Anthony_Sermons - (THE BIRTH OF THE SAVIOUR)
8. The announcement to the shepherds:
And there were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night-watches over their flock. (Lc 2,8)
Keeping watch may be a matter of sitting up at night, or standing guard by day; that is why the ancient Romans used to divide the night between four ‘watches’, who took it in turns to guard the City. The night stands for our present life, in which we walk about as in the deceiving night. We do not see ourselves (our consciences) as one to another. Our feet (our minds’ affections) often stumble. The man who wants to keep good watch over his city must be on the alert throughout the four watches of the night.
The first watch is uncleanness in which we were born.
The second watch is the malice of our deliberate wrong-doing.
The third watch is the misery of our earthly pilgrimage.
The fourth watch is the remembrance of death.
In the first watch a man must stay alert, so as to have a low opinion of himself; in the second, so as to afflict himself; in the third, so as to weep; in the fourth, so as to fear. Happy those shepherds who keep the night-watches in this way, for they are providing their flock with an excellent defence! Note that the shepherd keeps watch for two reasons: so that the thief may not steal, and so that the wolf may not devour. We are all shepherds, and our flock is the multitude of our good and simple thoughts and desires. We must keep careful watch over this flock, in the way mentioned, so that the thief (the devil) may not steal by suggesting sin; and the wolf (carnal appetite) may not devour by consent to sin. To all those keeping watch like this, the joy of the Nativity is announced today.
9. So there follows: And the angel said to them: Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. For this day a Saviour is born to you, etc. (Lc 2,10-11)
There is a concordance to this in Genesis 21:
Isaac was born; and Sara said: God hath made a laughter for me.
Whosoever shall hear of it will laugh with me. (Gn 21,5-6)
Sara means ‘princess’ or ‘a coal’. She represents the glorious Virgin, our princess and Queen, set on fire like a coal by the Holy Spirit. Today, God has made a laughter for her, because from her is born our mirth. I bring you good tidings of great joy, for laughter is born, Christ is born. This is what we have heard today from the angel: Whoever shall hear of it will laugh with me. Let us laugh together, and rejoice together with the blessed Virgin, because God has made a laughter for us, that is, a cause for laughter and rejoicing for her and in her: Today a Saviour is born to you. If anyone were on the brink of death, or imprisoned in dungeon deep, and the news were brought to him: "Behold, he who shall save you is here"- would he not laugh? Would he not rejoice? He would indeed! So let us rejoice with a pure conscience and unfeigned charity, because today is born for us the Saviour who has rescued us from the devil's power and from the Pit of Hell.
10. The sign whereby we may find this joy is given in the words that follow:
This shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. (Lc 2,12)
Note these two things: humility and poverty. Happy the man who receives this sign on his forehead and in his hand (that is, in word and deed). What do the words, You shall find the infant, mean, if not: You will find wisdom babbling, power made weak, majesty laid low, the immense made small, the rich made poor, the Lord of angels lying in a stable, and the Food of angels made like the fodder of animals, the unlimited confined to a narrow manger? This, then, will be a sign to you, so that you do not perish like the Egyptians or the people of Jericho.
And so, glory be to God the Father on high, and in earth peace to men of good will, for the Word Incarnate, for the Virgin giving birth, and for the Saviour being born. May he who is blessed for ever deign to bestow that same glory on us. Amen.
11. A child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace. (Is 9,6)
This is in Isaiah 9; above, in chapter 7, he had said:
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son: and his name shall be called Emmanuel. (Is 7,14)
that is, God-with-us. This God is made a little child for us, is born for us today. There are many reasons why Christ is called a little child; and for briefness’ sake here is just one: if you hurt a child, make him cry, or smack him; but then show him a flower, a rose or something like that, and after showing it give it to him- then he will not remember the hurt, he will put away his indignation and run to embrace you. In the same way, if you offend Christ by mortal sin, or inflict any kind of injury on him, but then offer him the flower of contrition or the rose of tearful confession ("Tears are the soul’s blood")3, then he will not remember your offences, he will take away your guilt and run to embrace and kiss you. So Ezekiel 18 says:
But if the wicked do penance for all the sins which he hath committed,
I will not remember all his iniquities. (Ez 18,21)
And Luke 15 says of the prodigal son:
His father saw him and was moved with compassion;
and running to him fell upon his neck and kissed him. (Lc 15,20)
And in II Kings 14 it says that David received Absalom to his grace, and kissed him, though he had killed his brother (cf. 2S 14,33). A child is born to us, then.
