Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)


(A sermon for the Annunciation, Nativity or Passion of the Lord: I will put a ring in thy nose; and: Canst thou put a ring?)

3. Let us say, then: I go to him that sent me.

A little earlier, the Lord had said:

Where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest. (Jn 14,4-5)

A little later, he added:

I go to him that sent me... I came forth from the Father and I am come into the world; again, I leave the world and go to the Father. (Jn 16,5)

This is the circle of which the Father said in Isaiah (threatening the devil):

I will put a ring in thy nose and a bit between thy lips,

and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. (Is 37,29)

The ring or circle, which returns to its starting point, stands for Jesus Christ who, like a circle, returns whence he came out. He came out from the Father, took his course even to hell, and returned to the throne of God. Thus the ring is put in the nose of the devil, because the Wisdom of God was made flesh to teach us the true wisdom, and so by the wisdom he taught us to bring to nought the deceits of the devil. The devils ‘nostrils’ are the ways by which his spirit or breath flows out, his crafty snares. The devil sniffs out and smells, in outward things and in the human heart, as if by his ‘nose’, the vices to which each one is prone; and there he sets his traps. But, taught by God’s wisdom, each of us (if he will) can avoid these traps.

And I will put a bit between thy lips. The ‘bit’ is the Cross of Jesus Christ, which (like the bridle in a horses mouth) prevents the devil from devouring us as he used to. There is a concordance in Job:

Canst thou put a ring in his nose, or bore through his jaw with a buckle? (Jb 40,21)

The buckle, or bracelet which strengthens the arm, is the Cross of Jesus Christ, of which Isaiah says:

And the government is upon his shoulder. (Is 9,6)

With this armlet the Son of God pierced the devil’s cheek and freed the human race from his jaws. So the text goes on: And I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. He lost his dominion by the same way in which he usurped the lordship of the world. Just as he deceived a man and a woman with the forbidden tree and a serpent, so by a man (Jesus Christ) and a woman (the blessed Virgin), by the tree of the Cross and by the ‘serpent’ (the death of Christ according to the flesh, signified by the serpent which Moses lifted up on the wood in the desert), the devil lost his dominion over the human race. And so, when the business of our salvation was accomplished, Christ said: I go to him that sent me.

There is a concordance to this in Tobias, where Raphael bound the demon and enlightened the eyes of Tobias, saying:

It is time that I return to him that sent me. (Tb 12,20)

Raphael means ‘medicine of God’. He is Jesus Christ, who made an ointment out of the ‘serpent’ of his flesh, nailed to the Cross; and who bound the devil and enlightened the eyes of the human race. Then he said: It is time that I return to him that sent me; or: I go to him that sent me.

4. The Father sent us his Son, the best gift and the perfect gift, regarding which there is a concordance in today’s Epistle of blessed James: Every best gift and every perfect gift, etc. Best means supreme, and perfect is that to which nothing can be added. Christ is the ‘best gift’, because he is given us by the Father, whose supreme and co-eternal Son he is. It says in the second book of Kings:

And there was a third battle in Gob against the Philistines, in which Adeodatus the son of Forest, an embroiderer of Bethlehem, slew Goliath the Gethite. (2S 21,19)

‘Adeodatus’, literally, is David, who was given by God to the people of Israel. He is ‘son of Forest’, because in the forest he tended his father’s sheep, according to the words:

He brought him from following the ewes great with young. (Ps 77,70)

He is an ‘embroiderer’, because his mother was of the family of Bezaleel, who (as Exodus tells) was an embroiderer, a maker of clothes, clothes of many colours. He is a Bethlehemite, because Bethlehem was to be his birthplace.

