Anthony_Sermons - (ALLEGORICAL SERMON)
11. The bee is small among flying things. The bee is said to be born without feet Rapes’), and later bees fasten themselves to one another with their feet. Natural History says that the smaller bees do the more work, and have four delicate wings, being black or burnt in colour. The fancy bees are those which do no work, living alone and seeking solitude, and doing nothing good. The worker bees take willow-flowers and line the surface of the hive with them, which they do only to keep out harmful animals. If the entrances to the hive are too big, they make them narrower. In the winter they prefer a warm place, in the summer a cool one. They recognise winter and rain; the reason being that they do not go out at these times, flying outside the hives; but they do fly inside the hives. This is how bee-keepers know when it is going to rain. Note that three things are particularly harmful to bees: wind, smoke and small creatures. When there is a strong wind, the bee-keepers immediately cover the openings of the hives, so that the wind cannot get in. When they want to take honey from the bees, they smoke them out, because smoke is hurtful to them. There are tiny creatures that injure them; strong bees kill them and rid the hive of them; but other bees are weakened by the activity of these creatures. Let us look at each of these matters.
The bee is any just man, whose ‘feet’ are affections of charity, which grace, not nature, gives him; for, we are all by nature children of wrath (cf. Ep 2,3). Just men are bound to one another by these feet, as the Apostle says: with honour preventing one another (Rm 12,10). Apocalypse 10 says that the feet of the angel were as pillars of fire (Ap 10,1). In this way, the feet of any just man or Christian should be pillars of fire which support the frailty of others and burn with love for God.
Again, it is the small bee, the humble man, who does most work. So David says in I Kings 17: I thy servant have killed both a lion and a bear. (1S 17,36). He who calls himself a servant shows his humility. The lion represents pride, the bear lust. Only the man who has tried to do so knows how hard it is to kill these two in himself. Note that he mentions the lion first, because unless pride of heart is first overcome, the lust of the flesh will not be conquered. The four wings of the just man are contempt of self, despising the world, zeal for his neighbour and desire for the kingdom. Alternatively, they are the four chief virtues by which he is lifted above the earth and gazes keenly at the heavens. His colour is black or burnt, as Lamentations 4 says:
Their face is made blacker than coals, and they are not known in the streets. (Lm 4,8)
The little poor man of Christ is a dead coal, whose face is blackened by hunger and thirst, toil and sweat; and who is therefore not recognised in the ‘streets’ (the glory) of the
The ‘fancy bees’ are vain religious and hypocrites, who glory in the ornament of their outward reputation and observance of tradition; who live individualistically, and seek to be individualistic. They do no good, because they want to please the gaze of men.
The worker bees, etc. The willow stands for the bitterness of abstinence, vigils and tears. Penitents afflict their body with these, and as it were anoint them, against the harmful animals of lust and desire. Carnal folk anoint themselves with honey, temporal sweetness, and so they are covered with many flies of evil thoughts and temptations, which flee from the just who anoint themselves with bitterness. The Apostle says, Our flesh had no rest (2Co 7,5). If the entrances of the hive (the bodily senses) become too wide by wantonness and curiosity, they restrain and narrow them.
Enter into thy chamber (your conscience),
and, having shut the door (of your senses),
pray to thy Father in secret. (Mt 6,6)
In the ‘winter’, the time of adversity, they prefer a warm place- a virtuous spirit, so that adversity may not cast them down. In ‘summer’, the time of prosperity, they prefer a cool place, a stable spirit which is not puffed up or melted away by prosperity. Warmth melts, cold restrains and solidifies.
They recognise winter and rain, that is, they foresee temptation. So Job 39 says:
He smelleth the battle afar off,
the encouraging of the captains, and the shouting of the army. (Jb 39,25)
The ‘captains’ are crafty temptations which seem to encourage reasonably under an appearance of virtue. The ‘army’ is carnal appetite, which openly howls like a wolf. But the just man, sniffing them out with discretion, spots them both from afar and avoids them both.
