Advent and Christmas Sermons by St. Vincent Ferrer
The seasonal winter sermons of the preacher and proclaimer of the divine Word, interpreter of sacred scripture and most subtle professor, Saint Vincent, confessor of Valencia, of the Order of Preachers, happily begin.
First Sunday of Advent. Sermon 1     Part one -The theme
Mt 21.9
And the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
    Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," (Mt 21:9).  We have prescribed  for today's gospel this text from Mt 21.  This Sunday is one of the greater Sundays of the entire year, because it is the first Sunday of the Coming (Adventus) of the Lord.  Holy Mother Church sets aside the ordinary texts of the office and begins the office of the Advent of the Lord. So, wishing to conform myself to holy mother church I propose now to preach about the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, how he shall come at the end of the world to judge the good and the wicked, rendering to each according to his works.  God willing,  we shall have many good thoughts. But first let us salute the Virgin Mary. 
   "Blessed is he who comes," etc. The words proposed is a short song which was sung by the children and the crowd at the coming of Christ into the city of Jerusalem, saying "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." To more fully introduce these words and as an introduction to the matter to be preached, it must be known  that there are found in sacred scripture clearly and manifestly three comings [adventus] of the Lord in this world, solemn and notable. general and principal.
            First was in virtuous humility. [de humiltate virtuosa]
            Second in gracious charity,[de charitate gratiosa] 
            Third in rigorous majesty. [de maiestate rigorosa]
   The first advent is already past, the second is present, the third is yet to come.  From these three advents corresponds three weeks of Advent, and the theme is understood principally of the third and last coming, and the greater, because then the good shall say, "Blessed is he who comes…etc."
  The first advent of the Lord was in virtuous humility, and this already is past, when he wished to descend through incarnation, conversation, captivity, scourging and passion, that those believing in him and obeying might ascend into heaven.  The reason why he came in such humility was the pride of Adam and Eve, because they preferred not to obey God, but rather their own will.  The sin of Adam was pride, as St. Thomas says II Sent. Dist. 22, q. 1, a. 1 and II-II, q. 163, a. 1.  And, as St. Thomas says, "Disobedience in him was caused by pride," and so Augustine says To Orosius [Dial. QQ. lxv, qu. 4), " man puffed up with pride obeyed the serpent's prompting, and scorned God's commands."  Truly also in the sin of the first parents, as St. Thomas says, II-II, where above in the solution ad 2m, gluttony has its place.  It is said in Genesis 3," And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat," (Gn 3:6), but it was not its goodness and beauty that was the first motive for sinning, but rather the argument of the serpent who said: " your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods,"(v. 5),  and it was by coveting this that the woman fell into pride. Hence the sin of gluttony resulted from the sin of pride. Therefore the first sin was pride rather than gluttony. 
   And pride is the foundation of all sins. V.g. Why is someone avaricious?  It is from pride, because he does not wish to obey the precept of God saying, "You should not lust," or "not commit thefts" etc.  Why is someone lustful? Is it not from pride, because he does not wish to obey the precept, "You shall not commit fornication?"  Same for gluttony and the other sins.  Authority: "Pride is the beginning of all sin," (Sir 10:15). Therefore Christ comes in great humility to reform us, like a servant in administering to us the works of redemption through human incarnation. 
   But you wish to understand well this lesson taught by the humility of Christ, imagine that there were many great lords and some gathered at dinner, and they did not have a servant waiter.  Imagine that the son of the king, having taken off his royal clothing and dressed simply had come to serve them all, first by offering them water for their hands and second,  by serving the food.  Would this not have been by the son of the king an act of great humility?   The humility of the Son of God is incomparably greater.  All nations of men were gathered in the room of this world, awaiting the sublime dinner of celestial feasting, but we did not have a waiter who would serve it to us.  For this purpose the Son of God exchanged, or rather hid the clothing of his godhead, and putting on  the apron of humanity comes to wait on us, although he was changed in no way by the incarnation.  Of this see in III Pars of the Summa of St. Thomas, q. 1, a. 1 ad 1, and q. 2, a. 6, ad 1 and in III Sent., dist. 2, q, 1, a. 1, ad 1.  Authority: "Who being in the form of God," namely with the clothing of deity, "…emptied himself, " that is, humbled himself, "taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man," (Phil 2:6-7), namely to serve and minister to us.
    And first he gives us water for our unclean hands, because all were conceived, born, and nurtured in sins. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 5: "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned," (v. 12).  And we have in De confess. d 4, c 2, firmissime tene: On this account he first ordained the holy sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is ordained as a remedy against original sin; it is a certain spiritual regeneration and the gates of the sacrament. Whence and children lacking all actual sin, are baptized, because of the infection of original sin in which they have been conceived.  "We were," the Apostle Paul says, "by nature children of wrath," (Eph 2:3)  This sin through the act of nature or through a vitiated origin from the parent is passed down to the offspring, about which St. Thomas richly and subtly treats, II Sent., dist. 31, q. 1, a.1 & 2, and also I-IIae, in q. 81
  Next he serves the food saying, "I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat," (Mk 8:2), and he gives spiritual foods, namely evangelical and celestial teachings. Second he gives the food of miracles, by curing the sick and raising the dead.   Third he gives the foods of the virtues.  Note how tasty and nutritious [confirmabiles] they were.  Finally, he again gives warm water for the hands and feet after dinner, even warm water at supper, because from his side poured out blood and water.  The first water was of baptism, the second of penance which by the passion of Christ has its power and efficacy of washing the filth of sins from souls. 
   Of this service of humility Christ himself spoke, " the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many," (Mt 20:28).  And he speaks of the first coming, already past, about which it is necessary to eat him, and praise him.  One way of speaking the theme with a change is to say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of a servant." 
    In the first coming Christ came as a servant, but in this second coming he comes as a friend [socius].  Reason: because it is the fashion and manner of a friend [socius] to stand with, to go with, to converse with, to eat and drink with [us], and so the Lord Jesus Christ comes from heaven to our home to simultaneously dine with us in communion.  O what a dinner [refectio] it is for the devout soul when a man, prepared, receives communion, the intellect is fed with the enlightenment of a clear faith, the memory with the best remembrances, the will with good and holy desires.  The mouth with devout prayers, and finally the whole body is fortified for penance and continuing a good life.  Nor does he  withdraw from us after communion, unless we should plan [congerium] for mortal sin, because otherwise it does not recede, so this association is so greatly pleasing.  So he himself said, "and my delights were to be with the children of men," (Proverbs 8:31).  Note "with the children of men," namely of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and doctors who have begotten us in the Catholic faith.  See how he is our companion.  Authority.  "The Lord is faithful in all his words," (Ps 114:13), namely by fulfilling his promises, because the words being pronounced, whether by a good or a bad priest, immediately he comes to the host. 
   The second coming is of gracious charity, and this is present, because every day in the sacrament of the altar in the consecrated host he is really there just as he came in the first coming in the womb of the Virgin, when the Virgin Mary said the words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord," (Lk 1:38).  Thus in every mass, when the priest says the words of consecration Christ comes to the host.  And so we adore him in the sacrament of the altar.  Of this coming we should eat him and praise him saying, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the friend."  In this way he does not show his dominion.
   The third coming shall be in rigorous majesty [de maiestate rigorosa], when he shall come for judgment, for judicial retribution.  Although when a man dies the soul immediately goes to judgment, and the Lord returns to it according to his deeds which he did here, because if here he had done fitting penance for his sins, immediately he gives him eternal glory.  If however he did evil and impenitent, he gives him the punishment of hell.  If, however, he was lukewarm, because neither wholly good nor bad, but mediocre, if because he had confessed, made satisfaction and forgave injuries etc, but had not done fitting penance, he gives him retribution of the punishment of purgatory, but these retributions are only of the soul, because the bodies both of the good and of the wicked which aided the souls does not yet have retribution, but they are turned to dust [incinerata]. 
   Thus the Lord shall come for the general judgment and shall render retribution not only to the souls but also to the bodies according to their works.  The general judgment of the future is at the end of the world, as St. Thomas says with three arguments in IV Sent., dist. 47, a. 1. 
    First that just as God in the beginning created all things together, so he shall judge all things together, and so the universal judgment shall correspond in being the match of the first production of things. 
   Second because as St. Thomas says, where above in the solution for a. 2, man can be considered in two ways, as a singular individual, and as part of a multitude, whence a twofold judgment is due to him.  One singular, which happens to him after death, when he shall receive according to those things which he did in the body, although not totally, because not with respect to the body, but just with respect to the soul.  The other judgment ought to be of him as he is a part of the whole human race, and so judgment shall come to him in the universal and general judgment, nor does God judge twice in the same matters, because he does not assess two punishments for one sin, but the punishment which had not been completely inflicted before, in the last judgment will be completed, when the wicked and evil ones are punished simultaneously in body and soul.  
   Third it is clear because although everyone who is damned is certain of his damnation, and the blessed of their glory, nevertheless not to all is the damnation or reward made known, nevertheless what is fitting that is known by all, so that the justice of God is apparent to all, and this commonly happens in the general judgment where all are gathered together. 
