Anthony_Sermons - (THE FIRST CLAUSE)

1 BREVIARIUM ROMANUM, Passion Sunday, first response at Matins
2 The source of this quotation is unknown.
3 AUGUSTINE, Sermon 245, 5 PL 39.2198
4 BERNARD, In festo Omnium Sanctorum, sermon 5,5 PL 183.479; In Nativitate B.V. Mariae, 14 PL 183.445
5 AUGUSTINE, In loannis Evangelium, tr. 44.5 PL 35.1711


(The Gospel for Palm Sunday: When Jesus drew nigh, which is divided into four clauses.)


(First, a sermon for the soul of the sinner on the Passion of Christ: Go up into Galaad.)

1. At that time: When Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem and was come to Bethphage, unto mount Olivet. (Mt 21,1)

Jeremiah says to the sinful soul:

Go up into Galaad and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt. (Jr 46,11)

The ‘daughter of Egypt’ is the soul, darkened by the pleasures of this world; Egypt means ‘darkness’. Hence Jeremiah says:

How hath the Lord covered (i.e. allowed to be covered) with obscurity the daughter of Sion in his wrath, (Lm 2,1)

meaning the soul, which ought to be the daughter of Sion! She is called ‘virgin’ because she is barren of good works. So Jeremiah says again in Lamentations:

The Lord hath trodden the winepress (eternal punishment) for the virgin daughter of Juda, (Lm 1,15)

because she has remained barren of the offspring of good works. To her is said, Go up, with feet of love and steps of devotion, into Galaad (which means ‘the heap of witness’), the Cross of Jesus Christ, in which many witnesses are heaped up: to whit, the nails and the lance, the gall, the vinegar and the crown of thorns; and from thence take balm, the ‘tears that flow from a tree’. The most precious of all resins is that of the terebinth. This is a drop of the most precious Blood, which flows from that tree planted in the paradise of delight (cf. Gn 2,8), beside the flowing waters (Ps 1,3), for the reconciliation of the human race. O soul, take to yourself this balm, and anoint your wounds: for this is the

best and most efficacious of all medicines for healing wounds, for giving relief and infusing grace. Go up into Galaad, go up with Jesus to Jerusalem, for he himself went up for the feast day (cf. Jn 7,8). So it says in today’s Gospel: When Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem.

2. There are four things to note in this Gospel:

First, the approach of Jesus to Jerusalem: When Jesus drew nigh. Second, the sending of the two disciples into the village: Then he sent two of his disciples. Third, the seating of the meek, poor and humble king upon the ass and its colt: Tell ye the daughter of Sion. Fourth, the devotion and acclamation of the crowd: Hosanna to the son of David; and: A very great multitude.


(A sermon in praise of the blessed Virgin: When Jesus drew nigh, and on the ostrich and its meaning.)

3. Let us say, then: When Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem. Take note of the route the Lord followed when he travelled to Jerusalem. First at Bethany, then from Bethany to Bethphage, from Bethphage to the Mount of Olives, and from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. We will first look at the allegorical meaning of this, and then the moral.

Bethany means ‘house of obedience’, or ‘house of the gift of God’. It stands for blessed Mary, who obeyed the voice of the angel, and so was found worthy to receive the heavenly gift, the Son of God. So she was made pleasing above all others to the Lord. Wherefore it is said of her in Proverbs:

Many daughters have gathered riches; you have surpassed them all. (Pr 31,29)

The soul of no saint has ever gathered riches as holy Mary has done, who for her outstanding humility was found worthy to conceive and bear the flower of a spotless virginity, the Son of God, who is God blessed above all (Rm 9,5).

From this Bethany he came to Bethphage, which means ‘the house of a mouth’. This represents his preaching. For this purpose he came first to Bethany, to take flesh of the Virgin, that he might then go on to preaching. As he himself says in Mark:

Let us go into the neighbouring towns and cities, that I may preach there also; for to this purpose am I come. (Mc 1,38)

From Bethphage he came to the Mount of Olives, that is, of mercy. The olive tree is a symbol of mercy. The Mount of Olives stands for the excellence of the miracles whereby, being merciful and kind, he showed mercy to the blind, to lepers, to the possessed and

to the dead. In Isaiah, they themselves say:

Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer: from everlasting is thy name. (Is 63,16)

Our Father in creation, our Redeemer in the working of miracles: thy name is from everlasting, God, blessed for ever!

