Widened Heart; Good Zeal


Benedict uses these texts in the Prologue and Chapter 72 of his Rule, de Zelo Bono
4.27 Widened Heart;   18.10 Zeal to life & Death;   18,13 Zeal is Love





Ambrose, Commentary on Psalm 118,
Expositio de psalmo cxviii
 (tr. Íde ní Rian, Hancyon Press, Dublin, 1988)

PL 15.1559-1562
modified based on CSEL 42
(1913, Petschenig)












SERMON 4: Daleth
“I have run the way of your commandments,
since you enlarged my heart”
(Ps 118: 32)


CSEL 42, 80-81







27. I have run the way of your commandments, since you enlarged my heart. (Ps 118: 32) He could not run along the way if his heart was all knotted up in anxieties. To those who run along this way, the Apostle says: “Be opened, and do not harness yourselves in an uneven team with unbelievers.” (2Co 6:13-14) Speaking of himself, he says to the Corinthians: “have spoken frankly to you, Corinthians, our heart has been opened.” (2Co 6:11) Of Solomon, too, it was said: “The breadth of his heart is as the shore of the sea. (1Ki 4:29) 27. Uiam, inquit, mandatorum tuorum cucurri, cum dilatasti cor meum; neque enim poterat uiam currere, si cor eius coartaretur angustiis. denique currentibus uiam domini ait apostolus: dilatamini et uos et nolite iugum ducere cum infidelibus et de se ait: os nostrum patet ad uos, o Corinthii, cor nostrum dilatatum est.ideo et de Salomone dicitur: latitudo cordis eius sicut harena maris.
Notice the distinction: et uide distantiam:

let the way be narrower

  uia sit angustior,

let the heart be wider,

    cor latius,

so that it can support the habitation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

ut patris et filii et spiritus sancti sustineat mansionem,
 For if the Word of God should come and knock and find a narrow heart, he would refuse to dwell there. Of the wide open heart can be said, “The praises of wisdom are sung in the gates, and she moves in the streets with faith.” (Pr 1:20) “The streets are broad. Therefore, it is not in the byways but in the spacious places of the heart, that wisdom’s praise is sung. ne ueniat uerbum dei et pulset et uidens cordis eius angustias dedignetur habitare.denique sapientia in exitu canitur, in plateis autem cum fiducia agit.plateae latae sunt; non igitur in uiis, sed in cordis latitudine sapientia decantatur.
 It is in the interior meadow of the soul, and not in the narrow places of the mind, that we must run if we would possess wisdom. It is written: “You must run meaning to win. (1Co 9:24)  He who can say: “I have run the race to the finish” (2Tm 4:7)  has grasped it well, for he has run like a noble steed.

in hoc igitur campo interioris hominis, non in angustiis mentis currendum nobis est, ut conprehendamus; scriptum est enim: sic currite, ut omnes conprehendatis.denique conprehendit, qui ita cucurrit, ut diceret: cursum consummaui; cucurrit enim ut bonus equus.








SERMON 18: Sadhe
Zeal for your house has devoured me,
because my enemies have forgotten your words
(Ps 118: 139);  [cf.RB 72.1-2]








10. THE third verse follows: “Zeal for your house has devoured me, because my enemies have forgotten your words. (Ps 118:139)

10. (Vers. 139.) Sequitur versus tertius: Exquisivit me zelus domus tuae; quoniam obliti sunt verborum tuorum inimici mei.

There is a zeal that leads to life,
      and a zeal that leads to death.

Est zelus ad vitam,
    et est zelus ad mortem.

It is zeal that leads to life to observe the divine precepts, and for love of the Lord to keep his commandments, as Phineas did.

