Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)
And then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty.
Note these words, power and majesty: there will be power with respect to the damned, majesty with respect to the saved. We shall speak of both.
18. Regarding power, there is a concordance in Isaiah:
The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man:
as a man of war shall he stir up zeal (meaning ‘vengeance’)
He shall shout and cry: he shall prevail against his enemies.
I have always held my peace, I have kept silence, I have been patient.
I will speak now as a woman in labour: I will destroy, and swallow up at once.
I will lay waste the mountains and hills, and will make all their grass to wither. (Is 42,34)
The Lord held his peace when he was led like a sheep to his Passion. He kept silent
even under the scourges; as Job says: The rod of God is not upon thee (Jb 21,9). He was patient, waiting for repentance; as Ecclesiasticus: Overlooking the sins of men for the sake of repentance (Sg 11,24). But in the judgement he will speak like a woman in labour, uttering the pain he had concealed. Then he will scatter the heaps of riches, and swallow up their power. He will lay waste mountains and hills, the pride both of prelates and of their subjects; and he will dry up every seed of greed and lust.
Isaiah also says of this power:
The sword of the Lord is filled with blood.
It is made thick with the blood of lambs and buck-goats,
with the blood of rams full of marrow:
for there is a victim of the Lord in Bosra, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
And the unicorns shall go down with them, and the bulls with the mighty: their land shall be soaked with blood, and their ground with the fat of fat ones.
For it is the day of the vengeance of the Lord, the year of recompense of the judgement of Sion.
And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the ground thereof into brimstone: and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.
Night and day, it shall not be quenched:
the smoke thereof shall go up for ever, from generation to generation. (Is 34,6-10)
In the day of judgement, the Lord’s sword (his power as he avenges himself on his enemies)
will be filled with blood and made thick (as it punishes the sins and opulence of carnal folk)
with the blood of lambs (hypocrites who are like wolves in sheep's clothing) and buck-goats (the lustful),
and rams full of marrow (fat abbots and priors who lead the flock).
The Lord’s ‘victim’ (his vengeance) will be in Bosra (‘fortified’, meaning the quarrelsome and lax congregations of enclosed religious, fortified by a wall on the outside but exposed within to every passing vice. As Isaiah says:
Thou hast laid thy body on the ground and as a way to them that went over (Is 51,23)).
There will be great slaughter in the land of Edom (‘bloody’ or ‘earthy’, meaning clergy who are defiled with the blood of lust and the earth of money.)
The unicorns (kings and rulers of the earth)
and bulls (mitred bishops, who have two horns on their heads, like bulls),
all these who have not done true penance for their sins, will go down with the mighty (the principalities and powers of this world)
to hell, the land of the dead, which will be soaked with their blood and fat (their malice and pride).
The remaining details of the text need no explanation.
19. Regarding the majesty of the Lord, there is a concordance in Isaiah:
The Lord shall be unto thee for an everlasting light: and the days of thy mourning shall be ended, (Is 60,20)
because the earlier distresses are given to oblivion, and they are hidden from the eyes of those who in this life have waited for him in holiness and justice as he comes to judgement. Of these, the Introit of the Mass continues:
None of them that wait on thee shall be confounded. (Ps 24,3)
Truly, truly, Lord: they will not be confounded, rather they will be lifted up for ever. You promise, in Isaiah, regarding their glory and the punishment of the wicked:
Behold, my servants shall eat, and you shall be hungry:
behold, my servants shall drink, and you shall be thirsty.
Behold, my servants shall rejoice, and you shall be confounded:
behold, my servants shall praise for joyfulness of heart,
and you shall cry for sorrow of heart and shall howl for grief of spirit. (Is 65,13-14)
Let us then, beloved brothers, ask the Lord Jesus Christ that, when he comes in great power and majesty on the last judgement day, to render to each according to his deeds: he will not exercise his power upon us with the damned, but by his majesty make us blessed with the blessed; that we may eat and drink with them, rejoice and exult in the kingdom of heaven. May he grant this, who is blessed and glorious for ever and ever. Let every blessed soul say, Amen. Alleluia.
1 ROMAN BREVIARY, First Sunday in Advent, 5th antiphon at Lauds.
2 cf. GLOSSA ORDINARIA on Is 28.21
3 BERNARD= ERNALDUS, Abbot of Bona Valle, De laudibus B.V.M.; PL 189.1726
4 ROMAN MISSAL, Holy Saturday, the Exultet.
Copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the second Sunday in Advent: When John had heard; which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon at the beginning of the fast: Shake thyself from the dust.)
