Front Page Titles (by Subject) CONCERNING THE SACRAMENTS - On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments
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CONCERNING THE SACRAMENTS - Ambrose, On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments [387 AD]
On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments by an Unknown Author, trans. T. Thompson, ed. with Introduction and Notes by J.H. Strawley (New York: Macmillan, 1919).
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CONCERNING THE SACRAMENTS
Why instruction on the sacraments was deferred. The “opening of the ears.”
1. The sacraments which you have received are the theme of my discourse. To have given a reasoned account of these earlier would not have been right;1 for in a Christian man faith is first. Therefore, at Rome2 the title of “faithful” is given to those who have been baptized; and also our father Abraham was justified by faith, not by works.3 So you received baptism, you believed. For it is wrong for me to think otherwise; for thou wouldst not have been called to grace, had not Christ thought thee worthy of his grace.
2. Therefore, what did we do on the Saturday? What but “the opening”?4 Which mysteries of “opening” were performed, when the priest5 touched thine ears and nostrils. It is this which our Lord Jesus Christ indicates in the Gospel, when a deaf and dumb1 man was brought to him, and he touched his ears and his mouth: the ears, because he was deaf; the mouth, because he was dumb: and said, Ephpheta. It is a Hebrew word, which rendered into Latin is adaperire, that is, Be opened. The reason, therefore, that the priest touched thine ears was that thine ears might be opened to the discourse and the address of the priest.
3. But thou sayest to me, “Why the nostrils?” In that case, because he was dumb, he touched his mouth; that, since he could not speak heavenly mysteries, he might receive utterance from Christ. Also, in that case because it was a man; in our case, because women are baptized, and there is not the same purity in the servant2 as in the Lord (for what comparison can there be, when the latter forgives sins, the former has his sins remitted?), therefore, on account of the grace bestowed by his act and office, the bishop touches not the mouth but the nostrils; that thou mayest receive a sweet savour of eternal godliness, and that thou mayest say, For we are a sweet savour of Christ unto God,3 as the holy Apostle said; and there may be in thee the full fragrance of faith and devotion.
The unction before baptism. Of the renunciations, and the dignity of the office of priests, who were witnesses of their baptismal promises.
4. We came to the font, thou didst enter. Consider whom thou sawest; consider what thou saidst, recall it carefully. A levite met thee, a presbyter met thee.1 Thou wast anointed as Christ’s athlete; as about to wrestle in the fight of this world, thou didst profess the objects of thy wrestling. He who wrestles, has something to hope for; where the contest is, there is the crown. Thou wrestlest in the world, but thou art crowned by Christ, and thou art crowned for contests in the world; for, though the reward is in heaven, yet the earning of the reward is placed here.
5. When he asked thee, “Dost thou renounce the devil and his works,” what didst thou reply? “I renounce.” “Dost thou renounce the world and its pleasures,” what didst thou reply? “I renounce.” Be mindful2 of thy words, and never let the contents of thy bond pass from thy memory. If thou givest a man thy note of hand, thou art held to be under acknowledgment of receiving his money; thou art held bound, and the lender keeps thee to it, however unwilling thou mayest be. If thou deniest, thou goest before the judge, and there thou art convicted by thy bond.
6. Consider where thou didst promise, or to whom thou didst promise. Thou sawest a levite. But he is the minister of Christ; thou hast seen him ministering at the altar. Therefore, thy note of hand is kept, not on earth, but in heaven. Consider where thou receivest the heavenly mysteries. If the body of Christ is here, the angels are stationed here also. Where the body is, there also are the eagles,1 hast thou read in the Gospel. Where the body of Christ is, there also the eagles are wont to fly, that they may shun earthly things, pursue heavenly.
7. Why do I say this? Because men also are angels, whosoever proclaim Christ, and seem to be admitted into the place of angels. How? Take the case of the Baptist. John was born of a man and a woman. Yet hear how even he is an angel: Behold, I send my angel before thy face, and he shall prepare thy way before thee.2 Take another passage of the prophet Malachi: For the priest’s lips keep knowledge, and they seek the law at his mouth: for he is the angel of God Almighty.3 These things are said to extol the dignity of the priest, not to claim anything for personal merits.4
8. Therefore, thou hast renounced the world, thou hast renounced this life. Be careful. A man who owes money is always considering his bond. And thou who owest faith to Christ, keep faith, which is much more precious than money; for faith is an eternal possession, money a temporal. And, therefore, always remember what thou hast promised, and thou wilt be more cautious. If thou keepest thy promise, thou wilt keep also thy bond.
In the baptismal rite there was more than appeared to the outward eye.
9. Then thou drewest near;1 thou sawest the font, thou sawest also the priest above the font. Nor can I doubt, that this may have occurred to your mind, which occurred to the Syrian Naaman; for, although he was cleansed, yet he doubted previously. Why? I will tell; listen.
10. Thou didst enter, thou sawest the water, thou sawest the priest, thou sawest a levite. Let not some one haply say, “Is this all?” Yes, it is all. It is truly all,2 where all is innocency, all is godliness, all is grace, all is sanctification. Thou hast seen all that thou couldst see with the eyes of thy body and with human vision. Thou hast not seen the things which are effected, because they cannot be seen. The things which are not seen are far greater than those which are seen; since the things which are seen are temporal, the things which are not seen are eternal.3
The sacraments of Christians are more divine, and earlier, than those of the Jews. The meaning of the Passover.
11. Therefore, let us say this first (hold my words as a pledge, and exact full payment). We marvel at the mysteries of the Jews, which were given to our fathers, pre-eminent first in the antiquity of their sacraments, then in their holiness. This I promise, that the sacraments of Christians are more divine and older than those of the Jews.1
12. What stands out so much as the fact that the people of the Jews passed through the sea?2 —to speak for the present of baptism. Yet the Jews who passed through all died in the wilderness. But he who passes through this font, that is from earthly to heavenly things—for this is the “passing over,”3 therefore, pascha, that is, his passover, a passing over from sin to life, from guilt to grace, from defilement to sanctification—he who passes through this font, dies not, but rises again.
The story of Naaman, and the baptism of Christ.
13. To resume, Naaman was a leper.4 A certain maid said to his wife, “If my lord wishes to be cleansed, let him go into the land of Israel, and there he will find him who can take the leprosy from him.” She spoke to her mistress, the wife spoke to her husband, Naaman spoke to the king of Syria, who sent him as his favourite to the king of Israel. The king of Israel heard that a man had been sent to him to be cured of his leprosy, and he rent his garment. Then Elisha the prophet charges him: “Wherefore hast thou rent thy garment, as if God were not able to cleanse a leper? Send him to me.” He sent him, and, when he came, the prophet said, “Go to Jordan, dip, and thou shalt be healed.”
14. He began to reflect and to say: “Is this all? I have come from Syria into the land of Judah, and I am told, Go and descend into Jordan, dip, and thou shalt be healed, as if there were not better rivers in my native land.” So his servants said to him, “My lord, why dost thou not carry out the word of the prophet? Do it rather, and make trial.” Then he went to Jordan, dipped, and arose whole.
15. What, then, does it mean? Thou sawest water. But it is not all water that heals, but that water heals which has the grace of Christ. The element is one thing, the consecration is another; the work is one thing, the working another. The water is the work,1 the working is of the Holy Spirit. Water does not heal, unless the Spirit has descended and consecrated that water; as thou hast read that, when our Lord Jesus Christ was giving the pattern of baptism, he came to John; and John said to him, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” Christ answered him, “Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”2 See how all righteousness is based on baptism.
16. Why, then, did Christ descend, unless that that flesh might be cleansed, the flesh which he took of our nature? For the washing away of his sins was not necessary for Christ, who did no sin;3 but it was necessary for us who remain subject to sin. Therefore, if baptism is for our sake, a pattern has been established for us, the pattern of our faith has been set forth.
17. Christ descended, John stood by baptizing, and, lo, the Holy Ghost descended as a dove.1 It was not a dove that descended, but as a dove. Remember what I said, Christ took flesh, not as it were flesh; but it was the reality of that flesh, real flesh, which Christ took. The Holy Spirit, however, descended from heaven, not in the reality of a dove, but in the likeness of a dove. Therefore, John saw and believed.
18. Christ descended, the Holy Spirit also descended. Why did Christ descend first, the Holy Spirit afterwards, since the form and practice of baptism provides that the font should be consecrated first, and then the person to be baptized should descend? For as soon as the priest enters, he makes an exorcism2 over the element of water, afterwards he offers an invocation and a prayer, that the font may be consecrated, and the presence of the eternal Trinity may come down. But Christ descended first, the Spirit followed. For what reason? That the Lord Jesus might not seem himself as it were to need the mystery of sanctification; but that he might sanctify, and the Spirit also sanctify.
