Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)
(The theme for a sermon on the three-fold Jerusalem, and its triple structure: The gates of Jerusalem shall be of sapphire.)
15. There follows, thirdly:
Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Mt 6,33)
The kingdom of God is the supreme good: that is why it is to be sought. We seek it by faith, hope and charity. The justice of the kingdom is to keep everything that Christ taught. To seek the kingdom is to fulfil that justice in our actions. First, then, seek the kingdom of God, and set it before everything else; all else should be for its sake. We should ask for nothing beyond it, since everything we do ask for should serve it. Notice that he says, ‘shall be added’, because everything belongs to the children, and will be given them even if they do not ask. If they are taken away, it is just a test; if they are given, it is so that thanks may be given, because everything works together for their good.
There is a concordance about this kingdom in the book of Tobias:
The gates of Jerusalem shall be built of sapphire, and of emerald:
and all the walls thereof round about of precious stones.
All its squares shall be paved with white and clean stones:
and Alleluia shall be sung in its streets.
Blessed be the Lord who hath exalted it:
and may he reign over it for ever and ever. Amen. (Tb 13,21-23)
Note that Jerusalem is threefold: allegorically, the Church Militant; morally, the faithful soul; anagogically, the Church Triumphant. Let us deal with each of these structures.
(Allegorically.) In this text, four kinds of stone are mentioned: sapphire, emerald, precious stone and clean, white stone. By these we understand the four orders of the Church Militant: apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins. Sapphire, like the clear blue sky, stands for the apostles who despised earthly things, and said: Our conversation is in heaven (Ph 3,20). Emerald, greener than any grass, which turns green the surrounding air and the appearance of those who gaze on it, stands for the martyrs. By shedding their blood, they sprinkle the souls planted in the Church’s garden by the apostles’ labour, so that their faith remains green. The gates of the Church Militant are built from the sapphire of the apostles and the emerald of the martyrs, so that through them the entrance to the kingdom might be opened. The precious stone stands for confessors, who have set themselves up as a wall for the house of Israel (Ez 13,5) against heretics. The clean, white stone represents virgins, shining with inner purity and outwardly bright as they prostrate themselves before the Lord in humility and in witness. By their example the squares, which are the faithful, are widened and paved with charity, so that they may subject themselves to the Lord.
16. Morally. Sapphire represents contempt for what is visible, and contemplation of what
is unseen. Emerald stands for compunction of tears and confession of sin. From these two the gates of the soul are built, whereby the entrance for the grace of the Holy Spirit stands open. By these two are opened the entrance and the exit through which we taste the sweetness of God, we examine ourselves, and we tread down the world. The precious stone denotes patience, the wall of the soul which fortifies and defends it against any disturbance. The clean, white stone represents chastity and humility, with which the thoughts and imaginations of the mind should be paved. Then Alleluia, the praise of God, will be sung in its streets, the bodily senses. How sweet a symphony, when clean senses and pure thoughts work together!
17. Anagogically. The sapphire stands for contemplation of the inexpressible Trinity and Unity. Emerald, which transorms the eyes, represents the joyful vision of the whole triumphant Church. The precious stone is the eternal fulfilment of heavenly joy. The clean, white stone is the glorification of the double robe of soul and body. When the saints have all these, they will sing Alleluia in the streets of Jerusalem. The streets of Jerusalem mean the mansions of which the Lord says:
In my Father’s house are many mansions, (Jn 14,2)
wherein Alleluia, praise and glory, is sung with unceasing voices by the saints.
Blessed is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has exalted the Church Militant to be the Church Triumphant, his kingdom over which he reigns for ever and ever. Amen. Of this kingdom the Gospel says: Seek first the kingdom of God.
18. To this third clause the third part of the epistle is concordant:
He that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. (Ga 6,8)
This is Jerusalem, built of precious stones. This is the kingdom of God, which we seek when we sow in the spirit. To sow in the spirit is to seek the kingdom of God, and thereto is added:
And in doing good, let us not fail; for in due time we shall reap, not failing, (Ga 6,9)
when with unceasing voice we sing Alleluia in the streets of Jerusalem.
