Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: St. Anthony of Padua.
Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: St. Anthony of Padua.
(The Gospel for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Be ye merciful, which is divided into four clauses.)
(First, a sermon for the preacher or prelate of the Church: David, sitting in the chair.)
1. At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful. [Lk 6.36] It says in the second book of Kings, towards the end: David, sitting in the chair, the wisest chief among three, was like the most tender little worm of the wood; who killed eight hundred men at one onset. [2Kg(Sm) 23.8] David represents the preacher, who should ‘sit in the chair, etc’. Take note of all the words. The ‘chair’ signifies humility of mind; ‘wisest’ implies clearness; the ‘chief’ is constancy; the ‘three’ are life, learning and eloquence; the ‘wood’ is the hard-heartedness of the wicked; ‘most tender’ indicates mercy and patience; and the ‘little worm’ is severe discipline. Thus the preacher must sit in the chair of humility, taught by the example of Jesus Christ, Who humbled the glory of His
divinity in the chair of our humanity. He should be ‘wisest’, savouring the charity which alone tastes how sweet the Lord is [cf. Ps 33.9]. He should be ‘chief’ in constancy of mind, so that like the lion, mightiest of beasts, he may fear the attack of none. He is ‘among three’, his life, learning and eloquence. He should also be the ‘most tender little worm of the wood’: a little worm that pierces and gnaws away the wood of the hard and unfruitful; ‘tender’, that is, patient
and merciful towards the humble and contrite. Alternatively, just as there is nothing harder than a worm when it gnaws, but nothing softer when it is handled, so the preacher who sets forth the
word of God should strike the hearts of his hearers hard; but if he is struck by insults, he should be gentle and friendly. This explains the phrase that follows, Who killed eight hundred at one onset. It says, ‘one onset’, on account of some people who, when they have killed pride, nurture a raging belly. The ‘eight hundred’ are the carnal and spiritual vices. The preacher should kill them all in himself, so as to perform works of mercy towards himself, and then towards others.
That is why today’s Gospel says, Be merciful, etc.
2. There are four things to notice in this Gospel. The first is the mercy of God, where it begins: Be merciful. Second is the measure of eternal glory: Good measure. Third is the fall of the blind men into the ditch: And he spoke also to them a similitude. Fourth, the mote in the brother’s eye: Why seest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye? We will concord with these clauses some stories from the second book of Kings. In the Introit of today’s Mass we sing: The Lord is my light; and we read the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans: I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy; which we will divide into four parts and concord with the four clauses of the Gospel. The first part is: I reckon; the second: For the expectation of the creature; the third: We know; the fourth: Not only, etc.
(A sermon on the threefold mercy of God and man: Be merciful.)
3. Let us say, then: Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not; and you shall not be judged. Condemn not; and you shall not be condemned. Forgive; and you shall be forgiven. Give; and it shall be given to you. [Lk 6.36-38] In this first clause of the holy Gospel there are five things for us to notice especially: to be
merciful, to judge not, to condemn not, to forgive, and to give. We will concord these five with five stories from the second book of Kings. ‘Merciful’ means having compassion on the miseries of others. ‘Mercy’ moves the heart with sorrow for the sorrow of another. In God, though, there is mercy without sorrow of heart: His pity is shown in merciful deeds. That is why the Lord says: Be merciful. And note: just as the heavenly Father’s mercy towards you is three-fold, so yours should be three-fold towards your neighbour.
The Father’s mercy is beautiful, broad and precious. It is beautiful, since it cleanses from vice: as Ecclesiasticus says: The mercy of God is beautiful in the time of affliction, as a cloud of rain in the time of drought. [Ecclus 35.26] In the time of affliction, when the soul is afflicted for her sins, the rain of grace pours down to refresh the soul and forgive sin. It is broad, because as time goes by it expands in good works; as the Psalm says: For Thy mercy is before my eyes: and I am well pleased with Thy truth, [Ps 25.3] because I am displeased with my own sin. It is precious, in the delight of eternal life of which Anna [sic: he means Sara] speaks in Tobias: This everyone is sure of that worshippeth Thee, etc. [Tob 3.21]. See in the Gospel: No man can serve two masters [Pentecost XV, clause 2]. Of these three Isaiah says: I will remember the tender mercies of the Lord, the praise of the Lord for all the things that the Lord hath bestowed upon us: and for the multitude of His good things to the house of Israel, which He hath given them according to His kindness, and according to the multitude of His mercies. [Is 63.7]
Your mercy, too, should be three-fold towards your neighbour. If he sins against you, forgive him. If he strays from the way of truth, instruct him. If he is hungry, feed him. Of the first, Solomon says in Proverbs: By faith and mercy sins are purged away. [Prov 15.27]
Of the second, James says: He who causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way shall save his soul from death and shall cover a multitude of sins. [Jas 5.20] Of the third, the Psalm says: Blessed is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor. [Ps 40.2] So it is well said: Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.
