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 The Evening Sermon on Saint Francis, 1262 - 721 

lem. From it all the relics of the wood of the cross which are found throughout the whole world have been taken.

It was the Lord's good pleasure at the time of Constantine that he willed to put an end to wars and tribulations through the sign of victory, that is, the sign of the cross, which appeared to Constantine. As he willed to imprint the sign of victory on Constantine, so he chose to imprint the sign of penance on Saint Francis. In so doing he chose a simple, poor, and humble man to be the model of penance to all who were to come after him. Therefore, the text from Revelation can be understood of him: I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun with the seal of the living God, Rv 7:2 and this that he might put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan.

There are two elements in the text quoted at the beginning. The first concerns the privilege of a special grace which Saint Francis received by being conformed to Christ, as the text says: Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man; the second touches on his surpassing merits, as the text continues: in heaven, for the Holy Spirit fills the heavens—that is, heavenly men—with his gifts.

II

You will know that the heavens possess numerous characteristics. Leaving aside many others, I want to concentrate on these: their very presence above us, their vast extent which encompasses everything, and their effects on the earth.

First, then, they stand above us in lofty heights which may be taken as referring to the exalted poverty embraced by holy people, and by Saint Francis in particular; they are adorned with splendor, which may be understood as unblemished purity; and they remain unalterable in their position, which I take as referring to Saint Francis's humble obedience.

Saint Francis was like the heavens in their lofty heights because of his exalted poverty. We read in Isaiah: Heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool, and a little later: To whom shall I look but to him who is poor and little contrite in spirit and trembles at my words. O Lord God, how do you bring together in the same passage a poor little man and heaven? Of which heaven are you speaking? In which heaven is the Lord pleased to place his throne? Beyond doubt in the poor little man who may be called a heaven. I will prove this by the Psalm which says: The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven, and then adds: His eyes behold the poor man. To the avaricious, poverty is a detestable thing, but not so in the eyes of God. For though in appearance it is most base, in truth it is exalted and most high. Saint Paul writes to

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Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 721

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