The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for the ‘NOTES ON THE PSALMS’ Category

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 49:14-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2014


1. “Like sheep laid in hell, death is their shepherd” (ver. 14). Whose? Of those whose way is a stumbling-block to themselves. Whose? Of those who mind only things present, while they think not of things future: of those who think not of any life, but of that which must be called death. Not without cause, then, like sheep in hell, have they death to their shepherd. What meaneth, “they have death to their shepherd”? For is death either some thing or some power? Yea, death is either the separation of the soul from the body, or a separation of the soul from God,3 and that indeed which men fear is the separation of the soul from the body: but the real death, which men do not fear, is the separation of the soul from God. And ofttimes when men fear that which doth separate the soul from the body, they fall into that wherein the soul is separated from God. This then is death. But how is “death their shepherd”? If Christ is life, the devil is death. But we read in many places in Scripture, how that Christ is life. But the devil is death, not because he is himself death, but because through him is death. For whether that (death) wherein Adam fell was given man to drink by the persuasion of him: or whether that wherein the soul is separated from the body, still they have him for the author thereof, who first falling through pride envied him who stood, and overthrew him who stood with an invisible death, in order that he might have to pay4 the visible death. They who belong to him have death to their shepherd: but we who think of future immortality, and not without reason do wear the sign of the Cross of Christ on the forehead, have no shepherd but life. Of unbelievers death is the shepherd, of believers life is the shepherd. If then in hell are the sheep, whose shepherd is death, in heaven are the sheep, whose shepherd is life. What then? Are we now in heaven? In heaven we are by faith. For if not in heaven, where is the “Lift up your heart”? If not in heaven, whence with the Apostle Paul, “For our conversation is in heaven”?5 In body we walk on earth, in heart we dwell in heaven. We dwell there, if thither we send anything which holdeth us there. For no one dwelleth in heart, save where thought is: but there his thought is, where his treasure is. He hath treasured on earth, his heart doth not withdraw from earth: he hath treasured in heaven, his heart from heaven doth not come down: for the Lord saith plainly, “Where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.”6

2. They, then, whose shepherd is death, seem to flourish for a time, and the righteous to labour: but why? Because it is yet night. What meaneth, it is night? The merits of the righteous appear not, and the felicity of the unrighteous hath, as it were, a name. So long as it is winter, grass appeareth more verdant than a tree. For grass flourisheth through the winter, a tree is as it were dry through the winter: when in summer time the sun hath come forth with greater heat, the tree, which seemed dry through the winter, is bursting with leaves, and putteth forth fruits, but the grass withereth: thou wilt see the honour of the tree, the grass is dried. So also now the righteous labour, before that summer cometh. There is life in the root, it doth not yet appear in the branches. But our root is love. And what saith the Apostle? That we ought to have our root above, in order that life may be our shepherd, because our dwelling ought not to quit heaven, because in this earth we ought to walk as if dead; so that living above, below we may be dead; not so as that being dead above, we may live below.… Our labour shall appear in the morning, and there shall be fruit in the morning: so that they that now labour shall hereafter reign, and they that now boast them and are proud, shall hereafter be brought under. For what followeth? “Like sheep laid in hell, death is their shepherd; and the righteous shall reign over them in the morning.”

3. Endure thou the night, yearn for the morning. Think not because the night hath life, the morning too hath not life. Doth then he that sleepeth live, and he that riseth live not? Is not he that sleepeth more like death?1 And who are they that sleep? They whom the Apostle Paul rouseth, if they choose but to awake. For to certain he saith, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”2 They then that are lightened by Christ watch now, but the fruit of their watchings appeareth not yet: in the morning it shall appear, that is, when doubtful things of this world shall have passed away. For these are very night: for do they not appear to thee like darkness?… But they on whom men have trampled, and who were ridiculed for believing, shall hear from Life Itself, whom they have for shepherd, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which was prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Therefore the righteous “shall reign over them,” not now, but “in the morning.” Let no one say, Wherefore am I a Christian? I rule no one,3 I would rule the wicked. Be not in haste, thou shalt reign, but “in the morning.” “And the help of them shall grow old in hell from their glory.” Now they have glory, in hell they shall grow old. What is “the help of them”? Help from money, help from friends, help from their own might. But when a man shall be dead, “in that day shall perish all his thoughts.”4 How great glory he seemed to have among men, while he lived, so great oldness and decay of punishments shall he have, when he shall be dead in hell.

4. “Nevertheless, God shall redeem my soul” (ver. 15). Behold the voice of one hoping in the future: “Nevertheless, God shall redeem my soul.”5 Perhaps it is the voice of one still wishing to be relieved from oppression. Some one is in prison, he saith, “God shall redeem my soul:” some one is in bond, “God shall redeem my soul:” some one is suffering peril by sea, is being tossed by waves and raging tempests, what saith he? “God shall redeem my soul.” They would be delivered for the sake of this life. Not such is the voice of this man. Hear what followeth: “God shall redeem my soul from the hand of hell, when He shall have received me.” He is speaking of this redemption, which Christ now showeth in Himself. For He hath descended into hell, and hath ascended into heaven. What we have seen in the Head we have found in the Body. For what we have believed in the Head, they that have seen, have themselves told us, and by themselves we have seen: “For we are” all “one body.”6 But are they better that hear, we worse to whom it hath been told? Not so saith The Life Itself, Our Shepherd Himself. For He rebuketh a certain disciple of His, doubting and desiring to handle His scars, and when he had handled the scars and had cried out, saying, “My Lord and my God,”7 seeing His disciple doubting, and looking to the whole world about to believe, “Because thou hast seen Me,” He saith, “thou hast believed: blessed are they that see not, and believe.” “But God shall redeem my soul from the land of hell, when He hath received me.” Here then what? Labour, oppression, tribulation, temptation: expect nothing else. Where joy? In future hope.…

5. … Perchance thy heart saith, Wretch that I am, I suppose to no purpose I have believed, God doth not regard things human. God therefore doth awaken us: and He saith what? “Fear not, though a man have become rich” (ver. 16). For why didst thou fear, because a man hath become rich? Thou didst fear that thou hadst believed to no purpose, that perchance thou shouldest have lost the labour for thy faith, and the hope of thy conversion: because perchance there hath come in thy way gain with guilt, and thou couldest have been rich, if thou hadst seized upon that same gain with the guilt, and neededst not have laboured; and thou, remembering what God hath threatened, hast refrained from guilt, and hast contemned the gain: thou seest another man that hath made gain by guilt, and hath suffered no harm; and thou fearest to be good. “Fear not,” saith the Spirit of God to thee, “though a man shall have become rich.” Wouldest thou not have eyes but for things present? Things future He hath promised, who hath risen again; peace in this world, and repose in this life, He hath not promised. Every man doth seek repose; a good thing he is seeking, but not in the proper region thereof he is seeking it. There is no peace in this life; in Heaven hath been promised that which on earth we are seeking: in the world to come hath been promised that which in this world we are seeking.

6. “Fear not, though a man be made rich, and though the glory of his house be multiplied.” Wherefore “fear not”? “For when he shall die, he shall not receive anything” (ver. 17). Thou seest him living, consider him dying. Thou markest what he hath here, mark what he taketh with him. What doth he take with him? He hath store of gold, he hath store of silver, numerous estates, slaves: he dieth, these remain, he knoweth not for whom. For though he leaveth them for whom he will, he keepeth them not for whom he will. For many have gained even what was not left them, and many have lost what was left them. All these things then remain, and he taketh with him what? Perhaps some one saith, He taketh that with him in which he is wound, and that which is expended upon him for a costly and marble tomb, to erect a monument, this he taketh with him. I say, not even this. For these things are presented to him without his feeling them. If thou deckest a man sleeping and not awake, he hath the decorations with him on the couch: perhaps the decorations are resting upon the body of him as he lieth, and perhaps he seeth himself in tatters during sleep. What he feeleth is more to him than what he feeleth not. Though even this when he shall have awaked will not be: yet to him sleeping, that which he saw in sleep was more than that which he felt not. Why then, brethren, should1 men say to themselves, Let money be spent at my death: why do I leave my heirs rich? Many things will they have of mine, let me too have something of my own for my body. What shall a dead body have? what shall rotting flesh have? what shall flesh not feeling have? If that rich man had anything, whose tongue was dry, then man hath something of his own. My brethren, do we read in the Gospel, that this rich man appeared in the fire with all-silken and fine-linen coverings? Was he of such sort in hell as he was in feastings at table? When he thirsted and desired a drop, all those things were not there. Therefore man carrieth not with him anything, nor doth the dead take with him that which the burial taketh. For where feeling is, there is the man; where is no feeling, the man is not. There lieth fallen the vessel which contained the man, the house which held the man. The body let us call the house, the spirit let us call the inhabitant of the house. The spirit is tormented in hell: what doth it profit him, that the body lieth in spices and perfumes, wound in costly linens? just as if the master of the house should be sent into banishment, and thou shouldest garnish the walls of his house. He in banishment is in need, and doth faint with hunger, he scarce findeth to himself one hovel where he may snatch a sleep, and thou sayest, “Happy is he, for his house hath been garnished.” Who would not judge that thou wast either jesting or wast mad? Thou dost garnish the body, the spirit is tormented. Give something to the spirit, and ye have given something to the dead man. But what wilt thou give him, when he desired one drop, and received not? For the man scorned to send before him anything. Wherefore scorned? “because this their way is a stumbling-block to them.”2 He minded not any but the present life, he thought not but how he might be buried, wound in costly vestments. His soul was taken from him, as the Lord saith: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be taken from thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”3 And that is fulfilled which this Psalm saith: “Fear not, though a man be made rich, and though the glory of his house be multiplied: for when he shall die he shall not receive anything, nor shall his glory descend together with him.”

7. Let your love observe: “For his soul shall be blessed in his life” (ver. 18). As long as he lived he did well for himself. This all men say, but say falsely. It is a blessing from the mind of the blesser, not from the truth itself. For what sayest thou? Because he ate and drank, because he did what he chose, because he feasted sumptuously, therefore he did well with himself. I say, he did ill for himself. Not I say, but Christ. He did ill for himself. For that rich man, when he feasted sumptuously every day, was supposed to do well with himself: but when he began to burn in hell, then that which was supposed to be well was found to be ill. For what he had eaten with men above,4 he digested in hell beneath. Unrighteousness I mean, brethren, on which he used to feast. He used to eat costly banquets with the mouth of flesh, with his heart’s mouth he used to eat unrighteousness. What he ate with his heart’s mouth with men above, this he digested amid those punishments in the places beneath. And verily he had eaten for a time, he digested ill for everlasting. Is then unrighteousness eaten? perhaps some one saith: what is it that he saith? Unrighteousness eaten? It is not I that say: hear the Scripture: “As a sour grape is vexation to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so is unrighteousness to them that use it.”5 For he that shall have eaten unrighteousness, that is, he that shall have had unrighteousness wilfully, shall not be able to eat righteousness. For righteousness is bread. Who is bread? “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”6 Himself is the bread of our heart.… Is then even righteousness eaten? If it were not eaten, the Lord would not have said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.”7 Therefore “since his soul shall be blessed in life,” in life it “shall” be blessed, in death it shall be tormented.…

8. “He shall confess to Thee, when Thou shalt have done him good.” Be not of such sort, brethren: see ye how that to this end we say these words, to this end we sing, to this end we treat, to this end toil—do not these things. Your business doth prove you: sometimes in your business ye hear the truth, and ye blaspheme. The Church ye blaspheme. Wherefore? Because ye are Christians. “If so it be, I betake myself to Donatus’s party: I will be a heathen.”1 Wherefore? Because thou hast eaten bread, and the teeth are in pain. When thou sawest the bread itself, thou didst praise; thou beginnest to eat, and the teeth are in pain; that is, when thou wast hearing the Word of God thou didst praise: when it is said to thee, “Do this,” thou blasphemest: do not so ill: say this, “The bread is good, but I cannot eat it.” But now if thou seest with the eyes, thou praisest: when thou beginnest to close the teeth, thou sayest, “Bad is this bread, and like him that made it.” So it cometh to pass that thou confessest to God, when God doeth thee good: and thou liest when thou singest, “I will alway bless God, His praise is ever in my mouth.”2 How alway? If alway gain, alway He is blessed: if sometime there is loss, He is not blessed, but blasphemed. Forsooth thou blessest alway, forsooth His praise is ever in thy mouth! Thou wilt be such as just now he describeth: “He will confess to Thee, when Thou shalt have done him good.”

9. “He shall enter even unto the generations of his fathers” (ver. 19): that is, he shall imitate his fathers. For the unrighteous, that now are, have brothers, have fathers. Unrighteous men of old, are the fathers of the present; and they that are now unrighteous, are the fathers of unrighteous posterity: just as the fathers of the righteous, the righteous of old, are the fathers of the righteous that now are; and they that now are, are the fathers of them that are to be. The Holy Spirit hath willed to show that righteousness is not evil when men murmur against her: but these men have their father from the beginning, even to the generation of their fathers. Two men Adam begat, and in one was unrighteousness, in one was righteousness: unrighteousness in Cain, righteousness in Abel.3 Unrighteousness seemed to prevail over righteousness, because Cain unrighteous slew Abel righteous4 in the night. Is it so in the morning? Nay, “but the righteous shall reign over them in the morning.”5 The morning shall come, and it shall be seen where Abel is, and where Cain. So all men who are after Cain, and so all who are after Abel, even unto the end of the world. “He shall enter even unto the generations of his fathers: even to eternity he shall not see light.” Because even when he was here, he was in darkness, taking pleasure in false goods, and not loving real goods: even so he shall go hence into hell: from the darkness of his dreams the darkness of torments shall receive him. Therefore, “even to eternity he shall not see light.”