Allegorically. There was a third battle in Gob, etc. The devil fought three battles against the Lord: in heaven, when by pride he sought to usurp the excellence of the divinity; in paradise, when with the blandishments of false promises and to the injury of the Creator he deceived our first parents; in the world, when he tempted the God-man himself in the desert and caused him to be nailed to the Cross. It is of this battle that it says, There was a third battle in Gob, which means ‘pit’, the world in which there is the pit of misery and the mire of dregs (Ps 39,3). The word means a place of stagnant water that does not flow. This world is the place of waters (pride, lust and avarice) which never flow out, but mount up every day. Here David (‘merciful’) is Jesus Christ, whose mercies are without number, who was given to us simply by the mercy of the Father, and who is ‘every best gift’. He slew Goliath the Gethite, Goliath meaning ‘changing’ and Geth, ‘fearful’: the devil who transformeth himself into an angel of light (2Co 11,14), because he is afraid to be caught in his own form. Our David slew him when he took away from him the dominion of this world, and shut him in the prison of hell.

He is ‘son of Forest’, a forest being a place where trees spring up. The ‘forest’ means the ancient fathers, patriarchs and prophets, who (like trees springing up) inspired by the spirit of God prophesied about the Incarnation of the Son of God. From their race he took flesh, and so he is called ‘son of Forest’.

He is called an ‘embroiderer’. An embroidered garment is made by needle-work. A needle has two ends, one with a sharp point, the other with an ‘eye’. The sharp point is Christ’s divinity, the ‘eye’ is his humanity. He himself says of this needle that a camel cannot pass through the needle’s eye. The humped camel (the rich and wealthy man) cannot pass through the eye of the needle (the poverty of Jesus Christ). Alternatively, the ‘eye’ is the mildness and mercy he showed in his first coming, and the point is the sharpness of justice with which he will pierce us in the Judgement. With this needle, the

embroiderer makes a coat of many colours, patterned with all kinds of virtues, for the faithful soul. So it says in Proverbs:

She hath made herself clothing of tapestry;

fine linen and purple is her covering. (Pr 31,22)

The clothing of tapestry is of many and varied colours. The raiment of the faithful is the fine linen of chastity and the purple of the Lord’s Passion.

He is also called a ‘Bethlehemite’. Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’. He feeds us in the Church with the bread of his Body: the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. (Jn 6,52)

Alternatively. Jesus Christ was ‘given by God’ in his Nativity; A child is born to us, and a son is given to us. He was ‘son of Forest’ in his preaching and in his Passion: in his preaching, because he chose the Apostles as trees springing up on high:

I have chosen you, that you should go and should bring forth fruit. (Jn 15,16)

In his Passion, because he was crowned with the thorns of our sins. He was an ‘embroiderer’ in his Resurrection; there, with the needle of his power and wisdom, he mended and restored to immortality the coat of many colours, his glorious flesh which he took from the virgin Mary and which was stretched out for us on the wood of the Cross, wounded with nails and pierced with the lance. He will be a ‘Bethlehemite’ to us in eternal blessedness, where we shall be satisfied when we see him face to face (cf. 1Co 13,12). Well said then, ‘Every best gift’. The Father of lights, like a kind and generous almsgiver, has given us (poor as we are) not just the good, or even the better, but the very best.

5. There follows: And every perfect gift. The Apostle says:

With him, he hath given us all things; (cf. Rm 8,32) and again:

He hath given him head of the Church. (cf. Ep 1,22)

The Gloss says, "He could not give a greater gift." Christ is rightly called ‘every perfect gift’, because when the Father gave him to us he brought everything to perfection in him. Whence:

The Son of man is come to save that which was lost. (Mt 18,11)

And that is why the Church sings today in the Introit of the Mass:

Sing to the Lord a new song, (Ps 97,1)

as if to say, O faithful people, saved and renewed by the Son of man, sing a new song. You should cast away the old, the new is coming in (cf. Lv 26,10). Sing, I say, because the Lord, the Father, has done marvellous things. He has sent his Son, every best gift. He hath revealed his justice in the sight of the Gentiles (Ps 97,2), since he has given us his Only-begotten, every perfect gift, who justifies the nations and brings all things to perfection.

