IN ASSUMPTIONE B. V. MARIAE. SERMO I. De gemina susceptione, Christi scilicet et Mariae.
1. Virgo hodie gloriosa coelos ascendens, supernorum gaudia civium copiosis sine dubio cumulavit augmentis. Haec est enim, cujus salutationis vox et ipsos exsultare facit in gaudio, quos materna adhuc viscera claudunt (Luc. I, 41). Quod si parvuli necdum nati anima liquefacta est ut Maria locuta est, quid putamus quaenam illa fuerit coelestium exsultatio, cum et vocem audire, et videre faciem, et beata ejus frui praesentia meruerunt?
Nobis vero, charissimi, quae in ejus Assumptione solemnitatis occassio, quae causa laetitiae, quae materia gaudiorum? Mariae praesentia totus illustratur orbis: adeo ut et ipsa jam coelestis patria clarius rutilet virgineae lampadis irradiata fulgore. Merito proinde resonat in excelsis gratiarum actio et vox laudis; sed plangendum nobis quam plaudendum magis esse videtur. Quantum enim de ejus praesentia coelum exsultat, nunquid non consequens est, ut tantum lugeat hic noster inferior mundus ejus absentiam?
Cesset tamen querela nostra, quia nec nobis hic est manens civitas; sed eam inquirimus, ad quam hodie Maria benedicta pervenit. In qua si conscripti cives sumus, dignum profecto est etiam in exsilio, etiam super flumina Babylonis ejus nos recordari, ejus communicare gaudiis, ejus participare laetitiam, maximeque eam, quae tam copioso impetu laetificat hodie civitatem Dei, ut sentiamus et ipsi stillicidia stillantia super terram. Praecessit nos regina nostra, praecessit, et tam gloriose suscepta est, ut fiducialiter sequantur Dominam servuli clamantes: Trahe nos post te; in odorem unguentorum tuorum curremus (Cant. I, 3). Advocatam praemisit peregrinatio nostra, quae tanquam Judicis mater, et mater misericordiae, suppliciter et efficaciter salutis nostrae negotia pertractabit.
2. Pretiosum hodie munus terra nostra direxit in coelum, ut dando et accipiendo felici amicitiarum foedere copulentur humana divinis, terrena coelestibus, ima summis. Illo (Illa) enim ascendit fructus terrae sublimis, unde data optima, et dona perfecta descendunt.
Ascendens ergo in altum Virgo beata, dabit ipsa quoque dona hominibus. Quidni daret? Siquidem nec facultas ei deesse poterit, nec voluntas. Regina coelorum est, misericors est; denique mater est unigeniti Filii Dei. Nihil enim sic potest potestatis ejus seu pietatis magnitudinem commendare: nisi forte aut non creditur Dei Filius honorare matrem; aut dubitare quis potest omnino in affectum charitatis transisse Mariae viscera, in quibus ipsa quae ex Deo est charitas novem mensibus corporaliter requievit.
3. Et haec quidem propter nos dixerim, fratres, sciens difficile esse ut in tanta inopia charitas illa perfecta, non quaerens quae sua sunt, valeat inveniri. Ut tamen interim sileam beneficia, quae pro illius glorificatione consequimur; si eam diligimus, gaudebimus utique, quia vadit ad Filium. Plane, inquam, congratulabimur ei, nisi forte—quod absit!—inventrici gratiae omnimodis inveniamur ingrati.
Quem enim in castellum mundi hujus intrantem prius ipsa susceperat, ab eo suscipitur hodie sanctam ingrediens civitatem. Sed cum quanto putas honore, cum quanta putas exsultatione, cum quanta gloria? Nec in terris locus dignior uteri virginalis templo, in quo Filium Dei Maria suscepit; nec in coelis regali solio, in quo Mariam hodie Mariae filius sublimavit. Felix nimirum utraque susceptio; ineffabilis utraque, quia utraque inexcogitabilis est.
Utquid enim ea hodie in ecclesiis Christi evangelica lectio recitatur, in qua mulier benedicta in mulieribus excepisse intelligitur Salvatorem? Credo ut haec quam celebramus, ex illa susceptione aliquatenus aestimetur, imo ut juxta illius inaestimabilem gloriam inaestimabilis cognoscatur et ista. Quis enim, etiamsi linguis hominum angelorumque loquatur, explicare queat quemadmodum superveniente Spiritu, obumbrante virtute Altissimi, caro factum sit Verbum Dei, per quod facta sunt omnia; et Dominus majestatis quem non capit universitas creaturae, intra virginea sese clauserit viscera factus homo?
4. Sed et illud quis vel cogitare sufficiat, quam gloriosa hodie mundi regina processerit, et quanto devotionis affectu tota in ejus occursum coelestium legionum prodierit multitudo: quibus ad thronum gloriae canticis sit deducta; quam placido vultu, quam serena facie, quam laetis [alias, divinis] amplexibus suscepta a Filio, et super omnem exaltata creaturam, cum eo honore, quo tanta mater digna fuit, cum ea gloria, quae tantum decuit Filium?
Felicia prorsus oscula labiis impressa lactentis, cui virgineo mater applaudebat in gremio. Verum nunquid non feliciora censebimus, quae ab ore sedentis in dextera Patris hodie in beata salutatione suscepit, cum ascenderet ad thronum gloriae, epithalamium canens, et dicens: Osculetur me osculo oris sui? (Cant. I, 1.) Christi generationem, et Mariae assumptionem quis enarrabit? Quantum enim gratiae in terris adepta est prae caeteris, tantum et in coelis obtinet gloriae singularis. Quod si oculus non vidit, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit, quae praeparavit Deus diligentibus se: quod praeparavit gignenti se, et—quod omnibus est certum—diligenti prae omnibus, quis loquatur? Felix plane Maria, et multipliciter felix, sive cum excipit Salvatorem, sive cum a Salvatore suscipitur: utrobique miranda dignitas Virginis matris: utrobique amplectenda dignatio majestatis.
Intravit, inquit, Jesus in quoddam castellum, et mulier quaedam excepit illum in domum suam (Luc. X, 38). Sed laudibus magis vacandum est, quod festivis praeconiis haec dies debeatur. Quia vero copiosam nobis materiam lectionis hujus verba ministrant; cras quoque, convenientibus nobis in unum, communicandum erit sine invidia quod fuerit desuper datum, ut in memoria tantae Virginis non modo affectus devotionis excitetur, sed et mores aedificentur ad profectum conversationis, in laudem et gloriam Filii ejus Domini nostri, qui est super omnia Deus benedictus in saecula. Amen.
SERMO II. De domo mundanda, ornanda, implenda.
1. Intravit Jesus in quoddam castellum, et mulier quaedam, Martha nomine, excepit illum in domum suam (Luc. X, 38). Opportune satis hoc mihi loco prophetica exclamatio assumenda videtur: O Israel, quam magna est domus Domini, et ingens locus possessionis ejus! (Baruch III, 24.) An non ingens, cujus comparatione castellum dicitur terrae hujus spatiosissima latitudo? an non ingens patria et regio inaestimabilis, quando ab ea Salvator adveniens, cum ingrederetur orbem terrae, dicitur introire castellum? Nisi forte castellum quis aliud intelligendum putet, quam atrium fortis armati, principis mundi hujus, cujus vasa diripere fortior supervenit (Luc. XI, 21, 22).
Festinemus in illam ingredi beatitudinis amplitudinem, fratres, ubi nemo alium coangustat: ut possimus cum omnibus sanctis comprehendere, quaenam sit longitudo et latitudo, sublimitas et profundum (Ephes. III, 18). Neque id desperemus, quandoquidem ipse coelestis habitator patriae, etiam et creator, nostri hujus castelluli angustias non refugit.
2. Sed quid introisse cum dicimus in castellum? Etiam in angustissimum virginalis uteri diversorium introivit. Denique et mulier quaedam excepit illum in domum suam. Felix mulier, quae non jam exploratores Jericho, sed ipsum potius fortissimum exspoliatorem stulti illius, qui vere ut luna mutatur; non legatos Jesu filii Nave, sed ipsum magis suscipere meruit verum Jesum Filium Dei.
Felix, inquam, mulier, cujus domus Salvatore suscepto inventa est munda quidem, sed plane non vacua. Quis enim vacuam dixerit, quam salutat angelus gratia plenam? Neque hoc solum; sed adhuc quoque in eam superventurum asserit Spiritum sanctum. Ad quid putas, nisi ut etiam superimpleat eam? Ad quid, nisi ut adveniente jam Spiritu plena sibi, eodem superveniente nobis quoque superplena et supereffluens fiat? Utinam fluant in nos aromata illa, charismata scilicet gratiarum, ut de plenitudine tanta omnes accipiamus!
Ipsa nempe mediatrix nostra, ipsa est per quam suscepimus misericordiam tuam, Deus: ipsa est per quam et nos Dominum Jesum in domos nostras excipimus. Et nobis enim singulis castra sunt singula, et singulae domus; et Sapientia pulsat ad ostia singulorum: si quis ei aperuerit, introibit, coenabitque cum eo.
Est vulgare proverbium, quod multorum in ore, magis autem in corde versatur: Bonum, inquiunt, servat castellum, qui custodierit corpus suum. Sapiens tamen non sic, sed magis inquit: Omni custodia serva cor tuum, quia ex ipso vita procedit (Prov. IV, 23).
3. Esto tamen, cedendum sit multitudini; bonum castrum custodiat, qui custodierit corpus suum. Illud sane quaerendum quaenam huic sit adhibenda custodia castro. Rectene custodisse tibi videtur anima illa corporis sui castrum, cujus membra, velut conjuratione facta, inimico ejus dominium tradidere? Sunt enim qui cum morte foedus inierunt, pactum pepigerunt cum inferno (Isa. XXVIII, 15). Incrassatus est, inquit, dilectus, et recalcitravit; incrassatus, impinguatus, dilatatus (Deut. XXXII, 15). Haec plane custodia, quae laudatur a peccatoribus in desideriis carnis suae.
