Anthony_Sermons - (ALLEGORICAL SERMON)


10. David, sitting in the chair. There is something similar in Ecclesiasticus:

The king, that sitteth on the throne of judgement, scattereth away all evil with his look. (Pr 20,8)

David, the just man or the penitent, is strong-armed. So Genesis 16 says of Ismael:

He shall be a wild man.

His hand will be against all men, and all men’s hands against him;

and he shall pitch his tents over against all his brethren. (Gn 16,12)

Where we have ‘wild man’, the Hebrew says ‘wild ass’. This represents the penitent, who ‘bears the burden of the day and the heats’ (cf. Mt 20,12) in the field of penitence. His ‘hand’ (his works) is against all the demons, and the ‘hands’ of all the demons are against him. "An enemy who fights well makes you a good fighter"3 He firmly pitches the tents of penitence against his ‘brethren’, his impulses or bodily senses, being ready to withstand them at all times.

And where does this strength come to him from? Surely from the ‘chair’. Sitting in the chair he was the wisest. Wisdom is of things that are, and those who belong to it are allotted its unchangeable substance. Wisdom is as it were a ‘taste’; just as taste distinguishes the flavour of foods, so the wise man distinguishes wise and unwise, evil and good. The penitent or the just man is wise in lamenting past misdeeds, wiser in avoiding pitfalls, and wisest of all in savouring eternal goods. He sits in the chair. The ‘chair’, the high seat of a judge, is the reason, also called a ‘throne’, being firmly established. He who sits in it dispels with a look all the evil of the devil, the flesh and the world. "The reason is that aspect of the mind whereby it sees the truth, in virtue of itself, not of the body; or, it is the very contemplation of truth, not by the body; or it is the very truth which is contemplated."4

Alternatively, the ‘chair’ is the remembrance of death, in which one sits by humbling oneself. No one can steer his boat properly, unless he takes care to sit in the stern. The ‘boat’, narrow at the front and the rear, but wide in the middle, is human life, which is narrow indeed at its entrance and exit, which are wretched and bitter, but wide in the middle, wandering and wanton. No one can steer it properly unless he takes care to humble himself in the remembrance of death. And note that it says ‘wisest’. The steersman who sits in the stern, the rearmost part of the ship, is, and must be, the wisest of all. He sees everyone, watches over everything, stirs up the lazy, encourages those who labour, promises a lull in the storm- indeed, calm- and cheers them up with the hope of a good harbour. In this way, he who humbles himself in the remembrance of death arranges his whole life properly, and supervise its circumstances. He knows well how to eradicate idleness, strengthen himself in labour, hope in the Lord’s mercy in time of adversity, and direct his life to the harbour of eternal life.

11. And so, he is wisest chief among the three, meaning contrition, confession and satisfaction. I Kings 10 tells of these three, when Samuel says to Saul:

When thou shalt come to the oak of Thabor, there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine. (1S 10,3)

Let us see what is meant by the oak of Thabor, the three men, Bethel, the three kids and three loaves of bread, and the bottle of wine.

The oak is a tree from which anciently folk used to seek food, the acorns which at first men made use of. Thabor means ‘coming light’. The oak is penitence, in which the ancient fathers used to seek food for the soul, the coming light of divine grace. The heavenly light came there, showing a man himself and what belonged to him, which he did not see before. When, therefore, you come to penitence, there shall meet you three men going up (making you go up) to God at Bethel (meaning ‘house of God’, the heavenly Jerusalem). Contrition carries three kids, which stand for the three-fold stink of sin, in conscience, person and reputation. The penitent must weep in contrition, because he has corrupted his conscience by consent, his person by his action, and his reputation by bad example.