1. At that time: When John had heard in prison the works of Christ, etc.
Shake thyself from the dust, arise, sit up, O Jerusalem:
Loose the bonds from off thy neck, O captive daughter of Sion. (Is 52,2)
Note these four words: ‘shake’, ‘arise’, ‘sit’, ‘loose’. The dust which is blown about by the force of the wind stands for the concupiscence of the flesh, which under the impulse of the devil’s suggestions is seized by various sins. As Job says: A burning wind shall take him up (Jb 27,21). Of this dust, Isaiah says:
Dust shall be the serpent’s food (meaning the devil). (Is 65,25)
So that the devil may not eat you along with the dust, you, Jerusalem (the soul), should shake yourself from the dust, from the pleasure of your flesh. Shake off the dust from your feet, says the Lord (Mt 10,14). Shall dust confess to thee? (Ps 29,10) Arise, mind and body together, to works of penance. As Solomon says:
Take away the rust from silver (that is, shake off the dust)
and there shall come forth a most pure vessel, (that is, arise)
and sit. (Pr 25,4) (that is, rest from the tumult of the world)
And Isaiah says:
If you return and be quiet, you shall be saved. (Is 30,15)
Loose the bonds from off thy neck: the last words correspond to the first. They teach the same thing, so that it may stick more firmly in your memory. The pleasure of the flesh and the vanity of the world are bonds with which the soul is held captive, chained by the neck, so that it may not go out into the freedom of confession. Loose, then, the bonds from your neck. These are the bonds referred to in today’s Gospel: When John had heard in prison the works of Christ.
2. There are three things to note in this Gospel. The first is John’s imprisonment: When John heard. The second is Christ’s working of miracles: Go and relate. The third is the commendation of blessed John: What went you out to see, etc.
The Introit of the Mass is: People of Sion; and the Epistle of blessed Paul to the Romans is read: What things soever were written; which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: What things soever, the second: Receive one another, the third: The God of hope.
(On the four roots of sin: Woe to the sinful nation.)
3. Let us say, then:
When John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending to of his disciples he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? (Mt 11,2-3)
The same Evangelist tells that:
Herod had apprehended John and bound him and put him in prison, because of Herodias, his brother's wife. For John had said to him: It is not lawful for thee to have her. (Mt 14,3-4)
Note: let us see what Herod, Herodias, John and his bonds, and the two disciples stand for morally. Herod is the world, Herodias the flesh, John the human spirit, the bonds vanity and pleasure, the two disciples hope and fear.
Herod and Herodias mean ‘glory of the skin’. The world and the flesh glory in outward beauty, of which Isaiah says:
What will you do in the day of visitation,
and of the calamity which cometh from afar?
To whom will ye flee for help?
And where will ye leave your glory? (Is 10,3)
Under (that is, in hell) his glory (of the world and the flesh) shall be kindled a burning, as it were the burning of a fire. (Is 10,16)
So he says further:
He will toss thee like a ball into a large and spacious country;
(meaning hell, which hath enlarged her soul and opened her mouth without any bounds (Is 5,14))
There shalt thou die; and there shall the chariot of thy glory be. (Is 22,18)
John means ‘the grace of the Lord’, and he stands for the human spirit which receives the grace of the Lord in Baptism. There is a concordance in Isaiah:
I will pour out waters upon the thirsty ground and streams upon the dry land:
I will pour out my spirit upon thy seed and my blessing upon thy stock.
And they shall spring up among the herbs, as willows beside the running waters.
One shall say: I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob:
and another shall subscribe with his hand, To the Lord,
and surname himself by the name of Israel. (Is 44,3-5)
The thirsty and dry ground is the soul before Baptism. The Apostle says: We were by nature children of wrath (Ep 2,3). But the Lord pours out the baptismal water, pours out his Spirit and his blessing, and from children of wrath makes children of grace, seed and stock children of Holy Church; they spring up among the herbs (the saints) like willows (green-growing with virtues) beside the running waters of gifts and graces. One shall say: I am the Lord’s. Behold John, the grace of God! Another (another faithful) shall call himself (to penance, as John did) by the name of Jacob (that is, as a supplanter of vice);
and he will write with his hand (his work), To the Lord (that is, to the Lord’s honour). And he will surname himself by the name of Israel, that is, according to Israel’s name, ‘the man who sees God’, now in faith and hope, hereafter in reality.
