Anthony_Sermons - (FOURTH CLAUSE)
1 CATO, Disticha II,17,2
2 ADAM OF ST VICTOR, Sequentia V, PL 196.1437-8
3 See GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Lk 22.1, from which this whole paragraph is taken.
4 The source of these sayings is untraced.
5 cf. ARISTOTLE, De historia animalium IX,40,627a20-25; PLINY, Natural History XI,10
6 cf. AUGUSTINE, De Genesi ad litteram, VI,12,22; PL 34.348
7 CICERO, Orator, 10,33
8 BERNARD, In psalmum ”Qui habitat” sermo 7,15; PL 183.208
9 GUIGO, Ad fratres de Monte Dei, I,14,42-43; PL 184.335-6
10 P. COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, Actus Apostolorum, cc 1,3,4; PL 198.1645-7
11 AUGUSTINE, Enarratio in ps. 49.6; PL 36.568
12 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Mk 16.7
13 cf. ISIDORE, De ordine creaturarum liber, 5,5; PL 83.924
14 GREGORY, In Evangelia homilia 12,1; PL 76.1119
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the Easter Octave: When it was late that same day; which is divided into five clauses.)
(First, a sermon for the preacher, and those to whom he should preach; I was in the city of Joppa.)
1. At that time: When it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them: Peace be to you. (Jn 20,19)
In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter says:
I was in the city of Joppa, praying; and I saw in an ecstasy of mind a vision, a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet let down from heaven by four corners. And it came even unto me. Into which looking, I considered, and saw four-footed creatures of the earth and beasts and creeping things and fowls of the air, and I heard also a voice saying to me: Arise, Peter, kill and eat. (Ac 11,5-7)
Peter represents the preacher, who ought to be praying in the city of Joppa (‘beauty’), in the unity of the Church wherein is the beauty of virtue, and outside which is the leprosy of faithlessness. This, then, is what the preacher should do first: devote himself to prayer. Then follows the ecstasy of mind, the raising up from earthly things, in which he sees a certain vessel, as it were a sheet. The vessel and the great sheet stand for the grace of preaching- a vessel that inebriates the minds of the faithful with the wine of compunction, a great sheet which wipes away the sweat of his labour and refreshes him to bear suffering. Its four corners are the teachings of the four Evangelists. It is let down from heaven because Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above (cf. Jc 1,17). And it came even unto me. Here is expressed more especially the privilege of the preacher, to whom the vessel of preaching is especially sent from heaven. In this vessel are four-footed creatures of the earth, the greedy and lustful; beasts that ravage, traitors and murderers; creeping things, the avaricious and usurers; and fowls of the air, the proud who are lifted up on the wings of vainglory. This vessel is the net cast in the sea, catching every kind of fish (cf. Mt 13,47), and the preacher is bidden: Rise, kill and eat. Rise to evangelize; kill what is worldly, mortifying and slaying to make a sacrifice to God,
whereby they may be taken from the old and may pass to newness; and eat, receive them into the unity and the congregation of the body of the Church. It is this unity and this congregation which is spoken of in today’s Gospel: When it was late that same day, the first of the week.
2. There are five things to note well in this Gospel. First, the gathering of the disciples, where it begins: When it was late, etc. Second, the greeting of three-fold peace, when it goes on: Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace to you. Third, the power given to the Apostles of binding and loosing: And when he had said this, he breathed on them, etc. Fourth, Thomas’s doubt: Thomas, one of the twelve, etc. Fifth, Thomas’s confession, and the confirmation of our faith: And alter eight days.
Note that this Sunday the Epistle of blessed John is read: Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And during the night is read, according to the usage of the Roman Church, the Acts of the Apostles. We will touch briefly on five stories from it, and concord them with the aforesaid five clauses of the Gospel. The first is the gathering of the Apostles in Jerusalem: Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet. The second: In those days, Peter, rising up in the midst of the brethren, etc. Third, the man lame from his mother’s womb, to whom Peter said: Silver and gold I have none, etc. Fourth, the conversion of Saul. Fifth, the eunuch, and the centurion Cornelius.
(A sermon against the prosperity of the world: I have not desired the day of man.)
3. Let us say, then: When it was late that same day, etc.
There are five things to note in this first clause: ‘late’, ‘that same day’, ‘the first of the week’, ‘the doors being shut’, and ‘the disciples being gathered, for fear of the Jews’.