The reason being, etc. When the just see temptation drawing near, they do not go out by the bodily senses, but gather themselves within themselves, and fly inwardly by contemplation. Wisdom 8 says:
When I go into my house (my conscience), I shall repose with wisdom, (Sg 8,16) which is savoured and experienced in contemplation.
And note that three things especially harm just men: the first being wind of pride, and when it blows, the just men who are keepers of themselves must shut the openings of the hives (the bodily senses), lest harm befall. Job says:
A violent wind came on a sudden from the side of the desert, and shook the four corners of the house; and it fell and crushed his children. (Jb 1,19)
Job (‘grieving’) is the penitent; his children are his works, his house is his conscience, and its four corners are the four virtues. The ‘side of the desert’ is the devil’s malice, and when the blast of pride blows from it, it shakes the house so that it falls, and in falling crushes the works of penance; for,
Before destruction the heart is exalted; and pride has a fall. (cf. Pr 18,12)
Secondly, there is the smoke of avarice, which blinds the eyes of the wise. When the demons want to steal peace of mind, they apply the smoke of cupidity. So, in Judges 19, it says that Abimelech (whose name means ‘my father is king’),
with all his people, cut down the branches of trees, and set fire to them burnt the fort, in which were men, women and children; and it came to pass that with the smoke and fire a thousand persons were killed. (cf. Jg 9,48-49)
The tree is the world, its branches are riches and pleasures. The devil, who is father and king over all the children of pride (Jb 41,25), with all his demonic people, tears riches and pleasures from the world, to which he applies the fire of avarice. Alas! How many thousands of men and women he kills with the smoke of cupidity!
Thirdly, the little creatures are the stirrings of the flesh or impure thoughts, which hurt just men. If they are strong and constant they kill them and cast them away; but if they are weak and feeble, there works will be weak, because they are enfeebled by impure thoughts and impulse of the flesh.
Having discussed these qualities of bees, let us return to our subject.
12. The bee is small among flying things. The ‘flying things’ are the saints. Regarding them, see Matthew 6:
Behold the birds of the air (because they seek heaven by contemplation).
They neither sow vanity
nor do they reap the whirlwind, fruit of such seed, nor gather damnation into the barns of hell. (Mt 6,26)
Among such flying things is the little bee, the humble penitent, who reckons herself unworthy of their company, and makes herself small among them. Then there follows: but her fruit hath the chiefest sweetness. The Psalm says:
And he shall be like a tree which is planted, etc. (Ps 1,3)
The tree is the penitent, planted by the running waters of tears, or of abundant grace. His root is humility; his trunk, which stems from it, is obedience; his branches are works of charity extending to both friend and foe. His leaves are the words of eternal life, his fruit is heavenly glory, which has beginning, middle, and end without end. The beginning is the sweetness of contemplation, which the penitent tastes somehow, The middle is rest after the death of the body. The ‘end without end’ is the glorification of the double robe, in eternal blessedness. May he deign to grant us this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
1 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, liber Levitici, 18; PL 198.1205
2 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, liber Exodi, 28; PL 198.1156
3 The play on words, ‘puer’ meaning both ‘boy’ and ‘servant’, cannot easily be reproduced.
4 ROMAN MISSAL, Antiphon at the procession on the feast of the Purification.
5 Cf. ROMAN BREVIARY, Vesper hymn for the feast of the Holy Name.
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. At that time: Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi. (Mt16.13)
In this Gospel three things are noted: Jesus Christ’s questioning, Peter’s confession, and the granting of the power of binding and loosing.
2. Jesus Christ’s questioning: Jesus came. In this first clause two things are noted morally, holy life and good reputation. But first let us look at the history or allegory.
