Saint Matthew - Chapter XVI
Concerning the Excellence and Majesty of the four gospels over the other books of Sacred Scripture Proved from Parallels between the law and the gospels
I proceed from the Old Testament to the New, from Solomon to Christ, as from a rivulet to a fountain: from Proverbs to gospels, as from a river to the ocean of wisdom. Speaking of the gospels, I would place a crown upon the scriptures of the New Testament.
The dignity, usefulness, and majesty of sacred scripture are so great that it surpasses the books of all philosophers and theologians, among both the Hebrews and the Greek and Latin authors, as much as divine wisdom surpasses all human wisdom. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God. It is the very utterance and speech of God, by means of which God enunciates His wisdom to us, and shows us the way to virtue, salvation, and eternal happiness. Wherefore S. Augustine asks (epist. 3 ad Volusianum), “What mind, desirous of eternity and moved by the inconstancy of the present life, shall strive against it, which is the summit and the light of divine authority? What treatises, what writings of any of the philosophers, what laws of any cities can be compared in any way to the two precepts upon which Christ makes the whole law and the prophets depend: Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself?” Then he asserts that sacred scripture is an encyclopedia of all the sciences. “Here is Natural Philosophy, because all the causes of all creatures are in God, the creator. Here is Ethics [Moral Philosophy], because formation for a good and honest life is provided solely by loving those things which should be loved in the manner in which they ought to be loved: that is, God and our neighbor. Here is Logic, because God alone is the truth and the light of the rational soul. Here is even a praiseworthy Political Science, for a really flourishing state can neither be founded nor preserved except upon the foundation, and by the bond of faith, and firm concord, when the common good is loved: that is to say, when God, the greatest and truest Good, is loved above all things; and men sincerely love one another in Him, when they love each other for His sake, from whom they cannot conceal what animates their love.” After an interval he adds, “By the scriptures depraved minds are corrected, little minds are wholesomely nourished, great minds are delighted. The only soul hostile to this doctrine is the one that either, being in error, does not recognize its salutary qualities or, being sick, dislikes its medicine.”
Sacred scripture is the art of arts, the science of sciences: it is the Pandora and the encyclopedia of wisdom. In our own time, S. Teresa, a virgin endowed with the spirit of prophecy, and renowned throughout all Spain for both the sanctity of her life and the glory of her miracles, was taught by God that all the troubles of the Church, all the evils in the world, flow from this source: that men do not, by clear and sound knowledge, and serious consideration, penetrate into the truths of sacred scripture. See the biography of her by Fr. Franciscus Ribera, a noble interpreter of sacred scripture. For, as S. Basil says (hom. in Psal. 1), “holy scripture is the universal medicine chest for the cure of souls. From it every one may select the remedy which is salutary and appropriate for his own disease.” It is therefore an extremely well-stocked apothecary which supplies drugs, weapons, and instruments for every time, place, and person, for all difficulties, dangers, and illnesses, for repelling evils and bringing benefits, for cutting off errors and establishing orthodox dogmas, for sowing virtues and expelling vices. Thus it was that amidst the agonies of the martyrs, the Church drew from holy scripture constancy and fortitude; in the age of the doctors, aptitude both to learn and teach, the illumination of wisdom, and streams of eloquence; in times of heresy, firm foundations for the Faith, whereby errors were overthrown, in prosperity she learns from holy scripture humility and modesty, in adversity—greatness of soul, in tepidity—diligence and fervor. Lastly, if at any time with the passage of years the Church be deformed by the wrinkles of old age, by spots, or blemishes, it is from the scriptures that she derives correction of morals and a return to her primitive dignity and state of virtue.
Now, “of all the divine truths contained in sacred scriptures, the gospel is the most excellent,” says S. Augustine (lib. 1 de Consensu Evangelist. cap. 1). “For that which the law and the prophets foretold was to be, is shown in the gospel as something restored and accomplished.” Hence prophecy is the gospel veiled, while the gospel is prophecy unveiled. Hear S. Ambrose (lib. 5 Hexaem. cap. 7): “It is the gospel by which the martyr ascends to heaven. The gospel is the sea in which the Apostles fish, wherein the net is cast to which the kingdom of heaven is likened. The gospel is the sea in which the mysteries of Christ are prefigured. The gospel is the sea in which the Hebrew escaped and the Egyptian was drowned. The gospel is the sea, wherein is the fullness of divine grace, wherein is the Spouse of Christ, the Church, which has been founded upon the seas, as the prophet hath said, ‘He hath founded it [her] upon the seas.’ Set out upon the waves, O man, since thou art a fisherman, and let not the commotion of this age oppress you. If there is a tempest, go out into the deep water; if there is calm, ply the waves; if there is a storm, avoid the craggy coast, lest the furious wave cast thee upon a rock.” On this same subject S. Basil says (hom. 16): “Every word of the gospels is distinguished from all the remaining precepts of the Holy Spirit as being superior.” And Origen says (Praefation. in Joannem) that “The gospel is the first-fruits of all of scripture.”
