Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)
(A sermon on the coming of the Holy Spirit: An angel of the Lord descended into the pond.)
15. There follows, thirdly:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. (Jn 16,13)
When the temptress of souls (the pleasure of the flesh and the vanity of the world) deludes the unhappy soul with false delights, she overturns the mind, as the book of Wisdom says:
The bewitching of vanity obscureth good things,
and the wandering of concupiscence overturneth the mind. (Sg 4,12)
‘Bewitching’ means flattery, or deceiving with praise; the bewitching of vanity is the praise of flattery or the deceitfulness of worldly prosperity, which obscures spiritual goods. The wandering of carnal concupiscence overturns the mind. But when the Spirit of truth comes, enlightening the heart of man, he teaches all truth and drives out all that is false. So John says:
An angel of the Lord descended... into the pond and the water was moved... and one person was made whole. (cf. Jn 5,4)
When the angel of the Lord (the grace of the Holy Spirit) comes down into the pond (the heart of the sinner), the mind is moved with the water of compunction, and one person is healed: the true penitent who is ‘one’, undivided in heart and voice. So when the Spirit of truth comes he will teach (that is, inspire you with) all truth. Just as generation cannot take place without an active element, so man cannot do anything good without the Spirit of truth.
(On the property of the palm-tree.)
16. The female palm tree cannot make fruit unless it receives a vapour, blown by the wind, from another palm tree which is male. Ecclesiasticus says:
I was exalted like a palm-tree in Cades (Si 24,18)
(meaning ‘changed’), because a man cannot make progress without the grace of the Holy Spirit, just as a palm-tree cannot bear fruit without the vapour of its male. So a man without grace is not apt for divine service, and is like a man with no testicles, unable to beget good works.
(Against those who have unformed grace: Every beast that hath bruised; and on the shoot grafted into a tree.)
Leviticus says of this:
You shall not offer the Lord any beast that hath the testicles bruised, or crushed, or cut and taken away. (Lv 22,24)
The man with ‘bruised or crushed testicles’ is the man who has grace, but unformed, so that he cannot generate. The man whose testicles are ‘cut and taken away’ has neither formed nor unformed grace.
But, When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all things. The third part of today’s Epistle is concordant with this:
Wherefore, casting away all uncleanness and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (Jc 1,21)
Wherefore (that is, in order to deserve to receive the Spirit of truth),
casting away all uncleanness (of soul and body)
and abundance of naughtiness (the thoughts of a depraved mind),
with meekness (for the meek shall inherit the earth)
receive the ingrafted word (which is given by God only to the meek, and those who are dove-like in their meekness).
And note that when a shoot is grafted onto an old tree, it rejuvenates it and makes it fruitful. In the same way, when the Spirit of truth is grafted onto a mind grown old in evil days (Da 13,52) it rejuvenates it and makes it bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.
We pray you then, Lord Jesus, that as you have ascended from this world to the Father in the form of our humanity, you will draw us after you with the cord of love. Do not convict us of sin, but make us to imitate the justice of the saints, and stand in awe of your judgement. Pour into us the Spirit of truth, who will teach us all truth. Grant this, you who are blessed and glorious for ever and ever. Let every soul say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 cf. P. LOMBARD, Sententiae III, dist.3,4
2 cf. P. LOMBARD, Sententiae III, dist.6,2
3 Antony seems to misunderstand Aristotle, who wrote that eggs have a wider and a narrower end, and are laid wide end first. Those that are longer, with a pointed tip, produce females; the rounder ones with blunt tips produce males. cf. De historia animalium, VI,2,559a
4 AUGUSTINE, De diversis, sermo 351,4,7; PL 39.1542
5 GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Num 25.4
6 GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Num 25.3
7 BERNARD, De diversis, sermo 17.2-4
8 SENECA, De moribus 120; PUBLIUS SYRUS, Sententiae 806; SENECA, De moribus 104
9 HORACE, Epistolae, I,2,62-63; P. SYRUS, Sententiae 240, 540
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the fifth Sunday after Easter: Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask anything; which is divided into three clauses.
(First, a sermon on the anointing of grace: His unction; and: Zadok and Nathan.)
