Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)
(A sermon on the five things which are in a tree, and their meaning: Every tree.)
7. There follows, secondly:
Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree
that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them. (Mt 7,17-20)
Note that there are these five things in the good tree: its root, its trunk, its branches, its leaves and its fruit. The roots go down deep into the earth, and spread out. Naturalists say that the depth of the roots is equal to the height of the tree. The trunk is the main part of the tree, rising from the roots. The branches spread out from the tree-trunk, and they are covered with the leaves and the fruit.
The good tree is good will, which requires five things if it is to stand and be good: the root of humility, the trunk of obedience, the branches of charity, the leaves of holy preaching and the sweet fruit of heavenly contemplation. The root of humility should as deep seated in the heart, as it is shown forth in good works. It signifies this by the water that goes up as much as it comes down. The humility of hypocrites, having no root in the heart, would like to appear great in works. But true humility abases itself the more deeply it is rooted, and so it is raised up the higher.
(A sermon on the ten lines on the sundial, the degrees and their meaning:
Ezechias said to Isaias: What shall be the sign.)
8. And so, there is a concordance to this blessed root of the good tree in the fourth book of Kings, where:
Ezechias said to Isaias: What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the temple of the Lord the third day? And Isaias said to him: This shall be the sign from the Lord, that the Lord will do the word which he hath spoken: Wilt thou that the shadow go forward ten lines, or that it go back so many degrees? And Ezechias said: It is an easy matter for the shadow to go forward ten lines; and I do not desire that this be done: but let it return back ten degrees. And Isaias the prophet called upon the Lord; and he brought the shadow ten degrees backwards by the lines, by which it had already gone down in the dial of Achaz. (2R 20,8-11)
The ‘dial of Achaz’ (meaning ‘converted’, or ‘holding strength’) is the humble heart of the penitent, who is converted from his evil way and holds on to the strength of perseverance, so as to receive the prize of glory. On this dial there are, and ought to be, ten degrees of humility, by which the sun (the soul enlightened by grace) should go up and return again.
The first degree of humility is to remember what vile and stinking material we are made of.
The second, is to recall how we were hidden for nine months in our mother’s womb, and nourished with her blood. Of these two, you will find more in the Gospel: A blind man sat (Quinquagesima).
The third, how from the darkness of the womb we came out weeping and wailing, naked and unclean. Job went down by these three degrees, when he said:
Who can make him clean that is conceived of unclean seed? (Jb 14,4)
Why did I not die in the womb? Why did I not perish when I came out of the belly?
Why received upon the knees? Why suckled at the breasts? (Jb 3,11-12) and Jeremiah:
Why came I out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, and that my days should be spent in confusion? (Jr 20,18)
The fourth degree is, how miserable and loathsome is this pilgrimage of exile, in which there is sorrow and groaning, anguish and weeping. So Jacob says in Genesis:
The days of my pilgrimage are few and evil. (Gn 47,9)
The fifth, to remember our own wickedness: what, and how great the things, we have done or left undone; how, when we were free, we sold ourselves to the devil for nothing; how ungrateful we have been to God. Of this degree, it is told in the fourth book of Kings, that
Ezechias turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, and wept with much weeping. (2R 20,2-3)
The wall is the whole collection of his sins, towards which the sinner should turn and recognise, in bitterness of soul, how much he has done and left undone; and he should pray to God to restore the grace he has lost; and he should weep, that God may forgive his sins.
The sixth is the remembrance of death, bitterest thought of all. So Ecclesiasticus says:
O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that hath peace in his possessions. (Si 41,1)
In death, his flesh will be given to worms, his soul to demons (if he does not repent), and his property will be left to his children and kin. So the psalm says:
They shall go into the lower parts of the earth: (that is hell, their soul to the demons) they shall be delivered into the hands of the sword; (death, their flesh to worms) they shall be the portion of foxes; (Ps 62,10-11)
(their property to their families, who are like cunning foxes quarrelling over the skin of a dead donkey).
The seventh degree of humility is to recall to mind how the Son of God bowed his divine head in the womb of the poor little Virgin; how he who fills heaven and earth, "whom heaven and earth cannot contain, constricted himself in the chamber of one little maid,"3 and dwelt there for nine months; how he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; how he was carried away from Herod’s face into Egypt, the Lord of the whole world a refugee from the world! How in all the world he could not find a place to lay his head, except when, bowing his head upon his Father’s breast, he committed his spirit into his hands.
The eighth, how great were his mercies and kindness to sinners, whom he drew to himself by the sweetness of his preaching; whom he ate with, to call them to repentance. How great was his compassion when he wept bitterly over the city in which he was to be crucified, and over Lazarus whom he was to raise! How great was his mildness, when he was willing to talk alone with the Samaritan woman, and allow the sinful Magdalene to touch him!
The ninth, how he was beaten with rods and blows, spat upon, crowned with a crown of thorns, given vinegar and gall to drink, and crucified between thieves, as if he was a thief himself.
The tenth degree is to ponder carefully in the mind how the trumpet shall sound, and as Daniel says:
the dead that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake:
some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always. (Da 12,2)
That is, to see how the humble man who was judged will come as a stern judge; the Son of a suppliant Virgin to judge the whole world in justice. They will see how the pillars of heaven will tremble at his nod, how the powers of heaven will be moved, and how the heavens will be folded up like a book, the sun being turned to darkness and the moon to blood. Men will go mad and say to the mountains: Fall on us; and to the hills: Hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne.
