Anthony_Sermons - (@RM 12,2@)
1. AUGUSTINE, De diversis, sermo 357,4,7; PL 39.1542
2. BERNARD, In Cantica sermo 16.10; PL 183.853
3. BERNARD, De consideratione II,3,6; PL 182.745
4. GUIGO THE CARTHUSIAN, Epistola ad fratres I,5,14; PL 184.317. The preceding words are also from the same place.
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: As Jesus was going to Jerusalem, which is divided into three clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon on the infusion of grace: My root is opened.)
1. At that time: As Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee etc. (Lc 7,11)
My root is opened beside the waters: and dew shall continue in my harvest. (Jb 29,19)
Note these four words: root, waters, dew and harvest. The ‘root’ denotes the thought of a pure mind; the ‘waters’ are the infusion of grace; the ‘dew’ is the blessedness of glory; and the ‘harvest’ is the separation of soul and body. So when the thought of a pure mind is opened by devotion, the water of heavenly grace is infused; as in the Apocalypse:
I stand at the gate and knock; if any man shall hear my voice and open to me the door (the ‘opened root’) I will come in to him (‘beside the waters’). (cf. Ap 3,20)
And in Canticles, the bridegroom says to the bride (Ct 5,2):
Open to me, my sister.... for my head is full of dew, and my locks of the drops of the night.
It is as if he would say, O soul, if you will open to me the root of your mind, I will pour into you from the head of my divinity the dew and drops of heavenly grace, which will refresh you in the night of tribulation. The word ‘drops’ is apt, for in this present life grace is but a drop, compared with the eternal reward. There is a drop that stays, and one that merely falls; he who receives grace and does not lose it, has a drop that sticks to him; but he who believes for a while and in time of trouble falls away (cf. Lc 8,13) has only a drop that passes away.
There is a concordance to this in the same book of Job:
A tree hath hope. If it be cut, it groweth green again, and the boughs thereof sprout.
If its root be old in the earth, and its stock be dead in the dust: at the scent of water, it shall spring,
and bring forth leaves, as when it was first planted. (Jb 14,7-9)
When wood is burned, it is changed into light. It represents the just man who, when ablaze with the fire of love, becomes the light of good example. Should he be cut down by the axe of mortal sin, he should not despair of God’s mercy, which is greater than his weakness. He should have hope, because by repentance he will grow green again, and his branches (his works) will bear fruit. If his root (the inclination of his heart) be old in the earth (earthly things), and his stock (his works) be dead in the dust (worldly vanity), yet if he turns again to God, to the scent of that water which is the grace of the Holy Spirit, he will spring up in confession, and put forth leaves in works of satisfaction. How apt the words, then, My root is opened beside the waters.
The text continues: and dew shall continue in my harvest. The harvest is reaped when souls are finally taken out of their bodies, like mature crops cut from the ground, and are transferred to the heavenly barns. The dew then continues in the harvest, because the sweetness of the eternal vision satisfies the souls of the elect. To receive the sweetness of this dew, we must pass through the midst of Samaria and Galilee, and go with Jesus Christ: as in today’s Gospel, As Jesus was going to Jerusalem.
2. There are three things to note in today’s Gospel. First, the passage of Jesus Christ through Samaria and Galilee to Jerusalem, beginning: As he was going. Second, the cleansing of the lepers: And as he entered a certain town. Third, the return of the foreigner to glorify God: And one of them.
The Introit sung in today’s Mass is: Incline thy ear, O Lord, and hear me. The Epistle is from St Paul to the Galatians, and we will divide it into three parts, concordant with those of the Gospel: First, Walk in the Spirit; second, The works of the flesh are manifest; third, The fruit of the Spirit is charity. The reason for reading this Epistle with this Gospel is that the Gospel tells of the lepers and their cleansing, while the Epistle mentions the vices from which the leprosy of sin arise in the soul, and the virtues whereby the soul is cleansed from this leprosy.
(The building which heavenly way of life: If thou wilt return to the Almighty.)
3. Let us say, then:
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
All the words in this section are worth noting. Whoever wants to go to Jerusalem, must first pass through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. ‘Samaria’ means ‘guard’, Galilee’ means ‘passing through’, and Jerusalem means ‘vision of peace’. Whoever keeps the commandments passes through them to the virtues, and so is able to reach Jerusalem. Blessed Job ‘passed through Samaria’ when he said:
If I have walked in vanity,
and my foot hath made haste to deceit:
Let him weigh me in a just balance,
and let God know my simplicity. (Jb 31,5-6)
‘Let God know’ means, rather: ‘Let God make us to know’. By the ‘balance’, he refers to the Mediator between God and man, who weighs our merits with a fair scale, and in whose precepts we acknowledge what is lacking in our life. The sense, then, is that if ever I have done anything thoughtlessly or deliberately harmful, let the Mediator appear, so that I may see in his life whether I have been really sincere. Job also ‘passed through the midst of Galilee’, when he said:
Let he himself that judgeth write a book,
that I may carry it on my shoulder,
and put it about me as a crown.
