Anthony_Sermons - (@JDT 7,18-20@)
(A theme for a sermon on the mercy of God, which consists in his Incarnation and Passion; and on the nature of the cypress-tree: When Assuerus saw )
8. There follows, secondly:
And she was a widow; and a great multitude of the city was with her. Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her, he said: Weep not. And he came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it stood still. And he said: Young man, I say to thee, arise. And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. (Lc 7,12-15)
The Gloss comments: "First he is moved with mercy, an example of goodness for us to imitate; then he raises to life, building up a faith of wonderful power." There is a concordance to both in the Book of Esther. First:
When Assuerus saw Esther the queen standing, she pleased his eyes, and he held out toward her the golden sceptre which he held in his hand. And she drew near, and kissed the top of his sceptre. (Est 5,2)
The sceptre was the symbol of pardon. Assuerus means ‘blessedness’, and he represents Jesus Christ, the blessedness of the saints. When he sees Esther (‘hidden’, a reference to the soul which should hide from the devil’s face in the wounded side of Christ) standing there- not faltering under adversity, nor bending down to earthly desires, nor sitting in idleness, nor lying on a bed of pleasure- she pleases his eyes. O blessed Jesus, blessed is the one who is pleasing in your eyes, but unhappy the one who pleases his own! Do you want to please God? First displease yourself. As Ezekiel says:
They shall be displeased with themselves because of the evils which they have committed in all their abominations. (Ez 6,9)
Then you will be able to say with David: I am well pleased with thy truth (Ps 25,3).
Note that God’s mercy comprises two things, his Incarnation and his Passion. To humble the eyes of our pride, we should have mercy before the eyes of our mind, the Incarnation and the Passion. Solomon says in Proverbs: Let not these things depart from thine eyes (Pr 3,21); and Exodus (13.7):
It shall be to thee as a sign and as a thing hung between thine eyes, for a remembrance.
The analogy is with someone who ties a knot, or whatever, to stop himself forgetting.
I am well pleased with thy truth. The Psalm says, In thy truth thou hast humbled me (Ps 118,75), as if to say, when I consider the humility of Truth (your Son), I humble myself and so am pleasing to you. Or, I am well pleased with thy truth, in the fulfilment of your promises. Before the Lord had fulfilled his promises, man was deformed and could not please him; but after he was re-formed by the Incarnation of God’s Son, whereby the Lord’s promises were fulfilled, he was able to please him. Because Jesus Christ brought about this reformation, he himself says in Ecclesiasticus:
I was like a cypress-tree on Mount Sion. (Si 24,17)
Natural History teaches us that the leaf of the cypress cures mange, a kind of leprosy. Christ took away the stain of corruption which reflected in our mirror, so meriting to hear, for himself and for his baptized; This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Mt 3,17). It is well said, then, that Esther was pleasing in Assuerus’ eyes.
There follows: And he held out toward her the golden sceptre... The golden sceptre is the Cross of his Passion, whereby he gained power. So he said: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth (Mt 28,18); And the Apostle: For which cause, God also hath exalted him.. (Ph 2,9). He extended this sceptre towards the soul, when he drew near and touched the bier. See the concordance! The bier is man’s conscience, and when the Lord touches it with the golden sceptre of his Passion, signing it with his blood and fixing in it the remembrance of his Passion, the soul rises; and trusting in his mercy, she kisses the end of the sceptre. The end of the sceptre (the Lord’s Passion) is charity, of which the Apostle says in today’s Epistle:
To know the charity of Christ which surpasseth all knowledge. (Ep 3,19)
It exceeds all knowledge, and cannot be known in full. The love of Christ, who loved us to the end, is beyond human knowledge. God was made man, a just man dying for the wicked. The soul kisses the end of the sceptre when it is inseparably joined to Christ’s love, and can say with the Apostle:
Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? (Rm 8,35)
(The four elements and their meaning: And they that carried it stood still.)
9. And they that carried it stood still. The sinner is ‘carried’ by the four elements of which he is made up. He is carried by the earth, when he thinks only of earthly things; as the Psalm says:
They have set their eyes bowing down to the earth. (Ps 16,11)
He is carried by water, when he thinks of lust; as Jacob said to Ruben in Genesis:
Thou art poured out as water, grow thou not: because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed, and didst defile his couch. (Gn 49,4)
It is told that he slept with Bala, his father’s concubine. He is carried by air, when he does everything for the sake of human praise. Air is less substantial than other elements, and so it represents vainglory, thin and transparent untruth. So the Psalm says:
The sons of men are liars in the balances, to deceive. (Ps 61,10)
"You lying hypocrite, who do you pretend to be? Why do you sell yourself to others under a false appearance, when the scales and balance of truth are weighing you? Weigh yourself in secret, and do not sell yourself to us as more than the just scales measure"4 Finally, he is carried by fire when he is ablaze with anger. The Psalm says:
Like wax that melteth they shall be taken away:
fire hath fallen on them, and they shall not see the sun.(Ps 57,9)
When the fire of wrath falls from the devil upon the sinner’s heart, he melts like wax in words of blasphemy, and is beside himself, and ‘carried away’.