But wherefore this? What he hath written in the middle of the Psalm,6 the same also he hath writ at the end: “Man, though he was in honour, understood not, was compared to the beasts without sense, and was made like to them” (ver. 20). But ye, brethren, consider that ye be men made after the image and likeness of God. The image7 of God is within, is not in the body; is not in these ears which ye see, and eyes, and nostrils, and palate, and hands, and feet; but is made nevertheless:8 wherein is the intellect, wherein is the mind, wherein the power of discovering truth, wherein is faith, wherein is your hope, wherein your charity, there God hath His Image: there at least ye perceive and see that these things pass away; for so he hath said in another Psalm, “Though man walketh in an image, yet he is disquieted in vain: he heapeth up treasures, and knoweth not for whom he shall gather them.”9 Be not disquieted, for of whatsoever kind these things be, they are transitory, if ye are men who being in honour understand. For if being men in honour ye understand not, ye are compared to the beasts without sense, and are made like to them.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 49:1-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2014


1. … “Hear ye these things, all ye nations” (ver. 1). Not then you only who are here. For of what power is our voice so to cry out, as that all nations may hear? For Our Lord Jesus Christ hath proclaimed it through the Apostles, hath proclaimed it in so many tongues that He sent; and we see this Psalm, which before was only repeated in one nation, in the Synagogue of the Jews, now repeated throughout the whole world, throughout all Churches; and that fulfilled which is here spoken of, “Hear ye these words, all ye nations.” … Of whom ye are: “With ears ponder, all ye that dwell in the world.” This He seemeth to have repeated a second time, lest to have said “hear,” before, were too little. What I say, he saith, “hear, with ears ponder,” that is, hear not cursorily. What is, “with ears ponder”? It is what the Lord said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear:”2 for as all who were in His presence must have had ears, what ears did He require save those of the heart, when He said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear”? The same ears also this Psalm doth smite. “With ears ponder, all ye that dwell in the world.” Perhaps there is here some distinction. We ought not indeed to narrow our view, but there is no harm in explaining even this view of the sense. Perhaps there is some difference between the saying, “all nations,” and the saying, “all ye that dwell in the world.” For perchance he would have us understand the expression, “dwell in,” with a further meaning, so as to take all nations for all the wicked, but the dwellers of the world all the just. For he doth inhabit who is not held fast: but he that is occupied is inhabited, and doth not inhabit. Just as he doth possess whatever he hath, who is master of his property: but a master is one who is not held in the meshes of covetousness: while he that is held fast by covetousness is the possessed, and not the possessor.…

2. Therefore let even the ungodly hear: “Hear ye this, all ye nations.” Let the just also hear, who have not heard to no purpose, and who rather rule the world than are ruled by the world: “with ears ponder, all ye that dwell in the world.”

3. And again he saith, “both all ye earthborn, and sons of men” (ver. 2). The expression “earthborn” he doth refer to sinners; the expression “sons of men” to the faithful and righteous. Ye see then that this distinction is observed. Who are the “earthborn”? The children of the earth. Who are the children of the earth? They who desire earthly inheritances. Who are the “sons of men”? They who appertain to the Son of Man. We have already before explained this distinction to your Sanctity,3 and have concluded that Adam was a man, but not the son of man; that Christ was the Son of Man, but was God also. For whosoever pertain to Adam, are “earthborn:” whosoever pertain to Christ, are “sons of men.” Nevertheless, let all hear, I withhold my discourse from no one. If one is “earthborn,” let him hear, because of the judgment: another is a “son of man,” let him hear for the kingdom’s sake. “The rich and poor together.” Again, the same words are repeated. The expression “rich” refers to the “earthborn;” but the word “poor” to the “sons of men.” By the “rich” understand the proud, by the “poor” the humble.… He saith in another Psalm, “The poor shall eat and be satisfied.”4 How hath he commended the poor? “The poor shall eat and be satisfied.” What eat they? That Food which the faithful know. How shall they be satisfied? By imitating the Passion of their Lord, and not without cause receiving their recompense. “The poor shall eat and be satisfied, and they shall praise the Lord who seek Him.” What of the rich? Even they eat. But how eat they? “All the rich upon the earth have eaten and worshipped.”5 He said not, “Have eaten and are satisfied;” but, “have eaten and worshipped.” They worship God indeed, but they will not display brotherly humaneness. These eat and worship; those eat and are filled: yet both eat. Of the eater what he eateth is required: let him not be forbidden by the distributor to eat, but let him be admonished to fear him who doth require his account. Let these words then be heard by sinners and righteous, nations, and those who inhabit the world, “earthborn and sons of men, the rich and the poor together:” not divided, not separated. That is for the time of the harvest to do, the hand of the winnower will effect that6 Now together let rich and poor hear, let goats and sheep feed in the same pasture, until He come who shall separate the one on His right hand, the other on His left.7 Let them all hear together the teacher, lest separated from one another they hear the voice of the Judge.

4. And what is it they are now to hear? “My mouth shall speak of wisdom, and the meditation of my hear understanding” (ver. 3). And this repetition is perhaps made, lest perchance if he had said only “my mouth,” thou shouldest suppose that one spake to thee who had understanding but in his lips. For many have understanding in their lips, but have not in their heart, of whom the Scripture saith, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”1 What saith he then who speaketh to thee? when he hath said, “My mouth shall speak of wisdom,” in order that thou mayest know that what is poured forth from the mouth floweth from the bottom of the heart, he hath added, “And the meditation of my heart of understanding.”

5. “I will incline mine ear to the parable, I will show my proposition upon the harp” (ver. 4).… And why “to a parable”? Because “now we see through a glass darkly,”2 as saith the Apostle; “whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.”3 For our vision is not yet that face to face, where there are no longer parables, where there no longer are riddles and comparisons. Whatever now we understand we behold through riddles. A riddle is a dark parable which it is hard to understand. Howsoever a man may cultivate his heart and apply himself to apprehend mysteries, so long as we see through the corruption of this flesh, we see but in part.… But as He was seen by those who believed, and by those who crucified Him, when He was judged; so will He be seen, when He shall have begun to be judge, both by those whom He shall condemn, and by those whom He shall crown. But that vision of divinity, which He hath promised to them that love Him, when He saith, “He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and he that loveth Me keepeth My commandments, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him:”4 this the ungodly shall not see. This manifestation is in a certain way familiar: He keepeth it for His own, He will not show it to the ungodly. Of what sort is the vision itself? Of what sort is Christ? Equal to the Father. Of what sort is Christ? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”5 For this vision we sigh now, and groan so long as we sojourn here; to this vision we shall be brought home at the last, this vision now we see but darkly. If then we see now darkly, let us “incline our ear to the parable,” and then let us “show our proposition upon the harp:”6 let us hear what we say, do what we enjoin.

6. And what hath he said? “And wherefore shall I fear in the evil day? The iniquity of my heel shall compass me” (ver. 5). He beginneth something obscurely. Therefore he ought the rather to fear if the iniquity of his heel shall compass him. Nay, for let not man fear, he saith, who hath not power to escape. For example, he who feareth death, what shall he do to escape death? Let him tell me how he is to escape what Adam oweth, he who is born of Adam. But let him consider that he is born of Adam, and hath followed Christ, and ought to pay what Adam oweth, and obtain what Christ hath promised. Therefore, he who feareth death can no wise escape: but he who feareth the damnation which the ungodly shall hear, “Go ye into everlasting fire,”7 hath an escape. Let him not fear then. For why should he fear? Will the iniquity of his heel compass him? If then he avoid “the iniquity of his heel,” and walk in the ways of God, he shall not come to the evil day: the evil day, the last day, shall not be evil to him.… Now while they live, let them take heed to themselves, let them put away iniquity from their heel: let them walk in that way, let them walk in the way of which He saith Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life:”8 and let them not fear in the evil day, for He giveth them safety who became “The Way.” Therefore let them avoid the iniquity of their heel. With the heel a man slippeth. Let your Love observe. What was said by God to the Serpent? “She shall mark thy head, and thou shalt mark her heel.”9 The devil marketh thy heel, in order that when thou slippest he may overthrow thee. He marketh thy heel, do thou mark his head. What is his head? The beginning of an evil suggestion. When he beginneth to suggest evil thoughts, then do thou thrust him away before pleasure ariseth, and consent followeth; and so shalt thou avoid his head, and he shall not grasp thy heel. But wherefore said He this to Eve? Because through the flesh man doth slip. Our flesh is an Eve within us. “He that loveth his wife,” he saith, “loveth himself.” What meaneth “himself”? He continueth, and saith, “For no man ever yet hath hated his own flesh.”10 Because then the devil would make us slip through the flesh, just as he made that man Adam to slip, through Eve; Eve is bidden to mark the head of the devil, because the devil marketh her heel.11 “If then the iniquity of our heel shall compass us, why fear we in the evil day,” since being converted to Christ we are able not to do iniquity; and there will be nothing to compass us, and we shall joy and not sorrow in the last day?

7. But who are they whom the “iniquity of their heel shall compass”? “They who trust in their virtue,12 and in the abundance of their riches do glory” (ver. 6). Therefore such sins will I avoid, and the “iniquity of my heel” shall never compass me. What is avoiding such sins? Let us not trust in our own virtue, let us not glory in the abundance of our own riches, but let us glory in Him who hath promised to us, being humble, exaltation, and hath threatened condemnation to men exalted; and then iniquity of our heel shall never compass us.

8. There are some who rely on their friends, others rely on their virtue, others on their riches. This is the presumption of mankind which relieth not on God. He hath spoken of virtue, he hath spoken of riches, he speaketh of friends. “Brother redeemeth not,1 shall man redeem?” (ver. 7). Dost thou expect that man shall redeem thee from the wrath to come? If brother redeem thee not, shall man redeem thee? Who is the brother, who if He hath not redeemed thee, no man will redeem? It is He who said after His resurrection, “Go, tell My brethren.”2 Our Brother He hath willed to be: and when we say to God, “Our Father,” this is manifested in us. For he that saith to God, “Our Father;” saith to Christ, “Brother.”3 Therefore let him that hath God for his Father and Christ for his Brother, not fear in the evil day. “For the iniquity of his heel shall not compass him;” for he relieth not on his virtue, nor glorieth in the abundance of his riches, nor vaunteth himself of his powerful friends. Let him rely on Him who died for him, that he might not die eternally: who for his sake was humbled, in order that he might be exalted; who sought him ungodly, in order that He might be sought by him faithful. Therefore if He redeem not, shall man redeem? Shall any man redeem, if the Son of man redeem not? If Christ redeem not, shall Adam redeem? “Brother redeemeth not, shall man redeem?”4

9. “He shall not give to God his propitiation, and the price of the redemption of his soul” (ver. 8). He trusteth in his virtue, and in the abundance of his riches doth glory, who “shall not give to God his propitiation:” that is, satisfaction whereby he may prevail with God for his sins: “nor the price of the redemption of his soul,” who relieth on his virtue, and on his friends, and on his riches. But who are they that give the price of the redemption of their souls? They to whom the Lord saith, “Make to yourselves friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness, that they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”5 They give the price of the redemption of their soul who cease not to do almsdeeds. So those whom the Apostle chargeth by Timothy he would not have to be proud, lest they should glory in the abundance of their riches. Lastly, what they possessed he would not have to grow old in their hands: but that something should be made of it to be for the price of the redemption of their souls. For he saith, “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.”6 And as if they had said, “What shall we then make of our riches?” he continueth, “Let them be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate,”7 and they will not lose that. How know we? Hear what followeth. “Let them lay up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the true life.”8 So shall they give the price of the redemption of their soul. And our Lord counselleth this: “Make for yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not where thief approacheth not, neither moth corrupteth.”9 God would not have thee lose thy wealth, but He hath given thee counsel to change the place thereof. Let your love understand. Suppose thy friend were just now to enter thy house, and find thou hadst placed thy store of grain in a damp place, and he knew the natural proneness of grain to decay, which thou perchance knewest not, he would give thee counsel of this sort, saying, “Brother, thou art losing what with great toil thou hast gathered, thou hast placed it in a damp place, in a few days this grain will decay.” “And what am I to do, brother?” “Raise it into a higher place.” Thou wouldest hearken to thy friend suggesting that thou shouldest raise grain from a lower to a higher chamber, and dost thou not hearken to Christ charging thee to lift thy treasure from earth to heaven, where not what thou keepest in store may be paid to thee, but that thou mayest keep in store earth, mayest receive heaven, mayest keep in store things mortal, mayest receive things everlasting, that while thou lendest Christ to receive at thy hands but a small loan upon earth, He may repay thee a great recompense in Heaven? Nevertheless, they whom “the iniquity of their heel shall compass,” because they trust in their virtue, and in the abundance of their riches do glory, and rely on human friends who are able to help them in nothing, “shall not give to God their propitiation, and the price of the redemption of their souls.”

