Anthony_Sermons - (@LC 10,31-32@)
1 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 11.14-17
2 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 31.34
3 AUGUSTINE, De sermone Domini in monte, 11,1; PL 34.1269
4 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 30.28
5 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 31.13-15
6 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Job 20.24-25
7 Sequence for Pentecost
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
Translated by Paul Spilsbury (PROLOGUE FOR OCTOBER)
We give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the guide and the way whereby we have reached the first Sunday of the month of October. Note, then, that from the first of October to the first of November the Books of Maccabees are read in Church; and during this period there are four Sundays, in which are read four Gospels with whose clauses we will, by God’s grace, concord certain stories of the Maccabees, as shall seem to us most appropriate.
(The Gospel for the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: When Jesus went into the house; which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon on the preacher and prelate of the Church, and his weapons: Judas Maccabaeus.)
1. At that time: When Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees, on the sabbath day, to eat bread, they watched him. (Lc 14,1)
The first Book of Maccabees tells that Judas Maccabaeus
put on a breastplate like a giant and girt his warlike armour about him in battles and protected the camp with his sword. In his acts he was like a lion and like a lion’s whelp roaring for his prey. (1M 3,3-4)
Judas means ‘glorifying’, and Maccabaeus is ‘protecting’ or ‘striking’; he stands for the preacher, who should glorify God, protect his neighbour and strike the devil. He should put on a breastplate like a giant: and note that the giant stands for constancy, and the breastplate for patience. These two are very necessary for the preacher, so that he is constant in speaking, and patient when dogs bark at him. He should rejoice like a giant to run his course (cf. Ps 18,6). So Job says of him:
He pranceth boldly; he goeth forward to meet armed men.
He despiseth fear; he turneth not his back to the sword. (Jb 39,21-22)
So his going out is from the highest heaven, the fire of charity, to strike the devil who dwells in the sinner’s heart. Then the breastplate of patience is necessary to him: not of leather but of chain-mail. True patience is not made from the leather of human fear and favour, but only from the unyielding bonds of charity. A fake patience, more worldly shame and fear than the love of God, is simply afraid to avenge an injury received.
He girt his warlike armour about him. Of this, the Apostle says:
Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth... and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation. (Ep 6,14)
And he protected the camp with his sword, the word of God entrusted to him. With it he must protect the souls of the faithful from three things- the heat of the sun (carnal temptation), the thunderstorm of worldly adversity, and the assault of the enemy, the devil. He was like a lion, of which the Apocalypse says:
The lion of the tribe of Juda hath prevailed; (Ap 5,5)
Juda is a lion’s whelp; to the prey, my son, thou art gone up.
Resting thou hast couched as a lion. (Gn 49,9)
The preacher should take spoils, seizing the souls held captive by the devil in the hunting of his preaching; as Christ did, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who ascended the Cross to despoil the devil, entering his house and breaking open his coffers (cf. Mt 12,29). Thus it says in today’s Gospel, When Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees, etc.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel: the entering the house of the chief, the cure of the dropsical man, and the admonition of Jesus that all should keep humility. The first, When Jesus went in; the second: And behold a certain man with the dropsy; the third; When thou art invited to a wedding.
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: Give peace, O Lord, to them that wait for thee. The Epistle is taken from that of the blessed Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, I, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you; which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel: first, I beseech you; second, Careful to keep; third, One Lord, etc. Note that this Epistle and Gospel are read together, because in the Gospel the Lord speaks particularly of humility, whereby the unity of the Church is maintained, which the Apostle invites us to keep carefully, in today’s Epistle.
(The chief who is the devil: how he deceived Adam and strives daily to deceive each of the faithful: When Jesus went in; and: Antiochus entered the sanctuary.)
3. Let us say, then:
When Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees, on the sabbath day, to eat bread, they watched him. (Lc 14,1)
Let us see what is meant by the house, the chief, the Pharisee, the sabbath and the bread.
A ‘chief’ is one who holds on to the first place or honour; this refers to the devil, who caught the first man with an apple, as with a fish-hook. Anyone wanting to catch a fish with a hook needs these three: line, bait, and hook. The apple had three qualities, smell, colour and taste. The smell drew like a line; the colour acted as bait; the taste caught like a hook. With such a hook the first man was caught by the chief of devils.
