Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)
(A theme for a sermon on the love of God and neighbour: Therefore calling together every debtor and on the nature of oil and how the text, The Spirit of God moved over the waters, is to be understood in four ways.)
10. There follows, secondly;
Therefore calling together every one of his lord’s debtors, he said to the first: How much dost thou owe my lord? But he said: An hundred barrels of oil. And he said to him: Take thy bill and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: An hundred quarters of wheat. He said to him: Take thy bill and write eighty. And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. (Lc 16,5-8)
The Gloss says here that the ‘barrel’ or amphora contained three ‘jars’. The ‘quarter’ was thirty bushels. This may be taken simply thus: whoever relieves the needs of the poor by half or even a fifth, should be given the reward of his kindness.
Morally. Let us see what is meant by the two debtors, the hundred barrels of oil and the hundred quarters of wheat, the fifty and the eighty. These two debtors represent all the faithful, who are bound to observe the two precepts of charity, to love God and neighbour. The hundred barrels of oil denote the love of God, the hundred quarters of wheat love of neighbour. Note the reason why the oil signifies God’s charity. Oil floats upon other liquids, and this is why: fatness comes not from water or earth, but from air; and so it floats on water, because the air in the oil carries it as though in a bottle, and that is its lightness. So the love of God should rise above every other love. Solomon says in Proverbs:
The fruit of wisdom is better than all riches:
and all the things that are desired are not to be compared with her. (Pr 3,14-15)
The fruit of wisdom is the love of God, and once its sweetness has been tasted, the soul knows how sweet the Lord is (cf. Ps 33,9). What then is more precious? What more desirable? Neither wealth nor glory coming from things can compare. And as in oil there is nothing of water or earth, but only of air, so in God’s love there can be mingled no carnality or earthiness, but only the air of a pure mind and heavenly behaviour. Blessed is that soul that has the love of God in her, because she floats on every water, being borne up by the ‘air’ that is in the loving soul.
11. So Genesis says: The spirit of God moved over the waters (Gn 1,2). This text can be explained in four ways. The first is this: Just as the mind of a craftsman broods over the work he is going to do, and as the bird broods over the egg from which her young will be hatched, so the Spirit of God brooded over the waters, from which were to be made all the kinds of things, according to their kind.
The second is this: The Spirit of the Lord, meaning spiritual understanding, should be carried above the waters of carnal understanding. So John says: It is the spirit that
quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing (Jn 6,64), because the letter killeth (as Urias carried with him his own death-warrant, in the second book of Kings) but the spirit giveth life (2Co 3,6). Ezekiel says that the spirit of life was in the wheels (Ez 1,20). The spirit of life, spiritual understanding that gives life to the soul, is in the wheels of the Old and New Testaments. So in Proverbs:
The law of the wise is a fountain of life, that he may decline from the ruin of death. (Pr 13,14)
The third is this: The spirit of the Lord, that is, the spiritual prelate, moves over the waters, the peoples. "As the life of the shepherd should surpass the life of the sheep, so the life of the prelate should surpass that of those under him."6 So Ezekiel says:
Over the heads of the living creatures was the likeness of the firmament, as the appearance of crystal, terrible to behold, and stretched out over their heads above.
The firmament is the prelate, in whom there should be the sun of a pure life, the moon of doctrine to light the night of our exile, and the stars of a good reputation. His behaviour should be like crystal, terrible to behold. ‘Crystal’ stands for constancy of mind and a kind and merciful disposition; ‘terrible’ indicates his severity in correcting. The prelate should be constant and kind, severe and terrible, as circumstances require; and thus he is borne upon the waters and upon the heads of the living creatures (his subjects, over whom he should stretch himself to protect and defend them).
The fourth is this: the spirit of the Lord is the soul which has already conceived the spirit of divine love, and is borne over the waters of temporal things. So Genesis says:
The ark was carried on the waters. And the waters prevailed beyond measure upon the earth: and all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. (Gn 7,18-19)
The waters of riches and desires had so prevailed that they covered the whole earth. As Isaiah says:
Their land is filled with silver and gold: and there is no end of their treasures (AVARICE), and their land is filled with horses; and their chariots are innumerable (PRIDE).
Their land also is full of idols (LUST). (Is 2,7-8)
The whole earth is covered with these accursed waters, and (what is worse and far more dangerous) so too are all the high mountains, the prelates of the Church, covered with these waters. But Noah’s Ark, the soul of the spiritual man, is carried upon the waters, because he regards them all as rubbish. It is well said, then, that the oil of divine love
floats on every liquid.
