Anthony_Sermons - (THE LOVE OF A FATHER FOR A SON)
10. There came some from Sichem and from Silo and from Samaria, fourscore men, with
their beards shaven and their clothes rent and mourning: and they had offerings and incense in their hand, to offer in the house of the Lord. (Jr 41,5)
This text is from Jeremiah 41. Just as those men came together to pray to the Lord, so we too should come together at this time; wherefore, these days are called in Greek ‘letaniai’, which we call ‘rogations’, which are devoted to praying and making our requests to God. They were instituted especially for two reasons, namely to ask God to forgive sins, as Isaiah 58 says:
They ask of me the judgements of justice: they are willing to approach to God; (Is 58,2)
and to ask for the benefits of mercy both in spiritual and temporal matters. In order that we may deservedly receive them, we should do spiritually what those eighty men did in bodily fashion. The ‘eighty’ are all those who, in the seven ages of this present life, await the eighth day of the resurrection. They are all called ‘men’, because they do virtuous works, not soft and feeble ones. ‘Virile’ and ‘virtuous’ are related words. They come from Sichem (meaning ‘labour’), from Silo (‘where is she’) and from Samaria (‘wool’, which is pulled or torn out). These three places represent three characteristics of temporal goods- they are acquired with labour, held onto with fear (the miser is always saying of his money, "Where is it?"), and lost with sorrow. What a shearing and stripping of the heart! He who wants to ask God sincerely, must put all these things behind him.
11. There follows: With beards shaven, a reference to the work of virtue. The Psalm says: Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron (Ps 132,2), whose name means ‘strong mountain’, and who signifies the constant man who ‘puts out his hand to strong things’ (cf. Pr 31,19), and on whose ‘head’, or mind, is the ointment of divine grace. A boxer about to fight is accustomed to anoint his head; so God anoints the mind of the just man, that he may be strong against the ancient enemy. This ointment comes down upon either beard, because from the abundance of inward grace strong works are anointed with a double charity. Someone ‘shaves’ his beard, when he does not presume upon any virtue of his own good work; so that Isaiah says:
In that day the Lord shall shave with a razor that is sharp (or hired by) them that are beyond the river, the head and hairs of the feet, and the whole beard. (Is 7,20)
Penitents are beyond the river of worldly pleasure, and with the sharp (or hired) razor of his Passion, the Lord shaves from them all presumption of good works. Who can presume or glory in a good work, when he sees the Son of the Father, his power and wisdom (cf. 1Co 1,24), fastened to the Cross and hanging between thieves? ‘Head’,
‘feet’ and ‘beard’ denote the beginning, middle and end of good works, which the Lord ‘shaves’ in the penitent, since he will not let him presume in the beginning, middle or end of any good work; so that: He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1Co 1,31 2Co 10 2Co 17), not himself.
12. There follows: and their clothes rent. The ‘clothes’ are the bodily members, of which Apocalypse 3 says:
Thou hast a few names in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, (Ap 3,4)
that is, their members. Truly, there are few in Sardis (which means ‘beauty of the princedom’), denoting virginity; he who has this possesses the ‘beauty of princedom’. O how beautiful is the principality, when the Creator controls the spirit, and the spirit the flesh. He ‘rends his clothes’ who does not spare himself in bodily affliction; so that Job 1 says:
He rose up, and rent his garments: and having shaven his head fell down upon the ground and worshipped. (Jb 1,20)
Job (‘sorrowful’) is the penitent who sorrows in contrition, rises in confession, rends his garment (his flesh) in satisfaction, shaves his head in humility of mind, falls on the ground in the remembrance of death, and worships in thanksgiving.
And mourning. This implies pallor, emaciation, untidiness and dryness. Penitents mourn with these, being pale in face, emaciated in body, dishevelled in dress and dried up in eating.
13. They had offerings and incense in their hand. Natural History says that the design of the human hand makes it well-adapted to all kinds of task, since it is extended, and divided into many parts; and one can use one alone or two, or many, in various ways. The mobility of the fingers is well-adapted for taking and holding. The ‘hand’ denotes our work, which we should extend for the utility of our neighbour, and divide into many parts, when necessary. He uses ‘one part’ when he waits upon God; two, when he ministers to his neighbour food for soul and body. The mobility of the ‘fingers’ (the virtues) performs two functions: it receives grace when it is given, and holds on to it and keeps it, so as not to lose it. In this ‘hand’ we should have the gifts of virtue, charity and alms, and the incense of inner devotion, so that whatever we do, we do with devotion.