There is a concordance to this in the First Book of Maccabees, where it tells that:
Antiochus proudly entered the sanctuary and took away the golden altar and the candlestick of light... and the table of proposition... and the golden ornament that was before the temple. (1M 1,23)
Antiochus means ‘silence of the poor’, and he represents the devil who impoverished the first man of so great a glory, keeping silent about death but promising that he would be like God. With the pride that caused him to be cast out of heaven, he entered the sanctuary of paradise, and took away the golden altar of a pure heart, whereon the incense of devotion was offered. In the Apocalypse, John says:
I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before the eyes of God. (Ap 9,13)
The golden altar is a pure heart, and it has four corners, the four principal virtues, from which comes the voice of contrition and confession. This altar is always before the eyes of God, because he looks mercifully upon it. Thus Isaiah says, Whom shall I respect, but the humble and quiet.. ? (cf. Is 66,2).
He took the candlestick of light, putting out the light of reason, of which the Lord says in Matthew:
If the light that is in thee be darkness; the darkness itself how great shall it be! (Mt 6,23) And the table of proposition, the sweetness of contemplation of which the Psalm says: Thou hast prepared a table before me. (Ps 22,5)
And the golden ornament, charity, which adorns the face of the temple, the works of any Christian who is, as the Apostle says, the holy temple of God (cf. 1Co 3,17). At one time the devil took all these things from our first parent, and every day he tries to take them from each man.
He is chief ‘of the Pharisees’ (which means ‘separated’), meaning those who separate themselves from the just and form their own sects. There is a concordance to them in the first Book of Maccabees:
In those days there went out of Israel wicked men and they persuaded many, saying: Let us go and make a covenant with the heathens that are round about us; for since we departed from them many evils have befallen us. And the word seemed good in their eyes. (1M 1,12-13)
The house of this chief is the world, which because of our first parent’s guilt he took as his own house. The Lord entered it when he took our flesh; so it is well said: When Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees. Why did he enter? To eat bread on the sabbath. Note the words ‘sabbath’, ‘eat’ and ‘bread’. The sabbath means ‘rest’, and to eat is to put something in one’s mouth with one’s hand. ‘Bread’ here stands for food in general, which every animal needs. The Lord entered the world on the sabbath, to give us rest from slavery to the devil.
(The three accursed things the Lord destroyed by his Passion, to bring us peace: In that day, when God shall give thee rest; and: The labour of Egypt.)
4. So Isaiah says of him:
In that day, when God shall give thee rest from thy labour, and from thy vexation, and from the hard bondage wherewith thou didst serve before, thou shalt take up this parable against the king of Babylon, and shalt say: How is the oppressor come to nothing, the tribute hath ceased? The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of the rulers, that struck the people in wrath with an incurable wound, that brought nations under in fury, that persecuted in a cruel manner. The whole earth is quiet and still: it is glad and hath rejoiced. (Is 13,3-7)
On that day when the light rose in the darkness, Jesus Christ the Son of God, he gave us rest from our labour, from vexation and from bondage. John says in his Epistle:
All that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh (labour) and the concupiscence of the eyes (avarice, which is vexation) and the pride of life (hard slavery to the devil).
Of these three the Father says to the Son, in Isaiah:
The labour of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia, and of Sabaim men of stature, shall come over to thee and shall be thine. They shall walk alter thee, they shall go bound with manacles. And they shall worship thee and shall make supplication to thee. (Is 45,14)
Egypt means ‘the trouble that constrains’, the concupiscence of the flesh, which troubles and binds the soul. Ethiopia is ‘darkness’ or ‘gloom’, the concupiscence of avarice which darkens the eyes of the wise. Sabaim are ‘captives’, under the hard bondage of the devil, tall with pride. The Lord opposes three things to them: innocence of life against the labour of the flesh, poverty of spirit against the vexation or business of avarice, and the blood of his Passion against the haughtiness of pride. The Lord gives you these things (rest from the labour of Egypt, from the vexation and business of Ethiopia, from the bondage of the devil and the elation of pride, showing them in himself for your imitation), through the humility of his Passion; and he will give a fuller rest when this mortal puts on immortality.