Again, confession carries three loaves of bread, representing three kinds of tears. As it is said, My tears have been my bread day and night (Ps 41,4). Tears are well called ‘loaves’, which come by kneading the heart. Tears come by ‘tearing’ the mind. ‘Bread’ is a word used to stand for any sort of food, which any animal seeks. We must season every food of our soul with compunction, because every work is flavourless without devotion. We seek it, and must seek it, every day from God, because we need it every day: Give us this day our daily bread, etc. (Lc 11,3). So the sinner must weep in confession, because he has soiled the robe of his Baptismal innocence, earned Hell instead, and lost eternal life.

Again, satisfaction carries a bottle of wine, representing the gladness of satisfaction, which should not be performed half-heartedly or grudgingly. The Lord loveth a cheerful giver (2Co 9,7). Fasting and almsgiving should be performed gladly, and prayer with hope in the divine mercy. Happy is that penitent, ruler of himself, sitting in the seat of reason, or humbling himself in the remembrance of death, who is thus amongst these three.

12. There follows: He was like the most tender little worm of the wood. Note that a worm has three characteristics. It is always in motion, it lifts its head to see the way it may best go, and it shortens itself so as to stretch itself out longer. So, too, the just man: He is always at work. St Jerome says, "Always be doing some work, so that the devil finds you busy," because, Idleness hath taught much evil (Si 33,29).

"If you ask why Aegisthus became an adulterer, the answer is: he had nothing better to do."6

Natural History teaches that from idleness superfluities grow in the body. It is the same with the soul. But hard work consumes these superfluities, so that they evaporate from those who do much. It is also said that all species of plant, if not cultivated, will run wild. Again, he raises his head (his mind) so as to see with the eye of discretion the way of his action, whereby he may better draw himself to God. It is said that: The eyes of a wise man are in his head (Qo 2,14), meaning the light of discretion in his mind. And also: Let thy eyelids go before thy steps (Pr 4,25). Again, he shortens himself by humility, so as to stretch himself out towards eternal life. May he who is blessed for ever deign to grant us this. Amen.


13. David, sitting in the chair. David, whose name means ‘beautiful to see’, is Christ, who did battle against the powers of the air, with his hands nailed to the cross, on whose beautiful countenance the angels desire to gaze (cf. 1P 1,12). For, as Apocalypse 1 says:

His face was as the sun shineth in his power. (Ap 1,16)

He sits in the chair (that is, the Cross), the wisest, because he is the Wisdom of God the Father in which he made all things. There is something similar in III Kings 4:

Solomon was wiser than all men; and he treated about trees, from the cedar that is in Libanus, unto the hyssop that cometh out of the wall. (1R 4,31 1R 4,33)

Solomon is Christ, wiser than all men because he is Wisdom itself; of which Ecclesiasticus 1 says:

Who hath searched out the wisdom of God that goeth before all things?

Wisdom hath been created before all things.

The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom, (Si 1,3-5)

meaning the Son from whom all wisdom is derived, like water from a fountain.

He, sitting upon the wood of the Cross, treated from the cedar of Libanus (the height of the divinity), to the hyssop (the lowliness of his humanity) which grows out of the wall, the blessed Virgin, of whom Isaiah 38 says:

Ezechias turned his face to the wall, and wept with a great weeping. (Is 38,2-3)

The promise was made to David, that of his seed Christ would be born; but when Ezechias saw that he was going to die without an heir, he believed that the promise regarding Christ was going to fail. So he wept with a great weeping, and turned his face (the gaze of his mind) towards the wall, the blessed Virgin, whom above all he desired to be born of his seed, so that from her Christ might be born. Great was the wisdom of Christ upon the Cross, which caught the devil with the hook of the divinity, when he tried to swallow the bait of his humanity. So Job 26 says:

His wisdom hath struck the proud one. (Jb 26,12)

14. He sits, therefore, in the chair, wisest chief among the three. Understand this as follows, that he himself was one among three, Dismas and Gestas, and the divine power in the middle. So John says:

They crucified him with two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the middle. (Jn 19,18)

See how he sits, how the prince of angels humbles himself! As if he were a thief, he is crucified between thieves. And so, regarding his humility, the text continues: He was like the most tender little worm of the wood.