And what use to us is the birth of this child? Much indeed, and in every way. Hear Isaiah 11:
The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp:
And the weaned child shall thrust his hand into the den of the basilisk.
They shall not hurt, nor shall they kill in all my holy mountain. (Is 11,8-9)
The basilisk (‘basileus’ or king of serpents) is the devil; and also the asp. His hole and den are the hearts of the wicked. On these, our little child puts his hand, when by the power of his divinity he draws out the devil from them. So Job 26 says:
His obstetric hand brought forth the winding serpent. (Jb 26,13)
A mid-wife’s job is to bring the child out of darkness into the light; so Christ with his powerful hand pulls the ancient serpent out of the dark hearts of the wicked, so that he and his minions may do no harm to the body without permission (they could not enter the swine without permission (cf. Mc 5,13)), and may not kill souls with eternal death. Before the coming of the Saviour, the exercised power over the human race, to foully harass the bodies of men and pull down souls to misery in hell. In all my holy mountain refers to the Church, my holy place in which I dwell.
12. There follows: and a son is given to us. There is a concordance to this in II Kings 21:
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)
Note that the first battle was in the desert: Jesus was led into the desert, etc (Mt 4,1); the second was in the open field (that is, in his public ministry): Jesus was casting out a devil (Lc 11,14); the third was on the Cross, nailed to which he defeated the ‘Philistines’ (i.e. the spiritual powers). This third battle took place ‘in Gob’ (which means a lake or hollow) referring to the wounds of the Redeemer, and especially to the wound in his side, from which flowed the twin streams of our redemption. In this low-lying area Jesus is given to us simply by the mercy of God the Father, to be our champion. He is ‘son of Forest’, because, as Mark says, he was in the desert with the beasts; or because he was crowned with thorns. He is ‘an embroiderer’, having adorned with the sevenfold gifts of grace the ‘coat of many colours’, human nature, which he made ready for himself in the Virgin’s womb. He is ‘of Bethlehem’, because he was born of the Virgin this very day in Bethlehem. Alternatively, he is ‘son of Forest’ in his Passion, ‘an embroiderer’ in the general Resurrection (when he will clothe us in a robe adorned with four gifts), and ‘of Bethlehem’ in the eternal banquet. This our champion, though knocked down at the low point of his Passion, in turn struck down Goliath of Geth (the devil).
13. So there follows: and the government is upon his shoulder. There is a concordance to this in Genesis 22:
Abraham took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son. (Gn 22,6)
It says in John 19:
And bearing his own cross he went forth to that place which is called Calvary. (Jn 19,17)
How great the humility of our Redeemer! How great the patience of our Saviour! Alone, for all of us, he carried the wood on which he was hung, on which he was crucified, on which he died. As Isaiah 57 says:
The just perisheth and no man layeth it to heart. (Is 57,1).
The government is upon his shoulder; and so the Father says in Isaiah 22:
I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. (Is 22,22)
The ‘key’ is the Cross of Christ, which opens for us the gate of heaven. The Cross, note, is called both ‘key’ and ‘government’: a ‘key’ because it opens heaven to the elect; ‘government’ because by its power it thrusts the demons down to hell.
14. There follows: and his name shall be called Wonderful (in his Nativity), Counsellor (in his preaching), God (in his working of miracles), the Mighty (in his Passion), the Father of the world to come (in his Resurrection). When he rose, he left us the sure hope of rising ourselves, as it were an inheritance for his children after him. He will be the Prince of peace in eternity. May he, the blessed God, graciously grant us this. Amen.
