1. I propose, if I am able, dearest brethren, to go briefly through the text
of the Gospel lesson, so that I may then be free to speak more at length.
But let us first see whether this account, which is from Matthew, is the
same as that given in Luke under the name of Supper (Lk.
xiv. 16)? There are no doubt certain things in which they seem to disagree:
for here a dinner is spoken of, there a supper. Here, he who came to the
wedding in unfitting garments was cast out, there we do not read that anyone
who entered was cast out. And from this we may rightly gather, that in
this account the wedding is a figure of the present Church, and that in
the other the supper is a figure of the final and eternal Banquet: for
into the former many enter who will go forth again, while he who once enters
the latter shall never more leave it.
And should someone say that this is the same lesson as that of Luke,
I think it is better, subject to the claims of faith, to give way to another’s
opinion than give time to discussion; since we may well believe that Matthew
speaks of the one cast forth who came without a nuptial garment, while
Luke is silent about him. That one speaks of a dinner, the God the Son,
when He joined Him to human nature in the womb of the Virgin, when He willed
that He Who was God before all ages should at the end of ages become man.
But because this union is wont to be made from two persons, far be it from
our minds to believe that the Person of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, God
and man, became one from two persons. We do indeed confess that He has
existence in and from two natures; but we shun as evil the belief that
He is made up from two persons. We can therefore clearly and securely maintain
that the Father made a marriage for the King His Son in this, that through
the mystery of the Incarnation He joined Him to the Holy Church. And the
womb of the Virgin Mother was the bridal chamber of This Spouse. And because
of this the Psalmist says: He hath set his tabernacle in the sun: and he,
as a bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber (Ps. xviii. 6). As a Bridegroom
He came forth from His bridal chamber: for God Incarnate came forth from
the immaculate womb of the Virgin to unite the Church to Himself.
He therefore sends His servants to invite His friends to these nuptials.
He sent once. He sent again: for He first made the Prophets and then afterwards
the Apostles, the preachers of the Lord’s Incarnation. He therefore twice
sent His servants to invite: by the Prophets he said that the Incarnation
of His Only-begotten was to come; by the Apostles He announced that this
had come to pass. But because they who were first invited to the wedding
feast would not come, in the second invitation He now says: Behold, I have
other of a supper does not in any way conflict with our understanding of
the lesson; since in former times the dinner was at the ninth hour, and
dinner was also called supper.
2. I recall that I have frequently said that in the holy Gospel the
present Church is often spoken of as the kingdom of heaven. Because the
assembly of the Just is called the kingdom of heaven. And since the Lord
says through the prophet: Heaven in my throne (Is. lxvi. 1); and Solomon
says: The soul of the just is the seat of wisdom (Wis. vii. 27); and since
Paul also says: Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (I Cor.
i. 24), we may therefore clearly gather that if God is wisdom, the soul
of the just a seat of wisdom; and, since it is said that Heaven is God’s
throne, the soul of the just is therefore heaven. This is the reason the
Psalmist says of the holy preachers of the Gospel: The heavens show forth
the glory of God (Ps. xviii. 2). The Church of the Just therefore is the
kingdom of heaven: for since their hearts long for nothing on this earth,
desiring only the things of heaven, the Lord as it were already reigns
in them as He reigns in heaven. It is because of this He says that: The
kingdom of heaven is likened to a man, a king, who made a marriage for
3. Your Charity already understands who this king is, the Father of
the Son King. He to whom the Psalmist says: Give to the king thy judgement,
O God: and to the king’s son thy justice (Ps. lxxi. 2). He it is who made
a marriage for his son. For God the Father made a marriage for prepared
my dinner; my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready.
