Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)
1 BERNARD, De diversis sermo 42,3; PL 183.662
2 GUIGO THE CARTHUSIAN, Epistola ad fratres 11,3,14; PL 40.29
3 AUGUSTINE, In loannis Evangelium 9,9; PL 35.155
4 BERNARD, In tempore Resurrectionis ad abbates, sermo 2,10; PL 183.287
5 GREGORY, Moralia VI,35,54; PL 75.738
6 i.e. ‘archi- tri- clinus = chief-three-couch’
(The Gospel for the second Sunday after the Octave of the Epiphany: When Jesus came down; which is divided into two clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon against the rich and wise of this world: It was neither herb.)
1. At that time: When Jesus came down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him; and, behold, a leper came, etc. (Mt 8,1-2)
The book of Wisdom says:
It was neither herb, nor mollifying plaster that healed them:
but thy almighty word, O Lord, which healeth all things. (Sg 16,12)
Note these two things; ‘herb’ and ‘mollifying plaster’. The herb stands for transitory riches, the ‘plaster’ or ‘poultice’ for worldly wisdom. The verdant grass is as the glamour of wealth, which dries up in the summer heat of death. So St James says:
The rich shall pass away as the flower of the grass;
for the sun rose with a burning heat and parched the grass;
and the flower thereof fell off, and the beauty of the shape thereof perished.
So also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. (Jc 1,10-11)
And Isaiah says:
The reed and the bulrush shall wither away. (Is 19,6)
The reed, hollow inside and shiny outside, is vainglory. The bulrush, soaking up water, is greed for riches. Both wither in death. Isaiah says:
A fading flower, the glory of the joy of Ephraim, (cf. Is 28,4)
meaning carnal folk, who say, in the book of Wisdom:
Let not the flower of our time pass by us;
let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered.
Let no meadow escape our visit. (Sg 2,7-8)
0 wretched men! What does it profit a thief to walk through green meadows, if it is to the gallows? What use was his purple and fine linen to the rich glutton, when after a little while he was buried in hell? Job says:
1 know... that the praise of the wicked is short,
and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. (Jb 20,4-5)
Here is the reason why the herb of riches does not heal the soul from the sickness of sin, but rather kills it. There is no health in it, only poison which is driven out solely by the medicine of poverty.
Similarly, the plaster of worldly wisdom does not confer health, as Isaiah says:
The wise counsellors of Pharao have given foolish counsel. (Is 19,11)
Let not the soul of those seeking the Lord come into their counsel! (cf. Gn 49,6). All their wisdom has been swallowed up (Ps 106,27), who are
ever learning and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres (Pharao’s wise men) resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no farther. (2Tm 3,7-9)
How should they confer health, who are so far from salvation? The herb of riches does not cure the leper: far worse, it makes a leper of the healthy man! The plaster of worldly wisdom does not cure the paralysed servant; far worse, it adds to his torment. As Jeremiah says:
They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (Jr 4,22)
It is your almighty word, Lord: I will, be clean; go, be it unto you according to your faith- which heals the leper and the centurion’s paralysed servant. This is recounted in today’s Gospel: When Jesus came down from the mountain.
2. There are two things to note in this Gospel: the cleansing of the leper and the cure of the palsied servant. The first: When he came down; the second: When he had entered Capharnaum.
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: Adore the Lord, all his angels; and the Epistle to the Romans is read: Be not wise, which we will divide into two parts and concord with the two clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: Be not wise; the second: If thy enemy be hungry.
(Against those who are infected with the leprosy of vainglory, lust and avarice: When there shall be a white colour.)
3. Let us say, then: When Jesus came down from the mountain.
Let us see what is meant by the mountain, and Jesus coming down. The mountain is the eternity of heavenly glory, of which the Psalm says:
Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? (Ps 23,3)
He who comes down from his own dignity, and humbles himself like a little child, he it is who ‘comes down from the mountain’. His coming down in the flesh was a humiliation. He ‘bowed the heavens’ (Ps 17,10) of his divinity and came down into the womb of his virgin mother. We have dealt with this subject in many places, and so lest wordiness induce boredom, we will not deal with it further, but proceed to the cleansing of the leper, how it happened and what it means, morally.