Caesarea Philippi is where the Jordan rises at the foot of Mount Libanus, and it has two sources, the Jor and the Dan, which when joined together give the Jordan its name. And he asked his disciples. To investigate the faith of his disciples, he first asked about popular opinion, in case the faith of the Apostles was based on popular opinion rather than recognition of the truth. Who do men say (for those who have various human ideas about the Lord are fittingly termed ‘men’) that the Son of man is? He does not say ‘that I am’, so as not to seem conceited, but indicated the humility of his humanity. But they said: Some John the Baptist, etc. (Mt 16,14). The opinion concerning John the Baptist was because he had sensed the Lord’s presence even in his mother’s womb (cf. Lc 1,41 Lc 1,44); concerning Elias, because he was taken up to heaven (cf. 2R 2,11), and was believed to be going to come again (cf. Mt 17,10-11); concerning Jeremiah, because he was sanctified in his mother’s womb (cf. Jr 1,5).
3. Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea is ‘possession of the prince’ or ‘principal possession’. Philippi is ‘mouth of a lamp’. Christ came; you too, O Christian, should come into the region of Caesarea. A ‘prince’ is one who holds the first place or dignity, and he represents a man’s spirit, whose possession is the body, in which it should take the first place and dignity. Isaiah 32 says:
The prince will devise such things as are worthy of a prince;
and he shall stand above the rulers. (Is 32,8)
Note the two words, ‘devise’ and ‘stand’. That is the place and dignity the first person should take. What are those things worthy of a prince that you should devise, O prince, spirit of man? Only to return into yourself, enter your own heart, and there take counsel; what you are, what you might have been, what you ought to be, what you could be. What you might have been by nature, what you are by guilt, what you ought to be by effort, what you can still be by grace. The ‘rulers’ are the affections and thoughts which he should stand over, so that he may control his affections and command his thoughts, to restrain the former from unlawful desires, and the latter from vain wandering. He came into the region, referring to the bodily senses; a man’s spirit comes to or enters them when he says to one: Go, and he goes; and to another: Come, and he comes; and to his servant the body: Do this, and he does it. (cf. Mt 8,9).
And note that this prince, whose possession it is, is called ‘mouth of a lamp’. A lamp has four constituents: the clear glass, the nourishing oil, the wick and the flame. The glass represents a pure conscience, the oil compassion for our brother’s need, the wick the roughness of contrition, and the flame the ardour of divine love. Happy that spirit, blessed that Christian, who is the mouth of this lamp! When he speaks, he speaks from purity, compassion, contrition and the love of God.
And note that Caesarea (our flesh) must be situated at the foot of Libanus, where the Jordan rises. Mount Libanus (meaning ‘whiteness’) is the excellence of chastity, whose root is humility, and from which rise two streams. They are the Jor (‘stream’) and the Dan (‘judgement’); and when they mingle they make the Jordan, (‘stream of judgement’), the compunction of tears with which he judges himself and condemns his evil deeds. See how great is the virtue of humility, from which the mountain of chastity arises, and the stream of compunction flows! He who comes in this way to the region of Caesarea Philippi may well ask his disciples, Who do men say that the Son of man is?
4. A ‘disciple’ is one who learns discipline. He who is good in himself has, and should have, a well disciplined and well behaved family; so as to say with David:
My eyes were on the faithful of the earth, to sit with me, etc. (Ps 100,6)
As a man is himself, so is the company he delights in. Because only a heartless man is indifferent to his reputation, he asks what people say about him, to find out and if needs be amend what needs correction. And because conceit can come from a reputation for holiness of life, and a good name, he calls himself ‘son of man’. Job says:
A man of rottenness, the son of a man who is a worm. (Jb 25,6)
This is as if to say, rottenness comes from rottenness. God, when he showed Ezekiel great wonders, called him ‘son of man’, so that he should not become proud (cf. Ezek, passim). He who regards himself as a worm will not be proud of anything about himself. He asks, then, what do men say about a rotten worm like me?