These four carry the soul to burial in hell, but when the Lord touches the sinner’s conscience with the hand of mercy and the golden sceptre of his Passion, those four vices stand still, and the mind recalled to itself by the voice of God comes to life, and responds by obeying the Saviour. So there follows: Young man, I say to thee, arise, etc. Note the four phrases, arise, he sat up, he began to speak, and, he gave him to his mother. This is the right order of returning to life. The sinner must first arise, rising from sin by abominating it and detesting it. Then he must sit up, humbling himself in heartfelt contrition. Thirdly, he must speak in confession; and so the Lord will restore him to his mother, the grace of the Holy Spirit. There is a concordance to these four in the Book of Esther.
(The abomination of sin: Thou knowest, O Lord.)
10. Of the first, abomination of sin, Esther says:
O Lord, who hast the knowledge of all things, thou knowest that I hate the glory of the wicked, and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised, and of every stranger. thou knowest my necessity; that I abominate the sign of my pride and glory, which is upon my head in the days of my public appearance, and detest it as a menstruous rag. (Est 14,14-16)
The soul that wants to rise from sin must in this way hate the glory of worldly things, and detest the bed of the uncircumcised (vices), and abominate the sign of pride and transitory glory, and detest it like a menstruous rag.
(The humility of the contrite heart: Esther had recourse to the Lord.)
Of the second, the humility of a contrite heart, the same Book of Esther tells how:
Esther, fearing the danger that was at hand, had recourse to the Lord. And when she had laid away her royal apparel, she put on garments suitable for weeping and mourning. Instead of divers precious ointments, she covered her head with ashes and
dung: and she humbled her body with fasts. And all the places in which before she was accustomed to rejoice, she filled with her torn hair. And she prayed to the Lord the God of Israel. (Est 14,1-3)
In this way the soul, fearing the danger of eternal death, that threatens sinners, must fly to the Lord’s mercy and put off the robes of temporal glory, putting on the weeping and mourning of repentance; for the various ointments of fleshly delights, she should sprinkle upon her head (her mind) the ashes of the remembrance of her frailty, and the dung of the recollection of her own wickedness. She should humble her body with fasts, and all the places where she used to take pleasure she should fill with her torn hair, so that she may offer for herself as many sacrifices as there were occasions of idle pleasure.
(Confession: Lord God, King.)
Again, regarding confession, Mardochaeus says in the same Book:
And now, O Lord, O king, hear my supplication, and be merciful to thy lot and inheritance. (Est 13,15)
And Esther says:
O my Lord, who alone art our king, help me a desolate woman, and who have no other helper but thee. (Est 14,3)
Mardochaeus means ‘bitter contrition’, from which comes true confession, asking for pardon and turning the grief of penance into the gladness of glory.
(The restoration of the penitent: The man the king would honour.)
11. The same Book of Esther tells how the Lord restores the penitent to grace:
The man whom the king desireth to honour ought to be clothed with the king’s apparel, and to be set upon the horse that the king rideth upon, and to have the royal crown upon his head. And let the first of the king’s princes and nobles hold his horse. And going through the street of the city proclaim before him and say: Thus shall he be honoured, whom the king hath a mind to honour. (Est 6,7-9)
All this, king Assuerus ordered to be done to Mardochaeus. Let us see what is meant by the king’s apparel, the horse and saddle of the king, the royal crown and the first of the king’s princes.
Robes indicate the proper status of a man. The king is Christ, and his robes are the virtues with which he clothes the soul that is converted to him. So it says in Ezekiel:
I washed thee with water and cleansed away thy blood from thee: and I anointed thee with oil. And I clothed thee with embroidery and shod thee with violet-coloured shoes: and I girded thee about with fine linen and clothed thee in fine garments. I decked thee also with ornaments. (Ez 16,9-11)
The blood, said to be sweet, stands for the uncleanness of lust, which is delightful to a man at first, but turns to ashes in his mouth- or rather, to the burning coals of hell. The Lord washes and cleanses this blood from the soul with the water of compunction; and he anoints it with the oil of fatherly consolation, and clothes it with the embroidery of many virtues, and puts on it the sky-blue shoes of eternal longing, to tread down serpents and scorpions. He girds it with the fine linen of chastity, and the fine garments of simplicity and purity of mind. He adorns it with the ornament of decency. The soul, thus clad, can be set upon the horse on which the king rides.