(On the nature of cranes and their significance.)
4. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings, where David says to Mephiboseth: Fear not, for I will surely shew thee mercy for Jonathan thy father’s sake; and I will restore the
lands of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table always. [2Kg (Sm) 9.7] In this text the three-fold mercy towards neighbour is portrayed; the first, when it says, I will surely shew thee mercy for Jonathan’s sake, that is, for Jesus Christ who said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do [Lk 23.34]. You should show mercy to the one who offends you both in heart and in word, forgiving him with heart and voice. The second mercy is when it
says, I will restore all the lands of Saul thy father. The land, which a man works on, represents the grace bestowed in Baptism, which we should so receive as to make it fruitful in good works. When Saul (the soul anointed with the oil of faith) died, all he owned was lost. When you cause someone to be converted from the error of his way, you restore that land to him. The third mercy is, And thou shalt eat bread at my table always. So Solomon says: If thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat; if he thirst, give him to drink. [Prov 25.21]
So it is well said: Be merciful. So let us be merciful, in imitation of the cranes, of which it is said1 that when they seek to fly to any destination, they fly high, so that from their exalted view-point they may find the lands they seek. One, resolute in going, leads the flock; and as he goes he chides the laggards, urging on the line with his voice. If he grows hoarse, another takes over. All of them together take care of the weary, so that if any flag, they all come together to support those who are tired, until with rest they regain their strength. Nor is their care any less on the ground. They divide the night
into watches, so that one tenth are awake at any time. Those that watch hold small stones in their claws, so that if they drop them they show they have been asleep. The noise indicates that they should be careful. They flee from bats. Let us then be merciful like cranes, so that being set on the watch-tower of an exalted life, we may look out for ourselves and for other people. Let us show the proper way to those who do not know it. Let us chide the lazy and lukewarm with the voice of preaching. Let us take turns in our work, because he who lacks a time of rest will not stay the course. Let us carry the weak and feeble on our shoulders, so that they do not faint in the way. Let us keep watch and vigil for the Lord in prayer and contemplation. Let us grasp the Lord’s poverty, humility and bitter Passion, as in our claws; and if anything unclean tries to creep
in, let us cry out at once. Above all, let us flee the blind bat of worldly vanity.
(A sermon against those who rashly judge hidden things: Oza put forth his hand.)
5. There follows, secondly, Judge not; and you will not be judged. The Gloss says, ‘We are allowed to pass judgement on public evils, which cannot be done with a good conscience. There are things in between, uncertain, which may be done honestly, because they may be done either well or badly. We do not know how someone who now appears bad, and it would be rash to despair of his correction or dismiss him as a castaway.’ Judge not; and you will not be judged. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings, where it tells how Oza put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it: because the oxen kicked and made it lean aside. And the indignation of the Lord was enkindled against Oza: and he struck him for his rashness. And he died there before the ark of God. [2Kg (Sm) 6.6-7] The ark is the soul, and the oxen are the bodily senses. Oza (his name means ‘hard’) is anyone who is confident in his own rightness, and criticizes other people. When the oxen get skittish that is, when the bodily senses get troublesome and contrary- the soul is sometimes inclined to give way to something wrong. If a judgemental person tries to take hold with the rash hand of
criticism, he should realise that he himself incurs the judgement of the Lord, Who said, Judge not; and you will not be judged. The Philosopher 2 says: "Look to your own faults, and spare
(A sermon against those who rejoice over the fate or death of an enemy: David went up into the high chamber and wept.)
6. There follows thirdly, Condemn not; and you will not be condemned. There is a concordance in the second book of Kings, where David would not condemn Absalom, who wanted to
condemn him. He commanded Joab and Abisai and Ethai, saying: Save me the boy Absalom. [2Kg (Sm) 18.5] When he was destroyed, David, much moved, went up to the high chamber and wept. And as he went he spoke in this manner: My son Absalom, Absalom my son! Who would grant me, that I might die for thee,
Absalom my son, my son Absalom! [2Kg (Sm) 18.33] The death of an enemy is not something to rejoice over, but to mourn and weep for. So Christ went up to the high chamber of the Cross, there to weep for Adam and all his posterity, slain by Joab (the devil) with the three lances of greed, vainglory and avarice; and He said: My son
Adam! Who would grant me, that I might die for thee; that is, that My death might profit you. It as if He said, No-one was willing to let me die for him! He reckons it a great gift, if a sinner ‘grants’ that his death should profit him!