1. At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, amen, I say to you: If you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. (Jn 16,23)
John says in his canonical Epistle:
His unction teacheth you all things. (1Jn 2,27)
This unction is two-fold. First is the infusion of grace, of which the Prophet says:
God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Ps 44,8)
"O God the Son, God your Father has anointed you, as man, with the oil of gladness, the gift of seven-fold grace, which has made you immune from every sin; above your fellows, because the Spirit was given you without measure, but to others only with limits. So John says: Of his fullness we all have received (Jn 1,16)."1 The second anointing is the preaching of God’s word, of which we read in the third book of Kings that Zadok and Nathan anointed Solomon in Gihon (cf. 1R 1,38-39). Zadok means ‘justice’, Nathan ‘gift of grace’ Solomon ‘peaceful’ and Gihon ‘struggle’. The justice of a good life and the gift of grace (the word of dominical preaching) anoint the sinner who is reconciled to God in confession, in Gihon; so that being stripped of his sins and of temporal things he may struggle with the devil.
When the first unction anoints the mind inwardly, the second makes great progress; but when the former is lacking, the latter runs its course in vain. The Gloss says on this text, "No-one should give credit to the teacher for the things he learns from the teacher’s mouth, if it is not from the teacher inwardly. The teacher’s tongue works outwardly in vain; yet a teacher should not remain silent, but for the things he practices," because he preaching may yet have a preparatory value. So the anointing of inward inspiration, or of
dominical preaching, teaches us all that concerns the salvation of our souls: that is, to despise the world, to humble oneself, to hunger for heavenly joy. This is what the Lord speaks of in today’s Gospel: Amen, amen, I say to you: If you ask the Father any thing, etc.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel: first, the prayer for fullness of joy, beginning: Amen, amen, I say to you; second, Jesus Christ’s own intercession for us with the Father: I will ask the Father for you; thirdly, Christ’s own knowledge of all things: Now we know that thou knowest all things.
This Sunday we sing in the Introit of the Mass: With a voice of singing; and the Epistle of blessed James is read: Be doers of the word; which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: Be doers of the word; the second: He who looks into the perfect law of liberty; the third: If anyone thinks himself to be religious, etc.
(A sermon on the Father: Our Father, who art in heaven; and on the child of the stork.)
3. Let us say, then:
Amen, amen, I say to you: If you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto, you have not asked any thing in my name. Ask, and you will receive; that your joy may be full. (Jn 16,23-24)
Amen is the Hebrew word for affirmation: ‘truly’, ‘indeed’. The Truth, with a double affirmation, promises us joy, so that we may believe what he says without doubting.
If you ask the Father any thing in my name. Note the words ‘any thing’, ‘Father’ and ‘in my name’. Only one who has a child can be called ‘father’, so that ‘father’ and ‘son’ are correlative terms. When one speaks of a father, one implies the existence of a son of whom he is father. God is a Father, and we are his children who say to him daily, Our Father, who art in heaven. Isaiah says:
Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer: from everlasting is thy name. (Is 63,16)
From this time call to me: Thou art my father, the guide of my virginity. (Jr 3,4)
The soul’s ‘virginity’ is faith, working by love and keeping the soul undefiled; and God the Father is its leader and guide. As children, we ought to ask the Father for some thing; yet
every thing, apart from the love of God, is nothing. So the ‘something’ for which we should ask is the love of God. As children, we ask that we may love our Father, just as the young stork loves its parent.
It is said that the young stork loves its father so much that it feeds and sustains him in his old age, and this is by a natural instinct. In the same way we should support our Father as he ‘grows old’ in this world: that is, in his weak and feeble members, by feeding the poor and needy. What you did for one of the least of mine, you did to me (Mt 25,40). If we ask for love, then the Father himself, who is Love, will give us what he himself is, namely love.
(A sermon on the love of God: I will give you a land flowing.)