And from the Mount of Olives he came to Jerusalem, to fulfil the work of our salvation for which he had come, to redeem the human race (held captive for over five thousand years in the infernal prison) from the hand of the devil, by his own blood. Christ freed us, just as the bird called the ostrich freed its offspring.

It is told1 that the most wise king Solomon had a bird, an ostrich, whose chick he shut up in a glass vessel. The grieving mother could see it, but could not reach it. So great was her love for her child that she went into the desert and found a certain worm. She brought it back, and crushed it against the glass (because the power of its blood could break glass); and so the ostrich freed her child. Let us see what the bird, the chick, the glass vessel, the desert, the worm and the blood mean. The bird is the divine nature; the chick is Adam and his offspring; the glass vessel is the prison of hell; the desert is the womb of the Virgin; the worm is the humanity of Christ; the blood is his Passion. Therefore, in order to free the human race from the prison of hell, from the hand of the devil, God went into the desert of the Virgin’s womb, and from it took human nature. This the ‘worm’, as he himself said: I am a worm, not a man (Ps 21,7), meaning, not just a man, but both God and man. He broke this worm on the wood of the cross, and from his side flowed the blood whose power broke the gates of hell, and freed the human race from the hand of the devil.

(A moral sermon for converted sinners: Jesus, six days before the Pasch.)

4. Let us see what is the moral significance of Bethany, Bethphage, the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem. John says in his Gospel:

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Pasch (i.e. the Saturday before Palm Sunday), came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there; and Martha served. But Lazarus was one of those that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus. (Jn 12,1-3)

Matthew and Mark say that she poured it on his head as he reclined (cf. Mt 26,7 Mc 14,3). Bethany means ‘house of affliction’, the contrition of heart of which the prophet says:

I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly: I roared with the groaning of my heart. (Ps 37,9)

In this house Lazarus (whose name means ‘helped’) was restored to life. In the house of contrition the sinner is restored to life when he is helped by divine grace; and so he says with the prophet:

In him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped. (Ps 27,7)

When the heart trusts, grace helps. The heart hopes for pardon, when the pain of contrition for sin torments it.

There follows: They made him a supper there, and Martha served. The two sisters of the sinner who is restored from death, Martha (‘provoking’, ‘irritating’) and Mary (‘star of the sea’), are the fear of punishment and the love of glory. The fear of punishment provokes the sinner to weeping, and worries at him like a dog trying to find something, so that he confesses his sins and their circumstances. The love of glory gives light, fear makes satisfaction, love soothes. Martha served. What does fear serve? Assuredly, the bread of sorrow and the wine of compunction. This is the supper of Jesus, of which Matthew says:

Whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread and broke and gave to his disciples ... And taking the chalice, he gave thanks and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of this. (Mt 26,26-27)

Lazarus was one of them that were at table with Jesus. He ate and drank to prove that he was no ghost, but that his resurrection was real. What a great grace! The sinner, who previously lay dead, now sits down and feasts with Jesus and his disciples. Previously he desired to fill his belly (his mind) with the husks of swine (of unclean devils), and no- one would give him anything (cf. Lc 15,12).

There follows: Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price. The pound is made up of twelve ounces, so that it is a kind of perfect weight, having as many ounces as there are months in the year. The pound is as it were a standard weight, from which others are measured. the ‘right nard’ is pure and unadulterated (from the Greek for ‘faith’), and the pound, made up of twelve ounces, is the faith of the twelve Apostles, the perfect standard. Mary, then, the love of heavenly glory, anoints with pure nard, the apostolic faith, the ‘head’ of Divinity and the ‘feet’ of humanity. Thus she confesses Christ as God and man, who was born and who suffered. In this way the house of the penitent (his conscience) is filled with the scent of the ointment (cf. Jn 12,3), and he says with the Bride in the Canticles, "O Lord Jesus, draw me alter you with the cord of your love, that I may run alter the scent of your ointments" (cf. Ct 1,3), so that I may come from Bethany to Bethphage.