   Of this coming he himself says, "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then will he render to every man according to his works," (Mk 16:27).  Then he shall not come in humility, in poverty and simplicity, as in the first, nor as a companion as in the second, but he shall come as Lord which such majesty and power that the whole world shall fear and tremble. 
   He shall come like the most powerful of kings, who comes to his castle or city rebellious or disobedient to him with armed troops, with bombs and catapults etc.  So shall the Lord come to the castle or city of this world in which there are many rebels and disobedient to Christ the King, that he wishes and commands humility and they are proud, vain etc.  He commanded mercy and generosity and they are the worst, avaricious, extortionists, thieves and robbers.  He commanded chastity, they are lustful.  The same with the rest.   Belief without obedience will not save a man, no king or lord would be content with the belief of his subjects without obedience, on this account Christ shall come to the city of this world not as a servant, nor as a companion, but as Lord with many soldiers [cum multis gentibus], because on that day the heavens will be emptied.  Because no human nor angelic creature shall remain there, for all shall come with the king for judgment.  The horn or trumpet shall sound, thunder and lightning etc., to the extent that heaven and earth shall shudder.  Note. If  heavens and earth and the creatures which never have sinned against God are not able to stand up to his coming, what will it be for sinners, who have committed so many sins against God?  Then it would be better to be in hell than to see God. 
   About this Job said, in the person of a sinner, "Who will grant me this, that you may protect me in hell, and hide me till your wrath passes," (Job 14:13).  But on that day the good shall stand secure, nor shall they fear.  Therefore holy mother church praying for all the faithful says, "Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death on that fearful day, when the heavens and the earth are moved, when you come to judge the world with fire."  Then Christ shall show himself as Lord and all peoples will recognize him as Lord,  David [says]: "The Lord shall be known when he executes judgments: the sinner has been caught in the works of his own hands," (Ps 9:17).  Then the blessed and the good rejoicing shall proclaim the theme in its proper form, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."   The theme now is clear.

A061   II Sunday of Advent, sermon 3
St. Vincent Ferrer  -- Sermon on the Last Judgment
From: Angel of the Judgment: A Life of Vincent Ferrer, by S.M.C., Ave Maria Press. Chapter XI, pp. 102-117.  This entire chapter consists of the third of the sermons given on the second Sunday in Advent; on the last judgment.
Douay Translation of  Luke 21:25-28

25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves;
26 Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved;
27 And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty.
28 But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.
   Our sermon will. be on today's gospel, which consists entirely in the doctrine and instruction of Jesus Christ Himself. In this gospel He warns us of the great evils and tribulations which are to come at the end of the world, and tells us of the signs which will precede His coming in judgment. This subject will, I think, be of service to us. Let us begin with the Hail Mary.
   "There will be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars." By study of Holy Scripture and by factual experience we know that when any great and heavy affliction is about to come on the world, often some warning sign is shown in the sky or in the upper air. And this happens by the mercy of God, so that people forewarned of impending tribulation by means of these signs, through prayer and good works, may obtain in the tribunal of mercy a reversal of the sentence passed against them by God the judge in the heavenly courts; or at least by penance and amendment of life, may prepare themselves against the impending affliction.
   So, before the coming of any great mortality, phantom battles are seen in the sky; before famine there are earthquakes; and before a country is laid waste dreadful portents are seen. We are told of the terrible signs shown to the Jews for a length of time before the destruction of Jerusalem under Antiochus. "And it came to pass that through the whole city of Jerusalem for the space of forty days there were seen horsemen running in the air, in gilded raiment armed with spears like bands of soldiers. And horses set in ranks, running one against another, with the shakings of shields, and a multitude of men in helmets, with drawn swords, and casting of darts, and glittering of golden armor, and of harness of all sorts," (2 Macc 5:2,3). After this, Antiochus plundered the temple and slew the Jews. Therefore we read in Exodus: "And shall multiply signs and wonders in the land of Egypt," (Ex 7:3).
   Now among all afflictions, three of the greatest and most terrible are shortly to come upon mankind: first, the affliction of Antichrist, a man but a diabolical one; second, the destruction by fire of the terrestrial world; third, the universal judgment. And with these tribulations the world will come to an end. Therefore, according to the rule of divine Providence, as set out above, before these three, there will be warning signs in the heavens, in the sun and in the moon and in the stars, as is set out in our text.
   The first affliction to come on the world in a short space of time is the advent of Antichrist, a diabolical man, who will bring distress on the whole world as is implied in. today's gospel where it is said: "And upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves."
   In my text there are four clauses in which we are warned of the four ways in which Antichrist will deceive Christians. The first clause is this: "There will be sign, in the sun." You must know that in Holy Scripture Christ is called the Sun, and this is because, by the evidence of your own eyes, the sun is among the most beautiful of the creatures made by God. Taking the word etymologically, we have: S-O-L (Super omnia lucens), "Shining above all things." In the same way, Christ is more beautiful than all the saints, and shines above them all in the brightness of glory, not only inasmuch as He is God, but also as man. And as all the stars receive their light from the sun, who depends on nothing for its own brightness, so all the saints receive from Christ the brightness of glory, strength, sanctity, wisdom, understanding and influence. This is the reason why Christ is called the Sun, and under the same name of "Sun" God the Father sent Him into the world, saying: "But unto you who fear my name the Sun of justice shall arise" (Mal 4:2). This is not said of the natural sun. For the Church says in praise of the Virgin Mary: "For thou art happy, holy Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise, for out of thee has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ, Our Lord."
   The first clause tells us that there will be signs in the sun in the time of Antichrist; that is, there will be signs in Christ, and the precise sign is given by Saint Matthew saying: "The sun will not give its light." Such darkening does not happen with regard to the sun itself, for it is not in the nature of the sun to be darkened in itself. But by the interposition of clouds and vapor between the sun, and the earth the sun appears to be obscured. In the same way, in the time of Antichrist, the Sun of justice will be obscured by the interposition of temporal goods and the wealth which Antichrist will bestow on the world, inasmuch as the brightness of faith in Jesus Christ and the glow of good lives will no longer shine among Christians. For, lest they should lose their dominion, temporal rulers, kings and princes will range themselves on the side of Antichrist. In like manner, prelates for fear of losing their dignities, and religious and priests to gain honors and riches, will forsake the Faith of Christ and adhere to Antichrist. Now he will be a veritable man, but so proud that, not only will he desire to have universal dominion in the whole world, but will even demand to be called a god, and will insist on receiving divine worship. This we may gather from the second Epistle of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (2:3): "For unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and is lifted up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, spewing himself as if he were a god."
   This will come about because Antichrist by the ministry of demons will possess all the gold and silver of the earth and seas, and pearls and all the precious stones that are in the world. As we read in Daniel (11:43) : "And he shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver and all the precious stones of Egypt." With this wealth he will gather together in arms all the nations of the world, to fight against those who oppose him. As we read in the Apocalypse (20:7) : "He shall go forth and seduce the nations which are over the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog; and shall gather there together to battle the number of whom is as the sand of the sea."
   Observe that he will seduce the peoples, that is, with gold and silver and honors; Gog which signifies "hidden," and Magog which signifies "that which is disclosed," because both hidden and open evil are on his side. Then temporal lords and ecclesiastical prelates, for fear of losing power or position, will be on his side, since there will exist neither king nor prelate unless he wills it. For the same reason, religious, priests and laity will also uphold him. "There will indeed be signs in the Sun of justice, for then it will be obscured in the hearts of Christians, since from those hearts it will not give forth the light of Faith; all preaching of a better life will cease, owing to the interposition of the vapor and clouds of temporal goods. As we are told in Daniel (11.39) : "He will multiply glory and will give them power in many things and divide up the earth at his pleasure."
   I am asked why God permits this error among Christians, since He is God and the strongest cannot stand against Him? I answer by a dictum of theology taken from the Book of Wisdom (11:17) : "By what things a man sinneth, by the same also is he tormented." How do the peoples of the world sin against God today? They sin in order to gain honors, dignities and riches. Therefore, by honors, riches and dignities, God permits that Antichrist shall deceive them. If therefore you do not wish to be deceived, now with all your hearts contemn and despise all earthly goods, and long for those of heaven, considering that the goods of this world are transitory and empty, while heavenly and celestial goods are eternal. In this way you will be strong. Saint John gives this counsel: "Love not the world nor the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world the charity of the Father is not in him. And the world passeth and the concupiscence thereof" (1 Jn 2:15-17).
   The second clause says that there will be signs in the moon. You must understand that in the Holy Scriptures the moon signifies our holy Mother the Universal Church, which implies the world-wide union of Christians; for when men speak of the Church, they do not speak of the material building, or the stone and the walls which compose it, but of that gathering of the faithful under one Head, which is the Church in reality. The Church is signified by the moon and its five phases: first there is the new moon, then the waxing moon, next the full moon, to be followed by the waning moon, and lastly the old moon.