10. And what hath he said of such a man? “Yea, he hath laboured for ever, and shall live till the end” (ver. 9). His labour shall be without end, his life shall have an end. Wherefore saith he, “He shall live till the end”? Because such men think life to be nought but daily enjoyments. So when many poor and needy men of our times, unstable, and not looking to what God doth promise them for their labours, see rich men in daily feastings, in the splendour and glitter of gold and of silver, they say what? “These are the only people;1 they really live!” This is a saying, be it said no longer: we both warn you, and it remains to warn you, that it be said by fewer persons than it would be said, if we had not warned you. For we do not presume to say that we so say these words, as that it be not said, but that it be said by fewer persons: for it will be said even unto the end of the world. It is too little that he saith, “he liveth;” he addeth and saith, he thundereth, thinkest thou that he alone liveth? Let him live! his life will be ended: because he giveth not the price of the redemption of his soul, his life will end, his labour will not end. “He laboured for ever, and shall live till the end.” How shall he live till the end? As he lived that was “clothed with purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day,”2 who, being proud and puffed up, spurned the man full of sores lying before his gate, whose sores the dogs licked, and who longed for the crumbs which fell from his table. What did those riches profit him? Both changed places: the one was borne from the rich man’s gate into Abraham’s bosom, the other from his rich feasts was cast into the fire; the one was in peace, the other burned; the one was sated, the other thirsted; the one had laboured till the end, but he lived for ever; the other had lived till the end, but he laboured for ever. And what did it profit the rich man, who asked, while lying in torments in hell, that a drop of water should be poured upon his tongue from the finger of Lazarus, saying, “For I am burning here in this flame,”3 and it was not granted to him? One longed for the drop from the finger, as the other had for the crumbs from the rich man’s table; but the labour of the one is ended, and the life of the other is ended: the labour of this is for ever, the life of that is for ever. We who labour perchance here on the earth, have not our life here: and shall not be so placed hereafter, for our life shall be Christ for ever: while they who “will” have their life here, shall labour for ever and live till the end.

11. “For he shall not see death, though he shall have seen wise men dying” (ver. 10). The man who laboured for ever and shall live till the end, “shall not see death, though he shall have seen wise men dying.” What is this? He shall not comprehend what death is, whenever he shall have seen wise men dying. For he saith to himself, “this fellow, for all he was wise and dwelled with wisdom and worshipped God with piety, is he not dead? Therefore I will enjoy myself while I live; for if they that are wise in other respects, could do anything, they would not have died.” Just as the Jews saw Christ hanging on the Cross and despised Him, saying, “If this Man were the Son of God, He would come down from the Cross:”4 not seeing what death is. If they had seen what death is; if they had seen, I say.5 He died for a time, that He might live again for ever: they lived for a time, that they might die for ever. But because they saw Him dying, they saw not death, that is to say, they understood not what was very death. What say they even in Wisdom? “Let us condemn Him with a most shameful death, for by His own sayings He shall be respected;”6 for if he is indeed the Son of God, He will deliver Him from the hands of His adversaries: He will not suffer His Son to die, if He is truly His Son. But when they saw themselves insulting Him upon the Cross, and Him not descending from the Cross, they said, He was indeed but a Man. Thus was it spoken: and surely He could have come down froth the Cross, He that could rise again from the tomb: but He taught us to bear with those who insult us; He taught us to be patient of the tongues of men, to drink now the cup of bitterness, and afterwards to receive everlasting salvation.…

12. “The imprudent and unwise shall perish together.” Who is “the imprudent”? He that looketh not out for himself for the future. Who is “the unwise”? He that perceiveth not in what evil case he is. But do thou perceive in what evil case thou art now, and look out that thou be in a good case for the future. By perceiving in what evil case thou art, thou wilt not be unwise: by looking out for thyself for the future, thou wilt not be imprudent. Who is he that looketh out for himself? That servant to whom his master gave what he should expend, and afterwards said to him, “Thou canst not be my steward, give an account of thy stewardship;” and who answered, “What shall I do? I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed;”7 had, nevertheless, by even his master’s goods made to himself friends, who might receive him when he was put out of his stewardship. Now he cheated his master in order that he might get to himself friends to receive him: fear not thou lest thou be cheating, the Lord Himself exhorteth thee to do so: He saith Himself to thee, “Make to thyself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.”8 Perhaps what thou hast got, thou hast gotten of unrighteousness: or perhaps this very thing is unrighteousness, that thou hast and another hath not, thou aboundest and another needeth. Of this mammon of unrighteousness, of these riches which the unrighteous call riches, make to thyself friends, and thou shalt be prudent: thou art gaining for thyself, and art not cheating. For now thou seemest to lose it. Wilt thou lose it if thou place it in a treasury? For boys, my brethren, no sooner find some money, wherewith to buy something, than they put it in a money-box,1 which they open not until afterwards: do they, because they see not what they have got, on that account lose it? Fear not: boys put in a money-box, and are secure: dost thou place it in the hand of Christ, and fear? Be prudent, and provide for thyself against the future in Heaven. Be therefore prudent, copy the ant, as saith the Scripture:2 “Store in summer, lest thou hunger in winter;” the winter is the last day, the day of tribulation; the winter is the day of offences and of bitterness: gather what may be there for thee for the future: but if thou doest not so, thou wilt perish both imprudent and unwise.

13. But that rich man3 too died, and a like funeral was made for him. See to what men have brought themselves: they regard not what a wicked life he led while he lived, but what pomp followed him when he died! O happy he, whom so many lament! But the other lived in such sort, that few lament. For all ought to lament a man living so sadly. But there is the funeral train; he is received in a costly tomb, he is wound in costly robes, he is buried in perfumes and spices. Secondly, what a monument he hath! How marbled! Doth he live in that same monument? He is therein dead. Men deeming these to be good things, have strayed from God, and have not sought the true good things, and have been deceived with the false. To this end see what followeth. He who gave not the price of the redemption of his soul, who understood not death, because he saw wise men dying, he became imprudent and unwise, in order that he might die with them. And how shall they perish, who “shall leave their riches to aliens”?…

14. But do those same aliens indeed serve them who are called their own? Hear in what they serve them, observe how they are ridiculed: why hath he said, “to strangers”? Because they can do them no good. Nevertheless, wherein do they seem to themselves to do good? “And their tombs shall be their house for ever” (ver. 11). Now because these tombs are erected, the tombs are a house. For often thou hearest a rich man saying, I have a house of marble which I must quit, and I think not for myself of an eternal house, where I shall alway be. When he thinketh to make for himself a monument of marble or of sculpture, he is deeming as it were of an eternal house: as if therein this rich man would abide! If he would abide there, he would not burn in hell. We must consider that the place where the spirit of an evil doer abideth, is not where the mortal body is laid: but “their tombs shall be their house for ever. Their dwelling places are from generation to generation.” “Dwelling places” are wherein they abode for a season: “house” is wherein they will abide as it were for ever, that is to say, their tombs. Thus they leave their dwelling places, where they abode while they lived, to their families, and they pass as it were to everlasting houses, to their tombs. What profit to them are “their dwelling places, from generation to generation”? Now suppose a generation and generation are sons, grandsons there will be, and great grandsons; what do their dwelling places, what do they profit them? What? Hear: “they shall invoke their names in their lands.” What is this? They shall take bread and wine to their tombs, and there they shall invoke the names of the dead. Dost thou consider how loudly was invoked the name of the rich man after his death, when men drank them drunk at his monument, and there came down not one drop upon his own burning tongue? Men minister to their own belly, not to the ghosts of their friends. The souls of the dead nothing doth reach, but what they have done of themselves while alive: but if they have done nought of themselves while alive, nothing doth reach them dead. But what do the survivors? They will but “invoke their names in their lands.”

15. “And man though he was in honour perceived not, he was compared to the beasts without sense, and was made like to them” (ver. 12).… They ought, on the contrary, to have made ready for themselves an eternal house in good works, to have made ready for themselves everlasting life, to have sent before them expenditure, to have followed their works, to have ministered to a needy companion, to have given to him with whom they were walking, not to have despised Christ covered with sores before their gate, who hath said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”4 However, “man being in honour hath not understood.” What is, “being in honour”? Being made after the image and likeness of God, man is preferred to beasts. For God hath not so made man as He made a beast: but God hath made man for beasts to minister to: is it to his strength then, and not to his understanding? Nay. But he “understood not;” and he who was made after the image of God, “is compared to the beasts without sense, and is made like unto them.” Whence it is said elsewhere, “Be ye not like to horse and mule, in which there is no understanding.”1

16. “This their own way is an offence to them” (ver. 13). Be it an offence to them, not to thee. But when will it be so to thee too? If thou thinkest such men to be blessed. If thou perceivest that they be not blessed, their own way will be an offence to themselves; not to Christ, not to His Body, not to His members. “And afterwards they shall bless with their mouth.” What meaneth, “Afterwards they shall bless with their mouth”? Though they have become such, that they seek nothing but temporal goods, yet they become hypocrites: and when they bless God, with lips they bless, and not with heart. Christians like these, when to them eternal life is commended, and they are told, that in the name of Christ they ought to be despisers2 of riches, do make grimaces in their hearts: and if they dare not do it with open face, lest they blush, or lest they should be rebuked by men, yet they do it in heart, and scorn; and there remaineth in their mouth blessing, and in their heart cursing.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 55

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2014


1. Of this Psalm the title is: “At the end, in hymns, understanding to David himself.” What the “end” is, we will briefly call to your recollection, because ye have known it. “For the end of the Law is Christ, for righteousness unto every man believing.”6 Be the attention therefore directed unto the End, directed unto Christ. Wherefore is He called the end? Because whatever we do, to Him we refer it, and when to Him we shall have come home, more to ask we shall not have. For there is an end spoken of which doth consume, there is an end spoken of which doth make perfect. In one sense, for instance, we understand it, when we hear, there is ended the food which was in eating; and in another sense we understand it when we hear, there is ended the vesture which was in weaving: in each case we hear, there is ended; but the food so that it no longer is, the vesture so that it is perfected. Our end therefore ought to be our perfection, our perfection Christ. For in Him we are made perfect, because of Himself the Head, the Members are we. And he hath been spoken of as “the End of the Law,” because without Him no one doth make perfect the Law. When therefore ye hear in the Psalms, “At the end,”—for many Psalms are thus superscribed,—be not your thought upon consuming, but upon consummation.

2. “In hymns:” in praises. For whether we are troubled and are straitened, or whether we rejoice and exult, He is to be praised, who both in tribulations doth instruct, and in gladness doth comfort. For the praise of God from the heart and mouth of a Christian man ought not to depart; not that he may be praising in prosperity, and speaking evil in adversity; but after the manner that this Psalm doth prescribe, “I will speak good of the Lord in every time, alway the praise of Him is in my mouth.” Thou dost rejoice; acknowledge a Father indulging: thou art troubled; acknowledge a Father chastening. Whether He indulge, or whether He chasten, He is instructing one for whom He is preparing an inheritance.

3. What then is, “Understanding to David himself”? David indeed was, as we know, a holy prophet, king of Israel, son of Jesse:7 but because out of his seed there came for our salvation after the flesh the Lord Jesus Christ,8 often under that name He is figured, and David instead of Christ is in a figure set down, because of the origin of the Flesh of the Same. For after some sort He is Son of David, after some sort He is the Lord of David; Son of David after the flesh, Lord of David after the divinity. For if by Him have been made all things,9 by Him also David himself hath been made, out of whose seed He came to men. Moreover, when the Lord had questioned the Jews, whose Son they affirmed Christ to be, they made answer, “David’s:” where the Lord chides the Jews, when they said that He was the Son of David.10 He saw that they had stayed at the flesh, and had lost sight of the divinity; and He reproveth them by propounding a question: “How then doth David himself in spirit call Him Lord, ‘The Lord hath said unto my Lord, … If then He in spirit calleth Him Lord, how is He is Son?”11 A question He propounded; His being Son He denied not. Ye have heard “Lord;” say ye how He is his “Son:” ye have heard “Son;” say how He is “Lord.” This question the Catholic Faith solveth. How “Lord”? Because “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”1 How “Son”? Because “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”2 Because then David in a figure is Christ, but Christ, as we have often reminded your Love, is both Head and Body; neither ought we to speak of ourselves as alien from Christ, of whom we are members, nor to count ourselves as if we were any other thing: because “The two shall be in one flesh.”3 “This is a great Sacrament,” saith the Apostle, “but I speak in regard of Christ and the Church.”4 Because then whole Christ is “Head and Body;” when we hear, “Understanding to David himself,” understand we ourselves also in David. Let the members of Christ understand, and Christ in His members understand, and the members of Christ in Christ understand: because Head and Members are one Christ. The Head was in heaven, and was saying, “Why dost thou persecute Me?”5 We with Him are in heaven through hope, Himself is with us on earth through love. Therefore “understanding to David himself.” Be we admonished when we hear, and let the Church understand: for there belongeth to us great diligence to understand in what evil we now are, and from what evil we desire to be delivered, remembering the Prayer of the Lord, where at the end we say, “Deliver us from evil.”6 Therefore amid many tribulations of this world, this Psalm complaineth somewhat of understanding. He lamenteth not with it, who hath not understanding. But furthermore, dearly beloved, we ought to remember, that after the image of God we have been made, and that not in any other part than in the understanding itself. For in many things by beasts we are surpassed: but when a man knoweth himself to have been made after the image of God,7 therein something in himself he acknowledgeth to be more than hath been given to dumb animals. But on consideration of all those things which a man hath, he findeth himself in this thing peculiarly distinguished from a dumb animal, in that he hath himself an understanding. Whence certain men despising in themselves that peculiar and especial thing which from their Maker they had received, the Maker Himself reproveth, saying, “Do not become like horse and mule, in which there is no understanding.”8 …

4. “Hear Thou, O God, my entreaty, and despise not my prayer: give heed unto me, and hearken unto me” (ver. 1). Of one earnest, anxious, of one set in tribulation, are these words. He is praying, suffering many things, from evil yearning to be delivered: it remaineth that we hear in what evil he is, and when he beginneth to speak, let us acknowledge there ourselves to be; in order that the tribulation being shared, we may conjoin prayer. “I have been made sad in my exercise, and have been troubled” (ver. 2). Where made sad, where troubled? “In my exercise,” he saith. Of evil men, whom he suffereth, he hath made mention, and the same suffering of evil men he hath called his “exercise.” Think ye not that without profit there are evil men in this world, and that no good God maketh of them. Every evil man either on this account liveth that he may be corrected, or on this account liveth that through him a good man may be exercised. O that therefore they that do now exercise us would be converted, and together with us be exercised! Nevertheless, so long as they are such as to exercise, let us not hate them: because in that wherein any one of them is evil, whether unto the end he is to persevere, we know not; and ofttimes when to thyself thou seemest to have been hating an enemy, thou hast been hating a brother, and knowest not. The devil and his angels in the holy Scriptures have been manifested to us, that for fire everlasting they have been destined. Of them only must amendment be despaired of.… Therefore since this rule of Love for thee is fixed, that imitating the Father thou shouldest love an enemy: for, He saith, “love your enemies:”9 in this precept how wouldest thou be exercised, if thou hadst no enemy to suffer? Thou seest then that he profiteth thee somewhat: and let God sparing evil men profit thee, so that thou show mercy: because perchance thou too, if thou art a good man, out of an evil man hast been made a good man: and if God spared not evil men, not even thou wouldest be found to return thanks. May He therefore spare others, that hath spared thee also. For it were not right, when thou hadst passed through, to close up the way of godliness.