Then you will take up a parable against the king of Babylon, the sting of the flesh, the world and the devil, and you will say, How is the oppressor come to nothing, the tyrannous flesh that daily demands its pennyworth of pleasure; the tribute hath ceased, of avarice and cupidity; The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of the rulers- their dignity and pride which struck peoples, subjugated nations and cruelly persecuted. Then the earth, our flesh, will be quiet, resting in unity with the spirit from the labour of temptation; it will be still from the vexation of worldly desire, and it will rejoice and be glad, free from the slavery of the devil’s pride. It is well said then, When Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees on the sabbath.
5. There follows: To eat; Christ ate, putting the hand of action to the mouth of preaching. Hear how Christ ate: Jesus began to do and to teach (Ac 1,1); he was mighty in work and word (Lc 24,19). Peter was told to kill and eat (Ac 10,13), and the preacher is, as it were, told to kill with the sword of preaching, and to eat by ‘putting his hand to his mouth’- first doing what he preaches to others. There is a concordance to this in the first Book of Maccabees:
Timotheus said to the captains of his army: When Judas and his army come near the torrent of water, if he pass over unto us first, we shall not be able to withstand him: for he will certainly prevail over us; but if he is afraid to pass over and camp on the other side of the river, we will pass over to them and shall prevail against them. (1M 5,40-41)
Timotheus means ‘beneficent’, and he represents the devil, who seems to bestow
benefits on his followers, though they are more like poisons- he should be called a poisoner rather than a benefactor. He is very afraid that Judas, the preacher, will cross the river of preaching by passing from the bank of words to the bank of deeds. If he does that, he will put Timotheus and his army to flight. But alas! Today everyone comes to the river and stands on the bank of words, but they will not cross to the bank of deeds. So the devil is not afraid of them, and their words are of less effect. As the same book says, they are not of the seed of those who brought salvation to Israel (cf. 1M 3,60). Those men were the Apostles, who crossed the river and wrought salvation greatly among the people of God.
There follows: Bread; the bread is God’s will, to be preferred to any other food. Judas Maccabaeus himself said: As it shall be the will in heaven, so be it done (1M 3,60). Every work is barren, if not sustained by the bread of the divine will. God’s will is for the sinner to be converted, and live; so he himself says in Isaiah:
Thy land shall no more be called desolate, but thou shalt be called My will in her,
and thy land shall be inhabited, because the Lord hath been well pleased with thee. (Is 62,4)
When the sinner is converted, the land (his mind) is indwelt by grace, and so the Lord’s will, which is life, is found in it. So Jesus entered the house on the sabbath, to eat bread: that is, he came into the world to do the will of the Father, saying:
My meat is to do the will of him that sent me. (Jn 4,34)
He shall sit in the gate, to eat bread before the Lord, (Ez 44,3)
that is, he humbled himself in the Virgin, so as to do the Father’s will. This is the living bread, and whoever eats it will not die eternally. The flesh profiteth nothing (Jn 6,64), meaning the will of the flesh. The bread which is the Lord’s will strengthens man’s heart.
So the Lord says in Exodus:
In the evening you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread.
And you shall know that I am the Lord your God. (Ex 16,12)
In the evening of guilt, when the sun of grace sets, sinners eat flesh, they fulfil their carnal wishes; but the Lord says, My sword shall devour flesh (Dt 32,42). Their flesh is as that of asses, their issue like that of horses (Ez 23,20). Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear (Ps 118,120), he says. In the evening you will eat flesh, and in the morning, the
rising of grace, contrition of heart and renunciation of sin, you will have your fill of bread: the Lord’s will, which refreshes and satisfies the penitent soul more than anything else; and then you will know that I am the Lord your God. When the evening of guilt is changed to the dawn of grace, we truly know that he is the Lord our God. Every living creature seeks this bread: Thy will be done on earth as it is n heaven (Mt 6,10), as if to say: Let it be done in sinners, as it is in the just. Visit the earth and inebriate it, so that it may bring forth, not thorns and thistles, but the full grain in the ear, confession in the prick of contrition; so that from it may be made the bread of your will, that strengthens man’s heart.
