Anthony_Sermons - (MORAL SERMON)
1 cf. BERNARD, Sunday within the octave of the Assumption, 7; PL 183.433
2 cf. BERNARD, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, sermon 4,5; PL 183.428
3 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, in Evangelia, 2; PL 198.1537
4 P.COMESTOR, Ibid.
5 ‘Eva’, ‘vae’ and ‘Ave’ are anagrams of one another.
6 GREGORY, Moralia, XXXIV,22,43; PL 76.742
7 ROMAN BREVIARY, 3rd response at Matins, First Sunday in Advent.
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. Jesus, rising from supper, laid aside his garments; and, having taken a towel, girded himself. After that, he put water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. (Jn 13,4-5)
2. There is something similar in Genesis 18; Abraham said:
I will fetch a little water; and wash ye your feet, and rest ye under the tree. And I will set a morsel of bread, and strengthen ye your heart. (Gn 18,4-5)
What Abraham did for the three angels, Christ did for his holy Apostles, the ambassadors of truth who were to preach the faith of the Holy Trinity to the whole world. He knelt like a servant at their feet, and, kneeling, washed their feet. O incomprehensible humility! O ineffable kindness! He who is worshipped by the angels on heaven knelt at the feet of fishermen. That head before which the angels tremble bowed to the feet of poor men. Peter, therefore, cried in fear: Thou shalt never wash my feet (Jn 13,8). He could not bear that God should humble himself at his feet, and was overcome with fear. The Lord said to him: If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part in me (Jn 13,8). The Gloss says, "He who is not washed by Baptism or Confession has no part with Jesus."
After he had washed their feet (cf. Jn 13,12), he made them rest under the tree that was himself. As it says:
I sat down under his shadow, whom I desired; and his fruit was sweet to my palate.
The ‘fruit’ is his body and blood, which he gave them today. This is the ‘morsel of bread’ which he set before them, to strengthen their hearts for the labours they were to undergo. As it says:
Whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread and blessed and broke. (Mt 26,26)
He broke, to show that the breaking of his body would not be against his will. He blessed first, because, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he filled the nature which he took with the grace of divine power. He aid:
Take ye and eat. This is my body. (Mt 26,26)
"We should understand the word ‘blessed’ as implying, ‘saying: This is my Body’; then he broke it and gave it, saying, ‘Eat’; and he repeated, ‘This is my Body’."1
3. Let us see what is meant, allegorically, by the supper, the garments and the linen towel, the water, the basin, and the feet of the disciples.
The supper is the Father’s glory; the putting aside of the garments is the emptying of his majesty; the linen towel is his pure flesh; the water is the shedding of his blood or the infusion of grace; the basin is the hearts of the disciples, and the feet are their affections. He rose, then, from the supper which he shared with God the Father:
A man made a great supper and invited many. (Lc 14,16)
It was ‘great’, because it abounded in the splendour of the glory of the divine majesty, in the riches of the angelic beatitude, and in the delights of the two-fold glorification. Many are called to this, but few come, because the number of fools is infinite (Qo 1,15), and they let go the banquet of life for the dung of temporal things. A pig would rather sleep in the mud than in a fine bed. Christ rose from the supper of his happiness, to make them rise from the misery of their dung-hill.
He laid aside his garments. "Note that there are four strippings of Christ’s garments. At the supper, he laid them aside and resumed them; at the pillar he was stripped and reclothed; at the soldiers’ mocking he was stripped and re-clothed, for he is not said to have been naked before Herod; at the Cross he was stripped, and remained naked. The first stripping concerned the Apostles, whom he soon took back; the second was for those who were taken back on the day of Pentecost, and who are little by little taken back; the third was for the remainder who will be taken back at the last day; the fourth concerns the perverse half of our own time, which will never be taken back. The second and fourth are represented today in some churches, when the altars are stripped and bunches of twigs like scourges are cut and sprinkled with water and wine."2 To lay aside one’s garments is to empty himself; he resumed them after the washing, because, when his obedience was accomplished, he returned to the Father from whom he had come.
