success stories

Posted April 28, 2004

Book: Between God and Man: Six Sermons on the Priestly Office
Author: Pope Innocent III
The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., pp.131

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

When Innocent III became pope in 1198 he announce that he had been elevated to a position “between God and man.” This audacious claim has often been quoted to characterize the papal monarchy over which he presided and the secular powers he wielded for the eighteen years of his controversial tenure. The sermons presented in this rich collection cast a clearer light on Innocent’s concept of what his duties were as a priest and bishop.

Innocent was renowned as a preacher, one who faithfully fulfilled that pastoral duty throughout his career. The group of sermons featured in this book represents only a small sample of his homiletic works. That they are almost exclusively devoted to spiritual concerns provides valuable insight into Innocent’s papal priorities.

The six sermons included are: the inaugural sermon of Innocent’s consecration, the opening sermon of Lateran Council IV, an anniversary sermon, two Roman Synod sermons, and another on the constitution of the priesthood. The major theme throughout the sermons is the responsibility of clergy to function as intermediaries between divinity and humanity, particularly in preaching and in administering the sacraments. Also included in the book is a translation of Innocent’s treatise on preaching. In it Innocent gives practical advice to the preachers, whose office he believes to be the most important function of priesthood.

An Excerpt from the Book:

There are also two kinds of sleep: one the sleep of death, the other the sleep of life. Again, each of these is of two kinds. One sleep of death is bodily, which is punishment; the other is the sleep of spiritual death, and this is sin.

Of the first the Lord said to the Apostles, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep,” and the Apostle Paul said, “I will not have you ignorant about those who are asleep, so that you will not be sorrowful, like others who have no hope.”

Of the second David said, “Can he who sleeps throw it off and rise again?” And the Apostle Paul said, “Awake, you who sleep. Arise from among the dead, and Christ will give you light.” This can be understood in three ways: in ignorance, in negligence, and in concupiscence. The Psalmist speaks of the sleep of ignorance, “Enlighten my eyes so I may never fall asleep in death.” Solomon speaks of the sleep of negligence, “How long can you sleep, you sluggard? When will you awaken from your sleep? You will sleep a little, you will drowse a little, you will fold your hands a little so you can sleep, and destitution will overtake you like a bandit, and poverty will attack you like an armed brigand.” David says about the sleep of concupiscence, “They slept their sleep, all the men of riches, and they found nothing in their hands.”

. . .so we should be asleep to ignorance, especially ignorance of the commandments, in the divine precepts, and also of our duties in regard to the ecclesiastical sacraments – the two things we cannot ignore without peril. For it is written, “They would not learn my ways; so I swore to them in my wrath that they would not enter into my peace.” ‘Those who walked in darkness neither knew nor understood.” The Lord said through the Prophet, “You have rejected knowledge, so I will reject you lest you administer the priestly office for me.” “And my nation was led away captive, because it was ignorant. Its aristocracy perished in hunger, and its people withered with thirst.” “He did not wish to learn how to do good works. He has plotted wickedness even in his bed.” If they had only known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.”

We must be especially wary of ignorance, we to whom it has been given ex officio to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God — while to others they were given only in parables. We must be the “oxen plowing,” while others are the “assess grazing near by.” For when we sing to God we daily promise anew, “I will meditate upon Your laws, I will not forget Your words.” We should be the light of the world. “But, if the light within us becomes darkness, how great will the darkness itself be!” We should be the salt of the earth: “If the salt loses its savor, how can it the earth be salted? The salt is good for nothing any more but to be thrown out, and trampled on by men .” Therefore, let your ignorance sleep, and your reason guide you, as: “Your service must be reasonable,: and, “Be prepared, if anyone asks you, to give an explanation of this faith that is in you.”

This knowledge, then is the logion or rationale which the High Priest wore on his breast. On it was written Urim and Thummim, that is, Manifestation and Truth. For in the breast of the priest the knowledge of truth should be manifested as in the prophecy: “The lips of the priest safeguard knowledge, and the people expect the Law from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. The rationale was a quadrangle, because the priest must discern among four things: between the true and false, lest he err in belief; between good and evil, lest he err in his actions. The rationale was also double, just as the priest must discern doubly: for himself and for the people lest “If the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into the pit.” So we should be asleep to ignorance, because, “He who guards Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” He will not slumber in regard to our punishment, unless we sleep in regard to our sinning.

Table of Contents;

Prologue: Letter to Arnald

Sermon one: In Council of Priests

Sermon two: On the Consecration of the Supreme Pontiff

Sermon three: On the First Anniversary

Sermon four: On the consecration of Pontiffs

Sermon six: Convening the Fourth General Council of the Lateran

Sermon seven: In Synod