To offer in the house of the Lord. This is what is said in Apocalypse 8:
The smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints went up before God from the hand of the angel. (Ap 8,4)
He who seeks his own praise for the works he does, does not offer his gifts in the house of God, nor does the smoke of his incense go up before God. We are taught here that we should make the offering of our work ‘in the house of God’ (that pure conscience wherein he dwells), before him; and we should look for a reward from him alone. And so, by the ministry of the angel who is appointed to guard us, our devotion will go up before God, and his grace will come down to us, so that at last we may go up to his glory. May he grant this, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
1 cf. RABANUS MAURUS, De universo, VIII,3; PL 111.234-5. The other information is found in Pliny, Rabanus, Hugo de Folieto, Aristotle etc.
The copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd Dr S.R.P. Spilsbury
Translated by Paul Spilsbury
1. At that time: While the eleven disciples were at table, Jesus appeared to them. (Mk16.14)
In this Gospel three things are noted: the last appearance of Christ, the sending of the Apostles to preach, and his Ascension into heaven.
2. The last appearance of Christ: While the eleven. Note that Jesus appeared ten times to his disciples after the Resurrection. On the day of Resurrection he appeared five times, as was said above in the sermon: The almond-tree shall flourish. Sixthly, he appeared to Thomas with the other disciples, on the octave of the Resurrection (cf. Jn 20,26). Seventhly, at the sea of Tiberias (cf. Jn 21,1). Eighthly, at the mountain where he had appointed them (cf. Mt 28,16). Ninthly and tenthly today. "Today he came to them in Jerusalem and said: Stay you in the city till you be endued with power from on high (Lc 24,49). When he had eaten with them (from which we understand that the sixth hour had passed, and this was the ninth appearance) he led them out to the mount of Olives opposite Bethany. And lifting up his hands, he blessed them. And as they looked on, he was lifted up into the sky, and a bright cloud bore him away,"1 and this was the tenth appearance.
So: While the eleven disciples were at table, Jesus appeared to them. Note that it was while they were ‘at table, sitting down in peace and humility of heart, that the Lord appeared. So Isaiah 66 says:
To whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words? (Is 66,2)
You cannot see your face if you look into troubled and moving water. If you want to see Christ’s face appear in you when you look, sit down and be quiet. Stay you in the city till you be endued with power from on high, he said. To ‘stay in the city’ is to rest in conscience from all outside clamour. So it is said in II Kings 7 that David sat in his cedar house, and the Lord gave him rest on every side from all his enemies (cf. 2S 7,1-2). Natural History says that the cedar is a tall tree with a pleasant smell, and long lasting. Serpents flee from its scent and it has the property of bearing fruit at all times, both in winter and summer. The ‘cedar house’ is the just man’s conscience. It is ‘tall’ by love of God, ‘pleasant smelling’ by decent conversation, ‘long lasting’ by perseverance. It puts serpents to flight (carnal movements, or the demons) by the scent of its purity or devout prayer. It bears the fruit of eternal salvation both in the winter of adversity and the summer of prosperity. He who sits in such a house will be safe from his enemies on every side- the devil, the world and the flesh. He will have rest, being clothed in power from on high, not from below (the world). He who is clothed from there is easily routed in battle. He who is clothed from on high, with the power of the Holy Spirit, crushes his enemies and does works of virtue.
3. There follows: And he upbraided them with their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen him alter he was risen again (Mc 16,14). O how unhappy they are, who will not believe Peter, to whom Christ appeared and who saw him risen from the dead! Peter says, in Acts 3:
The author of life you killed, whom God hath raised from the dead; of which we are witnesses (Ac 3,15), who did eat and drink with him, alter he rose again from the dead (Ac 10,41).