Quid vobis videtur, fratres? num et in hac parte cedendum est multitudini? Absit! Paulum magis interrogemus, utpote ducem strenuum militiae spiritualis. Dic nobis, Apostole, quae sit tui custodia castri? Ego, ait, sic curro, non quasi in incertum; sic pugno, non quasi aerem verberans, Castigo enim corpus meum, et in servitutem redigo, ne forte, cum aliis praedicavero, ipse reprobus efficiar (I Cor. IX, 26, 27). Et alio in loco: Non regnet, inquit, peccatum in vestro mortali corpore ad obediendum concupiscentiis ejus (Rom. VI, 12). Utilis profecto custodia, et felix anima, quae sic custodierit corpus suum, ut nunquam sibi vindicet illud inimicus.
Fuit enim aliquando, cum hoc meum castrum tyrannidi suae impius ille subjecerat sibi, potestative membris imperans universis. Quantum eo nocuerit tempore, praesens adhuc indicat desolatio et egestas. Heu! nec continentiae murum in eo, nec patientiae antemurale reliquit. Exterminavit vineas, messuit segetes, arbores exstirpavit: quippe etiam oculus iste meus depraedabatur animam meam. Denique nisi quia Dominus adjuvit me, paulo minus habitasset in inferno anima mea. Dico autem infernum inferiorem, ubi nulla confessio, unde nemini datur exire.
4. Caeterum etiam tunc nec carcer illi deerat, nec infernus. Ab ipso nempe conjurationis et proditionis pessimae deprehensa principio, non alibi quam in domo propria carcerali est mancipata custodiae, nec aliis quam suae ipsius familiae data tortoribus. Erat enim illi conscientia carcer, erant tortores ratio et memoria, atque hi quidem crudeles, austeri et immisericordes: sed longe minus a rugientibus illis praeparatis ad escam, quibus erat jam jamque tradenda. Sed benedictus Deus, qui non dedit me in captionem dentibus eorum. Benedictus, inquam, Dominus, qui visitavit et fecit redemptionem.
Cum enim inferiori eam carceri tradere malignus [additur alias et tortoribus,] acceleraret, sed et castrum ipsum ignibus cremare perpetuis, ut digna perjuris etiam fieret retributio membris, fortior supervenit. Intravit in castellum Jesus, qui fortem alligans, ejus vasa diripuit; ut quae prius erant in contumeliam, faceret in honorem. Contrivit portas aereas, et confregit ferreos vectes, vinctum de domo carceris et umbra mortis educens.
Porro egressus ejus in confessione. Ipsa est enim scopa, qua mundatus carcer et ornatus, deinceps regularium institutionum *juncis quibusdam pulchre virentibus de carcere redit in domum. Habet ergo mulier jam domum suam, habet ubi suscipiat eum, cui super tantis beneficiis exstat obnoxia. Alioquin vae ei, si eum excipere renuit, si non detinet, si non cogit manere secum, quoniam advesperascit. Rediens enim qui prius ejectus est, mundatam quidem et ornatam domum in venit, sed vacantem.
5. Relinquitur siquidem mulieri domus sua deserta, quam [alias, quia] Salvatoris hospitio dignam exhibere neglexit. Quomodo, inquis? Poteritne domus mundata confessione priorum delictorum, et observatione regularium institutionum ornata, indigna adhuc judicari habitaculo gratiae, Salvatoris ingressu? Poterit sine dubio, si superficie tenus emundata, et juncis, ut dictum est, strata virentibus, interius plena sit luto. Quis enim suscipiendum Dominum arbitretur in dealbatis mortuorum sepulcris, quae videntur a foris speciosa, intrinsecus autem spurcitia et sanies universa replevit?
Esto siquidem ut aliquando tanquam ipsa superficie delectatus, incipiat velut primum apponere pedem, ei qui hujusmodi est, primam aliquam visitationis suae gratiam indulgendo: nunquid non resiliet illico cum indignatione? nunquid non aufugiet clamitans: Infixus sum in limo profundi, et non est substantia? (Psal. LXVIII, 3.) Virtutis enim species, et non veritas, quasi qualitas est, non substantia. Neque vero ingressum ejus exterioris potest conversationis tenuis superficies sustinere; quoniam omnia penetrat, et in intimis cordibus ejus habitatio est. Quod si nequaquam spiritus disciplinae subditum manifeste peccatis corpus inhabitat, fictum utique non modo declinat, sed et effugit atque elongatur ab eo (Sap. I, 5).
An vero aliud est quam fictio exsecranda, si peccatum superficie tenus radas, non intrinsecus eradices? Certus esto quoniam pullulabit uberius, et mundatam, sed vacantem domum cum nequioribus septem, qui ejectus fuerat, hospes [alias, hostis] malignus intrabit. Reversus enim ad vomitum canis, odibilis erit multo plus quam ante, et fiet filius gehennae multipliciter, qui post indulgentiam delictorum in easdem *denuo sordes inciderit, ut sus lota in volutabro luti.
6. Vis videre mundatam, ornatam et vacantem domum? Hominem intuere qui confessus est, et deseruit manifesta peccata praecedentia ad judicium, et nunc solas movet manus ad opera mandatorum, corde penitus arido, ductus consuetudine quadam, plane quasi vitula Ephraim, docta diligere trituram. Exteriorum quae ad modicum valent, ne unum iota praeterit aut apicem unum; sed camelum glutit, dum culicem liquat. In corde enim servus est propriae voluntatis, cultor avaritiae, gloriae cupidus, ambitionis amator; aut haec omnia, aut singula quaeque intus vitia fovens: et mentitur iniquitas sibi, sed Deus non irridetur.
Videas enim interdum sic palliatum hominem, ut seducat etiam semetipsum, penitus non attendens vermem, qui interiora depascitur. Manet enim superficies, et salva sibi omnia arbitratur. Comederunt, ait propheta, alieni robur ejus, et ignoravit (Osee VII, 9). Dicit: Quia dives sum, et nullius egeo: cum sit pauper, et miser, et miserabilis (Apoc. III, 17). Nam et inventa occasione *ebullire saniem, quae latebat in ulcere, et excisam, non exstirpatam arborem in silvam pullulare videas densiorem. Quod periculum si volumus declinare, securim ponamus necesse est ad radices arborum, non ad ramos. Non sola inveniatur in nobis exercitatio corporalis, ad modicum valens: sed inveniatur utilis ad omnia pietas, et exercitium spirituale.
7. Mulier, inquit, Martha nomine, excepit illum in domum suam; et huic erat soror, nomine Maria. Sorores sunt, et debent esse contubernales. Occupatur haec circa frequens ministerium, illa Dominicis est intenta sermonibus. Ad Martham spectat ornatus, sed impletio ad Mariam. Vacat enim Domino, ut non sit domus vacans. Sed mundationem cui possimus attribuere? Erit enim, si et hoc invenerimus, domus, in qua Salvator suscipitur, et munda, et ornata, et non vacans. Demus eam Lazaro, si et vobis ita videtur. Et ei siquidem fraternitatis jure cum sororibus est domus ista communis. Dico autem Lazarum, quem quatriduanum, jam jamque fetentem a mortuis excitat vox virtutis, ut videatur satis congrue formam gerere poenitentis. Intret ergo domum Salvator, et frequenter visitet eam, quam poenitens Lazarus mundat, ornat Martha, et Maria replet internae dedita contemplationi.
8. Sed forte curiosius quisquam requirat, cur in praesenti evangelica lectione nulla prorsus Lazari mentio fiat. Arbitror sane ne id quidem a proposita similitudine dissidere. Virginalem etenim domum intelligi volens Spiritus, siluit non incongrue poenitentiam, quae malum utique comitatur. Absit enim ut proprii quidquam inquinamenti domus haec aliquando habuisse dicatur, ut in ea proinde scopa Lazari quaereretur. Quod si originalem a parentibus maculam traxit; sed minus a Jeremia sanctificatam in utero, aut non magis a Joanne Spiritu sancto repletam credere prohibet pietas Christiana: nec enim festis laudibus nascens honoraretur, si non sancta nasceretur. Postremo cum omnimodis constet, ab originali contagio sola gratia mundatam esse Mariam, quippe cum et nunc in baptismate sola hanc maculam lavet gratia, et sola eam raserit olim petra circumcisionis: si, ut omnino pium est credere, proprium Maria delictum non habuit, nihilominus ab innocentissimo corde etiam poenitentia longe fuit.
Sit ergo Lazarus apud eos, quorum necesse est ab operibus mortuis conscientias emundari: secedat inter vulneratos dormientes in sepulcris, ut in thalamo virginali inveniantur Martha et Maria tantum. Ipsa est enim quae Elisabeth gravidae et grandaevae quasi mensibus tribus humili deservivit officio (Luc. I, 56); ipsa quae verba, quae de Filio dicebantur, conservabat conferens in corde suo (Luc. II, 19).
9. Neminem ergo moveat, quod suspiciens mulier Dominum, non Maria, sed Martha vocatur: quando in hac una et summa Maria et Marthae negotium, et Mariae non otiosum otium invenitur. Omnis quidem gloria filiae regis ab intus: nihilominus tamen in fimbriis aureis circumamicta est varietate.
Non est de numero fatuarum virginum: prudens est virgo; lampadem habet, sed in vase oleum portat. An forte excidit vobis evangelica illa parabola, quae fatuas virgines prohibitas narrat ab introitu nuptiarum? (Matth. XXV, 1-13). Erat quidem domus earum munda, virgines enim erant: erat ornata, quia simul omnes, id est fatuae cum prudentibus, lampades ornaverunt; sed erat vacans, quia in vasis suis oleum non acceperunt. Hinc est, quod nec ab eis suscipi in domos suas, nec admittere eas dignatur sponsus coelestis ad nuptias.
Non sic mulier illa fortis, quae serpentis caput contrivit. Habes enim post multa in laudibus ejus, quia non exstinguetur in nocte lucerna ejus (Prov. XXXI, 18). In sugillationem hoc dicitur fatuarum, quae veniente media nocte sponso, conqueruntur sero, et dicunt: Quia lampades nostrae exstinguuntur. Processit igitur gloriosa Virgo, cujus lampas ardentissima ipsis quoque angelis lucis miraculo fuit, ut dicerent: Quae est ista, quae progreditur sicut aurora consurgens, pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol? (Cant. VI, 9.) Clarius enim caeteris rutilabat, quam repleverat oleo gratiae prae participibus suis Christus Jesus, Filius ejus, Dominus noster.
