This sermon has a lot of wonderful sensual images. I’m particularly fond of the Holy Spirit as a perfume-maker, of the faithful rushing to church when they smell the wonderful ointments on Jesus’ robes, and of the heat of the Spirit’s fire in the Church producing thermals on which the angels circle.
Of the third [thing] noted about sacrifice — to wit, the excellence of our sacrifice.
“Come, eat of my bread”, etc. and “Your motives”, etc., as in the first sermon. Likewise, the other themes as above, or similar. It was already told above of two [of the points] noted about sacrifice; now I am speaking about the third. Therefore, the third thing to be noted is the excellence of our sacrifice, that is, of the Body of Christ, which surpasses the sacrifices of the Law for three reasons, to wit:
I. In honor,
II. In dignity,
III. In power.
From the reason that [its] honor [lasts] as long as Time, [its] worth as long as God, [its] power as long as the effect of His goodness.
Our sacrifice excels the rest for the reason of honor, which will be proved from three things: from its outward appearance, its virginal origin, and its spiritual sweetness.
First, the honor of which sacrifice will be proved from its exterior appearance, because under no other characteristic could it be so clean, so beautiful, so honorable to have been served as under the appearance of bread and wine. For those many inconveniences do not attend it which would have attended those bloody sacrifices of the Law. Proverbs 17:1 — “Better a dry morsel with joy, than a house full of victims with strife.” The dry morsel is our sacrifice under the appearance of bread and its honor. Zachariah 9:17 — “For what is his good thing and what is his beautiful thing, but the grain of the chosen ones, and wine springing forth virgins?”
Second, it will be proved worthy of his honor that is corrupt in no way, but gets its origin from the virginal flower. Ecclesiastes 24:23 — “My flowers are the fruit of honor and of the honorable,” as if it says: My flowers of modesty and virginity are turned into the fruit of most noble and honorable offspring. Augustine*: “The nobility of the mother is from the divinity of the offspring and the nobility of the offspring is from the virginity of the mother.” Canticles 3:11 — “Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see King Solomon in the diadem with which his mother crowned him.” Gloss**: “Go forth from the ignorance of infidelity, and see King Christ in the diadem — that is, in the flesh — with which his mother, to wit, Mary, crowned Him. That is, she honored Him in this, that she is a virgin, not spoiled in appearance as other women, soiled with original sin.”
* Sermo 195. Migne, S. l. tom. 38, col. 1018.
** Interlinearis et ordinaria.
Third, the honor of our sacrifice will be proved from its spiritual sweetness, which all Christians draw from it. So then says Tullius, “It is honorable that his strength draws and wins us over”, as to wit, the virtuous thing, O truly greatest of its kind, which abounds in sweetness of kindness. And the thing of its kind is the sacrifice of the Body of the Lord. Ecclesiasticus 49:1 — “The remembrance of Josiah is like the composition of a sweet smell made by the art of a perfumer. His remembrance shall be sweet as honey in every mouth.” The remembrance of Josiah is the remembrance of the Savior, or of the sacrifice of the altar. Here the composition of the Holy Spirit is made out of His own expensive materials, His Divinity and humanity, and from the most pleasant honor and kindness — the odor which draws to itself the faithful ones of the Church. Canticles 1:2 [Songs 1:3] — “Your name is as oil poured out; therefore, young maidens have loved you. Draw me; we will run after you, to the odor of your ointments.” Therefore all who truly believe will frequently and fervently rush to the Church, in hope of grace and devotion, to this sacrifice which will be seen and prayed.
*** Cf. de Offic. 1. L. c. 17.
The second reason our sacrifice excels the rest is in dignity, which will be proved from the three most precious things out of which it is reckoned, to wit: out of Christ’s most pure Body, most just Soul, and most high Godhood. These three are represented in the paschal lamb, which will truly be in our sacrifice. Exodus 12:9 — “You shall eat the lamb’s head with its feet and entrails.” The lamb’s head signifies Christ’s Divinity, the entrails the soul, the feet the flesh. Wisdom 8:19 — “And I was an ingenious boy”, that is, the Son of God full of wisdom, “and had received a good soul”, that is, I come “to a body undefiled.” Behold, in Christ is God, soul, and body. Because of this we say three things: “Hail, Savior of the world, Word of the Father, true Victim, living Flesh, Deity entire, true man,” to wit, from flesh and soul.
Because of so much excellence of dignity, the sacrifice has triple prerogatives above the rest: it is accepted by God according to Himself, it is reverenced by Angels, it is adored by humans. The first is because of the just Soul, the second because of the clean Flesh, and the third because of the most high Godhood.
Of the first, Malachi 3:4 — “And the sacrifice of Judah… shall please the Lord”, that is, Christ, the just one of kings, of whom in Psalm 107:9 [108:8] — “Judah is my king.” Zachariah 9:9 — “And behold, your King will come to you, the Just One and Savior.” The sacrifice of Judah, therefore, pleases the Lord, because God the Father approves the offering of the Body of Christ, in which, to wit, He humbles Himself most greatly, even unto death — obeying the Father, and triumphing over the Devil, and redeeming the human race. Ecclesiasticus 35:9 — “The sacrifice of the just is acceptable….” “….and is an odor of sweetness in the regard of the Most High.”
Of the second, Matthew 24:28 — “Wherever the body shall be, there the eagles shall be gathered together also”, that is, the holy Angels. Pope Leo: “Around the Body of Christ are the eagles, which circle over us on the wing, on the Spirit.”* — clearly the holy Angels, lovers of the world’s clean spirits, doing homage to the Body of Christ in the world, and protecting the Faithful who are present. Gregory: “Who can have doubt of the Faithful, in the hour of whose sacrifice the heavens are opened? Choirs of angels draw near to that mystery of Christ; the highest join in with the lowest.”**
* In Decr. Grat. III. Dist. II. c. 38. Verba sunt. S. Ambrosii in
Expos. Evang. sec. Luc. c. 17, 37. Migne, S. l. tom. 15. col. 1782.
