Anthony_Sermons - (FIFTH CLAUSE)
1 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Jn 20.23
2 cf. BERNARD, De consideratione II,6,9-10; PL 182.747-748
3 cf JEROME, Ad Nepotianum, epistola 52.10; PL 22.535-536
4 cf. AUGUSTINE, Enarratio II in Ps 30.9; PL 36.235
5 SOLINUS, Polyhistor, 38
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the second Sunday after Easter: I am the good shepherd; which is divided into four clauses.)
(First, a sermon for the preacher: There was given me a reed; and on the three characteristics of a reed, and their significance.)
1. At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: I am the good shepherd. (Jn 10,11)
John says in the Apocalypse:
There was given me a reed, like unto a rod. (Ap 11,1)
This reed is the preaching of the Gospel. Just as a reed-pen writes letters on parchment, so preaching should inscribe faith and good morals on the heart of the hearer. A reed and a pen are the tools of a scribe, with which he applies ink (the latin calamus is related to a nautical term for calling out; and also to the word ‘calamity’, since unhappiness follows emptiness). Preaching is also like a rod, solid, straight and used for correction. Preaching should be solid, cram-full of goodness. It should put forward truth, not falsehood; and without flippancy, triviality or over-ornateness. It should move to tears, as Solomon says:
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails deeply fastened in. (Qo 12,11)
Just as a goad pricks and draws blood, and as a nail driven through a hand causes agony, so the words of a wise man should goad the sinner’s heart and draw from it the blood of tears (which, as Augustine says1 , are the life-blood of the soul); and should strike painfully for past sins and for the punishments of hell. Preaching should be straight, and the preacher should not distort by his actions what he says by his words. Speaking loses its authority when preaching is not backed by practice. Preaching should also be corrective, so that those who hear it should thereby amend their lives. It is with a rod like this that the good shepherd (good prelate of the Church or ordinary preacher) will correct and feed his flock of sheep, just as the Good Shepherd corrected and fed his sheep, saying in today’s Gospel: I am the good shepherd.
2. There are four things to note in this Gospel. First, the devoted care of the good shepherd for his sheep, even giving his life for them if necessary, as it begins: I am the good shepherd. Second, the flight of the hireling and the attack of the wolf, as it goes on; The hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, etc. Third, the mutual knowledge of shepherd and sheep: I am the good shepherd and I know mine, etc. Fourth, the gathering of the Catholic Church from the two peoples, Jewish and Gentile: And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold, etc.
This Sunday and next the Apocalypse is read. We will divide it into seven parts. The first part treats of the seven churches, the second of the four horses, the third of the sealing of the twelve tribes, and the fourth of the woman robed with the sun. We will concord these four parts with the four parts of this Gospel. The fifth part of the Apocalypse treats of the seven angels having vials full of the wrath of God, the sixth of the damnation of the great Whore (worldly vanity), and the seventh of the river of living water, the everlastingness of eternal life. God willing, we will concord these three parts with the three parts of next Sunday’s Gospel. The Introit sung this Sunday is: The earth is full of the Lord’s mercy, etc., and we read the Epistle of the blessed Apostle Peter: Christ suffered for us.
(A sermon on Christ’s care for us, who are his people and the sheep of his pasture: I am the good shepherd.)
3. Let us say, then: I am the good shepherd, etc. Christ may well say, ‘I am’, for to him nothing is past or future, but all is present to him. He himself says in the Apocalypse:
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (Ap 1,8)
and in Exodus:
I am who am. Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel; He who is hath sent me to you.(Ex 3,14)
He also says well: I am the good shepherd. A shepherd or ‘pastor’ is one who feeds; and Christ feeds us daily with his body and blood, in the sacrament of the altar. In the first book of Kings Jesse said:
There remaineth yet a young one, who keepeth the sheep. (1S 16,11)
Our David, humble and meek, feeds us like a good shepherd. He is our Abel, too, who as Genesis tells was a shepherd, and whom fratricidal Cain (the Jewish people) killed out of envy. He is the shepherd of whom the Father says in Ezekiel:
I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David (i. e. my son Jesus), and he shall feed them and he shall be their shepherd. (Ez 34,3)
and in Isaiah:
He shall feed the flock like a shepherd. He shall gather together the lambs with his arm and shall take them up in his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are with young. (Is 40,11)
He speaks after the manner of a good shepherd, who leads his flock to pasture and back again. The little lambs who cannot walk he gathers in his arms and holds in his bosom; he carries the pregnant ewes that are weary. The expression ‘with young’ may mean pregnant or newly delivered.