The horse is the body. Its saddle is the humility, or poverty, of Jesus Christ. He sat on it when he humbled himself in flesh. The body that lives in humility and poverty may well be called ‘that on which the king rode’. The soul is set upon this horse, when flesh is subdued to spirit; and then it is crowned with the royal diadem of love for God and neighbour.
The first of the king’s princes, etc. Note that God has set three princes over man, to guard him, namely reason, understanding and memory. The first of these, reason, must hold the horse, lest the body run here and there; and it must lead it through the street of the city, fraternal concord, so that it does not stray. O dearly beloved! Thus is honoured the one whom the king, Jesus Christ, wishes to honour! Whoever aspires to be honoured in this way must first arise, the sit up, then begin to speak, and so be restored with honour to his mother, the grace of the Holy Spirit; that hereafter he may have a share in eternal glory.
(Breadth, length, height and depth, and their meaning: Rooted in charity.)
12. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
That being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth. (Ep 3,17-18)
Note that these four are concordant with the four just mentioned: arise, sat up, began to speak, and gave to his mother. When one arise from the straits of sin, one comes to a wideness of mind; as the Psalm says:
And he brought me forth into a large place:
he saved me, because he was well pleased with me. (Ps 17,20)
The Lord said to his disciples, regarding Lazarus, Loose him, and let him go (Jn11.44). When someone rises from the stink of sin, he goes free.
In the humility of a contrite heart, there is length, regarding past, present and future. The past, to be wept over; the present, to attend to one’s wretchedness; the future, to take care of oneself.
In confession there is height. High and sublime, beyond the threshold of our life, whereby we go in and go out. There is wretchedness in our entrance, anguish in our exit. Confession raises us on high, lifting us from our misery and freeing us from anguish. Confession set the thief on high, freeing him from misery and pain, as he merited to hear the words: Today thou shalt be with me in paradise (Lc 23,43), where there is no misery, but all glory; no anguish, but every joy.
Finally, in the restoration of the converted sinner to his mother, there is the depth of divine mercy. O depth of divine clemency, that human intelligence cannot fathom, because his mercies are countless! Though, as the Book of Wisdom says, "God has ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight' (Sg 11,21), he has not included his mercy in these laws, these bounds. It includes and surrounds them all. His mercy is everywhere, even in hell, because he does not punish as much as the guilty deserve. The earth is full of the Lord’s mercy, and of his fullness we wretches have all received. By God’s mercy I am what I am, without it I am nothing. O Lord, if you take away your mercy, I fall into eternal misery. Your mercy is the pillar of heaven and earth, and if you take it away they all collapse. But, as Jeremiah says, it is by the mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed (Lm 3,22)- the many mercies, many indeed! However often we sin mortally, in mind or body, and are not immediately throttled by the devil, we should reckon it every time to be due to the infinite mercy of God. He waits for us to be converted, and so he does not let the devil throttle us. We should give thanks to the merciful Father for so many mercies, as often as we have sinned and not been consumed. Wretches that we are, why are we ungrateful for so much mercy? Job says:
God hath given him place for penance: and he abuseth it unto pride, (Jb 25,23)
and he treasures up wrath for himself in the day of wrath (cf. Rm 2,5). Have mercy on your own soul, because God’s mercies are from of old, and he will not forget to show mercy on one who will let him.
These four- breadth, length, height and depth- can be made concordant (though in reverse order), with four phrases at the end of the Gospel:
And there came a great fear upon them all;
here we see the depth of fear;
and they glorified God,
this is the height of devotion;
saying: A great prophet is risen up among us;
this is the length of the acceptable time, from when he arose from his Father’s side and came in the fulness of time;
and God hath visited his people; (Lc 7,16)
the breadth of love whereby he has deigned to visit the world.
So, dearest brethren, let us ask the Lord Jesus Christ himself to make us rise from sin, to sit in contrition of heart, and to confess our sins; so that we may be restored to our mother grace, and be led by the hands of the angels to the Jerusalem above, which is our mother. May he grant this, who is good and kind, merciful and gentle, worthy of praise and glory for ever and ever. Let every risen soul say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 This paragraph draws on P. LOMBARD, Sent II, d24,12; from AUGUSTINE, De Genesi contra Manichaeos, II,14,21; PL 34.207
2 PUBLIUS SYRUS, Sententiae, 106
3 SENECA, Epistola 2
4 cf. BERNARD, In Cantica sermo 42.8; PL 183.991
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P.Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the first Sunday after the Octave of Epiphany: There was a marriage.)