At every step of mine I would pronounce it,
and offer it as to a prince. (Jb 31,35-37)
Neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath given all judgement to the Son (Jn 5,22). When he came for our redemption, he established the New Testament for us. In the future, he will be the author of our judgement, who is now the author of the book. He will make a strict reckoning, who now bids us meekly. To carry the book on our shoulder is to fulfil Holy Scripture by our deeds. First, we are told to carry it on our shoulder; then, to put it about us as a crown. The repetition indicates that if we bear well the commandments of the sacred word on our shoulder, they will show us hereafter the crown of victory as our reward. At every step of mine- each step is an increase in virtue,
and we go up by them in order to gain possession of what is heavenly. To ‘pronounce’ the book at every step is to show that one has taken in its teaching, not just by word but by deed. To ‘offer it as to a prince’ means that, as we offer by holding out in our hand, so we offer the book to the coming Judge by holding to the words of his commandments in our action.
4. There is a concordance in Job to these three words, Samaria, Galilee and Jerusalem, where Eliphaz the Themanite says:
If thou wilt return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up,
and shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacle,
He shall give for earth flint, and for flint torrents of gold.
And the Almighty shall be against thy enemies:
and silver shall be heaped together for thee.
Then thou shalt abound in delight in the Almighty:
and shalt lift up thy face to God.
Thou shalt pray to him, and he will hear thee:
and thou shalt pay vows.
Thou shalt decree a thing, and it shall come to thee: and light shall shine in thy ways. (Jb 22,23-28)
If thou wilt return: O sinner, if you will return from yourself, in which is ruin, to God who rebuilds, you will indeed by built up again. First demolish what you have built in yourself, and he will build his own house upon you. So he says in Isaiah:
I who say to the deep: Be thou desolate,
and I will dry up thy rivers.
Who say to Jerusalem: Thou shalt be built;
and to the temple: Thy foundations shall be laid. (Is 44,27-28)
The deep, whose bottom is far below, is the abyss of evil thoughts that must be abandoned; the rivers of concupiscence which flow through the channels of the five senses must be dried up; and then the temple of the mind will be founded upon sapphires, as Isaiah says:
I will lay thy foundation with sapphires, (Is 54,11)
the longings for eternal life; and Jerusalem, the heavenly way of life, will be built with its bulwarks; as Isaiah says:
I will make thy bulwarks of jasper, and thy gates of graven stones. (Is 54,12)
Jasper is green, and it is said to put phantoms to flight. It represents poverty, which keeps men in the greenness of faith, and puts riches to flight, those illusions which deceive men. Faith despises temporal things, and those who love faith shun them. If the building of our way of life is built with bulwarks of poverty, the arrows of the old enemy need not be feared. The gates are the five bodily senses, which the Lord makes of graven stones, when our eyes are shaped to the shedding of tears, our tongue to selfaccusation, our ears to preaching, our hands to the bestowal of alms and our feet to visiting the sick. The Lord says of this carving in Zechariah:
Behold, I will grave the graving thereof,
and I will take away the iniquity of that land in one day. (Za 3,9)
The word used suggests the work of a sculptor with his chisel. When the Lord engraves this carving on the gates of the senses, he takes away the iniquity of the land, our body. He does this ‘in one day’, by the unifying enlightenment which makes a man’s outward demeanour one with his inner nature, in the service of God. So the words are apt, If thou wilt return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, and shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacle. The body is the soul’s tabernacle, and the mind is that of the thoughts. The sense is, if you return to God you will be cleansed in thought and deed.
(Against religious and clergy: The land, out of which bread grew.)
5. He shall give for earth flint, and for flint torrents of gold. See here Samaria, Galilee and Jerusalem: guarding, passing, vision of peace. The earth, because of its stability, stands for keeping the commandments, of which Job says:
The land, out of which bread grew, in its place hath been overturned with fire.