   The Church passes through these phases. The new moon signifies the Church of Christ in His own time; and as the new moon when first seen is like a bow-shaped thread with two horns following the sun, so the Church in the time of Christ had at first only two horns: Andrew and Peter who followed Christ. The waxing moon typifies the twelve Apostles, then the seventy-two disciples, then the three thousand converted by Peter on the day of Pentecost and so on. The full moon typifies the acceptance of the Gospel of Christ in every part of the world, in every kingdom and province. David says (Ps: 18.5) : "In the whole world their sound is gone forth, and their words to the ends of the earth."
   The waning moon typifies the inability of men to preserve what the Apostles had acquired. In the first place, the Church was lessened by the loss of the whole of India, by means of him they called John the Presbyter; the second, Assyria by means of one of their tyrants; the third, Africa by means of Mahomet; the fourth, the Greeks under their Emperor Constantine; the fifth, the Armenians with their king; the sixth, the Georgians with a certain pseudo-prophet; the seventh, the bad example of the Christians led by a certain heresiarch [Probably the Waldenses whom Vincent evangelized in the Alpine countries. We do not know the name of the individual heresiarch]; the eighth, the Italians with Bartholomew of Bari; the ninth, the French with Peter of Candia.
   The old moon, because the horns are reversed, typifies that the Church is no longer in the state in which Christ founded it. Christ founded the Church in great lowliness and poverty; now all this is turned round to pride, pomp and vanity, as may be easily seen in every rank of the Church. Mercy and liberality are changed into simony, usury and rapine; chastity becomes licentiousness, uncleanness and corruption; the brightness of virtue is changed into envy and malignity; temperance has become gluttony and voracity; patience has given place to anger, war and divisions among the peoples; diligence is superseded by negligence. Nothing is now left to make matters worse but an eclipse which is caused by the interposition of the earth between the sun and moon such as only occurs at full moon. As Isaiah says in 59:2: "Your sins have put a division between us." In the time of Antichrist, the Church, typified by the moon, will be eclipsed; because then she will not give her light, since Christians will no longer work miracles by reason of their sanctity; but Antichrist and his followers will work miracles, not true miracles, but false ones having the appearance of true miracles, in order that they may deceive the people. As Saint John says in the Apocalypse (13:13) : "And he did great signs, so that he made also fire to come down from heaven unto the earth in the sight of men," that is, balls of fire, such as it is within the power of the devil to send down, if God should permit this and does not prevent him; as we read in Job (1:16) : "And while he was yet speaking  another came and said: A fire of God fell from heaven and striking the sheep and the servants hath consumed them." O! The wonder of the people, this will be the downfall of many.
   You must know that Antichrist will perform other prodigies by the power of demons, and these will be true miracles according to the nature of things in themselves, but false in regard to the definition of miracle (i.e. by the power of God). For he will cause both images and babes of a month old to speak. The followers of Antichrist will question these statues or babies, and they will make answer concerning this lord who has come in the latter times, affirming that he is the savior. The devil will move their lips and form the words they utter when they declare Antichrist to be the true savior of the world; and in this way he will cause the destruction of many souls.
   And the Church, typified by the moon, will perform no miracles.
   Some say that such phenomena are not real miracles in the sense that raising the dead to life is a real miracle. I can give concrete examples of the dead being apparently raised to life, but such are only phantoms. For instance, in the same way as Christians raise dead people in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so your dead father or mother may appear to speak to you; but in these latter times Christians will not be able to work similar miracles. Christ has warned us of these false miracles and signs, saying: "There will arise false christs and false prophets." That is to say, the sons of Christians who have already made shipwreck of their faith owing to the gifts of Antichrist. As Saint Matthew says (24:24) : "And they will show great signs and wonders in so much to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Behold I have told you beforehand."
   Suppose someone should ask: Why does Christ permit these works of destruction of Christianity by the devil? I answer according to the rule of Theology: "By what things a man sinneth, by the same also is he tormented." Since the people of the world sin against God by having recourse to the works of the devil, such as divination and fortune telling in their necessities—for instance, in order to find things they have lost, or to obtain health or children, instead of laying their needs before the omnipotent God—therefore God permits them to be deceived by the works of the demons.
   If you do not wish to be deceived, then place the whole of your faith and confidence in the name of Jesus Christ., and refuse to acknowledge any miracle unless it is worked in that same name; and so you will be strong against seduction. David says (Ps 39:5) : "Blessed is the man whose hope is in the name of the Lord; and who hath not regard to vanities and lying follies." The name of the Lord is Jesus. "And thou shalt call His name Jesus," (Lk 2:21). If you should receive any wound or hurt you should sign it devoutly with the Sign of the Cross.
   Antichrist arrogates to himself every other name of Christ, but as many of the saints tell us, he flies from the name of Jesus. Therefore, for that reason, the name of Jesus should receive the greatest respect from all Christians. Moreover, all the names of God, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, should be honored in a sevenfold manner. Because the name of God is great it is to be feared; because it is holy it should be venerated; because it is sweet it should be savored in meditation; it is strong to save; rich in mercy; efficacious in impetration; and hidden in order to be discovered and known. He says also that the name of the Son of God is also the name of the father in a threefold way: for by it he is honored, invoked and manifested. He also says that in all the names given is also signified the name of Jesus, which is the sign of salvation, and therefore exceedingly to be honored.
   The third clause says that there will be signs in the stars. In the Sacred Scriptures "star" signifies "light-giving"; and so it is the appellation of Masters, Doctors, and Licentiates in Theology. This signification is found in Daniel (12:3) : "And they that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that instruct many to justice, as stars for all eternity." In these stars, that is learned men, there will be signs in the time of Antichrist; because, as Christ says in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (24:29) : "Stars shall fall from heaven"; and this is the third combat waged by Antichrist, that of disputation. Then stars, that is the learned, shall fall from heaven, that is, from the truth of the Catholic Faith. The disputations of Antichrist with the learned will be based entirely on the text of the Old Testament, and these doctors, so far from being able to answer him, will not even be able to speak. Then the stars, the masters, will fall from heaven, that is from the heights of the Faith. For, according to Daniel (11.36) : "And the king, Antichrist, will do all according to his will and will lift up and magnify all against God, and against the God of Gods he will speak great things;" that is, the matter of his blasphemies will be insoluble so far as men are concerned.
   You may ask again why Christ allows this, that those who defend the Faith should fail so utterly? I answer that Christ allows this for two reasons: first, according to the rule of theology: "By what things a man sinneth, by the same is he tormented;" and this follows from the fact that masters and teachers no longer care for study of the Bible, but prefer the study of the poets and other profane works.
   The second reason why Christ permits this, is because of the scandalous and wicked lives and the many sins of learned. men; for in the case of many of them, the greater their knowledge the greater also is their sin and the worse their consciences; for they are proud, puffed-up, wine-bibbers and the rest. He who can bind a lioness can easily bind a sheep; if therefore the devil can hold in chains the minds of the learned by reason of their evil lives, how much easier is it for him to bind the sheep that is their tongues—so that they cannot speak.. The ignorant are in much better case, for knowledge puffeth up, if therefore you wish to be strong, embrace the counsel of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 2:5) : "That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men but on the power of God." Reasoning and disputation are good for strengthening the intellect, but not for fortifying belief, since faith must be held from the motive of obedience, because Christ Himself has commanded us, announcing the gospel which the Apostles preached and Holy Mother Church has ordained. Therefore, O Lord, I believe.
   The fourth clause tells us: "And on earth distress of nations by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves." Behold these are the tortures which Antichrist will inflict, and on the earth distress of nations by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves. That is the preparations for battle, the sanding of the arena before the combat, which will be the work of the lords who are already on the side of Antichrist; because then no one will dare to name Christ nor the Virgin Mary under pain of death; and the waves are those of torments which have never in the past been so dreadful as those which will be inflicted by Antichrist. In Saint Matthew, Christ warns us (24:21): "For there shall then be great tribulation such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened." We read in the Apocalypse (17:10): "And when he shall come he must remain a short time," The Doctors in general say that Antichrist will reign for three and a half years only; which is the measure of a thousand and two hundred days and ninety days; "and from the time when the continual sacrifice shall be taken away and the abomination unto desolation shall be set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days" (Daniel: 12:11).
  If I am asked why Christ permits the Christians to be so terribly persecuted, I answer : "By what things a man sinneth, by the same also is he tormented." Because now, at the present time, people are offending God by wars, divisions and false flattery, by feuds and duels, so Christ permits them to be torn in pieces and slain by Antichrist. If therefore, you do not wish to be slain and destroyed, be at peace and concord now with everyone, according to the counsel of the Apostle: "Have peace with all men; revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place to wrath, for it is written : "Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" " (Rom 12:18).
   The second evil or retribution will be the conflagration of the earthly world which is mentioned in the second part of the gospel of this Sunday: "Men withering away for fear and expectation of what is to come on the whole world; for the powers of heaven will be moved."
