Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)
(A sermon on the twelve patriarchs, and what they signify: I heard the number of them that were signed.)
12. There follows, thirdly:
I am the good shepherd, and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. (Jn 10,14-15)
After exposing the guilt of the false shepherd, he reaffirms the model of the true shepherd. I am the good shepherd, different from the thief and the hireling, and I know mine, who are marked with my signature. These sheep have his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads (Ap 14,1). There is a concordance to this in the Apocalypse. John says:
I heard the number of them that were signed.
A hundred and forty-four thousand were signed,
of every tribe of the children of Israel.
Of the tribe of Juda, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Ruben, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Aser, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Nephtali, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Manasses, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Zabulon, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand signed.
Of the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand signed. (Ap 7,4-8)
I heard the number of them that were signed: that is, I understood what people were to be signed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, indicating perfection. A finite number is specified, because by giving a round figure God includes all. From every tribe of the children of Israel: that is, from all the people who imitate Jacob in his faith. The number twelve indicates those who, in the four quarters of the earth, are signed with the faith of the Trinity; and to indicate the perfection of all these, we multiply twelve by four, to make forty eight, and multiply again by three to show that this perfection has reference to the Trinity, making now a hundred and forty-four.
From the tribe of Juda, etc. Genesis tells how Jacob cursed three of his sons, Ruben, Simeon and Levi, who were first in order of birth. This implies that none of these obtained the right of the first-born, which passed to the fourth son, Juda, whom Jacob praised and blessed, saying: Juda, thee shall thy brethren praise. (Gn 49,8)
The names of the patriarchs have the following meanings: Juda (‘confessing’), Ruben (‘son of vision’), Gad (‘girded’), Aser (‘blessed’), Nephthali (‘wideness’), Manasses (‘forgotten’), Simeon (‘hearing sadness’), Levi (‘added’ or ‘taken up’), Issachar (‘reward’), Zabulon (‘habitation of strength’), Joseph (‘addition’) and Benjamin (‘son of the right hand’). Juda is the penitent, who should be accompanied by these eleven brothers. In
confession he should see clearly, in tribulation he should gird himself with wisdom, so that he may fear God (for, Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord (Ps 111,1)). In charity he should widen himself, forgetting what lies behind and reaching for what lies ahead (cf. Ph 3,13). He should be sorry for his sins and grieve, that God may hear him. He should add grief to grief, so as to be taken up from sorrow to joy. Then he will receive the reward of eternal life, in which he will live strongly and confidently, because there will be none to terrify him. Added to the number of angels, endowed with true riches, he will be blessed by the right hand, placed at the right hand and blessed for ever and ever.
(A sermon on the Passion of Christ, to be imprinted upon the forehead of our soul: Go through the midst of the city; and: We shall be blameless; and: A bunch of hyssop.)
13. So every perfection of glory and grace is expressed in the meaning of these twelve names; and everyone who desires to attain this perfection must have TAU signed on his forehead:
The Lord said to the man clothed with linen (cf. Ez 9,2)
Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark TAU upon the foreheads of the men that sigh
and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof. (Ez 9,4)
The ‘man clothed with linen’ is Jesus Christ, clothed with the linen of our flesh. The Father commanded him to mark on the foreheads (the minds) of penitents who sigh in contrition and mourn in confession over all the abominations which they have done or which others do: TAU, the sign of his cross and the remembrance of his Passion. This is the sign of which the spies spoke to Rahab:
We shall be blameless of this oath which thou made us swear, unless when we come into the land the scarlet cord be a sign, and thou tie it in the window. (Jos 2,17-18)
So we must do what the Lord commanded in Exodus:
Dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood that is at thy door, and sprinkle the transom of the door therewith, and both the door cheeks. (Ex 12,22)
Hyssop is a herb used to purge the lungs. It grows on rocky ground, clinging to the stone with its roots. It stands for the faith of Jesus Christ, of which the Apostle says: Purifying their hearts by faith (Ac 15,9), a faith rooted and based in Christ. Do you then, faithful
people, take the bunch of faith and dip it in the blood of Jesus Christ, and sprinkle it on the lintel and door-posts. This lintel is understanding; those posts are will and deed, which should be mindful of Jesus Christ. As the Bride says in Canticles:
Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm. (Ct 8,6)
The heart denotes the will, the arm action. Both should be marked with the seal of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Whoever is signed with this mark, the Lord knows them and they the Lord. Thus, I know mine and mine know me; as the Father hath known me, and I know the Father. The Son knows the Father by himself, we know through him. So he himself says, No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and him to whom the Son will reveal him. And I lay down my life for my sheep. This is the proof of his love for his Father and for his sheep. So Peter, three times confessing his love, is told to feed the sheep and die for them. "Whence the Lord said three times to him, ‘Feed, feed, feed’; not ‘Shear, shear, shear’."8
(An allegorical and a moral sermon on holy Church and the faithful soul: A woman robed with the sun.)
