Anthony_Sermons - (@EZ 3,

1. BREVIARIUM ROMANUM, Epiphany Lauds, Antiphon 5

2. Antony confuses Hannah (‘grace’) with Anah (‘answering’.

3. GUIGO THE CARTHUSIAN, Epistola ad fratres, 1,8,23; PL 184.323

4. Quoted in P. LOMBARD, Sententiae III, dist 23,4)

5. BREVIARIUM ROMANUM, Lauds hymn for Pentecost

6. AUGUSTINE, Enarratio in Ps 63.11; PL 36.765)

The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury


(The Gospel for the second Sunday after the Nativity: When Jesus was (twelve years old), which is divided into three clauses.)


(First, the theme for a sermon in Lent for penitents: Set your hearts.)

1. At that time: When Jesus was twelve years old, etc.

The Lord says in the prophet Haggai:

Set your hearts upon your ways;

Go up to the mountains, bring timber and build the house. (Ag 1,7-8)

Note that in these three words: ‘set’, ‘go up’ and ‘bring’, contrition, confession and satisfaction are denoted; whoever has these three is able to build a house to the name of the Lord. Our ‘ways’ are our actions; whence Jeremiah says:

See thy ways in the valley, know what thou hast done. (Jr 2,23)

(See the Gospel: Jesus was casting out a demon (Lent III).) To ‘set your heart on your ways’ is to think about what you have done, in contrition of heart. Thus the Psalm says:

I have thought on my ways: and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. (Ps 118,59)

But because few or none do this, the Lord complains in Jeremiah:

I attended and hearkened; no man speaketh what is good.

There is none that doth penance for his sin, saying: What have I done?

They are all turned to their own course, as a horse rushing to the battle. (Jr 8,6)

David, because he set his heart upon his ways, turned his feet (his affections) to the testimonies, the witness, of God. But others, because they do not think about what they have done, nor do penance for it, turn themselves to the course of temporal things. Whoever does not think about his inner state turns himself to outward and alien things. ‘Alien’ is whatever you cannot take with you in death. Set your heart on what is your own, not what is alien, because where your heart is, there your eye is; and where your eye is, your thought is. But when you know yourself, there is pardon.

So ‘set your heart on your ways’, and you will then be able to go up to the mountain which represents confession, which is the mountain of God, a fat mountain (Ps 67,15). Of this fatness the Psalm says:

Let my soul be filled as with marrow and fatness. (Ps 62,6)

Thou hast anointed my head (my mind) with oil (in the lamp of confession);

and my chalice (the drink of tears), how goodly it is. (cf. Ps 22,5)

O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory! (Sg 4,1)

Confession, born of contrition, may be called a ‘generation’ whose beauty consists in purity and clarity. In purity, whereby all sins are revealed to a single priest, not divided among many; in clarity, so that the one confessing sheds tears with which the conscience may be cleansed.

There follows: Bring timber, which represents the satisfaction of penance. From the mountain of confession the penitent carries the wood of satisfaction. Note that just as Christ’s Cross had length and breadth, height and depth, so in the wooden cross of penance there should be ‘length’ in final perseverance, ‘breadth’ of charity, ‘height’ of hope and ‘depth’ of fear. From these the house of the Lord is built in the city of Jerusalem, of which today’s Gospel speaks:

When Jesus was twelve years old they went up to Jerusalem,

according to the custom of the feast. (Lc 2,42)

2. There are three things to note in this Gospel. First, the going of Jesus and his parents to Jerusalem: When he was twelve. Second, his finding after three days: And it came to pass. Third, his going down to Nazareth with his parents: And he went down with them, etc.

The Introit sung in today’s Mass is: Upon a high throne; and the Epistle of blessed Paul to the Romans is read, which we will divide into three parts and concord with the three clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: I beseech you; the second is: Be not conformed;

the third is: For I say, by the grace.


(Of the twelve years of the virtues, and of the parents of the just man, namely hope and fear: When Jesus was twelve years old.)

