Anthony_Sermons - (ALLEGORICAL SERMON)
9. Nephthali is a hart let loose. Of him, Deuteronomy 33 says:
Nephtali shall enjoy abundance, and shall be full of the blessings of the Lord; he shall possess the sea and the south. (Dt 33,23)
Nephthali (meaning ‘converted’ or ‘widened’) is the penitent who is converted from his evil way and widened in good works. So in Genesis 28, the Lord said to Jacob:
Thou shalt be spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. (Gn 28,14)
The west is the sunset of temporal things, the east is the eternal dawn, the north is the devil’s suggestion and the south is fraternal charity. The penitent spreads himself to the first, to tread it down; to the second, to take hold of it; to the third, to resist it; to the fourth, to love. And note that it puts the west first, and then the east, because unless someone first puts forth their foot to tread down temporal things, he cannot put forth his hand to take hold of heavenly things. Temporal things must decline, so that afterwards eternal things may rise.
This Nephthali is filled with an abundance of grace on the way: The vales shall abound with corn (Ps 64,14), that is, humble minds with the gift of grace. And he will be full of the blessing of glory in his homeland: Come, ye blessed of my Father, etc. (Mt 25,34). But meanwhile, while he is on the way he must first possess the ‘sea’ of bitter penance and the ‘south’ where the sun shines and gives heat, the light of wisdom with regard to the contemplation of God, and heat as regards love of neighbour. Thus, Nephthali is a hart let loose.
10. Natural History says that the hart directs its course by practice, being accustomed to
leap over thorny and pitted places. When it hears the barking of dogs, it makes its way down-wind, so that its scent is blown away. It hears keenly with pricked-up ears, but not when they are down. When it feels itself growing sick, it eats twigs of olive and recovers its health. When it incurs darkness in its eyes, it extracts a serpent with the breath of its nostrils from hidden caverns, and when it is pulled out it eats it; and in the heat of its poison it goes to a spring, where, as it drinks and immerses itself, it deposits the darkness and other superfluous matter. In the same way the penitent or just man directs his course by the practice of devotion, so that he may run well and unweariedly towards the prize of his heavenly calling. The Apostle says to Timothy: Exercise thyself unto godliness (1Tm 4,7). So Natural History teaches that bees fly in the air as if exercising themselves, and then return to the hives to eat. There is ‘godliness’. Just men are ‘bees’ who exercise themselves in the ‘air’ of heavenly contemplation. Job say: The bird is born to fly (Jb 5,7). It is said: I will fly and be at rest (Ps 54,7). After such exercise, they return to the ‘hives’ of their own conscience, and there feed on its sweetness in joy of spirit.
The penitent also grows accustomed (for "custom is second nature"5) to leap over (that
is, despise) the thorny places of temporal riches and the pitted places of bodily pleasure, and is so called ‘a hart let loose’. "No-one gets to the top at once"6, and so we must little by little get used to despising riches and pleasures. "Use is learned by use"7, and the Philosopher8 says, "They would abandon sin, if they would get into the habit of avoiding
it. " And again, "The shortest way to riches is by despising riches." And again, "I am great, and born to greater things that to be a slave to my body."
Again, when the penitent senses the ‘barking of dog’, the suggestions of the devil, he makes his way of his action ‘down-wind’. That is, in all his actions, inward and outward, he takes refuge in humility. Humility is a ‘following wind’, pride a ‘contrary wind’. We read:
The wind was against them and they were labouring in rowing. (cf. Mc 6,48)
‘Following’ is ‘in the footsteps of’. Mary, the humble penitent, stood behind at the Lord’s feet, and began to wash his feet with tears (cf. Lc 7,38). Alternatively, ‘following’ is a reminder of the person who takes up his cross and follows the Crucified. Whoever thus makes his way ‘down-wind’, the devil cannot sniff out with his subtle malice.
Again, he hears keenly with ears pricked up. It is said:
At the hearing of the ear they have obeyed me. (Ps 17,45)
And in Isaiah 50:
He wakeneth in the morning;
in the morning he wakeneth my ear, that I may hear him as a master.
The Lord God hath opened my ear, and I do not resist.
