Sermon for Palm Sunday – St. Vincent Ferrer

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” (Mt 12:9).

   This text is taken as the basis of our sermon. It is a short and very devout song composed by the Holy Spirit, and today sung with devotion to Christ, when he solemnly  entered the city of Jerusalem.  We sing it today many times, representing that solemnity,  Christ coming into the city of Jerusalem: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

   The whole solemnity of Palm Sunday today consists of three points:

 — First is about the honor and solemnity today coming to Christ shown by the city of Jerusalem in which he was received honorably [receptus honorabiliter].

 — Second is about the solemnity which we today give, representing him appropriately [repraesentando appropriate].

 — Third is about the way which Christ walks today, coming into the city of Jerusalem virtuously [veniendo virtuose]

   And for each of these in particular and for all of them in general we should sing and say to God, “Blessed is he who comes,” etc.

RECEIVED HONORABLY

   The first point today is about the honor and solemnity which the Jews showed. In the temple they praised and blessed Christ coming into the city of Jerusalem, where he was received honorably with great joy and festivity.  Very remarkable.  I find that Christ came to Jerusalem often and for many reasons, and there was never any celebration nor honor given like today.

Christ first came to Jerusalem for the Presentation,  fifty days after his birth, when the Virgin Mary presented him in the temple.  We do not read that there was a solemn reception then, except that Simeon and Anna adored him, as is clear in Luke 2.  He was tiny, and the procession was tiny.  But his body grew, and his compassion grew, and the time came when he was no longer carried in the arms of the Virgin, but on the back of an ordinary donkey, not to be redeemed with [sacrificed] doves [birds], but he would redeem all men by his blood.

Second, Christ came to the city of Jerusalem for debating, when he was twelve years old. There was no celebration for him at that time.

   Third, he came for prayer.  In accord with the law, he would come to Jerusalem for  every feast day, and would enter the temple.

   Fourth, he came to stamp out sins and notorious vices, because the high priests by their greed had made of the temple a house of business, Jn 2.  Nor was there any celebration for him then.

   Fifth he came to preach, often, because  that city was a metropolis and the capital of the province.

   Sixth, he came to reveal his divinity by working miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead.  Not even then was there a celebration.

   Seventh, he came for sacrificing himself.   Today he wished to enter Jerusalem , [the place] where he should suffer for the redemption of the human race.  Then there was a great festival for him and a solemnity celebrated.

   For this reason, I reply there that although Christ had performed many good things for us, nevertheless we are bound and obliged to him more for the work of his passion and death, that for all the others.  We are bound to praise and bless him for the work of the incarnation which he did out of love of us. Also for the teaching and preaching which he had given, going from village to village. But above all we are bound [to bless] him for the work of  the passion, because the Lord himself wished to die for the servants, the king for his subjects, a just man for the unjust, the innocent one for sinners.  So Bernard: “Above all , good Jesus, the chalice of the passion which you drank, the work of our redemption, renders you beloved to me.”

   See the reason why God put it into the hearts of the people that he be received so solemnly when he came to Jerusalem for sacrificing.

   This solemnity consists in six circumstances or ceremonies which were done for him

   First, because he wished to enter riding.  It is not read anywhere that Christ ever rode an animal.  Only today, when he entered Jerusalem. And then he rode on a colt of an ass, according to the prophecy of Zach 9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold your king will come to you, the just and savior: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass,” (Zach 9:9). Then was fulfilled that prophecy.

   Read how he sent two disciples from Bethphage, according to the Gloss, Peter and Philip, for the donkey and colt, etc.  A tethered ass signifies the Jewish people, the synagogue bound by the chain of the law of Moses, which chain has three links, namely the three kinds of precepts: the ceremonial precepts which order a person toward God; second, the judicial precepts, which order one to the neighbor; third, the moral precepts which order a person regarding himself, how everyone should live.   The colt which had not yet had been tied, nor had ever borne a burden on its back, signifies the Gentiles, who had no chain of law around their neck, nor burden of precepts on their back.  It signifies that Christ not only had come to redeem and save the Jews, abut also the Gentiles and pagans.   Thus he observed this ceremony, because he wished first to ride on the ass, which he had to untie, because at the time of the Messiah-king all prefiguring and ceremonies should cease. Second, he wished to ride on the unbroken colt, not out of necessity, but that the scripture and prefiguring should be fulfilled.  Because the Gentiles also should be converted to Christ.  Thus the Apostle, “and whosoever believes in him shall not be confounded,” (Rom 9:33).

   The second ceremony or circumstance is this.  He wished today to enter Jerusalem in a procession, because a great crowd preceded him and followed him, and he with the apostles went in the middle. Just as we do today in processions in which many precede and many follow, and the bishop or priest who represents Christ, in the middle with the priests. And the gospel says that both the ones preceding and the ones following were looking back saying “Hosanna to the son of David,” (v. 9).  In this is shown that all who preceded, from Abel down to Christ, namely the Patriarchs and Prophets, as well as also those who would follow, down to the end of the world, all look upon Christ through faith, saying, “Hosanna,” etc.  Because no one can be saved, unless through Christ.  Therefore Gen 49: “I will look for thy salvation, O Lord,” (Gen 49:18). And, in Acts 4: “Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).

   The third circumstance is this.  The entire route, from the Mount of Olives up to Jerusalem was covered.  Such was the  devotion of the people, that not with caps [cappis] or other decorations [ornamentis], but with the coats and capes of men and women, they paved the path, the Evangelists says, ” Ad a very great multitude spread their garments in the way,” (v. 8).   Why this?  I reply that this was a figure of future martyrs, as is clear in sacred scripture.  The human body is called the clothing of the soul, which clothing the vast crowd of martyrs, would lay down on the way, dying for their faith in Christ.  So David says, in the person of martyrs: ” Because for thy sake we are killed all the day long: we are counted as sheep for the slaughter,” (Ps 43:22). Also in the Apocalypse 7 it says of martyrs: “These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” i.e. of Christ, (Rev 7:14).

The fourth ceremony consisted of the tree branches.  The Evangelist says that ” others cut boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way,” (v. 8), namely flowers and leaves and branches from trees.  It was a sign. For in sacred scripture men are called trees.  Mark 8: “I see men as it were trees, walking,” (Mk 8:24).  From these trees, flowers, leaves and branches of merit and good works are to be spread out before the way of Christ, namely that they be done for him, because otherwise they are worthless.  Jn 15: “for without me you can do nothing,” (Jn 15:5), of merit.

   The fifth was, because he wished to be praised and blessed both by the great as well as by the small, and Hosannas cried out, according to that of David: “Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings you have perfected praise,” (Ps 8:3).  This was to show that by virtue of his passion not only adults and great ones are saved through penance, but also children through innocence.  Wis 6: “For he made the little and the great, and he has equally care of all,” (Wis 6:8).

   Sixth, because all, both the great as well as the small with one voice were saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” (v. 9). In which it is shown that he was the universal redeemer of all. Authority: “For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a redemption for all,” (1 Tim 2:5f).

   From all this we understand why and how today this solemnity was celebrated for Christ and not otherwise.  About this Zacharias,the father of John the Baptist, had prophesied saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he has visited and wrought the redemption of his people,” (Lk 1:68).

REPRESENTED APPROPRIATELY

   The second point which touches us more, is about the solemnity which we make, representing that solemnity appropriately given today to Christ, because just as Christ today with solemnity and procession came to the place of his passion, so also we today with great solemnity and procession, come to the passion which today is read in the mass.   Someone might ask: “Why is the passion of Christ read today with such solemnity?”    Because the passion of Christ ought to generate sadness and pain in the hearts of the faithful, and not happiness and joy.  Note how the passion and death of Christ can be received and considered in a fourfold way, according to which it is read four times in the church, according to the four gospels.

   First it can be viewed and thought about from the point of view of his personal dignity,  considering the person who suffers, who is Christ, King, father [papa], Lord, innocent and pure.  And according to this consideration the passion of Christ brings sadness, pain, tears and sighs to Christians.  In this respect the passion of Christ is read on Good Friday, on which the bells are not rung, and people prostrate themselves, sad, and bowing their heads.  In this respect the prophet Jeremiah considered the passion of Christ saying, “And I was as a meek lamb, that is carried to be a victim,” (Jer 11:19).

   In a second way the passion of Christ can be received and considered according to human necessity, because we are all weak and wounded by the plague of sins, nor can we be cured except by the blood of Christ, who willed to suffer for our sins.  Isa 53: “But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins,” (Isa 53:5).  And according to this point of view the passion of Christ urges us to contrition and sorrow for our sins, for which it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die.  And in this respect  the passion of Christ is read in the church on Wednesday, according to the gospel of Luke.

   A third way it can be considered according to judicial perversity, because the Jews had been honored by God, the sons of the prophets and patriarchs, the people chosen by God and yet so strongly they had rebelled against their God.  In this respect the passion of Christ gives us an occasion for compassion  for that reprobate people, destroyed and damned by the passion of Christ.  And from this point of view the passion of Christ is read in church on Tuesday.  And in this way the prophet Zacharias considered the passion of Christ, saying: “What are these wounds in the midst of your hands? And he shall say: With these I was wounded in the house of them who loved me,” (Zach 13:6).

   Fourth, the passion of Christ can be heard and pondered according to its ultimate usefulness, because from the passion of Christ we have been freed from damnation to hell, from mortal sins, and we have grace in this world and glory in the next.  See the ultimate utility of the passion of Christ. And seen in this way the passion of Christ generates in us joy, happiness, exultation and consolation. This is why the passion of Christ is read today [on Palm Sunday] with such solemnity, joy and happiness, singing, “Glory and praise.”   So Isaiah says: “Rejoice, and give praise together, deserted Jerusalem: for the Lord has comforted his people: he has redeemed Jerusalem,” (Isa 52:9).  Note, the “deserted Jerusalem,” about which the Apostle says in Galatians 4: “But that Jerusalem, which is above, is free,” (Gal 4:26), and from her all men of the world had deserted by her sins.  But now, already, it must be rejoiced, “…for the Lord has comforted his people,” by paying for them the price.  This is the reason why the passion today is read with joy.

   Here note the six differences of today’s joy as opposed to the six sorrows of Good Friday.