By these ten degrees the soul of the penitent should go up and down. By as much as she goes down, by so much she shall rise. This will be the true sign that the Lord has healed her from every weakness of sin, and that she will go up into the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, built of living stones. Blessed is that tree that has such a root, because it is from the root that the fruit of the tree springs. That is why we have treated of the thing by which humility is represented. From it the tree of good will arises, and man receives the fruit of eternal life. Well does the Lord say: A good tree bringeth forth good fruit.
(A sermon on the five things which are in the bad tree: A watcher and a holy one came down from heaven.)
9. There follows: and an evil tree brings forth evil fruit. The word for ‘evil’ (malus, -a, -um) is derived from the Greek melan, the black bile from which the melancholic temperament gets its name. This drives men to avoid human company, because of an excess of black bile. The evil tree is the evil will. Its root is cupidity, its trunk is obstinacy, its branches are evil works, its leaves are poisonous words, and its fruit is eternal death. Of a tree like this the Lord says:
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast in the fire. So it says in Daniel that:
A watcher and a holy one came down from heaven. He cried aloud, and said thus: Cut down the tree and chop off the branches thereof: shake off its leaves and scatter its fruits; let the beasts fly away that are under it and the birds from its branches. (Da 4,10-11)
The tree is cut down when the sinner, cut down by death’s axe, falls to earth and returns to it. Then the branches of riches and temporal honours are chopped off, and the leaves of frivolous words are shaken off. "Words now must go, the mighty wind doth blow."4 The fruit, his evil deeds, are scattered, because the gates of the body, through which the wretch used to go out to see the women of the country (cf. Gn 34,1), are now shut. The beasts that roam the waste, robbers and murderers, that use to take refuge under his shade, flee when he is dead. The birds, the proud, who used to live in his branches, fly away. The Lord says well: Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast in the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Topheth is prepared from yesterday, prepared by the king, deep and wide. The nourishment thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord is a torrent of brimstone kindling it. (Is 30,33)
Topheth (meaning ‘width’) is Hell, which will stretch out his soul endlessly. It is prepared from ‘yesterday’, that is, from eternity, by Jesus Christ the king, to whom all the past is present, to whom what he did from eternity is as yesterday is to us. This Hell is called deep and wide. It is deep- indeed bottomless- without end of punishment. It is wide, to receive the souls of the damned. Hell it is called, and souls are carried down thither. Its nourishment is much wood, the souls of sinners; the breath of the Lord (his anger), like a torrent of brimstone, burning and stinking, will kindle it. Whoever burns here with the fire of avarice, and is defiled with the stink of lust, will burn there for ever.
10. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
Whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). (Rm 8,14-15)
The Spirit of God is humility, and those led by it, and ruled by it, are truly the good tree, because they are the sons of God. As the root supports the tree, so humility supports the soul. The spirit of humility is sweeter than honey, and those who are ruled by it produce sweet fruits. You have not received the spirit of bondage, which makes men serve unwilling, from fear of punishment, ‘again’- that is, as before under the Law. The evil tree does not receive the spirit of adoption, of sons, but the spirit of bondage, as slaves who do not remain in the house for ever (Jn 8,35), but are cut down and cast into the fire that never ends.
Adoption is when someone is given the status of a son. The adoptive son, accepted into the place of a son, Jesus Christ, the ever-blessed, makes the barren tree a good and fruitful tree, by grafting on the shoot of faith. Every day, he makes sons of wrath become sons of grace; so in contrition of heart and confession of the mouth they cry out daily: Abba, Father. ‘Abba’ is the Syrian and Hebrew for ‘Father’ (Latin and Greek ‘Pater3). In this double naming of fatherhood, there is represented a double mercy of fatherly kindness. The penitent, received in the place of a son, should hope for remission of sins and the blessing of glory.
We pray you, then, Abba, Father, to make us a good tree, granting that we may produce fruit worthy of penitence; so, rooted and founded in humility, and freed from the eternal fire, we may deserve to pluck the fruit of eternal life. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A sermon against those who, being in mortal sin, cry out to the Lord; He calleth to me out of Seir.)
11. There follows, thirdly:
Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of
heaven. (Mt 7,21)
The expression, ‘Lord’, has several connotations: it indicates dominion over all creation; or headship of a household; or the power to threaten. The Gloss comments on this text of the Gospel, ‘The way to the kingdom of God is by obedience, not empty words. One does not truly and properly ‘say’, if what one professes is in disagreement with one’s intention. The Apostle says:
No man can say: The Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost. (1Co 12,3)
To say truly, Lord Jesus, is to believe with one’s heart, confess with one’s mouth, and attest by one’s deeds. To have one without the other is a denial.’ However much their tongue resounds with praises, their life blasphemes. They cry ‘Lord’, but they are not his servants and they do not fear his threats.
So he himself says in Isaiah:
He calleth to me out of Seir:
Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
The watchman said:
The morning cometh, also the night. If you seek, seek: return, come. (Is 21,11-12)
Seir means ‘bristly’, and it stands for sinners who bristle with the thorns of riches and cares. Genesis says that Esau dwelt in the land of Seir, the region of Edom (Gn 36,8). Esau, note, was called both ‘Seir’ and ‘Edom’: Seir, because he was hairy, Edom on account of the red broth for which he sold his birthright. Esau means ‘heap of stones’, and Edom, ‘blood’. Where there is a heap of stones (riches), there will be the piercing thorns of care. And where there is care, there blood will flow. The sinner cries from Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Behold, A wheel within a wheel (Ez 1,16 Ez 10 Ez 10).
