OREMUS: 28 August 2008

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Wed Aug 27 17:00:01 GMT 2008


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OREMUS for Thursday, August 28, 2008
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Teacher of the Faith, 430

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

Blessed are you, O God,
like fireworks in the night
the Holy Spirit comes
to lift our spirits, to inspire fresh daring,
that our lives might be spent in honor
of our Savior, God's only Son.
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. 

http://www.oremus.org/ocan.html

Psalm 66

Be joyful in God, all you lands;*
 sing the glory of his name;
   sing the glory of his praise.
Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds!*
 because of your great strength
   your enemies cringe before you.
'All the earth bows down before you,*
 sings to you, sings out your name.'
Come now and see the works of God,*
 how wonderful he is in his doing towards all people.
He turned the sea into dry land,
   so that they went through the water on foot,*
 and there we rejoiced in him.
In his might he rules for ever;
   his eyes keep watch over the nations;*
 let no rebel rise up against him.
Bless our God, you peoples;*
 make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life,*
 and will not allow our feet to slip.
For you, O God, have proved us;*
 you have tried us just as silver is tried.
You brought us into the snare;*
 you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
You let enemies ride over our heads;
   we went through fire and water;*
 but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
I will enter your house with burnt-offerings
   and will pay you my vows,*
 which I promised with my lips
   and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
   with the smoke of rams;*
 I will give you oxen and goats.
Come and listen, all you who fear God,*
 and I will tell you what he has done for me.
I called out to him with my mouth,*
 and his praise was on my tongue.
If I had found evil in my heart,*
 the Lord would not have heard me;
But in truth God has heard me;*
 he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,*
 nor withheld his love from me.

A Song of Baruch (Baruch 5.5,6c,7-9)

Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height:  
look to the east and see your children, 
Gathered from the west and the east  
at the word of the Holy One. 
They rejoice that God has remembered them  
and has brought them back to you. 
For God has ordered that every high mountain  
and the everlasting hills be made low, 
And the valleys filled up to make level ground  
so that they may walk safely in the glory of God. 
The woods and every fragrant tree  
have shaded them at God's command. 
For God will lead his people with joy 
in the light of his glory  
with the mercy and righteousness that comes from God. 

Psalm 148

Alleluia!
   Praise the Lord from the heavens;*
 praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels of his;*
 praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon;*
 praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, heaven of heavens,*
 and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord;*
 for he commanded and they were created.
He made them stand fast for ever and ever;*
 he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth,*
 you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog,*
 tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills,*
 fruit trees and all cedars;
Wild beasts and all cattle,*
 creeping things and winged birds;
Kings of the earth and all peoples,*
 princes and all rulers of the world;
Young men and maidens,*
 old and young together.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,*
 for his name only is exalted,
   his splendour is over earth and heaven.
He has raised up strength for his people
   and praise for all his loyal servants,*
 the children of Israel, a people who are near him.
   Alleluia!

FIRST READING [Ecclesiasticus 28:13-end]:

Curse the gossips and the double-tongued,
   for they destroy the peace of many.
Slander has shaken many,
   and scattered them from nation to nation;
it has destroyed strong cities,
   and overturned the houses of the great.
Slander has driven virtuous women from their homes,
   and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.
Those who pay heed to slander will not find rest,
   nor will they settle down in peace.
The blow of a whip raises a welt,
   but a blow of the tongue crushes the bones.
Many have fallen by the edge of the sword,
   but not as many as have fallen because of the tongue.
Happy is one who is protected from it,
   who has not been exposed to its anger,
who has not borne its yoke,
   and has not been bound with its fetters.
For its yoke is a yoke of iron,
   and its fetters are fetters of bronze;
its death is an evil death,
   and Hades is preferable to it.
It has no power over the godly;
   they will not be burned in its flame.
Those who forsake the Lord will fall into its power;
   it will burn among them and will not be put out.
It will be sent out against them like a lion;
   like a leopard it will mangle them.
As you fence in your property with thorns,
   so make a door and a bolt for your mouth.
As you lock up your silver and gold,
   so make balances and scales for your words.
Take care not to err with your tongue,
   and fall victim to one lying in wait. 

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

http://www.oremus.org/hymnal/l/l145.html
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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 [Matthew 5:38-end]:

Jesus said, 'You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a
tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the
right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat,
give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second
mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to
borrow from you.
'You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your
enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the
evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if
you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the
tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more
are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect,
therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.'

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

Prayer:
Loving God, as the rising sun chases away the night, so
you have scattered the power of death in the rising of
Jesus Christ, and you bring us all blessings in him.
Especially we thank you for
     the community of faith in our church...
                (We thank you, Lord.)
     those with whom we work or share common concerns...
     the diversity of your children...
     indications of your love at work in the world...
     those who work for reconciliation...

Mighty God, with the dawn of your love you reveal your
victory over all that would destroy or harm, and you
brighten the lives of all who need you. Especially we pray
for
     families suffering separation...
                (Lord, hear our prayer)
     people different from ourselves...
     those isolated by sickness or sorrow...
     the victims of violence or warfare...
     the church in the Pacific region...

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,
       
Gathering our prayers and praises into one,
let us pray as our Savior has taught us.

- The Lord's Prayer

May the word of God dwell richly in our heart from hour to hour, 
so that all may see the triumph through Jesus' power and love. 
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 is by Stephen Benner and uses phrases from hymns by Ian Fraser and
John Bell. The closing prayer is based on a verse from a hymn by Katie Wilkinson.

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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