A Very Devout Contemplation – St. Vincent Ferrerr

Every Christian ought to believe what the Master, Jesus, on Holy Thursday ordained and instituted the holy sacrament of the Mass, to the holy apostles present, and he commanded them that they were to do the same with great reverence and perpetual memorial, according to what St. Luke says (Lk 22:19), and St. Paul to the Corinthians: “Do this in memory of me,” (1 Cor 11:24)

Namely: you should want to recall and remember devoutly, by hearing Mass, the entire blessed life of Jesus Christ. For this reason the priest, when elevating the chalice, says: “As often as you shall do these actions, do this in memory of Me.” He does not say: “In memory of my passion,” but “in my memory,” signifying that the Mass comprehends not only the sacred death of Jesus Christ, but also, quietly [tacite] his blessed life, beginning from his incarnation up to the holy Ascension.

Someone might say: This command was given and imposed only to priests and not to laypeople. I reply that this command was also given to the laity. To the priests it was ordained that they remember the holy life of Jesus Christ by devoutly celebrating Mass, to the laity however by devoutly hearing, attentively listening and contemplating.

And I find that the Son of God, descending from heaven and assuming human flesh in the virginal womb of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, up to the day on which he ascended to heaven did thirty principal deeds which is comprehended and reprised in the Mass. And they are the following.

1. The first work which our Master and Savior Jesus Christ, did for us in this world, was his sublime and wonderful incarnation, when descending from heaven he placed himself in the bosom of the Virgin Mary, by which he put on our vesture, that is our humanity; for the divinity was hidden under the humanity. And this wonderful work is symbolized and represented in the Solemn Mass, when the priest enters the sacristy, signifying the entry of the Son of God into the bosom of the Virgin Mary, where he was clothed with our humanity.

Here the devout Christian ought to contemplate three things: first, that just as in the sacristy there are relics, jewels, and other ecclesiastical decorations, so in this glorious sacristy, that is in the Virginal womb, there were relics, namely the power of God the Father working, wisdom and the person of God the Son incarnating himself and the grace of the Holy Spirit informing. There were jewels namely grace and virtues, for in the Virgin Mary dwells the fullness of grace and virtues; and ornaments with which our high priest is about to celebrate Mass, on Good Friday, on the altar of the True Cross, in the sacred and sanctified body of Jesus Christ, from the purest and most chaste blood of the Virgin Mary formed and incarnated.

Second is that when the priest is vested in the sacristy, no lay person sees him; but they believe that he is vested and the hope that he will come forward shortly. For which it must be noted that when our high priest Jesus Christ vested himself in the virginal womb of the Virgin Mary, no one from the Jewish people saw him or knew him; in the same way that his Incarnation was hidden and kept secret, the believers however believed and hoped that he would vest himself, that is be incarnated and born of the Virgin, just as it had been prophesied by many prophets.

Third is that the priest in the sacristy puts on seven vestments. Namely the cassock, if he is a simple priest — a rochet if is he is a bishop, a scapular if he is a monk;– amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole and chasuble. So, our great high priest vested himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who is called a sacristy, seven vestments, namely the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which the most sacred Body of Jesus Christ is vested and dressed, (Isaiah 11:2-3) This is the first work in the symbolism of the Mass.

2. The second work which our Savior Jesus did was when on the night of his birth day, God and man he came out from the virginal womb and revealed himself to the whole world, ant the night, which had been dark, is illuminated like the day. And he wished to be born before Joseph and Mary, and placed in the middle of two animals, the ass and the ox. And a multitude of angels were singing: “Glory to God in the highest!” And the shepherds worshiped.

Secretly he remained in the glorious sacristy, that is in the Virgin Mary, after his birth, openly and publicly he declared himself. This is symbolized when the priest comes out from the sacristy. The Deacon represents the Virgin Mary, the Sub-deacon, St. Joseph, two acolytes the ox and the ass. The light which they carry signifies the brightness which showed forth at the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Priests who with candles and with a loud voice sing “Glory to the Father…” when the priest goes out from the sacristy, they represent the multitude of angels singing: “Glory is given to God, etc.” The cymbals sound and the bells ring, which signifies the great joy of the shepherds when they were celebrating with the sound of flutes [tibiarum] the birth of our Savior and high priest. When he exits from the sacristy, dressed in gleaming vestments, the priest symbolizes the purity of Jesus Christ who pure and shining remained without the stain of sin.

3. The third wonderful work which Jesus Christ did was when on the eight day after his nativity he willed to be circumcised. For original sin circumcision happened, for which in no way was Jesus Christ obliged, since he was without any stain of sin, but accepting it he taught us a great example of humility, wishing to appear a sinner and in the likeness of sin.

And this the priest symbolizes when making a profound bow he confesses that he is a sinner, saying: “I confess to almighty God, ” etc. Although the priest be sacramentally absolved, he is nevertheless bound to declare himself a sinner, even if he were holier than John the Baptist; for demonstrating and signifying that Jesus Christ, who is the beginning and fullness of all sanctity and perfection, wished to appear a sinner, subjecting himself to the law of circumcision, so that he might put an end to it and complete it; or signifying the mystical body of the Church and all of mankind.

4. The fourth work which he did was when he summoned the three kings form the East, led by a star, which led them up to the manger of the ox and ass, in the middle of which they adored and confessed him to be God and Lord of the universe, offering him gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This is symbolized when the priest, after the confession, ascends the altar and kisses it, profoundly bowing his head saying,: ” Take away from us, O Lord, we beseech You, all our iniquities that we may enter with pure minds into the Holy of Holies,”(1) and just as three kings brought three gifts, the priest offers, by bowing himself, the incense of devout prayer, the gold of adoration with great reverence, and the bitter myrrh, signing himself with the sign of the Holy Cross in memory of the sorrowful and bitter passion of Jesus Christ.

5. The fifth work which Jesus Christ did in this world, was when he wished to be presented in the temple. His glorious mother brought him there and presented him, and there were present Simenon and that holy widow, Anna, praising God.

This the priest symbolizes when he comes to the side of the altar, receives the missal and reads the Entrance Antiphon [Introit] of the Mass. The Deacon and Sub-deacon and assistant symbolize the glorious Simeon and the prophetess Anna. The Acolytes and the others, who should not approach the altar, symbolize the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, and the other ancients and parents, who were standing at a distance hearing and devoutly paying attention. Truly the virgin Mary was entirely worthy that she would approach the altar, but she chose not to, to give an example to the laity who also as holy and justified, ought not ascend to the altar unless because of an urgent necessity, otherwise not without sin.[non sine damno.] When the holy man Simeon received the glorious Son of God, he sang four verses (Lk 2:29-32), signifying the four actions which the priest does; namely, the reading of the Introit; Kyrie eleison, which is the same as imploring the mercy of God the Father for himself and others, the Glory to God, and the Prayer.

6. The sixth work which Our Lord Jesus Christ did in this world, was when he fled from the promised land to the land of Egypt, yielding the place to the fury of Herod. And here he remained with his glorious mother and St. Joseph for seven years.

And this is represented in a solemn Mass when the Sub-deacon with one acolyte goes to read the Epistle, the priest remaining at the altar with another and a Deacon; and then the take themselves from the altar, and are seated; and sitting, they do seven things, which represents the seven years when Jesus Christ remained in Egypt: First, the epistle is read, second the Responsory, third the Alleluia (a Hebrew word which means “We praise God,” fourth, a sequence [prosa]; fifth a blessing is given to the Deacon, — he performs the last act standing, signifying that in the seventh year Jesus Christ returned to his own land.

7. The seventh work which he did in this world, was when, having returned from Egypt into the promised land after the death of Herod, led by his Mother and St. Joseph into the temple of Jerusalem, and there he stayed. And on the third day, his Mother and Joseph discovered him in the middle of the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

And this represents the priest, when rising from his seat, goes to the altar and with devout attention listens to the singing of the Gospel, signifying that in the temple Jesus Christ listened to the Jews and he having been questioned prudently was instructing them in the faith of the Messiah. And so, the gospel ended, the priest intones the Credo, “I believe in one God.”

8. The eighth work which our Savior Jesus Christ did in this world, was that when he was found by his mother and St. Joseph in the temple, so much was their joy that they were not able to keep from tears; which Jesus Christ seeing, out of humility and love,, left the teachers and came with them to Nazareth where, that he might console them of the sadness which they had had at his omission, he served them, according to the gospel which says: “He was subject to them,” (Lk 2:51).

And this humble service the priest symbolizes when, having said the Creed, he turns himself to the people saying, The Lord be with you; and then he arranges [disponit] the host and chalice, and the other things pertaining to the holy sacrifice, in symbolizing the deference of Jesus Christ toward the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph; as it is said by St. Paul and St. Matthew ch. 20, ” the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister,” (Mt 20:28)

9. The ninth work which he did in this world was when thirty years old, he left Nazareth where he was serving his mother and St. Joseph, and in many ways: for with the other boys he used to go to the spring, which was a long way from Nazareth just as the monastery of the Çaydia is from the town of Valencia. Of this service the Master of Church History (Peter Comestor, 1178) makes explicit mention. Also he would help St. Joseph in his carpentry work, just as Matthew says in ch. 13:55, and Mark ch. 6:3, and according to the Gloss, by St. Nicholas of Lyra in these gospels. And after he had completed thirty years, he left them and went to the Jordan River, and received baptism which baptism indeed was not necessary for him, but he accepted it so that through contact with his sacred body there might be communicated to the water the regenerative power for saving those believing and obeying him.

And this the priest symbolizes when he washes his fingers, not because of necessity, since he is pure in conscience through sacramental confession, and clean by a natural bath, but to commemorate the testimony of humility which Jesus Christ gave wishing to be baptized.

10. The tenth work which our Savior did in this world was, according to Luke, Mark and Matthew, that after the baptism he went into the desert and fasted forty days and forty nights, neither eating nor drinking, but the whole time staying in prayer, not praying for himself but for us.

And this is symbolized when the priest at the middle of the altar bows profoundly and says, “In a spirit of humility…,”(2) praying that in the Holy Sacrifice, we might become a sacrifice [hostia] which is pleasing to the Lord our God. This prayer commemorates the prostrations and humiliations which the Savior was doing in the desert, praying and beseeching. The priest however turns himself around to the people saying: “Pray brethren…,” for me that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable before God. And those attending then should say, “The Holy Spirit come over you, etc…” (3)Note that the prayer of Jesus Christ in the desert was secret; so in this step, the priest prays secretly so that not even the deacon nor the Sub-deacon can hear.