5. Whence then doth this man pray, set among evil men, with whose enmities he was being exercised? Why saith he, “I have been made sad in my exercise, and have been troubled”? While he is extending his love so as to love enemies, he hath been affected with disgust, being bayed at all around by the enmities of many men, by the frenzy of many, and under a sort of human infirmity he hath sunk. He hath seen himself now begin to be pierced through with an evil suggestion of the devil, to bring on hatred against his enemies: wrestling against hatred in order to perfect love herself, in the very fight, and in the wrestling, he hath been troubled. For there is his voice in another Psalm, “Mine eye hath been troubled, because of anger.” And what followeth there? “I have waxen old among all mine enemies.”10 As if in storm and waves he were beginning to sink, like Peter.1 For he doth trample the waves of this world, that loveth enemies. Christ on the sea was walking fearless, from whose heart there could not by any means be taken away the love of an enemy, who hanging on the Cross did say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”2 Peter too would walk. He as Head, Peter as Body: because, “Upon this rock,” He saith, “I will build My Church.”3 He was bidden to walk, and he was walking by the Grace of Him bidding, not by his own strength. But when he saw the wind mighty, he feared; and then he began to sink, being troubled in his exercise. By what mighty wind? “By the voice of the enemy, and by the tribulation of the sinner” (ver. 3). Therefore, in the same manner as he cried out on the waves, “Lord, I perish, save me,”4 a similar voice from this man hath preceded, “Hearken unto me.” Wherefore? For what sufferest thou? Of what dost thou groan? “I have been made sad in my exercise.” To be exercised indeed among evil men Thou hast set me, but too much they have risen up, beyond my powers: calm Thou one troubled, stretch forth a hand to one sinking. “For they have brought down upon me iniquity, and in anger they were shadowing me.” Ye have heard of waves and winds: one as it were humbled they were insulting, and he was praying: on every side against him with the roar of insult they were raging, but he within was calling upon Him whom they did not see.…

6. But this man being troubled and made sad was praying, his eye being disturbed as it were on account of anger.5 But the anger of a brother if it shall have been inveterate is then hatred. Anger doth trouble the eye, hatred doth quench it: anger is a straw, hatred is a beam. Sometimes thou hatest and chidest an angry man: in thee is hatred, in him whom thou chidest anger: with reason to thee is said, “Cast out first the beam from thine own eye, and so thou shall see to cast out the straw from thy brother’s eye.”6 For that ye may know how much difference there is between anger and hatred: day by day men are angry with their sons, show me them that hate their7 sons! This man being troubled was praying even when made sad, wrestling against all revilings of all revilers; not in order that he might conquer any one of them by giving back reviling, but that he might not hate any one of them. Hence he prayeth, hence asketh: “From the voice of the enemy and from the tribulation of the sinner.” “My heart hath been troubled in me” (ver. 4). This is the same as elsewhere hath been said, “Mine eye because of anger hath been troubled.”8 And if eye hath been troubled, what followeth? “And fear of death hath fallen upon me.” Our life is love: if life is love, death is hatred. When a man hath begun to fear lest he should hate him that he was loving, it is death he is fearing; and a sharper death, and a more inward death, whereby soul is killed, not body. Thou didst mind a man raging against thee; what was he to do, against whom thine own Lord had given thee security, saying, “Fear not them that kill the body”?9 He by raging killeth body, thou by keeping hatred hast killed soul; and he the body of another, thou thine own soul. “Fear,” therefore, “of death hath fallen upon me.”

7. “Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and darkness hath covered me” (ver. 5). “And I have said,” “He that hateth his brother, is in darkness until now.”10 If love is light, hatred is darkness. And what saith to himself one set in that weakness and troubled in that exercise? “Who shall give me wings as to a dove, and I shall fly and shall rest?” (ver. 6). Either for death he was wishing, or for solitude he was longing. So long, he saith, as this is the work with me, as this command is given me, that I should love enemies, the revilings of these men, increasing and shadowing me, do derange mine eye, perturb my sight, penetrate my heart, slay my soul. I could wish to depart, but11 weak I am, lest by abiding I should add sins to sins: or at least may I be separated for a little space from mankind, lest my wound suffer from frequent blows, in order that when it hath been made whole it may be brought back to the exercise. This is what takes place, brethren, and there ariseth ofttimes in the mind of the servant of God a longing for solitude, for no other reason than because of the multitude of tribulations and scandals, and he saith, “Who shall give me wings?” Doth he find himself without wings, or rather with bound wings? If they are wanting, be they given; if bound, be they loosed; because even he that looseth a bird’s wings, either giveth, or giveth back to it its wings. For it had not as though its own them, wherewith it could not fly. Bound wings make a burden. “Who,” he saith, “shall give me wings as to a dove, and I shall fly and shall rest?” Shall rest, where? I have said there are two senses here: either, as saith the Apostle, “To be dissolved and to be with Christ, for it is by far the best thing.”12 … Even he that amended cannot be, is thine, either by the fellowship of the human race, or ofttimes by Church Communion; he is within, what wilt thou do? whither wilt go? whither separate thyself, in order that these things thou mayest not suffer? But go to him, speak, exhort, coax, threaten, reprove. I have done all things, whatever powers I had I have expended and have drained, nothing I see have I prevailed; all my labour hath been spent out, sorrow hath remained. How then shall my heart rest from such men, except I say, “Who shall give me wings?” “As to a dove,” however, not as to a raven. A dove seeketh a flying away from troubles, but she loseth not love. For a dove as a type of love is set forth, and in her the plaint is loved. Nothing is so fond of plaints as a dove: day and night she complaineth, as though she were set here where she ought to complain. What then saith this lover? Revilings of men to bear I am unable, they roar, with frenzy are carried away, are inflamed with indignation, in anger they shadow1 me; to do good to them I am unable; O that I might rest somewhere, being separated from them in body, not in love; lest in me there should be troubled love itself: with my words and my speech no good can I do them, by praying for them perchance I shall do good. These words men say, but ofttimes they are so bound, that to fly they are not able. For perchance they are not bound with any birdlime, but are bound by duty. But if they are bound with care and duty, and to leave it are unable, let them say, “I was wishing to be dissolved and to be with Christ, for it is by far the best thing: to abide in the flesh is necessary because of you.”2 A dove bound back by affection, not by cupidity, was not able to fly away because of duty to be fulfilled, not because of little merit. Nevertheless a longing in heart must needs be; nor doth any man suffer this longing, but he that hath begun to walk in that narrow way:3 in order that he may know that there are not wanting to the Church persecutions, even in this time, when a calm is seen in the Church, at least with respect to those persecutions which our Martyrs have suffered. But there are not wanting persecutions, because a true saying is this, “All that will godly to live in Christ, shall suffer persecution.”4 …

8. “Behold I have gone afar fleeing, and have abode in the desert” (ver. 7). In what desert? Wherever thou shalt be, there will gather them together other men, the desert with thee they will seek, will attach themselves to thy life, thou canst not thrust back the society of brethren: there are mingled with thee also evil men; still exercise is thy due portion, “Behold I have gone afar, and have abode in the desert.” In what desert? It is perchance in the conscience, whither no man entereth, where no one is with thee, where thou art and God. For if in the desert, in any place, what wilt thou do with men gathering themselves together? For thou wilt not be able to be separated from mankind, so long as among men thou livest.5 …

9. “I was looking for him that should save me from weakness of mind and tempest” (ver. 8). Sea there is, tempest there is: nothing for thee remaineth but to cry out, “Lord, I perish.”6 Let Him stretch forth hand, who doth the waves tread fearlessly, let Him relieve thy dread, let Him confirm in Himself thy security, let Him speak to thee within, and say to thee, “Give heed to Me, what I have borne:” an evil brother perchance thou art suffering, or an enemy without art suffering; which of these have I not suffered? There roared without Jews, within a disciple was betraying. There rageth therefore tempest, but He doth save men from weakness of mind, and tempest. Perchance thy ship is being troubled, because He in thee is sleeping. The sea was raging, the bark wherein the disciples were sailing was being tossed; but Christ was sleeping: at length it was seen by them that among them was sleeping the Ruler7 and Creator of winds; they drew near and awoke Christ;8 He commanded9 the winds, and there was a great calm. With reason then perchance thy heart is troubled, because thou hast forgotten Him on whom thou hast believed: beyond endurance thou art suffering, because it hath not come into thy mind what for thee Christ hath borne. If unto thy mind cometh not Christ, He sleepeth: awake Christ, recall faith. For then in thee Christ is sleeping, if thou hast forgotten the sufferings of Christ: then in thee Christ is watching, if thou hast remembered the sufferings of Christ. But when with full heart thou shalt have considered what He hath suffered, wilt not thou too with equanimity endure? and perchance rejoicing, because thou hast been found in some likeness of the sufferings of thy King. When therefore on these things thinking thou hast begun to be comforted and to rejoice, He hath arisen, He hath commanded the winds; therefore there is a great calm. “I was looking for Him that should save me from weakness of mind and tempest.”

10. “Sink, O Lord, and divide the tongues of them” (ver. 9). He is referring to men troubling him and shadowing him, and he hath wished this thing not of anger, brethren. They that have wickedly lifted up themselves, for them it is expedient that they be sunk. They that have wickedly conspired, it is expedient for them that their tongues should be divided: to good let them consent, and let their tongues agree together. But if to one purpose10 there were a whispering against me,11 he saith, all mine enemies, let them lose their “one purpose” in evil, divided be the tongues of them, let them not with themselves agree together. “Sink, O Lord, and divide the tongues of them.” Wherefore “sink”? Because themselves they have lifted up. Wherefore “divide”? Because for an evil thing they have united. Recollect that tower of proud men made after the deluge: what said the proud men? Lest we perish in a deluge, let us make a lofty tower.1 In pride they were thinking themselves to be fortified, they builded up a lofty tower, and the Lord divided the tongues of them. Then they began not to understand one another; hence arose the beginning of many tongues. For before, one tongue there was: but one tongue for men agreeing was good, one tongue for humble men was good: but when that gathering together did into a union of pride fall headlong, God spared them; even though He divided the tongues, lest by understanding one another they should make a destructive unity. Through proud men, divided were the tongues; through humble Apostles, united were the tongues. Spirit of pride dispersed tongues, Spirit Holy united tongues. For when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, with the tongues of all men they spake,2 by all men they were understood: tongues dispersed, into one were united. Therefore if still they rage and are Gentiles, it is expedient for them divided to have their tongues. They would have one tongue; let them come to the Church; because even among the diversity of tongues of flesh, one is the tongue in faith of heart.

11. “For I have seen iniquity and contradiction in the city.” With reason this man was seeking the desert, for he saw iniquity and contradiction in the city. There is a certain city turbulent: the same it was that was building a tower, the same was confounded and called Babylon, the same through innumerable nations dispersed:3 thence is gathered the Church into the desert of a good conscience. For he saw contradiction in the city. “Christ cometh.”—“What Christ?” thou contradictest.—“Son of God.”—“And hath God a Son?” thou contradictest.—“He was born of a virgin, suffered, rose again.”—“And whence is it possible for this to be done?” thou contradictest.—Give heed at least to the glory of the Cross itself. Now on the brow of kings that Cross hath been fixed, over which enemies insulted. The effect hath proved the virtue.4 It hath subdued the world, not with steel, but with wood. The wood of the Cross deserving of insults hath seemed to enemies, and before the wood itself standing they were wagging the head, and saying, “If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross.”5 He was stretching forth His hands to a people unbelieving and contradicting. For if just he is that of faith liveth,6 unjust he is that hath not faith. By that which here he saith “iniquity,” I understand unbelief. The Lord therefore was seeing in the city iniquity and contradiction, and was stretching forth His hands to a people unbelieving and contradicting: and nevertheless waiting for these same, He was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”7 Even now indeed there rage the remnant of that city, even now they contradict. From the brows of all men now He is stretching forth hands to the remnant unbelieving and contradicting.

12. “Day and night there will compass it upon the walls thereof iniquity, and labour.”8 “Upon the walls thereof;” upon the fortifications thereof, holding as it were the heads thereof, the noble men thereof. If that noble man were a Christian, not one would remain a pagan! Oft-times men say, “no one would remain a pagan, if he were a Christian.” Ofttimes men say, “If he too were made a Christian, who would remain a pagan?” Because therefore not yet they are made Christians, as if walls they are of that city unbelieving and contradicting. How long shall these walls stand? Not always shall they stand. The Ark is going around the walls of Jericho: there shall come a time at the seventh going round of the Ark, when all the walls of the city unbelieving and contradicting shall fall.9 Until it come to pass, this man is being troubled in his exercise; and enduring the remains of men contradicting, he would choose wings for flying away, would choose the rest of the desert. Yea let him continue amid men contradicting, let him endure menaces, drink revilings, and look for Him that will save him from weakness of mind and tempest: let him look upon the Head, the pattern for his life,10 let him be made calm in hope, even if he is troubled in fact. “Day and night there will compass it upon the walls thereof iniquity; and labour in the midst thereof and injustice.” And for this reason labour is there, because iniquity is there: because injustice is there, therefore also labour is there. But let them hear him stretching forth hands. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour.”11 Ye cry, ye contradict, ye revile: He on the contrary, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour,” in your pride, and ye shall rest in My humility. “Learn of Me,” He saith, “for meek I am and humble in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”12 For whence do they labour, but because they are not meek and humble in heart? God humble was made, let man blush to be proud.