Ad vitam zelus est divina praecepta servare, et amore Domini ejus custodire mandata, ut fecit Phinees,

We read in Numbers: “Phineas, son of Eleazar; son of Aaron the priest, has turned away my fury from the Israelites, because he was moved with my zeal against them. Therefore I have not devoured the Israelites in my zeal, as I said I would. See, I give them a covenant of peace, and to him and to his descendants after him it will be an eternal covenant of his priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and did not entreat on behalf of the Israelites.” (Nb 25:11-13) Twenty-four thousand of the people lay slaughtered. The punishment extended to all, nor was there an end to their destruction. Phineas (cf. Nb 25:7-9) seized a dagger, slew the two that were unlawfully having intercourse, redeemed all, turned away the wrath of the Lord, and gave victory to those to whom he was refusing life. How salutary, therefore, is zeal for God!

de quo legimus in Numeris, dicente Domino ad Moysen: Phinees filius Eleazar filii Aaron sacerdotis sedavit furorem meum a filiis Israel, in eo quod aemulatus est zelum meum in illis: et non consummavi filios Israel in zelo meo, sicut dixi. [1456B] Ecce ego do ei testamentum pacis, et erit illi et semini ejus post eum testamentum sacerdotii aeternum, propter quod aemulatus est Deum suum, et non exoravit pro filiis Israel (Num. XXV, 11 et seq.). Caesa jacebant viginti quatuor millia populorum: tendebat poena in omnes, nec ullus finis exitii. Arripuit siromasten Phinees, duos occidit interdicta sibi consuetudine copulatos, redemit omnes, indignationem Domini mitigavit, dedit victoriam quibus negabat salutem. Quam salutaris est igitur Dei zelus!





11. The vice of fornication does not belong to one period of time alone, for now the Midianite has intercourse with the Jew. The Midianite is not united to any one by the marriage bonds. She is lawful wife of none; is joined to none in true wedlock. The Midianite is the disbelief of the heretics that tempts the people of God. Into how many bosoms has this deadly harlot crept, she who has entombed an entire population in one common death and general funeral? Come, now, too, Phineas, seize the sword of the word, slay faithlessness, throttle heresy. Do not let an entire people perish because of it. Let heavenly ire urge you on, strike the very womb of impiety, and the means of generating heresy, so that no ill omened birth may be formed, no adulterous conception scatter abroad seeds of prevarication and sin. So may the Lord establish with you a covenant of peace, a covenant of grace, and a covenant of heavenly promises. A priest ought to have zeal. It is his to be eager to preserve the chastity of the Church incorrupt. Therefore the Prince of priests says: “Zeal fur your house has devoured me. (Jn 2:17. Ps 68:10)  Phineas was a priest, and the grandson of a priest, and the son of a priest.  Zeal in a priest is good, and greatly to be prized. Above all he should never be indifferent, never be remiss. Better that the greater number be saved by the loss of one or two, than to let two off scot free and place a very great number in peril.

1198 11. Non unius temporis illud vitium fuit: et nunc Madianitis miscetur Judaeo. Madianitis est, quae nullo est uxoris legitimae copulata conjugio, nullo fidei juncta consortio. Madianitis est haereticorum [1456C] perfidia, cum populum Dei tentat. Quam multis populis meretrix ista feralis irrepsit, quae publico funere totum populum communi morte tumulavit! Veni et nunc, Phinees, arripe gladium verbi, interfice perfidiam, jugulato haeresim; ne propter eam populus universus intereat. Urget ira coelestis, percute ipsam vulvam impietatis, generatoriumque perfidiae; ne partus formetur infelix, ne adulterina conceptio diffundat seminarium praevaricationis et sceleris; ut Dominus tecum statuat testamentum pacis, et testamentum gratiae, testamentum promissionum coelestium. Zelum habere debet sacerdos, qui incorruptam servare studet Ecclesiae castitatem; et ideo Princeps sacerdotum dixit: Zelus domus tuae devoravit me (Joan. II, 17). Et [1456D] Phinees sacerdos erat, et nepos sacerdotis, et filius sacerdotis. Bonus zelus, et utilis in sacerdote: praecipue [1457A] ne negligens, ne remissus sit. Melius est ut unius, aut duorum damnatione plurimi liberentur, quam duorum absolutione plures periclitentur.





