The Fourth Sunday in Advent
Augustine on Psalm XCVIII
Advent Four Home
O LORD, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
Source: Bishop Gelasius of Rome Sacramentary [464 AD]. The 1662 edition added the "running the race that is before us" "Succor" is to run to help, while "sore let" is to thwart, hinder
Philippians iv. 4, Psalms 98, 99 | 101, 103 & St. John i. 19.
I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord,
Philippians iv. 4
REJOICE in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Psalms for Morning and Evening 98, 99 | 101, 103
St. John i. 19.
THIS is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
1. "O sing unto the Lord a new song" (ver. 1). The new man knoweth this, the old man knoweth it not. The old man is the old life, and the new man the new life: the old life is derived from Adam, the new life is formed in Christ. But in this Psalm, the whole world is enjoined to sing a new song. More openly elsewhere the words are these: "O sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the whole earth;"  that they who cut themselves off from the communion of the whole earth,  may understand that they cannot sing the new song, because it is sung in the whole, and not in a part of it. Attend here also, and see that this is said. And when the whole earth is enjoined to sing a new song, it is meant, that peace singeth a new song. "For He hath done marvelous things." What marvelous things? Behold, the Gospel was just now being read, and we heard the marvellous things of the Lord. The only son of his mother, who was a widow, was being carried out dead: the Lord, in compassion, made them stand still; they laid him down, and the Lord said, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise."  ..."The Lord hath done marvellous things." What marvellous things? Hear: "His own right hand, and His holy arm, hath healed for Him." What is the Lord's holy Arm? Our Lord Jesus Christ. Hear Isaiah: "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"  His holy arm then, and His own right hand, is Himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore the arm of God, and the right hand of God; for this reason is it said, "hath He healed for Him." It is not said only, "His right hand hath healed the world," but "hath healed for Him." For many are healed for themselves, not for Him. Behold how many long for that bodily health, and receive it from Him: they are healed by Him, but not for Him. How are they healed by Him, and not for Him? When they have received health, they become wanton: they who when sick were chaste, when cured become adulterers: they who when in illness injured no man, on the recovery of their strength attack and crush the innocent: they are healed, but not unto Him. Who is he who is healed unto Him? He who is healed inwardly. Who is he that is healed inwardly? He who trusteth in Him, that when he shall have been healed inwardly, reformed into a new man, afterwards this mortal flesh too, which doth languish for a time, may in the end itself even recover its most perfect health. Let us therefore be healed for Him. But that we may be healed for Him, let us believe in His right hand.
2. "The Lord hath made known His salvation" (ver. 2). This very right hand, this very arm, this very salvation, is our Lord Jesus Christ of whom it is said, "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God;"  of whom also that Simeon who embraced the Infant in his arms, spoke, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."  "The Lord hath made known His salvation." To whom did He make it known? To a part, or to the whole? Not to any part specially. Let no man betray, no man deceive, no man say, "Lo, here is Christ, or there:"  the man who saith, Lo, He is here, or there, pointeth to some particular spots. To whom "hath the Lord declared His salvation"? Hear what followeth: "His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the heathen." Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the right hand of God, the arm of God, the salvation of God, and the righteousness of God.
3. "He hath remembered His mercy to Jacob, and His truth unto the house of Israel" (ver. 3). What meaneth this, "He hath remembered His mercy and truth"? He hath pitied, so that He promised; because He promised and showed His mercy, truth hath followed: mercy hath gone before promise, promise hath been fulfilled in truth.... "And His truth unto the house of Israel." Who is this Israel? That ye may not perchance think of one nation of the Jews, hear what followeth: "All the ends of the world have seen the salvation of our God." It is not said, all the earth: but, "all the ends of the world:" as it is said, from one end to the other. Let no man cut this down, let no man scatter it abroad; strong is the unity of Christ. He who gave so great a price, hath bought the whole: "All the ends of the world."
4. Because they have seen, then, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands" (ver. 4). Ye already know what it is to make a joyful noise. Rejoice, and speak. If ye cannot express your joy, shout ye; let the shout manifest your joy, if your speech cannot: yet let not joy be mute; let not your heart be silent respecting its God, let it not be mute concerning His gifts. If thou speakest to thyself, unto thyself art thou healed; if His right hand hath healed thee for Him, speak thou unto Him for whom thou hast been healed. "Sing, rejoice, and make melody."
5. "Make melody unto the Lord upon the harp: on the harp and with the voice of a Psalm" (ver. 5). Praise Him not with the voice only; take up works, that ye may not only sing, but work also. He who singeth and worketh, maketh melody with psaltery and upon the harp. Now see what sort of instruments are next spoken of, in figure: "With ductile trumpets also, and the sound of the pipe of horn" (ver. 6). What are ductile trumpets, and pipes of horn? Ductile trumpets are of brass: they are drawn out by hammering; if by hammering, by being beaten, ye shall be ductile trumpets, drawn out unto the praise of God, if ye improve when in tribulation: tribulation is hammering, improvement is the being drawn out. Job was a ductile trumpet, when suddenly assailed by the heaviest losses, and the death of his sons, become like a ductile trumpet by the beating of so heavy tribulation, he sounded thus: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  How did he sound? How pleasantly doth his voice sound? This ductile trumpet is still under the hammer....We have heard how he was hammered; let us hear how he soundeth: let us, if it please you, hear the sweet sound of this ductile trumpet: "What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" O courageous, O sweet sound! whom will not that sound awake from sleep? whom will not confidence in God awake, to march to battle fearlessly against the devil; not to struggle with his own strength, but His who proveth him. For He it is who hammereth: for the hammer could not do so of itself....See how (I dare so speak, my brethren) even the Apostle was beaten with this very hammer: he saith, "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to buffet me."  Behold he is under the hammer: let us hear how he speaketh of it: "For this thing," he saith, "I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." I, saith His Maker, wish to make this trumpet perfect; I cannot do so unless I hammer it; in weakness is strength made perfect. Hear now the ductile trumpet itself sounding as it should: "When I am weak, then am I strong."...
