Ecce Rex tuus
Behold Your King Comes
Alius sermo in prima Dominica Adventus
Sermon on the First Sunday of Advent
Sermon of friar Thomas Aquinas for the first Sunday of the Advent of the Lord.
Ecce rex tuus venit tibi mansuetus.
Behold, your king comes to you, meek.
Multa sunt mirabilia in Dei operibus, Psalmista: mirabilia opera tua etc. Sed nullum opus Dei est tam mirabile sicut adventus Filii Dei in carnem. Cuius ratio est quia in aliis operibus impressit Deus suam similitudinem creature, sed in opere Incarnationis impressit se ipsum et univit humanam naturam sibi in unitate personae. Et ideo, licet omnia alia opera sint per rationem scrutabilia, opus Incarnationis est omnino sine ratione. Iob: qui facit magnalia mirabilia absque numero;
Many are the wonders of the divine works, as the Psalmist says: wonderful are your works (Ps 137 :14). Yet no work of God is as marvelous as the coming of Christ into the flesh, because, while in his other works God imprinted his likeness on the creature, in the work of the Incarnation he impressed his very self, and united himself to human nature through a unity of person (or united our nature to himself). And hence, while the other works of God are imperfectly knowable, this work (namely, the Incarnation), is entirely without reason. Job 5:9: you do great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.
unum opus est quod videre non possum: si venerit ad me <non> videbo eum. Et in Malachia III: ecce Dominus exercituum veniet et quis poterit cogitare diem adventus eius?, quasi dicat: istud excedit cogitationem humanam. Non sumus autem sufficientes cogitare aliquid a nobis, secundum Apostolum. Et ideo in principio rogemus Dominum ut ipse det mihi aliquid dicere de eius adventu quod sit ad honorem, etc.
There is one work that I cannot see: if he should come to me, I would not see him (Job 9:11). And in Malachi: behold, the lord of hosts comes, and who can know the day of his coming? (Mal 3:1–2) As though to say: it exceeds the knowledge of man. But the Apostle teaches who would be able to know the day of his coming, saying: not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but all our sufficiency is from God (2 Cor 3:5). Therefore, in the beginning we will ask the Lord that he himself should give me something to say, etc.
Ecce rex tuus etc. Verba ista sumuntur de Evangelio hodierno quod apud nos legitur et sunt sumpta de Zacharia licet sub aliis verbis aliquantulum ibi recitentur. In quibus verbis manifeste praenunciatur nobis Christi adventus; et ne sub ambiguo procedamus, scire debetis quod quatuor legimus Christi adventus.
Behold, your king comes, meek (Matt 21:5). These words are taken from the Gospel which we read today, and are taken from Zechariah 9:9, although there it is said in slightly different words. In these words, Christ’s coming is clearly prophesied to us. And lest we proceed on the basis of an ambiguity, you should know that Christ’s coming is read in four ways.
Primus est quo venit in carnem; s
First is that by which he comes into the flesh.
ecundus quo venit in mentem;
His second coming is that by which he comes into the soul.
tertius quo venit ad mortem, sanctorum scilicet;
The third coming of Christ is that by which he comes in the death of the just.
quartus quo veniet ad iudicium.
And the fourth coming of Christ is that by which he comes to judge.
Primo dico quod Christus venit in carnem non locum mutando, quia ut dicit Ieremias 23: caelum et terram ego impleo. Non ergo venit in mundum caelum derelinquendo sed naturam humanam sibi uniendo, quando Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis, unde in propria venit, Iohannis I; unde erat in mundo et venit in mundum. Item Iohannis XVI: exivi a Patre et veni in mundum.
First, I say that the coming of Christ is into the flesh. And it is not to be understood as though he came into the flesh by changing place, because he says in Jeremiah: I fill heaven and earth (Jer 23:24). In what way, then, did he come into the flesh? I say that he came into the flesh descending from heaven, not by leaving heaven behind, but by assuming human nature. Thus John says: he came unto his own (John 1:11). And how? I say that he was in the world, but he came in the world when the word became flesh (John 1:14).
Et notandum quod iste Christi adventus inducit alium Christi adventum, scilicet quo venit in mentem. Nihil enim nobis prodesset adventus in carnem nisi veniret in mentem, per gratiam scilicet nos sanctificando, unde in Iohanne: si quis diligit me, et sequitur: ad eum veniemus etc.
And see how this coming leads to the other coming of Christ, which is into the soul. It would have profited us nothing if Christ had come into the flesh, unless he had also entered into the soul, that is, by sanctifying us. Hence John says: if anyone love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him (John 14:23).
In primo adventu venit solum Filius sed in secundo venit Filius simul cum Patre ad habitandum per gratiam sanctificantem. In isto adventu liberatur anima a culpa sed non ab omni poena cum nundum gloriam consequatur.
In the first coming, the Son comes alone, but in the second, the Son comes with the Father to live within the soul. This coming, which is through justifying grace, frees the soul from fault, though not from all punishment, because it receives grace, although it does not yet receive glory.