11. The eleventh work which Jesus the Savior did was that after he had fasted he began to preach, crying out: “Do penance, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”

And the priest symbolizes this by saying, in a loud voice, “Lift up your hearts.”(4) By teaching us that Jesus Christ taught both by mouth and by example. And so as he sings the Preface he holds his hands up, and not down. [elevatas et not demissas.]

12. The twelfth work which Jesus Christ did in this world was that not only was he teaching by word and deed, but he confirmed his sacred teachings with miracles. For only God can work such things, namely raise the dead, give sight to the blind, heal the paralytics.

And this the priest commemorates when three times he says, “Holy,” denoting that Jesus Christ worked miracles not through his human power, but in virtue of the three divine persons, Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, of one all powerful God. Finally he says: “Hosanna,” that is “Saving,” to demonstrate that Christ worked miracles so that he might save us.(5)

13. The thirteenth work which he did in this world was when after he had preached and worked many miracles, at thirty-three years of age, he came to Jerusalem so that he might dine with his disciples. And secretly many things were necessary for the redemption of mankind, especially two, namely the institution of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and the great sermon which is prolonged in St. John , from chapter thirteen to seventeen.

And this is symbolized when the priest quietly reads the Canon, only the deacon hearing, just as only the apostles heard the sermon of Christ.

14. The fourteenth work was when, these two thing done, he entered into the garden [to] Jericho, and there offered three prayers, demonstrating that in so far as man he prayed to God the Father for three conditions of persons, namely for the holy fathers who were in purgatory, for those present in the world at that time, and for those in the future. After the third prayer he sweat blood, warning that those who were to come, with special fervor ought to pray because of the great dangers and trials which shortly will come upon them and which they will not be able to overcome unless by fervid prayers and in the strength of patience.

The priest symbolizes these three prayers by making three signs of the cross over the chalice, saying, “Blessed, ascribed, ratified…” and finally two other crosses, of which one over the chalice saying “And of the blood,” that we might know that in his Passion he prayed for himself insofar as he was a man, and for us sinners.(6)

15. The fifteenth work was when after the aforesaid prayer a great multitude of people, came forward with a great clamor, with swords and clubs, to seize Jesus. And he calmly [benevolenter] was willing to be seized and bound and led before Pilate who sentenced him to death on the cross: from which sentence he wished not to appeal, but gently assumed and carried his blessed cross.

And this is represented in the Mass when the priest takes the host for consecrating it, which he holds in his hands, saying, “And lifting up his eyes to heaven,” etc.(7) And then there is a great sounding of bells and of the bell wheel [rotae](8) signifying the tumult and sounds of the Jews when they arrested Jesus. Then the priest makes the sign of the cross over the host saying: “Bless and break,” etc.signifying the sentence of death passed by Pilate.

16. The sixteenth work was when, sentenced to death, Jesus Christ was led to death on Calvary and there he was crucified between two thieves, one on his right who is called Dismas, the other on the left named Gestas.

And this is signified when the priest elevates the host in which is Christ, God and man and he holds it with both hands. The right signifies the good thief, the left the bad. After this he elevates the chalice, signifying that Jesus Christ on the cross offered and sacrificed his precious blood to God the Father for the redemption of mankind. For which reason the priest elevating the precious blood, ought to say to himself, “We offer to you Lord the inestimable price of our redemption.”

17. The seventeenth work which Jesus Christ did was that, when he was crucified, he did not cease praying. And first he said in a loud voice, “Eli! Eli! Lama sabachtani.” – My God My God why have you abandoned me!” To which words St. Jerome adds: “Look on me.:” And he continued prayer up to the verse: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” And there were 150 versicles (syllables?) Christ in the Cross said as many syllables as there are psalms, 150.

And while he was on the cross the wicked Jews did not cease laying on him injuries and curses, and others, saying, “Vah, you who destroy the temple of God, etc.,” (Mt 27:40). Others: ” If you be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Others finally, “He saved others; himself he cannot save,” (v. 42). And the Lord calmly did not reply, but continued in prayer with great patience.

And this the priest symbolizes when holding his arms extended in the form of a cross, he prays saying, “Mindful, therefore, Lord, we, Your ministers,,” etc.(9)

18. The eighteenth work which Jesus Christ did in this world was when although already wounded with four wounds, namely in his hands and feet, nevertheless he wished, after his death to be pierced with a lance in his sacred side, whence flowed out blood and water. Which miraculously happened, contrary to nature, for all his blood had already been poured out, first in the scourging, then in the crowning of thorns, and in the nailing of his hands and feet.

And these five principal wounds are signified, when the priest makes the sign of the cross five times over the host and precious Blood saying, “Through him, and with him, etc.”(10)

19. The nineteenth work was when Christ crucified, crying out said the seven [last] words, which is commemorated when the priest recites the Our Father, in which seven petitions are contained. And indeed he does not say it secretly, but singing, just as Christ on the cross spoke out with a loud voice.

20. The twentieth work was, that Christ wanted his most sacred humanity to be divided in three parts; namely, the body on the cross, the blood shed in the tortures, and the soul which descended to hell to the holy fathers.

And this is represented in the Mass, when the priest divides the host in three parts. It must be noted however that he holds them together, because, even though the most holy humanity of Christ had been divided, never was the Divinity separated from it; moreover its was united to each part, as St. Paul says: “What he assumed once, he never divided,” [?]. It is similar to when a fragment of crystal is exposed to the sun, and then it is smashed into many more fragments, the sun lights up each part in the same way that it lights up the whole crystal; so each part of the humanity of Christ personally and substantially was filled with Divinity, just as the fragment of crystal is filled with the sun.

21. The twenty-first work which Christ performed was when he converted the many kinds of persons, wishing to show the fruit of his passion. And first, he converted the thief, a man of bad life and wicked deeds; second, a centurion, a leader of soldiers who said, “Indeed this man was the son of God,” (Mk 15:39); and third, ordinary people, according to which St. Luke said “And all the multitude of them …saw the things that were done,” namely the miracles which happened, “returned striking their breasts,” (Lk 23:48).

These various persons are symbolized in the Mass when the priest three times says “Lamb of God,”(11) first for every sinner, signifying that the Lord Our God wishes to spare him just as he spared the thief, second signifying that just as Jesus Christ illuminated the centurion, so the governors of the people, whether spiritual or temporal he desires to illuminate them, and to pardon them. And just as souls moved by the passion of Christ come to salvation, so the priest, saying the third Lamb of God, asks on behalf of the whole Christian people, that the Lord deign to keep them in peace and in health, to pardon the sins of each, and to make them worthy participants of his holy grace.

22. The twenty-second work which Christ does in this world, was that after his holy passion he did not immediately ascend into heaven, but through his most profound humanity wished first to descend secretly to hell, that he might give glory to the holy fathers, awaiting with great expectation. At the moment they saw him, they were filled with great exultation, enjoying essential glory, now and forever free from any pain.

And this the priest prefigures when he puts a particle of the Host into the chalice to denote how the soul of Christ descending to hell, so rejoiced the holy fathers and confirmed them, that they hardly knew what happened to them in experiencing such a fullness of happiness. And from that sweetness and love they praised God saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people,” (Lk 1:68).

23. The twenty-third work which Jesus Christ did in this world, was when after his painful death, he willed and ordered his body to be taken down from the cross by his friends, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and Gamaliel, having received permission from Pilate, and they laid him to rest behind a large stone, which today still can be seen in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And then the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalen and the other devout persons let out great cries of grief.

And this is represented in the Mass when the priest, having given the sign of peace, (12) for a short period of time during which he held the body of Christ in his hands, ought to think of the sorrow of the Virgin Mary and of the others who were mourning, and so should shed many tears, and to conceive a special sorrow for his sins.

24. The twenty-fourth work was what Christ wished to be anointed with balsam and myrrh, to be wrapped in a clean burial cloth, and placed into a tomb newly carved in the stone, without any corruption or fracture.

And this is represented in the Mass when the priest takes the body of Christ, because the heart of the priest ought to be a new tomb, without corruption; and just as the tomb of Christ was of solid rock, so should he be strong in faith and a good life. And just as the body of Christ was wrapped in a clean shroud, so the conscience of the priest ought to be cleaned and shine forth with chastity. And just as the body of Christ was anointed with balsam and spices, so the heart of the priest ought to be saturated with every kind of virtue, not just the priest but also every Christian, hearing Mass, with these thoughts it is fitting to nourish their devotion.

25. The twenty-fifth work which Christ did was when he rose on the third day from death to life, and his tomb was opened.

And this the priest prefigures coming from the middle to the side of the altar, signifying that Christ from the mortal world passed into immortal life. And showing the empty chalice, as it signifies the open tomb, and Christ through his infinite power to have risen. And the deacon folds the corporal, in remembrance that the holy shroud by which the sacred body of Jesus was wrapped, had been found in the tomb.

26. The twenty-sixth work was that after his resurrection Christ appeared to the glorious Virgin Mary his mother, although of this in the Gospel there is no mention; the holy doctors but expressly affirm it, and especially St. Ambrose in his book On Virgins. And indeed it was exquisitely fitting that Christ before any others visited and comforted his mother, who more than others had suffered from his death.

And this the priest prefigures by saying, with his face to the people, “The Lord be with you.”(13). And then he reads the Postcommunion which is a prayer of great consolation, representing the consoling words which Christ said to the his mother, and the great praise which the holy fathers gave to her saying: “Queen of heaven rejoice,” etc.(14)

27. The twenty-seventh work which Christ did in this world, was when he appeared to the apostles together in the upper room, and said: “Peace be with you.”

And this is represented in the Mass when the priest turning around to the people saying again, “The Lord be with you,” (15) which is the same as namely peace be with you all.

28. The twenty-eighth work was when he gathered the apostles and said; “Go ye into the whole world, and preach …,” (Mk 16:15).

And this is symbolized at Mass when the priest says: “Go, the Mass is ended.” every believer returning to his work, because the holy sacrifice is completed.

29. The twenty-ninth work was when he fulfilled the promise made to Peter an the holy apostles, namely, establishing St. Peter in possession of the papacy, saying, “Feed by lambs,” Then indeed, according to all the teachers, truly he constituted him as the head of the universal church. And to the other apostles he said: “Receive the holy spirit; whose sins you forgive,” etc., giving power of forgiving sins which is divine power.