So it is well said: Every perfect gift. In six days he made everything, he spoke and they were made (Ps 148,5). In the sixth age the Word was made flesh (Jn 1,14), and on the sixth day, at the sixth hour, he suffered for us and so brought all things to completion; saying on the Cross; It is consummated (Jn 16,30). As great as the distance between saying and doing, is the distance between creating and re-creating. Creation was light and easy, it was achieved by a mere word: that is, by God’s will alone, for to him to will is to do. But re-creation was very difficult, by means of his Passion and death. Adam was created easily, and fell very easily. Woe to us wretches! We have been re-created and redeemed by so great a Passion, so much anguish and pain: yet how easily we sin, and how gravely, and make of no effect that great labour of the Lord.

He himself says, in Isaiah:

I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength without cause and in vain. (Is 69,4)

God did not labour in creation: Whatever he willed, he did (Ps 134,6). But he laboured so greatly in re-creation that

His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. (Lc 22,44)

If he had such anguish in his prayer, how much do you think he had in his crucifixion? The Lord laboured, and by labouring he rescued us from the hand of the devil. But we sin mortally, and fall into the devil’s hand, and so (insofar as we can) we make the Lord’s labour vain. So he says, I have laboured in vain, without cause, without usefulness for anyone. I see no profit in my Passion, because:

There is none that doth good, no, not one. (Ps 13,1)

Cursing and lying and killing and theft and adultery have overflowed;

and blood hath touched blood. (Os 4,2)

Jeremiah says:

The priests did not say: Where is the Lord?

And they that held the law knew me not,

and the pastors (prelates) transgressed against me,

and the prophets (preachers) prophesied in Baal. (Jr 2,8)

(that is, ‘in the master’; they preach so as to show their superiority.) So the Lord said well, I have laboured in vain, without a cause, and I have spent my strength in vain. The strength of his divinity was as it were spent in the weakness of his humanity. Does it not seem to you that his strength was spent, when he, God and man, was bound to the pillar like a criminal and scourged with whips? When he was struck with blows, smeared with spittle and had his beard pulled? When the head before which angels tremble was struck with a reed, and when he was crucified between two thieves? Woe to those wretches, vain and mad, who are not drawn back by these things from worldly vanity! He spent his strength in vain, because those for whom he spent it are become vain! It is much to be feared that, just as at the beginning he said, It repenteth me that I have made man (Gn 6,7), he will now say, "It repenteth me that I have redeemed man, for I have spent my strength, but their evil-doing is not spent."

(A sermon on the Passion of the Lord: The bellows have failed in the fire.)

6. So Jeremiah says:

The bellows have failed in the fire, the lead is consumed,

the founder hath melted in vain; for their wicked deeds are not consumed.

Call them reprobate silver, for the Lord hath rejected them. (Jr 6,29-30)

In this text, note five things: the founder, the bellows, the fire, the lead and the silver. The founder is the Divine nature, the bellows is preaching, the fire is the Passion, the lead is Jesus Christ’s humanity, and the silver is our soul.

In a furnace of fire, silver is purified and made bright with lead. To purify silver of dross (that is, to purify our souls from evil) God and man and his preaching come together. But the founder melts in vain, and consumes his strength in vain. The bellows failed and the lead was consumed in the fire of his Passion, and so he laboured for no cause and in vain because our malice was not consumed. So the reprobate silver is cast on the dung- heap of Gehenna, the souls of men are put in the lake of burning fire. Hosea says:

Nettles shall inherit their beloved silver, the burr shall be in their tabernacles. (Os 9,6)

The stinging nettle is the fire of hell, and the clinging burr is the inescapable punishment with which the souls of the wicked will be tormented, because they would not receive the perfect gift of God, of which is said, Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, like a ray from the sun. Just as the sun’s ray coming down from the sun enlightens the world, and yet never departs from the sun: so the Son of God coming down from the Father enlightens the world, and yet never leaves the Father because he is one with the Father. As he himself says in John, I and the Father are one (Jn 10,30).