There follows: And they were watching him. They set traps and watched slyly, to see if he would break the sabbath. The sinner shall watch the just man (Ps 36,12), as it is said. They watched, so as to catch him out, not so as to keep his words. Solomon says:
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is all man- (Qo 12,13)
all that man is made for, that is. Natural History tells that there is a small animal (a toad) that goes to where bees enter, and blows hard on it, and waits for them to come out. When one comes out and tries to fly away, it catches and eats it. That is how the proud and crafty man goes to where bees enter (by watching the life and morals, the words and works of the just, whereby they enter the kingdom), and ‘blows’ (by praise or blame). He thinks that by praise he may puff them up with praise, or cast them down with vituperation; and he watches to see if any of them is carried away by conceit when praised, or by angry words when criticised. Then he immediately pulls them up and condemns their behaviour.
As gold in the furnace, so a man is tried by the mouth of him that praiseth. (Pr 27,21)
The fire of praise consumes lead and straw, but adds brightness to gold and silver.
When a man is injured, it shows up what he is like inside.
(The five things the Apostle speaks of in the first clause of the Epistle: I beseech you.)
6. The first part of today’s Epistle is concordant with this first clause:
I, therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called; with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity. (Ep 4,1)
In this first part, the Apostle mentions five things: walking worthily, humility, mildness, patience and charity. We should walk worthily, so that the prince of darkness does not catch us; with all humility, against the pride of the Pharisees; with mildness, to keep the sabbath devoutly; with patience, to be able to eat the bread of the divine will; supporting in charity those who watch us, criticise and abuse us.
The Introit of today’s Mass is concordant with this part of the Epistle:
Give peace to them that wait for thee, that thy prophets may be found faithful;
hear the prayers of thy servant and of thy people Israel. (cf. Si 36,18)
The same is sung in the history for this Sunday, in the Second Book of Maccabees:
May he open your heart in his law and in his commandments and send you peace.(2M 1,4)
When the heart is opened by compunction, the law of grace is written with God’s finger on it, and his commandments are kept and his peace is bestowed; so that the sabbath of the mind is kept, the bread of the divine will is eaten to satisfaction, and critical observation is borne in charity. So the prophets, just men and holy preachers, are found faithful, and the prayers of the faithful people are heard.
We ask you, then, Lord Jesus Christ, to enter the house of our conscience, and cast out the chief of the Pharisees, the movement of evil thoughts which divide the mind and distract the heart. Restore the sabbath of rest and peace to our minds, make us eat the bread of your will, so that we may be able to attain you, the bread of angels. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(The theme for a sermon on the waters of concupiscence: The waters of Nemrim; and of the nature of the leopard, and its meaning.)
7. The second clause follows:
And, behold, there was a certain man before him that had the dropsy. And Jesus, answering,spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying: Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? But they held their peace. But he, taking him, healed him and sent him away. (Lc 14,2-4)
The Gloss comments: "Dropsy (hydropsis, from the Greek for water) is a watery disease. Strictly, dropsy is when the more one drinks the more one is thirsty, and so it is a likeness of one who gets worse the more he overflows with carnal pleasures; and it is also a likeness of the rich miser." The waters of carnal pleasure and of worldly greed generate a dropsy of the soul, which is insatiable. These are the waters which cause a cursed swelling, and if anyone drinks them their belly and thigh shall rot (cf. Nb 5,22 Nb 5,27). They are the waters of Egypt, which were turned into blood (cf. Ex 7,19-20), and the waters of which Isaiah said:
The waters of Nemrim shall be desolate, for the grass is withered away: the spring is faded, all the greenness is perished.
According to the greatness of their work is their visitation also: they shall lead them to the torrent of the willows. (Is 15,6-7)
Nemrim means ‘leopard’, a most savage beast which rushes headlong towards blood, and as it leaps it falls to its death. Natural History says that when the leopard eats something poisonous, it looks for human excrement and eats it. Because of this, hunters put such excrement in jars in the treetops, and when the leopard comes to the trees and jumps up to get the excrement, they kill it. The leopard stands for the proud, worldly man, covered with the spots of all sorts of sins. When he is inflamed by the poison of the devil’s temptation, he looks for the dung of temporal things, to eat them and make them his own. I reckon everything as dung, to gain Christ, said the Apostle (cf. Ph 3,8); and the Lord told Ezekiel to cover his bread with human excrement (cf. Ez 4,12). The ‘bread’ is the thought and action of the sinner, covered with the dung of greed and lust, pride and avarice. The devil, hunting, puts dung in the tree, to capture more easily. The might tree is temporal dignity, which though thought to be firmly rooted is plucked up by the wind of death and thrown into the infernal sea. So Job says:
I have seen a fool with a strong root: and I cursed his beauty immediately. (Jb 5,3)
The devil puts the dung in the tree for food, and when the proud man jumps up to get it, to eat the dung of greed and lust, vainglory and money, he is killed by the devil. So the waters of Nemrim shall be desolate.
