Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)
(Against the prelates of the Church: The Pharisees going.)
5. Let us say, then: The pharisees going, consulted among themselves how to ensnare Jesus in his speech. (Mt 22,15)
‘Pharisee’ means ‘divided’, and they represent proud and carnal prelates of the Church, of whom Hosea says: Their banquet is separated, they have gone astray by fornication (Os 4,18). The banquet of the saints is to weep not only for their own sins, but for those of others; to sigh for the things of eternity; to savour the sweetness of inner beatitude. The banquet of the Pharisees, who have gone astray by fornication, is separated from this banquet. Whence the Lord says of them, again in Hosea:
I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel:
the fornications of Ephraim there. Israel is defiled.
And thou also, O Juda, set thee a harvest,
when I shall bring back the depravity of my people. (Os 6,10-11)
I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel, namely in the Church: the fornications of Ephraim (meaning ‘fruiting’), of those religious who ought to bear fruit, but by avarice and other sins commit idolatry. And Israel, the prelate, is contaminated by these sins.
So Hosea says again:
Thy calf, O Samaria, is cast off: my wrath is kindled against them.
How long will they be incapable of being cleansed? For itself also is of Israel. (Os 8,5-6)
Samaria is the Church, whose calf, lustful and wanton, going with out-stretched neck and puffed-out belly, is cast off from the Lord. Hosea says again of it, Israel hath gone astray like a wanton heifer (Os 4,16). And so, as Jeremiah says,
Egypt is like a fair and beautiful heifer:
there shall come from the north one that shall goad her, (Jr 46,20)
the devil with the goad of avarice and lust. Therefore the Lord will not only be angry with such prelates, he will burn with fury. How long will the people be incapable of being cleansed of wantonness and lust and the like? It is as if to say, the people cannot be cleansed from these, because it is itself of Israel, because they see these things in their own leaders. Thus Israel is defiled; but you, Juda (you simple layfolk), even though religious and prelates are like that, prepare yourself a harvest of good works, and do not regard those people, until I turn again your captivity, your enduring sins, as a stream in the south (Ps 125,4), by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Again, Hosea says of these Pharisees:
Their heart is divided: now they shall perish;
he shall break down their idols, he shall destroy their altars. (Os 10,2)
Whoever has a divided heart will go to ruin. So the third book of Kings tells how Jeroboam (whose name means ‘division’) was destroyed, he and his house even to him that pisseth against the wall (cf. 1R 14,10). The Lord Almighty will himself break the idols of the Pharisees, their hypocrisy and boasting, and destroy their altars, their showy riches and lustful flesh, on which they sacrifice to the devil.
Of these, then, it is said: The pharisees going. Where were they going? The wanton wife in Hosea says:
I will go alter my lovers that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink. (Os 2,5)
The wanton wife is any soul who commits fornication spiritually, who goes after her lovers when she follows her senses. ‘Bread’ means worldly pleasure and prosperity. So Job says: Bread becometh abominable to him in his life (Jb 33,20). ‘Water’ means lust, as in Job:
He sleepeth under the shadow, in the covert of the reed, and in moist places.(Jb 40,16)
‘Wool’ is the appearance of innocence, as Leviticus says: White in the skin is leprosy (cf. Lv 13,3). ‘Flax’ is subtlety in deceit, as in Isaiah:
They shall be confounded that wrought in flax, combing and weaving fine linen. (Is 19,9)
Flax is soft and smooth. ‘Oil’ is flattery: Let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head (Ps 140,5), my mind; let me not get big-headed from false flattery. That is how the Pharisees went.
(Against their avarice and lust: Woe to you, apostate children.)
6. So, the pharisees going, consulted among themselves. Isaiah says of them:
Woe to you, apostate children, saith the Lord, that you would take counsel, and not of me:
and would begin a web, and not by my spirit, that you might add sin upon sin.
Who walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth: hoping for help in the strength of Pharao and trusting in the shadow of Egypt.
And the strength of Pharao shall be to your confusion:
and the confidence of the shadow of Egypt to your shame. (Is 30,1-3)
The apostate children are those of whom Hosea says:
Ephraim (the laity) hath committed fornication, Israel (the clergy) is defiled.
