Augustine of Hippo: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” Saturday, Jul 4 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaRecollecting your request and my promise, that…I would write you something on the subject of prayer to God, I feel it my duty now to discharge this debt, and in the love of Christ to minister to the satisfaction of your pious desire.

[…] What could be more suitably the business of your widowhood than to continue in supplications night and day, according to the apostle’s admonition, “She that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications night and day”?

It might, indeed, appear wonderful that solicitude about prayer should occupy your heart and claim the first place in it, when you are, so far as this world is concerned, noble and wealthy, and the mother of such an illustrious family, and, although a widow, not desolate, were it not that you wisely understand that in this world and in this life the soul has no sure portion.

Wherefore He who inspired you with this thought is assuredly doing what He promised to His disciples when they were grieved, not for themselves, but for the whole human family, and were despairing of the salvation of any one, after they heard from Him that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

He gave them this marvellous and merciful reply: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” He, therefore, with whom it is possible to make even the rich enter into the kingdom of heaven, inspired you with that devout anxiety which makes you think it necessary to ask my counsel on the question how you ought to pray.

For while He was yet on earth, He brought Zaccheus, though rich, into the kingdom of heaven, and, after being glorified in His resurrection and ascension, He made many who were rich to despise this present world, and made them more truly rich by extinguishing their desire for riches through His imparting to them His Holy Spirit.

For how could you desire so much to pray to God if you did not trust in Him? And how could you trust in Him if you were fixing your trust in uncertain riches, and neglecting the wholesome exhortation of the apostle:

“Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation, that they may lay hold on eternal life”?

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, I, 1-2 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: “The Spirit maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

St Augustine of Africa“With Him is the fountain of life, and in His light we shall see light” —

— when our desire shall be satisfied with good things, and when there shall be nothing beyond to be sought after with groaning, but all things shall be possessed by us with rejoicing.

At the same time, because this blessing is nothing else than the “peace which passeth all understanding,” even when we are asking it in our prayers, we know not what to pray for as we ought.

For inasmuch as we cannot present it to our minds as it really is, we do not know it, but whatever image of it may be presented to our minds we reject, disown, and condemn;

we know it is not what we are seeking, although we do not yet know enough to be able to define what we seek.

There is therefore in us a certain learned ignorance, so to speak — an ignorance which we learn from that Spirit of God who helps our infirmities.

For after the apostle said, “If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it,” he added in the same passage:

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is in the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

This is not to be understood as if it meant that the Holy Spirit of God, who is in the Trinity, God unchangeable, and is one God with the Father and the Son, intercedes for the saints like one who is not a divine person;

for it is said, “He maketh intercession for the saints,” because He enables the saints to make intercession, as in another place it is said, “The Lord your God proves you, that He may know whether ye love Him,” i.e. that He may make you know.

He therefore makes the saints intercede with groanings which cannot be uttered, when He inspires them with longings for that great blessing, as yet unknown, for which we patiently wait.

For how is that which is desired set forth in language if it be unknown, for if it were utterly unknown it would not be desired; and on the other hand, if it were seen, it would not be desired nor sought for with groanings?

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, XIV, 27; XV, 28 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: We know not what to pray for as we ought in regard to tribulations Friday, Jun 5 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaWe know not what to pray for as we ought in regard to tribulations, which may do us good or harm;

and yet, because they are hard and painful, and against the natural feelings of our weak nature, we pray, with a desire which is common to mankind, that they may be removed from us.

But we ought to exercise such submission to the will of the Lord our God, that if He does not remove those vexations, we do not suppose ourselves to be neglected by Him, but rather, in patient endurance of evil, hope to be made partakers of greater good, for so His strength is perfected in our weakness.

God has sometimes in anger granted the request of impatient petitioners, as in mercy He denied it to the apostle [St Paul].

For we read what the Israelites [in the desert] asked, and in what manner they asked and obtained their request; but while their desire was granted, their impatience was severely corrected.

Again, He gave them, in answer to their request, a king according to their heart, as it is written, not according to His own heart.

He granted also what the devil asked, namely, that His servant [Job], who was to be proved, might be tempted. He granted also the request of unclean spirits, when they besought Him that their legion might be sent into the great herd of swine.

These things are written to prevent anyone from thinking too highly of himself if he has received an answer when he was urgently asking anything which it would be more advantageous for him not to receive, or to prevent him from being cast down and despairing of the divine compassion towards himself if he be not heard, when, perchance, he is asking something by the obtaining of which he might be more grievously afflicted, or might be by the corrupting influences of prosperity wholly destroyed.

In regard to such things, therefore, we know not what to pray for as we ought. Accordingly, if anything is ordered in a way contrary to our prayer, we ought, patiently bearing the disappointment, and in everything giving thanks to God, to entertain no doubt whatever that it was right that the will of God and not our will should be done.