There is a concordance to this in the second Book of Maccabees, where
Antiochus, being filled with pride, breathing out fire... and commanding the matter to be hastened, it happened as he was going with violence that he fell from the chariot, so that his limbs were much pained by a grievous bruising of the body. Thus he that seemed to himself to command even the waves of the sea, being proud above the condition of man, and to weigh the heights of the mountains in a balance, now being cast down to te ground, was carried in a litter... And the man that thought a little before that he could reach to the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry for the intolerable stench. (2M 9,7-8,10)
See how the waters of Nemrim are desolate!
The grass of temporal glory withers, the shoots of children, nephews and parents fail, and all the vigour of carnal pleasure, gluttony and lust, dies. It will be according to the greatness of the works and wickedness of the proud, and their visitation, because
punishment is in proportion to guilt; and the demons who drove them on will make them drink from the cup they have prepared for themselves; and will drive them naked and wretched, with their hands bound behind them, to the brook of willows- of eternal punishment- where no order, but everlasting horror dwelleth (Jb 10,22). These are the waters that swell the mind, that generate the dropsy, and the more they are drunk the more the increase thirst.
(The dropsical man, the miser: And behold, a man.)
8. And, behold, there was a certain man before him that had the dropsy. The dropsical man is the miser, avaricious, avid for gold and never satisfied with what he has. As the body breathes in air, the miser takes in money; he is like a bottomless pit. The Psalmist says, Deep calleth upon deep (Ps 41,8), and the deep of gluttony calls upon the deep of lust, the deep of consumption calls on the deep of expenditure, the deep of money calls for the deep of hell. Well may this dropsical man say with the prophet Jonah:
The waters compassed me about even to the soul:
the deep hath closed me round about:
the sea hath covered my head. (Jon 2,6)
The waters are the pleasures of the flesh, which hold the soul like an enemy besieged in his castle. The deep is that bottomless cupidity that walls the soul about lest it escape to freedom. The sea is pride, that covers the head (the mind) lest it see the truth.
These three are found in the Psalm: firstly,
Save me, O God: for the waters are come in even unto my soul. (Ps 68,2) secondly,
I stick fast in the mire of the deep: and there is no sure standing. (Ps 68,3)
When the unhappy soul amasses passing riches, it loses those that are eternal; as Ecclesiasticus says:
Riches are good to him that hath no sin in his conscience. (Si 13,30)
Take note of ‘stick fast’, ‘in the mire’ and ‘of the deep’. The mire is smooth, and the miser by his cupidity sticks fast in the mire of pleasure, but deep in despair. Solomon says:
The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sins, contemneth. (Pr 18,3)
He despairs, lacking all hope of getting out; because anyone who loves sin can have no hope of future glory. Thirdly,
I am come into the depth of the sea: and a tempest hath overwhelmed me. (Ps 68,3)
The depth of the sea is the depth of pride, a tempest that sinks man in the abyss of hell. O Lord Jesus, stretch out your hand and grasp this dropsical man, compassed about by the waters, closed round by the deep and buried in the sea!
(How the Lord, with the hand of his mercy, draws the sinner from his wickedness: Tobias took the fish.)
9. But Jesus, taking him, healed him and sent him away. Note that he took, he healed and he sent away. The Lord takes the sinner when he reaches out the hand of his mercy and pulls him out of the sea of sin. The Book of Tobias tells how Tobias took the huge fish and pulled it onto dry land. He gutted it and took its liver, gall and heart (cf. Tb 6,45). The huge fish is the sinner, entangled in great sins, whom ‘Tobias’ (Jesus Christ) takes with the hand of his mercy and pulls from the depth of despair onto the dry land of penance- dry and moistureless, like sackcloth! Penance is that dry place, the moisture of greed and lust being dried with the sackcloth of penance. As the Psalmist says:
In a desert land, and where there is no way and no water. (Ps 62,3)
(See the Gospel: When the unclean spirit goeth out of a man (Lent III).)