The hundred barrels of oil stand for the highest perfection of divine love. The steward, then, the prelate of the Church, should say to each of the faithful, who is in debt to God: How much do you owe my lord? that is: How much are you bound to love God? He should answer: A hundred barrels of oil; that is, I owe him all the perfection of love, because I am bound to love him with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my strength. But because I am a sinner, I am unable to attain that perfection. Then the Church’s steward, looking ahead for both himself and for him, should say: Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. The bill or account is the brief written record. Note these three, in which true penitence consists. The prelate or priest must say to the sinner: Because you cannot yet rise to the perfection of the highest love, meanwhile take your bill and prepare your life to do penance. Sit down quickly in heartfelt contrition, because the time is short. Write, by oral confession: fifty, in works of satisfaction. You will find more about the number fifty in the sermon: When the day of Pentecost came round (Pentecost).
(A theme for prelates: The likeness of the firmament.)
12. There follows: Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: An hundred quarters of wheat, etc. The wheat is love of neighbour, of which Solomon says in Proverbs:
He that hideth up corn shall be cursed among the people: but a blessing upon the head of them that sell. (Pr 11,26)
Whoever hides up corn- that is, withholds love from his neighbour- shall be cursed in the general assembly where all the people stand before the judgement seat. But a blessing- Come, you blessed of my Father (Mt 25,34)- on the head of those that sell. If you sell your neighbour the wheat of love, you will receive your reward in the eternal retribution. So Proverbs says:
He that hath mercy on the poor lendeth to the Lord: and he will repay him. (Pr 19,17)
The hundred quarters of wheat represent the perfection of inward love.
The steward, the priest or prelate of the Church, should say to the sinner, then: How much do you owe? that is, how much are you bound to love your neighbour, in God? He should reply: An hundred quarters of wheat; I am bound to love friend and foe, in God and for God’s sake, and if needs be lay down my life for him. But because I am carnal and weak, I am unable to attain such love of neighbour. Then the steward should say to him: Though you cannot yet expose your life to death for your brother, in the meantime take thy bill and write eighty. A different word is used, strictly ‘your copy’, suggesting something repeated. Take your copy, prepare your mind’s course to love your
neighbour, and write eighty. That is, teach him so that he does not stray, and strengthen him when he is weak. Teach his soul the doctrines of the four evangelists; and refresh his body, that consists of the four elements, with the help of temporal benefits. Thus you will write eighty. You should always have this copy before your eyes, so that as often as you see your neighbour you will write eighty; and as you write, you will read; and as you read, you will repeat it. As you read, the writing itself will show you the way to persevere and win the prize.
(A theme on the four generations, and their significance: A generation that curseth their father.)
13. There follows: And the lord commended the unjust steward, etc. The priest or prelate of the Church, because by his bad life he has wasted the goods of his Lord, is therefore called unjust. He is unjust, not just, being stained with wicked works. Yet because he counsels sinners, expounds the word of the Lord, and shows what each person should render to God and his neighbour, as far as he can, and gives prudent instruction, he is praised by the Lord: The children of this world, etc. Note that prudence concerns human matters, wisdom divine. The parts of prudence are knowledge of civil, military, terrestrial and nautical matters. Again, "Prudence is knowledge of both good and bad things, and its parts are memory, understanding and foresight."7 Secondly, it concerns generations: that is why it goes on, as one generation succeeds another: The children of this world are more prudent in their generation, which is carnal, than the children of light. Light is that which disperses darkness. The children of this world, who follow temporal things, are more prudent in their generation than the children of light who despise them, and who by the light of their lives scatter the darkness of sin.
There is a concordance to this in the Proverbs of Solomon:
There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
A generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness.
A generation, whose eyes are lofty and their eyelids lifted up on high.
A generation that for teeth hath swords, and grindeth with their jaw-teeth,
to devour the needy from off the earth, and the poor from among men. (Pr 30,11-14)
Note that in this text four kinds of wicked men are set forth, namely perverse prelates, false religious, the proud, and avaricious usurers. The generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother, are perverse prelates and priests of the Church, who by their impurity of life and neglect of duty curse God the Father, because through them his name is blasphemed. They do not bless their Mother the Church, rather by their evil deeds they destroy her faith, which they are supposed to preach by word and example.
A generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness, are false religious, hypocrites like whited sepulchres, of whom blessed Bernard8 says: "If they could live without being noticed, they would reckon everything all right for them."
A generation, whose eyes are lofty and their eyelids lifted up on high, are the proud, who walk with stretched-out necks and wanton glances (Is 3,16), not watching their steps but with noses in the air. The prophet says against them: Lord, my heart is not exalted: nor are my eyes lofty (Ps 130,1).