And this is represented at the end of Mass which the priest humbling himself profoundly, bows his head as much as he can before the altar and says, : May it be pleasing to you Blessed Trinity…”(16) petitioning the Trinity that the Holy Sacrifice be acceptable to God, and be beneficial for all the people. Ant this bow which he makes kissing the altar denotes the infinite mercy of our Gold who did not consider it unworthy to humble his divine power, passing on to sinful men the power of forgiving sins. And finally making the sign of the cross over the people signifying that their sins are forgiven though the sacred passion of Christ.

30. The thirtieth and last work of Christ in this world was when, in the presence of his Mother and the holy apostles, and about fifty people, according to St. Paul, standing on the Mount of Olives he wished to ascend to heaven. And raising his hands blessed all these who were lamenting his absence, and he returned to where he had come from.

And this is signified in the Mass when the priest, having given the blessing, returns to the sacristy whence he had come.

And so the whole life of our Redeemer in the sacred holy sacrifice of the Mass is covered. To which glory may he lead us, he who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

The Purification of Mary ~ St. Vincent Ferrer

Luke 2:22 (Douay trans.) And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: 23 As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: 24 And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: 25 And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.

“And after the days of her purification,” (Lk 2:22). This present feast is one of the greater of the whole year. Reason. Because there are three grades of sanctity, which we celebrate in this feast.

The first, about eminent persons, that is exalted,

The second, even greater, namely about a holy and excellent person.

The third, much greater, about a transcendent holy person.

I say first, that at the first grade was certain of the apostles, Peter and Paul etc., John the Baptist, the martyrs and confessors etc. Therefore their feasts are great. The second grade is the Virgin Mary, who not only is holy, but has an excellence above all the saints, and so her feasts are greater. In the third grade is Christ alone, who transcends all heights of creatures. And so his feasts, like Christmas, Epiphany, Presentation, Resurrection, etc., are the greatest. These three grades of saints I find in today’s feast, because today the feast is:

About Simeon, the eminent saint,

About the Holy Virgin, more excellent than the others, and

About Christ the holiest, most transcendentally,

Who today was presented in the temple by the Virgin Mary, just as now women, after childbirth, come to the church with their offspring. And so this feast has three names. Inasmuch as it is of Simeon, it is called the day of Simeon’s Meeting. Inasmuch as it is of Jesus Christ, it is called the day of his Presentation. Inasmuch as it is of the Virgin Mary, it is called the day of the Purification of Mary. And because today is especially the feast of the Virgin Mary, and so uniquely the theme speaks, “the day of her purification,” etc. And so first we speak of the Virgin. Second of Christ. Third of St. Simeon.


First, insofar as the present feast touches the Virgin, it is called the Day of the Purification of Mary. Now when you hear that the Virgin Mary needs purification, because she has never sinned in any way, neither in her heart by thinking wrongly, nor by her mouth, by speaking vainly, nor by doing ill with her body, moreover she was purer than the sun, to the extent that the Holy Spirit was in love [philocaptus] with her. About her purity the Canticle of Canticle says, “How beautiful you are, my love, how beautiful you are!” (Song 4:1), and again, “You are all beautiful, O my love, and there is not a spot in you,” (v. 7). Note how it is like a lover speaking. And “beautiful” is said three times, she was beautiful in the soul, because she never had a wicked or vain thought, otherwise with us. Second, beautiful in voice, because she never spoke in vain or frivolously, or indiscreetly. We, on the other hand do not have a “beautiful voice.” Third, “beautiful,” in her whole body, because she is without any defect and negligence, temperate in food and drink, diligent in the service of God; it is otherwise with us.

Why, therefore, does the theme state, the day of the Purification of Mary? St. Luke raises this question in today’s gospel, saying, “the day of the purification of Mary.” He immediately says, “according to the law of Moses,” and he does not say according to the her own person, because she did not need it.

Let us now see what the law of Moses is which he gives to women giving birth to males. The law says, “If a woman having received seed shall bear a man child, she shall be unclean seven days,… neither shall she enter into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification be fulfilled,” (Lv 12:2,4). So this precept does not touch the Virgin Mary, because she did not give birth “having received seed.” So St. Thomas III, q. 37, a. 4 “Whether it was fitting that the Mother of God should go to the temple to be purified?” And he replies yes:

As the fullness of grace flowed from Christ on to His Mother, so it was becoming that the mother should be like her Son in humility: for “God gives grace to the humble,” as is written James 4:6. And therefore, just as Christ, though not subject to the Law, wished, nevertheless, to submit to circumcision and the other burdens of the Law, in order to give an example of humility and obedience; and in order to show His approval of the Law; and, again, in order to take away from the Jews an excuse for calumniating Him: for the same reasons He wished His Mother also to fulfill the prescriptions of the Law, to which, nevertheless, she was not subject.

And so, expressly, the evangelist Luke says, “And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses,” (Lk 2:22). She herself had no need of purification, for in Leviticus 12 it says, “If a woman having received seed shall bear a man child,” (Lv 12:2). Moses seems to have spoken to exempt the mother of God from uncleanness, who had given birth having not received seed, and so it is clear that she was not obliged to the fulfillment of this precept, but fulfilled the observance of purification voluntarily.

But here is the question. Why did God ordain this law? It is never a sin to generate children in the state of matrimony. The response is that it is not. But many reasons are given by the holy doctors. I wish to declare only one. The reason for this law is because all the precepts of the law are reduced and are included in the ten commandments of the Decalogue, which is broken down fourfold, namely by deed, omission, word and thought. Four times ten makes forty. Women in conceiving, bearing, birthing and nursing sin against the precepts of God in these four ways, and so they experience the day of purification.

1. First they sin in the act of conceiving. For God has ordered the act of generation for the conservation of human nature. Many are not urged toward it unless like a horse or mule, a dog or pig, according to the sensuality of the flesh, when they ought to have the intention of the preacher, who preaches to convert the pagans to God, so that paradise be filled with the children of God, so the propagators ought to have the intention of begetting children for paradise. The Virgin Mary however did not sin by deed, because she conceived not by a man but by the Holy Spirit, who formed the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, like the kernel is formed within a hazel nut or almond. And so the Church sings: “Begotten of no human will, but of the Spirit, Thou art still, the Word of God in flesh arrayed, the promised fruit to man displayed.” (Ambrose: Veni redemptor gentium).

2. Second, women sin in childbearing by omission, because if at first they were doing penance, namely by fasting, prayers, pilgrimages, and such, when they are pregnant they give them all up. Although they might be somewhat fastidious, then they make themselves more fastidious, and more delicate. The Virgin Mary did not sin in this way, by omitting something, because St. Bernard says, that she was pregnant without difficulty, moreover the pregnancy bore her. Like a cloud which cannot be raised, but when the rays of the sun touch it, it is raised and is lighter, so the ray of the eternal sun existing in the womb of the Virgin. Thus she did not give up any of her devotions, rather she performed them even more. Like a priest, when carrying the Eucharist, is more devout, so the Virgin, who was the custodian of the body of Christ.

3. Third, women sin in speech when they give birth. When they feel the pains of childbirth they say many vain and indiscreet words. When however they should have recourse to Christ by saying “Jesus” and to the Virgin Mary, who gave birth without pain, and to the saints of God. Some of them curse Eve, some their husbands, other say, “O, if I can get past this, I’ll never again approach my husband.” But the Virgin did not sin in this way, because she gave birth without pain or misery, like the ray of the sun passes through the glass window without breaking it, it even renders her more beautiful. Isaiah, “It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Lebanon is given to it: the beauty of Carmel, and Sharon,” (Is 35:2).

4. Fourth, women sin by thought in suckling. They think, “Now I have the heir! Now I am the Lady!” When rather in great fear they should be saying, “O Lord, you have given me a son. What will become of my son? Will he be so wicked a man, that he would kill me; or what evil deed might he do that he would be hung, and finally damned?” But the Virgin did not sin in this way. She knew the scriptures. Therefore when in childbirth she saw the miracles which would be done; she was thinking about her passion. And so St. Luke says, Mary “kept all these words,” collecting them, “in her heart,” (Lk 2:51). When she beheld the infant Jesus, newborn, and naked, in her heart she thought, saying, “O woe, so my son shall be naked on the cross.” Then she wrapped him in a blanket, thinking that so she would wrap his body in a shroud in his tomb. Then she put him in the manger in the middle of two animals, thinking, that so he would be suspended between two thieves. It is clear therefore, that the Virgin Mary in no way sinned, neither in the deed of conceiving, nor in the omissions of childbearing, nor in the outcries of childbirth, nor in the thoughts of nursing. Other women are sinners.

Rightly Bernard says that she was like her son, who wished to endure circumcision to which he was not bound, because it is given as a sign of sin, like cutting off the ears of a thief as a mark of his thievery. So the Virgin wished to keep this law, to which she was not obliged.

Practically and plausibly we should here explain how she was exempted from that law, because on the fortieth day from the birth of her son, as it is today, she came to the temple of the Lord, in which were standing the generous and rich women, and the poor and simple, and the virgins, each group separately. And the Jews observe this custom today. The Virgin Mary, however in her entry into the temple considered, thinking with whom should she associate, because although she was generous and most noble, of the tribe of David, nevertheless she was poor and simply clothed, because she had given her whole dowry out of love of God and all the gold which the kings of the orient had given to her, and she was willing to live by her own hands. Therefore if she joined with the rich women, they could have said to her, “Go to your own place. Dear God, the wife of a poor carpenter wants to associate herself with us! etc.” If with the virgins, although she would have been a virgin, they would have said to her, “And you, who have a husband and son wish to come with us? How about this!” Therefore she put herself with the simple and poor women, and so was fulfilled a certain prophecy which the Holy Spirit predicted through the mouth of Solomon saying, “As the lily among thorns, so my love,” supply “is,” ” among the daughters,” (Song 2:2). We have here an example of humility. Whoever exalts himself, because whoever wishes to be at the head table in dinner parties etc. And so the Virgin Mary, queen of paradise, takes her place at the back. And so Mary says, “Because he has regarded the humility of his handmaid,” – she doesn’t say “the charity” or, “the virginity.” – “For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,” (Lk 1:48). And this was first humility which today she practiced in fulfilling the law.