So Jesus Christ feeds us each day with the Gospel teachings and the sacraments of the Church. He gathers us in his arms, stretched out on the Cross; as John says:
to gather together in one the children of God that were dispersed. (Jn 11,52)
And he shall take them up in his bosom. He received us to the bosom of his mercy, as a mother takes her child. He himself says, in Hosea:
And I was like a foster-father to Ephraim, I carried them in my arms. (Os 11,3)
He nourishes us with his blood, like milk. He was wounded on mount Calvary for us, in (or under) his breast, so that he might give us his blood to drink as a mother gives milk to her child. And in his arms, stretched out on the Cross, he carried us.
(An allegorical and a moral sermon on Christ and on the prelate of the Church: I heard behind me a great voice.)
4. So Peter says, in today’s Epistle:
Who, in his own self, bore our sins in his body on the tree; that we, being dead to sins, should live to justice; by whose stripes you were healed. (1P 2,24)
He carries the pregnant ewes, the souls of penitents who are weighed down yet expectant, the heirs of eternal life. He says in Exodus:
You have seen what I have done to the Egyptians, how I have carried you upon the wings of eagles, and have taken you to myself. (Ex 19,4)
He drowned the Egyptians (the demons, or mortal sins) in the Red Sea, the bitterness of penitence made red with the blood of tears and afflictions; and he bore penitents upon eagles’ wings when, all earthly things despised, he carries them to heaven to gaze with unblinking eyes upon the sun of justice. Yes, he says well: I am the good shepherd. David says: Thou art good; and in thy goodness teach me (Ps 118,68), thy straying sheep, for I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost (Ps 118,176). The Book of Wisdom says:
0 how good and sweet is thy spirit, Lord, in all things. (Sg 12,1)
The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. Here he expresses the essence of the good shepherd, his readiness to give his life for his sheep. This is what Christ did. In today’s Epistle, Peter says:
Christ also suffered for us, leaving you and example, that you should follow in his steps. (1P 2,21)
The Gloss says, "Rejoice because Christ has died for you. And listen to what follows; leaving you an example, of insults, tortures, the Cross and death." The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, and at the end of the Epistle Peter says:
You were as sheep going astray; but now you have been converted to the shepherd and bishop of your souls. (1P 2,25)
What great mercy! As the Introit of today’s Mass says:
The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord. By a Word (the Son of God) the heavens (the Apostles and their followers) were established, (cf. Ps 32,5-6)
lest they be like sheep going astray; but they are kept under the staff of the shepherd and bishop of their souls.
(A sermon on the seven things necessary for the prelate: I saw seven golden candlesticks.)
5. The sheep for whom the good shepherd, Jesus Christ, gave his life are those seven churches regarding which there is a concordance in the Apocalypse. John says:
1 heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying;
What thou seest, write in a book and send to the seven churches...
to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamus and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.
And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.
And, being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
and, in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of Man,
clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool and as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
and his feet were like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace;
and his voice as the sound of many waters.
And he had in his right hand seven stars.
And from his mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword.
And his face was as the sun shineth in his power. (Ap 1,10-16)
We shall expound this text first allegorically, of Christ; secondly morally, of the prelate of the Church.
(Allegorically.) Ephesus means, ‘my will’, or ‘my counsel’; Smyrna, ‘their song’;
Pergamus, ‘dividing the horns’ or ‘cutting the valley’; Thyatira, ‘enlightened’; Sardis, ‘principle of beauty’; Philadelphia, ‘keeping or saving one who clings to the Lord’; and Laodicea, ‘beloved tribe’. The seven golden candlesticks denote all the churches, burning and alight with the wisdom of the divine Word. Just as candlestick is made of gold, tried in the fire and beaten out, so the Church is completed by being purified with tribulations and spread out through the blows of trials. In the midst of the seven candlesticks, that is, in the community of all the churches, because God offers himself to all and is ready to help all, I saw one like to the Son of Man: an angel in the person of Christ, not a son of man, but ‘like’ him, because he dies no more; or ‘like’ a son of man in that though he is without sin, he bears the likeness of our sinful flesh. Clothed with a garment down to the feet, a priestly garment, his flesh in which he once offered himself, and still offers himself daily, re-presenting himself to God the Father. And girt about the paps with a golden girdle, the girdle of charity, whereby he gave himself up to death for us.