A generation that for teeth, etc. are misers and usurers whose teeth are weapons and arrows (Ps 56,5), who devour the poor and gain other people’s property. All these are children of this world, who think the children of light are fools, and themselves wiser: but their wisdom is death (cf. Rm 8,6).
The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. Let no temptation take hold of you, but such as is human. (1Co 10,12-13)
The steward thought that he stood, but he fell from his stewardship because he had wasted his lord’s goods. The children of this world think they stand, but when the frail prop of riches is taken away, on which they lean, they fall into hell and at last recognise that the children of light are wiser than the children of this world. Temptation (that is, delight in sin) will not take hold of you, you children of light; it will not lead your reason to give consent, except in human matters, in what cannot be avoided in this life. Human temptation is to think things other than they are, and in good faith still to make misjudgements. Yet if we lack the perfection of the angels, we should still not have the presumption of the devil.
We pray you, then, Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us love for you and our neighbour; to make us children of light; and to rescue us from the snare of sin and the temptation of the devil, so that we may be able to rise to the glory of light inaccessible. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A theme for a sermon on alms: The almond-tree shall flourish.)
14. There follows, thirdly:
And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings. (Lc 16,9)
In Syriac, mammon means the riches of wickedness- ‘ill-gotten gains’. If what is ill-gotten can be well used, and so turned into justice, how much more may the divine word in which there is no wickedness lift its good dispenser up to heaven? A friend is someone who takes care of you, who loves you. "Friendship is a desire for someone’s welfare, simply because one loves them; with a similar desire in return."9 The rich folk of this world, who amass riches with lies, from injustice, have no nearer friends (did they but know it) than the poor hands of those who are Christ’s treasury. St Gregory10 says: "If the rich want to find anything in their hands after death, they have been told in whose hands they should put their riches before death." "You rich man, give Christ what he has given you. You have had a benefactor, have a debtor, and have someone who has lent to you."11 Stretch out your withered hand, you rich man, I beg you, and what was formerly dried up with avarice will flower with alms.
Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
The almond-tree shall flourish, the locust shall be made fat, and the caper-tree shall be destroyed. (Qo 12,5)
St Gregory12 tells us that the almond-tree flowers before all other trees, and it stands for the alms-giver, who should flower with compassion and mercy, and before all else put forth the flowers of alms. So Isaiah says: Israel shall blossom and bud (Is 27,6). Israel, the just man, shall blossom with alms and bud with compassion. Yet note that, although the bud comes before the blossom, it does not say ‘bud’ first, but blossom and bud. The reason is, that when the just man blossoms with alms, he should also bud with compassion; he should bestow upon the poor not merely with his hand, but with the affection of his heart, so that avarice does not grudge the alms.
The almond-tree shall flower, then, (the alms-giver) and the locust will grow fat. This means the poor man, who is well compared to a locust. In cold weather the locust grows sleepy and loses its strength, but when the weather grows warm it sings and jumps. In the same way the poor man loses his strength in times of hunger, cold and need. His body stiffens, his face pales, But when the warmth of kindness comes, and the help of alms, he regains his strength and gives thanks to God and the giver for the benefit he has received. And so the caper-tree (avarice) is destroyed. The bestowal of alms is the destruction of avarice. So, Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.
(On the four tabernacles and their meaning: That they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.)
15. Note that there are four dwellings, or ‘tabernacles’. The first is that of carnal people, the second of beginners, the third of those making progress, and the fourth of those who have reached the goal. The first are the dwellings of the Edomites and Ismaelites; the second of Cedar, the third of Jacob, the fourth of the Lord of hosts. Of the first, the psalm
They have made a covenant together against thee,
the tabernacles of the Edomites, and the Ismaelites. (Ps 82,6-7)
Edomites are ‘bloodstained, and Ismaelites are ‘obedient to themselves’ (that is, not to God). They stand for the lustful, stained with the blood of lust; and the proud, who obey their own will and not God’s. Their tabernacles, or gatherings, make a covenant against the covenant made by the Lord upon the mount, namely: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mt 5,3). From these dwellings we should flee to the tents of Cedar, of which Canticles says:
I am black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Do not consider me that I am brown, because the sun hath altered my colour. (Ct 1,45)
You will find this text explained in the sermon: When the unclean spirit has gone out (Lent III, clause 4).
(For enclosed religious: How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob.)
He who performs his service well in these tents will pass to the tabernacles of Jacob, of which the book of Numbers says:
How beautiful are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel!