St John Damascene1 says, "The Word is incarnate, yet does not lose its proper incorporeality; so that it is both wholly incarnate and wholly unlimited. Corporeally, it is lessened and contracted; divinely, it is unbounded. The flesh is not extended, nor is the divinity circumscribed. He was in all things and above all things, yet he dwelt in the womb of the Holy Mother." St Augustine2 says, "When we read, The Word was made flesh, we acknowledge in the Word the true Son of God, and in the flesh the true Son of man; and in both together we acknowledge but one Person, God and man, joined by the gift of an inexpressible grace." It is well said, then,

Coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration. (Jc 1,17)

There is no alteration in God, so that at one time he gives good things, and at another time evil; or that he gives good with a certain admixture of evil. In his nature there is no mutability: it is always one and the same, not just in nature but also in the distribution of gifts, because he sends out only gifts of light, not shadows that deceive. So there is added:

Of his own will hath he begotten us (who were children of darkness, by the water of regeneration, so as to be children of light)

by the word of truth (the teaching of the Gospel)

to the end that we might be some beginning of his creature; (because now there begins to be the principle of renewal, and there will be full renewal in the future).

Alternatively, according to another translation: that we might be the first-fruits of his creation.

Alternatively, he begot us by the word of truth, that we might begin to groan by contrition, bring forth by confession (because, as the Apostle says: Every creature groaneth and travaileth even till now (Rm 8,22)), that afterwards we may rejoice with the Son of God, who said: I go to him that sent me.

(On the nature of the turtle-dove and what it signifies, and on the two-fold

inheritance of Jesus Christ.)

7. Christ did as the turtle-dove does. In winter-time it comes down to the valleys and lives in the hollow trunks of trees, having moulted its plumage. In spring it returns to the mountains. So Christ, in the winter of faithlessness and the cold of the devil’s persecution, came down into the womb of the most lowly Virgin, and dwelt in this world as poor and abject (like a bird without its plumage). Of this turtle-dove Solomon says in the Canticles:

The voice of the turtle is heard in our land. (Ct 2,12)

The voice of the turtle is groaning and weeping. Christ came down to groan and weep (for we never hear of him laughing), to teach us to groan and weep. The voice of the turtle, then, is heard in our land: Do penance! (Mt 3,2). But when summer drew near, and the cruel persecution of the Jews grew hot, and the heat of the Passion blazed up, then he returned to the mountain, his Father, saying; I go to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me; Whither goest thou? Let us ask Christ by what way he goes to the Father. He will reply, "By the way of the Cross!" So he himself says in Luke:

Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory? (Lc 24,26)

Christ had a double inheritance: one from his Mother, labour and sorrow; the other from his Father, joy and rest. So we, his co-heirs, should seek that double inheritance. We go astray when we want to have the second without the first, because the Lord established the second in the first, lest we look for the one without the other. He grafted the tree of life onto the tree of knowledge of good and evil, when the Word was made flesh. Whence:

He shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters. (Ps 1,3)

And Isaiah:

Founding the earth and planting the heavens. (Is 51,16)

In the earth of humanity, founded upon the seven pillars of sevenfold grace, he planted the heaven of divinity. Let us take possession of the first inheritance which Jesus Christ left to us, that we may be found fit to attain the second.


(A sermon against worldlings: When the Paraclete is come.)

8. There follows, secondly:

When the Paraclete is come, he will convince the world of sin and of justice and of judgement. Of sin; because they believed not in me. And of justice; because I go to the Father, and you shall see me no longer. And of judgement; because the prince of this world is already judged. (Jn 16,8-11)

The world is in movement. No rest is granted to its elements. In Greek, the world is the ‘cosmos’, and man is called a ‘microcosm’, a little world. Just as the world is made up of the four elements, so man consists of four ‘humours’, mixed into one ‘temperament’ (or so the ancients taught). In this passage, the ‘world’ means worldly people, always ‘in a whirl’. So, in his canonical Epistle, St Jude says of them:

These are... clouds without water, which are carried about by the winds; trees of autumn, unfruitful, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out of their own confusion; wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever. (Jud 1,12-13)

Note four things in this text: clouds, trees, waves and stars. In these four, the four vices of worldly folk are comprised, namely: pride, avarice, lust and hypocrisy.