(A sermon for the formation of patience: Semei cursed the king, etc.)
7. There follows, fourthly, Forgive; and you will be forgiven. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings, where it says that Semei cursed David, saying: Come out, come out, thou man of blood, and thou man of Belial. The Lord hath repaid thee for all the blood of the house of Saul: because thou hast usurped the kingdom in his stead. And the Lord hath given the kingdom into the hands of Absalom thy son: and behold, thy evils press upon thee, because thou art a man of blood. And Abisai the son of Sarvia said to the king: Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? I will go, and cut off his head. And the king said: What have I to do with you, ye sons of Sarvia? Let him alone and let him curse: for the Lord hath
bid him curse David. And who is he that shall dare say: Why hath he done so? And the king said to Abisai, and to all his servants: Behold, my son, who came forth from my bowels, seeketh my life. How much more now a son of Jemini? Let him alone that he may curse as the Lord hath bidden him. Perhaps the Lord may look upon my affliction, and the Lord may render me good for the cursing of this day. And David and his men went by the way. And Semei by the hill’s side went over against him, cursing, and casting stones at him, and scattering earth. [2Kg (Sm) 16.7-13] St Gregory 3 says, "If anyone is the victim of insulting words, and is hard put to it to keep his
patience, let him call to mind the behaviour of David, when Semei was hurling abuse, and his armed officers were eager to take revenge. He said, What have I to do with you, sons of Sarvia?
and a little later, Let him alone and let him curse as the Lord has commanded him. These words show that when he was forced to flee from his rebellious son because of his sin with Bethsabee,
he recalled the evil he himself had done; and he reckoned the insulting words not as an attack, but as an aid whereby he judged he might be cleansed and find mercy. We too will find it a good
thing to bear abuse, if in the secrecy of our hearts we recall the bad things we have done. The injuries that afflict us will then seem light indeed, compared with the worse things we have deserved. So let it be that we repay insults with thanks, rather than with anger; for by accepting them as the judgement of God, we are spared worse penalties."
8. There follows, fifthly, Give; and it shall be given to you. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings where it says that
Machir, his son Ammihel, and Berzillai the Galaadite brought David beds, and tapestry, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and meal, and parched corn, and beans, and lentils, and fried pulse, and honey, and butter, and sheep, and fat calves. [2Kg (Sm) 17.27-28]
There is your Give: let us hear the It shall be given: King David said to Berzillai: Come with me that thou mayest rest secure with me in Jerusalem. [2Kg (Sm) 19.33] Let us see the moral significance of this. Machir means ‘seller’, Ammihel is ‘people of God’, Berzillai is ‘my strength’ and Galaad is ‘mound of witness’. These three men stand for all penitents, who sell what they have and give to the poor; who are the people of God whom the Lord has chosen as His inheritance [cf. Ps 32.12]; and who in the strength of good works overcome the assaults of the ancient enemy. In them is heaped up the witness of the Lord’s Passion. These give Christ beds for sleepers, the quiet of a pure conscience in which Christ rests with the soul; tapestries of different colours, the various virtues; earthen vessels, themselves, as they humble themselves and recognise that
they are frail and made of clay; wheat, the teaching of the Gospel, and barley, the teaching of the Old Testament; meal, confession made of the tiniest circumstances of all their sins; the parched corn of patience, the beans of abstinence and the lentils of self-contempt; the fried pulse of compassion for others, the honey and butter of the active and contemplative life; the sheep of innocence and the fat calves of the mortification of pampered flesh. If you give these
things, it shall be given to you to hear the true David say: Come with Me that thou mayest rest secure with Me in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Note these four expressions: come, rest, secure with me, in Jerusalem. These four correspond to the four things we sing of in the Introit of today’s Mass: The Lord is my Light and my Salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Protector of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? My enemies that trouble me have themselves been weakened, and have fallen.] [Ps 26.1-2] [The Lord is my Light and my Salvation] is concordant with the word Come; you cannot come
rightly unless you have been enlightened. And my Salvation is concordant with that thou mayest rest. Where there is salvation, there is rest. The Lord is the Protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? is concordant with secure with me; and My enemies that trouble me have themselves been weakened, and have fallen, is concordant with in Jerusalem, wherein we shall not fear the enemies who now trouble us; they will fall into Gehenna, and we shall be in
glory. So the first part of the Epistle is concordant with this first clause of the Gospel: For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us. [Rom 8.18] Because sufferings are temporary, they are not worthy to be compared. They are light and transitory. Suffering passes, but glory remains for ever and ever. And so, that we may attain that glory, let us ask the Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, so to pour His mercy upon us, that we ourselves may have mercy upon ourselves and upon others; that we may judge no-one, condemn no-one, forgive everyone who sins against us and give what we have to everyone who asks of us. May He Himself graciously grant this, Who is blessed and glorious for ever and ever. Amen.
