OREMUS: 28 August 2006

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Sun Aug 27 17:05:41 GMT 2006


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OREMUS for Monday, August 28, 2006 
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Teacher of the Faith, 430

O Lord, open our lips.
And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, Holy God,
you liberate the oppressed
and make a way of salvation.
You call us to unite ourselves with all who cry for justice,
and lead us together into freedom
through our Lord and Liberator,
Jesus Christ.
For these and all your mercies, we praise you:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God for ever.

An opening canticle may be sung. 

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Psalm 39

I said, 'I will keep watch upon my ways,*
 so that I do not offend with my tongue.
'I will put a muzzle on my mouth*
 while the wicked are in my presence.'
So I held my tongue and said nothing;*
 I refrained from rash words;
   but my pain became unbearable.
My heart was hot within me;
   while I pondered, the fire burst into flame;*
 I spoke out with my tongue:
Lord, let me know my end and the number of my days,*
 so that I may know how short my life is.
You have given me a mere handful of days,
   and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight;*
 truly, even those who stand erect are but a puff of wind.
We walk about like a shadow
   and in vain we are in turmoil;*
 we heap up riches and cannot tell who will gather them.
And now, what is my hope?*
 O Lord, my hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions*
 and do not make me the taunt of the fool.
I fell silent and did not open my mouth,*
 for surely it was you that did it.
Take your affliction from me;*
 I am worn down by the blows of your hand.
With rebukes for sin you punish us;
   like a moth you eat away all that is dear to us;*
 truly, everyone is but a puff of wind.
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry;*
 hold not your peace at my tears.
For I am but a sojourner with you,*
 a wayfarer, as all my forebears were.
Turn your gaze from me, that I may be glad again,*
 before I go my way and am no more.

A Song of God's Grace (Ephesians 1:3-10)

Blessed are you, 
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
for you have blest us in Christ Jesus
with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

You chose us to be yours in Christ
before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy and blameless before you.

In love you destined us for adoption as your children,
through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of your will,

To the praise of your glorious grace,
which you freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In you, we have redemption
through the blood of Christ,
the forgiveness of our sins,

According to the riches of your grace,
which you have lavished upon us.

You have made known to us, in all wisdom and insight,
the mystery of your will,

According to your purpose 
which you set forth in Christ,
as a plan for the fullness of time,

To unite all things in Christ,
things in heaven and things on earth.

Psalm 150

Alleluia!
   Praise God in his holy temple;*
 praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts;*
 praise him for his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the ram's-horn;*
 praise him with lyre and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance;*
 praise him with strings and pipe.
Praise him with resounding cymbals;*
 praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath*
 praise the Lord.
   Alleluia!

FIRST READING [1 Kings 6:1-14]:

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the
Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth
year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv,
which is the second month, he began to build the house of
the Lord. The house that King Solomon built for the Lord
was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty
cubits high. The vestibule in front of the nave of the
house was twenty cubits wide, across the width of the
house. Its depth was ten cubits in front of the house.
For the house he made windows with recessed frames. He
also built a structure against the wall of the house,
running around the walls of the house, both the nave and
the inner sanctuary; and he made side chambers all round.
The lowest story was five cubits wide, the middle one was
six cubits wide, and the third was seven cubits wide; for
round the outside of the house he made offsets on the
wall in order that the supporting beams should not be
inserted into the walls of the house. 

The house was built with stone finished at the quarry, so
that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was
heard in the temple while it was being built. 
The entrance for the middle story was on the south side
of the house: one went up by winding stairs to the middle
story, and from the middle story to the third. So he
built the house, and finished it; he roofed the house
with beams and planks of cedar. He built the structure
against the whole house, each story five cubits high, and
it was joined to the house with timbers of cedar.
Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, 'Concerning
this house that you are building, if you will walk in my
statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my
commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my
promise with you, which I made to your father David. I
will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not
forsake my people Israel.' 
So Solomon built the house, and finished it.

