Augustine of Hippo: Jesus Brings to Light Things Hidden in Darkness and Makes Plain the Secrets of the Heart Friday, Nov 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaAnd we possess a more certain prophetic word to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (1 Peter 2:19).

When our Lord Jesus Christ comes and, as the apostle Paul says, brings to light things hidden in darkness and makes plain the secrets of the heart, so that everyone may receive his commendation from God, then lamps will no longer be needed.

When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself.

Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.

When all these things are removed as no longer necessary for our illumination, and when the men of God by whom they were ministered to us shall themselves together with us behold the true and dear light without such aids, what shall we see?

With what shall our minds be nourished? What will give joy to our gaze? Where will that gladness come from, which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, which has not even been conceived by the heart of man? What shall we see?

I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers.

What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed.

Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind.

I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on the Gospel of John, Tract. 35, 8-9 (CCL 36, 321-323) from the Roman Office of Readings for Tuesday in the 34th week in Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: “Be Ye Enlarged” Friday, Nov 15 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaGod’s gifts are very great, but we are small and straitened in our capacity of receiving.

Wherefore it is said to us: “Be ye enlarged, not bearing the yoke along with unbelievers.”

For, in proportion to the simplicity of our faith, the firmness of our hope, and the ardour of our desire, will we more largely receive of that which is immensely great;

which “eye hath not seen,” for it is not colour; which “the ear hath not heard,” for it is not sound; and which hath not ascended into the heart of man, for the heart of man must ascend to it.

When we cherish uninterrupted desire along with the exercise of faith and hope and charity, we “pray always.”

But at certain stated hours and seasons we also use words in prayer to God:

that by these signs of things we may admonish ourselves,

and may acquaint ourselves with the measure of progress which we have made in this desire,

and may more warmly excite ourselves to obtain an increase of its strength.

For the effect following upon prayer will be excellent in proportion to the fervour of the desire which precedes its utterance.

And therefore, what else is intended by the words of the apostle: “pray without ceasing” than “desire without intermission, from Him who alone can give it, a happy life, which no life can be but that which is eternal”?

This, therefore, let us desire continually from the Lord our God; and thus let us pray continually.

But at certain hours we recall our minds from other cares and business, in which desire itself somehow is cooled down, to the business of prayer.

We admonish ourselves by the words of our prayer to fix attention upon that which we desire, lest what had begun to lose heat become altogether cold, and be finally extinguished, if the flame be not more frequently fanned.

When the same apostle says “let your requests be made known unto God,” this is not to be understood as if thereby they become known to God, who certainly knew them before they were uttered.

Rather, it should be understood in this sense: that they are to be made known to ourselves in the presence of God by patient waiting upon Him, not in the presence of men by ostentatious worship.

Or perhaps our requests may be made known also to the angels that are in the presence of God, that these beings may in some way present them to God, and consult Him concerning them.

Perhaps they bring to us, either manifestly or secretly, that which, hearkening to His commandment, they may have learned to be His will, and which must be fulfilled by them.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba, VIII,17 – IX, 18 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: Pilgrims Absent from the Lord Saturday, Oct 26 2013 

St Augustine of Africa

To Proba, a devoted handmaid of God….

In the darkness…of this world, in which we are pilgrims absent from the Lord as long as “we walk by faith and not by sight,” the Christian soul ought to feel itself desolate, and continue in prayer, and learn to fix the eye of faith on the word of the divine sacred Scriptures, as “on a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts.”

For the ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is “the Light which shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.”

In order to seeing this Light our hearts must be purified by faith; for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”; and “we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, foe we shall see Him as He is.”

Then after death shall come the true life, and after desolation the true consolation, that life shall deliver our “souls from death “that consolation shall deliver our “eyes from tears,” and, as follows in the psalm, our feet shall be delivered from falling; for there shall be no temptation there.

Moreover, if there be no temptation, there will be no prayer; for there we shall not be waiting for promised blessings, but contemplating the blessings actually bestowed.

