Anthony_Sermons - (@GN 4,7@)
(The theme for a sermon on faith and contemplation: This was the vision running.)
12. There follows, secondly: The man believed the word that Jesus said to him, and went his way. (Jn 4,50)
The Gloss says, "He did not go to the ruler’s son, even though he was asked, lest he seem to honour wealth. He promised to go to the centurion’s servant, because he did not despise the man’s nature. In this he destroyed pride, which considers not a man’s nature, but what appears on the outside," and does not honour wealth truly. Whence he says in Ezekiel:
Their silver shall be cast forth and their gold shall become a dunghill.
Their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. (Ez 7,19)
This can be understood morally, because "The silver of eloquence and the gold of wisdom" will not deliver Tullius and Aristotle in the day of the Lord’s wrath, who says in
I will not spare him, nor his mighty words, and framed to make supplication. (Jb 41,3)
Note that it says that he first believed, and then went, because the belief of the heart comes first, and afterwards the going in action.
Whence Ezekiel says:
This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, a bright fire and lightning going forth from the fire.
And the living creatures ran and returned like flashes of lightning. (Ez 1,13-14)
The bright fire means faith, which gives light. Whence: Thy faith hath saved thee (Mc 10,52), that is, has enlightened you. He asked, "What do you want done for you?" "Master, that I may see the light!" From this fire there comes forth the lightning of good works, and so the living creatures, the saints, go in to contemplation and return to action, because they are unable to be there long, on account of bringing fruit to others; like flashes of lightning, because through them, as they go up to contemplation and stand in good works, the heavenly light is scattered upon others. "Then charity rises wonderfully to the heights, when it draws itself mercifully to the depths of the neighbour; and what in loving-kindness goes down to the lowest place, returns in power to the highest."1 Therefore the man believed and went.
(On the descent of humility: Now descending there.)
13. There follows:
And as he was going down, his servants met him, and they brought word, saying that his son lived. (Jn 4,51)
Note these three: As he was going down, the servants met him, and the son lived. If you go down, your servants will meet you and your son’s life will be announced. Therefore it is good to go down. Whence? and whither? From the mountain to the valley, from pride to humility. In the valley the Lord appeared to Abraham (cf. Gn 18,1). The valleys shall abound with corn (Ps 64,14). Jeremiah says: See thy ways in the valley (Jr 2,23).
Isaiah: Every valley shall be filled (Is 40,4 Lc 3,5). Ezekiel: They shall be like doves of the valleys (Ez 7,16). Therefore, even as he goes down, the servants meet him. The servants are the five bodily senses, which should serve reason. If you go down, your servants will meet you, that is, they will obey you. If the heart is humble, the bodily senses are obedient. Obedience arises from humility.
(On obedience: Out of the midst, as it were the resemblance of amber, and: Silvered as the wings of a dove.)
Whence Ezekiel: Out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber (Ez 1,4). The fire is humility, because just as fire humbles what is high and burns up what is hard, so humility bends proud hearts, and recalls hard hearts at the words "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return" (Gn 3,19). O humility, if you could incline the head of divinity in the womb of the poor little Virgin, what can be so high that you are unable to humble it? From this fire comes the amber of obedience. St Gregory2 says, "Amber is from gold and silver. When they are mixed, the silver grows in brightness and the gold becomes paler in radiance." The sounding silver is the word of the prelate; the gold is the pure conscience of a good subject; when the prelate’s word is joined to it, the word grows brighter by the subject’s obedience, and the subject grows paler by the mortification of self-will.
