Anthony_Sermons - V. THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
(As a massy vessel of gold.)
1. 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 50,10-11)
A high and glorious throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctification, the hope of Israel. (Jr 17,12)
The word ‘throne’ comes from words meaning ‘a firm seat to sit on’. The ‘glorious throne’ is blessed Mary, who was in every respect firm and complete. In her the glory of the Father, the wise Son (indeed, Wisdom himself) Jesus Christ, ‘sat’ when he took flesh from her. So the Psalm says:
that glory may dwell in our land. (Ps 84,10)
The glory of the heights (that is, of the angels) dwells on earth, in our flesh. Therefore blessed Mary was the glorious throne, the throne of Jesus Christ, who is the glory of the heights (the angels). So Ecclesiasticus says:
The firmament on high is his beauty,
the beauty of heaven with its vision of glory. (Si 43,1)
Jesus Christ is the ‘firmament on high’, of the angelic heights which he himself made firm when the Apostate and his followers fell away. So Job says:
Thou perhaps made the heavens with him,
which are most strong, as if they were (founded) of molten brass. (Jb 37,18)
This is as if to say: did not the Wisdom of the Father make the heavens (i.e. the angelic nature)? So, In the beginning God created the heavens (Gn 1,1), which is to be understood as "that which contains and is contained."19 But when the angels who sinned were dragged bellowing down to hell (cf. 2P 2,4), the good ones who held fast to the supreme Good were firmly fixed, as if cast in bronze. The durability of bronze represents the firm foundation of the angels who stayed loyal. Jesus Christ, the firm foundation of the angelic height, is its beauty. Those whom he establishes by the power of his divinity, he satisfies with the beauty of his humanity. He is, then, the ‘beauty of heaven’, that is to say of all living souls who dwell in heaven; and this beauty consists in the vision of his glory. When the blessed behold the glory of the Father face to face, they shine with glory in their turn. How great, then, is the dignity of the glorious Virgin, who was found fit to be
the mother of him who is the foundation and the beauty of the angels, and the glory of all the saints.
(A sermon on the same text: The place of our sanctification; and: The firmament of height.)
2. Let us say, then: A high and glorious throne from the beginning, that is, from the foundation of the world; namely the mother of God who is predestined in power, according to the spirit of sanctification (Rm 1,4). So these words follow: the place of our sanctification, the hope of Israel. The blessed Virgin was the ‘place of our sanctification’, that is, of the Son of God who sanctifies us. Regarding this, he himself says in Isaiah:
The fir-tree and the box-tree and the pine-tree together,
to beautify the place of my sanctuary;
and I will glorify the place of my feet. (Is 60,13)
The fir-tree is so called because it is the first among all trees, and it represents those who contemplate heavenly things. The box-tree does not grow high, and has no fruit but much greenery. It stands for the newly converted, who hold to a faith ever green. The pine, loveliest of the tees, is so-called from the sharpness of its leaves; for the ancients used the word ‘pine’ for ‘sharp’. It represents penitents who are conscious of their sins, and pierce their hearts with the needle of contrition, in order to draw from them the blood of tears. All these, then, contemplatives, faithful and penitents, come on this solemn festival to adorn blessed Mary with devotion, praise and preaching, because she was the place of the sanctification of Jesus Christ, wherein he sanctified himself. So he himself says in John:
For them do I sanctify myself, (i.e. with a created sanctification)
that they also may be sanctified in truth (in me, who sanctify my humanity in myself as Word).(Jn 17,19)
In other words, I fill myself with all good things through myself as Word.
And I will glorify the place of my feet.
The Lord’s ‘feet’ signify his humanity, of which Moses says in Deuteronomy:
They that approach to his feet shall receive of his doctrine. (Dt 33,3)
No-one can approach the Lord's feet unless he first, as Exodus says, puts off the shoes from his feet (Ex 3,5), that is, dead works from the affections of his heart. Draw near then
with bare feet, and you will receive of his doctrine. Isaiah says:
Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand the hearing?