In Matthew, the word ‘Lord’ is repeated, and in Isaiah the word ‘watchman’. This indicates that he who is Lord must also be a watchman, so as to watch well over the house of which he is head. The double ‘Lord’ comprises Creator and Judge, and between these two extremes the middle term is ‘watchman’. Jesus Christ was Lord in the creation of the world, and he will be Lord, too, in the strict assize of judgement; for a judge gives to each what is just. Between these two he is watchman of the night. The Lord took the form of a servant, to watch over his servants. So it says in Luke that he passed the whole night in the prayer of God (Lc 6,12). The night-watchman passed the night in prayer, not for himself but for his creatures, whom he had come to set free.
He was a night-watchman, too, in the Passion. Luke says: And he was withdrawn away
from them a stone’s cast. And kneeling down he prayed (Lc 22,41). He prayed alone for all, who was to suffer alone for all. St Ambrose5 says: "He wept over me, because he had nothing to weep over in himself." He knelt, so that the disposition of his body might show the humility of his mind. Truly, he was humble then: but he will come in severity to lay waste the earth and eradicate the wicked from it.
(A sermon against gluttony, pride, vainglory and lust: They were filled and were made full.)
12. He himself complains of them in the prophet Hosea:
They were filled and were made full:
and they lifted up their heart and have forgotten me.
And I will be to them as a lioness, as a leopard in the way of the Assyrians.
I will meet them as a bear that is robbed of her whelps and I will rend the inner parts of their liver:
and I will devour them there as a lion. The beast of the field shall tear them.
Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in me. (Os 13,6-9)
Eight things are mentioned in this text: four vices and four punishments corresponding to each. They were filled indicates riches and avarice. And were made full indicates gluttony. They lifted up their heart indicates pride and vainglory. And have forgotten me indicates lust.
So it says in Ezekiel:
Because thou hast forgotten me and hast cast me off behind thy back,
bear thou also thy wickedness and thy fornications. (Ez 23,35)
Someone casts the Lord behind his back when he forgets the bitterness of his Passion and turns to the pleasures of the flesh, from love of which he becomes a slave to gluttony and the belly. And I will be to them as a lioness, says the Lord against the ‘filled’; as a leopard in the way of the Assyrians I will meet them, against those ‘made full’; as a bear that is robbed of her whelps I will rend the inner parts of their liver,
meaning the proud who lift up their hearts. We love with our liver, and so it stands for love of earthly things. If anyone loves them, the Lord will tear out his entrails. And I will devour them (the lustful) there as a lion, because the beast of the field (the devil) shall tear them with the sword of eternal death, so that the one who incited them to guilt will also execute their punishment. Destruction is thy own, O Israel, as though to say, If you are destroyed, it is your own fault. But your help is in the end only from me, no one else, because I keep watch over Israel. He says well, then, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
There follows: The watchman said: The morning cometh, also the night. If you seek, seek: return, come. A watchman takes care; and the word for morning resembles an ancient term for ‘good’: what is better than light? The Lord, our watchman, who hath care of us, as Peter says (1P 5,7), replies to those who say, ‘Lord, Lord’: ‘The morning comes’, the illumination of grace. Walk, then, while it is day, because the night is coming when no-one can work. Solomon says: If the tree fall to the south (life), or to the north (death), in what place soever it shall fall, there shall it be (Qo 11,3). Work promptly, then, while it is morning; because there is neither work nor reason in hell, whither you are hasting, O sinner, driven by your sins. If you seek, if you mean to seek, seek while it is morning. If you do seek, what is this seeking? Return, he says, and come. See how the Lord is sought and found. The Lord is not to be sought in words- ‘Lord, Lord’- because he seeks worshippers who will worship him in spirit and in truth, in the spirit of contrition and in the truth of confession.
(A sermon how anyone should seek the Lord: When Josias heard the word of the Law of the Lord.)
13. In this way that holy Josias, king of Judah, sought the Lord; of whom there is a concordance in the fourth book of Kings, where it says that
when Josias had heard the words of the law of the Lord, he rent his garments...
and he made a covenant with the Lord, to walk alter the Lord...
with all their heart and with all their soul...
and he cast out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that had been made for Baal,... and he burnt them without Jerusalem in the valley of Cedron....
And he burnt the chariots of the sun with fire...
moreover the diviners by spirits, and soothsayers, and the figures of idols, and the uncleannesses, and the abominations... Josias took away...
and he made a Passover to the Lord. ()
Josias means ‘one in whom is sacrifice’, and he stands for the penitent, in whom there is a sacrifice to the Lord, a contrite spirit. When he hears of the everlasting glory of the just, and the unending punishment of sinners, he rends his garments: that is, he afflicts his body, with which his soul is clothed, and makes a covenant with the Lord, that the Lord will forgive his sins, and he himself will never return to them. And he casts out of the Lord’s temple, his heart, in which the Lord dwells, all the vessels which were made for Baal: all manner of greed whereby he served the god Baal, his belly; and he burns them in the valley of Cedron (meaning, ‘sadness and grief’). He burns with the fire of penitence the chariots of the sun: the five bodily senses which turn on four wheels, temporal pleasure around the four seasons, and run hither and thither in the sun, the brightness of passing glory. He takes away those who divine by the spirit of avarice, and the soothsayers who chant their prayers at the altars of wickedness- the hypocrites. Also the figures of idols, the imagining of lewd thoughts; the uncleannesses of fornication; and the abominations of words. When all these have been cleansed, he makes a Passover to the Lord, passing from vice to virtue, so as to be converted to the Lord and to follow him: not saying, ‘Lord, Lord’, but doing the will of the Father, so as to deserve at the last to enter his kingdom.