14. There follows, fourthly,
And other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring. And they shall hear my voice; and thee shall be one fold and one shepherd. (Jn 10,16)
The sheep is an animal soft in wool and body. In the beginning, sheep rather than bulls were offered in sacrifice. The sheep stands for the faithful of the Church, who offer themselves daily upon the altar of the Lord’s Passion, and in the sacrifice of a contrite heart, as a spotless sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (cf. Rm 12,1). Other sheep I have (from the Gentiles) which are not of this fold (the people of Israel) Them also I must bring (through the Apostles), and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. This is the Church, gathered from both peoples.
This is that woman, regarding whom there is a concordance in the Apocalypse:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And, being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. (Ap 12,1-2)
Allegorically. This woman represents the Church, which is called ‘a woman’ because she is fruitful with many children, whom she has born by water and the Holy Spirit. This is the woman clothed with the sun. The sun shines alone, because all other stars are hidden by its radiance. This sun is Jesus Christ, who dwells in inaccessible light (cf. 1Tm 6,16),
whose brightness hides and darkens the rays of all the saints, if they are compared with him; for There is none holy as the Lord is (1S 2,2). Job says:
If I be washed as it were with snow-waters,
and my hands shall shine ever so clean:
Yet thou shalt plunge me in filth;
and my garments shall abhor me. (Jb 9,30-31)
The snow-waters are tears of compunction; the clean hands are perfect deeds; so he is saying, "Even if I were washed in the waters of compunction, and even if my hands should be clean with perfect actions, you would still plunge me in filth by showing up my uncleanness, and my garments (meaning my virtues, or else my bodily members) would make me abhorrent if you were to deal strictly with me." Isaiah says:
We are all become as one unclean (a leper);
and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman;
And we have fallen as a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Is 64,6)
That Sun alone is good, alone just and holy, with whose faith and grace Holy Church is clothed.
And the moon under her feet. The ever-changing moon represents the instability of our wretched condition; hence the verse,
"The play of Fortune changes like the moon;
It grows and wanes, and never stays the same."
And Ecclesiasticus: A fool is changed as the moon (Si 27,12). The fool, friend of the world, changes from the crescent horns of pride to the roundness of carnal desire, and back again. The chances and changes of perishable things should be beneath the Church’s feet: the Church’s feet being all prelates of the Church, who should uphold it as feet do the body. Beneath those feet all temporal things should be trodden like dung. Luke recounts how,
As many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the
things they sold, and laid it down before the feet of the Apostles, (Ac 4,34-35) for they reckoned it all as rubbish.
And on her head a crown of twelve stars. The twelve stars are the twelve Apostles, who lighten the night of this world. You are the light of the world, says the Lord (Mt 5,14). The crown of twelve stars which encircles the head is the faith of the twelve Apostles, a crown complete in itself like a circle, receiving neither addition nor diminution. The Church has children, whom she conceives by the seed of God’s word. She cries out as she gives birth to penitents, she is in pain to be delivered in the conversion of sinners.
So she says with Jeremiah, in the words of Baruch:
I am left alone. I have put off the robe of my peace,
and I have put upon me the sack-cloth of supplication,
and I will cry to the Most High in my days.
