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The Sunday next before Advent

Homily of Augustine on John vi. 53. and Jeremiah
Home, Sunday before Advent

STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, more readily following after the effect of thy Divine working, may obtain from thy fatherly goodness larger assistance; plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Galatius Sacramentary. English AB Cranmer translated the "Divine workings as "good works" and made and some other translation adaptions that actually take this collect away from its very strong statement on grace and God's action. The title of this collect "The Sunday next before Advent" was that which was used in the Sarum Missal. This translation is from Collects of the Day vol II.,

Jeremiah xxiii, Psalm 149 &  St. John vi.
Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXLIX

this is his name whereby he shall be called, 

This week I have selected a Gospel reading from the same chapter as that which was appointed in the 1662 prayer book, but later on in the chapter, and one that is familiar to you I pray. The opening paragraph of the homily concerns the nature of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.  While reflecting on John vi. 53, "Except ye eat the flesh...."   Augustine preached,  "But then this shall be, that is, the Body and the Blood of Christ shall be each man's Life; if what is taken in the Sacrament visibly is in the truth itself eaten spiritually, drunk spiritually.

This homily also touches on the appointed OT reading of Jeremiah that serves for the Epistle, and which is quoted below:

This then is the righteousness of God. As it is called, "The Lord's salvation," not whereby the Lord is saved, but which He giveth to them whom He saveth; so too the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord is called the righteousness of God, not as that whereby the Lord is righteous, but whereby He justifieth those whom of ungodly He maketh righteous. But some, as the Jews in former times, both wish to be called Christians, and still ignorant of God's righteousness, desire to establish their own, even in our own times, in the times of open grace, the times of the full revelation of grace which before was hidden; in the times of grace now manifested in the floor, which once lay hid in the fleece. I see that a few have understood me, that more have not understood, whom I will by no means defraud by keeping silence. Gideon, one of the righteous men of old, asked for a sign from the Lord, and said, "I pray, Lord, that this fleece which I put in the floor be bedewed, and that the floor be dry." And it was so; the fleece was bedewed, the whole floor was dry. In the morning he wrung out the fleece in a basin; forasmuch as to the humble is grace given; and in a basin, ye know what the Lord did to His disciples. Again, he asked for another sign; "O Lord, I would," saith he, "that the fleece be dry, the floor bedewed." And it was so. Call to mind the time of the Old Testament, grace was hidden in a cloud, as the rain in the fleece. Mark now the time of the New Testament, consider well the nation of the Jews, thou wilt find it as a dry fleece; whereas the whole world, like that floor, is full of grace, not hidden, but manifested. Wherefore we are forced exceedingly to bewail our brethren, who strive not against hidden, but against open and manifested grace. There is allowance for the Jews. What shall we say of Christians? Wherefore are ye enemies to the grace of Christ? Why rely ye on yourselves? Why unthankful? For why did Christ come? Was not nature here before? Was not nature here, which ye only deceive by your excessive praise? Was not the Law here? But the Apostle says, "If righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain." What the Apostle says of the Law, that say we of nature to these men. "If righteousness come by nature, then Christ is dead in vain."

This was part of a sermon against the heresy of the Pelagians. Those who imagined they were of their own nature able to do that which God, in his law, has required of men, so that they only needed Jesus because they did not do that which they all were totally capable of doing.  The fact is that the scriptures throughout deny this fallacy. Mankind is fallen. Men can no more "will" to do righteously without the grace of God than they can will to walk on water of their own desire. Our wills are corrupt and therefore we will for that which is corrupt. Man is in the bondage of sin until the Lord shall make him free.   God spoke this truth through Jeremiah in today's reading, "The Lord [is] our Righteousness" and not we of ourselves.

Look at today's collect too. This is a clearer rendering of the original Latin, I believe, than one finds in the prayer book translation.  The Early Church fathers had grasped this truth of God's leading, and it was only the error that crept into the thinking of men, corrupt thinking, that led some who called themselves Christians to claim such human power for pure righteousness of their own accord. Rather, "The Lord [is] our Righteousness and not we of ourselves.  

When that awful Last Great Day of the Lord comes, will you stand judgement on your corrupt will, feeble faith, and inadequate works?  Or will you not rather look to your only Advocate and Mediator who presents himself in that heavenly temple day and night?  Will you not admit you are saints saved by grace; and any good you have done is by his leading, his mercy, and his work in you?  Will you rather not look for the justification he promised for his elect through the merits of his good work, by faith, and give glory to God and say with the host, "The Lord [is] our Righteousness" and not we of ourselves?


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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