‘Clouds’ are light in weight, dark in hue, and they represent the proud. Light minded, yet darkened in mind, they are borne about by various sins, lacking the water of compunction and the light of sevenfold grace. The Prophet says of them:

O my God, make them like a wheel: and as stubble before the wind. (Ps 82,14)

Note these two, wheel and stubble. The wheel turns, the stubble burns. God makes the proud a wheel, letting them turn from sin to sin; and afterwards he makes them like stubble before the wind, because like stubble parched of the moisture of grace, they will be burnt in the fire of eternal punishment.

‘Autumn trees’, unfruitful, are the avaricious, who uselessly cumber the ground (Lc 13,7). The Lord curses them like a tree on which he finds no fruit (cf. Mt 11,21). Note these four: autumn, unfruitful, twice-dead, rooted up. In autumn the wind blows away the leaves. The avaricious are autumn trees, and when the wind of death blows they are despoiled of the leaves of riches, with which they were adorned and clothed. Being unfruitful, they are cast into eternal fire; for:

Every tree that doth not yield good fruit shall be cut down, and cast into the fire. (Mt 3,10)

They are twice-dead, buried in soul and body in hell; rooted up from the land of the living.

‘Raging waves of the sea’ are the lustful. They are called ‘waves’ because they are tossed about by the blasts of the wind. The lustful are tossed about by the suggestions of the unclean spirits, they rise and fall with various thoughts, and foam with lust to the

confusion of their souls. They behave like a pot put on the fire, that foams and boils over. The pot is the sinner’s heart, holding the water of carnal desire. When the fire of diabolical temptation is applied to it, it foams with lust, to their own confusion.

‘Wandering stars’ are hypocrites and false religious. Sailors observe the stars and set their course by them. Good prelates of the Church and true religious are stars shining in a dark place (cf. 2P 1,19), and by them those who sail this world’s sea rightly direct their course to the harbour of eternal life. But hypocrites and false religious are ‘wandering stars’, a cause of shipwreck to others, and so they are themselves cast down by the storm and tempest of death.

(On wind-eggs and their different shapes, and on the nature of the partridge, and what all these things signify.)

9. All these kind of people are like ‘wind-eggs’, that hatch no chicks. It is said that hen- partridges are so excited by lust that if the males blow a breath at them, the very scent makes them pregnant, and they produce eggs that do not hatch. All these eggs are ‘wind- eggs’. The partridge is a deceitful and unclean bird, and it stands for the sinners we have mentioned who (as Peter says) have eyes full of adultery and of sin that ceaseth not (2P 2,14), and by the breath of the devil’s suggestions they conceive eggs of wind, the love of worldly vanity. Hosea says:

They have sown wind and reaped a whirlwind.

There is no standing stalk in them, nor does it yield meal. (Os 8,7)

Those who sow the wind of worldly love will without doubt reap the whirlwind of eternal death. The stalk, the sharp ear, is contrition of heart which pierces the sinner and produces the flour of confession. This stalk does not stand, and it does not produce meal in sinners, because they do not engender ‘chicks’, the works of eternal life, but only the wind of worldly vanity.

Note that eggs differ in shape, some being narrow and some wide. The wide are produced first, then the narrow. Long pointed eggs produce males; the round sort, which have round and not pointed ends, produce females3 . By this means it is easy to tell which eggs will produce males and which females. Similarly the devil, observing the ‘pointedness’ or ‘roundness’, sees in human beings which are manly and which womanish. By ‘pointedness’ I mean compunction and the contemplation of heavenly things; by ‘roundness’, delight in the flesh and the pursuit of worldly things. So we read:

I have gone round the earth and walked through it. (Jb 1,7)

He goeth round like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1P 5,8)

So he says in Isaiah:

My hand hath found the strength of the people as a nest:

and as eggs are gathered that are left so have I gathered all the earth.