Note too another great humility in the Virgin Mary, because the gospel today says, “to do for him according to the custom of the law,” (Lk 2:27). The custom of the law was, as is clear from Leviticus 12, that when after childbirth on the fortieth day the woman comes to the temple, on bended knees before the priest, she would say, “Here is the offering. You are to offer a sacrifice for me, that God might forgive my sins which I have committed, conceiving, bearing, birthing and nursing.” Then the priest, having accepted the offering and making the sacrifice, gives the woman a blessing, and the woman goes away. The Virgin Mary wished today to observe this custom, coming into the temple, and speaking to the priest – not to Simeon, because we do not read that he was a priest, but a holy man. Today is the fortieth day since she gave birth to her son, and on the eighth day he was circumcised, and was called “Jesus,” and she gave a pair of turtledoves as an offering for him, or two young pigeons, asking that he pray for her. O what great humility! The most holy one speaks to a sinner, “Pray for me.” And the priest did not recognize her, or rather he knew her in the Isaiah saying, “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel,” (Isa 7:14). Then was fulfilled the prophecy of Solomon saying in the person of the virgin, “I am black but beautiful, O you daughters of Jerusalem,” etc. (Song 1:4), “Do not consider me that I am brown, because the sun has altered my color,” (v. 5). The Virgin was black to ignorant eyes, eyes not recognizing her; but she was beautiful to the angels of God. “Do not consider me,” supply “in disdain,” “because the sun has altered my color,” because the heat of divine love so humbles one, supply by inflaming. And so she can say to us that of Matthew 11, “learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light,” (Mt 11:29-30).


Second, this feast next touches our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also named the Day of the Presentation of Jesus Christ. We understand that Christ did not need a presentation, because he never was apart from God the Father, nor was he ever absent. Just as the sun sends forth its rays to us, and nevertheless the rays are always with the sun, so to with Christ. We are distanced from God by sin, and so we need a presentation. Christ however was always present to the Father, even while in the womb of the Virgin, day and night. And so the Father said to him, “Son, you are always with me,” (Lk 15:31). Although I will send you in the world for enlightening in evangelical faith, for warming in the love of God and bearing fruit in good works.

So today the presentation of Christ was not of necessity but of humility, just like the purification of the Virgin mother. Christ indeed wished to observe the law of presentation, as St. Thomas says III, q. 37, a. 3, where he says, that Christ wished to be “made under the Law, that He might redeem them who were under the Law” (Gal 4:4-5), and that the “justification of the Law might be” spiritually ‘fulfilled’ in His members. And in the solution to the third objection [ad 3m], he says:

For this very reason He wished the legal victims to be offered for Him who was the true Victim, in order that the figure might be united to and confirmed by the reality, against those who denied that in the Gospel Christ preached the God of the Law. “For we must not think,” says Origen (Hom. xiv in Luc.) “that the good God subjected His Son to the enemy’s law, which He Himself had not given.”

These remarks are in the same citation. We gather from the body of this article 3, and from the solutions to the objections, that Christ wished to be presented in the temple today for four reasons.

1. First for the fulfillment of the law. And this the Doctor [St. Thomas] touches in the body of the article where he says:

Now, the Law contained a twofold precept touching the children born. one was a general precept which affected all–namely, that “when the days of the mother’s purification were expired,” a sacrifice was to be offered either “for a son or for a daughter,” as laid down Leviticus 12:6. And this sacrifice was for the expiation of the sin in which the child was conceived and born; and also for a certain consecration of the child, because it was then presented in the Temple for the first time. Wherefore one offering was made as a holocaust and another for sin.

The other was a special precept in the law concerning the first-born of “both man and beast”: for the Lord claimed for Himself all the first-born in Israel, because, in order to deliver Israelites, He “slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, both men and cattle” (Ex 12:12-29), the first-born of Israel being saved; which law is set down Exodus 13. Here also was Christ foreshadowed, who is “the First-born amongst many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

Therefore, since Christ was born of a woman and was her first-born, and since He wished to be “made under the Law,” the Evangelist Luke shows that both these precepts were fulfilled in His regard. First, as to that which concerns the first-born, when he says (Lk 2:22-23): “They carried Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord: as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.'” Secondly, as to the general precept which concerned all, when he says (Lk 2:24): “And to offer a sacrifice according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.” (Summa theologiae, III, q. 37, a. 3, body).

2. Second, Christ wished to be offered in the temple for the sanctification of the temple. And this the same Doctor [St. Thomas] says such in the response to the first objection:

As Gregory Nazianzen says that that precept of the law: “Sanctify unto me every firstborn that opens the womb among the children of Israel,” (Ex. 13:2), was fulfilled in God incarnate alone in a special manner exclusively proper to Him. For He alone, whose conception was ineffable, and whose birth was incomprehensible, opened the virginal womb which had been closed to sexual union, in such a way that after birth the seal of chastity remained inviolate.” Consequently the words “opening the womb” imply that nothing hitherto had entered or gone forth therefrom. Again, for a special reason is it written “‘a male, because He contracted nothing of the woman’s sin:” and in a singular way “is He called ‘holy,’ because He felt no contagion of earthly corruption, whose birth was wondrously immaculate” (Ambrose, on Luke 2:23). (St. Thomas, ibid., ad 3m)

And so he did not need to be sanctified in the temple, but rather the temple ought to be sanctified by him, because he was and is the saint of saints. Whence Haggai: “Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations: and the desired of all nations shall come,… Great shall be the glory of this last house more than of the first” (Hag 2:7-8,10). To Malachi, “And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire,” (Mal 3:1).

3. Third Christ wished to be offered in the temple for our instruction, as the Doctor [Thomas] touches upon in the same place in the response to the second objection, because:

As the Son of God “became man, and was circumcised in the flesh, not for His own sake, but that He might make us to be God’s through grace, and that we might be circumcised in the spirit; so, again, for our sake He was presented to the Lord, that we may learn to offer ourselves to God” [Athanasius, on Luke 2:23]. And this was done after His circumcision, in order to show that “no one who is not circumcised from vice is worthy of Divine regard” [Bede, on Luke 2:23].

4. Fourth he wished to be offered in the temple for a mystical significance. The Doctor touches on this in the response to the fourth objection.

The law of Leviticus 12:6,[8] “commanded those who could, to offer, for a son or a daughter, a lamb and also a turtle dove or a pigeon: but those who were unable to offer a lamb were commanded to offer two turtle doves or two young pigeons” [Bede, Hom. xv in Purif.]. “And so the Lord, who, ‘being rich, became poor for our [Vulgate: ‘your’] sakes, that through His poverty we [you] might be rich,” as is written 2 Corinthians 8:9, “wished the poor man’s victim to be offered for Him” just as in His birth He was “wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger” [Bede on Luke 1]. Nevertheless, these birds have a figurative sense. For the turtle dove, being a loquacious bird, represents the preaching and confession of faith; and because it is a chaste animal, it signifies chastity; and being a solitary animal, it signifies contemplation. The pigeon is a gentle and simple animal, and therefore signifies gentleness and simplicity. It is also a gregarious animal; wherefore it signifies the active life. Consequently this sacrifice signified the perfection of Christ and His members. Again, “both these animals, by the plaintiveness of their song, represented the mourning of the saints in this life: but the turtle dove, being solitary, signifies the tears of prayer; whereas the pigeon, being gregarious, signifies the public prayers of the Church” [Bede, Hom. xv in Purif.]. Lastly, two of each of these animals are offered, to show that holiness should be not only in the soul, but also in the body. (St. Thomas, Summa, ibid., ad 4m).

This St. Thomas says in the same article. And because of these four reasons Christ wished to be presented in the temple. Nevertheless from the aforesaid the literal reason is also clear why Christ preserved every firstborn.

But the moral reason is this. Just as indeed between husband and wife there is a marriage for generating offspring, so between the spirit and flesh there is a quasi marriage-union for generating offspring, namely virtuous acts and meritorious works, because the flesh without the spirit counts for nothing. For the sprit moves the flesh to accomplish works of virtue and merits, which are called offspring. So David says, “Your children as olive plants, round about your table,” (Ps 127:3). Of these “children,” virtuous actions, God wishes the firstborn to be offered to him.

But who is this firstborn? It is a rule of philosophy, that that which is ultimate in execution is first in intention, toward God. For example, if it is asked: Why do you go to Mass today? What was your first intention? If you say: “For the honor of God and of the Virgin, and because of the precept of the church,” then you stand right in conscience, because your intention is good, because you are going because of God. If however you say: “I go to church just to see the ladies,” etc., then you offer your firstborn to the devil, and not to God, because your intention is evil. The same for alms, if you give them out of an intention of vainglory, or such like, the firstborn is given to the devil. If however it is given so that God would give you alms, the grace which you seek from him, when your soul comes to the gate of paradise, knocking and asking for the alms, that God would give you alms, then the firstborn is given to God. And so in whatever virtuous work, you should inquire within yourself as to whom the firstborn is given and offered, lest merit is lost from an evil intention. A virtuous deed done from a bad intention counts for nothing, and many great virtuous works are lost because they are done with a bad intention, because the firstborn is not offered to God. See why God commands that the firstborn are to be offered to him. And so the Apostle says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God,” (1Cor 10:31).

Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ as firstborn and only-begotten of the Virgin Mary, wished to be presented to God the Father in the temple and offered in the hands of the priest. And “by five sicles,” like five royals of silver, he is redeemed according to the law, which is found in Numbers 18 where it says, “Whatsoever is firstborn of all flesh, which they offer to the Lord, whether it be of men, or of beasts, shall belong to you: only for the firstborn of man shall you take a price…” and he is redeemed, “by five sicles,…which is twenty ebolos.” (Num 18:15-16). And so unless he is redeemed, he would belong to the priest, and would serve in the temple.

In fact this is how the presentation took place. The Virgin Mary offered her son, Christ into the hands of the priest, and he offered him to the Lord. O how foolish the priest! If he had known him, he would have adored him. Finally, the priest wished to keep him, seeing that the Virgin mother was poor. And the Virgin said to him, “You are not to keep him. See, I have five sicles. These she had gradually saved up, and received from her own labor, perhaps by eating less, so that she might redeem her son. And she opened her purse, not made of gold or iron, and counted out five sicles according to the custom of the law.

The question here is: Why did Christ wish to be redeemed by five sicles, since he was to be the redeemer of the world, and for this reason he was sent by God the Father? Note two answers to this. One is allegorical, the other moral.

The allegorical is this He wished to be redeemed by five sicles, just as he was about to redeem the world with the five major wounds, which make up our entire redemption: circumcision, flight into Egypt, scourging, crowning and crucifixion. And so David, “Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with him plentiful redemption,” (Ps 129:7).