For of this the Mediator has given us an example, inasmuch as, after He had said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” transforming the human will which was in Him through His incarnation, He immediately added, “Nevertheless, O Father, not as I will but as Thou wilt.”

Wherefore, not without reason are many made righteous by the obedience of One.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, XIV, 26 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: “Like a tree planted hard by the running streams of waters” Saturday, May 9 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaOn Psalm 1.

“Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly” (ver. 1). This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord-Man.

“Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly,” as “the man of earth did” (1 Cor. 15:47), who consented to his wife deceived by the serpent to the transgressing the commandment of God.

“Nor stood in the way of sinners.” For He came indeed in the way of sinners, by being born as sinners are; but He “stood” not therein, inasmuch as the enticements of the world held Him not.

“And hath not sat in the seat of pestilence.” He willed not an earthly kingdom, with pride, which is well taken for “the seat of pestilence.”

For there is hardly anyone who is free from the love of rule, and craves not human glory. For a “pestilence” is disease widely spread, and involving all or nearly all.

[…] “And he shall be like a tree planted hard by the running streams of waters” (ver. 3). This refers either to True “Wisdom” (Prov. 8),  which vouchsafed to assume man’s nature for our salvation; that as man He might be “the tree planted hard by the running streams of waters.”

This can be understood in the sense which we find  in another Psalm: “the river of God is full of water” (Ps. 64:9).  Or it can be taken as referring to the Holy Spirit, of whom it is said, “He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 3:11),  and again, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink” (John 7:37).

[…]  Alternatively, “by the running streams of waters” may mean “by the sins of the people”, because, firstly, the waters are called “peoples” in the Apocalypse (Rev. 17:15); and again, “running stream” may reasonably be understood as meaning “waterfall,” which can refer to sin.

That “tree” (that is, our Lord), drawing them from the running streams of water (that is, from the sinful peoples by the way) into the roots of His discipline, will “bring forth fruit,” that is, will establish Churches, “in His season,” that is, after He has been glorified by His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.

For then, by the sending of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and by the confirming of their faith in Him, and their mission to the world, He made the Churches to “bring forth fruit.” “His leaf also shall not fall,” that is, His Word shall not be in vain.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Exposition of the Book of Psalms, Psalm 1, 1,3 (slightly adapted).  

Augustine of Hippo: The God of salvation is the Lord Jesus, which is interpreted Saviour, or Healing One Thursday, Apr 9 2015 

St Augustine of AfricaAbout His resurrection also the oracles of the Psalms are by no means silent.

For what else is it that is sung in His person in the 3rd Psalm, “I laid me down and took a sleep, and I awaked, for the Lord shall sustain me” (Ps. 3:5)?

Is anyone so foolish as to believe that the prophet chose to point it out to us as something great that He had slept and risen up, unless that sleep had been death, and that awaking the resurrection, which were fittingly prophesied concerning Christ?

For in the 40th Psalm also it is shown much more clearly, where in the person of the Mediator, in the usual way, things are narrated as if past which were prophesied as yet to come, since these things which were yet to come were in the predestination and foreknowledge of God as if they were done, because they were certain.

[…] The 15th Psalm also cries, “Therefore my heart is jocund, and my tongue hath exulted; moreover, my flesh also shall rest in hope:  for Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt Thou give Thine Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 15:9-10).

Who but He that rose again the third day could say his flesh had rested in this hope; that His soul, not being left in hell, but speedily returning to it, should revive it, that it should not be corrupted as corpses are wont to be, which they can in no wise say of David the prophet and king?

The 67th Psalm also cries out, “Our God is the God of Salvation:  even of the Lord the exit was by death” (Ps. 67:20). What could be more openly said?  For the God of salvation is the Lord Jesus, which is interpreted Saviour, or Healing One.

For this reason this name was given, when it was said before He was born of the virgin:  “Thou shall bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Because His blood was shed for the remission of their sins, it behoved Him to have no other exit from this life than death.  Therefore, when it had been said, “Our God is the God of salvation,” immediately it was added, “Even of the Lord the exit was by death,” in order to show that we were to be saved by His dying.

But that saying is marvellous, “Even of the Lord,” as if it was said: such is that life of mortals, that not even the Lord Himself could go out of it otherwise save through death.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): The City of God, book 17, chapter 18.

Augustine of Hippo: Almsgiving and Forgiveness Thursday, Apr 10 2014 

St Augustine of AfricaBe particularly mindful of the poor, so that what you take from yourself by living sparingly you may lay away in heavenly treasures.

Let the needy Christ receive that of which the fasting Christian deprives himself.

Let the self-restraint of the willing soul be the sustenance of the one in need.

Let the voluntary neediness of the one possessing an abundance become the necessary abundance of the one in need.