Them that are weaned from the milk, that are drawn away from the breasts. (Is 28,9)
Whoever is taken from the milk of worldly desire, and separated from the breasts of greed and lust, will in this life be taught divine knowledge, and in the world to come be found fit to hear the words: Come, ye blessed of my Father (Mt 25,34).
The ‘place of the Lord’s feet’ was blessed Mary, she from whom he took human nature, the place which he glorified this day when he lifted her above the choirs of angels. From this you may clearly infer that the blessed Virgin was assumed in the body, wherein was ‘the place of the Lord’s feet’. So the Psalm says:
Arise, O Lord, into thy resting-place:
thou and the ark which thou hast sanctified. (Ps 131,8)
The Lord arose when he ascended to the right hand of the Father. The ark of his sanctification arose to, when on this day the Virgin Mother was taken up to the heavenly bride-chamber. So Genesis says that:
The ark rested... upon the mountains of Armenia. (Gn 8,4)
Armenia means ‘ragged mountain’, and it represents the angelic nature, which is called ‘mountain’ in respect of those who stood firm, and ‘ragged’ or ‘torn’ in respect of those who fell. The ark of the true Noah, who made us ‘rest from our labours on the earth the Lord had cursed’ (cf. Gn 5,29), rested this day upon the mountains of Armenia, the choirs of angels.
Therefore to the praise of the same Virgin, who is the hope of Israel (that is, of Christian people), and to grace so great a festival, we shall expound the aforesaid text:
As a massy vessel of gold, etc.
3. Note these three things: the vessel, the olive and the cypress. Blessed Mary was a ‘vessel’ by her humility, ‘of gold’ by her poverty, and ‘massy’ or ‘solid’ by her virginity, ‘adorned with every precious stone’ of God’s gifts. The hollowness of a vessel enables it to receive what is poured into it, and so it stands for humility, which receives the inpouring of grace. A swelling, on the other hand, repels what is poured upon it. In Exodus, the Lord commanded that there be made a hollow in the altar, in which the ashes of the sacrifice might be deposited (cf. Ex 27,1 Ex 27,8). In the hollow of humility is placed the ash which is the remembrance of our mortality. So Jeremiah says of the penitent, in
Lamentations, He shall put his mouth in the grave (Lm 3,29); that is, let him speak about his own death and burial. It says in Genesis that Abraham buried Sarah in a double cave, which looked towards Mambre (Gn 23,19). The ‘double cave’ is humility of heart and body, wherein the just man must bury his soul from worldly tumult; and this humility must look towards ‘Mambre’, which means ‘clear seeing’. In other words, it must look to the clarity of eternal life, not of worldly glory. This is what the humility of the blessed Virgin looked to, and so it deserved to be regarded in its turn.
And because humility is preserved by poverty, the vessel is said to be ‘of gold’. Poverty is well called ‘gold’, because it makes its possessors splendid and rich. Where there is true poverty there is sufficiency, but where there is abundance there is want. So the Philosopher20 says, "There is rarely ruin, except from abundance"; and, "I do not reckon that man poor, to whom even a little more is enough." St Bernard21 says, "In heaven, there is stored up an abundance of things; only poverty is not found among them. This kind of thing abounds on earth, and man knows not its value. Therefore the Son of God came to seek it, so that he might make it precious in his estimation."
Of this gold, Genesis says:
In the land of Hevilath gold groweth, and the gold of that land is very good. (Gn 2,11-12)
Hevilath means ‘bringing forth’, and it stands for the blessed Virgin, who, when she brought forth the Son of God, wrapped him in the bands of golden poverty. O finest gold of poverty! He who has you not, even if he has all else, has nothing! Temporal things puff up, and in so inflating they make empty. In poverty is joy; in riches, sadness and lamentation. Solomon says in Proverbs:
Better a dry morsel with joy, than a fatted calf with strife; (Pr 17,1)
(or: than a house full of victims, meaning riches which are taken from the poor by force). Again:
A secure mind is like a continual feast.
