— Council of Vienne ♰♰♰

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Sermon of Saint Anthony of Padua against the Spirit of Pride


Sermon of Saint Anthony of Padua
First, a sermon against the proud: I saw a ram with horns, ( and on the arrangement of horns in animals, and their meaning.)

13. When a strong man armed keepeth his court. The strong man armed is the spirit of pride, armed with uplifted horns to brandish and to fight the whole world. As we read in Daniel: 1

1 saw a ram pushing with his horns against the west and against the north and against the south; and no beasts could withstand him nor be delivered out of his hands; and he did according to his own will and became great. (Da 8,4)

This ram represents the spirit of pride, which butts against west and north and south with uplifted horns. The west denotes poor and lesser folk, who lack the heat of strength and power. The north denotes equals (in Isaiah, the devil says: I will place my seat in the north, and I will be like, (that is, equal to) the Most High (cf. Is 14,13-14)). The south denotes greater folk, ablaze with the heat of dignity and power. The horned ram, the spirit of rampant pride, ramps against the west, treading down the poor and humble; against the north, despising his equals; and against the south, mocking and deriding his betters. And no beasts could withstand him, nor be delivered out of his hands. O horned pride, who can be delivered from your hands? You even raised up Lucifer- the seal of resemblance, whose covering was every precious stone (Ez 28,12-13)- to the very pinnacle of pride. You were born in heaven, and so you usually live in heavenly minds, hiding beneath sack-cloth and ashes!

From the horns of this beast, David the prophet prayed to be saved, saying:

Save me from the lion’s mouth: and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns. (Ps 21,22)

The unicorn represents the singularity of pride, because the proud man wants to be alone in pre-eminence. "Power will suffer no partner."3 David detested pride, saying: O Lord my God, If I have done this thing! (Ps 7,4). See how, to indicate the greatness of his detestation, he would not even call it by its own name! God hates pride above all things, and so Peter says:

God resisteth the proud, but to the humble he giveth grace. (1P 5,5)

Job says of the unicorn:

Shall the rhinoceros (or: monoceros, ‘unicorn’) be willing to serve thee, or will it stay at thy crib? (Jb 39,9)

as if to say, "Not thine!" The proud man cannot consider the Lord’s crib, that he was placed in a crib for us.

14. Some animals have backward-curving horns. This is an image of the pride which, in some people, is broken down by their lust. They think themselves high and mighty, but are brought low by the lust of the flesh. As Hosea says,

The pride of Israel shall answer in his face. (Os 5,5)

It often happens that someone, who will not recognize his hidden pride, is brought to shame when it is revealed through the vice of lust.

There are also animals with forward-pointing horns, like unicorns. This represents the pride of the hypocrite, who cloaks his pride under an appearance of religious observance. As Ecclesiasticus says,

There is one that humbleth himself wickedly, and his interior is full of deceit.(Si 19,23)

St Gregory4 says: "Humility is such a precious thing, that pride would like to be clothed in it, lest its own vileness be seen."

Some animals have horns which turn towards each other, like the wild cow, representing a pride in some which is broken in itself. Isaiah says:

The Lord of hosts shall break the earthen vessel with terror,

and the tall of stature shall be cut down, and the lofty shall be humbled. (Is 10,33)

The earthen vessel is the mind of a proud sinner, made of clay and breakable, filled with the water of conceit. The Lord breaks it by striking the terror of the Last Judgement into the mind of that proud man. In that judgement, the ‘tall of stature’, who now seem to stand so securely, will be cut down by the sentence;

Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire; (cf. Mt 25,41)

and the ‘lofty’ who now go about with stretched out necks and wanton glances, and move with a set pace (cf. Is 3,16), will be humbled to hell, and to the deepest pit (cf. Is 14,15), in which is no refreshing water.

Again, some animals have horns that go straight up, like the deer. This represents that pride which, in some, arises from religion alone. This is the most dangerous sort, and Isaiah says of it to religious (whom it most benefits to be outstanding in humility), speaking under the figure of ‘the valley of vision’:

What aileth thee also, that thou too art wholly gone up to the housetops? (Is 22,1)

as if to say, It is tolerable if worldly folk seek the highest places; but what does it look like if you religious, that see so much, go looking for promotion?

(A sermon on humility: But if a stronger than he cometh.)

15. Let us say, then: When a strong man armed keepeth his court. The ‘court’ of horned pride is the proud man’s heart, wherein pride chooses its special dwelling. And just as the heart is the origin of the veins, and the primary creator of blood, so from the heart’s pride flows every evil; for

Pride is the beginning of all sin. (Si 10,15)

Pride watches over the court of the heart, lest any of its enemies climb up against it and disturb its peace- of which the Lord says, in Luke:

If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace. (Lc 19,42)

and the prophet:

I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, seeing the peace of sinners. (Ps 72,3)

There follows: But, if a stronger than he cometh and overcometh him, etc. The ‘stronger’ is humility, of whose strength David said to Saul, in the first book of Kings:

I thy servant have killed both a lion and a bear. (1S 17,36)

David means ‘strong-armed’, and he represents the humble man who, the more he is humbled, becomes stronger. The humble man is like a worm, that earth-eater that contracts itself so as to extend itself the more. In the same way, the humble man contracts and belittles himself, that he may more strongly stretch out and reach heavenly good things. Ecclesiasticus says,

He hath lifted him up from his low estate, and hath exalted his head from tribulation, and many have wondered at him. (Si 11,13)

The humble, yet strong, David says, "I thy servant". O shining pearl! O sweet-smelling blossom! O humility, spicy as cinnamon! I thy servant! The humble man looks on himself as a servant, and calls himself a servant. He casts himself at the feet of all, abases himself, and thinks himself less than he is. So St Gregory5 says: "It is characteristic of the elect, that they think themselves to be less than they are."

This humble servant slays the lion of pride and the bear of lust. And note: he says that he first killed the lion, and then the bear, because no-one can mortify lust in himself unless he first toils to expel the spirit of pride from the court of his heart. So it is said, if a stronger than he come upon him and overcometh him, he will take away all the armour wherein he trusted. The armour (St Matthew calls them ‘vessels’ (cf. Mt 12,29)) of the spirit of pride is the five bodily senses, with which, as with arms, he attacks others; and in which, as in so many vessels, he carries the deadly poison of pride and offers it to others. But the humility of Jesus Christ (who is God, blessed above all (cf. Rm 9,5)) comes, and he says:

Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. (Mt 11,29)

and he enters the house of the strong man, the court of the heart, in which pride dwells, and overcomes him and drives him out. The medicine of humility expels the poison of pride, and when it is driven out, all its armour, in which it trusted, humility takes away; so that from then on nothing conceited, nothing exalted, nothing vicious may appear in the bodily senses. Instead, the insignia of humility are displayed everywhere.

Nascosta superbia, manifesta lussuria:

Ad convincendum superbiam hominum Deus aliquos punit, permittens eos ruere in peccata carnalia, quae, etsi sint minora, tamen manifestiorem turpitudinem continen.


 Saint Bonaventure: «Item Isidorus: “Deus occultam superbiam clericorum vindicat per manifestam luxuriam"… ergo manifesta luxuria est poena superbiae» 

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