4. Herod and Herodias, the world and the flesh, bind this John (thus enlightened by the grace of the Lord) with their bonds of worldly vanity and the pleasure of the flesh. The vanity of the world consists in pride and avarice; the pleasure of the flesh in gluttony and lust. Of these four Isaiah says:
Woe to the sinful nation (to the sin of pride),
a people laden with iniquity (avarice),
a wicked seed (gluttony),
ungracious children (lust). (Is 1,4)
See with what bonds our spirit is held captive!
But what is to be done amidst these? What today’s Gospel tells us: When John had heard in prison the works of Christ, etc. The works of Christ are Creation and Recreation. To these there is a concordance in Isaiah:
The harp and the lyre and the timbrel and wine are in your feasts,
(this means the pleasures of the five senses, as we treated some way previously (Pentecost I))
and the works of the Lord you regard not,
nor do you consider the works of his hands. (Is 5,12)
The work of the Lord is Creation; when well considered it sends the man who looks on it on to the consideration of his Creator. If there is so much beauty in a creature, how much more must be in the Creator? The wisdom of the craftsman shines forth in the material. But those devoted to the senses do not look; nor do they consider the works of his hands, which were pierced by the nails upon the Cross. With hands fastened to the Cross he made war on the devil and snatched the human race from his hands.
When our imprisoned spirit hears these works of Christ, it should straightaway send two of its disciples. It hears, I say, with the inner ear of the heart, by the inspiration of the Spirit who breathes into it, or with the outer ear of the body, by the voice of a preacher. When it so hears, it should send hope and fear to Jesus, saying to him: Are you, who created be and re-created me, made me and redeemed me, he that is to come to judge
me according to my works (and that is why I fear your justice), or do we look for another to judge the world in equity? Not in the least! He who made and redeemed will himself judge. As he said: He has given all judgement to the Son (Jn 5,22).
5. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause: What things soever were written, etc. Whence the Lord said to Isaiah:
Now therefore go in and write for them upon box, and note it diligently in a book:
and it shall be in the latter day for a testimony for ever. (Is 30,8)
He said, Upon box, that it may remain for ever. The sum of all the things written for our learning consists chiefly in three things: creation, redemption and the examination of the final judgement. Creation and redemption teach us to love God, the last judgement teaches us to fear him.
That through patience and the comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rm 15,4) Hear how Scripture comforts one who suffers tribulation. The Lord says in Isaiah:
When thou shalt pass through the waters, I will be with thee: and the rivers shall not cover thee.
When thou shalt walk in the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; and the flames shall not burn in thee.
For I am the Lord thy God. (Is 42,2-3)
Fear not, thou worm of Jacob, you that are dead of Israel.
I have helped thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel. (Is 41,14) And again:
I, I myself, will comfort you.
Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal man, and of the son of man who shall wither away like grass? (Is 51,12)
There follows: Now the God of patience
(who says in Isaiah: I have held my peace, I have kept silence, I have been patient (Is 42,14))
and of comfort
(who also says: I will comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb- (Is 66,13-14) meaning, your bodies shall live again in immortality)
grant you to be of one mind towards one another, according to Jesus Christ;
that with one mind, and with one mouth,
you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rm 15,5-6)
This is what Isaiah means by:
(Two seraphim) cried one to another and said:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts; all the earth is full of his glory. (Is 6,3)
The seraphim are burning spirits. They are those who are ablaze with two-fold charity, who are of one mind, one towards another, according to Jesus Christ. So the words: God grant you to be of one mind, etc. mean the same as: Two seraphim cried one to another; and the words: That with one mind and with one mouth you may glorify; mean the same as: And they said: Holy, holy, holy, etc.
Let us then, beloved brothers, ask the Lord Jesus Christ to free our spirit from the bonds of the world and the flesh; so that with one mind and one mouth we may be enabled to honour and glorify him, whose glory fills the whole earth. To him be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(On the second clause.
The theme for a sermon against the proud: Who is blind?)