If only they would reply, Some say John the Baptist. John the Evangelist and John the Baptist: one had the duty of announcing, the other of washing. The one is good, the other safer, because truth is more safely listened to than preached. Again, an ‘evangelist’ is one who speaks only with words; a ‘baptist’ is one who makes within himself a baptistery of tears for himself, in silence and devotion of mind. The latter is far better than the former. Of such a one is said what was said of the Baptist: he shall drink no wine or strong drink (Lc 1,15). He does not drink the wine of vainglory, nor the strong drink of foolish joy, because he does not seek the praises of men.
Or: Others Elias; IV Kings 1 says that he was a hairy man with a girdle of leather about his loins. (2R 1,8). Behold the vesture of a penitent who despises the world and afflicts his flesh! Elias means ‘strong ruler’, and III Kings 18 tells of him that
he took the prophets of Baal and brought them to the torrent Cison, and killed them there. (1R 18,40)
Cison means ‘a man spewing sorrow’. Elias, the penitent who is hairy as against the world’s glory, is girded about the loins against the lust of the flesh. Like a strong ruler, he takes the prophets of the belly, which consume everything. The belly has its ‘prophets’, who ask a man, Why are you fasting? Why do you afflict yourself? You will make yourself ill; you will grow so weak that you cannot help yourself or others. Of these, Jeremiah says in Lamentations 2:
Thy prophets have seen false things for thee. (Lm 2,14)
The penitent takes hold of them in contrition, and leads them to tearful confession, where he spews up all the sorrow of temptation and sin, and so kills them there.
Others, Jeremiah. The Lord said to him,
Behold, I have set thee
To root up what has been planted badly;
And to destroy what has been built badly;
And to scatter what has been gathered badly;
And to lay waste the hedge;
And to build the house;
And to plant the garden. (Jr 1,10)
The concupiscence of the flesh plants badly, as Deuteronomy says:
Thou shalt plant no grove near the altar of thy God. (cf. Dt 16,21)
The Apostle says of this altar: We have an altar whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle (of the body) (cf. He 13,10). It says in III Kings 21:
Achab spoke to Naboth, saying:
Give me thy vineyard, that I may make me a garden of herbs. (1R 21,2)
Achab is the devil, Naboth the just man, the vine compunction, and the garden of herbs the concupiscence of gluttony and lust. The devil wants to take away compunction of mind from the just man, and plant concupiscence of the flesh.
Again, pride builds badly. Proverbs 17 says:
He that maketh his house high seeketh a downfall. (Pr 17,16)
Avarice gathers badly. Habbakuk 2 says:
Woe to him that gathereth together an evil covetousness to his house, that his nest may be on high,
and thinketh that he may be delivered out of the hand of evil. (Ha 2,9)
The miser gathers so as to build his nest on high, where he and his possessions may stand. But when he thinks he is standing firmly, the devils sets a snare there, and captures parent and chicks, the usurer and his children, and kills them.
Obstinacy makes a hedge; so Nahum 3 says:
Thy little ones are like the locusts of locusts
which swarm on the hedges in the day of cold. (Na 3,17)
The locusts are usurers who teach their children the business of usury, and as it were jump from usury to usury. In the cold of their malice, they trust in the hedges of obstinacy; they will neither make restitution to others, nor turn back to repentance.
Truly he is Jeremiah (‘lifted to the Lord’) who uproots these four not only in himself but in others, and builds a house of humility in which God may rest, and plants a garden of
charity in which he may feed. In Luke 19 the Lord says of the house of humility:
Zacheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thy house. (Lc 19,5)
The grace of the Almighty abides in the house of one who ‘comes down’, that is, in the conscience of one who humbles himself. Regarding the garden of charity, the Bride says in Canticles 5:
Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat the fruit of his apple trees. (Ct 5,1)
Both the garden and the apple trees belong to the beloved, because whatever is planted and grows there is entirely from the grace of Christ. The apples are the works of charity, which Christ eats as often as our neighbour receives them. He says, I was hungry, and you gave me to eat (Mt 25,35).