And, behold, a leper came and adored him. (Mt 8,2)
Regarding the kinds of leprosy and their meaning, see the Gospel of the ten lepers (Pentecost XIV). This leper stands for the sinner, infected with the leprosy of mortal sin. Leviticus says:
When there shall be a white colour in the skin, and it shall have changed the look of the hair, and the living flesh itself shall appear:
it shall be judged an inveterate leprosy, and grown into the skin. (Lv 13,10-11)
The white colour represents pride and vainglory, the change of hair avarice, and the living flesh lust. This is ‘inveterate leprosy’. The Lord says in Matthew:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites;
because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly to men appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness. so you also outwardly indeed appear to men just;
but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Mt 23,27-28)
And St Paul says in Acts:
God shall strike thee, thou whited wall. (Ac 23,3)
As regards the change which avarice makes, Jacob says in Genesis to Lia and Rachel: Your father hath over-reached me, and hath changed my wages ten times. (Gn 31,7)
0 how many times avarice changes the ‘hair’, the thoughts of the mind! Ecclesiasticus says:
A fool is changed as the moon, (Si 27,12) meaning the avaricious man.
"It waxes, it wanes, it never stays the same."
He has diverse weights and diverse measures, both abominable before God (Pr 20,10). And so Micah says:
As yet there is a fire in the house of the wicked,
the treasures of iniquity and a scant measure full of wrath.
Shall I justify wicked balances and the deceitful weights of the bag? (No!)
By which her rich men were filled with iniquity,
and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies:
and their tongue was deceitful in their mouth. (Mi 6,10-12)
There are as many ‘consciences’ as there are tongues. This is not the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps 76,11). They are set upon the left hand, because their right hand is filled with gifts (Ps 25,10).
Lust arises from an excess of food and drink, which causes the living and wanton flesh to break out. With a life like that, in thy sight no man living shall be justified (Ps 142,2), but rather condemned. Rebecca said in Genesis: 1
1 am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth (‘life’).
If Jacob takes a wife of the stock of this land, I choose not to live. (Gn 27,46)
Jesus Christ, crucified and dead, did not take a living wife, but one crucified and dead. So the Apostle says:
They that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh, with its vices and concupiscences. (Ga 5,24)
I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body. (Ga 6,17)
‘Living’ flesh means leprous flesh; its ‘life’ should rather be called ‘death’ than ‘life’. Whoever is of this sort, if he wants to live he must come to Life, as did the leper in the Gospel, of whom it is told: And behold, a leper came.
(On the three virtues, without which no-one is cleansed from the leprosy of sin: And behold, a leper, etc.)
4. And, behold, a leper came and adored him, saying:
Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (Mt 8,2)
Note that the three words ‘came’, ‘adore’ and ‘said: Lord, if thou wilt’ denote contrition, confession and faith, which are very needful for every sinner. First he should ‘come’ by contrition: Come from Libanus (Ct 4,8), from the false glamour of worldly vanity. He that heareth, let him say: Come (Ap 22,17). He who hears the whisper of a gentle breeze (1R 19,12) in his mind, by inward inspiration, should say to the sinner ‘come’, by contrition. As Isaiah says:
If you seek, seek: return, come. (Is 21,12)
So, the leper came and adored him. Behold the humility of confession, expressed more clearly by Mark, who says:
He came to him, beseeching him; and kneeling down said to him: If thou wilt, etc. (Mk
In this way, the sinner, when he comes to confession, should kneel before the priest, the representative of Jesus Christ, who has given him the power of binding and loosing. The one confessing should have such faith in his office that he may say to him. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean, and absolve me from my sins.
There follows: And stretching forth his hand he touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. (Mt 8,3)
He speaks in the imperative mood, his hand turned and as of gold, full of hyacinths (Ct 5,14), and at its touch the tongue of the dumb is loosed, the ruler’s daughter is raised, the leper is cleansed of his leprosy. My hand has made all these things (Is 66,2). The hand bestows reward: so stretch out your hand, Lord, to bestow reward, that hand which was stretched out by the nail on the Cross. Touch the leper: whatever you touch will be cleansed and healed. Luke says:
When he had touched his ear, he healed him. (Lc 22,51)
He stretched out his hand and bestowed the gift of cleansing, saying:
I will: be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. (Mt 8,3)
He hath done all things whatsoever he would (Ps 113B.3). For him, there is no gap between will and deed. Every day, the Lord does this same thing in the soul of the sinner, by the office of the priest; who should have these three things in himself, ‘to stretch out’, ‘to touch’, ‘to will’. He stretches out his hand when he pours out his prayer to the Lord for the sinner, and afflicts himself out of compassion for him. He touches, when he comforts the sinner and promises him pardon. He has the will to cleanse, when he absolves him from his sins. This is the three-fold work of a shepherd, of which the Lord spoke to Peter: Feed, feed, feed (Jn 21,15-17).