They will not set their thoughts to return to their God: for the spirit of fornication is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord. (Os 5,3-4)
That you would take counsel, and not of me. So the Lord says in Hosea:
They have reigned, but not by me: they have been princes, and I knew not. (Os 8,4)
And would begin a web. Whence Hosea:
The calf of Samaria shall be turned to spiders’ webs.
For they shall sow wind and reap a whirlwind. (Os 8,6-7)
Just as a spider’s web is scattered and dissolved by the wind, so the calf, the wantonness of the clergy, is brought to nothing. Just as the wind creates a blast which stirs up the dust, so the love of temporal things is like a wind that brings about the whirlwind of eternal damnation.
And not by my spirit. Isaiah says:
They provoked to wrath and afflicted the spirit of his Holy One: and he was turned to be their enemy. (Is 63,10)
Is the spirit of the Lord straitened, or are these his thoughts?
Are not my words good to him that walked uprightly?
But my people, on the contrary, are risen up as an enemy. (Mi 2,7-8)
The Lord’s spirit is straitened when the sinner withdraws from grace; yet it is widened towards penitents, when grace is poured into them.
That you might add sin upon sin. So Hosea says:
There is no truth, and there is no mercy, and there is no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing and lying and killing and theft and adultery have overflowed: and blood hath touched blood. (Os 4,1-2)
Because sin is added to sin, new sins are added to old. As the banks of a river hold it in, to prevent flooding, so the fear of God and worldly shame should be like two banks preventing the flood of sin. It has become very little among the clergy, for: There is no fear of God before their eyes (cf. Ps 13,3 Ps 35,2 Rm 3,18); and: They have a harlot’s forehead, they would not blush (cf. Jr 3,3)
Who walk to go down into Egypt, the covetousness of the world, of which Amos says:
Strike the hinges and let the lintels be shook:
for there is covetousness in the head of them all. (Am 9,1)
The hinges on which the door turns means the use of the keys by prelates, to exclude or admit to the Church. The lintels mean the excellence of the priestly dignity, which has fallen into ruin through the fire of cupidity and pride.
And have not asked at my mouth. Amos says
The Lord God doth nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. (Am
Hoping for help in the strength of Pharao, sensuality. Against this, Jeremiah says:
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me,
for I am the Lord that exercise mercy and judgement and justice in the earth:
for these things please me, saith the Lord. (Jr 9,23-24)
(Against the powerful of the world: The Lord prepared an ivy-plant.)
And trusting in the shadow of Egypt, worldly power, which is like a passing shadow,
7. There is a concordance to this in the prophet Jonah, where it says that The Lord prepared ivy (or according to the Hebrew a gourd, which quickly grows up and withers),
and it came up over the head of Jonas, to be a shadow over his head and to cover him (for he was fatigued): and Jonas was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm, when the morning arose on the following day: and it struck the gourd and it withered. And when the sun was risen, the Lord commanded a hot and burning wind. And the sun beat on the head of Jonas, and he broiled with the heat: and he desired for his soul that he might die. (Jon 4,6-8)
The gourd represents worldly power, whose fruit is edible when it is ripe, but later becomes dry as wood. So it is with sin. At first it is pleasurable, but this passes. Afterwards there remains the stain of guilt in the soul, and if repentance does not follow, eternal death will result. But when morning arises, the dawn of grace, this gourd dries up and, when it is gnawed by the worm of conscience, all worldly glory is destroyed, and is reckoned as nothing. This is ‘on the following day’, the day after the one of which Job said: Cursed be the day wherein I was born (Jb 3,3). Then the sun of God’s love beats on the head, the mind, not just enlightening it, but hurting it to bring repentance. Then he desires for his ‘soul’ (here meaning his animal nature) that it die. You will find this treated also in the second clause of: In the beginning God created (Septagesima).
And the strength of Pharao shall be to your confusion: and the confidence of the shadow of Egypt to your shame. Hosea says:
Ephraim saw his sickness, and Juda his band.
And Ephraim went to the Assyrian and sent to the avenging king:
and he shall not be able to heal you:
neither shall he be able to take of the band from you. (Os 5,13)
This is what Isaiah speaks of: For Egypt shall help in vain (Is 30,7). Neither Assyria (the devil) nor Egypt (the world) can take away man’s weakness and sickness. So Job says:
The eyes of the wicked shall decay: and the way to escape shall fail them.(Jb 11,20)
And Horace1 : "Neither house nor estate, nor heap of bronze or gold, will draw the fever from a sick lord’s body."