5. Bethphage means ‘house of a mouth’, standing for confession. In this we should be like householders, not just ‘guests of a passing night’ (cf. Sg 5,15), lest there should happen to us what Jeremiah says:

Thus saith the Lord to this people that have loved to move their feet and have not rested and have not pleased the Lord: He will now remember their iniquities and visit their sins. (Jr 14,10)

(A sermon on the three-fold light of the mount of Olives, and its meaning.)

And from Bethphage he came to the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives has been called ‘the mount of three lights’, because it is lit by the sun, by itself and by the Temple.

It is lit by the sun, because as it faces east it receives the rays of the sun. It is lit by itself, because of the plentiful oil it produces. It is lit by the Temple, because of the lamps that burn there at night and light up the mount. The Mount of Olives stands for the excellence of satisfaction to which the penitent should come from the house of confession. Satisfaction may well be called a hill of three lights. When a man makes satisfaction by penance, he is illuminated by the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ, who says: I am the Light of the world (Jn 8,12). He is illuminated in himself, by the abundance of ‘oil’ (mercy) that he should have for himself and his neighbour. So Job says: Visiting thy beauty thou shalt not sin (Jb 5,24). A certain saint has said that the best way for the soul to see its beauty above, by truth, is for the flesh to bow itself down by charity to its beauty below. He is also illuminated by the Temple, the assembly of the faithful, to whom the Apostle says:

The Temple of God is holy, which you are. (1Co 13,17)

And from the Mount of Olives he comes to Jerusalem; because these three- contrition of heart, confession by mouth, and satisfaction in deed- lead to the light, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to eternal happiness. So it is well said, When Jesus drew nigh to Jerusalem.

(On the second clause. A sermon against religious and clergy, who are signified by the she-ass and her foal: Then he sent two of his disciples.)

6. There follows, secondly:

Then Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them: Go ye into the village that is over against you; and immediately you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to me. (Mt 21,1-2)

We must see what is the moral significance of the two disciples, the village, the ass and its colt. The word ‘disciple’, like ‘discipline’, comes from a root meaning ‘to learn’. The village (castellum) may be pictured as having a wall round it and a tower in the middle. The she-ass is an animal that avoids high places, and her colt (being new-born) would be ‘unclean’. The two disciples of the just man, who learn the discipline of peace, are contempt for the world and lowliness of heart.

These two disciples are Moses and Aaron, who led the Hebrews out of Egypt. They are

the two poles for carrying the ark of the covenant, and the two cherubim facing one another, looking at the mercy-seat. Moses represents contempt for the world. As the Apostle says to the Hebrews, he considered the reproach of Jesus Christ greater riches than the treasure of the Egyptians (He 11,26). Aaron represents lowliness of heart. As the Book of Numbers tells, he extinguished the fire, and placated the wrath of God lest it rage against the people (cf. Nb 16,46). Humility puts out the fire of the devil’s temptation, and placates the wrath of divine judgement. These two disciples are like the unbending poles which carry the ark of the covenant, the teaching of Jesus Christ, or obedience to a superior. They look towards the mercy-seat, Jesus Christ himself, who is the propitiation for our sins (cf. 1Jn 4,10). They look towards him, I say, lying in the manger, hanging on the cross and buried in the tomb.

The just man sends these two disciples, saying, Go into the village which is over against you. This ‘castle’ consists of a wall and a tower. The wall denotes the abundance of temporal things, and the tower is the pride of the devil. Just as, in a wall, stone is placed upon stone, and held together with mortar: so in temporal abundance money is piled on money, house added to house and field joined to field (cf. Is 5,8), and all is firmly held together with the mortar of covetousness. Of this wall Isaiah says:

My bowels shall sound like a harp for Moab, and my inward parts for a brick wall; (Is 16,11)

and Jeremiah uses almost identical words:

My heart shall sound for Moab like pipes;

and my heart shall sound like pipes for the men of the brick wall. (Jr 48,36)

Harp and pipes denote the melody of preaching. With a compassionate heart and with the melody of preaching, Isaiah or Jeremiah (that is, any preacher) should sound for Moab (meaning ‘from the father’), the sinner who is of his father the devil. He builds a wall made of hard baked clay, temporal abundance; it is baked with the fire of relentless avarice, yet it is still clay, and quick to fall. The tower denotes the pride of the devil. It is the Tower of Babel (‘confusion’), and the tower of Siloe which, as St Luke tells, fell and killed eighteen men (cf. Lc 13,4). Against this castle the just man sends his two disciples, contempt for the world (to pull down the wall of transitory wealth) and humility of heart (to cast down the tower of pride).

7. How appropriate are the words over against you. Temporal abundance is always contrary to poverty, and pride to humility. In the castle is found the she-ass, bound, with her colt. The ass, which avoids high places but goes along the flat, is the life of clergy and religious who avoid the heights of contemplation and plod lazily along the flats of carnal pleasure. Alas! With how many chains of pleasure, with how many cords of sin, this ass is held bound! And her colt with her. This ass’s colt is the cleric or religious who is polluted with many vices. He is to be found with the ass, sucking her teats from behind

to get the milk of greed and lust. So the Lord complains of them by Jeremiah:

I fed them to the full, and they committed adultery and rioted in the harlot’s house. (Jr 5,7)

So it says in the same book that the girdle of Jeremiah himself rotted in the river Euphrates, so that it was fit for no use (cf. Jr 13,7). The girdle of chastity belonging to clergy and religious so rots in the river Euphrates- the name means ‘fruitful’, worldly wealth, for wickedness proceeds from wealth- that they are fit for no use, but must be cast on the dung-hill of hell.

Loose them and bring them to me. O Lord Jesus, what is this you say? Who is there, who is able to loose the bonds of clergy and false religious, the riches and honours that bind them, to subdue their pride and bring them to you? They are all like a runaway horse, says Jeremiah (Jr 8,6); and, Their course is become evil and their strength unlike (Jr 23,10), that is, unlike that image and likeness in which you made them (cf. Gn 1,26), unlike that image and likeness because they are polluted with not one but many vices. So he adds:

The prophet and the priest are defiled: and in my house I have found their wickedness... They are all become unto me as Sodom and Gomorrha. Therefore thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will fetch them with wormwood (the bitterness of eternal death) and will give them gall to drink (the bitter bite of conscience): for from the prophets of Jerusalem (clergy and religious) corruption is gone forth into all the land. (JR 2,

Loose them and bring them to me. Contempt for the world and humility of soul loose all bonds, and bring the ass and the colt to the Lord.

(On the third clause. A sermon on the humility, poverty and suffering of Christ:

Tell ye the daughter of Sion.)

8. There follows, thirdly:

All this was done that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by the propet (Zechariah) saying: Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold, thy king cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass and a colt, the foal of her that is used to the yoke. (Mt 21,4-5)

The actual words of Zechariah are:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem.

Behold, thy king will come to thee, the just and saviour.

He is poor and riding upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.

And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim and the horse out of Jerusalem; and the bow of war shall be broken. (Za 9,9-10)

Sion and Jerusalem are the same city, Sion being the citadel of Jerusalem. They stand for the heavenly Jerusalem, in which is the sight of eternity and the vision of lasting peace. Her daughter is Holy Church, and to her, you preachers, say: "Rejoice greatly by your works, and shout for joy in your mind." This joy is conceived as being of such great and heartfelt happiness that words cannot express it. Behold the king, of whom Jeremiah says:

There is none like to thee, O Lord: thou art great, and great is thy name in might.

Who shall not fear thee, O king of nations? (Jr 10,6-7)

He, as is told in the Apocalypse, hath on his garment and upon his thigh written: King of kings and Lord of lords (Ap 19,16).