HYMN 
Words: Timothy Dudley-Smith (c), based on a prayer by Augustine
Tune: Genevan Psalm 130, Llangloffan, Moville, King's Lynn, Aurelia

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Light of the minds that know him,
may Christ be light to mine!
My sun in risen splendor,
my light of truth divine;
my guide in doubt and darkness,
my true and living way,
my clear light ever shining,
my dawn of heaven's day.

Life of the souls that love him,
may Christ be ours indeed!
The living Bread from heaven
on whom our spirits feed;
who died for love of sinners
to bear our guilty load,
and make of life's journey
a new Emmaus road.

Strength of the wills that serve him,
may Christ be strength to me,
who stilled the storm and tempest,
who calmed the tossing sea;
his Spirit's power to move me,
his will to master mine,
his cross to carry daily
and conquer in his sign.

May it be ours to know him
that we may truly love,
and loving, fully serve him
as serve the saints above;
till in that home of glory
with fadeless splendor bright,
we serve in perfect freedom
our strength, our life, our light.

SECOND READING [Ephesians 6:21-24]:

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you
everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Lord. I am sending him to
you for this very purpose, to let you know how we are, and to encourage your
hearts.
Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus
Christ.

The Benedictus (Morning), 
the Magnificat (Evening), or 
Nunc dimittis (Night) may follow.

Prayer:
Merciful God,
you give us every good gift.
Hear our prayers which we now offer
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We pray for your Church.
May our divisions be healed,
that we may go into the world proclaiming your Good News.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

We pray for the physical and spiritual well-being
of our family and friends,
that they may rejoice in your mercy and love
and share in your joy in your heavenly Kingdom.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

We pray for those who work,
especially those who are stressed or overwhelmed,
that they may know you are their refuge and strength.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are persecuted
for fighting for justice and liberty,
that they may remember that you are the source
of all things just and free.
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.

Holy Spirit,
breathe in us that we may think what is holy.
Move in us that we may do what is holy.
Attract us that we maylove what is holy,
and strengthen us that we may guard what is holy;
for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Merciful Lord, 
who turned Augustine from his sins 
to be a faithful bishop and teacher: 
grant that we may follow him in penitence and discipline 
till our restless hearts find their rest in you; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
       
Gathering our prayers and praises into one,
let us pray as our Savior has taught us.

- The Lord's Prayer

May the mind that was in Christ possess us,
the love that is always at the heart of God enlarge us,
and the joy of the Spirit give us kindly eyes and thankful soul.
Amen.

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The psalms are from _Celebrating Common Prayer_ (Mowbray),
(c) The Society of Saint Francis 1992, which is used with permission.

The canticle is from _Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preliminary Edition_,
copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education
of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

The opening prayer of thanksgiving is based on a prayer from _Common Worship:
Services and Prayers for the Church of England_, material from which is included in
this service is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2000.

Hymn (c) 1984 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL  60188.
All rights reserved.  Used by permission.
For permission to reproduce this text in all territories except the UK, Europe & Africa, contact:

Hope Publishing Company, 
www.hopepublishing.com
For UK, Europe & Africa: contact: Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, 
9 Ashlands, Ford, Salisbury, Wiltshire  SP4 6DY  England

The first collect is by Saint Augustine and the closing sentence is by Bruce Prewer.

The second collect is from _Common Worship: Services and Prayers for
the Church of England_, material from which is included in this service is
copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2000.