We read in the Passion of Saint Sebastian3 that a certain king had a gold ring, set with a precious jewel, very dear to him. It fell from his finger into the sewer, and he was very sad about it. When he could not find anyone who might be able to get the ring out, he put
aside his royal robes and clothed himself in sacking, to go down into the sewer. He searched for a long time, and in the end found the ring, and when he had found it took it back joyfully to his palace. The king is the Son of God, the ring is the human race. The jewel in the ring is the precious soul in man. This fell from the joy of paradise, as it were from God’s finger, into the sewer of hell. On losing it, the Son of God grieved much. To recover the ring, he sought among angels and men, and found no-one capable of helping. Then he put off his robes, emptying himself and putting on the sack-cloth of our wretchedness. He sought the ring for thirty years, and at length descended into hell, and their found Adam and his posterity, and having found them, carried them back joyfully to eternal bliss.
4. There follows: and, having taken a towel, girded himself. He took the towel of our humanity from the most pure flesh of the Virgin. Regarding this, there is a concordance in Ezekiel 10:
The Lord said to the man that was clothed with linen: Go in between the wheels that are under the cherubims. (Ez 10,2)
The wheel, that returns to the same point from which it began, is human nature, to which was said: You are earth, and to earth you shall go (cf. Gn 3,19). ‘Between’ implies two extremes, namely the beginning and the end. Note that human nature has three characteristics: an unclean conception, a wretched journeying, and an ashy death. The man clothed in linen is Jesus Christ, who took a linen garment from the blessed Virgin. He did not begin with an impure conception, because he was conceived by the most pure Virgin by the working of the Holy Spirit; nor yet did he end in human ashes, for:
Thou wilt not give thy holy one to see corruption (Ps 15,10); but he came in the middle state of our pilgrimage, poor, exiled and pilgrim, having scarcely any place in the whole world.
So in II Esdras 2, Nehemiah says:
There was no place for the beast on which I rode to pass. (Ne 2,14)
Nehemiah (meaning ‘consolation of the Lord’) is Christ, our consolation in our time of desolation. So Isaiah 25 says:
Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the whirlwind, a shadow from the heat. (Is 25,4)
He is our consolation in the tribulation of worldly adversity, in the whirlwind of the devil’s temptation, in the heat of lust and vainglory. His ‘beast’ is his humanity, upon which his divinity sat. This beast, upon which he placed the wounded man, the human race, had no place in all the world, for he had nowhere to lay his head (cf. Mt 8,20 Lc 9,58), except where he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (Jn 19,30). He went in, then, between
the wheels which were under the cherubims, because he was made a little less than the angels (He 2,7 Ps 8 Ps 6) when he took the linen towel with which he girded himself. He girded himself with humility in that flesh, because it was necessary for there to be as much humility in the Redeemer as there had been pride in the betrayer.
5. There follows: He put water into a basin. The Gloss says, "He poured his blood on the ground, to cleanse the feet of believers, which were soiled with earthly sins." Note that a basin is a hollow vessel, which gives a ringing sound and has a curved lip. Such was the heart of the Apostles, and would it were ours! Hollow by humility, ringing with devotion, having the curved lip of self-accusation. This basin was for washing feet. The Lord poured the water of grace into the heart of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; he sends it every day into the hearts of the faithful, that their feet (their affections) may be washed from all defilement. This is what he says in Job 29:
I washed my feet with butter, (Jb 29,6)
in whose richness the devotion of the mind is represented, whereby Job (‘sorrowful’ for his sins) washes the affections of his mind.
And wiped them with the towel wherewith which he was girded, because all the Lord’s bodily affliction, and our suffering, is a purifying. With this towel we must wipe away the sweat of our labour and the blood of our suffering, following the example of his patience in all our trials, so that we may rejoice with him in his glory. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
6. The Lord of hosts shall make unto all people, in this mountain, a feast of fat things:
a feast of wine, of fat things full of marrow, of wine purified from the lees. (Is 25,6)
This comes from Isaiah 25; Matthew 26 says of this banquet:
Whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread and blessed and broke and gave to his disciples and said: Take ye and eat. This is my body. And, taking the chalice, he gave thanks and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. This is my blood of the new Testament; (Mt 26,26-28)
confirming it. Note that Christ did four things today: he washed the Apostles’ feet, he gave them his body and blood, he spoke a long and precious discourse, and he prayed to the Father for them and for all who would believe in him. Behold the ‘feast of fat things’!
He himself, then, is the Lord of hosts, that is, of angels. This night he spoke of them to
Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? (Mt 26,53)
That is to say, I do not need the help of twelve Apostles, being able to have twelve legions of angels, each of seventy-two thousands.