4. So he himself says in Exodus;
I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey. (Ex 13,5)
Note the words: ‘land’, ‘flowing’, ‘milk’, and ‘honey’. The land, because of its stability, represents the love of God which confirms the mind in truth. So Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth standeth for ever. (Qo 1,4)
One generation (the love of the flesh) passes away, and another generation (the love of the world) comes; but the earth (the love of God) stands for ever, because as the Apostle says:
Charity never falleth away. (1Co 13,8)
This land is called ‘flowing’ because of its abundance, as in the Psalm:
The stream of the river (the abundance of divine love)
maketh the city of God joyful (the soul, in which God himself dwells). (Ps 45,5)
This land abounds with milk and honey. Milk nourishes, honey sweetens: so the love of God nourishes the soul, so that it may grow from virtue to virtue; and it brings sweet comfort to those troubled by any adversity. "Nothing is hard for a lover."2 But when the sweetness of divine love is withdrawn, even the least trial seems hard to bear. Yet wood sweetened the waters of Mara (cf. Ex 15,23 Ex 15,25), and the meal of Eliseus made the bitter gourds palatable (cf. 2R 4,39-41). So the love of God makes sweet the bitterest of things; as Ecclesiasticus says:
My spirit is sweet, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. (Si 24,27)
The Spirit of the Lord is the spirit of poverty, of which Isaiah says:
The spirit of the mighty is like a whirlwind beating against a wall. (Is 25,4)
The ‘mighty’ means the poor who do not flinch in prosperity or adversity. Their spirit is like a whirlwind beating against the wall of wealth. The same Prophet says:
The shield made bare the wall. (Is 22,6)
This shield, which covers and protects the body, is the spirit of poverty, which hides the soul from the devil’s darts. This shield strips bear the wall of wealth. The ‘inheritance’ of the Lord is the Passion of the cross, which he left to his children, saying:
Do this for a commemoration of me; (Lc 22,19)
that is, in memory of my Passion. The Apostle possessed this inheritance, as an heir, when he said:
I bear the marks of Christ in my body. (Ga 6,17)
So the spirit of poverty and the inheritance of the Passion are sweeter than honey and the honeycomb in the heart of the true lover.
So he says well: If you ask the Father any thing in my name. The name ‘Christ’ (the Hebrew ‘Messiah’) means ‘anointed’ or ‘saviour’. We ask the Father, then, in the name of the Saviour, to give us the privilege of love; if not for our own sake, then at least for the sake of his Son by whom he saved the human race. We say with the Prophet:
Behold, O God our protector: and look on the face of thy Christ. (Ps 83,10)
as though to say, if you do not wish to look on us for our own sake, then at least look on the face of your Christ, beaten with blows for us, besmeared with spittle, pale with death. Look on the face of thy Christ: what father would not look on the face of his dead son? Look, then, Father, on us: because Christ your Son has died for our sake, for we were the cause of his death. As he commanded us, we ask you in his name to give us yourself, for without you we cannot exist. St Augustine3 says, "Lord, if you want me to leave you, then give me another ‘You’, or else I will not leave you."
(A sermon against those who ask for temporal things: Hitherto you have not asked anything.)
5. So he says well: Amen, amen, I say to you: If you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name. The Gloss says: "Trusting in my presence, you have not asked anything; that is, anything which can be compared to what is permanent." In this text the Lord rebukes those who ask for temporal things, which are nothing. Hosea says of such people:
Your mercy is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth away in the morning. (Os 6,4)
As if to say, when you ask mercy of the Lord, you ask for temporal things which are like a morning cloud, insubstantial as air, an empty nothing. Temporal goods are as nothing, but in order to seem like something that nothing is wrapped in a kind of phantom reality. The appearance of a cloud hides the sun, and the abundance of temporal things turns away the thought of God. Job says:
Fatness hath covered his face, (Jb 15,27)
because the fatness of wealth blinds the eyes of the mind. The Psalm says:
Fire hath fallen on them, and they shall not see the sun. (Ps 57,9)
The fire of worldly love blinds men’s eyes, as a hot film covers the eyes of a bear. Your mercy is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth away in the morning, because as the sun grows hot it evaporates just when it is most needed, and exposes plants and flowers to the sun’s heat, so that they are scorched by the sun. In the same way worldly prosperity gives comfort in this world, but lets men down in eternal punishment.
Nahum says: And as for Ninive, her waters are as a great pool. (Na 2,8)
Ninive (‘beautiful’) stands for the world, which is covered with a deceiving beauty as mud is covered with snow. Its refreshment is compared to a pool, which overflows with water in winter and dries up in summer. The world now abounds with the waters of wealth, but when the drought of death comes it will be stripped of wealth and delivered to eternal punishment. Until now, then, you have not asked anything; or if you have asked, you have not done so in my name, that is, for the salvation of your soul.
The Apostle shows the proper way of asking and praying when he writes to Timothy:
I desire, therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made. (1Tm 2,1)
Supplication means a careful attention to God in one’s spiritual exercises. Anyone who prefers knowledge to saving grace gets only grief. Prayer is the disposition of the man who holds to God, and is a certain familiarity and loving conversation with him. It is the
condition of an enlightened mind to enjoy it as long as it may.