The Lord removes the entrails from this fish when he cuts the sinner with the sword of his fear, and removes the liver of lustful love, the gall of greed for gold (grievously hard, for "You get it with toil, you keep it with fear, you lose it with grief"1 ); and the swelling heart of pride. Jeremiah says of the liver:
My liver is poured upon the earth. (Lm 2,11)
This happens when someone, through earthly desires, is poured out in lustful pleasures. Peter says of the gall, to Simon Magus:
For I see thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. (Ac 8,23)
Whoever toils in simony and avarice, suffers bitterness of mind and bondage in his activity. Job says of the heart:
Why doth thy heart elevate thee,
and why dost thou stare with thy eyes, as if they were thinking great things?
Why doth thy spirit swell against God, to utter such words out of thy mouth? (Jb 15,189)
There follows healing. The Lord heals the sinner when he cures his soul of all the weakness of sin: Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee (Ps 40,5). The healthy man has blood in his face, taking away his pallor. The blood of tears shows health in the soul. Tears as it were ‘tear’ the mind, and when you are torn with sorrow, the tears flow like blood and wet your cheeks, so that:
Thy cheeks are rosy, like a piece of pomegranate,
besides that (contrition of heart) which lieth hid within. (cf. Ct 4,3)
(The Lord said:)
Behold, thou art healed; see that nothing worse happen to thee. (cf. Jn 5,14)
And to Hezekiah:
I have heard thy prayer, and I have seen thy tears; and behold I have healed thee. (cf. Is 38,5)
Prayer and tears make a sort of poultice, driving out the inflammation of the soul.
(The penitent, who should cut away from himself everything that is superfluous: Immediately Sephora took a very sharp stone.)
Thirdly, sending away. The Lord dismisses the converted sinner by letting him depart in the joy of a good conscience, free from all the bonds of guilt, punishment and the devil’s temptation.
Loose him, and let him go. (Jn 11,4)
The disciples said:
Send her away, for she crieth alter us, (Mt 15,23) and there is something similar in Exodus, where
Immediately Sephora took a very sharp stone, and circumcised the foreskin of her son, and touched his feet, and said: A bloody spouse art thou to me. And he let him go after she had said: A bloody spouse, because of the circumcision. (Ex 4,25-26)
Literally, this is to be understood (after Augustine2 ) that the blood touched the feet of the boy; so that she angrily said to her husband Moses, "Are you a bloody husband to me? Have I been forced by marriage to you to commit so great a sin as to shed my own son’s blood?" But an alternative meaning is that Sephora touched Moses’ feet, indignantly throwing the foreskin at his feet, and saying (as the Hebrew idiom is) "You are a son-inlaw of blood to me, that is, you have so become a son-in-law of blood to my father, that you have brought me (my flesh, my son) to blood, that is, to death."
Morally, Sephora (‘a bird’) represents the penitent, who should be winged with virtues, like a bird. With the sharp stone of contrition of heart, she should circumcise the foreskin of her son, cutting away what is superfluous. The foreskin covers the private part, and often superfluity prevents us seeing that of which we should be ashamed. Let it be cut away, then, that the blood of tears may flow, touching and washing the feet of our child, our works. If our affection (our will) is clean, our effects (our deeds) will be sanctified. After this circumcision, the Lord lets the man go free, back to his brothers and his house with a clear conscience.