I have not gone back. (Is 50,4-5)
The ear, which hears by drawing in sound, represents obedience. If it is ‘pricked up’ by humility, and ‘open’ by devotion, it will draw in sound; for it will hear the master, that is, Christ or his prelate. He will not contradict his words, and not turn his back on his will. And note that it says ‘in the morning’ twice, implying that obedience should be prompt and cheerful. The Bride says,
Let us get up early to the vineyards, (Ct 7,12)
meaning actions of obedience.
Again, when the hart (the penitent) feels himself growing sick, that is, weakened or burdened with temptations, he eats twigs of olive. The ‘olive’ is Christ’s humanity, from which for our sake he squeezed out his blood like olive oil, in the press of the Cross, and with it he soothed our wounds. The ‘twigs’ of this olive are the nails and the lance, the scourges and the crown of thorns, and the other circumstances of his Passion. When the penitent ‘eats’ these by faith and devotion, he receives strength against temptation. So Isaiah 25 says:
Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the whirlwind, a shadow from the heat. (Is 25,4)
The true penitent is poor in spirit and needy in things. Christ, who was made obedient to the Father, even unto death (Ph 2,8), is his strength against worldly prosperity, lest it make him proud; his strength against worldly adversity, lest it make him despair; his refuge from the whirlwind of the devil’s suggestions, lest they blow him away; and a shade against the heat of carnal desire, lest it burn him up.
Again, just as the hart panteth alter the fountains of water (cf. Ps 41,2), so the penitent sinner pants after the fountain of confession. When he feels afflicted by blindness of soul, by the withdrawal of grace, He draws out the serpent of mortal sin from the dark recesses of his conscience, with the breath of his nostrils (contrition). It says in II Kings 22:
There went up a smoke in his wrath (cf. Ps 17,9), from his nostrils. (2S 22,9)
The ‘nostrils’ of the penitent are his subtle judgements, whereby he distinguishes the scent of paradise and the stink of hell, and recognises the snares of the devil. From these nostrils there goes up a ‘smoke’ of tearful compunction in his wrath, for repentance regarding himself, against himself. So he devours the serpent drawn out, because he
avidly recollects in bitterness of soul his mortal sin and its least circumstances; and so he hastens to the fountain of confession, where he may drink the water of tears and by humility immerse himself in that fountain of confession, putting away all that is superfluous and harmful, and so growing young again.
11. And this is what follows: Giving words of beauty. This eloquence is unobstructed speech. Luke says that the Apostles:
began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. (Ac 2,4)
That is, they spoke freely. ‘Words of beauty’ are words of confession, which the converted sinner should give freely, not beating about the bush and half-heartedly. Mark 7 says:
The string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. (Mc 7,35)
Note that confession is called ‘beauty’, because it beautifies the leprous soul:
Praise and beauty are before him. (Ps 95,6)
This is the water of the Jordan, which cleanses Naaman the leper; the fountain of salvation, which drives out the darkness and canker from the hart: the virtue of confession, which beautifies the soul so that she is pleasing to her Spouse, and comes to his embrace. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
1 P.COMESTOR, Historia scholastica, in Evangelia, 3; PL 198.1538
2 GREGORY, In evangelia homilia, 38,2; PL 76.1283
3 THOMAS A KEMPIS attributes this saying to St. Francis; Imitation of Christ, III,50
4 ROMAN BREVIARY, Lauds hymn for St John the Baptist.
5 cf. CICERO, Pro Milone, I,1,3
6 cf. JUVENAL, Saturae, II,83
7 cf. OVID, Remedia amoris, 503
8 SENECA, Epistolae 29, 62 and 65
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. At that time: The Lord said to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? etc. In this Gospel three things are noted: blessed Peter’s three-fold confession of love for the Lord, the three-fold commendation of the Church to him, and Peter’s own passion.
2. The threefold confession: Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? The Gloss says, "Jesus asked what he already knew, that he might love the more. Peter said what he knew of himself, namely that he loved, but because he did not know how much others loved, he was silent as to whether he loved more than they. Behold, he teaches us not to speak rashly about what is hidden; and to avoid the previous danger of denying, he answered cautiously about himself." And note that Jesus asked him not once, but again and a third time; and the third time he heard that he was loved by Peter. To the three-fold denial there is returned a three-fold confession of love, lest the tongue do less service to love than to fear. First, as Matthew says:
He denied before them all, saying: I know not what thou sayest. (Mt 26,70)
He denied with an oath; I know not the man. (Mt 26,72)
He began to curse and swear that he knew not the man. (Mt 26,74)
The first and second times, he confessed:
Thou knowest that I love thee. (Jn 21,15-16)
The third time, he said:
Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. (Jn 21,17)
The Gloss on Luke says, "He denied at mid-night; he repented at cock-crow; and after the Resurrection he confessed three times that he loved the one he had denied three times before day-light. He went astray in the darkness of forgetfulness, he recovered in remembering the hoped-for light, and he stood up straight after his stumbling, in the presence of that same true light."
