Anthony_Sermons - (THIRD CLAUSE)
1 cf. AUGUSTINE, Confessions, X,1; PL 32.779
2 This quotation has not been traced in AUGUSTINE, or elsewhere.
The copyright in this sermon belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Two men went up into the temple, which is divided into two clauses.)
(First, a theme for a sermon on the Nativity of the Lord, and on the four horses of the sun and their meaning: The sun three times.)
1. At that time: To some who trusted in themselves as just and despised others, Jesus spoke this parable: Two men went up into the temple, etc. (Lc 18,9-10)
It says in Ecclesiasticus:
The sun, three times as much, burneth the mountains, breathing out fiery rays;
and shining with his beams, he blindeth the eyes. (Si 43,4)
The sun shines alone, obscuring all other stars with its radiance. It is depicted with four horses: Pyrois (‘Shining’), Heous (‘Warming’), Aethon (‘Burning’) and Phlegon (‘Cooling’); which represent four characteristics of the sun. When it rises, it shines; when it goes up the sky, it warms; at noon, it burns; and as it declines towards sunset, it cools. The true sun is Jesus Christ, who dwells in inaccessible light (cf. 1Tm 6,16). Compared with his light, all other light is darkness; and compared to his justice, all the justice of the saints is like a soiled rag (cf. Is 64,6).
The four horses of the sun are the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew is the ‘shining horse’, and he is represented in the form of a man because he wrote of the human origin of Christ: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ (Mt 1,1). Mark is the ‘warming horse’, and he is represented by a lion, which is hot-natured, and he wrote of a voice of one crying in the desert (Mc 1,3). John is the ‘burning horse’, and he is represented by an eagle because, with unblinking eyes, like an eagle soaring high, he gazed at the sun when he wrote, In the beginning was the Word (Jn 1,1). Luke is the ‘cooling horse’, and is given the form of an ox, which is slain in sacrifice. Jesus Christ was the Sun that shone in his Nativity, warmed in his preaching (when he roared like a lion, saying: Do penance (Mt 3,2), burned in his working of miracles (whereby he showed that he was truly God), and cooled in his Passion, like an ox sacrificed to his Father,
before setting in his death.
Again, when this Sun rises upon a sinner, it shines on him, so that he recognises his sin; warms him to feel sorrow for it; burns him in the fervour of satisfaction; and cools him in the mortification of vices. Of this Sun, Ecclesiasticus says: The sun, three times as much, burneth the mountains. A mountain is immoveable. The ‘mountains’ of this world are the proud, of whom the psalm says:
The mountains melted like wax, at the presence of the Lord. (Ps 96,5)
This happens when he burns them three-fold, by contrition, confession and satisfaction in works. The prophet prayed to be burned with this burning when he said: Burn my reins and my heart (Ps 25,2). The heart is burned in contrition, the tongue in confession, and the reins in satisfaction.
There follows: Breathing out fiery rays. This means breathing out from itself. The rays of the Sun are the poverty and humility, patience and obedience of Jesus Christ. As many as are the examples and words of salvation that he gave us, so many are the rays of fire with which we are inflamed with his love, and which he breathes from himself upon us. And of this, there is added: And shining with his beauty he blindeth the eyes. He blinds the eyes of the proud with the rays of his poverty and humility, so that seeing they may not see (cf. Jn 12,40). It is like the action of an eye-salve, which blurs and as it were blinds the diseased eye, but afterwards makes it clear and bright. That is why he says himself, in John:
For judgement I am come into this world;
that they who see may not see; and they who see may become blind. (Jn 9,39)
And also: If you were blind, you should not have sin, because you would seek the eye- salve that takes away all sin, but now you say: We see; your sin remaineth (Jn 9,41). Set on fire and burnt by this sun, the publican was blinded (the true penitent). Of him the Gospel says: Two men went up into the temple.
2. There are two points to note in this Gospel: the arrogance of the Pharisee and the humility of the publican. The first part begins: Two men, etc. The second continues: And the publican, standing far off. On this and the following Sunday we shall concord some texts from the book of Ecclesiasticus with the clauses of this and the following Gospel.