Be of good comfort, my children. Cry to the Lord:
and he will deliver you out of the hands of the princes your enemies...
For I sent you forth with mourning and weeping,
but the Lord will bring you back to me with joy and gladness for ever. (Ba 4,19-21)
This is what takes place on Ash Wednesday, when penitents are excluded from the Church, and on Maundy Thursday, when they are received back.
(A sermon for a community of religious: Spread thy mantle, wherewith thou art covered.)
15. Morally. A woman clothed with the sun, etc. This is the faithful soul, of which Solomon says in Proverbs:
Who will find a valiant woman?
Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. (Pr 31,10)
Blessed is that soul which, clothed with power from on high, stands firm in prosperity and adversity, and valiantly conquers the powers of the air. The price of this woman is Jesus Christ, who for her redemption came from afar, the bosom of the Father, as regards his divinity; and from the uttermost coasts, his poor parents, as regards his humanity.
Alternatively, we may take the price as the virtues; with this price we are redeemed. As Solomon says, The ransom of a man’s life are his riches (cf. Pr 13,18), meaning his virtues. Virtue is ‘from afar’, for while vices are familiar to us, virtue is from above.
This woman is clothed with the sun. Note that the sun has three properties: whiteness, brilliance, and heat. Whiteness represents chastity, brilliance is humility, and heat charity. From these three is made the mantle of the faithful soul, the bride of the heavenly Bridegroom. Of this mantle, Boaz said to Ruth:
Spread thy mantle, wherewith thou art covered, and hold it with both hands. And when she spread it and held it, he measured six measures of barley, and laid it upon her. (Rt 3,15)
Boaz means ‘strong’, and Ruth ‘seeing’ or ‘hastening’. Let us se what is meant by the spreading of the mantle, the two hands and the six measures of barley. Ruth is the soul, who sees the misery of the world, the deceit of the devil and the lust of the flesh, and hastens to the glory of eternal life. She spreads her mantle when she attributes chastity, humility and charity not to herself but to God; and she she shows them forth for the edification of her neighbour. She holds it with the two hands of fear and love, so as not to lose it. The hand gives a man strength, it is the body’s tool. It carries food to the mouth and does all kinds of work. Likewise the fear and love of God strengthen a man lest he fall, and they supply him with the strength of grace to persevere. If the soul spreads out and holds this mantle, Boaz (Jesus Christ, strong and powerful) will measure out six measures of barley: the strictness and harshness of penance, consisting in these six things, contrition, confession, fasting, prayer, bestowal of alms and final perseverance.
(A sermon on the mortification of the flesh: And the moon under her feet.)
There follows: And the moon under her feet. The moon has three properties contrary to those mentioned above. It is blemished, dark and cold. The moon is the human body, which as time passes grows up and grows frail, returning to the point at which it began, for earth thou art and to the earth shalt thou return (cf. Gn 3,19). It is blemished by being conceived in sin; by being under the shadow of infirmity; and by growing cold in its final reduction to ashes. Alternatively, it is blemished by being stained with lust, blinded with the shadow of pride, and made cold with hate and icy rancour.
The woman should have this moon beneath her feet, beneath the affections of her mind, so that the flesh may serve the spirit, and sensuality serve reason. We are told in the first book of Kings that Abigail mounted an ass to come to David (cf. 1S 25,42). Abigail (‘my father’s joy’) represents the soul converted to penitence, for there will be joy before the angels in heaven, etc. (Lc 15,10). She mounts an ass when she afflicts her body and makes it serve reason, thus approaching David, that is, Jesus Christ. There is a concordance to this in the prophet Nahum:
Go into the clay and tread, work it and make brick. (Na 3,14)
Go into the clay, remembering that you are made from clay, and as it were rubbish. Sit with the sorrowful Job on the dunghill, and scrape the pus of guilt with the potsherd of harsh penance (cf. Jb 2,8). Hold your stinking flesh in your hand like a nosegay, and tread the clay: afflict your body. Clay can be baked hard by fire, or washed away by water. Your flesh is made strong in the fire of affliction, weakened by pleasures. So Jeremiah asks:
How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness, O wandering daughter? (Jr 31,22)
Israel hath gone astray like a wanton heifer. (Os 4,16)
A wanton heifer runs about with a stupid face, refuses her food, is mounted by the bull whom she does not see, and while crushed by his weight takes pleasure in lust. Just so the flesh when in the midst of pleasures runs about the meadows of licentiousness. She refuses the food of the soul, is mounted by the devil whom she does not see, and while he oppresses her with the weight of sin she burns whith lust.