3. Note that there are three things from which life or death proceed: the heart, the tongue and the hand. In the heart is consent to good or evil; in the tongue is the utterance of words; in the hand is the putting into action. If we have denied God in these three, then, by taking care to perform the things that are contrary to each, we shall confess him. He denies with the heart, who does not believe, or who consents to mortal sin. So Stephen, in Acts 7, says:
This Moses whom they denied, saying: Who hath appointed thee prince and judge over us? (Ac 7,35)
Moses (‘man from the waters’) is faith, which is nurtured in the waters of Baptism; or the grace of compunction. Faith, the first of the virtues, is as it were the prince; the grace of compunction is as it were judge, whereby the sinner judges himself and condemns what he has done wrong. They deny this Moses, and refuse to make him their prince and judge, who do not believe in the heart, or in their heart consent to mortal sin.
Then, he denies Christ with his tongue, who destroys truth with a lie, or who slanders his neighbour. So Peter says, in Acts 3:
You denied the Just and Holy One before the face of Pilate, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you. (Ac 3,13-14)
Pilate (‘mouth of the hammerer’) is lying and detraction, in whose presence they deny Christ, who hammer his truth with lies, and scatter charity to neighbour with detraction. Detraction is turning the good deeds of others into evil, or belittling them. Such people ask to be given a murderer, Barabbas the robber (that is, the devil), and for Christ to be crucified.
Again, he denies with his hand who does wicked works. As the Apostle says, In their works they deny God (Tt 1,16). Those who in the darkness of sin deny Christ three times in these ways, should repent at ‘cock-crow’, the preaching of the divine word; so that in the light of repentance they may be able to confess him three times with blessed Peter: I love, I love, I love. I love with my heart by faith and devotion; I love with my tongue, by confessing the truth and edifying my neighbour; I love with my hand by purity of deed. Amen.
4. The commendation of the Church: Feed my lambs (Jn 21,15-16). "Note that ‘feed’ is said three times, but not once ‘shear’ or ‘milk’."1 If you love me for my own sake, and not yourself for your own sake, feed my lambs, as mine and not yours. Seek my glory, not yours, in them; my gain, not yours, because love of God is proved in love of neighbour. Woe to the man who does not feed even once, but shears and milks three or four times. In Genesis 14, the king of Sodom (the devil) says to him:
Give me the living souls, and the rest take to thyself; (Gn 14,21)
that is, the wool and the milk, the hide and the meat, the tithes and the first-fruits. In Zechariah 11, the Lord curses such a shepherd (or rather, wolf), who feeds himself:
O shepherd and idol, that forsake the flock:
the sword upon his arm and upon his right eye:
his arm shall quite wither away:
and his right eye shall be utterly darkened. (Za 11,17)
The shepherd who deserts the flock entrusted to him is an idol in the church, like Dagon before the ark of the Lord (1S 5,2). He keeps the image, not the reality. Why then does he keep his place? Truly he is an idol, whose has eyes for worldly vanities, so that he does not see the miseries of the poor. He has ears for the flatteries of his followers, so that he does not hear the cry of the poor. He has nostrils full of perfumes, like a woman, and he does not smell the scent of heaven or the stink of hell. He has hands for gathering money, and he does not touch the scars of Christ’s wounds. He has feet for building strongholds and exacting tribute, and he does not walk in preaching the word of the Lord. There is no cry of praise or confession in his throat. What is there in common between the Church of Christ and this rotten idol? As Jeremiah says:
What hath the chaff to do with the wheat? (Jr 23,28)
What concord hath Christ with Belial? (2Co 6,15)
The arm of this idol will be withered away by the sword, the divine judgement, so that he can do no good. His right eye, the knowledge of truth, will be darkened, lest he perceive the way of justice for himself or for others. These two things happen to the Church’s pastors today, as a result of their sins. They lack the strength of good works, and have not the light of knowledge. And so, alas! the wolf (the devil) scatters the sheep (cf. Jn 10,12), and the robber (the heretic) seizes them. But the kind shepherd, who lays down his life for his flock (cf. Jn 10,15), has a care for it, because he has bought it at so dear a price. He commends them to Peter, saying, Feed my lambs. Feed them with the word of holy preaching; feed them with the suffrage of devout prayer; feed them with the example of holy living.