   The first sadness, because on Good Friday the holy bells are not rung, they are silenced.    Because in the passion and death of Christ, the bells, i.e. the apostles whose sound of preaching goes out to the whole world, according to the prophecy of David, lose their sound, because none dared to announce Christ, moreover the greater bell, namely Peter was broken by denying Christ, nor did John who was next to the cross dare to say anything in Christ’s behalf.  But today, considering the ultimate benefit of the passion of Christ we make a great solemnity, ringing the bells.

   The second sadness, because then the tables are struck, a sound of sadness and pain, and it symbolizes the sound of derision and blasphemy which they heaped on Christ in the passion.  But today the priests sing with a high and clear voice.  Reason: because of the passion of Christ, the souls of the blessed shall sing with the angels in glory.

   The third sadness is this.  On Good Friday the holy images, crosses and icons are hidden and covered, just as in the passion of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalen and John and others covered their heads out of grief and sadness.  They could not gaze upon the cruel passion of Christ.  But today the cross is held high, solemnly, in a sign of the benefits of the passion of Christ.

   The fourth sadness is because on Good Friday, the holy passion is commemorated with tears and sorrows, to show the tears and sighs of the Virgin Mary and the others.  But today it is remembered with joy and gladness because of its ultimate usefulenss.

   The fifth sadness is because on Good Friday, people prostrate themselves, shoes off, grieving, and many fast on bread and water.  But today people walk in procession with great joy, well dressed, carrying branches in their hands which signify the victory which we have over our enemies by the passion of Christ.

   The sixth sadness, because then the passion is sung without any procession and order, for the apostles were dispersed, separated and divided.  But today a solemn procession takes place, and we all go, gathered and ordered, because from the passion of Christ we all are united and gathered. John 6 says that Christ was to die “to gather together in one the children of God, who were dispersed,” (Jn 11:52).  So we sing with joy: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” (v. 9).

THE WAY TO JERUSALEM

   The third point is about the way which Christ took coming into Jerusalem, which way is made up of six stages.

   The first stage. Christ, today, in the morning, left Bethany and came to Bethphage.  Second, from Bethphage to the Mount of Olives. Third from the Mount of Olives he descended into the Valley of Josephat.  Fourth from the Valley of Josaphat he came to Jerusalem.  Fifth, from Jerusalem he went into the Temple of God.  Sixth, from the Temple he returned to Bethany with the twelve apostles, as in Mark 11.   So, it seems that he had six stations.

    And this represents our path which we walk by sinning and returning to grace through t the way of penance.

    First, through sin we depart from Bethany which is interpreted “house of obedience,” from which we withdraw whenever we break the precepts of God for the sake of gaining  some earthly prize. In this withdrawal there should be weeping. So when Christ left Bethany, leaving Mary Magdalen, Martha and Lazarus, thanking them, because often they had received him into their home, Mary Magdalen began to weep, saying to Christ, “Lord where do you wish to go? because it is already decided in Jerusalem that they should kill you. So keep the paschal feast here, and your mother will come here.”  The apostles said the same, and Martha and Lazarus. They were afraid. Christ replied to them, “It is necessary to fulfill the will of him who sent me.”  Magdalen and all the others wept, saying, “Perhaps we shall never see you again.”    Tears in the departure from Bethany, in which it is shown that man, when he departs from the house of obedience ought to weep, through contrition, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, 2: “Know you, and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for you, to have left the Lord your God, and that my fear is not with you,” (Jer 2:19).  So, the first station.

   Second he comes to Bethphage, which is interpreted the “house of the cheek” or “house of the mouth.” This represents oral confession. After you have left Bethany, i.e. the house of obedience, with tears of contrition, it is necessary that you come to Bethphage, i.e. to the house of confessing your sins by mouth.  Bethphage is a village of priests. So confession has to be done to priests, because no one else, no matter how holy, can forgive sins, because only to the priests did Christ say, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them,” (Jn 20:23).  Note “they are forgiven them,” he does not say they will be forgiven, because that very same hour in which they are forgiven by a confessor, they are forgiven by God.  “and whose sins you shall retain,”  namely by not absolving, because they were unwilling to refrain from sinning, or because they were unwilling to

make restitution, or because they were unwilling to forgive injuries, “they are retained,” (Jn 20:23) by God. Thus, the second station.

   Third, from Bethphage he went up the Mount of Olives. So, the works of satisfaction. The Mount of Olives has three conditions in which are signified the three works of satisfaction. First because the Mount of Olives is difficult. See here the difficulty of fastings, of vigils etc. Second because it is high. This stands for the height of prayer, which according to Damascene is the “elevation of the mind to God.”  Third because there olives grow, which are medicinal.   See, the generous giving of alms. “Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance,” (Mt 3:8).

   Fourth, from the Mount of Olives he descended into the valley of Josaphat, which means “the judgment of the Lord.”  Thus the repayment of debts, because the Lord shall judge irrevocably that everyone repay his debts.  Although you are in the Mount of Olives through satisfactory works, it is also required that you descend into the Valley of Josaphat, by restoring things taken in two ways, either spiritually or temporally. Spiritually a clergyman descends into the valley of Josaphat who obtained his prelacy or dignity or benefice by simony, because he committed theft. John 10: “He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up another way, the same is a thief and a robber,” (Jn 10:1).  The door represents legitimate election, without your assistance, or dealing.  It means a spiritual appointment is pure, because the Pope appointed you without your knowledge or dealing.   If you wish to be saved it is necessary to descend into the Valley of Josaphat by making reparations saying, “Lord I have stolen this, so I restore it to the hands of your vicar.”  In a secular matter, he who stole a castle, a villa, a home, a field or possessions or money, or something else descends into the Valley of Josaphat, when he restores it.  It is necessary to descend from the evil state. Let no one deceive you.  Also if you defame someone, it is necessary to descend to restoring to him his good name if it not true what you said, or if it is hidden or a secret.  If you say that it will be embarrassing or dangerous for you to recant,  I respond, it doesn’t matter, because the sin is not remitted until what was taken is restored.

   Fifth, from the valley of Josaphat he comes to Jerusalem which is interpreted as “peaceful”.  See here the forgiveness of injuries, when a man makes peace for himself with his enemy.  So David: “Pray you for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and abundance for them who love you. Let peace be in your strength: and abundance in your towers,” (Ps 121:6-7). Note: “abundance,” because unless a greater person has peace with lesser and e converso, and the greater among themselves do not “abound” then there will be poor and the earth will be sterile. So the Apostle says: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness: without which no man shall see God,” (Heb 12:14).  Note peace and holiness go together, because some have peace but no holiness, but malice and sin likes robbers among themselves, like procurers with their prostitutes. Thus the buyer, seller and manager have peace but not holiness when they defraud each other.

   Sixth, from Jerusalem he enters the Temple of the Lord.  This means Holy Communion. After you have done the previous stations, you go to the Temple of the Lord for communion, nor do you expect that the Lord would come to you in your weakness, etc. Gen “Come in, you blessed of the Lord: why do you stand without?…And bread was set before him,” (Gen 24:31,34), which is allegorically said to every Christian.   This is the way to paradise which Christ showed to us by entering into Jerusalem. And so: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” Mt 12:9

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent – St. Vincent Ferrer

   “We…know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world,” (Jn 4:42)  This holy gospel contains a beautiful story which contains three great disputations between Christ and others:

  1.             The first was between Christ and the Samaritan woman,
  2.             The second was the Samaritan woman with Christ,
  3.             The third was with Christ and the disciples.

   And each disputation has an excellent question. The conclusion of the first disputation was, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet,” (v.19). The conclusion of the second disputation is that Christ is the Messiah. The conclusion of the third disputation is the theme, that [he is] the Savior of the world (v. 42)..

THE FIRST ARGUMENT – WITH THE WOMAN AT THE WELL

   As for the first disputation which was with the Samaritan woman it must be known that it was friendly, because Christ began it. So as Christ was traveling from village to village personally preaching, he came to Samaria, a great city, larger even than Paris. Near that city there was a high fountain — it was called a fountain, because it gushed fresh water — and a deep well. Christ was weary and totally exhausted from the journey. He sat himself on the edge of the well so he might wash his blessed face over the fountain, and so its coolness might refresh him. In the mean time he Apostles and disciples went into the city to buy food and bread.

And when Christ was alone at the fountain –the hour was noon — a woman from the city of Samaria came to draw water. She found Christ there, and she did not greet him, recognizing that he was a Jew by his clothing, for Jews were not talking to Samaritans, just as we Christians do not talk with unbelieving Saracens. Christ began the disputation, saying, “[Woman,] give me a drink,”(v. 7).  She, looked at him with a fierce eye, began to argue with Christ, saying, “How do you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a  drink,? For the Jews do not communicate with the Samaritans,(v. 9) I shall certainly not give you a drink.”

Christ replied saying, “O woman, if you knew the gift of God, and who he is that says to you, ‘Give me to drink;’  perhaps you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water,” (v. 10).  Note the gift of God given to the human race. This gift is the Son of God given in the incarnation, about which Isaiah, 9, “…A son is given to us,” (Isa. 9:6).  Behold the gift given in our redemption.

The woman continued arguing, saying to Christ, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where then do you have living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and himself drank there, and his children, and his cattle?” (vv. 11-12).

Christ responds: “Woman, you do not understand of which water I speak, because this is not it. Whosoever drinks of this water, shall thirst again; but he who shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever: But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting,” (vv. 13-14), and he shall have eternal life.

Such was the power of Christ’s words that the woman bowed to him, and already contrite in heart with humility and reverence said, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor have to come here to draw,” (v. 15). Then Christ responded, “You want some of this water?”  The woman replied, “Yes, lord.”  “Go to the city, and call your husband, and come back here,” (v. 16). She said,” I have no husband,” and Christ said, “Well have you said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands: and he whom you now have, is not your husband. He is a bully and a lecher [ruffianus et ribaldus], and you are his mistress.” And he told her the names of all her husbands, and their characters, and what work they did. This one was called such, and had such a job, and died in this way, and so on with the others. “But this one which you now have is not your husband but a lecher and you too are a lecher.” Then she began to cry out, “O Lord, Lord clearly I see that you are a prophet (v.19) and you know everything that I have done (cf. v.39). Spare me, because I called you a Jew.”  The conclusion of the first disputation. Note she first called him a Jew, and later she calls the Lord a prophet. So much for the literal sense of the first disputation.

    Morally. Now we uncover the moral lessons hidden for us.  In this disputation their are six hidden moral [lessons], which we begin to explore through questions.