6. The voice of the pipe of horn, what is it? The horn riseth above the flesh: in rising above the flesh it needs must be solid so as to last, and able to speak. And whence this? Because it hath surpassed the flesh. He who wisheth to be a horn trumpet, let him overcome the flesh. What meaneth this, let him overcome the flesh? Let him surpass the desires, let him conquer the lusts of the flesh. Hear the horn trumpets....What meaneth this, "Set your affection on things above"? It meaneth, Rise above the flesh, think not of carnal things. They were not yet horn trumpets, to whom he now spoke thus: "I could not speak unto you, brethren, as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it: neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal."  They were not therefore horn trumpets, because they had not risen above the flesh. Horn both adhereth to the flesh, and riseth above the flesh; and although it springeth from the flesh, yet it surpasseth it. If therefore thou art spiritual, when before thou wast carnal; as yet thou art treading the earth in the flesh, but in spirit thou art rising into heaven; for though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh....Brethren, do not reproach brethren whom the mercy of God hath not yet converted; know that as long as ye do this, ye savour of the flesh. That is not a trumpet which pleaseth the ears of God: the trumpet of boastfulness maketh the war fruitless. Let the horn trumpet raise thy courage against the devil; let not the fleshly trumpet raise thy pride against thy brother. "Make a joyful noise in the sight of the Lord the King."
7. While ye are rejoicing, and delighted with the ductile trumpets, and the voice of the horn, what followeth? "Let the sea be stirred up, and the fulness thereof" (ver. 7). Brethren, when the Apostles, like ductile trumpets and horns, were preaching the truth, the sea was stirred up, its waves arose, tempests increased, persecutions of the Church took place. Whence hath the sea been stirred up? When a joyful noise was made, when Psalms of thanksgiving were being sung before God: the ears of God were pleased, the waves of the sea were raised. "Let the sea be stirred up, and the fulness thereof: the round world, and all that dwell therein." Let the sea be stirred up in its persecutions. "Let the floods clap their hands together" (ver. 8). Let the sea be aroused, and the floods clap their hands together; persecutions arise, and the saints rejoice in God. Whence shall the floods clap their hands? What is to clap their hands? To rejoice in works. To clap hands, is to rejoice; hands, mean works. What floods? Those whom God hath made floods, by giving them that Water, the Holy Spirit. "If any man thirst," saith He, "let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, out of his bosom shall flow rivers of living water."  These rivers clapped their hands, these rivers rejoiced in works, and blessed God. "The hills shall be joyful together."
8. "Before the Lord, for He is come; for He is come to judge the earth" (ver. 9). "The hills" signify the great. The Lord cometh to judge the earth, and they rejoice. But there are hills, who, when the Lord is coming to judge the earth, shall tremble. There are therefore good and evil hills; the good hills, are spiritual greatness; the bad hills, are the swelling of pride. "Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, for He is come; for He is come to judge the earth." Wherefore shall He come, and how shall He come? "With righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity" (ver. 10). Let the hills therefore rejoice; for He shall not judge unrighteously. When some man is coming as a judge, to whom the conscience cannot lie open, even innocent men may tremble, if from him they expect a reward for virtue, or fear the penalty of condemnation; when He shall come who cannot be deceived, let the hills rejoice, let them rejoice fearlessly; they shall be enlightened by Him, not condemned; let them rejoice, because the Lord will come to judge the world with equity; and if the righteous hills rejoice, let the unrighteous tremble. But behold, He hath not yet come: what need is there they should tremble? Let them mend their ways, and rejoice. It is in thy power in what way thou willest to await the coming of Christ. For this reason He delayeth to come, that when He cometh He may not condemn thee. Lo, He hath not yet come: He is in heaven, thou on earth: He delayeth His coming, do not thou delay wisdom. His coming is hard to the hard of heart, soft to the pious. See therefore even now what thou art: if hard of heart, thou canst soften; if thou art soft, even now rejoice that He will come. For thou art a Christian. Yea, thou sayest. I believe that thou prayest, and sayest, "Thy kingdom come."  Thou desirest Him to come, whose coming thou fearest. Reform thyself, that thou mayest not pray against thyself.
Let us pray in the words of Augustine.
Turn we to the Lord God, the Father Almighty, and with pure hearts offer to him, so far as our meanness can, great and true thanks, with all our hearts praying his exceeding kindness, that of his good pleasure he would deign to hear our prayers, that by his Power he would drive out the enemy from our deeds and thoughts, that he would increase our faith, guide our understandings, give us spiritual thoughts, and lead us to his bliss, through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[A prayer which he was wont to use after his Sermons and Lectures.]
NPNF (V1-08) St. Augustine
 Lat. XCVII. A discourse to the people.  Ps. xcvi. 1.  Donatists.  Luke vii. 12-14.  Isa. liii. 1.  Luke iii. 6.  Luke ii. 28-30.  Matt. xxiv. 23.  Job i. 21.  2 Cor. xii. 7-10.  1 Cor. i. 12, iii. 1-4.  John vii. 37-39.  Matt. vi. 10.