Augustine (Aurelius Augustinus) was one of the greatest theologians of
Western Christianity. He was born 13 November 354 in North Africa, about 45
miles south of the Mediterranean, in the town of Tagaste in Numidia (now
Souk-Ahras in Algeria), near ancient Carthage (modern Tunis, 36:50 N 10:13
E). His mother, Monnica, was a Christian, and his father for many years a
pagan (although he became a Christian before his death). His mother
undertook to bring him up as a Christian, and on one level he always found
something attractive about Christ, but in the short run he was more interested
in the attractions of sex, fame, and pride in his own cleverness. After a
moderate amount of running around as a teenager, he took a mistress, who
bore him a son when he was about eighteen. Theirs was a long-term
relationship, apparently with faithfulness on both sides, and the modern reader
is left wondering why he did not simply marry the girl. He never tells us this
(and in fact never tells us her name), so that we can only guess. It seems likely
that she was a freedwoman, and the laws forbade marriage between a free-born
Roman citizen and a slave, or an ex-slave.
When He was 19 and a student at Carthage, he read a treatise by Cicero that
opened his eyes to the delights of philosophy.
He was from the beginning a brilliant student, with an eager intellectual
curiosity, but he never mastered Greek -- he tells us that his first Greek teacher
was a brutal man who constantly beat his students, and Augustine rebelled and
vowed never to learn Greek. By the time he realized that he really needed to
know Greek, it was too late; and although he acquired a smattering of the
language, he was never really at home in it. However, his mastery of Latin was
another matter. He became an expert both in the eloquent use of the language
and in the use of clever arguments to make his points. He became a teacher of
rhetoric in Carthage, but was dissatisfied. It was the custom for students to pay
their fees to the professor on the last day of the term, and many students
attended faithfully all term, and then did not pay. In his late twenties,
Augustine decided to leave Africa and seek his fortune in Rome.
For a long time Augustine was attracted by the teachings of Manicheeism,
named for Mani, a Persian who had preached a kind of synthesis of Christianity
with Zoroastrianism, the dominant religion of Persia. Zoroaster had taught the
existence of a power of light, God, the supreme Creator, and of a dark and evil
power that opposed him. On the Zoroastrian (Parsi) view, the dark power was
a rebel against his creator, and doomed to ultimate defeat. Mani, on the other
hand, was a thoroughgoing dualist, who taught that there are two gods of
equal power and eternity, and that the universe is the scene of an unending
battle between light and darkness, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance,
soul and body, etc. The Manichees as they moved west into the Roman Empire
adopted many traits of what is generically called Gnosticism. In particular, they
advertised themselves as being not an alternative to Christianity but as the
advanced version of Christianity, as the faith for the spiritually mature, the
intellectually gifted. They claimed that their beliefs were based on reason rather
than authority, and that they had answers for everything, at least as soon as the
learner was sufficiently advanced to comprehend them. They differed from the
classical Gnostics by not contrasting spirit with matter. On their view,
everything was composed of material particles, but these were either light or
dark. Since the mind was composed of light particles, imprisoned in the body, a
cage made of dark particles, something like the Gnostic contrast between spirit
and matter was there. Members were divided into an inner circle, the "elect,"
who were expected to be celibate and vegetarian, so as to avoid all those dark
particles, and the "learners," of whom considerably less was expected.
Augustine signed up as a learner. He was at first completely captivated, but
then met with a series of disappointments. The rank and file of the movement
did not seem to be very clear thinkers. He met the leaders, who were
advertised as the Towering Intellects of the Ages, and was not impressed.
Augustine prospered in Rome, and was eventually appointed chief professor of
rhetoric for the city of Milan, at that time the capital city of the Empire in the
West. It should be noted that this was an extremely prestigious appointment. In
classical times, when laws were often made and issues voted on by huge public
assemblies, when even juries typically had several hundred members, and when
a man's public influence, or even on occasion his life, depended on his ability to
sway large audiences, rhetoric -- the art of manipulating an audience -- was a
skill that few men thought they could afford to neglect. (Socrates was one of
the few, and we know what happened to him!) The art, at first intensely