First, who is this Samaritan woman and what does she signify?  Response: this Samaritan woman signifies the every Christian sinner in two ways, and the gospel tells us. First, because she comes often, every day, to the water, but she is not satisfied.  Such is the condition of sinners, because they come daily to the water of temporal prosperity, and are not satisfied. Such is  the way of cupidity. For example, if a priest has a simple benefice, he tries to get a larger one, and is never satisfied.  Behold the condition of the water of temporal goods which do not satisfy, because they do not hit the spot where the thirst is. For the thirst is for having worldly goods, such as, lands, possessions, gold, silver etc. These temporal goods do not enter within the heart.  Even if you had a wagon filled with liquid gold, it would not satisfy you.  But just as a starving man is not satisfied by the sight of food on the table, because hunger is in the stomach, and so unless the food goes in, it will not take away the hunger or thirst. So it is with the consumption of temporal goods. Thus however much a man has, he thirsts and desires for more, because such things do not enter into his heart. Authority: “A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money: and he that loves riches shall reap no fruit from them, etc.,” (Eccl  5:9).

  And so  direct pleasures and worldly delights, are like a fever which burns a person with thirst.  He is then given a drop of water on the tongue, with a feather.  The same with the delights of lust, of  avarice, etc.  And so wherever flesh seeks refreshment in temporal things, it discovers only failure.  For the heart of a man is greater than the heavens and can be satisfied only by God, whom the heaven cannot embrace, but nevertheless the heart of man always holds fast to grace, and then man is satisfied, so Christ says, ” Whosoever drinks of this water, shall thirst again; but he who shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever,  But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting,” (vv. 13-14), by the water of grace and his presence.  Thus the conclusion is from theology,  that sanctifying grace [gratia  gratum faciens] brings and has with it the presence of God.  And by this sign it can be known if a person is in grace, when someone does not desire things leading to sin. Note: “springing up into life everlasting.”  What a leap is that which the soul makes, when by mouth it leaps immediately into heaven.  Think if a man would jump from the earth into heaven.  O what kind of a leap would it be, even if it is beyond higher, how much higher yet is it to heaven.

   The second secret: Jesus, fatigued by the journey, was sitting there at the fountain.  It was almost noon. Why was Jesus more exhausted at that hour from the journey than any of the Apostles?  Because he was sustaining the whole world and all creatures.  Reason: you know, good people, that there never was there a man of such a delicate constitution like Christ as man. Why? Because we are conceived and begotten from most vile and corrupt stuff, and so we have a coarser constitution for enduring labors. The body of Christ formed by the Holy Spirit, was not of most vile matter but from the purest drops of the blood of the Virgin Mary, and so it was more delicate; or because he was fasting every day, and “passed the whole night in prayer,” (Luke 6:12), and he labored preaching every day

And about this sensitivity [delicatura] it is said in Isa 53: ” …To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?  And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he has born our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray, every one has turned aside into his own way: and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” (Isa 53:1-6).  The arm of the Lord through which God the Father has worked all things, is Christ as God. “All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.” (John 1:3).  And speaking of his humanity he says, ” And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground,” (v. 2 ).  A tender plant is a little shoot and delicate, which grows up at the base of other large trees, or which sprouts in dry ground where there is not any water.  It is very delicate and fragile.  So it is clear the reason why Christ was more exhausted than the Apostles.

  If it is said “Could he not care for himself?” I reply: Always, but he would not have given us an example of laboring for good works, so that we might have patience when we are tired and exhausted, as Christ was, and when from preaching of fasting or other reasons we are worn out, we take comfort from the example of Christ and we acquire patience.  Thus the Apostle, “But in all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses,  in stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, in chastity, in knowledge, in longsuffering, in sweetness, in the Holy Ghost, in charity unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God,” (2 Cor 6:4-7).

   The third secret is: Why did the Apostles leave him alone?  because no one remained with him. The text says: ” For his disciples had gone into the city to buy meats,” (v. 8), and they left him alone in the desert, because that well was a considerable way from the city of Samaria. Response: why they left him alone, because it was at the command of Christ that all should go, so that he might save that woman. For if some disciple had been there, the woman would have been deterred, nor would she have spoken with him, and so he ordered that they all should go to the city to buy what was needed.

In this we are morally instructed. And we have an example, that just as Christ in the incarnation has dismissed the company of  thousands of thousands of angels, Job 25: ” Is there any numbering of his soldiers?” (Job 25:3). For our salvation he dismissed them.  The same way, as he dismissed the company of apostles for the salvation of that Samaritan woman.  So likewise we [should dismiss] the company of friends, children, wife, etc.  Also he says,” And every one that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting,” (Mt 19:29). Note “for my name’s sake” which is Jesus, translated as Savior. “For my name’s sake,” i.e. for the salvation of a soul, that the religious leaves his homeland for the purpose of preaching.  The same for the priest or  layman, who leaving the world “shall receive a hundredfold, etc.”  Or wife, or children.

  The question is: Is a man able to dismiss his wife for Christ, and the salvation of a soul, either his or of others?  Response: that a man cannot dismiss a wife which he already has, unless they both agree upon entering religious life, and if the other is to remain in the world, they are bound to live continently. Likewise a father should not leave his children unless thy are well provided with necessities, and are well instructed, educated and adult enough. The same holds for children, who should not leave their parents, poor and old, unless they are taken care of.  Second, one “leaves a wife,” not a wife which he has, but one which he might have, and children which he might have. For the love of Christ he leaves everything. So this text [auctoritas] is to be understood.

  The fourth secret, or the fourth question is shown in this, when the woman says, “How do you, being a Jew, etc.” (Jn 4:9). How does the woman know that Christ is a Jew? Response: that she recognized him by his speech in the same way as Peter was recognized on the night of the passion. “Surely you are also one of them; for even your  speech betrays you,” (Mt  26:73).

  Morally. Everyone is recognized for where his homeland is.  There are two opposing  homelands: paradise, and hell, and in each they speak differently.  The language of paradise is like that in the Psalm, “Blessed are they who dwell in your house, O Lord: they shall praise you for ever and ever,” (Ps 83:5). Therefore when a religious or priest or layman freely praises God, it is a sign that he is one of those from paradise. “.. for even your  speech betrays you,” (Mt  26:73).  It is otherwise when, with weariness in a confused and irreverent and non devout way one recites the Office or prayers. It is a great sign of predestination to praise God with delight.  The language of hell is that of which John says in Apocalypse 16: “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God, who has power over these plagues, neither did they do  penance to give him glory,” (Rev 16:9).   Therefore when one swears, contradicts [renegat], blasphemes, etc., it is a sign that he is a townsman and citizen of hell, whence,  “you also are one of them, etc.”  Thus to swear and contradict is a manifest sign of predicted damnation.

  The fifth secret is that water of which Christ spoke, “Whosoever drinks…,” (v. 13)  This is the spiritual grace which extinguishes  ardor of pride in the proud,  avarice in the greedy, lust in the lusting, etc., just as natural water puts out the heat of the body.  Such a one does not wish for things inordinately, nor ardently seeks dignities, positions etc, like those do who still burn with the fever of pride, avarice etc. For the pure water of the grace of God extinguishes that burning in them. They who have grace say, with the Apostle [Paul], in 1 Tim. 6: “But having food, and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content,” (1 Tim 6:8).  He does not say “delicacies” [delectamenta] and by which we are “decorated” [ornemur] etc. This the grace of God accomplishes, or the water of grace “springing up into life everlasting,” (v. 14).  O, what a spring. Behold why he says, “he who shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever,” (v.13), namely, with that temporal [thirst] from the heat of sin. Of this grace, Romans 6: “But the grace of God, life everlasting,” (Rom 6:23), that is through “the grace of God” one has “eternal life.”

  The sixth secret or sixth question: Since Christ said, “Go call your husband,” Why did he say that, since Christ knew that she did not have a husband?  Response: that Christ chose this way of speaking so that the woman herself would speak the truth with her own mouth, that she did not have a husband.

  Morally. ” For you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have, is not your husband,” (v.18). So when one sins out of weakness, or from ignorance, each person has five husbands, and finally takes on the bully [ruffianum], the devil. The five husbands are the five natural bodily senses. For just as a man rules his household, so these five senses rule the body in [those] sins which come from weakness, like Peter when he denied Christ out of fear. But when one sins out of habit and malice, one is ruled by the devil, like a bully or a pimp.  The Apostle says about this, “And they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captive at his will,” (2 Tim 2:26). The same St. Paul says: “Know also this, that, in the last days, shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents,” (2 Tim 3:1-2).

 

SECOND ARGUMENT – THE SAMARITAN WOMAN WITH CHRIST

   The second argument, of the Samaritan woman with Christ begins with her boldness. And to understand this disputation you should know that between the Jews and the Samaritans there was an ancient question as to where they should pray, in Jerusalem or there, on Mount Gerazim.  The Jews said “in Jerusalem,” because thus God commanded.  The Samaritans however said “on this mountain,” because the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob worshipped there. The Samaritan woman seeing Christ to be a prophet, who revealed her secrets to her, thought, “O this one tells you the truth.” To seek the solution to this subtle question, she begins the by saying: “Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you say, that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore,” (v. 20).  “Since you are a prophet , what do you say about this question?”

In his reply Christ acknowledged two opinions.  First, that the truer opinion was that of the Jews, because although the patriarchs had adored there, nevertheless the place of prayer had been moved.  The second opinion, that one can worship in every place, because God is everywhere.  Then Christ replied: “Woman, believe me, that the hour is coming, when you shall adore the Father neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem. You adore that which you do not know; we adore that which we know, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and is now, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they who adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth,” (vv..21-24).  And so Jesus resolved the question against the Samaritan woman.

  “The woman said to him: I know that the Messias (who is called Christ) is coming. Therefore, when he comes, he will tell us all things,”(v. 25).  Jesus replied, ” I, who am speaking with you, am he,” (v.26). Nowhere in the gospels is it found  that Christ so clearly said that he was the Christ, the Savior of the world, as he does here. And instantly the woman, enlightened, left her water jug and ran  into the city, crying out and declaring and calling the people, “O my good people, come, and see a man who has told me everything that I have done. Is not he the Christ?  They went therefore out of the city, and came to him,” (v.29-30).

  In this question there are three secrets.