3. Let us say, then: When Jesus was twelve years old.

Let us see what is the moral significance of Jesus, his parents, Jerusalem, and the custom of the feast.

The two words ‘child Jesus’ express the perfection of the just man, who ought to be childlike and innocent as to himself, and Jesus (saviour) to his neighbour. Regarding innocence, six things are needful: cleanness of heart and bodily chastity; patience in adversity, so as not to be cast down, and constancy in prosperity, so as not to be puffed up; and, in order to persevere in these, humility and poverty. To be a saviour, likewise, six things are necessary: I was hungry, and you fed me, etc. (Mt 25,35). Here we have the number twelve, the age of the just man who wishes to go up to Jerusalem with the child Jesus, of whom it is said: When Jesus was twelve years old.

There follows: They went up. The parents of Jesus are Joseph (‘increase’) and Mary (‘bitter sea’). She is given the name of bitterness, not because the bitter groaning of penance was hers, but as a kind of fore-telling of her Son’s Passion. These two stand for hope and fear, which are as it were the parents of the just man. Hope is the expectation of future good, giving rise to an affection of humility and the conscientious obedience of service. Behold Joseph, that humble and careful servant! Hope is as it were the foot on which we go forward and ‘increase’. Its opposite is despair, which has no capacity for advance, because whoever loves sin cannot hope for future glory. And so that hope may not be corrupted by presumption, it should be joined to fear, which is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Ps 110,10 Qo 1,16). No-one can attain the sweet taste of wisdom without first tasting the bitterness of fear. Thus we read in Exodus that the children of Israel, before tasting the sweetness of the manna, encountered the bitter waters of Mara. It is by the draught mingled with bitterness that one attains the joy of health.

(For contemplatives: The gates of Jerusalem.)

With these parents the just man should go up to Jerusalem, which represents excellence of life, tranquillity of mind and sweetness of contemplation. Tobias says:

The gates of Jerusalem shall be built of sapphire, and of emerald;

and all the walls thereof shall be built of precious stones.

All its streets shall be paved with white and clean stones; and Alleluia shall be sung in its streets. (Tb 13,21-22)

Sky-blue sapphire and green emerald stand for the excellence of life which consists in contempt for earthly and desire for heavenly things. The precious, clean and white stones stand for tranquillity of mind. Alleluia stands for the sweetness of contemplation. See above in the third Sunday of September, and you will find this text more fully explained in the story of Tobias.

(On the three-fold state of penitents: Three times in the year, and of their triple offering; I beseech you.)

4. There follows: According to the custom of the feast.

In Deuteronomy, Moses commanded the children of Israel:

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose: in the feast of unleavened bread (the Passover), in the feast of weeks, and in that of tabernacles. No-one shall appear with his hands empty before the Lord, but everyone shall offer according to what he hath, according to the blessing of the Lord his God, which he shall give him. (Dt 16,16-17)

Note that these three solemnities stand for the three states of beginners, proficients and perfect. The feast of unleavened bread represents the state of beginners, who should celebrate the Passover in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (cf. 1Co 5,8), and eat the Lamb with wild lettuce (cf. Ex 12,8), the bitterness of their sins. Regarding this, see the Gospel of the Resurrection. The feast of weeks, marked by the offering of two new loaves from the first fruits to the Lord, represents the state of proficients whose inner man is renewed from day to day (cf. 2Co 4,16), who offer the Lord the new loaves of purity in mind and body. The feast of tabernacles, or ‘tent-dwelling’, represents the state of the perfect, who as Isaiah says, sit in the tabernacles of confidence (Is 32,18). Balaam, in the book of Numbers, spoke of these tents as beautiful as woody valleys (Nb 24,5-6), the humility of poverty which offers shade from the heat of temporal things; and as watered gardens near the rivers, the infusion of grace which cools the thirst of carnal concupiscence.