Whence the Psalm says:
The wings of a dove covered with silver,
and the hinder parts of her back with the paleness of gold. (Ps 67,14)
The dove is the good subject, whose wings are the words of the prelate, which make him fly. At the prelate’s word, the subject should at once, in heart and body, fly like a dove. And prelates should take care, because their words should be silvered with the silver of Jesus Christ’s humanity, which was mingled with the gold of his divinity. Whence Christ, the mediator between God and man, is signified under the form of amber. While the humanity grew in the glory of majesty, the divinity tempered itself to human eyes from the power of its proper brightness. Let prelates, then, silver their words with the humility of Jesus Christ’s humanity, so that they command their subjects kindly and in a friendly manner, prudently and mercifully, because the Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake and the fire; the Lord was in the whisper of a gentle breeze (cf. 1R 19,11-12). And so the hinder parts of the subject’s back, his will and affection, will be in the paleness of gold, in mortification and purity. We are accustomed to bear burdens upon our backs, and so we should bear the burden of obedience upon the back of patience. The Psalmist says: Sinners have wrought upon my back (Ps 128,3). The wicked prelate overloads the back, the patience, of the good subject. But this abuse will be to his own ruin, and to the latter’s glory. Let us say, then: As he was going down, his servants met him. From humility of heart comes the amber, made of silver and gold. Silver stands for the sounding of confession, gold for the cleanness of the bodily senses. See what good things follow from the going down of humility!
(On the life of the soul and the smell of apples, by which alone men live: They told him that his son lived.)
14. Then the son’s life is announced. They brought word saying that his son lived. Life is
what gives vigour, it is the source of power. The soul is the life of the body, God is the life of the soul, giving vigour and power to the soul, ability and knowledge, so that it lives (and would that we would set ourselves to have the will!). The Natural History of Solinus3 says that in the region of India there are people who need no food, but live on the scent of wild apples. They travel afar, carrying these apples for their protection, so as to be nourished by their scent. If they should happen to draw in a foul or revolting breath, they are sure to be suffocated.
The scent of the apples is the life of the soul. The apples are the Incarnation and Passion of Jesus Christ, of which the Bride says in Canticles: Apples new and old I have kept for thee (Ct 7,13). The new apples are his birth of the Virgin, the poverty of the Son of God, the sending of a new star, the working of miracles. The old apples are the spitting, blows, gall and vinegar, nails and spear, which have taken away from us our old nature, for as the Apostle says, our old man is crucified together with him (Rm 6,6). Whoever wants to live, should live by the scent of these apples, and in his exile and pilgrimage should carry them with him, so that he does not grow faint in the way, and so that he may be nourished by their scent.
Whence it says in Lamentations:
The breath of our mouth, Christ the Lord, is taken in our sins:
to whom we have said: Under thy shadow we shall live among the Gentiles. (Lm 4,20)
The prophet says in the Psalm: I opened my mouth and drew breath (Ps 118,131). When you open your mouth in confession and accuse yourself, you draw in the spirit of Jesus Christ, the life of the soul, in the reception of grace. Take care, then, lest you draw in the foul spirit of the world, the stinking spirit of Capharnaum, for you will at once incur not just weakness, but death. Capharnaum means ‘field of fatness’. Fatness is usually a cause or mother of corruption, corruption of stench, and stench of death. Open then your mouth, and draw in the spirit of Jesus Christ, who was taken, bound and crucified for our sins. Under the shade of his tree, the Cross (of which Canticles says: Under the apple- tree I raised thee up (Ct 8,5); and: I sat down under his shadow, whom I desired (Ct 2,3)) you should rest from the heat of sin, cheating beneath the tree the sun of worldly prosperity. Thus you will live among the Gentiles, the temptations of the flesh and the devil, refreshed by the scent of his Incarnation and Passion.
(On the fever of lust: The seventh hour.)
15. There follows:
He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him. (Jn 4,42)
The Gloss says, "He did not doubt the Lord’s mercy; but he desired that the divine power be made known to many by the servants’ confession." The seventh hour, they said, a figure of the Holy Spirit, in whom is all salvation.
Fever is a burning, representing the lust of the flesh, by whose heat the heart is stricken and the flesh is corrupted. It says in the book of Judith, that when she entered the presence of Holofernes,
Forthwith he was caught by his eyes... and his heart was smitten, for he was burning with the desire of her. (Jdt 10,17 Jdt 12,16)
First he is caught by his eyes: and so the prophet prays, Turn away my eyes, etc (Ps 118,35); and in Canticles: Turn away thy eyes from me, for they have made me flee away (Ct 6,4). It says in Genesis: His mistress cast her eyes on Joseph (Gn 39,7). The eyes are the first darts of lust. Secondly, the heart is smitten, and so the fever of lust is inflamed. But so that it may not die by consent of mind or action, it is enlightened at the seventh hour, by the grace of the seven-fold Holy Spirit. Then he and his whole house should believe, that is, with body and soul together, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who has deigned to free the soul from such a wretched fever, and the body from such a miserable pollution of lust.
16. Whence the second part of the Epistle is concordant with this second clause:
Stand, having your loins girt about with truth (Ep 6,14).
The loins are associated with desire, desire which gives pleasure. This is the cursed fever that reigns in the loins, and thus the Apostle says: Stand, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice. By doing to each according to his rights, you will be protected by justice as by a breastplate, and you will leave no opening to the enemy. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, lest he who preaches be in contact with the earth, lest he preach from love of earthly things. In all things taking the shield of faith (faith being the shield under which justice is safe) wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one (all the assaults of the devil); and take unto you the helmet of salvation. The helmet is eternal salvation, the remembrance of which encircles the mind, lest it fail; and the sword of the Spirit, the power given by the Holy Spirit to strike the enemy, which is the word of God, that is, the Gospel. Whoever exercises himself and prepares himself in these six, as in six hours, will be delivered from the fever of lust by the sevenfold grace, as at the seventh hour.
Therefore, beloved brothers, let us ask the Lord Jesus Christ to make us come down from the mount of pride, and to extinguish in us the fever of lust, so that with loins girt we may return to health and be able to attain eternal life. May he grant this, who is blessed, to be praised, and glorious for ever and ever. Let every soul freed from fever say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 GREGORY, Regula Pastoralis, 11,5; PL 77.33
2 cf. GLOSSA INTERLINEAREA on Ezek 1.4
3 SOLINUS, Polyhistor, 65
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost: The kingdom of heaven is likened; which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon on the penitent, or on any religious; on contrition and confession: By the king’s command.)
1. At that time, Jesus spoke to his disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. (Mt 18,23)
It says in Daniel that:
Then by the king’s command Daniel was clothed with purple, and a chain of gold was put about his neck: and it was proclaimed of him that he had power as the third man in the kingdom. (Da 5,29)
Let us see what is meant by these four: Daniel, the purple, the chain of gold and the third in the kingdom. Daniel means ‘God’s cause’ or ‘God’s judgement’. Note that a cause is an impulse of the mind to do something. The cause is what a thing comes from. It is the beginning and the matter of a case: ‘cause’ when it is proposed, ‘judgement’ when it is discussed, and ‘justice’ when it is complete. ‘Cause’ sounds like ‘chaos’, the beginning of all things. the ‘cause’ is the origin of each thing. Daniel stands for the penitent, who from the fear and love of God makes ‘cause’, ‘judgement’ and ‘justice’ regarding himself. These three are the purple, gold chain and third place in the kingdom. He brings his case in contrition, the origin of everything just, and the impulse of the soul towards doing good. He makes his judgement in confession, where he tries and examines himself. He does justice in satisfaction, wherein he gives to each what belongs to him: prayer to God, fasting to himself, and almsdeeds to his neighbour. In these consists satisfaction. Therefore Jesus Christ, the King of kings, commands that Daniel be clothed in purple. Purple is the colour of blood, and it stands for contrition of heart, from which proceeds the blood of tears.