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: O God, come to my assistance (Ps 69,2); and the Epistle is read from blessed Paul to the Corinthians: I make known unto you the Gospel (1CO 1,,
which we will divide into two parts and concord with the clauses of the Gospel. The first is: I make known to you. The second is: I am the least.
(The four kinds of pride: Two men went up.)
3. Let us say, then:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee, standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in as week; I give tithes of all that I possess. (Lc 18,10-12)
Let us note first that, according to the Gloss, there are four kinds of swelling pride: when someone attributes to himself the good that he has; or, if he acknowledges that it is given by God, he thinks that this is due to his own merits; or, he boasts of having what he does not, in fact, have; or, despising others, he wishes it so seem as if he alone has what he has- as the saying goes:
"Falsely, a credit over all to claim, they blow their trumpet, puff their own good name."
The Pharisee suffered from this disease, and that is why he went down not justified, because he attributed his good qualities to himself alone, and looked down on the publican. There you may see the dead lion and living dog of which Solomon speaks:
A living dog is better than a dead lion, (Qo 9,4)
the humble publican and the proud Pharisee!
Note that the neck-bone of a lion is continuous and has no vertebrae, and the bones have no marrow in them. A lion’s bones are particularly hard, more than those of any other animal, and if one is struck against another it causes a spark. In the same way, the proud man’s neck is stiff and unbending. So Job says:
He hath stretched out his hand against God,
and hath strengthened himself against the Almighty.
He hath run against him with his neck raised up,
and is armed with a fat neck. (Jb 15,25-26)
"Bend thy boughs, O tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For awhile the ancient rigour That thy birth bestowed, suspend."1 Proud Pharisee:
Why doth thy heart elevate thee, and why dost thou stare with thy eyes, as if thou wert thinking great things?
Why doth thy spirit swell against God, to utter such words out of thy mouth? (Jb 15,189)
Words like: I am not as the rest of men, extortioners.
What is man that he should be without spot,
and he that is born of a woman that he should appear just?
Behold... the heavens are not pure in his sight.
How much more is man abominable and unprofitable? (Jb 15,14-16)
And in the same book:
Behold, they that serve him are not steadfast; and in his angels he found wickedness;
How much more shall they that dwell in houses of clay, who have an earthly foundation! (Jb 4,18-19)
The proud man lacks the marrow of compunction or compassion, and from the collision of his words and works there is struck a spark of arrogance, wrath and vainglory.
Thus it says in the book of Judges:
Let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Libanus. (Jg 9,15)
The bramble is the thickest kind of thorn, and the most troublesome. It represents the proud man, thickly sown with the thorns of riches and sins. From it comes the fire of
pride, devouring all the cedars of Libanus: that is, all the works he does, such as, I fast twice a week, etc. St Gregory2 says, "What use is it to guard the whole city, if one gap is left through which an enemy may enter?" When we boast about the perfection of our good life, we only show that it has not yet even begun. Ecclesiasticus says:
Extol not thyself in doing thy work.
Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord. (Si 10,29 Pr 16 Pr 5)
Aptly compared to a dead lion is that Pharisee, standing, stiff-necked. Pharisee means ‘separated’. Thinking himself just, he separated himself from the publican, saying: I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, etc. What doe he mean by ‘the rest of men’ if not ‘everyone but me’? It is as though he said, ‘I alone am just, the rest are sinners.’
(Against the proud poor man, the lying rich man, and the foolish old man: Three sorts.)
4. There is a concordance to this in Ecclesiasticus:
Three sorts my soul hateth, and I am greatly grieved at their life: a poor man that is proud; a rich man that is a liar; an old man that is a fool and doting. (Si 25,3-4)
A proud man thinks too highly of himself; a liar deceives another’s mind; the senile do not know themselves and their wits wander because of extreme old age. Doctors say that they ‘enter their second childhood’, but in children the blood has not yet become hot, whereas in the aged it has again grown cold.
