My pastoral duties this past week, along with those looming in the week ahead, have combined to deliver quite a walloping blow to my energies, and particularly my creative energies. So... blogging will be sparse in the days ahead, barring a sudden surge of renewed vim on that front (which is not exactly unheard of with me).
I didn't want the Church year to end, though, without a word from my favourite father of the Church in one of his finest sermons. It is the Office of Readings for today, and so here it is: St. Augustine on the perseverance of the Christian in the world as we await the world to come:
Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we are still anxious and worrying, so that we may one day be able to sing it there in heaven, without any worry or care. Why anxious and worrying here? You must want me to be anxious, Lord, when I read, Is not man’s life on earth a trial and a temptation?
You must want me to worry when temptation is so plentiful that the Prayer itself tells us to worry, when we say, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us. Every day we are petitioners, every day we are trespassers. Do you want me to throw care to the winds, Lord, when every day I am requesting pardon for sins and assistance against dangers?
After all, when I have said, because of past sins, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us, I must immediately go on to add, because of future dangers, Lead us not into temptation. And how can a people be in a good way, when they cry out with me, Deliver us from evil? And yet, my brethren, in this time that is still evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God, who does deliver us from evil.
Even here, among the dangers, among the trials and temptations of this life, both by others and by ourselves let alleluia be sung. God is faithful, he says, and he will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure. So even here let us sing alleluia. Man is still a defendant on trial, but God is faithful.
He did not say “he will not permit you to be tempted” but he will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure; and with the temptation he will also make a way out, so that you may be able to endure it. You have entered into temptation; but God will also make a way out so that you do not perish in the temptation; so that like a potter’s jar you may be shaped by the preaching and fired into strength by the tribulation. But when you enter the temptation, bear in mind the way out: because God is faithful, God will watch over you and guard your going in and your coming out.
Furthermore, when this body has become immortal and imperishable, when all temptation has been done away with; because the body is dead – why is it dead? – Because of sin. But the spirit is life, because of justice. So do we leave the body dead, then? No, but listen: But if the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells within you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies. So you see: now the body receives its life from the soul, but then it will receive it from the Spirit.
O! what a happy alleluia there, how carefree, how safe from all opposition, where nobody will be an enemy, where no-one will ever cease to be a friend! God’s praises sung there, sung here – here, by the anxious; there, by the carefree – here, by those who will die; there, by those who will live for ever – here, in hope; there, in reality – here, on our journey; there, in our homeland.
So now, my brethren, let us sing, not to delight our leisure, but to ease our toil. In the way that travellers are in the habit of singing, sing, but keep on walking. What does it mean, “keep on walking”? Go onward always – but go onward in goodness, for there are, according to the Apostle, some people who go ever onward from bad to worse. If you are going onward, you are walking; but always go onward in goodness, onward in the right faith, onward in good habits and behaviour. Sing, and walk onwards.