(On eternal life, the only reward to be expected: See thou tell no man.)
5. There follows: And Jesus saith to him: See thou tell no man. (Mt 8,4)
This is not the manner of speaking of those who blow their own trumpet when they do anything good, whose left hand knows all too well what their right hand is doing (cf. Mt 6,3). They as it were ‘prostitute their daughter’, against the prohibition of Moses, who said:
Make not thy daughter a common strumpet. (Lv 19,29)
Your ‘daughter’ is your action, and you prostitute it when you sell it to the world’s brothel for the coin of vainglory. What a sad bargain, selling the reward of the heavenly kingdom for the wind of a human mouth! See thou tell no man: do not show what is yours to anyone. Are not God and your conscience enough for you, brother? What have you in common with the tongue of man? It condemns what it should praise. it praises what it should condemn. It casts the just man into the depths of hell, and raises the wicked to the throne of God and of the Lamb. See thou tell no man. So Ecclesiasticus says:
Give no issue to thy water, no, not a little. (Si 25,34)
My secret to myself, my secret to myself. (Is 24,16)
And at the word of Eliseus:
The woman went, and shut the door upon her, and upon her sons. (2R 4,5)
Having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret. (Mt 6,6)
Remove not from house to house. (Lc 10,7)
So, see thou tell no man. Nature sets a double gate in front of the tongue, the teeth and the lips, lest the harlot who loves publicity goes out into the street, talkative and wandering, not bearing to be quiet (Prov.,Do not give a wicked woman liberty to gad abroad. (Si 25,34)
Then you will fulfil the command: See thou tell no man.
There follows: But go, show thyself to the priests (Mt 8.4). These three words and their meaning are explained in the Gospel of the ten lepers: When Jesus was going to Jerusalem (Pentecost XIV).
(On the two-fold offering which every penitent should make for his cleansing: The Lord spoke to Moses.)
6. There follows: And offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them. (Mt 8,4)
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: This is the rite of a leper, when he is to be cleansed. He shall be brought to the priest: who, going out of the camp, when he shall find that the leprosy is cleansed, shall command him that is to be purified, to offer for himself two living sparrows, which it is lawful to eat, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and
hyssop. And he shall command one of the sparrows to be immolated in an earthen vessel over living waters. But the other that is alive he shall dip, with the cedar wood, and the scarlet and the hyssop, in the blood of the sparrow that is immolated: wherewith he shall sprinkle him that is to be cleansed seven times, that he may be rightly purified. And he shall let go the living sparrow, that it may fly into the field... And he shall take (or offer) two lambs without blemish, and an ewe of a year old without blemish, and three tenths of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextuary of oil apart... But if he be poor, and his hand cannot find the things aforesaid: he shall take a lamb for an offering for trespass, and a tenth part of flour tempered with oil for a sacrifice, and a sextuary of oil: and two turtle doves or two young pigeons, of which one may be for sin, and the other for a holocaust. And he shall offer them... to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony before the Lord. (Lv 1,
Let us see what is the moral significance of all this.
Note that there are two kinds of penitents who are cleansed from the leprosy of sin. One is in religious life, the other is in the world. Religious should make the first offering; others (married people, and Catholics whom the care of worldly affairs preoccupies, and who are not so rich in virtues) should make the second.
The ‘two living sparrows’ are the body and spirit of the religious, who can say with the Apostle: I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me (Ga 2,20). He offers these sparrows to the Lord for his cleansing. So it says in Judges:
O you that of your own good will offered yourselves to danger, bless the Lord;
you that ride upon fair asses, and you that sit in judgement, and walk in the way. (Jg 5,142)
The ‘fair asses’ are the bodies of religious, who bear the burden and heat of the day, and who like asses should feed on raw and rough food. Ecclesiasticus says:
Fodder and a wand and a burden are for an ass:
bread and correction and work for a slave, (Si 33,25)
that is, for a religious who ‘sits in judgement’ when he is under obedience to a superior, and ‘walks in the way’ Jeremiah speaks of:
This is the good way, and walk you in it, (Jr 6,16)
that Way who himself says: I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14,6).