19. Therefore Christ descended into the water, and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove. Also God the Father spake from heaven. Thou hast the presence of the Trinity.3
Baptism prefigured in the crossing of the Red Sea and in the story of the Flood.
20. Again, that there was a figure of our baptism in the Red Sea1 is asserted by the Apostle, when he says that our fathers were all baptized in the cloud and in the sea.2 And he added, Now all these things happened unto them by way of figure;3 to them in a figure, but to us in reality. Then Moses held his rod: the people of the Jews had been shut in; on one side the Egyptian pressed on with arms, and on the other side the Hebrews were shut in by the sea. They could neither cross the seas, nor return to the enemy. They began to murmur.4
21. See that it tempt thee not, that they were heard. Although the Lord heard, yet they are not without fault who murmured. It is thy duty, when thou art in a strait, to believe that thou wilt escape, not to murmur; to appeal, to entreat, not to utter complaint.
22. Moses held his rod, and led the people of the Hebrews at night in a pillar of light, and in the day in a pillar of cloud.5 What is the light but truth, since it sheds a full and open brightness? What is the pillar of light but Christ the Lord, who scattered the shadows of unbelief, and poured the light of truth and spiritual grace on human hearts? The pillar of cloud, on the other hand, is the Holy Spirit. The people was in the sea, and the pillar of light went on before; then the pillar of cloud followed, as if the shadowing of the Holy Spirit. Thou seest that by the Holy Spirit and by the water he has shown a type of baptism.
23. As early as the flood1 there was also a figure of baptism, and, certainly, the mysteries of the Jews did not as yet exist. Therefore, if the figure of our baptism preceded, thou seest that the mysteries of the Christians are earlier than were those of the Jews.
24. But meanwhile, in view of the weakness of our voice2 and the consideration of the time at our disposal, let us content ourselves to-day with just having touched the mysteries concerning the holy font. To-morrow, if the Lord shall grant strength and ability to speak, I will declare them more fully. It behoves your holiness3 to have your ears prepared, your mind the more ready, that you may be able to retain what we may gather from the course of the Scriptures, and shall declare unto you, that you may have the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to which Trinity belongs an everlasting kingdom, from all ages, both now, and always, and for ever and ever.
Further illustration from the story of the Flooa. Of the baptisms of heathen and Jews.
1. Yesterday we began to expound how in the flood also there was a prefiguring of baptism. What is the flood, but that in which the righteous is saved to be a seed-plot of righteousness, while sin dies? Therefore, when the Lord saw that the transgressions of mankind were multiplied, he saved the righteous one alone with his offspring, but he bade the water rise even above the mountains. And therefore, in that flood all corruption of the flesh perished, only the family and pattern of the righteous survived. Is not the flood the same thing as baptism, whereby all sins are washed away, only the mind and grace of the righteous is revived?1
2. There are many kinds of baptisms: but the Apostle cries, one baptism.2 Why? There are baptisms of the Gentiles, but they are no baptisms.3 They are baths, baptisms they cannot be. The flesh is washed, but guilt is not washed away; nay, it is contracted in that bath. There were, however, baptisms of the Jews, some superfluous, others figurative. And the mere figure helps us, since it is the herald of reality.
The healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda.
3. What was read yesterday?1An angel, it says, went down at a certain season into the pool, and, so often as the angel descended, the water was troubled: and whosoever first descended, was made whole of every disease whatsoever he had.2 Which signifies a figure of our Lord Jesus Christ who was to come.
4. Why an angel? Because he himself is the Angel of Great Counsel.3At a certain season, because he was kept till the last hour, that he might catch the day at its setting, and delay its setting.4 Therefore, as often as the angel descended, the water was troubled. Thou sayest perchance: “Why is it not troubled now?” Learn why. Signs for the unbelieving, faith for believers
5. Whosoever first descended, was made whole of every sickness. What is the meaning of first?5 Does it mean in time, or in honour? Understand in both ways. If it means he who descended first in time was made whole first, it signifies the people of the Jews, as opposed to the people of the Gentiles. If it means he who descended first in honour, that signifies that he who had the fear of God, the love of righteousness, the grace of charity, and the desire of purity, he rather was made whole. Yet at that time one only was made whole; at that time, I say, by way of figure he who first descended was alone healed. How much greater is the grace of the Church, wherein all are saved, whosoever descend!
6. But observe the mystical sense. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to the pool; many sick were lying there. And, naturally, there were many sick lying there, where only one was healed. Then he saith to the sick of the palsy, “Descend.” He saith, “I have no man.”1 Consider where thou art baptized.2 What source can there be for baptism, save the cross of Christ, the death of Christ? Herein is the whole mystery, in that he suffered for thee. In him thou art redeemed, in him thou wilt be saved.
7. “I have no man,” he said: that is, since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.3 He could not descend, he could not be saved, who did not believe that our Lord Jesus had taken flesh of the Virgin. But this man who was looking for the mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ,4 waiting for him of whom it was said, And the Lord shall send a man who shall save them,5 —he said, “I have no man”; and therefore he deserved to attain to health, because he believed in one who was to come. Yet he would have been better and more perfect, if he had believed that he whose coming he hoped for had already come.
The interpretation of the “captive maid” in the story of Naaman. Summary of types already indicated.
8. Now look at the types one by one. We said that baptism was prefigured in the Jordan, when Naaman the leper was cleansed. Who is that captive maid, but one who had the likeness of the Church, and exhibited a figure of it?1 For the people of the nations was captive. It was captive: I do not mean a captivity under some hostile people; but I mean that captivity which is worse, when the devil and his minions rule with cruel sway, and subject to themselves the captive necks of sinners.
9. Therefore thou hast one baptism here, another in the flood; thou hast a third kind when the fathers were baptized in the Red Sea; thou hast a fourth kind in the pool, when the water was troubled. Now I ask thee whether thou oughtest not to believe that thou hast the presence of the Trinity in this baptism which is administered in the Church.
Our Lord’s command to baptize. Further O.T. types of baptism.
10. It is, then, the same baptism which our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of in his Gospel to the Apostles: Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.2 This is the word of the Saviour.
11. Tell me, O man. Elijah called fire from heaven, and fire came down from heaven.3 Elisha called on the name of the Lord, and the axe-head which had sunk came up out of the water.4 Here is another kind of baptism. Why? Because every man before baptism is weighed down like iron, and sinks: when he has been baptized he is no longer like iron, but now rises like the fruit-bearing wood, which is a lighter kind of thing.1 Therefore in this instance there is also another figure. The axe was that with which wood was cut down. The haft fell from the axe, that is, the iron sank. The son of the prophet knew not what to do; but this alone he knew, to ask the prophet Elisha and to demand help. Then he cast in wood, and the iron was raised. Dost thou see, therefore, how the weakness of all men is raised on the cross of Christ?
12. Another example—though we are not keeping to our order, for who can recount all the deeds of Christ, as the Apostles said?2 When Moses came into the desert and the people thirsted, and came to the spring of Marah, and wished to drink water (because, as soon as they drew, they tasted the bitterness, and began to be unable to drink), therefore Moses cast wood into the spring, and the water which previously was bitter began to be sweet.3
13. What does it mean, but that every creature is subject to corruption, that water is bitter to all. Although it is sweet for a time, although it is pleasant for a time, yet it is bitter, since it cannot take away sin. When thou hast drunk, thou wilt thirst; when thou hast imbibed the sweetness of the draught, thou wilt taste its bitterness. Water, therefore, is bitter. But when thou hast received the cross of Christ,4 and the heavenly sacrament, it begins to be sweet and pleasant; and rightly sweet, because guilt is thereby cancelled. Therefore, if baptisms by way of figure could do so much, how much more can baptism in reality do?
The presence of the Holy Trinity in baptism is vindicated. The Spirit at the Baptism of Christ and on the day of Pentecost manifested by outward signs to convince unbelievers.
14. Now, then, let us consider. The priest comes; he says a prayer at the font; he invokes the name of the Father, the presence of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; he uses heavenly words.1 What heavenly words? They are those of Christ, that we should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.2 If, therefore, at the word of men, at the invocation of a saint, the presence of the Trinity came down, how much more does it come where the eternal word is acting? Do you wish to know that the Spirit descends? Thou hast heard that he descended as a dove.3 Why as a dove? That unbelievers might be called to belief. In the begining there had to be a sign, later there ought to be the fulfilment.
15. Take another example. After the death of our Lord Jesus Christ the Apostles were in one place, and they were praying on the day of Pentecost. And suddenly there came a great sound as if the Spirit were carried along with great violence, and there appeared divided tongues as of fire.4 What does this mean, but the descent of the Holy Spirit, who wished to show himself to unbelievers in bodily form also; that is in bodily form by a sign, spiritually by a sacrament? Therefore, there was given an evident proof of his coming. But to us is now offered the privilege of faith. For in the beginning signs were shown for unbelievers; now in the fulness of the Church we must gather truth not by a sign, but by faith.