This indicates a true resurrection of the flesh. Those who deny a future resurrection of the body, do not believe that Christ has risen from the dead. So I Corinthians 15 says:
If Christ be preached, that he rose again from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If thee be no resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not risen again; and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (1Co 15,12-14)
In that general resurrection of the body, God will reprove and condemn those who are unbelieving and hard of heart, who now do not believe it will happen.
4. The sending of the Apostles to preach: Go ye into the whole world (Mc 16,15). There is something similar in Isaiah 18:
Go, ye swift angels, to a nation rent and torn in pieces: to a terrible people, after which there is no other: to a nation expecting and trodden under foot. (Is 18,2)
The human race was rent from the joy of Paradise, torn by the harassment of the devil, terrified in soul of the pains of hell, trodden down in body by its reduction to dust, yet expecting the Saviour of the world, to which he sent his swift angels, the obedient Apostles, saying:
Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, (Mc 16,15)
that is, to the whole human race, which has something in common with every creature, angels, beasts, trees, stones, fire and water, hot and cold, damp and dry; for man is called a ‘microcosm’, a ‘little world’.
He that believeth (that is, who confesses his faith in person or through another), and is baptised (that is, who perseveres in Baptism),
shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name, etc. (Mc 16,16-17)
"At that time, there were signs for the conversion of unbelievers; now that faith has grown, signs have ceased. When we plant a grove, we water it for a while, until it is established in the ground."2
5. Morally. The world is ever in motion, No rest is granted to its elements, in all its four corners-east, west, south or north. Just as the world is composed of four elements, so (according to the ancients) man, called a ‘little world’, consists of four humours, mixed into a single temperament. Wretched man, from the beginning to the end of his life, is always in motion, never resting until he comes to his own place, that is, until he reaches God. So Augustine3 says, "My heart is restless, Lord, until it reaches you." As it is said: And his place is in peace (Ps 75,3). Man’s place is God. He will never have peace, except in him; and so he must return to him. The ‘corners’ of human life are: the ‘east’ of his birth, the ‘west’ of his death, the ‘south’ of prosperity and the ‘north’ of adversity. Into this world we must go: Go into all the world, he says, and consider what you were in your birth, what you will be in your death, what you are when prosperity parches you or adversity assails you- whether one lifts you up or the other casts you down. From this fourfold consideration there comes a fourfold utility: mistrust of self, contempt for the world, constancy so as not to be over-confident, patience so as not to be overwhelmed.
It is good to go into all the world, then, and to preach the Gospel to every creature. The Apostle says in II Corinthians 5:
If any be in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold, all things are made new. (2Co 5,17)
And the Psalm says:
The people that shall be created shall praise the Lord. (Ps 101,19)
And the penultimate chapter of Isaiah:
Behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and the people thereof joy.
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people. (Is 65,18-19)
"To create is to make something out of nothing."4 When man is in mortal sin, he is nothing; because God, who truly is, is not in him by grace. Augustine says, "Men become nothing, when they sin." But when he is converted to penitence by the grace of God, there is created in him a new creature, a pure and new conscience. This is ‘Jerusalem’ (‘peaceful’), which rejoices over God’s mercy which has been given it. There is created, too, a ‘people’ of many good affections and thoughts, the joy and praise of God for his sweetness, of which they have a foretaste. Then the ‘old things’, the faded acts and conversation of the five senses, pass away and depart, and new things in Christ are made; so that man ‘lives not now to himself, but unto him who died for him’ (cf. 2Co 5,15). This, then, is ‘every creature’, the renewal of the inward and the outward man, and of grace. To this creation we must preach the Gospel of the kingdom, that is, we must announce good news. ‘Euangelion’ in Greek is the same as ‘good news’ in our tongue. He announces good news to every creature, who shapes himself inwardly and outwardly with virtues. He preaches the Gospel of the kingdom to every creature, who in the secrecy of his heart considers how great will be the glory of standing before the Creator’s face, with the blessed spirits; with them to praise him without end, and with him who is Life ever to live, and continuously rejoice with an inexpressible joy.