Therefore he adds, “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living,” where we shall then be — not in the wilderness of the dead, where we now are: “For ye are dead,” says the apostle, “and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”

For that is the true life on which the rich are exhorted to lay hold by being rich in good works; and in it is the true consolation, for want of which, meanwhile, a widow is “desolate” indeed, even though she has sons and grandchildren, and conducts her household piously, entreating all dear to her to put their hope in God.

And in the midst of all this, she says in her prayer, “My soul thirsteth for Thee; my flesh longeth in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;” and this dying life is nothing else than such a land, however numerous our mortal comforts, however pleasant our companions in the pilgrimage, and however great the abundance of our possessions.

You know how uncertain all these things are; and even if they were not uncertain, what would they be in comparison with the felicity which is promised in the life to come!

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba (Letter 130), II,5 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: Christ and the Church – Head and Body, Bridegroom and Bride Sunday, Aug 25 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaSometimes in the Scriptures Christ is presented as the Word equal to the Father.

Sometimes he is presented as the Mediator, since the Word became flesh to dwell amongst us, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient unto death, even death on the cross.

Sometimes, however, he is presented in such a way that you are to understand the head and the body together, as when the Apostle expounds what was said about husband and wife in Genesis: they shall be two in one flesh.

Notice his exposition, for I don’t want to give the impression of saying something I made up myself: for they shall be two in one flesh. And he adds, this is a great sacrament.

Now just in case anyone should still think this is about a husband and wife according to the natural joining of the sexes and their bodily coming together, he goes on, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church.

And just as with bridegroom and bride, so also head and body, because the head of the woman is the man. So, whether I say head and body, or whether I say bridegroom and bride, you must understand the same thing.

And that’s why the same Apostle, while he was still Saul, heard the words, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?; because the body is joined to the head.

So present yourselves to such a head as a body worthy of him, to such a bridegroom as a worthy bride. To present himself, it says, with a glorious Church, without stain or wrinkle or any such thing.

This is the bride of Christ, without stain or wrinkle. Do you wish to have no stain? Do what is written, wash yourselves, be clean, remove the wicked schemes from your heart.

Do you wish to have no wrinkle? Stretch yourself on the cross. You see, you don’t only need to be washed, but also to be stretched, in order to be without stain or wrinkle; because by the washing sins are removed, while by the stretching a desire is created for the future life, which is what Christ was crucified for.

Listen to Paul himself, once he was washed: he has saved us by the washing of rebirth; and listen to him as he is stretched: forgetting what lies behind, and stretching forward to what lies ahead I press on towards the goal for the prize of God’s calling from above in Christ Jesus.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 341, 12-13; from The Works of Saint Augustine, a Translation for the 21st Century: Sermons 341-400 (III/10) (on the Liturgical Seasons), translated by Edmund Hill, O.P. and the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Augustine of Hippo: So Let Us Understand How Christians Should Follow Christ Saturday, Aug 10 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaThe blessed apostle John clearly explained the mystery of the Lord’s supper when he said Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

St Lawrence understood this, my brethren, and he did it; and he undoubtedly prepared things similar to what he received at that table.

He loved Christ in his life, he imitated him in his death. And we too, brethren, if we truly love him, let us imitate him.

After all, we shall not be able to give a better proof of love than by imitating his example; for Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we might follow in his footsteps.

In this sentence the apostle Peter appears to have seen that Christ suffered only for those who follow in his footsteps, and that Christ’s passion profits none but those who follow in his footsteps.

The holy martyrs followed him, to the shedding of their blood, to the similarity of their sufferings. The martyrs followed, but they were not the only ones. It is not the case, I mean to say, that after they crossed, the bridge was cut; or that after they had drunk, the fountain dried up.

The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes – includes not only the roses of martyrs but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows.

There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to despair of their vocation; Christ suffered for all. It was very truly written about him:who wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the acknowledgement of the truth.

So let us understand how Christians ought to follow Christ, short of the shedding of blood, short of the danger of suffering death.

The Apostle says, speaking of the Lord Christ, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal to God. What incomparable greatness!

But he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, and found in condition as a man. What unequalled humility!

Christ humbled himself: you have something, Christian, to latch on to. Christ became obedient. Why do you behave proudly?

After running the course of these humiliations and laying death low, Christ ascended into heaven: let us follow him there.