Let us then ask the Lord Jesus Christ, brothers, to grant us to seek his kingdom, and to build in us the moral Jerusalem, whereby we may come to the heavenly one and sing Alleluia in its streets, with the holy angels. May he grant this, whose kingdom lastrs for ever and ever. Let every moral soul say: Amen. Alleluia.
1 ABBOT GUERRIC, In dominica in ramis palmarum, serm. 2,1; PL 185.130
2 Quoted in PETER LOMBARD, Sententiae II, dist 30.8
3 Quoted in PETER LOMBARD, Sententiae II, dist 30.7, from FULGENTIUS, De fide ad Petrum 26; PL 40.774
4 PETER COMESTOR, Historia Scholastica, liber Danielis 8; PL 198.1457
5 AUGUSTINE: reference unknown
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
(The Gospel for the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jesus went into a city that is called Naim; which is divided into two clauses.)
(First, the theme for a sermon on the penitent soul, how it should put away sin and practise works of penitence, and put on the adornment of virtue: Judith went down into her house.)
1. At that time: Jesus went into a city that is called Naim. (Lc 7,11)
It says in the Book of Judith that
when Judith went down into her house she took off her haircloth, and put away the garments of her widowhood. And she washed her body, and anointed herself with the best myrrh, and plaited the hair of her head, and put a bonnet upon her head, and clothed herself with the garments of gladness, and put sandals on her feet, and took her bracelets, and lilies, and earlets, and rings, and adorned herself with all her ornaments. (Jdt 10,2-3)
Judith means ‘confessing’, and she stands for the faithful soul which should confess to the Lord, with the confession of sin and of praise. She goes down into her house when, returning to her proper conscience, she recollects her evil deeds in bitterness of soul (cf. Is 38,15). Thus the angel said to Agar, in Genesis:
Return to thy mistress, and humble thyself under her hand. (Gn 16,9)
Agar means ‘vulture’; she is the soul which, going out by her bodily senses to the works of the flesh, is like a vulture looking for dead bodies. The angel, the grace of the Holy Spirit, says to her: Return to thy mistress, enter into your conscience and humble yourself under the hand of reason in the bitterness of penitence.
She took off her haircloth. Haircloth denotes the stench of sin, and the soul takes it off when she goes down into her own conscience and thinks about what she has done and left undone. So the Psalm says:
I meditated in the night with my own heart:
and I was exercised, and I swept my spirit. (Ps 76,7)
Note the three words, ‘meditate’, ‘exercise’ and ‘sweep’. The sinner, living in the night of sin, should meditate in his heart on what he has committed, what he has lost and gained. He has committed his soul to death, he has lost glory and gained hell. For these reasons he should exercise himself in contrition and bitterness of heart, and sweep away and cleanse the filth of sin in oral confession.
She put away the garments of her widowhood. This garment would have extended to her feet; being a widow, she lived alone and retained no conjugal rights in a husband’s companionship. The ‘garment of widowhood’ is mortal sin, and when the soul puts it on she is widowed from her true spouse. She puts it off when she puts off sin and its circumstances in confession. So the Lord says through Baruch in Jeremiah:
Put off, O Jerusalem, the garment of mourning and affliction:
and put on the beauty and honour of that everlasting glory which thou has from God.
The ‘garment of mourning and affliction’ is sin, wherein there is mourning and affliction. Mourning is like a wound or ulcer in the human heart, to which comfort must be applied for its healing. Just as a wound or ulcer afflicts the body, so does sin afflict the soul to whom is said: O Jerusalem, put off in confession the garment of your mourning and affliction; and put on the beauty of virtue, and the honour of glory, a pure conscience, so that you may attain everlasting glory.
And she washed her body. She washed the works of the flesh with the tears of penitence. So the Lord said to Moses in Exodus:
Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow; and let them wash their garments.