From such preaching two other things proceed, as follows: He who believes and is baptised. To ‘believe’ is to give one’s heart. As he says: My son, give me thy heart (cf. Pr 23,26). He who gives his heart, gives his all. So he ‘believes’, who subjects himself wholly to God in devotion of heart. He is ‘baptised’ when he overflows with tears, either from the sweetness of contemplation, the remembrance of his own sins, or compassion for his brother’s need. He that believeth not, that is, will not give his heart to God. If you do not give it to God, you must needs give it to the devil, the flesh or the world; and who so gives will be condemned.
6. These signs shall follow them that believe thus. Those who give their heart to God, these signs will follow, because there is already a sign upon their very heart. Canticles 8 says:
Put me as a seal upon thy heart. (Ct 8,6)
When we want to protect our possessions or house from robbers, we often display there the seal or banner of the king, or of some great man, so that when they see it they are afraid to break in. So, if we want to protect our heart against the demons, let us put Jesus upon it, who is our salvation, and where there is salvation there is also health.
So there follows: In my name they shall cast out demons (Mc 16,17). ‘Demons’ comes from the Greek ‘daimones’, meaning ‘skilled’ or ‘knowledgeable’. The Greek ‘daimon’ means ‘extremely shrewd’. The ‘demons’ are the wisdom of the flesh and the craftiness
of the world, which, as demons vex a man, vex the spirit of man and weary the body with care. The wisdom of the flesh is the ‘night-time devil’, the craftiness of the world is the ‘noon-day devil’; the former, because it is blind, although to itself it seems very keen- sighted (it is very keen-sighted at night, like a cat); the latter, because it blazes with the heat of malice, like the sun at noon-day. He who gives his heart to God casts out these demons from himself, and does also that which follows.
They shall speak with new tongues (Mc 16,17). The language of the world is the ‘old tongue’, because it speaks old things about the old man. Those who are vexed by the aforesaid demons, speak these tongues; but when they cast them out from themselves, they speak new tongues in newness of life. So Isaiah 19 says:
In that day, there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt, speaking the language of Canaan, and swearing by the Lord of hosts. One shall be called the City of the Sun. (Is 19,18)
The land of Egypt (which means ‘darkness’) is the human body, darkened with guilt and pain. In it are ‘five cities’, the five bodily senses, of which one, sight, is called the City of the Sun, because sight illuminates the whole body as the sun does the whole world. These cities speak the language of Canaan (‘exchanged’), but with ‘the change of the right hand of the most High’ (cf. Ps 76,11) they ‘strip themselves of the old man with his deeds’ (cf. Col 3,9), and ‘put on the new man, living in justice and truth’ (cf. Ep 4,24). Just as speech sends out the word that lay hidden in the heart, so the five human senses, now changed and converted to God, speak of him outwardly as he is inwardly. This is ‘to swear’, that is, to speak the truth. The truth of conscience is affirmed by the witness of holy conversation, to the praise of the Lord of the angelic hosts.
There is further added: They shall take up serpents (Mc 16,18), denoting flattery and detraction which creep in and inject poison. The flatterer creeps, the detractor injects poison. Those who speak in new tongues take away these serpents from themselves.
Let old matters depart from your mouth (1S 2,3), he says. The saliva of a fasting man kills a serpent; it is a fasting tongue, as it were a new tongue, whose medicine takes away poison. The ancient serpent as it were flattered Eve, saying: No, you shall not die the death (Gn 3,4); he slandered God when he added:
God doth know that on what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Gn 3,5)
This was as though to say, God has forbidden you out of envy, not wanting you to be like him in knowledge. See how flattery creeps in, and detraction injects poison! He who has a fasting tongue may spit in the mouth of the serpent and kill him, and so take him away.
7. There follows: And if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them (Mc 16,18) . The Gloss says here, "When they hear harmful persuasions, they will not lead them into actions; so that it will not harm them, though they drink something deadly."
Isaiah 24 says:
They shall not drink wine with a song: the drink shall be bitter to them that drink it, (Is 24,9)
and so it will not hurt them. He ‘drinks not with a song’ the wine of the devil’s suggestion, who does not consent to it, but rather rejects it, mourning and weeping. So that drink, the devil’s suggestion, is ‘bitter to them that drink it’, those who hear and suffer it. On the contrary, Joel says:
Awake, ye that are drunk, and weep and mourn all ye that take delight in drinking sweet wine: for it is cut off from your mouth. (Jl 1,5)
This is literally true, because the sweetness of wine is lost from the mouth as soon as the taste passes away. The briefest moment of sweetness, how much evil it brings forth to him who drinks the wine of the devil’s suggestion in consent of mind and deed! To those drunk with wine, this is said: ‘Awake’ in remembrance of your sin, ‘weep’ in contrition of heart, ‘mourn’ in confession.