   After Antichrist has been slain by lightning on Mount Olivet and his death has been made widely known through out the world, this our earth will exist for forty-five more days; I do not say years, but days. This is clearly to be seen in Daniel (12:11) : "And from the time when the continual sacrifice shall be taken away and the abomination of desolation shall be set up, there shall be one thousand, two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh unto the one thousand, three hundred and thirty-five days."
   The Doctors say that these forty-five days will be given by God for the conversion of those who have been seduced by Antichrist, but Antichrist will have left behind him so great riches and pleasure that hardly any of the nations will be converted to the Faith of Christ. For there is no savior but Christ, and yet they will not be converted.
   Then in the four parts of the earth, east, and west, and north, and south, fire will blaze forth by thee divine power, and as it presses forward, the whole world in succession will be set on fire until nothing of the other three elements will remain. Then, when men are made aware of the tumult and the fire and see the lightnings bursting forth from it, they will wither away for fear of the fire, and expectation of eternal damnation. The Apostle Paul, in the epistle to the Hebrews (10:27) says of this: "But a, certain dreadful expectation of the judgment and the rage of a fire shall consume the adversaries."
   "For the powers of heaven shall be moved." This is said to imply that the fire has no natural cause, as some people erroneously imagine, for they say that for forty years before the consummation of the world it will not rain. This fire, however, comes from the rigor of divine justice and acts through the ministry of angels, as it is shown in the saying: "For the powers of heaven shall be moved." This fire comes down, likewise, for the purification of the other three elements—earth, air and water—which have been infected and corrupted by the sins of men. Concerning this, David says (Ps 96:3): "A fire shall go before him and shall burn his enemies round about.  His lightnings have shone forth to the world; the earth saw and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord; at the presence of the Lord of all the earth."
   You understand how sinners are the enemies of Christ; but why do they say, "and shall burn his enemies round about," when the good as well as the bad will be destroyed by the fire? The good and the friends of God will die in the fire it is true, but they will die without pain or suffering; but the wicked and God's enemies will die in the greatest pain and torment. Therefore, the enemies of God are named.
   Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks beautifully of this when he says that this last fire, inasmuch as it precedes the Judgment, will act as an instrument of God's justice. It will also act like natural fire, inasmuch as, in its natural power, it will burn both wicked and good and reduce every human body to ashes. Inasmuch as it acts as an instrument of God's justice, it will act in different ways with regard to different people. For the wicked will suffer intensely through the action of the fire, but the good in whom nothing is found which must be purged away will feel no pain from the fire, just as the three children felt nothing in the fiery furnace, although the bodies of these others will not be preserved as were those of the three children. And this will come to pass by the divine power, that without pain or suffering their bodies will be resolved into ashes.
   But the good in whom there is some stain to be purged away will feel the pain of this fire, more or less according to the merits of each. But they will be swiftly purged for three reasons. The first reason is that in them little evil is found, for they have been already in great measure purged by the preceding tribulations and persecutions. The second is that the living will voluntarily endure the pain; and suffering willingly endured in this life remits much more quickly than suffering inflicted after death. This is seen in the case of the martyrs, for if, when they came to die, anything worthy of purgation was found, it was cut away by the pruning knife of their sufferings. And the sufferings of the martyrs were short in comparison with the pains of purgatory. The third reason is that the heat of the fire gains in intensity what it loses through the shortness of the time. But in so far as the fire is active after the judgment its power only extends over the damned, since all the bodies of the just will be impassible.
"This is a serious thought for those who will not do penance. In that last day, how greatly the temporal lords and prelates of the Church will desire to do penance when they see the fire. But then such repentance will avail them nothing, because they are acting not from charity, but from servile fear. Therefore, do penance now, forgive injuries, make restitution of any ill-gotten goods, live up to and confess your religion; and let priests obtain breviaries. If it were certain that in a short time this town was going to be destroyed by fire, would you not exchange all your immovable goods for something that you could take away with you? So it is with the world, which in a short while is to be destroyed by fire. Therefore place your hearts in heaven, and your lips by speaking with reverence of God, and your works by doing good. This is Christ's counsel, saying: "Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth where the rust and moth devour and thieves break in and steal." Notice the word "rust," which is Antichrist, and "moth," which is fire, for these will devour all.
   The third evil will be the tribulation of the universal Judgment which is mentioned in the third part of this gospel. "Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and majesty." After the destruction of the world by fire, Christ the Lord Judge, with the Virgin Mary and all the saints, will come to the judgment seated on a throne in the air. And the Archangel Michael will cry with a. loud voice, saying: "Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment."
   Then suddenly, by the divine power, all the dead, both good and wicked, will arise, children will rise with grown people and all will be gathered to the judgment. Even those who died in their mother's womb will be there, as Saint Thomas teaches, to accuse those through whose fault they died without Baptism. And the age at which all will rise will be thirty years.
   Christ Himself says concerning the General Judgment: "When the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the seat of His Majesty. And all the nations shall be gathered together before Him; and He shall separate them one from another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He shall set the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left" (Mt 25:31-33). And the creed of Saint Athanasius: "At Whose coming all men must rise with their own bodies; and it will be rendered to every man according to his own deeds; those who have performed good works will go into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire."
   The sheep are the good and the goats are the wicked. Christ will say to the sheep on His right hand: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess ye the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." To the goats on His left He will say: "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels."
   The wicked will go into eternal punishment, the just into eternal life. But for the rest, no one will dwell in this world, because those things which are transitory and finite have passed away in their finite condition; movement has passed away.
   Therefore, the Church in the person of every Christian makes petition in the Office for the Dead: "Deliver me, O Lord, from everlasting death, in that tremendous day when the heavens and the earth are moved, when Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire."

A150   In Vigilia nativitatis Christi.  Sermo unicus 

St. Vincent Ferrer: Sermon for Christmas Eve (Mt 1:18)

Mt: 1:18  Now the generation of Christ was in this wise. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost.
   "She was found with child, of the Holy Ghost," (Mt 1:18)
   Our whole sermon is about the impregnation of the Virgin Mary. But that you may perceive this material in your souls with the sweetness of devotion first we shall salute the pregnant Virgin, etc. [Here all recite the "Hail Mary."]
   "She was found," etc.  I find a great difference in sacred scripture between the conception of Christ and his birth, especially in this because the birth of Christ was not entirely hidden and secret, rather he wished that it would be announced to the world and published through the angels and through the heavens, through the star in the east, through the animals, through Eastern  kings, just as it had already been prophesied.  "I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations: and the desired of all nations shall come," (Hag 2:7-8).  Note, "the heaven," that is, the holy angels. 
   But about his conception he wished that it would be hidden.  To no one in this world was it revealed, not to the patriarchs, not to the prophets, nor to holy persons, but only to the archangel Gabriel and to the Virgin Mary, as it had been prophesied by Isaiah, "From the ends of the earth we have heard praises, the glory of the just one. And I said: My secret to myself," (Isa 24:16).  And the prophet speaks in the person of Gabriel and the Virgin Mary.  Note, "from the ends of the earth."  The ends of the earth are taken in two ways, either locally or temporally. 
   With respect to the first by calculating from the center of the earth, that which is most distant from the center is the circumference.  The earth is the center, the circumference is the empyreal heaven.  Behold the ends locally from which Gabriel and the Virgin Mary heard the praises of the just one, because it is a rule in holy  theology that when he is called just, it is understood absolutely, always of the savior. 
   As for the second, the ends can be taken temporally.  There are seven temporal ages of the world. The first was from Adam to Noah. The second from Noah to Abraham.  Third from Abraham to Moses. The fourth from Moses to David. The fifth from David to the Babylonian captivity.  Sixth from the Babylonian exile to Christ.  The seventh and last, from Christ to the end of the world.  About which the Apostle [Paul] says: "[We are] upon whom the ends of the world are come," (1Cor 10:11).  Behold the temporal limits, about which Gabriel and the Virgin Mary speak.  "From the ends of the earth, "that is in the ultimate age of the world "we have heard praises, the glory of the just one," that is, the savior. "Tell us Angel Gabriel about these praises and the glory of the savior. Say something to us."  He responds, "My secret to me," supply "I shall keep." See how the conception of Christ was hidden and secret.  About which David said: "He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth," (Ps 71:6).  The difference then is clear between the birth of Christ and his conception. 
   Nevertheless although his conception was so secret at the beginning, nevertheless it gradually became manifest, because a pregnant woman at least in giving birth reveals her pregnancy.  So it was of the Virgin whose belly and uterus had swelled, and she could no longer hide her pregnancy.  On this account the proposed theme speaks, "She was found with child."  The theme is clear. 
   And since I am concerned with the pregnant Virgin in this sermon, I find that the Virgin was found pregnant by her fiancé Joseph in three ways:
            First through sense experience, [per experientiam sensualem]
            Second through divine wisdom, [per sapientiam divinalem]
            Third through a special excellence. [per excellentiam specialem]
   For each of these the theme speaks, "She was found with child," (Mt 1:18) etc.