And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool and snow. The head signifies divinity, for the Apostle says: The head of Christ is God (1Co 11,3); or it is Christ himself, who is the head of the Church (cf. Ep 5,23), and in whom are all things needful for the ruling of the Church. The hairs are the faithful, attached to the head. Head and hair, Christ and Christians, are white as wool, with the whiteness of simplicity and purity; and as snow, with the bright whiteness of immortality: for as he lives, so we shall live with him (cf. Jn 14,19). And his eyes were as a flame of fire. The eyes, the gaze of the grace of Jesus Christ, melt the heart frozen with sin as a flame of fire does ice. The Lord looked at Peter (Lc 22,61) with eyes of mercy, and he wept bitterly, because the ice of his heart was melted by tears of compunction. And his feet, that is, preachers who carry him throughout the world, Were like unto fine brass as in a burning furnace. Not any brass, but ‘oricalch’, which resembles gold and bronze (Greek calchos, bronze). Gold represents the brightness of wisdom, and bronze the resonance of eloquence. The feet of Jesus Christ are like oricalch, because preachers should shine with the brightness of wisdom and with resounding eloquence.
And his voice as the sound of many waters. The preaching of Christ has the power of water to cleanse; as he said to the Apostles, You are clean by reason of the word which I have spoken to you (Jn 15,3). The voice of Jesus Christ reaches many peoples, who are like the waters in the flux of mortality. Also, his voice is as the sound of many waters, bestowing the plentiful waters of grace. And he had in his right hand seven stars. These are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which he has in his right hand, the hand for giving. From the treasury of his magnificence, he gives graces to whom he will, when he wills and how he wills. Alternatively, the stars are the bishops, who should give light to others by their word and example. He has them in his right hand, indicating the greater gifts, which are signified by the right hand. And from his mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword. From his mouth, that is, by his instigation, there went forth preaching which cuts in two ways. The Old Testament cuts carnal works, and the New Testament cuts desires. And his face was as the sun shineth in his power. Good prelates of the Church are the face of Jesus Christ, as are all the saints, for in them we recognize Christ, as by his face. They shine like the sun in his power, that is, at noon on a cloudless day; or else, they will shine like the sun when it shall be fixed in eternity, they will be like the true sun, Jesus Christ.
(A sermon against those who abandon theology and follow lucrative sciences: Sing to the Lord a new song.)
6. Morally. I am the good shepherd. Blessed is that prelate of the Church who can say, ‘I am a good shepherd’. To be good, he must needs be like the Son of Man, in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks of which John speaks: I saw seven golden candlesticks. These represent the seven qualities a prelate of the Church should have: cleanness of life, knowledge of Holy Scripture, eloquence of tongue, fervency in prayer, compassion for the poor, discipline over subordinates, and conscientious care for the people committed to him. These seven candlesticks are concordant with the meaning of the seven churches.
Ephesus (‘my will’, or ‘my counsel’) is cleanness of life, of which the Apostle says:
This is the will of God, your sanctification... that every one of you should know how to
possess his vessel in sanctification and honour. (IThess 4.3-4)
and Isaiah: Take counsel, gather a council (Is 16,3), meaning, take counsel that you may live cleanly as regards your soul; and gather (that is, restrain) the council of your five senses, that you may live chastely as regards your body.
Smyrna (‘their ) is the knowledge of Holy Scripture, as in: Sing to the Lord a new song (Ps 95,1). All worldly knowledge, how to make money, is the ‘old song’, the song of Babylon. Only theology is the ‘new song’, sweetly sounding in the Lord’s ear and renewing the soul. This should be ‘their song’, of prelates, that is. If, as the first book of Kings tells us, there was no blacksmith in Israel, no wonder the children of Israel went down to the Philistines to sharpen their ploughshares, spades, axes and rakes (cf. 1R 13,19-20). But (thanks be to God!) in Israel, the Church, there is not just one smith but many smiths- I mean theologians- who know well how to sharpen and best make ready ploughshare, spade, axe and rake. The ploughshare turns the soil, the spade lifts it up, the axe cuts down trees, and the rake (made of iron with a handle) is needed to cultivate the field. These instruments of labour represent the various effects of preaching: turning the soil of cupidity and the earth of wickedness, and lifting it from the face of the mind; cutting the dry branches from the unfruitful tree, and cultivating the field of the Church militant. So why do the children of Israel (prelates) go down to the Philistines (meaning ‘falling from drink’), to the money-making sciences? They go down for this reason: to get drunk on transitory honours, on greed, lust, ambition for vainglory, and money. And when they are drunk, they fall into the depth of hell. St Bernard2 says of them, "Unhappy indeed is ambition, which knows not how to walk in the ambit of what is great. They love the first seats, and I fear for them, because they are like over-ripe figs, ready to fall. They should take care, lest desiring the first seats they miss even the second seats, and end up taking the lowest seats in hell."
