Tag Archives: St Augustine

St Pius X

St Pius X as cardinalWith Saint Pius X we have an example of a man who was given the mission “to safeguard the Catholic faith and to restore all things in Christ,” based on “heavenly wisdom and apostolic fortitude.” This is what we need to attend to. From the Office of Readings given today for the liturgical memorial of Saint Pius X comes from the 1911 apostolic constitution Divino Afflatu written by himself:

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.

The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.

Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

St AugustineToo late loved I thee, O thou Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! too late I loved thee!  And behold, thou wert within, and I abroad, and there I searched for thee; deformed I, plunging amid those fair forms which thou hadst made.  Thou wert with me, but I was not with thee.  Things held me far from thee, which, unless they were in thee, were not at all.  Thou calledst, and shoutedst, and burstest my deafness.  Thou flashedst, shonest, and scatteredst my blindness.  Thou breathedst odours, and I drew in breath and panted for Thee. I tasted, and hunger and thirst.  Thou touchedst me, and I burned for thy peace.

The Lord’s going to heaven

Today’s solemn feast of the Ascension Lord requires us to meditate on its meaning and place in our spiritual life these days leading up to the Pentecost. Here is an excerpt of a homily by Saint Augustine:

As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter’.

The meaning of Christ’s temptation

St. Augustine reflects on Mark 1:12-15, today’s gospel in the Novus Ordo:

“Jesus made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We’ve heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the desert. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained life for you; he suffered insults in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.”

Peering into the Mystery of the Incarnation

nativity

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty Savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals. (Zeph. 3: 14-18a)

I find myself at this time of year, with this feast, what does it mean that God has entered into my very circumstance. At leach of the Masses I genuflected at the part where the Incarnation was professed and wondered how at this moment there is a keen recognition of what the difference Jesus makes in world, among friends and enemies, indeed, all of life. A friend of mine said that Christmas reminds the baptized Christian that the Incarnation provides us the opportunity to know that God looks like us (but doesn’t act like us); God know the very circumstance of living. I spent so much time at the Christmas Masses wondering quietly —and aloud— about the fact of God’s gaze upon us through the Birth of His Son, Jesus.  Asking myself, how is that God loves me so much that he peers into my existence in 2014? But, it is also how I peer into what God has so wonderfully done…

I think it is a true statement to say that Christmas is, more than any Christian celebration, a way to know that God is really in our midst. (Pascha has its own theological experience and data!) As my friend also said, “God’s involvement in our lives as the Word made Flesh, as Christ the Lord, as a real human being means that there is nothing in our lives that God cannot understand from personal experience.”

This sermon of the great Saint Augustine of Hippo helps me to consider anew what I profess to believe and to sharpen witness. Perhaps your meditation today and during the Octave will benefit from this sermon:

My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord…by whom all things were made and who was made [flesh] amid all the works of His hands; who is the Manifestor of His Father, the Creator of His Mother; Son of God born of the Father without a mother, Son of Man born of a mother without a father; the great Day of the angels, small in the day of men; the Word as God existing before all time, the Word as flesh existing only for an allotted time; the Creator of the sun created under the light of the sun; ordering all ages from the bosom of His Father, from the womb of His Mother consecrating this day; remaining there, yet proceeding hither; Maker of heaven and earth brought forth on this earth overshadowed by the heavens; unspeakably wise, wisely speechless; filling the whole world, lying in a manger; guiding the stars, a nursling at the breast; though insignificant in the form of man, so great in the form of God that His greatness was not lessened by His insignificance nor was His smallness crushed by His might. When He assumed human form He did not abandon His divine operations… When clothed in the weakness of our flesh He was received, not imprisoned, in the Virgin’s womb so that without the Food of Wisdom being withdrawn from the angels we might taste how sweet is the Lord.

Why do we marvel at these conflicting powers of the Word of God when the discourse which I utter is apprehended so freely by the senses that the hearer receives it, yet does not confine it? If it were not received, it would give no instruction; if it were confined, it would not reach others. In spite of the fact that this discourse is divided into words and syllables…you all hear the whole discourse and each individual takes in the whole. While speaking, I do not fear that one listener may, by hearing me, grasp the whole discourse so that his neighbor can get nothing of it…Nor is this hearing accomplished at successive periods of time so that, after the dis- course which is being delivered has come to you first, it leaves you so that it may go to another person. No, it comes to all at the same time and the whole discourse is apprehended by each individual…How much more readily, then, would the Word of God, through whom all things were made and who, remaining in Himself, renews all things, who is neither confined by places nor restrained by time, neither changed by long or short intervals of time, neither adorned by speech nor terminated by silence, be able to make fertile the womb of His Mother when He assumed human flesh, yet not leave the bosom of His Father; to make His way hither for human eyes to gaze upon Him, and still to enlighten angelic minds; to come down to this earth while rul- ing the heavens; to become Man here while creating men there?

Let no one believe, then, that the Son of God was changed into the Son of Man; rather, let us believe that, with the perfect preservation of His divine nature and the perfect assumption of human nature, He, remaining the Son of God, became also the Son of Man. For the fact that the Scriptures say ‘The Word was God’ and ‘The Word was made flesh’ (Jn 1.1,14) does not mean that the Word became flesh in such a way as to cease to be God since, because the Word was made flesh, in that same flesh Emmanuel ‘God with us’ was born. …the word which we form within us becomes an utterance when we bring it forth from our mouth: the word is not changed into the utterance, but the voice by which it comes forth is taken on while the inner word remains un-changed; what is thought remains within, what is heard sounds forth. Nevertheless, the same thing is expressed in sound which had previously been expressed in silence…when the word becomes an utterance, it is not changed into this utterance, but remains in the light of the mind; having taken on the voice of the flesh, it reaches the listener without leaving the thinker…Both that which is considered in the mind, however, and that which sounds forth in speech are variable and diverse; the thought will not remain when you have forgotten it, nor will the utterance remain when you are silent. But the Word of the Lord remains forever and remains unchanged.

From Sermon 187: The Feast of the Nativity

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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