Christ cries aloud, “I am the Light of the World, for by means of the gospel, which I spread abroad like light, I illuminate the whole world.” The gospel, therefore, is the light of the world, and the earth’s sun. This is why, when it is read, candles are lighted. This was an ancient custom even in the time of Jerome, as he shows in his work against Vigilantius, who was slumbering and blind to this light: “In all the Eastern Churches when the gospel is read, lights are kindled, even when the sun is shining, not for the purpose of banishing darkness, but as a manifestation of joy. Whence also the virgins in the gospel parable always had their lamps burning..., that under the figure of corporeal light there might be set forth the light of which we read in the Psalter, Thy word, O Lord, is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths. (Psalm 118:105)”
This is why there has always been, not only by the saints but by all Christians, wonderful reverence paid to the gospel, wonderful love, wonderful veneration. Constantine the Great sent a book of the gospels, adorned with gold and precious stones, to S. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, according to the life of the saint. The Emperor Theodosius wrote the gospels with his own hand, and was wont to read them a good part of the night. Nicephorus testifies to this in book 14, chapter 3. Both Ecumenical Councils of Nicea, and those of Chalcedon and Ephesus, caused a volume containing the gospels to be placed in the midst of their house of assembly, that to it, as to the Person of Christ, they might turn, as though Christ Himself were saying to them, . . . Judge just judgment [John 7:24]. (S. Cyril, in Apolog.) Canon law orders that, in swearing solemnly by the most holy gospels, one should swear with one’s hand placed upon them; therefore to this day when declaring something under oath we say, “So help me God and these holy gospels of God.” Thus we swear by God and also by the gospels, as by the sacred word of God. Not only orthodox believers, but also many heretics do the same; even though they have expunged some books of holy scripture from the sacred canon, mutilated and corrupted others, they have not dared to meddle with the gospels. Furthermore, even heathens have respected the gospels. How high an opinion the Platonists had of them, S. Augustine relates (lib. 10 de Civit. Dei, cap. 29). And in his Confessions (Book 7, chapter 9) he declares that in a certain Platonic book he had found the first words of S. John’s gospel: In the beginning was the Word, but not the sentence: The Word was made flesh. Finally, the devils themselves are seized with fear at the sight of the gospel book and tremble in a holy terror; and S. Chrysostom writes (hom. 51 in Joannem), “they dare not enter the place in which a manuscript copy of it is kept.”
Christ has wrought many miracles by means of the gospels. Here are a few out of many. S. Gregory of Tours relates (de Vita Patrum, cap. 6) that when the city of Auvergne was in flames, S. Gall entered the church, and prayed to God for a very long time before the sacred altar. He then rose, taking the Book of the gospels, and, with it open towards himself, brought it near the fire. The conflagration was immediately extinguished, with no sparks whatsoever remaining. S. Marcian, as flames were spreading closer to the church of S. Anastasia, took in his hands the holy gospels and climbed through the tiles onto the roof; by his prayers and tears the church was preserved intact from the fire. Nicephorus reports this in book 5, chapter 22. Zonaras also, in his Life of Basil the Macedonian, relates that the Russians embraced the Christian Faith when they saw a book of the gospels snatched unharmed from a fire. And so of all the sacred scriptures, the gospels are the most divine, the most sublime, the most fruitful and most profound part; for which reason they are always at hand in cathedrals, in pulpits, in controversies, in the Divine Office, in every sermon, both public and private. Therefore, theologians, both ancient and modern, with one voice claim that all of sacred scripture without a doubt is the most certain of all books, disciplines and sciences, the most august and efficacious, the wisest and most useful, the most exalted and the most necessary, and that this is proved first and foremost by the gospels, whether considered with respect to their subject matter, or their author, or their manner and method of expression.
Their subject is God Himself, as God and as man. That is to say, the gospels describe the deeds and the words of Christ the Lord, by which He has redeemed us and taught what we should believe and what we should do, and what paths we must follow in order to arrive at eternal life. Therefore, Christ in the gospels deals with the divine precepts and counsels, with the perfection of Christian life, with virtues and vices. He speaks of the sacraments; of faith, hope, and charity; of the Trinity; and indeed of the whole subject matter of theology. Well might you, with S. Jerome, define the gospels as: “The Breviary and Compendium of all Theology” and of Christian doctrine and practice.
The Author, and as we might call Him, the Choragus [leader of the chorus] in the evangelical drama, who is almost the sole actor and speaker, is Christ the Lord, the eternal Wisdom. God, says the Apostle in Hebrews 1:1–2, who, at sundry times, and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world. Therefore not Moses, nor prophets, nor kings, but the Only-Begotten One, who from the mind of the Father hath drawn, together with His own Divinity, the secrets of divine Wisdom and all of uncreated Wisdom itself, communicates it to us in the same measure in the gospels. I say, the very omniscient Word of the divine intellect here speaks with His own mouth, and declares and pours forth the mysteries kept secret from eternity, though foreshadowed by so many figures in the law and the prophets.
How admirable is the manner and method of speaking and of explaining in the gospels! S. Dionysius the Areopagite, a most learned man in the philosophy of Plato and the Peripatetics and a disciple of S. Paul, and easily the founder of Christian theology, composed among other things three erudite and excellent books. In the first, entitled On the Divine Names, he demonstrates that only those names are suitable for God which contain some perfection or excellence, for instance: being, goodness, beauty, perfection. He wrote the second book, On Mystical Theology, in which he shows that no name can apply to God in the proper sense, and that God is more perfectly known by “apophatic” or negative theology than by an affirmative method. He wrote a third book, On Symbolic Theology, in which he demonstrates that all names whatsoever that are found in sacred scripture can be attributed to God. The gospels follow this three-fold theology, but most often the last, symbolic sort, which is the purpose of so many metaphors, comparisons and parables, in which God, like some heavenly Proteus, puts on for our sake the forms of many things and the aspects of various men. Now, for instance, He is compared to a king who gives a wedding feast for his son, or to a master settling accounts with his servants, or to a general going to battle with ten thousand men; then again to the father of a family, or to a farmer, or a shepherd; now to a fisherman, then to a merchant, and yet again to a money-lender; and to many, many other sorts of people, to whom Christ wished to be likened, so as to portray Himself to the mind’s eye not only by words, but by things themselves, for our instruction. Thus you notice that in the gospels we are sometimes instructed by Christ’s words and sometimes by His deeds. “Every action” of Christ, says S. Gregory, “is a lesson for us,” and it is characteristic of God to present divine and evangelical matters to the consideration of our mind not only with words but also by means of things and actions as though He were using an alphabet.