Note that a worm does three things: it draws itself along with its mouth; it cries loudly when the wood it is in is burnt; it is soft to the touch, but hard when it bites. So Christ, when confronting the malice of the Jews, drew himself to the Cross by his own mouth. "Truth gives birth to hatred."7 That is why he bore the Cross. It is also written of him that "The scarab cries from the Cross."8 The scarab is a little flying animal whose eyes are on top of its head. So Christ was ‘little’ by his humility, and ‘flying’ by the power of his divinity, for:

He flew upon the wings of the winds’, (Ps 17,11),

that is, upon the virtues of the angels and saints. The head of Christ is God (1Co 11,3). He has eyes on top of his head, because he sees all from the power of his divinity, in whose sight no creature is invisible (cf. He 4,13). When he was burning on the wood of the Cross with the fire of the Passion, he cried with a loud voice: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Lc 23,46). Again, no-one was more patient or humble than he, when he was scourged, crowned with thorns, buffeted with blows. No-one will be stronger than he, when in the judgement, by an irrevocable sentence, he casts the devil with all his members into hell. May he, who is blessed for ever, deliver us from this! Amen.


15. David, sitting in the chair, etc. David, whose name means ‘merciful’, is any prelate of

the Church who is chosen for this: to show mercy to others with a three-fold mercy. So "Peter was told three times, Feed (cf. Jn 21,15-17); he was not once told, Shear! Feed with the word of preaching, with the suffrage of devout prayer, and with temporal benefits."9 He sits in the chair of ecclesiastical dignity, and would that he were ‘wisest’ by that wisdom of which James 3 says:

The wisdom that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good fruits, judging, without dissimulation. (Jc 3,17)

Behold the seven steps by which the prelate should go up to his chair: Ezekiel says, Its ascent was by seven steps (cf. Ez 40,22). The prelate’s life should be seasoned with the wisdom which is from above, so that in the first place the purity of his mind should be chaste as to himself, and peaceful towards his neighbour. He should be modest, as to his moral behaviour; persuadable and ready to listen; consenting to what is good, both in inclination and in action; and full of mercy. Behold David, merciful towards the poor, to whom belonged all he had beyond his personal needs; otherwise, ‘the spoil of the poor would be in his house’ (cf. Is 3,14), and he should be reckoned a robber. Alternatively, he is full of mercy in the compassion of his mind, and fruitful in carrying out his work. He judges without pretence, having no favourites in his judgement; or else, he metes out to himself the same measure of penance as he judges for others, because:

Diverse weights and diverse measures, both are abominable before God. (Pr 20,10)


A scant measure is full of wrath. (Mi 6,10)

There follows: chief among the three. These are way of life, knowledge and eloquence, which should be the chief supports of a prelate. His life should be pure, his knowledge sound, and his eloquence to the point. But alas! Nowadays we see uncleanness in life, blindness in knowledge and dumbness in eloquence. He was like the most tender little worm of the wood. The Gloss says, "David was milder than others in his troubles, in his household and regarding his subjects. But upon his throne, and against his enemies, no- one was sharper." And David is commended here for these three, namely his wisdom, his humility and his fortitude. Such should be the prelate who wants to rule the people committed to him well. May he who is blessed for ever deign to grant him this. Amen.

1 ISIDORE, De fide catholica, I,2,5; PL 83.453-454
2 Abbot GUERRIC, Sermon for Palm Sunday, 2,1; PL 185.130
3 OVID, Ponticae 11,3,53
4 GUIGO THE CARTHUSIAN, Epistola ad fratres, 11,2,4: PL 184.341
5 JEROME, Letter 125 to Rusticus, 11; PL 22.1078
6 OVID, Remedia amoris, 161-162
7 TERENCE, I,1,41
8 cf. AMBROSE, Expositio in Lucam, X,113; PL 14.1925
9 cf. Abbot GAUFRIDUS, Declamationes, 11,12; PL 184.444

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



1. At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: When you fast, etc. (Mt 6,16)

In this Gospel two things are noted: fasting and almsgiving.