(A sermon on the twelve stars and their significance: And a crown of twelve stars.)
There follows: And a crown of stars on her head. The stars keep fixed positions in the sky, and are carried along with it in perpetual motion. What seem to be ‘falling stars’ are not stars, but fiery particles falling from the air, caused by the wind when it seeks the higher regions and draws after it some of the ethereal fire. But upon the head of the soul (the mind) there should be a crown of twelve stars, which are virtues. Three at the front- faith, hope and charity; three on the right- temperance, prudence and fortitude; at the back-the remembrance of death, of the dreadful day of Judgement and of the everlasting pains of hell; and on the left- patience, obedience and final perseverance.
We ask you, then, Lord Jesus, that you who are the good Shepherd keep us your sheep, and defend us from the hireling and the wolf; and crown us with the crown of eternal life in your kingdom. Grant this, you who are blessed, glorious and to be praised for ever and ever. Let every little sheep, every faithful soul, say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 AUGUSTINE, De diversis, sermo 351,4,7; PL 39.1542
2 GAUFRIDUS, Declamationes. De colloquio, etc. 42.51; PL 184.464
3 cf. GREGORY, Moralia XXXI, 16,30-31; PL 76.590-591
4 OVID, Epistulae ex Ponto, II,6,38
5 GAUFRIDUS, Declamationes, 21,25 and 13,14; PL 184.451 and 445
7 cf. ARISTOTLE, History of Animals IX,36,620b5-8; PLINY, Natural History X,10
8 cf. GAUFRIDUS, Declamationes, 11,12; PL 184.444
Copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the third Sunday after Easter: A little while, and now you shall not see me; which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, a sermon for those who hear the word of God, and what it brings to those who hear; Go and take the book.)
1. At that time, Jesus said to his disciples:
A little while, and now you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall see me; because I go to the Father. (Jn 16,16)
The angel said to John in the Apocalypse:
Go and take the book from the hand of the angel... and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter; but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey. (Ap 10,8-9)
The book, rich in letters, signifies the abundance of holy preaching. This is the well that Isaac, in Genesis, called ‘Abundance’ (cf. Gn 26,33). This is the river whose stream maketh the city of God joyful (cf. Ps 45,5), the soul in which God dwells. O man, take: take to yourself this book that you may drive out your barrenness with its richness, your neediness with its abundance. And eat it up: he who hears the word of God eagerly eats up the book. In the book of Ezra it says that
the ears of all the people were attentive to the book. (Ne 8,3)
Whoever hears the word of God attentively turns his ears to the book. It will make thy belly bitter. The belly, which digests the food it receives, supplies life-giving nourishment to the whole body. It stands for the human mind, which should receive God’s word and digest it in meditation. When it is well digested, it should pass into every virtue. The word of the Lord makes the belly bitter, because, as Isaiah says,
The drink shall be bitter to them that drink it; (Is 24,9)
I went away in bitterness in the indignation of my spirit. (Ezek 3.14)
No wonder the word of the Lord makes the mind bitter- it preaches that temporal things will pass away, that our present life is short, that death is bitter and hell terrible. But in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey, because though its commandments are difficult, and the word of preaching is hard, yet to one who loves it is easy and sweet. It is bitter at present, because it pricks to penitence; but it will be sweet in our homeland, because it leads to glory. So the Lord says of these two in today’s Gospel, A little while, and now you shall not see me.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel. The first is the short delay of our life, where it begins: A litlle while and you will not see me. The second is the vain joy of worldly people; Amen, amen, I say to you that you will lament and weep, etc. The third is eternal glory; I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, etc. We will concord with the three clauses of this Gospel the three last parts of the Apocalypse. The first part treats of the seven angels having vials full of the wrath of God. The second concerns the damnation of the great harlot, worldly vanity. The third concerns the river of the living water, the everlastingness of eternal life.