(A sermon on blessed Paul: Canst thou bind the rhinoceros?)
Pergamus (‘dividing the horns’ or ‘cutting the valley’) is skill in speaking from what one has learned, which divides the horns of the proud, and cuts the valley of the carnal. The Lord says through the Prophet: I will break all the horns of sinners (Ps 74,11); and in Job:
Canst thou bind the rhinoceros with thy thong to plough,
or will he break the clods of the valleys alter thee? (Jb 39,10)
"The rhinoceros, a small animal like a young goat, with a very sharp horn on its nose, resembles blessed Paul, who, though he breathed threats and slaughter when he went to Damascus, was bound by the thong of divine power, and set to plough (that is, to preach)."3 So the Lord said to Ananias:
This man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. (Ac 9,15)
He breaks the clods of the valleys, the minds of the carnal and unfaithful, with the ploughshare of preaching.
Thyatira (‘enlightened’) is fervency in prayer, which enlightens the mind. The Apocalypse says;
The glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof. (Ap 21,23)
The lamb is noted for innocence and simplicity, two things necessary for whoever prays. They enlighten the mind of someone praying like the light of a lamp.
Sardis (‘principle of beauty’) is compassion for the poor, which drives out the leprosy of avarice and bestows beauty on the soul; for:
Give alms; and behold, all things are clean to you. (Lc 11,41)
Philadelphia (‘keeping or saving one who clings to the Lord’) is discipline over subordinates, keeping one who adheres to the Lord in his service, and saving him from the danger of death. As the Apostle says to the Hebrews:
All chastisement for the present seemeth not to bring with it joy but sorrow; but afterwards it will yield to them that are exercised by it the most peaceable fruit of justice. (He 12,11)
Laodicea (‘beloved tribe’ of the Lord) is the christian people of the Catholic Church, over whom the prelate should watch with great care. Regarding love for the people, John says:
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (Jn 13,1)
He loved them so much, that is, that his love led him even to death.
These are the seven candlesticks which enlighten all the churches, gathered by the Spirit of sevenfold grace. In the midst of them, like Jesus Christ the Son of Man, the prelate should walk in poverty, humility and obedience, wearing the priestly robe, the tunic of fine linen that Aaron wore, which signifies chastity of body which should be added to cleanness of heart.
7. There follows: Girt about the paps with a golden girdle. Daniel saw a man girded about the loins, because in the Old Testament carnal actions are restrained. John saw a girdle at the breast, because in the New Testament even thoughts are judged. It is with the golden girdle of the love of God that the breasts, flowing with evil thoughts, are restrained.
So there follows: His head and his hairs were white, as white wool and as snow. The head, which includes all the senses, represents the mind which is the ‘head’ of the soul. The ‘hairs’ are thoughts. In the mind there is usually uncleanness and the heat of sin. Mind and thoughts must be like white wool, in opposition to the uncleanness of sin, and like snow in opposition to its heat.
And his eyes were as a flame of fire. The prelate’s ‘eyes’ are contemplation of God and compassion for his neighbour. They must be like a flame of fire, radiating simplicity with respect to God, and innocence towards his neighbour.
And his feet were like unto fine brass as in a burning furnace. The ‘feet’ are the affections of the mind and the effects of action. In these two feet Mephiboseth (meaning ‘man of shame’) fell from his nurse and was made lame (cf. 2S 4,4). He represents the sinner, the man of eternal shame, who by mortal sin falls from his nurse (the grace of the Holy Spirit) and is made lame in both feet. The feet of the good prelate, however, should be like orichalc, which, as said above, has the colour of gold and bronze. Gold represents the affection of the mind, bronze the resonant effect of god action. Orichalc is often smelted to improve the colour; just so, the good prelate becomes more glorious the more he passes through the fire of tribulation.