The word ‘day’ is connected, etymologically, with a word for ‘brightness’, and it stands for the glare of worldly vanity, of which the Lord says in John:
I receive not glory from men. (Jn 5,41)
I have not desired the day of man, thou knowest. (Jr 17,16) and Luke says:
And now in this thy day (not mine), the things that are to thy peace (not mine). (Lc 19,42) In the Acts of the Apostles we read:
And in the next day, when Agrippa and Berenice were come in with great pomp, (Ac 25,23)
that is, with a great crowd accompanying them. According to the Gloss, the Greek phantasia means ‘an empty show’; Agrippa is ‘sudden gathering’, and Bernice is ‘daughter elegantly moved’. Agrippa represents the worldly rich man, who grabs together riches along with usury and lying. Nevertheless,
the riches which he hath swallowed he shall vomit up:
and God shall draw them out of his belly. (Jb 20,15)
Berenice is the lust of the flesh, the daughter of the devil, who is moved by outward elegance, and moves others by it. Agrippa and Berenice, the rich and the pleasureseeking, go forth in the day of their worldly glory with great pomp, the empty show that deludes them; for they think important what is just nothing, and even as they grasp it, it falls away.
When it was late, that same day. The evening of that day is penitence, wherein the sun of worldly glory is turned to darkness, and the moon of carnal desire is turned into blood. So Peter says, in the Acts of the Apostles, using the words of the Lord in Joel:
I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath;
blood and fire and vapour of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood. (Ac 2,19-20 Jl 2 Jl 3031)
Allegorically. The Lord gave signs in heaven and on earth when he came down to earth in the blood of the Cross; and in fire, when he sent the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, thus sending up the smoke of compunction:
They had compunction in their hearts, and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ. (Ac 2,37-38)
Morally. Blood stands for the mortification of the flesh, fire for the ardour of charity, and the vapour of smoke for compunction of heart. The Lord gives these signs ‘in heaven’ (that is, in the just), and ‘on earth’ (in sinners).
(A sermon for converted sinners: When it was late that same day; and: All Mount Sinai was on a smoke.)
4. There is a concordance to these three in today’s Epistle:
There are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, the water and the blood. (1Jn 5,8)
Allegorically: The spirit refers to the human life which Jesus Christ gave up in his Passion. Water and blood flowed from his side, which could only happen because he had the true nature of flesh.
Morally. The spirit is charity, the water is compunction, the blood is the mortification of the flesh. There is a concordance to this in Exodus:
And all mount Sinai was on a smoke: because the Lord was come down upon it in fire, and the smoke arose from it as out of a furnace. And all the mount was terrible. And the sound of the trumpet grew by degrees louder and louder, and was drawn out at greater length. (Ex 19,18-19)
Mount Sinai is the mind of the penitent. When the Lord comes down on it in the fire of charity (as he says: I have come to cast fire on the earth (Lc 12,49)), the whole mountain smokes, and the smoke of compunction goes up from it as from a furnace, the ardour of the mind. So all the mountain is ‘terrible’ by the mortification of the flesh, and ‘terrible’ to the unclean spirits. So Job says:
No man spoke to him a word. For they saw that his grief was very great. (Jb 2,13)
And the sound of the trumpet, that is, confession, grew by degrees louder and louder, and was drawn out at greater length; because the penitent when he confesses must start with sinful thoughts, and go on with words and deeds.
There follows: The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. The sun is turned into darkness when worldly brightness is darkened with the sackcloth of penitence; and the moon is turned to blood when the lust of the flesh is chastised by mortification, vigils and fasting. It is well said: When it was late that same day, the first of the week. The Lord says of it in Exodus: Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day (Ex 20,8).
(A sermon on the doors, which are the five senses of the body: And the doors were shut.)
5. One keeps holy the sabbath day by remaining in quietness of spirit, and refraining from eveil deeds. And the doors were shut. The doors are the five bodily senses, which we should close at the evening of divine love and fear, lest there should happen to us what Paul warns of in the Acts of the Apostles:
I know that after my departure ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (Ac 20,29)
Paul means ‘humble’. When humility leaves the heart, the ravening wolves of carnal desire enter by the doors of the five senses, to devour the flock of pure thoughts. Where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews. The disciples are the affections of reason. They should be gathered together for fear of the Jews, the demons who would harm them. As it says in Canticles:
Thou art beautiful and comely, daughter of Jerusalem:
terrible as an army set in array. (cf. Ct 6,3)
The daughter of the heavenly Jerusalem is the soul, beautiful by faith and comely by charity. She is terrible to the unclean spirits when the affections of reason and the thoughts of the mind are so ordered, as an army of soldiers is drawn up to fight the enemy.