4. What are we to understand by beeves and fatlings, dearest brethren,
if not the Fathers of the Old and New Testaments? For since I am speaking
to all the people it is necessary for me to explain also the words of the
Gospel lesson. Fatlings mean fattened beasts; the word fatling coming from
the verb to fatten. And since it was written in the Law, that: Thou shalt
love thy neighbour and hate thy enemy (Matt. v. 43; Lev. xix. i8), it was
then lawful for the Just to crush with all their might the enemies of God
and of themselves and smite them with the sword. In the New Testament this
beyond all doubt came to an end, when Truth Itself proclaimed in His own
words: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you (v. 44). Of whom
then are the beeves a figure, but of the Fathers of the Old Testament,
who when by the permission of the Law they struck their enemies with the
retaliation of hate, what were they, if I may speak so, but as the oxen
which gore their enemies by the strength of their horns? And what do fatlings
stand for if not the Fathers of the New Testament, who, receiving the graces
of inward enrichment, and fighting against earthly desires, are borne upwards
towards heavenly things on the wings of spiritual contemplation? For to
give our thoughts to this world here below, what is this but a certain
aridity of mind? But they who by their understanding of heavenly things
are in their holy desires fed from on high with the food of innermost delight,
now grow fat as it were because of this more abundant nourishment. It was
on this richness the Prophet longed to be fattened, when he said: Let my
soul be filled with marrow and fatness (Ps. lxii.6).
But since the messengers who were sent as preachers of the Lord’s Incarnation,
the Prophets first, and afterwards the Holy Apostles, suffered persecution
from the unbelieving, He therefore says to those who were invited and would
not come: My beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready.
As though to say more openly: ‘Reflect upon the deaths of the Fathers who
went before you, and give thought to the dangers that threaten your own
lives.’ Note that in the first invitation nothing is said of beeves and
fatlings, but in the second we are told that the beeves and fatlings are
now killed: for Almighty God, when we will not learn from His words, will
add examples, that we may more readily hope in all that we now believe
impossible, when we learn of others who have already passed this way.
5. Then follows: But they neglected and went their ways, one to his
farm and another to his merchandise. To go to his farm, is for a man to
give himself beyond due measure to earthly labour. To go to his merchandise
is to long for the gains of worldly pursuits. For he who is now intent
on earthly labour, now given to the pursuits of this world, yet pretends
to ponder the mystery of the Incarnation and to live according to it, going
as it were to his farm or to his merchandise, refuses to come to the wedding
of the king. And very often, and this is more grievous, some will not alone
refuse the grace of the one calling them, but will even persecute him.
Because of this there follows: The rest laid hands on his servants, and
having treated them contumeliously, put them to death. But, when the king
had heard of it, he was angry; and sending his armies, he destroyed those
murderers and burnt their city.
He destroyed the murderers, in that He put the persecutors to death.
He burnt their city: for not alone their souls, but also the flesh in which
they dwelt is tormented in the eternal fire of gehenna. Sending His armies
He is said to destroy the murderers: for every judgement against men is
carried out by angels. For what are the angelic hosts but the armies of
our King? Because of this the same king is also called Lord of Sabaoth.
Sabaoth is interpreted to mean Lord of hosts. He therefore sends His armies
to destroy these adversaries; for the Lord does indeed execute vengeance
by means of His angels. Our Fathers of old learned the might of His vengeance;
and we have seen it. For where now are the proud persecutors of the martyrs?
Where are they who in the pride of their hearts were uplifted against their
Creator, and swelled with the death-bringing glory of this world? Lo, the
death of the martyrs now flowers in the faith of the living, and they who
gloried in cruelty against them are unremembered, even among the number
of the dead. We have therefore learned from history what we are now hearing
in the parable.
6. But He Who sees His invitations despised will not have the marriage
of His Son empty. He sends word to others: for though the word of God labours
with some, yet in time it will come to where it will find rest. And so
there is added: Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready;
but they that were invited were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways;
and as many as you shalifind, call to the marriage. If in Holy Scripture
we understand ways for deeds, then by the openings of the ways (exitus
viarum) we must understand the failure of men’s deeds: for they for the
most part come more readily to God who have not prospered in their earthly
undertakings. Then follows: And his servants, going forth into the ways,
gathered together all that they found, both bad and good; and the marriage
was filled with guests.