SERMO III. De Maria, Martha et Lazaro. (Luc. X, 38-42.)
1. Intravit Jesus in quoddam castellum, et mulier quaedam, Martha nomine, excepit illum in domum suam. Quid est, fratres, quod e duabus sororibus altera tantum Dominum legitur excepisse, et ea ipsa quae videtur inferior? Optimam enim partem elegit Maria, teste ipso quem Martha suscepit. Sed prior natu Martha videtur, et salutis initium sibi magis actio, quam contemplatio noscitur vindicare. Laudat Christus Mariam, sed a Martha suscipitur. Amat Rachelem Jacob, sed Lia supponitur ignoranti. Si de fraude queritur, audiet non esse consuetudinis ut juniores prius tradantur ad nuptias (Gen. XXIX, 23-26).
Quod si luteam hanc cogites domum, facile erit nosse quemadmodum in ea Dominum Martha magis excipiat quam Maria. Quod enim ait Apostolus: Glorificate et portate Deum in corpore vestro (I Cor. VI, 20), Marthae dicitur, non Mariae. Haec nimirum corporis utitur instrumento, cum illi potius sit impedimento. Denique corpus, inquit, quod corrumpitur, aggravat animam, et deprimit terrena inhabitatio sensum multa cogitantem (Sap. IX, 15). Nunquid et operantem?
Martha igitur in domum suam excipit Salvatorem in terris: Maria potius cogitat quemadmodum suscipiatur ab eo in domo non manu facta, aeterna in coelis. Forte tamen et ipsa Dominum suscepisse videtur, sed in spiritu: Dominus enim spiritus est.
2. Huic, inquit, haud dubium quin Marthae, soror erat, nomine Maria: quae etiam sedens secus pedes Jesu, audiebat verbum illius. Vides quod utraque suscepit Verbum, haec in carne, illa in voce. Martha autem satagebat circa frequens ministerium. Quae stetit, et ait: Domine, non est tibi curae quod soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare?
Putas, in domo, in qua Christus suscipitur, vox murmurationis audietur? Felix domus, et beata semper congregatio est, ubi de Maria Martha conqueritur. Nam Mariae Martham aemulari prorsus indignum, prorsus illicitum est. Alioquin ubi legis Mariam causantem, Quia soror mea reliquit me solam vacare? Absit, absit ut qui Deo vacat, ad tumultuosam aspiret fratrum officialum vitam! Martha semper insufficiens sibi et minus idonea videatur, aliisque magis id operis quod administrat optet imponi.
Respondit autem ei Jesus: Martha, Martha, sollicita es, et turbaris erga plurima. Vide praerogativam Mariae, quem in omni causa habeat advocatum. Indignatur siquidem Pharisaeus (Luc. VII, 39), conqueritur soror, etiam discipuli murmurant (Matth. XXVI, 8): ubique Maria tacet, et pro ea loquitur Christus. Optimam, inquit, partem elegit sibi Maria, quae non auferetur ab ea in aeternum. Hoc unum illud quod necessarium est; haec una, quam Propheta tam sedulo requirebat: Unam, inquit, petii a Domino, hanc requiram (Psal. XXVI, 4).
3. Quid tamen sibi vult, fratres, quod optimam partem Maria dicitur elegisse? Ubi jam erit, quod adversus eam proferre solemus, si quando forte administrantis Marthae turbationem, inaequalitatem dijudicare voluerit: Melior est iniquitas viri, quam benefaciens mulier? (Eccli. XLII, 14.) Ubi erit et illud: Si quis mihi ministraverit, honorificabit eum Pater meus? (Joan. XII, 26.) Et illud: Qui major est vestrum, erit minister vester? (Matth. XX, 26.) Postremo, quae consolatio est laboranti, quasi in ejus suggillationem, partem sororis attollere?
Unum ergo arbitror e duobus, ut aut de electione Maria laudetur, quod pars ipsa, quantum in nobis est, sit omnibus eligenda; aut certe ut neutrum dicatur defuisse, nec in partem quamlibet praecipitasse sententiam, sed ad obedientiam praeceptoris in utrumlibet sit parata. Quis enim sicut David fidelis, ingrediens et egrediens, et pergens ad imperium regis? (I Reg. XXII, 14.) Denique paratum, inquit, cor meum, paratum cor meum (Psal. LVI, 8); non semel tantum, sed et secundo, et vacare tibi, et proximis ministrare. Haec plane pars optima, quae non auferetur: haec mens optima, quae non mutabitur quocunque vocaveris eam. Bonum, inquit, acquirit gradum, qui bene ministraverit (I Tim. III, 13). Forte meliorem qui bene vacaverit Deo; optimum autem qui perfectus est in utroque.
Unum adhuc dico, si tamen id de Martha liceat suspicari. Nonne enim quasi otiosam reputasse videtur, quam sibi dari petiit adjutricem? Sed carnalis est, et omnino non percipit quae sunt spiritus Dei, si quis forte vacantem animam sua de vacatione redarguit. Audiat igitur optimam esse hanc partem, quae maneat in aeternum. Nunquid enim non rudis quodammodo videtur anima, quae divinae contemplationis penitus expers, illam intraverit regionem, ubi hoc unum omnium opus, unum studium, eadem vita?
4. Sed consideremus, fratres, quemadmodum in hac domo nostra tria haec distribuerit ordinatio charitatis, Marthae administrationem, Mariae contemplationem, Lazari poenitentiam. Habet haec simul quaecunque perfecta est anima; magis tamen videntur ad singulos singula pertinere, ut alii vacent sanctae contemplationi, alii dediti sint fraternae administrationi, alii in amaritudine animae suae recogitent annos suos, tanquam vulnerati dormientes in sepulcris. Sic plane, sic opus est, ut Maria pie et sublimiter sentiat de Deo suo, Martha benigne et misericorditer de proximo, Lazarus misere et humiliter de se ipso. Gradum suum quisque consideret. Si inventi fuerint in civitate hac Noe, Daniel, Job; ipsi justitia sua liberabuntur, ait Dominus: sed filium aut filiam non liberabunt (Ezech. XIV, 14-16).
Nemini nos blandimur: utinam nec vestrum quispiam se seducat! Quibus enim nulla credita est dispensatio, administratio nulla commissa, his omnino sedendum erit, aut secus pedes Jesu cum Maria, aut certe cum Lazaro intra septa sepulcri. Quidni erga multa turbetur Martha, quae sollicita est pro multis? Tibi vero cui necessitas haec non incumbit, e duobus unum est necessarium: aut non turbari penitus, sed delectari magis in Domino; aut, si id necdum potes, turbari non erga plurima, sed, ut de se propheta loquitur, ad te ipsum (Psal. XLI, 7).
5. Iterum dico, ne quis de ignorantia habeat excusationem: oportet te, frater, ad quem de fabricanda seu regenda inter undas diluvii Noe arca nihil spectat, aut virum esse desideriorum, ut Daniel erat; aut cum beato Job virum dolorum, et scientem infirmitatem. Alioquin vereor ne tepidum te et nauseam provocantem evomat ex ore suo, qui te invenire cupit aut sui consideratione calidum et charitatis igne flagrantem; aut una ipsius cognitione frigidum, et aqua compunctionis ignita diaboli jacula restinguentem.
Sed et ipsam quoque Martham admonitam esse necesse est, id maxime quaeri inter dispensatores, ut fidelis quis inveniatur. Erit autem fidelis, si neque quae sua sunt quaerat, sed quae Jesu Christi, ut sit intentio pura; nec suam faciat, sed Domini voluntatem, ut sit actio ordinata. Sunt enim quorum non simplex est oculus, et recipiunt mercedem suam. Sunt qui feruntur propriis motibus animorum, et contaminata sunt universa quae offerunt, quippe cum voluntates eorum inveniantur in eis.
Veni nunc mecum ad nuptiale carmen, et consideremus quemadmodum sponsus, ubi sponsam vocat, nec ullum omiserit ex his tribus, nec his addiderit quidquam. Surge, inquit, propera, amica mea, formosa mea, columba mea, et veni (Cant. II, 10). An non amica est, quae Dominicis lucris intenta, fideliter ipsam quoque pro eo ponit animam suam? Quoties enim pro uno ex minimis ejus spirituale studium intermittit (alias, interponit) toties pro eo spiritualiter ponit animam suam. An non formosa, quae revelata facie gloriam Domini speculando, in eamdem imaginem transformatur de claritate in claritatem, tanquam a Domini Spiritu? (II Cor. III, 18.) An non columba, quae plangit et gemit in foraminibus petrae, in cavernis *maceriae (Cant. II, 14), tanquam sepulta sub lapide?
6. Mulier, ait, Martha nomine, excepit eum in domum suam. Certum est hujus tenere locum fratres officiales, quos fraternae charitatis intuitus variis administrationibus deputavit. Utinam autem et ego ipse inter *dispensatores fidelis merear inveniri! Quibus enim convenientius videtur aptandum quod Dominus ait: Martha, Martha, sollicita es, quam praelatis, si tamen digna in sollicitudine praesunt? Aut quis turbatur erga plurima, nisi cui et Mariae vacantis, et Lazari poenitentis, sed et ipsorum, quibus onera sua partitur, universa incumbit sollicitudo? Vide Martham sollicitam, vide Martham erga plurima turbatam. Apostolum loquor, qui praelatos sollicitudinis admonens, gerit ipse sollicitudinem omnium Ecclesiarum. Quis infirmatur, inquit, et ego non infirmor? quis scandalizatur, et ego non uror? (II Cor. XI, 29.) Suscipiat igitur Martha Dominum in domum suam, cui nimirum credita est dispensatio domus. Mediatrix est, ut sibi pariter et subjectis salutem obtineat, suscipiat gratiam, sicut scriptum est: Suscipiant montes pacem populo, et colles justitiam (Psal. LXXI, 3). Suscipiant caeteri coadjutores ejus singuli pro qualitate ministerii sui; excipiant Christum, serviant Christo, ministrent ei in membris suis, ille in infirmis fratribus, ille in pauperibus, ille in hospitibus et peregrinis.