10. And answering them he said: Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit and will not immediately draw him out, on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him to these things. (Lc 14,5-6)
The Gloss says, "The dropsied man, suffering from harmful fluid, is appropriately compared to an animal in a pit." Let us see what the ass, the ox and the pit mean. The ass, who avoids heights, is strong in his hindparts but lowly in his forequarters, where he bears a cross. The ass is the lustful man, who avoids the heights of holy conversation, and goes by the plains of pleasure. He is weak in works of the cross, and spiritual toil, but he is strong in his loins, wherein is lust. Regarding the ass, see the Gospels: Jesus was led (Lent I); and: When Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday);
The ox stands for the proud man, horned and charging with the horn of pride. Regarding horns, see the Gospel: When a strong man armed (Lent III, third clause). The ass and the ox, the lustful man and the proud rich man, represented by the dropsied man, fall into the pit of sin from which they have to be pulled with old cloths, as Jeremiah tells that Abdemelech did, taking old rags and old clothes falling apart, and letting them down by cords to Jeremiah in the pit, to pull him out (cf. Jr 38,11 Jr 38,13). These old rags are the poverty and humility of Jesus Christ, who was wrapped in cloths we may well call ‘old’. We usually give old clothes to other people, not keeping the poverty and humility of Jesus Christ ourselves, or dressing ourselves in them, but freely giving them and preaching them to others! Nowadays, the preacher tries hard to dress other people in poverty and humility: I hope he does not leave himself naked! He wants to reform others, but he should take care that he does not himself remain unreformed. The decaying clothes are the examples of the saints, which our rotten age despises and casts away as useless. We give the old to others, and the decayed we cast away! O sinner, you will never get out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs (Ps 39,3), except by the rags of Jesus Christ’s poverty and humility. With these, the ox and the ass are pulled out of the deep pit.
11. The second part of the Epistle is concordant with this second clause:
Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling. (Ep 4,3-4)
The Gloss says: "You must keep unity, so as to be one body serving your neighbour, and one spirit with God, willing the same things; or one spirit with your brethren, with the same wishes, the same dislikes." The dropsied man (the lustful and avaricious man) does not keep this unity. He defiles his body and chokes his spirit with avarice. If he had been secured by the bond of peace, the cord of unity, he would never have fallen in the pit. Because he lacks both of them, he falls into the pit of despair.
We ask you then, Lord Jesus Christ, to grasp us with the outstretched hand of your mercy, and pull us out of the pit with the cloths of poverty and humility. Cure us of the dropsy of lust and avarice, to keep the unity of the spirit, and come to you, God three and one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever. Amen.
(A moral sermon on unity and peace, which the devil strives to destroy; and on the nature and properties of pearls, and their meaning: Careful to keep the unity of the spirit, and the rest that follows.)
12. Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Note ‘careful’, ‘unity’ and ‘bond of peace’; which are very necessary for us, my brothers. The devil wanted to sow the tares of discord in heaven, and he tries to do the same in the community of penitents. So Job says:
On a certain day, when the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Satan also was present among them. (Jb 1,6)
Note each word: On a certain (not indefinite) day (not nighty when the sons (adopted by gracej of God (by the spirit of poverty) came (in devotion) to stand (by mortification of the body) before the Lord (not the world), Satan also was present among them (to sow the seeds of discord). Brothers, we must be careful, not lazy; we must keep, not break, the unity of the spirit. Dearest brothers, we must keep the unity of the spirit with the greatest care; as carefully as sea-shells keep their pearls.
Natural History says that "In sea shells, precious stones called pearls are produced. At a certain time of year, they thirst for dew as for a husband, and gape with this desire.
When a great shower of rain falls from the moon, they draw in the desired moisture with a sort of yawn. In this way they conceive and become pregnant. If what they have received is pure, the little globes are white; if it is disturbed, they have a sickly pallor, or a cloudy red colour. Thus, their birth is more from the sky than the sea. So as often as they receive the seed of the morning air, the clearer the pearls; and as often as it comes from
the evening, the darker; and the more they draw in, the larger the stone grows. If there is a sudden flash of light, they close up without delay. There is a sense in the shells, they fear that their offspring will be stained; when the day becomes hot with fiercer rays, they plunge into the depths and hide themselves from the heat under the waves, so that the stones are not discoloured by the sun’s heat. In water, the pearl is soft, but it hardens in wine. You never find two the same, so they are called ‘unions’. They are afraid of the fisherman’s nets, so they hide among the rocks. They swim in a group, and follow a definite leader." Let us see what all this means, morally.