12. “Zeal for your house has devoured me,” (Ps 118:139) he says. You see that the zeal of God is a grace; it devours, it overcomes, it pours itself into the heart of the just. The zeal of God is life. The Lord said: “Zeal for your house has devoured me. (Jn 2:17. Ps 68:10)  Just as previously in Adam an overpowering death had devoured man, so zeal has consumed the one who has been born to life in Christ. Elias had zeal, and therefore he was snatched up to heaven. “With zeal,” he says, “I have been zealous for the Lord.(1K 19:10) Matathias Butanus (prob. Bar Johannis) had zeal, for he stirred up the people of God against the sacrileges of Antiochus. (cf1M2)  Those who have zeal consider as their personal enemies all who are enemies of God, whether they be father, brothers, or sisters. They say of all of them: “They have become enemies to me,” (Ps 138:22)  just as David does. Why labour the point? Even an apostle of the Lord has been called: “The Zealous,” for we read in the Gospel the name: “Judas the Zealot.” (cf. Lk 6:15)

12. Exquisivit, inquit, me zelus domus tuae. Vides quia zelus Dei gratia est, qui exquirit, qui supervenit, qui se justi infundit pectori. Zelus Dei vita est. Denique Dominus ait: Zelus domus tuae devoravit me. Sicut enim ante in Adam devoraverat hominem mors praevalens: ita zelus devoravit, quem vivificavit in Christo. Zelum habuit Elias, et ideo raptus ad coelum est. Zelans, inquit, zelavi Dominum (III Reg. XIX, 10). Zelum habuit Mathathias Butanus, qui adversus sacrilegia Antiochi excitavit Dei plebem. Zelum qui habent, omnes sibi inimicos suos putant qui sunt hostes Dei, quamvis patrem, fratres, sorores. [1457B] De omnibus dicit: In hostes facti sunt mihi (Psal. CXXXVIII, 22), sicut David ait. Quid multa? Apostolus quoque Domini hoc declaratus est nomine, ut Judas Zelotes diceretur, sicut legimus in Evangelio (Luc. VI, 15).





13. By their zeal for the faith the Gentile people have acquired for themselves that eternal life which the Jewish people, by their negligence and sloth, have lost. Therefore Scripture says: “Zeal has seized a people without learning, (Is 26:11) for the people who were learned in the Law had nothing of the ardour of faith. Zeal passed over to the Gentiles, whose grace is so considerable that it has surpassed the prerogative of the chosen with all their research and their learning. By seizing hold of this people that were unlearned, zeal has made them superior to the learned. 13. Zelo fidei populus gentilium vitam sibi acquisivit aeternam, quam negligentia atque desidia Judaeorum populus amisit. Ideo scriptum est: Zelus apprehendit populum ineruditum (Esai. XXVI, 11); quoniam populus qui erat eruditus in Lege, nullum fidei habebat ardorem. Contulit se zelus ad gentes: cujus tanta est gratia; ut electionis praerogativam vicerit, et eruditionis industriam. Denique apprehendens populum ineruditum, fecit esse meliorem.
Grace has so worked among the people of the nations that they have merited the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord has done this to join to himself a Church from among the nations. Itaque ea gratia operata est in populo nationum; ut haereditatem [1457C] Domini mereretur, qua operatus est Dominus, ut Ecclesiam sibi ex nationibus copularet.
Zeal is love. Zelus ergo charitas est.
Consequently, “Love is strong as death; zeal is hard as hell. (Song 8:6)  1199 Denique valida est sicut mors charitas: durus sicut inferi zelus (Cant. VIII, 6).

  Zeal is hard, no earthly allurement can master it. It is “hard as hell,” for through it we die to sin so that we may live to God. (cf. Rm 6:10)

  Durus zelus quem vitae hujus nulla vincit illecebra. Durus sicut inferi, per quem peccato morimur; ut vivamus Deo.