2. Fasting: When you fast. In this first clause four things are noted, namely, the pretence of the hypocrites, the anointing of the head, the washing of the face and the hiding of good deeds.

When you fast. Natural History says that the saliva of a man who is fasting has power against poisonous animals; and so, if a serpent tastes it, it dies. There is, then, great medicinal power in a fasting man. As long as Adam in Paradise abstained from the forbidden tree, he remained innocent. See the medicine which kills the serpent-devil, and restores the paradise which was lost by greed! It is told that Esther humbled her body with fasts, to put down the proud Aman and restore the grace of king Assuerus to the Jews (cf. Est 4). Fast, then, if you want these two things, namely, victory over the devil and restoration of lost grace.

But, When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad (Mt 6,16); that is, make a display of your fasting by the very sadness of your face. It is not the virtue which is forbidden, but the pretence of virtue. The hypocrite is ‘gilt’ on the outside, but ‘clay’ in his inner conscience. He is like the Babylonian idol of Bel, of which Daniel 14 says:

O king, be not deceived, for this is but clay within, and brass without. (Da 14,6)

Brass makes a ringing sound, while having something of the appearance of gold. Likewise the hypocrite loves the ringing of praise, and shows the appearance of holiness. The hypocrite is humble in face, lowly in dress, an exile in voice, but a wolf in mind. This sadness is not ‘according to God’. It’s a wonderful way to get praise, to pretend to signs of sadness! Usually men rejoice in monetary gain; this is a different business- that is vanity, but this is falsity!

They disfigure their faces (Mt 6,16), beyond the limits of the normal human condition. Excess in dirty and ragged clothing is as much a form of boasting as too much splendour. One should keep to the mean between an affectation of filth and a fussiness about cleanliness. That they may appear unto men. Whatever they do is just outward show, painted in false colours. The Gloss says, "To seem different from other men, they make display of a lowness beyond other men." Fasting: The hypocrite fasts to gain praise, the miser to fill his purse; but the just man to please God. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward (Mt 6,16). This is the reward of prostitution, of which Moses says: Make not thy daughter a prostitute (Lv 19,29). Their ‘daughter’ is their deeds, which they send into the world’s brothel to gain the reward of praise. He would be a fool, who exchanged a gold mark for a lead penny. He who gives the good he does for human praise, is selling something of great value for a cheap price.

3. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face. (Mt 6,17)

There is a concordance in Zechariah 8:

Thus saith the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Juda joy and gladness and great solemnities. (Za 8,19)

Penitents are the house of Juda (‘confessing’ or ‘praising’), for their confession of sin is the praise of God. To them belongs the ‘fast of the fourth’, because they fast from four things: the pride of the devil, impurity of the mind, the glory of the world, and injury to their neighbour. This is the fast that I have chosen, saith the Lord (cf. Is 58,6). The ‘fast of the fifth’ is restraining the five senses from wandering and wantonness. The ‘fast of the seventh’ is the exclusion of earthly cupidity. Just as the seventh day is said to have no end, so the greed for money is bottomless and insatiable. The ‘fast of the tenth’ is the cessation from an evil end, for ten is the end of all number- whoever wants to count beyond ten, must go back to one again. The Lord complains in Malachi 3:

You afflict me, and you have said: Wherein do we afflict thee?

In tithes and in first-fruits. (Ml 3,8)

That is, in an evil end and in the beginning of a corrupt intention. Take heed: he mentions ‘tithes’ before ‘first-fruits’, because it is chiefly from a corrupt end that all the preceding work is made blameworthy. Such a fast is, for penitents, in joy of mind and in gladness of divine love, and in the great solemnities of heavenly conversation. This is ‘to anoint the head and wash the face’. He anoints his head, who is inwardly rich in spiritual joy; he washes his face, who adorns his works with honesty of life.

