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The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXIX
Home for Lent IV

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Source: Sacramentary of Gregory, Bishop of Rome [600 AD]. This Sunday was sometimes known as "Refreshment Sunday" for "be relieved" from the Latin resperimus and the Gospel where Jesus relieved the multitude of their hunger. Sometimes known as "Mothering Sunday" as Paul says in the Gospel, "the Jerusalem above is the mother of us all"

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2 Sam xv. 30   Psalm 142, 143 | 119:105–144   Galatians iv. 21. St. John vi. 1. 
Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXIX NUN (105ff)

Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths


The week we continue to look at Augustine's treatment of Psalm CXIX, and specifically that portion that began with the Hebrew letter NUN. The quotation above is the translation of the beginning of the section.  Augustine wrote

"Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths" (ver. 105). The word "lantern" appears in the word "light;" "my feet" are also repeated in "my paths." What then meaneth "Thy Word"? Is it He who was in the beginning God with God, that is, the Word by whom all things were made? It is not thus. For that Word is a light, but is not a lantern. For a lantern is a creature, not a creator; and it is lighted by participation of an unchangeable light.…For no creature, howsoever rational and intellectual, is lighted by itself, but is lighted by participation of eternal Truth: although sometimes day is spoken of, not meaning the Lord, but that "day which the Lord hath made," and on account of which it is said, "Come unto Him, and be lightened." On account of which participation, inasmuch as the Mediator Himself became Man, He is styled lantern in the Apocalypse.. But this sense is a solitary one; for it cannot be divinely spoken of any of the saints, nor in any wise lawfully said of any, "The Word was made flesh," save of the "one Mediator between God and men."Since therefore the only-begotten Word, coequal with the Father, is styled a light; and man when enlightened by the Word is also called a light, who is styled also a lantern, as John, as the Apostles; and since no man of these is the Word, and that Word by whom they were enlightened is not a lantern; what is this word, which is thus called a light and a lantern at the same time, save we understand the word which was sent unto the Prophets, or which was preached through the Apostles; not Christ the Word, but the word of Christ, of which it is written, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"?. For the Apostle Peter also, comparing the prophetical word to a lantern, saith, "whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lantern, that shineth in a dark place." What, therefore, he here saith, "Thy word" is the word which is contained in all the holy Scriptures. 

Throughout this psalm we see the devotion of the writer to the Word of God, that is to Holy Scripture, and to the God of the Word.  Augustine rightly attributes that Word to be our Lord Jesus Christ, who is also our Light.  Scholars believe that the 119th psalm was written by a devout man of the Jewish Church upon the return from the captivity to teach the love of the Word of God.  In today's time there is great concern with the level of Biblical illiteracy amongst Christians.  I came across and interesting paper by Barbara Miller entitled Biblical Literacy: Crisis in America.  which skillfully outlined the extent of the illiteracy that has manifested itself in the past few generations.  The Bible is still the best selling book in America, but for many the Word has ceased to be a lantern to guide them and only an icon they hold sacred.  One of the purposes of the Order of Centurions is to encourage reading and meditation on the word of God. We are fortunate that our Aquilifer provides the members with a daily set of lessons with meditations by Church fathers, and we salute him for this service.  Through the regular and cyclical reading of the whole Bible, and meditation on its meaning and the understanding of the Church, one may partake of the Word, our Daily Bread, and realize the great blessing God promised--for God spoke through Isaiah saying,

 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. [55:11]

The early fathers recognized the primacy of the Word of God, listen now to their testimony:

Church Fathers on the Scripture

"We know that the Scriptures are perfect as being spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit" [Irenaeus ] 

"I adore the fullness of Scripture, which declares to me the Creator and His works" [Tertullian] 

"In the two Testaments...every word that appertains to God may be sought out and discussed, and out of them all knowledge of things may be understood. And if anything remains, which Holy Scripture does not determine, no third scripture ought to be received to authorize any knowledge." [Origen] 

"Look for no other teacher; thou hast the oracles of God; none teaches thee like these." [Chrysostom] 

"... I conjure you all, without resting in the slightest degree on the judgment of others, to consult the Scriptures."   [Chrysostom] 

"Praise God that divine Scripture is our sole infallible, sufficient rule of faith, and that faith is sufficient to justify us before God."  [Chrysostom] 

"In those things which are plainly laid down in Scripture, all things are found, which embrace faith and morals."

The generality of men still fluctuate in their opinions about this, which are as erroneous as they are numerous. As for ourselves, if the Gentile philosophy, which deals methodically with all these points, were really adequate for a demonstration, it would certainly be superfluous to add a discussion on the soul to those speculations. But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings." [Gregory of Nyssa] 

This seal have thou ever on thy mind; which now by way of summary has been touched on in its heads, and if the Lord grant, shall hereafter be set forth according to our power, with Scripture proofs. For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures." [Cyril of Jerusalem] 

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith." [Irenaeus] 


Released by Primus Pilus
Legio Christi-Ecclesia Militans
"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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