St Augustine of AfricaListen to the Apostle saying to you, But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us too make it our boast, if only because we lean totally upon it. Perhaps it is there that we shall find both width, and length, and height, and depth.

These words of the Apostle, you see, somehow set up the cross before our very eyes.

[…] So where is the width? Turn your mind to the life and behaviour of the saints, who say, Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We find in their way of life and behaviour the width of charity; which is why the Apostle himself gives them this advice: Open yourselves wide, lest you should be bearing the yoke with unbelievers.

So width means charity, which alone does good works.

But because the Lord said, When iniquity abounds, the charity of many will grow cold, he gave me also length. What is meant by length? Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

This is the length of the cross, where the whole body is stretched; where after a fashion it is standing, the kind of standing by which one perseveres.

So if you are seeking, you that make the cross your boast, to have the width of the cross, make sure you have the virtue to do good.

If you want to have the length of the cross, make sure you have the long suffering capacity to persevere.

But if you want to have the height of the cross, make sure you know the meaning of the words you hear, ‘Lift up your hearts’, and of where you hear them.

Well, what does it mean, ‘Lift up your hearts’? Place your hope up there, place your love up there, ask for strength from up there, look for your reward from up there.

Because if you do good, and give cheerfully, you seem to have the width; if in the same good works you persevere to the end, you seem to have the length.

But if you don’t do any of this for the sake of the reward up above, you won’t have the height; which means you won’t have the real width and real length either.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430:  Sermon 165, 1-5, 9;  from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

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