5. And note that he commends the lambs twice, because they are more tender and weak, and the sheep only once. By this, we are given to understand that those who are more weak and tender in the Church must be all the more nourished and sustained, both with spiritual benefits and corporal. The Apostle says:
Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak. (1Th 5,14)
Genesis 2 says:
God took Adam (the prelate)
and put him in the paradise of pleasure (the Church),
to work in it (by works of mercy towards those subject to him)
and to keep it (by preaching the word), (Gn 2,15),
that with him he might receive the reward of the kingdom. Amen.
6. Blessed Peter’s passion: Amen, amen, I say to thee: When thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself and didst walk where thou wouldst. (Jn 21,18). He predicted that he would suffer, just as he had predicted that he would deny. Strengthened by the Resurrection, he was now able to perform what he had promised unseasonably when weak. Now he did not fear the ending of this life, because, by rising, the Lord had given him the example of a second life. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, that is, you will be crucified; and he adds how this will come about: and another shall gird thee, namely Nero, with chains, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not (Jn 21,18), that is, to death. He was led unwillingly towards the fear of death, but by accepting it he was led out of it. He did not wish to come to it, but by accepting it he overcame it, and left his weak feelings behind. No-one wants to die; that is so natural that even old age did not remove it from Peter. So even the Lord said: Let this chalice pass from me (Mt 26,39). But however great the fear of death may be, the power of love overcomes it. If the fear of death were little or nothing, the glory of martyrdom would not be so great.
This he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God (Jn 2119), that is, by this death he showed how greatly God is to be worshipped and loved.
7. Morally. When thou wast younger. Regarding this, Proverbs 7 says:
The harlot catching the young man, she kisseth him, and with an impudent face flattereth, saying: Come, let us be inebriated with the breasts, and let us enjoy the desired embraces. Immediately he followeth her as an ox led to be a victim, and as a lamb playing the wanton. (Pr 7
The harlot is the world or the flesh, which catches the young man (the spirit) by pleasure, kisses him by consent, and flatters him in the effect. Come, she says, let us be inebriated with the breasts of gluttony and lust, and let us enjoy the desired embraces by custom. And because it is not yet old, but ‘young’ (frivolous) and unstable, like a wanton heifer or lamb, the flesh follows its desires and gives in to them.
He says, then, When thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself and didst walk where thou wouldst. There is something similar in Jeremiah 46:
Egypt is like a fair and beautiful heifer:
there shall come from the north one that shall goad her. (Jr 46,20)
And Hosea 4:
Israel hath gone astray like a wanton heifer (Os 4,16)
And in chapter 10:
Ephraim is a heifer taught to love to tread out corn, but I passed over the beauty of her neck.
I will ride upon Ephraim. (Os 10,11)
O captive liberty, to gird yourself with self-will, and walk wherever its impulse leads you! The ‘heifer’, green in age, is the ‘younger’, light and unstable, called ‘fair’ in pleasing herself, ‘beautiful’ in outward appearance, and yet ‘Egypt’ (darkness’) in conscience. From the north (the devil) shall come one that shall goad her, the impulse of self-will, which makes her wanton, and refuse obedience to God and her superior. She is like a heifer that is taken from the threshing-floor to the meadow or the manger, but being used to treading out the corn, cannot rest until she returns to the tread-mill. There are many who cannot rest unless they are labouring, and who say (as in Sg 5)
We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction,
and have walked through hard ways (that is, of self-will):
but the way of the Lord we have not known, (Sg 5,7)
that is, obedience, by which he comes to us. St Gregory2 says, "It is stupid to linger in the way, and be unwilling to finish the journey." But the kind Lord rides upon Ephraim, and treads down ‘the beauty of her neck’, the pride and vainglory of her heart, humbling her to be submissive and obedient.