And there was none that moved the wing (of virtue),

or opened the mouth (by confession),

or made the least noise (by inner compunction). (Is 10,14)

‘Males’ (just men, contrite of heart, intent on contemplation) do not behave like this; but ‘females’ (worldly people, enfeebled with transitory things) do. It is to them that the words apply:

When the Paraclete comes, he will convince the world, etc.

Paraclesis is the Greek for ‘comfort’, so the Paraclete is the Comforter, whose comfort worldly folk will not receive, because they have their own comfort. The Lord says of them:

Woe to you... for you have your consolation; (Lc 6,24)

and Isaiah:

Are not you wicked children, a false seed,

who seek your comfort in idols and under every green tree? (Is 57,4-5)

Worldly folk are wicked children by pride, and a false seed by lust. They are comforted in the idols of avarice (which is idolatry) under every green tree, the glory of temporal things.

(A sermon against fornicators and drunkards, and how they lose heart and faith: Fornication and wine and drunkenness take away the heart.)

10. When the Paraclete comes, he will convince the world of sin (which it has), and of justice (which it does not have), and of judgement (which it does not fear).

Note these three: sin, justice and judgement. The Latin ‘peccator’ (sinner) may have been connected with the word for a concubine or prostitute, and may have referred to those who commit fornication; but what was anciently a word for profligates later became a term for all wicked people. More than by any other vice, the world is defiled by

fornication. Hosea says:

They have committed fornication and have not ceased:

because they have forsaken the Lord in not observing his law.

Fornication and wine and drunkenness take away the heart. (Os 4,10)

There are three things to note in the heart: indignation, the seat of wisdom, and love.

The heart is a noble organ, which feels indignation and will not let what is unclean enter it. But fornication makes it lose that indignation, and lets it swallow that morsel. Again, the heart is the seat of wisdom, but wine causes it to lose this. Similarly, it is by the heart that we love; but he who is drunk with the desire for temporal things and will not help his neighbour, loses this love. It is obvious that fornication takes away the heart, from the case of Solomon who worshipped idols. The Apostle says:

With the heart we believe unto justice, (Rm 10,10)

but fornication takes away the heart wherein is faith.

So by fornication faith is lost, and that is why it is called ‘for-nication’, formae necatio, the killing of the soul formed in God’s likeness. Faith is the life of the soul. The Apostle says: Let Christ dwell in your hearts by faith (Ep 3,17), but fornication takes away the heart, in which is life, and so the soul dies- for when the cause ceases, so does the effect. So the Lord says:

Of sin, because they have not believed in me.

The Paraclete, through the ministers of preaching, convicts the world of the sin of fornication.

(A sermon on the justice of the saints: And of justice.)

11. And of justice. Justice is that by which, by a right judgement, to each is given his own ‘as of right’. Justice is a habit of mind, for the service of the common good, to give to each what he deserves. The parts of justice are: to fear God, to respect religious observance, piety, humanity, delight in what is right and good, hatred of evil, taking care to give thanks. The world does not have this justice, because it does not fear God, it dishonours religion, it hates the good and it is ungrateful to God. Of justice, which it does not perform because it does not punish itself as justice demands for the sins it has committed. Of justice: the world is proved wrong not by its own justice, but by that of believers, by comparison with which it is condemned. So he does not say: The world will not see me, but: You will not see me, you the Apostles. This is against worldly folk, who say, "How shall we believe what we do not see?" The real justice, the faith that justifies,

is to believe what is not seen.