And let them be ready against the third day. (Ex 19,10)
There are three days: contrition, confession and satisfaction. Today and tomorrow, that is, by contrition and confession, we must sanctify ourselves, and with tears wash our clothes, the works of the flesh. Then we shall be ready for the third day, to make satisfaction.
And she anointed herself with the best myrrh, that is, with mortification of the flesh, so as to kill the worms of concupiscence. So it says in John that Nicodemus came,
bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. They (i.e. he and Joseph) took therefore the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. (Jn 19,39-40)
Nicodemus is ‘enclosing judgement’, and he stands for the vehement spirit of contrition, which shuts up the bodily senses under the judgement of discretion, so that they do not run about the meadows of captivating pleasure. He bears a mixture of myrrh and aloes, the mortification of mind and of body, in which is comprised all human perfection, and this weighs about a hundred pounds. Joseph means ‘application’, and he stands for confession, which should be applied to the spirit of contrition. These two bury the just man in the tomb of a new way of life, binding him with the cloths of a clean conscience and with spices of good repute. This is the way the Jews (true penitents) bury.
There follows: and she plaited the hair of her head; that is, with skill and judgement she separated out each thought of her mind. The Lord says in Jeremiah:
If thou wilt separate the precious from the vile, thou wilt be as my mouth. (Jr 15,19)
What is precious must be distinguished from what is worthless. One is rare, the other is common and uncouth. If you separate the precious from the vile- that is, pure thoughts, which are rare, from impure fleshly ones- you will be as my mouth, speaking of heavenly, not earthly, things
And she put a bonnet upon her head. Ecclesiasticus says:
A crown of gold upon (Aaron’s) mitre, wherein was engraved Holiness, an ornament of honour, a work of power. (Si 45,14)
In Exodus, the Lord said to Moses:
Thou shalt make also a plate of the purest gold, wherein thou shalt grave with engraver's work: Holy to the Lord. And thou shalt tie it with a violet fillet, and it shall be upon the mitre, hanging over the forehead of the high priest. (Ex 28,36-38)
The head is the mind, and the mitre on the head is the firm intention of the mind to do good. The gold plate on the mitre is patience (which is golden), and on it is engraved "Holy to the Lord": that is, the Tetragrammaton, IHVH. This means that the principle of life is the Passion, as if Aaron should say, "The One I prefigure is the origin of the life Adam lost; but it will be restored by His Passion." The gold plate of patience is inscribed with the name of the Lord’s Passion, the glory of our honour and the work of our power.
And she clothed herself with the garments of gladness, which are works of charity. So the Psalm says: Glad is the man that sheweth mercy and lendeth... (Ps 111,5).
And she put sandals on her feet; that is, she held together her works with the Gospel precepts. That is the meaning of the Apostles being shod with sandals in Mark (6.9), whereon the Gloss comments that "sandals are worn so that the foot is neither covered nor naked to the earth; that is, so that the Gospel is neither hidden, nor hindered by earthly concerns."
And she took her bracelets, the reward of the right hand, which is eternal life. In John it says: Cast the net on the right side of the ship; and you shall find (Jn 21,6). The left hand stands for loss, being ‘left outside’. Whatever you do for this world’s sake, you will have to leave behind and lose. It is on your right hand that you will find, and gain more. If you work for eternal life, grace will be given you from the secret treasury of life which is set before you, and thereby you may return to the land.
And she took lilies, chastity and purity, of which Canticles says:
My beloved... feedeth among the lilies. (Ct 2,16)
The Virgin Mary’s Son rests and takes his delight among the lilies of two-fold continence.
And earlets, devoted obedience; whence it says in Job that
Every man gave him one ewe and one earring of gold. (Jb 42,11)
The ewe represents innocence, and the earring obedience, that is, hearing adorned with the grace of humility. Notice how in this text a sheep is offered with an earring, and an earring with a sheep. The Lord bears witness that the adornment of obedience is conjoined with innocence of mind, when he says: My sheep hear my voice (Jn 10,27). He says ‘sheep’, not ‘wolves’. Whoever does not listen to the voice of his superior is like a wolf, not a sheep. We are told that a gold earring is offered, because obedience should be shown from love, not from fear.