14. Note. The third part of the Epistle is concordant to this third clause:
The Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ. (Rm 8,16-17)
If, being converted, we follow the Lord, and cleanse the temple of the Lord from all impurity, we shall know very well that the Spirit of God bears testimony of good hope to our spirit, and that we are children of God doing the will of our Father in heaven. If we are his children, we are his heirs too. We share the same glory, heirs indeed of God, who has made us heirs of an eternal inheritance by the testament confirmed by the blood and death of his Son. We are joint heirs with him, because he is our flesh and our brother (cf. Gn 32,27), by a sharing our nature. He raised it in heaven above the angels, "to make us sharers in his divinity"6 , and joint heirs.
Let us pray, then, dearest brothers, to the almighty Father: that he would grant us to do his will, to purify the temple of our heart from all uncleanness, and to celebrate the true Passover; that we may be made fit to come to the eternal heritage he has promised us through our joint heir, Jesus Christ his beloved Son. May he grant this, who with his most dear Son and the Holy Spirit is one eternal God, living and reigning for ever and ever.
Let the whole Church say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 BERNARD, De consideratione, IV,6,20: PL 182.786
2 AUGUSTINE, Enarrationes in psalmos, Ps 63.11; PL 36.765
3 BREVIARIUM ROMANUM, Christmas Day Matins, Responsorium 6.
4 BREVIARIUM ROMANUM, 13th December, St Lucy, 5th Lesson.
5 GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Lk 22.42
6 MISSALE ROMANUM, Preface for the Ascension
Copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
Translated by Paul Spilsbury (PROLOGUE FOR AUGUST)
We give thanks, unworthy though we are, to the Triune God, by the help of whose grace we have, as best we could, reached the first Sunday in August in our course on the Sunday Gospels. Note then that from the first of August until the first of September the five books of Solomon are read in the Church: namely Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of canticles, the book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. There are four Sundays in the month of August, and with God’s help we shall concord with their Gospels such parts of these five books as we shall consider most useful for edification, and most suitable for the matters treated.
(The Gospel for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost: There was a certain rich man who had a steward, which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon on knowledge, on the life of the prelate or preacher of the Church, and on the properties of milk: He that strongly squeezeth the paps.)
1. At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: There was a certain rich man who had a steward; and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods. (Lc 16,1)
Solomon says in Proverbs:
He that strongly squeezeth the paps to bring out milk straineth out butter: and he that draineth violently bringeth out blood. (Pr 30,33)
(We squeeze the paps strongly when we consider the sacred words with a subtle mind; by doing so, though we seek milk, we get butter: for while we are looking to be nourished with a meagre understanding, we are given inwardly something much richer. He who drains violently brings out blood: we need to be careful lest trying too hard to get milk from the udders, we draw blood. Squeezing too hard and drawing blood means that too much discussion may produce a carnal understanding rather than a spiritual: he that draineth violently bringeth out blood.)1 Note these four: the paps, the milk, the butter and the blood. The paps are the Old and New Testaments, the milk is allegory, the butter morality, and the blood sorrow leading to tears.
Regarding the breasts of the Old and New Testaments, Hosea says:
Give them, O Lord. What wilt thou give them?
Give them a womb without children and dry breasts. (Os 9,14)
The Lord gives perverse prelates and preachers of the Church a womb without children. Their mind is not made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and so they remain barren of good works, lacking offspring. Their breasts, the knowledge of the two Testaments, are dry and unfruitful. So Solomon says in Proverbs:
Where there are no oxen, the crib is empty:
but where there is much corn, there the strength of the ox is manifest. (Pr 14,4)
The crib, (strictly, ‘an enclosure’) here means the congregation of the faithful, which the Lord encloses with a hedge of faith. It is empty, because the oxen (the prelates) are not living where their office requires. If they were there in the strength of good works, where they are by rank and dignity, there would undoubtedly be much corn (works of virtue) in the congregation of the faithful. So Solomon says well: He that strongly squeezeth the paps, etc.
He squeezes the paps strongly, who puts the hand of action to the knowledge of both Testaments which he preaches; otherwise the same objection may be made that Solomon says in Proverbs:
The slothful hideth his hand under his armpit:
and it grieveth him to turn it to his mouth. (Pr 26,15)
The armpits, beneath the arms, are the places from which the arms move. Someone puts his hands under his armpits, and will not turn them to his mouth, if he fails to apply the hand of action to what his mouth preaches.
The preacher, then, must draw from the breasts the milk of history, so that he may derive from it the delicious butter of morality. Note that milk is made up of three elements. First there is the watery matter, the ‘whey’. Second, the curds from which cheese is made.
The third is butter. The whey is the historical meaning, the cheese is allegory, the butter is morality. The tastier this last is, the more it is relished by the minds of those who hear it, because their practice is undermined. Therefore, we should stick more to morality, which instructs behaviour, than to allegory which instructs faith; for by God’s grace the faith is spread all over the world.
There follows: and he that draineth violently bringeth out blood. Blood fosters growth,
and nourishes, and it is sweet. It stands for compunction of tears, which sustains the soul and makes it grow, so that it does not fall into sin. What is sweeter than tears, flowing from the sweetness of contemplation? "Tears are the life-blood of the soul," says St Augustine2 . Tears come from the tearing of the mind. When the sinner is squeezed violently by the word of preaching, that draws his mind above, he sheds blood (that is, tears) because he has wasted the goods the Lord had committed to him. Hence it says in today’s Gospel, There was a certain rich man who had a steward, etc.
2. There are three points to note in this Gospel. The first is the accusation of the steward to his master, and the wasting of his goods, where it begins: There was a man. The second is the calling together of the debtors, when it goes on: Therefore calling together every debtor. The third is the reception of the poor who do good into the everlasting dwellings, as it ends: And I say to you: make unto you friends, etc. We shall concord with these three clauses of the holy Gospel some of the Proverbs of Solomon.