Or one of the prophets. A prophet’s task is to foretell the future. A good prophet is he who tells himself of his life’s end, the coming of the judge and the reward of the heavenly kingdom. Happy is he whose reputation is so praised, whose life is given such a testimonial that he is called a John the Baptist in devotion, an Elias in mortifying the flesh, a Jeremiah in rooting up vices and planting virtues, and one of the prophets in foretelling the future.
5. Peter’s confession: Jesus saith to them: But who do you say that I am? (Mt 16,15)
It is as if he said, "Those are men, with human opinions; you are gods- who do you say I am?"
Peter answered and said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (Mt 16,16)
He answered on behalf of all, for they all knew the same thing. In this confession, the human and the divine nature are united. Christ (from ‘chrism’) means ‘anointed’; because in his manhood he was anointed by God the Father with the Holy Spirit. O God the Son, God thy Father hath anointed thee (Ps 44,8). So Isaiah 45 says:
Thus saith the Lord to my anointed Cyrus, (Is 45,1)
which means ‘heir’ or ‘son’. Whose? The living God’s. Note that chrism is made from balsam.
Natural History says that the place where balsam grows is called ‘the sun’s eye’, and its stalk is called a vine, because it resembles a vine. Its juice is used to wash patches from the eyes, and it alleviates bouts of fever. When its juice is being obtained, only the bark
is cut, from which a drop of exceeding sweetness flows. Christ’s generation is twofold, that of his divinity and that of his humanity, and each is ‘the eye of the sun’. Of the first, Isaiah 53 says:
Who shall declare his generation? (Is 53,8)
And Job 28 says:
Whence cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding?
It is hid from the eyes of all the living; and the fowls of the air know it not. (Jb 28,20-21)
That is, the generation of Christ from the Father is unknown even to the angels. So Ecclesiasticus 1 says:
To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed? (Si 1,6)
This means the origin of the Son of God. And so, what man can tell what is beyond the understanding and knowledge of the angels? Isidore1 says: "It is obvious that only the Father knows how he begets the Son, and the Son how he is begotten by the Father. Christ proceeds from the Father like radiance from a source of light, like a word from a mouth, like wisdom from the heart." The generation of the divinity is called ‘eye of the sun’ because it enlightens the whole Church Triumphant, the heavenly Jerusalem. So Apocalypse 21 says:
The glory of the Lord hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof. (Ap 21,23)
The generation of the humanity is called ‘eye of the sun’ because by the faith of his incarnation he enlightens the whole Church Militant. So Zechariah 9 says:
The Lord is the eye of man and of all the tribes of Israel. (Za 9,1)
Israel means ‘the man who sees God’. You will see just as much as you believe. He was the true light, which enlighteneth every man (in the sense that no-one is enlightened without him) that cometh into this world. (Jn 1,9). That is, every man who is born into this world is only enlightened for eternal life by the faith of Christ, who says in John 15: I am the true vine (Jn 15,1).
6. A vine has the power to root itself swiftly, twining itself around. Natural History says that the vine has many shoots, with which it binds itself and entwines itself to the branches of another tree. The characteristic of a vine, among all other trees, is to put out leaves on one side, in one knot of its branch; and on the other side a cluster full of grapes. And it is characteristic of a vine that if cabbages are planted at its root, they cause it to wither. The vine is the faith of Christ, which has the power to root itself swiftly
in the human heart. The Apostle says, rooted and founded in Christ Jesus, etc. (cf. Ep 3,17). It puts out branches of charity, and binds others to itself. On one side it has the leaves of preaching, on the other clusters of good works, full of the new wine of delight. Cabbages, temporal cares or carnal impulses, dry up its sap, the devotion of faith.
Again, the balsam vine is cut in its bark. The ‘bark’ is Christ’s humanity, from whose wounds flows a liquid of wonderful sweetness, the precious blood which washes the patch of infidelity from the eye of the heart, and takes away the fever of temptation; for "The remembrance of the Crucified crucifies vices."2 Thou art the Christ, then, the Son of the Living God.