There is a concordance to this gathering in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke says:
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is nigh Jerusalem, within a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James of Alphaeus and Simon Zelotes, and Jude the brother of James. All these were persevering with one mind in prayer, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Ac 1,12-14)
Mount Olivet is situated about a mile from Jerusalem; a sabbath day’s journey, since it was not lawful for Jews to travel more than a mile on the sabbath. The upper room is said to have been on the third floor, representing charity built on faith and hope. We should go up into this upper room and remain their with the Apostles, and persevere in one mind in prayer and contemplation and shedding of tears, that we may deserve to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. Thus our Lord says in Luke: Stay you in the city till you be endued with power from on high (Lc 24,49), that is, the Holy Spirit.
If, then, the day of worldly brightness declines, and the evening of penitence draws on, when man shall rest from worldly desires as on a sabbath, and the doors of the five senses are closed, and all the disciples of Christ (christians, or the affections of the just man) are gathered in one: then the Lord will do what follows.
(A sermon on the three-fold peace, and on charity, and on the nature of elephants: Jesus came.)
6. There follows, secondly:
Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. (Jn 20,19-21)
Note first that in this Gospel ‘Peace be to you’ is said three times, because of the threefold peace which Christ restored: between God and man, reconciling man to God the Father by his own blood; between angels and men, by taking human nature and raising it above the choirs of angels; and between man and man, between the Jewish and Gentile peoples, joining them together in himself, the corner-stone.
Note, too, that in the Latin word PAX (peace) there are three letters and one syllable, a reminder of the Trinity and Unity. P stands for Pater, the Father; A is the first vowel, representing the Son, the first utterance of the Father; X is a double consonant, representing the Holy Spirit who proceeds from both. Thus in saying: Peace be to you, he commend to us the faith of the Trinity and Unity.
Jesus came and stood in the midst. The proper place of Jesus is ‘in the midst’: in heaven, in the Virgin’s womb, in the animals’ crib, on the gibbet of the Cross. In heaven, as in the Apocalypse:
The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne (the bosom of the Father) shall rule them and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life (the fullness of heavenly glory). (Ap 7,17)
In the Virgin’s womb, as Isaiah says:
Rejoice and praise, O thou habitation of Sion:
for great is he that is in the midst of thee, the Holy One of Israel. (Is 12,6)
O blessed Mary, habitation of Sion, the Church: in your Son’s Incarnation he established you as the dwelling place of faith. Rejoice in your heart and praise with your lips, saying: My soul doth magnify the Lord (Lc 1,46). He who is great, yet small and humble, he who is holy and sanctifies Israel is in your midst, that is, in your womb.
In the animals’ crib, as Habbakuk says:
In the midst of two animals thou shalt be known. (Ha 3,2)
The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s crib. (Is 1,3)
On the gibbet of the Cross, as John says:
They crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst. (Jn 19,18)
So, Jesus came and stood in the midst. He says in Luke:
I am in the midst of you, as he that serveth. (Lc 22,27)
He stands in the midst of every heart. He stands in the midst, so that from him as from a centre all the lines of grace might radiate to us who are at the circumference, surrounding him and moving around him.
7. There is a concordance to this in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke says:
Peter, rising up in the midst of the brethren, said (now the number of persons together was about a hundred and twenty): Men, brethren, (Ac 1,15-16)
and the rest that follows regarding the election of Mathias. Christ rising from the dead stood in the midst of the disciples, and Peter, who previously fell by denying him, rose in the midst of the brethren. This shows us that when we rise from sin we should stand in the midst of the brethren; because the ‘midst’ is charity, which extends to friend and foe alike. So Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples, and said to them: Peace be to you.