6. There follows, secondly: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. (Mt 11,4)
This text refutes the error of those heretics who say that John was damned, because he doubted Christ, saying : Art thou he who art to come, and died in prison in that doubt, before the return of the disciples he had sent. May that cursed tongue be dumb! John did not doubt Christ, to whom he had borne witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God! But to confirm his disciples’ faith in Christ, he sent them to ask, so that when they had seen his miracles they would not doubt the rest. It was not to answer John's question, but to strengthen the hearts of his disciples, that the Lord said: The blind see, etc. St Gregory says, "John did not doubt that he was the Redeemer of the world; he asked, to know whether he who had come into the world by his own power would descend even to hell by his own power."
The objection that John died before the disciples returned is clearly shown to be false from the words of the holy Gospel. Either the Lord commanded John’s disciples something impossible, or something possible, when he said: Go and relate. The Lord never commands what is impossible; but if John had died in prison before the disciples had returned, the Lord would have commanded the impossible: Go, and relate. To whom should they relate? To a dead man? Of course not. It is certain, then, that the disciples found John alive, and told him what they had heard and seen. The Lord always commands what is possible.
The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them. (Mt 11,5)
Let us see what these six things represent morally. The ‘blind’ are the proud, the ‘lame’ are hypocrites, the ‘lepers’ are the lustful, the ‘deaf’ the avaricious, the ‘dead’ the gluttonous and the ‘poor’ are the humble.
7. The blind see. This is what Isaiah says:
Out of darkness and obscurity the eyes of the blind shall see. (Is 29,18)
Who is blind, but he that is sold? Or who is blind, but the servant of the Lord?
Thou that seest many things, wilt thou not observe them? (Is 42,19-20)
Who are blind (that is, proud) today, if not those who are called servants of the Lord, and who seem to serve the Lord, namely religious and clergy? Who are the proud, if not those who see many things in the Scriptures, who teach and preach many things, but observe none of them? They see so much for others, but nothing for themselves.
Of the pride of all these, Isaiah says under the type of the ‘Valley of vision’:
What aileth these also, that thou too art wholly gone up to the housetops?
Full of clamour, a populous city, a joyous city. (Is 22,1-2)
He says, in effect: It is tolerable for secular folk to seek advancement, but why do we see you religious and educated people, who see so much, pursuing ambition and going up onto the housetops of pride, full of clamour? Pride is a noisy thing. Isaiah says:
Woe to the multitude of many people, like the multitude of the roaring sea. (Is 17,12)
On the other hand, Isaiah says of the humble Christ:
He shall not cry... neither shall his voice be heard abroad. (Is 42,2)
Regarding the populous city, the joyous city, Isaiah says:
Upon the land of my people (the humble mind)
shall thorns and briars come up (griefs and pains);
How much more upon all the houses of joy,
of the city that rejoiced? (Is 32,13)
That is, rejoiced in their pride which blinded the eyes of their minds, lest they see the city of eternal joy. Isaiah says of that city:
Look upon Sion, the city of our solemnity:
thy eyes shall see Jerusalem, a rich habitation. (Is 33,20)
To be able to see it, anoint your eyes with the salve of humility, and you will be worthy to hear: Look, your humility has enlightened you. Thus, the blind see.
(Against the hypocrites: The lame walk.)
8. There follows: The lame walk. A lame man limps as he walks. The hypocrite goes limping along in the way of his conversation. He who does evil hates the light, that his works may not be reproved by the light (cf. Jn 3,20). So Isaiah says:
Woe to you that are deep of heart (i.e. who conceal your wickedness) to hide your counsel from the Lord!
And their works are in the dark, and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? (Is 29,15)
The hypocrite limps on one foot. He holds one foot in the air and puts the other on the ground. With shabby clothing, a humble voice and a pale face, he lifts one foot off the ground; but since he wants to be praised for these things and seem a saint, he undoubtedly has the other foot firmly on the ground.
Alternatively. The second book of Kings tells that Mephiboseth was lame in both feet (cf. 2S 4,4). His name means ‘man of shame’, and he represents those who are ‘lame in both feet’, namely in desire and deed. Those who limp like that deserve eternal shame.