The Fall and its consequences. The redemptive grace of baptism.
16. Now let us examine what it is which is called baptism. Thou camest to the font, thou wentest down in it; thou didst watch the high priest, thou didst see the levites and the presbyter in the font.1 What is baptism?
17. In the beginning our God made man, so that, if he did not taste sin, he would not surely die.2 He committed sin, he became subject to death, he was driven out of Paradise. But the Lord, who wished his benefits to endure, who wished to destroy all the wiles of the serpent, and also to root out everything harmful, first gave sentence upon the man, Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt go;3 and he made man subject to death. It was a Divine sentence; it could not be paid by human means. A remedy was granted that man should die, and rise again. Why? In order that the thing which had been previously counted as a condemnation, might be counted as a benefit. What is that thing but death? Thou askest how. Because death intervening makes an end of sin. For when we die, we certainly cease to sin. Therefore, the sentence seemed satisfied, because man who had been made to live, on condition that he did not sin, was beginning to die. But, in order that the continual goodness of God might endure, man died, but Christ found the resurrection, that is, a way to restore the heavenly benefit which had been lost by the serpent’s guile. Each, therefore, is for our good, since death is the end of sins, and the resurrection is the refashioning of our nature.1
18. Nevertheless, that the craft or guile of the devil might not prevail in this world, baptism was devised. Concerning which baptism hear what the Scripture saith, nay, the Son of God, that the Pharisees who would not be baptized with the baptism of John, rejected the counsel of God.2 Therefore, baptism is the counsel of God. How great is the grace, where there is the counsel of God.
19. Hear, therefore. In order that the bands of the devil might be loosed in this world also, a means was found that man might die while living, and while living rise again. What is “living”? It is the living life of the body, when it came to the font, and was dipped into the font. What is water, but from the earth? Therefore, the heavenly sentence is satisfied without the insensibility which death brings. Thy dipping paid that sentence, Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt go;3 the sentence fulfilled, there is room for the heavenly benefit and remedy. So then, water is from the earth; Moreover the conditions of our life did not allow that we should be covered with earth, and rise from the earth; further, it is not earth, but water, that washes. Therefore the font is, as it were, a burial.4
The threefold confession of faith and the threefold immersion in baptism described and explained. The unction after baptism.
20. Thou wast asked,1 “Dost thou believe in God the Father Almighty?” Thou saidst, “I believe,” and didst dip, that is, thou wast buried. Again thou wast asked, “Dost thou believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in his Cross?” Thou saidst, “I believe,” and didst dip; therefore, thou wast also buried with Christ;2 for he who is buried with Christ, rises again with Christ. A third time thou was asked, “Dost thou believe also in the Holy Ghost?” Thou saidst, “I believe,” and didst dip a third time, that the triple confession might absolve the manifold fall of thy former life.
21. Thus (that we may give you an example), after the holy Apostle Peter seemed to have fallen during the Lord’s passion by the weakness of human nature, he who had previously denied was afterwards thrice asked by Christ if he loved Christ, that he might cancel and annul that fall. Then he said, “Thou knowest, Lord, that I love Thee.”3 He said it thrice, that he might be thrice absolved.4
22. Therefore, the Father forgives sin, just as the Son forgives; likewise also the Holy Ghost. But he bade us be baptized in one name, that is, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Wonder not that he spoke of one name, when there is one Substance, one Divinity, one Majesty. This is the name of which it was said, Wherein all must be saved.1 In this name ye have all been saved, ye have been restored to the grace of life.2
23. Therefore the Apostle cries, as you have heard in the lesson just read, that whosoever is baptized, is baptized in the death of Jesus.3 What is in the death? It is that, as Christ died, so thou also shouldst taste of death; that, as Christ died unto sin, and liveth unto God,4 so thou also shouldst be dead unto the former allurements of sins through the sacrament of baptism, and shouldst rise again through the grace of Christ. It is a death, therefore; but not a death in the reality of bodily death, but in the likeness. For when thou dippest thou takest on the likeness of death and burial, thou receivest the sacrament of that cross, because Christ hung on the cross, and his body was pierced with nails. Therefore, when thou art crucified, thou cleavest to Christ; thou cleavest to the nails of our Lord Jesus Christ; let not the devil be able to tear thee away. Let the nail of Christ hold thee fast, seeing that the weakness of human nature is seeking to call thee back.
24. Therefore thou didst dip, thou camest to the priest.5 What did he say to thee? “God the Father Almighty,” he saith, “who hath regenerated thee by water and the Holy Ghost, and hath forgiven thee thy sins, himself anoint thee unto eternal life.”6 See whereunto thou art anointed; “unto eternal life,” he saith. Do not set this life before that life. For example, if any foe arise, if he wishes to take away thy faith, if he threatens death to make some one transgress, see what thou choosest. Do not choose that wherein thou wast not anointed, but choose that wherein thou wast anointed, so as to prefer eternal life to temporal life, through Christ our Lord.—Amen.
The significance of the unction upon the head, and the meaning of “regeneration.” The washing of the feet of the newly-baptized is defended and explained.
1. Yesterday we discoursed on the font, whose appearance is somewhat like that of a tomb in shape;1 into which, believing in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, we are received, and plunged, and emerge, that is, we are raised up. Moreover, thou receivest myron,2 that is, ointment upon the head. Why upon the head? Because the senses of a wise man are in his head,3 says Solomon. For wisdom is lifeless without grace; but when wisdom has received grace, then its work begins to be perfect. This is called regeneration.4
2. What is regeneration? Thou readest in the Acts of the Apostles that the verse which is found in the second Psalm, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee, appears to refer to the resurrection. For the holy Apostle Peter in the Acts of the Apostles interpreted it thus, that at the time that the Son rose from the dead, the Father’s voice rang out, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.1 Whence he is also called the firstborn from the dead.2 Therefore, what is resurrection, but when we rise from death to life? So, therefore, in baptism also, since there is a likeness of death, without doubt when thou dost dip and rise again, there is a likeness of the resurrection. Rightly, therefore, according to the interpretation of the Apostle Peter, as that resurrection was a regeneration, so also is this resurrection a regeneration.
3. But what dost thou mean by this dipping in the water? Is it for this reason that thou art perplexed,3 that hesitation possesses thee? Certainly, we read, Let the earth bring forth from herself fruit that springs up. Likewise also thou hast read of the waters, Let the waters bring forth living creatures, and living creatures were born.4 And those, indeed, were in the beginning of creation; but for thee it has been reserved that water should regenerate thee to grace, as it generated those others to life. Imitate the fish, which, though it has obtained less grace, yet should fill thee with wonder. It is in the sea, and above the waves; it is in the sea, and swims over the billows. In the sea the storm rages, the winds howl; but the fish swims, it does not sink, because it is wont to swim. Therefore this world is a sea to thee also. It has divers billows, heavy waves, fierce storms. And do thou be a fish, that the wave of the world sink thee not. Well, however, does the Father say to the Son, This day have I begotten thee; that is, when thou didst redeem the people, when thou didst call them to the kingdom of heaven, when thou didst fulfil my will, thou didst prove thyself to be my son.
4. Thou camest up out of the font. What followed?1 Thou hast heard the lesson. The high priest was girt up (for though presbyters also carried it out, yet the ministry is begun by the high priest), the high priest, I say, was girt up, and washed thy feet. What is this sacrament?2 Doubtless thou hast heard that when the Lord had washed the feet of the other disciples, He cometh to Peter;3 and Peter saith to him, Dost thou wash my feet? That is, Dost thou, the Lord, wash the feet of the servant? Dost thou, the spotless, wash my feet? Dost thou, the maker of the heavens, wash my feet? Thou hast this in another place also. He cometh to John, and John saith to him, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”4 I am a sinner, and dost thou come to me a sinner, that thou mayest as it were lay down thy sins who hast done no sin?5 See all righteousness,6 see the humility, see the grace, see the sanctification:7Unless I wash thy feet, he saith, thou wilt have no part with me.8
5. We are not ignorant that the Roman Church has not this custom. Her type and form we follow in all things; however she has not this custom of washing the feet. See then, perhaps she has declined it on account of the numbers.1 There are, however, some who say and try to urge that this ought to be done, not as a sacrament, not at baptism, not at the regeneration; but only as we should wash the feet of a guest. The latter is an act of humility, the former a work of sanctification.2 Accordingly, learn how it is a sacrament and a means of sanctification: Unless I wash thy feet, thou wilt have no part with me. This I say, not to find fault with others, but to recommend my own usage.3 In all things I desire to follow the Roman Church. Yet we too are not without discernment; and what other places have done well to retain, we too do well to maintain.