Intercession is the care to obtain temporal things that are necessary for this life. God approves the good will of those who ask, yet does what he himself judges best, giving freely to whoever asks well. It is what the Psalmist means by;
For my prayer is still in the things with which they are well pleased. (Ps 140,5)
‘They’ are the wicked. It is common to all, but more particularly to the children of the world, to desire tranquillity and peace, health of body, fine weather, and other things useful and necessary for this life and for the pleasure of those who misuse them. Those who ask for them in faith should only do so from need, and even then they should always subject their own will to the will of God. In asking, one should pray with devotion and faith, yet not clinging obstinately to these things. We do not know, though our Father in heaven does, what is needful to us in our present circumstances.
Finally, thanksgiving is the acknowledgement in mind and thought of God’s grace and good will; and an unfailing and ceaseless reference of everything to God (though at times either outward expression or inner affection will be missing or at least sluggish.
This is what the Apostle means by:
To will is present to me; but to accomplish that which is good I find not; (Rm 7,18)
as though to say, Good will is always present, but sometimes it is dormant and ineffective. I want to do what is good, but I fail. The charity that never fails is ceaseless prayer and thanksgiving, of which the Apostle says: Pray without ceasing (IThess 5.17), and: Give thanks always (Ep 5,20). So it is well said: Until now you have not asked any thing in my name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
(A sermon on the joy of just and carnal people: The almond tree shall flourish; and on the wild ass.)
6. Note that there is an empty joy, that of carnal people; and there is a full joy, which is that of the saints. Of the empty joy of the carnal, Isaiah says;
A joy of wild asses, the pastures of flocks. (Is 3,
There are two kinds of wild ass. One has horns and lives in Greece Is 4
of this, Job says; Who hath sent out the wild ass free, and who hath loosed his bonds. (Jb 39,5)
The other lives in Spain, and he says of this one:
A vain man is lifted up unto pride,
and thinketh himself born free like a wild ass’s colt. (Jb 11,12)
In the same way there are two kinds of ass (the proud) in this world. There are those who take pride in the horns of dignity; and others who exalt themselves only in the vanity of their minds, and cast off from themselves the yoke of obedience. The ‘joy of asses’ consists in the ‘pastures of flocks’, that is, of the poor. But those who grab and consume the goods of the poor will themselves be grabbed by the devil. As Solomon says:
The wild ass is the lion’s prey in the desert. (Si 13,23)
Woe to thee that spoilest! Shalt no thou thyself also be despoiled? (Is 33,1)
And so Solomon says of the empty joy of carnal people:
The almond tree shall flourish, the locust shall be made fat, and the caper tree shall be destroyed. (Qo 12,5)
The almond tree puts forth its flowers before the other trees. The carnal man seeks to flower in this world, but in the next world he will be bare of every flower. The locust (the devil) will grow fat on his fallen blossom, because (if I may say so) the joy of temporal glory is the fatness of the devil. And the caper-tree of carnal desire and worldly glory will be destroyed. St James says:
The rich shall pass away as the flower of the grass:
for the sun rose with a burning heat, and parched the grass;
and the flower thereof fell off, and the beauty of the shape thereof perished.
So also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. (Jc 1,10-11)
The root is carnal desire, the flower is delight in temporal things. When the sun rises (the severity of death, or of the Judge) the root dries up, the flower falls, and the beauty of its shape (honour from the world, friends and neighbours) will perish. So the joy of the world is empty.
Of the true and full joy of eternal life, Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
The almond tree shall flourish, the locust shall be made fat,
and the caper tree shall be destroyed.
The joy of the saints consists in three things: the resurrection of the body, blessedness of soul, and freedom from the sting of the flesh and the temptation of the devil. The almond tree (the body) will flower with four gifts: brightness, agility, subtlety and immortality. The locust (the soul) will grow fat with the vision of God, the blessedness of the angels, and the companionship of the saints. The caper-tree will be destroyed, namely the sting of the flesh and the temptation of the devil. Of this, the Apostle says to the Corinthians:
When this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin. (1Co 15,54-56)
So the caper-tree will be destroyed, because, as the Prophet says: Strangers shall no more pass through Jerusalem (that is, demons will not tempt the just man) and evil beasts (the desires of the flesh) will not pass through it (cf. Jl 3,17).
(On the three characteristics of a mirror, and their meaning: If a man be a hearer of the word.)