(First, the theme for a sermon for preachers: A little gem of carbuncle.)
1. At that time: There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. (Jn 2,1)
A concert of music in a banquet of wine is as a little gem of carbuncle set in gold. (Si 32,7)
‘Carbuncle’ is a diminutive of ‘carbon’; with the words ‘little gem’, it denotes a two-fold humility. The little gem denotes transparency of reputation; the carbuncle, red as fire, is charity. It is ‘set in gold’, the wisdom of the preacher, and when it is so adorned his preaching will be like a concert of music. When outward wisdom matches that of the inner conscience, when eloquence matches life, then there is a ‘concert of music’. When words are not belied by life, sweet is the harmony.
Preaching may well be likened to music, for the nature of music is such (it is said) that if it finds a man sad it increases his sadness, if it finds him joyful it increases his joy. It is the same with preaching. When it tells of the purple-clad rich man buried in hell (Lc 16,19-22); when it warns of the impossibility of the rich man entering heaven, any more than a camel passing through the eye of a needle (Mt 19,24); when it tells how all worldly pomp and glory will be brought to nothing (Mc 10,25): then it increases the sadness of the faithless, the avaricious and usurers. They are always sad, for they "gain with toil, hold with fear, and lose with grief."
A tale told out of time is like music in mourning. (Si 22,6)
As vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a fool’s heart. (Pr 25,20)
The word which bites at vice hangs heavy on the hearing of sinners, but it gladdens the
just who rejoice in the spirit, in the joy of a secure mind. Indeed, it says in Proverbs:
A secure mind is like a continual feast. (Pr 15,15)
The text continues: In a banquet of wine. This banquet of wine has the same meaning as the marriage held in Cana of Galilee, as told in today’s Gospel: There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee.
2. In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: Let all the earth; and we read the Epistle to the Romans: Having different gifts. These are six in number, which we will concord briefly, as best we can, to the six water-pots.
(On the four virtues: chastity, humility, poverty and obedience: The mother of Jesus was there.)
3. There was a marriage. Let us see what is the moral significance of the marriage, Cana of Galilee, the mother of Jesus, his disciples, the failure of the wine, the six water pots, the water turned to wine and the steward of the feast.
Enough has been said earlier about marriage, on the Gospel: The kingdom of heaven is like to a king that made a marriage-feast for his son (Pentecost XX), so we will only deal briefly with the union of bridegroom and bride, the Holy Spirit and the penitent soul.
Cana means ‘zeal’, and Galilee ‘passing across’. In the ‘zeal’ (that is, the love) of passing across, the marriage between the Holy Spirit and the penitent soul is made. Regarding this, there is a concordance in the book of Ruth. Ruth passed from the land of Moab to Bethlehem (Rt 1,6), and Boaz took her as his wife (Rt 4,13). Ruth can mean ‘seeing’ or ‘hastening’ or ‘fainting’; and she represents the penitent soul who sees her sins in contrition of heart, hastens to cleanse them in the fount of confession, and falls from her first virtue in the satisfaction of penance; as the Psalmist says:
My flesh and my heart have fainted away- (Ps 72,26)
meaning my carnal nature and my pride of heart. In this way she passes from the land of Moab (slavery to the devil) in the zeal of love to Bethlehem (‘house of bread’). The love of God is a house of bread to the soul, which is protected and nourished by it. Then, as Bernard says, "The Holy Spirit infuses himself by the way of love."
This is Boaz (which means ‘one in whom there is power’), the power to which Luke refers when he says, Stay in the city till you be endued with power from on high (Lc 24,49). That soul which the Holy Spirit takes as his bride, he clothes with power from on high. So Isaiah says:
It is he that giveth strength (from on high) to the weary,
and increaseth force and might to them that are not. (Is 40,29)
He gives power to rise again, strength against temptation, and support to final perseverance. In the joining of the Holy Spirit and the soul a marriage is made, the marriage-bed of conscience is adorned, the table of good thoughts is set in right order, and the instrument of the five senses is tuned by the hand of discretion. From all these the memory of the abundance of the sweetness of God is published (cf. Ps 144,7), there is jubilation, and the Lord is truly experienced in goodness.
This is the marriage-song chanted in the Introit of today’s Mass:
Let all the earth adore thee, O God, and sing to thee:
let it sing a psalm to thy name, O most High. (Ps 65,4)
‘All the earth’ includes east, south, west and north. Beginners are the ‘east’; proficients, shining like the noon-day sun, are the ‘south’; the perfect, who entirely dead to the world, are the ‘west’; and the ‘north’ consists of good married folk, and Catholics who, though they possess worldly wealth, yet bear many trials and troubles patiently. All this earth must adore the Lord in contrition of heart, sing to him in cheerful confession, and sing a psalm by works of satisfaction: at the marriage celebrated in Cana of Galilee.