7. We are now clearly shown from the condition of the guests that these
nuptials of the king signify the present Church, in which the bad sit down
together with the good. And the diversity of her children has been mingled:
for so she brings all men to the faith, yet she does not, because of the
pressure of evil, lead all men through amendment of life to the grace of
spiritual freedom. As long as we live here below, we must travel the way
of this world together. But when we reach the world beyond, there we shall
be separated one from the other. For nowhere are there truly good only,
save in heaven; and nowhere are there evil only, save in hell. And so this
life which lies between heaven and hell, as though it stood between them,
receives subjects from both sides; whom however Holy Church now receives
without distinction, but will afterwards separate at their going forth.
If you are good, therefore, as long as you are in this life, suffer
the bad in patience. For whoever does not bear with the bad, bears witness
against himself that he is not good. For he refuses to be Abel, who will
not bear patiently the malice of Cain. So on the threshing floor the grain
is buried in the chaff. So do flowers grow among thorns; and on the rose
that perfumes grows a thorn that stings. The first man had two sons; one
was chosen, the other rejected (Gen. iv). Noah brought three sons into
the Ark, of whom two were chosen, and one was rejected (Gen. xxvii). Abraham
had two sons; one was chosen, the other condemned (Gen. xxi). Isaac had
two sons; one was chosen, the other condemned (Gen. xxvii). Jacob had twelve
sons. Of these one was sold because of his uprightness; the rest in their
malice were the sellers of their brother. Twelve Apostles were chosen;
but one was mingled with them to prove him, eleven to be approved (Jn.
vi. 71). Seven deacons were ordained by the Apostles (Acts vi. s); and
while six persevered in true faith, one was the author of error (Apoc.
In this Church therefore there can be neither bad without good, nor
good without bad. And so, dearest brethren, recall to mind the times (of
the martyrs) now passed, and arm yourselves to bear with the bad in patience.
For if we are their children, we must walk in the way they went. For he
is not good who will not suffer the wicked in patience. Because of this
the blessed job says of himself: I was the brother of dragons, and companion
of ostriches (Job xxx. 29). Because of this Solomon speaking in the voice
of the Bridegroom says to Holy Church: As the lily among thorns, so is
my love among the daughters (Cant. ii. 2). Because of this the Lord said
to Ezechiel: O son of man, thou art among unbelievers and destroyers, and
thou dwellest with scorpions (Ezech. ii. 6). For this Peter glorifies the
life of the blessed Lot, saying: He delivered just Lot, op pressed by the
injustice and lewd conversation of the wicked; for in sight and hearing,
he was just, dwelling among them who from day to day vexed the just soul
with unjust works (II Peter ii. 7, 8). Because of this Paul com-mends and
confirms the lives of the disciples: In the midst of a crooked and perverse
generation; among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding forth
the word of ljfe (Phil. ii. 15). And for this John bears witness to the
Church at Pergamus: I know where thou dwellest, where the seat of Satan
is. And thou holdest fast my name and host not denied my faith (Apoc. ii.
Here then, dearest brethren, going briefly through nearly all of them,
we learn that he was not a good man who would not bear in patience the
perverseness of the bad. For, if I may say so, the iron of our soul will
not come to fineness of understanding, so long as it has not been burnished
by the file of another’s perversity.
8. And it should not frighten you that in the Church the bad are many
and the good few. For the Ark, which in the midst of the Flood was a figure
of this Church, was wide below and narrow above, and at the summit measured
but one cubit (Gen. vi. 16). And we are to believe that below were the
four-footed animals and serpents, above the birds and men. It was wide
where the beasts were, narrow where men lived: for the Holy Church is indeed
wide in the number of those who are carnal minded, narrow in those who
are spiritual. For where she suffers the morals and beastly ways of men,
there she enlarges her bosom. But where she has the care of those whose
lives are founded on spiritual things, these she leads to the higher place;
but since they are few, this part is narrow. Wide indeed is the gate and
broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; and many there are who go
in thereat. How narrow is the gate that leadeth to life; and few there
are that find it (Mt. VU. 13)!
The Ark is made narrow at the summit, so that it is but one cubit wide:
because, of those in the Church, the holier they are, the fewer they are.
She reaches her highest perfection in Him Who alone among men was born
Holy, and there is none to be compared with Him. He Who, in the words of
the Psalmist, has become as a sparrow all alone on the housetop (Ps. ci.