6. It is the Apostle Peter himself that we follow, to his devotion we cling. What does the Roman Church answer to this? Certainly the Apostle Peter himself supports us in this claim, he who was priest of the Roman Church. Peter himself says, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.4 Look at the faith. His demurring at first showed his humility; his offer afterwards showed his devotion and faith.
7. Because he had said my hands and my head, the Lord answered him, He that hath washed needeth not to wash again, save to wash his feet only.5 Why is this? Because in baptism all guilt is washed away.6 Guilt, therefore, vanishes. But, because Adam was tripped up by the devil, and poison was poured over his feet, therefore thou washest thy feet; that at that point where the serpent made his treacherous attack a stronger reinforcement of sanctification may be applied, that he may not be able to trip thee up afterwards. Therefore, thou washest thy feet, to wash off the poison of the serpent. It is a help towards humility also, that in a sacrament we should not shrink from that which we scorn in an act of service.
The “spiritual seal” and the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit. The effect of baptism illustrated from the healing of the blind man in John ix. Those who deny the need of baptism are refuted.
8. There follows the spiritual seal,1 which you have heard mentioned in the lesson to-day. For after the font it remains for the “perfecting”2 to take place, when, at the invocation of the priest, the Holy Spirit is bestowed, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, the spirit of holy fear,3 as it were seven virtues of the Spirit.
9. And, indeed, all virtues belong to the Spirit; but these are as it were cardinal, as it were principal.4 For what is so principal, as godliness? What is so principal, as the knowledge of God? What is so principal, as strength? What is so principal, as the counsel of God? What is so principal, as the fear of God? As the fear of the world is weakness, so the fear of God is great power.
10. These are the seven virtues, when thou art sealed;1 for, as the holy Apostle saith, The wisdom of our God is manifold.2 And, as the wisdom of God is manifold, so is the Holy Ghost manifold, who hath divers and various virtues. Whence also we speak of the God of hosts;3 which can be applied to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. But that belongs to another discourse, another time.
11. After this what follows? Thou hast to come to the altar,4 whither thou hast not come before; thou hast to see the things which thou didst not see before, that is, the mystery which thou hast read in the Gospel;5 if, however, thou hast not read it, thou hast certainly heard it. A blind man presented himself to the Saviour to be healed. And he, who healed others merely by a word and utterance, and brought back the light of the eyes by a command, yet in the book of the Gospel which is entitled “according to John,”—who truly beyond the others saw great mysteries, and described, and declared them:—he wished to prefigure this mystery6 in that miracle. All the Evangelists, indeed, were holy, all the Apostles, except the traitor—all were holy; yet Saint John, who wrote his Gospel last, having been sought and chosen by Christ to be in a sense his kinsman,7 uttered eternal mysteries with a louder trumpet. Whatever he spoke is a mystery. Another Evangelist told of the cure of a blind man; Matthew did, Luke did, Mark did. What does John alone say?—He took clay, and anointed his eyes, and said unto him, “Go to Siloam.” And rising he went, and washed, and came seeing.1
12. Consider thou also the eyes of thine heart. Formerly thou sawest only the things that are bodily, with bodily eyes; but the things which pertain to the sacraments thou wast not yet able to see with the eyes of the heart. Therefore, when thou gavest thy name,2 he took clay, and anointed thine eyes. What does it mean? It means that thou shouldst confess thy sin, recognize thy guilt, repent of thy trespasses, that is, acknowledge the lot of human birth. For although he who comes to baptism does not confess his sin,3 yet he makes a complete confession of all sins by the very fact that he asks to be baptized, that he may be justified, that is, pass from guilt to grace.
13. Do not think it superfluous. There are some4 —I know for certain there was one who said so; when we said to him, “At thy time of life thou shouldest certainly be baptized,” he objected, “Why should I be baptized? I have no sin. Have I contracted sin?” He had no clay, because Christ had not washed,1 that is, had not opened, his eyes; for no man is without sin.
14. Therefore, he who takes refuge in the baptism of Christ acknowledges himself a man. So on thee also he has put clay, that is, modesty, prudence, reflection upon thy weakness, and he has said to thee, “Go to Siloam.” What is Siloam? Which is, it says, by interpretation, Sent. That is, Go to that fount2 wherein the Cross of the Lord is proclaimed;3 go to that fount wherein Christ redeemed the faults of all men.
15. Thou didst go, thou didst wash, thou camest to the altar. Thou didst begin to see what thou hadst not seen before; that is, through the font of the Lord and the preaching of the Lord’s passion thine eyes were then opened. Thou who seemedst before to be blinded in heart, didst begin to see the light of the sacraments. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, we have arrived at the altar, to a richer theme. And for the reason that the time is advanced, we cannot begin a fresh subject; since it is a lengthier theme, let what has been said to-day suffice; and to-morrow, if it please the Lord, we will treat of those sacraments.
The symbolism of the Tabernacle applied to Christian baptism.
1. Under the old covenant the priests used to enter continually into the first tabernacle; into the second tabernacle the high priest entered once in the year. Which the Apostle Paul1 clearly recalling in the Epistle to the Hebrews, explains the tenor of the Old Testament. Now there was in the second tabernacle the manna; there was also the rod of Aaron which withered and afterwards blossomed again; there was likewise the censer.2
2. What is the purpose of this? It is that you may understand what is the second tabernacle, into which the priest introduced you, into which the high priest was accustomed to enter once in the year, that is, to the baptistery,3 where the rod of Aaron blossomed; it was withered before, afterwards it blossomed again. Thou too wast withered, and dost begin to blossom again in the streaming font. Thour hadst withered through sins, thou hadst withered through faults and trespasses; but now thou beginnest to bear fruit, planted by the rivers of water.1
3. But perhaps thou sayest, “What has this to do with the people, if the priest’s rod had withered and blossomed again?” What is the people itself but priestly? To whom it was said, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,2 as saith the Apostle Peter. Every one is anointed to the priesthood, is anointed to the kingdom also; but it is a spiritual kingdom and a spiritual priesthood.
4. In the second tabernacle is the censer also, which is wont to diffuse a sweet savour. So you also are now a sweet savour of Christ;3 no longer is there in you any share of sins,4 any savour of ranker error.
The grace of innocence and “renewal of youth” resulting from baptism.
5. It follows that you come to the altar. You began to come; the angels watched, they saw you approaching, and that human nature, which before was stained with the murky filth of sin, suddenly shone bright in their sight. And accordingly they said, Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness made white?5 The angels then also wonder. Wilt thou know that they wonder? Hear then the Apostle Paul saying that those things have been bestowed on us which even angels long tosee;1 and again, What eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.2
6. Then recall what thou hast received. Holy David the prophet saw this grace in a figure, and desired it. Wilt thou know that he desired it? Again hear him saying, Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.3 Why? Because snow, although it is white, quickly turns black with any dirt, and is spoilt; this grace which thou hast received, if thou hold fast that which thou hast received, will be lasting and eternal.
7. Thou camest thus with desire to the altar, since thou hadst seen such grace. Thou camest with desire to the altar, to receive the sacrament; let thy soul say, And I will go unto the altar of my God, unto God who maketh glad my youth.4 Thou hast put off the old age of sins, thou hast taken the youth of grace; this the heavenly sacraments bestowed on thee. Therefore, again hear David saying, Thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle’s.5 Thou beginnest to be a good eagle, seeking heaven, scorning earthly things. Good eagles are about the altar; for where the body is, there also are the eagles.6 The altar is a type of the body,7 and the body of Christ is on the altar; ye are eagles, renewed by the washing away of sin.
Comparison of the Jewish and Christian sacraments. Melchizedek a type of Christ.
8. Thou camest to the altar, thou sawest the sacraments laid upon the altar, and thou didst wonder at those creatures;1 yet they are ordinary and familiar.
9. Perhaps some one will say: “To the Jews God granted such grace, he rained down manna upon them2 from heaven; what more has he given to his faithful, what more has he bestowed on those to whom he promised more?”
10. Hear what things I say, namely, that the mysteries of the Christians are older than those of the Jews,3 and the sacraments of the Christians are more divine than those of the Jews. How? Hear. When did the Jews begin? At the earliest, with Judah, the great-grandson of Abraham; or, if thou preferrest to take this view, with the Law, that is, when the Jews were deemed worthy to receive the Law. Therefore, they were called Jews from the great-grandson of Abraham, or since the time of holy Moses. And if God rained down manna from heaven then upon the murmuring Jews, still there was for thee a yet earlier figure of these sacraments, when Abraham was alive, when he gathered the men born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and then pursued the adversaries, delivering his nephew out of captivity; then he came in triumph; Melchizedek the priest met him, and offered him bread and wine.1 Who had the bread and wine? Abraham had not. But who had? Melchizedek. He, then, is the author of the sacraments. Who is Melchizedek? He who is indicated as King of righteousness, King of peace.2 Who is the King of righteousness? Can any man be King of righteousness? Who then is the King of righteousness, but the Righteousness of God, he who is the Peace of God, the Wisdom of God?3 He who could say, My peace I give unto you, my peace I leave with you.4
11. Therefore, first understand that these sacraments which thou receivest are older than are the sacraments of Moses, whatever they are that the Jews say they have; and that the Christian people began before the people of the Jews—we, however, as predetermined, while they actually bore the name.