4. Alternatively: But thou, when thou fastest. There are many who fast throughout these forty days, and yet persist in their sins. These do not anoint their heads. Note that there are three kinds of ointment: that which soothes, that which corrodes, and that which

stings. The first is made of the remembrance of death, the second of the presence of the coming Judge, the third of Gehenna. A head may be blistered, or full of warts, or covered in a rash. A blister is weeping sore in the skin; a wart is an excrescence of the flesh, an excess; a rash is a dry scabbiness, which is unsightly. These three represent pride, avarice and inveterate lust. Do you, O proud man, bring back before your mind’s eye the reduction of your body to ashes, decay and stink. Where then will be your pride of heart, your boasted riches? Windy words will then cease, just as a blister bursts at the prick of the needle. When these things are thought about inwardly, they anoint the blistered head; that is, they humble the proud mind.

And do you, O miser, remember the last assize, where there is the angry judge, the executioner ready to torture, the accusing demons, the gnawing conscience. Then, as Ezekiel says, thy silver shall be cast forth and thy gold shall become a dunghill. Thy silver and thy gold shall not be able to deliver thee in the day of the wrath of the Lord (cf. Ez 7,19). When these things are carefully considered, they corrode and cut out the warty superfluities, and share them among those who have not even the necessities of life. Do you, I pray, when you fast, anoint your head with this ointment, so that what you take from yourself you may bestow on the poor.

And do you, O lustful man, remember the unquenchable Gehenna, where there is undying death, an endless end; where death is sought and not found, where the damned gnaw their own tongues and curse their Creator.. The wood for this fire consists in the souls of sinners, and the breath of God’s anger makes it blaze. So Isaiah 30 says:

For Topheth (Gehenna)

is prepared from yesterday (from eternity, which is but yesterday to God),

deep and wide. The nourishment thereof is fire and much wood;

the breath of the Lord as a torrent of brimstone kindling it. (Is 30,33)

Behold the stinging ointment which heals the inveterate lust of the mind. Just as a key is pushed out by a key, so these (when pondered carefully) drive out the sting of lust. Do you, when you fast, anoint your head with this ointment.

5. There follows: Wash thy face. When women want to go out in public, they set a mirror before themselves, and if they notice any spot on their face, they wash it with water. You should do likewise. Look into the mirror of your own conscience, and if you find their any spot of sin, go at once to the fountain of confession. When the face of your body is washed in confession with tears, the face of your soul is made bright. Note, then, that tears are clear against obscurity, warm against coldness, and salt against the stink of sin. That thou appear not to men to fast. He fasts to men, who seeks their favour; he fasts to God, who for love of him torments himself and bestows on others what he takes from himself. But to thy Father who is in secret (Mt 6,18). The Gloss says, "Your Father

is within by faith, and he rewards what is done in secret. Fast, then, where he may see. The faster must needs fast so as to please him whom he bears in his breast."


6. Almsgiving: Lay not up to yourselves treasures, etc. (Mt 6,19). Rust eats metal, and moths eat clothes; and what these leave, thieves steal. In these three ways, all avarice is condemned. Let us see what is meant by these five: earth, treasures, rust, moth and thieves.

The ‘earth’, parched with a natural dryness, is the flesh; which so thirsts that it can never be satisfied. The ‘treasures’ are the precious senses of the body. The ‘rust’, harmful to iron and eating it away, is lust which at the same time as dulling the beauty of the soul, also eats it away. The clinging ‘moth’ is pride or wrath. The ‘thieves’, who come in the darkness of night, are the demons. If, then, we do something in the flesh, and heap up treasures on earth (that is, if we occupy the precious bodily senses in earthly or fleshly desires), then the rust of lust will consume them. Further, pride, wrath and other vices destroy the clothing of morals; and if anything is left the demons steal it, being ever intent on despoiling the things of the spirit.