This manner of evangelical wisdom lays claim to another excellence. The gospel has been arranged in such a way by the Holy Ghost that the unlearned and the simple should not be without profit in reading them, whilst great and lofty intellects may discover many difficult and obscure matters in which to labor and exercise their powers, for this wisdom is neither always open, nor always hidden. “The divine Word,” says S. Gregory (Prefat. in Job, cap. 4), “exercises the clever by its mysteries and comforts the simple, for the most part, by what appears on its surface. It sets forth plainly things to nourish the little ones: it preserves in secret things whereby it may fill with admiration the minds of the lofty. It is, if I may say so, a river which is both shallow and deep: in which a lamb may wade and an elephant may swim.” For indeed the doctrine of Christ is easy and accessible both to the lowly and the learned: it is difficult and inaccessible to those who are proud, or slothful, or who trust in themselves. I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, saith Christ, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight (Matt. 11:25–26).
These and many other things you will clearly perceive, if you compare and contrast the law with the gospel by drawing parallels and finding antithesis. Under the law, I include the prophets and the other books of the Old Testament; under the gospel, the rest of the New Testament. The gospels are, as it were, their base and center. Just as the sun shines resplendent in the midst of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, and as the planets borrow their light from the sun, and circle around it, and perform, so to speak, a choric dance, so too is the gospel refulgent like the sun amongst the writings of the Apostles, and imparts to them its own light and splendor. For what else are Peter, Paul, James, John, and Jude than preachers and interpreters of the gospel? “Paul,” says S. Jerome (epist. 61 ad Pammach.), “is the gospel trumpet, the roaring of our lion, the stream of Christian eloquence.” Thus the Acts of the Apostles set forth evangelical practice; the epistles of S. Paul and the other Apostles—doctrine; the Apocalypse—prophecy. For what Christ foretold concerning Elias, the Antichrist, the judgement, the end of the world, and the signs which shall precede it, John, in the Apocalypse, relates and unfolds more at length. Christ in the gospel, indeed, is the supreme lawgiver, apostle, evangelist, and teacher; He likewise is the divine seer and prophet.
The law and the gospel differ FIRST in their respective authors. The law was written by Moses, a mere man, while the author of the gospel is Christ, true God and true man. The Council of Trent, session four declares, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated the gospel with His own lips.” In Galatians 3:19 the Apostle says, The law . . . was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator, that is, through Moses, who stood as a mediator between God and the people. Therefore, the gospel surpasses the law in the same measure that Christ surpasses Moses and the angels, that the creator is superior to creatures. As the Apostle says in Hebrews 1:3, ff., Christ is the brightness of [God’s] glory and the figure of [the Father’s] substance and... sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high; being made so much better [more excellent] than the angels as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels hath He said at any time: Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee? And at chapter 3, verse 3, For this man [Christ] was counted worthy of greater glory than Moses, by so much as he that hath built the house hath greater honor than the house. And at verse 5, And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be said. But Christ, as the Son in his own house. All the angels were subservient to Christ in the gospel, as His ministering spirits. Hence S. Cyprian (or whoever is the author) says in the Tractatus de Nativitate Christi, “The gospel begins with heavenly messages (of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin and to Zachary, the father of John the Baptist), the first heralds of which proved to be angels.” Besides, Christ Himself is the one who composed the gospels. The reason that He clothed His Divinity in our flesh was so that He might thereby proclaim the gospel by His own mouth. As S. John says (1:17), For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. What is the gospel, then? It is the book of Christ, the philosophy of Christ, the theology of Christ, and Christ’s most joyful message of redemption, grace and the eternal salvation of the human race, which He Himself brought from heaven and imparted to believers. Christ spoke in a much more sublime and divine manner by His own mouth than He ever spoke through Moses and the prophets.
To read, then, or to hear the gospel, is to read or to hear the very words of the Son of God. And therefore the gospel should be listened to with as much reverence as if we were listening to Christ Himself; we read that this is what S. Anthony, S. Basil, S. Francis, and other saints used to do. “Let us listen to the gospel as to the Lord,” saith S. Augustine (tract. 30 in Joannem). “The Lord is above, but here, too, is the Lord, the Truth.” This is why, when the gospel is read in church, all stand up, as though venerating Christ in it, and at the same time panting for heaven, which is promised in it. This custom has apostolic sanction. Hear S. Clement (in book 2 of the Apostolic Constitutions, chapter 61): “When the gospel is read, let all the presbyters, deacons, and laity stand up and keep perfect silence.” This same thought is expressed in another decree of Pope Anastasius to all the bishops of Germany and Burgundy, in these words: “You have indicated that certain individuals sit when the gospels are read in church.... By our apostolic authority, We command that this no longer be done henceforth; rather, when the holy gospels are read aloud in church, let the priests and all others who are present listen intently to the Lord’s words, not seated but standing, reverently bowing in the presence of the holy gospel, and let them adore in faith” (Can. Apost. de Consecr. dist. 1). Isidore of Pelusium recommends this custom of standing to bishops also in these words (lib. 1, epist. 136): “When the true Pastor Himself approaches, at the opening of the adorable gospels, then at last the bishop rises, putting off his habit of imitating [and representing the Good Shepherd], thereby signifying that the Lord Himself is the Prince of the pastoral office, and that God his Master is present.” Sozomen condemns the Alexandrine custom whereby, contrary to the general usage, the bishop does not rise when the gospels are read (lib. 9, hist. tripart. cap. 39). Moreover, the eighth Ecumenical Council (action. 10, can. 3) decrees that the same honor shall be paid to the gospels as to the Cross of Christ. “We decree that the sacred image of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all, shall be reverenced with the same honor as the book of the holy gospels. For just as by the proclamations of those words which are contained in the book all attain to salvation, so too by a depiction in colors, both wise men as well as the unlearned derive profit from that which is before their eyes. For the things which a sermon preaches in syllables are also commended to us by that ‘scripture’ [painting] which is expressed in colors.”