practical, had by Augustine's day become a display form admired for its own
sake. However, the admiration was there. Every lawyer, arguing a case, was
expected to give an eloquent speech, full of classical allusions and standard
rhetorical flourishes. And Augustine was at the top of the field.
In Milan Augustine met the bishop Ambrose, and was startled to find in him a
reasonableness of mind and belief, a keenness of thought, and an integrity of
character far in excess of what he had found elsewhere. For the first time,
Augustine saw Christianity as a religion fit for a philosopher.
Soon after his arrival in Milan, Augustine was plunged into two crises.
First, his mother arrived from Africa, and persuaded him that he ought to give
up his mistress and get married. He agreed to a betrothal to a suitable young
lady; but his betrothed was too young for immediate marriage, and so the
actual wedding was postponed for two years. Meanwhile the mistress had been
sent back to Africa. Augustine, not ready for two years of sexual abstinence,
lapsed back into promiscuity.
The second crisis was that Augustine became a neo-Platonist. Plato, as
interpreted by his later spokesmen, in particular by Plotinus, taught that only
God is fully real, and that all other things are degenerations in varying degrees
from the One--things are progressively less good, less spiritual, and less real as
one goes rung by rung down the cosmic ladder. By contemplating spiritual
realities, directing one's attention first to one's own mind and then moving up
the ladder rung by one to the contemplation of God, one acquires true wisdom,
true self-fulfilment, true spirituality, and union with God, or the One.
Augustine undertook this approach, and believed that he had in fact had an
experience of the presence of God, but found that this only made him more
aware of the gulf between what he was and what he realized that he ought to
be.
Meanwhile, he continued to hear Bishop Ambrose. And finally, partly because
Ambrose had answers for his questions, partly because he admired Ambrose
personally, and chiefly (or so he believed) because God touched his heart, he
was converted to Christianity in 386 and was baptized by Ambrose at Easter of
387. About 12 years later he wrote an account of his life up to a time shortly
after his conversion, a book called the Confessions, a highly readable work
available in English. Ostensibly an autobiography, it is more an outpouring of
penitence and thanksgiving.
After his conversion, Augustine went back to his native Africa in 387, where
he was ordained a priest in 391 and consecrated bishop of Hippo in 396. It was
not his intention to become a priest. He was visiting the town of Hippo, was in
church hearing a sermon, and the bishop, without warning, said, "This
congregation is in need of more priests, and I believe that the ordination of
Augustine would be to the glory of God." Willing hands dragged Augustine
forward, and the bishop together with his council of priests laid hands on
Augustine and ordained him to the priesthood. (The experience may have
colored Augustine's perception of such questions as, "Does a man come to
God because he has chosen to do so, or because God has chosen him, and
drawn him to Himself?") A few years later, when the Bishop of Hippo died,
Augustine was chosen to succeed him.
He was a diligent shepherd of his flock, but he also found time to write
extensively. He was an admirer of Jerome, and wrote him a letter hoping to
establish a friendship, but the letter went astray. (In those days there was no
public post office, and if you wanted to send a letter to a friend in Athens, you
entrusted it to someone you knew who was traveling to Athens, or at least in
that general direction, with instructions to deliver it or pass it on to someone
else who would oblige.) Jerome did not get the letter, and the contents became
public knowledge before he heard of it. Augustine, in addition to saying how
much he admired Jerome, had offered some criticisms of something Jerome
had written. Jerome was furious, and came close to writing Augustine off
altogether. However, Augustine wrote him a second letter, apologizing and
explaining what had happened, and Jerome was mollified. They had a long and
intellectually substantial correspondence.
Near the end of his life, the Vandals, a barbarian people with a reputation for
wanton destructiveness (hence our modern term "vandal"), who had earlier
invaded Spain from the north and settled down there (hence the province of
Spain called "Andalusia"), became involved in a civil war in Northern Africa,
and their troops invaded Africa in huge numbers. The leader of the losing side
took refuge in the town of Hippo, and the Vandals were besieging the town
(which they ultimately captured) when Augustine, bishop of Hippo, died 28
August 430, aged 75. [James Kiefer, abridged]



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