He should also offer the ‘cedar wood’ of poverty, the ‘scarlet’ of charity and the ‘hyssop’
of humility. The tall cedar of poverty, whose scent puts to flight the serpents of avarice and robbery, is joined to the hyssop of humility, which drives out the swelling of the lungs by means of the scarlet of a twofold charity. One of the sparrows (that is, the body) he shall sacrifice, so as to say with the Apostle:
The world is crucified to me, and I to the world, (Ga 6,14)
I am even now ready to be sacrificed. (2Tm 4,6)
‘In an earthen vessel’, for as the Apostle says:
We have this treasure in earthen vessels. (2Co 4,7)
‘Over living waters’, namely compunction and tears, which are ‘living’ when they are poured out upon ‘the upper and the nether watery ground’ (Jos 15,19 Jg 1 Jg 15), of which Zechariah says:
In that day living waters shall go out from Jerusalem (the heart of the penitent),
half of them to the east sea (the ‘upper watery ground’)
and half of them to the last sea (the ‘nether watery ground’). (Za 14,8)
The ‘east sea’ is bitterness for the splendour of eternal life; the ‘last sea’ is bitterness for the sins committed by oneself, for our earthly exile, and for the sins of one’s neighbour. So the religious should ‘immolate the sparrow in an earthen vessel over living waters’, by crucifying his body with its vices and desires, and pondering in bitterness of spirit the frailty of life and the downfall of our exile.
There follows: But the other that is alive, etc. The living sparrow is the spirit, which he should dip, along with the cedar-wood of poverty, the scarlet of charity and the hyssop of humility, in the blood of the sparrow (the body) which has been sacrificed on the altar of penitence. The affliction and discipline of the body (represented as ‘blood’) cleanses and sanctifies the spirit, so that it flies on the wings of contemplation, with those other virtues we have mentioned, to the field of heaven.
There follows: And he shall take two lambs without blemish, etc. The two lambs stand for meekness of soul and body; the ewe for a simple and pure intention in all one’s work; the three-tenths of flour for the threefold obedience of a superior, an equal and an inferior; and the sextuary of oil for the six works of mercy. This is the offering which every religious should offer for the cleansing of his own sin.
There follows: But if he be poor, etc. The lamb represents innocence of life, the tenth part of flour the perfection of eternal charity, the sextuary of oil the six works of mercy (as before), the two turtle-doves or pigeons the two-fold sighing which the sinner should emit for things done and left undone. This is the offering which married people and other good folk still living in the world should make to the Lord- namely, to live innocently, to love their neighbour, to do works of mercy and to be sorry for sins of commission and omission. So let us say: Go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.
(Against the worldly-wise: Be not wise.)
7. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause: Be not wise in your own conceits (Rm 12,16). The wisdom of the flesh is the leprosy of the soul, for : The wisdom of the flesh is death (Rm 8,6). Isaiah says:
Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, this hath deceived thee. (Is 47,10)
They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (Jr 4,22)
There is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord, (Prov
who, as Job says, bringeth counsellors to a foolish end, and judges to insensibility (Jb 12,17). So God says in the prophet Obadiah:
I shall destroy the wise out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau. (Ob
Edom means ‘bloody’, and Esau ‘heap of stones’. The ‘Edomites’ are the lawyers who squeeze blood from the poor. They are the two daughters of the horseleech (the devil) that say, Bring, bring... and never say, Enough (Pr 30,15). The ‘mount of Esau’ is the dignity of clerics, who are like a heap of stones in the Church of Christ, like milestones which point the way to others, but remain hard, senseless and immovable themselves. The Lord will destroy the wisdom of the Edomites and the understanding of those others. So: Be not wise in your own conceits.
There follows: To no man rendering evil for evil (Rm 12,17).
Here is the meekness and innocence we have just referred to regarding the lambs without blemish.
Providing good things, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of all men: this is the sextuary of oil, the works of mercy.
If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men.
Here are the spotless ewe and the tenth part of flour, mixed with oil.
Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath: the young doves without gall.
Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.
On the day of retribution, he will give judgement for the meek of the earth, the turtledoves and young pigeons, the penitents and humble of Holy Church, who make the above offering for the cleansing of their leprosy.
Let us ask, then, dear brothers, the Lord Jesus Christ himself to cleanse us from the leprosy of pride and vainglory, lust and avarice, whereby we may make the prescribed offering, and, cleansed from all sin, may be found fit to be presented in the heavenly temple. He is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(On the second clause.