A SECOND contrast, which follows from the first difference between the gospel and the law, can be noted in the surpassing excellence of doctrine. For the doctrine of the gospel greatly excels that which is found in Moses and the law. The law declares that one God is to be believed in and worshiped. The gospel preaches about God, One in essence, but in three Persons, who is to be loved and adored. Going therefore, Christ said, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matth. 28:19). I allow that in the law and the prophets there is a foreshadowing of the mystery of the holy Trinity. And it was from thence that Trismegistus drew his oracular saying, “Monad begat Monad, and reflected back his warmth upon himself.” But he neither understood nor penetrated the truth of the mystery. This, too, the Platonists pursued, but they did not attain it. They corrupted the truth by an error similar to Arianism, for whilst they proclaimed one chief God, they held that there were lesser and inferior gods. The prophets darkly and obscurely foretell the birth, life, passion, cross, and ascension of Christ, the sending of the Holy Ghost, the calling and conversion of all nations; but the gospel firmly and clearly announces these things. The foreknowledge, providence, predestination, omnipotence, and infinite love of God, with all His other attributes, are distinctly and plainly set forth, not by the law, but by the gospel. No man, saith S. John (1:18), hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him. Therefore, when Christ was made man, He descended from the bosom of His Father into the bosom of His mother, that He might declare unto us the secrets of the Father, which were known to Himself alone. This, in truth, is the great mystery of godliness [faith], which, as the Apostle says, was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory. This verily is not in the law, but in the gospel. (1 Timothy 3:16).
THIRD, the law is like the shadow, while the gospel is the truth itself that was foreshadowed by the type of the law. The gospel is as superior to the law as truth, the actual body is superior to the shadow. For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, etc., says the Apostle (Hebr. 10:1). And in Corinthians 10:1–6 he says, Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. And they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ.... Now these things were done in a figure. Truly, so many deeds of the patriarchs, so many oracles of the prophets, so many symbols beheld in visions, so many victims sacrificed, so many obligatory washings and ceremonies, so many decrees of the law hallowed by the blood of animals, were but shadows, figures and types which prefigured Christ and presented Him to the unrefined people enigmatically and beneath a veil. The gospel, on the other hand, plainly manifests Christ, His mysteries, and His sacraments to us. Hence the Apostle says (2 Cor. 3:18), but we all, beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. For this reason the Apostle begins his First Letter to the Romans as follows: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto [i.e.,set apart for] the gospel of God, which he had promised before by his prophets in the holy scriptures concerning his Son, etc.
FOURTH, the law was a messenger of fear, but the gospel brings tidings of love. For the law threatened with death those who go astray; but the gospel principally holds out a reward to those who believe. For this reason, the law pertained to servants, but the gospel, to freemen and sons. God, says Paul, also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament, not in the letter, but in the spirit. For the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth. Now if the ministration of death [namely, the law which threatens death], engraven with letters upon stones, was glorious so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which is made void: How shall not the ministration of the spirit [i.e., the gospel administering the Spirit] be rather in glory? (2 Corinthians 3:6–8). What, then, is the gospel? It is the law of liberty, the law of the spirit, the law of kindness and charity. For Christ went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him (Acts 10:38). This is why S. John the Almoner, Patriarch of Alexandria (according to Leontius in his Life, chapter 22) was prompted to a most generous practice of almsgiving by the gospel and by the evangelical example of Serapion of Sidon, after reading in his acts that he had given his own outer garment to a poor man; having proceeded a little further he met another man suffering from the cold, and offered him his tunic; then, as he sat naked, holding the holy gospel, someone asked him, “who despoiled you, Father?” Gesturing toward the holy gospel, he replied “He did.” On another occasion, too, he sold that very gospel and gave the money as an alms; but when his disciple asked, “Father, where is the gospel?,” he answered, “I believe, my son, it was the one who told me, Sell what thou hast and give to the poor. I sold it and gave to them, so that on the day of judgment we might have greater pledge with God.” Moreover on yet another occasion a widow asked for an alms from that same S. Serapion, because her children were hungry, and since he owned nothing at all, he handed himself over to her so that she might sell him to the Greek mimes, whom he converted to Christianity in a few days. So too, Paulinus delivered himself into servitude for the son of a Vandal widow, to imitate Christ, who, though He was the God of Glory, made Himself a poor servant for us, as we read in the gospel, so as to enrich us by His poverty and servitude, and to make us free. Palladius (in Lausiaca cap. 116) relates that the Abbot Bisario always carried the gospel under his arm, so as to learn from it what he ought to do and what sort of evangelical life he ought to live. Therefore, when he happened to meet a naked man, he took off his own garments to clothe the naked. When asked, “who took your clothes?,” he held up the gospel book and said, “This took them from me.” Again, when he happened upon another needy man, and had nothing to give, he sold the gospel manuscript itself and gave the price to the needy man. And when Dulas his disciple asked, “Father, where is your gospel?,” he replied, “Be not saddened; in order that we might have a pledge there (in heaven), I sold the word itself, which was always telling me: Sell what thou hast, and give to the poor.”
FIFTH, the law promised worldly, passing goods; the gospel—heavenly, eternal benefits. In the law you hear only promises of an abundance of oil, wine, honey, cattle, etc., but the gospel promises the vision and possession of God, everlasting joys and blessings. Josue led the Hebrews into the land flowing with milk and honey, but a land of the dying; but Jesus leads Christians into a land of the living, resplendent with every grace and glory, as the Apostle teaches in Hebrews 4:8. Hence in Romans 1:16–17 he confidently declares, For I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first, and to the Greek (that is, then to the gentile). For the justice of God is revealed therein, from faith unto faith, as it is written: The just man liveth by faith. The power of the gospel, therefore, persuades and teaches the Faith, faith justifies, and justice saves and beatifies.
SIXTH, the law was a heavy burden, but the gospel is light. Hear Christ (Matth. 11:28–29): Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you and learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart. For the law enjoined many laws—of three sorts: moral, ceremonial and judicial precepts—many of which decree death for transgressors; but the gospel adds only a few precepts to the Decalogue, together with the sacraments. Moreover, to these it has attached an abundance of grace from the Spirit and of heavenly consolations. Hence Isaias in chapter 61 presents Christ as saying, The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me. He hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up.