(A sermon on the threefold measure and its meaning: Good measure.)
9. There follows, secondly: Good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall they give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you shall mete withal it shall be measured to you again. [Lk 6.38] The measure is three-fold: of faith, of penitence and of glory. The measure of faith is ‘good’ in the reception of the sacraments; it is ‘pressed down’ (that is, full) in the performance of good works; it is ‘shaken together’ in suffering or martyrdom for the name of Christ; and it is ‘running over’ in final perseverance. Of this measure, the Apostle says: According as God hath divided to every one the measure of faith. [Rom 12.3] The measure of penitence is ‘good’ in contrition, wherein God’s goodness is recognised; it is ‘pressed down’ in confession, which should be made in full; it is ‘shaken together’ in satisfaction; and ‘running over’ in the remission of all sin and in purity of mind. Of this measure, the book of Wisdom says: Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight. [Wisd 11.21] All things, meaning the whole salvation of the soul, as to which all that should be done is done, and everything a man does should be related. Thou hast ordered, Lord God, in the measure of penitence; which, to be true, must have number and weight: number in confession, that all the
circumstances of sin be numbered to the end; and weight in satisfaction, that the penalty be of equal weight to the fault. This is the ‘sanctuary weight’, not the ‘common weight’.
(A sermon against those who glory in beauty, and who confess once a year and never perform satisfaction: Moreover as Absalom.)
10. There is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings:
But in all Israel there was not a man so comely, and so exceedingly beautiful as Absalom: from the sole of the foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled his hair (so fully it grew) he was polled once a year, because his hair was burdensome to him; and he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred sicles, according to the common weight. [2Kg (Sm) 14.25-26] Absalom’s beauty, which began from the soles of his feet and went up to the crown of his head, stands for that beauty which comes from earthly things, in which there is thought to be no
blemish as long as its prosperity meets no adversity. The beauty which comes down from above represents the beauty that comes about from the knowledge of heavenly things, to which the Gospel refers when the Lord says: Why do thoughts arise in your hearts? [Lk 24.38]. Those thoughts that ‘arise’ in the heart are of earthly things; those that come down are of heavenly things. There follows: He was polled once a year. The cutting off of superfluous hair is the putting away of sins in confession, which many people do only once a year, even though they need confession every day! Because human nature is frail and liable to sin, and because every day it
contracts the dirt of so many sins, and because its memory is so poor that it hardly remembers in the evening what it did in the morning, why does the wretch put it off for a year? Indeed, why
put it off till tomorrow, when he does not know what tomorrow will bring? Here today, and gone tomorrow! So live today, then, as if you were to die tomorrow. Nothing is surer than death, nothing less sure than the hour of death. If you drink the poison of sin every day, you should take the antidote of confession every day. The Philosopher 4 says, "He who has nothing in his mind except to live, does not live at all." There follows: He weighed the hair of his head at two hundred sicles, according to the common weight. But he ought to have weighed it at three hundred! The sinner should weigh his sins at
three hundred shekels, that is, with a three-fold penalty: perfect contrition, perfect confession and perfect satisfaction. But he weighs it at two hundred, because there are many who, though quite contrite and properly confessed, lack the third shekel of satisfaction. Nor do they weigh their sins by ‘sanctuary weight’, as God and the saints judge their gravity, but by ‘common weight’, vulgar opinion which gives short weight. To show that this is not enough, John the
Baptist said: Ye offspring of vipers (poisonous sons of poisonous stock), who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? [Lk 3.7] As if to say, you have not learned how to flee properly, since he who despises satisfaction does not escape the wrath. So he adds, Bring forth fruits worthy of penance. He says ‘fruits’, for seed,
flower and fruit are three different things. The seed is contrition, the flower is confession, and the fruit is satisfaction. He who lacks this, lacks the perfection of penitence.
(A sermon on the four gifts of the body: Good measure.)