Whence it says in the fourth book of Kings:
The sun being now up, and shining upon the waters, the Moabites saw the waters over
against them red, like blood. And they said: It is the blood of the sword. (2R 3,22-3)
Literally, understand as follows: When the Moabites saw the sun’s reflection in the waters opposite them, they thought that they were running with blood, and said: The enemies have killed each other (2R 3,23). Morally: when the sun of grace rises upon the mind, the waters (blood-red with tears) come by the way of Edom, the eyes of the penitent. Truly, these waters are the blood of the sword. When the sinner’s heart is wounded by the sword of contrition, it pours out tears of blood. It is well said, then: By the king’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple.
There follows: And a chain of gold was put about his neck. Chains are golden circles, hanging from the neck to the breast. The gold chain about the neck is the circle of a pure confession in the penitent’s mouth, of which the Lord says in Ezekiel: I put a chain about thy neck (Ez 16,11). Confession is rightly called a golden chain or circle. Wisdom reacheth from end to end mightily (cf. Sg 8,1); and the sinner going from first to last sin in the circle of confession, must include everything as he goes round it, as the psalmist did when he said:
I have gone round, and have offered up in his tabernacle a sacrifice of jubilation. (Ps 26,6)
(in Holy Church, that is, confession). The Lord speaks of this circle to the devil, in Isaiah:
I will put a ring in thy nose... and I will turn thee back by the way thou camest. (Is 37,29)
Note that mortal sin is committed in three ways, the devil’s way to the soul, by the devil’s temptation, the pleasure of the flesh, and the consent of the spirit. The first two are venial, the third mortal. When in confession (which opposes temptation) the sinner is contrite for the consent of his spirit, and afflicts himself in satisfaction for the pleasure of the flesh: then the Lord puts a ring in the devil’s nose (his cunning and craftiness) and turns him back by the way he came. "He cures opposites by opposites".
There follows: And it was proclaimed of him that he had power as the third man in the kingdom. The kingdom of Christ is the life of the just man. He said: My kingdom is not from this world (cf. Jn 18,36). The life of the just man consists in the three things mentioned above. The third in Christ’s kingdom is the one who rules his life of penitence with satisfaction. Pharao’s magicians lacked this third sign (meaning the wise of this world), since they would not make satisfaction for their sins. The true penitent, so as to be a sharer in the heavenly kingdom, takes care to be third in the kingdom of that king spoken of in today’s Gospel: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, etc.
2. Note that there are three things to notice in this Gospel, namely, the remission of the debt by the king, the ingratitude of the wicked servant, and his imprisonment or torture. The first: The kingdom of heaven is likened; the second: When that servant was gone out; the third: Then he called him, etc.
In the Introit of today’s Mass is sung: The Lord says: I think thoughts of peace; and the Epistle of blessed Paul to the Philippians is read: I am confident in the Lord Jesus, which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel. The first is: I am confident; the second: God is my witness; the third: This I pray. And pay attention to the fact that in today’s Gospel Matthew speaks of the wicked servant who would not have mercy on his fellow servant; while by contrast the Apostle longs for everyone in the bowels of Christ, and admonishes them that charity should abound in them. That is why this Epistle is read with this Gospel.
(A theme on the day of judgement: I looked, and thrones were placed.)
3. Let us say, then: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. (Mt 18,23)
This man who is a king is Jesus Christ, man in his humanity, king in his divinity; man in his nativity, king in his passion, wherein he had the regalia proper to a king: crown, purple and sceptre. He had a crown of thorns, a purple robe and a reed as sceptre in his hand, when, bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying: Hail, king of the Jews (Mt 27,29). There is a concordance to this in Daniel:
I beheld therefore in the vision of the night,
and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven.
And he came even to the Ancient of days. (Da 7,13)
The clouds represent preachers. Whence, His going out is from the end of heaven, etc. (Ps 18,7), who is in every respect equal to the Father, who wished to take an account of his servants. He takes an account when he examines each one’s deserts in this world, and will make a stricter audit in the next.
Whence there is a concordance to this in Daniel, where he says:
I beheld till thrones were placed and the Ancient of days sat.