7. Quibus ita sollicitis circa frequens ministerium, videat Maria quemadmodum vacet, et videat quoniam suavis est Dominus. Videat, inquam, quam devota mente, quam tranquillo sedeat animo secus pedes Jesu, providens eum semper in conspectu suo, et verba ex ore ejus excipiens, cujus et aspectus delectabilis, et eloquium dulce. Diffusa est enim gratia in labiis ejus, et est speciosus forma prae filiis hominum, imo etiam super omnem gloriam angelorum. Gaude et gratias age, Maria, quae partem optimam elegisti. Beati enim oculi qui vident quae tu vides, et aures quae merentur audire quod audis. Beata plane, quae venas susurrii divini percipis in silentio, in quo utique bonum est homini Dominum exspectare. Simplex esto, non tantum sine dolo et simulatione, sed et absque multiplicitate occupationum, ut tecum sit sermocinatio ejus, cujus et vox dulcis, et facies decora.
Unum cave, ne abundare incipias in sensu tuo, et velis plus sapere quam oportet sapere: ne forte dum lucem sectaris, impingas in tenebras, illudente tibi daemonio meridiano, de quo non est hujus temporis disputare.
Nam Lazarus quo devenit? ubi posuistis eum? Sorores alloquor, quae sepelierunt fratrem praedicatione et ministerio, exemplo et oratione. Ubi ergo posuistis eum? Absconditus est fossa humo, sub lapide jacet, non facile invenitur. Propterea non erit incongruum quatriduano quartum reservare sermonem, ut juxta Salvatoris exemplum audientes: Ecce quem amas, infirmatur (Joan. XI, 3), et nos maneamus hic die isto.
SERMO IV. De quatriduo Lazari, et praeconio Virginis.
1. Tempus loquendi est omni carni, cum assumitur incarnati Verbi mater in coelum; nec cessare debet a laudibus humana mortalitas, cum hominis sola natura supra immortales spiritus exaltatur in Virgine. Sed de ejus gloria nec silere devotio patitur, nec dignum aliquid sterilis concipere cogitatio, aut inerudita potest locutio parturire.
Hinc est quod et ipsi coelestis curiae principes in consideratione tantae novitatis clamant non sine admiratione: Quae est ista, quae ascendit de deserto deliciis affluens? (Cant. VIII, 5.) Ac si manifestius dicant: Quanta est haec? aut unde ei ascendenti utique de deserto affluentia tanta deliciarum? Nec enim pares inveniuntur deliciae vel in nobis, quos in civitate Domini laetificat fluminis impetus, qui [a vultu gloriae] voluptatis torrente potamur. Quae est ista, quae de sub sole, ubi nihil est nisi labor et dolor, et afflictio spiritus, ascendit deliciis spiritualibus affluens? Quidni delicias dixerim, virginitatis decus cum munere fecunditatis, humilitatis insigne, distillantem charitatis favum, misericordiae viscera, plenitudinem gratiae, praerogativam gloriae singularis? Ascendens igitur de deserto regina mundi, etiam angelis sanctis, ut canit Ecclesia, speciosa facta est et suavis in deliciis suis.
Desinant tamen deserti hujus mirari delicias, quia Dominus dedit benignitatem, et terra nostra dedit fructum suum (Psal. LXXXIV, 13). Quid mirantur de terra deserta Mariam ascendere deliciis affluentem? Mirentur potius pauperem Christum de coelestis regni plenitudine descendentem. Longe enim ampliori miraculo dignum videtur, Dei Filium paulo minus ab angelis minorari, quam Dei matrem super angelos exaltari. Illius siquidem exinanitio, facta est repletio nostra: illius miseriae, mundi deliciae sunt. Denique cum dives esset, propter nos pauper factus est, ut nos ejus inopia ditaremur (II Cor. VIII, 9). Sed et crucis ignominia, credentium facta est gloria.
2. Adhuc autem et ad monumentum properat vita nostra, ut quatriduanum reducat a monumento: et eum, de quo vobis hodie (si bene meminit charitas vestra) sermo debetur, Lazarum quaerit, ut quaeratur, et inveniatur a Lazaro. In hoc enim est charitas, non quasi nos dilexerimus Deum, sed quia ipse prior dilexit nos.
Age igitur, Domine, quaere quem amas, ut et amantem facias, et quaerentem. Quaere ubi posuerunt eum: jacet enim clausus, ligatus, oneratus. Jacet in *ergastulo conscientiae, tenetur vinculis disciplinae, et tanquam lapide superposito premitur et opprimitur onere poenitentiae, maxime quod desit interim fortis ut mors dilectio, et charitas omnia sustinens; et in his omnibus jam fetet, Domine: quatriduanus est enim. Credo jam multorum ingenia praevolant, ut intelligant quem velim dicere Lazarum: eum sine dubio, qui nuper peccato mortuus fodit sibi parietem, ut videat abominationes multas (Ezech. VIII, 8, 9), et malas pravi et inscrutabilis cordis sui, et juxta prophetam alium ingressus est in petram, absconditus fossa humo a facie furoris Domini (Isai. II, 10).
3. Sed quid est: Domine, jam fetet; quatriduanus est enim? Forte enim fetorem istum, et quatuor dies istos non continuo quivis intelligat. Ego primam arbitror timoris diem, qua nimirum irradiante cordibus nostris peccato morimur, et quodam modo sepelimur in conscientiis nostris. Secunda, ni fallor, agitur in labore certaminis. Solet nempe inter primordia conversionis acrius insurgere tentatio pravae consuetudinis, et vix exstingui possunt jacula ignita diaboli. Tertia nihilominus doloris esse videtur; dum recogitat quis annos suos in amaritudine animae suae, et nec tam laborat declinando futura, quam praeterita plangendo deplorat.
Miraris quod hos dixerim dies? Sed tales sepulturae debentur, dies nebulae et caliginis, dies luctus et amaritudinis. Sequitur dies pudoris, non dissimilis tribus: quando jam horribili confusione operitur anima miseranda, dum nimis considerat quae et quanta deliquerit, et in oculis cordis tetras versat imagines peccatorum. Animus hujusmodi nihil dissimulat, sed dijudicat, sed aggravat, sed exaggerat universa: non sibi parcit durus judex in semetipsum. Utilis quidem exacerbatio, et digna miseratione crudelitas, facile sibi divinam concilians gratiam, dum pro eo mens aemulatur etiam contra se ipsam.
Verumtamen, Lazare, veni foras, ne in tanto fetore diutius immoreris. Caro putrida putredini proxima est; et qui confunditur vehementius et tabescit, prope est ut desperet. Propterea, Lazare, veni foras. Abyssus abyssum invocat: abyssus luminis et misericordiae, abyssum miseriae et tenebrarum. Major illius bonitas quam iniquitas tua: et ubi peccatum abundat, superabundare gratiam facit. Lazare, inquit, veni foras (Joan. XI, 39, 43). Ac si manifestius dicat: Quousque conscientiae tuae caligo te detinet? quandiu in cubili tuo gravi corde compungeris? Veni foras, procede, respira in lucem miserationum mearum. Hoc enim est quod in propheta legisti: Infrenabo os tuum laude mea, ne pereas (Isai. XLVIII, 9). Evidentius quoque propheta alius de se ipso: Ad me ipsum, inquit, anima mea turbata est; propterea oro memor tui (Psal. XLI, 7).
4. Jam vero quid sibi vult quod ait: Tollite lapidem, et post pauca, solvite eum? (Joan. XI, 39, 44.) Nunquid post visitationem gratiae consolantis cessabit agere poenitentiam, quoniam appropinquavit regnum coelorum; aut abjiciet disciplinam, si forte irascatur Dominus, et pereat de via justa? Absit hoc! Tollatur lapis, sed poenitentia maneat, non jam premens et onerans, sed vividam et robustam mentem roborans magis atque confirmans: nimirum cujus cibus sit, quem antea nesciebat, Domini facere voluntatem. Sic et disciplina non jam constringit liberum, secundum illud: Justis non est lex posita (I Tim. I, 9); sed voluntarium regit, et dirigit in viam pacis.
Super hac Lazari suscitatione manifestius psallit propheta: Non derelinques animam meam in inferno; quia, ut dixisse me memini secundo hujus festivitatis die, infernus quidam et carcer animae, rea conscientia est. Nec dabis sanctum tuum (non suum ipsius, sed tuum utique, quem ipse sanctificas) videre corruptionem. Corruptione siquidem proximus erat quatriduanus, qui coeperat jam fetere. Prope erat ut penitus dissolveretur, et veniens in profundum malorum contemneret impius; sed praeventus voce virtutis, et ab ea vivificatus gratias agit dicens: Notas mihi fecisti vias vitae, adimplebis me laetitia cum vultu tuo (Psal. XV, 10, 11). Ad ipsius siquidem contemplationem evocasti et eduxisti ab inferno animam meam: dum anxiaretur super me spiritus meus, intuens conscientiae propriae faciem nimis abominandam.
Clamavit, inquit, voce magna: Lazare, veni
foras; magna utique voce, non tam sono clamosa, quam pietate et virtute magnifica.
5. Sed quo devenimus? Nunquid non supra coelos Virginem prosequebamur euntem? Et ecce cum Lazaro descendimus in abyssum. A splendore virtutis ad fetorem quatriduani proclivis decurrit oratio. Cur hoc, nisi quia pondere proprio ferebamur; et trahebat nos materia, tanto uberior utique, quanto familiarior?
Fateor imperitiam meam, pusillanimitatem propriam non abscondo. Non est equidem quod me magis delectet, sed nec quod terreat magis, quam de gloria Virginis matris habere sermonem. Ut enim sileam interim ineffabile privilegium meritorum, et praerogativam penitus singularem, tanto eam devotionis affectu amplectuntur, honorant, suscipiunt, ut dignum est, universi, ut licet de ea loqui gestiant omnes; tamen quidquid dicitur de indicibili, eo ipso quod dici potuerit, minus gratum sit, minus placeat, minus acceptetur. Quidni minus sapiat, quidquid de incomprehensibili gloria comprehendere potuerit mens humana?