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: When I cried to the Lord. The Epistle of blessed Paul to the Corinthians is read: Let us not covet evil things, which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: Let us not covet. The second is: Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand. The third is: And God is faithful, etc.
(A theme for the Advent of the Lord: Length of days is in his right hand.)
3. Let us say, then:
There was a certain rich man who had a steward; and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship, for now thou canst be steward no longer. And the steward said within himself: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I will do, that when I shall be removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. (Lc 16,1-4)
In this first clause we must first look very carefully at the meaning of the rich man, the steward, the wasting of the lord’s goods, to dig and to beg. The rich man is Jesus Christ: ‘man’ because of his humanity, ‘rich’ because of his divinity. So Solomon says of him in Proverbs:
The rich and poor have met together: the Lord is the maker of them both. (Pr 22,2)
The poor man (human nature) and the rich (divine nature) are joined in Christ, that the poor man, bound by punishment and guilt, might be set free.
Proverbs says of the riches of this rich man:
Length of days is in his right hand: and in his left hand riches and glory.
His ways are beautiful ways: and all his paths are peaceable. (Pr 3,16-17)
The right hand is that which gives, the left is that which lets go. The left and right hands of Jesus Christ are his two Advents. The first is denoted by the left hand, the second by the right. In the first, Christ had the riches of poverty and humility, which he displayed in our market-places for us to buy, for without them we cannot be rich. He displayed also the glory which is joy in tribulation and patience in persecution. The Apostles came to these markets, and there were enriched with wonderful merchandise, as they went forth from the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus. (Ac 5,41)
There is a concordance to this in Proverbs:
It is nought, it is nought, saith every buyer:
and when he is gone away then he will boast. (Pr 20,14)
If you mean to go to the market of tribulation, where true riches are sold, first see if you have in your heart’s purse the coin of patience and joy, to buy there. If not, I advise you not to go: you will come back empty-handed. If you are confident about the price, go and buy. You will not care if these riches are hard to get, if it is bitter to drink from the cup of tribulation. When you come back you will rejoice, because you will pass from the left hand to the right, wherein is length of days. It is said:
I will fill him with length of days. (Ps 90,16)
There follows: His ways are beautiful ways, etc. Note that Jesus Christ has two ways and two paths. The first way was from his Father to his mother, and this way is called charity, of which the prophet says: Conduct me, O Lord, in thy way, etc. (Ps 85,11). The second way was from his mother into the world, and this is called humility, of which the Psalm says: Thy way is in the sea (Ps 76,20); as if to say: O Christ, you were made the way of humility in Mary. Her name resembles ‘marine’, and she is called ‘Star of the sea’.
These ways are beautiful. Of the first, the psalm says:
With thy comeliness and thy beauty set out: proceed prosperously and reign. (Ps 44,5)
O Word that the Father’s heart has uttered, set out prosperously for the freeing of the human race, proceed to take on human nature, conquer the devil and reign. Say:
All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. (Mt 28,18)
Do all this in the beauty of your charity, with which you drive out the leprosy of our sin. Of the beauty of the second way, Canticles says:
How beautiful are thy steps in shoes, O prince’s daughter! (Ct 7,1)
The mother and daughter of the prince, Jesus Christ, was blessed Mary. Her steps (the affections of her mind) were beautiful in shoes of blue, the desires of heavenly glory. So Ezekiel says:
I shod thee with violet-coloured shoes, (Ez 16,10)
that is, desire for heavenly things; and Judith, in the book named after her, put sandals on her feet (Jdt 10,3). Judith means ‘confessing’, and she represents blessed Mary, who confessed to the Lord, saying, My soul doth magnify the Lord (Lc 1,46). She put the sandals of heavenly desires upon the feet of her affections.
The first path of Jesus Christ was his persecution by the Jews; the second was the gibbet of the Cross. A path is a lesser way, a by-way. These ways were peacable, that is, making peace for us. As Isaiah says:
The discipline of our peace was upon him: and by his bruises we are healed. (Is 53,5)
Discipline brings learning to fulfilment. The Son of God underwent the discipline of the Passion, that by his blood he might make peace between heaven and earth (cf. Col 1,20), reconciling the human race to God the Father. Consider, wretched man, how great was the discord between you and God the Father, that you could never be reconciled to him except by the discipline of his Son. Think, sinner, how serious were your wounds, which could not be healed except by the wounds of Jesus Christ. Because your wounds were deadly- to eternal death- the Son of God died for you. "Pain is the medicine for pain."3 So do not, I beg you, be ungrateful to the Rich Man, the Son of God and man, who healed your wounds with his wounds, and when you were dead brought you to life again by his death; who made you steward of his goods, to look after them and not to waste them. Yet, because you were not afraid to waste them, you must give an account.
And so the Gospel begins fittingly: There was a certain rich man who had a steward; and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods, etc. The steward was, originally, the ‘sty-ward’, but her it means the administrator or manager who manages the whole estate. This steward is Everyman, to whom God has given three gifts: of grace, of nature, and of temporal possessions. But this unhappy man wastes those of grace and nature by sinning mortally; and temporal goods by gathering them badly and not spending them well.
(A theme against carnal and worldly people: By three things the earth is disturbed.)
4. Regarding the manner of this wastage, there is a concordance in the Proverbs of Solomon:
By three things the earth is disturbed, and the fourth it cannot bear:
By a slave when he reigneth: by a fool when he is filled with meat: by an odious woman when she is married:
and by a bondwoman when she is heir to her mistress. (Pr 30,21-23)
The surface of the earth is worn away, and it stands for the human mind which is turned over by many and various thoughts, its dust is blown away, and being blown away is despoiled of grace and wounded in nature. It is disturbed, then, by the fourfold curse that follows:
The servant reigning is the recalcitrant body, of which Ecclesiasticus says:
Fodder, and a wand and a burden are for an ass; bread and correction and work for a slave.