   I say first, that the Virgin Mary was found pregnant by her espoused Joseph through sense experience.  All knowledge is had through some sense perception.  Through sight we recognize colors; through hearing, sound; through the sense of smell, odors; through taste, flavors; through touch, hard or soft, hot or cold.  If you say to someone "How do you know this?" He replies: "Because I have seen or heard it," etc. It is clear therefore that all our cognition is through the senses. The Philosopher [Aristotle], "Sense is not deceived about the proper object, especially sight unless there is a defect."  On account of this honorable judges make a great difference between eyewitnesses and hearsay [de auditu], or belief [credentia].  An eyewitness is greater.  And so Christ rebuked the Jews who refused to believe, saying, "We speak what we know, and we testify what we have seen, and you receive not our testimony," (Jn 3:11).  Note "what we know" namely, I and the holy prophets, "we speak," in this way, from sight.  The Virgin Mary was found by her espoused Joseph to be with child.  Imagine  how after Mary had conceived, filled with joy she went to visit Elizabeth her cousin [literally, her related sister], who was pregnant with John the Baptist, as the angel had told her.  She stayed with her for three months, as Luke says, (cf. Lk 1:56). 
   Her fiancé Joseph came to Nazareth to visit her, and saw her womb swollen, so he found her pregnant. Think how Joseph should have wondered, because he had not touched her.  Moreover, as the holy doctors say, after they had become engaged, the Virgin Mary persuaded her fiancé, who was also a virgin, that they would take a vow of virginity together.  So much the more did  he wonder when she seemed pregnant. Therefore the beginning of today's gospel says, "When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together," that is, to live together and  have relations, "she was found to be with child, of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately," (Mt 1:18-19).
   Think also when she was found pregnant by her parents, who did not believe that she had sinned, but they wondered what this was.  On the one hand they were thinking of her great devotion; on the other hand they saw her pregnancy.  Her mother said to her, "Daughter, what is this?" The Virgin Mary replied to her mother, this is that which pleases God, who can do to his creatures whatever he pleases.  "O daughter, what will people say, that my daughter got pregnant before she was married." 
   Think of the distress of the Virgin, who dared not reveal because "my secret to me."  Think of the entanglement in which Joseph found himself, who was old and poor, and the Virgin Mary,  young and stunningly beautiful.  Bernard says that Joseph, on one hand was considering the holiness of the Virgin, and that it could not be that she had sinned, and on the other hand he beheld her pregnant.  And since by nature a woman cannot conceive without a man, therefore like an olive, his heart was between two millstones.
   And because he was prudent and wise he considered all the signs of a bad woman, which are:  1) an irreligious heart, 2) garrulousness in speech, 3) personal untidiness, 4) voraciousness in eating and drinking, 5) laziness toward work, 5) vanity of dress, and  6) contempt for her husband.  Each of these signs indicate a woman is bad.  But Joseph found none of these signs in the Virgin Mary. Rather, the total opposite; all the signs of a good woman. 
1)   The first sign of a dishonorable [inhonesta] woman is an irreligious heart toward God, disregarding masses and sermons, because she does not fear God.  May God keep her from being inconsiderate, because unless a woman retains a fear of God, no other fear will hold her back from evil.  Fear of God and devotion restrained Susanna lest she sin, when she said, "I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death to me: and if I do it not, I shall not escape your hands. But it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord," (Dan 13:22-23). 
   Joseph however was thinking about his fiancée whether she was devout, or irreligious, and he saw that he had never seen such a holy and devout woman, because she always wanted to pray, or read, or contemplate.  And on this foundation of devotion a woman should ground herself, otherwise she will fall.  "For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid," (1Cor 3:10).  But Joseph did not find these things in the Blessed Virgin Mary, since she was most devoted and ardent toward God.  So scripture says of her in Proverbs, "The woman that fears [God], she shall be praised," (Prov 31:30).
2)  The second sign is garrulous talkativeness. [garrulatio oris loquax]. God keep her from the opportunity.  Reason, because no devotion remains in the soul from words, just as no scent remains in the nutmeg jar which is left open.  Authority: "Where there are many words, there is oftentimes want," namely of goodness (Prov 14:23).  And so you should raise your little daughters lest they become talkative.  And so, 1 Tim: "Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection," (1Tim 2:11), otherwise it is a bad sign.  But a quiet woman is good.
null   Note the signs of taciturnity of the Blessed Virgin, because she is painted with her eyes larger than her mouth, and so she is properly represented to indicate that she had a great eye of the heart for thinking and contemplating, but a mouth small for speaking little.  Mary "kept all these words in her heart," (Lk 2:51).  Joseph considered for himself if his fiancée was loquacious, or garrulous, and he saw that she was not.   Moreover she preferred not to speak.  A sign of this, as I said, that the Virgin had large eyes and a small mouth, is clear in the portrait which St. Luke painted,  which is in Rome.
3)  The third sign is bodily untidiness.  When a woman goes about, lascivious, dissolute and vulgar, it seems that she has ants on her feet [formicas in pedibus!].  Ambrose:  A man's body is an image of his soul. So Solomon says, "A woman [meets him] in harlot's attire prepared to deceive souls; talkative and wandering, not bearing to be quiet, not able to abide still at home, now abroad, now in the streets, now lying in wait near the corners," (Prov 7:10-12).  And she immediately put herself at the windows etc. 
   But Joseph did not find this sign in the Blessed Virgin, because she never left home, unless when she went to the temple. And thus she went about totally composed.  She always had her eyes toward the ground in a gesture of holiness.  She never went dancing, but went about with downcast eyes.  So scripture says about her, "How beautiful are you, my love, how beautiful are you! your eyes are doves' eyes, besides what is hid within," (Song 4:1). The Holy Spirit says "how beautiful are you" to the Virgin twice, because she is beautiful in body and beautiful in soul.  Note, "Your eyes are doves' eyes," he does not say, "falcons' eyes."
4)  The fourth sign is stuffing the belly with food and drink.  It is a bad sign in a man and in a woman, because of those  nearby parts, and stimulate each other.  Hence a full belly immediately stimulates its neighbor, and because of this a gluttonous person necessarily is lustful.  Holy Scripture says of the gluttons, "They shall eat ... and shall lift up their souls to their iniquity,"
(Hos 4:8). 
   But the Virgin Mary ate very little, only enough to sustain the body.   She was almost always fasting.
 5)  The fifth sign is laziness, as when some woman says, "I will not work.  I have brought so much from my dowry to my husband."  Therefore St. Bernard [De consideratione, II, 13,22] writes, "Idleness is the mother of trifles, the stepmother of virtues," so because our body is of the  earth, it has the conditions of the earth, which if left uncultivated, brings forth thorns of lust, and weeds of bad thoughts and sins.  Also, about the body of the lazy, on this account Sacred Scripture says of the body, "Send him," -- the servant, that is, the body which is like a servant who is to be directed – "to work, that he be not idle: For idleness has taught much evil," (Sir 33:28-29). 
   But the Virgin was never lazy, rather she was always busy about holy works.  Jerome says that she would arise in the middle of the night and pray.  Then she spun and wove.
6)  Sixth is vanity and excess in dress [ornatus].  Women may dress themselves decently and honestly according to their status and condition, but when they pour all their time and zeal in dressing themselves, or their body and they don't care about their soul, God help them, because such women are vain and have a vain heart.  So Scripture says, "Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity," (Eccl 1:2).  Note the rule of the Apostle [Paul], "Women also in decent apparel: adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with plaited hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire, but as it becomes women professing godliness, with good works," (1Tim 2:9-10).  Note "sobriety" in measure, according to the condition of their status and the ability of their husband.  But there are many women with no regard, and they should be ashamed at what they wear, like the outfit or jewelry which a prostitute wears.   And so scripture says, "Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: the woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised," (Prov 31:30). 
   But the Blessed Virgin did not care about jewelry.  She washed her face well with the pure water of tears. St. Anne, her mother was adorning her with much jewelry [dives].   Out of love for her mother she wore it in the house, but not outside the house.  But the daughters of today do just the opposite.
7)  The seventh sign is contempt of the husband.  It is a sign that she has her heart for another, when she argues with her husband about fashion [de genere ?] and about other things, she immediately wants him to get it for her.  According to scriptures, a woman ought to honor her husband, and so the Apostle commands, saying, "Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to use authority over the man: but to be in silence," (1Tim 2:11).  We also read in Esther 2, that Assuerus and his people were saying, "Let all wives, as well of the greater as of the lesser, give honor to their husbands...and that the husbands should be rulers and masters in their houses," (Est 2:20,22). 
    Neither is this sign of contempt found in the glorious Virgin, because although she was young, beautiful, noble and rich, and her spouse old, and poor, nevertheless she honored him more than any woman in the world.  All in all, Joseph found no sign of a bad woman in the Virgin Mary, but all the virtues and traits [afflictiones?, perhaps affectiones] of a good woman.