SEVENTH, the law was the way to Christ and the gospel; but the latter is the goal and terminus, indeed, For the end of the law is Christ, unto justice to everyone that believeth (Rom. 10:4). Hence S. Bernard (hom. 1 super “Missus est”) teaches that Christ was the fruit of the promise of the law, as though of a seed and flower. For the fruit is the end to which the seeds tend and in which they cease to be. In Christ, therefore, Moses and the prophets attain their goal; hence the gospels likewise are their end and aim. They lead everyone by the hand to the gospels, and are contained and explained by the gospels.
EIGHTH, the law was given to the Jews alone; the gospels, to all nations. Hence Isaias, prophesying about Christ in chapter 49, says, It is a small thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to convert the dregs of Israel. Behold, I have given thee to be the light of the gentiles, that thou mayst be my salvation even to the farthest part of the earth.
Again, the law was temporary, for it lasted only until the gospel; this, however, shall last forever and shall be eternal. Listen to the Apostle (Hebr. 7:18): There is indeed a setting aside of the former commandment, because of the weakness and unprofitableness thereof: for the law brought nothing to perfection: but a bringing in of a better hope, by which we draw nigh to God.... By him that said... The Lord hath sworn and he will not repent: Thou art a priest forever (Psalm 109).
Moreover, the gospel has been composed by Christ in such a marvelous manner, that it is suitable for men of whatever age, sex or rank, so that it is a universal book, a sort of Pandora’s box of all wisdom. For the gospel prescribes to men, women, children, spouses, widows, virgins, monks, pastors, learned doctors, and bishops a norm of life that is just and holy, indeed perfect. By way of example, consider what S. Augustine says (lib. de Vera relig. cap. 16): “Christ’s whole life on earth was a training in morals through the human nature which He deigned to assume;” for when He despised all the world’s goods, He taught us that they should be despised; when He endured all the world’s evils, He showed us that they must be endured and overcome. Christ, in fact, taught nothing by His words that He did not demonstrate by His example. “The devotees of pleasures perniciously desired the wealth of the people; He wanted to be poor. They panted after honors and power; He did not want to be made king. Carnal men thought their children to be a great good; He despised such wedlock and offspring. They most proudly had a horror of insults; He endured every sort of insult. They considered injustices to be intolerable; what greater injustice than for a just, innocent man to be condemned? They cursed bodily pains; He was scourged and tormented. They feared dying; He was punished by death. They thought that the cross was the most ignominious sort of death; He was crucified. Everything that we desired to have, not living aright, He made insignificant by renouncing. Everything that we desired to avoid, straying from the path of truth, He cast down.” Thus far S. Augustine.
NINTH, the law was imperfect, but the gospel in every respect, whether faith or morals, is complete and perfect. Therefore the Jews under the law were like those just learning the alphabet, whereas Christians under the gospel become trained theologians. Hear the Apostle (Gal. 4:3–5), When we were children, [we] were serving under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. S. Cyril comments (lib. 9 in Joan.), “It was necessary for Israel to be educated like a child by Moses, because he was until that time childish and rather unrefined; but it was fitting for definite, true and perfect knowledge to be brought to us by Christ, in whom are hidden all the riches of wisdom and knowledge.” To be sure, Christ, in the fifth chapter of Matthew, reformed many precepts of the law and restored them as a better norm for virtue and piety. You have heard that it was said to them of old, thou shalt not forswear thyself: but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord. But I say to you not to swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God: Nor by the earth, for it is his footstool.... But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil. You have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other.... You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. (Matth. 5:33–45). For this reason S. Jerome (or rather S. Paulinus, as the style indicates), writing a reply (epist. 14) to Celantia, a noble matron who was asking for a rule of pious life, even though she was bound to a husband, pointed out to her the path of the gospel, which says, I am the way and the truth. “As a sort of comprehensive reminder, you should choose and write upon your heart that gospel saying, which by the mouth of the Lord is presented as a summation of all justice: All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. To emphasize the force of this precept, He adds, For this is the law and the prophets.” And a little further on, “This saying can be applied to every action, to every word, even to every thought. Like a kind of mirror prepared for you, and always at hand, let it show the quality of your will, and also accuse you of an injustice, or gladden you at a just deed. For as often as you have towards someone else the sentiments which you would like that person to harbor towards you, you keep to the way of righteousness; but as often as you act toward someone else as you wish no one to act toward you, you have abandoned the path of justice.” The same S. Jerome (epist. ad Gaudentium), instructing his correspondent as to how he should educate his little daughter, Pacatula, says, “When the little maid has reached her seventh year, let her learn the Psalter by memory, and let her make the gospels her heart’s treasure.”
TENTH, the law hands down precepts only, decrees which are in conformity with nature; but the gospel contains both precepts and counsels, and instructions which are part precept and part counsel, and these transcend nature, being paradoxical, supernatural and divine. Among the precepts, the primacy is held by the new law of charity: A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).
Some counsels are: if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other. And: If a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And: Whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him another two. (Matth. 5:39, 40, 41). Mixed teachings (that is, part precept, part counsel) include: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.... Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy, and the other beatitudes, eight in all, which S. Matthew lists in chapter 5, verse 3 ff.