8. There follows: To ensnare Jesus in his speech. In the same way Pharisees today try to catch out preachers of Jesus in their words to the people. They behave like Amasias, of whom it is said in the prophet Amos that:
Amasias, the priest of Bethel, sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying: Amos hath rebelled against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus saith Amos: Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel shall be carried away captive out of their own land. And Amasias said to Amos: Thou seer, go, flee away into the land of Juda: and eat bread there and prophesy there. (Am 7,10-12)
Our modern Pharisees say the same to preachers who rebuke their evil-doing, and complain to their superiors. Let him who hears, hear; and let him who understands, understand!
There follows: And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians (Mt 22,16), referring to Herod’s troops who were in Jerusalem at that time. The Gloss says that there was a disturbance among the people, with some saying that taxes should be paid for the maintenance of public order, since the Romans enforced it for everyone. The Pharisees, on the contrary, maintained that the people of God were under no obligation, since he freed them from tithes etc., which the law imposes under human legislation.
The followers of the Pharisees are appropriately associated with the Herodians, since those who follow the way of separation, which cuts them off from true glory, are joined to the false and empty glory which passes away. There is a concordance to this in Hosea:
Ephraim hath flown away like a bird: their glory (hath flown away)
from the birth and from the womb and from the conception. (Os 9,11)
There are many today who, as long as they lack fine feathers (being poor and lowly), rest in the nest of humility; but when they acquire wings and feathers (riches and dignities) fly away in pride. They glory in their wings, when they ought to attend to their wretchedness in conception, upbringing and education. Hosea also says: The wind hath bound them up in its wings (Os 4,19). These wings are understanding and affection. Understanding flies across the field of truth, the latter flies by discernment of what is good; but both bind the spirit of vainglory.
There follows: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker. A ‘master’ is one of greater status. They term ‘master’ one whom they honour, who opens the secret of his heart simply, and wants to have them as his followers. A true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth. The Psalm says: Direct me in thy truth, and teach me (Ps 24,5). Direct me to flee error, and to live rightly and properly, as truth demands, and teach me truth itself. Neither carest thou for any man. They tried to trick him into saying that God should be feared more than Caesar, and the tribute should not be paid. Then he would appear to be a trouble-maker. Thou dost not regard the person of men. As Habbakuk says
Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, and thou canst not look on iniquity.(Ha 1,13)
‘Person’ here implies individuality. Tell us therefore what thou dost think: is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?(Mt 22,17) This question will be answered in the following sections.
(On the belly-god: Be imitators of me.)
9. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause: Brethren, be followers of me (Ph 3,17).
Even though I am not present, follow those who are like me, and observe them who walk
so as you have our model: meaning, carefully note those who follow the example of my life. Peter says: Being made a pattern of the flock, from the heart (1P 5,3). Blessed is that prelate whose example and life can instruct those who are astray.
For many walk... that they are enemies of the cross of Christ (Ph 3,18), meaning the Pharisees. The Apostle wept over their loss: Whose end is destruction, eternal punishment, and whose God is their belly. Scripture often speaks by similes, so that what cannot be recognised in the thing itself, may be recognised in something similar to it. Thus the belly is compared to God, when it says, Whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame. It is to gods that people build temples, set up altars, ordain ministers to serve, sacrifice cattle, burn incense. To the belly-god, the temple is the kitchen, the altar is the table, the ministers are cooks, the sacrificed cattle are cooked meats, and the smoke of incense is the tasty smell! These temples are not built in Jerusalem, but in Babylon, because their god is their belly, and their glory will be to their shame. It is he, the prince of cooks, who destroyed the walls of Jerusalem, took away the vessels of the Lord to the house of the king of Babylon, and made the temple vessels into palace plate; and, to speak more truly, to make the vessels of the Lord’s table into kitchen crockery.
The Apostle says: The temple of God is holy, which you are (1Co 3,17). In this temple, the vessels are hearts, which are vessels of the divine temple when they please God by being full of virtues. They become ‘palace plate’ when they are concerned to please some human power; and they become ‘kitchen crockery’ when he who formerly served sobriety becomes a slave to gluttony.