8. So there follows: But when thou shalt be old. So Wisdom 4 says:
Venerable old age is not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years: but the understanding of a man is grey hairs, and a spotless life is old age. (Sg 4,8-9)
An old man is forgetful of himself; whoever wants to be truly obedient must be an ‘old man’, forgetful of himself, that is, of his self-will. So Genesis 27 says:
Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, and he could not see. (Gn 27,1)
Isaac (‘laughter’) is the obedient man, who should cheerfully obey the will of the one who commands him, and forget his own. In this ‘old age’, the eyes grow dim and cannot see, that is, discern. So Bernard3 says, "Perfect obedience, especially in a beginner, is ‘indiscreet’; that is, not making judgements about what is commanded, or why, but striving simply to carry out faithfully and humbly what the superior commands."
So there is added: Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands (to works of obedience), and another (your superior) shall gird thee (because you are now an old man, not younger as before, when thou didst gird thyself and didst walk where thou wouldst ). But now he will lead thee whither thou wouldst not, that you may say with Christ:
Not as I will, but as thou wilt; Father, not my will but thine be done. (cf. Mt 26,39 Mt 26,42)
And with David:
I am become as a beast before thee. (Ps 72,23)
Strike with the scourge, prick with the goad, urge on with spurs, load down with burdens, feed with rough food! These things are done to a beast, and I am become as a beast before thee, so that you may lead me where you will and do with me what you will, because I am become as a beast before thee, indeed, a dead man!
So there follows: This he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. Genesis 25 is concordant:
Abraham decaying, he died in a good old age, having lived a long time, and being full of days. (Gn 25,8)
Note that he who wants to obey perfectly should lose three things: his own sense, his
own will and his own body. Abraham, who, being obedient to the Lord’s command, and not knowing where he was going, and who went out from his land, his kindred and his father’s house- he is the true obedient man, ‘decaying’ as to his own sense, so that he defers to the sense of his superior (however simple) rather than his own. He ‘dies in a good old age’ as to the mortification of his own will. He ‘lives a long time’ as to maturity and humiliation of body. If he has these qualities, his days will be full and not empty. The obedient man glorifies the Lord on earth by such a death, and so will glorify the Lord in heaven, who is blessed for ever Amen.
9. Rejoice, O Zabulon, in thy going out; and Issachar in thy tabernacles.
They shall call the people to the mountain; there shall they sacrifice the victims of justice. Who shall suck as milk the abundance of the sea.
This text is from Deuteronomy 33 (Dt 33,18-19). These two Patriarchs represent the two Princes of the Church, Peter and Paul. Zabulon (meaning ‘habitation of fortitude’) is blessed Peter, who after the coming of the Holy Spirit became the habitation such fortitude, that he who had once denied at the voice of a maidservant was afterwards not afraid of Nero’s sword.
By his word the heavens (that is, the Apostles)were established, and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth (Ps 32,6)
I have established the pillars thereof. (Ps 74,4)
Issachar (meaning ‘man of reward’) is blessed Paul, was truly a man of eternal reward, because he laboured for it more than all others (cf. 1Co 15,10).
He saw rest that it was good: and the land that it was excellent.
And he bowed his shoulder to carry: (Gn 49,15)
the Gospel on his shoulder, the scourge on his back for the sake of the Gospel; and so he received his due reward.
Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel; for if I do this thing willingly I have a reward. (1Co 9,16-17)
Job 31 says:
Let he that judgeth write a book, that I may carry it on my shoulder. (Jb 31,35-36)
Jesus Christ, to whom the Father has given all judgement (cf. Jn 5,22), has written a book, the Gospel, which Paul, a vessel of election, carried on his shoulder before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel (cf. Ac 9,15), wherefore he was beaten three times with rods, once stoned (cf. 2Co 11,25) for the name of Christ.
10. These two Apostles rejoiced today in the Passion: Peter in his ‘going out’ from the pain of the cross to the glory of beatitude; Paul in his ‘tabernacles’, going out from the tabernacle of his own body and entering the tabernacle of the heavenly mansion. Peter rejoiced in the cross, Paul in the sword, because they were sure of eternal recompense, to which, while they lived, they had called the peoples committed to them.