In the Introit we sing: Be joyful in God, all the earth; and the Epistle of blessed Peter is read: I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims.
(A sermon on the brevity of temporal glory: The hope of the wicked is as dust.)
3. Let us say, then: A little while, and now you shall not see me; as though to say, there remains only a short time until I suffer and am shut in the tomb. And again there is a little while until you see me risen. Alternatively, there is a short time, just three days, when I shall be shut away and not seen; and for a short while again (forty days) I shall be seen risen. Because I go to the Father, that is, because it is time for me to put off mortality, and take human nature to heaven.
Morally. In this Gospel, the words ‘a little while’ occur seven times, to indicate the shortness of our life, which is encompassed in seven days. As St James says:
What is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a while, and afterwards shall vanish away. (Jc 4,15)
And Job says:
They spend their days in wealth. And in a moment they go down to hell. (Jb 21,13)
The praise of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. (Jb 20,5)
This ‘point of time’ is a point that pierces. It is so short that it cannot be measured, too brief to be divided into parts. A sinner’s life is a point that pricks the conscience, a brief span; whence Wisdom says:
The hope of the wicked is as dust which is blown away with the wind: and as a thin froth which is dispersed by the storm, and a smoke that is scattered abroad by the wind;
and as the remembrance of a guest of one day that passeth by. (Sg 5,15)
The pleasure that is looked for from earthly abundance is as unstable as dust. Dust is like the mildew on an apple, or the fruit of a reed, empty and insubstantial as froth. As Hosea says:
Samaria hath made her king to pass as froth upon the face of the water. (Os 10,7)
Samaria means ‘dignity’, which makes its king (the prelate) pass like froth (pride) which is swiftly born away by the storm-blast of affliction. Pleasure, like a smoke of the mind, troubles the eyes; and like a passing guest it leaves nothing behind but dung (the uncleanness of sin). These four similitudes agree with Hosea:
They shall be as a morning cloud and as the early dew that passeth away, as the dust that is driven with a whirlwind out of the floor and as the smoke out of the chimney. (Os 13,3)
The cloud and the dew are put to flight and consumed at the coming of the sun. The dust is caught by the wind, smoke dissolves in the merest breeze. Just so, when the heat of death comes, temporal abundance flees and fails, carnal desire and all vainglory melt away. Woe to those who lose eternal life for the sake of this life’s trifling wealth, for a momentary delight. Seven vices are caught up in the sevenfold round of days of this wretched exile, and so they drink of the seven vials of God’s wrath.
(A sermon on the seven vices, and how those enmeshed in them are punished with seven punishments: I heard a great voice.)
4. So there is a concordance in the Apocalypse:
I heard a great voice out of heaven saying to the seven angels:
Go, and pour out the seven vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.
And the first went and poured out his vial on the earth...
And the second poured out his vial upon the sea...
And the third poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters...
And the fourth poured out his vial upon the sun...
And the fifth poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast...
And the sixth poured out his vial upon that great river Euphrates...
And the seventh poured out his vial upon the air. (AP 1,
The earth stands for the avaricious and usurers; the sea for the proud and puffed up; the rivers and fountains of waters for the lustful; the sun for the vainglorious; the seat of the beast for the envious and slothful; the river Euphrates (‘abundance’) for drunkards and gluttons; the air for false religious.
Of the earth of avarice, the Lord said to the serpent in Genesis: Earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life (Gn 3,14).
Of the sea of pride, Job says: The sea saith: It (wisdom) is not with me (Jb 28,14); because God resisteth the proud (Jc 4,6 1P 5 1P 5).