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasures without content. (Pr 15,15)
It is better to dwell in a wilderness (i.e. poverty)
than with a quarrelsome and passionate woman (temporal abundance). (Pr 21,19) Again:
It is better to sit in a corner of the housetop (the humility of poverty)
than with a brawling woman in a common house. (Pr 21,9)
And because the humility and poverty of blessed Mary was a marked feature of her virgin integrity, there is added: A massy vessel of gold (i.e., a vessel of solid gold). The blessed Virgin was ‘solid’ in her virginity, and so she was able to contain wisdom. But, as Solomon says,
The heart of a fool is like a broken vessel: and no wisdom at all shall it hold. (Si 21,17)
This vessel was today adorned with every precious stone, that is, with every prerogative of heavenly gifts. She who bore the Creator and Redeemer of all received the reward of the saints. And so, regarding this vessel adorned with every precious stone, there is a concordance in the book of Esther, where it says that
When Esther was to go in to the king, she sought not women's ornaments, but whatsoever Egeus the eunuch the keeper of the virgins had in mind, he gave her to adorn her. For she was exceeding fair; and her incredible beauty made her appear agreeable and amiable in the eyes of all. So she was brought to the chamber of king Assuerus, and the king loved her more than all the women; and he set the royal crown on her head. (EST ,
Esther means ‘concealed’, Egeus ‘religious’ and Assuerus ‘blessedness’. Esther is the blessed Virgin Mary, who lay hidden, enclosed on every side, when the angel found her in her hiding-place. Egeus, the guardian of virgins, is Jesus Christ. It is entirely appropriate that such a guardian of virgins be appointed, who is both ‘Egeus’, (religious), and a eunuch. He is religious yet festive, so as not to sadden the spirit of the fainthearted; and a eunuch, so as to preserve and not corrupt the purity of virgins. These two characteristics are well conjoined; for it often happens that proper affection is loosened by mirth, or that chaste affection is accompanied by too much severity.
Christ showed both these qualities, to prove himself a suitable guardian of virgins. As Egeus, he gladly went to meet the women, saying All hail! (Mt 28,9). But this was only after the Resurrection, by now in an immortal body. Previously he had behaved as a eunuch, so that we do not read that he had greeted a woman. Indeed, John says that the Apostles were astonished when he spoke to a woman (Jn 4,27). This Egeus adorned our Esther, the blessed Virgin, even more lavishly because she had not sought women’s ornaments. She did not want anyone, herself or anyone else, to adorn her; but she committed herself to the discretion of her guardian, by whom she was so fittingly adorned that today she is exalted above the angels.
This our Esther was ‘exceeding fair’ in the angelic salutation, ‘of incredible beauty’ in the
overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, and ‘agreeable to the eyes of all’ in the conception of the Son of God. After she had conceived the Son of God, her face shone with such brightness of grace that even Joseph himself could not gaze upon her countenance. No wonder! If, as the Apostle tells us:
the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, though it faded; (2Co 3,7)
and, in Exodus,
Aaron and the children of Israel seeing the face of Moses horned (i.e. shining) from conversing with the word of God, were afraid to come near, (Ex 34,29-30)
how much more was Joseph unable to gaze upon the face of the glorious Virgin, shining with the radiance of the true sun, whom she bore in her womb, and was afraid to draw near. The true sun, indeed, was covered by a cloud, and sent forth the rays of his light through the eyes and face of his mother. This face is full of all graces, pleasing to the eyes of the angels, and on which they desire to look, as it shines like the sun in its strength. The blessed Virgin is ‘amiable’, to be loved by all the earth, because she was found fit to receive the Saviour of all.
This our glorious Esther is today led by the hands of the angels to ‘the chamber of king Assuerus’, "the heavenly bride-chamber in which the King of kings, blessedness of the angels, sits upon a starry throne,"22 Jesus Christ, who loved this glorious Virgin ‘above all other women’, her from whom he took flesh, who found grace and mercy in his sight above all women. O immeasurable dignity of Mary! O inexpressible sublimity of grace! O unsearchable depth of mercy! What grace so great, what mercy so great, was ever shown or could be shown to angel or to man, as that of the blessed Virgin, whom God the Father willed to be mother of his own Son, equal to him and begotten before all ages? It would be the greatest grace and honour for some poor little woman to have a son by the Emperor; truly, more excellent still was the grace of blessed Mary, who bore a Son to God the Father, and therefore she has been found worthy of being crowned this day in heaven.
So there is added: And he set the royal crown on her head. Solomon says in Canticles:
Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see king Solomon in the diadem
wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals. (Ct 3,11)
Because blessed Mary crowned the Son of God with the diadem of flesh on the day of his espousals, the day of his conception, when the divine nature was united to human nature, like a bridegroom to a bride, in the bride-chamber of that same Virgin: therefore this same Son has crowned his mother today with the crown of heavenly glory. Go forth, then! See the mother of Solomon wearing the crown wherewith her Son crowned her on
the day of her Assumption! She is well called: a vessel of solid gold, adorned with every precious stone.
4. There follows: And as an olive tree budding forth.
There is the olive-tree; its fruit, the olive; and its juice, olive oil. The olive-tree first puts forth a sweet-scented flower, from which comes the olive. The olive is first green, then red, and finally ripe. Blessed Anna was like the olive-tree, from which blossomed the white flower, inexpressibly sweet-scented, which is blessed Mary. Mary was ‘green’ in the Conception and Nativity of the Son of God. ‘Green’ is that which retains its strength. The blessed Virgin remained green in the conception and birth of the Saviour, inasmuch as she retained the strength of her virginity: she remained a virgin before and after childbirth. She was ‘red’ in the Passion of her Son, which ‘pierced her own soul’ (Lk
2.35). She became ripe in the Assumption we celebrate today, budding forth, full of joy in the blessedness of heavenly glory.
And so, rejoicing with her in joy, we sing in the Introit of today’s Mass: Let us all rejoice in the Lord, etc. In this Mass the Gospel reading is: Jesus entered a certain village (Lc 10,38). The Latin ‘castellum’ or ‘castle’ is related to ‘chaste’, that which ‘castrates’ lust. The enemy outside, who suddenly assails the castle, does not let those who live in it grow slack from inactivity, or become corrupted by indulgence. The suddenness of the assault on the castle cuts away any inclination towards lust. Note that a castle is a place surrounded by a wall, with a tower in the middle. Blessed Mary is a ‘castle’, and because she shone with the brightness of utter chastity, the Lord entered into her. The wall that fortified her, surrounding the tower, was virginity. The tower that defended the wall was her humility. The word tower suggests something straight and tall. The humility of blessed Mary stood straight and tall: straight, because she looked only towards him who looked upon her lowliness; tall, because at her humble words, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she became the Queen of heaven. This Virgin was both Martha and Mary. She was Martha when she wrapped the child in bands, laid him in the manger, suckled him at her breast full of heavenly milk, fled with him into Egypt and came back again. She was Mary when, as Luke tells us:
she kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. (Lc 2,19)
(A sermon on the same text: And a cypress-tree rearing itself on high.)
5. There follows: And a cypress rearing itself on high.
Blessed Mary, like a cypress, raised herself on high above the height of all the angels. There is a concordance to this in Ezekiel:
And above the firmament that was over the heads of the living creatures was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of the sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness as of the appearance of a man above upon it. (Ez 1,26)
In the four living creatures are signified all the saints, adorned with the four virtues, instructed by the teaching of the four Gospels. In the firmament we see the angelic powers, made firm by the power of the Almighty. In the throne we see the blessed Virgin Mary, in whom the Lord humbled himself when he took flesh from her. In the Son of Man, we see Jesus Christ, the Son of God and man. And so, in the heavenly glory that is above the head of the living creatures (all the saints), there is a firmament (the angels). Above the angels there is a throne (the blessed Virgin), and upon the throne is the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. Regarding the throne, see the Gospel: When the crowds were pressing upon Jesus (Pentecost V). For the sapphire stone, see the Gospel for the Annunciation: I will be as the dew.