He worketh under correction and seeketh to rest: let his hands be idle, and he seeketh liberty.
The yoke and the thong bend a stiff neck: and continual labours bow a slave.
Torture and fetters are for a malicious slave: send him to work, that he be not idle; for idleness hath taught much evil.
Set him to work: for so it is fit for him.
And if he be not obedient, bring him down with fetters. (Si 33,25-30)
But because discretion in bodily affliction is very necessary, there follows immediately:
Do no grievous thing without judgement.
If thou have a faithful slave,
a good and sensible one, flesh which does not trouble you,
let him be to thee as thy own soul: treat him as a brother. (Si 33,30-31)
A fool when he is filled with meat. The ‘fool’ is the senseless soul, drunk with pleasure, of whom Proverbs says: The wicked man being scourged, the fool shall be wiser (Pr 19,25). When the body (the wicked man) is scourged, in the same measure the soul (the fool) becomes wiser, carried away by tears rather than by pleasures.
In the same book it says:
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child:
and the rod of correction shall drive it away. (Pr 22,15)
The child is the body, acting childishly, looking for the fruit and flowers of temporal things; it is bound in its heart by foolishness, the love of temporal things, which the rod of penance drives away. The proud heart should be like the savage lion: when it sees its cub being beaten, it is terrified of suffering the same, and puts away its fierceness. In the same way, if the body is struck with the rod of abstinence, the lion-like soul is humbled.
By an odious woman when she is married. Here ‘woman’, the ‘weaker sex’, stands for straying thoughts. These are ‘odious’ when they lead to the consent of the mind, and ‘married’ when they give rise to external action.
By a bondwoman when she is heir to her mistress. The mistress is reason, the bondwoman is sensuality; which even the earth cannot bear when it usurps the dominance of reason.
With this cursed quartet the ungrateful steward wastes the goods of his lord, and so is accused to him. As the Gloss says, this accusation is made when he fails to perform works of piety towards those he owes them to.
5. There follows: And he called him. The Lord calls his steward when he strikes him with the fear of eternal damnation. And he said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship. In other words, while you are alive, think how you should behave. Solomon says in Proverbs:
He that tilleth his ground shall be filled with bread:
but he that followeth idleness shall be filled with poverty. (Pr 28,19)
He will be filled with the bread of grace in this world, and of glory in the future, if he exercises the land of his body in good works. He who follows idleness, bodily pleasure, will be filled with the poverty of eternal death. For now thou canst be steward no longer: that is, from the time of your death.
And the steward said within himself, being utterly terrified: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able, etc. When the sinner sees that all his temporal goods, together with life itself, are ending, he stirs himself to gain friends rather than to gather riches. He knows that when life is over there will be no chance to dig the ground of his soul with furrows of devout compunction, that it may bear fruit. He knows, too, that begging would be shameful, for the same reason that the foolish virgins begged. So Solomon says:
Because of the cold, the sluggard would not plough:
he shall beg therefore in the summer, and it shall not be given him. (Pr 20,4)
He would not plough (do penance) in the winter of this present life. Men used to plough with bronze plough-shares, and bronze, hard and resounding, stands for constant and and self-accusing penance, with which our ancient fathers used to plough their flesh. Our moderns plough now not with bronze, but dry wood, and almost nobody does real penance. That is why they will beg in the summer, at the general resurrection: Lord,
Lord, open to us! And they will not be given life, but rather: Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!
6. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause:
Let us not covet evil things as they also coveted. Neither become ye idolaters, as some of them, as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and thee fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ: as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents. Neither do you murmur: as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1Co 10,6-10)
There are four things to note specially here: idolatry, fornication, tempting and murmuring; whereby the goods of the rich man are wasted. These four are concordant to the previous four.
He who loves his malicious servant, the body, not according to necessity but for pleasure, is like an idolater worshipping an idol. As it is written in Exodus: the people sat
down to eat and drink before the golden calf, and rose up to play, to worship it or to hold games in its honour.
When the fool stuffs himself with food he defiles himself with fornication, as we read in Numbers, when Israel committed fornication with the daughters of Moab, who called them to their sacrifices and they ate idolatrous food. And the Lord was angry, and there were slain in one day twenty three thousand (cf. Nb 25 . See how fornication springs from gluttony, and from fornication comes death and destruction.
He who marries the odious woman, by the consent of mind and deed, tempts Christ: obeying his own will rather than Christ’s, he confesses him only in words. Christ briefly includes these three in the words; Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust alter her (the odious woman) hath already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5,28) (she is already married), and so is liable to be bitten by the serpents (the demons).
He who makes the bondmaid (sensuality) mistress over reason, stirs up murmuring and dissension in the household of his mind.
Let us therefore ask the Lord to destroy these four vices with four virtues; and to make firm the ground of our mind; and to keep his goods in us so that they be not wasted, but that we may be found fit to attain their full possession. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
(A theme for a moral sermon against carnal prelates of the Church, and on the nature of the eagle and the bear, and the properties of the vulture: There was a certain rich man who had a steward.)
7. There was a certain rich man who had a steward, etc. This steward is the prelate to whom the Lord has committed his estate, the Church, to take care of it. Solomon says to him in Proverbs:
Be diligent to know the countenance of thy cattle; and consider thy own flocks.