These three sorts, hateful to God, are to be found in the Pharisee and in any proud man. The Pharisee was a poor man that is proud: poor, because he left an opening whereby thieves entered and stole all his goods; proud, because he got above himself when he thought himself better than others. A proud man is poor, because he lacks the riches of humility, the lack of which leaves one supremely wretched.
The Pharisee was a rich man that is a liar: rich, when he said, I fast twice a week; a liar, when he prefaced this with, I am not as the rest of men. The religious of our day are rich in the appearance of holiness, but they lie when they boast in their hearts. They say, like Elijah in the third book of Kings:
With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of hosts:
for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant.
They have thrown down thy altars, they have slain thy prophets with the sword,
and I alone am left: and they seek my life to take it away. (1R 19,10)
Let those who think that they alone serve God and kneel before him listen to his own words:
I have left me seven thousand men in Israel,
whose knees have not been bowed before Baal. (1R 19,18)
Brother- even from Nazareth some good thing can come! (cf. Jn 1,46) Our God is not only God of the hills, but also of the valleys! (cf. 1R 20,28) In Canticles he says:
I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valleys.(Ct 2,1)
The Lord dwells on high, yet his gaze is upon the lowly (cf. Ps 137,6).
The Pharisee was also an old man that is a fool: an old man, because he did not know himself, he had lost his wits, and did not understand what he was saying. He went up to the temple to pray, not to praise himself; but he began with self praise when he should have started with the Lord’s prayer. That is what some people do when they preach: they begin with self-praise, as a prologue. Praise in one’s own mouth defiles (Si 15,9), and, Let another praise thee, not thine own mouth (Pr 27,2).
5. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause:
Now I make known to you the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received and wherein you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. (1Co 15,1-2)
The Gospel which Christ and the Apostles preached is humility. He said:
Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart.(Mt 11,29)
The disciples learned this lesson from him, and taught it to others. So St Paul (whose name means ‘small’) says, I make known to you the Gospel wherein you stand, by which also you are saved. Where there is humility there is firm standing and salvation. Because the Pharisee lacked it, he fell; and even as he justified himself, he made himself a sinner. He who has humility is saved, but he who does not have it believes in vain and works in vain. It is because one comes to glory by humility, that this Epistle (which mentions Christ’s death and resurrection) is read with today’s Gospel, which says that whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Christ humbled himself even to death, and he was
exalted in his resurrection.
Let us, then, dearest brothers, ask the Lord Jesus Christ himself to take away from us the boasting of the Pharisee; and to imprint upon our hearts the Gospel of his humility; that we may go up to the temple of glory and, set at his right hand in the general resurrection, may deserve to rejoice with him. May he grant this, who died and rose again, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(A moral sermon on the misery of our body: Three sorts.)
6. Three sorts my soul hateth, and I am greatly grieved at their life: a poor man that is proud;
a rich man that is a liar;
an old man that is a fool and doting.
The most High hath created medicines out of the earth: and a wise man will not abhor them. (Si 38,4)
The most High, Jesus Christ, has created from the earth (his flesh) the medicine of humility with which he has healed the human race. Alternatively: he created medicine from the earth when, by the affliction of the body, the wounds of the spirit are healed. So medicine is made from our flesh, as from a ‘healing serpent’. The flesh was like the serpent in relation to our guilt, but it will give healing in our punishment. The wise man will not abhor this medicine, the humility of Christ and the affliction of the flesh; but the proud, the liar and the senseless reject it. Of them it is said: Three sorts my soul hateth: a poor man that is proud, etc.