11. The measure of glory is referred to in this Gospel, Good measure, etc. By this, we are given to understand four gifts of the body, namely agility, subtlety, brightness and impassibility. As has
been said, glorified bodies will be brighter than the sun, swifter than the wind, finer than a spark and incapable of suffering any injury. So it is said 5 that the Lord put on brightness on Mount Thabor
[Mt 4.25]; agility when He walked on the water [Mt 17.2]; subtlety when He passed through the midst of them and went His way
[Lk 4.30]; and impassibility when He was eaten by the disciples under the appearance of bread [Lk 22.19], yet suffered no harm. Again, The just shall shine (brightness), and shall run to and fro (agility) like sparks (subtlety) among the reeds [Wisd 3.7]; and their name liveth for ever (impassibility) [Ecclus 44.14], for they can neither die nor fail. Alternatively, the ‘good measure’ is joy without grief; ‘pressed down’ means full, with no empty space; ‘shaken together’ means firmness without looseness, as something shaken is made solid; and ‘running over’ means love without pretence. Each will rejoice over the other’s reward, and so love will overflow towards the other. The poor will give this measure; that is, they will be the reason that God gives, for it will be the occasion for His approval.
Into thy bosom: as Job says, This hope is laid up in my bosom [Job 19.27]. The bosom is as it were a receptacle, a haven. It represents the quiet of eternal life, in which the saints, freed from the storms of this world, are received as in a haven of rest. Or, as a little child who is crying returns to his mother’s breast, and she comforts him and dries his tears, so the saints will return from this weeping world to the bosom of glory, where God will wipe away every tear from every
face [cf Apoc 7.17; 21.4]. The same measure, etc. St Augustine 6 says, "In his own will the good man measures out good deeds; in return he is meted out blessedness. In his own will, the bad man measures out bad deeds; in return he is meted out sorrow. Therefore in the same measure (even if not for eternal evils), eternal punishments are meted out; and because he wanted to have the enjoyments of sin for ever, he will find an everlasting and severe punishment."
12. The second part of the Epistle is concordant to this second clause: For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity; not willingly, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope.
Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. [Rom 8.19-21] Note that the word ‘creature’ occurs three times in this second part, corresponding to the three aforesaid measures of faith, penitence and glory. In this place, ‘creature’ means the Church of the faithful. It says, then, the expectation of the creature (meaning the whole Church) waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. That is, those who by faith are God’s children in the Church wait for glory. When they are revealed in it, they will contemplate God face to face, whereas now they contemplate Him under a veil, through a glass in a dark manner [cf. 1Cor 13.12]. The creature was made subject to vanity, mutability, because as Solomon says, the just man falls seven times a day [cf. Prov 24.16]; not willingly, because there is no sin in his will, to whom was said, Go, and now sin no more [Jn 8.11]. He bears this mutability patiently for God’s sake, Who
subjected him, or willed and permitted him to be subjected, in the hope of eternal life. So there is added: It shall be delivered from the servitude of this corruption and mutability, changed into the
liberty of the glory of the children of God. Therein he will receive ‘good measure’ in the fulfilling of the Age of Christ, ‘pressed down’ in fulfilment of soul, ‘shaken together’ in the bestowal of the double robe, and ‘running over’ in the perpetuity of common joy. We ask you, then, Lord Jesus Christ, that by the measure of faith Thou wilt divide to us the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and fill us by the measure of penitence; so that afterwards Thou mayest satisfy us with Thy countenance in the measure of glory. Grant this, Thou who art blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A sermon against blind prelates of the Church: All ye beasts of the field.)
13. There follows, thirdly: And he spoke also to them a similitude: Can the blind lead the blind? Do they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master; but every one shall be perfect, if he be as his master. [Lk 6.39-40] Let us see what is meant, allegorically, by the blind, the ditch, the disciple and the master. The
‘blind’ is the wicked prelate or priest, deprived of the light of life and knowledge. So Isaiah says of the blind prelates of the Church:
All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, all ye beasts of the forest.