12. Melchizedek, therefore, offered bread and wine. Who is Melchizedek? Without father, it says, without mother, without order of generation, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; this is in the Epistle to the Hebrews.5 He is without father, it says, and without mother. Like unto whom? The Son of God. The Son of God was born without mother in his heavenly generation, because he was born of God the Father only. And again, he was born without father, when he was born of the Virgin; for he was not generated of the seed of a man, but born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,1 brought forth from a virgin womb, in all things like to the Son of God.2 Melchizedek was also a priest; since Christ too is a priest to whom it is said, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.3
The bread and wine of the Eucharist become Christ’s body and blood in virtue of the words of consecration, which are Christ’s own words. Illustrations from the Virgin birth and miracles of O.T.
13. Who then is the author of the sacraments but the Lord Jesus? From heaven those sacraments came; for all counsel is from heaven. But it was truly a great and divine miracle that God rained down manna from heaven, and the people ate without toiling.
14. Thou sayest perhaps, “My bread is4 of the usual kind.” But that bread is bread before the words of the sacraments; when consecration has been added, from bread it becomes the flesh of Christ. Let us therefore prove this. How can that which is bread be the body of Christ? By consecration. But in what words and in whose language is the consecration? Those of the Lord Jesus. For all the other things which are said in the earlier parts of the service are said by the priest—praises are offered to God, prayer is asked for the people, for kings, and the rest;1 when it comes to the consecration of the venerable sacrament, the priest no longer uses his own language, but he uses the language of Christ. Therefore, the word of Christ consecrates this sacrament.2
15. What is the word of Christ? That, to be sure, whereby all things are made. The Lord commanded, and the heaven was made; the Lord commanded, and the earth was made; the Lord commanded, and the seas were made; the Lord commanded, and every creature was produced. Thou seest, therefore, how effective is the word of Christ. If, therefore, there is such power in the word of the Lord Jesus, that the things which were not began to be, how much more is it effective, that things previously existing should, without ceasing to exist, be changed into something else?3 The heaven was not, the sea was not, the earth was not; but hear David saying, He spake, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created.1
16. Therefore, that I may answer thee, it was not the body of Christ before consecration; but after consecration, I tell thee, it is now the body of Christ. He spake, and it was made: he commanded, and it was created. Thou thyself didst formerly exist, but thou wast an old creature; after thou wast consecrated, thou didst begin to be a new creature. Wilt thou know how thou art a new creature? Everyone, it says, in Christ is a new creature.2
17. Hear, then, how the word of Christ is wont to change every creature, and changes, at will, the ordinances of nature. In what way? thou askest. Hear; and, first of all, let us take an example from his generation. It is usual that a man is not generated save from a man and a woman and the use of marriage; but because the Lord willed it, because he chose this mystery,1 Christ was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin, that is, the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.2 Thou seest, then, that he was born contrary to the ordinances and course of nature, he was born as man from a virgin.
18. Hear another example.3 The people of the Jews were hard pressed by the Egyptians; they were shut in by the sea. At the divine command Moses touched the waters with his rod, and the wave divided, certainly not according to the use of its own nature, but according to the grace of the heavenly command. Hear another.4 The people thirsted, they came to the spring. The spring was bitter; holy Moses cast wood into the spring, and the spring which had been bitter was made sweet, that is, it changed the use of its nature, it received the sweetness of grace. Hear also a fourth example.5The axe head had fallen into the waters; as iron it sank by its own use. Elisha cast wood; straightway the iron rose, and swam upon the waters, certainly contrary to the use of iron, for the matter of iron is heavier than the element of water.
19. From all these examples, then, dost thou not understand how effectual is the heavenly word? If the heavenly word was effectual in the earthly spring, if it was effectual in other things, is it not effectual in the heavenly sacraments? Therefore thou hast learnt that what was bread becomes the body of Christ,6 and that wine and water are put into the chalice, but become blood by the consecration of the heavenly word.
20. But perhaps thou sayest, “I do not see the appearance1 of blood.” But it has the likeness; for as thou hast taken the likeness of the death,2 so also thou drinkest the likeness of the precious blood, that there may be no shrinking from actual blood, and yet the price of redemption may effect its work. Thou hast learnt, therefore, that what thou receivest is the body of Christ.
The words with which the priest consecrates the sacrament are quoted, and the sacrament is shown to be a greater gift than that of the manna.
21. Wilt thou know that it is consecrated by heavenly words? Hear what the words are. The priest speaks.3 “Make for us,” he says, “this oblation approved, ratified, reasonable, acceptable, seeing that it is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who4 the day before he suffered took bread in his holy hands, and looked up to heaven to thee, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, and giving thanks, he blessed, brake, and having broken, delivered it to his apostles and to his disciples, saying, Take, and eat ye all of this; for this is my body, which shall be broken for many.
22. Likewise also after supper, the day before he suffered, he took the cup, looked up to heaven to thee, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, and giving thanks, blessed it and delivered it to his apostles and to his disciples, saying, Take, and drink ye all of this; for this is my blood.” Observe all those expressions. Those words are the Evangelists’ up to Take, whether the body or the blood. After that they are the words of Christ; Take, and drink ye all of this; for this is my blood. And observe them in detail.
23. Who the day before he suffered, he says, in his holy hands took bread. Before it is consecrated, it is bread, but when the words of Christ have been added, it is the body of Christ. Therefore hear him saying: Take and eat ye all of this; for this is my body. And before the words of Christ it is a cup full of wine and water. When the words of Christ have operated then and there it is made to be1 the blood of Christ which redeemed the people. Therefore, see in how many ways the word of Christ is mighty to change all things. There the Lord Jesus himself testifies to us that we receive his body and blood. Ought we to doubt of his trustworthiness and testimony?
24. Now come back with me to the point which I set out to prove. It is a great and awful thing that he rained manna on the Jews from heaven. But distinguish. What is greater, manna from heaven or the body of Christ? Certainly the body of Christ who is the maker of heaven. Then he who ate manna died. Whosoever eats this body shall have remission of sins and shall never die.2
25. Therefore [when thou receivest]3 it is not superfluous that thou sayest Amen, already in spirit confessing that thou receivest the body of Christ. The priest says to thee, The body of Christ. And thou sayest, Amen, that is, True.1 What the tongue confesses let the heart hold fast.
The sacrament a memorial of Christ’s death and a proclamation of the forgiveness of sins.
26. But that thou mayest know that this is a sacrament, it was prefigured beforehand. Then learn how great is the sacrament. See what he says: As often as ye do this, so often will ye make a memorial of me until I come again.2
27. And the priest says:3 Therefore having in remembrance his most glorious passion and resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, we offer to thee this spotless offering, reasonable offering,4 unbloody offering,1 this holy bread and cup of eternal life: and we ask and pray that thou wouldst receive this oblation on thy altar on high by the hands of thy angels,2 as thou didst vouchsafe to receive the presents of thy righteous servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and that which the high priest, Melchizedek offered to thee.”
28. Therefore as often as thou receivest—what saith the Apostle to thee?—as often as we receive, we show the Lord’s death; if we show his death, we show remission of sins. If, as often as blood is poured forth, it is poured for remission of sins, I ought always to receive it, that my sins may always be forgiven me. I, who am always sinning, ought always to have a remedy.
29. Meanwhile, we have explained to you to-day, also, as much as we could. But to-morrow, Saturday, and on Sunday3 we will speak of the order of prayer as we are able. May the Lord our God preserve to you the grace which he has given and may he deign to illuminate more fully the eyes which he has opened for you, through his only begotten Son, our Lord God, king and saviour, through whom and with whom to him is praise, honour, glory, majesty, power with the Holy Spirit from all ages, both now and ever, and world without end.—Amen.
The writer returns to the story of Melchizedek, and gives two reasons why water is mixed with wine in the chalice.
1. Yesterday our sermon and discourse was carried as far as the sacraments of the holy altar. And we learn that those sacraments were prefigured in the times of Abraham, when holy Melchizedek offered sacrifice, having neither beginning nor end of days. Hear, O man, what the Apostle Paul says to the Hebrews. Where are those who say that the Son of God is of time? Of Melchizedek1 it was said that he had neither beginning nor end of days.2 If Melchizedek had not a beginning of days, could Christ have it? But the figure is not greater than the reality. Thou seest therefore that he himself is the first and last.3 First, because he is the author of all things; last, not because he comes to an end, but because he concludes all things.
