A READING FROM A SERMON BY BLESSED GUERRIC OF IGNY
Among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Solomon advised, Let your praise come from your neighbour’s lips, but how much happier and more glorious it is for someone to be praised by the lips of his God! God cannot be deceived nor does he flatter. He is not quick to praise anyone whom he sees could be puffed up by it, or whom he foresees will merit final reprobation. You, as a human assessor, are rightly warned to praise no one in your lifetime, for just as you cannot know another’s innermost heart, so you cannot foreknow the way he will end. Even in your own case you must confess, though I am not conscious of any sin, this of itself does not justify me. There are righteous and wise men whose actions are in the hand of God, and they do not know whether they deserve love or hate; all things are kept in uncertainty against the future.
Happy is the man, then, who has come to know himself worthy of love by the declaration of the judge. It is true that a testimonial to present righteousness does not relieve a fickle man of all fear and misgiving about the future; nonetheless it is an unquestionable mark of outstanding virtue and great perfection whenever that sovereign judgment of God deems one still mortal fit for his commendation.
Assuredly it was a remarkable eulogy of Noah’s justice when the Most Just One said to him, I have seen you to be just before me. It was a sign of Abraham’s high merit when God swore to him that for his sake the promises made to him would be fulfilled. Again, what pre-eminent grace God vouched for in Moses by being jealous on his behalf and routing those who were jealous of him! If anyone among you is a prophet of the Lord, he said, I will appear to him in a vision or speak to him in a dream. But not so with my servant Moses, the most faithful man in my whole household. I speak to him face to face, plainly and not in riddles, and he sees God. Why then were you not afraid to disparage my servant Moses? Finally, who has there ever been to compare with David, over whom the Lord rejoices because he has found a man after his own heart?
Yet however great they all were, these people and others, there is not one among them or among any born of woman who, as he who was born of the Virgin testifies, is greater than John the Baptist. Even though star differs from star in brightness, and in that dance of holy constellations which lit up the night of this world before the rising of the true Sun there were some shone out with a marvellous radiance, still there was not one in their whole company greater or more splendid than that morning star, that burning and shining lamp which the Father prepared for his Anointed.
Bd Guerric, Sermo 3 in nat. S. Ioannis Baptistae (PL 185, 169-70), from Word in Season 1