The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and the clods of it are gold. (Jb 28,5-6)
The land is the keeping of the commandments, from which grows the bread of heavenly
refreshment. If you keep the commandments, you will be refreshed with the bread of heavenly sweetness. So the Lord, in Isaiah, promises to whoever does his will, not his own:
While thou dost not thy own ways, and thy own will is not found, then thou shalt be delighted in the Lord, and I will lift thee up above the high places of the earth, and will feed thee with the inheritance of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Is 58,13-14)
Our wretched pleasure follows a two-fold path of evil will and deed. If this pleasure ceases, you will be delighted in the Lord:
Delight in the Lord; and he will give thee the requests of thy heart. (Ps 36,4)
Then he will lift you up above the high places of the earth, so that you will despise temporal things, subdue your flesh and keep the commandments. Then he will feed you with the inheritance of your father, Jacob. The inheritance of ‘Jacob our father’ (Jesus Christ), which he left us, is poverty and humility, obedience, and the pains of his Passion. We are fed with them when we embrace them with heart-felt delight. Moses says in Deuteronomy:
They shall suck as milk the abundance of the sea. (Dt 33,19)
Just as a child sucks milk from its mother’s breast with eagerness and delight, so we should suck the abundance of ‘the sea’, the pains of the Passion, from the life of Jesus Christ. Note the word ‘suck’. We only suck by compressing our lips. If we do not compress our lips from love of temporal things, we cannot suck the pains of Christ’s Passion. So we say, The land, out of which bread grew.
In its place hath been overturned with fire. The ‘place’ of the Lord’s commandment is the Church’s prelates, clergy and religious, in whom it should have a special place. But alas! The Lord’s commandments are overturned in their own place, clergy and religious, with the fire of lust and avarice. Charity, chastity, humility and poverty, which are the spiritual precepts of the Lord, are overturned in clergy and religious. They are envious, lustful, proud and avaricious.
The stones of it are the place of sapphires. Sapphires are sky-blue in colour. Prelates, clergy and religious used to be sapphire stones, with a loving desire for heavenly things; now they are more like dung, filthy with sin.
And the clods of it are gold. The clods turned by the rustic ploughman are composed of moisture and dust. The pastors of the Church, and those who profess religious life, used to be ‘clods of gold’: ‘clods’, because they held their profession and their practice together with the moisture of grace; ‘golden’, because they shone in virtuous life and in wisdom. Now, as Jeremiah laments:
The noble sons of Sion and they that were clothed with the best gold:
now are they esteemed as earthen vessels, the work of a potter’s hands. (Lm 4,2)
The devil has made them, from vessels of honour, to be earthen vessels held in contempt, to be thrown on the rubbish-heap of gehenna. But with these dismissed to the rubbish tip, let us return to our subject!
(On constancy of mind: He shall give for earth flint.)
6. He shall give for earth flint, as if to say: whoever keeps the commandments to the best of his ability will pass to an insuperable constancy in virtue. Flint is a hard stone, from which one can strike fire. it represents constancy in virtue, from which comes a fire to enlighten and kindle one’s neighbour to divine love. Of this flint the Lord says in Ezekiel:
I have made thy face like an adamant and like flint,
be thou not discouraged at their presence, for they are a provoking house. (Ez 3,9)
By adamant and flint, constancy is meant; which the Lord puts in the face of the preacher, so that he is not afraid in the presence of the sinner who provokes God himself. In Job, the Lord says of the preacher:
He pranceth boldly; he goeth forward to meet armed men.
He despiseth fear; he turneth not his back to the sword. (Jb 39,21-22)
St Gregory1 says that the preacher ‘prances boldly’, because he is not broken by those against him; and he ‘goes forward to meet armed men’ when to defend justice he opposes himself to those who are acting in a depraved and evil way. ‘He despises fear’, referring to the fear of punishment to come, and the sword that inflicts punishment in the present. Because he does not dread the coming judgement, he despises fear; because he is not overcome by present blows, he does not retreat from the sword in any way. Job further says of this flint:
He hath stretched forth his hand to the flint:
he hath overcome mountains from the roots.
In the rocks he hath cut out rivers:
and his eye hath seen every precious thing. (Jb 28,9-10)
He stretches forth his hand to the flint when he applies his action to constancy in virtue; (as Proverbs says: She hath put out her hand to strong things (Pr 31,19)). In this way he overturns in himself mountains (pride of heart) from the roots (the inmost thoughts). He cuts rivers of compunction out of the rocks of his hard-heartedness. Then, with his mind’s eye enlightened, he sees every precious thing, in comparison with which everything else seems vile. The is the precious thing of which is said, For flint, torrents of gold. Here is Jerusalem; here is every precious thing, which his eyes will see when he has first passed through Samaria and Galilee.
(A theme for contemplatives, and on the nature of the eagle; Will the eagle mount up at thy command? and on the amethyst-stone.)
7. There is a concordance to this in Job, where the Lord says to him:
Will the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest in high places?
She abideth among the rocks, and dwelleth among cragged flints,
and stony hills where there is no access.