14. The angels, too, are nothing without zeal. They lose their privileged status unless they sustain it by the ardour of their zeal. In the Revelations of John the Lord says to the Angel of Laodicea: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! But because you are tepid, I will begin to eject you from my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich, and have extensive possessions. I want for nothing.’ You do not know that you are poor and wretched; a beggar, naked and blind. I advise you to buy from me gold tried in the fire. (Rv 3:15-18)   This “fire” is zeal for God. This is the fire of faith, the fervour of devotion, which melts and moulds us like savoury food in Christ. How great is the grace of the Lord, that places us in his own mouth, so that he feasts as it were on a banquet consisting of our merits. If we deserve it he will eat us, but only so long as we give him delight by the savour of our food. Happy is the one whom wisdom has devoured, whom virtue has drunk, whom justice has received. Blame can have no share in him, for forgiveness of sins has quite swallowed him up. For where will sin light on one whom Immaculate Sinlessness has taken to Himself?

14. Angeli quoque sine zelo nihil sunt, et substantiae suae amittunt praerogativam, nisi eam zeli ardore sustentent. Denique in Apocalypsi Joannis Dominus ad Angelum Laodiciae dicit: Scio opera tua: neque frigidus es, neque calidus. Utinam frigidus esses, aut calidus: sed quia tepidus es, incipiam te evomere ex ore meo; quia dicis: Dives sum, et ditatus, et nullius egeo: et nescis quod tu es miser, et miserabilis, et mendicus, et nudus, et caecus. Consulo tibi, ut emas a [1457D] me aurum igne probatum (Apoc. III, 15-18). Hic est Dei zelus, hic est fidei vapor, devotionisque fervor, qui nos velut suavem cibum in Christo remollit et format. Quanta Domini gratia, ut nos in suo ore constituat, et quasdam meritorum nostrorum epuletur dapes; ac, si meremur, devoret, si nostri cibi suavitatibus delectetur. Beatus quem sapientia devoraverit, quem virtus hauserit, quem justitia receperit: culpa in eo habere non potest portionem, quem absorbuerit remissio peccatorum; ubi enim error inveniet, quem integritas immaculata susceperit?





15. Why should we be surprised that the angels have zeal? God the Father himself  said:  “With zeal and with great zeal I will be zealo us for Jerusalem. (Zc 8:2)   God is great, therefore his zeal is great too; according to the capacity of each one, so is his zeal mediocre or great. With zeal Jerusalem is punished, with zeal is the Church gathered together, with zeal is faith acquired, with zeal is chastity maintained. The Lord Jesus, too, has said: “Zeal for your house has devoured me.” (Jn 2:17)  He spoke angrily to the Jews because they had made a house of prayer into a den of thieves and a place of business. (cf. Mt 21:13. Jn 2:16)

[1458A] 15. Et quid miremur si Angeli eum habent? Ipse Deus Pater ait: Zelans zelabo Hierusalem zelo magno (Zach. VIII, 2). Quia Deus magnus, ideo et zelus ejus magnus est: et pro uniuscujusque potentiae qualitate, ita zelus aut mediocris, aut magnus est. Zelo vindicatur Hierusalem, zelo Ecclesia congregatur, zelo fides acquiritur, zelo pudicitia possidetur. Dominus quoque Jesus ait: Zelus domus tuae comedit me (Joan. II, 17); increpans Judaeos quod domum orationis fecerint speluncam latronum, fecerint et domum negotiationis.





16. But we should have zeal not only for the place where the Church is built, but also for God’s interior house within ourselves; so that we do not let it become a house of commerce or a den of thieves. If we go chasing lucre, gain, money, profits, we have made it a house of commerce. If we invade the possessions of others, the property of the widow or orphan, we have made it a den of thieves. Let the Word of God come and throw out of his house the thieves, the plunderers, the hucksters; so that your heart and soul may be pure.