The second reason is moral, giving us an example, as when man is sold to the devil by sin, because to sin mortally is to sell oneself to the devil. For example: He who is pompous and vain, for the price of pride, immediately sells himself to the devil. The greedy, charging interest and a price, by which he is sold to the devil. Include thievery, robbery and the other species of greed. The lustful person, by that delight gives his soul over to the devil. The same for the other sins. And so it is necessary to be redeemed by five sicles, if we wish to be saved, namely by the works of penance. The first is contrition, with the purpose of not returning to sin. Second is oral confession. Third, the affliction of the body. Fourth, the restitution of what is owed. Fifth, the forgiveness of injuries. And this is verified by the words of scripture, “There is one who buys much for a small price, and restores the same sevenfold,” (Sir 20:12).


As for the third, this feast inasmuch as it touches St. Simeon, is said to be the day of the meeting with Simeon. Practically. Then at the time when the Virgin gave birth to her son, all the Jews skilled and learned in the law held for certain that the Messiah was born, because they were seeing the time assigned by the prophets and fulfilled, but they did not know him. And because of this John the Baptist said, “There has stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not,” (Jn 1:26). And so many were praying that he might show himself to them, especially Simeon, holy and just. “And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.” And knowing the prophecy: “And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple,” (Mal 3:1), because of this he came to the temple every day. And when he saw a woman carrying a child, he inquired, “Is it a boy or a girl? And the Holy Sprit said nothing to him until this day, when he said to him, “Today you shall meet the Messiah king in the temple; you shall see him.” And so after a good sleep he rose in the morning, and went to the temple, purifying himself, and praying, because when the king ought to enter his home, his home should be decorated. And so the church sings: “Adorn thy bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ the King, and with great devotion, expect to see him,” (John Damascene: Antiphon for the Feast of the Presentation).

It was otherwise with the priest, who expected him so that he would receive a greater offering, and he would have doves and pigeons. “For all seek the things that are their own; not the things that are Jesus Christ’s,” (Phil 2:21). For there are three conditions of persons, who are not occupied from certain business matters. First, a child at play. Second, women dancing. Third, priests offering. But of those who are of Jesus Christ, immediately they are aware. When however the Virgin with Joseph entered the temple, the Holy Spirit said to Simeon, “Simeon, this woman is his mother, and her son is the king and Messiah promised in the law.” Immediately the old man, weeping for joy, adored him, and receiving him into his arms began to sing a beautiful canticle of four verses: “Now you do dismiss your servant, O Lord, according to your word in peace, etc.,” (Lk 2:29). Behold the day of the Meeting of Simeon.

And so today the church sings: “And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now do you dismiss your servant, O Lord, according to your word in peace,” (Lk 2:27-29).

It is asked why holy Simeon took him in his arms, because this was not promised to him by the Holy Spirit, but it was promised to him that he would not die until he first saw Christ the Lord. Whence therefore such presumption that he would take him? I reply that for our salvation it does not suffice to see Christ through faith, but it is necessary to receive him in the hands through good works. So Mark, last chapter, “He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved,” (Mk 16:16). One might say, “I have those eyes of the soul, the right by believing the divinity of Christ, and the left, the humanity of Christ. So Christ is seen by us on the way. What else is it necessary for me to do? I say, like Simeon, that Christ is received in to our hands through good works. “What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he has faith, but has not works? Shall faith be able to save him?” “Faith without works is dead,” (James 2: 20, 26). As a sign of this we carry lighted candles in our hands, which signifies three things which are in Christ. The soft wax signifies the flesh of Christ, which has vulnerability, which has been liquefied in the passion. The white wick signifies the most pure soul of Christ. The flame, however, signifies the immense divinity of Christ. It is not sufficient just to see the light on the altar, nor Christ through faith, but to receive him in our hands through good works. And so the Apostle [Paul says], “Glorify and bear God in your body,” (1Cor 6:20). Then indeed Christ is born by us when out of love of him we avoid sin. Thanks be to God.

On the Six Stone Water Jugs at Cana — St. Vincent Ferrer

Jn 2:1 (Douay trans.) And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. 4 And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. 7 Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

   “Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews,” (Jn 2:6).  This theme gives me a motive and reason for declaring what those things are  which God ordained to purify our souls so that they might enter into paradise.  But first let us salute the Virgin Mary, etc.

   “Now there were set there six water pots of stone etc.,” i.e. for purification.  According to the spiritual sense [of scriptures] which I wish to employ, it must be known that in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ there was constituted a marriage between the Son of God and our humanity, because just as a man and woman “are not two, but one flesh,” (Mt 19:6), so Christ, God and man, is not two persons but one.  There are not two supposites, but only one.

   The wedding took place in the chapel of the Virgin’s womb.  So David, speaking of the divinity of Christ said, “He [is] like a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber,” (Ps 18:6).  But the nuptials took place not in this world, because it is not an appropriate or sufficient place for such nuptials, but it happened in the empyreal heaven.  Authority. “The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son,” (Mt 22:2).   For just as at the wedding of the chief steward no one entered unless they first had washed, and for this purpose there were six stone water jugs there, as the Theologian [John the evangelist] literally says, so neither in the wedding of paradise can someone  enter unless he first is cleaned and purified in this world, because, “There shall not enter into it anyone defiled, or who does abominable things or tells lies,” (Rev 21:27).  For this reason, Christ the bridegroom placed in this world six stone water jugs, six penitential works, for cleaning and purifying our souls.

  1.             The first is heartfelt contrition.
  2.             The second is sacramental confession.
  3.             The third is penitential affliction.
  4.             The fourth is spiritual prayers.
  5.             The fifth is merciful giving.
  6.             The sixth is forgiveness of injuries.


The first water jug is the first work of penance, which is heartfelt contrition, when someone thinks about his sins and vices and evil deeds which he has committed and is contrite, saying “O miserable me, what shall become of me, because I have committed so many sins.”  Against every state of life.  First, the religious, because he did not keep the rules, or constitutions, nor ordinations of his order, but lived as he wished.  When he recovers his senses, he is contrite saying, “O miserable me, what shall become of me,” etc.  In this water jug the soul is washed and purified, especially when the water there consists of tears.  About this, read the lamentation of King Hezekiah, “Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter,” (Is 38:17).  It says how the sinner is always at war with God, but contrition of the sinners makes peace between God and the sinner, and so he says, “in peace is my bitterness most bitter.”  Peace is caused by bitterness, i.e. contrition.  Or because from peace, namely, worldly bitterness is caused.  This peace is bitter, more bitter, most bitter from the bitterness, i.e. contrition.  Bitter because he lost the grace of God.  More bitter, because he lost the inheritance of paradise. Most bitter because it is the judgment of infernal damnation.


The second water jug is sacramental confession. Note that the confessor ought to sit like a judge, and the penitent ought, at his feet, to confess all his sins by accusing himself. etc.  And at the end of confession, when the confessor absolves, the soul is purified of all mortal sins.  About this image 4 Kgs 5 where we read that a certain nobleman who was a leper came to Elisha to be purified by him from the disease of leprosy. To whom the prophet said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean,” (4Kg 5:10).  And so it happened. This was a prefiguring of confession, so that the river Jordan is the same as the river of judgment.  Behold here is confession, in which the confessor is the judge, and so he should sit.  The sinner is the accused who ought to be washed there seven times, i.e. to confess the seven mortal sins to which all other sins are reduced.  First to confess of the sin of pride, not only in general because it is not sufficient, but in species, the same for the other sins, and so the soul is purified.  O how great a grace is this, that the sinner is absolved by confession.  It is just the opposite in human trials, in which the sinner, having confessed his crime, is sentenced and condemned. etc.  So it is the greatest sin for those who do not wish to confess, but stay away for three or four years, etc.   “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins,” by virtue of confession, “and to cleanse us from all iniquity,” (1Jn 1:9).  For this reason the Church requires that everyone go to confession at least once a year, during Lent, and receive communion at Easter, otherwise they should be refused a church burial.


The third water jug is voluntary penitential actions.  The reason is because our flesh is the occasion of all the sins we commit.   The soul, in its proper condition wishes to contemplate always, like the angels, but the flesh draws it down, now to  pride, next to avarice, next to lust and so for the others.  “For the flesh lusts against the spirit,” (Gal  5:17).   So it is that the flesh is chastised and beaten back with penances and fasts etc., because it is better to correct a son or daughter than, that they be sent to the stocks.  So the body is the son, and the flesh is the daughter, and it is better that they be corrected by you than by the wards of hell, i.e., by the demons. Authority: “But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” by God, ( 1Cor 11:31).  The choice is ours, for we gladly diet for health’s sake, but for the health of the soul we are unwilling to do anything.  Knights in armor, for no good reason, bear great burdens, they hunger, they thirst, they wield iron weapons, etc., but for their soul, nothing.  God renders justice and punishment in hell. Authority: “No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower fell in Siloe, and slew them,” (Lk 13:3-4).  Note, the eighteenth sin, namely, final impenitence, damns a man.


The fourth water jug is spiritual prayer.  Some pray only physical prayers, because they say only words, but their heart is thinking about something else, cooking dinner, or the market, or the tavern.  Prayer is spiritual when someone ponders in their heart what they say with their mouth. Augustine in the Rule says: “When you pray to God in psalms and hymns, entertain your heart with what your lips are reciting,” (Rule of St. Augustine 2:3).  To do this your two hands should be joined, which signifies the conjunction of voice and heart, and then it is spiritual prayer.  For example, when you say the Our Father or the Hail Mary, your heart ought then to think with whom you speak.  He who speaks with the Pope or with the King, speaks with great reverence, not fidgeting or adjusting their clothing. So a man in prayer speaks to the high priest and king Christ, and so with great reverence, otherwise etc.  The Apostle Paul writes.  “If I pray in a tongue,” i.e. in such a way, “my spirit prays, but my understanding is without fruit. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding; I will sing with the spirit, I will sing also with the understanding,” (1Cor 14:14-15).  Such a spiritual prayer purifies the soul according to what Christ declared in Luke 18:13, about that publican who went up to the temple to pray saying, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  He did not know any other prayer. About whom Christ himself said, “Amen I say to you, this man went down into his house justified,” (Lk 18:14). And so it is necessary “to pray always,” (Lk 18:1), morning and evening, and not to give up.