The swaddling-clothes are his garment, and his ‘thigh’ is his flesh. At Nazareth he was crowned with flesh as with a diadem; at Bethlehem he was wrapped in swaddling clothes as his purple. These were the first insignia of his reign. At each, the Jews raged, like people wanting to deprive him of his kingdom. In his Passion he was stripped by them of his garments, and pierced with nails. There his kingdom was completely fulfilled, for after crown and purple he lacked only a sceptre; and this he took when he went out, bearing his cross, to the place called Calvary (cf. Jn 19,17). Isaiah says: The government was laid upon his shoulder (Is 9,6), and the Apostle:

We see Jesus, through suffering death, crowned with glory and honour. (cf. He 2,9)

9. Behold, then, thy King, coming to you for your benefit; meek, that he may be loved rather than feared for his power; sitting upon an ass. Zechariah calls him, Just and saviour, poor and riding upon an ass. There are two proper virtues for a king, justice and piety. Your king is just, in respect of justice, rendering to each according to his works. He is meek, and a redeemer, with respect to piety. He is poor, as the Apostle says in today’s Epistle:

He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. (Ph 2,7)

Because Adam, in Paradise, would not serve the Lord, the Lord took the form of a servant, to serve the servant, so that henceforward the servant might not be ashamed to serve the Lord.

Being made in the likeness of man, and in habit found as a man. (Phil, loc. cit.)

So Baruch says:

Afterwards, he was seen upon earth and conversed with men. (Ba 3,38)

‘As man’ expresses the reality of his manhood; he was not just ‘like’ a man.

He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. (Ph 2,8)

St Augustine2 says: "Our Redeemer spread before our captor the mouse-trap of the cross; he placed his own blood as bait. The devil shed the blood of one who was not a debtor, and by doing so retreated from those who were debtors." St Bernard3 says of Christ: "So great was his obedience, that he was ready to lose life itself; being made obedient to the Father even to death, death on the cross." He had nowhere to lay his head (cf. Mt 8,20 Lc 9,58), except that place where, bowing his head, he gave up his spirit (Jn 19,30).

(A sermon against proud prelates: I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim.)

10. He was poor. Jeremiah says:

0 expectation of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble:

Why wilt thou be as a stranger in the land

and as a wayfaring man turning in to lodge?

Why wilt thou be as a wandering man, as a mighty man that cannot save? (Jr 14,8)

Our God, the Son of God, whom we have expected, came and saved us in time of trouble (the devil’s persecution). Like a stranger, a casual labourer, he tilled our land and watered it with the water of his preaching. He was like a wayfarer travelling light, unburdened by sin, and as he revealed his ways he showed that he rejoiced like a giant to run the way (Ps 18,6). He bowed his head on the Cross as he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Lc 23,46); and he remained in the tomb three days and three nights. He is a wanderer (in the Jews’ estimation), because they thought he was wandering in his wits. He says in John:

1 have power to lay down (my life) and I have power to take it up again...

And many of them said: He hath a devil and is mad. Why hear you him? (Jn 10,18)

Because he took the form of a servant, he seemed to them powerless to save; but he was a mighty man who with nailed hands overcame the devil. Behold your King comes, meek, sitting upon an ass and a colt, the foal of her that is used to the yoke- that is, the ass herself, made tame by the yoke.

Oh! would that clergy and religious would receive, and like meek animals carry, such a king, such a rider! Then they might be worthy to enter with him the Jerusalem above. But they are sons of Belial (‘without the yoke’) who, as Jeremiah says:

have walked after vanity and are become vain;

and have not said, Where is the Lord? (Jr 2,6)

They have broken the yoke and burst their bonds, and said: "We will not serve." Therefore the Lord says to them in Zechariah, I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim and the horse out of Jerusalem; and the bow for war shall be broken. A chariot runs on four wheels, and it stands for the wealth of the clergy which consists in these four things: extensive possessions, multiplicity of offices and emoluments, sumptuous food and luxurious clothing. The Lord will destroy the chariot, and cast its rider into the sea of hell (cf. Ex 15,1); and he will destroy the horse, the foaming and unbridled pride of religious who, under a cloak of religion and a pretence of piety, think themselves great. But,

Great and powerful is the Lord,

who looks on the humble and puts down the mighty. (Ps 137,6)