In this mountain, namely Jerusalem, in that ‘large dining room, furnished’ (cf. Mc 14,15), in which also the Apostles received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, he made a feast of fat things today for all people who believed in him. Truly today’s banquet is ‘a feast of fat things’; for there is the fatted calf which the Father killed in the reconciliation of the human race. So, in Luke 15, he says:
Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and make merry; because this my son was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found. And they began to be merry. (Lc 15,23-24)
The Gloss says, "Preach Christ as born, and set forth his death; so that both the heart may believe by imitating the one who is slain, and the mouth may receive the sacrament of his Passion for its cleansing."
Today, this is what the universal Church does; he established for her today on mount Sion a feast of fat things full of marrow, a two-fold richness, both inward and outward: he gave them his true body, inwardly and outwardly fattened with all spiritual strength and charity, and he bade them give it to those who believed in him. Whence, "It is firmly to be believed, and confessed with the mouth, that the very body which the Virgin bore, which hung on the Cross and lay in the tomb, which rose the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven: this body the Church truly makes daily, and gives to her faithful."4 At the words: This is my body, bread is transubstantiated into the body of Christ, which confers an unction of double richness on whoever receives it worthily. It lessens temptation and stirs up devotion. And so it is called ‘a land flowing with honey and milk’ (cf. Dt 31,20), which makes sweet what is bitter and nourishes devotion.
Unhappy he, who comes in to this banquet without the wedding garment (cf. Mt 22,11) of charity or penitence, because he who eats unworthily, eats damnation to himself (cf. 1Co 11,29). What fellowship has light with darkness? (cf. 2Co 6,14-15); Judas the traitor with the Saviour? The hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table (Lc 22,21), he says.
If a beast (a bestial man)
should touch the mountain (the body of Christ),
it should be stoned (i.e. damned). (He 12,20 cf. Ex Ex 19 Ex Ex 12-13)
7. There follows: a feast of wine purified from the lees, that is, pure or purified from everything foul and filthy. This is what Moses spoke of in his Canticle:
That they might drink the purest blood of the grape. (Dt 32,14)
The grape is the humanity of Christ, which was pressed in the wine-press of the Cross, and sent forth blood on every side, which he gave the Apostles today to drink, saying:
This is my blood, which shall be shed for you and for many, unto remission of sins. (cf. Mt 26,28)
The wine purified from the less must indeed be purest of all, which is poured out for the remission of so many sins.
O charity of the Beloved! O love of the Bridegroom for his Bride the Church! His own blood, which on the morrow he must shed for her by the hands of unbelievers, today he offered her by his own most holy hands. And so she says in Canticles 1:
A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me: he shall abide between my breasts.
A cluster of Cyprus my love is to me in the vineyards of Engaddi. (Ct 1,12-13)
The Bride-Church, or the soul, enters the wood of all the afflictions and sufferings of her Spouse, and humbly gathers now insults there, now blows and spitting here, now jeers and scourging on one side, now on the other the Cross, nails and lance; and makes herself a bundle of myrrh, of sorrow and bitterness, and puts it in her breast, where her heart is, where her love is. The Beloved, who tomorrow will be a bundle of myrrh for his Bride, today is to her a cluster of Cyprus.
My chalice which inebriateth me, (the ‘cluster of Cyprus’)
how goodly it is! (Ps 22,5) (the purified wine, the most pure blood of the grape).
And where is it found? Whence does it spring? In the vineyards of Engeddi (meaning ‘spring of the kid’, the stinking goat). The vineyards of Engeddi are the wounds of our Beloved, wherein is a living spring of water, purifying all foulness, washing all filth away. In this spring the thief washed his crimes, when he confessed:
Remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. (Lc 23,42)
Of this spring Zechariah 13 says:
In that day there shall be a fountain open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: for the washing of the sinner and of the unclean woman. (Za 13,1)
Look! The fountain is open, and communicates itself to all! Come, then, and draw, and washe away your hidden sins and those which are manifest (represented by the unclean woman).
8. Behold our Beloved, a cluster of Cyprus, a bundle of myrrh, in this banquet celebrated with rich food and fine drink; Then a hymn being said, he went out with his disciples to mount Olivet (cf. Mt 26,30). He spent the whole of this night sleepless, so as to transact carefully the business of our salvation. He drew apart from the Apostles, he began to grow sorrowful even unto death, to fall on his knees before the Father, and ask that, if it were possible, the hour might pass him by; yet submitting his own will to the Father’s (cf. Mt 26,38-39). Being in an agony, his sweat became as drops of blood (cf. Lc 22,44).