His garment was white as snow and the hair of his head like clean wool: his throne like flames of fire: the wheels of it like burning fire.
A swift stream of fire issued forth from before him:
thousands of thousands ministered to him,
and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him.
The judgement sat and the books were opened. (Da 7,9-10)
The Gloss says, "The angels and all the elect will accompany the Lord in judgement, and will be God’s thrones, wherein he is seated." Thus he says in Matthew; When the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all his angels with him (Mt 25,31), who (as the Gloss says) are the witnesses of human actions, done well or ill under their care.
And the Ancient of days sat, namely, the Father. Even though (as the Gloss says) the person of the Son appears in judgement, yet the Father and the Holy Spirit are not absent. The Father is of himself, the Son is of the Father, and whatever belongs to him is imputed to him from whom he is. He is termed ‘ancient’, being a severe and true judge. ‘Ancient’ suggests time long past, as where it says in John, Before Abraham was made, I am (Jn 8,58). He who sits, and is of ancient days, is God; the character of the eternal judge is shown forth: he is depicted as an old man, to indicate the maturity of his sentence.
His garment was white as snow. The Saviour, when transfigured on the mountain, and putting on the glory of the divine majesty, was seen in white garments. In the judgement, too, his vesture will be white, manifesting the purity and sincerity of his judgement, having no favouritism in judging. As Peter says, In very deed, I perceive that God is not a respecter of persons (Ac 10,34). Note that it says, ‘white as snow’. Snow comes from the clouds, and Ambrose1 says that icy blasts solidify water in the cloud, and snow falls from the broken air. Snow is white and cold. In the judgement there will be whiteness as to the blessed, cold as to the damned. White in "Come, ye blessed"; cold in "Depart, ye cursed."
And the hair of his head like clean wool. Regarding this, see the first clause of the Gospel, I am the good shepherd (Easter II).
His throne like flames of fire. The Gloss of Origen2 says that the throne of God consists of monks and hermits and others, who strive to serve God in by living in one place, and do not run about hither and thither, so that God sits in their quiet hearts. They are well called ‘flames of fire’, because they are ablaze with love of God and neighbour, and in desire for their heavenly home. A flame is found in a furnace, stirred up by the blast of the bellows. The heart of the just man is a furnace of fire, in which the bellows of contrition and confession stirs up the flame of a double charity. Whence the Psalm says: Who makest thy angels spirits; and thy ministers a burning fire (Ps 103,4). These angel- messengers are just men, who are ‘spirits’ in that they savour nothing carnal or earthly; they are ‘a burning fire’ in that they love God and their neighbour.
The wheels of it like burning fire. The wheels represent the swiftness of judgement of which the Lord says in the prophet Malachi;
I will come to you in judgement and will be a speedy witness against sorcerers and adulterers and false swearers and them that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widows and the fatherless: and oppress the stranger and have not feared me, saith the Lord of hosts. (Ml 3,5)
A swift stream of fire issued forth from before him, a forceful current. The stream represents the perpetuity of punishment, the fire the severity of judgement. The swiftness indicates the sudden downfall of sinners into hell.
Thousands of thousands, etc. The Psalm says, The chariot of God is attended by ten thousands, etc. (Ps 67,18). The angels have a two-old duty, according to Gregory3 , to stand ready and to minister. Those who do not go out to announce to men, stand ready. Those who come to fulfil the office of messengers minister, yet do not withdraw from their contemplation. Because those who minister are more numerous than those who chiefly stand ready, the number of those standing is defined, while the number of ministers is indefinite.
The judgement sat and the books were opened. ‘Judgement’ means ‘the Court’; the books are the consciences and particular works of either sort, good or ill, laid open to everyone. The good book is that of the living; the evil book is in the hand of the accuser, the vengeful enemy, called in the Apocalypse, The accuser of our brethren (Ap 12,10). In the same book it says:
The books were opened; and another book was opened, which was the book of life. And the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Ap 20,12)
Therefore it is well said: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, that would take account of his servants.