So Jeremiah says: They that were nourished on crocus have embraced the dung (Lm 4,5). The crocus grows in the East, and is used for colouring and flavouring. They are ‘nourished on crocus’ who at the beginning of their conversion are fed on the inner flavour of virtue, and coloured outwardly with the example of good works. But those who in this way were nourished on crocus embrace dung, when after works of piety and continence the care of the belly calls them back; and it sometimes happens that those who lived sober lives in their own homes before their conversion, afterwards become gluttons in the monastery. The belly-god takes pleasure in the sacrifices of various dishes, it bends its ear to rumours, it is roused by all kinds of taste, it is soothed by gossip rather than by prayer, it enjoys idleness, and takes pleasure in sleep. It has monks, canons and other disciples who serve it obediently, all those who live idle and slack lives in the Church, who do not seek secret prayer but the idle chatter of lazy people. Among these there is heard not the sobbing and sighing of a contrite heart, but laughing and cackling and the belching of engorged bellies. These are the sort of people who go and take counsel- into which let not my soul go (cf. Gn 49,6).
So, dearest brothers, let us ask the Lord Jesus Christ not to separate us by the divisiveness of the Pharisees, but to confirm us in the teaching of his truth, to guard us from the sin of greed, and so be found fit to come to the banquet of eternal life. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
(The theme for a sermon against hypocrites, and on the knowledge of God by which he sees all things: Jesus knowing their wickedness.)
10. There follows, secondly:
But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? (Mt 22,18)
He knew their wickedness, because he has knowledge of all things, and nothing can be hidden from him or escape him. So he says in the prophet Amos:
Though they go down even to hell, thence shall my hand bring them out:
and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.
And though they be hid in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them away from thence:
and though they hide themselves from my eyes in the depth of the sea,
there will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them. (Am 9,2-3)
Why, then, do you tempt me, you hypocrites? Isaiah says: Everyone is a hypocrite and wicked, and every mouth hath spoken folly (Is 9,17). Show me the coin of the tribute, he said; referring to the coin with which the tribute was paid, having on it the image of Caesar. And they offered him a penny, worth ten ‘nummi’. And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and superscription is this? They say to him: Caesar’s. Note these three: the penny, the image and the superscription.
Just as a penny is marked with the king’s image, so our soul is marked with the image of the Holy Trinity. As the psalm says: The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us (Ps 4,7). The Gloss says, "O Lord, the light of your countenance, the light of grace, whereby your image is renewed in us," and we are made like to you, "is signed upon us, being impressed upon our reason, the higher power of the soul, whereby we are made like to you; that light is impressed upon us like a seal on wax." "Our reason receives the countenance of God, because just as someone is recognised by their face, so God is recognised by the mirror of reason." This reason is deformed by human sin, which makes a man unlike God, but it is restored by the grace of Christ. So the Apostle says: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ep 4,23). Thus the grace whereby the created image is renewed is here called light.
(On the threefold image of God: Show me the coin of tribute.)
Note that the image is three-fold: of likeness, of creation (in which man is created, namely reason), and of restoration, by which the created image is restored, namely the grace of God which is infused into the mind to be renewed. The image of likeness is that according to which man was made in the image and likeness of the whole Trinity. By memory he is like the Father, by understanding like the Son, by love like the Holy Spirit. So Augustine2 says, "Let me remember you, understand you, and love you." Man was made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1,26-27): his image in the understanding of truth, his likeness in love of virtue. The light of God’s countenance is the grace of justification, whereby the created image is imprinted. This light is the whole and true good of man, whereby he is marked like a penny with the king’s image. That is why the Lord adds in this Gospel: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, etc. It is as if he said: "As you give back to Caesar his image, so give back your soul to God, enlightened and signed with the light of his countenance."
(The theme for a sermon on purity of soul: I saw, and behold a candlestick.)
11. There is a concordance to this in the prophet Zechariah:
I have looked, and, behold, a candlestick all of gold, and its lamp upon the top of it: and the seven lights thereof upon it: and seven funnels for the lights that were upon the top thereof. And two olive-trees over it: one upon the right side of the lamp and the other upon the left side thereof. (Za 4,2-3)
Let us see the moral significance of these five: the candlestick, the lamp, the lights, the funnels and the olive-trees.
