The Evening Sermon on Saint Francis, 1262 - 726 

own Order who is proud, how much more must it be displeasing to God. All this is abundantly clear from the fact that Christ's cross is above all the sign of humility. Listen to Saint Paul: Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:8 Christ's cross is the sign of the most perfect humility and self-abasement because on the cross he humbled and abased himself to such an extreme for our sake. So again, how right it is to find this sign on Saint Francis who possessed the greatest humility and reckoned himself the lowest and meanest of sinners. He used to implore in prayer: "Why, O Lord, have you laid this burden on me? Why have you made a simple, unlettered, despicable creature like me the head of this Order?" And the Lord would reply: "I have placed you over this Order so that what I achieve in you may be attributed to my grace and not to man's ingenuity."

Second, we admire the heavens because of their vast extent. They contain all things. Saint Francis can be likened to this feature of the heavens because of his all-embracing love which went out to everyone. We read in the Book of Sirach: I alone have compassed the circuit of heaven. This can be said of the love that is in God and in us for it also has compassed the heavens which contain everything. Yet only the righteous dwell in heaven. Love embraces all that love commands, but such love is found only in the virtuous. It was through love that the divine nature was united to flesh and through love that Christ humbled himself and underwent death. The Book of Sirach tells us: Look upon the rainbow and praise him who made it. What is this rainbow except the cross of Christ? Therefore, the sign of Christ's cross had to be found on this man of heavenly virtue, Saint Francis, whose love was boundless. He had love without limit for everyone. Love spends itself for sinners without counting the cost. Saint Francis was not content with preaching God's word only to the Christian faithful who listen with glad hearts and accept it willingly. He even went to the Saracens to proclaim the Gospel in the hope that he might be put to death for his faith in Christ and so become a martyr.

How is it that we, wretched as we are, have such cold hearts that we are not prepared to endure anything for our Lord's sake? Our hearts neither burn nor glow with love. Ardent love is a quality of the heart and the stronger this love burns in a person's heart, the more heroic and virtuous are his deeds. Do you desire to imprint Christ crucified on your heart? Do you long to be transformed into him to




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 726