For thou shalt not always have power;
but a crown shall be given thee to generation and generation. (Pr 27,23-24)
O prelate, be diligent to know the countenance of your cattle, those subject to you, whether they have the ‘Tau’ of the Lord’s Passion upon their foreheads, which they received in Baptism; or whether they have erased it and written over it the mark of the Beast (cf. Ap 13,16). Consider your flock, lest any one be infected by the disease of heresy or schism, and so infect others. As it says in the same book:
Run about, make haste, stir up thy friend.
Give not sleep to thy eyes, neither let thy eye-lids slumber. (Pr 6,3-4)
You will not always have the power, but only now. If you keep good watch, guarding your flock, you will be given a crown for ever and ever. That is how the steward should guard his lord’s estate.
But alas, alas! I do not call him a steward, I call him a thief and a wolf, who wastes his lord’s estate and eats up the goods entrusted to him. Solomon tells in Proverbs how the Church is wasted by the malice of prelates:
By three things the earth is disturbed, and the fourth it cannot bear:
By a slave when he reigneth: by a fool when he is filled with meat:
by an odious woman when she is married:
and by a bondwoman when she is heir to her mistress. (Pr 30,21-23)
The earth, which the Lord has blessed, is Holy Church, of which Genesis says: Let the earth bring forth grass, etc. (Gn 1,11). See the sermon: In the beginning God created heaven and earth (Septuagesima). This earth, the congregation of the faithful, is disturbed from its firm faith and holy life by the bad example of prelates.
By a slave when he reigneth. The slave reigning is the prelate who is a slave to sin, lifted up by the spirit of pride, the ‘ape on the roof’4 who presides over the people of God. Solomon says of him in Proverbs:
As a roaring lion, and a hungry bear, so is a wicked prince over the poor people. (Pr 28,15)
The prelate of the Church, the slave reigning, the wicked prince, is a roaring lion by his pride, and a hungry bear by his rapacity, robbing the poor people. But note that this wicked man is more cruel than a bear. Natural History says that the nature of the eagle and the bear is such that they never hunt in the place they have made their nest or den. Wicked servant, at least spare your own, where you have chosen to make your foul nest and your blind den!
This slave behaves towards his subjects like a vulture towards his chicks. Natural History says that the vulture casts out its chicks before they are able to fly, and does this out of envy towards the chicks, because it is naturally envious. It is very hungry, and when it is hungry it seizes much, and envies the chicks which are getting fat. The vulture flies
slowly, having a heavy body, and not being able to fly swiftly. It represents the prelate of the Church who, being impeded by temporalities, is unable to fly from earthly to heavenly things. He casts out his subjects by the bad example of his life. Before they are able to fly- that is, to despise the world and love heavenly things- he throws them out of the nest of faith and good intention. Alas! How many, because of the bad example of prelates, despise the nest of faith (of which Job says: I shall die in my nest (Jb 29,18)) and are converted to the heretics! And because by the envy of the devil death came into the world (Sg 2,24), he envies those subject to him, his parishioners, when he sees them achieving prosperity and abundance. "The envious man grows thin on another man’s plenty."5 If he is tortured by the happiness of his own people, whose happiness will he desire? Whose happy outcome can he rejoice in? He that is evil to his own, how will he be good to others? (cf. Si 14,5). By such a slave, then, the Church of Jesus Christ is wasted.
It is disturbed, too, by a fool when he is filled with meat. The fool filled with meat is the gluttonous and lustful prelate of the Church, of whom Proverbs says:
He that loveth wine and fat things shall not be rich, (Pr 21,17)
(rich with spiritual goods, that is). Solomon says to him, again in Proverbs:
Give not to kings, O Lamuel, give not wine to kings:
because there is no secret where drunkenness reigneth:
and lest they drink and forget judgements (or benefits),
and pervert the cause of the children of the poor.(Pr 31,4-5)
Lamuel means ‘in whom is God’, and he stands for the prelate, in whom God is in virtue of the dignity of his office; and would that it were so by the holiness of his life! He is twice told, to make him remember it more firmly, Give not, give not wine to kings. The kings are all the faithful, members of the King most high. O prelate, do not give them wine, standing for gluttony and lust; do not corrupt them by your bad example. Do not, I say, give them wine; because where such drunkenness reigns, whether in prelate or subject, there is no secret of chastity or purity. Do not, I say, give them wine, lest by your bad example of drunkenness they forget the judgements of God, and by judging unjustly pervert the cause of the children of the poor, who seek justice for themselves. When the head is sick, all the members feel pain. When the root dries up, so do the branches. So Proverbs says:
When prophecy shall fail, the people shall be scattered abroad. (Pr 29,18)
That is, when life and doctrine fail in prelates, the people forget the judgements of God,
and judge unjustly the cause of the poor. See how great is the ruin of the people, from the bad life of a prelate who is filled with food and forgets both God and the people entrusted to him. He behaves like the adulterous woman in Proverbs, who
eateth and wipeth her mouth, and saith: I have done no evil. (Pr 30,20)
So he, although he has done many evil things, wants to appear holy and just in the sight of men.
(A theme against the simony of priests and prelates: A foolish woman and clamorous.)
8. The Church is also wasted by an odious woman when she is married. This woman is the simony of prelates, which is ‘odious’ when it is promised, and ‘married’ when it is received. Of this woman, Solomon says in Proverbs:
A foolish woman and clamorous, and full of allurements, and knowing nothing at all, sat in the door of her house, upon a seat, in a high place of the city, to call them that pass by the way, and go on their journey:
He that is a little one, let him turn to me.
And to the fool she said:
Stolen waters are sweeter, and hidden bread is more pleasant.
And he did not know that giants are there:
and that her guests are in the depths of hell. (Pr 9,13-18)
Whoever makes application to her goes down to hell; but whoever shuns her will be saved.