Isaiah says of this:
The king of the Assyrians shall lead away the captivity of Egypt,
and the exile of Ethiopia,
young and old, naked and barefoot,
with their buttocks uncovered to the shame of Egypt. (Is 21,4)
The ‘king of the Assyrians’ is the devil, and he will lead away to hell the captivity of Egypt, that is, those whom he has held captive in sin; and the exile of Ethiopia, those who have gone into exile from virtue to vice; the young who are vigorous in evil, and the old who are grown old in evil days; those stripped naked of the wedding garment, without the blue shoe of heavenly longing on the ‘foot’ of affective desire (Ezekiel says: I shod thee with violet-coloured shoes (Ez 16,10)) or the shoe of mortification on the foot of effective action (as in Ruth: Put off thy shoe; and immediately he took it off from his foot (Rt 4,8)). And, as Deuteronomy says: His house shall be called in Israel the house of the unshod (Dt 25,10). He will lead them, I say, with buttocks uncovered to show their disgrace to all, to the shame of ‘Egypt’, the lovers of this world. Those who want to avoid this fate should take the proper steps with their feet, putting on the shoes of affection by good will, and of effective action by humility; then they will deserve to hear: the lame walk.
(Against the lustful: Naaman was a great man.)
9. The lepers are cleansed. The fourth book of Kings tells that Naaman was a great man and rich, but a leper (cf. 2R 5,1); for where riches and pleasure abound, there will be the leprosy of lust. When Isaiah says:
Their land is filled with silver and gold: and there is no end of their treasures,
he straightaway adds:
and their land is filled with horses, (Is 2,7-8)
meaning the lustful. Exodus recounts the making of the golden calf (Ex 32,4), because from the gold of abundance the calf of wanton lust is formed. Isaiah says of it:
There the calf shall feed:
and there he shall lie down and shall consume its branches. (Is 27,10)
This, too, is what Job says about lust:
It is a fire that devoureth even to destruction, and rooteth up all things that spring. (Jb 31,12)
Wash yourselves, then, you lepers, and be clean. Take away the evil of lustful desires from the eyes of the Lord; cease to do perversely (cf. Is 1,16) in your bodies, that it may be said of you: the lepers are cleansed.
(Against the avaricious: The deaf hear.)
10. There follows: the deaf hear. This is what Isaiah says:
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book. (Is 29,18)
Deafness is a kind of ‘defilement’ in the ears, whereby the channels of the hearing are blocked up. The ‘deaf’ are the avaricious and usurers, whose ears are blocked up with the filth of money. So the Psalm says:
Their madness is according to the likeness of a serpent:
like the deaf asp that stoppeth her ears. (Ps 57,5)
It is said that a serpent, so as not to hear the snake-charmer’s voice, puts one ear to the ground and stops the other with its tail. The ‘ear’ listens ear-nestly as it h-ears a sound.
The unhappy miser or usurer deprives himself of such a great gift of nature and grace, when, so as not to earnestly listen to or hear the sound of the preacher, he stops up the ears of his heart with the ‘earth’ (money that he has already got) and his ‘tail’ (his vile ambition to get more). If people of this sort want to hear the words of a book (namely the Gospel, which says; Blessed are the poor), they shake out of their heart’s ears the ‘earth’ of ill-gotten gain, and entirely pull out the ‘tail’ of acquisitiveness. Then it may be said of them: The deaf hear.
(Against the gluttonous: The dead are raised.)
11. There follows: The dead rise again. This is what Isaiah says:
Thy dead men shall live, my slain shall rise again. (Is 26,19)
The ‘dead’ are the gluttonous. Their throat is an open sepulchre (Ps 5,11), in which they lie buried like the dead. So Isaiah says:
These also have been ignorant through wine,
and through drunkenness have erred;
the priest and the prophet have been ignorant through drunkenness.
They are swallowed up with wine. (I 28.7)
Just as the morsel of bread, even as it absorbs the wine, is absorbed by the wine and sinks to the bottom of the chalice: so these are swallowed up even as they swallow, and are buried in the hell of their bellies. The rich man who feasted sumptuously every day was, in a sense, buried in hell even while he lived; while Lazarus the beggar lay at the door outside, not inside (cf. Lc 16,19-20). The starving man lay outside the door, the pleasure of the five senses. And, as the Apostle says, the Lord suffered ‘outside the gate’ (cf. He 13,12). But the rich man buried himself daily in hell, within his own doors. Who shall confess the in the hell of the belly, Lord? (cf. Ps 6,6) Neither shall the dead praise thee, O Lord (Ps 113,17).
Those who want to praise must go out from the tomb of the belly, from the darkness and chaos of hell into the light of abstinence in food and drink. Isaiah says of this:
Awake, and give praise, ye that dwell in the dust.
For thy dew is the dew of the light. (Is 26,19)
Just as dew cools the heat and light dispels the darkness, so abstinence cools the heat of gluttony and vice, and dispels the darkness of the mind. And so the dead rise again to
(For the poor in spirit, religious and enclosed: The Lord will comfort Sion.)