And his voice as the sound of many waters. Just as many waters, when in flood, break through every obstacle, so the voice of the prelate’s preaching should overthrow every obstacle of vice, every hindrance to salvation.
And he had in his right hand seven stars. These stars are the seven glories of soul and body: wisdom, friendship and concord for the soul; brightness, agility, subtlety and immortality for the body. These should be ‘in his right hand’, whatever he is thinking and doing, so that he may have these seven stars on the ‘right hand’ of eternal life, when he is set on the right with the sheep.
And from his mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword. This sword is confession, which should be sharpened at both edges, to cut away both the spiritual vices of pride and vainglory and the carnal sins of avarice, greed and lust.
And his face was as the sun shineth in his power. The prelate’s ‘face’ is what we recognize him by, namely, his works. By their fruits ye shall know them (Mt 7,16). If these be good, they will shine like the sun in its power. The Lord says:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5,16)
If the prelate is like that, he will truly be able to say: I am the good shepherd.
(A sermon on the four horses and what they signify; and on the nature of myrtle, the shrub and the nettle, and their meaning: I saw, and behold a white horse.)
8. There follows, secondly:
The hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth; and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep. And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling; and he hath no care for the sheep. (Jn 10,12-13)
A little earlier in the same chapter, the Lord says:
Amen, amen, I say to you: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber.. (Jn 10,1)
There are four persons to take note of, then: the good shepherd, the thief and robber, the hireling, and the wolf.
These are the four horses, regarding which there is a concordance in the Apocalypse: And I saw, and behold a white horse.
And he that sat on him had a bow, and there was a crown given him; and he went forth conquering that he might conquer...
And there went out another horse that was red.
And to him that sat thereon was given that he should take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another; and a great sword was given him...
And, behold, a black horse.
And he that sat on him had a pair of scales in his hand.
And I heard as it were a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying:
Two pounds of wheat for a penny, and thrice two pounds of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the wine and the oil...
And, behold, a pale horse;
and he that sat on him, his name was Death.
And Hell followed him; and power was given to him over the four parts of the earth,
to kill with sword, with famine and with death and with the beasts of the earth. (AP ,
Allegorically. I saw, and behold a white horse. The white horse stands for the human nature of the good shepherd, Jesus Christ. It is called a ‘white’ horse, because it is free from every stain of sin. Of this horse, Zechariah says:
I saw by night, and, behold, a man riding upon a red horse; and he stood among the myrtle-trees that were in the bottom. (Za 1,8)
The ‘night’ in which this vision was seen represents the darkness of the mystics. The man on a red horse is the Saviour, whose robe (his flesh) is red with the blood of his Passion, shown to the captive people as a red horse. In the Apocalypse, John represents the same to the liberated people as a white horse. He stands among the myrtle-trees, the angelic powers who minister to him even in ‘the bottom’, when his is in the flesh. So Matthew says: And angels came and ministered to him (Mt 4,11)
Alternatively, ‘among the myrtle-trees’ means the place where myrtles grow. The myrtle is a sweet-smelling tree, of soothing power. It grows in coastal areas. It signifies the cleanness of the just man, sweet-smelling towards his neighbour, and of soothing power to himself. It is found mostly on the shores of compunction of heart. Isaiah says:
Instead of the shrub, shall come up the fir-tree,
and instead of the nettle, shall come up the myrtle-tree. (Is 55,13)
The ‘shrub’ refers to a salty plant, the wild nard, akin to the willow. The fir-tree is taller than all other trees. The ‘shrub’ is avarice, bitter and unfruitful, and in its place the fir-tree of heavenly contemplation grows up when God infuses grace into the mind. The nettle, whose touch brings a burning pain, is of a fiery nature. It denotes the lust of the flesh. In its place the Lord makes the myrtle of continence to grow. So, the Lord stands ‘among the myrtle-trees’, those who in the strength of purity and the odour of good repute serve God ‘in the bottom’ of humility.