The fifth jug is merciful almsgiving, because God is generous and indeed most generous, so he himself says, “But yet that which remains, give alms; and behold, all things are clean unto you,” (Lk 11:41). Note “yet that which remains,” namely having made restitution, “give alms” from your own just goods, and “all things,” namely, sins, “are clean unto you.”  If it is said what can I do, because I have stolen much and I now have nothing. The response is according to the law, “Whoever cannot pay should give back goods and is free.”  Because the Rule of Law, 14, q. 6, chap 1: “If something belonging to another, on account of which is a sin, is able to be returned and is not returned, penance is not accomplished but feigned. If however it is truly done, the sin is not remitted until thing taken is restored if it is able to be restored.  Often what is taken has been lost, he doesn’t have it to return.  To this we certainly cannot say: Return what you have taken.”  This Augustine: “So you would yield and serve God in good station and pray for those for whom you are bound, and so no one can be excused from restitution, either corporal or spiritual.” “Give alms out of your substance,” (Tob 4:7), and not from another’s.  However much you can, so be merciful.  If much has come to you, give abundantly, if a little has come to you, even then try to give your little bit generously.


 The sixth jug is forgiveness of injuries.  If you want God to forgive the injuries, which you have committed against God, forgive your enemies their injuries which they have committed against you.  To the extent that you forgive your enemies, to that extent God forgives you, because God cannot be bested by creatures in goodness, which would be the case if you would forgive and he would not forgive you.  Tell how in the particular or universal judgment God would show to the soul its sins saying, “Let’s see what I have done for you, and what you have done for me.”  Blessed are you if you then are able to say, truthfully, “And if I have not have done as much for you as you have done for me, nevertheless out of your love forgive such an injury, etc.”  God is satisfied, and so he himself says, “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences,” (Mt 6: 14-15).

You can see more sermons from this great saint here

Sermon On Baptism Of Christ – St. Vincent Ferrer

Mt 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice. Then he suffered him. 16 And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. 17 And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

“I ought to be baptized by you,” (Mt 3:14), in today’s gospel.  Holy Mother Church today celebrates this feast of the Baptism of Christ, about which today’s gospel speaks, how Christ was baptized by St. John.  And our sermon shall be about this. We have a number of good speculative teachings to enlighten the intellect, and moral instructions for the correction of life. But first let the Virgin Mary be hailed, etc.

In the present sermon I have thought to follow the way of jurists, who in their schools, when they want to read or dispute, first set forth the case of the law [casum legis].  Then ask how the law applies [quid iuris].   So first I shall recite the case of divine law, the story of the holy gospel.  Then I shall posit some speculative and moral questions.

The gospel story tells how Christ came from the town of Nazareth to John at the Jordan that he might be baptized by him.  The Holy Spirit revealed to John that this man was the savior of the world, true God and true man.  On account of which John, in wonder, spoke reverently the theme text: “I ought to be baptized by you, and you come to me? ” (Mt 3:14).  Christ said to him, “Suffer it to be so now. For so it becomes us to fulfill all justice,” (v. 15).  Christ did not speak pompously [pompatice] as from the Lord, but he spoke personally, as himself to John saying, “So, through humility it is fitting that we fulfill all justice.”  Christ, “Humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death,” (Phil 2:8).  Behold here the total fulfillment [impletio] of justice in human redemption. Gregory the Great, [Easter Prayer]:  “It would benefit us nothing, unless we had been redeemed.”  Behold, John also was humbled to fulfill the command of Christ that he be baptized, and trembling all over, he baptized Christ.  The Church, the Baptist, trembled, and dared not touch the holy crown of the head of God.  With a shudder he cried out, “Sanctify me, Savior!”  John used this form in baptizing Christ.

Morally, we are here instructed by this, that John, so holy himself, about whom Christ said, “among them that are born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist,” (Mt 11:11), dared not touch Christ.  Note here how great ought to be the purity and good life of priests who have to touch Christ in the sacrament of the altar.  And so holy scripture says, “The priests that come to the Lord, let them be sanctified, lest he strike them,” (Ex 19:22).  Also the laity are not to approach the altars, cf. Numbers 1 & 3.  One who is not of the family of Aaron, i.e. not a priest, who comes forward, is to be killed.   If what is said in the old law is true, holier and more worthy is the altar of the new law than the old. How much more dignified is Christ who is sacrificed on the altar of the new testament, than a lamb which is sacrificed on the altar of the old testament. So the altar of the new testament is of a greater dignity.  I argue now from the lesser to the greater.  If then there was a punishment of death for one who approached the altar by leaning on it …if it is said, “Never can a man kiss the altar,” etc., I reply “always, reverently,” but it would be better to kiss the ground next to the altar where the feet of the priest stand.  “Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation,” (1Pet 5:6).  Tell of how the hand of the divine person or power humbles and brings low the proud and exalts the humble.

Now, having stated the case of the gospel law, some questions have to be raised [quid iuris] – what law applies.  And I raise five questions for discussion.


First about this, where the gospel says. “Jesus comes from Galilee to the Jordan, to John, to be baptized by him,” (Mt 3:13), it is asked: Why did Christ wish to be baptized?  The reason for this question is because baptism is given primarily against original sin, and also against actual sins if there are any.  But Christ did not have any sin, neither original nor actual.  “Who did no sin,” (1Pet 2:22).  Therefore it seems that he ought not to be baptized.

I reply that Christ wished to be baptized, not that he might receive something from baptism — we receive from baptism various spiritual gifts: the remission of sins, sanctification, virtues and graces, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the infused moral virtues.  Christ received none of these from baptism.  He wished rather to receive baptism so that he might give to baptism regenerative power, as Bede says in his homily for today. “The Son of God comes to be baptized by a man in the water of the Jordan, he who was pure of all uncleanness, that washing the filth of all our sins, he might sanctify the flowing of the waters.”

Recall the appropriate legend about the unicorn which by the touch of his horn purifies water.  Then the awaiting animals can drink.  This properly signifies the baptism of Christ.  And so in sacred scripture Christ is called a unicorn: “But my horn shall be exalted like that of the unicorn: and my old age in plentiful mercy,” (Ps 91:11), and the prophet speaks in the person of the church saying, “shall be exalted.”  Christ is like a unicorn, because divinity and humanity in Christ make up only one horn, i.e. one person.  “And my old age.”  Note, just as the ages of a man are seven, so also are there seven ages of human nature:  infancy was from Adam to Noah; childhood from Noah to Abraham; adolescence from Abraham to Moses; youth from Moses to David;  adulthood [virilitas] from David to the Babylonian captivity; old age from the Babylonian captivity to Christ; decrepitude from Christ to the end of the world.  See why he says, “My old age in plentiful mercy,” i.e. abundant, because now the mercy of God abounds, for all sins with respect to guilt are remitted in baptism and also with respect to punishment.  Another text authority, Luke 1:69 says: “And he has raised up a horn of salvation to us.”  “The horn of our salvation” is the body of Christ.  Today, this most pure unicorn touches the waters, so that by his touch he might confer a regenerative force for all others.  Tell how Christ terminated and finished the purification of the old law, which took place through circumcision, and begins the purification of the new law, which happens through baptism.  Christ is called the “Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end,” (Rev 21:), the beginning of the new law and the end of the old.  For this reason we Christians receive only baptism and not circumcision, because in Christ the sacraments of the [old] law have their end and term.  God said to Abraham, “Walk before me, and be perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and you,” (Gn 17:1-2).  Between these two terms or forces, Abraham and Christ, the covenant of circumcision should endure for two thousand years.  The Apostle says , “Behold, I Paul tell you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing,” (Gal 5:2).  Whoever, therefore, wishes to be circumcised, following the example of Christ, sins gravely.


A second question is about this, that the theme text has John saying to Christ, “I ought to be baptized by you,” (Mt 3:14).  We might ask: Why did St. John say this since he was sanctified in the womb of his mother?  Luke 1;15: The angel said to Zachary, John’s father, “He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”  Why then did John say to Christ, “I ought to be baptized by you?”

I reply, according to the determinations of the holy doctors, that baptism places a character in the soul, a certain beautiful sign, like a royal crown, which sign no one in paradise can have unless he had been baptized.  So neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor David nor anyone of the old testament have this sign, nor also those fifty philosophers [rhetores] of St. Catherine [of Alexandria] who were killed without the baptism of water, although they were saved by the baptism of blood.  Of this sign the Apostle says, “Believing, you were signed with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,” (Eph 1:13-14).  “The pledge” is the down payment of the inheritance, like that which they give to merchants. Therefore, although St. John had been sanctified in the womb of his mother, nevertheless he did not have the character.  Because of this, so that he might have it, he said to Christ, “I ought to be baptized by you,” to receive this sign. And because he said “I ought,” we have for certain that Christ baptized St. John, and also the apostles and disciples.  From apostolic authority: “Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea: and there he abode with them, and baptized,” (Jn 3:22).  But it is said John 4, as if to the contrary, “Though Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples,” (v. 2).  Augustine and the Gloss agree on this point, when John says, “and he was baptizing.”  The Gloss says [he was baptizing] the disciples and apostles, though Christ did not baptize others.  The disciples baptized others.  For the same reason it is believed that Christ baptized the Virgin Mary, that she might have that sign of the crown.  You know the difference between a crown and a tiara [crinale].  The sign of the character is like a crown, and on its front it has a band [monile] with the name “Jesus.”  “Lo a lamb stood upon mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads,” (Rev 14:1).

Morally. Because we Christians bear the name of Jesus written on our foreheads, beware lest we bring the name of the devil in our mouth, saying, “In the devil’s name why did you do such and such.”  Take note of the thief crying out “Jesus!” and the devil crying out “Thieves! Thieves!”  This is against those who don’t know how to say anything without invoking the name of the devil.  David, Psalm 39: “Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord,” (v. 5), and does not speak the name of the devil.


The third question is about this.  The Holy Spirit “descended like a dove,” (Mt 3:16) on him.  Why?  Because it is certain that Christ as man, from the instant of his conception, received the Holy Spirit, who never left him:  Isa 61:1 and Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he hath anointed me,” by grace at my conception.

Response:  The Spirit descended like a dove on him, not as if he had not had it before or he was not in him, nor that he might confer at that moment a new grace, as he would coming on the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and in Luke 1:35, he came upon the Virgin Mary, but to show us that the Holy Spirit descends on one who is baptized, and there he makes his dwelling as if in his own temple.  When someone before baptism, by habit at least, or by reality, or vow becomes the dwelling place of demons, in being baptized he is exorcized to expel the demons.