Let there be a merciful readiness to forgive in a conciliatory and humble soul. Let him who has done wrong seek pardon and let him who suffered the wrong give pardon, so that we may not be possessed by Satan who gloats over the disagreements of Christians.

For this is a very profitable way of giving alms, namely, to cancel the debt of one’s fellow servant so that one’s own debt may be cancelled by the Lord.

The heavenly Master commended both deeds as good when He said: ‘Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given to you’ (Luke 6:37-38).

Recall how that servant, whose entire debt had been cancelled by his master, received a double punishment because he did not show to a fellow servant owing him a hundred denarii the same mercy which he had received in regard to his debt of 10,000 talents (cf. Matthew 18:26-35).

In this kind of good work, where good will is the sole requisite, there is no excuse possible. Someone may say: ‘I cannot fast without upsetting my stomach.’

He may even say: ‘I wish to give to the poor, but I do not have the means to do so,’ or ‘I have so little that I run the risk of being in need myself if I give to others.’

Even in these matters men sometimes make false excuses for themselves, because they do not find true ones.

Nevertheless, who is there who would say: ‘I did not pardon the one seeking forgiveness from me because ill health prevented me,’ or ‘because I had not a hand with which to embrace him’?

Forgive, that you may be forgiven (cf. Luke 6:37). Here there is no work of the body; no member of the body is lifted up to help a soul, so that what is asked may be granted.

All is done by the will; all is accomplished by the will. Act without anxiety; give without anxiety. You will experience no physical indisposition; you will have nothing less in your home.

Now in truth, my brethren, see what an evil it is that he who has been commanded to love even his enemy does not pardon a penitent brother.

Since this is so and since it is written in the Scriptures; ‘Do not let the sun go down upon your anger’ (Ephesians 4:26), consider my dear brethren, whether he ought to be called a Christian who, at least in these days, does not wish to put an end to enmities which he should never have indulged.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homily 210, 10,  from Saint Augustine: Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, Homilies, translated by Sister Mary Sarah Muldowney, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 38), pp. 107-8.

Augustine of Hippo: All Authentic Prayer is Contained in the Lord’s Prayer Friday, Feb 14 2014 

St Augustine of AfricaContinued from here….

For whatever other words we may say – whether the desire of the person praying go before the words, and employ them in order to give definite form to its requests, or come after them, and concentrate attention upon them, that it may increase in fervour – if we pray rightly, and as becomes our wants, we say nothing but what is already contained in the Lord’s Prayer.

And whoever says in prayer anything which cannot find its place in that gospel prayer, is praying in a way which, if it be not unlawful, is at least not spiritual; and I know not how carnal prayers can be lawful, since it becomes those who are born again by the Spirit to pray in no other way than spiritually.

For example, when one prays: “Be Thou glorified among all nations as Thou art glorified among us,” and “Let Thy prophets be found faithful,” what else does he ask than, “Hallowed be Thy name”?

When one says: “Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved,” what else is he saying than, “Let Thy kingdom come”?

When one says: “Order my steps in Thy word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me,” what else is he saying than, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

When one says: “Give me  neither poverty nor riches,” what else is this than, Give us this day our daily bread “?

When one says: “Lord, remember David, and all his compassion,” or, “O Lord, if I have done this, if there be iniquity in my hands, if I have rewarded evil to them that did evil to me,” what else is this than, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”?

When one says: “Take away from me the lusts of the appetite, and let not sensual desire take hold on me,” what else is this than, “Lead us not into temptation”?

When one says: “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God; defend me from them that rise up against me,” what else is this than, “Deliver us from evil”?

And if you go over all the words of holy prayers, you will, I believe, find nothing which cannot be comprised and summed up in the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

Wherefore, in praying, we are free to use different words to any extent, but we must ask the same things; in this we have no choice.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, XII, 22 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: Praying in Words Tuesday, Jan 14 2014 

St Augustine of AfricaIn most cases prayer consists more in groaning than in speaking, in tears rather than in words.

But…words are necessary, that by them we may be assisted in considering and observing what we ask, not as means by which we expect that God is to be either informed or moved to compliance.

When, therefore, we say: “Hallowed be Thy name,” we admonish ourselves to desire that His name, which is always holy, may be also among men esteemed holy, that is to say, not despised; which is an advantage not to God, but to men.

When we say: “Thy kingdom come,” which shall certainly come whether we wish it or not, we do by these words stir up our own desires for that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may be found worthy to reign in it.

When we say: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we pray for ourselves that He would give us the grace of obedience, that His will may be done by us in the same way as it is done in heavenly places by His angels.

When we say: “Give us this day our daily bread,” the word “this day” signifies for the present time, in which we ask either for that competency of temporal blessings which I have spoken of before (“bread” being used to designate the whole of those blessings, because of its constituting so important a part of them),

or the sacrament of believers, which is in this present time necessary, but necessary in order to obtain the felicity not of the present time, but of eternity.

