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From No Uncertain Sound, Sermons that Shaped the Pulpit Tradition, Edited, with an Introduction, by Ray C. Petry, Professor of Church History, Duke University, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1948; pp. 288-294.



THE Cardinal’s amazing learning spanned the fields of mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, law, languages, and theology. His Catholic Concordance presented much of his conciliar theory even as his Learned Ignorance sounded the depths of his mystical philosophy. Though lacking the popular appeal of such preachers as Bernardine of Siena, whom he much admired, he sought in his Gospel ministry the means to Christian reform and the edification of all the faithful. Both of the following sermons, one in the older edition of Cus.Ex., Lib. IV, 444-45, and the other drawn from the recently edited Cus.Pr. 92-98, are translated by Miss Dorothy Ann Freeman.




Since Christ is life-giving life, and since our life cannot be preserved without food, he who is the giver of life is also its preserver. Wherefore he is the bread of life. And because he is the bread or food of life, this bread cannot be attained except by faith; for that which gives life is spirit. The spirit, moreover, cannot be known, whence it comes or whither it goes, as the doctrine of Christ teaches. It cannot be attained, therefore, by knowledge. But since we must come to the spirit of life, if we strive to gain life; and since we cannot achieve this by knowledge, it is fitting that this should be accomplished by that virtue which is above knowledge; namely, faith. This faith, moreover, which deserves to attain spiritual life, should be triumphant and militant, and obedient to Christ. It should hold captive the intellect, that thus it may be victorious and virtuous.

Virtue, however, is not perfected except in adversity. Therefore, this faith, in order to be perfected in virtue and become strong, must endure difficulties, and the more numerous they are, the greater should be its virtue. But if it is necessary that faith be of such great virtue that it reaches, in the spirit, the eternal life of the spirit, it must be most virtuous, and hence most victorious. Therefore, the obstacles which ought to be overcome are necessarily most evident; and that which most obviously opposes faith is the certitude which abides in the senses. Because nothing exists in the intellect which does not exist first in sense, it is particularly the duty of the virtue of faith to hold captive the intellect, that it may believe the opposite of what sense shows. Thence it comes that Christ offers himself as the bread of life to those discerning spirits of ours, which, through victory over sensible things, deliver themselves captive through faith, and without doubt believe that to be true which sense denies. Such a result, indeed, proceeds from this alone, that [the spirit] believes him, whom it sees a man, to be the Son of God. In consequence of this faith, it believes all that the Son pronounces and preaches as the words of God, to whom nothing is impossible. But the more impossible anything seems according to the judgment of the senses, the more possible it is to God, for the manifestation of his omnipotence and great glory. This faith shows, moreover, that the bread of the Gospel has the knowledge of life, since it is the word of eternal life and shows 290 also, since it is the only food of life, the justification of the incarnate word, [in its two aspects] of preaching and of the justifying host.1 Therefore, for this purpose, to touch the bread of life in faith through victory over appearances, and in opposition to the sensible world, it has always been necessary to have this warfare. Since this nourishment is always necessary for us, so also the strongest faith is always requisite to attain it. For this reason, when he was about to depart from this world, Christ promised to abide with us until the end of time, in such way that his presence should contribute to our attainment of life. And because he saw that it was especially conducive to the attainment of life, he concealed himself, the food of spiritual life, under sensible semblance, having corporeal form, that is the bread and wine. In this same way he himself appeared corporeally, when he bore the true food of spiritual life hidden in a body nourished on bread and wine, that is, a body of flesh and blood. Hence departing from this world, he left us the Eucharist, in which he who is the sustenance of the mind lies hidden under sensible sacramental signs. Just so, while he walked in body on this earth, he bore hidden in flesh and blood the food of life; so that in those very foods by which the physical body is fed, the spirit, when the refreshment of the corruptible manna is withdrawn, may through faith be nourished by the food of the incorruptible bread which comes down from heaven. And therefore, even as the stomach by its own heat extracts food from the bread of the corruptible manna in order to restore itself, faith by its own fire may infuse the living spirit into the bread in order itself to live in life. Therefore, as he himself was sent by the Father, minister of the word of life which he possessed, ministering the sustenance of life, and offering himself as that sustenance; just so he sent the apostles and disciples and their successors to the end of he ages in the same way as he himself was sent by the Father, that they also, in the word of life, might minister the food of life and might offer Christ himself as the nutriment of life in the form of corporeal foods. And thus you see how the sustenance of life should be ministered in preaching, just as in oblation. And the preaching is so much the more perfect, in proportion to the fruitfulness and the frequency in it of that sweetest oblation, the mystical body of Christ.