4. There follows:
And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him thast owed him ten thousand talents. (Mt 18,24)
The number ten suggests the Ten Commandments, the thousand suggests the perfection of the Gospel. Every man owes Jesus Christ ten thousand talents, the observance of the Law and the Gospel. Whence Solomon says, Fear God and keep his commandments (Qo 12,13). The commandments are as it were hand-written. The Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God; the Gospel mandates were given to the apostles by the hand of Jesus Christ. Worthy indeed to be observed are the things given by God’s hand, the things for whose observance every man is created.
(A theme for an allegorical and a moral sermon on the statue of Nabuchodonosor: Thou, O king.)
5. There follows:
And as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment be made. (Mt 18,25)
Let us see what is meant by the works, wife and children. The sinner’s ‘wife’ is worldly cupidity. It is the statue of Nabuchodonosor, of which Daniel says:
Thou, O king, sawest, and behold as it were a great statue, (whose) head was of fine gold, but the breast and the arms of silver, and the belly and the thighs of brass: and the legs of iron, the feet part of iron and part of clay. (Da 2,31-33)
Let us see what is meant by the gold, silver, brass, iron and clay. First allegorically, then morally.
This statue represents Holy Church, which in the apostles has a head of gold. Whence in Canticles: His head is as the finest gold (Ct 5,11). The Church has arms and breast, wherein is the greater strength, of silver: in the time of the martyrs, who fought bravely in the fray. Whence the Bridegroom says to the Church in Canticles: We will make thee chains of gold, inlaid with silver (Ct 1,10). The word indicates chains made of gold and silver links. The Church’s chains are humility and poverty, which marked the Apostolic age; and which in the time of the martyrs were made even more beautiful by being ‘inlaid with silver’, reddened with their blood. Silver and gold, the martyrs’ blood in which they washed their robes, together with the humility and poverty of the Apostles: what a wonderful beauty they display to our eyes!
Again, the Church has brass and iron in confessors who have destroyed the wickedness of heresy by the sound of their preaching. Whence Moses says in Deuteronomy, Aser*s shoe shall be iron and brass (Dt 33,25). Aser means ‘blessed’, and he represents the blessed choir of confessors, who, shod with the brass of preaching and the iron of invincible endurance, have trodden upon serpents and scorpions: namely, heretics and schismatics. Whence the Lord says by Jeremiah:
I have made thee this day a fortified city and a pillar of iron and a wall of brass, over all the land, to the kings of Juda, to the princes thereof and to the priests and to the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee and shall not prevail: for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee. (Jr 1,18-19)
Note these three things: a city, a pillar and a wall. The fortified city represents unity, which truly fortifies and defends. The pillar of iron is fraternal charity, which upholds. The wall of brass is unconquerable patience and unflagging preaching. The holy confessors Jerome, Augustine, Hilary, and all the other Doctors of the Church, had these qualities,
and so they overcame the fabricators of lies.
Again, the poor little Church of Christ, storm-stricken amid the refuse of the world, has as it were as her feet iron and clay, in clergy and laity alike. The iron stands for avarice, the clay for lust. See what limbs the Body of Christ, the Church, has: avaricious and lustful people who are not the Church of Christ but the Synagogue of Satan.
6. Morally. From the world’s beginning there have been two cities, the Church and Babylon. This statue represents the world, the city of Babylon, the synagogue of Satan, which is well-called a statue, being as it were an idol. It has a mouth, and does not speak, because it has the frog of avarice in its mouth. It has eyes, and does not see, because the filth of lust blinds it. It has ears, and does not hear, because like a serpent it puts one ear to the ground, and blocks the other with its tail, lest it hear the voice of the charmer (cf. Ps 113,6). Gold represents worldly wisdom, silver is eloquence, resounding brass is vainglory, iron is obstinacy, clay is love of temporal things. A little stone, Jesus Christ, strikes this statue; which, as Daniel says, was cut out of a mountain without hands, being born of the blessed Virgin without the intervention of a man.