His watchmen are all blind. They are all ignorant: dumb dogs not able to bark, seeing vain things, sleeping and loving dreams. And most impudent dogs, they never had enough: the shepherds themselves knew no understanding. All have turned aside into their own way, every one after his own gain, from the first even to the
last. Come, let us take wine and be filled with drunkenness: and it shall be as today, so also tomorrow, and much more. [Is 56.9-12]
The beasts of the field are the demons, the beasts of the forest are the movements of the flesh, which devour the Church and the faithful soul. Why is this? Surely because the watchmen of the
Church are all blind, deprived of the light of life and knowledge. They are dumb dogs, with the devil’s sop in their mouths, and so unable to bark against the wolf. They see vain things, because they preach for money; seeking contrition from souls while shamefully saying, Peace, peace. And there is no peace [Jer 6.14; Ezek 13.10]. They sleep in their sins, they love dreams, those temporal things which delude those who love them. They are most impudent dogs, having a harlot’s forehead, refusing to blush [Jer 3.3]. They never have enough, always saying, Bring, bring; and never, It is enough [cf. Prov 30.15]. These shepherds who feed themselves [Jude 1.12] have no understanding, of which the Prophet says: I will understand in the unspotted way [Ps 100.2]. They have all turned aside into their own way, not that of Jesus Christ; every one after his own gain. This is their dark and slippery way [Ps 34.6], from first even to last, from the chief pig down to the smallest piglet. They invite themselves, Come, let us take wine, wherein is lust [Eph 5.18], and be filled with drunkenness, which takes away the heart [Hos 4.11], and it shall be as today. But believe me, it will not be as tomorrow! So the book of Maccabees says: The glory of the sinner is dung and worms. Today he is lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found,
because he is returned into his earth, and his thought is come to nothing. [1Mac 3.62-63] Jacob said, in Genesis: My justice shall answer for me tomorrow. [Gen 30.33] Impudent dogs, today drunkenness abounds in you; but tomorrow, in the day of judgement, an eternity of death will answer. So in the Apocalypse it says: As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies,
so much torment and sorrow give ye her. [Apoc 18.7]
(On the nature of the bear, and its moral significance.)
14. Again, these blind men, bearing witness to their own malice, say in the same Prophet: We have groped for the wall, and like the blind we have groped as if we had no eyes. We have stumbled at noon-day as in darkness: we are in dark places as dead men. We shall roar all of us like bears. [Is 59.10-11] Note these four: the wall, with no eyes, at noon-day, like bears. The wall is temporal abundance,
the eyes are life and knowledge, the noon-day is high ecclesiastical dignity, and the bears are gluttony and lust. These men grope for the wall of riches as if it were something soft, although there are piercing thorns. Though they lack the eyes of life and knowledge, they grab these things and make them the guide of their way, lacking the guidance of reason. At noon-day, the light of ecclesiastical preferment, they stumble as in the dark, because they are blinded by the very things that ought to give them light. And like bears, greedy and lustful, they roar for the honey of temporal sweetness. The bear is said to form its young with its mouth; they say that after thirty days pregnancy, they are born without shape. And so it happens, that premature fertility creates shapeless births.
They bring forth pieces of flesh, white in colour, with no eyes; and as they quickly grow to maturity, everything turns red except the extremities of the claws. By licking, they gradually shape them and meanwhile nourish them at the breast, so that by carefully holding them close they warm them, and draw out the animal spirit. During this time they eat nothing. Indeed, for the first fourteen days the mothers fall into a sleep, so that they cannot be roused even by injuries. They lie hidden in labour for four months, and then, when they come freely into the daylight, they suffer so much from the brightness of the light that you would think they had been struck blind. The bear’s head is weak, his greatest strength is in his arms and legs. They creep into the hives of bees, because they have a great appetite for honeycomb, and are greedy for nothing more
than honey. When they eat the fruit of the mandrake, they die; but they wander about seeking a remedy, so that the fruit will not grow strong to harm them, and eat ants to recover their health. The ‘bears’ of our time, soft-living prelates, bring to birth dead lumps of flesh, carnal children whose colour is white like tombs full of all filthiness [cf. Mt 23.27]. These have no eyes to contemplate God or neighbour, no shape of virtues, no beauty of morals: only blood-red sins, and claws with which to seize the goods of the poor. As the bears lick and fawn upon these lumps of flesh, they shape them little by little, according to that fashion of which it is said: The
fashion of this world passeth away [1Cor 7.31]. Warming them carefully with bad example, they draw out the animal spirit of which the Apostle says: The sensual man perceiveth not the things
of God [1Cor 2.14]. So, like beasts among beasts, like blind with blind, they fall into the ditch. We should note, further, that just as the bear’s head is weak, so the mind of the Church’s prelates is weak, unable to resist the temptations of the devil; but in their arms and legs there is great strength for rapine and lust. They creep into the hives of the bees- the houses of the poor with a great appetite for the honeycombs of praise and vainglory, salutations in the marketplace, the first places at feasts and the first chairs in the synagogues [Mt 23.6-7], which they deny to their inferiors. When they eat the fruit of the mandrake, they die.