We ask you then, our Lady, great Mother of God, lifted high above the choirs of angels, to fill the cup of our heart with heavenly grace; to make it gleam with the gold of wisdom; to make it solid with the power of your virtue; to adorn it with the precious stone of virtues; to pour upon us, O blessed olive-tree, the oil of your mercy to cover the multitude of our sins. By you may we be found fit to be raised to the height of heavenly glory, and to be blessed with the blessed; by the power of Jesus Christ your Son, who this day has raised you above the choirs of angels, crowned you with the diadem of his kingdom, and set you upon the throne of eternal light. To him be honour and glory through endless ages. Let the whole Church say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 Antony seems to count this as a sermon distinct from that on the Annunciation. I have therefore given it a separate heading below, although the Editorial numbering of the paragraphs continues from the previous section.
2 cf. BELETHUS, Rationale divinorum officiorum, 149 (De nativitate beatae Mariae); : PL 202.152
3 ADAM OF ST VICTOR, Sequence "Salve Mater Salvatoris”, 57-62; PL 196.1504
4 BERNARD, In Dominica infra octavam Assumptionis B.M.V., 7; PL 183.432-433
5 AUGUSTINE, Regula, 6; PL 32.1381
6 BERNARD, In Nativitate B.V.M., 6; PL 183.440-441
7 BERNARD, In Adventu Domini, sermo 2,2; PL 183.41-42. Also the three following quotations
8 Abbot ERNALDUS, De laudibus B.V.M.; PL 189.1726
9 Abbot GUERRICUS, In Nativitate B.V.M. sermo 1,3; PL 185.201
10 BERNARD, In Cantica sermo 13,3; PL 183.835
11 BERNARD, In Cantica sermo 42.8; PL 183.991
12 PETRUS COMESTOR, Historia Scholastica, liber Exodi, 52; PL 198.1173-4
13 AUGUSTINE, In Ioannis ev. tr. VIII,9; PL 35.1455
14 cf. ARISTOTLE, De historia animalium, IX, 7; PLINY, Naturalis Historia X,52
15 Author unknown
16 PUBLIUS SYRUS, Sententiae, 155
17 cf. WALTHER, Carmina 14920b: ''Miserarum rerum porta est sapientia"
18 A reference to the patriarchs freed from ‘Limbo’
19 P. COMESTOR, Historia Scholastica, liber Genesis, 1; PL 198.1055
20 WALTHER, Carmina, 4926; SENECA, Epistola 1
21 BERNARD, In vigilia Nativitatis Domini, sermo 1,5; PL 183.89
22 ROMAN BREVIARY, Feast of the Assumption, 2nd antiphon at Lauds.
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. At that time: There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. (Lc 2,1)
In this Gospel three things are noted: the enrolment of the world, the birth of the Saviour, and the announcement to the shepherds. With God’s help, we shall say something about each of these, briefly and clearly.
2. The enrolment of the world, as it says: There went out a decree. Note that in this first clause there is moral teaching, about how anyone who wants to repent of the sins he has committed should first take a census of his life in contrition, and afterwards hasten to confession.
So it says: There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. Caesar means ‘possessor of the chief place’, and Augustus is ‘standing with dignity’. He represents almighty God, the owner of the whole of creation; as in Isaiah 66:
My hand made all these things; (Is 66,2)
and Job 9:
Under whom they stoop that bear up the world, (Jb 9,13)
meaning the prelates of the Church and the princes of the world who bear its weight.