Let us say, then: I saw; and, behold, a white horse. And he that sat on him had a bow. The rider on the horse is his divine nature, which sits upon his human nature like a warrior. The bow, made of a string and wood, represents God’s mercy and justice. Just as the string bends the wood, so mercy bends justice. So James says: Mercy exalteth
itself above judgement (Jc 2,13). In his first coming, Christ brought with him the string of tender mercy, to take hold of sinners; in his second coming he will strike with the wood of justice, rendering to each according to his works. And there was a crown given him. To Christ, God and man, a crown was given according to the humanity wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals (cf. Ct 3,11); or else, a crown of thorns given him by his step-mother, the Synagogue. And he went forth conquering that he might conquer. He went forth to that place which is called Calvary (Jn 19,17), conquering the world so that he might conquer the devil.
9. Morally. I saw; and, behold, a white horse. The white horse represents the body of the good shepherd and prelate of the Church. It should be white with the whiteness of chastity. The warrior on this horse is his spirit, which should control it with the bridle of abstinence and the spurs of divine love and fear, to win the prize of eternal life. "There is no harm in applying the spur to make a horse gallop."4 The bow represents Holy Scripture, the Old Testament being the wood and the New Testament the string which bends its harshness. The arrow is understanding, which pierces the heart. The good shepherd should have this bow in his ‘hand’, his work. Job says:
My bow in my hand shall be repaired; (Jb 29,20)
and the bow in the hand is repaired when preaching is reinforced by actions. And there was a crown given him. The crown on the head is a pure intention in the mind, of which Jeremiah says:
The crown is fallen from our head. Woe to us, because we have sinned. (Lm 5,16)
The crown falls from the head when the mind loses its pure intention; so woe betide him! And he went forth conquering that he might conquer. He goes forth from worldly cupidity, conquering the lust of the flesh so that he may conquer the pride of the devil. If the prelate’s ‘horse’ is like this, he may well say: I am a good shepherd.
And there went out another horse, that was red, etc. The red horse is the thief and robber who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold. The door is Christ, through which no-one enters who seeks the things that are his own, not those of Jesus Christ (cf. Ph 2,21). The robber hides, to despoil and kill the unwary. The thief likes the darkness of night, to steal what belongs to another. Whoever seeks honours to satisfy his own ambition, not being called by God, as Aaron was (He 5,4), is both a thief and a robber. Whoever seeks preferment by simony is a thief: he usurps the office of a shepherd by simony as in the darkness of night, and he makes his own what belongs to another. He is also a robber, hiding under a cloak of holiness, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an ostrich pretending to be a hawk. He robs the unwary of their virtue, and kills them in soul. He is well called ‘a red horse’.
The rider on this horse is the spirit of ambition and temporal glory, which takes peace from the earth, that is, from the mind of the thief and robber himself. The sprit of ambition
will not let the wretch have peace of mind. He is like a hunter pursuing creatures that run away, chasing after temporal things. Blessed Bernard5 says, "You multiply prebends, you rise to be an archdeacon, you aspire to be a bishop. You rise step by step, but at a stroke and in one step you go down to hell." And again, "The careful spy goes round, deceiving and disguising, bowing and scraping, crawling on hands and knees: anything to thrust himself into the patrimony of the Crucified."
Alternatively, it takes peace from the earth when by this son of perdition it sows discord in the Church. So it goes on, that they may kill each other. Simoniac prelates, thieves and robbers, kill each other with the sword of discord and envy. They drag each other down, murmuring and railing at each other. As Isaiah says:
The hairy ones shall dance there. (Is 13,21)
The hairy ones shall cry out one to another. (Is 34,14)
In the Church today the ‘hairy ones’, simoniacs and money-grubbers, dance and play; and one simoniac accuses another, and all day long there are law-suits and court-cases, shouting, jostling and tearing apart. So there follows: There was given him a great sword. This sharp and polished sword is temporal glory, and with it and for it the unhappy men wound and kill each other.
(A sermon against the wicked prelate: O shepherd and idol; and: Heli lay in his place; and: Chanaan, a deceitful balance in his hand.)
10. And, behold, a black horse, and he that sat on him had a pair of scales in his hand. The black horse is the hireling, of whom the Lord says:
The hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, etc.
The hireling who works for money is the prelate who serves the Church for temporal gain only. The Prophet says of him:
He will praise thee when thou shalt do well to him. (Ps 48,19) and, in John, the Lord says:
Amen, amen, I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves and were filled. (Jn 6,24)
(As the song says:) "When filled is the belly, it sings ‘Mercy!’ so freely."