7. The first part of today’s Epistle is concordant with this double joy (full and empty).
Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding the face of his birth in a glass. For he beheld himself and went his way and presently forgot what manner of man he was. (Jc 1,22-24)
The doers of God’s word are those who ask for and receive the fulness of joy. Those who are only hearers are those who try to gain the empty joy of the world; of this, the Psalm says:
It is time, O Lord, to do (not just to hear and talk);
they have dissipated thy law (who hear it and do not perform it). (Ps 118,126)
He that breaketh a hedge (the law), a serpent shall bite him (the devil). (Qo 10,8)
He who does not live according to what he says and hears, dissipates the law. He is the man of whom it is said: If a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, etc.
Note that a mirror is just a very fine glass, with these three characteristics: it is cheap, fragile and clear. Glass is a cheap material, made of a little sand, fragile in substance but transparently bright. When it is placed face to the sun, it shines just like the sun. A mirror reflects the light, and women use it to look at their own faces. Ordinary glass allows light to pass through, and one can see clearly what is on the other side. Mirror-glass represents Holy Scripture, in whose light we see ‘the face of our birth’, we see whence we were born, what we are born, and to what end we are born. Whence, referring to the lowliness of the matter we are made of; what, referring to the frailty of our nature; to what end, referring to the dignity and glory with which we shall shine, like reflections of the true sun which is so near, if we be doers of the word.
In the mirror of holy doctrine we find these three things: lowliness of matter: Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return (Gn 3,19); frailty of nature: Our years shall be considered as a spider (Ps 89,9)- for what is frailer than a spider’s web? What more fragile than human life, destroyed by a small injury or a slight disease? Glory, as the Gospel says: The just shall shine like the sun, etc. (Mt 13,43).
In this mirror wretched man considers the face of his birth, how he was born, how frail he is and what lies ahead; and for a little while he feels compunction and wants to repent. But because he is only a hearer of the word and not a doer; because he is a lover of vain and empty joys, straightway he forgets what he is and what he has seen of himself. Vain joy takes away the memory of his proper salvation. On the other hand, the memory of full joy generates in the soul a concern for what belongs to salvation: Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
The Church recalls this joy in the Introit of today’s Mass:
With a voice of joy declare it to the ends of the earth... (cf. Is 48,20)
0 preachers, with a voice of joy (namely: Ask and your joy will be full) declare not only to the just who are in the midst of the Church, but to the ends of the earth (those who are outside its bounds, the Lord’s precepts which are our boundary-marks), that they may hear the voice of joy and gain the fulness of joy which will have no end. May Jesus Christ lead us to that joy. Amen.
(A sermon on the Annunciation, Nativity or Passion of the Lord: Moses said to Aaron: Take a thurible.)
8. There follows, secondly:
1 will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came out from God. (Jn 16,26-27)
Christ, a priest according to the order of Melchisedec, and Mediator between God and man, asks the Father for us. As Leviticus says:
The priest praying for them, the Lord will be merciful unto them. (Lv 4,20)
The priest shall pray for him, and for his sin: and it shall be forgiven him. (Lv 4,26)
There is a concordance in the book of Numbers, where:
Moses said to Aaron: take the censer, and putting fire in it from the altar, put incense upon it; and go quickly to the people to pray for them. For already wrath is gone out from the Lord, and the plague rageth. When Aaron had done this, and had run to the midst of the multitude which the burning fire was now destroying, he offered the incense. And standing between the dead and the living, he prayed for the people, and the plague ceased. (Nb 16,46-48)
Moses said to Aaron: that is, the Father said to the Son: Take the censer of humanity, which was made by the smith Bezaleel (‘divine overshadowing’, signifying that of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the glorious Virgin, whom he overshadowed by bestowing grace and entirely extinguishing any spark of sin in her); and fill that censer of humanity with the fire of divinity (for the fulness of divinity dwelt corporeally in it (Col 2,9)) from the altar (because he came out from the Father and entered the world). Put the incense of your Passion upon it, and so as Mediator you will pray for the people whom the devil’s fire has cruelly laid waste. Obedient to the commanding will, he ran with the censer to death, even death on the Cross (Ph 2,8); and standing with hands outstretched on the Cross between the dead and the living (that is, between the two thieves, one of whom was saved and the other damned; or else, between those detained in the prison of hell and those who lived in the miseries of this exile), as he offered himself as a sacrifice in an odour of sweetness (Ep 5,2) he freed them all from the fire of the devil’s persecution.
