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SERMON XXV

All Saints’ Day

A very useful exposition of the Gospel, of the eight Beatitudes. How we can attain to the grades or steps of these most blessed Virtues, and learn to know ourselves thereby. How we ought to honour the Saints and their various degrees of merit in the Eternal Fatherland.

Videns Jesus turbas, ascendit in montem, et secuti sunt cum discipuli, etc.

“And seeing the multitudes Jesus went up into a mountain, and when He was set down, His disciples came unto Him. And opening His mouth, he taught them saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and thus He spake the eight Beatitudes.

The mountain that Jesus went up was His own holiness and His Being, for He is one with His Father; and He was followed by a great company of those dear Saints whose day we are celebrating. They have all followed Him, each one in his own vocation, as God has called him. We must follow after them, endeavouring above all things to discover what the calling is, to which God has called us, and to follow it.

Now, we must honour these Saints with all diligence. What is the greatest honour that we can do them? To sink down with them in absolute seclusion, in that good ground in which they have lost themselves, and in which their great blessedness is to be found. Therefore, immerse thyself with them, for thou canst not show them any greater honour, or do anything that would please them better.

Now let us consider the company of Saints who followed Him up the mountain, and how each one was led. Now, He was first followed by the holy Patriarchs of the Old Covenant with overflowing longings; for they believed that He would come. They were filled by God with holy love and hope; and, not outwardly but inwardly, they were bare and empty of all that was not God. Their love was so great, that they divided all they had with the chosen people; and they used all diligence, that nothing should be wanting whence this Birth should proceed. They offered themselves up entirely to the service of that generation, into which He was to be born. We read to-day of those who followed Him, that, of every generation, twelve thousand were marked; eleven generations followed Him and the rest were numberless.

Next came the second company, the dear and holy Apostles. They came after the Birth of our Lord; and they were led by Him by a much higher way, and to a state of greater perfection. They forsook all things, not only inwardly, but also outwardly, in true poverty of body and soul, and that in the highest degree possible.

Then came the holy Martyrs, and of these a great company followed Him. They not only forsook all things, but they also laid down their lives when God required it of them, and in whatever way He chose.

Then He was followed by a great company of holy Confessors, who followed their call in divers ways. Some lived alone unto God in seclusion, and received the truth within, in silence, and listening to what God, the Eternal Word, spake unto them. Such men fled to the woods and caves. Others joined religious Orders, and lived in Holy Christendom, preaching and writing, hearing confessions, teaching and admonishing, doing all things heartily, as unto God, and giving up self and all that was not of God.

Then followed the blessed company of pure and modest Virgins, undefiled in body and soul. Oh! what a holy and blessed thing it is to be found undefiled in body like an Angel, and to whom God has granted the honour of being found in the garb which He and His Blessed Mother wore with such grace. The joy is so great that no one in this world ought to be able to trouble such a man; neither should sorrow or any trouble go to his heart, if he has only preserved this treasure. He, who desires to preserve it in all its nobility, must struggle and suffer; and his heart will often be wounded by his natural desires and his evil nature, the flesh and the devil. Now mark, children, every attack, made by temptations of this nature only brings forth purity; he, who thus learns to know himself therein, will find that this is his reward. O, children, who gives heed to the rewards thus brought forth! Then comes the company of the common people, who give heed to such things; they are also upheld by the faith and prayer of the Friends of God. They must be purified in purgatory, or else they cannot enter into the Kingdom of the Father; and, as we keep to-day as the day of the souls that are purified, so we shall keep to-morrow, as the day of the souls that are not, that they also may be purified. Thus, for one earthly delight, and one daily sin, we shall have to suffer more pain in purgatory than the pain of all the martyrs, could it be heaped together, whose day we are keeping. This must needs be for the slightest opposing of our will to God in sin, and for despising His call and His mediation.

Now these are the companies who followed Christ up the mountain of His Blessedness. Then He opened His Divine Mouth and spake the eight Beatitudes. We will say a little about each one. He said first: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” This virtue is placed first, because it is the chief part, and the beginning of all perfection. Children, turn it which way ye will, the heart of man must be bare, empty, free, poor, and undisturbed, if God is really to work therein. It must be quite empty, and then God may and will dwell therein.

Now this poverty may be accepted and exercised in four different ways. The first are those who are poor against their own will and wish. No one ought to judge harshly of these poor; for the Lord overlook their faults all the more graciously on account of their poverty.