Ecce enim si in ea laudavero virginitatem, mihi multae virgines post eam videntur offerri. Si humilitatem praedicavero, invenientur forte vel pauci, qui, docente Filio ejus, mites facti sunt et humiles corde (Matth. XI, 29). Si magnificare voluero misericordiae ejus multitudinem, sunt aliqui misericordiae viri, etiam et mulieres. Unum est, in quo nec primam similem visa est, nec habere sequentem, gaudia matris habens cum virginitatis honore. Optimam, inquit, partem elegit sibi Maria (Luc. X, 42). Optimam plane, quia bona fecunditas conjugalis, melior autem castitas virginalis; prorsus autem optima est fecunditas virginea, seu fecunda virginitas. Mariae privilegium est, non dabitur alteri, quia non auferetur ab ea. Singulare est, sed continuo etiam indicibile invenitur, ut nemo assequi possit, sic nec eloqui quidem.
Quid si et illud adjicias, cujus mater? Quae jam poterit lingua, etiamsi angelica sit, dignis extollere laudibus Virginem matrem; matrem autem non cujuscunque, sed Dei? Duplex novitas, duplex praerogativa: duplex miraculum, sed digne prorsus aptissimeque conveniens. Neque enim filius alius virginem, nec Deum decuit partus alter.
6. Verumtamen non hoc tantum, si diligenter attendas, sed caeteras quoque virtutes singulares prorsus invenies in Maria, quae videbantur esse communes. Quae enim vel angelica puritas virginitati illi audeat comparari, quae digna fuit Spiritus sancti sacrarium fieri, et habitaculum Filii Dei?
Si rerum pretia de raritate pensamus, quae prima in terris angelicam proposuit ducere vitam, super omnes est. Quomodo, inquit, fiet istud? quoniam virum non cognosco. Immobile propositum virginitatis, quod nec angelo filium promittente aliquatenus titubavit. Quomodo, inquit, fiet istud? Neque enim eo modo, quo fieri solet in caeteris. Virum penitus non cognosco, nec filii desiderio, nec spe prolis.
7. Quanta vero et quam pretiosa humilitatis virtus cum tanta puritate, cum innocentia tanta, cum conscientia prorsus absque delicto, imo cum tanta gratiae plenitudine? Unde tibi humilitas, et tanta humilitas, o beata? Digna plane quam respiceret Dominus, cujus decorem concupisceret rex, cujus odore suavissimo ab aeterno illo paterni sinus attraheretur accubitu.
Vide enim quam manifeste sibi concinant Virginis nostrae canticum et nuptiale carmen: nimirum cujus uterus, sponsi thalamus fuit. Audi Mariam in Evangelio: Respexit, inquit, humilitatem ancillae suae (Luc. I, 34, 48). Audi eamdem in epithalamio: Cum esset rex, inquit, in accubitu suo, nardus mea dedit odorem suum (Cant. I, 11). Nardus quippe herba humilis est, et pectus purgat: ut manifestum sit humilitatem nardi nomine designari, cujus odor et decor invenerit gratiam apud Deum.
8. Sileat misericordiam tuam, Virgo beata, si quis est, qui invocatam te in necessitatibus suis sibi meminerit defuisse. Nos quidem servuli tui caeteris in virtutibus congaudemus tibi, sed in hac potius nobis ipsis. Laudamus virginitatem, humilitatem miramur; sed misericordia miseris sapit dulcius, misericordiam amplectimur charius, recordamur saepius, crebrius invocamus.
Haec est enim quae totius mundi reparationem obtinuit, salutem omnium impetravit. Constat enim pro universo genere humano fuisse sollicitam, cui dictum est: Ne timeas, Maria, invenisti gratiam (Luc. I, 30), utique quam quaerebas. Quis ergo misericordiae tuae, o benedicta, longitudinem et latitudinem, sublimitatem et profundum queat investigare? Nam longitudo ejus usque in diem novissimum invocantibus eam subvenit universis. Latitudo ejus replet orbem terrarum, ut tua quoque misericordia plena sit omnis terra. Sic et sublimitas ejus civitatis supernae invenit *restaurationem, et profundum ejus sedentibus in tenebris et in umbra mortis obtinuit redemptionem. Per te enim coelum repletum, infernus evacuatus est, instauratae ruinae coelestis Jerusalem, exspectantibus miseris vita perdita data. Sic potentissima et piissima charitas et affectu compatiendi, et subveniendi abundat effectu, aeque locuples in utroque.
9. Ad hunc igitur fontem sitibunda properet anima nostra: ad hunc misericordiae cumulum tota sollicitudine miseria nostra recurrat. Ecce jam quibus potuimus votis ascendentem te ad Filium deduximus, et prosecuti sumus saltem a longe, Virgo benedicta. Sit deinceps pietatis tuae ipsam, quam apud Deum gratiam invenisti, notam facere mundo; reis veniam, medelam aegris, pusillis corde robur, afflictis consolationem, periclitantibus adjutorium et liberationem sanctis tuis precibus obtinendo. In hac quoque die solemnitatis et laetitiae dulcissimum Mariae nomen cum laude invocantibus servulis per te, regina clemens, gratiae suae munera largiatur Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster, qui est super omnia Deus benedictus in saecula. Amen.
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sermon I. The mutual welcome
of Christ and Mary.|
1. The Virgin today ascending the heavens in glory has unboubtedly heaped up the joys of the citizens above with rich increase. For this is she, whose cry of greeting makes even those still locked in their mothers' wombs leap for joy. And if the soul of a little one still unborn was melted when Mary spoke—what, think you, was the exultation of the heavenly host when they merited to hear her voice, and see her face, and enjoy her blessed presence?
But, dear people, what occasion for celebration can we find in her Assumption, what cause for gladness, what matter for rejoicing? The whole universe is lit up with the presence of Mary, so much so that our heavenly fatherland itself now shines more brightly, illumined by the radiance of her virgin lamp. For her, thanksgiving and the voice of praise ring out on high—but we, it seems, should rather lament than cheer. For just as heaven exults in her presence, does it not follow, that this our lower world should mourn her absence?
Nevertheless, let us cease from complaint, since here we have no continuing city but seek the one which Mary today attains in bliss. And if we are enrolled as citizens there, it is entirely fitting that, even in exile, even by the waters of Babylon, we remember that city, share its joys, partake in its happiness—above all the happiness which today gladdens the city of God with so overflowing an onrush that we too feel its dew fall over the earth. Our queen has gone ahead of us—she has gone ahead, and has been received in such great glory that her little servants may confidently follow their Mistress, crying, Draw us after you, let us run after the fragrance of your perfumes (Song of Solomon 1:1). Our exile has sent an advocate ahead of us, she who as mother of the Judge, and mother of mercy, will humbly and effectively transact the cause of our salvation.
2. Today our earth has aimed a precious gift into heaven, that by a blissful exchange of friendship things human may be joined in convenant to things divine, the earthly to the heavenly, the lowest to the highest. For she the finest and loftiest fruit of earth ascends whence the best is given, and perfect gifts descend.
Ascending on high, the blessed Virgin will give these same gifts to men as well. Why would she not? She cannot lack the power, or the will. She is queen of the heavens, she is merciful—indeed, she is mother of the only begotten Son of God. And nothing else can so commend the greatness of her power or her mercy—or would the Son of God fail to honor to his mother?! Or do you doubt that the bowels of Mary have been entirely given over to the influence of Charity? bowels in which the very Love that is from God rested bodily for nine months.
3. And I say this for our sake, brothers, knowing that it is hard—so great is our need—to find that perfect Charity, not seeking its own, among us. But to keep silence a little while about the blessings we gain through her glorification—if we love her, we will be altogether glad simply because she goes to the Son. Surely, I say, we will be happy for her, unless perhaps—forbid it!—we be found entirely ungrateful to her who finds grace.
Entering the holy city today, she is welcomed by Him whom she herself first welcomed as he entered the walled town of this world. And with what honor, think you, what exultation, what glory? There is no worthier place on earth than the shrine of the virgin womb where Mary welcomed the Son of God, nor in heaven than the royal throne upon which the Son of Mary exalted her today. Blissful indeed was each welcome. Surpassing speech, because surpassing thought.
Indeed, why is this gospel reading—in which we hear how a blessed woman receives the Savior—proclaimed today in the Churches of Christ? I think that she we celebrate is somewhat prized for just such a reception, nay, on account of its inestimable glory she too is known to be past prize. For who—though he speak with the tongues of men and angels—could fully explain how, the Holy Ghost coming over her, the Power of the Most High overshadowing her, the Word of God through Whom all things were made became flesh, and the Lord of majesty whom not the whole of creation can contain locked Himself within her virgin bowels, and became man?
4. But who would suffice to think even this, how today the glorious queen of the universe stepped forth, and with how great a passion of devotion the multitude of heavenly legions came forth to meet her, with what songs she was led to the throne of glory—how with quiet face and cloudless countenance, how with glad embraces she was received by the Son and exalted over every creature, with that honor which was due so great a mother, found worthy of so great a Son?
Entirely blissful were the kisses she pressed on His suckling lips, when his mother cheered Him on her virgin lap. But, surely, happier still were those she received today in holy greeting, from the mouth of Him sitting at the right hand of the Father, as she ascended to the throne of glory, singing the wedding song, and saying, Let Him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth? Who will plumb the depths of the birth of Christ and the assumption of Mary? For as she received grace beyond others on earth, so she wins singular glory in heaven. And if eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him, who shall say what He has prepared for her who brought Him forth and—as all know—loved Him beyond all others? Happy, surely, is Mary, and many times happy, whether when she welcomes the Savior, or when she is welcomed by Him: In both we must marvel at the dignity of the Virgin mother; in both we must embrace God's free bestowal of Majesty.