He will cast down the horse from the heavenly Jerusalem, which none shall enter except the one who humbles himself like a little child (cf. Mt 18,4). He humbled himself to death, even death on the cross. 11

11. Morally. The king sitting upon an ass and its colt is the just man who restrains his body and bridles his appetite. Jeremiah says:

O virgin of Israel, thou shalt again be adorned with thy timbrels,

and shalt go forth in the choir of them that make merry. (Jr 31,4)

A timbrel is made of skin stretched over wood, and it represents mortification of the flesh. The choir, where voices sound in harmony, is unity and concord. The soul is ‘adorned with timbrels’, and ‘goes forth in the choir of those that make merry’, when she is bedecked with mortification of the flesh, with unity and concord. As the psalmist says: Praise God with timbrel and with choir (Ps 150,4).

(A sermon for a bishop: The king riding upon an ass.)

An alternative meaning is that the king sitting upon an ass is a bishop ruling the people entrusted to him. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:

Blessed is the land (the Church) whose king is noble; and whose princes (prelates) eat in due season, for refreshment and not for riotousness. (Qo 10,17)

They only eat to live, they do not live to eat. They eat in due season, not looking for a reward here, but hereafter. Such a ruler should be, as has been said, meek, just, a saviour and poor. He should be meek towards those under him; just towards the proud, pouring in wine and oil; a saviour to the poor; and a poor man among the rich. Or else: he should be meek in bearing injuries, just in giving to each his rights, a saviour in preaching and in prayer, and poor in humility of heart and self abnegation.

Blessed is the ass, blessed the Church, that has such a rider! But today’s bishop is more like Balaam, riding an ass that saw the angel which Balaam could not see (cf. Nb 22,21-30). Balaam means ‘casting down brotherhood’, or ‘disturbing the nation’, or ‘devouring the people’. A useless trunk is that disreputable bishop who by his bad example casts the brotherhood of the faithful down into sin, and then into hell. His lack of wisdom and his stupidity upset the nation, and his avarice devours the people. A man like that sitting on his ass fails to see (so I would say) not an angel, but a devil who is trying to throw him into hell. But the simple people, rightly believing, and behaving well, see the angel of great counsel, and love and recognize the Son of God.


(A sermon for imitating the examples of the saints: You shall take to you the fruits of the tree.)

12. There follows, fourthly:

And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut boughs from the trees and strewed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before and that followed cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Mt 21,8-9)

Note these three points: they spread their garments; they cut branches; and they shouted Hosanna. The clothes are our bodily members, with which the soul is clothed. Solomon says: At all times let thy garments be white (Qo 9,8). We should ‘spread them in the way’ by exposing them to suffering and death for the name of Jesus, that we may deserve to receive them back glorious and immortal in the general resurrection, when this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible incorruption (cf. 1Co 15,53).

The branches are the examples of the holy fathers, of which the Lord says in Leviticus:

Ye shall take to you the fruits of the fairest tree, and the branches of palm trees, and boughs of a thick tree, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. (Lv 23,40)

The ‘fairest tree’ is the glorious Virgin Mary, whose fruits are humility and poverty. The ‘palms’ are the Apostles, who bore the palm of victory from this world. Their branches are ready to bear fruit- the Apostles’ faith, hope and charity. The ‘tree with thick leaves’ is the Cross of Jesus Christ, which spreads the dense foliage of faith over all the world. Its branches are the four corners of the Cross, which were in Christ’s hands. In them are four precious stones: mercy, obedience, patience and perseverance. In the upper corner is mercy, to the right obedience, to the left patience and at the lower end perseverance. The ‘willows of the brook’, which stay green, denote all the saints who in the stream of our present life remain green in good works.