7. The proud poor man is our wretched body; the rich liar is this world; and the foolish old man is the devil. The body is subject to corruption- indeed, ‘corpse’ and ‘corrupt’ have a similar sound. It is poor, because it possesses little and controls little. Our body is poor, because it enters this exile naked, blind and weeping; and naked, blind and wretched it leaves this exile again (and would that it be not to eternal destruction!), subject to the necessities of hunger and cold, afflicted with infirmity, and full of corruption and uncleanness. Poor and unhappy creature, where does your pride come from? Whence comes your glory? If you want to be proud, you are being proud of a stinking sewer which you carry about with you. O wretch, wretched and poor, who do you think you are? What do you boast about? Are you not someone who was procreated from stinking seed in the secret cavern of your mother’s womb? For nine months you were nourished there
on the blood of menstruation, that drives dogs mad if they taste it. Whence, then, is your pride? Are you proud, perhaps, of your parents’ blood? If you are, you are surely proud of the dunghill from which you were born! Is it perhaps of riches? Then you are proud of what belongs to another. It is not yours, it is just lent to you. It is not yours, because you cannot take it with you. Death’s gate is very narrow, and even the poor and naked can scarcely pass through it, taking only their sins with them, which are nothing. Maybe you glory in your wisdom and eloquence? Not to you, not to you the glory, but to him alone (cf. Ps 113,9), who gives a mouth and wisdom (cf. Lc 21,15), who made the dumb to speak and the deaf to hear (cf. Mc 7,37). O pauper, you body of miseries, seeing that you are in such need and wretchedness, are you proud of so much, do you glory in so much? What would you do if you were rich? Blessed be God, who hast humbled the proud one, as one that is slain (Ps 88,11), who has dried up the sea, the waters of the roaring deep, who has struck the dragon and put down the mighty. He has given you
instead of a sweet smell, a stench; instead of a girdle, a cord;
instead of curled hair, baldness. (Is 3,24)
Humble yourself, then, you poor wretch. Groan and weep, and say with Jeremiah:
I am the man that see my poverty by the rod of his indignation.
He hath led me and brought me into darkness, and not into light.
My skin and my flesh he hath made old: he hath broken my bones.
He hath built round about me: and he hath compassed me with gall and labour.
He hath set me in dark places, as those that are dead for ever.
He hath built against me round about, that I may not get out: he hath made my fetters heavy.
He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath inebriated me with wormwood.
He hath broken my teeth one by one: he hath fed me with ashes.
Remember my poverty and my transgression, the wormwood and the gall. (LM ,
(The mendacity of the world: A rich man that is a liar.)
8. There follows: a rich man that is a liar. This rich man is the world, of whose riches the prophet Nahum says:
As for Ninive, her waters are like a great pool: but the men flee away.
Stand, stand! But there is none that will return back.
Take ye the spoil of the silver, take ye the spoil of the gold;
for there is no end of the riches of all the precious vessels. (Na 2,8-9)
Niniveh (meaning ‘beautiful’) stands for the world, fair with a deceitful beauty. Her waters (riches and pleasures) are like a pool that dries up in the summer heat. When the heat of death comes, riches and delights dry up. So Ecclesiasticus says:
In the end of a man is the stripping of his works. (Si 11,29)
They all flee away, they all pay the debt of death. Niniveh, the fair harlot, laughs at them and says, Stand, stand! Take the silver, take the gold. The lovers of the world leave behind what they cannot take with them, because the days of man are like a shadow (cf. Jb 8,9), and his life is like a wind (cf. Jb 7,7) which passes and does not return. As there is no end to Niniveh’s riches, so there will be no end to her miseries. Of all the precious vessels: these vessels are the hearts of worldlings, so deep in their cupidity that, however great the multitude of riches, they cannot be satisfied.
The same prophet adds, concerning the world’s lies:
Woe to thee, O city of blood, all full of lies and violence:
rapine shall not depart from thee. (Na 3,1)
Woe to the world of guilt and punishment, the city of blood (that is, sins) in which there is no truth, only lies. As the Psalm says:
Truths are decayed from among the children of men. (Ps 11,2)
This city is all full of lies and violence. St Gregory3 says, "This present life can only be had with tears, and so it can only be loved with tears." In Jeremiah, the Lord says of its lying:
It is become to me as the falsehood of deceitful waters that cannot be trusted. (Jr 15,18)
These faithless waters are riches,which keep no faith with their possessor. They promise him much, but deliver nothing. When their lovers abound with them, they praise God: He will praise thee when thou shalt do well with him (Ps 48,19). St Gregory4 says, "Useless
praise, that springs from prosperity! More meritorious is that which the power of sorrow does not take away." Carnal folk praise God while they enjoy riches, but when these are taken from them, they lie to the Lord.