** In Decr. Grat. III. Dist. II. c. 73. S. Greg. Dial. lib. IV. c. 58.
Migne S. l. tom. 77. col. 425.
Of the third, Psalm 98:5 [99:5] — “Adore His footstool, for it is holy.” It is said in Isaiah 66:1 that the earth is God’s footstool; and it signifies the flesh of Christ, which is originally of earth. This is adored by us, because it is holy, because it is united to God. Augustine: “It is known that because the earth is in Christ, that is, the flesh, that it is adored without impiety, because the Word of God accepted it. Who adores it, then, does not gaze at earth; but better than that, he adores what is His footstool.”
*** Enarr. in Ps. 98. n. 9. (sed non ad verbum). Migne, S. l. tom. 37.
Also Augustine: “The heretics say, ‘How is it, insofar as you do not deny that the flesh of something is not the creature, at the same time you adore flesh together with His Divinity, and devote yourself to it no less than to the Divinity?’ I respond, ‘On the contrary. In Christ, humanity is perfected. Therefore, I adore the Lord’s flesh, because it has been taken up to Divinity, and is united in Divinity’s unity. If you separate human from God, I will neither believe nor serve them. Would one not treat with reverence the purple or the diadem of the king if one found them lying on the ground? Truly, the king has clothed himself with them; one incurs danger of death if one scorns what should be honored with the king. So also in Christ the Lord, humanity is not lonely or naked, but united with Divinity — to wit, the one Son of God, true God and true man. If one scorns what should be honored, one will die eternally.”*
* Sermo 246. al. 58. de verb. Dom. in fine. Migne, S. l. tom. 38.
Pope Alexander: “No better sacrifice can be, than the Body and Blood of Christ, and as this oblation is more powerful than the rest, so it has better claim to be honored and must be venerated.”** Therefore, because it is inestimably better than the rest because it is united with God, it ought to be most adored, and the children of Christians are to be taught to adore it reverently.
** Decr. Grat. P. III. Dist. II. c. 9. Ep. l. ad omn. orthod. c. 9. Migne,
S. l. tom. 130. col. 34.
The third reason our sacrifice excels the rest is in power, that is, through the effect of its goodness. It does triple good deeds in triple conditions of the Faithful: to wit, in this world, in Purgatory, in Heaven. In the first condition, it loosens daily sins; in the second, it lightens the burden of penalties; in the third, it produces great joy. Therefore, it is likewise that the holy sacrificial offering of the priest is broken into three pieces, so that the power of the sacrifice of the Body of the Lord is represented to foreshadow what it has the power to do in the triple conditions of the Faithful.
Leviticus 5:15 — “The soul which shall sin through mistake… shall offer for his offence a spotless ram”, that is, Christ, says the gloss.*** From which the Church sings, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”
Gregory: “The Lord gives us this sacrament of salvation, so that, because we sin daily and we already cannot die, we would pursue the remission of sins through this sacrament of His Body.”*
* In Decr. Grat. P. III. Dist. II. c. 73. Ap. Alcuinum in lib. de divin.
offic. cap. de celebr. Missae, qui S. Gregor. citat. Migne. S. l. tom. 101.
col. 1270. Alii haec verba addicunt S. Augustino.
Of the second, Leviticus 17:11 — “I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon the altar for your souls, and the blood may be for an expiation of the soul.” And therefore the flesh and blood of Christ is rightly offered by the Church for the souls of the dead, so as to release those who are bound there, for their leftover penance, from the penalties of Purgatory.
Augustine: “There is no doubt that the prayers and alms and sacrifice of Holy Church are useful to ease the souls of the dead, so that God should be urged to mercy on them from what they deserved for their sins in this world.”**
** Sermo 172. n. 2. Migne, S. l. tom. 38. col. 936.
Of the third, Leviticus 10:14 — “The breast also, that is offered… you shall eat in a most clean place, thou and thy sons and thy daughters with thee.” The breast, that is, exactly the best and sweetest part of the animal, signifies the sweetness of the Body of Christ, insofar as it is eaten in a most clean place — that is, insofar as it delights the blessed, who most have joy and rejoice in this sacrifice of the remembrance of their redemption, from the sight of our salvation and from admiration of the Divine goodness. Or surely, the breast is eaten in a most clean place — because the sweetness of the Body of the Lord, which here is grazed upon in a veil and in the Sacrament, is enjoyed by the blessed in heaven in plain sight.
Revelation 2:17 — “I will give the victors the hidden manna.” Further along, the gloss says***: “I Myself, who am the Living Bread which came down from heaven, and who was hidden in manna.” Which manna, even if it remains hidden now, will be shown then, remaining the reason for every flavor’s delight.
Hence, the Post-Communion prayer says: “May the Sacraments accomplish in us, Lord, what they contain, so that what we now take on to all appearances, we may put on in the reality of things”, that is, may we see the Body of Christ in plain sight and enjoy Him fully, according to that well-known [passage], John 14:21 — “Who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and show Myself to him.” And in this vision of the Lord, all our enjoyment of good things will be full. Psalm 15:11 [16:11] — “You shall fill me with joy with your countenance”, and (Psalm 16:15 [17:15]) — “I shall be satisfied when your glory shall appear.” Amen
+ Postcommunio in Dom. 17. post Pent.