St Thomas says of the second kind of poverty, that it is to be desired and accepted to the same extent in which we find it a help to us, and a furtherance of the freedom and emptiness of our minds; for many a man’s mind is freer and less preoccupied what is needful, then when he is obliged to provide it every day. He, who is allowed to possess what is needful, and uses it with thankfulness, is often less anxious than he who has to seek it. But, if such a man should find that it has taken possession of his heart, or that it disturbs him, so that he is not exercising the virtues of charity, moderation, humility and absolute purity, he ought to give all up, and become poor outwardly, like the poor.

The third kind of poverty is that of one who so dearly loves God, that nothing can hinder him, and everything becomes a help to him. As St Paul says, all things are a help to the good; so this man remains unaffected by everything that is not absolutely of God, by everything that touches his heart, so that he may become poor, bare and free. These can say with St. Paul: “As having nothing and yet possessing all things.” so the inner man is unharmed.

The fourth kind of this absolute poverty is that of a man who desires to be poor, both outwardly and inwardly, after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who imitates His absolute poverty out of real love, neither troubled by it nor concealing it, either outwardly or inwardly. Such only have a bare, pure, direct and unceasing intercourse with their Source and Beginning, so that there cannot be a sudden falling away without the heart being aware of it and returning speedily. This is the most absolute poverty; for the most noble form of poverty is a turning to God, bare, free and unhindered, now and for ever, like that of the poor Saints.

Now we come to the second: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall posses the land.” Here we come a degree nearer in blessedness; for all difficulties are solved by true poverty; for by this meekness we get closer to the Source of all things, and all bitterness, anger and untruthfulness are driven out; for it is written: “All things are clean to the clean,” to the meek all things are pure. All this comes out of a pure, good heart, so that to the good all things are good. In days gone by the Friends of God were martyred, prepared (tortured) and tormented by the heathen; but now it is done by people who appear to be good Christians; they cut us to the heart, and yet they are our neighbours. If thou turnest to God, they say: “Thou art mad; thou hast lost thy head; thou hast strange customs, and thou art a deceiver.” Then comes meekness, and leads and guides thee to thyself in thine own heart, that thou mayest receive all as from God, and not from man. Thus thou remainest in perfect peace, and sayest: “What can man do to harm thee, if thou hast God for thy Friend?” and thus the meek possess the land, and remain in perfect peace, in spite of all that may befall them. But if thou dost not act thus, thou wilt lose all thy virtue and thy peace as well; and thou wilt be called a snarler, as though thou wert a fierce dog.

Thirdly, our Lord said: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” In one sense He means those who suffer; in another sense, those who mourn for their sins, always excepting the blessed Friends of God, who are the most blessed of all here; for they have done with weeping for their own sins, and may not mourn for them any more; and yet they have not ceased weeping, for they weep for the sins and infirmities of their neighbours. We read that St Dominic asked one of his companions, who was weeping bitterly, why he wept. He replied: “Dear father, because of my sins.” Then said the Saint: “No, dear son, they have been sufficiently mourned for; but I beseech thee, dear son, to weep for those who will not weep for themselves.” Thus the true Friends of God weep for all the blindness and misery of the sins of the world, and for all its wickedness. For when God allows His anger and His judgments to fall upon us, and we say so many dreadful things about the fire, the floods, the great darkness, strong winds and bad times, then the Saints mourn over all before the Lord, day and night; and He regardeth them and ceaseth, waiting to see if we will do better. If we do not improve, we must expect yet heavier and severer plagues. The clouds hang over us; but they are held up by the weeping of the Friends of God. But, be sure of this, if we do not improve, they will soon fall; and then there will be such tumults and turmoils that we shall be put in mind of the Judgment Day. Those who are now at peace will suffer from great oppression, and the Word of God and Divine Service will become almost unknown. There will only be a service here or there, and no one will know where to go. But our faithful God will find a place of refuge, where He can preserve His own.2828    This appears to be a reference to the interdict under which Strasburg lay in Tauler’s time, and a proof that this sermon was preached there.

Fourthly: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for justice.” This, in truth, is a virtue which has been possessed by very few men. Very few hunger and desire, in thought, sight and taste, for righteousness only. There would be neither favour nor disfavour, either for my benefit or for that of my friends, nor for my honour, praise, or blame; there would be neither false judgment, favour or disfavour, where this ground was found; but he who finds it may well be praised. For he to whom nothing is delightful, and who cares for nothing but justice, has ascended to a very high degree. We may well say to such an one that he is blessed.