8). And so the more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer
them in patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried
into the barns, but high the piles of chaff that are burned with fire.
9. Since you have now through the grace and bounty of the Lord entered
the house of His nuptials, that is, the Holy Church, watch carefully, brethren,
so that the King when He comes in may not rebuke you for something on the
garment of your soul. For with fear and trepidation are we to reflect on
the words that now follow. And the king went in to see the guests; and
he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.
What, dearest brethren, are we to think He means by a wedding garment?
If we say it is baptism or faith, who is there that has entered these nuptials
without baptism or without faith? For whosoever is outside, it is because
he has not yet believed. What then are we to understand by the wedding
garment, if not charity? For whoever in the Church possesses faith, but
has not charity, comes in to the wedding, but does not come in with a wedding
garment. Rightly is charity called a wedding garment; for our Creator wore
this upon Him when He came to the marriage of Himself with the Church.
It was solely through the charity of God that His Only-Begotten joined
to Himself the souls of the chosen among men. It was because of this that
John says: For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten son
for us (Jn. iii. i6).
He therefore Who came to men because of charity, has made known to us
that charity is the wedding garment. And each one of you who through believing
is now within the Church, has already come to the wedding. But he comes
without a wedding garment who does not safeguard within him the grace of
charity. And we know well, brethren, that if anyone were invited to an
earthly marriage, he would change his garments, and try to show by the
suitability of his dress that he shared in the joy of the bride and bridegroom;
and he would be ashamed to be seen in soiled garments among the guests
rejoicing and celebrating there. We have come to the nuptials of God, and
we do not trouble to change the garment of our soul. There is joy among
the angels at the coming of the Elect to heaven. With what mind do we look
upon these spiritual nuptials who have not the wedding garment, namely,
charity, which alone makes us pleasing to God?
10. We should know that just as a garment is woven between two beams,
an upper, namely, and a lower, so charity is made from two precepts; namely
the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. For it is written: Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul
and with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself (Mk. xii. 30).
And here let us note that the measure of our love for our neighbour is
laid down for us: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: While there
is no measure given for the love of God, when we are told that: Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and
with all thy strength. For no one is told how much he must love, but from
how much, where it says: With thy whole heart (Ex toto); for he truly loves
God who leaves nothing of himself for himself.
Therefore, if we desire to have a wedding garment at the marriage, we
must keep these two precepts of charity. It is for this we read in the
prophet Isaias that the porch of the gate of the city built upon a mountain
measured two cubits;” for the approach to the heavenly city is not opened
to us, if while we are in this Church (which since it is still without
outside, is called the porch), if we do not fulfil the love of God and
of our neighbour. Because of this was it commanded, that the curtains of
the Tabernacle of the Temple should be woven of scarlet linen, twice dyed
(Exod. xxvi. 1). You, dearest brethren, you are the curtains of the Tabernacle
who by your faith veil within your hearts the secrets of heaven. But the
curtains of the tabernacle must be twice dyed. This dye has the appearance
of fire. And what is charity if not fire? And this charity must be twice
dyed: once with the love of God, and once with the love of our neighbour.
For he who so loves God that through contemplation of Him he neglects his
neighbour, is indeed dyed, but not twice dyed. And again, he who so loves
his neighbour that through love of him he puts aside the contemplation
of God, is dyed, but he is not twice dyed.
That your charity therefore may be twice dyed, let it enkindle within
it both the love of God, and the love of our neighbour; in that it shall
not, out of compassion for our neighbour, forsake the contemplation of
God, nor cleaving more than it ought to the contemplation of God, throw
from it compassion for its neighbour. Every man therefore who lives among
men, let him long after Him Whom his soul desires, yet so that he does
not abandon him with whom he runs; but let him so help his neighbour, that
the love of Him to Whom he runs, may not grow cold.’
11. We must also understand, that this love of our neighbour is divided
into two precepts; since a certain wise man says: See that thou never do
to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another (Tob.
iv. 16). And the Truth Itself, in His own words, proclaims: Whatsoever
you would that men should do to you, do you also to them (Mt. vii. 12).