12. There follows: The poor have the gospel preached to them. Isaiah says of them:
The first-born of the poor shall be fed, and the poor shall rest with confidence. (Is 14,30) And:
The meek shall increase their joy in the Lord:
and the poor men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. (Is 29,19)
Only the poor, that is, the humble, have the Gospel preached to them, because what is hollow can receive what is poured in, while what is swollen repels what is poured. The Lord says: Let him who thirsts come and drink (cf. Jn 7,37), because as he says himself in Isaiah:
I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, and streams upon the dry land. (Is 44,3)
Today the poor, the simple, the uneducated- peasants and old folk- thirst for the word of life, the water of saving wisdom. The citizens of Babylon, who get drunk from the golden chalice of the great Whore, the wise counsellors of Pharao who (as Job saysj are full of words, and the spirit of their bowels straitens them, and their belly is full of new wine that wants vent and bursts the new vessels (cf. Jb 32,18-19)- believe me, it is not people like that, but only the poor, who have the Gospel preached to them.
13. There follows: And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me (Mt 11,6).
Christ is the Truth. In Christ were poverty, obedience and humility. Whoever is scandalized in these, or about these, is scandalized in Christ. The true poor are not scandalized, because they alone have the Gospel preached to them, and are fed with the word of the Gospel, because they are the people of the Lord and the sheep of his pasture (cf. Ps 94,7).
It is of this people that the Introit of today’s Mass sings: People of Sion, behold the Lord will come and save the nations. This is what Isaiah says:
The first shall say to Sion: I am here (to help you),
and to Jerusalem (the Church)
I will give an evangelist, (Is 41,27)
a herald of good news to preach the Gospel to the poor, so that the nations may be saved by the Gospel, and the Lord shall make the glory of his praise to be heard in the joy of your hearts (cf. Is 30,30)
14. This is what Isaiah says:
The Lord will comfort Sion; and will comfort all the ruins thereof.
And he will make her desert as a place of pleasure and her wilderness as the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of praise. (Is 51,3)
Sion means ‘a watchtower’. The people of Sion are the poor in spirit, who are raised up from earthly things and made a watchtower upon the height of poverty, and contemplate the Son of God, a pilgrim in the way and glorious in his homeland. The Lord comforts this Sion; the Lord comforts those bereft of temporal goods with his own good things, adding: and will comfort all the ruins thereof. When the building of worldly comfort falls into ruin, the Lord at once raises up the house of inner comfort. And he will make her desert as a place of pleasure. He makes the desert of outward poverty a place of pleasure by inner sweetness. The Lord calls the riches of this world thorns (cf. Mt 13,22). Isaiah calls the desert of poverty a place of pleasure. O thorns of the world! O delights of the desert! The difference between you is as great as truth and error, light and darkness, glory and punishment. The former delight, the latter pains. In one is rest, in the other vanity and affliction of spirit (Qo 1,14).
The Lord says of this in Proverbs: My delights were to be with the children of men (Pr 8,31), whom by nature he begot as poor. He says:
Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked I shall return thither, (Jb 1,21)
but malice made the rich, because they that will become rich fall into the snare of the devil (1Tm 6,9). So, My delights are to be with the children of men, not with the devil's children. O poverty! A hateful good to the devil’s children, your delights give the savour of eternal sweetness to those who love you!
There follows: And her wilderness as the garden of the Lord. Poverty loves solitude, for (as Isaiah says):
Judgement shall dwell in the wilderness. (Is 32,16)
From the presence of the hand of the Lord I sat alone, because thou hast filled me with bitterness. (cf. Jr 15,17)
Whoever wants to do judgement on himself must needs dwell in solitude, in lowliness of mind. As Ecclesiasticus says:
Write wisdom in time of leisure. (Cf. Si 38,25)
Where there is judgement, there is wisdom; and where wisdom, there is the paradisal garden of the Lord. And because true poverty is always joyful, he adds: Joy and gladness shall be found therein. The Gloss says: "In Sion, which is likened to paradise, there should be only joy and gladness, confession and the voice of praise: so that what they will do in heaven with the angels, they meditate meanwhile on earth."
15. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
Receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honour of God. (Rom
Just as Christ received the blind to enlighten them, the lame to make them walk, the lepers to cleanse them, the deaf to restore their hearing, the dead to raise them again and the poor to preach the Gospel to them: so should we receive one another. If your neighbour is blind with pride, then as far as you can enlighten his eyes with the example of your humility. If he is lame with hypocrisy, straighten him by the work of truth. If he is leprous with lust, cleanse him by the word and example of chastity. If he is deaf with avarice, set before him the example of Gospel poverty. If he is dead from gluttony and drunkenness, raise him up by the example and virtue of abstinence. And preach the Gospel of Christ’s life to the poor.
Let us humbly implore him, then, beloved brothers, to cure us from those aforementioned ills of the soul, and be pleased to receive us to himself, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
(On the third clause.
A moral and special sermon for enclosed and other religious: What went you out to see, and the rest that there follows.)
16. There follows, thirdly:
But what went you out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold, they that are clothed in soft garments are in the house of kings. (Mt 11,7-8)
Note. Let us see what the desert, the reed and the man clothed in soft garments signify morally.
The desert is the religious life. Whence there is concordance in Isaiah:
The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad:
and the wilderness shall rejoice and shall flourish like the lily.
It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise. (Is 35,1-2)
In any religious Order, three things are to be observed completely: poverty, chastity and obedience. These three are referred to in this text; poverty, in the words: The land that was desolate shall be glad; chastity in: It shall flourish like the lily; and obedience in: It shall bud forth.
Let us say, then: The land that was desolate shall be glad. Note that any religious who wants true poverty must do three things. First he must renounce every outward possession; second, he must intend never to possess anything again; third, he must bear patiently the needs of his poverty. These three are expressed by ‘desolate’, ‘impassable’ and ‘wilderness’.
The life of any religious must be ‘desolate’ in the renunciation of all outward possessions. It must be ‘impassable’, trackless, so that there remains in it no vestige of desire to have anything. Isaiah says of these two:
The desert shall be as a Charmel: and Charmel shall be counted as a forest. (Is 32,15)
Charmel is ‘knowledge of circumcision’, so the desert of religious life will be ‘as a Charmel’, a cutting off and renunciation of possession; and this cutting off of possessions will be a ‘forest’ as regards not having desire for possessions. Whoever is free from these two bonds may well rejoice and sing: My soul is set free from the snares of the hunters (Ps 123,7). The trackless desert will rejoice!
To these two a third should be added: that a religious should know how to hunger and thirst and suffer want (cf. Ph 4,12). In this way he will be a wilderness that will rejoice when he bears these and suchlike things patiently.
17. There follows, regarding chastity: It shall flourish like the lily. The milk-white lily
represents the brightness of chastity. In Lamentations, Jeremiah says:
Her Nazarites were whiter than snow, purer than milk. (Lm 4,7)
The Lord promises them in Isaiah:
Let not the eunuch say: Behold I am a dry tree. (that is, whoever has castrated himself for the kingdom of heaven by a promise of continence)
For thus saith the Lord to the eunuchs: They that shall keep my sabbaths (purity of heart, the sabbath of the breast),
and shall choose the things that please me (bodily continence, of which the Apostle says: This is the will of God, your sanctification... that every one of you know how to possess his vessel- his body- in sanctification and honour (1Th 4,3-4)),
and shall hold fast to my covenant (which they made with me in Baptism),
I will give to them in my house (in which there are many mansions),
and within my walls (As the Apocalypse says: And the building of the wall thereof was of jasper-stone; green in colour, representing the joy of an ever-green eternity),
a place (of which it says in John: I go to prepare a place for you (Jn 14,2))
and a name better than sons and daughters (that is, more excellent than if they had begotten sons and daughters):
an everlasting name (of which the Apocalypse says: I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city, new Jerusalem, and my new name (Ap 3,12)). He will have the name of God, because he will be like God, and will see him as he is (I said:
You are gods); the name Jerusalem, peaceful; and the name Jesus, because he is saved. So, I will give them an everlasting name, which shall not perish, and will never fall into oblivion.
18. There follows, regarding obedience: It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise. Note that true obedience has five characteristics, expressed in the five words ‘bud forth’, ‘blossom’, ‘rejoice’, ‘joy’ and ‘praise’. True obedience is humble, devout, prompt, cheerful and persevering. Humble in heart is ‘budding forth’; the bud is the beginning of the flower and humility is the beginning of every good action. Being devout in speech is to ‘blossom’; from humility of heart devout speech proceeds. Promptness when ordered is concordant with ‘rejoice’; He rejoices like a giant to run his course (Ps 18,6). Cheerfulness in tribulation is ‘joy’. Perseverance in fulfilling what is commanded is ‘praise’, because all praise is sung at the end.