As woody valleys; as watered gardens near the rivers;
as tabernacles which the Lord hath pitched; as cedars by the waterside. (Nb 24,5-6)
Note these three: The valleys, the gardens and the cedars. The wooded valleys represent a humble mind, the watered gardens are compunction of tears, the cedars are contemplation of heavenly things. The tabernacles of Jacob and the tents of Israel are the encampments of actives and contemplatives, whose tents are pitched by the Lord because they are disposed according to the Lord’s good will. So in Exodus Moses was told:
Look and make it according to the pattern that was shewn thee in the mount.(Ex 25,40)
The immovable mountain is Christ, who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, etc (Ps 1,1). The pattern is his life, and our tents should be pitched and constructed according to it. Tents or tabernacles are the same thing, they mean the same. A tent is rigged with ropes and poles, and it may be a simple tent or a pavilion. The tabernacles of active and contemplative men are beautiful, like wooded valleys, because they are established in humility of mind, giving shade against the heat of vice. They are like watered gardens near the rivers, because their minds are watered with compunction of tears. They are like cedars by the waterside, because they are rooted and planted in the heights of contemplation, in the sweet scent of a holy way of life, and in the abundance of the river that makes joyful the city of God (Ps 45,5).
When he has completed his service, when winter is past and the rains are over and gone (Ct 2,11), he passes from these tents to the tabernacles of the Lord of hosts (Ps 83,2), of which the Lord promises in Isaiah:
My people shall sit in the beauty of peace,
and in the tabernacles of confidence, and in wealthy rest. (Is 32,18)
The penitent people, the people of the Lord and the sheep of his pasture (Ps 94,7), who now are standing to battle, will sit in the beauty of peace. "Peace is freedom in tranquillity"13 , based on agreement. Peace is truly established when a treaty has been reached. Those who now enter a covenant of reconciliation with the Lord, will hereafter sit in the beauty of peace in the heavenly kingdom. Temporal peace, inward peace: how often it is corrupted, alas! But the peace of eternity remains beautiful for ever and ever, in the tabernacles of confidence. Then there will be nothing to terrify, but he will dwell in confidence and in wealthy rest. This wealthy rest stands for the double robe of glory for soul and body, which the saints will wear for ever. So make yourselves poor friends, you rich; welcome them into your dwellings, so that when the mammon of iniquity fails you, and your straw house below collapses, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings, in which is the beauty of peace, confidence and security, and the wealthy rest of eternal satisfaction.
The third part of the Epistle is concordant with this third clause:
And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it. (1Co 10,13)
The Apostle speaks to the poor and penitents of Christ, serving in the tents of Cedar.
God is faithful and true in his promises, and he will not let you, who are so troubled for his sake, to be tested beyond what you can bear. He who gives license to the tempter gives mercy to the tempted. With the temptation he will make a way of escape, an increase of virtue, so that you can bear it, so that you do not fail, but overcome.
Let us pray, then, dearest brothers, to our Lord Jesus Christ: that he will make us
abandon the tents of the Edomites and serve in the tents of Cedar; and so pass to the tents of Jacob’s peace, that we may be able to attain the eternal dwellings of peace, confidence and rest. May he grant this, who is blessed, praiseworthy and loveable, eternal through everlasting ages. Let the whole Church say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 The passage in (brackets) is found in only one manuscript.
2 AUGUSTINE, Sermon 351,4,7; PL 39.1542
3 PUBLIUS SYRUS, Sententiae, 385
4 cf. BERNARD, De consideratione, II,7,14; PL 182.750
5 HORACE, Epistolae I,2,57
6 GREGORY, Regula pastoralis, II,1; PL 77.25-26
7 AUGUSTINE, De diversis, 31,1; PL 40.20
8 BERNARD, De diversis, sermo 27,6; PL 183.615
9 AUGUSTINE, De diversis quaestionibus, 31.3; PL 40.22
10 GREGORY, Moralia XVIN,18,28; PL 76.52
11 AUGUSTINE, Sermon 123,5; PL 38.686
12 GREGORY, Moralia XXXI,25,46; PL 76.599
13 CICERO, Philippic. II, 44,113
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the tenth Sunday after Pentecost; When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, a theme for a sermon on the Nativity or on the Passion of the Lord: The sun riseth and goeth down.)
1. At that time: When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, seeing the city, he wept over it, saying: If thou also had known. (Lc 19,41)
Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
The sun riseth, and goeth down, and returneth to his place
and there rising again, maketh his round by the south, and turneth again to the north:
The spirit goeth forward, surveying all places round about, and returneth to his circuits. (Qo 1,5-6)
The sun which alone gives light is Jesus Christ, who gives life to all, and gives light in the splendour and strength of spiritual grace; who ‘rises’ on the faithful and ‘goes down’ on the unfaithful. He ‘rises’ in his Nativity and ‘goes down’ in his Passion, where the sun knows his going down (Ps 103,19), and returns to his place at his Ascension, saying:
I came forth from the Father and am come into the world (going down);
again I leave the world and go to the Father. (Jn 16,28)
Nature goes in circles, and Jesus Christ, the author and ruler of nature, also takes a circular path. He returneth to his place, and there rising again (coming again from heaven in judgement), he maketh his round by the south (in considering good deeds) and turneth again to the north (considering what is evil), surveying all places because: There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed (Lc 12,2).