(A sermon for on Nativity of the Lord: Ruben, going out in the time of the wheat harvest.)
15. The mandrake is an aromatic herb, whose fruit has a beautiful scent like that of the Matian apple. The fruits of the mandrake represent the works of the just, at whose fragrant scent the
bears roar and die. To them, as the Apostle says, it is the odour of death unto death [2Cor 2.16]. Of these mandrakes the Bride says in the Canticles: The mandrakes give a smell in our gates [Cant 7.13]. In the gates of the Church, the saints give forth the scent of a good life. Of these, Genesis also says: Ruben, going out in the time of the wheat harvest into the field, found mandrakes. [Gen 30.14] Ruben (meaning ‘son of vision’) stands for Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, on whom the angels desire to look (1Pt 1.12]. Going forth from the Father’s side, he came to the field of this world at the time of the wheat harvest, the fulness of time in which, by Joseph’s labour, the corn was gathered into the barn of the blessed Virgin, lest all Egypt should perish from hunger. And he found mandrakes, the Apostles and the Apostles’ successors, at whose scent the
roaring bears die. They say, as the book of Wisdom says: They are contrary to our doings, and upbraid us with transgressions of the law, and divulge against us the sins of our way of life. They are become censurers of our thoughts. They are grievous unto us, even to behold; for their life is not like other men’s, and their ways are very different. We are esteemed by them as triflers, and they abstain from our ways as from filthiness. These things the unhappy men thought, and were deceived. [cf. Wisd 2.12,14-16,21]
And so they turn to ants, the trivialities of the world, whose false delights they believe to be medicinal for them. But the ant-eater will come, the ‘ant-lion’, the devil, who will devour both the blind bears and the ants. There is a concordance to these blind men in the second book of Kings, where it tells how David offered a reward to whosoever should strike the Jebusites and get up into the gutters of
the tops of the houses, and take away the blind and the lame that hated the soul of David. Therefore it is said in the proverb: The blind and the lame shall not come into the temple. [2Kg (Sm) 5.8]
Note the three words: strike, get up, and take away. The true David, Jesus Christ, will give the reward of eternal life to whoever will strike the Jebusite who lives on the earth, the appetite of his flesh; who will get up into the gutters of the housetops, the water-channels of the buildings, by imitating the examples of the saints; and remove the lame and the blind. These are the prelates and priests who are lame in both feet- affection and action- and blind in both eyes- life and knowledge. They hate the soul of Jesus Christ when they offer their own souls, for which he laid down his life, for sale to the devil. The blind and the lame should not come into the temple, and yet today the temple itself is committed to their care. By their blind guardianship many are made blind, and with them fall equally into the ditch of damnation. It is well said, then: If the blind leads the blind, they both fall into a ditch.
(A sermon on his Passion: King David went over.)
16. There follows: A disciple is not above his master. The Gloss says: ‘If the master who is God does not take revenge for the injuries done to him, but wants to soften his persecutors by his
forbearance, his human disciples should imitate this rule of perfection.’ And so there is a concordance to this in the second book of Kings, where it says that: King David went over the brook Cedron: and all the people marched towards the way that looketh to the desert... But David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, going up and weeping, walking barefoot, and with his head covered: and all the people that were with him went up with their heads covered, weeping. [2Kg (Sm) 15.23,30] Allegorically, David represents Christ. Cedron means ‘bitter grief’. The brook Cedron which David went over is the bitter Passion which Christ endured. So we read in John,
Jesus went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron. [Jn 18.1]
After him the people went to the olive-grove; because in his Passion Christ went ahead and the people followed, the disciples after their master, to witness his mercy. The king went with head covered, for Christ went up mount Olivet with his divinity covered by his humanity; and barefoot, thereby showing his humanity. The people, too, went with heads covered, but we do not read that their feet were bare. We should not uncover the mind’s secrets with boastful voice; nor should our feet be bare, but shod with the examples of the saints. As Jeremiah says: Keep thy foot from being bare and thy throat from thirst. [Jer 2.25] We should not let the foot of our affection be bare of virtue, nor let our throat thirst from avarice.
The vinegar and the gall of our Lord’s Passion should slake our thirst. Just as the doctor drinks the medicine first, the master tasted so that the disciple should not fear to taste. It is enough for him to be like his master.
