Aquinas/Advent Homilies/Homily I
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HOMILY I: THE FOUR-FOLD DAY.
FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT. (FROM THE EPISTLE.)
"The day is at hand." — Rom. xiii. 12.
THIS word Day is to be taken in a four-fold sense — "The Day is at hand; "the day of mercy, the day of grace, the day of justice, and the day of glory. That Sun makes this a four-fold day, whose advent holy Church now celebrates. The day of mercy is the birth-day of the Lord, in which the Sun of Righteousness arises upon us; or more truly, He Who made that day so glorious. The day of grace is the time of grace; the day of justice is the day of judgment; the day of glory is the day of eternity. Joel speaks of the first — (iii. 18) — "In that day the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk." Concerning the second, 2 Cor. vi. 2, "Behold, now is the day of salvation." Of the third, Wis. i., "The day of wrath, that day the day of tribulation." Concerning the fourth, Zach. xiv. 7, "But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord not day, nor night; but it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light." Psalm cxxxiv. 10, "One day in Thy Courts is better than a thousand." The birth-day of the Lord draws near, that devoutly the day of mercy may be celebrated and honoured; the day of grace that it may be received; the day of judgment that it may be feared; the day of glory that it may be attained. The Church celebrates the first, Phil. iv. 5, "For the Lord is at hand." Isa. lvi. 1, "For My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness is near to be revealed." On account of the second, 2 Cor. vi. 2, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." On account of the third, James v. 9, "Behold the Judge standeth before the door." On account of the fourth, Rev. xxii. 12, "Behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to every man according as his work shall be."
We ought to celebrate the birth-day of the Lord, the day of mercy, with mercy and truth. Christ came to us in these two ways, and so we ought to go to Him. Ps. xxv. 10, "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth." To celebrate the day of grace with purity and humility, for these two graces make acceptable grace. Of the first, Prov. xxii. 11, "He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips, the King shall be his friend." Of the second, James iv. 6, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." The Church celebrates the day of judgment with meditation and fear. As S. Jerome says, "Whether I eat or drink, that voice seems ever to resound in my ears, 'Rise up, ye dead, and come to judgment.'" On the contrary, it is said of the wicked, Prov. xxviii. 5, "Evil men understand not judgment." We ought to hasten to run to meet the day of glory with righteousness. Heb. iv. 11, "Let us labour, therefore, to enter into that rest." To four Christian virtues the Apostle exhorts us in this epistle. To mercy and truth in the words, "Let us put on the armour of light." For the arms of light are mercy and truth; for mercy is the shield by which we are defended from the enemy, and truth is the power by which we overcome all things. Of the first, Eccl. xxix. 12, 13, "Shut up alms in thy store-houses, and it shall deliver thee from all affliction. It shall fight for thee against thine enemies better than a mighty shield and a strong spear." Of courage, Eccles. iii. 4, "Truth is great, and will prevail; it is great, and stronger than all things; the whole earth invokes truth, and it blesses heaven itself; it moves all work, and they tremble because of it, and there is no iniquity in it. A wicked banquet, a wicked king, wicked women, all wicked sons of men, and all their wicked works, and truth is not in them, and they shall perish in their iniquity, and truth shall remain." The epistle further exhorts us to purity and humility, "Not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying" (v. 13). Chambering and wantonness are acts of riot which make impurity. Strife and envying proceed from pride. In prohibiting immodesty it exhorts to purity; in prohibiting pride it exhorts to humility. In the words, "Let us walk honestly, as in the day," it awakens us to reflection upon and to fear of the judgment; that is, that we should so live as it is meet to live in the day of judgment. A man is in the judgment by thinking upon the judgment; he lives honestly by fearing the judgment. It exhorts us to justice and dispatch — "Now it is high time to awaken out of sleep;" and, therefore, by hastening from the sleep of sin, to arise to the fulfilling of justice; and the reason is given why a man should do this: "For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed;" to which salvation may we be led by Jesus Christ Our Lord.