And rings, the sign of formed faith. In Luke, the Father says regarding the prodigal son, Put a ring on his hand (Lc 15,22). The ring on the hand stands for faith shown in action; so that faith shines out in action, and action is strengthened by faith.
And she adorned herself with all her ornaments, all the other virtues with which the soul is adorned. The Psalm says of these:
The queen stood on thy right hand, in gilded clothing:
surrounded with variety. (Ps 44,10)
All these things should belong to the man the Lord raises like the widow’s son, and
restores to his mother, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is why it says in today’s Gospel, Jesus went into a city that is called Naim.
2. There are two points to note in this Gospel: Jesus Christ’s drawing near to the gate of the city of Naim; and the raising of the dead man, the widow’s son. The first begins : Jesus went; the second: Whom when the Lord had seen, being moved with mercy towards her. This Sunday and during the week the Books of Judith and Esther are read, from which we will choose various texts and concord them with the clauses of the Gospel.
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: Thou art just, O Lord; and the Epistle is from blessed Paul to the Ephesians: Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you; which we will divide into two parts and concord with the two clauses of the Gospel: the first part: I pray you; the second part: Rooted and founded in charity. This Epistle and Gospel go together, because the Gospel tells how Christ raised the widow’s son, while in the Epistle Paul tells how Christ dwells by faith in our hearts, to raise the inward man from sin.
(How mortal sin is recognised: In each of us.)
3. Let us say, then:
Jesus went into a city that is called Naim; and there went with him his disciples and a great multitude. And when he came nigh the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a great multitude of the city was with her. (Lc 7,11-12)
The Gloss briefly summarises this Gospel thus: "When the Word-made-flesh was leading the Gentile people through the gates of faith to the heavenly Jerusalem, behold, the younger Jewish people which was dead through lack of faith was being carried out. Mother Church owned that people as her own in the world, and accompanied by many crowds of peoples wept with loving affection and laboured to recall it to life with devout tears. She obtains this both in the few Jews who are converted at the moment, and the fullness in the end." "The bier that is carried out is the human body; the bearers are evil habits, which drag that body towards death. But Jesus touches the bier when he raises our frail nature upon the wood of the Cross; then the bearers stand still, because they are unable to drag to death as they did before. Then Jesus speaks, imparting his saving counsel, and when he hears the word the dead man returns to life and is restored to his mother by good deeds."
Consider, and pay careful attention, to how appropriately and excellently the story of Judith is concordant with this Sunday’s Gospel. There are three things to notice particularly in the Gospel: the city of Naim, the widow’s son who was dead there, and the
widow herself. Similarly, in this Sunday’s history there are three features: the city of Bethulia, the people there who were afflicted by thirst and almost dead, and the widow Judith herself. The Lord, moved to mercy by the widow’s prayers, raised her son to life; and he freed the people of Bethulia from the besieging enemy by the tears and prayer of the widow Judith. What all these things mean from a moral point of view, let us see.
The city of Naim and the city of Bethulia stand for the same thing. Naim means ‘movement’, or ‘tossing of the waves’; Bethulia is ‘sorrowing house’ or ‘house of one giving birth’. They represent our body, disturbed by instinctive movements, the waves of evil thoughts, the sorrow of tribulation, the groans and tears of childbirth. We will treat of these four things.