Let us listen to the Apostle telling us, If you have risen with Christ, savuor the things that are above is, seated at God’s right hand.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 304 (on the Feast of St Lawrence) 1-4, (PL 38, 1395-1397) @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: What this Sun is to the Eyes of the Flesh, that is Christ to the Eyes of the Heart Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaOn Matthew 17:1-9 (the mystery of the Transfiguration)

The Lord Jesus Himself shone bright as the sun; His raiment became white as the snow; and Moses and Elijah talked with Him.

Jesus Himself indeed shone as the sun, signifying that “He is the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

What this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is He to the eyes of the heart; and what that is to the flesh of men, that is He to their hearts. Now His raiment is His Church.

[…] Of this raiment, Paul was as it were a sort of last border. For he says himself, “I am the least of the Apostles.” […]  Now in a garment the border is the last and least part.

Wherefore as that woman which suffered from an issue of blood, when she had touched the Lord’s border was made whole, so the Church which came from out of the Gentiles, was made whole by the preaching of Paul.

What wonder if the Church is signified by white raiment, when you hear the Prophet Isaiah saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow”?

Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, what avail they, except they converse with the Lord? Except they give witness to the Lord, who would read the Law or the Prophets?

Mark how briefly the Apostle expresses this; “For by the Law is the knowledge of sin; but now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested:” behold the sun; “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” behold the shining of the Sun.

As the cloud then overshadowed them, and in a way made one tabernacle for them, “a voice also sounded out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son.”

Moses was there; Elijah was there; yet it was not said, “These are My beloved sons.” For the Only Son is one thing; adopted sons another. He was singled out in whom the Law and the prophets glorified.

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” Because ye have heard Him in the Prophets, and ye have heard Him in the Law. And where have ye not heard Him? “When they heard this, they fell” to the earth. See then in the Church is exhibited to us the Kingdom of God.

Here is the Lord, here the Law and the Prophets; but the Lord as the Lord; the Law in Moses, Prophecy in Elijah; only they as servants and as ministers. They as vessels: He as the fountain: Moses and the Prophets spake, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled from Him.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel, 28, 2, 4.

Augustine of Hippo: Solomon’s Temple was a Type and Figure of the Future Church and of the Lord’s Body Sunday, Jul 28 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaSolomon had built a Temple for the Lord that was a type and figure of the future Church and of the Lord’s body.

That is why the Lord says in the Gospel: Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Since Solomon had built that Temple, Jesus Christ, the true Solomon, the true man of peace, also built a Temple for himself.

The name ‘Solomon’ means ‘man of peace’; but the true man of peace is he of whom the Apostle says: He is our peace, who made the two one.  

He is the true man of peace who united in himself as their cornerstone the two walls coming from different directions – the believers coming from the Jews and the believers coming from the Gentiles.

Out of these two peoples he made a single Church with himself as its cornerstone; that is why he is the true man of peace.

Since, then, he is the true Solomon and since the earlier Solo­mon, David’s son by Bathsheba and King of Israel, simply prefig­ured this true man of peace when he built a Temple, do not think that Solomon was the real builder of God’s house, for Scripture shows you a different Solomon at the beginning of the psalm: unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.

It is the Lord, then, who builds the house; the Lord Jesus Christ builds his own house. Many labour to build it, but if he does not build it, its builders labour in vain.

Who are the labourers engaged on the building? All those in the Church who preach the word of God, and all the ministers of God’s Sacraments.

We all run, we all toil, we are all building in our own day; and before us others have run and toiled and built. But unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain.

We speak to the outer ear: he builds within. We notice whether you are listening, but only he who sees your thoughts knows what you are thinking. He builds, he teaches, he frightens; he opens your minds and draws your thoughts toward faith.

The house of God is also a city. For the house of God is God’s people; and because they are God’s house, they are his Temple. What does the Apostle say? The Temple of God is holy, and you are that Temple.

[…] All ­the holy believers who are to be taken from mankind to be the ­equals and companions of God’s angels, who are not pilgrims now but await us when we return from our pilgrimage – all these together form a single house of God and a single city.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Commentary on Psalm 126, 2-3 (CSEL 40:1857-8); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Augustine of Hippo: You Are the Body of Christ and Its Members Saturday, Jul 20 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaWhat you can see on the altar, you also saw last night; but what it was, what it meant, of what great reality it contained the Sacrament, you had not yet heard.