Jesus entered, it says, a certain town, and a woman received Him into her home … But now let us be free for praises, since this day is given over to festive celebrations. And since the words of this text offer us abundant matter, tomorrow too let us gather and share with good will whatever else has been given, not only to rouse the passion of devotion in recalling so great a Virgin, but also to build up our character for the profit of living, unto the praise and glory of her Son of our Lord, who is God over all things, blessed forever. Amen.
Sermon II. On Cleaning, Adorning, Filling the house.
1. Jesus entered a certain walled town, and a woman named Martha received Him into her home. It is meet enough that I take up the prophet's cry in this place: O Israel, how great is the house of the Lord, and how vast the place of his possession! Or must not that be vast in comparison with which the most spacious breadth of this earth is called a walled town? Must not His fatherland be vast, His kingdom past prizing, whence the Savior arriving in our world is said to enter a walled town?(Or, perhaps, someone thinks we should undestand the walled town otherwise: as the palace of the strong man-at-arms, the prince of this world, whom a stronger man has overcome to strip his arms.)
Let us hurry to enter that broadness of blessing, brothers, where no one crowds in on another, that we may comprehend with all the Saints what is the length and the breadth, the height and the depth. And let us not despair, seeing that He who dwells in the heavenly Fatherland, the Creator himself, did not shrink from the confines of this our little town.
2. But what do we mean by He entered into a walled town? Into the narrowest lodging of a virgin womb. Then too a certain woman received him into her home. Happy woman, found worthy to receive not the spies of Jericho, but instead the Man Himself, the Mighty One, despoiler of that fool who indeed changes like the moon; not the messengers of Joshua Son of Nun, but instead the Man Himself, the true Jeshua Son of God.
Happy woman, I say, whose home, welcoming the Savior, was found clean indeed, but surely not empty. For who would call her empty whom the Angel greets as full of grace? not that only—but goes on to declare that the Holy Spirit will come over her—and why, think you, if not to fill her to overflowing? Why, unless that—though already full herself at the Spirit's coming—she might be full and filled to overflowing at His coming over her—and so overflow to us also. Oh that those perfumes, the gifts of her graces, might flow unto us, that from so great a fullness we might all receive!
She surely is our Mediatrix—it is she through whom we too receive the Lord Jesus into our homes. For each of us have our own walled town as well, and our own home—and Wisdom knocks at the door of each; if anyone opens to her, she will enter and sup with him.
There is a common proverb, on the lips of many rather than probed in the heart. He keeps a good castle, who garrisons his body. Not so the proverb of the Wise man, who says instead: Guard your heart with all watchfulness, because life proceeds from no other thing.
3. But let us grant this to the many: He keeps a good castle who garissons his body. Clearly, we must discover what sort of garrsion should be maintained in this castle. Does that soul seem to you to have garissoned its body rightly, whose members, as if in conspiracy, hand over their lord to his enemy? For there are some who have Entered a covenant with death, and made a pact with hell. My beloved has grown thick, it says, and kicked his heel at me—thick, fat, obese. Such a garrison, surely, is prasied by sinners in the desires of their flesh.
What do you think, brothers? Should we yield to the many in this too? No! Let us instead ask Paul—a mighty general in spiritual warfare. Tell us, Apostle, what is the guard of your castle? I run, he says, and not like one in doubt. I fight, and not like one striking the air. For I punish my body, and reduce it to servitude, lest perhaps, when I have preahed to others, I myself become a fake. And in another place he says: Do not let sin reign over your mortal body in obedience to its desires. A profitable guard and happy, surely, is the soul that so guards her body that the enemy can never claim it for himself.
And time was when the ungodly one had subjected this castle of mine to his tyranny, mightily dictating to all my members. How much damage he did me then, my present desolation and want even now betrays. Ah! He left me neither the wall of self-restraint, nor the outer wall of endurance. He destroyed the vines, mowed down the crops, tore up the trees. This very eye of mine was ravaging my soul. Had the Lord not helped me then, my soul had dwelt near to hell. Yes, in the hell of hell I say, where there is no confession, whence no one is allowed to leave.
4. But already then my soul was not without her prison, and her hell. Caught from the very beginning in conspiracy and betrayal, handed over to the garrison of her own prison-house, given over to her very own family for tormentors. For then was her conscience a prison to her, her reason and memory tormentors, and these indeed cruel, severe, and merciless—but less so by far than the beasts roaring for food, to whom she was at any moment to be given. But blessed be God, who did not give me up to the trap of their teeth! Blessed, I say, be God who visited and accomplished redemption.
While the evil one was hastening to hand my soul over to the prison of hell—and to burn her very fortress in unending fire, so that due vengeance might befall her perjured members also—a stronger man overcame him. Jesus entered into the fortress and, binding the strong man, stripped his armor. He trampled the brazen gates, and shattered the iron bars, leading forth the captive from the prison house and the shadow of death.
Henceforth her escape is in confession. For this is the broom by which her prison is cleaned out, and—beautifully adorned with certain green rushes of orderly instruction—becomes a home once more. And so the woman has her own house now, a place to welcome Him to whom she owes such great kindnesses. But woe to her if she demurs to receive him, if she does not detain him, if she does not compel him to stay with her. For evening is at hand. Returning, the man who was cast out before finds the house cleanly, yes, and adorned—but empty.
5. The woman still has her home—but it is abandoned, since it failed to show itself worthy the Savior's visit. How? you ask? Can a home cleansed through confession of its former sins, and adorned by the observation of regular instruction, still be judged unfit for the dwelling of grace, the entry of the Savior? No doubt it can, if—cleaned only on the surface and strewn, as was said, with live green rushes—it is inwardly full of filth. For how can the Lord be welcomed in whited tombs, outwardly beautiful but, within, full of every kind of filth and carnage?
And if at some time, as though drawn by the mere surface, He begin to set only the toe of His foot within such a house, granting it some first visitation of his grace—will he not suddenly recoil in outrage? Will he not fly off crying, I am sunk in deep mire, and there is no *sure standing? For the appearance of virtue without its truth is as if quality without substance. Nor indeed can that light veneer of ouwtard conduct support His entrance, since He penetrates all things, and His dwelling is the inmost heart. And if there is clearly no way for the spirit of discipline to dwell in a body subjected to sin, He would not only reject such a fiction, but fly off too and keep far from it.
Or is it any other than an accursed fiction, to smooth sin away on the surface, and not root it out within? Be sure that it will sprout up more abundantly, and the wicked guest who had been thrown out—along with seven worse than himself—will enter that cleanly, empty house. For a dog returning to its vomit will be more odious by far than before, and he will become a son of gehenna many times over, who—after pardon of his sins—falls anew into the same filth, as a pig washed in its miry slough.
*or “no substance”—Bernard means us to hear both meanings in the Latin substantia.
6. Do you wish to see a home cleaned, adorned—and empty? Then look upon a man who has confessed, who has forsaken his former sins exposed at trial—and now moves his hands only to the works of the commandments, though his heart is dry through and through, drawn along by some mere habit, like the cow of Ephraim taught to love threshing. Of outward things—that matter little—he omits not a jot or a tittle; but he swallows a camel to strain a gnat. For in his heart he is a slave to his own will, nursing greed, longing for glory, loving ambition; either inwardly coddling all these vices, or each in turn. His sin lies to itself, but God is not fooled.
You will see, meanwhile, a man so cloaked as to hoodwink his very self, thoroughly oblivious of the worm that feeds within. For the surface remains, and he thinks all things are safe for him. Strangers, says the prophet, ate out his core and he did not know it. He says, I am rich, and lack nothing, though he is poor, and a wretch, and miserable. For at its first opportunity you will see the blood that lurked in the ulcer bubbling out, and the tree that was cut down, but not uprooted, sprouting up thick and fast in a forest. But if we want to ward off the danger, we need to put the axe to the roots of the trees, not their branches. Let not exercise of the body only be found in us, achieving little—but let there be found piety, useful for all things, and spiritual exercise.
7. A woman, it says, named Martha received Him into her home, and she had a sister named Mary. They are sisters, and they should be housemates. The one is busy with constant service, the other is intent on her Lord's conversation. Adorning the house falls to Martha, but filling it to Mary. For she keeps free for the Lord, that the house may not be empty. But to whom should we allot its cleaning? For, if we discover this too, the house in which the Savior is welcomed will be clean, and adorned, and not empty. Let us give this to Lazarus, if it seems right to you. By a brother's right, the house is his and his sisters' in common. I am speaking moreover of the Lazarus whom—already four days dead, already stinking—the cry of Virtue wakes, so that he rightly seems to bear the form of a penitent. Then let the Savior enter and frequently visit this home, which repenting Lazarus cleans, Martha adorns, and Mary—given over to inward contemplation—fills.
8. Perhaps someone is anxious to ask, why our present gospel reading makes no mention of Lazarus. But I think not even this is at odds with the proposed similitude. For indeed, the Spirit—wishing us to understand the house to be virgin—was fittingly silent about repentance, which surely follows evil. No, let not this house be said to have held any filth of its own at any time, that one should seek in it the broom of Lazarus. And if she did contract the original stain from our parents, Christian piety forbids us to believe that she was less sanctified in the womb than Jeremiah, or less filled with the Holy Spirit than John. Nor would her birth be honored with festal praises, were she not born holy. Let it be altogether settled then, that by grace alone Mary was cleansed of the original pollution—yes, though even now the grace of Baptism only washes the stain and, before, the rock of cirumcision only grazed it. And if—as is altogether pious to believe—Mary had no fault of her own, then penitence too was just as far from her thoroughly blameless heart.
Let Lazarus then stay with those whose consciences need to be cleansed of dead works, let him go apart among the wounded sleeping in graves—and let Martha and Mary only be found in the virgin bridal-house. This is she who waited on aged, pregnant Elizabeth for about three months' lowly service; she who kept all the words that were said about her Son, treasuring them in her heart.
9. And so, let no one be troubled that the woman who receives the Lord is called not Mary but Martha, since in this one and highest Mary both the duty of Martha and the not-idle idleness of Mary is found. Indeed, though every glory of the daughter of the King is from within, she is nevertheless robed round about in a golden myriad of threads.