Morally, from the fact that once the Holy Spirit takes up his dwelling place in a creature, he never recedes from the creature unless he shows irreverence to him through mortal sin.  He does not leave for venial sin.  But when a man sins mortally, then he drives the Holy Spirit from himself and welcomes the devil.  O what an injury!  To expel the king and to welcome a lecherous pimp [ribaldum lenonem].  So scripture says, “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them. For, that of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog is returned to his vomit;’ and, ‘The sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire,'” (2Pet 2:21-22).  So children should be taught and nourished lest they hand over a mess to the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.  See what parents ought to teach their children..


The fourth question is about this, “A voice came from heaven: You are my beloved Son; in you  I am well pleased,” (Lk 2:22).  It is asked why this voice has happened, because it is certain that Christ did not begin then to be the Son of God, because Christ eternally is the Son of God.  Authority: “The Lord said to me: You are my son, today have I begotten you,” (Ps 2:7).  Note when he says here “today,” many days result from the interposition of night.  If the sun hovered over us always, there would be only one day.  In heaven, there never is night, because God always, invariably, illuminates.  “The city has no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it. For the glory of God has enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof,” (Rev. 21:23).    When it is said, “Today have I begotten you,” i.e. in eternity.    Therefore why does that voice speak?

Response: Because that voice does not come for Christ, but for us, to show that in baptism we are made children of God.  Just as a man with his wife begets legitimate sons and daughters, so Christ [begets children] with the Church his spouse.  “The seed is the word of God.,” (Lk 8:11).  Therefore we Christians are all children of God, of the king Christ and the queen, the Church.  It is otherwise before baptism.   But after baptism parents ought to consider themselves as nurses of the child of Christ the King.  “[A woman] shall be saved through childbearing;” that is, by nourishing, “if she continue in faith, and love, and sanctification,” (1 Tim 2:15).  “Behold what manner of charity the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God,” (1Jn 3:1).

Morally, we are instructed that just as the sons of the king do not go to the brothel, nor to taverns, nor to the place where they play dice etc., so neither should Christians, otherwise they would become unworthy and not gain the inheritance of paradise  etc.


The fifth question is about this, “And the heavens were opened,” (Mt 3:16).  It is asked why this, because the heavens were always opened to Christ.  “All things are naked and open to his eyes,” (Heb 4:13).

I reply that the heavens were opened not for his sake, but to show that the heavens are opened to those who are newly baptized.  It was otherwise before the coming of Christ, because for more than five thousand years the heavens had been closed to mankind.  The gates of paradise had been closed for all because of Eve, and through the Virgin Mary they had been opened again, etc.  And so children who died after baptism before they had sinned mortally, immediately flew straightway to paradise, and they found heaven open.  About whom Christ said to the gatekeepers of paradise, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such,” (Mt 19:14).  Some women err when they say that they bypass purgatory because of [enduring] a mother’s pains.  “When [he] was in the midst of the captives by the river Chobar, the heavens were opened,” (Ez 1:1).  “Chobar ” means baptism.

Morally, we are instructed lest we grieve for such children when they die.  You should rejoice as if the king had taken your son into his court.  Rather you should weep for your lecherous adult children [adulti ribaldi].  The Apostle [Paul] writes, “And we will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep,” innocently at rest, “that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope,” of resurrection, (1Thes 4:13).

Sermon on the Feast of St. Dominic – St. Vincent Ferrer

“You are the salt of the earth, ” (Mt 5:13 ) This is the text to be read as today’s gospel. Just as the whole office and the solemnity of the present day is about the most glorious father and confessor of our Lord, St. Dominic, so also is our sermon. God willing, we shall have many good teachings etc.


For some explanation of this text and the introduction to the aforesaid material, it must be known that all corporeal visible creatures which are in this world, have one task in general, namely to represent and signify spiritual and invisible things. And this is one of the more principal reasons. Why did God create the world? To represent invisible and spiritual things. The reason is, because as long as we live in this life and are mortal, we cannot se spiritual things except through figures and like representations. The defect of this is on the part of flesh which impedes, because it can see only corporal things. It is like someone who would hold green sapphires or rubies in front of his eyes, and whatever he sees would be green or red. It is not a defect on the part of the eyes, but from the unknowing glass or gems to view reality only through its own color. So it is with us. The eyes of the soul have a body like a sapphire, and so they can see only corporeal things, but putting down the sapphires, namely the flesh, immediately they see spiritual things, angels, souls. See the defect, and so it is that in this life we do not see spiritual things. And this is the common teaching in philosophy in III De anima, and in theology. The Philosopher (Aristotle) says, “It is impossible for us to understand except through phantasms,” i.e. likenesses. In theology also Dionysius (the Areopagite) says, “It is impossible for us otherwise to shine divine light unless it was covered over by a veil of images (figuratum).

Because of this God. knowing that spiritual things cannot be seen by us in this world, created the world in which each creature, howsoever tiny, represents and figures spiritual things. For example, none of you ever sees Christ, nor the virgin Mary , nor one of the apostles in this world. So a skilled painter paints images not to be adored, but to represent Christ, the Virgin Mary and the other saints. And so God the most clever artist of all paints this world like an easel filled with representational images. And so the Apostle says, “For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable,” (Rom 1:20). This teaching therefore is clear through reason and authority, that all corporeal creatures have the same general task.

So Christ wished that the invisible and spiritual perfection of the apostles and of those following the apostolic life, be prefigured through one corporeal creature, namely, by salt. And so Christ says to the apostles and those following the apostolic life, and especially to St. Dominic our father, “You are the salt of the earth, ” (Mt 5:13 ). The theme is clear now. Next, the material which I want to preach to you.


I have noticed therefore three properties in salt through which it signifies to me the apostles and especially St. Dominic our father. First, salt heals infections. Second, salt preserves from corruption. Third, it delights us when we eat. From these three conditions salt represents St. Dominic, and so it is said to him especially, “You are the salt of the earth, ” (Mt 5:13 )


First, I say, that salt heals infections. About this in 4 Kgs, ch. 2 the text says, that that holy prophet and friend of God, Elisha, came to the city of Jericho and the officials and rulers of the city came to him, saying to him that that city was noble and beautiful, having good lands, but it had a defect, because the waters, he said, are polluted and make the land sterile, and bloat the people who drink of that water. “And so, Father, you who are so holy and a friend of God, are you able to take care of this and provide a remedy?” The prophet responded: “It pleases me. Give me a new pitcher. And when they brought the pitcher, he said, “Now I need salt.” When they brought it he sprinkled it on the waters. When he did this he said, “Thus says the Lord: I have healed these waters,” (4 Kgs 2:21). The waters were healed on that day according to the words of Elisha, which is found in 4 Kgs 2.

Here are four secrets to be revealed.

First that it is the city of Jericho.
Second what are these infected waters.
Third, what is the new pitcher.
Fourth what is the salt healing and purifying the waters.

Jericho The city of Jericho signifies the church. Jericho according to the Hebrew meaning stands for “moon.” Behold universal Christianity, namely, the church, rightly passes through the phases of the moon. For in the moon we find seven phases or states. The first is the new moon. Second is waxing. Third, full. Fourth, waning. The fifth is the moon turning around (gyrans). The sixth is eclipsing. The seventh will be the perfect moon.

The same for the church. First it was like the new moon in the time of the apostles, because then Christianity first appeared, and strict, and then the Christians went about simply, there was little of the great pridefulness or vanities in the prelates like now. Second, next it was waxing, in the time of the martyrs, because many were converted because of the miracles which they were performing, and so the church increased. Third, in the time of the holy doctors it was full, for from their preachings and teachings, and examples of holiness they illuminated the whole world. In the time of Augustine all of Africa was Christian. Fourth, it was waning, at the time when the religious orders of Preachers and Minors began, because then because of sin they were perishing suddenly and quickly; and so these religious orders came to correct those sins. The fifth phase is turning around, when the moon gyrated, it is not seen for two or three days. So it is now, almost no obedience is shown to the pope. Some are saying that the pope is above the council, others the opposite. Sixth it shall be eclipsed, and this in the time of the antichrist, because then it shall appear to be dead. Just as some simple folk say when the moon is eclipsed, that it died, and would appear bloody all over. Such shall be the time of the antichrist because of the outpouring of Christian blood. Seventh, after the death of antichrist it shall be perfect, because then all shall return to the faith of Christ. Behold the phases of the church. And so the church is signified by Jericho, i.e., the moon. About this last phase David says, “…as the moon perfect for ever, and a faithful witness in heaven,” (Ps 88:38).

Infected Waters Second we must see what these infected waters of this city are. These waters are the vices, sins and wicked manner of living of Christians, because before the coming of St. Dominic all peoples were infected. The faithful were given to forgetfulness, virtues were held in contempt. About this the Apocalypse, “…and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter,” (Rev 8:11).

New Pitcher But Elisha said, “Let’s have a new pitcher.” Behold, the Order of Preachers is called a pitcher (vas). Because it is made up of many brothers, it is called new and old, more so than all [other orders]. If we wish to speak with respect to the essential vows which are angelic chastity, apostolic or evangelical poverty, and general obedience. And as for the office of preaching, which is to travel about through the world, not to construct buildings, this is the religious order (religio) of St. Dominic as to its essentials.

Christ already ordained all this. The first Prior was Christ, because St. Thomas says in II-II, q. 88, a. 4, ad 3m, that the apostles leaving everything to follow Christ, vowed pertaining to the state of perfection, from which is implied that they vowed these, namely chastity, poverty and obedience to Christ. The same regarding the office of preaching, he commanded them saying, “Go into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mk 16:15). Behold the religious order (religio) of Christ. It is the very same as that of St. Dominic. Therefore we have and we embrace three vows, namely, angelic chastity, evangelical poverty, complete (generalem) obedience, so let anyone of this order watch out for himself. So go preaching; don’t settle down in one place. And so the story of St. Dominic says, “He thought to institute an order which would be called the Order of Preaching Brothers. And would so be.” (Jordan, Libellus, #40). Behold, therefore how it is a very old religious order (religio). And a good religious observing these on the day of judgment, when kings and great prelates shall stand on the earth with others, he himself shall stand with the apostles elevated with the Judge, with Christ. Oh what an honor this shall be!

Here is the answer to a litigious question, between clergy and religious. The clergy say that they were the original religious order, which is not so. For there were no clergy until Holy Thursday, yet there were religious before, namely the apostles who had taken the aforesaid vows.