Et propter hoc necessarius est tertius Christi adventus in quo venit ad sanctos in morte ipsorum quando ipsos recipit ad suam gloriam; unde in Iohannis XIII: si abiero, per passionem, et praeparavero vobis locum, tollendo vobis obstaculum, iterum veniam ad vos, in morte, et accipiam vos ad me ipsum, intellige: introducam vos in mansiones ubi maneatis perfruendo, ubi sum ego et vos sitis. Item in Iohanne: veni ut vitam habeant, scilicet praesentiam meam per gratiam in animabus, et ut abundantius habeant per gloriae participationem.
And because of this the third coming of Christ is necessary, in which he comes in the death of the saints, when he receives these souls unto himself. Hence John says: if I should go, to the Passion, and prepare a place for you, by removing the obstacle, I shall come to you again, namely, in death, and I shall take you to myself, namely, in glory, that where I am, you also may be (John 14:3). And again he says: I came that they may have life, namely, my presence in your souls, and have it in abundance (John 10:10), namely, through participating in glory.
Quartus Christi adventus erit cum Dominus ad iudicandum venerit et tunc gloria sanctorum vel animarum redundabit usque ad corpus et resurgent mortui; unde in Iohannis V: venit hora, et nunc est, quando mortui etc.
The fourth coming of Christ will be to judge, namely, when the Lord will come as Judge, and then the glory of the saints will overflow even into the body, and the dead will rise again. Hence John says: the hour is coming, and now is, when all who are in the tomb will hear the voice of the son of God and those who did well will enter into the resurrection of life (John 5:25).
Et propter istos quatuor adventus forte celebrat Ecclesia quatuor Dominicas et in ista celebrat de primo Christi adventu ut tangitur in praemissis verbis. In quibus possumus quatuor videre:
And perhaps it is because of these four comings that the Church celebrates Christ’s coming over the four Sundays of Advent. It celebrates the first coming of Christ on this Sunday: and we can see four things in the words set down above.
primo adventus Christi demonstrationem, ibi: ecce;
First, the coming of Christ is shown at: behold;
secundo advenientis conditionem, ibi: rex tuus;
second, the condition of the one coming, at: your king;
tertio advenientis humilitatem: mansuetus;
third, the purpose of the coming: comes to you;
quarto adventus utilitatem: tibi.
fourth, the mode of the coming, at: meek.
Circa primum est considerandum quod per ecce quatuor intelligere possumus:
First, I say that we can see that the coming of Christ is shown at: behold. We must note that we normally understand four things by 'behold'.
primo certificationem: de rebus enim quae nobis constant dicimus ‘ecce’;
First, showing a thing to be certain: we say 'behold' of things which are evident to us.
secundo temporis determinationem;
Second, we understand through 'behold' a determination of time;
tertio rei manifestationem;
third, the manifestation of a thing;
quarto hominum confortationem.
and fourth, men’s comfort.
Quando aliquis solet aliquem certificare de aliquo, consuevit dicere ‘ecce’. Unde in Genesi dixit Dominus: ecce ego statuam pactum meum vobiscum et cum semine vestro post vos; arcum meum etc. Arcum istum posuit Dominus inter nos et ipsum in signum pacis. Per arcum istum significatur Filius Dei, quia sicut arcus generatur ex reverberatione radiorum solis ad nubem aquosam, sic Christus ex verbo Dei, qui est splendor Patris, et natura humana, quae est sicut nubes, generatus est; et sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est homo, ita Deus et homo unus est Christus; unde de Christo dicitur quod ascendit super nubem levem, id est super humanam naturam quam sibi univit;
First, I say that through 'behold' we normally mean to make a thing certain. When anyone wants to make a thing certain, he says, behold. Hence the Lord says in Genesis: behold, I will establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you. I shall set my bow between me and you (Gen 9:9, 13), namely, as a sign of peace. This bow signifies the Son of God, for, as the bow is generated from the reflection of the sun on the watery clouds, so is Christ generated from the Word of God and human nature, which is like the clouds. And as the soul and body are one man, so God and man are the one Christ; and it is said of Christ that he ascended on a light cloud (cf. Acts 1:9), that is, on human nature, by uniting it to himself.
et sic venit nobis Christus in signum pacis et fuit necessarium quod ita fieret quia sicut aliqui modo dubitant de secundo Christi adventu, ita dubitaverunt aliqui de primo. Unde Apostolus: in novissimis quidem temporibus venient illusores, recedentes a fide, iuxta proprias concupiscentias ambulantes, dicentes: ubi est promissio et adventus eius? Dicunt tales quod anima non erit post corpus; et propter hoc ad certificationem adventus Christi dicit Propheta: ecce. Et in Abacuc II: apparebit Dominus in finem et non mentietur; si moram fecerit expecta eum quia veniens veniet et non tardabi; et in Psalmo: Deus manifeste veniet.