Note that peace is threefold: temporal peace, as it is said in the third book of Kings that Solomon had peace round about (1R 4,24); peace in the heart, of which is said: In peace in the self-same I will sleep and I will rest (Ps 4,9), and also:
The Church had peace throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria; and was edified, walking in the fear of the Lord; and was filled with the consolation of the Holy Ghost. (Ac 9,31)
Judea means ‘confession’, Galilee ‘passing through’, and Samaria ‘guardian’. The Church, the faithful soul, has peace in all three- in confession, in passing from vice to virtue, and in guarding the divine precepts and graces received. in this way it is built up, and walks from strength to strength in the fear of the Lord (a fear which is not servile but filial); and is filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit in every tribulation. The third peace is that of eternity, of which it is said: Who hath placed peace in thy borders (Ps 147,14).
You should have the first peace with your neighbour and the second in yourself. Then you will have the third with God in heaven, in the Octave of the Resurrection. Stand, then, in the midst, and you will have peace with your neighbour. If you do not stand in the midst, you cannot have peace. There is no peace or tranquillity on the circumference, only movement and noise. It is said that when elephants fight, they have no little care for wounds; they keep the weary and the wounded in the middle. That is how you should receive your weary and wounded neighbour, in the midst of charity. That is what the gaoler did, of whom the Acts of the Apostles tells, when
taking Paul and Silas the same hour of the night, he washed their stripes... and when he had brought them into his own house, he laid the table for them; and rejoiced with all his house, believing God. (Ac 16,33-34)
8. So, Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
Luke’s version is: See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. (Lc 24,39)
It seems to me that there are four reasons why the Lord showed the Apostles his hands, side and feet. First, to show that he had truly risen, and to take away from us all doubtfulness. Second, so that the dove (the Church or the faithful soul) might build her nest in his wounds, as in the clefts of the rock, and hide from the eyes of the hawk that schemes to catch her. Third, to print the signs of his Passion as seals upon our hearts. Fourth, to ask us to share his sufferings, and never again to crucify him with the nails of sin. So he shows us his hands and his side, saying: Here are the hands you wounded by fastening them with nails. Here is the side from which you, the faithful, my Church, were born, as Eve was created from the side of Adam. This side was opened by the lance, so that it might open for you the gate of Paradise, closed by the cherubim and the flaming sword. The power of the blood flowing from the side of Christ removed the angel and blunted the sword, while the water quenched the fire. Do not crucify me again. Do not pollute the blood of the covenant in which you have been sanctified. Do not shame the spirit of grace. If you listen and pay careful attention, O man, you will have peace within yourself. And so, after the Lord showed them his hands and his side, he said again: Peace be to you. As the Father sent me to sufferings, even though he loved me: so I send you to endure evils, with the same love wherewith the Father sent me.
(A sermon on the absolution of God and of the priest, and in what order a person is raised from the death of sin to penitence: Receive the Holy Spirit; and: Silver and gold.)
9. There follows, thirdly:
And when he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; and whose, etc.
The breathing signified that the Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of the Father, but his own also. St Gregory1 says: "The Spirit is given on earth, so that the neighbour may be loved; given from heaven, so that God may be loved." Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive, etc. That is, those whom you judge worthy of forgiveness, using the two keys of power and discretion, that is, the exercise of power and discretion. We are to understand the manner and the order to be observed in the power of binding and loosing. Let us see in what way the priest forgives sin and absolves the sinner.
If someone sins mortally, he immediately makes himself ready for hell, bound with the chain of eternal death. Afterwards he is truly contrite, and being truly sorry he resolves to confess. At once, God absolves him from guilt and eternal death, which by his contrition is changed to the pain of purgatory. His contrition may be so great (as with Magdalen and the thief) that if he were to die he would fly at once to heaven. He approaches the priest, he confesses, and the priest enjoins on him a temporal punishment, whereby purgatory is changed to something temporal, and if he completes it properly he passes to glory. So God and the priest forgive and absolve.
There is a concordance to this in the Acts of the Apostles, where Peter says:
Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk. And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up; and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he, leaping up, stood and walked and went in with them into Jerusalem. (Ac 3,6-8)
St Bernard, writing to Pope Eugenius2 , says: "Consider what your fathers bequeathed to you. The duly witnessed accounts make no record of anything of these. Listen to the voice of your predecessor, saying: Silver and gold I have none." The Gloss says that the first Tabernacle had a right to the fruits of agriculture; it was a secular sanctuary, adorned with silver and gold. But the blood of the Gospel gleams more precious than the metals of the Law. The people that previously lay crippled before the golden pillars enter the heavenly temple in the name of Jesus Christ crucified. St Jerome3 says: "If you want to bring back gold and silver into the Church, bring back the blood-sacrifices too. It was lawful for the ancient people to have these, because these were promised them. But now the poor Christ has dedicated poverty in his own body, and he promises his people heavenly rewards, not temporal."