  1. The first is, God is spirit. What does it mean to adore “in spirit and in truth?”

   1)  To understand this, realize that it is an principle of philosophy, that truth is the correspondence of  thing to intellect. For example when the spirit thinks about the infinite sanctity and purity of Christ, and on the other hand it thinks about the gravest sins which man himself commits, then when the external gesture of the body corresponds to the spirit saying: “Lord I am not worthy to behold you. Alas, how many sins have I committed against your will and holiness etc.,” and physically one bows down, by revealing humility externally, then [the body] corresponds with the spirit in the heart.  But when the heart is in the tavern, and the body bows, it is not truth.  In this way the publican prayed to God in the sprit and truth saying:” O God, be merciful to me a sinner,” (Lk 18:13). For this reason we now say. “Bow your heads to the Lord,” [Invitation to the prayer at the end of Lenten Masses] as if the church is saying, you are not worthy to look upon him.  For this reason the statues are veiled in Lent as if to say we are not worthy to look upon these images.

   2)  Second, God is adored in spirit and truth. First in spirit by thinking of his dominion, how he created body and soul and all things are his.  Otherwise of other lords.  Second, he is to be adored in truth, by the genuflecting of both knees to him, temporal lords only the left, and prelates the right.  In this way we say,  “Let us bend the knees,” [Flectamus genua. Levate. A liturgical command during Good Friday intercessions.] and it does not say by a knee . “Raise up,” namely, the spirit on high.  So when you wish to say a prayer, first you should pray in the spirit, thinking with whom you should be speaking, then in truth, by reverence of the body on the outside.  Behold why Christ says,” The Father also seeks such to adore him…in spirit and in truth,” (Jn 4:23).  And scriptures agree saying,” As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,” (Rom 14:11).

   3)  Third, God is adored in spirit and in truth. First in spirit thinking of his eternity, and in contrast of our own vile beginnings, because [we are] made of earth, and thinking of our end, because we shall die.  And in truth by prostrating oneself on the earth, which is to say “to earth we shall return,” and shall die, and God is in his eternity.  This is signified in his passion when it is said, “He gave up his spirit,” (Mt 27:50).  There every Christian prostrates. Thus David says, ” Come let us adore and fall down: and weep before the Lord that made us,” (Ps 94:6).

   4)  Fourth, God is worshipped in spirit, by thinking of the generosity of God who gives all temporal and spiritual goods, and on the other hand our uncleanness and needs.  And in truth.  So we raise our hands: the right for spiritual goods, the left for temporal goods.

   5)  The fifth manner of adoring God in spirit, by thinking of God’s mercy, because since we are condemned to the pitchfork of hell, the Son of God was so merciful that he said to his Father: Blessed Father, I alone wish to be suspended for the whole people.  And on the other hand by thinking about  sins for which the sentence has been given. And in truth, when the cross is signed in the heart saying: “The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord,”  (Ps 32:5) from your passion.  Thus Paul, ” “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Gal 6:14).

   6)  The sixth way of adoring in the spirit by striking our breast, thinking of God’s infinite immensity and thinking of the offense committed toward him by our sins.  Thus the heart is struck with five fingers, just as we have five ways of sinning, namely, thought, word, work, omission and by persistence, because in these ways God is offended.

  1. The second secret is when it says, “She left her jug, etc.”  Literally, why does she leave it?  So she can run more quickly to the city.  But spiritually, the jug symbolized the evil companions of the woman, who blocked her path, and so she left it.  Many are such, who by the association and familiarity and love of certain people are impeded from the path to paradise.  So the woman left her jug, i.e. her bad companions.  Thus the Poet,” Things you have which are harmful, [though dear, let go,]” (Cato, Distich, Lib. I, v. 6).

  1. The third secret is when it is said that she went to the city, crying out, “Come, I shall show you a man…etc.,” (v.29). Thus she was not satisfied with her own conversion, but wished to convert her neighbors, because she converted the whole city.  Here we are  instructed that no one ought to be content with his own conversion, but ought to go out to convert his neighbor, like the good and devout wife, sweetly to convert her crude husband.  Likewise, brother, the brother; neighbor, their neighbor; servant, their lord;  master, their disciple; a lady, her handmaiden. Ecclesiasticus 17, “And he gave to every one of them a commandment concerning his neighbor,” (Sir 17:12).  Also the Apocalypse, last chapter, ” And the spirit and the bride say: Come. And he that hears, let him say: Come. And he who thirsts, let him come,” and drink, “and he who wishes, let him take the water of life, freely,” (Rev 22:17).  Note how the Holy Sprit says to man, “Come to Paradise etc.”

THE THIRD ARGUMENT – BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES

     The third disputation was between Christ and the Apostles, humbly, because they said, “Rabbi, eat,” (v. 31). and they set a meal before him. However, Christ refused to eat, but replied saying, ” I have meat to eat, which you know not,” (v. 32). The evangelist says that, “The disciples therefore said one to another,” namely between themselves, “Has any man brought him [something] to eat?”  Christ however declaring which food he was talking about said,” My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work,” (v. 34).

This he was saying for the sake of the people who were coming from the city, and when he saw the people, he thought, “It is necessary for me to preach,” because he did not say I do not prefer to eat food, but he said, I have other food to eat, namely the word of God. For not by bread alone does a man live, “But in every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” (Mat 4:4). Note that, in the example of Christ, a sermon should come from a fasting stomach.

And he preached to those from the city, O how sweetly, “and he remained there two days,” (v. 40). And they believed in him, to such an extent that they said to the woman, “We now believe, not for your saying so: for we ourselves have heard him, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world. (v. 42) In such a way he illuminated us.” Behold therefore the conclusion of this dispute.

   Morally.  The food of Christ is to do the will of God the Father.  Thus we do the will and we give him to eat, because this food is greatly pleasing to him.

 – He wants food from bishops, that they enter through the door, not through simony. Second after they are inside, that they be more concerned about souls that stipends.  Finally, that they live from stipends and share with the poor and give good example and good teaching.  From this food God is satisfied.

 – As for secular lords he wants food, namely that they minister justice both to the little ones and to the great, both to the poor as well as to the rich, and they do not qualify justice because of bribes and favors. Shunning robbery, content with their own income,  they serve the people in peace.

 – In religious he wants four foods, and from these Christ wishes to be fed, namely apostolic poverty, evangelical chastity, complete obedience, and ceremonial observance.   – And of priests he wants three foods, namely devoutly to pray their breviaries, celebrate worthily, and behave properly.  1 Tim 3:7, “Moreover he must have a good testimony of them who are without: lest he fall into reproach.”

 – Of the laity he wants two foods, and they are enough, namely the articles of the faith and the observance of the precepts of God.  And finally he would say to you in judgment, from Mat 25:34, ” Come, you blessed of my Father, etc.” namely with the aforesaid foods and so you shall be with Christ at the table of glory, about which he said, “And I dispose to you, as my Father has disposed to me, a kingdom; That you may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom,”  here through grace, and in the future, through glory (Lk 22:29).

St. Vincent Ferrer – Sermon for the Second Sunday of Lent

The Transfiguration – Matthew 17:1-9

   “Let us make here three tents,” (Mt 17:4).  We continue our reading in today’s gospel.  By way of introducing these words and the matter to be preached about, it must be known that in sacred scripture the devout hearing and listening to the gospel teaching are called tabernacles [or tents].  For if we analyze well the usefulness of tents, rightly they are compared to gospel teaching.  For when tents or tabernacles, are pitched by soldiers, they are done for three reasons:

  1. The first reason is because of the heat of the sun, to keep cool,
  2. The second, against the gusting of the wind, for protection,
  3. Third, for shelter against the rain.

   All these benefits gospel teaching gives to those who listen carefully, and this against a threefold defect.

  1. First, gospel teaching cools and preserves a man against the stimulation and ardor of the flesh, which moves many and stimulates them into sins of lust. Some are tempted to avarice, others into other sins.  These teachings, therefore, give cool shelter against the ardor of the flesh.
  2. Second, in this world there are many winds and storms and temptations of demons, but not inside the tent, i.e.of prayer and contemplation.  For prayer and contemplation keep out the temptations of the devil.
  3. Third, there are great rains and floods, and these are the world, which offers many occasions for sinning.  But enter the tent of gospel teaching and you will find there a remedy.  And so Isaiah says of gospel teaching, “Over all the glory shall be a protection. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shade in the daytime from the heat, and for a security and covert from the whirlwind, and from rain.” (Isa 4:5-6).  So, prayer or contemplation gives cooling in the day against the ardor of the flesh. See, the first usefulness. And it gives security against the force of the wind, and this is its second strength or utility.  And it provides shelter from the rains, and so the third benefit.

   And so, by both reason and authority, these teachings appear like a tent, and so I intend to preach on three teachings, which are the three tents.  “Let us make here three tents,” which was our theme. Our sermon, therefore, shall contemplate this glorious transfiguration in three ways, a triple contemplation.

            First because this transfiguration was gloriously celebrated,

            Second because this transfiguration was calmly received,

            Third because this transfiguration was piously kept hidden.

 

THE FIRST TENT – GLORIOUSLY CELEBRATED

   My good people, let us place ourselves in these three tents, or in one of them.  I say first that it was gloriously celebrated, because in the gospel it is said, ” …Jesus takes with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and brings them up to a high mountain apart: And he was transfigured before them. And his face shone like the sun: and his garments became white as snow.  And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him,” (Mt 17:1-3).  And here I wish to pitch the first tent for our Lord.

   Jesus chose three to follow him, whom he led to the top of the mountain, to show them the secret. When he prayed, he was transfigured, not that his figure which he already had was changed, but that it shone like the sun – not like the sun shines, but incomparably greater than the sun. But in the gospel it is said “like the sun,” because in the world nothing is found that is brighter, and not only in his face and hands, but also his clothes were like snow, although incomparably more so.