And it struck the statue upon the feet thereof that were of iron and clay and broke them in pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff... carried away by the wind: and there was no place found for them. (Da 2,34-35)
So Christ in his first coming struck the statue of the world, though not entirely; in the day of judgement it will be entirely destroyed. Whence the Apocalypse says:
That great harlot Babylon is fallen, is fallen;
which made the world drunk with the wine of her fornication. (Ap 14,8)
(Against the prelates of the Church: The statue.)
7. Alternatively. This statue is the prelate of the Church, lifted up and exalted in temporalities. This is the statue of Baal, ‘master’ or ‘devourer’. See the idol lifted up in the Lord’s house, devouring everything. So it says in Daniel that:
The Babylonians had an idol called Bel: and there were spent upon him every day twelve great measures of fine flour (the whitest sort, according to a special measure) and forty sheep and sixty vessels of wine.
See how much is the one who will be devoured by the devil devours!
The king also worshipped him and went every day to adore him; but Daniel adored his God. (Da 14,23)
Every day we perceive this being done in Christ’s Church. At least there should be done what Peter did, when it tells in the Acts of the Apostles that:
Cornelius came to meet him and falling at his feet adored. But Peter lifted him up, saying: Arise; I myself also am a man, just like you. (Ac 10,25-26)
The king said to Daniel:
Why dost thou not adore Bel? And he answered and said to him: Because I do not worship idols made with hands, but the living God that created heaven and earth and hath power over all flesh. And the king said to him: Doth not Bel seem to thee a living god? Seest thou not how much he eateth and drinketh every day? (Da 14,3-5)
How much indeed, alas! And the poor cry out with empty bellies, and naked, at the gate! Because he eats a lot, he lives!
Then Daniel smiled and said: O king, be not deceived,
or this is but clay within (the greedy and the lustful),
and brass without (the proud and the avaricious),
neither hath he eaten at any time the food
which does not perish, but remains into eternal life (cf. Jn 6,27)
The head of this idol, or statue, is of gold, representing the foolish wisdom of the flesh, which is folly before God. The silver is eloquence, the Egyptian frog. Of these two, the Lord says by Ezekiel:
Thou tookest thy beautiful vessels, of my gold and my silver which I gave thee,
and thou madest thee images of men and hast committed fornication with them. (Ez 16,17)
From the gold of wisdom and the silver of eloquence, which the Lord gives to the Church’s prelate to be beautiful vessels in which he may receive the grace of the Holy Spirit and offer it to others, he makes for himself a wretched idol, when he corrupts the grace of understanding and eloquence with wickedness of life; and he commits fornication with them when he seeks vainglory from them in the world’s brothel.
Again, in brass we understand riches, which make a big noise. He says, They have called their names in their lands (cf. Ps 48,12); and Ezekiel: Thy name went forth among
the nations (Ez 16,14), not among the angels. Yet it is not the name of the purple-clad rich man, but that of the ulcered beggar Lazarus, which is written in the Gospel.
Iron stands for power, which crushes the poor. But, Lord, Thou hast broken the teeth of sinners (Ps 2,8); and, The Lord shall break the grinders of the lions (Ps 57,7). This is the beast Daniel speaks of, terrible and wonderful and exceeding strong. It had great iron teeth, eating and breaking in pieces and treading down the rest with its feet (Da 7,7).
Again, the clay stands for his miserable flesh, which when the stone comes, the hardness of death, will be struck down and crushed. Then the gold of wisdom, the silver of eloquence, the brass of riches, and the iron of power will be broken to pieces together, reduced to nothing and scattered by the wind: for the flesh is given to worms, riches to family, and the soul to demons; and so nothing will be found in its place. So it is well said in the Gospel, The Lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children, because (as the Gloss says) he is bound to eternal punishment for the cupidity of the world and the flesh, and for evil deeds, as it were his wife and children. May he graciously free us from these, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
(On the humility of the penitent and the measure of satisfaction: That servant, falling down.)