In the name of Jesus Christ, etc. This is the order of perfection: first he rises from his recumbent state; then he seizes on the path of virtue; and so he enters the gate of the kingdom with the Apostles. Note these words: Rise, by contrition; walk, by confession; and then, taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, he absolved him and sent him away in peace.
There is another concordance to this in the Acts of the Apostles, where it is told that
Peter found at Lydda a certain man named Aeneas, who had kept his bed for eight years, who was ill of the palsy. And Peter said to him: Aeneas, the Lord Jesus healeth thee; arise and make thy bed. And immediately he arose. (Ac 9,33-34)
Aeneas (‘poor’ or ‘wretched’) stands for the sinner living in mortal sin, poor and wretched because he is a slave of the devil. He lies like one paralysed on the bed of carnal desire, helpless in all his limbs. To him, the vicar of Peter should say: Aeneas, poor and wretched, Jesus Christ heals you. Rise. by contrition, and make your bed by confession. You, no-one else, must set it in order. And immediately he arose, absolved from every bond of sin.
Another concordance is:
Peter said: Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes... And giving her his hand, he lifted her up. (Ac 9,40-41)
Tabitha means ‘gazelle’, an animal timid and fearful, that flees from the hand; a creature of the woodland. This stands for the soul of the sinner, timid, fearful, fleeing from the hand of the heavenly Father. To her is said: Rise, by contrition; and then she opens her eyes by confession, and sits up, humbling herself by satisfaction; and so she is raised by the absolution of all her sins.
(A sermon on the Resurrection of the Lord: In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David.)
10. There follows, fourthly:
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my finger into his side, I will not believe. (Jn 20,24-25)
Thomas means ‘abyss’, because by doubting he came to know more profoundly, and stood more firmly. Didymus is the Greek for ‘twin’- he was in two minds. It was not by chance but by divine dispensation that Thomas was absent and did not believe what he heard. Divine dispensation! Honest doubt of the disciple! Except I shall see in his hands, etc. He wished to see rebuilt the tabernacle of David that had fallen (as the Lord says through Amos):
In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, that is fallen, and I will close up the breaches of the walls thereof. (Am 9,11)
David (‘strong-armed’) stands for the divinity, and the tabernacle for the body of Christ, in which his divinity dwelt as in a tabernacle, and which fell by his Passion and death. The breaches of its walls represent the wounds in his hands and feet and side. The Lord rebuilt them in his Resurrection, and it is of these that Thomas said: Except I shall see in his hands, etc. The kind Lord would not leave his disciple in doubt, since it was honest doubt, because he was to be a chosen vessel. He mercifully took away all the darkness of his doubt, like the blindness of unbelief in Saul.
So there is a concordance in the Acts of the Apostles, where Ananias says:
Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, he that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest; that thou mayest receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales; and he received his sight. And, rising up, he was baptised. And when he had taken meat, he was strengthened. (Ac 9,183)
Isaiah’s words about the wolf with the lamb (Is 65,25) were fulfilled in Saul and Ananias (whose name means ‘sheep’). The body of a snake is covered with scales, and the Jews were called snakes- a generation of vipers (Mt 23,33). Saul followed their unbelief, which covered the eyes of his heart like a snake’s skin. But when the scales fell from his eyes by the hand of Ananias, the light he had received in his mind showed in his face also. In the same way, by the hand of ‘Ananias’ (Jesus Christ, who was led like a sheep to slaughter) there fell from the eyes of Thomas the scales of doubt, and he received the sight of faith.
(A sermon on the milk of divine mercy: Like new-born babes; and on the chastity of elephants.)
11. And so there follows, fifthly:
And alter eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesuth cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said: Peace be with you. (Jn 20,26)
This has already been expounded, and I will say no more.
Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither and se my hands; and bring hither thy hand and put it into my side; and be not faithless but believing. Thomas answered and
said to him: My Lord and my God. Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen and have believed. (Jn 20,27-29)
The Lord says in Isaiah: I have graven thee in my hands (Is 49,16). There are three things necessary for writing: paper, ink and pen. Christ’s hands were as it were paper, his blood ink, the nails the pen. Christ wrote us upon his hands for three reasons: first, to show the Father the scars of the wounds he bore for us, and so move him to mercy. Second, that he might never forget us, as he says in Isaiah:
Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb?