So he well says of himself: I will ask the Father for you. In his canonical Epistle John says:
We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just. And he is the propitiation (that is, the appeasement) for our sins. (1Jn 2,1-2)
That is why we offer him daily in the Sacrament of the altar to God the Father, that he may be appeased for our sins. We do as is done by a woman with the little child, when her husband is angry with her and about to beat her. She holds up the little one in her arms and faces her angry husband, saying, "Hit him! Beat him!" The little child, full of tears, suffers with his mother; and the Father whose heart is moved by the tears of his child whom he loves dearly, spares his wife for his sake. In the Sacrament of the altar we
offer to God the Father, who is angered by our sins) his Son Jesus Christ, for the covenant of our reconciliation. So, being reminded of his tears, labour and Passion, he may turn away the punishment we have deserved and spare us: if not for our own sake, at least for the sake of his beloved Son.
So the Son himself says in Isaiah:
I have made you, and I will bear, I will carry and save. (Is 46,4)
Note these four words: I have made man; I will bear him on my shoulders like a lost and weary sheep; I will carry him as a nurse carries a child in her arms. And what can the Father answer to this? I will save. So Christ says well: I will ask the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me and believed that I came out from God. The Father and the Son are one, as the Son bears witness: I and the Father are one (Jn 10,30). He who loves the Father loves the Son as well, and the Father and the Son love him. So he says in John:
He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (Jn 14,21)
9. There is a concordance to this love in the second part of today’s Epistle:
But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work; this man shall be blessed in his deed. (Jc 1,25)
The law of perfect liberty is the love of God, which renders a man perfect in every respect, and free from all servitude. The Psalm says of the just man: The Law of his God is in his heart. (Ps 36,31)
The law of divine love is in the heart of the just man, so that we read in Proverbs:
My son, give me thy heart. (Pr 23,26)
As a hawk seeks first the heart of the bird it catches, and consumes it, so God wants nothing and loves nothing so much as the human heart in which is the law of love; so that: His steps shall not be supplanted (Ps 36,31). The steps of the just are the works and affections of his mind. These will not be supplanted or ensnared by the devil’s temptations; nor will they slip in the street of worldly vanity. Of the former, Job says:
The sole of his foot shall be held in a snare: and thirst shall burn against him. (Jb 18,9)
The foot of the wicked is held in the snare of evil suggestion, and so the thirst of cupidity burns against him. Of the latter, Jeremiah says in Lamentations:
Our steps have slipped in the way of our streets. (Lm 4,18)
A street is wide, and our works are the steps by which our journeying is manifested and recognised: a man is known by his works. In the muddy streets of worldly pleasure the works of sinners slip, so that they fall from sin to sin and eventually plunge into hell. The Psalm says:
Let their way become dark and slippery:
and let the (evil) angel of the Lord pursue them, (Ps 34,6)
until it casts them into the abyss of hell. But the step of the just man is not supplanted, because the law of love is in his heart, and he who continues in it will be blessed in his deed. The love of God confers grace in this present life, and the blessedness of glory in that which is to come. May he who is blessed for ever bring us to it! Amen.
(A sermon on God’s mercy, judgement and power: He commandeth the sun and it riseth not.)
10. There follows, thirdly:
His disciples say to him: Now we know that thou knowest all things, and thou needest not that any man should ask thee. By this we believe that thou came forth from God. (Jn 16,29)
The disciples said truly, Now we know that thou knowest all things. So the Apostle bears witness to it to the Hebrews:
The word of the Lord is living and effectual and more piercing than any two-edged sword and reaching to the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight; but all things are naked and open to his eyes. (He 4,12-13)
The word, that is the Son of God, by whom we know his will, is alive and confers life. He is effectual, capable of giving full effect easily to whatever he wills. The word of God is effectual because the Son of God hath done all things whatsoever he would (Ps 113B,
3). He has done what he would, where he would, and when he would. So Job says:
He commandeth the sun and it riseth not:
and shutteth up the stars as it were under a seal.
He alone spreadeth out the heavens: and walketh upon the waves of the sea.
He maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and Hyades, and the inner parts of the south.
He doth things great and incomprehensible and wonderful: of which there is no number. (Jb 9,7-10)
He who does things like these truly knows all things! Truly the Son of God, living and efficacious, can do all things!
He commandeth the sun and it riseth not.