This, then, is the custom of the feast, according to which every just man is obliged to go up to Jerusalem, where, lest he should appear empty handed before the Lord, he should offer the lamb of innocence on behalf of his neighbour, and the two new loaves of double continence for himself; and (as Leviticus says) he should take the fruits of the fairest tree, and the branches of palm-trees, etc. (cf. Lv 23,40). See the final clause of the Gospel for Palm Sunday.

5. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause:

I beseech you, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service. (Rm 12,1)

Any just man who wants to go up to Jerusalem with his parents, according to the custom of the feast, must observe the three things the Apostle here refers to; otherwise he will appear empty-handed before the Lord, who says in Leviticus:

Whatsoever sacrifice thou offerest, thou shalt season it with salt;

neither shalt thou take away the salt of the covenant of thy God from thy sacrifice.

In all thy oblations (good works) thou shalt offer salt (discretion). (Lv 2,13)

I beseech you, then, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice. Note the three terms: ‘living’, ‘holy’ and ‘pleasing to God’. Beginners should present their bodies as a living sacrifice, proficients as a holy one, the perfect as one pleasing to God. There is a concordance to this in Leviticus, where three kinds of offering are mentioned. The first was of sheep; the second of birds; the third of flour mixed with oil- and this in three ways: from the oven, the frying pan and the grill.

Beginners offer the first sort; as it is said:

And when they have flayed the victim, they shall cut the joints into pieces; and shall put fire on the altar, having before laid in order a pile of wood. And they shall lay the parts that are cut out in order thereupon: to whit, the head, and all things that cleave to the liver; the entrails and feet being washed with water. And the priest shall burn them on the altar for a holocaust, and a sweet savour to the Lord. (Lv 1,6-9)

The altar is the heart, the fire divine love, the pile of wood the totality of Christ’s sufferings, the flaying stripping of guilt, the cut joints and limbs the circumstances mentioned in confession, the head the origin of sin, the liver its persistent love, the entrails unclean thoughts, the feet actions, the water shedding of tears.

The converted sinner, who is beginning to be penitent, should first lay upon the altar of his heart the combined sufferings of Christ: scourgings, blows, spittle, cross, nails and spear- and then in confession he should lay bare his guilt, even to the least detail, its origin and to what extent he loved and delighted in it. He should wash the uncleanness of his thoughts and deeds with the water of tears. If all these things are laid in order upon all the sufferings of Christ Jesus, he himself, the high priest, will set the fire of his love to it, which will consume all sins and make the penitent himself a sacrifice, wholly consumed, keeping nothing to himself, but subjecting himself entirely to the Lord’s service, that he may be a good odour of Christ in every place (cf. 2Co 2,15). Thus he will present his body as a living sacrifice; a sacrifice, because it is dead to sin; living, because it is alive to justice. So the Apostle says:

I live, yet not I; but Christ lives in me. (Ga 2,20)

6. There follows: Holy. Proficients offer the second sacrifice, spoken of in the same part of Leviticus:

If the oblation of a holocaust to the Lord be of birds, of turtle-doves or of young pigeons: the priest shall offer it at the altar, and twisting back the neck and breaking the place of the wound, he shall make the blood run down upon the brim of the altar. But the crop of the throat and the feathers he shall cast beside the altar at the east side, in the place where the ashes are wont to be poured out, and he shall break the pinions thereof, and shall not cut nor divide it with a knife; and shall burn it on the altar, putting fire under the wood. It is a holocaust and oblation of most sweet savour to the Lord. (Lv 1,14-17)

The burnt-offering is made of birds when the just man, winged with virtues (which are represented by the turtle-dove and the pigeon, because of their chastity, their simplicity and their plaintive cry), advances from virtue to virtue. He twists back the neck, beak to wings, when he practices in his works what he preaches with his mouth. Such twisting causes breaking: devotion of the mind leads to the shedding of tears which (as Augustine1 says) are "the tears of the soul".

Upon the brim of the altar, which is the heart of the listener. The sweet harmony of voice in word and deed in the preacher stirs up devotion which penetrates the heart of the hearer. Hinder not the music, says Ecclesiasticus (32.5).