The theme for a sermon on the devil’s strife against the just man, and on the five soldiers who defend him: There appeared to the enemies.)
8. There follows, secondly:
And when he had entered Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him, etc. (Mt 8,5)
As regards the name ‘Capharnaum’, and its meaning, see the Gospel: There was a certain ruler (Pentecost XXI).The Lord would not go to the son of the ruler, lest he seem to honour wealth; but he quickly agreed to go to the centurion’s servant, lest he seem to despise his lowly status. So he said; I will come and heal him (Mt 8,7). Behold, our physician, who "By his word alone cures all things," and of whom Ecclesiasticus says:
Honour the physician for the need thou hast. (Si 38,1)
And the centurion, making answer, said; Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter
under my roof, etc. (Mt 8,8)
Zacchaeus received the Lord with joy (cf. Lc 19,6); there is a difference in attitude to be seen here. Some, out of reverence for the Body of Christ, say, "Lord, I am not worthy", and abstain from frequent reception of the Eucharist. Others, honouring the Body of Christ, receive it freely. And so Augustine says, "I neither praise nor dispraise the daily reception of the Eucharist... because it is for reverence sake that some do not dare to receive it daily, and for reverence sake that some do not dare to forgo it any day."
There follows: But only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, etc. (Mt 8,8-9)
From this it is proved that even without being bodily present he can tell sickness to depart and health to come, he to whom all the angels serve, obey and adore. That is why we sing in today’s Introit: Adore God, all his angels, etc. (Ps 96,7).
And Jesus, hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel; (Mt 8,10)
that is to say, in the Israel of his time. He found it in ancient times, in the patriarchs and prophets; and we also except the blessed Virgin and the disciples, on whom a greater faith was divinely bestowed.
There follows: And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west (that is: the Gentiles, represented by the centurion, will come to the Catholic faith) and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (that is: they will take their rest with the others to be saved) but the children of the kingdom (the Jews) shall be cast out into exterior darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mt 8,11-12)
Weeping because of the heat, gnashing because of the cold, because, as Job says:
They will pass from the snow waters to excessive heat, (Jb 24,19)
for in hell there is unquenchable fire and unbearable cold, and the Lord here implies these punishments.
There follows: And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee; (Mt 8,13)
because each one is given what he asks, in proportion to the measure of his faith.
And the servant was healed at the same hour.
Your almighty word, Lord, cleansed the leper and cured the servant.
9. Morally. The centurion with soldiers under him represents the prelate, or any just man, who should be armed with virtues like soldiers. It says in the second book of Kings:
And all the people and all the warriors walked on the right and on the left side of king David. (2S 16,6)
And all the servants of the king walked by him, and the bands of the Cerethi (‘destroyers’) and the Phelethi (‘life-givers’). (2S 15,18)
This refers to the virtues, which destroy sin and give life to the soul.
It says in the second book of Maccabees that when Judas Maccabaeus and Timotheus met in battle:
When they were in the heat of the engagement, there appeared to the enemies from heaven five men upon horses, comely, with golden bridles, conducting the Jews: two of whom took Maccabaeus between them and covered him on every side with their arms and kept him safe: but cast darts and fireballs against the enemy, so that they fell down, being both confounded with blindness and filled with trouble. (2M 10,29-30)
Timotheus’ name suggests a well-doer: but he stands for the devil, who seems at the moment a benefactor to worldlings, but later on will be shown up as a poisoner. Those whom he incites to sin he will torment with punishment. When he has gathered his army of vices, he goes to war against Maccabaeus, the just man. And when the battle is hot, behold from heaven, from heavenly kindness, there appear five men, the five virtues of humility of mind, chastity of body, love of poverty, excellence in two-fold charity, and the intention of final perseverance. These ride upon the horses of good-will; (as Solomon says: The horse is prepared for the day of battle: but the Lord giveth safety. (Pr 21,31)) with the bridles of abstinence and discipline, golden by discretion; so leading the Jews (penitents). They bring the enemies to an end, the demons and vices, since the entry of virtue brings about the departure of vice. Humility and chastity protect and defend Maccabaeus (the just man) from elation of heart and defilement of body.
Whoever is defended by soldiers like these may well say to one (humility or patience), "Go to obedience and subjection of every kind, to bearing any injury;" and he goes. As the Philosopher says, "Patient endurance brings joy."