   And two holy men from the past appeared there, i.e. Moses and Elias.  You should understand [it was] the soul of Moses, for he was dead and his soul was in the limbo of the holy patriarchs, but Elias was not dead, rather he was alive, still living in a terrestrial paradise.  He it was who was to preach at the time of the antichrist and against that very antichrist who would kill him, in martyrdom.  And these three apostles, although they never had seen them, instantly recognized them, because of their splendor, and they saw them speaking with Jesus.  Neither Mark nor Matthew report what they talked about, but St. Luke says that they were speaking with each other about the “excess of the passion” of Christ to take place in Jerusalem in those days. [“And they spoke of his decease that he should accomplish in Jerusalem.” (Lk 9: 30f)]

   Now, good people, let us examine this in a practical way.  These two, standing with Jesus, Moses and Elias, adored Jesus, knowing Jesus to be God and man, and they wondered much why he would permit himself to be chained and bound by the Jews, even if for sinners, since he could have accomplished his task by a single word.  Filled with admiration, since he it was who gave glory to the angels and to all the others, they were saying, “O God, how great is this charity.”  Each of them discussed every aspect of his passion and detailed its excesses.  The passion is said to be “excessive” because of the extremes of sufferings and love which he has shown to us, for, God, indeed is rich in mercy and because of this exceeding charity and mercy he has loved us, according to what is said in Ephesians, 2, “But God, (who is rich in mercy,) for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,” (Eph 2:4). See how gloriously this transfiguration is celebrated.  Behold, the first tent.  Here we rest against the attack and the temptation of the devil.  And this is the literal sense.

   And now we enter [its] secrets.  First we ask why Christ wished to be transfigured.  Second, about the people he wished to invite.

   My answer to the first is so that he might reveal his intrinsic glory and secrets.  Just as it is said by the teachers.  When Christ assumed humanity, let us see why he assumed it. I say for two reasons.  For his soul, as it was created in the womb of the Virgin Mary, immediately had such glory as he has now in heaven, and this because of his divinity.  It was a spiritual substance.  Nevertheless it was hidden in the body.  And so we say, “…and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,” (Jn 1:14).  It assumes a body, not glorious, but vulnerable and mortal, like us, and even more vulnerable than ours, and this for our sake.  But it was otherwise for the soul.  So because of his weakness he could be assimilated to his brothers in all things, as we read in Hebrews, “Wherefore he had to be made like unto his brethren in all things, that he might become  merciful,” (Heb 2:17).  In such a body was the glorious soul, but it was not seen by people.  By which it is believed that, just like the body, so too the soul would be vulnerable.  Christ wished to show that this was not so.  For this reason he wished to show his glory which poured out of his body and overflowed.

   And listen to this parable.  There is a man dressed in rags, yet he is extremely rich.  People would consider him to be poor.  He might gather all his friends and his family and show them his wealth, and the people followed him saying, that, although he is badly dressed, he is rich, we will follow him.  So the common saying is, “Money makes for good friends.”  So Christ wished to be transfigured.  For already he had promised when he said, “There are some of them that stand here, that shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” (Mt 16:28).  And he was speaking of those whom he now took with himself.

   Morally, for your sake.  Christ first had glory and yet his body was capable of suffering.  So for the souls of the saints who pass from this life to the next.  First their souls are in glory, and yet their bodies remain in corruption.  Nevertheless our body shall be transfigured, on the day of the resurrection, and the glorified soul will take up its body and overflow into the body.   And that glorified body is called bright, and on the day of judgment it shall  be brighter than the sun. And so it is said: “Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father,” (Mt 13:43).

   To the second question, why did he take just three apostles and not more, and why  not all the saints, but just these two from the Old Testament – he called five, the holy teachers say that from the testimony of two or three every word stands, if you ask about the number.  But if you ask about the people, I say that these Apostles were Christ’s friends.  For by divine promise St. Peter was already constituted pope, he was invited so that he might know even more.  Secondly he called James the Greater, because he was the first to receive martyrdom, as we read in the Acts, 12: “And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword,” (Acts 12:2).  Third, he called John, because he was a virgin chosen by God, and more beloved than the others, therefore he deserved to be honored more by the Lord.

    I say that he wished to call the dead and the living to the transfiguration, since he is seen to be judge of the living and the dead.  No so for the lords of this age, because they do not judge the dead.  Therefore it is said: “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul,” (Matt. 10:28).  And Acts 10: “…that it is he who was appointed by God, to be judge of the living and of the dead,” (Acts 10:42).

But why more Elias than Enoch, since he too was still alive?  The question is unresolved.   And why the dead Moses rather than the other holy patriarchs?  Because there are many dead, especially since Abraham was the principal one.  And so it is said, “in the bosom of Abraham,” (cf. Lk 16:23).  I say that I prefer one side of the various opinions about this, that which holds that only two of the holy patriarchs ever fasted for forty days: Moses, in Exodus 34, “And [Moses] was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights: he neither ate bread nor drank water,” (Ex 34:28).  And Elias: “And [he arose, and] ate, and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, unto the mount of God, Horeb, “3Kgs 19:8).  Therefore because they fasted forty days, so they merited to be present at the transfiguration, in which it is clear how much this sacred fast of Lent is pleasing to God.

So we should fast for the forty days of Lent so on Easter Day we shall be at the transfiguration, namely by receiving communion, and we shall say with the Apostle [Paul], “But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord,” (2Cor 3:18).

Note here how Christ, Moses and Elias fasted for forty days, and it says that Christ fasted praying.  Luke 6: “That he went out into a mountain to pray, and he passed the whole night in the prayer of God.” (Lk 6:12).  Moses fasted for forty days by listening, (cf. Ex 34,) where it is said that he stayed on the mountain with God.  Elias fasted by journeying or walking, (cf. above. 3Kgs 19).  So we, at the example of Christ, should devote ourselves to praying.  “Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children,” (Eph 5:1), by praying every prayer and observance.  Secondly, following the example of Moses, we should try to attend masses, and sermons and so we will be like Moses.  Third, at the example of Elias, we should try to walk, to journey, in pilgrimage, because when you fast by praying like Christ and listen like Moses, you ought to fast like Elias traveling, that is by visiting churches, because there are many indulgences in such.  Later, go to vespers, so that finally, on Easter, you shall be worthy to have the glory of paradise.

You ought in these times to set aside your courtrooms, your lawsuits, and your objections  and allegations, by rather saying prayers, by saying the Our Father, the Hail Mary, etc. and after hearing a sermon and praying, you should journey forth, as I told you, that you might acquire some riches for your soul.  And remember what Christ said: “Murmur not among yourselves,” (Jn 6:43).  In olden days, during this time [of Lent] court was not open nor was it held, but it is no longer such.  And this about the first tent.

 

SECOND TENT – QUIETLY RECEIVED

   The second point is that this transfiguration was quietly received by the Apostles, Moses and Elias.  That is clear because St. Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you  wish, let us pitch three tents here,” (Mt 17:4). It was therefore quietly received, because when Christ so stood, transfigured, and the onlookers were perceiving the glory of paradise, Peter said, “It is good for us to be here,” (v. 4), because he tasted the tabernacle (tent) of paradise, because he said, “Let us pitch three tents here,”  as if believing that John would stay with Moses, James with Elias, and that he would be with Christ.  St. Luke says about him, “not knowing what he said,” (Lk 9:33).

Then the shining cloud came and overshadowed them.  About this see, for although a cloud is bright of itself, nevertheless because of an impediment it is seen like a shadow.  And so to those standing there, a voice comes from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son,” (v. 5).   And everyone fell on their face.

And Jesus came to the apostles lying there and he raised them up.  Once on their feet they saw that Moses and Elias had already departed; Moses to the place of the holy patriarchs, Elias to the earthly paradise.

You can imagine that when the soul of Moses came to its place, he was questioned saying,  “Where did you go and what did you see?”  He replied, “I have seen the redeemer of the world, who is already many years old. Soon he shall come to free us.”  O, what a great joy came over them.  The same can be imagined about Elias, when his companion Enoch saw him, and he said to him, “O companion, where did you go?  Where were you?  Tell me some news.  Have you seen the Savior?”  “Certainly,” he replied, “I have seen the Savior.  For I was carried by St. Michael and I clearly saw the Lord transfigured.”   He told him everything.  Consider the sorrow of the other saying, “O why did I not go?  O why was it not I?”  Then he could have replied, “Because you have not fasted.”  So, about Moses someone might think what questions  there had been.   So it was received quietly.

But I ask what was the reason why Christ did not reply to the proposal of Peter saying, “Let us make here three tabernacles.” According to the Gloss, he did not reply verbally, because it was not a rational request.  Well enough!  But I say that Jesus replied secretly.  For Peter was seeking his glory on that mountain and Christ showed that it could not happen for five reasons:

  1. The first is because of the arrival of the cloud.  See, in deed, he replied.
  2. Second because of the voice of the Father.
  3. Third because they had fallen down.
  4. Fourth because Christ helped them to rise up.
  5. Fifth because they saw no one but Christ.

And so Christ wanted first to show Peter the five [events], before he was to come and to have glory.  And first the cloud came and this signifies penance, and so: “Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matt. 4:17).  So first penance must be done.

   Second the voice of the Father sounded, “This is my beloved Son, …hear ye him,” (v. 5). It signifies obedience. So it is said, ” But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live,” (Ezek. 18:21).

   Third, fear and humiliation are required, because they fell down. For every saint fears death. For according to the Philosopher (Aristotle), ” Death is the most terrible of all things,” (Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics 3.6  [1115a27]).

  Fourth, Christ has to come and this on the day of judgment, when, by divine power they shall be raised from death, because Christ made them rise up at his transfiguration when he said to them, “Arise, and fear not.” (v. 7), because sinners fear his appearance. But it is said to the just, “Do not fear, arise.”

  Fifth ” they lifting up their eyes saw no one but only Jesus,” (v. 8), as is understood that only The divine essence and no creature is the object of glory, or of eternal life, speaking of essential or principal glory, about which St. Thomas, [Summa theologiae] I, q. 12, a. 8 in the response to the 4th objection.  And to this vision no creature through its own natural powers can come, as the same St. Thomas beautifully proves in the same question, namely q. 12, a. 4.  And so it is said in Romans 6: “But the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus,” (Rom. 6:23).

So that shall be the tent. Therefore he has to do all these things after, and in this way Christ responded by action (facto).  And so in the Psalm, “Judge me O God,” it is said, “Send forth your light and your truth: they have conducted me, and brought me unto your holy hill,”  (Ps 42:3), namely to Mount Thabor.  Thus, the second point, namely how the transfiguration was calmly received.

THIRD TENT – DEVOUTLY HIDDEN

 

   The third part follows, in which that transfiguration was devoutly hidden.  For the text says: “And as they came down from the mountain, etc.,” Jesus said to them, “Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead,”  (v. 9).