This hireling is no shepherd, he is an ‘idol’, as Zechariah says:
O shepherd and idol, that forsaketh the flock:
the sword upon his arm and upon his right eye:
his arm shall quite wither away;
and his right eye shall be utterly darkened. (Za 11,17)
The ‘arm’ is the strength to work, the ‘eye’ is the light of reason. He says, ‘shepherd and idol’, but it would be more correct to say, ‘no shepherd, but an idol’. You are so defiled that you are called not just an idolater, but an idol. An idol is called ‘God’, but it is not.
So, too, is the bad shepherd who abandons the flock because the sheep are not his. The sword of the Lord’s anger will be upon his arm and his right eye, so that his strength and boasted bravery will be withered and parched of grace and good works, and the light of reason will be obscured by earthly shadows. Thus he will be made powerless to work, and blinded from discernment, by the just judgement of God.
So it says in the first book of Kings:
Heli lay in his place, and his eyes were grown dim that he could not see the lamp of the Lord before it went out. (1S 3,2-3)
Heli (‘outsider’) is the prelate motivated by money, an outsider to God’s kingdom. He lies ‘in his place’, wallowing in the flesh, and dissolute. His eyes, the light of reason and understanding, have grown dim with the love of earthly things, so that he cannot see the lamp of God (grace) before it goes out. That is, he does not care or even recognise that he lacks the light of grace, precisely because that very light of grace has gone out in him. Many there are who are so blinded that they do not realise that they have lost God’s grace, precisely because they have fallen from grace into the blindness of mortal sin. So the Apocalypse well says: Behold a black horse, the hireling who is covered by the shades of sin, not the clear blue sky of grace.
And he that sat on him had a pair of scales in his hand. The rider of the black horse, the hireling, is the spirit of business. Spurred on by this, he sells for a price the dove (the grace of God, which should be given freely) as if he were a tradesman. In this way, he makes the house of God his place of business (cf. Jn 2,16). He holds a deceitful balance in his hand, as Hosea says:
He is like Canaan, there is a deceitful balance in his hand; he hath loved oppression. (Os 12,7)
Canaan (‘trader’) is the ecclesiastical hireling, entangled in worldly business and with no
care for the Lord’s sheep. St Jerome6 says, "Business in a cleric is like usury in a layman."
He has a deceitful balance in his hand, because he preaches one thing and does another; does one thing, while appearing to do something else. He preaches poverty, yet is avaricious; he preaches chastity, and is lustful; he preaches fasting and abstinence, and is a glutton. He puts heavy and insupportable burdens on men’s shoulders, but will not lift a finger to move them himself (cf. Mt 23,4). This is the deceitful balance, against which the Lord says:
Let the balance be just and the weights equal. (Lv 19,36)
A balance consists of two scales and a cross-beam, hanging freely. The two scales are contempt for the world and desire for the heavenly kingdom. The cross-beam is the love of God and neighbour. It is a true balance if it gives each his due: contempt to the world, obedience to God, affection to the neighbour. In the hand of Canaan, the hireling trader, the balance is not true but deceitful. The Prophet says:
He hath done deceitfully: that his iniquity may be found unto hatred, (Ps 35,3)
because he has loved lying and deceiving.
The hireling trader, in Ezekiel’s words, sews cushions under every elbow and makes pillows for the heads of persons of every age (cf. Ez 13,18), because he flatters vices, smoothes sins, and does not impose suitable penances, and all for the sake of gain. He veils his avarice under an appearance of mercy and compassion, saying: Peace, peace. And there is no peace (cf. Ez 13,10). He makes souls seem alive that are not alive (cf. Ez 13,19), and so he deceives the faithful of Jesus Christ, to whom the words refer: Two pounds of wheat for a penny, etc.
The two-pound measure held two pints. The wheat is faith, and the penny is the blood of Christ. The measure represents the faithful of the Church, formed of two peoples and bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. And three pounds of barley for a penny. The three pounds are the same faithful christians, established in low estate, founded on the faith of the Holy Trinity, and similarly bought with the penny of Christ’s blood.
Alternatively, the wheat represents religious, and the barley lay-folk. The jar of wheat is the religious life, which should be white on the inside, by purity of mind, and red outside by discipline of the body. It holds two pints, the love of God and the love of neighbour, which bring every man to perfection. Barley, which dries out before the other kinds of grain, represents the laity, who quickly wither when the sun of persecution rises, believing for a while, and in time of persecution falling away (cf. Lc 8,13). The triple measure of barley stands for all faithful lay-people of the Church, who at least have faith in the Holy Trinity. Both religious and lay-folk are redeemed for one penny, stamped with the king’s image and superscription, the precept of obedience. If the first man had kept
that command, he would not have lost the image and likeness of God.