15. A child is born to us. Morally. Matthew 18 says of this little child:
Unless you be converted and become as this little child, etc. (Mt 18,3)
Note that when a little child wakes up during the night, he cries; when he is naked, he is not embarrassed; when he is hurt, he runs to his mother’s arms. When his mother wants to wean him from her milk, she puts a bitter ointment on her breasts. He is inexperienced in the world's malice, he does not know how to sin. He does no harm to his neighbour, he does not bear a grudge, he hates no-one. He does not seek riches, he is not bedazzled by worldly glory, he is not impressed by human dignity. The ‘little child’ is the penitent who is converted, who was previously puffed up with pride of heart, given to boastful words, ostentatious in worldly wealth. Now he a little child, humble and of little account in his own eyes. When he awakes to the remembrance of his former life, he weeps bitterly. He is not ashamed to be naked and poor for Christ’s sake, nor to strip himself bare in confession. When he suffers an injury, he does no hurt in return, but has recourse to the Church and pours out his prayer for those who persecute him or speak ill of him. Mother Church weans him from her milk when she puts the ointment of bitter penance upon the breast of carnal pleasure which he used to suck. The other points are obvious, and need no comment.
So, when some worldly person is converted and becomes one of Christ's little ones, we ought to burst forth in joy of heart with exultant voice, and say: A child is born to us! So John 16 says:
A woman (Holy Church),
when she is in labour (in preaching or in showing compassion to sinners), hath sorrow;
but, when she hath brought forth (by contrition and the sinner’s confession) the child (the newly converted),
she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (Jn 16,21)
Of John (‘the grace of God’) was said: Many shall rejoice in his birth (Lc 1,14).
16. And a son is given to us. Thanks be to God! Because from a slave of the world and of the devil we have derived a son of God. Such a one says in the Psalm:
The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son;
this day have I begotten thee, (Ps 2,7)
by grace: who were yesterday a slave of guilt; and because you are a son,
Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles (rebellious thoughts) for thine inheritance,
and the utmost parts of the earth (your bodily senses) for thy possession; (Ps 2,8)
so that you may prevail over both. A son, as referred to in Genesis 49:
Joseph is a growing son, a growing son and comely to behold. (Gn 49,22)
He is ‘growing’ in virtue of his poverty; as Joseph says in Genesis 41:
God hath made me to grow in the land of my poverty. (Gn 41,52)
He is ‘comely to behold’ by his humility; so that Genesis 29 says of Rachel (meaning ‘sheep’, that is ‘humble’):
she was well favoured and of a beautiful countenance. (Gn 29,17)
He is ‘given to us’; for, He was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found (Lc 15,24). For what purpose is he given and found? Surely, for the labour of penance.
17. So there follows: And the government is upon his shoulder. There is a concordance to this in the last but one chapter of Genesis:
Issachar shall be a strong ass lying down in the borders.
He saw rest that it was good: and the land that it was excellent.
And he bowed his shoulder to carry. (Gn 49,14-15)
Issachar (meaning ‘man of reward’) is the penitent who serves manfully for an eternal reward, and so is called ‘a strong ass’. Ecclesiasticus 33 says of him:
Fodder and a wand and a burden are for an ass. (Si 33,25)
Fodder of any kind, so that he does not grow weak; the wand of poverty, so that he does not get skittish and kick with his hoof; the burden of obedience, so that he does not become unused to labour. The medicine of penance is compounded from these three ingredients.