For if we do to others that which we justly wish that they would do to
us, and keep from doing to others that which we wish others would not do
to us, we shall then have preserved intact the claims of charity. But let
no one, when he loves someone, think to himself that he now begins to possess
charity, until he has first examined the motives of his love. For if one
loves another, but does not love him for God’s sake, he has not charity,
but thinks he has. But when we love our friend in God, and our enemy because
of God, this is true charity. He loves for God’s sake, who loves those
whom he knows do not love him. Charity is proved true solely by means of
its opposite: hate. And so because of this the Lord Himself says to us:
Love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you (Lk. vi. 27).
He then loves securely, who for God’s sake loves him by whom he knows
he is not loved. These are great precepts, sublime precepts, and to many
hard to fulfil: nevertheless this is the wedding garment. And whoever sits
down at the wedding without it, let him watch in fear, for when the king
comes in, he shall be cast forth. For here we are told: The king went in
to see the guests; and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.
We, dearest brethren; we are the guests sitting at the nuptials of the
Word, we who through faith have already entered the Church, we who eat
of the food of the sacred Scriptures, we who rejoice that the Church is
united with God. Consider carefully, I beseech you, whether you have come
to these nuptials wearing a wedding garment; look with searching an-xiety
into your thoughts. Examine your hearts on each single thing: To see that
there is now no hate there against anyone, that you do not burn with the
flame of envy of another’s happiness, that you are not striving with hidden
malice to injure anyone.
12. Now the King comes into the marriage, and looks at the garment of
our heart, and He finds one not clothed in charity, and forthwith He is
angry and says: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding
garment? We wonder greatly, dearest brethren, that He should call him friend,
and yet rebuke him; as though He said very plainly: ‘Friend, yet not a
friend; friend through faith, yet not a friend in deed.’ But he was silent.
For in the dread severity of that final Judgement, of which we can scarce
speak without tears, all making of excuses is at an end; for He outwardly
rebukes us, Who, as the voice of conscience, inwardly accuses the soul.
But besides these things we must know, that whoever possesses this garment
of virtue, but does not yet possess it to perfection, should not despair
of pardon at the coming of the merciful King; for He Himself gives us hope
through the voice of the Psalmist, saying: Thy eyes did see my imperfect
being, and in thy book all shall be written (Ps. cxxxvi. 16). Since we
have spoken these few words to console the one who has this garment, but
who is still weak, we shall now address our words to him who is wholly
without it. Then follows:
13. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and
cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing
of teeth. Then through this dread sentence, their hands and feet are bound
who now will not restrain them from evil deeds, through amendment of life.
For then chastisement shall bind those whom sin now restrains from doing
good. For the feet that cared not to visit the sick, the hands that gave
nothing to those in need, are now through their own fault no longer free
to do what is good. Those therefore who now of their own free will are
bound fast in sin, shall then against their will be bound fast in torment.
Rightly is it said that he shall be cast into exterior darkness. For
we call blindness of heart, interior darkness; exterior darkness, the eternal
night of damnation. Each one therefore who is damned, is cast, not into
interior, but into exterior darkness: for there against his will he shall
be cast forth into the night of damnation who here of his own will has
fallen into blindness of heart; where, we are told, there shall also be
weeping and gnashing of teeth: so that there teeth shall gnash which here
delighted in gluttony, there eyes shall weep which here turned hither and
thither in wanton desire. For each single member shall suffer punishment
for the sins for which they were used in this life.
14. And when this one has been cast forth, in whom manifestly the whole
body of the wicked is set before us, straightaway He adds a general sentence,
which says: For many are called, but few are chosen. Dearest brethren,
we should fear with a great fear the words we have just now heard. All
we here present, already called through faith, have come to the marriage
of the Heavenly King. We believe and confess the mystery of His Incarnation,
and we partake of the banquet of the Divine Word. But in a day to come
the King of judgement will enter in among us. That we are called, we know;
that we are chosen, we do not know. And so the more each one of us knows
not whether he is chosen, so much the more do we need to humble ourselves
in humility. There are, we know, those who do not even begin to do good;
and some who do not remain constant in the good works they begin. Another
is seen to pass almost his whole life in evil-doing, but close to the end
he is drawn back from wickedness through tears of earnest repentance. Another
seems to lead the life of one of the elect, and yet it happens that at
the end of his life he will turn aside to the wickedness of heresy. Another
begins well, and ends even better; while another, from his first years,
gives himself to every evil, and growing ever worse than himself is destroyed
in the midst of these very evils. In the measure therefore that each one
knows not what is yet to come, in that measure should he live in fear and
anxiety for himself before God:
for, and let us say it over and over again, and let us never forget
it, many are called, but few are chosen.