And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee in my hands. (Is 49,15-16)
Thirdly, he wrote on his hands how we should live and what we should believe. So be not faithless, O Thomas, O christian, but believing.
Thomas replied: My Lord and my God, etc. Jesus did not say: Because you have touched, but: Because you have seen. Sight is as it were sense in general, which is used to refer to the other four. The Gloss says that perhaps Thomas did not dare to touch, but only to look; or maybe it was by touching that he saw. He saw a man and touched him; but he believed in God. All doubt was removed, and he confessed what he did not see. Thou hast seen me, Thomas, as man; thou hast believed me to be God.
12. Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed. Herein he commends the faith of the Gentiles. Although he used the past tense, he was referring to what was to come, regarding it in his foreknowledge as already fact. There is a concordance in the Acts of the Apostles, regarding the eunuch of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, whom Philip questioned:
If thou believest with all thy heart (thou mayest be baptized). And he, answering, said:
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God... And he baptized him. (Ac 8,37-38)
Remember also Cornelius the centurion, whom Peter baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, with all his family (cf. Ac 10,1-48). These two, who believed in Christ, prefigured the Church of the Gentiles which was to be reborn in sacred Baptism, and to believe in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter speaks to them in the Introit of today’s Mass, saying:
As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile. (1P 2,2)
An infant is one who has not yet learned to talk (in-fans). The faithful of the Church, born of water and the Holy Spirit, should be infants, not speaking the language of Egypt. As Isaiah says:
The Lord shall lay waste the tongue of the sea of Egypt. (Is 11,15)
The tongue represents eloquence, the sea philosophical wisdom, Egypt the world. The Lord lays waste the tongue of the sea of Egypt when, through simple and uneducated men, he shows the eloquence and wisdom of the world to be dumb and foolish.
Rational, without guile. Rational is what pertains to reason, and reason is that aspect of the mind whereby we see truth in itself, not as embodied; or it is the very contemplation of truth, not by the body. It is, even, the truth itself which is contemplated. ‘Rational’ relates to God and ourselves; ‘without guile’ to our neighbour.
Desire the milk. That is, the milk of which St Augustine4 says: "The bread of angels has become the milk of little ones." Milk is a liquid white in colour. It is produced naturally from the blood. After birth, the blood which has not been used up as nourishment in the womb passes by a natural process into the breasts, by whose power it becomes white and takes on the quality of milk. So it becomes the food of the new-born, since the matter which brings about generation is the same matter which feeds. Milk is blood that has been refined and purified, not milk that has been corrupted. Blood, horrible to look at, represents God’s wrath; milk, sweet to the taste and pleasant in colour, represents God’s mercy. The blood of wrath was changed into the milk of mercy in the breast (that is, the humanity) of Jesus Christ. So the Prophet says:
He hath made his lightnings the rain. (Ps 134,7)
The lightning of divine wrath was changed into the mercy of rain when the Word was made flesh.
13. Morally. The Ethiopian eunuch and the centurion Cornelius both represent converted sinners. Cornelius means ‘understanding circumcision’. Cornelius and the eunuch are appropriately joined together. Penitents make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19,12). They cut off their carnal desires and, believing in the name of Jesus, wash in the living fountain of compunction, renewing themselves in the baptism of penitence. They behave like elephants, of whom Solinus5 tells us: "The females do not have sexual relations before they are ten years old, nor the males before they are five. They come together every two years, and for no more than five days in the year; and they do not return to the herd until they wash in running water." In the same way, penitents and just men, if they offend in anything, are ashamed to return to the company of the faithful until they have washed in the running waters of tears and penitence.
Let us pray, then, dearest brethren, and suppliantly beseech the mercy of Jesus Christ: that he may come and stand in our midst, may bestow peace on us, and forgive our sins; that he may take all doubt from our hearts and imprint in our minds faith in his Passion
and Resurrection; so that with the Apostles and faithful of the Church we may be found fit to receive eternal life. May he grant this, who is blessed, to be praised, and glorious for ever and ever. Let every faithful soul say: Amen. Alleluia.
Anthony_Sermons - (FOURTH CLAUSE)