He lies down ‘in the borders’. The two borders are the entry and the exit of life. He lies down in these, because he abases himself in the first and weeps for himself in the second. The foolish man does not live ‘on the borders’, but in the middle. So Judges 5 says:
Why dwellest thou between two borders,
that thou mayest hear the bleatings of the flock? (Jg 5,16)
Between birth and death there is only the vanity of the world. The ‘flocks’ are the movements of the flesh, and their ‘bleating’ is their allurement, which the man who takes his ease in the vanity of the world hears. But the penitent man, living on the borders, lifts up the eyes of his mind and sees the repose of happiness and glory, that it is good in the glorification of the body; and he sees the land of eternal stability, that it is very good in the contemplation of the Trinity. He bows his shoulder to bear government, namely the yoke of penance whereby he governs both himself and his temptations. So Ecclesiasticus 6 says: Bow down thy shoulder and bear her (Si 6,26).
18. There follows: and his name shall be called Wonderful, etc. Note that in these six words is summed up the whole perfection of the penitent or just man. He is ‘wonderful’ in his thorough and frequent self-examination, and he sees wonders in the deep places of his heart. Thus Job was ‘wonderful’, because the whole world wonders at his patience. Chapter 7 says:
I will not spare my mouth, I will speak in the affliction of my spirit:
I will talk with the bitterness of my soul. (Jb 7,11)
Such affliction of spirit and bitterness of soul leave nothing unexamined, when they sift and search everything to the bottom.
He is ‘counsellor’ in the spiritual and bodily needs of his neighbour, as Job 29 says:
I was an eye to the blind and a foot to the lame. (Jb 29,15)
The blind man is one who does not look into his conscience; the lame man is one who deviates from the straight road of justice. The just man gives counsel to both, because he is ‘an eye’ to the former, instructing him so that he can recognise the defects of his own conscience; and ‘a foot’ to the latter, supporting him and guiding him to put his steps in the way of justice.
There follows: ‘God’. The just man is called ‘God’ figuratively, in the rule over subjects. Thus in Exodus 7 the Lord says to Moses:
I have appointed thee the God of Pharao;
and in Exodus 22:
If the thief be not known, the master of the house shall be brought to the gods (i.e the priests); and shall swear that he did not lay his hand upon his neighbour’s goods. (Ex
And again: I have said: You are gods (Ps 81,6).
Alternatively, ‘God’ in Greek is ‘Theos’, that is ‘He who sees’, since ‘theoreo’ means ‘I see’; ‘theo’ also means ‘I run’, because he traverses everything. The penitent is called ‘God’ because he sees and runs: he sees the things that are above in contemplation, and so he runs towards the goal set before him in the race of penitence.
He is ‘mighty’ in fighting against temptation; as in Judges 14:
A young lion met Samson, raging and roaring; and the spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he tore the lion as he would have torn a kid in pieces. (Jg 14,5-6)
The young lion is the spirit of pride, or lust, or something of the sort. It rages in its vehemence, it roars in its cunning. It appears suddenly and attacks with force. But when the spirit of contrition, of divine love or fear, falls on the penitent, he tears the spirit of pride (represented by the lion), as he tears the spirit of lust (represented by the goat-kid, because it stinks) in pieces, because he destroys it utterly in itself and in its concomitants.
He is ‘Father of the world to come’ in preaching by word and example. So the Apostle says:
My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you. (Ga 4,19) And:
By the Gospel of Christ I have begotten you, (1Co 4,15), namely to eternal life.
He is ‘Prince of peace’ in the tranquil dwelling together of mind and body. So Job 5:
The beasts of the earth (i.e. the motions of your flesh) shall be at peace with thee: and thou shalt know that thy tabernacle is in peace. (Jb 5,23-24)
And chapter 11:
Being buried (i.e. hidden from the world in contemplation) thou shalt sleep secure.
Thou shalt rest, and there shall be none to make thee afraid. (Jb 11,18-19)
May he who is blessed for ever be pleased to grant us this. Amen.
1 ARISTOTLE, De somno et vigilia, 3
2 AUGUSTINE, Sermo 351,4,7; PL 39.1512
3 JEROME, Letter to the monk Rusticus, 125,8; PL 22.1076
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
1. At that time: Jesus said to the Jewish crowd: Behold, I send to you prophets, etc. (Mt 23,34)
There are two things noted in this Gospel: the persecution of the just and the comparison of Christ to the mother hen.