God stands with dignity, because, as Daniel 7 says:
Thousands of thousands ministered to him,
and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him. (Da 7,10)
He is said to ‘stand’ when he gives help to his people, and to ‘sit’ when he passes
judgement; and in either case he has dignity, glory and nobility. This our Emperor sends out his decree every day, by means of his heralds who are the preachers of the Church, so that the whole world may be enrolled. We speak of the ‘globe’, because the earth is round and the encircling Ocean flows round it and sets its bounds. The ‘globe’ is also human life, which comes full circle as Genesis 3 tells:
Earth thou art, and to the earth thou shalt return. (Gn 3,19)
Each man must review this entire globe, recalling in bitterness of soul the things he did in childhood, in adolescence, in his youth and in his age. Note that it says ‘the whole world’, implying that the record includes sins of thought, word and deed, things done and things left undone, together with their circumstances. This is reinforced when we note that the word used means not just ‘written down’, but ‘described’, recorded in all the variety of their manner and circumstances.
This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria (Lc 2,2). Cyrinus means ‘heir’, and he is the penitent, who is heir of God and fellow-heir with Christ (Rm 8,17), who says, My inheritance is goodly to me (Ps 15,6). He makes the first census of his sins when he firstly in contrition makes a detailed examination of what he has done or left undone. He is ‘governor of Syria’ (meaning ‘sublimity’) because he has mastered pride and arrogance. Job 40 says of the devil:
He beholdeth every high thing. He is king over all the children of pride. (Jb 41,25)
What more laudable governorship can there be, than to be in control of oneself and to humble one’s own pride?
3. And all went (Lc 2,3). You see here the right order of penitence: first, to examine oneself; and then go to confession. They all went to be enrolled. Alas! How few go today! Jeremiah 1 bewails:
The ways of Sion mourn, because there are none that come to the solemn feast. (Lm 1,4)
There was only Joseph, the true penitent, of the house and family of David, who was truly penitent, and to whose house the Lord promised in Zechariah 13;
in that day there shall be a fountain open to the house of David. (Za 13,1)
The fountain of divine mercy stands open to the congregation of the penitent,
for the washing of the sinner and the unclean woman, (ibid)
that is, purging both manifest and hidden sins in them. This Joseph went up from Galilee
(which means ‘a wheel’, and refers to the aforementioned examination of his life), out of the city of Nazareth (‘flower’). After the flower is the fruit, indeed from the first comes the second. In the same way contrition should be followed by confession, so that confession is as it were the fruit of contrition, together with absolution and reconciliation. And note that Joseph went up to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. Mary means ‘bitter sea’, and she signifies the double bitterness with which the penitent should go up to Judea (‘confession’), wherein is the city of David which is called Bethlehem (‘house of bread’). This is the food of tears, as is said:
My tears have been my bread, etc. (Ps 41,4)
There is a concordance to this in Isaiah 15:
By the ascent of Luith they shall go up weeping,
and in the way of Oronaim they shall lift up a cry of destruction. (Is 15,5)
Here is the ‘bitter sea’. Luith means ‘cheeks’ or ‘jaws’, Oronaim is ‘the cleft of their sadness’. The weeper, i.e. the penitent, goes up to confession bedewed with tears, which go up from his cheeks to God, as Ecclesiasticus 35 says:
Do not the widow's tears run down the cheek,
and her cry against him that causeth them to fall?
For from the cheek they go up even to heaven:
and the Lord that heareth will be pleased with them. (Si 35,18-19)
The ‘cleft of sadness’ is the sorrow of a contrite heart, from which should proceed the cry of confession which the penitent should raise, so as to confess everything nakedly and openly.
4. And note that he goes up with Mary who is with child. The soul is made pregnant with a two-fold bitter sorrow by the fear of God, as Isaiah 26 says:
As a woman with child, when she draweth near the time of her delivery,
is in pain and crieth out in her pangs:
so are we become from thy face, O Lord (or according to another translation: from thy fear).
We have conceived and have been as it were in labour,
and have brought forth the spirit of salvation. (cf. Is 26,17-18)
The face of Christ, when he comes to judgement, impregnates the soul with holy fear, that it may conceive and bring forth the spirit of salvation.