16. Sed non solum locum Ecclesiae zelare debemus, sed hanc quoque interiorem in nobis domum Dei; ne sit domus negotiationis, aut spelunca latronum. Si enim lucra, quaestus, pecuniae emolumenta [1458B] aucupemur, domum negotiationis fecimus. Si invadamus alienas possessiones, fines viduae vel minorum, fecimus speluncam latronum. Veniat ergo Verbum Dei, et de hac domo projiciat fures, direptores, caupones; ut mundum sit cor tuum, pectus tuum.





17. There is a blameworthy zeal, and there is a praiseworthy zeal. David himself has said: “I was jealous because of the peace of sinners”. (Ps 72:3)  And it is written in Ecclesiasticus: “Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom, or she might learn to your detriment your lesson in evil.” (Si 9:1) And the jealous woman is rightly reproved, (cf Si 26:8) as compared with the faithful woman. We notice, therefore, that there is a certain measure and discipline to be observed with regard to zeal, just as virtue has its discipline. Happy is the one who understands the discipline of zeal and hates all who, by forsaking the Lord’s grace, abandon their own salvation and accept error and deceit.

17. Sed est zelus ad culpam, est et zelus ad gratiam. Nam et ipse David ait: Zelavi in peccatoribus pacem (Psal. LXXII, 2). Et in Ecclesiastico scriptum est: Non zeles mulierem sinus tui; ne ostendat super te malitiam doctrinae nequam (Eccl. IX, 1). Et mulier zelotypa in mulierem fidelem jure reprehenditur. Advertimus ergo quod mensura quaedam et disciplina sit zeli, sicut disciplina virtutis. Et ideo beatus qui zeli noverit disciplinam, et oderit eos qui Domini gratiam relinquentes, salutem propriam deserant, [1458C] errores sibi fraudis adsciscant.





18. He says: “Because my enemies have forgotten your words.” (Ps 118:139)  Who are these enemies?  If the Jewish people, how come that his enemies were under his rule? For David  governed within his own kingdom all the Jews. If Gentiles, how could people who never knew the Lord’s Law forget God’s words? Unless a man has first received something, he cannot forget it. Those enemies of mine, therefore, who were enemies of yours, are those who were not going to welcome the Lord when he would come into his own. (cf. Jn 1:11)  The Prophet testifies that these grievous enemies were his own enemies; not those who rebelled against himself, but those who rebelled against Christ. And in another place he says: ‘Because of your enemies I wasted away; and I hated them with a just hate;” (Ps 138:21-22)  he thought the weapons of irreligion more dreadful than those of battle. For mankind has no greater enemy than he who wounds the author of all men. Therefore the peoples of the nations were acquired with great zeal, because God was rejected by his own people. They were unable to retain either devout faith or the discipline of virtue, seeing that they did not retain the memory of the heavenly precepts. So Adam was cast out from paradise; so were the Jewish people excluded from the privilege of being the chosen ones.

18. Ideoque ait: Quoniam obliti sunt verborum tuorum inimici mei. Qui sunt isti inimici? Si populus Judaeorum, quomodo inimici erant sub ejus imperio constituti? David enim Judaeos omnes regno proprio gubernabat. Si gentiles: quomodo 1200 obliti verborum Dei, qui legem Domini nesciebant? Nemo enim nisi id quod acceperit, oblivisci potest. Illi ergo inimici mei, qui inimici tui, qui Dominum in propria sua venientem non erant recepturi. Hos graves hostes, hos inimicos suos Propheta testatur; non qui sibi essent, sed qui Christo rebelles. Denique alibi dicit: Et super inimicos tuos tabescebam: et justo odio oderam illos (Psal. CXXXVIII, 21 et 22); graviora putans arma perfidiae esse, quam pugnae. Nemo enim [1458D] gravior hostis omnium, quam qui omnium laedit auctorem. Ideo ergo zelo magno acquisitus est populus nationum; quoniam a suo Deus populo negabatur. Nec enim poterant aut fidei devotionem, aut disciplinam tenere virtutis, qui memoriam praeceptorum coelestium non tenebant. Sic Adam de paradiso ejectus, sic populus Judaeorum de praerogativa electionis exclusus est.













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