2. We said, therefore, that the cup and the bread are set on the altar. What is poured into the cup? Wine. And what else? Water.4 But thou sayest to me: “How then did Melchizedek offer bread and wine? What means the mixture of water? Hear the reason.
3. First of all, what does the type which was prefigured in the time of Moses tell us? That when the people of the Jews thirsted and murmured because they could not find water, God bade Moses touch the rock with his rod. He touched the rock and the rock poured forth a flood of water,1 as the Apostle says, But they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.2 It was not an immovable Rock which followed the people. Drink thou also, that Christ may follow thee. Behold the mystery. Moses, that is to say, a prophet; the rod, that is the word of God. The priest touches the rock with the word of God, and the water flows and the people of God drink. Therefore the priest touches the cup, the water streams in the cup, springs up into eternal life,3 and the people of God drink, who have obtained the grace of God. This then thou hast learned.
4. Hear also another reason. At the time of the Lord’s passion, when a great sabbath was nigh, because our Lord Jesus Christ was alive, or the robbers, men were sent to smite him; coming they found the Lord Jesus Christ dead; then one of the soldiers touched his side with his lance, and from his side water flowed and blood.4 Why water? why blood? Water to cleanse, blood to redeem. Why from his side? Because whence the guilt, thence the grace; guilt through woman, grace through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The blessings of the sacrament illustrated from Canticles.
5. Thou hast come to the altar, the Lord Jesus calls thee or thy soul or the church and says, Let her kiss me with the kisses of her mouth.1 Wouldst thou apply it to Christ? Nothing sweeter. Wouldst thou apply it to thy soul? Nothing pleasanter.
6. Let her kiss me. He sees that thou art clean from all sin because thy sins are purged away. Therefore he judges thee worthy of the heavenly sacrament and therefore he invites thee to a heavenly banquet. Let her kiss me with the kisses of her mouth.
7. Yet on account of what follows it is thy soul or human nature or the Church which, seeing itself cleansed from all sins, and worthy to be able to approach the altar of Christ (for what is the altar but the type of the body of Christ?),2 has seen the wondrous sacraments and says, Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, that is, let Christ imprint a kiss on me.
8. Why? Because thy breasts are better than wine.3 That is, the sensations which thou suppliest are better—thy sacraments are better than wine:—than that wine which, though it hath sweetness, joy, agreeableness, yet therein is worldly joy, while in thee is spiritual pleasure. Even in those days Solomon represents the marriage of Christ and the Church or of the spirit and flesh and soul.
9. And we have further: Thy name is an ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.1 Who are those virgins but the souls of individuals which have put off the old age of this body, being renewed through the Holy Spirit?
10. Draw us; we will run after the fragrance of thy ointments.2 See what he says. Thou canst not follow Christ unless he himself draws thee. Therefore, that thou mayest know this: When I am lifted up, he says, I will draw all unto me.3
11. The king hath brought me into his chamber.4 The Greek text has “into his storehouse5 and into his cellar,” where are good draughts, pleasant savours, sweet honey, divers fruits, varied foods, that thy banquets may be seasoned with numerous dishes.
Further illustrations of the blessings of Communion from Psalm xxiii. and from Canticles.
12. Therefore thou hast come to the altar, thou has received the body of Christ. Hear again what sacraments thou hast obtained. Hear holy David speaking. He too foresaw these mysteries in the spirit and rejoiced and said that he lacked nothing.6 Why? Because he that hath received the body of Christ shall never hunger.7
13. How often hast thou heard the twenty-second Psalm1 and not understood? See how it is suited to the heavenly sacraments. The Lord is my shepherd; and I shall not want. In a green pasture, there hath he made me to lie down. He hath tended me by the water of comfort, he converteth my soul. He hath led me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.2 Rod is rule, staff is passion; that is the eternal Divinity of Christ, but also his passion in the body. The one created, the other redeemed. Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my inebriating cup how glorious it is.3
14. Therefore thou hast come to the altar, thou hast received the grace of Christ, thou hast obtained the heavenly sacraments. The Church rejoices in the redemption of many and is glad with spiritual exultation that her white-robed household stand at her side.4 Thou hast this in the Song of Songs. In joy she calls Christ, having ready a feast which can seem worthy of heavenly banqueting. Therefore she says: Let my brother come down into his garden and take the fruit of his fruit-trees.5 What are his fruit-trees? Thou becamest a dry tree in Adam; but now through the grace of Christ thou hast budded into a fruitful tree.
15. The Lord Jesus willingly accepts and with heavenly condescension answers to his church. I am come down, he says,1into my garden; I have gathered the vintage of myrrh with my ointments. I have eaten my bread with my honey and I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, he says, my brethren, and be drunk.
16. I have gathered the vintage of myrrh with my ointments. What is that vintage? Learn the vine and you shall recognize the vintage. Thou hast brought, he says, a vine out of Egypt,2 that is the people of God. Ye are the vine, ye are the vintage; planted as a vine, as a vintage have ye given fruit. I have gathered the vintage of myrrh with my unguents, that is for the sweet savour which you have received.
17. I have eaten my bread with my honey. Dost thou see that in this bread there is no bitterness, but all is sweetness? I have drunk my wine with my milk. Dost thou see that the joy is of that kind which is not defiled with the stains of any sin? For as often as thou drinkest thou receivest remission of sins and art inebriated with the spirit. Whence also the Apostle says: Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit.3 For he who is drunk with wine staggers and reels: he who is inebriated with the Spirit is rooted in Christ. And therefore it is a glorious inebriation, which works sobriety of mind. This is what we briefly mention with respect to the sacraments.
Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer.
18. Now, what remains save prayer? And think not that it is a matter of little worth, to know how to pray. The holy Apostles said to the Lord Jesus: Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.1 Then the Lord says a prayer, Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily2bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And let us not be led into temptation,3but deliver us from evil. Thou seest how short the prayer is and full of all excellencies! What grace in the first word!
19. O man, thou didst not dare to raise thy face to heaven, thou didst direct thine eyes to the earth, and suddenly thou didst receive the grace of Christ; all thy sins were forgiven. From a bad servant thou becamest a good son. Therefore be bold, not because of thy own action, but because of the grace of Christ. For by grace are ye saved,4 says the Apostle. Therefore there is no arrogance here, but faith; to proclaim what thou hast received is not pride, but devotion. Therefore raise thy eyes to the Father who has begotten thee through the laver, to the Father who has redeemed thee through the Son, and say Our Father. A good boldness5 that, but modest. Thou calledst him “Father” as a son; but do not claim anything specifically for thyself. He is the Father of Christ alone specially, he is Father of us all in common, because he begot him alone, us he created. Therefore say thou also through grace, Our Father, that thou mayest deserve to be a son. Commend thyself by fixing thy looks and regards on the Church.1
20. Our Father, which art in heaven. What is in heaven? Hear the scripture saying: The Lord is high above all heavens. And everywhere thou findest it written that the Lord is above the heaven of heavens,2 as if there were not in heaven angels too, as if there were not in heaven dominations too,3 but in those heavens of which it was said: The heavens declare the glory of God.4 Heaven is there where guilt hath ceased, where crimes keep holiday. Heaven is where there is no stroke of death.
21. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. What is hallowed? Is it as if we desired that he should be hallowed who says: Ye shall be holy, for I am holy,5 as if any hallowing could accrue to him from our prayer? Not at all. But may it be hallowed in us, that its hallowing may reach us.
22. Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come. As if the kingdom of God were not eternal. Jesus himself says: To this end was I born,6 and dost thou say to the Father, Thy kingdom come, as if it had not come? But the kingdom of God then comes, when you have obtained his grace. For he himself says: The kingdom of God is within you.7
23. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. By the blood of Christ all things are set at peace, whether in heaven or on earth.1 Heaven is hallowed, the devil is cast down. The place of his resort is that place,2 where is also the man whom he has deceived. Thy will be done, etc., i. e. let there be peace on earth as in heaven.
24. Give us this day our daily bread. I remember my sermon when I was dealing with the Sacraments.3 I said to you that before the words of Christ that which is offered is called bread: when the words of Christ have been uttered, it is no longer called bread, but is named body. Why then in the Lord’s Prayer, which follows afterwards, does he say: Our bread? He called it bread indeed, but he called it ἐπιούσιον,4 that is supersubstantial. It is not the bread which passes into the body, but that bread of eternal life,5 which supports the substance of our soul. Therefore in Greek it is called ἐπιούσιον. The Latin, however, calls this bread “daily” which the Greeks call “coming.” For the Greeks call the coming day τὴν ἐπιονˆσαν ἡμέραν. Therefore what the Latin and what the Greek text said seem both useful. The Greek indicated both in one expression,1 the Latin said “daily.”