But why did he wish that the aforesaid transfiguration be kept hidden?  Response: according to the teachers, the reason of his hiding was the piety of Christ, lest the Apostles and disciples hearing of such glory of Christ, if the transfiguration was revealed to them, and later having seen the ignominy of the passion of Christ, would have been more scandalized and would have sinned more by losing faith.  Thus these three Apostles, “held their peace, and told no man in those days any of these things which they had seen,” (Lk 9:36).

I believe, however, that St. John, with the permission of Christ, told the Virgin Mary of the glory of the transfiguration of Christ, and so, it seems, that Christ wished more for our salvation, than for his glory, when he says, “But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeks and judges,” (Jn 8:50).  And so it was devoutly hidden, therefore now you have three tents.  Here you rest, especially in these times [of Lent].

More Sermons From This Saint Here

The Temptation in the Desert – St. Vincent Ferrer

Mt  4:1-11  Douay translation.

“1 Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. 3 And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4 Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, 6 And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.

7 Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, 9 And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.

10 Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.”

“And behold angels came and ministered to him,” (Mt 4:11)  Today’s gospel tells us of the holy fast of Jesus. The four points are as follows:

First, a convenient location,

Second, a sufficient time during which he fasted,

Third, an appropriate manner how he fasted,

Fourth, the fruit which resulted from the fast.

And about this fourth the theme speaks, “…angels came.” etc., the fruits of what follows from the fast, because the angels came, etc.

LOCATION

   I say that today’s gospel tells us about the holy fast; and first, the convenient place where he fasted.  Notice that when Christ wished to fast for forty days, he chose not to fast in the city of Bethlehem, where he was born, nor in the temple where he was presented, nor in Nazareth where he was nourished, nor among men, but in the desert which is the habitat of beasts.  This he says at the beginning of the gospel, “Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert,” (Mt 4:2) – supply, wishing to fast – and this location was very appropriate.  The reason is because of the fittingness which the desert offers for the purpose of the fast. A fast is ordered to a three-fold end; namely restraining, liberating and for merit.

   First for restraining sins and vices, which for the most part happen from the inclinations of the flesh.  Because of this fasts are ordered for refraining.  For just as in the case of a stupid man who is armed, the arms with which he could do much harm are taken away, so likewise the body of man, stupid, armed with food and drink and other delights, which God gave us for the necessity of nature, when indiscreetly taken often kill the soul.  So they should be prudently taken away and removed from him.

   Second, a fast is ordered for freeing the soul, which, as long as it is united to the body, is much impeded by the body in spiritual goods. And so it is said, “For the corruptible body is a load upon the soul,” (Wis 9:15).  So that the soul might be free for working spiritually, the flesh is restrained through fastings, and so the soul is raised freely to God.  It’s like a scale. When one side is weighed down, the other is raised, and vice versa.

   Third, [a fast is ordered] for meriting and acquiring spiritual treasure, because just as through the whole year a man works for the needs of the body, so, by fasting, at least in this holy season, you labor for the soul.  Thus the Apostle, “…every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor,” (1 Cor 3:8).  For all of these reasons, see the authority of St. Gregory [the Great], who says, “You who restrain your vices by a bodily fast,” –note the first, to restrain – “you raise your mind,” – see the second, namely, to free the soul – “you will receive virtue and rewards,” – see the third, to merit.  Thus the triple ends of  fasting very much fit a desert place, where vices are restrained, because you do not have the occasion of sinning, nor by seeing with your eyes, etc. and so for the other senses.  It is clear, therefore, that the desert is the convenient place for a fast.

   Thus about that text, “Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert,” St. Gregory say in his homily today, “some are accustomed to doubt by which spirit Jesus is led into the desert?  Truly and without any question it is appropriately understood that he is believed to be led into the desert by the Holy Spirit.” But some might say these reasons are not appropriate for Christ, who in his body never had any bad inclinations.  Also neither is his soul impeded by the flesh, and that he had merited his complete blessings.  Also, because already he merits, both as God and as man.

   I respond that regarding the person of Christ there is a good reason. For he did this so that he might give us an example, that in the time of the fast we might go to the desert leaving our cities, villages and communities.  Understand it this way, that in the holy time we set aside our daily business, problems and conflicts etc.  The model here is given for all.  First to the religious and clerics. In this holy time [of Lent] it is enough that they are occupied about the hours and the office.  Workers however in this holy time ought to hear Mass and a sermon, if there is preaching in some place, the first thing in the morning, and afterwards go about their business, so that they might provide for their children and household.  The wealthy ought to get up in the morning for worship. They should hear a high Mass and a sermon, and afterwards pray the psalms after Mass, praying up to lunchtime.  Those rich people who don’t know the psalms, after Mass, should visit churches, monasteries and hospitals for prayer, where often there are many indulgences. After lunch then they can take a nap.  Finally, they should go to Compline, [night prayer], and afterwards say Vespers [evensong] or the seven penitential psalms or the Our Father, etc.  This is how someone goes out to the desert.

   The great king David believed this, saying of himself, “Lo, I have gone far off flying away; and I abode in the wilderness. I waited for him who has saved me from pusillanimity of spirit, and a storm,” (Ps 54:8f).  We don’t read that David, after he was crowned king, was in the desert, but he remained alone in his palace room, far from his business, and so he achieves his purpose, “I waited for him who has saved me.”  And the fruit of his merits, “from pusillanimity of spirit,” –see the freedom of the soul – “and a storm,” – supply, of the evil inclinations of the spirit.  It is clear then, [the desert is] a convenient place for a fast.

TIME

   I say secondly, etc. that the duration of forty days was sufficient.  For the text says that he fasted forty days and forty nights.  And why does it say forty nights?  I respond that this is said to differentiate the fast of the Jews who of old fasted through the day, and at night would eat their fill, just as the Muslims do.  Do not believe that the fast of Christ in that forty days and forty nights was like that, because he consumed nothing.

   Nevertheless, the duration of forty days and forty nights was sufficient.  Reason: Because already you know that all God’s commandments are ten in number, in which all others are fundamentally included.   Just as God gave ten fingers to the body for doing all things, so he gave ten commandments, like ten fingers, for working meritoriously.  These commandments we break in four ways, namely by thought, word, deed and omission.

– By thought we break two precepts especially [9 & 10], that: You shall not desire your neighbor’s wife, because it does not suffice to keep the body clean from this deed, but also the soul from the thought.  Secondly that: You shall not desire your neighbor’s house nor anything which is his. From desires arise divisions and war, and so it is said, “For the desire of money is the root of all evils,” (1 Tim. 6:10).

– By speech we break two other commandments, namely [2 & 8], that: You shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, because one should never swear unless out of necessity or usefulness.  And the other: Thou shalt not bear false witness, for whatever reason, neither in court or outside.

– By deed we break four, namely [1, 5, 6 & 7]: Thou shall not worship other gods.  Thou shall not kill.  Thou shall not commit adultery.  Thou shall not steal.

– By omission we break two, namely [3 &4]: Not keeping the holy days, and not honoring our parents.

   Therefore by these four ways we break the ten commandments, and four times ten equals forty. For this reason we undertake forty days of penance, because we sin 4 x 10 [ways] because of the flesh.  And so Gregory:  “Through mortal wills of the flesh we break the Lord’s commandments, which were received in the Decalogue, because therefore through the desires of the flesh we show contempt for the commandments of the Decalogue, it is fitting that we afflict the same flesh forty times.”  Behold, therefore, it is a sufficient time that Christ fasted, giving us an example.

Now there is here a three-part question about Christ, since Christ fasted in the desert for forty days:
– And the first question is, where did he sleep?
– Second, what did he do?
– Third, what company did he keep?

   Now listen devoutly, for the evangelists have not said expressly where he was sleeping, but often through symbols the truth can be elicited, just as from a husk the grain can be extracted.  Christ’s sleeping in the desert was prefigured in the patriarch Jacob. When he was a pilgrim and traveler from Canaan to Mesopotamia, he passed through parts of this desert.  At night when he wished to sleep he put a stone under his head and in the night he saw the heaven opened and a ladder etc.  See the story found in Genesis 28.  All the [church] teachers say that Jacob signifies Christ.  The ladder, penance.  You have forty rungs for fasting.  Some [people] ascend continuing their fasting, some descend breaking their fast.  And Jacob, excited, was afraid, and he trembled at this vision.  To him it was divinely revealed that Christ, the Savior of the world, would fast there and sleep at that place.  Then Jacob said, “Indeed the Lord is in this place,” (Gen  28:16).  The first question is clear.

   But contemplate this a while.  Christ began his fast on the day after the Epiphany [his Baptism], when it was the coldest, and he was sleeping on the ground then, giving us an example, that in this holy season we should set aside our linens, mattress and [such] luxuries.  And so David said, “Blessed is he who understands concerning the needy and the poor: the Lord will deliver him in the evil day…The Lord help him on his bed of sorrow: thou hast turned all his couch in his sickness,” (Ps. 40:2,4).

   The second question: What was the man Christ doing?  Both because he was not working with his hands, and since he stayed forty days, was he not idle?  The text doesn’t clearly tell what he was doing, but Luke elsewhere says what Christ was doing in the desert: “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and he passed the whole night in the prayer of God,” (Lk. 6:12).   Therefore he would spend his nights in dreaming and in prayer.  But during the day what was he doing?  I reply, that in three activities, namely in reading, in contemplating and in praying.

— Of the first he was reading in the book which he always had with him, the greater part of the whole bible, namely the book of life, i.e. of the knowledge of God in which is written all the things that ever were, are, or can be. And every day Jesus Christ was reading this whole book, reading the first chapter, namely of the glory of Paradise.  And second, of the arrangement of the angels.  Third, of the penalties of the damned.  Fourth, of the sufferings of those in purgatory, and so on.  Also about the natures of the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the animals of the earth.  And all these he was seeing not only in general but even in particular, in their individuality, not only as God but also as man.

— Second, he spent time in contemplating all these things.

— As for the third, after the previous reading and contemplation, he was praying saying the prayer which later he would teach us, the Our Father.   For “Jesus began to do and to teach,” (Acts 1:1).   And in our person he himself would say “Our Father.”  And, “forgive us, etc.,” because just as the mouth speaks for the feet and the other members, so Christ as the head, speaks in the person of his members.  In these [activities] therefore we should be about in this lenten time after the example of Christ.  So he was saying, “Labor not for the meat which perishes,” namely, the business of this world, “but for that which endures unto life everlasting,” (Jn 6:27), namely, meritorious works.