She is not one of the foolish virgins. She is the wise virgin. She holds a lamp, but carries oil in her vessel. Or perhaps you have forgotten the gospel parable that tells about the foolish vigins who were barred entry to the wedding? Their house indeed was clean, for they were virgins. It was adorned, since all alike—the foolish and the wise—trimmed their lamps. But it was empty, since they took no oil in their vessels. This is why the Bridegroom was neither welcomed into their homes, nor deigned to welcome them to the heavenly wedding feast.
Not so that mighty woman who crushed the serpent's head. For one finds—after many other things in her praise—Her lamp shall not go out by night. This is said as a blow to the foolish, who—at the Bridegroom's coming in the middle of the night—lament too late, and say, Our lamps are going out. Then the Virgin stepped forth in glory—she whose lamp, blazing bright, was wonderful even to the Angels of light, so that they said: Who is this who steps forth like the dawn arising, beautiful as the moon, matchless as sun? She shone brighter than the rest, she who had been filled with the oil of grace beyond her fellows by Chirst Jesus, her Son, our Lord.
Sermon 3. On Mary, Martha, and Lazarus
1. Jesus entered a certain village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Why, brothers, do we read that only one of two sisters received the Lord, and she who seems to be the lesser? For Mary has chosen the best part, as He whom Martha received bears witness. But Martha seems to be the elder, and we recognize that the beginning of salvation is rather claimed by action than contemplation. Christ praises Mary, and he is received by Martha. Jacob loves Rachel, but Leah is substituted unbeknownst to him. If he complains about the trick, he will hear that it is not the custom for younger daughters to be married first.
But consider that this is a house of clay, and you will easily see why Martha received the Lord in it rather than Mary. For the Apostle's word, Glorify the Lord in your body, is addressd to Martha, not Mary. The one makes the body her instrument; to the other it is a hindrance. The corruptible body, he says, weighs down the soul, and its earthly dwelling presses upon the mind that muses on many things. And, no doubt, upon her who toils too.
Martha, then, receives the Savior on earth. Mary instead muses on how she may received by Him in a house not made by hands, eternal, in heaven. Or she too has received the Lord, but in spirit. For the Lord is Spirit.
2. Martha, it says, had a sister named Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word. You see that both receive the Word, the first in flesh, the second in speech. But Martha was taken up with continual service. And she stood by, and said, Lord, is it of no concern to you that my sister has left me to serve alone?
What! Is the voice of grumbling heard in the house that welcomes Chirst? Happy the house, and blessed the congregation, where Martha complains about Mary. For it would entirely wrong, entirely forbidden for Martha to become Mary's rival. Or where do you read of Mary complaining that, My sister has left me to be unoccupied alone? No, forbid it that he who keeps free for God should aspire to the stormy life of his brother superiors! Martha should always seem to herself insufficient and less capable, and wish that the task of government were imposed on others instead.
But Jesus answers her: Martha, Martha, you are worried, and upset over many things. See the privilege of Mary, to have this Advocate in every cause. The Pharisee is outraged, her sister complains, even the disciples murmur against her. Everywhere Mary keeps silence—and Christ speaks for her. Mary, he says, has chosen the best part, and it shall not ever be taken from her. This is the one thing that is needful. This is the one thing that the Prophet so earnestly sought: One thing I asked from the Lord, he says, this I will seek.
3. But, brothers, what should we make of this best part that Mary is said to have chosen? What of the verse we often quote against Martha—whenever one wishes to sit in judgment over the struggles and short-comings of her management—Better the iniquity of a man than a woman doing good? On the other hand, what of, If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him? And this, The greatest among you will be your servant? Finally, what comfort to the laborer can it be to lift up—as if in affront to her—her sister's part?
One of two things must be the case then: either Mary is to be praised for her choice, since all of us—as much as is it in us—should choose her part; or, better, that she lacked neither, and did not rush headlong to decide for any part, but to was ready to obey her Teacher in whichever of the two He wished. For who is like faithful David, going in and coming out, and pressing on to kingly authority? And then, My heart is ready, he says, my heart is ready. Not once, but twice: ready both to be free for You and to serve my neighbors. This surely the best part, which will not be taken away. This is the best mind, which will not change, wherever one is called. He purchases a good degree, it says, who serves well. A better, perhaps, he who keeps free for God. But he who is perfect in both, the best.
One thing further I say, in case this about Martha still seems doubtful. For does she not seem to think that she whose help she sought was idle? But anyone who blames the openess of Mary's free soul is fleshly-minded and entirely blind to the things of the Spirit of God. Let him then hear that this is the best part, and such as to remain forever. For does not the soul seem somehow rude and raw that—without any share in divine contemplation—enters that realm where this is the one task of all, the one pursuit, and life itself?
4. But let us consider, brothers, how in this our home the hierarchy of love has distrubuted three offices: government to Martha, contemplation to Mary, repentance to Lazarus. Any soul that is perfect has all three at once. Particular things, however, seem to belong more to particular persons, so that some keep themselves free for holy contemplation, some are given to fraternal government, some recall their own years in bitterness of soul, like wounded men sleeping among graves. So it is necessary that Mary think reverently and lofitily about her God, Martha kindly and mercifully about her neighbor, Lazarus wretchedly and humbly about himself. Let each be concerned with his own degree. If there is found in this city, a Noah, a Daniel, a Job; they themselves will be delivered in their righteousness, says the Lord, but they will not save daughter or son.
We flatter no one—and Oh that none of you would delude yourselves! For those to whom no steweardship, no government has been committed should either come to rest completely at the feet of Jesus with Mary, or with Lazarus in the walls of his grave. Why should not Martha be upset over many things, when her concern is for many persons? But for you who are not burdened with this necessity, only one of two things is needful: Either be thoroughly untroubled and delight in the Lord instead, or, if you cannot do so yet, then be not upset for many things but, as the prophet says, for yourself.
5. I say it again, lest anyone plead the excuse of ignorance. You, brother—who have no call to build or steer a Noah's Ark among the waves of the flood—should either be a man greatly beloved as Daniel was or, with blessed Job, a man of sorrow and acquainted with infirmity. Or else I fear that He may spew you out—lukewarm and nauseating—from His mouth, when he wants to find you either, white-hot and blazing with the flame of love in thinking of Him, or with that one thought of Him ice-cold and plunging the fiery darts of the devil in the water of remorse.
But it is necessary that Martha herself also be warned: a special audit is applied stewards, to discover which ones are found faithful. He will be faithful, if he neither seek after his own gain, but that of Jesus Christ—that his intention may be pure—nor do his own will, but the Lord's, that his actions may be well-ordered. For there are some whose eye is not single, and they receive their reward. There are those who are carried by the motions of their own hearts, and all things that they offer are contaminated, yes, since their will is found out within them.
Now come with me to the wedding song of Solomon, and consider how the Bridegroom, when he calls his bride, has left out none of these three things, nor added anything to them. Rise, He says, hasten, my love, my lovely one, my dove—and come. Is not His love she who, intent on the riches of her Lord, faithfully offers her very soul to Him as well? Whenever she leaves her spiritual study for the least of these, so often she spiritually offers her soul to Him. And is she not His lovely one, who, gazing on the glory of the Lord with face unveiled, is transformed from radiance to radiance into His very image, as though by the Spirit of the Lord? And is not His dove she who mourns and moans in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, as though buried under a stone?
6. A woman, it says, named Martha received Him into her home. It is certain that Martha's place is held by brothers superior to whom concern for brotherly Charity has allotted various stewardships. And oh that I myself might be found among faithful stewards! For to whom is what the Lord says more fitting: Martha, Martha, you are upset, than to prelates, if they perform their charge with due sollicitude. And who is upset over many things if not she who is weighed down by concern for everyone? both for Mary at freedom, and for repentant Lazarus, and also for those who share her own burden. Look upon worried Martha, look upon Martha upset over many things. I am speaking of the Apostle, who instructing prelates to worry, himself carries the worry of all the Churches. Who is sick, he asks, and I am not sick too? Who is scandalized and I am not burned? Let Martha then receive the Lord into her house—since the stewardship of the house has been entrusted to her. She is a Mediatrix to win salvation for herself along with her subjects—to receive grace, as is written: Let the mountains receive peace for the people and the hills, righteousness. Let all her coworkers receive, each according to the nature of their service—let them welcome Christ, let them serve Christ, let them serve Him in His members; this one among his sick brothers, that one among the poor, another among guests and pilgrims.
7. And while these are worried so in constant service, let Mary look to how she keeps free—let her see that the Lord is sweet. Let her see, I say, with how devoted a mind, how quiet a spirit she may sit at the feet of Jesus, keeping Him always in her sight, and receiving words from the mouth of Him whose face is full of delights, whose speech is sweet. For grace is poured out on His lips, and His form is beautiful beyond the sons of men, even above every glory of Angels. Rejoice and give thanks, Mary—you have chosen the best part. Blessed are the eyes that see what you see, and the ears found worthy to hear what you hear. Blessed surely are you who discern the divine whisper that passes in silence—the silence in which it is altogether good to wait for the Lord. Be simple, not only without guile or pretense, but without multiplication of tasks, so that you may be in conversation with Him whose voice is sweet, whose face is fair.
Beware of one thing: Do not begin to overreach in your understanding and wish to know what you should not, lest perhaps, pursuing the light, you strike against darkness—while the noonday demon makes sport of you …
But this we will discuss another time—for where has Lazarus gone off too? Where have you laid him? I ask the sisters who have buried their brother by their preaching and service, by their example and prayer. Where then have you laid him? He is hidden in the dug out ground, under a stone, not easy to find. It will be fitting then to reserve a fourth sermon for the man four days dead, and—following the example of the Savior—let us too, on hearing, Lo, he whom you love is sick, remain here for the day.
Sermon 4. Of Lazaurus four days dead, and the praise of the Virgin.
1. Now, while the mother of the Word Incarnate is assumed into heaven, is a time for all flesh to speak. Human mortality should not cease from praise while mere human nature is exalted above the immortal spirits in the Virgin. Devotion cannot keep silence concerning her glory, but neither can barren thought conceive anything worthy, nor unskilled eloquence bring it forth.