25. If it is daily bread, why dost thou take it once a year,2 as the Greeks in the East are accustomed to do? Take daily what is to profit thee daily. So live that thou mayest deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year; as holy Job offered sacrifice daily for his sons, lest perchance they should have done any sin in heart or word.3 Therefore dost thou hear that as often as sacrifice is offered, the Lord’s death, the Lord’s resurrection, the Lord’s ascension and the remission of sins is signified,4 and dost thou not take this bread of life daily? He who has a wound needs a medicine. The wound is that we are under sin; the medicine is the heavenly and venerable sacrament.
26. Give us this day our daily bread. If thou receivest daily, “this day” is “daily” to thee. If Christ is for thee “this day,” he rises again for thee “daily.” How? Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.1 Therefore “this day” is when Christ rises again. Yesterday and to-day he himself is,2 says the Apostle Paul. But in another place he says, The night is far spent, the day is at hand.3 Yesternight is far spent, the present day is at hand.
27. There follows: Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. What is the debt but sin? Therefore if thou hadst not borrowed money at interest, thou wouldst not now be in want; therefore sin is imputed to thee. Thou hast had money, wherewith thou wast born rich. Thou wast rich, being made in the image and likeness of God.4 Thou hast lost what thou hadst, that is humility; whilst thou desirest to indicate thy pride, thou hast lost money, thou hast become naked as Adam,5 thou hast accepted from the devil a debt which was not necessary. And therefore thou who wast free in Christ hast become a debtor to the devil. The enemy held thy bond, but the Lord crucified it, and blotted it out6 with his blood. He took away thy debt, he restored thy liberty.
28. Well, therefore, does he say: And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. Mark what thou sayest. As I forgive so do thou also forgive me. If thou hast forgiven, thou doest well in suing7 that it be forgiven thee. If thou dost not forgive, how canst thou sue him, that it may be forgiven thee?
29. And let us not be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Mark what he says: And let us not be led into temptation which we cannot endure.8 He doth not say: “Lead us not into temptation,” but as an athlete he wishes such a trial as human nature can bear: that each may be delivered from evil, that is from the foe, from sin.
30. But the Lord who has taken away your sin, and pardoned your faults, is mighty to defend and guard you against the wiles of the devil your adversary, that the foe who is wont to beget guilt may not creep upon you. But he who commits himself to God fears not the devil. For if God is for us, who is against us?1 To him, therefore, be praise and glory from the ages and now, always, and for ever and ever.—Amen.
The reality of the gift of Christ’s flesh and blood in the sacrament is shown and illustrated from John vi.
1. As our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Son of God, not after the manner of men, through grace, but as a son of the essence of his father, so it is true flesh, as he himself said,1 which we receive, and his true blood is our drink.
2. But perchance thou mayest say, what the disciples of Christ also said then when they heard him saying: Unless a man eat my flesh and drink my blood, he shall not dwell in me, nor shall he have eternal life2 —perchance thou mayest say: “How are these things real? I who see the likeness, do not see the reality of blood.”
3. First of all, I told thee of the word of Christ, which acts so that it can change and alter the appointed forms3 of nature. Then when the disciples of Christ endured not his saying, but hearing that he gave his flesh to eat and gave his blood to drink, they turned back; but Peter alone said: Thou hast the words of eternal life, and how shall I withdraw from thee?4 Accordingly, lest others should say this, feeling a shrinking from actual blood, and that yet the grace of redemption might remain, therefore thou receivest the sacrament in a similitude, but truly obtainest the grace and virtue of the nature.1
4. I am, says he, the living bread which came down from heaven.2 But flesh did not come down from heaven, that is to say, he took flesh of the Virgin on earth. How then did bread come down from heaven, and that, too, living bread? Because our Lord Jesus Christ is alike a sharer both in divinity and body. And thou who receivest his flesh partakest of his divine essence in that food.
The sacraments show the operation of the Trinity and the equality of the Three Persons. Refutation of Arian teaching.
5. Therefore thou hast been taught about3 the sacraments, thou hast learnt all things most fully, because thou hast been baptized in the name of the Trinity. In all that we have done the mystery of the Trinity has been preserved. Everywhere Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one operation, one sanctification, though certain things seem to be as it were special.4
6. How? It is God who anointed thee, and the Lord signed thee, and put the Holy Spirit in thy heart.1 Thou hast therefore received the Holy Spirit in thy heart. Hear another truth, that as the Holy Spirit is in the heart, so also is Christ in the heart. How? Thou hast Christ saying this to his Church in the Song of Songs: Set me as a seal in thy heart, as a seal upon thy arms.2
7. Therefore God anointed thee, Christ signed thee. How? Because thou wast signed with the image of the cross itself unto his passion, thou receivedst a seal unto his likeness, that thou mayest rise unto his image, and live after His pattern, who was crucified to sin and liveth to God.3 And thy old man plunged into the font was crucified to sin, but rose again unto God.4
8. Then thou hast elsewhere a special work that, while God called thee, in baptism thou art as it were specially crucified with Christ.5 Then (as an instance of special operation) when thou receivest the spiritual seal, note that there is a distinction of persons, but that the whole mystery of the Trinity is bound up together.
9. Then what said the Apostle to6 thee, as was read the day before yesterday? Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord. There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. All, says he, God worketh. These words, too, were read of the Spirit of God: one and the same Spirit dividing to each as He wills.7 Hearken to the Scripture saying that the Spirit divides according to His own will, not in obedience to others. So then the Spirit divides to you grace as He wills, not as He is bidden, and chiefly so because He is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ. And hold fast this, that He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit the Paraclete.
10. The Arians think that they derogate from the Holy Spirit, if they speak of Him as the Spirit the Paraclete. What does Paraclete mean but consoler? As though we did not read of the Father that He himself is the God of consolation.1 Thou seest then that they think that an attribute, which pious affection proclaims, as showing the power of the eternal Father, must be derogatory to the Holy Spirit.
How and where Christians ought to pray.
11. Now learn how we should pray. Many are the excellences of prayer. Where we should pray is no small matter, no small subject of inquiry. The Apostle says: I desire that men should pray in every place, lifting up pure hands without wrath and disputing.2 And the Lord says in the Gospel: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy father.3 Does not there seem to be a contradiction between the words of the Apostle, Pray in every place, and those of the Lord, Enter into thy chamber and pray? But there is no contradiction. Let us then clear up this point. Then, how thou shouldst begin prayer, under what system order its various parts, what subjoin, what state as petition,1 how close the prayer, then for whom thou shouldst pray—all these we may discuss.
12. First, where thou shouldst pray. Paul seems to say one thing and the Lord another. Was it possible that Paul could teach anything contrary to the precepts of Christ? Surely not. Why? Because he is not the opponent, but the interpreter of Christ. Be ye imitators, he says, of me, as I also of Christ.2 What then? Thou canst pray everywhere, and yet always pray in thy chamber. Everywhere thou hast thy chamber. Though thou be amidst the nations, amidst the Jews, thou hast everywhere thy secret place. Thy mind is thy chamber. Though thou be set in a multitude, yet in the inner man thou possessest thy place of secrecy and retirement.3
13. But thou when thou prayest enter into thy chamber. Well does he say enter; that thou mayest not pray like the Jew, to whom it is said: This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.4 Let not then thy prayer proceed only from thy lips. Let the whole intention of thy mind be fixed, enter into the recess of thy heart, enter it with thy whole self. Let not him, whom thou wishest to please, see thee to be careless.5 Let him see that thou prayest from the heart, that when thou prayest from the heart he may deign to hear thee.
14. But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber. In another place thou hast this too: Go, my people, enter into thy secret places, shut thy door, hide thyself for a little, until the anger of the Lord be overpast.6 This the Lord spake by the prophet, but in the Gospel he said: But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber, and, when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father.
15. What is meant by “shutting the door”? Hear what door thou hast, which thou shouldest shut, when thou prayest. Would that the women would listen to this!1 Thou hast heard it already. Holy David taught thee when he said: Lord, set a guard upon my mouth and a door round about my lips.2 Elsewhere there is the door, which the Apostle Paul speaks of, when he says: That the door of the word may be opened for me, to speak the mystery of Christ.3 That is, when thou prayest, do not shout aloud, nor let thy prayer go forth abroad, nor noise it among the people. In thy privacy pray, sure that he can hear thee in private, who sees all things, hears all things. And pray in secrecy to thy Father, who hears thy secret prayers.
On prayer in secret. Exposition of 1 Tim. ii. 8.
16. But let us ask why this is profitable, why we should rather pray in secrecy, than with loud calling. Hearken. Let us take an example from the usage of men. If thou art asking of a man, who hears quickly, thou dost not think that there is need of loud shouting. Thou askest softly in moderate tones. If thou askest of some deaf person, dost not thou begin to call aloud, that he may be able to hear thee? So then he who clamours thinks that God cannot hear him, unless he clamours. And in asking Him thus he derogates from His power. But he who prays in silence shows his faith, and confesses that God is the searcher of the heart and reins,1 and hears thy prayer before it is uttered by thy lips.