  On the other hand he considered whether nature would permit a woman to conceive without a man, and he saw that it seemed not.  See how perplexed he was; it was like his heart was pressed between two millstones.  On the one hand he was afraid to make her condition public, because she would have immediately been stoned to death, according to the law.  On the other hand, since he was a just man, lest he seem to consent, he thought about going away quietly and leaving her.  And so the prophecy of David was fulfilled saying, in the person of Joseph, "Fear and trembling are come upon me: and darkness has covered me.  And I said: Who will give me wings like a dove, and I will fly and be at rest?... and I abode in the wilderness," (Ps 54:6-7,8).  As for his proposal: note "fear" of consenting in sin if he stayed with her, and "trembling" lest he defame an innocent one.  So he proposed to put her away.  It is clear, therefore, how the Virgin Mary, "was found with child," (Mt 1:18).
Morally.  You should take care, like Joseph, that there be no impediments when you wish to contract marriage, like parental [permission], or affinity, or something else.  And so it is an ordination of the church that it be declared.  And so scripture says, "Marriage honorable in all, and the bed undefiled," (Heb  13:4). It is honorable when there is no impediment.
   Second, I say that the Virgin Mary was found to be with child, through divine wisdom.  This is based on a rule of theology, says St. Thomas in I Pars that the mysteries of God, that is the secrets, depending on his will alone cannot be known unless through his revelation.  None of you can know my heart unless I should reveal and manifest it.  How much more so with God. 
   But that which happens naturally can be known.  In this way doctors know the hour of death of a sick person, because although the effect is in the future, nevertheless the cause is already present.  Not so with the will of God.  And so scripture says, "For who among men is he who can know the counsel of God? or who can think what the will of God is?," (Wis 9:13).  It is added, "And who shall know your thought, unless you give wisdom, and send thy Holy Spirit from above," (Wis 9:17).  Now Joseph, when he saw that his fiancée was pregnant, could not naturally know the truth, because the conception of Christ had no natural cause.   For it did not come through the celestial constellations, nor through angelic processes, nor elemental, or human, therefore it could not have been known unless through divine revelation.  Think, therefore how Joseph, who was a holy man, just and good, turned to God in prayer about this, asking the good pleasure of God to reveal [the answer], according to that of James, "But if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men abundantly, ... and it shall be given him," (Jas 1:5).  So Joseph did, when he wanted at night to retire, he first kneeled down in prayer, saying, "Lord, you have given me a great grace, giving me this damsel as my fiancée, but Lord, I see that she is pregnant. How is it that a woman so holy is pregnant?" and similar words.  And he wept much. 
   I believe also that the Blessed Virgin, on the other hand was praying to God, lovingly compassionate over her predicament, and that her saddened fiancé might be consoled.  I believe that even the mother of the Virgin was praying that they not be disgraced, etc.  Think how God listened to these devout prayers.  The Gospel says, "But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son: and you shall call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins.  Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying:  Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us," (Mt 1:20-23).  Think, how the angel spoke to him the prophecy of Isaiah, "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son," (Isa 7:14), not the Father nor the Holy Spirit.  Think what kind of joy Joseph had, when he knew the truth. 
   From this a question emerges: Why did the Virgin not reveal it to him, when she saw his sadness, and perplexity, because he believed her – although nowadays a fiancé does not believe his fiancée.  I respond that a secret entrusted should not be revealed, where the one by whom the secret is entrusted, is good, just and holy.  Otherwise it can be revealed.  "For it is good to hide the secret of a king," (Tob 12:7).  Therefore the Virgin Mary, who had a most delicate conscience, chose not to reveal it, lest she offend the king, especially God.
   Note [this is] against many vain persons who, if God gives them some grace or revelation, cannot keep silence.  They immediately reveal it, and wrongly, unless about this they expressly know the will of God, especially because sometimes they believe the illusions of the devil to be divine revelations.  They are like hens who can not keep quiet until they lay an egg. About such scripture says, "He who discloses the secret of a friend loses his credit, and shall never find an  intimate friend," (Sir 27:17).  See the reason why the Virgin Mary did not reveal the secret committed to her to Joseph or to her mother, but the Holy Spirit revealed it to Elizabeth.
   Third, I say that the Virgin Mary was found to be with child through a special excellence.  Generally, when women are pregnant, they are thin, pale, tired and hungry for all kinds of things.  But it was not so with the Blessed Virgin.   Some holy theologians say that from the fact that the Virgin was pregnant, rays of splendor shone forth from her face, especially when she was close  to childbirth.  This can be proved in three ways, through philosophy, through theology and through experience.
   As for the first, the Philosopher Aristotle says that every natural agent to the extent that it gives of the substantial form, to that extent it also gives the accidents following the form.   What gives fire, gives also heat and light.   So God the Father, of his substantial form, gave his Son to the Virgin Mary.  That the Son of God is called "form," the authority of scriptures: "Who being in the form of God,...emptied himself, taking the form of a servant," (Phil 2:6-7).  It is no wonder then that it conveys a radiance in the face etc.  And so when pregnant, the Virgin was more beautiful and more glowing.
   Second, it is proved theologically.  We read in Exodus 34, that because Moses had spoken with God on the mountain, rays of splendor shone forth from his face, so much so that the people could not even gaze on him.  Behold the reason.  If the face was so splendorous from just a  conversation with God, how much more therefore the face of the Virgin Mary from the conception of his Son.  The Apostle Paul makes this point saying, "Now if the ministration of death, engraved 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 be rather in glory?" (2Cor 3:7-8).  The "ministration of death" was the law of Moses which did not confer a life of glory. 
   Third, it is proved by experience, of a crystal lamp, which is beautiful in itself and bright, but if the lamp within is lighted it shall be more beautiful and even brighter.  The same with the Virgin Mary. Think how her body, beautiful and pure like a lamp, and the light inside illuminating the whole world is the Son of God.  No wonder therefore if the Virgin was then brighter and more beautiful, inasmuch as the text says that Joseph "knew her not," (Mt 1:25).  From these rays of splendor, because eternal light was in her. 
   Note here how Joseph, having received the divine revelation, humbly sought pardon from the Virgin for his suspicion which he had had of her, saying, "O Blessed, why did you not tell me, because I believed you.  And that she comforted him sweetly congratulating him that he would be the groom and companion of the mother of the Son of God, and his parent.  O blessed family [societas].  How reverently, then, did they both adore God incarnate in the womb of the Virgin. 
   And so if you wish to have this association for yourself, you should do like the merchant Valentine did, who every year on Christmas, invited [to his home] one poor old man and one woman having a little child.  They represented for him the Virgin with her son, and Joseph.  It  was revealed about him that at his death the Virgin with her son and Joseph appeared to him, saying, "Because you have received us in your house, so we receive you into our house."  About  this Christ says, in Matthew 25, "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me," (v. 40).  And so the money which you pay out in gambling, you should for the love of Christ give to the poor.  The poor however, who do not have, nor can give money to themselves, can at least present tomorrow [Christmas day] as many "Hail Marys" as days she bore him in the womb, or how many weeks, or months. Forty weeks, nine months, 277 days.

A158   In Nativitate Christi.  Sermo unicus 

St. Vincent Ferrer: Christmas Sermon (Lk 2:11)

"This day, is born to you a Savior," (Lk 2:11).  Our sermon will be about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Virgin Birth. But that you might sense the spiritual sweetness of this feast, we shall salute the glorious Mother of God. [Vincent now leads his listeners in the "Hail Mary."]
"There is born to us etc."  From the beginning of the world up to the birth of Christ there has never been heard such good news, nor so useful for mankind like the news of the proposed theme, "This day, is born to you a Savior," (Lk 2:11) etc.  To all who were lost and damned and sentenced to hell. The declaration of this blessed Nativity I deal with in five conclusions.
1.      First, that this blessed Nativity was from of old ardently desired by the saints.
2.      Second, that this blessed Nativity was cruelly unappreciated by the Jews.
3.      Third, that this blessed Nativity was celebrated powerfully by God.
4.      Fourth, that this blessed Nativity was humbly hidden by the Virgin Mary.
5.      Fifth, that this blessed Nativity was broadcast publicly by the angels saying, "This day, is born to you a Savior," (Lk 2:11).
   And anyone who, curiously, might wish to preach all five conclusions, would be excessively prolix.  And all are touched in the theme, in which there are five conditions. The first, therefore, is touched by the first saying. The second in the second. The third in the third, and so on for the others.
   I say first that this blessed Nativity was ardently desired of old by holy persons.  And that you might understand better this condition listen to this story:
  You should know that there was a certain great and noble city, well populated, which was cruelly under siege by enemies, attacking it with every kind of weapons, to the extent that it was already running low on provisions, the longer the siege went on, nor were the enemies willing to take them alive, or to grant any mercy, moreover they killed them at once.  Aware of this, the king and lord of the city secretly sent messengers and letters to the city, telling them that he will come personally to free them when he was able.  The citizens were very happy about this and were eagerly expecting his arrival any day.