(The folly of the devil, and the obedience of Christ: An old man that fool.)
9. There follows: An old man that is a fool and doting. This old fool is the devil, of whom Ecclesiastes says:
Better is a child that is poor and wise than a king that is old and foolish, who knoweth not to foresee for hereafter. (Qo 4,13)
He did not keep the wisdom that was given him among the angels, because he would not be subject to his Creator. Those who refuse to be subject to the yoke of obedience, for the sake of him who was obedient even to the Cross, are made the devil’s members. Every time you contumaciously despise obedience to your superior, you become like to the apostate angels. You despise not men, but God who places men over the heads of men.
So Job says:
Who made a weight for the winds. (Jb 28,25)
The wind is strong and violent. Human nature is prone to evil from its youth, and is like a wind, light yet violent. So God makes a weight for it, obedience to prelates, so that being made heavy by that weight it may not be foolishly lifted up above itself, like the devil, and so miserably fall below itself. In Lamentations, Jeremiah says:
It is good for a man when he hath borne the yoke from his youth.
He shall sit solitary and hold his peace:
because he hath taken himself above himself. (Lm 3,27-28)
When you humbly place others above yourself, then you will wonderfully raise yourself up above yourself. A yoke is something that joins two things together. Bear, then, my son, the yoke of obedience with Christ the Son of God. The young calf, Jesus Christ, bound by the yoke of obedience, has drawn all by himself the burden of all our sins. So Isaiah says:
The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Is 53,6)
The Jews, like countrymen with a goad, prodded him to make him go faster. See how
this young child of ours, all alone, pulled the weight that men and angels were unable to bear; and no one thinks about it, or perceives in his heart. O brother, run, I pray you, and join yourself to that yoke, and bear it with Jesus, lift it up with Jesus! Isaiah says:
I looked about, and there was none to help;
I sought, and there was none to give aid. (Is 63,5)
Help him, then, brother! Help Jesus, because if you become a sharer in his trials, you will also share in his consolations.
We ask you, then, Lord Jesus, to make us humble poor men, truthful rich men, wise old men: so that we may be fit to come to your eternal delights and riches. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A theme for a sermon on the six things necessary for the penitent; With three things is my spirit pleased.)
10. There follows, secondly:
The publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but he struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down unto his house justified rather than the other; because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Lc 18,13-14)
There are six things to note in this clause: the recollection of his own wickedness, the humbling of his mind and heart, contrition, confession, satisfaction, and the justification of the publican himself.
The recollection of wickedness is expressed by: The publican, standing afar off. Conscious of his own wickedness, he stood at a distance, reckoning himself unworthy of actually entering the temple. The Pharisee thought he was near, but he was distant; the publican thought himself distant, but was near. The branch was broken and the wild olive was grafted in (cf. Rm 11,17).
That which Israel sought, he hath not obtained; but the election hath obtained it. (Rm 11,7)
Stand, sinner, stand afar off, and think yourself unworthy. Say with Abraham:
I will speak to the Lord, wheareas I am dust and ashes. (Gn 18,27)
The humility of mind and body is expressed by: He would not even lift up his eyes to heaven. The distinguishing mark of humility is usually shown in the eyes. Ecclesiasticus says:
Give me not haughtiness of my eyes; (Si 23,5)
and St Augustine5 says, "The shameless eye is herald of the shameless heart."