The ‘crop of the throat’ is burning avarice; the ‘feathers’ are pride that lifts up. The just man casts them from him at the east side, in the place of ashes, when he considers from what blissful glory he has fallen, due to the avarice and pride of the first parents to whom was said: Ashes thou art (cf. Gn 3,19).

He breaks the pinions when he considers the humility of the Lord’s Passion and divests himself of his own virtues; as Ezekiel says:

When the voice came from above the firmament,

the living creatures let down their wings. (Ez 1,25)

The firmament is Christ, and the ‘voice above him’ cried:

I will smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered. (cf. Mt 26,31)

When the living creatures (the saints) hear these words, they lower their own virtues, not trusting in themselves but in the Passion of the stricken Shepherd. The just man, who

advances daily towards what is better, breaks the pinions of his virtues in humility, not cutting them off from himself in time of adversity, with the knife of impatience. So he offers himself as a holy victim on the altar, which is the imitation of the Lord’s Passion, setting the fire of holy devotion to the wood of the holy fathers’ examples. Thus the whole burnt-offering is made a sweet smelling oblation to the Lord.

7. There follows: Pleasing to God. Perfect men offer the third sacrifice, which (according to the same passage of Leviticus) consists in flour mixed with oil. Flour, made from the most refined and white grain, stands for the life of the perfect man; free from the bran of worldly vanity, and white with the cleanness of chastity. It is mixed with the oil of piety. This is then baked in the oven of poverty, fried in the pan of others’ needs and weaknesses, and grilled on the grid of the Lord’s Passion. Truly, truly this is a sacrifice pleasing to God!

These three make a ‘reasonable offering’, sincere with discretion and full of holiness.

Let us the, dear brothers, ask Jesus Christ, who went up to Jerusalem with his parents, to make us go up to the moral Jerusalem with hope and fear, and in the twelve virtues referred to; so that we may offer him at the triple festival a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. May he grant this, who is blessed in the heavenly Jerusalem. Alleluia, Amen, Alleluia.

(On the second clause. The theme for a sermon on compassion for one’s neighbour: The vision was.)

8. There follows, secondly: And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. (Lc 2,46)

Let us see what is meant by the three days, the temple, Jesus’s sitting, the doctors, and his hearing and asking questions.

The three days represent understanding one’s own wickedness, compassion for one’s brother’s need, and consideration and admiration of the divine pity. The first is in the prophet Micah:

When I sit in darkness, the Lord is my light. (Mi 7,8)

The second is in Ezekiel:

This was the vision running to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, a bright fire and lightning going forth from the fire. (Ez 1,13)

The bright fire is the compassion of charity, which burns and enlightens, from which goes forth the lightning of wonderful works. This vision, which truly confers sight, must run to and fro in the midst of the living creatures, Christians. ‘Running to and fro’ is an appropriate term, since it runs in all sorts of ways. For true compassion, it is not enough to provide only for corporal needs, without providing for the soul too, and vice versa. If anyone is weak in body, it feels weak too; and if anyone is hurt in soul, it burns as well (cf. 2Co 11,29). The third is in Ecclesiastes:

The light is sweet; and it is delightful for the eyes to see the sun. (Qo 11,7)

The reference is to the eyes of the soul gazing on the brightness of divine piety.

Whoever completes these three days will be able to find Jesus in the temple.

The temple was a spacious, roofed building (tectum amplum), and represents the mind of the just man, which spreads its shelter over the neighbour’s needs, and is wide in the knowledge of self and of God. In such a temple, after such a three days, Jesus is found. And what is he doing there? Three things. He sits in the midst of the doctors; he listens; and he asks questions. In the mind of the just man there are ‘doctors’, namely the dispositions of reason which teach what is to be avoided and what done. Jesus ‘sits in their midst’ when he calms the mind and, when it is calm, rests in it. He rests and orders all things sweetly (Sg 8,1). This is what Job says:

When I sat as a king, with his army standing about him,

yet was I a comforter of them that mourned. (Jb 29,25)