After this he was betrayed by a disciple’s kiss, bound, and led away like a thief (cf. Mt 26 Lc 22,47-48 Lc 22,52). His face was veiled, he was spat on (cf. Lc 22,63-64 Mc 14,65). His beard was plucked, he was struck on the head with a reed, and buffeted with blows (cf. Mc 15,17-19). He was scourged at the pillar, crowned with thorns and condemned to death. The wood of the Cross was laid on his shoulders and he went out to Calvary (cf. Jn 19,1-2 Jn 19,17). He was stripped of his garments, crucified naked between two thieves, given gall and vinegar to drink, blasphemed by the passers-by (Mt 27,34). And what more? Life died on behalf of the dead. O eyes of our Beloved, closed in death! O face on which the angels long to look (cf. 1P 1,12), grown so pale! O lips, distilling the honeyed words of eternal life, grown livid! O head, before which angels tremble, hanging bowed! Those hands, at whose touch leprosy departed, life returned, lost light was restored, the demons fled, bread was multiplied: those hands, I say, Alas! Pierced with nails, flowing with blood!
Let us gather all these things together, dearest brothers, and make a bundle of myrrh, and place it between our breasts (that is, let us carry it in our hearts), especially this day and tomorrow, so that we may deserve to rise with him on the third day. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
9. The Lord of hosts shall make etc. Let us see what these five: the mountain, the feast, fatness, marrow and wine, mean anagogically. The mountain is our heavenly homeland, of which Isaiah 30 says:
You shall have a song as the voice of a sanctified solemnity,
and joy of heart as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord,
to the Mighty One of Israel. (Is 30,29)
Note these three: the song, joy, and the pipe. "The song is vocal praise," which, as Cassiodorus says, will be in heaven. As it is said: They shall praise thee for ever and eve. (Ps 83,5), "in joy, jubilant in heart." The pipe is the harmonious melody of body and soul, which we shall have perfectly in the general resurrection; and we shall enter the mountain of our heavenly home with it, singing and rejoicing; to Jesus Christ the strong , who has delivered Israel from the hand of the mighty, that is, his faithful for whom he has prepared a feast on the heavenly mountain.
Luke 22 says of this:
I dispose to you, as my Father has disposed to me, a kingdom; that you may eat and drink at my table in the kingdom of heaven. (Lc 22,29-30)
The table, which is set before all the saints for their fulfilment, is the glory of heavenly life. In this there will be three banquets: of fat things, of marrow and of pure wine; denoting the threefold joy of the blessed. The banquet of fat things denotes that joy which they will have in the vision of the whole Trinity. The banquet of marrow denotes that which they will have in their own blessedness, and inward clarity of conscience. David prayed for these two:
Let my soul be filled as with marrow and fatness:
and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. (Ps 62,6)
The purified wine denotes the joy of the whole Church Triumphant, which will be truly purified when this mortal will put on immortality, and this corruptible incorruption (cf. 1Co 15,53). May he grant us this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
1 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, in Evangelia, 152; PL 198.1618
2 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, in Evangelia, 150; PL 198.1616-7
3 cf. Acts of St Sebastian, 13,4; PL 17.1132-1133
4 cf. COUNCIL OF ROME VI (1079), Oath for Berengarius of Tours, priest; PL 148.817
5 cf. CASSIODORUS, In Psalterium praefatio, 6; PL 70.16
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. The almond-tree shall flourish, the locust shall grow fat, and the caper shall be scattered. This text is found in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes (Qo 12,5).
2. There is something similar in Numbers 17. We read that the rod of Aaron budded, flowered, and when the leaves were spread produced almonds (cf. Nb 17,8). Aaron, the high priest, is Jesus Christ, who not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood entered into the Holies (cf. He 9,12). He is the ‘pontiff’ (bridge-builder) who made himself a bridge whereby we might pass from the bank of mortality to the bank of immortality. Today, his rod flowered, the rod being his humanity, of which it is said:
The Lord will send forth the rod of thy power from Sion. (Ps 109,2)
Through the humanity of Christ, his divinity exercised its power, and it originated ‘from Sion’, the Jewish people, because salvation is of the Jews (Jn 4,22). This rod, as it were dried up, lay in the tomb for three days and three nights; but today it flowered and brought forth fruit, because he rose again and brought us the fruit of immortality.