The candlestick and the penny, the lamp and the image, have the same meaning. The candlestick is the soul, which is said to be all of gold, because it is made in the image and likeness of God. So Ecclesiasticus says: God created man of the earth, and made him after his own image (Si 17,1), so that he might live and know, and have memory, understanding and will. Hence: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, etc., that is, with all your understanding, will and memory. Just as the Son is of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is of both, so the will is of the understanding, and the memory is of both, and the soul cannot be complete without these three; nor can one stand entire without the others, with respect to beatitude. And just as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are not three Gods but one God, having three persons; so the understanding soul, the willing soul and the remembering soul are not three souls, but one soul having three powers, wherein it wonderfully bears the image of God. With these, being the more excellent, we are commanded to love the Creator, that in the same degree that he is known and loved, he is always held in memory. The knowledge of God is not enough, if the will is not in his love; nor are these two, unless memory is added, in which God ever abides in the soul that knows and loves him. For just as there is not a moment in which man does not enjoy or benefit from the goodness of God, so he should always be present in the memory. Man is also made in God’s image, that just as God is charity, good, just, kind and merciful; so man should have charity, and be good,
just, etc. So: I looked, and, behold, a candlestick all of gold, and its lamp upon the top of it.
The lamp is the infusion of grace, whereby the soul is enlightened. So Job says of the just man, enlightened by this lamp:
The simplicity of the just man is laughed to scorn.
The lamp, despised in the thoughts of the rich, is ready for the time appointed. (Jb 12,45)
Gregory3 says, "The simplicity of the just is called a lamp, and it is despised. It is a lamp, because it shines inwardly in the conscience. It is despised, because it is reckoned cheap by carnal minds, and as fatuous by the duplicitous." They regard as dead those who they think do not live carnally like themselves. The appointed time for the despised lamp is the predestined day of the last Judgement, whereon it will be shown with what great power every just soul shines forth, who now is despised.
(On the seven lamps and the seven funnels, which are the seven beatitudes, and the seven words spoken by the Lord on the Cross: The seven lights thereof. Against those who hate their brothers: For three crimes of Edom.)
12. And the seven lights thereof upon it: and seven funnels whereby the oil is poured into the lamps. Note that the seven lamps are the seven Beatitudes, and the seven funnels are the seven words spoken by Christ upon the cross; which we shall concord each to one another:
Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Mt 5,3 Lc 23 Lc 34)
Blessed are the meek; for they shall possess the land.
Amen, I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in paradise. (Mt 5,4 Lc 23 Lc 43) Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.
Woman, behold thy son. After that he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. (Mt 5,5 Jn 19 Jn 26-7)
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall have their fill.
Eli, Eli, lamma sabachthani? That is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mt
Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.
I thirst! (Mt 5,7 Jn 19 Jn 28)
Blessed are the clean of heart; for they shall see God.
It is consummated! (Mt 5,8 Jn 19 Jn 30)
Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Mt 5,9 Lc 23 Lc 46)
He who is endowed with poverty of spirit can truly pray with Jesus Christ for those who persecute him, saying: Father, forgive them, etc. He who is humble in spirit forgives the one who offends him, and prays for him. Edom (the proud sinner) does just the opposite, as the Lord says in the prophet Amos:
For three crimes of Edom, and for four, I will not convert him:
because he hath pursued his brother with the sword and hath cast of all pity
and hath carried on his fury and hath kept his wrath to the end.
I will send a fire into Theman: and it shall devour the houses of Bosra. (Am 1,11-12)
The first sin is to think evil, the second to consent to it, the third to carry it out in deed, the fourth to be impenitent. He who sins in the first three ways, if he repents, God will convert him to the countenance of his mercy; but if he does not repent, he turns the face of his mercy from him. The Gloss says, "Edom is the same person as Esau and Seir. He persecuted Jacob, so that for fear of him he fled into Mesopotamia, and he did not show mercy towards him. The hatred that was in their father was maintained by his descendants, the Idumaeans, against the sons of Jacob; so that when they went out of Egypt, they would not grant them passage into the Holy Land, thus violating mercy, as though they did not recognise them as brothers." All those who hate their brothers behave like this, and they are not poor in spirit, and therefore God will send the fire of hell upon Theman (meaning ‘the south’), all those who become dissolute in time of worldly prosperity; and it will devour the houses of Bosra, (meaning ‘fortified’), those who fortify themselves with excuses, so as to remain in their sins.