So there is added: They shall call the people to the mountain. Numbers 10 is concordant:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Make thee two trumpets of beaten silver, wherewith thou mayest call together the multitude. (Nb 10,1-2)
These two Apostles are called ‘silver trumpets’ on account of their resounding preaching, and ‘beaten’ because of being struck in their Passion. Christ made these trumpets, that is, he chose them by grace, that with them he might call a multitude of peoples to the mountain of eternal life. And just as those former trumpets called to war, to feasting and to religious festival (cf. Nb 10,9-10), so these called the peoples to war against sin. Peter said:
Be sober and watch; because your adversary the devil, etc. (1P 5,8)
Taking the shield of faith, whereby you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. (Ep 6,16)
To the banquet of innocence and a holy way of life; whence Peter said:
As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow into salvation, if so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet. (1P 2,2-3)
Let us feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1Co 5,8)
To the festival in the heavenly homeland; whence Peter said:
You shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1P 1,8-9)
And Paul: So run that you may obtain (1Co 9,24), and:
Until we all meet unto a perfect man,
unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ. (Ep 4,13)
And after those trumpets have called the peoples to those three things, let us hear what will do:
They shall sacrifice the victims of justice. They did that this day, sacrificing their bodies as victims of justice, just and holy, by martyrdom to the Lord.
11. And how sweet to them was the bitterness of today’s Passion, is clear from what follows: Who shall suck as milk the abundance of the sea. Note that the tossing sea is fearful to behold and bitter to taste; on the contrary, milk is pleasant in colour and sweet to taste. The word ‘suck’ implies eagerness and delight. O love of Christ, that makes all bitter things sweet! The Passion of the Apostles was fearful to behold, and bitter; but the love of Christ made it pleasant and sweet, so that they might accept it eagerly and with delight, and afterwards rejoice with him for ever, who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
12. Rejoice, O Zabulon, in thy going out; and Issachar in thy tabernacles. In these two Patriarchs, two loves are denoted, namely of God and of neighbour. Zabulon (meaning ‘substance of the habitation’) is the love of God. The ‘habitation’ is the human mind, and its ‘substance’ or wealth is the love of God, than which there is no greater wealth. So Proverbs 3 says:
Blessed is the man that findeth wisdom, and is rich in prudence (that is, the love of God). The purchasing thereof is better than the merchandise of silver: and her fruit than the chiefest and purest gold. (Pr 3,13-14)
This denotes the sweetness of contemplation, which arise from love of the Creator; it is more precious than any wealth, and all the things people desire cannot be compared to it. Alternatively, the love of God is called ‘substance of the habitation’ because it makes the mind it possesses to stand firmly and not fall. Woe to that habitation which lacks this
substance! The Psalm says:
I stick fast in the mire of the deep, and thee is no sure standing. (Ps 68,3)
The soft mire is the love of the flesh or of the world, and he who is fixed in it has not the love of God on which he may stand, and so he is swallowed up in the depths.
Issachar (meaning ‘my reward’) is the love of neighbour, and he offers his shoulder to bear his burdens; as the Apostle says:
Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfil the law of Christ, (Ga 6,2)
which is charity. The love of neighbour is called a ‘strong ass’, because he bears his burdens along the way, so as to receive a reward in heaven. So the Psalm says:
When he shall give sleep to his beloved: behold, the inheritance of the Lord are children;
the reward, the fruit of the womb. (Ps 126,2-3)
Sleep is sweet after labour. ‘Beloved’ are those we are doubly bound to. So when he gives sleep (that is, rest) after labour to his beloved, to those bound by the chains of the two-fold love, that is the inheritance of the Lord! In that sleep there is the possession of the eternal homeland, the reward of the children adopted by grace, the fruit of Mother Church’s womb. Alternatively, the ‘beloved’ are the Lord’s inheritance, and the children are the reward of Jesus Christ, given to him by the Father as the reward of his Passion, he being the fruit of a virginal womb: Blessed is the fruit of thy womb (Lc 1,42).
13. Zabulon, then, the love of God, rejoices in his going out, which denotes the contemplative life. He who wishes to make progress in it should go out not only from the world but also from care for himself, that is, he must go out from himself. So Genesis 18 says:
Abraham ran to meet the Lord from the door of the tent, and adored down to the ground. And he said, Lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant. (Gn 18,2-3)
The tabernacle is the military service of the active life. A man goes out from it "and runs to meet the Lord, when he is prompt to suspend himself in contemplation, and contemplates the light of the supreme wisdom in joy of mind, taken beyond himself in excess of mind."4 So that he may longer stay in this state, he asks him that it may not pass away. Let Zabulon rejoice in his going out, then, and let Issachar, too, (that is, love of neighbour) rejoice in his tabernacles; that is, in the military service of the active life, in which he labours for his neighbour’s need.