Further, in striking his breast he expresses three things: contrition, by the striking; confession, by the sound it made; satisfaction in deeds, by his hand. He said; O God, be merciful to me a sinner, be reconciled. The publican, like a humble man, would not dare to draw near, and so God drew near to him. He would not look up, so God looked upon him. He struck his breast, inflicting punishment on himself, so God spared him. He confessed, and God forgave him. God forgave what he acknowledged. Attend, and look carefully at the concord the penitent had with himself. Humility shone forth in his mind, and humility dwelt in his eyes. His heart grieved for what he had done, his hand struck, his tongue cried out: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
11. There is a concordance to this concord in Ecclesiasticus:
With three things my spirit is pleased, which are approved before God and men;
The concord of brethren, and the love of neighbours,
and a man and wife that agree well together. (Si 25,1-2)
Let us see what is meant by the brethren, the neighbours, and man and wife. The ‘brethren’ are the five bodily senses, of which Genesis says:
Juda, thee shall thy brethren praise. (Gn 49,8)
They are Ruben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar and Zabulon. Juda is the penitent, and when his five bodily senses are in concord together, they give him praise- that is, they make him praiseworthy. Ruben means ‘vision’, and represents sight. Simeon means ‘hearing’, and represents it. Levi is ‘taken up’, representing the sense of smell whereby we take up the air we breathe. Issachar is ‘remembrance of the Lord’, that is, the tongue whereby the penitent should be mindful both to confess sin and praise the Lord. Zabulon,
‘dwelling of strength’, is touch. The concord of these brethren is pleasing to God and men. ‘Concord’ means a joining of hearts; to be concordant means to be of one heart.
There follows: the love of neighbours. These neighbours are the affections of the mind, nearest of all to us. If the love of God is among them, so that they are directed towards God and love God, then this is pleasing to God. And a man and wife that agree well together. The husband is the reason, the wife is the sensual nature. If these agree in the fear and love of God, then they will receive whatever they ask for. If two of you agree, it will be done for you (cf. Mt 18,19).
It was because there was such concord, love and agreement in the publican that the Lord said of him, I say to you, this man went down unto his house justified rather than the other- that is, rather than the Pharisee. St Bernard6 says here, "The publican, who emptied himself and took care to show himself as an empty vessel, received a fuller grace." See how great the Redeemer’s grace is: the publican went up defiled and came down justified, he went up a sinner and came down a saint. So, in the Introit of today’s Mass, he cries out confidently:
O God, come to my assistance, (Ps 69,2)
that is, Be merciful to me, a sinner,
0 Lord, make haste to help me,
by pouring in your grace, so that I may go down justified.
(A moral theme on humility: Everyone that exalteth himself.)
12. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
1 am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But, by the grace of God, I am what I am. And his grace in me hath not been void. (1Co 15,9-10)
Nothing can be less than the least. See how St Paul, the least, and the humble publican are concordant. The latter thought himself unworthy and stood afar off; the former reckoned himself least of the apostles. The latter would not lift up his eyes to heaven, because he had sinned before heaven and before God; the former said, I am not worthy to be called an apostle. The latter accused himself as a sinner; the former, that he had persecuted the Church of God. The latter found grace, and so did the former, who said, By the grace of God, I am what I am.
Let us then, dearest brothers, ask the Lord Jesus Christ, who forgave the sins of the publican and of Saul, and bestowed grace on them, to forgive us and bestow grace on us, that we may attain to his glory. May he grant this, who is blessed and glorious, life and salvation, just and kindly, for ever and ever. Let every humble soul say: Amen. Alleluia.
(On the true penitent, and on the nature of bees: The memory of Josias.)
13. Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Ecclesiasticus says:
The memory of Josias is like the composition of a sweet smell made by the art of a perfumer;
his remembrance shall be sweet as honey in the mouth, and as music at a banquet of wine. (Si 42,1-2)
Josias means ‘one in whom is sacrifice’, and he represents the penitent or the just man, in whom is that sacrifice to God which is a broken heart (cf. Ps 50,19). His life is compared to the work of a perfumer, to the sweetness of honey, and to an instrument of music. The true penitent, like a perfumer, crushes in the mortar of his heart, with the pestle of contrition, all kinds of thoughts, words and deeds, and reduces them to the finest powder, which he mixes with the balm of tears. This is the composition of a sweet smell, the work of the perfumer which is compared to the sweetness of honey.