From thence she looketh for the prey,
and her eyes behold afar off.(Jb 39,27-29)
Proverbially, the eagle has keen eyesight- ‘eagle-eyed’, we say- and can gaze at the sun without flinching. Natural History teaches us that it has extremely keen sight, and makes its young look at the sun before their wings are fully-fledged. It strikes them, and turns them to face the sun; and if the eye of one chick should show a tear, it kills it and feeds the other. It is also said that it lays three eggs, but casts the third one out. If an eagle should be seen with three chicks, it throws one out of the nest to feed the others more strongly. It is also supposed to gather amethysts, those precious stones, into the nest with its chicks, so that snakes may be driven away from them by its power.
The eagle is a symbol of the saints’ keen understanding, and their sublime contemplation, which directs their children (their works) towards the true sun and light of wisdom, so that any hidden impurity, or anything foreign to its nature, may be revealed in the sun’s brightness. All iniquity is reproved by the light, and the works of darkness are made manifest by the light (cf. Ep 5,13). If they see that any of their works cannot face
the sun aright, and are confounded by its rays and caused to weep: they kill them straightaway. The ray of grace shows who is a true child. The true work looks on the sun aright, and bears the heat of tribulation. It does not flinch. The impure work looks towards the earth, and faints in tribulation. It weeps for the loss of temporal things, and so should be killed, and good work fed from it. When you kill what is evil in yourself, you refresh what is good; what makes evil grow weak, makes good grow strong. Note also that the three eggs, or three chicks, of the eagle represent three loves of the just man: the love of God, the love of neighbour and the love of self. This last should be cast out entirely from the nest of his conscience. Self-love greatly hinders the love of God and of neighbour, and so it should be entirely cast out. Job drove this offspring from his nest, saying: I tear my flesh with my teeth (Jb 13,14). The teeth cut up food, and they represent the inner senses which question everything, and as it were chew over and break down what they consider, before passing it on to the belly of memory. If the saints’ teeth apprehend anything carnal within them, they grind it up and spit it out from their consciousness.
8. Note, further, that the amethyst is the chief of precious stones, violet in colour, flickering with golden fire and emitting a purple radiance. It represents the life of Jesus Christ, which was violet in its poverty and humility; shone with golden fire in his preaching and miracles; and showed purple in his Passion. The just man ought to keep this amethyst in the nest of his conscience, to drive away the serpents of devilish temptation from his chicks, his works.
We may say of this eagle, then, Will the eagle mount up at thy command? St Gregory2 says that the eagle mounts up when, submissive to the divine decrees, the life of the faithful hovers on high. He ‘makes his nest in high places’, because he does not let his mind dwell on matters low and base. He ‘abides in the rocks’ (in Holy Scripture, ‘rock’ in the singular means Christ; ‘rocks’, in the plural, the saints: so Peter says, You are as living stones (1P 2,5)). The eagle abides in the rocks, then, because it takes its stand on the sayings of the mighty fathers of old. The rocks can also be understood as the heavenly powers, because these are set in the desert like rocks, strangers to all change and changeability, not like trees. The holy man awaits the everlasting glory of the angels, and though a sojourner in this world he is already rooted in the heights he sees and desires. He ‘dwells among cragged flints’: what are these, but the mighty choirs of angels? They are ‘riven’, because part of them fell, and part stood firm. They remain integral in merit, but diminished in number. They are called ‘stony hills without access’, since the glory of the angels is inaccessible to the heart of sinful man; but anyone so rapt in contemplation as to set his mind amid the angelic choirs, will not be satisfied until he can see even him who is above all angels. From thence he ‘looks for food’; that is, he directs his mind’s eye from the angel choirs to the glory of the heavenly majesty. If he does not see it, he still hungers; if he does see it, he is satisfied. But because we cannot see God as he is while we are weighed down by the flesh, there is added, ‘His eyes behold afar off’, as though to say that however keenly the saints direct their gaze, they cannot as yet see any clearer that impenetrable brightness.
Blessed then is that eagle who dips her beak in the golden brook of the heavenly
Jerusalem, of which the psalmist says:
They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house:
and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure. (Ps 35,9)
So Genesis says that Joseph’s brothers drank and were merry with him (Gn 43,34).
One who is drunk is changed in mind and speech. The minds of the blessed, who are drunk with the golden torrent, are changed because their faith and hope are emptied, and the command to love the Lord God with the whole heart, etc. is fulfilled; which now is not fulfilled. Their speech is changed, too, as is said:
Let my mouth not speak the works of man. (Ps 16,4)
So let us say: He shall give for earth flint, and for flint torrents of gold. Here is shown that whoever wants to go to Jerusalem and drink of the golden torrent of heavenly bliss, must first pass through Samaria and Galilee, must possess earth and flint. And because there are enemies lying in wait for us as we come to Samaria and pass through it to Galilee- the evil spirits whom we must overcome by the grace of God, so as to reach Jerusalem- the text of Job continues: The Almighty shall be against thy enemies, and silver shall be heaped together for thee; as though to say: When he drives the evil spirits from you, he will burnish your conscience and you will abound in delight in the Almighty. To abound in the delights of the Almighty is to be satisfied with the banquet of love in that clear conscience. Proverbs says of this:
A secure mind is like a continual feast. (Pr 15,15)
Thou shalt lift up thy face to God; that is, you will raise up your heart to seek out the things above. Thou shalt pray to him, and he will hear thee.