Let us touch upon the cause of this institution. One purpose was mentioned in the beginning, namely, that thus Christ may be with us, so that through faith we may be able to partake of the nutriment of life. And since he is with us as the justifying host, given for the life of the world, intangible to the senses, we are able to partake of life through strong faith, in the oblation of the invisible host, contained under visible semblances. There is another cause of the institution, which we must especially remember: that Christ took bread, and giving thanks broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat; this is my body which is given for you; this do in commemoration of me (cf. Matt. 26:26; Luke 22:19). [Thus] he wished to show that his true body must be given for them, that he might give them life. And just as the bread, which he made his body, was one and was divided, and offered to all, and refreshed each one partaking of it, thus also was it with the wine. Just as Christ, the enlivening life, unites the whole body of the faithful in the unity of faith, since he himself is [both] the life and the body of faith; just so he instituted this sacrament, that in it he himself might be the food of life, and those sharing in this one bread, the one body of Christ, by the one food of life should be refreshed. Christ, therefore, wished that in memory of this, that he himself was life and gave himself for the faithful, the bread should be consecrated and given to the faithful. Of the faithful it is therefore required that he should participate in the body of Christ, which is in the sacramental bread, that thus he may show himself to remember the sacrifice of Christ for him. This [he should do] in unity with the mystical body of Christ, in whose existent body he participates through the bread of faith. And, together with the mystical body, he shares in the unity of Christ who is partaken in the sacrament.

The love of your neighbor is not enough, unless it is also in God, and the existence of the sacrament is necessary for salvation, so that you may be incorporated in the unity of the body of Christ and the head of Christ, for otherwise you cannot live. Therefore, it is fitting that you should receive the sacrament of this unity, so that you may openly show that you believe such an incorporation to be a necessity for salvation.



“WHERE IS HE WHO IS BORN KING OF THE JEWS.” — Matt. 2:2 (On the Epiphany: At Brixen, 1456)

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9.  Paul said that we exist in God and move in him, for we are wayfarers. The wayfarer takes his name and his existence from the way. The wayfarer who walks or moves in the Infinite Way, if he is asked where he is, says, “On the way”; if asked, where he moves, replies, “In the way”; if asked why he moves, says, “Because of the way”; and if asked whither he goes, says, “From the way to the way.” Accordingly, the Infinite Way is called the place of the wayfarer, and this is God. Therefore, this Way, outside of which no wayfarer is to be found, is an existence without beginning or end, and from it the wayfarer takes all that he is or has, and through it he is a wayfarer. The fact that a farer begins to be a wayfarer on the way adds nothing to the Infinite Way itself, nor does it make any change in this Way which is eternal and immovable.

10.  Therefore, take note how the Word of God proclaims itself to be the Way; you are able to understand this, because the living intellect is a wayfarer on the Way or in the Word of life, from which Way he takes his being and his name, and in which he moves. If to move is to live, the moving Way is life, and thus it is the living Way of the living wayfarer.2 From the Way the wayfarer receives his life, and the living Way is his place, and he moves in it and from it, through it and to it. Rightly, therefore, did the Son of God call himself the Way and the Life.

11.  But take note of this also: this Way, which is Life, is also Truth. The living wayfarer is a rational spirit who, in his faring, takes a living delight; for he knows whither he goes. He knows that he is in the Way of Life, and this Way is Truth, for Truth is the most delightful and the immortal food of his life; through which he has his being, and by which he is sustained. Therefore, this living Way, which is also Truth, is, in addition, the Word of God, itself God, and 293 is “the light of men” walking on the Way; for the wayfarer, walking, needs no other light to prevent him from walking in darkness, as one not knowing where he wanders. But the Way, which is Life and Truth, is also illuminating light, and this light is living, because it shows itself to be “the light of life.”

12.  All men enter this world in the same way but they do not all live after the same fashion, for although men, like other animals, are born naked, they clothe themselves, through the art of the tailor in order that they may live more comfortably. Also, they make use of cooked foods, and houses, and horses, and many such things which art adds to nature for the betterment of life. These arts we receive as a great gift or favor from their discoverers. Therefore, although many live in much misery, grief, and oppression, suffering much, while others lead lives of luxury in joy and splendor, still we rightly assert that a man, by various arts or graces, can attain greater peace and joy in life than nature grants. Many, it is true, have discovered, through natural ability or divine inspiration, various arts for the improvement of living: some have invented the mechanical arts of sowing, planting, and doing business; others have written out the laws of politics and economics; and still others have discovered the ethic of habituating themselves through manners and ways of life to delight in virtuous living, and thus to govern themselves peacefully. Yet, nevertheless, none of these arts serve the spirit, but rather they offer suggestions according to which one can, in this world, live a virtuous life of peace and quiet and praiseworthiness.

13.  Therefore, to these arts religion was added, founded on divine authority and revelation, to bring man to obedience to God, through fear of him and love of him and our neighbor; in the hope of gaining the favor of God, the giver of life, that he may attain in the present word a long and tranquil life, and in heaven a life that is joyful and divine. In contrast to all other forms of religion which fail of true life, the Way to eternal life was revealed to us through Jesus, the Son of God, who made known to us the nature of the heavenly life which the sons of God enjoy, the assurance that we may achieve the sonship of God, and the means by which we may accomplish it.

But just as the art of living well in this world is variously revealed by various insights, and the clearer these are, the more perfect it is, so 294 also religion, which looks to the future life and orders the present for the sake of the future, has been variously revealed by prophets foreseeing the future from a distance. And because no one sees the future life except in imagination, therefore only he, who came into our human nature from God and that heavenly life which is future for us, could perfectly reveal religion or the way to it. This is our Jesus, who came from Heaven that we might have life and live more abundantly through him than through nature, who “began to do and to teach” how this might be accomplished, and who said: Whoever follows me, walks not in darkness, but he shall have the light of life (John 8:12). He who was also the Way of nature was himself, therefore, the Way to the attainment of grace.

14.  Jesus, therefore, is the place where every motion of nature or of grace comes to rest. The Word of Christ or the teaching, the command or the example of his motion, is the Way to the vision or the apprehension of eternal life, which is the life of God, who alone is immortal and this life is more abundant than the life of created nature. But no one can enter into the way of grace, which leads to the Father, through himself; he must enter through a gate. Christ who proclaimed himself to be the gate is also the Way: the faithful Christian, by the work of faith through love, enters through the gate and finds himself in the Way. The gate is faith. The Way is love. Thus faith in Christ becomes both gate and Way. The Word of God the Father summons us out of non-existence into existence. And finally to that sort of existence which the intellectual life enjoys, because it understands its own existence. The Word made flesh summons this intellectual life through grace to fellowship with the Word, through which it tastes, in the fountain of the Father, the sweetness of his divine life, which is imparted to the sons of God.



1  The text at this point and at several others in this sermon is obscure and has been rendered as nearly as possible in relation to the original.

1  Typical play on words: sic, est via viva vivi viatoris.


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