Morally. Edom means ‘bloody’, and it represents our flesh, which takes pleasure in the blood of gluttony and lust. This persecutes its brother Jacob (our spirit) with the sword of concupiscence; and wants to violate the mercy due to him from God. So the latter prays
to the Lord, saying (as in Genesis):
Deliver me from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am greatly afraid of him:
lest perhaps he come, and kill the mother with the children. (Gn 32,11)
The spirit fears the flesh, and already prays to be delivered from the hand of its concupiscence; for if it gives consent, it will kill the mother with the children, the reason with its affections, or indeed the soul itself with its good works.
(The theme for a sermon against the avaricious: Lift up your eyes and see.)
13. Again, he who is meek, who neither offers nor is affected by insults, neither giving nor taking scandal, is able to hear with the good thief- a true confessor- the words: This day you will be with me in paradise, that land of the living which the meek possess. The covetous will not possess this land; like savage beasts they tear their heart in pursuit of gain, and scandalise others as they grab. So they will never hear the gentle whisper: Today you will be with me in paradise; but the thunder of the divine curse: Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire (Mt 25,41). Of such, it says in Zechariah that the angel said:
Lift up thy eyes and see what this is that goeth forth. And I said: What is it? And he saith: This is a vessel going forth. And he said: This is their eye in all the earth. And behold, a talent of lead was carried: and, behold, a woman sitting in the midst of the vessel. And he said: This is wickedness. And he cast her into the midst of the vessel and cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. And I lifted up my eyes and looked: and, behold, there came out two women, and wind was in their wings, and they had wings like the wings of a kite: and they lifted up the vessel betwen the earth and the heaven. And I said to the angel that spoke in me: Whither do these carry the vessel? And he said: that a house may be built for it in the land of Senaar. (Za 5,5-11)
The vessel is avarice, whose mouth is never shut, but always gapes wide for temporal things. This is the eye in all the earth, because everyone knows and recognises avarice, and has eyes for it. The companion of avarice is the lump of lead, stuffed in its mouth, eternal punishment which can neither be swallowed nor spat out.
The two women are robbery and theft. Robbery is found in the strong, theft in the weak. They are said to have ‘the wings of a kite’, ready to pounce. The kite appears a gentle bird as it flies, yet it is the most rapacious, and preys on domestic fowl. It represents the proud robber. This vessel is lifted up between heaven and earth, because the covetous man has chosen his place neither in heaven with the angels, nor on earth with men, but in the air, like the traitor Judas and the demons. These women do not let the miser go until they set him in the land of Sennaar, the stinking place which is hell (Sennaar means ‘stench’).
(On the protection of God: The Lord is good and comforting.)
14. Again, he who mourns for his own sins or those of his neighbour, or for the wretchedness of this exile, or the delay of the kingdom, is comforted by the Lord who comforted his own mother as she mourned his Passion, saying: Woman, behold thy son. So the prophet Nahum says of him: The Lord is good and giveth strength in the day of trouble and knoweth them that hope in him (Na 1,7); and he says in Zechariah:
I will be to it a wall of fire round about: and I will be in glory in the midst thereof. (Za 2,5)
And Exodus says: A dew lay round about the camp (Ex 16,13). Christ is a wall of fire defending his own, burning up their enemies yet refreshing them in the midst with glory.
(On the threefold justice: "He who hungers and thirsts")
15. Again, he who has hunger and thirst for justice, renders to everyone what is due to him, namely, love for God and for his neighbour, and for himself affliction for the things he has done. This triple justice is expressed in the three phrases: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? He mentions God twice, on account of the two-fold love; and being forsaken, on account of bodily penance. So the Gloss says: "Why hast thou forsaken me? means, ‘Why have you exposed me to so much pain?’- said by the Son to the Father.