This is the comfort: he hears and asks questions. When the mind is in silence and rest, then Jesus hears the affections of the heart speaking in his ear, and he questions them with the whip of kindly correction. Job says this:

Thou visitest him early in the morning (that is hearing)

and thou provest him suddenly (that is questioning). (Jb 7,18)

This is the comforting of the mourners, those who ‘sigh for the waters above’ (Jos 15,27) in this vale of tears, that the blessed Jesus may hear and question them, visit and prove them:

This may be my comfort, that afflicting me with sorrow, he spare me not. (Jb 6,10)

(On the three days of penitents: A journey of three days.)

9. This may be given another interpretation. The three days stand for penitence, which consists in the three elements of contrition, confession and satisfaction. Moses said in


We will go three days journey into the wilderness, to sacrifice unto the Lord our God. (Ex 3,18)

After these thee days, Joseph and Mary (the penitent in spirit, poor and humble) find Jesus in the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem; which is foreshadowed in Genesis, where we are told that after three days the butler was restored to his former place (cf. Gn 40,20-21).

Sitting in the midst of the doctors. This is what John says in the Apocalypse:

I looked... and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and upon the throne one sitting,...

and round about the throne were four and twenty seats,

and upon the seats four and twenty ancients sitting, (this denotes the twelve patriarchs and the twelve Apostles)

clothed in white garments, and on their heads were crowns of gold. (Ap 4,1)

This is almost exactly what we sing in the Introit of today’s Mass:

On a throne exalted I beheld, and lo! a man sitting, whom a legion of angels worship, singing together: Behold, his rule and governance endureth to all ages.

And so the text continues:

And the four and twenty fell down before him that sitteth on the throne, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever. Amen. (Ap 4,10)

And they sing a new song:

Thou art worthy, O Lord, etc. (Ap 4,11)

There follows: Hearing and asking them questions. The Lord hears the blessed spirits when he freely receives the offering of our worship through their ministry. Whence in the Apocalypse it says:

The smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the

hand of the angel. (Ap 8,4)

And Raphael said to Tobias:

I offered thy prayer to the Lord. (Tb 12,12)

The Apostle says:

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation? (He 1,14)

He asks, when he reveals to them the secret of his will.

10. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:

Be not conformed to this world. (Rm 12,2)

The Lord says in Isaiah:

Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire and bringeth forth an instrument for his work. (Is 54,16)

The ‘smith’ is the devil, whom the Lord created according to his substance. With the breath of evil temptation he blows upon the coals in the fire, the impulses of sin. This world is like the Babylonian furnace, of which Daniel says:

The furnace was heated exceedingly. (Da 3,22)

(See above in the story of Daniel, on the second Sunday of November (Pentecost XXII)) This furnace is so heated by the breath of the devil that iron (the proud), lead (the avaricious) and tin (the lustful) melt. Then the devil shapes them and produces ‘an instrument for his work’, that is, to do his will. One takes the shape of pride, another that of avarice, another that of lust. These are the vessels of wrath and shame, which are cast onto the dunghill of eternal damnation. Do you, then, who with Mary and Joseph seek Jesus and desire to find him, be not conformed to this world: but be reformed in the newness of your mind (Rm 12,2). This is what Isaiah means by:

There will be five cities in the land of Egypt, etc. (Is 19,18)

(See above in the moral part of the sermon: When a strong man armed... (Lent III))

That you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.

(@RM 12,2@)

This is the three days, after which Jesus is found in the temple. The will of God is ‘good’ in contrition of heart, ‘acceptable’ in confession, and ‘perfect’ in satisfaction. Of the first, the Psalm says:

Deal favourably, in thy goodwill with Sion, etc. (Ps 50,20) and in the book of Wisdom:

O how good and sweet is thy spirit, O Lord, in all things! (Sg 12,1)

Of the second, Daniel says:

So let our sacrifice (our confession) be made in thy sight this day that it may please thee (Da 3,40)

So Genesis says:

The Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offerings. (Gn 4,4)

Of the third, the Psalm says:

Perfect thou my goings in thy paths- (Ps 16,5)

which means in austerity of life and harshness of satisfaction.