4. There follows: And the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited,
and his disciples, to the marriage. (Jn 2,1-2)
O happy marriage, so greatly privileged, so outstandingly blessed! Blessed Mary, Virgin and mother, exemplifies chastity and fruitfulness. Jesus, humble and poor (Learn of me, for I am meek (Mt 11,29); Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of man, etc. (Mt 8,20)), exemplifies humility and poverty. His disciples represent obedience and patience. See, then, the grace and beauty, the privilege and dignity, of marriage!
The Spouse of the soul, the Holy Spirit, even as he unites her to himself, makes her chaste and fertile; chaste in purity of mind, fertile in the offspring of good works. Thus Canticles speaks of all with twin offspring (that is, with works of a two-fold love, the active and the contemplative life) and there is none barren among them (Ct 4,2). On the other hand, Cursed is the barren in Israel (cf. Ex 23,36 Dt 7,14); so Jeremiah says:
The Lord hath trodden the winepress for the virgin (i.e. barren) daughter of Sion. (Lm 1,15)
And so, that the soul may be able to avoid the utterance of the curse, it behoves her to be chaste and fertile, so as to say:
I am the mother of fair love (fertility)
and of fear, and knowledge, and holy hope (chastity). (Si 24,24)
Again, the Holy Spirit makes the soul humble and poor, as it is said:
To whom shall I have respect, but to him that is humble and poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words? (Is 66,2)
At the river Jordan, he came down upon Jesus in the likeness of a dove, a bird that is gentle, and has as it were a sigh for a song (cf. Mt 3,16). How hard it is to preserve humility in the midst of riches! How hard to keep modesty amid pleasure; it seldom ever happens. If you find a rich man who is humble, or a ‘bon viveur’ who is chaste, you can reckon them to be the two lamps in the firmament! But I fear that people like that are rather to be found tinged with hypocrisy. So whoever wants to be truly humble, let him strip himself of riches; for contact with wealth only weakens humility and generates pride. So the Lord complains in Hosea:
I have trained them and strengthened their arms:
and they have imagined evil against me.
They returned, that they might be without yoke;
they became like a deceitful bow. (Os 7,15-17)
The Lord ‘trains’ in those things that pertain to grace, and he ‘strengthens the arms’ of power and strength in those that pertain to nature, and even temporal matters. Then his children may set themselves like a wall for the house of Israel, and stand strong in battle (cf. Ez 13,5). But because iniquity proceeds from richness, ‘they returned’, that they might be children of Belial (whose name means ‘without yoke’, a reference to pride). Isaiah says:
They have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. (Is 1,4)
And they become ‘like a deceitful bow’. Whereas they should shoot the arrows of holy life and doctrine, to strike the foe, they shoot the arrows of a perverse life and of blasphemy against the Lord.
Again, he makes the soul obedient and patient. As it is written:
The Holy Spirit is kind, gentle, steadfast. (cf. Sg 7,23)
These three qualities are to be found in those who are obedient and patient. They are kind, and well-disposed to obey those who are set over them. They are gentle in putting up with, and being compassionate towards, their neighbour. They are steadfast in their intention. If you are not patient, you will never be truly obedient, for obedience is as it were widowed when not supported by patience.
(Against the lovers of worldly joy: Look not upon the wine.)
5. There follows: And the wine failing (Jn 2,3)
Their wine is the gall of dragons, meaning the joy of the world and of the flesh, of which Solomon says:
Look not upon the wine... when the colour thereof shineth in the glass.
It goeth in pleasantly, but in the end it will bite like a snake,
and it will spread abroad poison like a basilisk. (Pr 23,32)
Glass is of base material, fragile in substance, but it shines brightly. It represents the flesh of man, which is also of base material (being procreated from bodily fluids), fragile in substance (for He cometh forth like a flower and is destroyed (Jb 14,2); and his years shall be considered as a spider (Ps 89,9). Isaiah says: They have woven the webs of spiders... which shall not be for clothing (Is 59,5-6)), and bright with the splendour of worldly beauty (of which it is said: Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain (Pr 31,30)). When the wine of worldly pleasure shines in this glass, do not look upon it. That is, when worldly prosperity and fleshly pleasure smile upon you, do not take delight in them. They go in pleasantly, but in the end bite like a snake! As the Lord says:
Woe to you that now laugh; for you shall mourn and weep. (Lc 6,25)
Worldly joy is a seed-ground of eternal sorrow, and it will spread abroad poison like a basilisk. Wine here, poison there. Towards the end of today’s Gospel we read:
Every man at first setteth forth good wine,
and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. (Jn 2,10)
The man whose taste is for what is earthy starts with the wine of worldly pleasure, but he ends up in hell drinking the poison of death, which that serpent the devil spreads upon
the souls of the damned. Alas! How bitter shall be the drink to them that drink it! (Is 24,9), who formerly were drunk from the golden cup of the great harlot, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication (cf. Ap 17,1-2 Ap 17,4). I pray, then, that the wine of worldly joy may fail at the marriage of bride and groom, so that when it does fail there may come to pass what follows: His mother saith to him, They have no wine (Jn 2,3).