Of these tabernacles, Numbers 24 says:
How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel! As woody valleys, as watered gardens near the rivers, as tabernacles which the Lord hath pitched, as cedars by the waterside. (Nb 24,5-6)
This text elegantly describes the disposition of the man who desires to follow the active life. Jacob (‘the one who wrestles’), who is also Israel (‘he who sees God’), is the active man. "Now he is wrestling, now he is hopeful in mind; that is, in the embrace of Lia (‘laborious’), and in the embrace of Rachel (‘beginning of sight’)."5 The tabernacles or tents are the military service of his holy way of life; they are, and should be, ‘beautiful’ in moral probity, ‘as woody valleys’ in humility of mind, offering a shade against the impulse of the flesh, ‘as watered gardens near the rivers’ in abundance of tears, ‘as tabernacles which the Lord hath pitched’ in constancy of mind and final perseverance, ‘as cedars’ in height of hope, and odour of good repute which repels the serpents of detraction, and ‘by the waters’ of charisms of grace. He who has such tabernacles may well rejoice and delight in them.
14. There follows: They shall call the people to the mountain. Note that there is both an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’ man, and each has its ‘people’. The inner man has a population of many thoughts and inclinations; the outer man has a population of bodily members and senses.
The love of God calls the people of the inner man to the mountain, that is, to the excellence of holy contemplation, so as to gather them there to that banquet of which Isaiah 25 speaks:
The Lord of hosts shall make unto all people, in this mountain, a feast of fat things full of marrow, of wine purified from the lees. (Is 25,6)
When the mind is lifted up in contemplation, the people is gathered on the mountain, because thoughts are restrained from inappropriate wandering, and inclinations are restrained from unlawful desires. Then the Lord makes them a feast (that is, joy) of fat things full of marrow (in the light of inner wisdom which enriches the conscience). As it is said:
With the voice of joy and praise: the noise of one feasting. (Ps 41,5)
As a well fattened animal is happy and playful, so the soul which enjoys that taste exults and dances. The banquet (or joy) of purified wine is the shedding of tears. This double joy is in affection and understanding, that is, in love and in knowledge.
Again, the love of neighbour calls the people of the outer man to the mountain, that is, to the height of fraternal charity, so that the bodily members and senses serve the neighbour and minister to his needs. So Haggai 1 says:
Go up to the mountains, bring timber and build the house: and it shall be acceptable to me and I shall be glorified, saith the Lord. (Ag 1,8)
He goes up the mountain, who loves his neighbour. He brings the wood, when he supports him. He builds him a house, when he ministers to his needs.
15. There follows: There shall they sacrifice the victims of justice. As it is said: Offer up the sacrifice of justice (Ps 4,6). The love of God sacrifices a victim in ‘a spirit of humility and a contrite heart’ (cf. Da 3,39); the love of neighbour, in bodily affliction and labour. These victims are called ‘of justice’, because they are made solely with a view to charity. Truly they are ‘victims of justice’, not of vainglory, of which Hosea 5 says: You have turned aside victims into the depths (Os 5,2). That is what they do, who shed tears, or perform works of fraternal need, for vainglory.
There follows: Who shall suck as milk the abundance of the sea. Whoever wishes to suck must compress his lips. No one can suck something with his mouth wide open. To suck is to take something in. He who wants to suck ‘the abundance of the sea’ (the temptations of the flesh, the world and the devil) ‘as milk’ (that is, sweetly), must compress his lips against the vanity of the world. Then that two-fold love will suck temptations as milk, because it will not take in any alien love. So the Canticle of Moses says:
They sucked honey out of the rock, and oil out of the hardest stone. (Dt 32,13)
The ‘rock’ stands for the hardness of carnal or worldly temptation; the ‘hardest stone’ is the suggestion of the unyielding devil. Happy are they who from both the one and the other know how to suck sweetness and the light of a happy conscience! Job says: The rock poured me out rivers of oil (Jb 29,6). This comes about when someone is sorely tempted, and is visited in that temptation by grace, and enlightened, and watered with flowing tears. May he water us with these, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (ALLEGORICAL SERMON)