Sea-shells are hollow, representing penitents, humble and poor in spirit, who are empty by humbleness of heart. They thirst for dew as for a husband, as is said:
My soul hath thirsted after the livings fountain of God. (cf. Ps 41,3, ‘fontem’ for ‘fortem’)
The dew of heavenly grace impregnates the soul like a husband, with the intention of good works. They gape with desire for this dew, as Job says:
My root is opened beside the waters; and dew shall continue in my harvest. (Jb 29,19)
(See the Gospel: When Jesus was going to Jerusalem (Pentecost XIV))
When a great shower of rain comes down from the moon, this represents prosperity, adversity and the infusion of grace. The moon’s light stands for prosperity, the night for adversity, and the shower for the infusion of grace. The just ardently desire this, and drink it in with an open heart, both in the brightness of prosperity and in the night of adversity; so that prosperity does not lift them up, nor adversity cast them down. Whence Isaiah:
My soul hath desired thee in the night:
yea, and with my spirit within me in the morning early I will watch to thee. (Is 25,9)
If what they receive is pure- the infusion of grace can do two things, brighten or confuse. It enlightens the mind for contemplation, and then the pearls (the mind’s affections and thoughts) are clear; as the Lord says in Hosea:
I will be as the dew: Israel shall spring as the lily. (Os 14,6)
When the dew of contemplation sweetens the mind, the humble mind, like Israel, brings forth white thoughts like lilies. But grace disturbs the mind to grieve for sin, and then a pallid or red colour is effected in the pearls: pallid in the affliction of the body, red in contrition of heart. So in Canticles:
Tell my beloved that I languish with love. (cf. Ct 5,8)
"Every lover grows pale"3 ; Her back with the paleness of gold (Ps 67,14), says the Psalmist.
So they arise from the sky rather than the sea. Those impregnated by the bitter sea of the world bring forth vipers; those by the sky, pearls. Of the former is said:
Ye offspring of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? (Lc 3,7)
Of the latter, in Canticles:
The vines in flower yield their sweet smell; Thy plants are a paradise. (Ct 2,13 Ct 4 Ct 13)
As often as they receive the seed of the morning air, the clearer the pearls; as often as that of the evening, the darker. This is what the Psalm says:
In the evening weeping shall have place; and in the morning gladness. (Ps 29,6)
There is a triple evening, and a triple morning, of weeping and of gladness. The first evening was Adam’s sin, wherein was weeping when he was cast out of paradise and heard:
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread. (Gn 3,19)
The first morning was the Nativity of Jesus Christ, wherein was gladness; the angel said:
I bring you good tidings of great joy. (Lc 2,10)
The second evening was the death of Christ; wherein was weeping, as Luke says:
Jerusalem, weep not over me, etc. (Lc 23,28)
The second morning was his Resurrection, wherein was joy:
The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (Jn 20,20)
The third evening is in every man’s death, wherein is weeping; as Genesis tells,
Sara died in the city of Arbee; and Abraham came to mourn and weep for her. (Gn 23,2)
The third morning will be for the saints, in the general resurrection; therein, as Isaiah says,
Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. (Is 35,10)
If there is a sudden flash of light, they close up without delay. The devil’s flash is temptation, which the just fear exceedingly, and as soon as they feel it they squeeze themselves shut and close the doors of their senses. (See the Gospel: When it was late that same day, etc. (Easter Octave))
There is a sense in the shells; they are afraid their offspring will be stained. A ‘sense’ is a stimulus to the mind, by the body’s relationship with the soul. The just are afraid that their ‘offspring’ (their works) will be stained, and so when the day of worldly prosperity grows hot, and smiles on them, they plunge at once into the depths, considering their frailty and the misery of wickedness, and they hide beneath waves of tears; for otherwise their pearls may be discoloured and clouded by the sun’s heat, the burning of honour and human respect.
The pearl is soft in water; the just man’s mind is softened in the water of pleasure; but hardened by the wine of austerity. The delinquent mind is corrected by an austere face. So Ecclesiasticus says:
Hast thou daughters (souls committed to you)?
Have a care of their body, and show not thy countenance gay towards them. (Si 7,26)
You never find two pearls the same in one shell, because there is no ‘yes and no’ in the mind of a just man, no two opinions. There is no dissension there, it is a ‘union’, because it is careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Sea-shells fear the fisherman’s nets, because the just fear the snares of the devil’s temptations, who puts his hook into this great sea; and so they hide in the rocks of humility, high crags from which they can look out, and in which they need have no fear of the devil’s nets.
They swim in a group, a fine symbol of spiritual unity; and they have a definite leader, thus indicating obedience. The leader is the superior, whom we are all bound to follow and obey, so as to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Grant us this, Lord Jesus Christ, to who be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (@LC 10,31-32@)