4. Note1 that "in each of us nothing else takes place when anyone falls into sin, than happened in those three, to whit the serpent, the woman and the man. First comes temptation, either by thought or by bodily sense. When this suggestion is made, if our desire is not moved to sin, the serpent’s guile is thwarted. But if it is moved, it is as when the woman was beguiled. Sometimes, reason acts firmly and restrains and curbs the desire that has been aroused. When that happens, we do not fall into sin, but with some struggle we are crowned. But if reason consents, and decides to carry out what lust is urging, man is cast out from all life’s happiness, as though from paradise. He is already guilty of sin, even if the deed does not follow, because guilt is reckoned to lie in the consent of the will." A further enquiry is needed to distinguish mortal and venial sin in the soul. "If sin is not long held with pleasurable thought, but as soon as the sensual motion touches the woman (the lower part of reason) it is driven of by the authority of the man (reason), it is venial." "And so pardon is to be sought for such thoughts, and we should beat our breasts and say: Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors (Mt 6,12)" "But if even thought alone should dwell for long on unlawful pleasures, from which it should turn away at once, even without deciding to do evil, but only thinking about them and taking pleasure therein, it is a mortal sin; and if it is not repented, a man will be damned." Genesis recounts that Noah begot Ham, and Ham begot Canaan, of whom was said: Cursed be the boy Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be unto his brethren (Gn 9,25). Noah means ‘rest’, Ham means ‘heat’, Canaan is ‘disturbance’. From ‘rest’, meaning lukewarmness and idleness, arises the heat of desire. From the heat of desire come the movements of our wretched flesh. Cursed be the boy Canaan, cursed the movements of the flesh, which we must subdue and reduce to servitude.
Again, Isaiah says of the flood of evil thoughts:
The heart of the wicked is like the raging sea which cannot rest:
and the waves thereof cast up dirt and mire. (Is 57,20)
There is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord. (Is 57,21)
The heart of the wicked is like the raging sea, swelling with pride and boiling with lust; and so the waves of evil thoughts cast up dirt and mire. They produce two evils: they assail grace and throw up the mire of sin.
Of the sorrow of tribulation, the Psalm says:
I met with trouble and sorrow. (Ps 114,3)
When Adam was cast out of paradise, he found the thorns of sorrow in his heart, and the thistles of tribulation in his body; as was said: Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee (Gn 3,18).
Thorns pierce, as sharp as spears; thistles are troublesome weeds. The thorns of sorrow pierce the mind, while the thistles of tribulation trouble the body, so that it brings forth tears and groans. There you have the city of Naim, there is the city of Bethulia, where the only son dies and the people are afflicted. The son and the people stand for the human soul, which is afflicted by the temptation and assault of unseen enemies. When it surrenders to them, it dies miserably in its very body. So we must say: Behold, a dead man was carried out, the only son of his mother.
A dead man has fulfilled the business of life, ended life itself; he is ‘defunct’, having ceased or ended his function. The dead man who is carried out of the gate in the presence of a crowd represents a wicked sinner who does not hide his sin in the chamber of his heart, but flaunts it by word and deed, as by the gates of his soul’s city, in the sight of others. The gate whereby the dead man is carried out is any of the senses whereby someone falls into sin, and principally the sense of sight. By these portals, we import and export. By the eyes, we go out to look at the women of the country (cf. Gn 34,1), false delights; and by them death enters to kill our virtues.
(The four gates of our body: Each by their troops.)
5. Note that the city of Naim (our body) has four gates- east, west, south and north- whereby the dead soul may be carried out. To prevent it from being carried out, the gates should be strengthened with bolts and guards. The Lord said to Moses, according to the Book of Numbers:
All the children of Israel shall camp by their troops, round about the tabernacle. On the east Juda shall pitch his tents... and next to him Issachar and Zabulon. On the south side Ruben, Simeon and Gad; on the west side Ephraim, Manasses and Benjamin; to the north Dan, Aser and Nephtali. (cf. Nb 2
The tabernacle is the body: as Peter says:
I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in
remembrance; being assured that the laying away of this my tabernacle (body) is at hand. (1P 1,13-14)
The four gates of the city, or the four sides of this tabernacle, are sight, hearing, taste and touch.
(On sight: As the east to the world.)