3. So: The almond-tree shall flourish. St Gregory1 says that the almond tree blossoms earlier than other trees, and the Apostle says that Christ is the first-born from the dead (cf. Col 1,18), because he was the first to rise again. Note that a two-fold punishment was inflicted upon man, the death of the body and of the soul: "On whatsoever day thou shalt eat, thou shalt surely die (Gn 3,17), in your soul, and will become subject to the necessity of death. So another translation says, You will be mortal."2 There came our Samaritan, Jesus Christ, and he poured wine and oil (cf. Lc 10,34) into this double wound, because by the outpouring of his blood he destroyed the death of our soul. So Hosea 13 says:
I will deliver them out of the hand of death. I will redeem them from death.
O death, I will be thy death! O hell, I will be thy bite! (Os 13,14)
He took part, and left part, like one who bites, and by his Resurrection he took away the necessity of death, because he gave the hope of rising again. And death, he said, shall be no more (cf. Ap 21,4).
The Resurrection of Christ is represented in the oil, which floats upon every liquid. The joy the Apostles had at the Resurrection of Christ was greater than any joy they had had while he was still mortal. The glorification of bodies surpasses every other joy. So it is said:
The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (Jn 20,20)
4. So there follows: and the locust shall grow fat. This refers to the primitive Church, which was fattened by the flower of the Lord’s Resurrection, that is, it was made wonderfully happy and joyful. So Luke says, in his last chapter:
But, while they yet believed not and wondered for joy, he said: Have you here anything to eat? And they offered him a piece of a broiled fish and a honeycomb. (Lc 24,41-42)
The ‘broiled fish’ is the Redeemer who suffered, who was caught in the waters of the human race by the hook of death, and ‘broiled’ at the time of his Passion; and he, too, is the honeycomb for us in today’s Resurrection. The honeycomb is in the wax, as the divinity is in the humanity. In this eating is signified that he takes them, in his body, to eternal rest, who, when they suffer trials for God’s sake, do not depart from the joy of eternal sweetness. Those who are ‘broiled’ here, will there be satisfied with sweetness.
Note that the Lord appeared five times today: first to Mary Magdalene (Mc 16,9 cf. Jn Jn 14 Jn Jn 18); second to her with others, running to tell the disciples (cf. Mt 28,9); third to Peter (cf. Lc 23,34); fourth to Cleophas and his companion (cf. Lc 24,14-31); and fifthly to the disciples, behind locked doors, when those two had returned (cf. Lc 24,36-39 Jn 20,19-23). See how the locust is fattened today with the almond flower! That is, how the infant Church is made joyful by the Resurrection of Christ.
When the sun grows hot, the locust jumps and flies; and in the same way the infant Church, when warmed by the fire of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, leapt and took flight in preaching throughout the whole world. As it is said:
Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth. (Ps 18,5)
And so, when the Church was fattened, the caper was scattered, a herb which clings to the rock, meaning the Synagogue which continued to cling to the law, which had been given written on stone, to show its hardness. It is a stiff-necked people (Ex 34,9), he says. The more the Church grew fat, the more the Synagogue was scattered.
This is concordant to II Kings 3:
There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David:
David prospering and growing always stronger and stronger, but the house of Saul decaying daily. (2S 3,1)
The house of David is the Church, the house of Saul (‘abuser’) is the Synagogue which abused the special gifts of God, accepted a bill of divorce, and departed from the bed of her lawful husband. How long the war between Church and Synagogue lasted, the Acts of the Apostles shows. The Church went forward, for, as Acts 2 says:
The Lord increased daily together such as should be saved. (Ac 2,47)
The Synagogue daily decreased; as Hosea says:
Call his name, Not-my-people;
for you are not my people, and I will not be your God. (Os 1,9)
I will utterly forget them, and I will have mercy on the house of Juda, (Os 1,6-7) meaning the Church. To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
5. The almond-tree shall flourish. Let us see what is the moral significance of these three: the almond, the locust and the caper. Three things are noted in these three: the giving of alms, the consolation of the poor, and the destruction of avarice.
The giving of alms: The almond-tree shall flourish, that is, the alms-giver. Isaiah 17 says to him:
In the morning thy seed shall flourish. (Is 17,11)
The seed is alms, which should flourish in the hand of a Christian ‘in the morning’, early, before other worldly actions, as the almond-tree flowers before other trees.