The sun stands for the illumination of grace, which ‘rises’ when it is infused into the mind, and ‘rises not’ when it is not granted. So the Lord says in Exodus: I shall harden Pharao’s heart (Ex 4,21). God is said to harden the heart when he withdraws his grace, or does not grant it. So he says in Hosea:
I will not visit upon your daughters when they commit fornication. (Os 4,14)
Nothing worse can happen to a sinful soul than when the Lord leaves the sinner in the wickedness of his heart, and does not correct him with the scourge of fatherly visitation.
And shutteth up the stars as it were under a seal.
A seal is impressed upon something so that it may stay hidden until it is unsealed. The ‘stars’ are the saints, whom Christ shuts up under the seal of his providence, so that they may not appear when they will, but are always ready for the time set by God; so that when they hear with their heart’s ear the voice of their Master, they may go out from the secrecy of contemplation to the work that needs to be done.
He alone spreadeth out the heavens.
The ‘heavens’ are holy preachers, whose words fall like rain, who lighten with the examples of holy life, and thunder with threats of eternal punishment. The Lord spreads these heavens so as to shed light everywhere, to cover sinners and take care that they themselves do not become involved in temporal matters.
And walketh upon the waves of the sea.
The ‘waves of the sea’ are the proud of the world. The Lord walks on them when he imprints upon their hearts the footsteps of his humility. So he says in Ecclesiasticus:
I alone have compassed the circuit of the heaven,
and have penetrated into the bottom of the deep,
and have walked in the waves of the sea.
And I have stood in all the earth; and in every people,
and in every nation I have had the chief rule,
and by my power I have trodden under my feet the hearts of all the high. (Si 24,8-11)
I compass, defend and protect the ‘circuit of heaven’ (the hearts of the just), the ‘bottom of the deep’ (the hearts of evil-doers, converting them by repentance), and the ‘waves of the sea’ (those tossed about by temptation); and ‘I have stood in all the earth’, because God stands upon the humble, and upon those fruitful and firm in good works, whereas the devil stands upon the sand; and in every people and in every nation, wherein the Church is gathered.
(A sermon on the mortification of the body: He maketh Arcturus and Orion.)
11. There follows:
He maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and Hyades, and the inner parts of the south.
Note these four words. Arcturus is what is called by the Latins the ‘north star’, a constellation of seven stars called ‘the wain’, because it resembles a wain. Five stars form the cart, and two together form the oxen. The five stars stand for the five senses of the body, the two stars for hope and fear which should draw them along like a pair of oxen. There is a concordance to this in the first book of Kings, where it says that the Philistines took two cows and yoked them to a cart, and laid the ark of God on the new cart (cf. 1R 6,10-11). The cart with its revolving wheels represents our body, which should go round in works of mercy. It is made new by the satisfaction of penance, and should bear the ark of obedience. Two cows (hope and fear) should pull this cart to Bethsames (meaning ‘house of the sun’), the mansion of eternal life where the sun of justice dwells.
Orion is the constellation with the sword; the Latins refer to his belt, armed with a sword, terrible and bright with star-light. Orion rises in the depths of winter, and at his rising
causes rain and storms. Orion stands for heartfelt contrition and oral confession, which by their influence cause the rain of tears and the storms of discipline, fasting and abstinence.
The Hyades are five stars arranged like the letter Y. The Hyades are the five words which Paul, writing to the Corinthians, wanted to speak in the Church with understanding: the word of prayer, the word of praise, the word of counsel, the word of exhortation and the word of confession (cf. 1Co 14,19).
(A sermon for the day of Pentecost: Arise, O north wind.)
The ‘inner parts of the south’: the south wind is hot, and represents the Holy Spirit, of which the Bride says in Canticles:
Arise, O north wind, and come, O south wind:
blow through my garden, and let the aromatical spices thereof flow. (Ct 4,16)
The north wind freezes the waters, like the devil who with his cold malice stops up the waters of compunction in the sinner’s heart. She says to him ‘Arise’, in the sense of ‘Begone!’ and then ‘Come, O south wind’ to the Holy Spirit. ‘Blow through the garden of my conscience, that its aromatical spices, tears which are more sweetly scented than any perfume before the Lord, may flow.’ The ‘inner parts of the south’ mean the secrets of contemplation, the joy of the mind and the sweetness of inner consolation. These are as it were the inner secrets of ‘the south’, the Holy Spirit; and with them he himself dwells, and by indwelling blows with the sweet breezes of his love.
12. There follows:
He doth things great and incomprehensible and wonderful: of which there is no number.