He says in Isaiah:
I will take my rest, and consider in my place,
as the noon light is clear, and as a cloud of dew in the day of harvest. (Is 18,4)
In this way, one curtain draws another (Ex 26,3). When Ecclesiastes says, he returneth to his place, it has the same meaning as Isaiah’s words, I will take my rest. It is as if he would say, ‘I have laboured in bearing the Cross (cf. Jr 6,11); I have gone down in my Passion, but rising again I shall return to my Father’s side, where I shall take my rest.’ The words, he maketh his round by the south, and turneth again to the north, mean the same as, I will consider my place. The words, surveying all places, mean, as the noon light is clear. Then the books will be opened to him, and
the hidden things of darkness will be brought to light,
and the counsels of hearts will be made manifest, (cf. 1Co 4,5)
because Jesus Christ, the true sun, the spirit who gives life to all things and gives breath to those who dwell on the earth, will go forward, not leaving one stone upon another (cf. Mt 24,24), but seeing all things; searching the wall (cf. Is 22,5) and digging through the wall (cf. Ez 12,5); entering the very mouth of Behemoth and tying his tongue with a cord (cf. Jb 40,20); casting death headlong for ever with the dead, in the sight of all (cf. Is 25,8). So he returns to his circuits with his saints in the heavenly Jerusalem, to whom he will be as a cloud of dew in the day of harvest. When the harvest is completed, he will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire, but store the grain in his heavenly barn (cf. Mt 3,12 Lc 3,17); and he will be like a cloud of dew, the luminous cloud that covered the camp of Israel and the tabernacle of the Church Triumphant, of dew that will refresh and satisfy. This sun and its circuits, its turning back, and its surveying, are spoken of in today’s Gospel: When Jesus drew near, etc.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel. First, the loving compassion of Jesus Christ for the city, as it begins: When he drew near. Second, the destruction of that city, continuing: The days will come. Third, the casting out of those buying and selling in the temple, as it concludes; Entering the temple. We will concord with these three clauses certain texts from the three books of Solomon, namely Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of love, and Wisdom.
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: God is in his holy place. The Epistle from blessed Paul to the Corinthians is read: You know that when you were heathens, which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the holy Gospel. The first part is: You know that... The second is: There are diversities of graces. The third is: To each is given.
(On the three-fold name of Jerusalem, and its meaning: When Jesus drew near.)
3. Let us say., then:
When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, seeing the city, he wept over it, saying: If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace; but now they are hidden from thy eyes. (Lc 19,41-42)
Note that Jerusalem was formerly called Salem, and the Jews claim that Sem the son of Noah, whom they call Melchisedech, built it in Syria after the flood, where the kingdom of Melchisedech was. Afterwards the Jebusites held it, and from them it was called Jebus. From the joining of these two names, Jebus and Salem, there comes the name Jerusalem. Later, when it was rebuilt by Solomon, it was called Jerosolyma, short for Jero-solomonia. Salem means ‘peace’, Jebus means ‘trodden down’, and Jerusalem ‘vision of peace’. By this, the three-fold state of the soul is indicated.
In Baptism, the soul is ‘Salem’; in penitence it is ‘Jebus’; in glory it will be ‘Jerusalem’. Peace was restored to the soul in Baptism, as, from being a child of wrath, it became a child of grace. In penitence, the soul should be trodden and worn down. As Isaiah says:
The crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under feet. (Is 28,3)
The drunkards of Ephraim (meaning, ‘fruit-bearing’) are the rich of this world, drunk with pride and lust. Their crown, their glory, is trodden under the feet of penitence, when they become inebriated with the wine of contrition. So Proverbs says:
There is no secret where drunkenness reigneth. (Pr 31,4)
Nothing of wickedness is secret where the spirit of true contrition reigns. It lays bare in confession all that was previously hidden in the mind. The vision of peace will be in glory, where, as Isaiah says:
They shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall convert Sion. (Is 52,8) and again:
Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged. (Is 60,5)
O soul! If you used to be Jebus, you will afterwards see what the eye cannot see!
(On the Queen of Saba and her meaning: The Queen of Saba.)