But the religious order of St. Dominic is called a new pitcher or vessel with respect to ceremonies. We wear black cappas (exterior capes), and white scapulars. And that we eat in our refectory, and similar things. With respect to these ceremonies, it is a new vessel. About this vessel we can say what Christ said of Paul, who was the first in the office of preaching, first, that is, principal, and ultimate with respect to the vocation to the apostolate, “this man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings,” (Acts 9:15).

Salt Fourth we must find the meaning of salt in the vessel. This says Dominic in the vessel of the order, from its first property, because salt heals from infection. So St. Dominic placed in a new vessel heals the infections of the sins of this world:

For the whole world was infected with great envy of one other, but St. Dominic comes preaching the love of God and neighbor. And God prefigured this. For his mother saw in dreams that she would bear a dog with a blazing torch in his mouth, who emerging from her womb seemed to set fire to the whole world. She was amazed at this, and enlightened by God, said that her son would be a great watchdog for the flock of Christ, who would bark at the wolves of hell. With fire in his mouth, he was to inflame the world to the love of God and neighbor.

He also heals from the infection of lust, because the infection of this sin before the coming of St. Dominic was so great, that almost no one was clean. But St. Dominic came preaching chastity and poverty, and peoples responded with devotion. This too God had already prefigured, because his godmother had a vision of St. Dominic having a star on his forehead, which lit up the whole earth with its light. The woman, stunned, joyfully told of her vision. In this is implied that just as the star is pure and bright, so he should lead peoples to the brightness and purity of chastity.

Also, the whole world was infected with pride, pomp and vanity, but at the preaching and teaching and example of St. Dominic many people were humbled, setting aside the vanities of jewelry, armor, horses, gold and silver cups and similar things. This God showed, because when he was yet a cute nursing child, maybe one year old, he was seen frequently to lie down on his bed spread out on the ground, showing humility.

Also the world was infected with gluttony. For few observed Lent, or the fasts in the four seasons (Rogation Days), or the vigils of saints. St. Dominic gave evidence that he was purified from this infection, for scarcely ten years old, he already abstained from wine and fasted often on bread and water.

Also the world was infected with avarice, usury, theft, robbery, and deceits, but St. Dominic by preaching and through his example purified it. This is signified by a deed, when he was in Palencia where there was a great famine, and the poor were dying of starvation, the rich were saying, “Let us keep our goods for ourselves, and our children, because we don’t know how long this shall last.” But St. Dominic, sold his books and

furniture and gave it all to the poor. His example provoked the rich to give alms.

Also about the sin of anger, because the people preferred not to dismiss or forgive injuries; they wanted vengeance. St. Dominic came preaching patience and he made peace. He demonstrated this by his actions. When he was preaching in Carcassonne, where there were many heretics, and they were throwing filth and garbage and other things at him, he bore up under it all patiently.

And so the world was lazy for spiritual goods. No one was cared to do penance. But St. Dominic showed them by word and example. Three times a day he disciplined himself with an iron chain.

It is clear then, that St. Dominic, like salt placed in a new vessel, healed and purified the waters of sin. And so about St. Dominic it can be understood the word of Augustine in the Homily, “The Lord sent the apostolic salt for the preserving and extinguishing the corruptions of the waters of sinners,” (See Augustine, On the Sermon on the Mount, Book I, Matthew 5, ch. 6, # 17).


I say that the second condition of salt is that it preserves from corruption. It doesn’t just cure and clean what is already corrupt, but it also preserves. This is clear because when a man wishes to preserve meat or fish, he puts salt on them, which restricts moistures etc. Although this is clear, nevertheless there is a scriptural authority, of Tobias, who caught a fish, of which he ate a part, “…and they took it with them in the way: the rest they salted as much as might serve them, till they came to Rages the city of the Medes,” (Tob 6:6).

So too of St. Dominic. For I find that this world should have been corrupted and destroyed for well over two hundred years and more. But the Virgin Mary, wishing still to preserve the world, put salt in it, namely St. Dominic, and saved the world. For in the stories of the saints and in the life of St. Dominic — in two places — we read of a vision which St. Dominic and St. Francis both experienced. When they were in Rome working for the confirmation of their orders, the pope and cardinals were raising difficulties over such new things, because they were seeking confirmation of a status which was both higher and lower.

A higher status, because it was both a contemplative life of study, and active. By performing spiritual works, by celebrating, and preaching, the starving are satisfied with the word of God, and those ignorant in the faith are instructed, etc. And the dead, that is sinners, are buried in the wounds of Christ. The captives of the devil, too, are redeemed. The campaign is engaged; the demons are conquered. O how many castles, i.e. sinners, are made subject to Christ by preaching.

Secondly a lower status, because greatly despised, because they were beggars, and so the pope was not inclined to confirm them, because they could repay nothing.

One night, when St. Dominic was praying in a certain church, and St. Francis in another, Christ was seen by them with three lances, wishing to destroy the world. These saints were saying to themselves, “O shall there be there no holy one in heaven who can call back this wrath?” And suddenly the Virgin Mary came, like a mother coming quickly to snatch her child from devouring wolves, saying, “O son, you are now bearing lances, you who are accustomed to bearing nails in your hands for the world.” Christ replied — Saints Dominic and Francis were listening– “My mother, how much more should I do, since I have showered the world with so many graces? I sent the patriarchs, and prophets, and they killed them; and finally I myself came, etc. History tells, how up until now, I have not spared [graces].

These three lances, destructive of the world, are the three great tribulations about to come shortly over the world. First is the tribulation and persecution of the antichrist, which lance can be said that it pierces the whole world. Second shall be the conflagration of the world through fire; the whole world is burned, etc. Third is the judicial sentencing by Christ. Of these three lances, scripture testifies, allegorically in 2 Kgs 18 About Absalom, the traitor and rebel son of David. He was killed by three lances from Joab, the captain of the army. The story says, “So he [Joab] took three lances in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom,” (2 Kgs 18:14).

Why did God wish that Absalom be killed by three lances, since one would have been sufficient, especially for a man suspended etc. It was a figure. For the son betraying God the Father is this whole world acting against the commandments of God, expelling their father, namely God from the world as much as possible. But the prince of the army, namely Christ, kills them with three aforesaid lances.

Even in the time of St. Dominic the world ought to have been destroyed by Christ and corrupted, but the Virgin Mary added the salt, namely Dominic, gaining an extension. Think here how the whole world is now in this extension, and we do not have a fixed time, but he said conditionally: “If converted, OK (bene), otherwise I shall no longer spare them.”

Now let us see if the world in these [our] lands, is corrected. I believe that never were there so much pomp and vanities, etc. as there are now, nor such lust, unless in the time of Noah. For the hotels [hospitia], and even the villas are filled with prostitutes. Mix bad apples with the good, and shortly all are rotten. Same for avarice and usury, because they change its name. Usury they call “contrived assessments,” but when the intention is not buying or selling, but of lending, it is usury. Also not for a just price. Whatever you receive beyond the allotted price, is usury and damnation. Same too with simony in the clergy; they ultimately have all the sacraments for sale in some way or other. Same for envy. If someone among religious has some excellence in disputation, or the science of preaching, others are envious. It is the same with clergy and laity about gluttony. Already you se that Lent is not observed, nor vigils of the apostles nor the rogation days observed etc. [quatuor temporum, literally the four times]. You know about anger, it is already worse against both God and reason. If someone does another injury, and they cannot get to him, they kill his innocent friend contrary to divine law, because it is against divine and human judgment to kill an innocent person. About sloth: the world comes to this, that all are judged to be lazy, unless they are doing business, but if someone takes some time off for a work of God and of prayer they are called lazy. In the evening [of time] it will be apparent who was lazy, and because the world is not corrected, moreover that it is worse, these religious orders, who were founded to correct the world are already destroyed. So if St. Dominic or Francis should come now, they would not recognize their religious orders.

Since the world has not been corrected, does it not follow, then, that in a short time it will be destroyed before the coming of the day of judgment? So for the other objections respond, “Behold the salt, namely St. Dominic.” On his account we praise God saying: “Blessed be the redeemer of all, who providing for the salvation of mankind gave St. Dominic to the world.”


Third, I say that the other condition of salt is that it delights in dining, giving flavor to food. To make this clear, a quotation: “But if the salt lose its savor,” i.e. it fails in how it salts food, “wherewith shall it be salted? It,” the food, “is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men,” (Mt 5:13). The food of the souls are good works and spiritual things. Citation: “Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that which endures unto life everlasting,” (Jn 6:27). And so Christ says, “I have meat to eat, which you know not,” (Jn 4:32). The “meat” of Christ about which he is satisfied are the works of virtue.

But this food was insipid before the coming of St. Dominic. The temporal lords, having abandoned the virtue of justice gave themselves over to tyranny. St. Dominic came, salting, recalling them to the virtue of justice, to being content with their returns, etc. The same for the insipid meat of prelates, because they cared more about their incomes that about souls. St. Dominic added the salt of his teaching by which they ought to care more for souls than their incomes. How many religious were living dissolute lives, caring nothing of their religious practices, but St. Dominic called them back to religious observance. How many irreligious clergy, praying their divine office only superficially (nisi a.e.i.o.u) and almost all were cohabiting, prowling the taverns, were led back? How many moneylenders, were buying for less than the fixed price, or selling expecting more [were converted]? How many cruel civil servants, permitting the poor to die of starvation, were returned to piety, mercy and liberality. How many self-indulgent women by his preaching did he return to chastity etc.

Finally God said, “O this salt, I wish that it be set on my table” And see how. The story is told how Christ appeared to him, inviting him to his glory. Then St. Dominic called twelve brothers in the Bologna convent, and before them composed his will such that it was fitting that he leave to his brothers a firm humility, namely that they take pride not because of sanctity or knowledge. Second he left to his brothers a treasure of poverty, by which the kingdom of heaven is purchased, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Mt 5:3). Third he bequeaths fraternal charity, and having kissed the brethren, and having received the sacraments, he died.

They tell of the glorious vision which God showed to him, of two ladders of which Christ was holding the top of the first, and the Virgin Mary the other. And crowned with a golden crown he entered glory. If one asks “Why two ladders? Is not one sufficient?” The answer is, to indicate that the order of Preachers sends brothers not only by one ladder, namely of the contemplative life, but also by the other, namely the way of the active life. The Celestines and those like them ascend by the latter of contemplation. The Knights of St. John, of St. James, of St. George, and the Brothers of Mercy, ascend by the other scale, namely, of the active life. But the Brothers of St. Dominic by two, namely the contemplative by study, and the active, by preaching. “Have salt in you, and have peace among you,” (Mk 9:49).


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