  Rightly so it was of this world. This great and noble city was and is human nature.  Who can number how many citizens there were and how many dwelling in her, from Adam up to the birth of Christ -- since according to some teachers more than 5,000 years have passed -- who were besieged daily by cruel enemies, namely by countless demons attacking it with diverse temptations, with catapults, pains and sufferings, since  they were lacking the spiritual food, about which Christ said, "Not in bread alone does man live, but in every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.," (Mt 4:4).  Although they had the Mosaic law, it did not give eternal life. Nor did they have drink, i.e., the promise of spiritual [gifts] which refresh souls.  And when someone went out of the city, through death, immediately without mercy he was captured and imprisoned in the prison of hell.    However, God, the Lord of this world, wishing to comfort the citizens, secretly sent messengers to them, the holy patriarchs and prophets, with his letters announcing to them  that he himself personally would come to liberate them.  Many citizens rejoiced over this and city-dwellers sent him supplications, devout prayers, that he would come and liberate the city.
   First came Moses saying to God the Father, "I beseech you, Lord send whom you will send," (Ex 4:13) as you have promised.  Second, David on behalf of the whole city says, "[Lord] stir up your might, and come to save us," (Ps 79:3).  Third, Solomon saying in the Holy Spirit, "Send her out of your holy heaven, and from the throne of your majesty, that she may be with me, and may labor with me," (Wis 9:10) against your enemies.   Note: "Send her,"  namely, the person of Christ in human flesh, which is sent by the Father and the Holy Spirit, in respect to humanity.  Fourth, Isaiah, saying, "Would that you would rend the heavens, and would come down," (Isa 64:1).  Others were saying, "Come, O Lord, and tarry not: forgive the sins of your people Israel," etc. (Alleluia Verse from the Advent Liturgy)

  The King, however, having heard these supplications, sent a messenger secretly to the city who would say on his behalf, " [the vision]... it/he shall appear at the end, and shall not lie: if it/he make any delay, wait for it/him: for it/he shall surely come, and it/he shall not be slack,"  (Hab 2:3).  Behold how ardently he was desired, and according to Augustine they would say, "When shall he come?   When shall he be born?  When would he appear? Do you think I shall see it?   Do you think I shall endure?   Do you think his  birth will find me here?  O, if only my eyes shall behold the one whom the eyes of the heart have revealed. O, if only my eyes shall see what I believe in the writings of God. And the closer he approached, so much the more was he desired.
  He begins his path of coming on the day of his conception. So he was most fervently desired by the Blessed Virgin, his mother and St. Joseph who daily checked off the calendar yearning to see the day of his entry into this world. The Virgin carried him nine months and six days, which are 277 days.  Thus in the person of Christ Holy Scripture says, "I myself also am a mortal man, like all others, ...and in the womb of my mother I was fashioned," in the figure of man, "to be flesh. In the time of ten months," (Wis 7:1-2)    Because of this the Virgin Mary and Joseph knowing his coming was near prepared themselves for receiving him devoutly. The Virgin prepared woolen and linen wrappings, as women do when they are close to childbirth. Joseph purchased an ox so that he could have a great feast on the birth of the child. But in the mean time says Luke, "There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled," (Lk 2:1).  So Augustus wished to enroll the world because he wanted to know how many provinces there were, how many cities, and how many people.  Note the great sadness of Joseph, when he heard the edict of the Emperor, that under penalty of death everyone must proceed to the city of their birth.  Joseph, who was of the city of Bethlehem, of the tribe of David, began to weep saying, "O woe, if I go to Bethlehem, I shall not see that blessed birth so long desired by the saints. If I do not go, I will be disobedient and will be killed, and too I shall not see the aforesaid birth."  Sadly, he went home.
  The Virgin Mary was comforting him, as a wife should do, saying, "O father, what are you worried about?  You should rejoice, because the savior is about to be born soon."  Then Joseph told the Virgin Mary about the edict of the Emperor and the reason for his sadness.  The Virgin replied, "Father, do not weep, because for your comfort, I shall go with you, for I am also of the offspring of David.  Joseph, on the one hand rejoiced, that the Virgin would wish to go, but on the other hand he wondered what people would say, that he was taking with him a young pregnant woman so near to childbirth.
   Also, what if she gives birth on the way?  The Virgin replied to him, "Father, do not worry about what people will say, because your intention is good.  It is the will of God that we go to Bethlehem, because the savior is to be born there. According to the prophecy of Micah, "And you, Bethlehem Ephrata, are a little [place] in the kingdom of Judah: out of you shall come forth one who to be the ruler in Israel," (Mic 5:2). The Virgin Mary knew the bible better than the prophet, as Origen said.
   They prepared themselves and left the town of Nazareth, the Virgin riding on a donkey, and Joseph leading the ass and ox.  Behold the Queen of Paradise, and those she was traveling with.  Then was fulfilled the prophecy of Haggai on this event saying, "Yet one moment [modicum], and I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations: and the desired of all nations shall come and I will fill this house with glory: says the Lord of hosts," (Hag 2: 6-7).  Note, "one moment,"   because it was only a moment of time from the prophet Haggai until Christ, "and I will move the heaven,"  where he speaks of the immovable empyreal heaven.  St. Thomas says in the Prima Pars [of the Summa theologica, I, q. 106, a.1] that when some angel receives a revelation from God, immediately he revels it to the others so that nothing there is kept a secret.  So the archangel Gabriel in the holy court of the Trinity when he had the revelation of the incarnation and the nativity of the Son of God, about which he was the messenger, immediately revealed it to all the others, and so the heaven was moved out of joy and rejoicing and dancing because of the reparation of the fall.  So, "I will move the earth,"  the Virgin Mary is called the virginal earth, who was to produce  the fruit of life who was moved by the angel’s salutation, when, "troubled at his saying, thought within herself what manner of salutation this should be," (Lk 1: 29).  Then, "I shall move the sea and dry land,"  when from the edict of the Emperor the peoples would proceed to their sites, some by sea and some by land. Then "shall come the desired of all the ages," (Hag 2:7).    So much for the first conclusion.
   The second conclusion says that  this blessed Nativity was cruelly unappreciated by the Jews.  History says that when Joseph and the Virgin were in the city of Bethlehem they found no hospitality nor any house nor hospice that was willing to receive them.  Three reasons are alleged for this.  First because they were the last to arrive and they had to go slowly on the way.  So whoever comes late, often seems to be angry.  Secondly although the city of Bethlehem was small, it nevertheless teemed with many in military service and citizens and nobles, all who were of the tribe of David who had been born in this city. They had made reservations in advance for their lodgings.  A third reason was avarice of the hoteliers. When they got a look at Joseph, the poor man with his pregnant wife, thought that they would fill up a whole room and that there would be little profit from them. Therefore, etc.
  Most likely, when Joseph entered through the gate of the city, with the Virgin riding on the donkey, he would head immediately to the first inn lest he would have to pass through the whole city seeking whether they might find a place there. When they asked who and how many were in the party they saw that there were only two, with an ox and ass, thinking, we will earn little, they told them to move on because there is no place here for you.  At the next inn, the answer was that there were no vacancies. Imagine Joseph's anxiety here and the shame of the Virgin Mary, thus going from door to door. But the Virgin patiently put up with it and comforted Joseph. Finally they came to another inn where they said that all was full for such a gentleman and for expectant one etc.
  Seeing that they couldn’t buy lodging, Joseph searched that out of love of God some private home would take in that pregnant woman near to childbirth, but he did not find one in the whole city, and so they said to him, "Old man, you are indeed concerned about your wife, but why did you put her in this situation, so pregnant?"  And the poor man wept. At which the Virgin [said], "Father let us be patient, and we shall find some  hospital." So they looked for a hospital seeing if they might be received out of love of God.  The nurse replied, "You are healthy, and this house is for the sick. You are not able to be received here, and so spare us."  
   Since  the hour was late and they had not yet found a place Joseph said, "O Lord these are my sins."  Then they found a cave [porticulum] along a public road in which there was a manger, where visitors sometimes stabled their animals.  The Virgin said, "Father, we shall stay here, because it is not right to go through the village at this hour."   Joseph said, "O woe!  We shall never find a house."   The Virgin Mary said, "Father the whole world is the house of God, so let us stay here."
  Then Joseph, with the greatest reverence assisted the Virgin from the donkey and entered the refuge [porticum] and Joseph rolled out a blanket [flatiatam] which he had brought on the donkey as a tent for privacy, and he went to buy some straw and charcoal because of the cold. And from a little straw he made a bed for the Queen of Heaven, saying, "O Lord what will you say to me, that I have placed your mother on such a bed,"  and in this place they stayed for at least thirteen days.  The Gloss on Matthew 2 said that the kings from the east found Christ the King still there in that cave.
   Behold the palace of the queen of paradise. Behold how that glorious birth was little appreciated by the Jews.  God had revealed this to Jeremiah the prophet who, weeping, said in the person of the Jews, "We have sinned against thee. O expectation of Israel, the Savior thereof in time of trouble: why will you be a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man turning in to lodge? Why will you be as a wandering man, as a mighty man that cannot save?" (Jer 14:7-9)  Thus this prophecy was fulfilled. So much for the second conclusion.