So let us take the fruits of the fairest tree, the poverty and humility of the Virgin Mary; the branches of palm trees, the faith, hope and charity of the Apostles; the boughs of a thick tree, the mercy, obedience, patience and perseverance of the Passion of Jesus Christ; and the willows of the brook, the evergreen works of all the saints; and let us rejoice before the Lord our God, Jesus Christ, saying with the crowds of Hebrew children: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! ‘Hosanna’ means ‘health, or salvation, I pray’; so ‘Hosanna’ is ‘salvation to the Son of David’, or ‘from the Son of David’, or ‘through the Son’. ‘Blessed’ is ‘free from sin’, so singularly blessed are you, O Christ, who come in the name of the Lord, in honour of God the Father; or who will come again. He who appeared first in the form of a servant will appear at the last in the glory of the Lord. ‘Hosanna in the highest’, ‘salvation on high’; as if to say: "You who saved us by redeeming us on earth, save us, we pray, by gathering us in heaven."

We pray you, then, blessed Jesus: make us draw nigh to Jerusalem by your faith and love. Bring us from the village of our pilgrimage back to you. Rest upon our souls as our King, so that with the children you have chosen out of this world, your Apostles, we may be found worthy to bless, praise and glorify you in the holy city of eternal blessedness. Grant this, you to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. May every faithful soul say: Amen!

1 P. COMESTOR, cf. Historia Scholastica, III Kings, 8. PL 198.1353-1354
2 quoted in P. LOMBARD, Sententiae III, dist. 19,1
3 BERNARD, Ad milites templi, 13,31 PL 182.939

The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P.Spilsbury


(The Gospel for the Lord’s Pasch: Mary Magdalen, which is divided into four clauses.)


(First, a sermon for the preacher, on how he ought to make a electuary for the soul from the various virtues: The apothecary shall make ointments.)

1. At that time: Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus, etc.

Ecclesiasticus says:

The apothecary shall make sweet confections and shall make up ointments of health. (Si 38,7)

The word ‘confections’ indicates the process of grinding between pestle and mortar. These confections are those mentioned by the penitent soul in the same book of Ecclesiasticus:

I yielded a sweet odour like the best myrrh,

and.. as storax, and galbanum, and onyx, and gutta. (Si 24,20-21)

These kinds, as the Gloss says, "are highly prized by physicians, and stand for the kinds of virtue which the true or spiritual physicians use for the healing of men." Myrrh stands for penitence, which cannot be genuine unless it is mixed with the other four kinds, namely storax, galbanum, onyx and gutta. According to the Gloss, storax is a resin which flows from a tree, most sweetly scented, and yielding a honey-like liquid. Galbanum is a kind of resin which by its scent drives away snakes. Onyx (the Greek word is onycha, the Latin ungula) is mentioned in Exodus, and comes from the hoof, similar to the human nail. Gutta is a kind of ointment used to cure certain callouses and tumours. Thus storax represents tears of contrition which are like a sweet scent in the Lord’s sight, and sweeter than honey and the honey-comb (cf. Ps 18,11) to the penitent soul. Galbanum

represents confession, which puts those serpents, the demons, to flight. Gutta represents the humility of satisfaction, which heals the hardness of the heart and allays the swelling pride of the body. But because not everyone who begins, but only he that perseveres to the end (Mt 10,22), is blessed, to these must be added onyx, the extreme part of the body, which represents final perseverance. The apothecary (that is, the preacher) must pound these ointments in the mortar which is the sinner’s heart, with the pestle of preaching; and mix it with the pure balm of divine mercy, so that it may be more palatable and soothing to the penitent soul.

There follows: And shall make up ointments of health. The ointment which teaches a man all that he needs to know is made up of two elements: wine and oil. The wine is that which flows from the true vine, and which has been crushed in the wine-press of the cross. The oil is that with which the infant Church was anointed on the day of Pentecost.

It is made, then, from the Blood of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit. From these two ingredients the apothecary must make his ointments, so as to anoint the members of Jesus Christ, the faithful of the Church, as did the three women of whom today’s Gospel tells us: Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, etc.

2. There are four things to note in this Gospel. First, the devotion of the holy women, and their buying spices: Mary Magdalen, etc. Second, the rolling away of the stone: And they said one to another. Third, the vision of angels: And entering into the sepulchre. Fourth, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who saith to them: Be not affrighted, etc.

Anthony_Sermons - (THE FIRST CLAUSE)