So the just man says in the Introit of today’s Mass:
Incline thy ear, O Lord, and hear me. (Ps 85,1)
And thou shalt pay vows. St Gregory3 says that he who makes a vow, but is unable to fulfil it because of infirmity, is suffering a punishment for sin: when he wants to do good, he has lost the ability. But when the guilt that was hindering him has been cleansed, immediately the ability to fulfil the vow is restored. Thou shalt decree a thing, and it shall come to thee. Something decreed comes about when a virtue desired and sought is made effective and fruitful by God’s gift. And light shall shine in thy ways. Light shines on the ways of the just when wonderful works of virtue shed their brightness all around.
9. The first part of the Epistle is concordant to this first clause:
Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. (Ga 5,16)
Whoever wants to go up to Jerusalem with Jesus must walk in the spirit, not in the flesh. He walks in the spirit when he passes through Samaria and Galilee; so the text says, walk in the spirit (if you want to go up to Jerusalem) and by so doing you will not fulfil in your action the lusts of the flesh, the pleasures that the flesh suggests.
For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh. (Ga 5,17)
Our flesh is dear to us, and instinctively seeks to procreate. Beloved flesh, yet lacking true love, and so lusting against the spirit! Beloved flesh, soon you will become hateful, decaying with worms, and foul! Flesh and spirit are opposed to one another, and so we cannot do the things we want to. There is a concordance to this in Job:
The life of man upon earth is a warfare. (Jb 7,1)
Man’s life is a warfare, a trial, because the flesh which is already corrupt begets trouble from itself, and it tries to stir up evil even in the good things it performs. It turns the repose of contemplation into sloth, and it turns abstinence into vainglory.
We beg you, then, Lord Jesus Christ, to make us pass through Samaria by keeping your commandments; and through Galilee by being constant in virtue. So may we reach Jerusalem and be found fit to drink of its golden torrent. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A theme for a sermon on the five kinds of leprosy and their meaning: As he entered.)
10. There follows, secondly:
And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off; and lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Whom when he saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, that they were made clean. (Lc 17,12-14)
The allegorical meaning is plain. The town is the world, and as the Lord enters it, the lepers meet him, by whom we understand the human race, which had sinned against the ten commandments, having loved neither God nor neighbour. Covered with the leprosy of unfaithfulness and iniquity, humanity cried out: Jesus, master, etc. It called for salvation, it begged mercy upon the human race, and the Lord granted both. With the blood of redemption and the water of baptism he cleansed it of all the leprosy of infidelity and wickedness.
The moral interpretation is this. These ten lepers stand for all sinners, who are affected by five kinds of leprosy, in five places. Leviticus refers to the five kinds of leprosy, and the five places infected by it, to whit: white, shining, obscure, red and pale; leprosy in the head, the beard, the skin of the body, the clothes and the house.
Whosoever shall be defiled with the leprosy, and is separated by the judgement of the priest: shall have his cloths hanging loose, his head bare, his mouth covered with a cloth: and he shall cry out that he is defiled and unclean. All the time that he is a leper and unclean, he shall dwell also alone without the camp. (Lv 13,44-46)
Let us see what these words mean, and explain each one. The white leprosy is hypocrisy and pretence of religion; the shining is ambition for passing honour; the obscure is the uncleanness of fornication; the red is robbery and usury; and the pale is envy of another’s happiness.
11. Of the leprosy of hypocrisy and pretence, Job says:
Dissemblers and crafty men provoke God. (Jb 36,13)
By a ‘dissembler’, we understand someone who appears to be what he is not, a pretender. A hypocrite is like that, pretending to a holiness that is not his. He is shown honour, because he is thought to be godly, but as Job says:
The congregation of the hypocrite is barren, (Jb 16,34)
because in the things he does he is not seeking the fruit of an eternal reward. He is sterile and dried up, because where a good intention is lacking, what appears to be good perishes. White leprosy infects everything that seems right in human eyes, yet is not done with a right intention.
(Against glorying in dignity: Shall not the light of the wicked.)
Of the ‘shining leprosy’ of transitory honour, Baldad the Suhite says in Job:
Shall not the light of the wicked be extinguished, and the flame of his fire not shine?