There follows: Lay up to yourselves treasures (Mt 6,20). Alms are a great treasure. St Lawrence said, "The hands of the poor have carried away the goods of the Church as heavenly treasures."1 He who gives to Christ lays up treasure in heaven. He who succours the poor, gives to Christ: What you did to the least of mine, you did to me (cf.

Mt 25.40), he says. The Greek ‘eleemosyna’ means the same as ‘mercy’. Mercy waters the wretched heart. A man waters his garden, so as to get fruit from it. You should water the heart of the wretched and poor with alms, which are called ‘the water of God’., so that you may gather fruit in eternal life. Let the poor man be your ‘heaven’; place your treasure in him, so that your heart may ever be there, and especially in these forty days. Where your heart is, there your eye is; and where these two are, there is understanding; as it is said:

Blessed is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor. (Ps 40,2)

Daniel said to Nabuchodonosor:

Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, and redeem thou thy sins with alms and thy iniquities with works of mercy to the poor. (Da 4,24)

There are many sins and iniquities, and so there should be many alms and works of mercy to the poor. With these, redeemed from the captivity of sin, you may return, free men, to your heavenly homeland. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.


7. We read in the Judges 7 that Gedeon defeated the camp of Madian with lamps, trumpets and pitchers (cf. Jg 7,16-23). There is something similar in Isaiah 10:

Behold, the sovereign Lord of hosts shall break the earthen vessel with terror.

And the tall of stature shall be cut down; and the lofty shall be humbled.

And the thickets of the forest shall be cut down with iron,

and Libanus with its high ones shall fall (Is 10,33-34)

Let us see what is meant by these four: Gedeon, the lamp, the trumpet and the pitcher.

Gedeon means ‘going round in the womb’, and he stands for the penitent, who before he approaches confession should go round in the womb of his own conscience, in which the son of life or of death is conceived and generated. What was his age, for how many years it has been possible for him to have lived, when first he began to commit mortal sin; and since then how many and great sins, and how frequently, has he committed? How many, and who, were the persons with whom he committed sin? What were the places, times, privately or publicly, freely or under duress, after being tempted or before temptation- and so much the worse. Whether he has confessed all these things, and if so, how often has he fallen again, for then he has been more and more ungrateful to God. Whether he has despised confession, and how long he has remained in sin without confession; and whether he has received the Lord’s Body while in mortal sin.

Of this going round, I Kings 7 says:

And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.

And he went every year about to Bethel and to Galgal and to Masphath.

And he returned to Ramatha; for there was his house. (1S 7,15-17)

Samuel means ‘hearing God’. Bethel is ‘house of God’, Galgal is ‘hill of circumcision’, Masphath is ‘contemplating the time’ and Ramatha is ‘he sees death’. The penitent, hearing God saying: Do penance (Mt 3,2), should judge himself all the days of his life, so that he may be ‘Israel’, ‘the man who sees God’. Year by year, during these forty days, he should go around his own conscience, which is the house of God, and whatever he finds there that is harmful or superfluous, he should cut away in humility of contrition. He should contemplate the time that is past, diligently enquiring what he has done and what he has neglected, and after all this he should always return to the remembrance of death, which he should have before his eyes, and dwell upon.

8. The penitent is a careful surveyor, and when he has completed his round he should at

once light a lamp which ‘burns and shines’ (cf. Jn 5,35), meaning contrition. It is because it burns that it gives light. So Isaiah 10 says:

The light of Israel shall be as a fire, and the Holy One thereof as a flame. And his thorns and his briers shall be set on fire and shall be devoured in one day. And the glory of his forest and of his beautiful hill shall be consumed from the soul even to the flesh. (Is 10,17-18)

This is what true contrition does. When the sinner’s heart is set alight by the grace of the Holy Spirit, it burns with sorrow and shines with self-knowledge. Then the thorns of a biting conscience, and the briars of lustful impulses, will be devoured, because peace has returned inwardly and outwardly. The glory of the forest (worldly pomp) and of the beautiful hill of carnal lust, shall be consumed from the soul even to the flesh, because whatever there is impure in either will be wholly consumed in the fire of contrition.