5. The birth of the Saviour: And it came to pass that when they were there (Lc 2,6). Where? In the house of bread; and Mary is the house of bread. The bread of angels has become the milk of little ones, that the little ones may become angels.
Suffer the little children to come unto me, (Mc 10,14)
that they may suck and be filled with the breasts of her consolations. (Is 66,11)
Note that milk is sweet to the taste and pleasant to look at. In the same way, as the Golden Mouth says, Christ draws men to himself by his sweetness, as a magnet draws iron, saying in Ecclesiasticus 24:
They that eat me shall yet hunger:
and they that drink me shall yet thirst. (Si 24,29)
He is pleasing to look at, for the angels long to gaze on him (1P 1,12).
Her days were accomplished that she should be delivered (Lc 2,6). See, here is the fulness of time, the day of salvation, the year of goodness (cf. Ga 4,4 2Co 6,2 Ps 64,12). From the fall of Adam until the coming of Christ, there was an empty time. Jeremiah says:
I beheld the earth, and lo it was void and nothing (Jr 4,23)
because the devil had wholly laid it waste. It was a day of pain and weakness, as the Psalm says:
Thou hast turned all his couch in his sickness, (Ps 40,4) an accursed year, as Genesis 3 says:
Cursed is the earth in thy work; (Gn 3,17)
but today, the days are accomplished that she should be delivered. From the fulness of this day we have all received, and so the Psalm says:
We shall be filled with the good things of thy house. (Ps 64,5)
To you, O blessed Virgin, be praise and glory, for today we are filled with the goodness of your house, that is, of your womb. We, who were empty before, are full; we who were sick are healthy; we who were cursed are blessed, because as Canticles 4 says: Thy fruits are paradise (Ct 4,13).
6. So there follows: And she brought forth her firstborn son. What goodness! What a paradise! Run, then, you famished, you avaricious and usurious people to whom money is dearer than God, and buy without money and without price (Is 55,1) the grain of wheat which the Virgin has brought fort this day from the storehouse of her womb. She brought forth a son. What son? God the Son of God. "O happiest of the happy, who has given a Son to God the Father."1 What an honour it would be for some poor woman to give a son to a mortal Emperor! How far, far greater the glory of the Virgin, who gave a Son to God the Father! She brought forth her son. "The Father gave deity, the mother humanity; the Father gave majesty, the mother weakness."2 She brought forth her son, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Who then is against us? (Rm 8,31) Isaiah 59 speaks of A helmet of salvation upon his head (Is 59,17). This helmet is his humanity, upon the head of his divinity. The head is hidden beneath the helmet, the divinity beneath humanity. There is no cause for fear. Victory belongs to our side, because God in armour is with us! Thanks to you, O glorious Virgin, because through you God is with us. She brought forth his firstborn son, begotten of the Father before all worlds, first begotten from the dead, first begotten among many brothers (cf. Col 1,18 Rm 8,29).
7. There follows: And she wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger (Lc 2,7). O poverty! O humility! The Lord of all is wrapped in a scrap of cloth! The King of angels lies down in a stable! Blush, insatiable avarice! Be ashamed, human pride! She wrapped him in cloth. Note that Christ is wrapped in cloth both at the beginning and at the end of his life. Mark 15 says:
Joseph bought fine linen, and taking him down wrapped him up in the fine linen. (Mc 15,46)
Happy the man who ends his life in baptismal innocence. The old Adam, when he was cast out of paradise, was clad in animal skins, which become more discoloured the more they are washed, and represents the fleshly nature of Adam and his race. The new Adam is wrapped in linen, whose whiteness represents the purity of his mother, the innocence that comes from Baptism, and the glory of the general Resurrection.
And she laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Lc 2,7)
See here, as Proverbs 5 says:
The dearest hind, and most agreeable fawn. (Pr 5,19)
Natural History tells that the female deer gives birth at the roadside. In the same way, the blessed Virgin gave birth at a roadside inn, where many roads meet.
Anthony_Sermons - V. THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY