Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)
(A sermon against the wrathful: Adonias the son of Haggith. The nature and meaning of the basilisk.)
8. There follows, secondly:
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgement. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the Council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Mt 5,21-22)
The commandment of Christ is not contrary to the Law, but it contains a broader law. He who is not angry will not kill, but the contrary is not true. The freedom to be angry leads to murder: take away anger, and there will be no murder. ‘Anger’ includes every evil movement towards harm. A spontaneous movement, which is not consented to, is only the beginning of passion; but when consent is given, there is full passion, and death in the household.
Whosoever is angry with his brother, etc. There are degrees in these sins. The first is to be angry, but to hold it in the mind. It is worse, if this or that emotion leads to utterance, hurtful to the one with whom we are angry. It is worse still if one cries out with real cursing. There is a similar gradation in the punishment. ‘Judgement’ is a lesser thing, because even though it deals with a guilty person, there is room for defense. ‘The Council’ is a more serious matter: the judges confer together about the penalty to be inflicted, having agreed that sentence must be passed. ‘Hell’ is worse still, because there is no remission of sentence. In this way, things which cannot be expressed in precise and distinct terms can be distinguished by these analogies. In these three expressions- judgement, the Council, hell- different kinds of eternal punishment are referred to, each according to the type of sin.
Note that there is this difference between anger and irascibility: anger is an occurrence, arising from some cause; irascibility is a vice of nature, that persists. The irascible man is one who, by his hot blood, is roused to fury: ‘fury’ and ‘fiery’ are similar sounding words. The Hebrew word ‘Raca’ simply means ‘empty’ or ‘inane’, and we use it just as vulgar abuse, without thinking. Nevertheless, if you say this of your brother, who is full of the Holy Spirit, you become liable to punishment in the judgement of the holy judges. A ‘fool’ is one who does not understand what either he himself or others say: he is dull of heart.
9. There is a concordance to these three in the third book of Kings, where it tells how Solomon killed Adonias, Semei and Joab.
Adonias the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying: I will be king. And he made himself achariot, and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. (1R 1,5)
Adonias (meaning ‘The Lord is master’) is the iracible man, who wants to dominate others as their master. He is ‘son of Haggith’ (‘meditation’), because a twisted anger comes from brooding, and it incites the sinner to say ‘I will be king’. What great stupidity! Not yet able to control himself, and wanting to rule other people!
He made himself a chariot, etc. The chariot is the tongue, the horsemen are words, and the fifty men are the five bodily senses. The sinner’s mind is borne along in the cursed chariot of a loose tongue, vulnerable to sword and fire, as he burns with anger. His words run hither and thither, like charging horsemen. The five bodily senses obey, too, infected with the poison of wrath. The eyes are darkened, the ears deafened, the hands become cruel, and so with the rest. Here is that murderer, Zamri, of whom the third book of Kings tells:
He went into the palace and burnt himself with the king’s house; and he died in his sins, which he had sinned in doing evil before the Lord. (1R 16,18-19)
Zamri means one who provokes, or embitters, and he stands for the wrathful man who sets the fire of wrath to himself and the king’s house- his soul, bought with the king’s blood. So, sinning mortally, he dies in the sight of the Lord. The wrathful man is rightly represented by the basilisk.
The basilisk is a snake half-footed along its length, particularly deadly on earth, which destroys the grass with its breath, kills trees, slays and burns animals and everything else. It even pollutes the atmosphere, so that no bird can fly through the air infected by its poisonous breath. Even snakes are terrified by its hissing, and when they take to flight, they go as fast as they can. No beast will eat anything killed by its bite, nor will birds touch it. Yet it can be killed by weasels, and so men put them into the holes it hides in.
In this way, any powerful person of this world, who is infected by the poison of wrath, destroys the grass (the poor) with the breath of his malice, kills trees (the rich of this world, merchants and usurers), slays and burns the animals (those of his own household). He even pollutes the air of religious life: he hath set his mouth against heaven, and his tongue hath passed through the earth (cf. Ps 72,9). Even the snakes (his friends and accomplices who know his malice) are terrified by his hissing. When his wrath is kindled, everyone takes flight, in all directions, running to hide themselves even in pig-sties! This savage lord, beside himself and inflamed by a devilish spirit, can be overcome only by weasels- the poor in spirit, who are not afraid of him because they have nothing to lose. People who are burdened with the dirt of money, who are afraid to approach him, take them to the holes he hides in. ‘Speak to him,’ they say. ‘We don’t dare to.’
Semei, who cursed David, represents whoever says ‘Raca’ to his brother; Joab represents the man who calls his brother ‘Fool’. Solomon killed these three: Adonias, who wanted to be king- anger; Semei, who cursed David: Raca; Joab, who put to the sword men better than himself- the man who calls his brother ‘Fool’, striking him with the sword of his tongue. Alas! How often we sin mortally in these three ways, and how seldom (or never) we confess!
10. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer. For he that is dead is justified from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with him. (Rm 6,6-8)
Note that sin is mentioned three times in this part; since it is destroyed three times in us,
these three (being angry, saying ‘Raca’, calling a fool) are destroyed in us. Then indeed the body of sin, the whole mass of sinful acts, such as wrath and envy, are destroyed when reason takes control. If our old man, the spontaneous movement of the mind, is crucified by the nails of divine fear: when it is crucified, we serve sin, the sin of anger, no more. We will not be angry with our brother, but will honour the crucified Christ in him.
He that is dead, that has a mortified will, is justified from that sin, made just and free.
This refers to calling one’s brother a fool. When the cause is removed, the effect ceases.
Beloved brothers, let us beseech the Lord Jesus Christ to take away anger from our hearts, and to give us peace of mind, so that we may love our neighbour in heart and mind and deed; and attain to him who is our peace. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A sermon on the four-fold altar: If thou offer thy gift.)
11. There follows, thirdly:
If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother; and then coming, thou shalt offer thy gift. (Mt 5,23-24)
The word used means ‘high altar’, the place where victims were burnt.
There are four sorts of altar: that above, that below, that within, and that without. The ‘altar above’ is the Trinity, of which the Lord says in Exodus:
Thou shalt not go up by steps unto my altar, lest thy nakedness be discovered. (Ex 20,26)
There are no degrees in the Trinity, such that the Father is regarded as greater than the Son, the Son less than the Father, or the Holy Spirit less than either. We hold them to be simply equal: What the Father is, that the Son is, and that the Holy Spirit. Lest thy nakedness be discovered, as was that of Arius. His entrails burst out, and he ended his life in shame, because he had wanted to go up to the altar by steps.
The ‘altar below’ is the humanity of Christ, of which he himself speaks in the same passage of Exodus:
You shall make an altar of earth unto me. (Ex 20,24)
He ‘makes an altar of earth’ to Jesus Christ, who believes that he took true flesh from the Virgin Mary, who was the ‘blessed earth’.
(A sermon on inner devotion: Make an altar of incense.)
12. The ‘altar within’ is the soul’s devotion, of which the Lord spoke to Moses in Exodus, saying:
Thou shalt make also an altar to burn incense, of setim wood. It shall be a cubit in length, and another in breadth...; and two in height. Horns shall go out of the same. And thou shalt overlay it with the purest gold. (Ex 30,1-3)
Setim is a kind of thorn-tree, whose wood does not rot. When it is set fire to, it becomes still harder. Setim wood stands for the thoughts of the heart, which should have three characteristics. They should be like thorns, piercing the heart with the recollection of sin; they should not rot, not consenting to evil suggestions; and when they are burnt by the fire of tribulation, they should become even firmer in resolve.
The altar of the Lord is made of wood like this. It should be a cubit, etc. The length stands for perseverance, the breadth for love of neighbour, the height for contemplation of God. The natural cubit is the length from finger-tip to elbow, as Moses measured the ark and the altar. We lean on our elbows when we take food to eat in our hands. The cubit stands for right action. The altar of inner devotion should have right action in length of perseverance, as to oneself; and in breadth of charity, as to one’s neighbour. It should have twice as much in height of contemplation, as to God, so that we refer to him both length of perseverance and breadth of charity, because from him comes all the good we have.
This altar should be overlaid with purest gold. The vesture of a devout mind is purity of golden chastity. It is the proper state of man to be clothed; the purity of chastity befits the soul. A right mind is known by its strict chastity. From this altar the incense-smoke goes up within the Holy of holies, where the ark is hidden. From compunction of mind goes up the sweet incense of pure prayer, and it reaches to heaven where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God (Col 3,1).
13. The ‘altar without’ is affliction of the flesh, of which the Lord spoke to Moses in Exodus, saying:
Thou shalt make also an altar of holocaust of setim wood, which shall be five cubits long and as many broad... and three cubits high. And there shall be horns at the four corners of the same: and thou shalt cover it with brass. (Ex 27,1-2)
Holocaust means ‘wholly burnt’; the holocaust was an offering wholly consumed by fire. The altar of holocaust stands for our body, which we should wholly burn with the fire of penitence, and offer it as a holocaust to the Lord. It should be made of setim wood, limbs uncorrupted by lust.
It should be five cubits in length and breadth, and three in height. The five cubits are the
five wounds of Christ; the three are the three times he wept: over the city of Jerusalem, for Lazarus, and in his Passion. The cross of true penitence has length of perseverance, breadth of patience, and height of hope in the Father. On this cross let us crucify our body with the five wounds of Jesus Christ’s body, mortifying the wretched pleasure of the five senses, weeping and mourning for the evil we have done, for the sins of our neighbour, and for glory deferred.
The four horns on the altar of incense and the altar of holocaust are the four chief virtues which adorn soul and body, of which the book of Wisdom says:
She teacheth temperance and prudence and justice and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life. (Sg 8,7)
The Lord commands that this altar be covered with brass. Brass that resounds stands for the affliction of sighing and sorrow, with which the penitent’s body should be clothed.
(A sermon on the four-fold gift, and the four-fold brother: If thou offer thy gift.)
14. Such is the four-fold altar, from which anyone can understand what the Lord is saying in today’s Gospel: If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, etc. Just as the altar is four-fold, so is the gift and so is our brother. There is the gift of prayer, of faith, of penitence and of almsgiving. Our brother may be any neighbour, Christ, our guardian angel or our own spirit. If you are offering the gift of prayer at the altar of the Holy Trinity, and there remember that your brother, your neighbour, has something against you- if you have hurt him by word or deed, or if you have any ill-will against him- then if you are at a distance, go: not on foot, but prostrating yourself in humility of heart before him in whose sight you are about to make your offering. If he is at hand, go hotfoot and beg his pardon.
Again, if you are offering the gift of faith at the altar of Jesus Christ’s humanity (that is, if you believe that he took true flesh of the Virgin), and there remember that he your brother, who for your sake took your nature, has something against you- that is, if you remember that you are in mortal sin- even as you confess with the sound of your voice, leave your gift there. Do not trust in a dead faith, but go and first be reconciled by true penitence with your brother, Jesus Christ.
Again, if you are offering the gift of penitence at the altar- that is, the discipline of the flesh-and there remember that your brother, your own spirit, has something against you: that is, if you remember while you are afflicting your flesh that your spirit is stained with some sin, leave your gift there, do not trust in bodily affliction, until you have cleansed your spirit from all iniquity. Then you may come and offer your gift.
Again, if you are offering the gift of alms to the poor, and there remember that your brother, the angel who by grace at your very creation was entrusted by God with your care, to bear your prayers and alms-deeds up to heaven, has something against you:
that is, he complains against you that, when he prompted you to good, you turned away the ear of obedience: leave your gift there, do not trust in your dry almsgiving, but first go with steps of love to be reconciled by obedience to the guiding angel given to you as guardian, and then come and offer your gift by his hands, acceptable to God.
15. The third part of the Epistle is concordant with this third clause:
Knowing that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him. For in that he died to sin, he died once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God: so do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rm 6,9-11)
If you will look into this text carefully, you can find the four altars I have mentioned. When he says, Christ rising again, there is the altar of the Trinity. In the word Christ, we have the Son himself rising; the Father by whose glory (as said above) Christ rose: death shall have no more dominion over him, because he lives to God; and the Holy Spirit that gives life; and these three are One. When he adds, In that he died, there is the altar of humanity, which for our sake died once upon the altar of the Cross. When he goes on,
So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, there is the altar of holocaust, the affliction of the mortified body. What follows, alive unto God, is the altar of incense, the mind’s devotion, whoever has which truly lives to God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Through him we beg you, Father, whom you have made a propitiation for our sins, that you will accept our gifts through him, and grant us your grace and reconciliation with our brothers; so that, being reconciled upon the golden altar which is in the heavenly Jerusalem, we may be able to offer you, God, the gift of praise, with the blessed angels. Grant this, you who are God Three and One, blessed for ever and ever. Let every creature say: Amen. Alleluia.
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, the Revd Dr S.R.P.Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the seventh Sunday after Pentecost: When there was a great multitude with Jesus; which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, a sermon on the infusion of grace, on preaching, and on humility of mind: When the minstrel played.)
1. At that time: When there was a great multitude with Jesus, and they had nothing to eat, etc. (Mc 8,1)
It says in the fourth book of Kings:
When the minstrel played, the hand of the Lord came upon Eliseus, and he said: Thus saith the Lord: Make the channel of this torrent full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord: You shall not see wind, nor rain; and yet this channel shall be filled with waters. And you shall drink, you and your families, and your beasts. (2R 3,15-17)
When the minstrel, the Holy Spirit, the sweet singer in Israel, plays in the heart of the preacher: then the hand of the Lord comes upon Elisha, the preacher himself, endowing him with the gift of power and helping him with everything to which he puts his hand. Ezekiel says, The hand of the Lord was upon me (Ez 3,22). Unless this minstrel plays first, the tongue of the preacher will be dumb. If he does play, then the preacher can say to the people he is preaching to, Make a channel, etc. The channel, dried up by the heat, is the sinner who is parched of the moisture of grace, and fails to do good works. Zechariah says of him: Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? (Za 3,2). A brand is wood that has been charred, commonly called ‘charcoal’. This is the sinner whom the Lord plucks out of the fire of lust, with the hand of grace. Therefore make ditches and more ditches in the channel of this torrent: that is, in your heart, you sinners who are dried up with the fire of wickedness.
The ditch is three-fold: the recognition of guilt, sorrow for it, and the humiliation of patience. Of the first, the Lord says to Ezekiel:
Son of man, dig in the wall, (Ez 8,8)
because the Lord is ready to enter if he finds even a little opening in the wall, that is, if you recognise your guilt.
Behold, he standeth behind our wall, (Ct 2,9)
says the Bride in the Canticles, ready to enter if he finds an opening. And in the same book:
My beloved put his hand through the hole, and my bowels were moved at his touch.
The hand of divine grace reaches through the opening, our recognition of guilt, and at its touch our ‘belly’, our carnal mind, trembles. Fear and trembling are come upon me (Ps
54.6), because the hand of the Lord hath touched me (Jb 19,21). The earth shook and trembled (Pss 17.8; 76.19); and Saul, trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me do? (Ac 9,6).
Of the ditch of contrition, Isaiah says:
Enter thou into the rock and hide thee in the pit:
from the face of the fear of the Lord and from the glory of his majesty. (Is 2,10)
Enter by faith into the rock, the wounds of Jesus Christ; hide in the pit, contrition of heart, which will hide you from the face of fear before which the children of the sea of this world are afraid; and from the glory of his majesty, that greater power under which every power is crushed.
Of the ditch of patience, it was commanded in the Old Testament that there should be made around the altar a ditch one cubit deep, in which the ashes of the sacrifice might be placed (cf. Ez 43,13). St Gregory1 says, "Unless there is patience in the altar of our hearts, the passing breeze will blow away the sacrifice of good works. As long as patience is not lost, unity is preserved."
Make, then, you sinners, ditch upon ditch in the channel of your hearts. Use the spade of divine fear, that you may recognise your guilt, crack open your hearts, and bear tribulation patiently. These are the Lord’s words:
You shall not see wind, nor rain; and yet this channel shall be filled with waters.
In other words, without human comfort the heart of the sinner will be filled with the water of seven-fold grace, from which you and your families and your beasts shall drink. See how great the Lord’s grace is, from which the soul and its family (the affections of the soul) may drink, with its cattle (the bodily senses which ‘drink’ when they agree with the
soul in what is good). Men and beasts drink alike, just and sinners, clever and simple. This is the great crowd that the Lord fed with seven loaves, as today’s Gospel tells:
When there was a great multitude with Jesus.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel. First, Jesus Christ’s pity for the crowd, beginning: When there was a great multitude. Second, the giving of the seven loaves and the fishes to the crowd, and their feeding, as it adds: And his disciples answered him, etc. Third, the seven baskets filled with fragments, as it concludes: And they took up that which was left, etc.
Note that this Sunday and next, we shall by God’s grace concord various stories from the fourth book of Kings with the clauses of this and the following Gospel. In the Introit of this Sunday’s Mass we sing: We have received thy mercy, O God. The Epistle of blessed Paul to the Romans is read: I speak a human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh; which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the holy Gospel. The first part is: I speak a human thing. The second is: When you were the servants of sin. The third is: But now being made free from sin.
(A sermon on the famine in Samaria: Benadad gathered.)
3. Let us say, then:
When there was a great multitude with Jesus, and they had nothing to eat, calling his disciples together, he saith to them: I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat. And if I shall send them away fasting to their own home, they will faint in the way; for some of them came from afar off. (Mc 8,1-3)
There is a concordance to this in the fourth book of Kings, where it says that:
Benadad king of Syria gathered together all his army, and went up, and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria: and so long did the siege continue, till the head of an ass was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cabe of pigeons’ dung, for five pieces of silver. (2R 6,24-25)
And a little further on:
And Eliseus said: Hear ye the word of the Lord: Thus saith the Lord: Tomorrow about this time a bushel of fine flour shall be sold for a stater, and two bushels of barley for a stater, in the gate of Samaria. (2R 7,1)
Let us see what is meant by Benadad and his army, Samaria, the famine, the ass’s head and the eighty pieces of silver, the fourth part of the pigeons’ dung and the five pieces of silver, Elisha, the bushel of fine flour and the stater, and the two bushels of barley.
Benadad means ‘son of self-will’, and he represents Lucifer, who though he was the son of creating grace, fell of his own self-will, no-one compelling him, and so irrevocably. Therefore Isaiah says:
How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? (Is 14,12)
He is king of Syria, meaning ‘high’ or ‘well-watered’; the land of those lifted up by pride, and soaked in lust. He besieges Samaria with his army. The army, ready to wage war, represents the evil spirits who constantly and daily wage war against the soul. With this army the devil besieges Samaria, ‘guard’, the Holy Church or the faithful soul which is kept safe by keeping the law.
(An allegorical and a moral sermon on the little city besieged by a king, and on the rest that follows, and what it means: A little city.)
4. Of this city and its besieging, Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
A little city, and few men in it: there came against it a great king, and invested it, and built bulwarks round about it: and the siege was perfect. Now there was found in it a man poor and wise, and he delivered the city by his wisdom: and no man afterwards remembered that poor man. (Qo 9,14-15)
Let us see the meaning of the city, the few men, the great king, the walls, bulwarks and siege, the poor man, and the deliverance of the city: first allegorically, and then morally.
The city is the Church, which is called ‘little’ in comparison with bad people, who are far more numerous than good. So Solomon says:
The perverse are hard to be corrected, and the number of fools is infinite. (Qo 1,15)
The perverse, who turn away, with their backs to God and not their faces, are hard to correct: since their hearts are not set in the way of the just, they are hard to control. Likewise, the number of fools who are dull of heart is infinite. Isaiah says:
Thou hast multiplied the nation and hast not increased joy. (Is 9,3)
And few men it it. There are many ‘women’ in the Church, soft and weak, but, alas! few ‘men’ in it, strong in virtue. Women have ruled over my people, says the Lord by Isaiah (Is 3,12), meaning feeble prelates. And Solomon says, in Proverbs, O ye men, to you I call (Pr 8,4). Wisdom calls to ‘men’, not ‘women’, because the savour of inner sweetness influences the person who is strong in virtue and of a careful and prudent
disposition. But there are few men in it, few to relish the savour of inner sweetness. They are all like women, with a womanish desire for expensive clothes, dainty food, comfortable service, fine buildings, decorated harness for their horses. This shows, clearly, whether they are women or men! See what sort of apostles the Lord has committed the rule of his Church to!
There follows: There came against it a great king. The great king is the devil, whom Job calls, King over all the children of pride (Jb 41,25). He does three things: he walls it round, throws up bulwarks, and so makes the siege perfect. The wall would be made of sharp stakes. The bulwarks and fortifications defended by the wall are heretics, fixed like sharp stakes in the eyes of the faithful. The bulwarks are all false Christians. The devil besieges the Church with the wall of heretics and the bulwarks of false Christians; and there are few men in it. But fear not, little flock (Lc 12,32). Fear not this siege, because the Lord will make also with the temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it. (1Co 10,13).
So there follows: There was found in it a poor man. The poor man is Christ, a ‘man’ according to his divinity, ‘poor’ by his humanity. See how well concordant are the details: he is a man, they are men; he is poor, they are few. Being wise, against the craftiness of the devil, he delivers the town from the wall of heresy and the bulwark of carnality, and thus by his wisdom he destroys the whole siege-work. Yet how sad is what follows:
And no man afterwards remembered that poor man. Indeed, worse still, they say to him in Job: Depart from us. We desire not the knowledge of thy ways (Jb 21,14). And yet worse again, they deny him and cry out with the Jews: Not this man, but Barabbas (Jn 18,40). Barabbas was a robber, a man put in prison because of the murder and sedition he had committed in the city (cf. Lc 23,18-19). This is the devil, who was thrust down to hell because of his rebellion in heaven. They ask for the release of this robber, and crucify the Son of God who freed them. So:
Woe to their souls, for evils are rendered to them! (Is 3,9)
5. Morally. The city is the soul, which is called ‘little’ because nearly everyone deserts it, to go down and live in the plain of bodily pleasure. So Genesis tells how, after separating from Abraham,
Lot abode in the towns that were about the Jordan. (Gn 13,12)
Lot means ‘going down’, and Jordan is ‘descent’; Sodom means ‘silent flock’. When wretched man separates from Abraham, the care of his soul, he dwells in the towns about the Jordan: the bodily senses, in the downward flow of temporal things. He lives in Sodom, because he is like a sheep destined for slaughter, being silent from the praise of his Creator and the confession of his sin.
There follows: and few men in it. The ‘men’ of the soul are the affections of reason, of which the Lord spoke to the Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel:
Thou hast had five men; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. (Jn 4,18)
The affections of reason are called ‘five men’, because they ought to regulate the five senses of the body; when the unhappy soul loses them, she gets not a husband but an adulterous lover who corrupts her.
So there is added: A great king came against it. The ‘great king’ is the carnal appetite, sensuality, of which Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child,
and when the princes eat in the morning. (Qo 10,16)
The carnal appetite is called both ‘great’ and ‘a child’: great, because it goes after great and impossible things; a child, because it lacks judgement and discretion. Woe to the land, then, the body that has such a king. Its princes, the five bodily senses, eat in the morning, starting to get drunk with gluttony and lust, from childhood on. Solomon says:
He that nourisheth his son delicately from his childhood,
afterwards shall find him stubborn. (Pr 29,21)
This great king walls in the soul with the sharp stakes of instinctive movements, builds round it the bulwarks of depraved thoughts and carnal desires, and so makes the siege perfect. See, then, in the fourth book of Kings, how Benadad the king of Syria besieges the Holy Church or the faithful soul.
But the true Elisha comes and saves the Church. The poor man comes, the Holy Spirit, called ‘poor’ because he dwells in the poor in spirit, and his communication is with the simple (Pr 3,32), and he delivers the soul from this great siege. But how sad is what follows after: And no man afterwards remembered that poor man. As it tells in Genesis, the king’s butler, when things prospered with him, forgot his interpreter (Gn 41,54). "Constant temporal success is a sure sign of eternal damnation."2
(A sermon on the five books of Moses, and their interpretation and meaning.)
6. Let us return to our matter, and say: Benadad king of Syria besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria: and so long did the siege continue, till the head of an ass was sold for fourscore pieces of silver. Little by little, the food of grace is withdrawn from the Church, or the soul, when it is besieged by the devil. When it is withdrawn, a great hunger, a burning desire for temporal things, arises in the Church.
Genesis says of this famine that it prevailed in the whole world, and so the sons of Jacob went down into Egypt to buy corn (cf. Gn 41,54 Gn 42,3). When, because our sins hard press us, the food of grace is withdrawn, everyone hungers for temporal things, the food of the body, not of the soul, seeking not the things of Jesus Christ but what they have in Egypt.
In the end, the famine becomes so great that an ass’s head is sold for eighty pieces of silver. The eighty silver pieces stand for the double robe, which consists of the eight blessings we are to receive on the eighth day of the Resurrection. The body will have brightness, agility, subtlety and immortality; the soul will have wisdom, joy, harmony betwen flesh and spirit, and friendship with God and neighbour. Unhappy sinners give these silver pieces to buy an ass’s head, that asinine stupidity which is the world’s wisdom, which is foolishness to God (cf. 1Co 3,19).
And the fourth part of a cabe of pigeons’ dung, for five pieces of silver. The ‘cabe’ is a Greek measure. The pigeons are the saints, who fly to their windows (Is 60,8). The dung means temporal things. The five silver pieces are five virtues, represented by the five books of Moses. The first book of Moses is called, in Hebrew, Beresith; Greek Genesis, or ‘beginning’. The second is Veelle Semoth in Hebrew, Greek Exodus, or ‘going out’. The third, in Hebrew Vaicra, is in Greek Leviticus, or ‘ministry’. The fourth is Vaidebbar in Hebrew, Rhythmus in Greek, or ‘number’. The fifth is Elle Addebarim in Hebrew, Deuteronomy (‘second law’) in Greek, a prefiguration of the Gospel Law. Genesis, in which the beginning of everything is described, stands for baptismal innocence by which we are reborn according to the new man. Exodus, which describes the going out of the children of Israel from Egypt, stands for religious piety by which we go out from the world. Leviticus, wherein sacrifice is offered, stands for the affliction of the flesh. Numbers, wherein the people are counted, stands for the confession of sin, in which all sins should be enumerated. Deuteronomy, the love of God and neighbour, is the Gospel Law on which the Law and the prophets depend (cf. Mt 22,40).
Wretched sinners give these five silver pieces to buy pigeons’ dung, temporal things which the saints reckon as dung. See how grievous is the famine in the Church, that multitude of which today’s Gospel says: When there was a great multitude with Jesus, and they had nothing to eat. This unruly crowd, disturbing everything, is with Jesus nominally, but not in spirit; in word but not in merit. But what does the merciful Jesus say, he who always knows how to have compassion on the wretched? I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat.
7. This is what Elisha says in the fourth book of Kings: Tomorrow about this time a bushel of fine flour shall be sold for a stater, and two bushels of barley for a stater, in the gate of Samaria. The bushel measure contains forty-four pounds, or twelve sextarii. The kind of flour indicated is the whitest and finest of grains. The stater is worth three solidi, weighing three gold pieces. The barley dries more quickly than other kinds of grain. Thus the bushel of fine flour means the perfect measure of divine wisdom, which is found in the New Testament. The two bushels of barley are the knowledge of the Law and the
prophets, which are worth a stater in the gate of Samaria, the catholic faith in the preaching of the Apostles, whereby we enter the Church. When the storm of persecution abates, as happens today, then the Lord will give peace tomorrow, in the future, so that preaching may be perfectly fulfilled.
Alternatively: the bushel of flour is the remission of sins; the two bushels of barley are contempt for temporal things and an appetite for eternal things; the stater (weighing three gold pieces) is penitence, which consists in these three: contrition, confession and satisfaction. This stater is found in the fish’s mouth, taken from the water by Peter’s hook, to free Christ and himself from the tribute (cf. Mt 17,26). The fish is the sinner, pulled from the water of worldly pleasure by the hook of preaching. In its mouth is found the stater of penitence, which sets body and soul free from the tribute of guilt and punishment in hell. The sinner who once paid eighty-five silver pieces to buy an ass’s head and some pigeons’ dung, can now buy with a stater of true penitence a bushel of flour, the grace of forgiveness whereby God forgives all his sins, and two bushels of barley, so that he may despise the dung of temporal things and seek the things that are eternal. See how great is the mercy of our Redeemer, who said, I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days. The three days means the same as the stater, which weighs three gold pieces.
There is a concordance to this in the fourth book of Kings, where Elisha says to Joas:
Strike with an arrow upon the ground. And he struck three times. (2R 13,18)
Joas means ‘hoping’, and he stands for the penitent who hopes in God’s mercy, at whose command he strikes the earth (his body) three times with the arrow of penance. Those who wait upon the Lord for three days, he will not send away fasting to their homes. Rather, he feeds them with the bushel of fine flour and the two bushels of barley, lest they grow faint in the way. Some of them came from afar off, he says. The prodigal son came from afar off, the ‘far country’. When the sinner comes back to the Father from afar, he is received all the more with mercy.