2. The persecution of the just: Behold, I send, etc. In this first clause we note the moral lesson, how worldly and carnal people destroy in themselves, or drive away from themselves, the manifold inspiration of divine grace.
He said therefore to the Jewish crowd. The ‘Jews’, who loved transitory things and worked only for them, stand for worldly people, devoted to the flesh, who (as is said in the book of Judges, ch. 12) are unable to pronounce ‘Shibboleth’ (which means ‘ear’ or ‘grain’), but say ‘Sibboleth’ (meaning ‘straw’). They chase after straw, and become straw, which will be burnt up in the eternal fire.
He says: Behold, I send to you prophets (and wise men and scribes). Note that in these three persons, the threefold inspiration of divine grace is implied. The ‘prophets’ are the fear of judgement and the dread of hell, which the Lord sends to the sinful soul, to prophesy to it the terrible judge and the avenging fire. So Nahum 1 says:
Who can stand before the face of his indignation?
And who shall resist in the fierceness of his anger?
His indignation is poured out like fire:
and the rocks are melted by him. (Na 1,6)
And Joel 2:
Before the face thereof a devouring fire, and behind it a burning flame. (Jl 2,3)
The Lord says of these two prophets, in Jeremiah 44:
I sent to you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending, and saying:
Do not commit this abominable thing which I hate.
But they heard not nor inclined their ear, to turn from their evil ways. (Jr 44,4-5)
The Lord is said to rise early and send prophets, when he mercifully strikes the soul sleeping in the night of sin, with the fear of judgement and the dread of hell. But the wretch will not receive the inspiration, nor turn the ear of obedience, so as to be converted from evil-doing to penitence.
The ‘wise men’ are those divine inspirations which order our thoughts, weigh our words, adorn our deeds, put our lives together and arrange everything in the right way. He who walks with these wise men, becomes wise himself. Ecclesiasticus 8 says of them:
Despise not the discourse of the wise, and acquaint thyself with their proverbs;
learn of them doctrine and understanding. (cf. Si 8,9-10)
Glorious is their school, happy their teaching, praiseworthy their discipline; which instruct our behaviour and destroy vices.
The ‘scribes’ are the devotions of the mind, which write in the book of memory the uncleanness of our conception, the lowliness of our birth, the malice of our wickedness, the misery of our pilgrimage, the brevity of time and the remembrance of death. Read this scripture of truth. Study this book. In it, as Ezekiel 2 says, are ‘lamentations, a song, and woe’ (Ez 2,9); lamentations over the uncleanness of conception and lowliness of birth; a sad song about the malice of wickedness and the misery of pilgrimage; and woe concerning the brevity of time and the remembrance of death. See how the merciful and kind Lord daily sends to you prophets to strike you with sorrow, wise men to guide your behaviour, and scribes to record in your memory the state of your life.
3. But let us listen to how much evil the ungrateful Jews (that is, the lovers of the world) return for these benefits:
And some of them you will put to death and crucify; and some you will scourge in your synagogues. (Mt 23,34)
Relate each term to each: they kill the prophets, crucify the wise men, and scourge the scribes. The proud and vainglorious oppose the prophets, the gluttonous and lustful the wise men, and the avaricious and usurers the scribes. Pride and vainglory kill in man the terror of judgement and the dread of hell: so that today Stephen says to the Jews in Acts 7:
You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears (pride and vainglory which are unwilling to understand or even hear, except for what pleases them), you always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain those who foretold of the coming of the Just One. (Ac 7,51-52)
And so they kill them in themselves, because they foretell the coming to judgement.
The gluttonous and lustful crucify and afflict the wise men; for they are corrupt in thought, lascivious in word, dissolute in deed, and loose in morals. They say, in Wisdom 2:
Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments:
and let not the flower of the time pass by us.
Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered:
let no meadow escape our riot. (Sg 2,7-8)
The avaricious and usurious scourge the scribes in the synagogues; that is, in their consciences wherein is the seat and synagogue of Satan (cf. Ap 2,9). The unhappy wretches pay no attention to the state of their life, its entry and its exit. In its entrance there is no purse or penny, at its exit only straw and sack-cloth. They are naked as they enter, and they leave wrapped in a short shroud. Where do they get all their possessions from? From robbery and fraud. So Habbakuk 2 says:
Woe to him that heapeth together that which is not his own.
How long also doth he load himself with thick clay? (Ha 2,6)
He is like the dung-beetle, which gathers much dung and with great labour makes a round ball; but in the end a passing ass steps on both beetle and ball, and in a moment destroys it and all it laboured so long over. In the same way the miser or usurer gathers long the dung of money, and labours long; but when he lest expects, it the devil chokes him. And so he gives his soul to the demons, his flesh to worms, and his money to his family.
4. There follows: And you will persecute them from city to city (Mt 23,34). Alas! It is not
enough for the wretches to extinguish or drive out the inspiration of divine grace in themselves; but they must also persecute and expel it from those about them- children, wives and so on, as though from city to city! For instance: Suppose the son of a usurer is struck with fear of the judgement, or of the pains of hell, and resolves to live an honest life and bewail the misery of this life. If his father gets to hear of it, he persecutes this grace in him with all his power, and so for his daughter, his wife, his whole family.
That upon you may come all the just blood (the due vengeance for shedding blood)
from the blood of Abel the just (whose name means ‘strife’)
even unto the blood of Zacharias (‘remembrance of the Lord’)
the son of Barachias (‘blessing of the Lord’). (Mt 23,35)
See what evil deeds these murderers perform! They kill in themselves and in their families the strife of penance and the remembrance of the Lord’s Passion, which was given as a blessing by God the Father to the whole world.
Whom you killed between the temple and the altar (i.e. in the court of the temple).
Apocalypse 9 says of this:
But the court which is without the temple cast out and measure it not;
because it is given unto the Gentiles (i.e. those who live ‘gently’).(Ap 11,2)
The temple stands for the Church triumphant, the altar for the Church militant, and the courtyard for worldly vanity wherein the memory of the Lord’s Passion is killed.
5. The comparison of Christ to a mother hen: Jerusalem, Jerusalem (Mt 23,37)weeps for men, not stones, with loving concern. Thou that killest the prophets, who announce the Lord of prophets, and stonest them. It is on account of these words that this Gospel is read today, when St Stephen was stoned by the Jews. When he argued with their hardness (‘stiff necked’, he called them), he had to endure the hardness of stones. Yet, "Patience rejoices in hard things".1 "Yesterday the Lord was born, today the servant is stoned; yesterday the king was wrapped in swaddling cloths, today the soldier puts off his perishable garment; yesterday the Saviour lay in the manger, today Stephen takes his place in heaven."2 His name means ‘rule’, or ‘crowned’, or ‘watchman’. He is our rule by his example: falling on his knees, he prayed for those who stoned him: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (Ac 7,59). He was crowned with his own blood, and gazed upon the Son of God: I see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of
God (Ac 7,55).
There follows: How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not (Mt 23,37). It is as though he said, I wanted it, and you did not want it; and as often as I gathered by my ever efficacious will, even though you were unwilling, I did so, for you were always ungrateful.
(5b) Alternatively: the Lord rebukes the ungrateful soul: Jerusalem, Jerusalem. This is interpreted as ‘perfect fear’, (i.e. complete), or ‘he will fear perfectly’. A house is called ‘imperfect’ until it is completed. Note that he says ‘Jerusalem’ twice, because the unhappy soul, which, as said previously, kills the prophets in it, will fear two things: it sees above it the angry judge, and beneath it hell gaping and burning; and then it will fear perfectly. It does not fear now, however, because it is not concerned with those things that are for its peace.