When we say: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” we remind ourselves both what we should ask, and what we should do in order that we may be worthy to receive what we ask.

When we say: “Lead us not into temptation,” we admonish ourselves to seek that we may not, through being deprived of God’s help, be either ensnared to consent or compelled to yield to temptation.

When we say: “Deliver us from evil,” we admonish ourselves to consider that we are not yet enjoying that good estate in which we shall experience no evil.

And this petition, which stands last in the Lord’s Prayer, is so comprehensive that a Christian, in whatsoever affliction he be placed, may in using it give utterance to his groans and find vent for his tears – may begin with this petition, go on with it, and with it conclude his prayer.

For it was necessary that by the use of these words the things which they signify should be kept before our memory.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, X, 20 – XI, 21 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: O Manifest Weakness and Marvellous Humility in Which All Divinity Lay Hid! Sunday, Dec 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaThe birthday of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, on which Truth sprang forth from the earth (Ps. 84:12) and the procession of day from day extending even unto our time began, has, with the return of its anniversary, dawned upon us today as deserving of special celebration.

‘Let us be glad and rejoice therein’ (Ps. 118:24), for the faith of Christians holds fast to the joy which the lowliness of such sublimity has offered to us, a joy far removed from the hearts of the wicked, since God has hidden these things from the wise and prudent and has revealed them to the little ones (Matt. 11:25).

Therefore, let the lowly hold fast to the lowliness of God so that, by means of this great help as by a beast of burden supporting their infirmity, they may come to the mountain of God.

[…] This child, born of the Father, created all ages; now, born of a mother, He has commended this day. That first nativity could not possibly have had a mother, nor did the second one call for any man as a father.

In a word, Christ was born of both a father and a mother, and He was born without a father and without a mother; for as God He was born of the Father and as Man He was born of a mother; as God He was born without a mother and as Man He was born without a father.

Therefore, ‘Who shall declare His generation?’ (Isa. 53:8) whether we consider His generation without the limits of time or that without seed; the one without a beginning or that without precedent; the one which has never ceased or that without previous or subsequent existence; the one which has no end or that which has its beginning there where it has its end.

Rightly, then, did the Prophets announce that He would be born; truly did the heavens and angels announce that He had been born. He who sustains the world lay in a manger, a wordless Child, yet the Word of God. Him whom the heavens do not contain the bosom of one woman bore.

She ruled our King; she carried Him in whom we exist; she fed our Bread. O manifest weakness and marvelous humility in which all divinity lay hid! By His power He ruled the mother to whom His infancy was subject, and He nourished with truth her whose breasts suckled Him.

May He who did not despise our lowly beginnings perfect His work in us, and may He who wished on account of us to become the Son of Man make us the sons of God.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homily 184, 1&3,  from Saint Augustine: Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons, Homilies, translated by Sister Mary Sarah Muldowney, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 38), pp. 3-6.

Augustine of Hippo: God Promised Men Divinity, Mortals Immortality, Sinners Justification, Outcasts Glory Thursday, Dec 12 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaGod had a time for making his promises and a time for fulfilling them.

His time for making promises was from the days of the prophets until the coming of John the Baptist.

His time for fulfilling them was from then until the end of the world. God is faithful and he has put himself in our debt, not by receiving anything from us but by promising so much.

Nor was a promise sufficient for him; he even bound himself in writing, giving us as it were a pledge in his own hand.

He wanted us to see from Scripture, when the time for fulfilment came, how he was carrying out his promises one by one.

God promised us eternal salvation, everlasting bliss with the angels, an incorruptible inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of his face, his holy dwelling in heaven, and after the resurrection from the dead no further fear of dying.

This is what he holds out to us at the end as the goal of all our striving. When we reach it we shall ask for nothing more. But as to how we are to reach our final goal, he revealed this too by promises and prophecies.

God promised men divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, outcasts glory.

But because his promise that we who are mortal, corruptible, weak and of low estate, mere dust and ashes, were to be equal to the angels seemed incredible, God not only made a written covenant with us to win our faith, but he also gave us a mediator of his pledge.

This mediator was not a prince, an angel, or an archangel, but his only Son; through his own Son he meant both to show us and give us the way by which he would lead us to the promised goal.

He was not satisfied with sending his Son to show us the way. He made him the way itself. God’s only Son, then, was to come among us, take our human nature, and in this nature be born as a man.

He was to die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfil his promises among the nations.

After that he was also to fulfil his promise to come again, to demand what he had previously requested, to separate those deserving his anger from those deserving his mercy, to give the wicked what he had threatened and the just what he had promised.

All this had to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future so that we should not be terrified by its happening unexpectedly, but wait for it with faith.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 109, 1-3 (CSEL 40:1601-1603); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 2nd Week in Advent, Year 1.

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