Of the river of lust, Exodus tells how Pharaoh commanded all his people: Whatsoever shall be born of the male sex, ye shall cast into the river (Ex 1,22). Pharaoh means ‘dispersing’ or ‘uncovering’, and he stands for the devil who disperses the fabric of virtue and strips the mantle of grace from wretched man, leaving him naked. He wants all manly, virtuous and perfect works drowned in the river of lust; but weak and womanish minds, which he can abuse, he will have kept.
Of the sun of vainglory, the Lord says in Matthew, in the parable of the sower: When the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away (Mt 13,6). The seeds are good works, which wither when the sun of vainglory scorches them. Whatever you do for the sake of vainglory, you lose altogether. St Bernard1 says: "Whence is your glory, dust and ashes? From the holiness of your life? But it is the Spirit which makes holy- not yours, but God’s. Does popular acclaim flatter you, when you preach well? But it is God who gives a mouth and wisdom. What else is your tongue but
simply the pen of a ready writer?" And the Philosopher2 says: "The readiest way to attain glory is to act in such a way that one really is what one wishes to seem."
Of the seat of envy, on which the beast (the devil) sits, we read: I know where thou dwellest, where the seat of Satan is (Ap 2,13). The envious are the seats of the devil, as Job says:
Then the beast shall go into his covert, and shall abide in his den. (Jb 37,8)
Covert and den signify the hearts of the envious, darkened with the gloom of envy, a black and gloomy cave.
Of the Euphrates of gluttony, Jeremiah says: The girdle rotted in the river Euphrates (cf. Jr 13,7). The girdle of chastity rots in the abundance of gluttony and drunkenness. The Philosopher3 says: "Eat and drink so as to live well. Do not live just to eat and drink."
Of the air of false religious, the Apocalypse says: The air was darkened with the smoke of the pit (Ap 9,2). The pit is cupidity, and its smoke has choked nearly all religious. All those who are entangled with these seven vices, in the seven days of this life, will be drunk with the seven vials, the seven plagues and seven sentences of judgement, in hell. The will be punished both in body and in soul, because they have sinned in both.
(A sermon on the grief of the just and the joy of carnal folk: Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall weep.)
5. There follows, secondly:
Amen, amen, I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labour, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but, when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (Jn 16,20-21)
All good people weep in the pains of this world, while lovers of the world rejoice. Isaiah says of both:
The Lord of hosts hath called to weeping and to mourning: to baldness and to girding with sackcloth. And, behold, joy and gladness, killing calves and slaying rams, eating flesh and drinking wine: Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die. (Is 22,12-13)
All the just are called by God’s grace in the weeping of contrition and the mourning of confession; in baldness (the renunciation of temporal things) and girding with sackcloth (the harshness of penance). But the lovers of the world remain in worldly joy, taking pleasure in sin, drunk with gluttony and lust.
(A sermon against the lovers of this world, carnal folk and fornicators: I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast.)
6. This is that Babylon, regarding which there is a concordance in the Apocalypse:
I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and seven horns. And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilt with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abomination and filthiness of her fornication. (Ap 17,3-4)
The word ‘woman’ suggests softness, the weakness of those who resemble Eve, from whom sin began. Solomon says of this woman:
Every woman that is a harlot is like dung in the way. (Si 9,10)
Dung is spread upon the fields, and the ‘woman that is a harlot’ means all worldlings who are trodden down by the demons, as dung is trodden by passers-by. The Lord complains of this harlot:
Of old time thou hast broken my yoke, thou hast burst my bonds, and thou saidst: I will not serve. For on every high hill and under every green tree thou didst prostitute thyself. (Jr 2,20)
The children of this world are a depraved, adulterous and perverse generation. They are bastard children, companions of thieves (the demons), who have broken the yoke of obedience, burst the bonds of God’s commandments, and said, "We will not serve." As in Job:
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
And what doth it profit us if we pray to him? (Jb 21,15)
On every high hill of pride, under every green tree of lust (for lust loves the leafy and shady places), they lie down like harlots for the devil.
