Total Pageviews


The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Augustine on Psalm 83
Home, 20th Sunday after Trinity

O ALMIGHTY and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Source: Sacrementary of Bishop Gelasius of Rome [494]. Much minor reworking from the Latin. [Barbee and Zalh]

Ephesians v. 15   Psalm 83 &  St. Matthew xxii. 1 
Augustine on Psalm LXXXIII

O God, who shall be like to thee? hold not thy peace, neither be thou still, O God. 
[Douay-Rheims Bible]


Augustine begins his homily with,

 The people of God, then, in this Psalm saith, "O God, who shall be like unto Thee?" (ver. 1). Which I suppose to be more fitly taken of Christ, because, being made in the likeness of men,  He was thought by those by whom He was despised to be comparable to other men: for He was even "reckoned among the unrighteous,"  but for this purpose, that He might be judged. But when He shall come to judge, then shall be done what is here said, "O God, who is like unto Thee?" For if the Psalms did not use to speak to the Lord Christ, that too would not be spoken which not one of the faithful can doubt was spoken unto Christ. "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom." To him therefore also now it is said, "O God, who shall be like unto Thee?" For unto many Thou didst vouchsafe to be likened in Thy humiliation, even so far as to the robbers that were crucified with Thee: but when in glory Thou shalt come, "who shall be like unto Thee?"... 

This opening of Psalm 83 asks the question: O God, who can be like thee?  A rhetorical question for sure. Clearly the answer is "no one and no thing". God is unique.  All else is created of God.  In the way it appears in the psalm, it is a form of humble address  -- a salutation to God Almighty that has the characteristic of God's uniqueness in the Cosmos.  There is no other, only Jehovah. 

I found it very interesting that the Douay-Rheims Bible translation has wording in this verse like that which is found in Augustine's homily. The Orthodox Study Bible reads, "O God, who can be likened into you", but the KJV and others miss this phrase.

How do you address God when you speak to him?  We hear different ways today. The collects we have week by week often use some attribute as part of their structure to make salutation to God, such as most such as today's "Almighty and most merciful God", or Sovereign Lord, or Commander of the Host. Our creeds use "Father Almighty".  In my tradition we have at the Eucharist these terms of address before the Sanctus: "O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God".  I recall too many years ago, as a child, we were taught a very simple salutation: "God is great, God is good,...". Come to think of it, after some 50 odd years I am still using that salutation. 

I think Augustine has the crux of it though, when he identifies this verse with our Lord Jesus Christ. The psalmist's question was answered centuries later.  Christ is the very image of God. In the Eastern tradition, he is sometimes known as the Icon of God, and he said to his disciples, "He who has seen seen me has seen the Father." So then, how can Jesus be like God?  He is not like God, but rather he is God in the flesh, and in the Last Great Day the saints shall behold him in his Glory as described in Revelation and in our Order's vision. We have no true pictures of our Lord, and none now breathing has seen him in human form, yet we, as Christians, have met him in the words of scripture, and many lay claim to a personal encounter with him that goes beyond mere physical viewing to "knowing"' him in one's soul.

O God, who shall be like to thee.  Indeed -- and Amen

You may read all of Augustine's homily at the link


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]


No comments: