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The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Augustine on Psalm 60
Trinity 17 Home

LORD, we pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source: Bishop Gregory [595]. "Prevent" meaning to come before from the verb prevenient. This calls to my mind Patrick's Breastplate Christ behind me, Christ before me... and Psalm 139 Thou hast beset me before and behind...

2 Sam viii, Psalm 60, Ephesians iv. 1   &   St. Luke xiv. 1 
Homily - Psalm LX by Augustine

"God, Thou hast driven us back, 
and hast destroyed us"

Augustine wrote of the first verse.

"God, Thou hast driven us back, and hast destroyed us" (ver. 1). Is that David speaking that smote, that burned up, that defeated, and not they to whom He did these things, that is to say, their being smitten and driven back, that were evil men, and again their being made alive and returning in order that they might be good men? That destruction indeed that David made, strong of hand, our Christ, whose figure that man was bearing; He did those things, He made this destruction with His sword and with His fire: for both He brought into this world. Both "Fire I am come to send into the world," [2298] thou hast in the Gospel: and "A sword I have come to send into the earth," [2299] thou hast in the Gospel. He brought in fire, whereby might be burned up Mesopotamia in Syria, and Syria Sobal: He brought in a sword whereby might be smitten Edom. Now again this destruction was made for the sake of "those that are changed unto the title's inscription." Hear we therefore the voice of them: to their health smitten they were, being raised up let them speak. Let them say, therefore, that are changed into something better, changed unto the title's inscription, changed unto teaching for David himself; let them say, "Thou hast had mercy upon us." Thou hast destroyed us, in order that Thou mightest build us; Thou hast destroyed us that were ill builded, hast destroyed empty oldness; in order that there may be a building unto a new man, building to abide for everlasting.... 

This psalm was likely composed by David after he suffered some setback in his battles with his neighbors described in 2 Samuel 8:1-14.  He must of encountered a tactical setback at one point in the campaign and interpreted in terms of God's will and displeasure with Israel. Hence his prayer that God would come back and aid them to defeat their enemies.  Augustine, while recognizing the historical context as described in the header for this psalm, nevertheless takes the opportunity to speak of it in terms of how Jesus reaches out to his elect, smites them in their sin, and then in his mercy brings them to repentance and faith.  

The theme here of Jesus active in salvation is echoed in the collect for today, which was written at about the same time as this homily. God goes before those who have been called, through grace gives them the means to hear and respond to his word, and then follows them aiding them to overcome the old man for the new. Along the way with fire (spirit?) and sword (word?), he purges them to enable them to become perfect (Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect), to do his good works, and to prepare them for their final destiny. When they backslide, he chastens them, and fills them with remorse and a desire to set things right through confession and repentance--just as he did with Peter:

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when [when, not if] thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. [Luke 22:31]

The prayer of our Lord Jesus is most efficacious and perfect in its intention.

A closing prayer suitable to complement our collect and Augustine's exegesis:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

[Patrick's Breastplate]
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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