When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion and running to him fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, I am not now worthy to be called thy son. (Lc 1,
Well does the Lord say, I have compassion on the multitude. There is a very good concordance to this mercy in the Introit of today’s Mass.
(A moral sermon on the court-yard, gate, middle and oracle of the temple, and on the four horses and their meaning: We have received, O Lord.)
8. We have received thy mercy, O God, in the midst of thy temple. (Ps 47,10)
Note that there are four parts to the temple: the court-yard, the door, the middle and the oracle. Some are in the court-yard: these are false brethren. Some are at the door: these are the newly converted. Some are in the middle: these are those making progress. Those who are becoming perfect are in the oracle. They are represented by the four horses which John saw in the Apocalypse. He saw pale horse; a black horse whose rider had a pair of scales in his hand; a red horse whose rider was given that he should take peace from the earth, and a great sword was given him; and a white horse, whose rider had a bow (cf. Ap 6 .
The pale horse stands for false brethren, pretenders and luke-warm, who provoke God’s anger upon them. They are in the court-yard, of which the Apocalypse says; The court that is without, cast out and measure it not (Ap 11,2). False hypocrites shall be cast out of the city of Jerusalem, when the door is shut, those who now are not measured with the measure of truth. This ‘court’ is more like a cave, a place for the kitchens and the latrines. The hypocrites who now ‘cook’ their flesh by afflicting it, in a kitchen of pretended holiness, will be cast into the latrine of eternal shame.
The black horse stands for the newly converted, who put away the false brightness of the world and assume the dark robe of penitence. In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, they say:
Our skin was burnt as an oven. (Lm 5,10)
They are burnt by the fire of contrition and the labour of satisfaction, burnt on the outside, the skin of a mortified body.
They should have a pair of scales in their hands. There is a concordance in the first part of today’s Epistle, where the Apostle speaks to the newly converted:
I speak a human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification. (Rm 6,19) I
I speak a human thing, that is, I speak lightly, where I ought to speak of greater things: but I do not say them, because of the weakness of your flesh, of what comes from your flesh. St Augustine says in the Gloss3 , "If you do not serve justice more, at least serve it as much as you served iniquity. He says, a human thing; for justice should now be loved more than iniquity was then." The newly converted should have a pair of scales in their hand, so that as they once gave their bodies to the service of uncleanness, lust and iniquity (which lead to a further evil, a very bad end), they should now give their bodies to serve justice, leading to sanctification, the consummation of good.
These are in the door-way of the temple, of which John says in the Apocalypse:
I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven. (Ap 4,1)
The open door is God’s mercy, ready to welcome penitents. Of this door or gate, Ezekiel says:
Behold, a man whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand and a measuring reed in his hand: and he stood in the gate. (Ez 40,3)
This man represents the penitent. His appearance is like brass, because brass is resounding and durable, and it represents the sound of confession and perseverance to the end. The penitent should have both these qualities. The line of flax is the performance of satisfaction; the measuring reed is doctrine: when we measure our actions, this measuring reed is in our hand. If a man has all these, he can safely stand in the gate, that is, he can trust in God’s mercy.
The red horse stands for those making progress, fervent in spirit and rejoicing in trials. They take peace from the earth (their flesh), which those who are Christ’s crucify with its vices and concupiscences (Ga 5,24). To them a great sword is given, by which discretion is meant, which they should have in their works of penitence. They are in the middle of the temple, the wideness of charity, in which they receive the mercy of the Lord. We have received thy mercy in the midst of thy temple, they say.
The white horse stands for the perfect, who are already in the holy place, gazing on the glory of the cherubim, tasting the manna of divinity contained in the golden urn of humanity. They have the bow of victory in their hands, triumph over the world the flesh and the devil.
Let us then, dearest brothers, ask the Lord Jesus Christ to look upon us with the eyes of mercy, to rescue us from famine, and lead us into the temple of his glory. May he grant this, who lives and reigns for endless ages. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)