And do not hurt the wine and the oil. The wine that inebriates is the contemplative life, which inebriates the mind so that it forgets all temporal things. Oil floats on water, and when put upon water makes clearer those things that are hidden in the depths. This represents the active life, which spreads over our neighbours needs and weakness, and with works of mercy brightens the shadow of poverty. Because the Church is made up of religious and lay people, actives and contemplatives, the hireling is commanded not to hurt them by his bad example. St Gregory7 says: "The prelate deserves as many deaths as the bad examples he has given to his followers."
(On the nature of the wolf and what it means: The hireling, whose own the sheep are not.)
11. The hireling, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and flieth. The wolf has paws as strong as a lion’s, and whatever he crushes with them cannot survive. He lies in wait for the sheep, and seizes them by the throat to stifle them quickly. His bodily frame is quite rigid, so that he cannot easily bend his neck. He rushes headlong, and so is often fooled. If he sees someone first, it is said that he snatches away their voice as by some natural force; but if he thinks that he has been observed, he puts away his savage ferocity.. When he is hungry and sees nothing convenient to eat, he eats earth; and he climbs a mountain and with open mouth fills his empty belly with wind. There are two things he fears exceedingly: fire, and a well-trodden road. The wolf stands for the devil, and the tyrant of this world whose rider is the devil.
This is the fourth horse, of which the Apocalypse says; Behold a pale horse, and he that sat on him, his name was Death, etc. As a warrior uses his horse, so the devil (whose name is Death, because through him death entered the world (cf. Sg 2,24)) uses the cruel tyrant of this world to assault and trouble the Church of Christ. When the hireling sees him coming, he abandons the sheep and flees, and the wolf seizes and scatters them. The hireling abandons them, the wolf seizes them; the hireling flees, the wolf scatters. The devil is like a wolf, he kills whatever he crushes with his proud feet. David, fearing to be crushed, prayed:
Let not the foot of the proud come to me. (Ps 35,12)
Just as all the other limbs stand on the feet, so all the vices are supported by pride, which is the origin of all sin (cf. Si 10,15). The devil lies in wait for the sheep, the faithful of the Church, and he squeezes their throats so that they may not confess their sins. His pride is so great that he cannot bend his neck to humility. With the reckless rush of temptation he attacks, but is fooled by the saints who are not ignorant of his wiles. If he finds an unwary man, he strikes him dumb: whether to confess his sins or to praise his Creator. But if a man keeps watch over himself, and sees temptation before him, then the devil is ashamed to be found out, and loses the power to tempt. When he does not find in the saints anything to eat, he devours earth, the avaricious and lustful;
he climbs a mountain (those high in dignity) and there refreshes himself with the wind of vainglory and worldly pomp. The devil fears two things above all others: the fire of charity and the trodden way of humility. If the hireling possessed these two qualities, he would by no means run away; but he does flee, because he is a hireling and the sheep are not his.
The hireling and the devil are joined by a certain friendship, and are in a kind of league with one another. The devil says to the prelate, as the king of Sodom said to Abraham, Give me the souls, and the rest (wool, flesh and milk) take to thyself (cf. Gn 14,21). The devil and the worldly ruler behave with the prelates of our day, as did the wolves with the fishermen of the Maeotine marshes. It is told that the wolves used to come to places near the fishermen, and would not hurt them if they gave them fish. But if the fishermen would not give, the wolves would break the nets when they were spread on the ground to dry. In like manner, the prelates of the Church give the devil ‘fish’, souls who live in the waters of Baptism, and give the secular ruler the goods of the Church, in case they should hinder or break their nets of business and temporal scheming and the interests of their blood-relations. So it is well said: Behold a pale horse, and he that sat on him, his name was Death, and hell followed him. In other words, those who are insatiable for earthly goods imitate him. And power was given to him over the four parts of the earth, that is, over all evil-doers, wherever they dwell, to kill with sword (evil persuasion), with famine (of the divine word), and with death (mortal sin), and the beasts of the earth (the instinctive urges of our unruly flesh).
Anthony_Sermons - (FIFTH CLAUSE)