Note that simony is called A foolish woman and clamorous, and full of allurements, and knowing nothing at all. A woman, because nearly everyone is seduced by her; foolish, because she sells gold for lead, what is spiritual for what is temporal; clamorous, because she shouts boldly in law-suits and courts; full of allurements, because she sells her own soul to buy her own shame; knowing nothing at all, and not understanding that God will not let such crime go unavenged. The simoniac’s money will go to hell with him, because he sold for money the gift of God which was given freely.
There follows: She sat in the door of her house, etc. The house of simony is the depraved will of the simoniac, and its doors are his hands and tongue, where simony is seated. Whoever sells or gives what is spiritual (or what is attached to something spiritual), by prayer or price, by word or gift, by promising or offering, out of fear or out of earthly or carnal love: he is a simoniac, and he cannot be saved unless he resigns and does true penance. Even the wicked willingness to buy or sell something spiritual makes a man a simoniac.
And because simony has chosen a greater place for herself, in the greater prelates of the Church, there is added: upon a seat, in a high place of the city. A city is like a world, and in old times it was circular. This city is the Church, ‘round’ in her perfection, and the Lord says to her: Be perfect, as your Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5,48). The ‘high place’ of the Church is the dignity of prelature. So simony sits on a seat in the high place of the city, on those who occupy the chairs of ecclesiastical dignity. Because they love dignities, they lack followers; and so fall backwards off their stools and break their necks (cf. 1S 4,18). Woe to them, then, that freely take bribes and blind the eyes of the wise. They build Jerusalem in blood- that is, granting ecclesiastical benefices to their blood-relatives, nephews and great-nephews. It is a kind of sacrilege to give what belongs to the poor to those who are not poor. If you do give to your kinsman, you should give not because he is a kinsman, but because he is poor. Be careful not to put the patrimony of Jesus into the corbona, because it is the price of blood (Mt 27,6). Do not give blood to blood, but give to the pilgrim and the poor man, for whose burial the price of the Lord’s blood bought the field of Haceldama (cf. Mt 27,7-8), Holy Church, whose goods belong to the poor, not to the rich.
There follows: to call them that pass by , etc. Those who pass by, travelling on their journey, are penitent men who, having here no abiding city, lay down their burdens and run after Jesus, hastening to grasp the palm of the heavenly call. The foolish woman, sitting on high, calls them to turn in to her; but they, seeking not the glory that comes from man, but that which comes from God, utterly reject her blandishments. The small- minded and feeble-hearted, carnal folk who savour the flesh and glory in their shame, turn in to her to drink stolen water and to eat hidden bread. The stolen waters are benefices obtained by theft, simoniacally. The hidden bread is high dignity conferred, as it were hidden in darkness, on those who are blind in life and knowledge. These are all the sweeter and more savoury, the more they are gained with the burning thirst and hunger of cupidity. The unhappy wretches do not realize that giants (the demons) are there, in the dignities thus gained; and her simoniac guests are in the depths of hell, to be punished with the devil for ever. Those who seek to marry this odious woman go down to hell; those who shun her will be saved. It is well said, then, that the Church is wasted by simony.
(Against those who pursue knowledge for the sake of money: A bondwoman when she is heir.)
9. And it is disturbed by a bondwoman when she is heir to her mistress. The mistress is theology, the bondwoman is civil law and knowledge of money-making. Nowadays the
bondmaid is promoted above the mistress, Agar over Sara, civil law over divine law. Our modern prelates, disciples of Antichrist, not Christ, despise their lawful wife and are not ashamed to approach a concubine, who seeing herself pregnant, despises her mistress (cf. Gn 16,4). In the episcopal courts they shout the law of Justinian, not that of Christ; the wicked tell fables: but not as thy law (Ps 118,85), Lord, which is now abandoned and hated. So it is necessary to cry out and say, as Sara did to Abraham:
Thou dost unjustly with me; I gave my handmaid into thy bosom, and she, perceiving herself to be with child, despiseth me. (Gn 16,5)
Abraham may pretend awhile, but the time will surely come when she says: Cast out the bondwoman and her son, and let the free woman alone have the inheritance. How wretched is he who busies himself with the law that judges temporal matters, and neglects the law by which he himself is judged! You will find more about this subject in the Gospel: I am the good shepherd (Easter II).
See now how the steward wastes the Lord’s goods; how the malice of prelates destroys the Church, which says to her Spouse in today’s Introit:
When I cried to the Lord he heard my voice, from them that draw near to me:
He shall humble them, he who is before all ages and remains for ever.
Cast thy care upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. (cf. Ps 54,17-20 Ps 54,23)
Note these three: the hearing of the Church’s cry, the casting out of false ministers, and the comforting of the Church. The Church, signed with the poverty of her Spouse in the midst of a wicked and perverse nation, which draws near to her in word but not in spirit, cries to the Lord to be freed from the oppression of this wicked nation. And the merciful Lord will free her, and humble to hell the perverse and sinful nation that calls itself a Church but is the synagogue of Satan (cf. Ap 2,9), when he cleanses his threshing floor and gathers the wheat into his barn. He will burn the chaff (those who are now scattered abroad seeking the chaff of riches) in unquenchable fire. O poor little Church, buffeted by storms and without any comfort, cast your care upon the Lord, for he will sustain you and you will be suckled at the breasts of kings, as Isaiah says (cf. Is 60,16). These kings are the Apostles, and their two breasts are the teaching of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit, which nurtured the Apostles and will nurture you until, at last, you will grow from strength to strength and see the God of gods in Sion (cf. Ps 83,8). To him be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)