Note that (in the Gospels of Luke and John) blessed Mary only made six utterances:
The first was: How shall this be? (Lc 1,34)
The second: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. (Lc 1,38)
The third: My soul doth magnify the Lord. (Lc 1,46)
The fourth: Son, why hast thou so done with us. (Lc 2,48)
The fifth: They have no wine. (Jn 2,3)
The sixth, (spoken to the servants): Do whatever he tells you. (Jn 2,5)
These are like the six steps of Solomon’s throne, the six leaves of the lily, the six rushlights on the candlestick.
The first denotes her firm purpose of inviolable virginity.
The second, her outstanding obedience and humility.
The third, her joy at the blessing conferred on her.
The fourth, her care for her Son.
The fifth, her compassion.
The sixth, her certainty of her Son’s power.
(On the six words of blessed Mary: His mother said to them.)
6. There follows: Woman, what is it to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. (Jn 2,4)
God, the Son of God, took from the blessed Virgin a human nature, in unity of Person. "The Father gave divinity, the mother humanity; the Father majesty, the mother weakness." From his divinity he had the power to change water into wine, to enlighten the blind, to raise the dead. From the weakness of his true humanity he had the ability to
hunger, to thirst, to be bound, spat upon and crucified. And so he says, Woman, what is that to me and to thee? Note those two words, ‘me’ and ‘thee’. The ‘me’ reflects his divinity, the ‘thee’ his humanity. It was as if he would say to his mother, "You ask me for a miracle, which is possible for me from my divine nature. But it is for ‘you’ (my humanity which I took from you) to undergo the Passion."
This is the point of the words that follow: My hour is not yet come- the hour of my Passion, when I tread the winepress alone, and my garments are as those that tread the winepress (cf. Is 63,2-3). My hour is not yet come, when Judas extends his heel upon the grape to press out the wine that inebriates the hearts of them that seek the Lord (cf. Ps 104,3). My hour is not yet come, when the grape of humanity which I took from you is pressed in the winepress of the Cross, so that the wine that makes glad the heart of man may run down (cf. Ps 103,15). When that hour does come, then what will it be to me and to thee, O woman?
(On the six waterpots and their significance: There were set there; and on the pupil and the eyelids, and what they signify.)
7. There follows: There were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. (Jn 2,6)
In Cana of Galilee, the soul which in the zeal of love passes from vice to virtue, there are six waterpots: contrition, confession, prayer, fasting, almsdeeds and heart-felt forgiveness of injuries received. These are what purify the Jews (penitents) from all their sins.
Contrition purifies, as the Lord says in Ezekiel:
I will pour upon you clean water and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness. (Ez 36,25)
And in Jeremiah:
Wash thy heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved.
How long shall hurtful thoughts abide in thee? (Jr 4,14)
Contrition washes the heart from wickedness, and purifies it from hurtful thoughts, whence Leviticus:
The entrails and the feet they shall wash with water. (Lv 1,13)
The ‘entrails’ stand for unclean thoughts, the ‘feet’ for carnal desires, which are washed with the water of contrition.
Confession purifies; whence: "All things are washed in confession." Jeremiah says:
Pour out thy heart like water before the face of the Lord. (Lm 2,19)
Like water, not like wine, milk or honey. When wine is poured out, it leaves an odour in the jar; milk leaves a colour, and honey a taste. But when water is poured out, there remains no trace of any of these. The smell of wine represents the imagining of sin, the colour of milk is the admiration of an empty beauty, the taste of honey the remembrance of confessed sin with mental pleasure. These are the evil remnants spoken of in the Psalm:
They are full of children (evil deeds, the swinish filth of sin)
and they have left to their little ones the remains (to the first movements of sin).(Ps 16,14)
But you, when you pour out your heart in confession, pour it out like water, so that swinish things and their remains may be altogether banished, and so you will be purified from sin.