Of these three phrases, Habbakuk says: The just man liveth by faith (Ga 3,11 cf. Hab Ha 2 Hab Ha 4). ‘Just’ implies keeping to what is right. ‘Just’ refers to the man himself, ‘faith’ to God, and ‘lives’ to his neighbour. He who is just, doing what is right regarding himself, judging and condemning himself, lives by faith in God in love of neighbour. As John says: He that loveth not abideth in death (1Jn 3,14).
(On mercy, and the three properties of vinegar: Because he is merciful.)
16. Again, if he is merciful to others, God will be merciful to him. The pitiless Jews did not act like this when they offered Christ, thirsting on the cross, not a cup of cold water but vinegar mixed with gall; and when he had tasted, he would not drink (cf. Mt 27,34), because though he tasted the bitterness of the punishment due to our guilt, he did not take into himself the guilt itself. Today, false Christians do the same thing to Jesus Christ, showing themselves worse than the Jews; and therefore they will find no mercy in the time of trouble.
Note that there are three things to consider regarding the vinegar. First, its sour taste; secondly, the purified wine; thirdly, its deterioration into vinegar. It is the same with the false Christian. Before Baptism he was a wild and sour grape, because he lacked faith.
As the Apostle says, We were all born children of wrath (cf. Ep 2,3). After Baptism, he became like a fragrant wine, by faith. But later still, he deteriorated into vinegar, by mortal sin. Vinegar is sour and watery. When wine is mixed with water, it quickly goes sour and acidic. When the faithful soul mingles with the water of carnal pleasure, he
quickly turns into the vinegar of mortal sin; which, so far as he can, he offers Christ to drink, I’d say, not hanging on the cross, but reigning now in heaven.
So Christ complains in Isaiah: I looked that my vineyard should bring forth grapes, and it hath brought forth wild grapes (Is 5,4). Explaining this, he adds: I looked that he should do judgement, and, behold, iniquity: and to do justice, and, behold, a cry (Is 5,7). Wild grapes grow by the way-side. The sinner’s works, the iniquity of avarice and the cry of lust, are like wild grapes by the way-side, torn off by every passer by. So Ezekiel says:
At every head of the way thou hast set up a sign of thy prostitution,
and hast made thy beauty to be abominable,
and hast prostituted thyself to every one that passed by. (Ez 16,25)
17. Again, he who wants to have cleanness of heart, so as to see God, must needs put an end to all sin, so as to say with Jesus: It is consummated. But the iniquities of the Amorrhites are not yet finished, and so, as Isaiah says: The Lord God shall make a consummation, and and abridgement in the midst of all the land (Is 10,23); and Ezekiel:
Thus saith the Lord God: The end is come, the end is come upon the four quarters of the land. Now is an end come upon thee. And I will send my wrath upon thee and I will judge thee according to thy ways. (Ez 7,2-3)
18. Again, he who has peace in his heart truly deserves to be called a child of God the Father, to whom he says in the hour of his death, with the only-begotten Son of God: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, because he passes from peace of heart to eternal peace. So God promises in Isaiah:
You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace.
The mountains and the hills shall sing praise before you:
and all the trees of the country shall clap their hands. (Is 55,12)
You will go out from bodily things; great and small, the angelic powers will sing; and all the souls of the saints which are in heavenly bliss will clap, rejoicing at your coming. These, then, are the seven lights and seven funnels with which the candlestick is illumined, and the penny (the soul) is marked with the image of the king.
(On hope and fear: Two olive trees.)
19. There follows: And two olive-trees over it, one on the right of the lamp and one on the left. The lamp is the illumination of grace. The two olive-trees are hope and fear,
which protect the infused grace: the hope of pardon on the right, and the fear of punishment on the left. Of these two Micah says:
I will shew thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord requireth of thee:
verily, to do judgement, and to love mercy, and to walk solicitous with thy God. (Mi 6,8)
From judgement comes fear; mercy means works of mercy, from which arises hope. The Gloss says, "Seek no other reward in these, than to please God and walk with God as Enoch did, that you may be taken away by him like Enoch. Where there is fear and hope, there will be solicitous conversation with God."