Note that a flower has three characteristics: colour, scent, and hope of fruit. Colour
refreshes the sight, scent the sense of smell, and fruit the taste. So too with almsgiving, whose ‘colour1 (if I may so put it) refreshes the sight of the poor man, whose hand is upon the one giving. Thus Acts 3 says:
Peter, with John, said to the lame man: Look upon us. But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them. (Ac 3,4-5)
But we notice (not without sorrow) what prelates of the Church and great men of the world do, who, when the poor of Christ are at their door, crying out for a long time and begging alms with tearful voice, make them wait for a long time and, in the end, after they themselves have been well fed (and maybe sometimes drunk too), order them to be given some scraps from their table or kitchen left-overs. That is not what Job did, an almond-tree flowering early, as chapter 31 says:
If I have denied to the poor what they have desired, and have made the eyes of the widow wait: If I have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof: for from my infancy mercy grew up with me. (Jb 31,16-18)
That refers to food; and the following refers to clothing:
If I have despised him that was perishing for want of clothing, and the poor man that had no covering: If his sides have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep. (Jb 31,19-20)
The ‘scent’ of alms refreshes our neighbour, because from it he gets good example, and glorifies God; and the hope of receiving the fruit of eternal life refreshes the soul of the donor.
6. The consolation of the poor: The locust shall grow fat. Nahum 3 says:
The locusts swarm on the hedges in the day of cold. (Na 3,17)
In the same way, poor folk, in the cold of poverty, literally sit in the hedgerows, begging alms from those that pass by- lepers, for instance, cast out by men. Alternatively, the ‘hedges’, full of sharp twigs and thorns, represent the piercing, sorrows and sicknesses of the poor. How great is their affliction! And so, how necessary their consolation. The locust grows fat from the flower, the poor man is consoled with alms. So Job 29 says:
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me:
and I comforted the heart of the widow. (Jb 29,13)
And the Lord says, in Isaiah 28:
This is my rest. Refresh the weary, and this is my refreshing.
And they would not hear. (Is 28,12)
And so they themselves, when they cry: Lord, Lord, open to us (Mt 25,11), will not be heard. Even now the Lord stands (in his poor) at the door and knocks (cf. Ap 3,20), and it is opened to him when the poor man is succoured. The refreshing of the poor is the rest of Christ; he says:
What you did to one of the least of mine, etc. (cf. Mt 25,40)
And note the words ‘grows fat’. Fat is composed of air and fire, and so it floats on water, because the air in it bears it up. So the consolation of the poor is derived from the ‘air’ of devotion (as to him who receives) and the fire of charity (as to you who give). Devotion arouses him to pray for you:
Put thy alms into the heart of the poor, and it shall pray for thee, (cf. Si 29,15)
namely that your sins may be forgiven, your mind enlightened with grace, and eternal glory be given you.
7. The destruction of avarice: and the caper shall be scattered, whose root clings to the rock, representing the hardness of the avaricious man who will not alleviate the miseries of the poor. He is Nabal, whom I Kings 25 describes as churlish and very bad (1R 25,3). David’s messengers said to him:
We are come in a good day. Whatsoever thy hand shall find give to thy servants, and to thy son David. (1S 25,8)
Who is David? And what is the son of Isai? Servants are multiplied nowadays who flee from their masters. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and the flesh of my cattle which I have killed for my shearers, and give to men whom I know not whence they are? (1S 25,10-11)
This is the reply of the avaricious to the poor of Christ who beg for alms, to whom he gives nothing, cursing them and putting them to shame. And so, what follows happens to him:
Nabal’s heart died within him, and he became as a stone. (1S 25,37)
This happens to the miser when grace is withdrawn from him, and the instincts of kindness are lost.
Happy the man who ‘takes away his stony heart and takes a heart of flesh’ (cf. Ez 11,19), who sorrows and feels compunction for the miseries of the poor, so that his compassion is their consolation, and their consolation scatters his avarice. If someone has an unfruitful tree in his orchard, does he not root it up completely, and plant another fruit- tree instead? The barren tree is avarice. Why cumbereth it the ground? Cut it down (cf.
Lk 13.7), uproot it and in its place plant alms which will bear you the fruit of eternal life. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
8. The almond-tree shall flourish. Three things are noted here, namely, honesty of conversation, sweetness of contemplation and extinction of lust. Let us look briefly at each.