Hence is it that even the very princes of the heavenly senate, considering such a prodigy, cry out in wonder: Who is she who goes up from the desert, flowing with delights? And if they should speak more plainly: Who can she be? Why such a flood of delights for her, as she goes up from the desert? Such delights as are not found even among us, who are gladdened by the onrush of the river in the City of God, who drink from the torrent of delight. Who is this who ascends from under the sun—where is nothing but toil and sorrow, and affliction of spirit—flowing with spiritual delights? Why should I not say delights: the honor of her virginity joined with her gift of fruitfulness, the banner of her lowliness, the spilling comb of her charity, her bowels of mercy, her fulness of grace, the privilege of her singular glory? Ascending then from the desert, queen of the world, made beautiful—as the Church sings—even to holy Angels, and sweet in her delights.
But let the deserted cease to wonder at her delights, for The Lord has given kindness, and our earth has given its fruit. Why marvel that Mary ascends from deserted earth, flowing with delights? Let them marvel rather at Christ descending in poverty from the fulness of His heavenly kingdom. For it seems worthy of far greater admiration that the Son of God should be made a little lower than Angels than that the mother of God should be exalted above them. Since indeed His self-emptying became our fulfillment; His sorrows, the delights of the world. Though He was rich, he became poor for our sake, that we might be enriched by His lack. Even the shame of the cross became the glory of believers.
2. But still our Life is hastening to a grave, to bring back a man four days dead. He seeks the man concerning whom I owe you a sermon today (if your charity remember)—He seeks Lazarus that Lazarus may seek and find Him. For in this is charity, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us.
Go then, Lord, seek him whom You love, and so make him a lover and a seeker. Seek the place where they have laid him, for he lies shut up, bound, burdened. He lies in the workhouse of conscience, restrained by the chains of discipline, crushed—as with a stone set upon him—and overwhelmed by the burden of penitence, and most of all he lacks meanwhile that which is strong as death: love, and charity bearing all things. And in all these things he is already stinking, Lord—for he is four days dead. Now, I think, the minds of many of you fly ahead and guess whom I wish to call Lazarus: him, no doubt, who having recently died to sin digs a wall for himself, so as to look upon many abominations and evils of the heart—unsearchable above all things and desperately wicked—and, following another prophet, has entered into the rock, hidden in the dug-out ground from the face of the fury of God.
3. What then is this? Lord, he is already stinking, for he is four days dead. For it may be that not everyone understands that stench and those four days. I consider the first day to be the day of fear, at whose dawning in our hearts we die to sin and are as if interred within our conscience. The second day, I think, is passed in the toil of battle. At the beginning of conversion, temptation due to wicked habit often rises up fiercely against us, and the fiery darts of the devil can barely be put out. The third day seems to be a day of sorrow, while one thinks over his years in the bitterness of his soul, and not so much labors to turn aside from future sins as laments in mourning for the past.
Do you wonder that I call these days? Such days as befit a burial—days of cloud and darkness, days of grief and bitterness. Next comes the day of shame, much like the three before—and now the pitiable soul hides in horrible confusion thinking obsessively on its great failings, and turns hideous images of its sins before the eyes of the heart. Such a mind disguises nothing—but dissects, intensifies, exaggerates everything: the stern judge within does not spare itself. This is a beneficial harshness, and a cruelty worthy of pity, swiftly winning divine grace—the mind strives on His behalf even against itself.
Nevertheless, Lazarus, come forth! lest you tarry in stench too long. Your rotting flesh is near to rottenness. And he who is utterly confounded and melting away is near to despair. Therefore, Lazarus, come forth! Deep calls out to deep. The abyss of light and mercy to the abyss of misery and darkness. His goodness is greater than your sin, and where sin abounds, He makes grace overflow. Lazarus, come forth! As if to say: How long will the darkness of your conscience hold you back? How long will you scourge yourself in the chamber of a heavy heart? Come out, step forth, recover breath in the light of My mercies. For this is what you have read in the prophet: I will loosen your mouth to my praise, lest you perish. Another prophet speaks more openly about his very self: My soul is overwhelmed in its very self, therefore remembering You I pray.
4. But now, what does it mean that He says: Remove the stone, and, a little later, Unbind him? After the coming of consoling grace, will he caese to do penance because the King of heaven has drawn near—or will he cast away discipline, lest perhaps the Lord should be angry and he perish from the right path? Forbid it! Remove the stone, but let penitence remain, not crushing now and burdensome, but instead strengthening and confirming a sound and lively mind whose food—not known before—it is to do the will of God. So even discipline no longer constrains the free—since The law is not established for the just—but rules a willing spirit and guides it on the way of peace.
Of this revival of Lazarus the psalmist has sung more clearly: You will not leave my soul in hell, since—as I remember saying on the second day of this feast—a guilty conscience is a kind of hell, a prision to the soul. You will not allow your holy one—and he whom only You make holy is not his own but Yours—to see corruption. Since indeed the man four days dead was near corruption, and had begun to stink. He was near to total dissolution—and coming upon the depth of his evils the Wicked one thought him hopeless. But overtaken by the call of Virtue, and brought back to life by it he gives thanks, saying: You made known paths of life to me, you will fill me with the gladness of your face. Since indeed it is to contemplation of your face that you have called me forth and led my soul out from hell, while my spirit was in anguish over me, looking on the too hated face of its own conscience.
He cried out, it says, in a great voice: Lazarus come forth! A voice great not so much in its ringing sound as in its great-hearted pity and virtue.
5. But wither have we strayed? Were we not following after the Virgin passing above the heavens—and see, we go down into the abyss with Lazarus. Our speech plummets headlong from the radiance of virtue to the stench of one four days dead. And why is this, but that we were carried on by our own weight? And did the matter draw us, as the more familiar, so much the richer?
I confess my lack of skill, I do not hide my faintheartedness. Nothing delights me more—or more terrifes me—than to speak on the glory of the Virgin mother. Let me keep silence, a little while, about the privilege of her merits, and her entirely singular prerogative—since with so great a passion of devotion all embrace, honor, and receive her, as is right. And although all long eagerly to speak of her, still what is spoken of the ineffable, insofar as it can be spoken, is the less sweet, less pleasing, less loved. Should not the human mind have smaller tastes of things whose incomprehensible glory it cannot comprehend?
For see, if I praise virginity in her, there are many virgins after her. If I proclaim her humility, a few perhaps will be found, who—taught by her Son—became mild and humble of heart. If I wish to magnify the multitude of her mercy, there are some men of mercy, and women too. In one thing she seemed to have no parallel, before or after—in possessing the joys of a mother together with the honor of virginity. Mary, He says, has chosen the best part. The best surely, because the fruitfulness of a bride is good, the purity of a virgin is better, but best of all is virgin fruitfulness, fruitful virginity. This is Mary's privilege and will not be given to another, since it will not be taken from her. This is a singular thing—but it is immediately appears ineffable, so that just as no one can attain to it, so no one can utter it.
And if we should also add whose mother she was? What tongue, even of Angels, will now be able to lift up the Virgin mother with worthy praises—mother not of anyone, but of God? Twofold anomaly, twofold prerogative. A twofold miracle, yet throughouly meet and fitting. For no other Son befitted the virgin, no other birth befitted God.
6. Nevertheless, if you attend closely, you will find not only this but all other virtues—which seemed to be common—entriely singular in Mary. For what purity, even of Angels, would dare to be likened to that virginity found worthy to be made the shrine of the Holy Spirit and dwelling of the Son of God?
If we weigh things' worth by their rarity, she who first purposed to live the life of Angels on earth surpasses all. How, she asks, can this come pass? Since I do not know man. Her commitment to virginity was unshakeable—and did not waver even when an Angel promised her a son. How, she asks, can this comes to pass? Not indeed in that way by which it comes to pass among others. I do not know man at all, not in the longing for a son, not in the hope of offspring.
7. How great and how precious the virtue of her humility when joined with such great purity, with such great innocence, with a thoroughly sinless conscience, yes, with so great a fulness of grace? Whence your humility, and humility so deep, O blessed one? Worthy, surely, of the Lord's regard—that the King should desire your beauty, that by your sweetest fragance He should be drawn from His eternal couch at the bosom of the Father.
For see how clearly the song of Mary and the Song of songs accord with one another. Hear Mary in the gospel: He has regarded, she says, the lowliness of his handmaiden. Hear the same Mary in the wedding song of Solomon: When the King was on his couch, my nard gave off its fragrance. Nard is a lowly herb and it purges the chest, so that it is clear that humility is indicated by the name nard, whose fragrance and beauty has found favor with God.
8. And let him hold his peace about your mercy, blessed Virgin, if there is anyone who recalls that, invoked in the hour of his need, you failed him. But let us your little servants rejoice with you in all your virtues—and especially in the one you showed toward us. We praise your purity, we wonder at your humility—but your mercy is sweeter to wretches; we embrace your mercy more dearly, remember it more often, invoke it more continually.
For it is your mercy that obtained the repair of the whole world, and won the salvation of all. And it is clear that her concern was for the whole human race, to whom it was said: Fear not, Mary, you have found grace—the very grace that you were seeking. Who then, O blessed one, will be able to search out the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of your mercy? For its length reaches even to the last day for those who call upon it. Its breadth fills the world, so that every land is full of your mercy. Its height has brought about the second founding of the heavenly city, and its depth has won redemption for those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. For through you heaven is filled, hell is emptied, the ruins of the heavenly Jerusalem are rebuilt, and lost life has been given to wretches who look to you. So surpassingly mighty and merciful is her love in the depth of its compassion and the efficacy of its aid, equally rich in both.
9. Let our thirsty soul then hasten to this spring. Let our misery—in its every worry—have recourse to this mountain of mercy. Look now! with all the prayers we could, we have drawn you back, you who were ascending to the Son—and we have followed after, at least from afar, blessed Virgin. In your mercy, then, make known to the world the grace you found with God—obtaining through your prayers pardon for the guilty, healing for the sick, strength for the faint of heart, for the afflicted comfort, for those in danger help, and freedom for your saints. And also on this day of solemnity and joy may Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, grant the gifts of his grace, through you, O clement queen, to these little servants who invoke the name Mary with praise, He who is above all things God, blessed forever. Amen