And note that oil floats on other liquids, representing hope of eternal things, which is higher than anything transitory. Hope has been called the foot whereby we walk to the Lord. Hope is the expectation of good things yet to come, shown in humble demeanour and conscientious obedience. Oil seasons food, too, and we should season our every work with fear. So the psalm says: Serve ye the Lord with fear (Ps 2,11), so that He that stands, let him take heed lest he fall (cf. 1Co 10,12). And so that it should not appear as a wretched servitude, there is added: And rejoice unto him with trembling (Ps 2,11); lest one should fall again into presumption. See now the meaning of the penny marked with the image, and the candlestick lit by the lamp, and how they are concordant.
Let us ask, then: Whose is this image and superscription? The superscription on the penny is the name of Christ, which is above every name (cf. Ph 2,9), upon the Christian. We are named after Christ, no-one else. So he himself says in the psalm:
In thy book all shall be written: days shall be formed, and no one in them. (Ps 138,16)
O Father, in me, the book of life, all the faithful are inscribed, that is, taught and named. Days shall be formed, those greater ones like the Apostles, of whom it is said: Day to day uttereth speech (Ps 18,3), and no-one of mine shall be formed in them, because they will not be called ‘of Peter’ or ‘of Paul’, but ‘of Christ’, whereby they are called Christians.
(On the conversion of the sinner: Take away the robe.)
20. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause of the Gospel: Our conversation is in heaven (Ph 3,20). So that our conversation may be in heaven, we should pray the Lord to do for us what he himself says of Joshua son of Josedech in Zechariah:
Take away the filthy garments from him. And he said to him: Behold, I have taken away thy iniquity and have clothed thee with a change of garments. And he said: Put a clean mitre upon his head. And they put a clean mitre upon his head and clothed him with
white garments. (Za 3,4-5)
The filthy garments represent worldly conversation, which soil the soul and the conscience. Whence it says in the Apocalypse: He that is filthy, let him be filthy still (Ap 22,11); and in Jeremiah: Her filthiness is on her feet (Lm 1,9), meaning unclean behaviour at the end of life. So Joel says: The beasts have rotted in their dung (Jl 1,17).
Behold, I have taken away thy iniquity. These are the filthy garments. The Lord first takes away the uncleanness of previous behaviour, and then puts on a change of clothing, virtues and decent morals, which make up heavenly conversation.
And he said: Put a clean mitre upon his head. A mitre has two points, representing the knowledge of the two Testaments and a two-fold love. The mitre on the head represents knowledge or two-fold love in the mind. The white garments are pure works in the flesh; whence the Lord says in the Apocalypse: They shall walk with me in white, because they are worthy (Ap 3,4), and their conversation is in heaven.
From whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory (Ph 3,20-21). See how the penny is marked with the image of our king! He whose conversation is in heavenly, not earthly, matters, can securely look for the Saviour. The prophet Amos says the opposite:
Woe to them that desire the day of the Lord! To what end is it for you?
The day of the Lord is darkness and not light. (Am 5,18)
Trouble, not prosperity. Then they will see that the works they thought so bright are darkened. The Gloss says, "Many proud people seem to be just, and say they desire the day of judgement, or of their death, that they may begin to be with Christ. But he says ‘Woe’ to them, because none is without sin, and precisely because they have no fear in them, they deserve punishment." Only those may safely wait for the Lord Jesus, who abide in heavenly conversation.
21. And so Holy Church, in the Introit of today’s Mass, invites us to praise Jesus Christ, saying:
O clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of joy.(Ps 46,2)
You nations converted to faith and penitence, whose conversation is in heaven, rejoice in good works. Let your hand and tongue be concordant. Let the former work and the latter confess. It says in Leviticus that the turtle-dove’s head should be twisted back to the wings (cf. Lv 5,8), meaning word should match deeds. What is the reason for clapping and shouting for joy? Because the Lord Jesus will change the body of our
lowness and wretchedness, so that it may be like the penny marked with the king’s image, made like to the body of his glory, because: We shall be like to him (1Jn 3,2), and we shall see him face to face (1Co 13,12) as he is, and his glory will be reflected in our faces.
Therefore, dearest brothers, let us humbly pray him, our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ, to reshape the penny and light the lamp of our souls, so that renewed in soul and body we may be conformed to his radiance in the glory of the resurrection. May he himself graciously grant us this, who is blessed and glorious, the most high God for ever and ever. Let every soul, marked with the king’s image, say: Amen. Alleluia.
Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)