0 religious: such should be the desert of our religious life, to which you have gone out from worldly vanity to dwell in. So the Lord says to you: What went you out into the desert to see?
19. There follows: A reed shaken with the wind? A reed is swayed by every breeze, and dried up. Note that the root of the reed is in mud (meaning gluttony and lust), and it is hollow inside but beautiful outside (hypocrisy and vainglory). It is blown every way by the wind (representing instability of mind). Unhappy the cloister, cursed the desert of religious life, where such a tree is planted and grows: the axe is laid to the root of that tree, that it be cut down and cast into the fire! (cf. Mt 3,10 Lc 3,9). The Lord says in Isaiah:
1 will set in the desert the fir-tree, the elm and the box-tree together, (Is 41,19)
not a shaken reed! The fir-tree stands for heavenly conversation, the elm (which supports the vine) is compassion for one’s neighbour, and the box-tree, pale in colour, is bodily mortification. It is with these trees, not with a wind-blown reed that will be burned in the fire, that the desert of blessing and the paradise of holy religion is sown and adorned.
There follows: But what went you out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? In this same Evangelist we read that:
John had a garment of camel's hair and a leather girdle about his loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey. (Mt 3,4) I
I ask you: see if today’s religious are dressed like that, or are used to such food. Behold, they that are in soft garments are in the houses of kings. I would say that it was an army of devils, not a religious Order, that makes the desert a palace, the cloister a castle, and the wilderness a royal court! Religious and soldiers make their clothes of the same cloth; but the tiller of the desert, the greatest of the prophets, had a garment of camel's hair. If blessed John, foretold by the angel and sanctified in the womb, praised by the Lord as the greatest born of woman (Lc 7,28)- if he was used to such harshness, what should we do, conceived in sin and burdened with sin, and to be rejected by the Lord unless he should have mercy on us? With what affliction and harshness should we afflict ourselves? In the desert of penitence let there be rough clothing and poor food, so that we may be truly called ‘religious’, men constrained from all carnal pleasure.
20. The third part of the Epistle is concordant with this third clause: The God of hope. Isaiah says of this:
They that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall take wings as eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Is 40,31)
Those who hope, not in themselves, but in the Lord who is the God of hope, will renew their strength; so as to be strong in themselves, even though weak in the world. This is the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps 76,11). They shall take the two wings of love, with which to fly like eagles to heaven. According to the ‘Physics’, when an eagle’s beak is too blunted by age, it renews it by rubbing it on a flint-stone. So too do those who mortify the ‘old-age’ of sin by the Rock which is Christ (1Co 10,4); being dead to the world they are made new to God. Their youth is renewed like an eagle (Ps 102,5). ‘They run’, to gain the prize of eternal life; and ‘they are not weary’, because "nothing is hard for a lover". They ‘walk’ from virtue to virtue, and ‘they do not faint, because they live for ever.
May he fill you with all joy; of which Isaiah says:
Rejoice for joy with her (i.e. Jerusalem), all you that mourn for her;
that you may suck and be filled with the breasts of her consolations. (Is 66,10-11)
and peace, of which Isaiah says:
I will make thy visitation peace (Is 60,17) in believing, of which Isaiah says:
If you will not believe, you shall not continue. (Is 7,9)
that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Spirit; whence Isaiah:
Thou hast been a strength to the poor,
a strength to the needy in his distress,
a refuge from the whirlwind (the devil's suggestions),
a shadow from the heat (the temptation of the flesh). (Is 25,4)
Any religious who is filled with these: that is, hope, joy and peace- hope as to poverty which hopes in God alone, joy as to chastity without which there is no joy of conscience, peace as to obedience, outside which no-one will enjoy peace (so that Isaiah says:
There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord (Is 57,21))- if he is filled with these, he is sure to abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Spirit, so as to live confidently in the desert of the religious life.
Therefore, beloved brothers, let us ask the Lord Jesus to remove from us the shaking of the reed and the softness of garments, so that we may dwell in the desert of penitence as poor, chaste and obedient men. May he grant this, who is to be praised, who is kind and loveable, the blessed God for ever and ever. Let all clean and spotless religion say: Amen. Alleluia.
Anthony_Sermons - (FIRST CLAUSE)