   The third question: Whose company did he keep?  I say, that of wild animals, and beasts and robbers.  Of beasts, it is said in Mark 1, that in that jungle [frondoso] desert there were lions, bears, wolves and many other animals.  The text says: “And he was in the desert forty days and forty nights, and was tempted by Satan; and he was with beasts, and the angels ministered to him,” (Mk 1:13).  Practically, you can imagine that the aforesaid animals hid during the day in caves, and at night they went out to eat.  And when they saw Christ we are able to say that, just as the ox and the ass adored Christ, so also [these] etc.  This was the company Christ kept at night.  During the day he had the company of thieves and other evildoers.  For that desert is between Jerusalem and Jericho, of which Luke 10 says, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers,” (Lk 10:30).  Here the place is called “adumim” in Hebrew, and is translated “redland” or “red rise.”  This place, where the man fell among robbers, is cruel and bloody.  Imagine how it was when the robbers spied him from afar, they would approach to see if by chance he might have some money.  But Jesus Christ changed their hearts and wills, and they showed Christ a great reverence.  So we, in a moral sense, dwell with the beasts, the wild beasts of sin, thinking how we have lived like beasts, by sinning etc.  Among robbers, thinking how by sinning, by appropriating honor and grace for ourselves, we have robbed God of  [his due] honor and reverence and fear.  On this account David said: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory,” (Ps 113:9).

MANNER

   Third, the way in which Christ fasted, who overcame the temptation of the devil, is seen to be fitting  The teachers and especially the Master of History says that when in the baptism of Christ the voice of the Father sounded saying, This is my beloved Son, ” You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased,” (Lk 3:22), he says that the devil heard this voice.  He already knew that the time for the Messiah was completed, and so when he saw the miracles of Christ he concluded that he was the Son of God.  But when he saw him hungry, he suspected the opposite.  For this reason he wished to tempt him.

   Taking a human form and in the robe of a holy man, he saluted him.  To whom Christ, responding, said, “You have come. You do not believe.”  Briefly he spoke to Christ, “If you be the Son of God…,” (Lk 4:3).  But the evangelist leaves it to us that we might touch on the practical point.  So note, when the devil came to Christ himself saluting him he said: “Some are thinking that you are the Son of God.  For the Son of God of old changed the staff of Moses into a snake, the water of Egypt into blood, (Ex 7), the wife of Lot into a pillar of salt. (Gen 19). So ‘If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread,'” (Mt 4:3)  And replying, Jesus said: “It is written, Not in bread alone does man live, but in every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” (Mt  4:4; Deut 8:3).  See how appropriate this is for us, because when we fast now, the devil tempts us saying, “command that these stones be made bread,” (v.3) etc.  We impatiently complain using harsh and cruel words, if our dinner is not ready or something else etc.

   Second temptation.  The devil, defeated by Christ in the first temptation from scripture, “Not in bread alone, etc.” taking the next move from the fact that scripture, the word of God, is taught in the temple, proceeds to the second temptation, saying, “Are you willing that we go to the city to the temple?”  Christ, however, as a good soldier, wishing to present himself to his enemy in every situation, followed him to the temple where there was a great crowd of people gathered.  Then the devil said to Christ, “Are you willing that we ascend to the pinnacle? because there we can pray more privately.”  And when they were on the very top, the devil said to Christ, “Look at the crowd of people here below!  There are many who do not believe you to be the Son of God, so, “throw yourself down,”(v. 6) because it is written of you, “For he has given his angels charge over you; to keep you in all your ways,” (Ps 90:11).  Christ said to him, “It is written again: You shall not tempt the Lord your God,” (v.7).  Here Christ gives an example to spiritual and devout people. When the devil tempts them to vainglory, they should stand firm, lest they fall.

   The devil, seeing that Christ excused himself, so he would not incur vainglory, wished to tempt him again, and said to Christ, “Let us go to the desert, to a mountain high enough where we will be alone and can pray.”  And when they were on the mountain the devil showed Christ every corner of the earth, saying that all was his and he was able to give it to whomever he wished – but he lied – and he said, “All this will I give you, if falling down you will adore me,” (v. 9).  Christ, who in the other temptations patiently excused himself, in this temptation became indignant and shouted out saying, “Be gone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord your God shall you adore, and him only shall you serve,”(v. 10; Deut 6:13).  But why?

   Chrysostom says that some temptations touched on humility, but this touched on adoring the divinity, and on the crown of God, etc.  St. Jerome says that Christ here gives us an example that we should tolerate injuries to our person, but those which touch upon God we should rebuke indignantly.  Chrysostom: “In all personal injuries it is praiseworthy to be patient; injuries to God, however it is not wrong to rebuke to the utmost.”   Note the story about St. Louis the king of France who used to brand the tongues of those who blasphemed God.  A text from the prophets: “They who rule over them treat them unjustly, says the Lord, and my name is continually blasphemed all the day long,” (Isa 52:5).

REWARD

   Fourth. The fruit resulting from fasting, is shown in the theme, when it is said:  “And behold angels came,” (Mt 4:11). Here is an image you can understand.  It is like this, when two great lords, or princes, fight a duel in a closed arena, where the king keeps the field secure, and the friends and the army of both await the outcome on one side and the other.  And when the battle is over, the defeated one flees with his entourage and servants, and the friends of the victor joyfully rush out to him with all the assistance necessary.

   So it was with Christ and Lucifer, the greater princes of the world, as the Master of History says, but with a difference, for Christ is the prince of holiness and Lucifer of iniquity.  Today they fought a duel, and God the Father kept the arena secure.  Christ, as Chrysostom tells us,  commanded the angels to stand back so they wouldn’t be seen by Lucifer.  Lucifer did the same with his minions, and only the two entered the arena.  The weapons of the devil were three: the lance, the sword and the dagger.  With the lance of pride and vainglory, with the dagger of gluttony and with the sword of avarice he tempted Christ and approached him.  Lucifer himself had slain may with these weapons, but they  could not harm Christ in any way.  So, vanquished, he fled.  And so it is of Christ the theme speaks, “and behold angels came and ministered to him,” (v.11).

   But how did they minister to him?  Note that Christ was most in need of food, so they ministered to him in this way. Some devout contemplatives have said that the holy angels hastened to the Virgin Mary, who did not know anything of her son nor where he was.  They told her of his battle and victory.  When she heard from them the story of his victory, she sent him some food which she had prepared for him: cabbage, bread, spinach and perhaps some sardines, asking the angels if she could go to him, or if he could come to her, for lunch.  Thus did the angels approach and minister to him.

   So will it be for us.  Now, in Lent, we are in a battle with the devil in a closed stadium.  If we are victors over gluttony, vainglory and avarice, when the battle is over,  on Easter day the angels will come, that is, the priests, and they will minister the food which the Virgin Mary prepared for us, at least materially – the Holy Spirit effectively – in the oven of her virginal womb, namely the body of Christ, in the consecrated host.  Thus Christ says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the hidden manna, … which no man knows, but he who receives it,” (Rev 2:17).

On  Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving – St. Vincent Ferrer

Mt 6:1-6 Douay translation:

“Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.

3 But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. 4 That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.

6 But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee..”

    “Take heed that you do not your justice before men,” (Mt 6:1)   The theme is the word of Christ, advising us, saying “Take heed…” The Lord Jesus Christ in this theme calls penitence “justice.”  It is the custom in sacred scriptures, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, that true penitence is called “justice.”  The reason: because through good penitence man does true justice for himself, and for all the good things, by which we commonly sin which are three, namely

   The material body,  [corpus materiale]

   The rational soul,  [anima rationalis]

   And temporal goods [substantia temporalia]

   For penitence, if it is true, ought to do justice, and punishment [punitionem] to these three.  And first it does justice to the body by afflicting it through fasting, vigils, disciplines, and pilgrimages etc., because from its inclination we commit many sins.   And so lest God do justice to the body in hell through those evil ministers, man ought to do justice here through penance.  This privilege God gives uniquely to human nature, that each renders judgment in his own case.  Even though man renders justice to himself, he [God] is content.  Behold the privilege: “But if we would judge ourselves, we should not,” by the Lord, “be judged,” (1Cor 11:31), in our body.  And so when the repentant soul, which has done justice, comes before Christ at judgment, and is accused by the demons, then the soul responds with the saying of David in Ps. 118: “I have done judgment and justice: give me not up to them who slander me,” (v. 121).

   The same penitence for the soul.  Many sins are within the soul through wicked thoughts, through hatred, rancor, malice, through ill will, or through errors and false opinions.  But penitence does justice through devout prayers, as if by binding up the soul in the chain of devout prayers, which pass verbally through the neck, whose head is bound at the foot of the throne of Christ, as if saying, “Lord, because I am judge in my own case, I suspend my soul etc. lest you suspend it in the fork of hell.”

   Third, penitence does justice regarding temporal goods, which have been for you an occasion of sin, in committing secret thefts, robbery, usury, overcharging, for extortion, withholding salaries of your workers, or the goods of the church, or of the dead, not paying tithes, first fruits etc.  Penitence does justice by repaying.

   It is clear therefore true penitence is nothing other than justice, and so it is said, “But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he has committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die.  I will not remember all his iniquities that he has done: in his justice which he has wrought, he shall live,” (Ez 18:21-22).  Of this justice, true penitence, the theme speaks when it says, “Take heed that you do not your justice,” that is, penitence, “before men,” (Mt 6:1).  The theme therefore is clear.  Christ himself shows and declares in the holy gospel today how it is to be avoided, lest penitential justice happens before men.

   There are three parts in which he shows how penitential justice should not be practiced before men.

    First about the physical body,

    Second about material affluence,

    Third about the rational soul.