13. “There hath not failed from the streets thereof usury and deceit” (ver. 11). Usury and deceit are not hidden at least, because they are evil things, but in public they rage. For he that in his house doth any evil thing, however for his evil thing doth blush: “In the streets thereof usury and deceit.” Money-lending1 even hath a profession, Money-lending also is called a science; a corporation is spoken of, a corporation as if necessary to the state, and of its profession it payeth revenue; so entirely indeed in the streets is that which should have been hidden. There is also another usury worse, when thou forgivest not that which to thee is owed; and the eye is disturbed in that verse of the prayer, “Forgive us our debts—as we too forgive our debtors.”2 For what there wilt thou do, when thou art going to pray, and coming to that same verse? An insulting word thou hast heard: thou wouldest exact the punishment of condemnation. Do but consent to exact just so much as thou hast given, thou usurer of injuries! With the fist thou hast been smitten, slaying thou seekest. Evil usury! How wilt thou go to prayer? If thou shall have left praying, which way wilt thou come round unto the Lord? Behold thou wilt say: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth.” Thou wilt say, “Our daily bread give us to-day.” Thou wilt come to, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”3 Even in that evil city let there abound these usuries; let them not enter the walls where the breast is smitten! What wilt thou do? because there thou and that verse are4 in the midst? Petitions for thee hath a heavenly Lawyer composed.5 He that knew what used there to be done, said to thee, “Otherwise thou shall not obtain.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that if ye shall have forgiven men sins, they shall be forgiven you; but if ye shall not have forgiven sins unto men, neither will your Father forgive you.”6 Who saith this? He that knoweth what there is being done, in the place whereat thou art standing to make request. See how Himself hath willed to be thy Advocate; Himself thy Counsellor,7 Himself the Assessor of the Father Himself thy Judge hath said, “Otherwise thou shalt not receive.” What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not receive, unless thou shall speak; wilt not receive if falsely thou shall speak. Therefore either thou must do and speak, or else what thou askest thou wilt not earn; because they that this do not do, are in the midst of those evil usuries. Be they engaged therein, that yet do idols either adore or desire: do not thou, O people of God, do not thou, O people of Christ, do not thou the Body of Him the Head! Give heed to the bond8 of thy peace, give heed to the promise of thy life. For what doth it profit thee, that thou exactest for injuries which thou hast endured? doth vengeance refresh thee? Therefore, over the evil of another shalt thou rejoice? Thou hast suffered evil; pardon thou; be not ye two.9 …

14. “For if an enemy had upbraided me” (ver. 12). And indeed above he was “troubled in his exercise” by the voice of the enemy and by the tribulation of the sinner, perhaps being placed in that city, that proud city that was building a tower, which was “sunk,”10 that divided might be the tongues: give heed to his inward groaning because of perils from false brethren. “For if an enemy had upbraided me, I would have undergone it assuredly, and if he that did hate me had over me spoken great words,” that is, through pride had on me trampled, did magnify himself above me, did threaten me all in his power: “I would hide myself assuredly from him.” From him that is abroad, thou wouldest hide thyself where? Amid those that are within. But now see whether anything else remaineth, but that thou seek solitude. “But thou,” he saith, “man of one mind, my guide and my friend” (ver. 13). Perchance sometimes good counsel thou hast given, perchance sometimes thou hast gone before me, and some wholesome advice thou hast given me: in the Church of God together we have been. “But thou.… that together with me didst take sweet morsels” (ver. 14). What are the sweet morsels? Not all they that are present know: but let them not be soured that do know, in order that they may be able to say to them that as yet know not: “Taste ye and see, how sweet is the Lord.”11 “In the House of God we have walked with consent.”12 Whence then dissension? Thou that wast within, hast become one without. He hath walked with me in the House of God with consent: another house hath he set up against the House of God. Wherefore hath that been forsaken, wherein we have walked with consent? wherefore hath that been deserted, wherein together we did take sweet morsels?

15. “Let there come death upon them, and let them go down unto Hell living” (ver. 15). How hath he cited and hath made us call to mind that first beginning of schism, when in that first people of the Jews certain proud men separated themselves, and would without have sacrificed? A new death upon them came: the earth opened herself, and swallowed them up alive.1 “Let there come,” he saith, “death upon them, and let them go down into Hell living.” What is “living”? knowing that they are perishing, and yet perishing. Hear of living men perishing and being swallowed up in a gulf of the earth, that is, being swallowed up in the voraciousness of earthly desires.2 Thou sayest to a man, What aileth thee, brother? Brethren we are, one God we invoke, in one Christ we believe, one Gospel we hear, one Psalm we sing, one Amen we respond, one Hallelujah we sound, one Easter we celebrate: why art thou without and I am within? Ofttimes one straitened, and perceiving how true are the charges which are made, saith, May God requite our ancestors! Therefore alive he perisheth. In the next place thou continuest and thus givest warning. At least let the evil of separation stand alone, why dost thou adjoin thereto that of rebaptism? Acknowledge in me what thou hast; and if thou hatest me, spare thou Christ in me. And this evil thing doth frequently and very greatly displease them.… Because they themselves have the Scriptures in their hands, and know well by daily reading how the Church Catholic through the whole world is so spread, that in a word all contradiction is void; and that there cannot be found any support for their schism they know well: therefore unto the lower places living they go down, because the evil which they do, they know evil to be. But the former a fire of divine indignation consumed. For being inflamed with desire of strife, from their evil leaders they would not depart. There came upon fire a fire, upon the heat of dissension the heat of consuming. “For naughtiness is in their lodgings, in the midst of them.” “In their lodgings,”3 wherein they tarry and pass away. For here they are not alway to be: and nevertheless in defence of a temporal animosity they are fighting so fiercely. “In their lodgings is iniquity; in the midst of them is iniquity:” no part of them is so near the middle of them as their heart.

16. “Therefore to the Lord I have cried out” (ver. 16). The Body of Christ and the oneness of Christ in anguish, in weariness, in uneasiness, in the tribulation of its exercise, that One Man, Oneness in One Body set, when He was wearying His soul in crying out from the ends of the earth; saith, “From the ends of the earth to Thee I have cried out, when My heart was being vexed.”4 Himself one, but a oneness5 that One! and Himself one, not in one place one, but from the ends of the earth is crying as one. How from the ends of the earth should there cry one, except there were one? “I to the Lord have cried out.” Rightly do thou cry out to the Lord, cry not to Donatus: lest for thee he be instead of the Lord a lord, that under the Lord would not be a fellow-servant.

17. “In evening, in morning, at noon-day I will recount and will tell forth, and He shall hearken to my voice”6 (ver. 18). Do thou proclaim glad tidings, keep not secret that which thou hast received, “in evening” of things gone by, “in morning” of things to be, at “noonday” of things ever to be. Therefore, to that which he saith “in evening” belongeth that which he recounteth: to that which he saith, “in morning,” belongeth that which he telleth forth: to that which he saith “at noon-day,” belongeth that wherein his voice is hearkened to. For the end is at noon-day; that is to say, whence there is no going down unto setting. For at noon-day there is light full high, the splendour of wisdom, the fervour of love. “In evening and in morning and at noon-day.” “In evening,” the Lord on the Cross; “in morning,” in Resurrection; “at noon-day,” in Ascension. I will recount in evening the patience of Him dying, I will tell forth in morning the life of Him rising, I will pray that He hearken at noon-day sitting at the right hand of the Father. He shall hearken to my voice, That intercedeth for us.7 How great is the security of this man. How great the consolation, how great the refuge “from weakness of mind and tempest,” against evil men, against ungodly men both without and within, and in the case of those that are without though they had been within.

18. Therefore, my Brethren, those that in the very congregation of these walls ye see to be rebellious men, proud, seeking their own, lifted up; not having a zeal for God that is chaste, sound, quiet, but ascribing to themselves much; ready for dissension, but not finding opportunity; are the very chaff of the Lord’s floor.8 From hence these few men the wind of pride hath dislodged: the whole floor will not fly, save when He at the last shall winnow. But what shall we do, save with this man sing, with this man pray, with this man mourn and say securely, “He shall redeem in peace my soul” (ver. 18). Against them that love not peace: “in peace He shall redeem my soul.” “Because with those that hated peace I was peace-making.”9 “He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me.” For from those that are afar from me, it is an easy case: not so soon doth he deceive me that saith, Come, pray to an idol: he is very far from me. Art thou a Christian? A Christian, he saith. Out of a neighbouring place he is my adversary, he is at hand. “He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me: for in many things they were with me.” Wherefore have I said, “draw near to me”? Because “in many things they were with me.” In this verse two propositions occur. “In many things they were with me.” Baptism we had both of us, in that they were with me: the Gospel we both read, they were in that with me: the festivals of martyrs we celebrated, they were there with me: Easter’s solemnity we attended, they were there with me. But not entirely with me: in schism not with me, in heresy not with me. In many things with me, in few things not with me. But in these few things wherein not with me, there is no profit to them of the many things wherein they were with me. For see, brethren, how many things hath recounted the Apostle Paul: one thing, he hath said, if it shall have been wanting, in vain are those things. “If with the tongues of men and of angels I shall speak,” he saith, “if I have all prophecy, and all faith, and all knowledge; if mountains I shall remove, if I shall bestow all my goods upon the poor, if I shall deliver my body even so that it be burned.”1 How many things he hath enumerated! To all these many things let there be wanting one thing, charity; the former in number are more, the latter in weight is greater. Therefore in all Sacraments they are with me, in one charity not with me: “In many things they were with me.” Again, by a different expression: “For in many things they were with me.” They that themselves have separated from me, with me they were, not in few things, but in many things. For throughout the whole world few are the grains, many are the chaffs. Therefore he saith what? In chaff with me they were, in wheat with me they were not. And the chaff is nearly related to the wheat, from one seed it goeth forth, in one field is rooted, with one rain is nourished, the same reaper it suffereth, the same threshing sustaineth, the same winnowing awaiteth, but not into one barn entereth.

19. “God will hear me, and He shall humble them That is before ages” (ver. 19). For they rely on some leader or other of theirs that hath begun but yesterday. “He shall humble them That is before ages.” For even if with reference to time Christ is of Mary the Virgin, nevertheless before ages: “In the beginning He is the Word and the Word with God, and the Word God.”2 “He shall humble them That is before ages. For to them is no changing:” of them I “speak to whom is no changing.” He knew of some to persevere, and in the perseverance of their own wickedness to die. For we see them, and to them is no changing: they that die in that same perverseness, in that same schism, to them is no changing. God shall humble them, shall humble them in damnation, because they are exalted in dissension. To them is no changing, because they are not changed for the better, but for the worse: neither while they are here, nor in the resurrection. For all we shall rise again, but3 not all shall be changed. Wherefore? Because “To them is no changing: and they have not feared God.” …

20. “He stretcheth forth His hand in requiting” (ver. 20). “They have polluted His Testament.” Read the testament which they have polluted: “In thy seed shall be blessed all nations.”4 Thou against these words of the Testator sayest what? The Africa of holy Donatus hath alone deserved this grace, in him hath remained the Church of Christ. Say at least the Church of Donatus. Wherefore addest thou, of Christ? Of whom it is said, “In thy seed shall be blessed all nations.” After Donatus wilt thou go? Set aside Christ, and then secede. See therefore what followeth: “They have polluted His Testament.” What Testament? To Abraham have been spoken the promises, and to his seed. The Apostle saith, “Nevertheless, a man’s testament confirmed no one maketh void, or superaddeth to: to Abraham have been spoken the promises, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as if in many; but as if in one, And to thy Seed, which is Christ.”5 In this Christ, therefore, what Testament hath been promised? “In thy seed shall be blessed all nations.” Thou that hast given up the unity of all nations, and in a part hast remained, hast polluted His Testament.…

21. “And His heart hath drawn near” (ver. 22). Of whom do we understand it, except of Him, by the anger of whom they have been divided? How “hath his heart drawn near”? In such sort, that we may understand His will. For by heretics hath been vindicated the Catholic Church, and by those that think evil have been proved those that think well. For many things lay hid in the Scriptures: and when heretics had been cut off, with questions they troubled the Church of God: then those things were opened which lay hid, and the will of God was understood.6 Thence is said in another Psalm, “In order that they might be excluded that have been proved with silver.”7 For let them be excluded, He hath said, let them come forth, let them appear. Whence even in silver-working men are called “excluders,” that is, pressers out of form from the sort of confusion of the lump. Therefore many men that could understand and expound the Scriptures very excellently, were hidden among the people of God: but they did not declare the solution of difficult questions, when no reviler again urged them. For was the Trinity perfectly treated of before the Arians snarled thereat? Was repentance perfectly treated of before the Novatians opposed? So not perfectly of Baptism was it treated, before rebaptizers removed outside1 contradicted; nor of the very oneness of Christ were the doctrines clearly stated which have been stated, save after that this separation began to press upon the weak: in order that they that knew how to treat of and solve these questions (lest the weak should perish vexed with the questions of the ungodly), by their discourses and disputations should bring out unto open day the dark things of the Law.2 … This obscure sense see in what manner the Apostle bringeth out into light; “It is needful,” he saith, “that also heresies there be, in order that men proved may be made manifest among you.”3 What is “men proved”? Proved with silver, proved with the word. What is “may be made manifest”? May be brought out.4 Wherefore this? Because of heretics. So therefore these also “have been divided because of the anger of His countenance, and His heart hath drawn near.”
22. “His discourses have been softened above oil, and themselves are darts” (ver. 21). For certain things in the Scriptures were seeming hard, while they were obscure; when explained, they have been softened. For even the first heresy in the disciples of Christ, as it were from the hardness of His discourse arose. For when He said, “Except a man shall have eaten My flesh and shall have drunk My blood, he shall not have life in himself:” they, not understanding, said to one another, “Hard is this discourse, who can hear it?” Saying that, “Hard is this discourse,” they separated from Him: He remained with the others, the twelve. When they had intimated to Him, that by His discourse they had been scandalized, “Will ye also,” He saith, “choose to go?” Then Peter: “Thou hast the Word of life eternal: to whom shall we go?”5 Attend, we beseech you, and ye little ones learn godliness. Did Peter by any means at that time understand the secret of that discourse of the Lord? Not yet he understood: but that good were the words which he understood not, godly he believed. Therefore if hard is a discourse, and not yet is understood, be it hard to an ungodly man, but to thee be it by godliness softened: for whenever it is solved, it both will become for thee oil, and even unto the bones it will penetrate.