17. The third part of the Epistle is concordant with this third clause:
For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. [Rom 8.22] Note the two words, groans and travails. The master ‘groaned’ in working miracles: as Mark says, Looking up to heaven, he groaned and said to him: Ephphetha, which is, Be thou opened. [Mk 7.34] He travailed in the agony of the Passion; as Isaiah says: Shall not I that make others to bring forth children, myself bring forth? [Is 66.9] So the master’s disciples, his creation, should groan in contrition and travail in confession. It is enough for the disciple if he is like his master. We ask you, then, master and Lord, good Jesus, to enlighten the blind, to teach your disciples,
and show them the way of life; whereby they may be able to reach you, who are the way and the life. Grant this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
(A sermon against those who, being themselves unclean, want to cleanse the uncleanness of others: Why do you see the mote.)
18. There follows, fourthly: And why seest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye; but the beam that is in thy own eye thou considerest not? Or how canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seest not the beam in thy own eye? Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thy own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to take out the mote from thy brother’s eye. [Lk 6.41-42] Note these three: mote, eye and beam. The mote represents a slight fault, the eye is reason or understanding, the beam is a grave fault. The Gloss says: Truly, a sinner cannot criticize a sinner!’ And so there is a concordance in the second book of Kings, where it tells how the Lord forbade David to build the temple [cf. 2Kg(Sm) 7.12-13]. St Gregory7 says: "He who would correct another must be clean in himself from vice, so as not to think of earthly things, and not give way to base desires. Then he will see more clearly what others should avoid, the more truly he himself keeps away from them by knowledge and life. The eye cannot see clearly in itself the spot of dust that irritates it; and the hand that holds mud cannot brush off dirt." "If you want to reprove someone, first see if you are like him. If you are, groan equally and do not conform him to yourself. Rather, warn him, and tell him to try with you. Even if you are not like him, you used to be and you could be again: so put yourself on his level and confront him with mercy, not with hate. Only rarely, and in the greatest need, should threats be given, and then only in respect of God, and with the beam removed from your own eye." It is well said, then, Why seest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye, etc.
(On the eyes, their explanation and significance.)
19. And note that the eyes are covered with the eyelids and eyelashes, to protect them from accidental injury. They have a hidden light, secret and within. Of all the senses, these are nearest to the soul. The eyes contain the whole judgement of the mind. If there is sadness or happiness in the soul, it appears in the eyes. The eyes are enclosed in hollow cavities in the face, the front or fore-head. The eyes are like jewels, covered with translucent membranes through which, as if through glass, the bright mind looks out upon the outside world. In the middle of the eye are what we call the pupils, which hold the power of seeing. We should know that the eye may happen to be large, small or in between. The middle size
represents a good disposition in judgement and understanding and sound doctrine. Sometimes eyes are prominent or deep-set, or in between. If they are deep-set, it indicates acuteness; if they are prominent, it indicates disturbed judgement and an evil disposition; the middle state is to be preferred, for it signifies goodness. Sometimes the eyes are almost shut, and sometimes wide open and hardly moving, and sometimes in between. If they are wide open or staring, it means stupidity or immodesty; if they are almost closed, it indicates mobility, light judgement, not fixed on what they are doing. In between the two, it means a good disposition, and sound
judgement in every work.
20. There follows: Hypocrite, first cast out. The doctor who cannot cure himself is not the most suitable to treat another. The hypocrite’s evil eye is wide open to see other people’s faults, but
cannot see his own failings. As the Poet 8 says: "Blind man, when you peer at your own faults with ointment on your eyes, How are you so clear-sighted when you look at your friends’ shortcomings?"
If only the eye, that sees everything else, could see itself! The fourth part of the Epistle is concordant to this fourth clause: And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God.[Rom 8.23] The first-fruits of the Spirit are contrition and sorrow for sins, which are the first things to offer to the Lord. The saints have these, and do not consider even the beam in another’s eye. They judge no-one, they condemn no-one. They groan within themselves in bitterness of soul, waiting for their adoption, the immortality of the body. May he who died for us make us partakers of his immortality, he who rose from the dead, Jesus
Christ our Lord, to whom is honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Let every merciful soul say: Amen. Alleluia.
SOLINUS, Polyhistor, 15
2 PUBLIUS SYRUS, Sententiae, 95
3 GLOSSA ORDINARIA on 2Kg(Sm) 16.10
4 cf. PUBLIUS SYRUS, Sententiae, 429: "They live badly, who think they will live for ever."
5 INNOCENT III, sermon 14, PL 217.381,382
6 AUGUSTINE, Epistola 102, quaestio 4.26-27; PL 33.381
7 GLOSSA ORDINARIA on 2Kg(Sm) 7.3 and on Lk 6.42
8 HORACE, Satyrae, I,3,25-26