Prayer purifies; whence the Lord says in Jeremiah:
They shall come with weeping: and I will bring them back in prayers, and I will bring them through the torrents of waters. (Jr 31,9)
And in Ecclesiasticus:
He will not despise the prayers of the fatherless
(meaning the humble penitent, who says: My father and mother (the world and carnal desire) have left me, but the Lord hath taken me up (Ps 26,10)),
nor the widow (the soul of the penitent himself) when she poureth out her complaint.
Do not the widow’s tears run down the cheek,
and her cry against him that causeth them to fall?
For from the cheek they go up even to heaven:
and the Lord that heareth will not be delighted with them.
He that adoreth God with joy shall be accepted: and his prayer shall approach even to the clouds.
The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds. (Si 35,17-21) Fasting purifies; whence Joel says:
Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning. (Jl 2,12)
And in Matthew:
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face. (Mt 6,17)
Moses, after a fast of forty days (cf. Ex 34,28 Dt 9,9) merited to receive the Law of the Lord, which is unspotted, converting and purifying souls (Ps 18,8); and Elias heard the whisper of a gentle breeze (cf. 1R 19,12). It is said that the saliva of a fasting man is deadly to serpents. Great is the power of fasting, which cures the diseases of the soul and overcomes the deceits of the ancient enemy.
Almsgiving purifies; so:
Give alms; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. (Lc 11,41)
As water quencheth a fire, so alms resisteth sins. (Si 3,33)
Of this, Ecclesiasticus says:
The alms of a man is as a purse with him,
and shall preserve the grace of a man as the apple of the eye. (Si 17,18)
Alms may be called ‘a purse’, because what is placed in it is afterwards found in eternal life. Ecclesiastes says:
Cast thy bread upon the running waters (the poor, who go from door to door, a place to place),
for alter a long time thou shalt find it again (Qo 11,1) (in the day of judgement you will find a recompense for it).
I was hungry, and you gave me to eat. (Mt 25,35)
You are a pilgrim, O man, so carry this purse with you on your pilgrim way, that when you arrive late at the inn, you may find in it bread to refresh yourself.
8. Alms also preserve grace as the apple of the eye, because for sharpness of vision the skin over the pupil is extremely thin; and the eyelids exist to protect the eyes. Every animal shuts it eye to prevent any foreign object falling into it, and this is involuntary and instinctive. A man blinks often, because the skin of his eye is thinner than that of all other animals. However, when a bird blinks, it does so with the lower eyelid. Just as the eyelid covers and protects the eye, so almsgiving covers grace, which is as it were the pupil by which the soul sees. Tobias says:
Alms deliver from all sin, and from death,
and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness. (Tb 4,11)
Just as a man instinctively blinks frequently to protect his eyes, so he should regularly give alms to preserve grace. Nature itself teaches and constrains him to do so; so Job says:
Visiting thy beauty thou shalt not sin. (Jb 5,24)
"Your beauty, man, is your fellow man." Just as you naturally provide for yourself, so you should provide for him:
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Mt 19,19)
A man should do this because his skin is thinner than that of other animals; thinness of skin here stands for compassion of mind, which is and should be greater in man than in other animals. A brute proves itself a brute because it lacks compassion. Moses says:
The stranger and the fatherless and the widow, that are within thy gates, shall eat and be filled: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the works of thy hands that thou shalt do. (Dt 14,29) I
I command thee to open thy hand to thy needy and poor brother, that liveth with thee in the land. (Dt 15,11)
Forgiving injuries also purifies the soul from sin; whence the Lord says
If you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. (Mt 6,14)
Someone who does this is like a bird shutting its eye with the lower lid. When a bird flies, it is not bound by any path; in the same way, one who forgives an offence does not have in his heart a path of rancour and hatred. He shuts his eye with the lower lid when he forgives an injury from his heart. This is ‘spiritual almsgiving’, without which all good things lack the reward of eternal life. Ecclesiasticus says:
Forgive thy neighbour if he hath hurt thee:
and then shall thy sins be forgiven thee when thou prayest.
Man to man reserveth anger: and doth he seek remedy of God?
He hath no mercy on a man like himself: and doth he entreat for his own sins?
He that is but flesh nourisheth anger: and doth he ask pardon of God?
Who shall obtain pardon for his sins?...
Remember the fear of God: and be not angry with thy neighbour.
Remember the covenant of the Most High (who said: Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Lc 6,37))
and overlook the ignorance of thy neighbour.
Refrain from strife: and thou shalt diminish thy sins. (Si 28,2-5,8)
To ‘overlook the ignorance of thy neighbour’ is to impute his action not to malice, but to ignorance; and so to excuse it and not keep it in one’s heart.
9. These, then, are the six stone water-pots, made from the stone which the builders rejected (Ps 117,22), the stone cut from the mountain without hands (Da 2,34). How full are they? Full to the brim, with the water of salvation. Each holds two or three measures- two, for the love of God and of neighbour; three, for the confession of the Trinitarian faith. These are necessary in all those water-pots.
The Apostle, too, sets these water-pots among the other words of today’s Epistle:
In spirit fervent (Rm 12,11). This refers to contrition. Just as flies will not enter a boiling pot, so the dying flies that spoil the ointment (Qo 10,1) will not dare to enter a truly contrite heart.
Rejoicing in hope. A reference to confession, in which the sinner should rejoice in the hope of pardon, while grieving for the evil he has done.
Instant in prayer, the third water-pot.
Communicating to the necessities of the saints, fasting. It is by the ‘need’ of fasting and abstinence that the saints are distressed, afflicted, of whom the world was not worthy (He 11,37), in labours, in watchings, in fastings (2Co 6,5), as the Apostle says. This can also be understood of bodily alms, but that is expressed by:
Pursuing hospitality: the fifth water-pot.
Bless them that persecute you, bless and curse not: there is the sixth water-pot, the forgiveness of injuries.
10. There follows:
Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine... (Jn 2,8-9)
This is concordant to what is said in Genesis:
And when he had washed his face from tears, he said: Set bread on the table. And when it was set on, for Joseph apart and for his brothers apart, for the Egyptians also apart... the brothers of Joseph drank and were merry with him. (Gn 43,31-32,34)
Joseph, a growing son and comely to behold (Gn 48,22), is Jesus Christ, who resembles the mustard-seed in smallness and humility, but grew into a great tree, in whose branches the birds of the air dwell (Mt 13,31-32), a reference to those who contemplate heavenly things. He is beautiful above the sons of men (Ps 44,3), and on him the angels long to gaze (1P 1,12). He washed his face from tears; as Isaiah says:
The Lord God shall wipe away the tears from every face, (Is 25,8)
when he changes the water in those water-pots into the wine of heavenly joy. The Lord promises in St John’s Gospel:
I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice,
and your joy no man shall take from you. (Jn 16,22)
Then the heart that was formerly contrite and humble shall be glad and merry with the wine of joy; in Solomon’s words:
The heart that knoweth bitterness.. in his joy the stranger shall not intermeddle. (Pr 14,10)
The water of tearful confession will be changed into the wine of divine praise; as Isaiah says:
They shall return, and shall come into Sion with praise: and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness: and sorrow and mourning shall flee away, (Is 35,10) (which they had previously in the confession of their sin).
The water of tearful prayer will be changed into the joy of contemplating the Trinity and Unity; whence Isaiah says:
They shall praise together:
for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall convert Sion. (Is 52,8)
Fasting will be changed into the joy of the purified vintage. Isaiah says:
The Lord of hosts shall make unto all the people,
in this mountain, a feast of fat things, etc. (Is 25,6)
(See the Gospel: A certain man made a great feast (Pentecost II))
The double almsgiving (namely of temporal benefits and the forgiveness of injuries) will be changed into the joy of the double robe, the glorification of body and soul:
They shall receive double in their land. Everlasting joy shall be unto them. (Is 61,7)
(On the banquet and joy of eternal life: Joseph washed his face.)
11. Let us say, then: When Joseph washed his face from tears, he said: Set bread on the table.
This is what is said in Luke:
I dispose of you, as my Father hath disposed to me, a kingdom: that you may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom. (Lc 22,29-30)
For Joseph apart and for his brothers apart, for the Egyptians also apart... This is what it says in Matthew:
When the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him; and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. (Mt 25,31-32)
They drank and were merry with him. Behold here the steward of the feast, with whom we shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house (Ps 35,9). The ‘chief steward’ is, literally, ‘chief of the three couches’. In ancient times, banquetters used to recline on three rows of couches; these may be taken to represent the three categories of married people, continents, and virgins in the Church; and their chief is Jesus, who will make them to sit down to meat, and passing will minister to them (Lc 12,37).
Let us humbly beg him, then, dear brothers, to grant us to celebrate the marriage at Cana of Galilee, to fill the six-water-pots with water, whereby we may merit to drink with him the wine of eternal joy at the wedding in the heavenly Jerusalem. May he grant us this, who is blessed, to be praised, and glorious for ever and ever. May every soul, bride of the Holy Spirit, say: Amen. Alleluia.
Anthony_Sermons - (@JDT 7,18-20@)