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The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Homily of Augustine on Psalm CVII

O GOD, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source: Sacrementary of Bishop Gregory of Rome [600 AD]. This is based on the collect for the Ember Saturday in Lent. Gregory lived in a very troubled time for the Roman Empire as is indicated in this collect and aligned with the Gospel appointed for that day, Matt 8-23-27, the storm upon the sea, when the boat was so tossed that they disciples could not stand upright.

Isaiah lix. 1., Romans xiii. 1   Psalms 75, 76 | 107;   St. Matthew viii. 1

Homily of Augustine on Psalm CVII

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.
Augustine wrote concerning the featured verse from Psalm 107
"Them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, fast bound in beggary and iron" (ver. 10). Whence this, but that thou wast attributing things to thyself? that thou wast not owning the grace of God? that thou wast rejecting the counsel of God [4880] concerning thee? For see what He addeth: "Because they rebelled against the words of the Lord through pride" (ver. 11), not knowing the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish their own, [4881] "and they were bitter against the counsel of the Most High." "And their heart was brought low in labour" (ver. 12). And now fight against lust; if God cease to aid thou mayest strive, thou canst not conquer. And when thou shalt be pressed by thine evil, thy heart will be brought low in labour, so that now with humbled heart thou mayest learn to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" [4882] ...Freed, thou wilt confess the mercies of the Lord. "And they cried unto the Lord when they were troubled, and He delivered them out of their distresses" (ver. 13). They were freed from the second temptation. There remains that of weariness and loathing. But first see what He did for them when freed. "And He led them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bonds asunder" (ver. 14). "Let them confess to the Lord His mercies, and His wonders to the children of men" (ver. 15). Wherefore? what difficulties hath He overcome? "Because He brake the gates of brass, and snapped the bars of iron" (ver. 16). "He took them up from the way of their iniquity, for because of their unrighteousnesses they were brought low" (ver. 17). Because they gave honour to themselves, not to God, because they were establishing their own righteousness, not knowing the righteousness of God, [4883] they were brought low. They found that they were helpless without His aid, who were presuming on their own strength alone.
Fitting that this last Sunday after the Epiphany this year, we look to the words of Psalm 107 and Augustine's homily. We remember that Christmas and Epiphany point to the Light that came into the world. It is not our light, but his that has saved us. For those who believe they have the power within themselves to be a god, this is but a chilling reminder that only God himself can rescue man, grant him the Light, and give him eternal life. Both the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah and the Gospel of St. Matthew, which features the story of our Centurion of Capernaum, speak of the darkness that separates man from God. Those who ignore God in this life shall surely realize that darkness in the next - indeed, shall be cast into the outermost darkness as their reward.
Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof:
but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed


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"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" [St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 14:19]


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