The wicked have wrought upon my back, (Ps 128,3)
that is, upon my patience. And he says to another (chastity or abstinence), "Come to restrain the greedy appetite, the lustful flesh;" and he comes. And the same is to be understood of the other virtues.
10. There follows: And to my servant: Do this, and he does it. (Mt 8,9)
The just man’s servant is his flesh, of which Ecclesiasticus says:
Torture and fetters are for a malicious slave: send him to work, that he be not idle; for idleness hath taught much evil. (Si 33,28-29)
How happy the man who has a servant so obedient to him, that he obeys whatever he is properly commanded. Tell him to fast, and he fasts; tell him to keep vigil, and he keeps vigil; and so on. Then indeed the spiritual man says to his servant, "Do this," and he does it. The centurion’s man-servant is the priest’s parishioner, who is paralysed and grievously tormented. Whenever he is freed from vices and pleasures, he is violently held by the devil. The prelate who is armoured with virtue, and has manfully subdued the flesh his slave, may after the example of the centurion beg health for his man-servant.
Note that in this Gospel God’s surpassing mercy, kindness and love for the leper and the palsied man is made manifest. In the same way, in the second clause of today’s Epistle there is shown the mercy and love that we ought to have towards our neighbours.
If thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat; if he thirst, give him to drink. (Rm 12,20)
This is what Eliseus did when, as the fourth book of Kings tells us, he ordered that the enemies who had sought to capture him should be given bread and water, to eat and drink (cf. 2R 6,22).
For, doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire (of charity) upon his head (his mind). (Rm 12,20)
The malice of a cold heart is set alight by the fire of charity, when he who hates is loved, when he who persecutes is given gifts in return. A man is naturally ashamed not to love one who loves him, not to embrace with arms of charity whoever serves him devotedly.
Let us then, dear brothers, ask the Lord Jesus Christ to defend us with these soldiers, to cure the palsied servant, to set the cold heart on fire with charity. May he graciously grant us this, who is blessed, to be praised, and glorious for ever. Let every soul cured of its palsy say: Amen. Alleluia.
7 Antony is quoting a contemporary verse:
"Just like the moon, so varies fortune’s game:
It waxes, it wanes, it never stays the same."
8 ROMAN BREVIARY, Antiphon 2 at Lauds, feast of St Agatha.
9 AUGUSTINE, Epistola 54,3,4; PL 33.201
10 LUCAN, Civil War IX,403
(The Gospel for the last Sunday: When Jesus went up into the boat.)
(The theme for a sermon on the preacher and the congregation of sinners: Go up into the woodland.)
1. At that time: When Jesus went up into the boat, his disciples followed him. (Mt 8,23)
It says in the book of Joshua:
Go up into the woodland, and cut down room for thyself in the land of the Pherezite and the Rephaim. (Jos 17,15)
This ‘woodland’ is the barren congregation of sinners; cold, dark and full of wild beasts. It is cold from lack of charity, for iniquity hath abounded and charity hath grown cold (Mt 24,12). It is dark from lack of the true light, for men loved darkness rather than light (Jn 3,19). It is full of the wild beasts of gluttony and lust, of usury and rapine; for: The boar
out of the wood hath laid it waste (Ps 79,14). In this wood is Nimrod the hunter. Both he and the boar stand for the devil.
Go up, then, into this woodland, O preacher, and with that axe whose handle is humanity and whose iron head is divinity, cut down room for yourself; for: The axe is laid to the root (Mt 3,10).The tree of human loftiness, the woodland of a barren and sinful congregation, will be cut down by the axe of the Lord’s Incarnation. When it pays attention to the divine head bowed upon the breast of a poor Virgin, it falls from its own untouched, virgin, state and there is made a spacious place where the city of the Lord of Hosts may be built, which the waters of a river make glad (Ps 45,5). This is the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps 76,11), so that where sin abounded grace may abound still more (Rm 5,20).
It says: In the land of the Pherezite and the Rephaim. These names mean ‘separated’ and ‘giants’, or ‘wanton mothers’. These three terms represent three accursed things: pride, avarice and lust. Proud souls separate themselves from others in scorn; the avaricious resemble the giants, sons of earth and devoted to what is earthly; the lustful are like wanton mothers who nourish the affections of the flesh with the two breasts of gluttony and lust.
To cut down this woodland, rooted in such a land, let the preacher go up, following the footsteps of him who went up into the boat, as today’s Gospel tells: When Jesus went up into the boat.
Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)