Jesus, answering, said to him (in Peter answering them all): Blessed art thou, Simon bar Jona, etc. (Mt 16,17). Bar means ‘son’, and Jona is ‘dove’. Peter is well called ‘son of a dove’, because he followed the Lord with devout simplicity, or because he was full of spiritual grace. He is called son of the Holy Spirit, who was shown in the form of a dove by him whom he called ‘Son of the Living God’; The Father revealed to the ‘son of the dove’ the mystery of faith which flesh and blood could not reveal, those men who are puffed up with carnal wisdom, who are not ‘sons of the dove’ and therefore strangers to the spirit of wisdom. Obadiah 1 says of them:
I shall destroy the wise out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau. (Ab 1,8)
Behold flesh and blood: Edom means ‘bloody’, and Esau is ‘heap of stones’. The whole wisdom and prudence of this world is to nourish the flesh, and make a heap of stones (money) with which they will be stoned in the day of judgement.
7. The granting of the power of binding and loosing: And I say to thee that thou art Peter (Mt 16,18). Note that Peter has three names: Simon (meaning ‘obedient’), Peter (‘recognising’) and Cephas (‘head’). He was ‘Simon’ in Christ’s calling: Come ye alter me; and they, leaving their nets, etc. (Mt 4,19-20). He was ‘Peter’ in today’s confession, by which he recognised Christ as the Son of the Living God, and so merited to hear:
Thou art Peter. I say not that you will be called, but that you are Peter, from me the rock, yet in such wise that I retain for myself the dignity of being the foundation stone. For indeed, Other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus (1Co 3,11), upon whom the Church is built.
And upon this rock I will build my Church (Mt 16,18); and so there need be no fear, whether the rain of the devil’s persecution falls, or the floods of heretical distortion comes, or the winds of worldly rage blow and beat upon that house; because it is founded upon a rock.(cf. Mt 7,25). Thus in Numbers 24 it says:
Thy habitation indeed is strong: but though thou build thy nest in a rock,
thou shalt be chosen of the stock of Cain, (Nb 24,21-22)
meaning crafty or hot, the devil who by his craftiness inflames the souls of sinners with the heat of vices; they will have him as their tormentor in pain, who was their tempter to blame.
I will build my Church, he says. Note that ‘Church’ may mean both the triumphant and the militant Church, and the faithful soul. He builds the first of blessed spirits, the second of the faithful, and the third with virtues. Thus he is called a ‘mason’, as in Amos 7:
Behold, the Lord was standing upon a plastered wall,
and in his hand a mason’s trowel. (Am 7,7)
A trowel joins stones together with cement, and also plasters walls. A ‘plastered wall’ is one that has been smoothed in this way. The trowel is God’s power, which builds the wall of the three-fold Church, and smoothes it so that there is nothing rough, no holes or bumps, but it is entirely flat and smooth. The Apostle says: Let all things be done in charity (1Co 16,14), the cement of the other virtues. And note that the Lord stands upon the wall of the Church for three reasons: to build the wall itself; to fight enemies from it, and for it; and to protect it.
And so, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mt 16,18). The gates of hell are sins, threats or flatteries, which cannot prevail; that is, they cannot separate the Church from the faith and charity which are in Christ Jesus. He who holds the faith of Christ in the inmost love of his heart will easily overcome what attacks him from outside. Alternatively, gates are the portals through which things are exported, and hell is the place into which souls are carried. The gates of hell are the bodily senses through which the sinful soul is carried out, to seek the things below. So Isaiah 22 says:
Behold, the Lord will cause thee to be carried away, as a cock is carried away. (Is 22,17)
As the crafty fox carries off the cock, through his greed, to his den, so the false concupiscence of the flesh carries of the soul through the bodily senses, to those lower things. But if it were built upon the love of Christ, they would not be able to prevail against it.