The east stands for sight, because the eyes light up the whole body, as the east does to the world. Judah, Issachar and Zabulon must be set to guard them. Judah, who merited the leadership because he was first to enter the Red Sea, and from whose tribe came David and Christ, represents the regal nature of the soul, which restrains all indecent and unlawful wandering; and like a lion fears no assault of temptation. Issachar (‘reward’) stands for the reward to come in eternity. Zabulon (‘dwelling of strength’) stands for a firm intention of final perseverance. Of these two, Moses says in Deuteronomy:
Rejoice, O Zabulon, in thy going out; and Issachar in thy tabernacles. (Dt 33,18)
Whoever perseveres to the end in the Lord will truly rejoice, because he will pass to the tabernacle of eternal reward. If these three, namely the regality of the soul, the hope of eternal reward, and unshakeable perseverance to the end, come together in one, they will defend the eyes against any unlawful sight. It is beneath royalty to gaze on what is base; the hope of an invisible reward withdraws the eyes from what is visible; an intention to persevere bars the infection of sin, which when it enters by the eye weakens the intention of the mind.
(On hearing: The south is called.)
The south stands for hearing. It is named (in many languages) after the mid-day, the time of greater brightness. Hearing stands between sight and taste. I can see further than I can hear; but I can hear distant things which I cannot taste. Taste, hearing and sight are like positive, comparative and superlative. So Ruben, Simeon and Gad must pitch their tents in hearing. Moses said of Ruben in Deuteronomy:
Let Ruben live, and not die: and be he small in number. (Dt 33,6)
This stands for humility- "When you were small in your own eyes, you became great in mine" (cf. 1S 17,17). Simeon means ‘hearing sorrow or sadness’; Gad means ‘girded’. There are three things that hinder our hearing- words of pride, of detraction and of flattery. Against words of pride, be ready by humility and patience. "Patience is the best way of overcoming", says a Philosopher.2 Against detractors, be one who hears sorrow and sadness; as Solomon says in Proverbs:
The north wind driveth away rain, as doth a sad countenance a backbiting tongue. (Pr 25,23)
You will be girded against flatterers if you remember your own wickedness, believing the testimony of your own conscience more than another’s tongue.
(On taste: The west is called, and on the nature of serpents.)
The west stands for taste, and is called the ‘occident’, the place of sunset. It hides the light from the world, and brings on darkness. We sin in three ways by our tongue: by flattery, by detraction, and by taking more food and drink than we need. We flatter people to their faces, speak against them behind their backs, are slaves to the pleasures of gluttony: and so the sun of justice sets in us, and the darkness of ignorance falls upon us. Here Ephraim must encamp (meaning ‘growing’), with Manasses (‘forgotten’) and Benjamin (‘son of bitterness’). When you try to magnify and extol another with your praise, you diminish yourself. hear what Joseph said when Ephraim was born to him:
God hath made me to grow in the land of my poverty. (Gn 41,52)
Of my poverty, he said, not of my flattery. Do you want to grow to God rather than to men? Give all glory and praise to the Creator, not to the creature. Do you want to avoid detraction? Be Manasses, forgetting every grudge and envy of heart. When you speak, say nothing but good of those who are absent. Any absentee whom you do not truly and purely love, I beg you, brother: forget when you speak, so as to say with Joseph, when Manasses was born:
God hath made me to forget all my labours, and my father’s house. (Gn 41,51)
A great labour it is, to injure another’s life with the tongue of detraction, do do him ill and add to his burdens. As the Psalmist says:
Under his tongue are labour and sorrow, (Ps 9B.7)
They have bent their tongue, as a bow, for lies and not for truth. (Jr 9,3)
The word means ‘stretched out’, and Natural History tells that the serpent stretches out his tongue cunningly, having in it two prongs. First it bites with its teeth, then it fixes those prongs in the wound, and makes a moist venom enter the wound, thus poisoning the man. Serpents crawl, and represent detractors who criticise in secret. The detractor’s tongue is forked; he speaks ill of the one he hates, or if he is afraid, or is not believed, he praises sarcastically: "A fine fellow", he says, "quite faultless!" He bites with the tongue of detraction and injects the poison of a twisted mind.
