. This greeting overthrew the mountains of pride, and broke the rocks of human hard-heartedness. The four phrases of the greeting suggest the four properties of a sapphire stone. A sapphire looks like a star, and it has these properties:
Hail, full of grace: (the colour of the sky);
The Lord is with thee: (it restrains the blood; and this is concordant to)
Blessed art thou among women: (which staunched the blood of the primal curse).
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb: (which slays the devil, as a sapphire puts out a glowing coal.)
Well said, then, Behold a great wind, etc. and the Lord (the Incarnation of the Word) was not there. And after the ‘wind’ of the greeting, the ‘earthquake’: She was troubled at his saying, and thought within herself what this manner of salutation this should be (Lc 1,29). And the Lord (the Incarnation of the Word) was not yet there. And after the ‘earthquake’, the ‘fire’: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee (Lc 1,35). Yet the Lord was not there either. And after the ‘fire’, the ‘whisper of a gentle breeze’: Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. And the Lord was there, the Incarnation of the Word! As soon as she said: Be it done unto me according to thy word, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1,14).
(On the same text, on the nature of dew and the properties of the lily.)
11. Again, dew brings refreshment. So the Son of God poured cool water upon the human race, which was suffering from the heat of the devil’s persecution. Solomon says;
As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good tidings from a far country. (Pr 25,25)
The good herald of good tidings is Jesus Christ, who poured the cold water of his Incarnation abundantly upon the soul of Adam and his posterity, as they thirsted in the heat of Gehenna, when,
by the blood of his testament he drew forth out of the pit, where there is no refreshing water. (cf. Za 9,11)
In Hosea, the Son says: I will be as the dew, coming down gently at dawn and giving refreshment.
There follows: Israel shall spring as the lily. Israel (which means ‘seeing God’) is blessed Mary, who saw God as the one she nourished in her womb, suckled at her breasts, and carried into Egypt. At the coming down of the dew she sprang like the lily, whose root is medicinal, whose stem is firm and upright, and whose flower is white with a curved-back lip. The Virgin’s ‘root’ was humility, which reduces the swelling of pride. Her ‘stem’ was firm by the renunciation of temporal things, and upright by the contemplation of heavenly things. Her ‘flower’ was white with the brightness of virginity, and she was ‘curved back’, like a lily looking at its root, when she said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. This lily budded forth when, with virginity untainted, she gave birth to the Son of God the Father. Just as a lily does not lose its flower when it sends forth its perfume, so the blessed Virgin did not lose the flower of virginity when she gave birth to the Saviour.
There follows: His root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus. His branches shall spread.
The ‘root’ of the lily is the intention of the heart. If it is simple (according to the Lord’s words: If thine eye be simple, meaning, if the intention of your heart is without duplicity or
deceit), then its branches will spread, its works reach up on high (so that: thy whole body shall be light (Lc 11,34), all the works that flow from it). In this way the ‘root’ (the intention) of the blessed Virgin was most pure and fragrant, and from it her ‘branches’ (her works) spread straight and upwards. The root of intention is called ‘of Libanus’, because from purity of intention there proceeds incense, the fragrance of good repute.
There follows: And his glory shall be as the olive tree. This stands for peace and mercy. The blessed Virgin Mary, our mediatrix, re-established peace between God and the sinner; for which reason God says of her: I will set my bow in the clouds. The two principal colours of the rainbow are those of water and of fire. Water, which nourishes all things, represents fecundity; fire, whose flame no sword can injure, represents the inviolate virginity of Mary. This is the sign of the covenant of peace between God and the sinner. It is also the olive-tree of mercy. Therefore blessed Bernard8 says, "You have a sure access to God, O man, where you have the mother standing before the Son, and the Son before the Father. The mother shows her heart and breasts to her Son, and the Son displays his side and wounds to the Father. There will be no refusal where so many signs of charity come together."
There follows: And his smell as that of Libanus. Libanus means ‘whitening’, and it represents the whiteness of blessed Mary’s innocent life, the fragrance of which spreads everywhere, breathing life to the dead, pardon to the despairing, grace to the penitent and glory to the just.
By her prayers and merits may the dew of the Holy Spirit refresh the fever of our minds, put away our sins, and infuse grace; that we may become fit to attain the glory of eternal and immortal life. May he grant this!
Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)