In this regard S. Augustine (serm. 112 de Tempore) teaches that happiness [beatitudo] in this life consists in sacred scriptures and the gospel, and he proves it by this argument. Blessedness, he says, consists in the knowledge and contemplation of God. We draw the knowledge of God from the source of sacred scripture and the gospel; therefore in them and in studying and meditating upon them is found happiness. Indeed, Christ said to the Jews, Search the scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting (John 5:39). And in chapter 17, addressing the Father: Now this is eternal life: that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent, etc. For I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the way of beginners, the truth of the proficient, and the life of the perfect. I am the way of holy conversation, the truth of divine teaching, and the life of everlasting happiness, says S. Leo. Let us follow, therefore, says S. Bernard (serm. 2 de Ascens.), “Lord, let us follow Thee, through Thee, and to Thee; for Thou art the way, the truth and the life: the way in Thy example, the truth in Thy promise, the life in Thy reward.” S. Augustine gives the reason (serm. 112 de Tempore): “Because the reading of the sacred scriptures is a not insignificant foreknowledge of divine blessedness. For in them, as in a kind of mirror, man can behold himself, what sort of man he is, where he is going; and regular reading purifies all things, inculcates a fear of hell, and spurs the heart of the reader on to heavenly joys. Whoever wants to be with God always must frequently pray and read; for when we pray, we ourselves speak with God; but when we read, God speaks with us.”
All of a Christian’s wisdom, virtue, perfection and happiness depends on this: that he draws upon the teaching and life of Christ as described in the gospel, meditates on it, and expresses it in his conduct. Christ teaches that true justice and sanctity consist in the internal purity and integrity of the mind, not in the external appearance of works; in a modest and holy conscience in God’s sight, not in pomp and the applause of men; in humility, not in ostentation; not in seeking for honors, but in flight from and contempt of them. He teaches us not to resist evil, but to love our enemies as well as our friends. What Socrates, what Aristotle, what Plato understood these things? He teaches us to despise worldly things as worthless and ephemeral, and to yearn for heavenly things, so that we, who are beginning to be greater than the world and this age, might have our conversation in heaven, keeping our thoughts and lives above all the storms and turmoil of the contentious world, so that we might live for God and work for eternity, and thus, looking to justice, to God and Christ in this contest, we might eagerly run the race for the palm of glory which is set before us, and might freely and generously pour out our life for it, and our blood, if need be. Which of the Sophists knew this? Worldly men have followed, and even today follow the wraiths of fame and glory, strive for the highest honors and yearn for wealth and pleasures; for the disciple of Christ, this is certain: But it is good for me to adhere to my God (Psalm 72:28). For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).
Christ teaches that He was sent by the Father to earth for three reasons: to be the redeemer, the teacher, and the model of life for mankind. We owe love to the Redeemer, discipline to the Teacher, and imitation as His followers to the Exemplar. This summarizes the gospel. The gospels, says S. Basil (in princ. S. Joannis) present Christ Himself to us as a living, breathing man who teaches, works miracles and suffers cruelty. S. Anthony, as S. Anastasius testifies in his Life, called the gospel “a letter of God sent down from heaven,” teaching how we ought to journey towards heaven, how we ought to please God, and live a good and perfect life.
Excellently saith S. Bernard (serm. 1 de septem panibus), “The gospel is the mirror of truth; it flatters no one, it misleads no one; in it every one will find himself just what he is, so that he need not fear where there is no cause for fear, nor yet rejoice when he hath done evil.” S. Gregory, a doctor of the Church, uses the same metaphor (lib. 2 Mor. c. 1), “Sacred Scripture is placed before the eyes of the mind, as if it were a mirror, that we may behold our inward face in it; there we can recognize our deformity or our beauty; there we discern how we have profited, there how far we have been from profiting.” With this another doctor, S. Ambrose agrees, saying (serm. 20 in Ps. 118), “The gospel not only teaches the Faith, it is the school of morals, the mirror of conversation.”
ELEVENTH, the law proposes the bare precept to the mind; together with the precept, the gospel infuses into the will the grace to fulfill it, according to the saying of S. Leo: “He is just in laying down a precept, who beforehand provides assistance [in keeping it].” For Christ, who speaks in the gospel, does not sound in the exterior ears only, but also glides into the mind interiorly, and subtly enters through the sense and savor of the external sound, so that the spirit might persuade the listener to accept what the voice proposes. My words are spirit and life, He says in John 6:64. In chapter 31 of Jeremias, too [verses 33–34], which S. Paul cites in Hebrews 10:16, He says, This is the testament which I will make unto them after those days, saith the Lord. I will give my laws in their hearts and on their minds will I write them. Therefore when we read the gospel, Christ speaks to us; when we pray, we ourselves speak to Christ. One gospel saying, If thou wilt be perfect, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, inflamed Anthony the Great, at that time a young man endowed with nobility and wealth, with such a love of evangelical poverty, that he immediately renounced all of his goods, which blind mortals yearn for so urgently, and embraced a celestial life on earth by monastic profession. Christ proclaims: Every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold and shall possess life everlasting (Matth. 19:29). “These are the words,” says S. Bernard, (in his sermon on the text, Behold, we have left all things), “which have inspired contempt of the world throughout the world, and voluntary poverty; these are the words that fill the cloisters with monks and the deserts with hermits.” This trumpet call to come to Bethlehem and to form ranks beneath the standard of the cross summoned many like Jerome, Anthony, and Francis, and the tender, most noble generals like Paula, Melania, Pelagia, and a thousand armies of angels living in the body; no wonder. Let us admire the sentiment of S. Bernard, who does not hesitate to say (serm. 1 in Septuag.) that he who hears, reads, meditates upon the word of God with profit, hath a sign and a pledge of his predestination; and, that you may not be astonished, he adds the reason: “He that is of God, saith the truth, heareth the words of God. Ye, therefore, hear them because ye are of God.” Thus S. Cecilia, the glory of Rome, the princess of virgins, the standard-bearer of the martyrs, always carried the gospel of Christ in her bosom, which neither flame, nor sword, nor torments were able to wrest from her; but by it she not only won for herself the laurels of virginity and martyrdom, but instructed and prepared her betrothed, Valerian, and her brother, Tiburtius, and many more, for the same laurels; so that deservedly does the Church sing of her, “Thine handmaid, Lord, Cecilia, like unto an industrious bee, doth Thee service.” The inheritance of S. Hilary was the gospel that he had copied out in his own hand; as he was dying he bequeathed it to his disciple Hesychius. “In the eightieth year of his life,” says S. Jerome, “because Hesychius was absent, he wrote with his own hand a short letter as a kind of testament, leaving to him all of his riches, namely the gospel, his tunic, his purse, his cowl and his cloak.”