Let us then ask the Lord Jesus Christ so to enable us to pass through these three days, that we may be found worthy to find him in the heavenly temple, sitting in the midst of the angels; who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

(On the third clause. The theme for a sermon on humility and obedience: My beloved went down into his garden; and: The almond tree shall flourish; and: He was subject to them.)

11. There follows, thirdly: And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. (Lc 2,51)

Note these three words: ‘went down’, ‘Nazareth’ and ‘subject’. Come down, sit in the dust, O daughter of Sion (Is 47,1), because the Son of God went down. Unbending pride, which would seek to ascend above the height of the clouds, and exalt your throne above the stars of heaven, and sit upon the mountain of the covenant (cf. Is 14,13-14)- go down, I pray, because Jesus went down. And you, Capharnaum, lifted up to heaven before you be plunged into hell (cf. Mt 11,23), go down with Jesus, who is paradise, as it is said: His fruits are paradise (Ct 4,15). You harlot, sitting upon the scarlet beast, full of names of blasphemy (Ap 17,3), go down with Jesus. Blush, blush now, unprofitable pride! Kneel, swollen arrogance, for the Wisdom of God goes down. Wretched man, crawling on hands and knees, tries to rise to a place of honour (which is really his dishonour); while blessed Jesus, at his loving mother’s rebuke: Son, why hast thou so done to us? (Lc 2,48), deferred until the age of thirty the business he had begun at the age of twelve, and went down from the temple where he had sat in the midst of the doctors.

12. There follows: And he came to Nazareth. This is what the Bride says in the Canticles:

My Beloved is gone down into his garden, to the bed of aromatical spices; (Ct 6,1)

that is to say, to humility, the root of all other virtues. Our intention had been to pass through this place briefly, but the charm of Nazareth will not allow us to do so. The beauty of the place, the gracefulness of the flowers, the sweetness of the scents all hinder and detain us as we hasten to the wedding that is to be celebrated at Cana of Galilee.

Nazareth, that humble place, means ‘a flower’; and it represents humility, which may be well compared to a flower, which has these three characteristics: beauty of colour, sweetness of scent, and hope of fruit. Likewise, in true humility there is beauty of honour; as it is said:

My flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. (Si 24,23)

It has also sweetness of good repute. Just as a flower is not spoiled when it sends forth its scent, so the truly humble person is not conceited when he is praised for the fragrance of a good life. As St Bernard2 says, "The truly humble man wants to be held in low esteem; whereas whoever is not humble wants to be well spoken-of." So Solomon says:

The almond tree shall flourish, the locust shall be made fat, and the caper tree shall be destroyed. (Qo 12,5)

The almond tree, which blossoms before the other trees, is the humble man, who says with David:

I will play before the Lord, and make myself meaner than I have done; and I will be little in my own eyes. (2S 6,22)

The Wisdom of the Father says of this play:

I was delighted every day, playing before him at all times, playing in the world:

and my delights were to be with the children of men. (Pr 8,30-31)

The Son, blessed Jesus, played before his Father when he was betrayed by his disciple; when he was bound to the pillar and flogged; when Herod mocked him; when he was crowned with thorns, struck and beaten, spat on, blindfolded, hit on the head with a reed; and when his beard was plucked. He played even when he went out, carrying his Cross, to the place called Golgotha (cf. Jn 19,17), where he was crucified by the soldiers, derided by the leaders, given gall and vinegar to drink, and pierced in the side by a spear. See how the Wisdom of God played and was made mean upon the earth! see how his delights were with the children of men! He adapted himself to this play so as to be truly humble; and however lowly he might seem to himself, he was all the more exalted in God’s sight.