The light shall be dark in his tabernacle:
and the lamp that is over him shall be put out. (Jb 18,5-6)
The light of the wicked is extinguished, because the success of a fleeting lifetime ends
with it. The flame of his fire does not shine, the burning fire of temporal desire, whose flame is outward dignity and power, arising from its inward heat. It stops shining, because at death all outward show is taken away. The light is dark in his tabernacle, where ‘light’ means joy and ‘darkness’ grief. In the wicked man’s tabernacle, light becomes dark because the joy in his heart that came from temporal things fails. The lamp that is over him is put out. We think of an earthenware lamp: a symbol of joy in the flesh. The lamp over him is put out, because when retribution for his evil deeds comes upon the wicked man, the joy of the flesh is driven from his mind. It says ‘over’, rather than ‘in’, him because earthly joys control the minds of the wicked.
(Against lust: The eye of the adulterer.)
Of the ‘obscure leprosy’ of fornication, Job says:
The eye of the adulterer observeth darkness, saying:
No eye shall see me. And he will cover his face. (Jb 24,15)
An adulterer is someone who violates another’s marriage-bed, by intimate union with that other man’s wife. The uncleanness of fornication darkens the eye of reason, and always looks for the opportunity a dark place gives, to commit sin more safely without fear of being seen. So Ecclesiasticus says:
To a man that is a fornicator all bread is sweet:
Every man that passeth his own bed, despising his own soul,
and saying: Who seeth me? Darkness compasseth me about,
and the walls cover me, and no man seeth me: who do I fear?
The Most High will not remember my sins.
And he understandeth not that his eye seeth all things. (Si 23,24-27)
He ‘covers his face’ so as not to be recognised. The ‘face’ of the human heart is its likeness to God; and the sinner covers it, so as not to be known by the strict judge, when he condemns his life for his evil deeds.
(Against robbery: Some have removed landmarks.)
Of the red leprosy of the rapacious, Job says:
Some have removed landmarks, have taken away flocks by force.
They have driven away the ass of the fatherless,
and have taken away the widow’s ox for a pledge.
They have overturned the way of the poor,
and have oppressed together the meek of the earth. (Jb 24,2-4)
Divine patience bore with them and waited for repentance, but they only treasured up wrath for themselves in the day of wrath (cf. Rm 2,5). Of the outcome of their lives, Job says again:
Why do the wicked live,
are they advanced, and strengthened with riches?
Their seed continueth before them:
a multitude of kinsmen, and of children’s children in their sight.
Their houses are secure and peaceable: and the rod of God is not upon them.
Their cattle have conceived and failed not, their cow has calved and is not deprived of her fruit.
Their little ones go out like a flock: and their children dance and play.
They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
They spend their days in wealth.
And in a moment they go down to hell,
who have said to God: Depart from us.
We desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
And what doth it profit us if we pray to him?
Yet because their good things are not in their hand, may the counsel of the wicked be far from me.(Jb 21,7-16)
(Against envy: The foolish man.)
Of the leprosy of envy, Job says:
Anger indeed killeth the foolish: and envy slayeth the little one. (Jb 5,2)
The ‘little one’ is whoever loves earthly things, the ‘great’ is he who loves the eternal; so envy kills the little one, because no-one dies from this plague except a person who desires earthly things. St Gregory4 says that whoever wishes to be free from the plague of envy, should love that inheritance which is not lessened by the number of co-heirs. It is the same for all, and each one receives the whole of it.
(The five places in which leprosy is found, and their meaning.)
12. Leprosy in the head means impurity in thought; leprosy in the beard is wickedness in outward action; leprosy in the skin is degrading conversation; leprosy in the clothing is dissent from the faith of Christ, or imprudence in exercising virtue; leprosy in the house is discord in the community.
Of impurity of thought, Job says:
He shall suck the head of asps: and the vipers tongue shall kill him. (Jb 20,16)
The asp, which is a small snake, represents the hidden tempting by the devil, and its head or beginning starts in the heart. If it is caught there, it can be pulled out only with violence. The viper is larger in body, and as it is born it goes forth with violence. The sinner ‘sucks the asp’s head’, and the viper’s tongue kills him, when he freely accepts hidden temptation at its beginning, and then lets himself be overcome by violent temptations.
Of the outward manifestation of wickedness, Job says:
He hath stretched out his hand against God,
and hath strengthened himself against the Almighty.
He hath run against him with his neck raised up, and is armed with a fat neck.
Fatness hath covered his face, and the fat hangeth down on his sides. (Jb 16,25-27)
To stretch out one’s hand against God is to persevere in wicked action in spite of his judgements. To be strengthened against the Almighty is to be allowed to prosper in one’s evil actions. To run against him with neck raised up is to commit what displeases the Creator arrogantly. He ‘runs’, because he has no hindrance to his evil action. He is ‘armed with a fat neck’, pride in wealth, being upheld by affluence as though by much flesh. He covers his face with fatness- or rather, fatness covers his face- when desire for an abundance of earthly things squeezes his mental vision. Fat hangs down from his sides (the rich man’s ‘sides’ being his hangers-on) because the hangers-on of a wicked but powerful person are also swollen and fattened with his power.