4. So Isaiah says:
The eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee,
what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee. (Is 64,4)
Truly, you will see: because you will see the one who sees all things. You will see the wisdom of Solomon, as was told of the Queen of Saba in the third book of Kings:
and the house which he had built in Jerusalem, and the meat of his table. (1R 10,3-4)
St Luke says:
I dispose to you, as my Father hath disposed to me, a kingdom; that you may eat and drink at my table, in the kingdom of heaven. (Lc 22,29-30)
Then, truly, you will be able to say with the Queen of Saba (which means, ‘captive’: you are a captive now, but you will be a queen):
The report is true, which I heard in my own country (the land of my pilgrimage), concerning thy words and concerning thy wisdom. And I did not believe them that told me, till I came myself, and saw with my own eyes, and have found that the half hath not been told me. Thy wisdom and thy works exceed the fame which I heard. Blessed are thy men, and blessed are thy servants, who stand before thee always, and hear thy wisdom. (1R 10,6-8)
That is what you will see! You will overflow with delights and riches, the glorification of your soul and body, and your heart will wonder at the beauty of the heavenly Jerusalem, the blessedness of the angels, the everlasting crown of all the saints; and so it will be enlarged with inexpressible joy, with unspeakable happiness.
But alas! The unhappy soul puts aside such glory and such abundance, and tries to grasp fleeting things, and to embrace worthless things. So the Lord, seeing the city, wept over it, saying: If thou also hadst known. The Lord weeps not for an earthly city, but for the soul; not for the ruin of stones, but of virtue. Note these two words, ‘seeing’ and ‘wept’. O soul, if only you would see, you would weep indeed; but because you do not see, you do not weep.
(On the vanity of the world: I have seen all things under the sun.)
5. If only you would see. I repeat the words of Ecclesiastes:
I have seen all things that are done under the sun:
and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. (Qo 1,14)
Beneath the sun is vanity, above the sun is truth. The soul that is ‘under the sun’ by its love of temporal things, and not ‘above the sun’ by contemplation of heavenly things, what else should it do but weep and lament? Vanity and vexation go well together: where there is the emptiness of earthly happiness, there too is the vexation of eternal death. If you would only see, you would weep indeed!
Ecclesiastes also says:
I turned myself to other things:
and I saw the oppressions that are done under the sun,
and the tears of the innocent.
And they had no comfort;
and they were not able to resist their violence,
being destitute of help from any.
And I praised the dead rather than the living.
And I judged him happier than both, that is not yet born,
nor hath seen the evils that are done under the sun. (Qo 4,1-3)
Beneath the sun there is vanity and deceit, the oppression of the weak by the strong, and violence against the poor. From this come the tears of the innocent, who have no comforter. A comforter is one who stands by the lonely, and encourages them with his words. But there is none; not a man, not a single one. If there were anyone human, surely there would be a comforter; but they are wild beasts, not human beings, who prey upon the poor who are destitute of human help, and who cannot resist their violence.
And I praised the dead rather: those dead to the world, that is, who are better than those who live to the world; and I judged him happier than both, that is not yet born to sin. As Job says:
Let the day perish wherein I was born; (Jb 3,3)
that is, wherein I began to be a sinner. If this wretched soul would only see, it would weep indeed.
(A theme for penitents, and how penance should be done: O daughter of my people.)
6. Jeremiah teaches the soul how to weep for herself, saying:
Gird thee with sack-cloth, O daughter of my people, and sprinkle thee with ashes:
make thee mourning as for an only son, a bitter lamentation. (Jr 6,26)
Note the four words: sack-cloth, ashes, mourning and lamentation. ‘Sack-cloth’ indicates the harshness of penance and abhorrence of one’s own guilt; ‘ashes’ indicate the humility and vileness of our condition; ‘mourning’ is the sorrow of our innermost contrition; and ‘lamentation’ indicates the shedding of tears. Christ says, ‘O daughter soul, whom I bore in the exceeding pain of the Passion, you who by faith are the daughter of my people, the Church Militant, gird yourself with the sack-cloth of selfdenial, so that the flesh which, when indulged, led you into sin may, when afflicted, bring you to pardon; and let that which formerly enjoyed the delights of sin now abhor them.
Note that it says ‘gird’, not merely ‘put on’. This suggests both the curbing of lust and resistance to the devil’s suggestions. The psalm says:
Gird thy sword upon thy thigh. (Ps 44,4)
The sack-cloth and the sword have the same meaning: the discipline of the body which restrains the lust of the loins. So Canticles says:
Every man’s sword upon his thigh, because of fears in the night.(Ct 3,8)
Fears in the night are the hidden suggestions of the devil and the flesh. To drive them away, everyone who wants to guard the bed of the true Solomon (his conscience, in which Jesus Christ rests), must have the sword of mortification upon the thigh of his flesh.