15. But since sometimes the minds of those who listen are converted
more by the example of the faithful than by the words of their teachers,
I must tell you of something which lately happened; and which will cause
your hearts to fear, the more the closely it speaks to them. For we are
not speaking of things of long ago, but of events of which witnesses still
live, who declare that they were present at what we shall now relate to
My father had three sisters, who were all three consecrated virgins.
Of these, one was called Tarsilla, another Gordiana, and the third Emiliana.
All were converted by the same love, and all three were consecrated at
one and the same time; living under the same austere rule, and leading
a common life in their own house. And having continued a long time in the
same manner of life, Tarsilla and Emiliana began through daily increase
in virtue to grow in love for their Creator, and, while present solely
in the body, to turn daily more towards eternal things. On the other hand,
the spirit of Gordiana began day by day to fail in the warmth of its love,
and began little by little to return to the love of this world. Often Tarsilla
would say sorrowfully to her sister Emiliana: ‘I see that our sister Gordiana
is not of our mind. I think she is drifting away from us; and that she
has not her heart in her vocation.’ And so they would chide her gently;
seeking with mild correction to bring her back from her new lightness of
manner to her former way of life. And in the middle of their words of correction,
she would of a sudden resume her former serious manner. But within an hour,
this seriousness would leave her, and soon she would again resume her new
levity of speech and manner. She took much pleasure in the company of lay
girls, and soon it became difficult for her to put up with anyone who was
not given over to this world.
On a certain night, Felix, my ancestor, admirable for age and glory
(a Mac. xv. 13), and a former bishop of this Roman Church, appeared, in
a vision as she afterwards related, to Tarsilla, my aunt, who among her
sisters had advanced furthest in seriousness of life, and in repute and
height of sanctity by virtue of her continuous prayer and her extraordinary
abstinence, He showed her the perpetual glory of the home of the blessed,
saying to her: ‘Come, for I shall receive thee in this mansion of light.’
Soon after she was taken ill of a fever, and in a little while came to
her last day. And as many people come to noble men and women when they
are dying, to comfort their neighbours, so at the very hour of her death
many men and women stood about her, among whom also was my mother, when
suddenly looking upwards the dying woman saw Jesus coming, and began to
cry out with great anxiety to those standing around her: ‘Stand back, stand
back, Jesus is coming.’ And as she stretched towards Him Whom she beheld,
that holy soul was separated from her body. And then of a sudden an odour
of such wondrous sweetness spread about, as though this sweetness also
would show them that the Author of all sweetness had come there.
And when, as is the custom with the dead, her body was unclothed to
be washed, it was found that the skin on her knees and elbows had from
prolonged and continuous prayer become hard like that of a camel; so that
her body bore witness to what her loving spirit had urged it without ceasing.
And this took place on the day before the Lord’s Birth. And very soon after
this she appeared to her sister, Emiliana, in a vision of the night, and
said to her: ‘Come, for as I passed the Lord’s Day of Birth without thee,
I shall pass the holy day of His Manifestation (Epiphany) with thee.’ Emiliana,
ever anxious for the salvation of her sister Gordiana, at once answered:
‘And if I come alone, to whom shall I entrust our sister Gordiana?’ To
which with a sorrowful countenance she replied, as was afterwards related:
‘Come, for Gordiana our sister is now numbered among those who belong to
the world.’ This vision to Emiliana was soon followed by an affliction
of body, and, just as had been foretold, her sickness growing rapidly worse,
she died on the day before the Lord’s Manifestation. Gordiana, as soon
as she found herself alone, increased her worldliness of life, and later
did in deed what she had before desired in thought. For forgetful of her
fear of the Lord, forgetful of shame and of reverence, forgetful of her
dedication to God, she later married the steward of her lands.