BODILY PENITENCE

   I say first etc., and this, when he says in the first part of the gospel, “Take heed that you do not your justice before men,” (Mt 6:1), which is about the body through fasting, vigils and abstinences, you do before men, for their recognition, not for God.  Note here the difference between the recognition of men and of God.  For the recognition of men extends itself only to the exterior works, and not to the interior.  But the recognition of God extends itself to both works, because he sees all things clearly, “Nor do I judge according to the look of man: for man sees  those things that appear, but the Lord beholds the heart,” (1Sam 16:7).   Note, according to St. Thomas I, q. 57, a. 4, where he asks whether the angels know the thoughts of the heart.  Response:

A secret thought can be known in two ways: first, in its effect. In this way it can be known not only by an angel, but also by man; and with so much the greater subtlety according as the effect is the more hidden. For thought is sometimes discovered not merely by an outward act, but also by change of countenance; and doctors can tell some passions of the soul by the mere pulse. Much more then can angels, or even demons, the more deeply they penetrate those occult bodily modifications…

In another way thoughts can be known as they are in the mind, and affections as they are in the will: and thus God alone can know the thoughts of hearts and affections of wills. The reason of this is, because the rational creature is subject to God only, and He alone can work in it Who is its principal object and last end… Consequently all that is in the will, and all things that depend only on the will, are known to God alone. Now it is evident that it depends entirely on the will for anyone actually to consider anything; because a man who has a habit of knowledge, or any intelligible species, uses them at will. Hence the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 2:11): “For what man knows the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him?”  (I, q. 57, a. 4).  Cf. Also II Sent., d. 8, ad 5m.  Also in IV Sent d. 45, q. 3, ad 5m.

    Now therefore returning to the point, let us see what it is to fast “before men,” and what it is to fast before God.   To fast before men is to abstain from meat and especially to eat only once a day.  Also to abstain from those delights of the body.  This is fasting, which falls into the recognition of men.  But to fast before God is when not only the body but also the heart abstains from stews [cibis potionatis], whether of the poisons of wicked thoughts, or depraved desires, of rancors, of ill will and from the desire for revenge.  And because there are many who fast before men and not before God, he says, “Take heed that you do not your justice before men,” (Mt 6:1), supply “only” before men, but also before God, which is to say just as you fast by abstaining from bodily foods, fast also from the deadly and indigestible foods of the heart. etc.  This fast Christ commands in the gospel of Matthew 5, in the first part of the gospel, saying, “You have heard that it has been said, You shalt love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who makes his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and rains upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them who love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans do this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens do this?  Therefore be perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5:43 48).

   Note when he says “be perfect,” by fasting, not only before men but also before God, “as also your heavenly Father is perfect,” who in this world has many enemies, all sinners and infidels, yet he loves them and gives them the blessings of the sun, the moon, the rain and provisions.  And so like good children we are assimilated to our heavenly Father.  Also because we are bound to do more for God than the infidels, because they alone love those loving them, this also dogs do.  But when a creature loves with the love of God, they not only love those who love him, but also their enemies, this is meritorious.  Also if you greet those who greet you, no thanks for that.  But there are many who say they do not hate someone, but they do not speak to them, unless the other speaks to him first.  I tell to you that he who speaks first and greets the other, he then gains merit, a crown.  And so we not only fast before men but also before God, then we shall be perfect in our fasting.

   Today’s epistle agrees with the gospel.  It tells how the Jews, in the time of Isaiah the prophet, as is found in Isaiah 58, had great tribulations in Jerusalem of drought, famine, locusts and such. The rulers of the city ordered that all would fast for some days, and the more they fasted, the worse the troubles grew, on which account they came to the temple and praying said, “Why have we fasted, and you have not regarded.  We have humbled our souls, and you have not taken notice?” – by accepting it.  And God responded to them through Isaiah the prophet, “Behold in the day of your fast your own will is found,” (Isa 58:3) – note, he did not speak of God who commanded to forgive and love enemies –”and you exact of all your debtors. Behold you fast for debates and strife, and strike wickedly with the fist. Do not fast as you have done until this day, to make your cry to be heard on high. Is this such a fast as I have chosen: for a man to afflict his soul for a day? … will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?” (Isa 58:3-5).  Note, enemies are called “debtors.”   This is clear when it is said, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” our enemies (Mt 6:12).  The debts are recalled  through the desire of revenge.

   But the fast, which he wants and chooses is that which follows, “Loose the bands of wickedness,” (Is 58:6), which happens in two ways, through parents, or through a valet or aide.  And when it is said to them that they make peace, they say “I will not make it, unless with my friends, or my valet or aide makes it.  It is good to require them that they make peace, otherwise you go with God.”   And if you swear an oath to them via your valet or aide, it need not be kept, because it is contrary to charity.  Therefore it is said in the plural, “Loose the bands…”  Second, “undo the bundles that oppress,” (Is 58:6), namely hatred which someone holds in his heart, and this is the fast, which he chooses.  Thus, the first part is clear.  See why he says, “Take heed…”

PENITENCE OF MATERIAL AFFLUENCE

   Second, I say that Christ warns lest penitential justice happen before men, from our material affluence [de abundantia temporali], which happens through restitution and almsgiving.  And this Christ shows in the second part of the gospel, Matthew 6, when he says, “Therefore when you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But when give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That your alms may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you,” (Mt 6:2-4).   To explain this text note how, the Jewish rabbis and Pharisees of old did not care about heavenly  glory but about temporal and terrestrial glory, and so everything whatsoever they did they did only before men.  And when they were to give alms, first it was cried out through the city, and they followed the crier that they might hear the praises from the people saying, “O how pious is this man!” and they delighted in these praises.  Behold vainglory! And so Christ said about them, “Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.”  So that great reward is lost which God promised to persons of mercy saying, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy,” (Mt 5:7).  When the soul which gives alms or other goods out of vainglory, comes to judgment before Christ, immediately it will be remitted to hell, saying that it has already received its  reward here.  If it is asked, therefore, what manner should we hold to in giving alms, this Christ shows saying, “But when you give alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” (Mt 6:3).

   Note here three moral points.  First, temporal riches are called “hands.”  Reason: because just as by hands we do all our deeds, — hence the Philosopher says that the had is the organ of organs — so with riches man does all his business.  The right hand is good and just money earned, from his own labors or acquired possessions.  The left hand is bad money, unjustly acquired or collected, from theft, usury, robbery, simony and the like.  So about this Solomon wrote: “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand shall embrace me,” (Song 2:6).  Restitution should be made from the left, and alms given from the right,.  And so he says, “But when you give alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Mt 6:3).  And so I give you useful advice, that in your financial books, or accounts you should put yourself in the middle, and money from good work is put in one side and from the unjust deed on the other side, because when they are placed together restitution is forgotten; and through that middle stance it is remembered.  And then you know from which hand you give alms, and from which you make restitution.  And according to this understanding Tobias said to his son, “My son… Give alms out of your substance, and turn not away your face from any poor person: for so it shall come to pass that the face of the Lord shall not be turned from you,” (Tob 4:7).

    The second point is on the part of the intention of giving alms.  The hand is called “right,”  when the intention is righteous [recta].  When alms are given solely out of love and honor of God who has given us so much alms, by creating, providing and redeeming us with the treasure of his blood.  This intention is called the right hand.  Or by thinking, “I shall now give alms, so that when I ask for alms at the gate of paradise, God might give me a crumb of his glory. This therefore is a right intention.  Beware therefore lest you give alms from a “left” [sinistra]   intention, of praise or vainglory.  “Let not your left hand know,” the intention of vain glory.  Many great works are lost because of a “left” intention.

   The third point, the manner of giving alms, which can be good or evil, it is said to be a “right hand” or “left.”  The good way of giving alms is, when alms, a work of piety, are given with piety, benignity, and out of pure charity; then they are given with the right hand.  When however given in a bad way, it is given like bread to a dog, or because they pretend not to hear the poor, or with indignation at the insistence of a beggar, then it is given by the left hand.  And so the text says, “Therefore when you give alms…”  And so the counsel of the Apostle must be kept saying, “Every one as he has determined in his heart, not with sadness, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver,” (2Cor 9:7).  A practical note.  When someone goes to church, he should carry in his hand what he proposes to give out of love of God.  See why he says, “But when you give  alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”  So the advice of the theme is kept, “Take heed that you do not your justice before men,” (Mt 6:1).

PENITENCE OF THE SOUL

   I say, third, that in the third part of the gospel, Christ our Lord shows how to do penitential justice from a rational soul, not before men, but secretly.  “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But you when you shall pray, enter into your chamber, and having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will repay you,” (Mt 6:5-6).  This is said about the manner of praying of the ancient hypocrites in the synagogues, villages and street corners, where people would gather so they might be seen. O about these blessed ones, about whom Christ in the gospel said, “Amen I say to you, they have received their reward,” (Mt 6:5).   O stupid ones, that such a precious jewel, as is prayer, they give away for such a paltry and contemptible price.  And so Christ shows us how to pray saying, “But you when you shall pray, enter into your chamber, and having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will repay you,” (Mt 6:6).

   Note, “into your chamber.”  But someone can say about this, “Should one NOT pray in the temple of God, or in the church?”  Response: this is understood in two ways.  In the first way, the conscience is said to be the secret chamber, and this prayer happens in the churches, namely not crying out nor making grand gestures in order to be seen, lest others be disturbed, but “by shutting the door,” i.e. praying secretly.  And this ought to be understood about prayers which happen in public or in common.  About other special prayers, and the rest a man should shut himself up in his room.  So the text is understood.

   But here someone can argue saying, It seems that our Lord in his teaching is contradicting himself, because he says in today’s gospel, “Take heed that you do not your justice before men,”  And in another place he says, “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” (Mt 5:16).  This seems to be a contradiction.  Response: It is not a contradiction.  But hear the explanation.  Christ since he is the Lord and universal master gives his teaching to men, both to perfect persons, and also to the imperfect.  Because they had to instruct others and to inform them in the spiritual life and teaching, he was saying, “You are the light of the world,” (Mt 5:14).  And he was speaking to the apostles and other perfect persons, whom the winds of adulation did not harm.  And so he said, “So let your light shine,” namely your good works and catholic teaching, “before men, that they may see ..,” etc. as if he had said, “Bear the royal banner,” that is, the evangelical teaching, “under the standard of a good life,” that all might say, “Certainly this one practices what he preaches, because otherwise he is not believed.”

   But to the imperfect, and those just beginning a good life, whom the winds of praise might harm, he says, “Take heed that you do not your justice before men,”  This question was once asked by St. Antoninus, who explained it in this way, “Just as a great fire is not extinguished by the wind, rather it is even increased, but a tiny light is blown out by the wind, so also a great fire of ardent devotion and charity is in the body of the perfect, but a modest fire in the imperfect.  And so it is immediately extinguished by the slightest breath of praise, but in the perfect it is fanned and grows the more.  And note this in the great honor given to St. Peter, when he came to Antioch, and to St. John returning from exile, and to St. Paul in Galatians, as is clear in Galatians 4.