There follows: and sprinkle thee with ashes, remembering the ancient curse: Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return (Gn 3,19). Ashes are the remains of what has been burnt. Adam and his offspring burned with the fire of desire, fanned by the breath of a lying promise, and so were reduced to the ashes of death. Mourn as for an only son. Grief is like a wound or ulcer in the human heart, and it needs soothing for its cure. It represents contrition, the wound in the heart which must be soothed by hope in the mercy of the Redeemer.
Note that it says, ‘Mourn for an only son’. There is no greater sorrow than that of a woman who has but one son, whom she loves more than everything, when he dies. So
there can be no sorrow greater than that of the penitent soul, whose only child is faith working by love, when she loses it by mortal sin. Love is as it were the life-principle of faith; and when it is lost faith dies. When you lose the ‘soul’ of faith, mourn as for an only son, with bitter lamentation. Bitter tears should be added to heart-felt contrition, so that the soul may weep for herself, and revive that only child from the dead. The Lord wept for Lazarus, and over the city of Jerusalem.
(On weeping: Thine eyes are doves.)
7. Note that ‘to weep’ suggests shedding tears copiously; ‘to cry’ suggests making a noise as well; and ‘to mourn’ suggests acting with others who are wretched and in need of light. There is a concordance to these flowing tears in the Canticle of love, where the Bridegroom says to the Bride:
Thine eyes are doves upon brooks of waters,
which are covered with milk, and sit beside the plentiful streams. (cf. Ct 5,12)
The eyes represent watchful care. The dove sees reflected in the waters the hawk that is ready to sieze her. We too should see the Tormentor reflected in the streams of passing pleasure, because he both incites us to sin and exacts the penalty. ‘Milk’ (than which nothing is given more freely) stands for a joyful conscience in the hope of divine mercy. The ‘plentiful streams’ are the shedding of tears. Thus the soul is like a dove that should sit beside the plentiful streams of tears, trusting in the mercy of God, and should take the greatest care to guard herself from the deceits of passing pleasure and the malice of the devil’s tempting. St Augustine1 says: "In this vale of tears, the less we do weep, the more we ought to weep." So the Lord, seeing the city, wept over it, saying: If thou also hadst known the disaster that was to come, you would have wept, who now rejoice.
(On the rejoicing of carnal people: Come, let us enjoy good things.)
8. There is a concordance to this rejoicing in the book of Wisdom, where the wicked who do not think rightly in their minds say:
Come, therefore, and let us enjoy the good things that are present;
and let us speedily use the creatures as in youth.
Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments:
and let not the flower of time pass by us.
Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered:
let no meadow escape our riot.
Let none of us go without his part in luxury:
let us everywhere leave tokens of joy:
for this is our portion, and this is our lot. (Sg 2,6-9)
This text needs no explanation: we see it exemplified every day in the actions of carnal folk.
There follows: and that, in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes:
Because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evils without any fear.
But though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and by patience be borne withal...
there are wicked men who are as secure as though they had the deeds of the just. (Qo 8,11-12,14)
O sinner, if only you knew the things that are to your peace! You are your own now, but the time will come when you will belong to another, being altogether given to the devil. You rejoice now in this your day, but his day will come, when you will mourn: When I shall take a time, I will judge justices (Ps 74,3). O sinner, the Lord sets before you a time to seek salvation, and you use it for your own purposes. Believe me, he will take back what he has given, and ‘judge justices’. Lord, if you judge justices, what will become of injustices?
So it says in Ezekiel:
Behold, I come against thee, and I will draw forth my sword out of its sheath, and will cut off in thee the just and the wicked, (Ez 21,3)
meaning those apparently just, of whom Ecclesiastes says: Be not over just (Qo 7,17). Just as a sword is carried in a sheath, so the divinity was carried in the humanity. The Father will draw this sword from its sheath and brandish it, as the prophet says: He will brandish his sword (Ps 7,13). When a sword is brandished, it flashes brightly and its shadow shakes. In his Day, the Father will brandish his sword- his Son- because he will commit all judgement to him, showing his brightness to the saints and a fearful shadow of damnation to the wicked. Let the wicked be taken away, he says, lest he see the glory
of God, because he has done wicked things in the land of the saints (cf. Is 26,10).
Indeed, he shall look on him whom he has pierced (cf. Jn 19,37). O unhappy soul! Now these things are hid from your eyes, blinded by your day and your peace. So blinded, the devil will lead you like a brute beast with the cord of cupidity, to catch those fleeting things.