17. Let us then consider this—I would that men should pray in every place.2 Why did he say “men”? Surely prayer is common both to men and women. I find no reason for this, unless indeed the holy Apostle said “men,” lest the women should be too forward and wrongly understand the words in every place and begin to clamour everywhere. Such women we cannot endure in the Church.
18. I would that men, that is those who can observe the precept, should pray in every place, lifting up pure hands. What is meant by lifting up pure hands? Oughtest thou in thy prayer to show forth the cross of the Lord to all and sundry?3 That indeed is a proof of thy piety,4 not of thy modesty. But it is possible for thee to pray, without displaying any outward figure, but lifting up thy actions. If thou wouldst have thy prayer5 effective, lift pure hands by thy innocence. Lift them not every day.6 Thou hast lifted them once for all; there is no need to lift them again.
19. I would that men should pray in every place, lifting up pure hands without wrath and disputing. Nothing can be truer. Wrath, it says, destroys even the wise.7 Therefore at all times, as far as is possible, a Christian man should control his anger, and especially when he comes to prayer. Let not the fierceness of wrath disturb thy mind, let not a kind of fury hinder thy prayer. But rather come with tranquil mind. For why wilt thou be angry? Has thy servant committed a fault? Thou comest to pray that thy faults may be forgiven thee, and thou art indignant with another! That is what is meant by “without wrath.”
On the modesty which women ought to show in prayer. The parts of prayer are illustrated from 1 Tim. ii. 1. Application to the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm viii. Conclusion.
20. Now as to “disputing.” Often a man of business comes to prayer, or a covetous man. One thinks of money, the other1 of gain, one of honour to be won, the other of avarice; and yet he thinks that God can hear him. And therefore when thou prayest, it is right that thou shouldest put divine things before human things.
21. Likewise too I would that the women pray, not flaunting themselves in ornaments or in pearls, says the Apostle Paul.2 The Apostle Peter also says3 : “The influence of a woman availeth much to turn the affections of her husband by the good conversation of his wife, and to convert the unbeliever to the grace of Christ.” Such power has the grave demeanour and chastity of a wife and her good conversation to summon her husband to faith and devotion, and the same is often effected by the words of a wise man. Therefore let a woman’s adornment, he says, not be in decking of the hair or braided locks, but in prayer from a pure heart, where is the hidden man of the heart, which is always rich in the sight of God.1 Thou hast, therefore, wherein thou mayest be rich. In Christ are thy riches, the badges of chastity and purity, faith, devotion, and mercy. These are the treasures of righteousness, as the prophet said.2
22. Next comes the question, what should be the beginning of prayer? Tell me, if you wished to make a request of a man and were to begin thus: “Come, grant me what I seek of thee,” does not this seem an arrogant form of prayer?3 Prayer, therefore, should begin with the praise of God, that thou mayest ask of the almighty God, to whom all things are possible, who has the will to grant. Then follows the supplication, as the Apostle taught us when he said, I beseech, therefore, that first of all prayers, supplications, petitions, giving of thanks be made.4 The first part of the prayer, therefore, ought to contain the praise of God, the second the supplication, the third the petition, the fourth the giving of thanks. Thou shouldest not, like a starveling for food, begin with food, but with the praises of God.
23. Thus it is that your prudent public speakers have this rule that they court the favour of the judge. They begin with his praises, that they may have the goodwill of him who tries the case. Then he gradually begins to beg the judge to deign to listen to him patiently. Thirdly, he dares to put forward his petition, to set forth what he seeks. Fourthly, as he began with the praises of God, so he should end with praise.1
24. Thou findest this in the Lord’s prayer, Our Father, which art in heaven. It is an act of praise to God to declare Him a Father. Therein lies the glory that belongs to fatherly goodness. It is the praise of God, that he dwells in heaven, not on earth. Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. That is, that he should hallow his servants. For his name is hallowed in us, when men are declared to be Christians. So then Hallowed be thy name shows a wish. Thy kingdom come—a petition that the kingdom of Christ be in us. If God reigns in us, the adversary cannot find a place. Guilt does not reign, sin does not reign. But virtue reigns, chastity reigns, devotion reigns. Then: Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. This petition is the chief of those things which are asked. And forgive us, he says, our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. Therefore daily receive,2 that daily thou mayest ask forgiveness for thy debt. And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil. What follows? Hearken what the priest says: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom, with whom, there is to thee honour, praise, glory, majesty, power, with the Holy Spirit, from all ages, both now and always and for ever and ever.—Amen.”3
25. Another example. Though the Psalms of David are one book, possessing the excellences of prayer, which we have mentioned above, yet often too in a single psalm we find represented all these parts of prayer, as we see in the eighth psalm. Thus he begins as follows: O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is thy name in all the earth.1 So then we have the first part of the prayer.2 Then the supplication. For I shall behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers, that is, I shall behold the heavens, the moon and the stars which thou hast founded. He surely does not mean, I shall see the sky, but I shall see the heavens, in which celestial grace and splendour begin to shine. These heavens then the prophet promised should be given to him, since he deserved3 celestial grace from the Lord. The moon and the stars which thou hast founded. He calls the Church the moon, and the saints shining with celestial grace he calls the stars.4 Then observe his petition: What is man that thou are mindful of him, or theson of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and hast set him over the works of thy hands. Then there is another thanksgiving: Thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field.1
26. We have taught, so far as we could grasp them, truths which perhaps we have not learned, and we have set them forth as far as we were able. May your holiness,2 informed by priestly training, labour to hold fast what it has received from God. And may that oblation, like a pure victim, always find in you its seal, that you yourselves may be able to attain to grace and the rewards of virtue by our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is glory, honour, praise, everlastingness, from the ages, and now, and always, and for ever and ever.—Amen.
Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, brunswick st., stamford st., s.e. 1, and bungay, suffolk.
TRANSLATIONS OF CHRISTIAN LITERATURE
A NUMBER of translations from the Fathers have already been published by the S.P.C.K. under the title “Early Church Classics.” It is now proposed to enlarge this series to include texts which are neither “early” nor necessarily “classics.” The divisions at present proposed are given below. Volumes belonging to the original series are marked with an asterisk.
*The Epistle of St. Clement, Bishop of Rome. By the Rt. Rev. J. A. F. Gregg, D.D. 1s. 3d.
*Clement of Alexandria: Who is the Rich Man that is being saved? By P. M. Barnard, B.D. 1s. 3d.
*St. Chrysostom: On the Priesthood. By T. A. Moxon. 2s.
*The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles. By C. Bigg, D.D. 1s. 3d.
*The Epistle to Diognetus. By the Rt. Rev. L. B. Radford, D.D. 1s. 6d.
St. Dionysius of Alexandria. By C. L. Feltoe, D.D. 3s. 6d.
Dionysius the Areopagite: The Mystical Theology and The Divine Names. By C. E. Rolt.
*The Epistle of the Gallican Churches: Lugdunum and Vienna. With an Appendix containing Tertullian’s Address to Martyrs and the Passion of St. Perpetua. By T. H. Bindley, D.D. 1s. 3d.
*St. Gregory of Nyssa: The Catechetical Oration. By the Ven. J. H. Srawley, D.D. 2s.
*St. Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of St. Macrina. By W. K. Lowther Clarke, B.D. 1s. 3d.
*Gregory Thaumaturgus (Origen the Teacher): the Address of Gregory to Origen, with Origen’s Letter to Gregory. By W. Metcalfe, B.D. 1s. 6d.
*The Shepherd of Hermas. By C. Taylor, D.D. 2 vols. 2s. each.
*The Epistles of St. Ignatius. By the Ven. J. H. Srawley, D.D. 2 vols. 1s. 3d. each.
*St. Irenaeus: Against the Heresies. By F. R. M. Hitchcock, D.D. 2 vols. 2s. each.
Macarius Magnes: The Apocriticus. By T. W. Crafer, D.D.
Palladius: The Lausiac History. By W. K. Lowther Clarke, B.D. 5s.
*St. Polycarp. By B. Jackson. 1s. 3d.
*St. Augustine: The City of God. By F. R. M. Hitchcock, D.D. 1s. 6d.
*St. Cyprian: The Lord’s Prayer. By T. H. Bindley, D.D. 1s. 6d.
Minucius Felix: The Octavius. By J. H. Freese. 3s. 6d.
*Tertullian: On the Testimony of the Soul and On the Prescription of Heretics. By T. H. Bindley, D.D. 2s.
On Prayer, and On Baptism. By A. Souter, D.Litt.
*St. Vincent of Lerins: The Commonitory. By T. H. Bindley, D.D. 2s.