8. There follows: And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 16,19). Behold Cephas, set at the head of the Apostles and of the Church. It is told that today Christ questioned the Apostles, and Peter confessed the faith of the universal Church on behalf of them all. Today, too, the Lord granted him the power of binding and loosing, and that is why this day is called "The Chair of St Peter". He who confessed before the rest, is given the keys before the rest. So there is added, Whatsoever thou shalt bind; that is, whoever, persisting in sin, you judge worthy of eternal punishment, or who ever
you absolve as a humble and true penitent: so will it be in heaven. St Jerome’s Gloss says: "And whatsoever thou shalt bind: the other Apostles indeed have the same power of judging, because after the Resurrection the Lord said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained (Jn 20,23); the whole Church has this power in its priests and bishops. Yet Peter received it in a special way, so that all might understand that whoever should separate themselves from the unity of faith and his company, can neither be absolved from sin nor enter heaven. Some do not understand this text, and partake somewhat of the Pharisees arrogance, thinking that they can damn the innocent and free the guilty; but before God it will not be the sentence of priests, but the life of the guilty, which will be asked about. In Leviticus, lepers were commanded to show themselves to the priests (cf. Lv 14,2), but these did not make them lepers; they only discerned who was clean or unclean; and so it is here."
By the prayers of blessed Peter, then, may the Lord who is blessed for ever loose us from the bonds of sin, and open to us the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
9. David, sitting in the chair was the wisest chief among the three:
he was like the most tender little worm of the wood. (2S 23,8)
In this text, from II Kings 23, David (meaning ‘strong in the arm’) is Simon Peter, to whom Jesus Christ gave the name Peter after himself, the Rock. When he put forth his hand and left everything, he was strong-armed. The miser has a weak hand, clenched and withered. So Matthew 12 says:
And behold there was a man with a withered hand. (Mt 12,10)
The Lord said to him:
Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored to health. (Mt 12,13)
The Gloss says, "There is no more effective cure than generosity in almsgiving; for he vainly stretches out his hands to God, asking for his sins, if he will not extend them as far as he can to the poor." Peter, then, sitting in the chair was the wisest. Acts 4 says:
Seeing the constancy of Peter and John, understanding that they were illiterate and ignorant men, they wondered; and they knew them that they had been with Jesus. (Ac 4,13)
No wonder if the uneducated Peter is called ‘wisest’, because he had been with Jesus the Wisdom of the Father, he had loved him more than the others, and he had learnt in
his school the wisdom of heaven, not of the world. He that walketh with the wise, shall be wise (cf. Pr 13,20). Peter was not that learned man of whom Isaiah 23 says:
Where is the learned? Where is he that pondereth the words of the law?
Where is the teacher of little ones? (Is 33,18)
and of whom the Apostle says:
Thou teachest another, but teachest not thyself; thou makest thy boast in the law, but by transgression of the law dishonourest God. (Rm 2,21)
Peter was ‘uneducated’ on earth, but ‘wisest’ in heaven. whose keys he received today, and sat upon his ‘chair’, the judicial power of binding and loosing. He also sat upon a material chair, at Antioch and at Rome, where his chair is shown today to the people.
Chief among the three. The three among whom the Prince of the Apostles sat on his chair, were his three fold constancy of faith. The first was in today’s confession: Thou art the Christ, etc. The second was in his preaching: We ought to obey God rather than men (Ac 5,29). The third was in his Passion.
He was like the most tender little worm of the wood. Note that there is nothing softer than a worm when you touch it, nothing stronger when it bites. It was the same with Peter. No- one was milder, or more patient, when he was scourged and crucified. He taught his disciples, in his first Epistle, ch. 3:
Modest, humble, not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, etc. (1P 3,8-9)
When he ‘bit’, no-one was stronger. He said to Ananias:
Why hath Satan tempted thy heart, that thou shouldst lie to the Holy Ghost and by fraud keep the price of the land? Thou hast not lied to men, but to God. And Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and gave up the ghost. (Ac 5,3-5)
And he told Simon Magus:
Keep thy money to thyself, to perish with thee. (Ac 8,20)
May he who gave Peter the power to bind and loose deliver us from this! Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (ALLEGORICAL SERMON)