So the first part of the Epistle is concordant with this first clause of the Gospel:
You know that, when you were heathens, you went to dumb idols according as you were led. Wherefore I give you to understand that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, saith Anathema to Jesus. And no man can say The Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost. (1Co 12,3)
Heathens (or ‘Gentiles’) are carnal folk who live gently, finding their peace in this day, going to dumb idols- those temporal things that look real, but are clearly false to anyone who looks closely at them. They are like dung covered with snow, a deceitful favour and a vain beauty (cf. Pr 31,30). Whoever loves these idols of temporal things is ‘anathema to Jesus’, that is, separated from Jesus who bade him despise them.
(A theme against the lovers of riches, religious, prelates and clergy: Anathema in thy midst, Israel.)
9. There is something similar in Joshua:
The anathema is in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thy enemies, till he be destroyed out of thee that is defiled with this wickedness; (Jos 7,13)
(that is, Achor, to whom Josue said:)
My son, give glory to the God of Israel, and confess, and tell me what thou hast done. Hide it not. (Jos 7,19)
I saw among the spoils a scarlet garment exceeding good, and two hundred sicles of silver, and a golden rule of fifty sicles. And I coveted them, and I took them away, and hid them in the ground in the midst of my tent: and the silver I covered with the earth that I dug up... Then Josue and all Israel with him took Achor, and the silver and the garments, and the golden rule... and stoned him: and all things that were his were consumed with fire. (Jos 7,21)
Achor means ‘perverter’ or ‘brother’s ruin’. He stands for the rich man of this world who perverts justice, and is his brother’s ruin by taking away the poor man’s goods, or not giving him what is rightfully his. He ‘steals a garment’, etc. The scarlet garment is the
livelihood of the poor, gained by much blood and sweat. The two hundred shekels of silver represent knowledge of the two Testaments. The golden rule of fifty shekels is the religious life. Soldiers and businessmen, profiteers and money-lenders, steal the scarlet garment. Prelates and clergy, the petty thieves of our day, steal the two hundred shekels of silver. False religious steal the golden rule of fifty shekels. The rich and powerful of this world look down upon the poor as their inferiors, while they themselves are subjects of the devil. They take from them the poor and bloodstained livelihood with which, somehow, they cover themselves. So Job says of them; They send men away naked, taking away their clothes who have no covering in the cold (Jb 24,7). Solomon says in Proverbs; He that squeezeth too hard bringeth forth blood (Pr 30,35), and Jeremiah: In thy skirts is found the blood of the poor (Jr 2,34).
Likewise, prelates and clergy steal the knowledge of the two Testaments, which because of its perfection and ringing sound is represented by two hundred shekels of silver. They do not learn it in order to benefit others, but to get praise and honours for themselves. Solomon says of them in Proverbs:
A golden ring in a sow’s snout, a woman fair and foolish. (Pr 11,22)
A sow is a female pig, and the ‘woman fair and foolish’ represents the clergy: a ‘woman’, because soft and corrupt like harlots who expose themselves in public places for money; ‘fair’ in their fine clothing, hordes of nephews (and even sons), and multiplicity of benefices; ‘foolish’, because they do not understand what they or any one else are talking about. They sing out every day in church, but it is like the yapping of dogs; they do not understand themselves, because although their bodies are in choir, their hearts are in the market place. If they hear preaching, they do not understand it. What use is preaching to the clergy, or talking to fools? Both are just empty noise and fruitless labour. Even though these men have the golden ring of knowledge and eloquence, they are not ashamed to stick it, like the ring in a sow’s snout, into the dung of lust and avarice.
Likewise, false religious steal the golden rule of fifty shekels. A rule is something used to measure with, and to correct what is crooked and bent. This golden rule is the religious life, which brings back men who are crooked and bent to the measure of right living. It sets a standard. Nearly all religious have stolen this rule, because they do not walk according to Gospel truth, and they do not live according to their founders’ commands. They lead a life of crookedness and pretence. Monks steal the golden rule of blessed Benedict, canons steal the golden rule of blessed Augustine, and so with the rest. They all seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s (cf. Ph 2,21). This rule is said to be of fifty shekels, because the life of all religious consists in penance, as is fully explained in the fiftieth psalm, Have mercy on me, O God.
So all these, who, as we have said, steal the scarlet garment, the two hundred shekels of silver, and the golden rule, will be stoned on the Day of Judgement with harsh reproaches, and will then be burnt in etenal fire; so that they will be anathematized for ever, separated from Jesus. But the just man, who acts by God’s Spirit and speaks in
God’s Spirit, does not say (in thought, word or deed) ‘Anathema’ to Jesus, anything that separates him from Jesus. And no one can say (in thought, word or deed), ‘Jesus is Lord, and I am his servant’, except by the Holy Spirit.
We ask you then, Lord Jesus, to pour your grace into us: that we may weep over our city, despise temporal things, and come to the heavenly Jerusalem. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)