Thus the cenobites, the anchorites and all the saints drew their way of life, too, from the gospel; for many of them there was no other rule. S. John Calybita had as his sole property one Book of the gospel, nor did he have any other guide in life, nor any other teacher of such a sublime philosophy, whereby he so mastered his affection for his homeland and his parents, that he seemed to be cosmopolitan, ἁπάτωρ and ἀµήτωρ [without father or mother]. S. Benedict, S. Francis, S. Augustine, and S. Basil borrowed their Rules and their monastic constitutions from the gospel. Hence S. Bernard (serm. 43 in Cant.) ascribes to the gospel all the progress that he had made since his conversion. That is why S. Jerome commands S. Eustochium, a virgin and a religious, to read the gospel day and night. “Let sleep overcome you, the scroll still in your hands; when your head falls, let it be on the sacred page.” On the other hand he recalls not only the marvelous knowledge of Sacred Letters which S. Paula had, but also her expertise in applying it; you might say that the woman was an ark of the testament and an armory of the gospel. In times of danger, says S. Jerome, she used to say, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. When told of the destruction of her entire patrimony, she said, For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? And: Naked I came from my mother’s womb. During frequent illness: When I am weak, then I am strong. And: We have this treasure in earthen vessels, until this mortal [body] hath put on immortality. In mourning she would sing, Why art thou sad, O my soul, and why dost thou trouble me? Hope in God. Assailed by envy and insults, she said, “Why should I not overcome spite with patience? Why should I not break pride with humility, and offer the other cheek to him that strikes me?” When it seemed to some that she was mad in an excessive pursuit of virtues, she said, I am made a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. And: We are fools for Christ’s sake, but the foolishness of God is wiser than men. When she was profuse in giving alms, leaving nothing for herself, she said, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. And: Make friends for yourself with the mammon of iniquity. When she was despised, she said, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me (Psalm 117:6). The humble man can be pressed, but not oppressed. There is a palm tree which, the more you bend it down, the higher it triumphantly lifts up its leaves. Humility alone exalts. To fawning courtiers: If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10); “I cannot be coaxed; I hate flatterers. Christian liberty, sincerity and truth are dearer to me, with S. John the Baptist, than life itself. And why should I fear man, who tomorrow shall be ashes and worms?” And many things, concerning particular temptations, or virtues, or vices, she taught the angelic choirs of virgins in Bethlehem, fortifying her courage with this armory of God. This valiant woman and leader taught men to laugh at wealth, glory, kingdoms, applause and all the mockery of fortune and of the world, to despise them and to trample them underfoot. These and many other things S. Jerome records, in almost the same words, scattered throughout his Epitaph on S. Paula.
TWELFTH, the law made no Apostles, but the gospel hath made very many. The reason for this I have cited above, The word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebr. 4:12). For the gospel has this force, that it soon causes him who believes in it to engage in propagating it, and so makes him a herald and preacher of it.
S. Chrysanthus, who empurpled Rome by a copious stream of his own and his relations’ blood, being converted to Christ from paganism by diligently reading the gospel, afterward converted his wife, Daria, and after that he drew men; and Daria, women without number, to faith and chastity. After being subjected to various torments by the Emperor Numerian, and after Daria was defended from defilement in a brothel by a lion sent from God, the couple were buried alive in the earth and covered over with stones, thus undergoing a glorious martyrdom in the year of the Lord 284, on October 25. On the anniversary of that day, the Church remembers and honors them, especially in Rome, the city which boasts of their tomb and the trophy of their contest.
S. Boniface, the apostle of Germany, when he was propagating the law of Christ with his companions in Germany, about the year 750 from the Virgin Birth, always carried about with him the sacred volume of the gospels. Even in his martyrdom he did not let it go, but when the Frisians brandished their swords above his head he opposed this book as a sort of spiritual shield; and by a remarkable miracle, although the book was cut right in twain by a sharp sword, not a single letter was destroyed. S. Dominic, that illustrious torch of the Church, the father of the Friars Preachers, had the gospel of S. Matthew for his constant companion. He read it so often that he knew almost the whole of it by heart, and was wont to say, “Without holy scripture a preacher cannot exist.” Rightly does S. Gregory, commenting on those words of Job (28:1): Silver hath beginnings of its veins, say that silver is the brightness of eloquence, or wisdom. The veins are holy scripture. As if to say plainly, “It is necessary that he who prepares himself for the words of true preaching should derive their sources from the sacred pages, that whatsoever he speaks he should recall to the foundation of divine authority, and make firm the edifice of his discourse upon that.” For this reason, when the Venerable Bede was dying, almost with his last breath he would finish his translation of S. John’s gospel, and said to his scribe, “Take your pen, and write quickly.” Then when the last words were written, he said, It is consummated; and like a dying swan, he sang, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” and most calmly breathed out his spirit to enjoy the reward of his faith and labors in the beatific vision of God, A.D. 731. The Emperor Charles, truly the Great, both in body and in the glory of sacred literature, as well as for his actions, a little before his death, after the coronation of his son Louis at Aachen, gave himself up entirely to prayer, almsdeeds, and learning. He himself carefully revised the four gospels in conformity with their Greek and Syriac originals. Thus he spent his time until the last conflict of his life. His Book of the Gospels is religiously preserved at Aachen [Aix-la-Chapelle], as I myself have seen. The heretics imitate these things, aping the Catholics. It is well known of one, Philip Melancthon, that he never went anywhere, never sat down, nor supped, nor dined, without having the gospels by his side. Such a profane man, this poisonous son of the earth, and by this mask of wisdom and holiness he deceived many. But, leaving the sectaries, let us return to the orthodox Apostles. S. Barnabas was with S. Paul, the first Apostle of the gentiles. When he was going forth to convert them, he wrote out with his own hand the Gospel of S. Matthew, and carried it about with him wherever he went. At length, dying a martyr for the gospel in Cyprus, he desired to be buried with it, as a pledge of the heavenly resurrection promised to him. This very Gospel of S. Matthew was found upon his breast in the time of the Emperor Zeno. See his Life. S. Bartholomew, as Eusebius tells us (libr. 5. Histor. cap. 10.5), took with him to the Indies the Gospel of S. Matthew written in Hebrew. There he left it, and more than a hundred years afterward Pantaenus found it, and brought it to Alexandria. What turned Saul into Paul? The gospel. “These were the men,” says S. Leo (serm. 1 de SS. Petro et Paulo), “by whom the gospel of Christ shone upon thee, O Rome. They delivered to thee, as a deposit to keep, that gospel which Christ had committed unto them: they sealed it with their blood, that thou shouldst keep it pure and unadulterated, hand it on and expound it to all the other churches as a mistress of truth. This is what Paul proclaims aloud to thee (in Romans 15:16): That I should be the minister of Christ Jesus among the gentiles, sanctifying [Greek ἱερουργοῦν, i.e., consecrating] the gospel of God, that the oblation of the gentiles may be made acceptable and sanctified in the Holy Ghost.” The gospel, therefore, and the preaching and interpretation of the gospel, is the sacrifice; the Romans and the gentiles who believe the gospel are the victims. These the Apostle offered to God as a most acceptable oblation, when he evangelized them. The blood of Paul was the libation by which this sacrifice was bedewed and hallowed.