23. Furthermore, just as Peter, after their having been scandalized by the hardness, as they thought, of the discourse of the Lord, even then said, “to whom shall we go?” so he hath added, “Cast upon the Lord thy care, and He shall Himself nourish thee up” (ver. 22). A little one thou art, not yet thou understandest the secret things of words: perchance from thee the bread is hidden, and as yet with milk thou must be fed:6 be not angry with the breasts: they will make thee fit for the table, for which now little fitted thou art. Behold by the division of heretics many hard things have been softened: His discourses that were hard have been softened above oil, and they are themselves darts. They have armed men preaching the Gospel: and the very discourses are aimed at the breast of every one that heareth, by men instant in season and out of season: by those discourses, by those words, as though by arrows, hearts of men unto the love of peace are smitten. Hard they were, and soft they have been made. Being softened they have not lost their virtue, but into darts have been converted.… Upon the Lord cast thyself. Behold thou wilt cast thyself upon the Lord, let no one put himself in the place of the Lord. “Cast upon the Lord thy care.” …

24. But to the others what? “But Thou, O God, shalt bring them down unto the pit of corruption” (ver. 23). The pit of corruption is the darkness of sinking under. When blind leadeth blind, they both fall into a ditch.7 God bringeth them down into the pit of corruption, not because He is the author of their own guilt, but because He is Himself the judge of their iniquities. “For God hath delivered them unto the desires of their heart.”8 For they have loved darkness, and not light; they have loved blindness, and not seeing. For behold the Lord Jesus hath shone out to the whole world, let them sing in unity with the whole world: “For there is not one that can hide himself from the heat of Him.”9 But they passing over from the whole to a part, from the body to a wound, from life to a limb cut off, shall meet with what, but going into the pit of corruption?

25. “Men of bloods and of deceitfulness.” Men of bloods, because of slayings he calleth them: and O that they were corporal and not spiritual slayings. For blood from the flesh going forth, is seen and shuddered at: who seeth the blood of the heart in a man rebaptized? Those deaths require other eyes. Although even about these visible deaths Circumcelliones armed everywhere remain not quiet. And if we think of these visible deaths, there are men of bloods. Give heed to the armed man, whether he is a man of peace and not of blood. If at least a club only he were to carry, well; but he carrieth a sling, carrieth an axe, carrieth stones, carrieth lances; and carrying these weapons, wherever they may they scour, for the blood of innocent men they thirst.1 Therefore even with regard to these visible deaths there are men of bloods. But even of them let us say, O that such deaths alone they perpetrated, and souls they slew not. These that are men of bloods and of deceit, let them not suppose that we thus wrongly understand men of bloods, of them that kill souls: they themselves of their Maximianists2 have so understood it. For when they condemned them, in the very sentence of their Council they have set down these words: “Swift are the feet of them to shed the blood” (of the proclaimers3), “tribulation and calamity are in the ways of them, and the way of peace they have not known.”4 This of the Maximianists they have said. But I ask of them, when have the Maximianists shed the body’s blood; not because they too would not shed, if there were so great a multitude as could shed, but because of the fear in their minority rather they have suffered somewhat from others, than have themselves at any time done any such thing. Therefore I question the Donatist and say: In thy Council thou hast set down of the Maximianists, “Swift are the feet of them to shed blood.” Show me one of whom the Maximianists have hurt so much as a finger! What other thing to me is he to answer, than that which I say? They that have separated themselves from unity,5 and who slay souls by leading astray, spiritually, not carnally, do shed blood. Very well thou hast expounded, but in thy exposition acknowledge their own deeds. “Men of bloods and of deceitfulness.” In guile is deceitfulness, in dissimulation, in seduction. What therefore of those very men that have been divided because of the anger of His countenance? They are themselves men of bloods and of deceit.

26. But of them he saith what? “They shall not halve their days.” What is, “They shall not halve their days”? They shall not make progress as much as they think: within the time which they expect, they shall perish. For he is that partridge, whereof hath been said, “In the half of his days they shall leave him, and in his last days he shall be an unwise one.”6 They make progress, but for a time. For what saith the Apostle? “But evil men and seducers shall make progress for the worse, themselves erring, and other men into error driving.”7 But “a blind man leading a blind man, together into a ditch they fall.”8 Deservedly they fall “into the pit of corruption.” What therefore saith he? They shall make progress for the worse: not however for long. For a little before he hath said, “But further they shall not make progress:”9 that is, “shall not halve their days.” Let the Apostle proceed and tell wherefore: “For the madness of them shall be manifest to all men, as also was that of the others.” “But I in Thee will hope, O Lord.” But deservedly they shall not halve their days, because in man they have hoped. But I from days temporal have reached unto day eternal. Wherefore? Because in Thee I have hoped, O Lord.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 55

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2014


IN GOD I HAVE NO FEAR

THIS psalm is closely related to the preceding, both in its form and content. The psalmist calls on the Lord for help against the cruel enemies among whom he is forced to live. He is confident that, through the help of the Lord, the schemes of his foes will be turned back against themselves. In this spirit of confidence he praises the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in the midst of his foes and, apparently, among the heathens. The refrain in verses 6 and 12 is used in the same way as the refrain of the preceding psalm. Here is what Father Boylan wrote on the refrain in the previous Psalm~ “The refrain in verses 5 and n is the psalmist s cry when things look darkest: he is sure that in the near future, as in the past, the confidence of that cry will be seen to be justified.”

The ancient tradition associates this poem with David s sojourn in Gath. In 1 Sam 21:13 it is said that David was afraid when he heard the words of the Philistine leaders and feigned madness before King Achish (cf. Ps. 34:1). The fear of David in Gath, and the fourth verse of this psalm fit well together. There is nothing else in the psalm to suggest in any way Davidic authorship.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 94

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 17, 2014


YAHWEH, AS AVENGING GOD

PSALMS 94, 34, and 75 form a group by themselves. They deal with the problems connected with the divine rule of the world. Ps. 75 treats of the problems of Providence in relation to the history of the nation, Israel. Ps. 34 and 94 deal with the difficulties which arise for the pious from the presence of sin and sinners in Israel. Cf. also Ps. 71.

In a solemn introduction the author of this psalm calls on God to arise in judgment against the tyranny of sinners. Why does God allow evil to persist so long? If He does not soon intervene the pious will be forced to despair (1-3). Then follows a brief description of the doings and sayings of the sinners. The psalmist complains in particular of their perversion of justice, and of their insolent indifference towards God (4-7). Cf. Ps. 12:4; 10:4, 11; 73:11, etc.

In verses 8-1 1 the psalmist addresses a solemn reproof and warning to the godless, which reminds one of the style of prophetic preaching (cf. Jer. 13:13 ff; Isa 8:9 ff). Will they not be convinced of their folly? Surely the Creator of eye and ear, the Judge of the world, the source of all human insight cannot remain ignorant of that which a man, who is a mere breath, thinks and does!

The poet goes on in verses 12-15 to reflect on his own good fortune in possessing the Law of God. For him that Law is not a burden, but a delight. God who gave the Law must continue to be the guardian of all justice on earth.

In verses 16-19 the psalmist sings of something which is higher and better than the Law. This is communion, fellowship with God. Through his sufferings the pious learns that the greatest of all good things is union with God. Since he knows that there is a just God who will avenge him, the pious man can wait quietly and confidently till the time of his salvation comes. The psalm becomes here an enthusiastic hymn of praise of the soul resting in God. Cf. Ps. 71.

In the final section (20-23) the poet proclaims his conviction that God is not a God of injustice, but of justice, and that sinners will, in the end, feel the fury of His wrath.

Though the psalm is connected with the name of David by the superscription, the general standpoint and tone of the poem would suggest a comparatively late date. The Hebrew text gives no superscription to the psalm.

 

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 50

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 19, 2014


THE WELL-PLEASING SACRIFICE

IN fire and storm the Lord comes forth to chide and instruct the people of His Covenant. He does not find fault with any neglect of sacrificial worship on their part, since their holocausts are ever before Him: but He declares to them that animal sacrifices have, of themselves, no value for Him. The sacrifice which He delights in is the sacrifice of thanks and prayer. In verse 16 the chiding of God is addressed harshly to the hypocrites among His people, who have His Law always on their lips, but reject it in their conduct. These may have thought that their professions could deceive the Lord : now He shows them their error. They also must know, that only by sacrifices of genuine praise can they honour the Lord, and secure His help.

A Temple was still standing at the time the poem was composed, and, most likely, that Temple was the Temple of Solomon. The sacrificial ritual was still apparently, more perfect than it is known to have been in the second temple. The fundamental thought of the poem, that praise and prayer are better than the blood of animal offerings, is familiar in the period of the oldest literary prophecy. Cf. Hosea 6:6; Isa 1:11 ff; Micah 6:6 ff. We are, therefore, fully justified in regarding this psalm as pre-exilic.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 44

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 15, 2014


1. This Psalm is addressed “to the sons of Korah,” as its title shows. Now Korah is equivalent to the word baldness;17 and we find in the Gospel that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified in “the place of a skull.”18 It is clear then that this Psalm is sung to the “sons of His ‘Passion.’ ” Now we have on this point a most certain and most evident testimony from the Apostle Paul; because that at the time when the Church was suffering under the persecutions of the Gentiles, he quoted from hence a verse, to insert by way of consolation, and encouragement to patience. For that which he inserted in his Epistle, is said here: “For Thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.”19 Let us then hear in this Psalm the voice of the Martyrs; and see how good is the cause which the voice of the Martyrs pleads, saying, “For Thy sake”, etc.…

2. The title then is not simply “To the sons of Korah,” but, “For understanding, to the sons of Korah.” This is the case also with that Psalm, the first verse of which the Lord Himself uttered on the Cross: “My God, My God, look upon Me; why hast Thou forsaken Me?”1 For “transferring us in a figure”2 to what He was saying, and to His own Body (for we are also “His Body,” and He is our “Head”), He uttered from the Cross not His own cry, but ours. For God never “forsook” Him: nor did He Himself ever depart from the Father; but it was in behalf of us that He spake this: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” For there follows, “Far from My health are the words of My offences:” and it shows in whose person He said this; for sin could not be found in Him.…

3. “O God, we have heard with our ears; our fathers have told us the work that Thou didst in their days, and in the days of old” (ver. 1). Wondering wherefore, in these days, He has seemingly forsaken those whom it was His will to exercise in sufferings, they recall the past events which they have heard of from their fathers; as if they said, It is not of these things that we suffer, that our fathers told us! For in that other Psalm also, He said this, “Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. But I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.”3 They trusted, and Thou didst deliver them; have I then hoped, and hast Thou forsaken me? And have I believed upon Thee in vain? And is it in vain that my name has been written in Thy Book,4 and Thy name has been inscribed on me? What our fathers told us was this:

“Thy hand destroyed the nations; and Thou plantedst them: Thou didst weaken the peoples, and cast them out” (ver. 2). That is to say: “Thou didst drive out ‘the peoples’ from their own land, that Thou mightest bring ‘them’ in, and plant them; and mightest by Thy mercy stablish their kingdom.” These are the things that we heard from our fathers. But perhaps it was because they were brave, were men of battle, were invincible, were well disciplined, and warlike, that they could do these things. Far from it. This is not what our fathers told us; this is not what is contained in Scripture. But what does it say, but what follows?

“For they gat not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance” (ver. 3). Thy “right hand” is Thy Power: Thine “arm” is Thy Son Himself.5 And “the light of Thy countenance.” What means this, but that Thou wert present with them, in miracles of such a sort that Thy presence was perceived. For when God’s presence with us appears by any miracle, do we see His face with our own eyes? No. It is by the effect of the miracle He intimates to man His presence. In fact, what do all persons say, who express wonder at facts of this description? “I saw God present.” “But Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance; because Thou pleasedst in them:”6 i.e. didst so deal with them, that Thou wert well-pleasing in them: that whoso considered how they were being dealt with, might say, that “God is with them of a truth;” and it is God that moves7 them.

4. “What? Was He then other than now He is?” Away with the supposition. For what follows?