Fifthly: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” It is said that mercy is the attribute that God shows forth in all His works: therefore a merciful man is a truly godlike man. For mercy is brought forth by love and kindness. Therefore the true Friends of God are much more merciful, and more ready to believe in the sinful and suffering, than those who are not loving. Mercy is born of that love which we ought to exercise towards each other. If we do not, God will require it of us at the Judgment Day; and, where He findeth not the requisite mercy, He will refuse mercy, as He Himself has said. He says nothing of perfection, and censures only those who have not been merciful. This mercy is not concerned only with gifts, but it ought to extend to all the suffering that falls, or may fall, on a man when tried. He who does not look on his neighbour with true love and pity, mercifully overlooking all his weakness and infirmity, may well fear for himself, that God will refuse him His mercy. “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Therefore let every one look to himself, that he may himself be uncondemned throughout Eternity.

Sixthly: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.” Men, who possess true peace, are lovable men indeed, and their peace no man taketh from them. Their own will is lost in the Will of God, in love and sorrow, weal or woe, in time and in Eternity. Their works and all their life are in God, not after a human fashion, but in a divine and supernatural way. They are baptized in the Power of the Father, the Wisdom of the Son, and the precious love of the Holy Ghost, and they are so saturated therewith, that no man can mar their peace. These three Divine Persons has so filled them, that, were it needful, they could make their peace known throughout the land; for they are filled with the light of the Divine Wisdom which has passed through them. Thus, full of love also themselves, they overflow, both within and without, in true love to their neighbours. Thus overflowing, nothing else can be found in them, however they may be approached, but love and peace. These are they who at heart are peace-makers. The peace which passeth all understanding has taken such hold of them, that none can drive away; and they are rightly called the Children of God; for that which the Only-Begotten Son has by nature, is given to them of grace. The peaceful are in very truth begotten to God and of His Heart; for this peace cannot otherwise be brought forth, either by discipline or by any outward means. Still, those in whom this peace is to be found, may have to suffer many offenses, in the outer man, in many ways.

Seventhly: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” What is a clean heart? A heart bare, free and untroubled by any creature, where God finds the ground bare, free and untroubled. The pure shall indeed see God. This purity of heart is defiled by man, when he wantonly turns with heart and desire to the creature, and rests therein; and, the more he rests and seeks and finds in that which is not God, the more he separates himself from God. Thus his eyes are blinded and he cannot rest in the Vision of God. The external purity of the flesh is very helpful to the purity of the heart; as St Paul says: “Virgins think day and night, unceasingly, of the things of God, but they that have husbands cannot do this.” As bodily purity is lost by the outward neglect of the body, so also the noble integrity of the spirit in the Likeness of God is lost and spoiled by the willing addition of things that are not in His Likeness; so that by this means man’s spirit is darkened, and he cannot see his Source nor his true Abode, nor that for which he was created and sent forth; namely, that he should unceasingly return to his Source and there see God with the eyes of his spirit and his understanding. Therefore, purity is much to be praised, because it ever provides an open pathway to God; for the spouse of God should so keep herself that she should desire to please none but God only; that is, if she desires to be, or to be called His spouse.

It is impossible to express in words the eighth Beatitude, that those are blessed who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake. The faithful and true God, who has chosen that His Friends should be very near to Him in His own blessedness, sends speedy and great suffering, when He sees that they are not living as befits them; so that they may follow after blessedness whether they will or no. This is immeasurable faithfulness on the part of God, and it ought to be the cause of immeasurable thankfulness on the part of man, that he is thus obliged to suffer. He ought to acknowledge that he is unworthy of it; and it should fill him with hope that God has granted him this honour and grace, that he may be made like unto God and follow after Him. St Bernard says: “a little suffering borne patiently is far and away of greater worth than long discipline is good works.” St Thomas says: “All suffering, however slight, that can be suffered either outwardly or inwardly, is a copy of the most precious Suffering of our Lord.”

But a still more worthy suffering, and closer to that of our Lord, is an inner suffering with God; for though all suffering is incredibly useful and fruitful, yet this is still more desirable and noble. As high and far above all creatures as God is, so is this suffering high and far above all the works that man can do. Therefore we ought to love God very dearly, when He leads us to eternal salvation by means of suffering with Him. The work must be God’s and not man’s, and we must see God in it. Man ought by nature to suffer rather than to work; to receive rather than give; for every such gift increases and ennobles the desire for more gifts a thousand times. He who empties himself and makes himself bare, and holds himself in inner peace, looking for the work of God in his soul, will give place to God, and desire to bear all that God may work in him, in His noble and divine work. For God is always working, and His Spirit is always suffering. What a marvellous fast to his nobility, and, under God, keep himself bare and pure; so that God, if it pleased Him, might see His work in man. God grant that we may attain to this blessedness. Amen.


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