So the almond tree will flower and the locus will become fat. When humility flourishes in the mind, and decency in deeds, then the locust will be fat- meaning the soul of the humble man, which leaps in contemplation. It will not be fat like the hypocrite, with the smell of self-praise; but with the flower of true humility. It will derive its richness from its own intrinsic bloom, not from what anyone else says; and the caper tree of pride and vain-glory will be destroyed.

The hope of receiving fruit comes from the riches of the Lord’s house. When I see the flower, I expect fruit; so, when I see a really humble person, I have hope that he will be blessed in heaven. But alas! As Isaiah says:

Every one is a hypocrite and wicked. (Is 9,17)

And Micah:

He that is best among them is as a briar.

and he that is righteous, as the thorn of the hedge. (Mi 7,4)

Indeed, today everyone is a hypocrite, a briar and a thorn. The hypocrite pretends to be what he is not: a briar, smooth in words but piercing in deeds; a thorn wounding passers by to draw the blood of praise and money. In the garden of Nazareth there is no briar or thorn: only the lily and the violet. And so Jesus came to Nazareth.

13. There follows: And he was subject to them. At the words, He was subject to them, all pride dissolves, all stubbornness melts away, all disobedience humbles itself. Who was subject? He who by his word alone created all things from nothing; as Isaiah says:

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,

and weighed the heavens with his palm,

who hath poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth,

and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. (Is 40,12)

As Job says;

He shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.

He commandeth the sun and it riseth not: and shutteth up the stars as it were under a seal.

He alone spreadeth out the heavens: and walketh upon the waves of the sea.

He maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and Hyades, and the inner parts of the south.

He doth things great and incomprehensible and wonderful: of which there is no number. Who can make the harmony of heaven to sleep. (Jb 9,6-10 Jb 38 Jb 37)

Who will take and draw out Leviathan with a hook, and will tie his tongue with a cord, and put a ring in his nose, and bore through his jaw with a buckle. (Jb 40,19-21)

Such and so great a one was subject to them.

Subject to whom? To a carpenter and a poor virgin. The First and the Last, the Lord of angels: subject to men! The Creator of heaven subject to a carpenter! The God of eternal glory to a poor and lowly virgin! Whoever heard anything like it? Whoever has seen anything like it? Let no philosopher, then, disdain to obey and be subject to a fisherman; no wise man to a simple, no educated man to an uneducated, no prince’s son to someone of lowly birth.

14. The third part of the Epistle is concordant to this third clause:

For I say, by the grace that is given me, to all that are among you (philosophers, wise men, educated, nobly born- and to all people like that),

not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise. (Rm 12,3)

As he says elsewhere: Be not high-minded, but fear (Rm 11,20). "There is much lacking to you, as far as wisdom is concerned, if you are not wise about yourself."3 You are not wise if you are ‘too clever by half’. To be truly wise is to go down, to come to Nazareth, to be subject and to obey perfectly. This should be the sum of your wisdom, which is to be wise unto sobriety (Rm 12,3). To be over-clever may be intoxicating, but therein real wisdom loses its tang. To try to be too clever is the mistake of "a beast with understanding, a novice being prudent, a beginner being wise"- like a drunkard wandering and throwing up! St Bernard4 says, "Perfect obedience is greatest in the beginner who lacks experience. He does not understand why something is commanded, but this leads him simply to do what his superior tells him, humbly and faithfully. This is the only judgement he can make, to make no personal judgement about it. This is all his wisdom, that in this regard he has none." This is being wise unto sobriety. Pure simplicity is like the waters of Siloe, that go with silence (Is 8,6). It makes the soul sober. It is as if the wine of worldly wisdom were turned to water, and the worldly-wise become wise unto sobriety. If those in religion are truly wise, God will gather them by means of the simple. He chose the foolish, the weak, the base and the contemptible, so that by means of them he might gather the wise, the strong and the noble: so that no flesh might glory in itself (cf. 1Co 1,27-29), but in him who went down and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. To him be honour and glory for ever and ever. Let every simple and obedient soul say: Amen. Alleluia.

Anthony_Sermons - (@EZ 3,