Whoever has the aforesaid four, will be well able to perform the fifth work for his neighbour: They shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover (Mc 16,18). A sick person is in need of a remedy or medicine. The ‘sick man’ is the sinner, who greatly needs the medicine of good example. Someone ‘lays hands on him’ so that he may be well, that is, return to penitence, when he strengthens him not only with the word of preaching, but also by the example of good deeds. Amen.
8. His Ascension into heaven: And the Lord Jesus (who came down from heaven), alter he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven (Mc 16,19). Proverbs 30 is concordant to this:
Who hath ascended up into heaven, and descended?
Who hath held the wind in his hands?
Who hath bound up the waters together in a garment?
Who hath raised up all the borders of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son, if thou knowest? (Pr 30,4)
Note these three: ‘held’, ‘bound’ and ‘raised’. Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, came down from heaven and took our mortal flesh; and with it, now immortal, he
ascended into heaven, whence he sent the Spirit of sevenfold grace, whom he held in the hands of his power. That is, he gives to whom he will, when he will, and he limits it however he will. So Job 36 says:
In his hands he hideth the light, and commandeth it to come again.
He sheweth his friend concerning it, that it is his possession, and that he may come up to it. (Jb 36,32-33)
When from time to time he shows the light of conscience and internal joy to the friend of God, it is like a light enclosed in his hand, as it shines and hides at the whim of the holder; so that by this means the mind may burn to possess the eternal light, and the inheritance of the full vision of God.
Again, he ‘binds’ (that is, restrains) the ‘waters’ (carnal desires) in a ‘garment’, the body, which clothes the soul like a garment, and of which Job says:
Who am to be consumed as rottenness, and as a garment that is moth-eaten. (Jb 13,28)
Moths hatch out in a garment and eat it away; corruption arises in the body, and consumes it. He binds in this garment the ways of the senses, with the string of love or the rope of fear, so that the waters of carnal desire do not flow out; and so he ‘raises all the borders of the earth’, those in whom earthly concerns have already reached their limit, to penitence and to eternal glory.
He was taken up into heaven, then, so that he might lift up the earth with him, and make heaven. The Father says to him in Isaiah 51:
I have put my words in thy mouth,
and have protected thee in the shadow of my hand,
that thou mightest plant the heavens and found the earth,
and mightest say to Sion: Thou art my people. (Is 51,16)
The Son himself says in John 8:
He that sent me is true, and the things I have heard of him, these same I speak in the world. (Jn 8,26)
In the hour of his Passion, the Father protected him with the shadow of his powerful hand, because he gave him coolness against the heat of the Jews’ rage. So it says in the Psalm:
Thou hast overshadowed my head in the day of battle, (Ps 139,8)
when he fought with hands nailed to the Cross against the powers of the air. He planted the heavens of his divinity in the earth of our humanity, and founded (that is, firmly established) the earth of our humanity in heaven.
Whence there follows: And sitteth at the right hand of God (Mc 16,19). So,
The Lord said to my Lord Sit thou at my right hand. (Ps 109,1)
The Father said to the Son, rest and reign with me, in the place of greater power.
May Jesus himself, sharer in our nature, make us to be sharers in these things; he who is blessed for ever. Amen.
