On the third day God said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb.
The earth or ground (which derives its name from the word ‘grind’) is the body of Christ, which according to Isaiah was ground down for our sins [cf. Is 53.5].
This ground was dug and ploughed with the nails and the spear. As someone has said, “The earth when it has been dug will give its fruits in due season. The flesh of Christ when dug gave heavenly kingdoms.” It brought forth the growing herb in the Apostles, it made the seed of preaching in the martyrs, and the fruit tree bearing fruit in the confessors and virgins.
In the primitive Church faith was like a tender plant, so that the Apostles might have said, in the words of Canticles, Our sister (the infant Church) is little (in the number of the faithful), and has no breasts (wherewith she may nourish her children) [cf. Cant 8.8]. She had not yet been made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and so they said, What shall we do with our sister on the day (of Pentecost) when she is to be spoken to (by the speaking of the Holy Spirit)? Concerning this, the Lord said in the Gospel:
He will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, [Jn 14.26]
(that is, he will supply assistance).
On the fourth day God said: Let there be two lights in the firmament.
In the firmament which is Christ, now glorified through the Resurrection, there are two lights- namely the brightness of the Resurrection, which is signified by the sun, and the incorruptibility of the flesh, which is signified by the moon.
This refers to the state of the sun and moon before our first parent’s fall. After his disobedience all creatures suffer some loss.
That is why the Apostle says: Every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now. [Rom 8.22]
On the fifth day God made the birds in the sky, to which there appropriately corresponds the fifth article of faith, the Ascension.
In the Ascension the Son of God flew like a bird up to the right hand of the Father, with the flesh he had assumed. So he himself says in Isaiah: who call a bird from the east, and from a far country the man of my own will. [Is 46.11]
‘Calling from the east’ refers to the Mount of Olives, which is to the east of Jerusalem.
Of this it is said: He ascends upon the heaven of heavens, [Ps 67.34] that is, to equality with the Father.
The ‘bird’ is ‘my Son’, and ‘from a far country’ (the world) comes ‘the man of my will’, he who said: My meat is to do the will of my Father who sent me. [Jn 4.34]
On the sixth day God said: Let us make man, and the sixth article of faith is the sending of the Holy Spirit.
In this mystery the image of God which had been deformed and defiled in man is re-formed and enlightened by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who breathed into the face of man the breath of life. [Gen 2.7]
As it is said in the Acts of the Apostles: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming. [Acts 2.2]
Note that the Holy Spirit is well called ‘mighty’, since he takes away eternal woe and bears the mind above. Hence David the prophet says: The light of thy countenance is signed upon us, O Lord. [Ps 4.7] The countenance of the Father is the Son; just as someone is recognised by their countenance, so the Father is recognised through the Son.
The light of the countenance of God is therefore knowledge of the Son and the enlightening of faith, which was stamped and impressed upon the hearts of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, like a seal, and thus man was made a living soul.
On the seventh day God rested from all his works.
Even so the Church rests in the seventh article of faith from all her labour and sweat.
Then God shall wipe every tear from her eyes [Apoc 21.4], that is to say, every cause of weeping. Then she will be praised by her Spouse, and be found worthy to hear the words: Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates, [Prov 31.31] the gates, that is, of judgements. Then she together with her children shall hear the still small voice, Come, ye blessed. In these seven days and seven articles, described briefly and in passing, we approach the task of expounding the six virtues of the faithful soul, which are the moral significance of the six hours referred to in the Gospel reading; together with the meaning of the penny and of the sabbath.
So, dear brothers, let us ask the Word of the Father, the first principle of all creation, that in the seven days of this life, while we are living according to the body, we may live according to the soul in the seven articles of faith; by which we may be found worthy to come to him who is the life, and the sabbath rest, and the reward of the saints; by him who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.
[Source: THE SERMONS OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA , Translated into English by Paul Spilsbury from the Critical Latin Edition of the Centro Studi Antoniani, Padova, Italia (1979)
Copyright: Copyright in this translation belongs to the author, Revd. Dr. S.R.P.Spilsbury, 10 Woodside Grove, Henbury, Bristol, BS10 7RF. (firstname.lastname@example.org)]