OREMUS: 28 August 2007

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Mon Aug 27 17:00:00 GMT 2007


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OREMUS for Tuesday, August 28, 2007 
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Teacher of the Faith, 430

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

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 62

For God alone my soul in silence waits;*
 from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,*
 my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.
How long will you assail me to crush me,
   all of you together,*
 as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?
They seek only to bring me down
   from my place of honour;*
 lies are their chief delight.
They bless with their lips,*
 but in their hearts they curse.
For God alone my soul in silence waits;*
 truly, my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,*
 my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my safety and my honour;*
 God is my strong rock and my refuge.
Put your trust in him always, O people,*
 pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.
Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,*
 even those of low estate cannot be trusted.
On the scales they are lighter than a breath,*
 all of them together.
Put no trust in extortion;
   in robbery take no empty pride;*
 though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,*
 that power belongs to God.
Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,*
 for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

Psalm 63

O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;*
 my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,
   as in a barren and dry land where there is no water;
Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,*
 that I might behold your power and your glory.
For your loving-kindness is better than life itself;*
 my lips shall give you praise.
So will I bless you as long as I live*
 and lift up my hands in your name.
My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,*
 and my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed,*
 and meditate on you in the night watches.
For you have been my helper,*
 and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
My soul clings to you;*
 your right hand holds me fast.

A Song of the Blessed (Matthew 5:3-10)
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are those who suffer persecution
for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Psalm 146

Alleluia!
   Praise the Lord, O my soul!*
 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in rulers,
   nor in any child of earth,*
 for there is no help in them.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth,*
 and in that day their thoughts perish.
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob
   for their help!*
 whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the seas,
   and all that is in them;*
 who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,*
 and food to those who hunger.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
   the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;*
 the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
   the Lord cares for the stranger;*
 he sustains the orphan and widow,
   but frustrates the way of the wicked.
The Lord shall reign for ever,*
 your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
   Alleluia!

FIRST READING [Jeremiah 7:27-34]:

So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will
not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will
not answer you. You shall say to them: This is the nation
that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and
did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut
off from their lips.
Cut off your hair and throw it away;
   raise a lamentation on the bare heights,
for the Lord has rejected and forsaken 
   the generation that provoked his wrath.

For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says
the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house
that is called by my name, defiling it. And they go on
building the high place of Topheth, which is in the
valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their
daughters in the fire which I did not command, nor did it
come into my mind. Therefore, the days are surely coming,
says the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or
the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of
Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is
no more room. The corpses of this people will be food for
the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth;
and no one will frighten them away. And I will bring to
an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the
bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the
streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste. 

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 [Luke 6:6-11]:

On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there
whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see
whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against
him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the
withered hand, 'Come and stand here.' He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to
them, 'I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or
to destroy it?' After looking around at all of them, he said to him, 'Stretch out your
hand.' He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and
discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

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.

Eternal Love,
our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
Let your glory shine on us,
that our lives may proclaim your goodness,
our work give you honour,
and our voices praise you forever;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 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 and the invitation to the Lord's Prayer 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.

The closing sentence is by Bruce Prewer.
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 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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