And Christ came to us as a sign of peace, and it was necessary that he should become such because of how some doubt Christ’s second coming. Hence the Apostle says: in the last days there shall come deceitful scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, “where is his promise or his coming?” (2 Pet 3:3-4). Such men will say that the soul will not endure after the body, and because of this, to show the certainty of Christ’s coming, the prophet says: behold. And it says in Habakkuk 2:3: the Lord will appear in the end, and will not lie. And Isaiah says: the Lord of hosts will come (Isa 3:14).
Secundo per ‘ecce’ solemus intelligere temporis determinationem. In adventu autem Christi ad iudicium non est nobis tempus determinatum, unde Iob: nescio quamdiu subsistam et quando tollar ignoro etc.; et in Luca: regnum Dei non venit. In isto enim adventu non fuit tempus determinatum quia Dominus <voluit> nos esse vigilantes semper in bonis operibus; sed in adventu in carnem fuit tempus determinatum et ideo dicitur ecce. Isaias: ecce dies veniunt, dicit Dominus, et suscitabo David etc.
The second thing we usually understand through ‘behold’ is a determined time. In the coming of Christ to judge, we do not have a determined time; hence Job says: I know not how long I shall continue, and when my Maker may take me away (Job 32:22). And in Luke: the kingdom of God will not come with observation (Luke 17:20). Why was there not a time determined for us for that coming? Perhaps because the Lord wished us to be always watchful. But for the coming of Christ into the flesh we had a determined time; hence Isaiah says: behold, the days shall come, and I shall raise up to David a just seed, and he shall reign and be wise (Jer 23:5).
Tertio per ‘ecce’ intelligimus rei manifestationem. Est enim quidam adventus Christi in mente occultus qui non potest sciri per certificationem. Iob III: si venerit ad me non videbo eum; sed in isto adventu Christus manifestus et visibilis venit. Isaias: propterea intelliget populus meus nomen meum quia ego qui loquebar ecce adsum. Et Iohannes demonstravit eum digito dicens: ecce agnus Dei; ecce qui tollit etc.
The third thing we normally understand by ‘behold’ is the manifestation of a thing. A certain coming of God to us is hidden, namely, the coming in which he enters into the soul, and cannot be known through showing it to be certain. Hence Job says: if he come to me, I shall not see him, and if he depart, I shall not understand (Job 9:11). But in this coming, which is into the flesh, Christ comes manifest and visible; hence Isaiah says: therefore my people shall understand my name, because I am myself who spoke; behold, I am here (Isa 52:6). And John points him out, saying as though in the present: behold, the Lamb of God (John 1:36). But Zechariah showed him through behold in reference to the future.
Quarto per ‘ecce’ possumus intelligere hominum confortationem, et hoc in duobus. Primo in victoria inimicorum, unde Trenorum: apparuerunt inimici mei mihi, et sequitur: ecce venit dies quem desideravi. Secundo in assecutione bonorum; Psalmista: ecce quam bonum etc. In hiis duobus consueverunt homines dicere ‘ecce’. Ista duo consecuti sumus in adventu Christi: habemus pacem et victoriam de insultu hostium, et gaudemus de spe adepta futurorum bonorum. Isaias: dicite: pusillanimes confortamini et nolite timere; ecce Deus adducet ultionem de inimicis vestris; ipse veniet et salvabit vos.
Fourth, by ‘behold’ we normally understand men’s comfort; and this in two ways. If a man suffers annoyance from his enemies, and his enemies submit to him, he says, 'behold.' Thus Lamentations 2:16 says: my enemies have opened their mouth, and behold, the day comes which I have longed for. Similarly, when a man obtains some good which he has long desired, he says ‘behold’. As the Psalmist says: behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live in unity (Ps 132 :1). We obtained these two in the coming of Christ because man is freed from the insults of the devil and rejoices in hope obtained. As Isaiah says: say to the fainthearted, “take courage, and fear not: behold, your God will bring the revenge of recompense over your enemies; God himself will come and will save you” (Isa 35:4).
Secundo ostenditur conditio venientis cum dicitur: rex tuus. Adventus autem alicuius personae monstratur et expectatur cum solemnitate propter duo: primo propter eius magnitudinem si est rex; secundo propter specialem dilectionem si est amicus intimus: tuus. De talibus enim consuevimus dicere ‘ecce’. Christus autem veniens et rex et amicus fuit.
Now, let us consider the condition of the one coming. A person’s coming requires that he be expected or announced with solemnity because of the person’s greatness, if he is a king or papal legate, or because of friendship and affinity: and this one who comes is a king, our close relation, and a friend.
Circa quod notandum est quod cum rex in potestate dominii auctoritatem habeat, ad verum dominium et regem quatuor requiruntur, quorum quodcumque cum deficerit non dicitur verus rex.
Because of this, we must await him with solemnity. You know that a king orders the authority of dominion, yet not just anyone who has authority of dominion is called a king, but four things are required for someone to be called a king; if any one is absent, he is not called a king.