Alternatively, He will refute the world about the justice of the saints. Thus the Lord says by Zechariah:

The building-line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. (Za 1,16)

A building-line is a mason’s tool, which hangs down perpendicularly. It is a stone or piece of lead suspended on a thread, by which walls are aligned. The justice of the saints is like a plumb-line set against ‘Jerusalem’ (any faithful soul), whereby it may form and measure its life against their ex-ample. Every time we celebrate the feasts of the saints, we are applying this plumb-line to the lives of sinners. We celebrate their feasts, so as to receive from their lives a pattern of living. How ridiculous, to want to honour the saints on their days with eating, when we know that they got to heaven by fasting! If we do not imitate the saints, but rather love the world and its glory; if we pamper our bodies with pleasure and amass money: then their justice will prove that we ought to be condemned.

(A sermon on judgement, in which six persons are sought: And of judgement.)

12. And of judgement. Note that six persons are involved in every judgement; the judge, the prosecutor, the criminal and three witnesses. The judge is the priest, the sinner is both prosecutor and criminal (since he should accuse himself of his sins), and the three witnesses are contrition, confession and satisfaction (which bear witness that the sinner is truly penitent). St Augustine4 says: "Enter, man, into the tribunal of your conscience. Let reason be the judge and your deeds be the witnesses." Worldly people, who do not want to undergo this judgement, will accordingly be judged with their prince, the devil (who is judged already), in the assize of the Last Judgement; and they will be condemned with an irrevocable sentence.

James the Apostle, to teach such folk to avoid sin, to love justice and to fear judgement, says in the second part of today’s Epistle:

You know, my dearest brethren. And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man worketh not the justice of God. (Jc 1,19-20)

Every man should be swift to hear what the Apostle says: Fly fornication (1Co 6,18).

(A sermon against the gluttonous and lustful: If thou wilt hearken to me, there shall not be.)

13. The Lord says in the Psalm:

If thou wilt hearken to me, there shall be no new god in thee;

neither shalt thou adore a strange god. (Ps 80,9-10)

The ‘new god’ is the belly, which is always looking for something new. This god is in those of whom the Apostle says:

Whose god is their belly; and whose glory is their shame; who mind earthly things. (Ph 3,19)

The ‘strange god’ is lust, which estranges man from God. This is the god Beelphegor (‘ancient devourer’). It is lust, the old evil, the ancient disease, which devours everything good. There is a concordance to this in the book of Numbers:

The people committed fornication with the daughters of Moab, who called them to their sacrifices; and they ate of them, and adored their gods. And Israel was initiated to Beelphegor. Upon which the Lord being angry said to Moses: Take all the princes of the people, and hang them up on gibbets against the sun: that my fury may be turned away from Israel. (Nb 25,1-4)

The daughters of Moab (‘from the father’) are greed and lust and the other vices which come from the devil as father, and with them all worldly people commit fornication. They eat and adore their gods, being given up to greed and lust. Therefore the princes of the people must be hung on gibbets. The princes of the people are the five bodily senses, which must be hung on the gibbet of penitence for what they have done. And this must be ‘against the sun’, the sun being the worldly glory in opposition to which we must take our stand by works of penitence, because we have sinned.

Alternatively, against the sun means that if we have sinned openly, we should do penance openly. On this text, Take all the princes, we have Origen5 , who introduces this text and applies it to the angels, saying: "If an angel hopes for a reward (having received us as a trust from God) for what we have done well, he fears to be blamed for what we have done ill. So he is said to be exposed ‘against the sun’, so that it may be clear by whose fault it was committed, whereby we are consecrated to Beelphegor, or any idol, according to the type of sin. If a ‘prince’ (someone’s guardian angel) was not at fault, but gave me reminders of good, and spoke in my heart at least, so that I was aware of him recalling me from my sin; and I spurned his warnings and the restraint of conscience, and rushed into sin: then my punishment will be double, for despising the guardian as well as for the sin committed. Do not wonder, if angels come with men to judgement. The Lord himself will come to judgement with the princes of his people."