The same S. Paul says in Ephesians 3:8, To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ: And to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God who created all things: That the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church. Paul, therefore, was the teacher of angels. S. Chrysostom commenting on the passage says, he taught the principalities and powers the gospel of Christ.” Paul also says (1 Cor. 9:16 ff.), Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel. For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation is committed to me. What is my reward then? That preaching the gospel, I may deliver the gospel without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. They, therefore, are imitators and followers of Paul, and co-workers with him who handle and expound the gospel, and preach it to countrymen and foreigners, to believers and unbelievers. These are they whom Isaias deservedly praises (52:7) and Paul cites (Rom. 10:15), How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things.
It remains that we should apply the doctrines of the gospel to our own lives and those of others. For the gospel is a mirror in which every one may behold, clean and adorn his own face. “Let there be no delay,” says S. Augustine (serm. 112 de Temp.), “in doing that which you savor interiorly by understanding. And most blessed is he who puts the divine scriptures into action,” so as to convert Christ’s divine words into His divine deeds by imitation. “The Life of Christ,” says S. Bernard (ad milites Templi cap. 11), “is the rule by which I ought to frame my life.” And S. Gregory (lib. 30 Moral. cap. 30) says, “God became a man among us, in order not only to redeem us by shedding His blood, but also to change us by His example.” This is expressed more clearly and completely by S. Basil in chapter 2 of his Monastic Constitutions: “Every action, every single word of our Saviour Jesus Christ is a rule for cultivating piety and exercising virtue. It was for this that He took on human nature, that He might portray for us in Himself, as in a picture, true piety and virtue, and, having placed it before the eyes of us all, propose it to each one of us as an archetype to be imitated as well as we can.” Christ is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. “The First,” says S. Augustine, “in eternity, the Last by humility.” Hence He is called by Isaias (53:3) the most abject of men. (In Hebrew, the cessation of men.) S. Bernard exclaims, “O most abject and most exalted! O humble and sublime! O reproach of men and glory of the angels!”
Let us learn then from the Evangel to live evangelically, that is, angelically. For Christ as an angel descended from heaven that He might teach men angelic life and doctrine, yea, that of men He might make angels, and in a certain sense, gods. Behold, says Malachias (3:1 ff.), I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Therefore, from Him, who is the eternal Wisdom of the Father, we must diligently ask light and the grace of His Spirit, so that He who sat in the midst of the doctors of sacred scripture, when He was about to inaugurate the gospel, might even now open it both to teachers and taught, that we may understand it, and bring our understanding to completion by Christian works. For this is agreeable to Him. Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49), literally (Vulgate), in those things which are of My Father, that is, in the ancient scriptures, which anticipated Me and the gospel. I hear the scribes and the doctors of the law speaking about these things and consult with them, so that they might recognize thereby that I am the Christ and Messias sent by the Father.
Let us say therefore again and again with S. Augustine (lib. 4 de Trinit. cap. 1), if not with equal, yet with similar fervor, “In this sort of men, (who have sorrow in their pilgrimage, because they long for the country, and for God the Founder of it), in this family of Thy Christ, O my God, among Thy poor I groan; give me of Thy Bread to answer men, who neither hunger nor thirst after justice, but are full and have an abundance. For their own fancy, not Thy truth hath satisfied them, for they repel Thy truth and kick against it, that they may fall in their own vanity. Clearly do I perceive how many figments the human heart brings forth. And what is my heart but a human heart? But for this I pray to Thee, God of my heart, that in these writings I may put forth none of those figments for solid truth, but that there may come into them whatever shall be able to come through me from the place whence the dawning of His truth breaks upon me, although I have been cast out of the sight of His eyes, and am striving to return from afar by the path which the divine Person of His Only-Begotten One hath laid down for mankind.” After a little he adds, “The essence of God is such, that It hath nothing mutable, neither in eternity, nor in truth, nor in will, because in His essence there is eternal truth, and eternal love; and true charity is there, and true eternity; there is loving eternity, and loving truth.”
Open unto us, O Lord Jesus, the arcane mysteries of truth, and of Thine own true love, Thou that hast the key of David, who openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth, that we may know it clearly, and when we know it, may love and cherish it, and loving it, may indeed put it into practice, for Thou art our Love, Thou our Desire, our Life, and Blessedness. Amen.