9. With my staff I passed over this Jordan, and now I return with two companies. (Gn 32,10)
This text comes from Genesis 32. The words are those of Jacob, returning from Mesopotamia to the land of his birth. They can also be taken as the words of Christ, returning from the world to the Father, with his staff the Cross. I Kings 17 says:
The Philistine said to David: Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with a staff? (1S 17,43)
The Philistine (meaning ‘falling from drink’ or ‘double ruin’) is the devil, who being drunk with pride, fell from heaven and made man fall into a double ruin, of soul and body. He is called ‘a dog’, because he barks at the innocent with his suggestions, and takes no notice of his parent, his Creator. Our David, Christ, to fight for us, comes against him with the staff of the Cross, as was said of him a little way above:
David took his staff, which he always had in his hands, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s scrip, which he had with him. And he took a sling in his hand, and went forth against the Philistine. (1S 17,40)
Behold the weapons with which Jesus Christ has killed our enemy! Christ ever had the staff of the Cross in his hands: before the Passion in his deeds, during the Passion with his hands nailed to it, after the Passion keeping the marks of it in his hands, so as to show them to the Father on our behalf. So he says in Isaiah 49:
I have graven thee in my hands. (Is 49,16)
Note that to make a piece of writing at least three things are needed: paper, pen and ink. The ‘paper’ was Christ’s hands, the ‘pen’ the nail, the ‘ink’ his blood. This writing bears witness to our deliverance, confutes the enemy and reconciles us to our Father God.
The ‘five smooth stones’ are the five wounds of Christ, which he chose from the brook of our mortality. The ‘shepherd’s scrip’ is the love with which he loved us to the end:
The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.(Jn 10,11)
He put the five smooth stones in this scrip, because for the love of us which he had in him, he received the five wounds, which have made us ‘smooth’, that is, bright and pure. The ‘sling’, which has equal straps, is the equity of justice with which he condemned the devil, and snatched the human race from his hand. "It was right and just that the devil should lose the human race, over which he seemed to have some right, when he stretched out his hand against Christ, over whom he had no right."6 He said:
The prince of this world cometh; and in me he hath not any thing. (Jn 14,30)
because Christ was free among the dead (Ps 87,6), and yet he passed through death to free the dead. So he says: With my staff I passed over this Jordan. It is further said: He shall drink of the torrent in the way (Ps 109,7). Alone, with the staff of the Cross, poor and naked, he passed from the bank of our mortality to the bank of his immortality, through the ‘river of judgement’ which is the Jordan. That is, by the shedding of his own blood, in which he judged the devil and condemned him, and destroyed his power.
10. What use his passing would bring us, is clear when there is added: and now (that is, today) I return with two companies. His going out was from the Father, his return was to the Father; his going down was even to hell, his return was even to the throne of God. Behold ‘the ring in the nose of Behemoth’ (cf. Jb 41,21) and of Sennacherib, to whom the Lord says in Isaiah 37:
I will put a ring in thy nose and a bit between thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way which thou camest. (Is 37,29)
Christ the wisdom of the Father, having no beginning nor end, like a circle, going out from the Father and returning to the Father, comprehending all things in himself, and enclosing the whole universe in his breast, took prisoner the craftiness of the devil (represented by his ‘nose’). Just as we smell out from afar by means of our nose, so the devil, by his subtle craftiness, perceives the sin most well adapted to a man, and strives to catch him in it.
A bit has two parts, the iron and the strap. The iron is placed in the horse’s mouth, with the strap it is restrained and led about. Christ in his Passion made a ‘bit’ from the nails and the strap of his humanity, to subdue and restrain the devil, lest he run wild at his own will; indeed, so that he should go back by the way he came. He came by Eve, Adam and the fruit of the forbidden tree. He was sent back, and lost what he had wickedly stolen, by Mary, Christ and the tree of the Cross; whereby our Jacob passed over this Jordan and overthrew the devil, and today returned to heaven with two companies.
Jacob divided the people that was with him, into two companies: (cf. Gn 32,7)
the handmaids and their children in the first company, and the free women, Lia and Rachel, and their children, in the second. (cf. Gn 33,1-2)
These two companies represent the Church, gathered from two peoples: the gentiles (represented by the handmaids) and the Jewish people (the free women, because of their knowledge of God and of the law given by him). Christ gained her by much labour in Mesopotamia (the world), and returning to heaven today bore her with him; because he took her faith and devotion with him, so that her heart and conversation should not be in earth but in heaven (cf. Ph 3,20). May he who is blessed for ever lead us there. Amen.