Note that bees gather wax from flowers, taking it in their fore-legs and passing it to the middle legs, and thence to the joints of the hind-legs. Then they fly with it, and you can see how heavy it is. When a bee flies, it does not visit different kinds of flowers, nor does it leave one flower and go to another, but it collects what it needs from one flower and returns to the hive. There it works, and lives on what it makes. A penitent, too, has six ‘legs’. The first pair are the love of God and neighbour, the middle are prayer and abstinence, the hinder are patience and perseverance. The flowers are the examples of the holy fathers, from which he should gather ‘wax’- purity of mind and body- gathering it with these six ‘legs’ and returning to the ‘hive’ of his own conscience, to work upon it inwardly and refresh himself with the fruit of this inner working. As the Lord says: Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto life everlasting (Jn 6,27). The work of a just man is like the sweetness of honey: purity of conscience, honesty of life, the fragrance of good repute, and joy in divine contemplation.
You who meddle in many matters (cf. Si 11,10), go not to the ant, I say (cf. Pr 6,6), but to the bee, to learn wisdom. The bee does not visit different kinds of flower; likewise you should not go to the varied flowers of words and all kinds of books; nor should you leave one flower and go to another, like the dabblers who are always changing books and reading sermons and weighing words: but never attaining wisdom! Gather what you need from one, and store it in the hive of your memory. The Philosopher7 says: "A plant that is always being moved will not flourish. There is nothing so useful that it improves with moving."
Again, the life of the just man is compared to an instrument of music. This musical instrument is the word of Gospel preaching, the melody of good repute harmonising with
a holy life. From such a life comes a sweet-scented memory that delights the minds of those who hear, as it sounds sweetly in their ears.
(On humility and on the nature of the camel: Everyone that humbleth himself; and: I went out by the gate of the Valley.)
14. Regarding the humility of this Josias, the penitent who humbles himself with the publican, the Lord says: Every one that humbleth himself shall be exalted. The humble man as it were stoops to the ground. Heaven’s gate is low, and whoever wants to enter by it must stoop down. The Lord taught this when he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (cf. Jn 19,30). He says:
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mc 10,25)
Literally, the ‘needle’s eye’ was a certain gate in Jerusalem. The camel is taught by nature to stoop down when passing through a low place, and to walk on its knees. That is why it has padded knees, so as not to hurt them when it walks on them. It is easier, then, for a camel to pass through, because a camel can lower itself by nature, whereas a rich man can do so only by grace.
To explain this stooping down to us, there was a certain gate in Jerusalem called the Valley Gate, of which Nehemiah says:
I went out by night by the Gate of the Valley, and before the Dragon fountain, and to the Dung Gate: and I viewed the wall of Jerusalem which was broken down, and the gates thereof which were consumed by fire.. And I passed to the Gate of the Fountain, and to the king’s aqueduct; and there was no place for the beast on which I rode to pass... And I came to the Gate of the Valley, and returned. (Ne 2,13-15)
The Gate of the Valley is our entrance into the world, when we go out to see it. The Dragon Fountain is the fountain of tears. The Dung Gate is penitence, through which the dung of sin is carried out. Then we consider the breach in the spiritual wall, made by sin; and the gates consumed by fire, which are the senses corrupted by sin. The Gate of the Fountain is contemplation, to which we pass after doing penance. The aqueduct is the contemplative soul, through which flow the waters of understanding. The beast for which there is no room is the body, whose heaviness pulls men down from heavenly contemplation; for, the corruptible body is a load upon the soul (Sg 9,15). And so we must return to the Gate of the Valley, because we must persevere in humility. Ecclesiasticus says: Humble thy spirit very much; for the vengeance on the flesh of the ungodly is fire and worms (Si 7,19). The flesh of the ungodly means carnal and ungodly people.
So the Lord says in Ezekiel:
In the fire of my rage will I blow upon thee, and will give thee into the hands of men that are brutish and contrive thy destruction. (Ez 21,31-32)
And in Judith:
He will give fire and worms into their flesh, that they may burn and may feel for ever.
Anthony_Sermons - (THIRD CLAUSE)