So John says rightly: I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast. The beast is the devil, who lays waste the virtues of the soul. He is bloody in himself and in those who follow him. On him sit worldlings, for he is their foundation, they originate from him. But anyone supported by the devil, who fell from heaven, must fall with him. So Job says:
In the sight of all he shall be cast down- (Jb 40,28) he himself, and all the reprobates of whom he is chief.
Full of names of blasphemy. The devil has three names, mentioned in the Apocalypse.
In Hebrew, Abaddon; in Greek, Apollyon; in Latin, Exterminator(Ap 9,11). ‘Abd means ‘slave’, while Apollyon may mean the same as Exterminator, or may come from words meaning ‘hurtful’ or ‘hellish’. These are ‘names of blasphemy’, with which the devil and his members blaspheme God. They are slaves to sin, hurtful and hellish exterminators, putting themselves and others beyond the limits of eternal life.
Having seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads are those seven vices of which the Prophet says in the Psalm:
I have seen iniquity and contradiction in the city.
Day and night shall iniquity surround it upon its walls;
and in the midst thereof are labour and injustice;
and usury and deceit have not departed from its streets. (Ps 54,10-12)
The city of blood, entirely full of lying, and into which the Lord does not enter, is the multitude of carnal folk gathered together. In it is iniquity towards God, which is mentioned twice here because there are two ways of sinning against God, by commission and by omission. There is also contradiction towards superiors, labour and injustice against oneself, and usury and deceit against neighbour. The ten horns are those of which the Apostle says to the Romans:
Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness; full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity. (Rm 1,29)
Alternatively, the seven heads and ten horns are those mentioned in the book of Wisdom:
All things are mingled together: blood, murder, theft and dissimulation, corruption and unfaithfulness, tumults and perjury, disquieting of the good, forgetfulness of God, defiling of souls, changing of nature, disorder in marriage, and the irregularity of adultery and uncleanness, the worship of abominable idols. (Sg 14,25-7)
(A sermon on the sadness of the saints: The world will rejoice.)
7. And the woman was clothed round about with purple, etc. Purple stands for the love of dignity, scarlet (the colour of blood) for cruelty of mind, gold for worldly wisdom, precious
stones and pearls for the ostentation of riches. With these the ‘woman that is a harlot’, great Babylon, the synagogue of Satan, the crowd of carnal folk, is arrayed and adorned. There is added; Having a golden cup in her hand. The gold cup or chalice in the hand of Babylon is the glory of the world, golden outside but inside full of filthiness and abomination. As Solomon says:
Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain. (Pr 31,30)
With this cup the kings of the world are made drunk, the prelates of the Church, even monks and nuns. So John says:
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication; and they who inhabit the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her whoredom. (Ap 17,2)
Isaiah says of this drunkenness:
The Lord hath mingled in the midst thereof the spirit of giddiness; and they have caused Egypt to err in all its works, as a drunken man staggereth and vomiteth. (Is 19,14)
Giddiness (the word used refers to the way the wind rises and sets the earth in a whirl) is a sickness of the head. In the midst of Egypt (among worldlings), the Lord has mingled, or allowed to be mingled, a spirit of giddiness- covetous love. By its impulse, as by a wind, they reel about, and wander like drunkards unable to find the right way. And just like a drunkard who cannot feel blows when he is dragged away, so are they. As it is said:
They have beaten me, but I was insensible of pain; they drew me, and I felt not. (Pr 23,35)
The wretched sinner feels no pain when he is beaten by the demons; he feels nothing as he is dragged by them from sin to sin.
There is a concordance to this in the Lamentations of Jeremiah:
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Hus; to thee also shall the cup come, thou shalt be made drunk and naked. (Lm 4,21)
Edom means ‘blood’, the ‘daughter of Edom’ refers to effeminate, pleasure-seeking and
carnal folk. The Prophet is speaking ironically when he says, Rejoice and be glad. She rejoices in the abundance of the world, she is glad in the lust of the flesh, she dwells in the land of Hus (‘counsel’), of which Isaiah says:
The wise counsellors of Pharao have given foolish counsel. (Is 19,11)
The wise men of this world give foolish counsel: to seek temporal things, to grasp at fleeting things, to believe the false promises of the world. The daughter of Edom is deceived by the false counsel of the world. She is made drunk with the gold chalice of worldly glory. And afterwards she is stripped naked. After the lovers of this world have been made drunk with temporal things, they will be stripped of all good things; and so, naked, they will be condemned to eternal punishment.