He also says, on the same text6 : "According to the Apocalypse of John, an angel presided generally over each Church, who will be either praised for the good deeds of the people, or blamed for the sins of the people. I am moved to wonder at this amazing mystery, that God cares so much for us that he even blames his angels on our account, and lets them be put to shame. For when a child is entrusted to a tutor, the tutor gets the

blame if the child acquires bad habits (unless the child is hard, obstinate and pleasureseeking, and ignores the tutor’s good advice). Isaiah tells us what will happen to his soul: The daughter of Sion shall be left as a covert in a vineyard (Is 1,8)." And he adds, "God cares more for the soul’s salvation than the devil does for its perdition."

(On the disposition of the ear and the tongue, and what they signify: Let every man be swift.)

14. Let every man, then, be swift to hear. By nature every man should be swift to hear, for the ear is an organ that rapidly seizes and draws in sound. There is no flesh at the back of the head, nor brain; and the organ of hearing is at the back of the head. This is only right, because the back of the head is empty, full of air, and air is the instrument of hearing. So man hears swiftly, if there is no impediment. Likewise in the head (i.e. the mind) in which there is no ‘flesh’ of self-will, but the ‘air’ of a devout mind, the voice of obedience passes swiftly in. So it is said:

At the hearing of the ear they have obeyed me; (Ps 17,45)

and Samuel says in the first book of Kings:

Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. (1S 3,10)

And so that obedience may penetrate more rapidly, it is fitting that it should be ‘airy’, pure and perceptive of heavenly things, and having nothing earthly about it. So let every man be swift to hear.

And slow to speak. Nature itself teaches that this is so, because it has enclosed the tongue by a kind of double door, so that it may not wander freely. Nature has put two sets of doors in front of the tongue, the teeth and the lips, to indicate that no word should go forth without great care. The man who said:

I have set a watch on my mouth, and a door round about my lips, (Ps 140,3)

closed those two doors discreetly. And he is right to say, a door round about, because he should avoid not just wrong words, but what is ‘round about’ wrong words. For instance, there are people who would be ashamed to tell lies about another, but they do not mind running them down under a cloak of faint praise, and (worse still) they even do this in confession.

And note that the door of the lips, not just of the teeth, should be closed. A person closes the door of both teeth and lips when he refrains from both detraction and flattery. But the tongue (which James calls an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison (Jc 3,8), and a fire that kindles the wood of virtue and inflames the wheel of our nativity (ibid. 5,6)) breaks both the first and the second door, and goes like a harlot into the street, talkative and

wandering, not bearing to be quiet (PRov ,, and disturbing everything. St Bernard 7 says of it: "Who can count how many defilements this little member, the tongue, attracts? How manifold the uncleanness tangled in uncircumcised lips, how great the harm done by an unchecked mouth? No-one can reckon of little account the time wasted in idle chatter. This is, indeed, the acceptable time, the day of salvation: yet words escape and cannot be recalled, and time flies and cannot be mended, and the fool does not even notice what he is losing. Let us talk together, they say, at least for an hour: but the Creator’s grace gave you that time to gain pardon, to seek grace, to do penance and to earn glory." He says again: "You should not be afraid to say that a gossip’s tongue is crueller than the blade which pierced the Lord’s side. It enters Christ’s body, not when it already is dead, but to cause death. The thorns that pierced his head, the nails that pierced his hands and feet, were not more hurtful" than the tongue of a slanderer, which pierces the very heart. The Philosopher says: "Do not speak what is disgraceful: little by little words destroy shame." "Sometimes I regret speaking, but never being silent." "Use your ears more often than your tongue." So let every man be slow to speak, and then he will be able to imitate the justice of the saints; for as James says:

If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man. (Jc 3,2)

(A sermon against the wrathful: And slow to anger.)

And slow to anger, which obscures the mind so that it does not see what is true. The Philosopher9 says of it: "The less you repress anger, the more you will be pressed by anger." "The angry man, when he stops being angry, is angry with himself." "Anger is not accustomed to respect anything." So it is well said:

The anger of man worketh not the justice of God.

So let every man be slow to anger, or else on the Day of Wrath he will receive with the devil the irrevocable sentence of damnation.

Anthony_Sermons - (PROLOGUE)