“Thou art Thyself8 my King and my God.” (ver. 4). “Thou art THYSELF;” for Thou art not changed. I see that the times are changed; but the Creator of times is unchanged. “Thou art Thyself my King and my God.” Thou art wont to guide me: to govern me, to save me. “Thou who commandest salvation unto Jacob.” What is, “Thou who commandest”? Even though in Thine own proper Substance and Nature, in which Thou art whatsoever Thou art, Thou wast hid from them; and though Thou didst not converse with the fathers in that which Thou art in Thyself, so that they could see Thee “face to face,” yet by any created being whatsoever “Thou commandest salvation unto Israel.” For that sight of Thee “face to face” is reserved for those set free in the Resurrection. And the very “fathers” of the New Testament too, although they saw Thy mysteries revealed, although they preached the secret things so revealed to them, nevertheless said that they themselves saw but “in a glass, darkly,” but that “seeing face to face”9 is reserved to a future time, when what the Apostle himself speaks of shall have come. “When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”10 It is against that time then that vision “face to face” is reserved for you, of which John also speaks: “Beloved, we are now the sons of God: and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”11 Although then at that time our fathers saw Thee not as Thou art, “face to face,” although that vision is reserved against the resurrection, yet, even though they were Angels who presented themselves, it is Thou, “Who commandest salvation unto Jacob.” Thou art not only present by Thine own Self; but by whatsoever created being Thou didst appear, it is Thou that dost “command” by them, that which Thou doest by Thine own Self in order to the salvation of Thy servants: but that which they do whom Thou “commandest” it, is done to procure the salvation of Thy servants. Since then Thou art Thyself “my King and my God, and Thou commandest salvation unto Jacob,” wherefore are we suffering these things?

5. But perhaps it is only what is past that has been described to us: but nothing of the kind is to be hoped for by us for the future. Nay indeed, it is still to be hoped for. “Through Thee will we winnow away1 our enemies” (ver. 5). Our fathers then have declared to us a work that Thou didst “in their days, and in the days of old,” that Thy hand destroyed the Gentiles: that Thou “didst cast out the peoples; and didst plant them.” Such was the past; but what is to be hereafter? “Through Thee we shall winnow away our enemies.” A time will come, when all the enemies of Christians will be winnowed away like chaff, be blown like dust, and be cast off from the earth.… Thus much of the future. “I will not trust in my bow,” even as our fathers did not in “their sword. Neither shall my sword help me” (ver. 6).

6. “For Thou hast saved us from our enemies” (ver. 7). This too is spoken of the future under the figure of the past. But this is the reason that it is spoken of as if it were past, that it is as certain as if it were past. Give heed, wherefore many things are expressed by the Prophets as if they were past; whereas it is things future, not past facts that are the subject of prophecy. For the future Passion of our Lord Himself was foretold:2 and yet it says, “They pierced My hands and My feet. They told all My bones;” not, “They shall pierce,” and “shall tell.” “They looked and stared upon Me;” not “They shall look and stare upon Me.” “They parted My garments among them.” It does not say, “They shall part” them. All these things are expressed as if they were past, although they were yet to come: because to God things to come also are as certain as if they were past.… It is for this reason, in consequence of their certainty, that those things which are yet future, are spoken of as if past. This it is then that we hope. For it is, “Thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us.”

7. “In God will we boast3 all the day long” (ver. 8). Observe how he intermingles words expressive of a future time, that you may perceive that what was spoken of before as in past time was foretold of future times. “In God will we boast all day long; and in Thy name will we confess for ever.”4 What is, “We shall boast”? What, “We shall confess”? That Thou hast “saved us from our enemies;” that Thou art to give us an everlasting kingdom: that in us are to be fulfilled the words, “Blessed are they that dwell in Thine house: they will be always praising Thee.”5

8. Since then we have the certainty that these things are to be hereafter, and since we have heard from our fathers that those we spoke of were in time past, what is our state at present? “But now Thou hast cast us off, and put us to shame” (ver. 9). Thou hast “put us to shame” not before our own consciences, but in the sight of men. For there was a time when Christians were persecuted; when in every place they were outcasts, when in every place it used to be said, “He is a Christian!” as if it conveyed an insult and reproach. Where then is He, “our God, our King,” who “commands salvation unto Jacob”? Where is He who did all those works, which “our fathers have told us”? Where is He who is hereafter to do all those things which He revealed unto us by His Spirit? Is He changed? No. These things are done in order to “understanding, for the sons of Korah.” For we ought to “understand” something of the reason, why He has willed we should suffer all these things in the mean time. What “all things”? “But now Thou hast cast us off and put us to shame: and goest not forth, O God, in our powers.”6 We go forth to meet our enemies, and Thou goest not forth with us. We see them: they are very strong, and we are without strength. Where is that might of Thine? Where Thy “right hand,” and Thy power?7 Where the sea dried up, and the Egyptian pursuers overwhelmed with the waves? Where Amalek’s resistance subdued by the sign of the Cross?8 “And Thou, O God, goest not forth in our powers.”

9. “Thou hast turned us away backward in presence of our enemies” (ver. 10), so that they are, as it were, before; we, behind; they are counted as conquerors, we as conquered. “And they which hate us spoiled for themselves.” What did they “spoil” but ourselves?

10. “Thou has given us like sheep appointed for meat, and hast scattered us among the nations” (ver. 11). We have been “devoured” by “the nations.” Those persons are meant, who, through their sufferings, have by process of assimilation, becomes part of the “body” of the Gentile world. For the Church mourns over them, as over members of her body, that have been devoured.1

11. “Thou hast sold Thy people for no price” (ver. 12). For we see whom Thou hast made over; what Thou hast received, we have not seen. “And there was no multitude in their jubilees.”2 For when the Christians were flying before the pursuit of enemies, who were idolaters, were there then held any congregations and “jubilees” to the honour of God? Were those Hymns chanted in concert from the Churches of God, that are wont to be sung in concert in time of peace, and to be sounded in a sweet accord of the brotherhood in the ears of God?

12. “Thou madest us a reproach to our neighbours; a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us” (ver. 13). “Thou madest us a similitude3 among the heathen” (ver. 14). What is meant by a “similitude”? It is when men in imprecating a curse make a “similitude” of his name whom they detest. “So mayest thou die;” “So mayest thou be punished!” What a number of such reproaches were then uttered! “So mayest thou be crucified!” Even in the present day there are not wanting enemies of Christ (those very Jews themselves), against whom whensoever we defend Christ, they say unto us, “So mayest thou die as He did.” For they would not have inflicted that kind of death had they not an intense horror of dying by such a death: or had they been able to comprehend what mystery was contained in it. When the ointment is applied to the eyes of the blind man, he does not see the eye-salve in the physician’s hand. For the very Cross was made for the benefit even of the persecutors themselves. Hereby they were healed afterwards; and they believed in Him whom they themselves had slain. “Thou madest us a similitude among the heathen; a shaking of the head among the peoples,” a “shaking of the head” by way of insult. “They spake with their lips, they shook the head.”4 This they did to the Lord: this to all His Saints also, whom they were able to pursue, to lay hold of, to mock, to betray, to afflict, and to slay.

13. “My shame is continually before me; and the confusion of my face has covered me” (ver. 15). “For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth” (ver. 16): that is to say, from the voice of them that insult over me, and who make it a charge against me that I worship Thee, that I confess Thee! and who make it a charge against me that I bear that name by which all charges against me shall be blotted out. “For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth,” that is, of him that speaketh against me. “By reason of the enemy and the persecutor.” And what is the “understanding” conveyed here? Those things which are told us of the time past, will not be done in our case:5 those which are hoped for, as to be hereafter, are not as yet manifest. Those which are past, as the leading out of Thy people with great glory from Egypt; its deliverance from its persecutors; the guiding of it through the nations, the placing of it in the kingdom, whence the nations had been expelled. What are those to be hereafter? The leading of the people out of this Egypt of the world, when Christ, our “leader” shall appear in His glory: the placing of the Saints at His right hand; of the wicked at His left; the condemnation of the wicked with the devil to eternal punishment; the receiving of a kingdom from Christ with the Saints to last for ever.6 These are the things that are yet to be: the former are what are past. In the interval, what is to be our lot? Tribulations! “Why so?” That it may be seen with respect to the soul that worships God, to what extent it worships God; that it may be seen whether it worships Him “freely” from whom it received salvation “freely.” … What hast thou given unto God? Thou wert wicked, and thou wert redeemed! What hast thou given unto God? What is there that thou hast not “received” from Him “freely”? With reason is it named “grace,” because it is bestowed (gratis, i.e.) freely.7 What is required of thee then is this, “that thou too shouldest worship “Him freely;” not because He gives thee things temporal, but because He holds out to thee things eternal.…

14. “All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten Thee” (ver. 17). What is meant by, “have not forgotten Thee”? “Neither have we behaved ourselves frowardly in Thy covenant.”

“Our heart has not turned back; and Thou hast turned aside our goings out of Thy way” (ver. 18). See here is “understanding,” in that “our heart has not gone back;” that we have not “forgotten Thee, have not behaved frowardly in Thy covenant;” placed as we are in great tribulations, and persecutions of the Gentiles. “Thou hast turned aside our goings out of Thy way.” Our “goings” were in the pleasures of the world; our “goings” were in the midst of temporal prosperities. Thou hast taken “our goings out of Thy way;” and hast shown us1 how “strait and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life.”2 What is meant by, “hast turned aside our goings out of Thy way”? It is as if He said, “Ye are placed in the midst of tribulation; ye are suffering many things; ye have already lost many things that ye loved in this life: but I have not abandoned you on the way, the narrow way that I am teaching you. Ye were seeking “broad ways.” What do I tell you? This is the way we go to everlasting life; by the way ye wish to walk, ye are going to death. How “broad and wide is the road that leads to destruction: and” how “many there be that find it! How strait and narrow the way that leadeth unto life, and” how “few there be” that walk therein!3 Who are the few? They who patiently endure tribulations, patiently endure temptations; who in all these troubles do not “fall away:” who do not rejoice in the word “for a season” only; and in the time of tribulation fade away, as on the sun’s arising; but who have the “root” of “love,” according to what we have lately heard read in the Gospel.4 …

15. “For Thou hast brought us low in the place of infirmity”5 (ver. 18): therefore Thou wilt exalt us in the place of strength. “And the shadow of death has covered us” (ver. 19). For this mortality of ours is but the “shadow” of death. The true death is condemnation with the devil.

16. “If we have forgotten the Name of our God.” Here is the “understanding” of the “sons of Korah.” “And stretched out our hands to a strange God” (ver. 20). “Shall not God search this out? For He knoweth the secrets of the heart” (ver. 21). He “knows,” and yet He “searches them out”? If He knows the secrets of the heart, what do the words, “Shall not God search it out,” do there? He “knows” it in Himself; He “searches it out” for our sakes. For it is for this reason God sometimes “searches a thing out;” and speaks of that becoming known to Himself, which He is Himself making known to thee. He is speaking of His own work, not of His knowledge. We commonly say, “A gladsome day,” when it is fine. Yet is it the day itself that experiences delight? No: we speak of the day as gladsome, because it fills us with delight. And we speak of a “sullen sky.” Not that there is any such feeling in the clouds, but because men are affected with sullenness at the sight of such an appearance of the skies, it is called sullen for this reason, that it makes us sullen. So also God is said to “know” when He causes us to know. God says to Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God.”6 Did He then not know it before then? But Abraham did not know himself till then: for it was in that very trial he came to know himself.… And God is said to “know” that which He had caused him to know. Did Peter know himself, when he said to the Physician, “I will be with Thee even unto death?”7 The Physician had felt his pulse,8 and knew what was going on within His patient’s soul: the patient knew it not. The crisis9 of trial came; and the Physician approved the correctness of His opinion: the sick man gave up his presumption. Thus God at once “knows” it and “searches it out.” “He knows it already. Why does He ‘search it out’?” For thy sake: that thou mayest come to know thine own self, and mayest return thanks to Him that made thee. “Shall not God search it out?”

17. “For, for Thy sake we are killed all the day long: we are counted as sheep for the slaughter” (ver. 22). For you may see a man being put to death; you do not know why he is being put to death. God knoweth this. The thing in itself is hid. But some one will say to me, “See, he is detained in prison for the name of Christ, he is a confessor for the name of Christ.” Why do not10 heretics also confess the name of Christ, and yet they do not die for His sake? Nay more; let me say it, in the Catholic Church itself, do you think there either are, or have been wanting persons such as would suffer for the sake of glory among men? Were there no such persons, the Apostle would not say, “Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”11 He knew therefore that there might be some persons, who did this not from “charity,” but out of vain-glory. It is therefore hid from us; God alone sees this; we cannot see it. He alone can judge of this, who “knoweth the secrets of the heart.” “For,” for Thy sake “are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” I have already mentioned that from hence the Apostle Paul had borrowed a text12 for the encouragement of the Martyrs: that they might not “faint in the tribulations” undergone by them for the name of Christ.13

18. “Awake; why sleepest Thou, O Lord?” (ver. 23). Who is addressed, and who is the speaker? Would not he be more correctly said to sleep and slumber,14 who speaks such words as these? He replies to you, I know what I am saying: I know that “He that keepeth Israel doth not sleep:”1 but yet the Martyrs cry, “Awake; why sleepest Thou, O Lord?” O Lord Jesus, Thou wast slain; Thou didst “sleep” in Thy Passion; to us Thou hast now “awaked” from sleep. For “we” know that Thou hast now “awaked” again. To what purpose hast Thou awaked and risen again? The Gentiles that persecute us, think Thee to be dead; do not believe Thee to have risen again. “Arise Thou” then to them also! “Why sleepest Thou,” though not to us, yet to them? For if they already believed Thee to have risen again, could they persecute us who believe in Thee? But why do they persecute? “Destroy, slay so and so, whoever have believed in Thee, such an one, who died an ill death!” As yet to them “Thou sleepest;” arise to them, that they may perceive that Thou hast “awaked” again; and may be at rest. Lastly, it has come to pass, while the Martyrs die, and say these things; while they sleep, and “awaken” Christ, truly dead in their sleepings, Christ has, in a certain sense, risen again in the Gentiles; i.e. it becomes believed, that He has risen again; so by degrees they themselves, becoming converted to Christ by believing, collected a numerous body: such as the persecutors dreaded; and the persecutions have come to an end. Why? Because Christ, who before was asleep to them, as not believing, bath risen in the Gentiles. “Arise, and cast us not off for ever!”