8. But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. (Mt 18,26)
See what the sinner should do, while he is alive, lest after death he be led to the punishment of eternal death, with his wife and children. Note these three: falling down, besought, and, I will pay thee all; these stand for contrition, confession and satisfaction, by which all sins are remitted. To fall down means on one’s face: he falls on his face, who is truly contrite and recognises that he is earth. Whence:
All they that go down to the earth shall fall before thee. (Ps 21,30)
Before thee, he says: not before Nabuchodonosor’s statue, of which Daniel says:
All the people fell down and adored the gold statue which king Nabuchodonosor had set up in the plain of Dura, (Da 3,7)
(meaning, ‘beauty’ or ‘speech’). The gold statue is the deceitful glory of this world, which is established by the devil in outward beauty and in speech full of false promises. He shows the beauty of glory, he promises it, and so all nations fall from true glory and adore that which is transitory, and in it adore the devil. Whence it says in Matthew:
All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. (Mt 4,9)
He who would beg for pardon should not fall down before the statue, but before Jesus; with that servant of whom it is said: But that servant falling down.
There follows: he besought him. To beseech is to ask something humbly and devoutly. Confession should be humble and devout: humble, bowed to the ground, in its dejection and accusation; devout in the prompt will to make amends: then he can say: Have patience with me. The Apostle says of this:
Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and patience and longsuffering? Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? (Rm 2,4)
He who despises these riches will always be poor and wretched.
And I will pay thee all. He pays all who makes amends for all, so that penalty is proportionate to fault. Bring forth fruits worthy of penance (Lc 3,8), he says. In the book of Josue it says that: The lot of Juda passeth on to Sina (cf. Jos 15,1 Jos 15,3), meaning ‘measure’. A ‘measure’ is whatever is defined by weight, capacity, length or mind. True satisfaction contains these four: the weight of sorrow, the capacity of love (which holds all), the length of final perseverance, and humility in the mind. Where all these come together, mercy is immediate.
Whence it follows: The Lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt.(Mt 18,27)
Note that God’s mercy does three things: it purifies the soul from sin, it bestows the riches of grace, it amasses the delights of heavenly joys. The first afflicts the heart in contrition; the second disposes it to love; the third infuses the heart with heavenly dew, the hope of heavenly good things. This is clear from the three-fold meaning of the word: in Latin ‘misericordia’. It belongs to the ‘first mercy’ to bestow a sorry heart. The ‘second mercy’ puts away the hardness of the heart. The ‘third mercy’ wonderfully waters the heart with sweetness. Being moved with pity for the servant, with this triple mercy, he forgave him the debt.
Whence the Introit of today’s Mass is especially and most appropriately concordant with this passage, as in it this merciful Lord says:
I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction; that is: the Lord of that servant had pity; you shall call upon me; that is: the servant, falling down, besought him; and I will hear you; that is: he let him go;
and I will bring back your captivity; that is: and forgave him all the debt. (Jr 2,
9. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause:
I am confident in the Lord Jesus, that he who hath begun a good work in you: to fall down in contrition, beseech in confession, and repay all in satisfaction; will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus; that is, until the end of life, when God will be seen.
As it is meet for me to think this for you all,
that is, to want it, so that I pray you will do it. See that my confidence is not in vain. He explains the reason:
for that I have you in my heart, (not just on my lips),
and in my bands, (by compassion),
and in the defence (against attackers),
and confirmation (of the weak in the teaching)
of the gospel I desire you to be all partakers of my joy,
that in the future you may be sharers and partakers in the eternal joy.
We ask you, then, Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be found fit to attain that joy; and that you who are the chief corner-stone will break the statue of our cupidity, and forgive the debt of our iniquity. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (@GN 4,7@)