11. With my staff. Let us see what is the moral significance of these four, the staff, the Jordan, the two companies.
The discipline of penance is denoted by the staff; regarding which Juda said to Thamar in Genesis 38:
What wilt thou have for a pledge? Thamar answered: The ring and the bracelet, and the staff which thou holdest in thy hand. (Gn 38,18)
Juda is Christ, who was sprung from his tribe, according to the Apostle (cf. He 7,14). Thamar (meaning ‘exchanged’, or ‘bitter’, or ‘palm’) is the soul, who is changed from evil to good, who is bitter in penitence, that thereafter she may have the palm of glory. So Job 29 says:
I shall die in my nest, and as a palm-tree shall multiply my days; (Jb 29,18)
meaning, ‘in a humble and tranquil conscience’. Alternatively, this three-fold interpretation denotes the three-fold states of beginners, proficients and perfect.
So Christ says to the soul, What wilt thou have for a pledge? A pledge is something given as a guarantee. The soul, so as to be sure of the promise, asks a pledge in the form of a ring, a bracelet and a staff. The ‘ring’ denotes formed faith. So Luke 15 says:
Put a ring on his hand (Lc 15,22). The Gloss says that the ring is the seal of faith, by which the promises are signed upon the hearts of the faithful. To ‘put it on the hand’ is to put it into operation, so that faith may shine out in works, and by faith works may be strengthened. The ‘bracelet’ on the arm, going round the arm, is the work of charity, which extends the arm to succour, and supports the shoulder to bear the burden of a brother’s need (cf. Gn 49,15). The ‘staff’, with which to defend oneself against dogs, and support oneself against falling, is (as has been said) the discipline of penance. By this the soul defends herself against the devil or carnal appetite, and supports herself against falling into mortal sin. In these three we understand the whole of justice, which is "to render unto each what is his own,"7 namely the ring of faith to God, the bracelet of charity to our neighbour, and the staff of the discipline of penance to oneself.
12. So it is said: With my staff I passed over this Jordan, which means ‘descent’ or ‘apprehension of them’. This is a reference to transitory things; whoever wants to apprehend them must ‘descend’, that is, from his state of rectitude, his peace of mind, and the sweetness of contemplation. As Gregory8 says, "Whoever would help someone who has fallen, must get down with the fallen man." Happy is he who can say, In the discipline of my penance I have crossed the Jordan of transitory and fallen things, from the bank of worldly vanity to the bank of heavenly conversation.
So Genesis 32 says:
Jacob passed over the ford of Jaboc. And when all things were brought over that belonged to him, he remained alone. (Gn 32,22-23)
Jaboc means ‘stream of dust’, and it stands for temporal things, which stream abundantly in the winter of our present misery, but dry up in the summer, the heat of death and future judgement. They blind their lovers like dust. Dust is blown about by the force of the wind; so these temporal things are blown about by the wind of adversity or death, and are snatched away. But Jacob, the just man who overthrows the world, passes through temporal things, lest he pass away with them, and nothing remain of what is his; but he takes across everything that belongs to him. What belongs to a just man? Humility, charity, chastity and the other virtues. He who takes these across with him, remains ‘alone’, solitary, from the noisy world, tumultuous thoughts, the assault of demons. Happy, then, is he who so crosses, because in the hour of death he will be able to say: And now I return with two companies.
Canticles 4 is concordant: All with twins, and there is none barren among them. (Ct 4,2)
Thy two breasts like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies,
till the day break and the shadows retire. (Ct 4,5-6)
The roe lives among the rocks, keen-eyed, eating grass and striving ever higher. The ‘roe’ is the soul of the just man, which keeps to the rocky places in desire for heaven, and so supports herself there. She has the keen sight of faith, and chooses the grass of the eternal pastures to refresh herself with. Her two breasts are the two affections of charity, with the sweetness of whose milk she feds herself and her neighbour. They are ‘two young roes that are twins’, the young who feed among the lilies. The affection of divine charity feeds among the lilies of mental and bodily chastity, or in joyful contemplation. The affection of fraternal charity feeds among the white lilies of good reputation. How long will they so feed? Until the day of eternal glory breaks, and the shadows of our present blindness retire.
Let the just man say, then: Now, at the end of my life, I return to the heavenly homeland with the two companies of the contemplative and active life. May he who is blessed for ever make us to attain this. Amen.
Anthony_Sermons - (THE LOVE OF A FATHER FOR A SON)