Of degraded conversation, the Lord says in Job:
He shall strew gold under him like mire.
He shall make the deep sea to boil like a pot. (Jb 41,21-22)
Gold represents the brightness of holiness, mire the filth of carnal pleasures. There are many who seem to shine in Holy Church with the gleam of justice; but the devil subjects them with the contagion of wretched pleasures and the filth of degraded conversation: and so he ‘strews gold under him like mire’. He also makes the ‘deep sea’, the sinner’s heart, to boil like a pot by setting under it the fire of temptation; and so it boils over with the foam of filthy talk.
The clothing of Jesus Christ, without seam and woven from the top throughout (cf. Jn 19,23), is his faith and the unity of his Church, which heretics, false Christians and simoniacs want to divide. These are Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Baldad and Sophar, who afflicted blessed Job with their words, and cast insults upon him. Eliphaz means ‘contempt of the Lord’, and he stands for heretics who despise obedience to Christ’s Church. Baldad means ‘lonely old age’, and he represents false Christians who are ‘grown old in evil days’ (cf. Da 13,52). Sophar means ‘ruined watch-tower’, standing for simoniacs who destroy the watch-tower of ecclesiastical dignity by buying it for money.
(Against discord: If the priest shall find.)
Of leprosy in the house, Leviticus says:
If (the priest) find that the leprosy is spread, he shall command that the stones wherein the leprosy is be taken out, and cast without the city into an unclean place: and that the house be scraped on the inside round about, and the dust of the scraping be scattered without the city into an unclean place; and that other stones be laid in the place of them that were taken away. (Lv 14,39-42)
Leprosy in the house is discord in the community. If the priest (i.e. the superior) sees that it has spread, he must order that those stones (brethren of the community) in which there is this leprosy of discord immediately be cast out of the community, so that the scabby member cannot rub against his unaffected colleague, and ‘a little leaven corrupt the whole mass’ (1Co 5,6 Ga 5 Ga 9), or a little poison make the entire ointment toxic. To ‘scrape the house’ (the community itself) so that no remains of leprosy be left, he must search carefully, and if he finds any such thing he must cast it out. Then, instead of the leprous stones, he should replace new stones in the fabric of the community, to serve the Lord in unity of spirit and concord of life.
(The five things the penitent should have: He should let his clothes.)
If anyone should be infected with this kind of five-fold leprosy, and should want to beg mercy from the Lord, he should do the five things mentioned before: he should ‘let his clothes hang loose’, that is, he should not trust in any merit of his own, and presume upon no deed of his own. Alternatively, the ‘loose clothes’ refer to his bodily members, afflicted by harsh penance. He should ‘have his head bare’, by laying bare whatever he has done wrong with his bodily senses. He should ‘have his mouth covered with a cloth’, always being ashamed of what he has done. He should ‘cry out at all times’ that he is defiled and unclean; and regarding himself as unclean he should dwell alone, far from the tumult of worldly and evil thoughts, ‘outside the camp’, reckoning himself unworthy of the company of saints. Whoever lacks these five characteristics is not truly penitent.
So whoever wants to be truly penitent should have his clothes loose, presuming on nothing of his own. In confession, he should bare his head before God and his angels.
He should be ashamed to have done such things, and not only should he proclaim himself defiled and unclean, he should humbly bear it if others reproach him as such. If he acts otherwise, he is not really sorry. He should reckon himself like a leper, unworthy of the society of saints; and he should cast himself at their feet with a humble mind. So we read5 that "Those doing public penance used to stand at the church doors, dressed in sack-cloth, and humbly beg the faithful entering the church, saying, We unworthy sinners beg you, faithful of Christ, to pour forth prayers for us for divine mercy; because we are unworthy to enter the church and take part in the assembly of the faithful."
Such people can say, boldly, Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Note the three words, ‘Jesus’, ‘master’ and ‘mercy’. Jesus means ‘salvation’. If anyone wants salvation, he should keep the master’s words, and so find mercy. The word ‘master’ comes between
‘Jesus’ and ‘mercy’; if you keep the master’s words, you will find salvation on your right hand and mercy on your left, to guard your observance. As Ecclesiasticus says:
If thou wilt keep the commandments... they shall preserve thee. (Si 15,16)
(The wholesome shame in confessing, and the circumstances of sin that should be confessed: Esther with a rosy colour in her face.)
13. Whom, when he saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. Note the three words, ‘go’, ‘show’ and ‘priests’. ‘Go’ indicates contrition of heart, ‘show’ confession by the mouth, and ‘priests’ satisfaction in deed.
Regarding the ‘go’ of contrition, the prodigal son in Luke says:
I will arise and will go to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee. (Lc 15,18)
First he says, ‘I will arise’, and then, ‘I will go’; because if you do not first rouse yourself from your lethargy, you will not be able to ‘go’ in contrition. ‘I will arise’, because I recognise that I am lying prostrate; ‘I will go’, because I have gone far away; ‘to my father’, because I am growing faint with misery and need under the master of swine; ‘I have sinned against heaven’, before the angels and saints who are God’s throne; ‘and before you’, in the depths of conscience which only you penetrate.
Regarding the ‘show’ of confession, the Bridegroom says in Canticles:
Show me thy face. Let thy voice sound in my ears:
for thy voice is sweet and thy face comely. (Ct 2,14)
We are recognised by our faces, and so the face represents confession, which makes us known to God who knows the way of the just (Ps 1,6). The just is first accuser of himself (Pr 18,17).
So ‘show me your face’, if you want me to show you mine, on which the angels desire to gaze (1P 1,12). Thy face is comely: a ‘comely face’ is an ashamed confession. When confession is joined to blushes, it is a lovely sight; and so the Book of Esther tells how she,
with a rosy colour in her face, and with gracious and bright eyes, hid a mind full of anguish and exceeding great fear. So going in she passed through all the doors in order, and stood before the king. (Est 15,8-9)
Esther is the penitent soul, whose face in confession should be suffused with the rosy
colour of shame. Shame blushes at the truth, and whoever fears the true judgements of God undoubtedly has the shame which, in confession, leads to glory. Whoever does not blush, does not fear. Jeremiah says:
Thou hast a harlot’s forehead, thou wouldst not blush. (Jr 3,3)
But Esther had a mind that was sorrowful and constrained by fear, because the penitent is worn down with sorrow in contrition, and constrained with fear in confession. Her gracious eyes are bright with the tears she has shed, and she enters through all the doors in order, numbering all her sins just as she has committed them, the sins which like doors bar us from the entrance to eternal life. In confession, the words ‘passing through all the doors in order, she stood before the king’ are very noteworthy. You will not be able to stand before Jesus Christ, if you do not first unlock all the doors. Only then will you be able to show him your face. He himself explains what that face is, when he adds, Let thy voice sound in my ears, for thy voice is sweet. The Bridegroom delights to hear the melody of confession, with his loving ears. Notice that he says, ‘voice’. There is ‘voice’ when the tongue strikes the air, to express the intention of the mind. There is true confession when sin is ‘struck’ or rebuked, showing what is hidden within. It is appropriate, the, to say ‘show yourselves’. Do it yourself, not through others. Because you have sinned in yourself and by yourself, you should show yourself by yourself.
There follows, to the priests. Because they enjoin penance, they represent satisfaction. These words clearly show that sinners should show themselves to priests in confession, to whom is committed authority to bind and loose.
There follows: And as they went, they were cured. See how great God’s mercy is; he cleanses souls from sin by contrition alone, as long as they have a firm intention to confess. There is a concordance in Job to these three words, where the Lord says to the friends:
Take unto you therefore seven oxen and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer for yourselves a holocaust. (Jb 42,8)
The ox and the ram denote the neck and horns of pride. If anyone slays these in himself, he drives all vices from himself, indicated by the word ‘seven’. The Lord says ‘go’ in the Gospel, and also in Job. In the former he says, ‘show’, in the latter, ‘offer’. In the former, ‘to the priests’, in the latter, ‘to my servant Job’.
14. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are
fornication (the killing of beauty),
uncleanness (which consists in pollution of mind, even without action), luxury (excess in food and drink),
avarice (the service of idols (cf. Col 3,5); the avaricious man is avid for gold),
witchcrafts (poisoning, which gets into the bloodstream, and cannot harm unless it reaches the blood, because poison is cold and the fiery soul flees from it. ‘Poisons’ mean the suggestions of the devil and the flatteries of sinners, which cannot hurt us unless the reach the ‘blood’, the consent of the soul),
enmities (which continue),
contentions (in words),
emulations (when two people are after the same thing),
wraths (sudden storms of the soul),
quarrels (leading to angry blows),
dissensions (when parties arise in the Church),
sects (heresies which cut it in pieces),
envies (of others’ goods),
murders, drunkenness, revellings. (Ga 5,19-21)
From all these, leprosy arises in the soul, infecting it and driving it from the community of the saints.
We ask you then, Lord Jesus Christ, to cleanse us from the leprosy of sin, so that being clean we may re-enter the congregation of the saints, and be able to go up with you to the heavenly Jerusalem. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (@RM 12,2@)