So John adds, in the Apocalypse:
A mighty angel took up a stone, as it were a great mill-stone, and cast it into the sea, saying: With such violence as this shall Babylon, that great city, be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. (Ap 18,21)
The mighty angel is Christ, who overcame the powers of the air. He took up a stone, picking up the wicked with their hard hearts, so as to punish them more severely. Like a great mill-stone that goes round in the mill of this world and grinds others down, he casts it in the sea, the bitterness of hell, so that to the same degree that Babylon exalted itself and took its pleasure, so it will experience torments.
8. So the Lord says well in today’s Gospel:
The world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful,
but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (Jn 16,20)
And their joy shall be turned to sorrow. So, by the same Evangelist, the Lord says:
Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and... then that which is worse. (Jn 2,10)
In this world, they drink the wine of gladness, but in the next they will drink the wine of hell. So Jeremiah says:
Behold, they whose judgement was not to drink of the cup shall certainly drink: and shalt thou come off as innocent? Thou shalt not come off as innocent, but drinking thou shalt drink. For I have sworn by myself, says the Lord, that Bosra shall become a desolation and a reproach and a desert and a curse. (Jr 49,12-13)
The saints, for whom there is no judgement that they should drink the cup of this world’s
sorrow, drinking in bitterness of heart do drink in the pain of the body. They lament and groan over all the abominations that are done in the midst of the earth. And you,
Babylon, mother of fornications, shalt thou come off as innocent? Thou shalt not come off as innocent. Because you drink the wine of joy in this world, you will drink the vinegar of hell in the next. St Gregory4 says, "If the infirmity of mortal life is so great that not even the just, who are to dwell in heaven, can pass through life without toil, because of the immense heap of human misery: how much more may those excluded from heavenly glory expect a sure passage to everlasting damnation?" And he says again, "As often as I think about Job’s patience, and call to mind the death of saint John the Baptist, I tell you, sinner: understand from these what will be endured by those whom the Lord rejects, seeing how much is suffered by those who (as the Judge himsef testifies) are to be praised?" What will the desert bush do, when the cedar of paradise is struck with fear?
There follows: By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, having no greater to swear by (cf. He 6,13), that Bosra (‘fortified’), that faithless assembly of worldlings that fortifies itself against the Lord with the ramparts of sin and spears of defence, shall become a desolation (remaining without the companionship of grace) and a reproach (stripped of temporal things) and a derision (mocked by the demons) and a curse (Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire).
There follows: A woman, when she is in labour, hath sorrow. She is sad and as it were worn down. In this pilgrimage and exile the saints are worn down, distressed, afflicted, of whom the world was not worthy. (He 11,37-8). Peter says to them in today’s Epistle:
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul. (1P 2,11)
A stranger is one who comes from elsewhere; a pilgrim is one journeying outside his homeland. We are all strangers, because we have come from elsewhere, from the joy of paradise into this miserable exile. We are pilgrims, too, cast out from before God’s face, and journeying as beggars outside our heavenly homeland.
Let us, then, abstain from carnal desires like Naboth (‘remarkable’) He preferred to die rather than sell his inheritance (cf. 1R 21,1-14). In the same way we should prefer to suffer any pains, rather than exchange eternal glory for carnal pleasure. If we do so suffer, our sadness will be turned into joy. This agrees with the Introit of today’s Mass:
Shout with joy to God, all the earth:
Sing ye a psalm to his name: give glory to his praise. (Ps 65,1-2)
Three things are mentioned: rejoicing in heart, singing a psalm with the mouth, and giving glory in deeds, so that we may be found fit to come to the glory of eternal joy.
Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)