MORALITER (a moral aside)
   Who of you does not say now in his heart, " Oh, if I had been there then, and had known him, I would have received him into my home,"  etc.  Would that you would not be in the same condemnation or cruelty with the Jews.  Have you ever today seen a pregnant young woman in this village with Joseph and never took them in?   The  consecrated host which the priest brings forth, like Joseph, is the virgin pregnant with the Son of God.  Who of you receives him by communicating devoutly?  None, I believe.   With sincere reflection you should prepare for yourselves the home of your conscience through contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Many excuse themselves like the Bethlehemites saying: I have to welcome a great soldier, namely Sir Chicken,  Lord Kid,  and Mister Pig.  Another says I have to receive a great and noble lady, namely Lady Hen,  another Madam Partridge, etc. but they do not receive the Lord Jesus Christ. About which John in the Gospel said, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God," (Jn 1).
  The third conclusion says that this blessed Nativity came about through the celebrated power of God.  The Virgin Mary, stayed in that cave, as is said, between the cattle.  In the middle of the night the hour for her delivery arrived. The Virgin Mary sensed this, not like other women, who before they feel the onset of childbirth, have pains, miseries and suffering in the body, and their face are distorted.  But the Virgin Mary had other signs, special inspirations, consolations and heartfelt sweetness, with exquisite pleasures more than others, and her face was radiant. Joseph seeing this said, "Blessed, what is happening." She replied, "Father, now the hour of my childbirth is at hand."  
  Joseph got up immediately so that he might send for midwives. But the Virgin stopped him saying, "Father, just as for his conception no creature did anything, so neither for his birth."  Joseph then said, "Blessed, neither you or I are expert in this."  The Virgin said, "Father, don't worry, because God, the heavenly Father, will provide."  And so the Book of the Infancy of the Savior [Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, ch.13] which states that there were women, has been condemned by the decree of Pope Pelagius. (Cf. Jerome: On the perpetual virginity of Mary, 8): "No midwife assisted at His birth; no women's officiousness intervened."  But suddenly, like the ray of the sun passes through a glass window without breaking it, so Christ, the sun of justice passed through the gate of her virginal womb without any breaking or corruption, "like a bridegroom...from his chamber," (Ps 18:6).
  The Virgin received him into her own hands, on her knees, with great reverence and veneration, adoring him and saying, "O Lord, you indeed have come from heaven to earth for the salvation of men. O Lord, desired by the holy patriarchs and prophets, I adore you, because as God you are my creator, as human you are my son."  And she kissed him first on his feet as God, next on his mouth as a son, then on the hands as the creator of all things, and finally on his face as her son, saying, "O Lord you have given me such a grace."  And she adored him a hundred times over.  And as someone has reported, she said, "You are the Lord my God, you are my redeemer, you are my beloved Son."   Ambrose: "O blessed Virgin, who can open the treasures of your heart to us, as here you adore your child as God, and here you kiss him as son?"
   Joseph, weeping for joy, said, "Blessed, permit me to adore your son, the long desired Son of God," etc.  How he adored him saying, "O Lord you have granted me such a grace. Kings and prophets wished to see you and they did not see, and to me, a sinner, you have given such a grace that I should see you."  Then the infant began to cry because of the cold. Joseph immediately warmed the blankets and the Virgin wrapped him.  
   Then Joseph wanted to call for a wet nurse, but the Virgin again stopped him.  Joseph said, "Blessed, what are you doing, for you do not have milk?"  Doctors say that from the same root comes milk and children.  So a woman who does not know man, does not have milk.  The Virgin replied, "Father, God shall provide." Then the Virgin, on her knees prayed God the Father saying, "God the Father you and I have one son in common, so you who provide for all creatures ought to provide some milk for him."  Then suddenly her breasts were filled with milk, sent to her from heaven. So the church says, the Virgin, not knowing man, without pain, gives birth to the savior of the ages. The Virgin herself with full breasts nursed the very King of the Angels.  So much for the third conclusion.
  The fourth conclusion states that this blessed Nativity happened to a Virgin, humble and hidden. History says that as soon as Christ was born, his body shone like the rising sun, and the night became as midday, and so it was light.  Think how many, who were not sleeping, and wondering about such a brightness, sought to see the source of the light and ran toward such a great spectacle of light. The Virgin sensing the excitement of the people placed the child in the manger.  Jews came to see the source of the light. Some of them said prophecy says that when the Messiah will be born, "night shall be light as day," (Ps 138:12).  Others asked if this might be he. Some said, be quiet; don't make much of it. If Herod finds out, he will kill us. So that out of fear of Herod they did not dare receive the Messiah King.  Of this light the prophet said, " The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death," of the sin of ingratitude, "a light has risen for them,  You have multiplied the nation," to see the light, "and have not increased the joy," (Is 9:2-3), because no one brought him or the Virgin a gift. Of that light it is said, it is pointed out when it is said, and it follows, " For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us," not the Father, nor the Holy Spirit (v. 6).
    Here the question is raised, why did the blessed Virgin place her son in the manger between the beasts?  What if the ox with horns, and the donkey with teeth had attacked?  St. Luke wishes to excuse the Virgin saying: "She laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn," i.e. in this cave, (Lk 2:7). But one might respond to St. Luke: "Could not the Virgin who gave birth without pain and suffering, place or position him in her arms or on her breast? Why put him between animals?"  The response is, for three reasons:
            First, to fulfill the scriptural truth.
            Second, to alleviate bodily needs,
            Third, to teach us a moral lesson.
  As for the first, it was prophesied that he would be placed between the animals and humbly be adored.  Think what kind of joy the blessed Virgin had when she saw her son adored by an ox and ass. And how sad when she saw him ignored by the Jews. And so was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah saying, "Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken. I have brought up children, and exalted them: but they have despised me. The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel has not known me,"  (Isa 1:2-3).
  As for the second reason you have already seen how cold it could be at that time. Think if the Virgin Mary was cold, because we do not read that they brought lined coats. For this reason she placed her child in the manger so that the animals might warm him with their breath, as it was revealed by Habakkuk the prophet, who said this: "Lord I have heard your voice and I have feared. Lord I have considered your work, in the middle of two animals you shall be known," (Hab 3:2, LXX transl.).
   As for the third reason the Virgin does this so that we might be instructed in good morals.
  • An ox is a great animal having two big horns, which signify the temporal lords and rulers of the community. The donkey which carries burdens, signifies peasants and subjects.  And the Virgin places her son in the middle, pointing out that all can indeed be saved by the saving justice of the Lord, and that not by hatred nor by love nor by fear nor by bribes they give unjustly. Vassals too by keeping faith, obedience and reverence for  their lords. 
  • Second,  the ox is a clean animal which in olden times was sacrificed to God.  So it symbolizes the priests who offer sacrifice to God.  The simple ass signifies the laity. The Virgin places her son between them, implying that all can be saved. 
  • Third, the ox, which doesn't bear burdens, signifies the rich who do not labor with their hands. The ass signifies the workers, if they be patient. 
  • Fourth, the ox which has horns signifies devout and holy people. Two horns are true prudence or adherence to the faith, and prompt obedience to commandments.  The surly ass, signifies sinners, who if they are repentant can be saved.
  • Fifth the ox, which chews the cud  and has divided hooves, signifies the learned masters and doctors who ruminate by studying; and the divided hooves means they have knowledge of the old and new testament.  The ass signifies the ignorant.  Christ is placed in the middle etc. And the text of David confirms it: "Men and beasts you will preserve, O Lord: O how you have multiplied your mercy, O God!!" (Ps 35:7-8).  Note men, both powerful and powerless, both learned, and rich, and draft animals, i.e. crude sinners and the ignorant, shall be saved by the Lord.
   The fifth conclusion says that this blessed Nativity was openly proclaimed by the angels when they appeared to the shepherds telling the good news: "For, this day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David," St. Luke writes (2:11).  A little story is told about the angels at the birth of Christ, that God the Father, from heaven, where he was throwing a big party over the birth of Christ, sent them to earth so that there might be a feast here also.  This blessed Nativity was revealed to the watching shepherds, not to the sleeping emperor Octavian, nor, in Jerusalem, to the masters and teachers, nor to the priests, but to shepherds singing their songs.
   Why this?  Bernard says that shepherds have five qualities in which it is shown to which persons God reveals his secrets and gives his glory. 
  • First, the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks etc. In which it is shown that shepherds both temporal and ecclesiastical ought to watch over the flock committed to them, lest they be devoured by the wolves of especially notorious sin, because the community is not punished for secret sins. To such shepherds God reveals his glory and grace.   
  • Second, they play their flutes harmoniously, in which is shown that to devout and peaceful persons who play music through their prayers and supplications, God reveals his grace and glory.
  • Third, because they were in the desert, in the harshness of penance, etc. where eating and drinking and sleeping was hard, etc. In which it is shown, that to those who live in the rigors of penitence etc., [God reveals his grace and glory].
  • Fourth, because they were poor men, etc.  So Christ says, "But woe to you that are rich: for you have your consolation," etc. (Lk 6:24).
  • Fifth, because they were simple men, they despised no one.  To such God gives his grace.  Authority of Christ: "I confess to you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to the little ones," (Mt 11:25).

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