Honesty of conversation: The almond-tree shall flourish. So Daniel 4 says:
"I Nabuchodonosor was at rest in my house and flourishing in my palace. (Da 4,1)
What do we understand by the ‘house’, if not conscience? And what by the ‘palace’, if not security of conscience and confidence in that security? For a palace is a house too, though one cannot call any house whatever a palace. A palace is a strong house, magnificent and royal. If we should understand conscience by ‘house’, we should rightly understand security of conscience by ‘palace’. Therefore, he is ‘at rest’ in his house, whose conscience does not gnaw him. The fitting satisfaction for past evils, and a cautious and careful avoidance of present evils, makes a quiet conscience. He remains at rest in his house, whose conscience does not reproach him either for past or for present guilt. He was at rest in his house, who said truthfully:
My heart doth not reprehend me in all my life. (Jb 27,6)
He was at rest in his house, who could say truthfully:
I am not conscious to myself of anything. (1Co 4,4)
He was indeed at rest in his house all the time, and was flourishing in his palace, when he said:
Our glory is this: the testimony of our conscience. (2Co 1,12)
Because the flower gives hope of fruit, the certain expectation of future goods is represented by the flower. Because the flower is the beginning of future fruit, we further rightly understand by the flower the beginning of what is to follow. Therefore, the flower represents either the certain expectation of reward, or the new acquisition of virtue. And so he truly flourishes in his palace, who securely awaits the crown of glory, under the testimony of his good conscience."3 And meanwhile, he tastes its sweetness in the leap or flight of contemplation. And so there follows:
9. The sweetness of contemplation: The locust shall grow fat, as in the warmth of the sun it jumps and flies in the air with what I may call a certain joyfulness. "So the holy soul, without a doubt, seems to go beyond the bounds of its native powers, as it shaken from itself by a certain inner rhythm of its dancing, as it is urged to go above itself in elevation of mind, as it is totally immersed in angelic visions. This is what the prophet means by:
The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of the flock. (Ps 113,4)
Who cannot see that it is above nature, or rather contrary to nature, for mountains and hills, like rams or lambs at play, to go leaping upwards; and earth to jump up from the earth, and balance itself on nothing? Is it not as if the earth were suspended from the earth, when a man is led above himself, he to whom the Lord’s voice said by way of curse: Earth thou art, and to the earth thou shalt go (Gn 3,19)?"4 When, then, he is lifted up in such suspension of mind, he grows fat with the sweetness of contemplation.
So Canticles 8 says:
Who is this that cometh up from the desert,
flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved? (Ct 8,5)
"The soul comes up from the desert in contemplation when she abandons all lower things and, passing even to heaven, immerses herself wholly by devotion in divine things alone. Then she truly overflows with delights, when she rejoices in the fulness of spiritual joy and grows fat with the abundance of inner sweetness bestowed on her from heaven and richly infused."5 "She leans on her beloved when she puts no trust in her own powers, ascribes nothing to her own merits, but attributes everything to the grace of her Beloved."6
He made us, and not we ourselves. (Ps 99,3)
So Isaiah 26 says:
Thou hast wrought all our works for us. (Is 26,12)
And as to the usefulness of this fattening of the locust, hear what follows:
10. The extinction of lust: the caper shall be scattered. Because it has power over the kidneys, and because lust has control over those parts of the body, lust is denoted by
the caper. It is scattered when the soul is fattened by the aforesaid sweetness. So Daniel 10 says:
I being left alone saw this great vision: and there remained no strength in me, and the appearance of my countenance was changed, and I fainted away, and retained no strength. (Da 10,8)
And Job 7:
My soul chooseth hanging, and my bones death.
I have done with hope, and shall live no longer (Jb 7,15-16)
Behold how the caper is scattered! Daniel, man of desires (Da 10,11), is the contemplative, who is left alone when he puts away all outward things, and hangs by the cord of love in the sweetness of contemplation; then, enlightened in mind, he sees a great vision which he himself cannot grasp, because it is seen through a glass, darkly; not yet face to face (cf. 1Co 13,12). When the soul is thus enlightened and thus suspended, the strength of the body fails, the appearance of the face grows pale, the flesh grows faint, and so he loses hope in the delight of the body and of the present time, in which he cares to live no longer, as he used to do; because now he does not live himself, but the life of Christ lives in him (cf. Ga 2,20). Blessed is he for ever! Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (MORAL SERMON)