And stonest them that are sent unto thee, that is, you drive away the inspirations and visitations of divine grace in hardness of heart. Isaiah 48 says:
I know that thou art stubborn, and thy neck is as an iron sinew, and thy forehead is as brass. (Is 48,4)
The iron sinew is inflexible pride (Augustine: "To stretch the neck a sign of pride")3, the brass forehead is irreverence (EZ ,
IAll the house of Israel are of a hard forehead and an obstinate heart (Ez 3,7)).
How often would I have gathered together thy children, and thou wouldest not. Note that man’s justification is perfected by two things: his own deliberation and divine inspiration; the Creator co-operates with his creature. So he requires our voluntary assent in the work of our justification, as he says in Isaiah 1:
If you be willing and will hearken to me, you shall eat the good things of the land. (Is 1,9)
When this work is forwarded, it is attributed to free will, as it is said: If my people had heard me, etc. (Ps 80,14).
If we do altogether nothing in this work, we ask for help in vain, and we falsely call him our helper. It is one thing to do, and another to help. What is ‘to help’ if not to co-operate with one who is working? That man understood that he was a helper and a co-operator in good, who said: Be my helper and deliverer, O Lord, make no delay (Ps 69,6). Every day we are asked for his help when we proclaim in daily press: Help us, O God, our saviour (Ps 78,9). It is clear then, that this work is perfected by a two things, wherein the Creator co-operates with his creature.
In this work, then, there is need for our own industry and divine grace. Vainly does one
strive with free will, if one is not supported by divine assistance. Our justification is brought to perfection by our own resolution and divine inspiration. To will only what is just, is already to be just. We are rightly called ‘just’ or ‘unjust’ solely from our will, however much we are helped to either by our work. So do what is yours to do by offering your will, and God will do what is his by infusing grace.
Note that neither angel, man nor devil can compel the free will, nor will God force it. But,
0 soul, he lovingly wishes that you gather your ‘children’ together (your affections, which are scattered among various worldly vices), so that you may live peaceably together in your house: you should freely offer yourself in this matter, and will it yourself.
6. As the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings. Note that the hen is made weak with the weakness of her chicks. She calls them to food so clamorously that she grows hoarse; shielding them with her wings, she bristles against the hawk for their sake. In the same way Christ, the Wisdom of the Father, was made weak for our weakness. Isaiah 53 says:
We desired him; despised and the least (i.e. most abject) of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity. (Is 53,2-3)
Whoever wants to comfort the afflicted must needs fell affection towards he afflicted. It says in the fourth book of Kings that Eliseus bowed himself upon the child, and the child’s flesh grew warm (2R 4,34). Eliseus’s bowing is Christ’s Incarnation, from which we have received the warmth of faith, and recovered life. He called us to the food of his teaching, crying so loudly that his jaws became hoarse (Ps 68,4).
Note that he who is hoarse has no melody of voice, but sounds rough, and is not willingly listened to. So today, Christ’s teaching has no flattering melody, it does not soothe sinners and promise them temporal things. It sounds rough, because it teaches them to afflict the flesh and despise the world; and so it is not readily listened to. So Job 29 complains:
1 called my servant, and he gave me no answer: I entreated him with my own mouth.
My wife hath abhorred my breath, and I entreated the children of my womb. (Jb 19,81)
Christ’s ‘wife’ are the clergy, impregnated with his patrimony, who more than anyone abhor his breath (that is, his preaching), which goes out from his secret place; for, as Job says, Wisdom is drawn out of secret places (Jb 28,18).
Further, to protect us he stretched out his arms like wings upon the Cross, and bristling with thorns he faced the devil, who schemed to seize us. The crown of thorns was like a
helmet on his head, the Cross like a shield on his arm, the nail like a club in his hand; and so armed he cast down our enemy. To him, then, be praise and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (THE BIRTH OF THE SAVIOUR)