Again, in the face of gluttonous pleasure, be Benjamin, the son of ‘bitterness’, that is, of Jesus Christ’s Passion. Boaz said to Ruth: Dip thy morsel in the vinegar (Rt 2,14). (On this, see the Gospel: A blind man sat (Quinquagesima))
(On touch: The north is called.)
The north represents touch. The north wind freezes the waters, and in the same way wickedness freezes the hands, so that they cannot stretch forth to good works. On this side Dan (‘judgement’) must pitch his tents, with Aser (‘riches’) and Nephtali (‘breadth’). We sin by the touch of our hands in three ways, by indecent and shameful touching, by taking what belongs to others, and by failing to give their rights to the poor. Against the first, judge yourself; against the second, be content with what is justly yours: "Happy the lack of great riches, and to find what you have sufficient."3 Against the third, enlarge yourself; stretch out your hand to the poor, to receive double from the hand of Jesus Christ. If the gates of your body are defended with these bolts and guards, the dead man will not be carried out by the gates of the city of Naim.
(A theme on the cunning of the devil: While Holophernes went round.)
6. You have heard about the dead son: now hear about the afflicted people of Bethulia. It says in Judith that Holophernes, in going round about, found that the fountain which supplied them ran from outside the city on the south side; and he commanded their aqueduct to be cut off (Jdt 7,6). Holophernes means ‘one who weakens the fatted calf’, and he represents the devil, who weakens the fatted calf of this world, the sinner drunk with temporal things, with the sharp fever of lust, the itch of avarice, the dizziness of pride. The devil goes round about, seeking whom he may devour, and finds the fountain. This fountain is the grace of the Holy Spirit; the aqueduct is the devotion of the mind; and the south side is faith in Jesus Christ: God will come from the south (Ha 3,3). The city is the soul. The fountain of grace enters the city of the faithful soul by the channel of devotion, from the ‘south’ of the Lord’s Incarnation. The devil, when he finds it, blocks the mind’s channel with worldly care, and so the soul, which formerly drew water with joy from the Saviour’s fountains, becomes parched with thirst, empty of grace and on the point of death.
When the soul considers how this has come about by God’s just judgement and her own deserts, she cries with the people of Bethulia in the words of today’s Introit:
Thou art Just, O Lord: and thy judgement is right;
deal with thy servant according to thy mercy. (Ps 118,137)
The same is read in the Book of Judith, where it says that
there was a great weeping and lamentation of all in the assembly. And for many hours
with one voice they cried to God, saying: We have sinned with our fathers, we have done unjustly, we have committed iniquity. Have thou mercy on us, because thou art good.
7. The first part of today’s Epistle is concordant with this first clause:
I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (Ep 3,13)
This was Holophernes’ intention, as he beset the people of Bethulia, that they should faint in their tribulations and yield him the city. In the same way the devil troubles the soul, that it may faint and so fall. But, I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. Judith says:
Our father Abraham was tempted,
and being proved by many tribulations was made the friend of God. (Jdt 8,22)
For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named; that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened by his spirit with might unto the inward man; that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts. (Ep 3,14-17)
The same may be read in the Book of Judith, where it tells how,
falling down prostrate before the Lord, she cried to the Lord, saying: O Lord God of my father, O God of the heavens, creator of the waters, and Lord of the whole creation: hear me, a poor wretch, making supplication unto thee, and presuming on thy mercy. Remember, O Lord, thy covenant, and put thou words in my mouth, and strengthen the resolution of my heart; that thy house (that is, the Church) may continue in thy holiness. (Jdt 9,1-2,17)
This is what the Apostle means by "Christ dwelling by faith in your hearts".
Let us humbly pray him, then, dearest brothers, to strengthen the gates of our city with the aforesaid guards, and keep the fountain of living water, lest it be cut off by Holophernes; and may he dwell in our hearts, so that we may be found fit to dwell with him in heaven. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (SECOND CLAUSE)