Happy is he whose lamp so burns and shines, of which Job 12 says:

The lamp, despised in the thoughts of the rich, is ready for the time appointed. (Jb 12,5)

The thoughts of the rich of this world are: to keep what they have gained, and to sweat in gaining more; and therefore seldom or never is true contrition found in them. They despise it, being entirely set on transitory things. While they are set so ardently on the sweetness of temporal things, they forget contrition, the life of the soul, and so incur death.

Natural History says that deer are hunted in this way. Two men go, and one of them whistles and sings. The deer follows the song, taking pleasure in it. Then the other one takes his spear, strikes the deer and kills it. The hunting of the rich is the same. The two men are the world and the devil. The world whistles and sings in front of the rich man, showing him pleasures and riches, and promising him them. While the stupid fool follows, taking pleasure in them, he is killed by the devil and carried of to hell’s kitchen, to be skinned and boiled.

9. But see now, it is the time of Lent, appointed by the Church for redeeming sins and saving souls; the time when the grace of contrition stands ready, which now spiritually ‘stands at the door and knocks’; and if you will open to it and receive it, it will sup with you and you with it (cf. Ap 3,20). Then you will wonderfully begin to blow the trumpet! The trumpet is the confession of the contrite sinner, of which Exodus 19 says:

And all mount Sinai was on a smoke, because the Lord was come down upon it in fire, and the smoke arose from it as out of a furnace. And all the mount was terrible. And the sound of the trumpet grew by degrees louder and louder, and was drawn out to a greater length. (Ex 19,18-19)

This shows what the sinner should be like in his confession. A mountain has no motion;

Mount Sinai (meaning ‘my teeth’) is the penitent who is constant in temptation, and who tears the flesh of his carnal nature with the teeth of his reproaches. He totally smokes with tears, which go up from the furnace of contrition resulting from the descent of heavenly grace. And all the mount was terrible, being full of tears and grief in the face, vileness in vesture, sorrow in the heart, groans and sighs in the voice. And the sound of the trumpet (confession) grew by degrees louder, etc.

Note here the manner of confession. Confession should start with self-accusation, how he has gone from temptation to taking pleasure, from pleasure to consent, from consent to words, from words to deeds, from deeds to custom, from custom to settled habit. He should start with lust, and all its modes and circumstances, according to nature and against nature. Secondly, he should go on with avarice, usury, theft and robbery and all ill-gotten gain which he is bound to restore, if he is at all able. If he is a cleric, he should mention simony, and whether he received Orders while excommunicate, or exercised them, or any other irregularity. Thirdly, and for the rest, as seems right to the one confessing or to his confessor, he may confess other things.

10. When he has made his confession, he should be enjoined a satisfaction, represented by the pitcher, or the breaking of the pitcher. The pitcher is broken when the body is afflicted. Madian (‘concerning judgement’), or iniquity (the devil who is already damned by God’s judgement), is conquered, and its iniquity is brought to nothing. This is what Isaiah says:

The tall of stature shall be cut down (meaning the demons); and the lofty shall be humbled (meaning proud men).

And the thickets of the forest (temporal abundance) shall be cut down with iron (the fear of God), and Libanus (the gleam of worldly pomp)

with its high ones shall fall (its nuts and trifles and illusions). (Is 10,33-34)

Note that satisfaction consists in three things: in prayer to God, in almsgiving to one’s neighbour, and in fasting as to oneself; so that the flesh which cheerfully led the way to blame, may when afflicted bring back to pardon. May he deign to grant us this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

1 ROMAN BREVIARY, Magnificat Antiphon for the feast of St Lawrence.

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



Anthony_Sermons - (ALLEGORICAL SERMON)