So what you can see, then, is bread and a cup; that’s what even your eyes tell you; but as for what your faith asks to be instructed about: the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ.

It took no time to say that, and, perhaps, that may be enough for faith; but faith desires instruction.

The Prophet says, you see, Unless you believe, you shall not understand. I mean, you can now say to me, “You’ve bidden us believe; now explain, so that we may understand.”

Some such thought as this, after all, may cross somebody’s mind…: “Our Lord Jesus Christ…rose again on the third day, on the day he wished ascended into heaven.

“That’s where he lifted his body up to; that’s where he’s going to come from to judge the living and the dead; that’s where he is now, seated on the Father’s right.

“How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood?”

The reason these things, brethren, are called Sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit.

So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle telling the faithful: You are the body of Christ and its members.

So if it’s you that are the body of Christ and its members, it’s the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the table of the Lord; what you receive is the mystery that means you.

It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent.

What you hear, then, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.

[…] When you were baptised it’s as though you were mixed into dough. When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, it’s as though you were baked. Be what you can see, and receive what you are.

[…] It’s the same with the wine. Just remind yourselves, brethren, what wine is made from; many grapes hang in the bunch, but the juice of the grapes is poured together in one vessel.

That too is how the Lord Christ signified us, how he wished us to belong to him, how he consecrated the Sacrament of our peace and unity on his table.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 272 – On the Day of Pentecost; from The Works of Saint Augustine, a Translation for the 21st Century: Sermons 230-272B (III/7) (on the Liturgical Seasons), translated by Edmund Hill, O.P. and the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Augustine of Hippo: A Sacrifice to God is a Contrite Spirit Sunday, Jul 7 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaI acknowledge my transgression, says David. If I admit my fault, then you will pardon it.

Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon.

But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others.

They seek to criticise, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.

This was not the way that David showed us how to pray and make amends to God, when he said: I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.

He did not concentrate on others’ sins; he turned his thoughts on himself. He did not merely stroke the surface, but he plunged inside and went deep down within himself.

He did not spare himself, and therefore was not impudent in asking to be spared.

[…] Learn what you are to do that God may be pleased with you. Consider the psalm again: If you wanted sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; in burnt offerings you will take no delight. Are you then to be without sacrifice? Are you to offer nothing? Will you please God without an offering?

Consider what you read in the same psalm: If you wanted sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; in burnt offerings you will take no delight. But continue to listen, and say with David: A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God does not despise a contrite and humble heart.

[…] A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God does not despise a contrite and humble heart. You now have the offering you are to make. No need to examine the herd, no need to outfit ships and travel to the most remote provinces in search of incense.

Search within your heart for what is pleasing to God. Your heart must be crushed. Are you afraid that it might perish so? You have the reply: Create a clean heart in me, O God.

For a clean heart to be created, the unclean one must be crushed. We should be displeased with ourselves when we commit sin, for sin is displeasing to God.

Sinful though we are, let us at least be like God in this, that we are displeased at what displeases him. In some measure then you will be in harmony with God’s will, because you find displeasing in yourself what is abhorrent to your Creator.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 19, 2-3: CCL 41, 252-254; from the Office of Readings for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time @ Crossroads Initiative.

Augustine of Hippo: Peter’s Confession and the Keys of the Kingdom Saturday, Jun 29 2013 

St Augustine of AfricaThe blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, “And I say to you, that you are Peter” (Matthew 16:13-20).

He himself, you see, had just said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Christ said to him, ”And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” I will build my Church; because you are Peter.

Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky”, from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky”. Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.

Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church.

It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, “To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity.

So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, “To you I am entrusting,” what has in fact been entrusted to all.

To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained” (John 20:22-23).

Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed (Jn. 21: 15-19). It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us.

And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear.

What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Sermon 295, 1-2, 4, 7-8 (PL 38, 1348-1352); from the Office of Readings for the Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul, June 29th @ Crossroads Initiative.

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