See how in the beginning all three were converted by the same eager
love, but they did not persevere with one and the same earnestness of heart;
for, as our Lord here tells us: Many are called, but few are chosen. I
have related these things to you for this reason; so that no one among
you who has already given himself to a good work, may attribute to himself
the virtue of his good work, and so that no one may rest confident in his
works; for if he knows what he is today, he does not know what he may be
tomorrow. Let no one therefore rejoice as safe in his good works; for as
long as he is in this uncertain life, he knows not what his end will be.
But as I have told you something that may have caused you fear from its
divine severity, I shall relate to you another happening, from near at
hand, which will console your hearts because of its divine mercy; and I
remember having already related this happening in another sermon, but you
were not present at it.
16. About two years ago a certain brother came to my monastery, which
stands close to the church of the blessed martyrs John and Paul, to enter
the monastic life. He was, according to the rule, deferred, but was in
time received. His brother followed him into the monastery; not out of
desire for the monastic life, but because of earthly affection. He who
had joined the monastic life greatly pleased the brethren. But his brother
however was very different from him; in his life and character. He lived
in the monastery of neces-sity rather than inclination. And when he revealed
himself as de-praved in his whole conduct, he was endured patiently by
all for the sake of his brother. He was frivolous in speech, evil in action,
careful as to his dress, but disordered in his conduct. He could not endure
that anyone should speak to him of the life of the holy habit. His life
became a burden in the sight of all the brethren; but nevertheless, as
I said, for the sake of his brother he was suffered by all. Should anyone
say anything to correct him, he spurned them. He was unable not only to
do good, but to listen to good. He swore, angry and mocking, declaring
that never would he take the habit of our holy way of life.
But in the midst of the pestilence which lately consumed a great part
of the people of the city, he too was struck in the groin, and soon died.
And as his end came near, the brethren assembled around him, that they
might help him by prayer at his going forth. His body was already dead
at its extremities; only in his breast did the vital heat remain. And as
they saw he was about to die, the brethren began to pray the more earnestly
for him, Of a sudden he began to cry out as loud as he could to the brethren
standing by, interrupting them in their prayer; exclaiming: ‘Keep away,
keep away. I am given over to the Beast to be devoured; and because of
your presence he cannot devour me. He holds my head in his jaws. Go away,
that he may not torment me longer; let him do what he wants to do. If he
is to devour me, why must I be delayed because of you?’
The brethren then began to say to him: ‘What are you speaking of? Make
the sign of the Cross on yourself.’ He answered as best he could: ‘I want
to bless myself; but I am unable; I am pinned down by the Beast.’ And when
the brothers heard this, prostrate upon the ground, they began with tears
to beg ever more earnestly for his deliverance. And lo, of a sudden the
sick man became better, and began to cry out with what voice was left to
him, and to say: ‘Thanks be to God; the Beast who had seized me to devour
me has fled; he could not remain, being driven away by your prayers. Pray
now for me; for forgiveness of my sins; for I am ready to be converted,
and to wholly forsake the life of the world.’
This man then who, as I said, was already dead in his extremities, but
yet still lived, was converted with his whole heart to God. And in this
state of conversion he was chastised by prolonged and unceasing pain, and,
his weakness of body increasing, after a few days he died. And dying he
did not now sec the Beast; for he had defeated him through his own change
of heart. See now, my brethren, how Gordiana, of whom I spoke earlier,
fell from the perfection of her holy habit to punishment, while this brother
of whom I have told you turned back at the moment of death, to life eternal.
No one therefore knows what is laid down for him in the hidden judgements
of God; because many are called, but few are chosen. And because there
is no one who is certain that he is chosen, then let all be in fear, let
all be concerned for their deeds, let all rejoice in the divine mercy,
and let no one presume on his own merits and good works. There is One Who
shall crown our hope in Him, He namely Who deigned to take our nature upon
Himself: Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and
reigneth God, world without end. Amen.