19. “Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face:” as if Thou wert not present; as if thou hadst forgotten us? “And forgettest our misery and trouble?” (ver. 24).

20. “For our soul is bowed down to the dust” (ver. 25). Where is it bowed down? “To the dust:” i.e. dust persecutes us. They persecute us, of whom Thou hast said, “The ungodly are not so; but are like the dust, which the wind driveth away from the face of the earth.”2 “Our belly hath cleaved to the earth.” He seems to me to have expressed the punishment of the extreme of humiliation, in which, when any one prostrates himself, “his belly cleaveth to the earth.” For whosoever is humbled so as to be on his knees, has yet a lower degree of humiliation to which he can come: but he who is so humbled, that his “belly cleaveth to the ground,” there is no farther humiliation for him. Should one wish to do still farther, it will, after that point, be not bowing him down, but crushing him. Perhaps then he may have meant this: We are “bowed down very low” in this dust; there is no farther point to which humiliation can go. Humiliation has now reached its highest point: let mercy then come also.…

21. “Arise, O Lord, help us” (ver. 26). And indeed, dearly beloved, He has arisen and helped us. For when he awaked (i.e. when He arose again, and became known to the Gentiles) on the cessation of persecutions, even those who had cleaved to the earth were raised up from the earth, and on performing penance,3 have been restored to Christ’s body, feeble and imperfect though they were: so that in them was fulfilled the text, “Thine eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect; and in Thy book shall they all be written.”4

“Arise, O Lord, help us, and redeem us for Thy Name’s sake;” that is to say, freely; for Thy Name’s sake, not for the sake of my merits: because Thou hast vouchsafed to do it, not because I am worthy that Thou shouldest do it unto me. For this very thing, that “we have not forgotten Thee;” that “our heart hath not gone back;” that we “have not stretched out our hands to any strange god;” how should we have been able to achieve, except with Thy help? How should we have strength for it, except through Thy appealing to us within, exhorting us, and not forsaking us? Whether then we suffer in tribulations, or rejoice in prosperities, redeem Thou us, not for our merits, but for Thy Name’s sake.

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 44

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 15, 2014


AWAKE, O GOD OF ISRAEL

THIS is a national poem composed at a time when the Hebrews had been defeated in battle, and were somehow enslaved politically by their foes. For the psalmist the shame of his nation is unworthy of its glorious history; and unworthy, too, of the God who fought its victorious battles long ago. It was God s power, and not the strength of Israel s arm, that vanquished the heathen peoples of Palestine in the time of the Conquest. Has He forgotten the people He used to love?–Even now the psalmist will trust in the help of the Lord even now, when Israel, that crushed the heathen in the great days of old, is in bondage to the heathens of the present: and with bitterness, the singer adds: “It is the Lord who has sold us into bondage, and poor is the price He has received.” Yet why has the Lord abandoned us? We have not turned aside from His Covenant, nor chosen other gods. It is indeed for the very name and sake of the Lord that Israel has been brought to defeat and disgrace. “Arise, then, O Lord,” pleads the psalmist passionately; awake from this sleep of forgetfulness. Thine own honour is at stake. Turn Thy face on us, for we are humbled to the dust!

An ancient theory assigned this psalm to the Maccabean period, and this is the theory now most widely accepted. The poem emphasises the absence of all idolatry from among the people, and describes the sufferings of the nation as a veritable martyrdom as endured for the sake of the Lord and His covenant.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 118

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 30, 2013


1. … We are taught in this Psalm, when we chaunt Allelujah, which meaneth, Praise the Lord, that we should, when we hear the words, “Confess unto the Lord” (ver. 1), praise the Lord. The praise of God could not be expressed in fewer words than these, “For He is good.” I see not what can be more solemn than this brevity, since goodness is so peculiarly the quality of God, that the Son of God Himself when addressed by some one as “Good Master,” by one, namely, who beholding His flesh, and comprehending not the fulness of His divine nature, considered Him as man only, replied, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.”3 And what is this but to say, If thou wishest to call Me good, recognise Me as God? But since it is addressed, in revelation of things to come, to a people freed from all toil and wandering in pilgrimage, and from all admixture with the wicked, which freedom was given it through the grace of God, who not only doth not evil for evil, but even returneth good for evil; it is most appropriately added, “Because His mercy endureth for ever.”

2. “Let Israel now confess that He is good, and that His mercy endureth for ever” (ver. 2). “Let the house of Aaron now confess that His mercy endureth for ever” (ver. 3). “Yea, let all now that fear the Lord confess that His mercy endureth for ever” (ver. 4). Ye remember, I suppose, most beloved, what is the house of Israel, what is the house of Aaron, and that both are those that fear the Lord. For they are “the little and the great,”4 who have already in another Psalm been happily introduced into your hearts: in the number of whom all of us should rejoice that we are joined together, in His grace who is good, and whose mercy endureth for ever; since they were listened to who said, “May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children;”5 that the host of the Gentiles might be added to the Israelites who believed in Christ, of the number of whom are the Apostles our fathers, for the exaltation of the perfect and the obedience of the little children; that all of us when made one in Christ, made one flock under one Shepherd, and the body of that Head, like one man, may say, “I called upon the Lord in trouble, and the Lord heard me at large” (ver. 5). The narrow straits of our tribulation are limited: but the large way whereby we pass along hath no end. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?”6

3. “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man doeth unto me” (ver. 6). But are men, then, the only enemies that the Church hath? What is a man devoted to flesh and blood, save flesh and blood? But the Apostle saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against,” … he saith, “spiritual wickedness in high places;”7 that is, the devil and his angels; that devil whom elsewhere he calleth “the prince of the power of the air.”8 Hear therefore what followeth: “The Lord is my helper: therefore shall I despise mine enemies” (ver. 7). From what class soever my enemies may arise, whether from the number of evil men, or from the number of evil angels; in the Lord’s help, unto whom we chant the confession of praise, unto whom we sing Allelujah, they shall be despised.

4. But, when my enemies have been brought to contempt, let not my friend present himself unto me as a good man, so as to bid me repose my hope in himself: for “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put any confidence in man” (ver. 8). Nor let any one, who may in a certain sense be styled a good angel, be regarded by myself as one in whom I ought to put my trust: for “no one is good, save God alone;”9 and when a man or an angel appear to aid us, when they do this of sincere affection, He doth it through them, who made them good after their measure. “It is” therefore “better to trust in the Lord, than to put any confidence in princes” (ver. 9). For angels also are called princes, even as we read in Daniel, “Michael, your prince.”10

5. “All nations compassed me round about, but in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them” (ver. 10). “They kept me in on every site, they kept me in, I say, on every side; but in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them” (ver. 11). He signifieth the toils and the victory of the Church; but, as if the question were asked how she could have overcome so great evils, he looketh back to the example, and declareth what she had first suffered in her Head, by adding what followeth, “They kept me in on every side:” and the words, “All nations,” are with reason not repeated here, because this was the act of the Jews alone. There that very religious nation (which is the body of Christ, and in behalf of which was done all that was done in mortal form with immortal power, by that inward divinity, through the outward flesh), suffered from persecutors, of whose race that flesh was assumed and hung upon the cross.

6. “They came about me as bees do a hive, and burned up even as the fire among the thorns: and in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them” (ver. 12). Here then the order of the words corresponds with the order of events. For we rightly understand that our Lord Himself, the Head of the Church, was surrounded by persecutors, even as bees surround a hive. For the Holy Spirit is speaking with mystic subtlety of what was done by those who knew not what they did. For bees make honey in the hives: while our Lord’s persecutors, unconscious as they were, rendered Him sweeter unto us even by His very Passion; so that we may taste and see how sweet is the Lord,1 “Who died for our sins, and arose for our justification.”2 But what followeth, “and burned up even as the fire among the thorns,” is better understood of His Body, that is, of a people spread abroad, whom all nations compassed about, since it was gathered together from all nations. They consumed this sinful flesh, and the grievous piercings of this mortal life, in the flame of persecution. “Taken vengeance on them:” either because they themselves, that wickedness, which in them persecuted the righteous, having been extinguished, were joined with the people of Christ; or because the rest of them, who have at this time scorned the mercy of Him who calleth them, will at the end feel the truth of Him who judgeth them.

7. “I have been driven on like a heap of sand, so that I was falling, but the Lord upheld me” (ver. 13). For though there were a great multitude of believers, that might be compared to the countless sand, and brought into one communion as into one heap; yet “what is man, save Thou be mindful of Him?”3 He said not, the multitude of the Gentiles could not surpass the abundance of my host, but, “the Lord,” he saith, “hath upheld me.” The persecution of the Gentiles succeeded not in pushing forward, to its overthrow, the host of the faithful dwelling together in the unity of the faith.

8. “The Lord is my strength and my praise, and is become my salvation” (ver. 14). Who then fall, when they are pushed, save they who choose to be their own strength and their own praise? For no man falleth in the contest, except he whose strength and praise faileth. He therefore whose strength and praise is the Lord, falleth no more than the Lord falleth. And for this reason He hath become their salvation; not that He hath become anything which He was not before, but because they, when they believed on Him, became what they were not before, and then He began to be salvation unto them when turned towards Him, which He was not to them when turned away from Himself.

9. “The voice of joy and health is in the dwellings of the righteous” (ver. 15); where they who raged against their bodies thought there was the voice of sorrow and destruction. For they did not know the inward joy of the saints in their future hope. Whence the Apostle also saith, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;”4 and again, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also.”5

10. “The right hand of the Lord hath brought mighty things to pass” (ver. 16). What mighty things? saith he. “The right hand of the Lord,” he saith, “hath exalted me.” It is a mighty thing to exalt the humble, to deify the mortal, to bring perfection out of infirmity, glory from subjection, victory from suffering, to give help, to raise from trouble; that the true salvation of God might be laid open to the afflicted, and the salvation of men might remain of no avail to the persecutors. These are great things: but what art thou surprised at? hear what he repeateth: “The right hand of the Lord hath brought mighty things to pass.”

11. “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (ver. 17). But they, while they were dealing havoc and death on every side, thought that the Church of Christ was dying. Behold, he now declareth the works of the Lord. Everywhere Christ is the glory of the blessed Martyrs. By being beaten He conquered those who struck Him; by being patient of torments, the tormentors;6 by loving, those who raged against Him.

12. Nevertheless, let him point out to us, why the body of Christ, the holy Church, the people of adoption, suffered such indignities. “The Lord,” he saith, “hast chastened and corrected me, but He hath not given me over unto death” (ver. 18). Let not then the boastful wicked imagine that aught hath been permitted to their power: they would not have that power, were it not given them from above. Oft doth the father of a family command his sons to be corrected by the most worthless slaves; though he designeth the heritage for the former, fetters for the latter. What is that heritage? Is it of gold, or silver, or jewels, or farms, or pleasant estates? Consider how we enter into it: and learn what it is.

13. “Open me,” he saith, “the gates of righteousness” (ver 19). Behold, we have heard of the gates. What is within? “That I may,” he saith, “go into them, and give thanks unto the Lord.” This is the confession of praise full of wonder, “even unto the house of God, in the voice of joy and confession of praise, among such as keep holiday:”1 this is the everlasting bliss of the righteous, whereby they are blessed who dwell in the Lord’s house, praising Him for evermore.2

14. But consider how the gates of righteousness are entered into. “These are the gates of the Lord” he saith, “the righteous shall enter into them” (ver. 20). At least let no wicked man enter there, that Jerusalem which receiveth not one uncircumcised, where it is said, “Without are dogs.”3 Be it enough, that in my long pilgrimage “I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar:”4 I endured even unto the end the intercourse of the wicked, but “these are the gates of the Lord: the righteous shall enter into them.”

15. “I will confess unto Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation” (ver. 21). How often is that confession proved to be one of praise, that doth not point out wounds to the physician, but giveth thanks for the health it hath received. But the Physician Himself is the Salvation.

16. But who is this whom we speak of? “The Stone which the builders rejected” (ver. 22); for “It hath become the head Stone of the corner;” to “make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body;”5 circumcision, to wit, and uncircumcision.

17. “By the Lord was it made unto it” (ver. 23): that is, it is made into the head stone of the corner by the Lord. For although He would not have become this, had He not suffered: yet He became not this through those from whom He suffered. For they who were building, refused Him: but in the edifice which the Lord was secretly raising, that was made the head stone of the corner which they rejected. “And it is marvellous in our eyes:” in the eyes of the inner man, in the eyes of those that believe, those that hope, those that love; not in the carnal eyes of those who, through scorning Him as if He were a man, rejected Him.

18. “This is the day which the Lord hath made” (ver. 24). This man remembereth that he had said in former Psalms, “Since He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live;”6 making mention of his old days; when

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Father McSwiney’s Introduction to Psalm 82

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 9, 2013


There is no direct clue to the date or authorship of this Psalm. As in most of those inscribed “to Asaph,” God appears as Judge, doing judgment on Israel, and on the nations of the earth. The present Psalm is a solemn rebuke addressed by God, or by the inspired poet in His Name, to those of His representatives who degraded the administration of justice by partiality and bribery. The analysis of the Psalm presents no difficulty. The judges are warned that He, whose Name they bear, watches and presides over their tribunals; they are appealed to discharge their duty fairly and impartially, but in vain; in heart and mind they are hopelessly corrupt. The sublime dignity they desecrate will not screen them from the common lot of mankind. Lastly, God is entreated to exercise the functions so woefully perverted by those who bear His Name.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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