He does great things in creation, incomprehensible things in Redemption, and wonderful things in eternal blessedness. Alternatively: He did great things in his Incarnation, so that blessed Mary said:
He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. (Lc 1,49)
He did incomprehensible things in his Nativity, when the Virgin bore the very Son of God. And he did wonderful things in his working of miracles. Blessed be he, because he knows all things and he did such things for us! So the Apostle says: The word of God is alive and efficacious.
There follows: And more piercing than any two-edged sword.
Christ strikes the soul with contrition, and the body with affliction,
reaching unto the division of the soul (here meaning the principle of animal life)
and spirit (meaning reason).
The soul is something incorporeal, capable of reason, whose function is to give life to the body. It makes men ‘animals’, who mind the things of the flesh (Rm 8,5), clinging to the bodily senses. When this principle becomes subject perfectly to reason, it immediately abandons the characteristics of weakness, and becomes a ‘mind’, endowed with reason, with the function of ruling the body. Thus as long as it is merely ‘soul’, it is soon weakened in things of the flesh; but the ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’ thinks only of what is strong and spiritual. So there is a division between ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’.
Joints and marrow. The joints are where the bones meet, and the marrow is what moistens the bones. By ‘joints’, then, the subtle joining of thoughts is denoted, and by ‘marrow’ the compunction of tears which moistens the bones of virtue. Christ, by the power of his divinity, penetrates even to the division of joints and marrow, because he sees clearly the beginning, middle and end of our thoughts, and whither they tend, and how one is linked to another; and he sees how and by what wat compunction comes forth from the heart.
So Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit,
nor how the bones are joined together in the womb of her that is with child:
so thou knowest not the works of God, who is the maker of all. (Qo 11,5)
Only God knows what is the way of the spirit (that is, contrition), and how the bones (the virtues) are joined together in the womb of one with child (the penitent mind). So the Apostle adds:
But all things are naked and open to his eyes.
As Job says:
Hell is naked before him; and there is no covering for destruction. (Jb 26,6)
Truly indeed the disciples said: Now we know that thou knowest all things, and thou needest not that any man should ask thee. By this we believe that thou camest forth from God. The Son came forth from God, that you might go forth from the world. He came to you, that you might go to him. What is it, to leave the world and go to Christ, but
to restrain vice and bind the soul to God with the bond of love?
(A sermon on the observance of silence, and of the many rules of religious life; If any man think himself to be religious.)
13. So there is a concordance in the third part of the Epistle of today’s Mass:
If any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is in vain. Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself unspotted by the world. (Jc 1,26-27)
"Religion is what binds our souls to the one God for divine worship." "Religion is the offering of due observance and ceremony to some superior nature regarded as divine." Let a religious man who is puffed up in spirit, careless in speech and excluded from God’s kingdom hear these words: If any man think himself to be religious, etc. The tongue should be controlled, and whoever does not silence it proves that he is without real religion. The beginning of religion is the bridling of the tongue.
So Solomon says:
Who will set a guard before my mouth and a sure seal upon my lips,
that I fall not by them, and that my tongue destroy me not? (Si 22,33)
I should not speak even good things out of turn: there is a time to be silent and a time to say what is good. The word ‘seal’ is significant: what is shut up with a seal is closed from the sight of enemies, not friends. Let religious of our days listen, who burden the framework of their religious observance with so many complicated rules and regulations. They are like the Pharisees who gloried in the outward appearance of purity. God gave the first man (established in so excellent a state) just one short command: Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and he did not keep even so small a thing! They impose many new commandments and long regulations upon people of our time who are set in such wretchedness and misery, on the margins of society and indeed (to speak truly) amongst its dregs. Do you really think they will keep them? They will only have more to transgress.
Let them listen to what the Lord says in the Apocalypse:
I will not put upon you any other burden; yet that which you have, hold fast: (Ap 2,121)
namely, the Gospel. The Gloss says: "Let them hear what St James says about true religion: Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the
fatherless and widows, etc. True religion has two components: mercy and innocence. The command to visit widows and orphans includes everything we should do for our neighbour. The command to keep unspotted from the world includes every aspect of chastity."
Let us pray then, beloved brothers, that the Lord Jesus Christ will pour his grace into us, so that we may ask and receive the fullness of true joy; that he will ask the Father for us, to give us true religion, so that we may deserve to come to the region of eternal life. May he grant this, who is blessed, the beginning and the end, admirable and ineffable through endless ages. And let all clean and undefiled religion say, Amen. Alleluia.
Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)