The Third Sunday after Easter
Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXX
Third Sunday after Easter Home

ALMIGHTY God, who showest to them that are in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Source of Collect: Sacramentary of Leo, Bishop of Rome [440-461AD]. The Vigil of Easter was the traditional time for Baptism, and this collect speaks to the newly baptized "all those who are admitted into the fellowship". One had to be baptized to be present during the Eucharist. Christiana professione censentor

1 Samuel ii. 1b, Psalm 120, 121, 122 | 123, 124, 125; 1 St. Peter ii. 11. St. John xvi. 16.

Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXX

A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.


1 Samuel ii. 1b

MY mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed. x7777

Psalm120, 121, 122 | 123, 124, 125

1 St. Peter ii. 11.

DEARLY beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

St. John xvi. 16.

JESUS said to his disciples, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.


Psalm CXX

1. The Psalm which we have just heard chanted, and have responded to with our voices, is short, and very profitable. Ye will not long toil in hearing, nor will ye toil fruitlessly in working. For it is, according to the title prefixed to it, "A song of degrees." [5394] Degrees are either of ascent or of descent. But degrees, as they are used in this Psalm, are of ascending...There are therefore both those who ascend and those who descend on that ladder. [5395] Who are they that ascend? They who progress towards the understanding of things spiritual. Who are they that descend? They who, although, as far as men may, they enjoy the comprehension of things spiritual: nevertheless, descend unto the infants, to say to them such things as they can receive, so that, after being nourished with milk, they may become fitted and strong enough to take spiritual meat...

2. When therefore a man hath commenced thus to order his ascent; to speak more plainly, when a Christian hath begun to think of spiritual amendment, he beginneth to suffer the tongues of adversaries. Whoever hath not yet suffered from them, hath not yet made progress; whoever suffereth them not, doth not even endeavour to improve. Doth he wish to know what we mean? Let him at the same time experience what is reported of us. Let him begin to improve, let him begin to wish to ascend, to wish to despise earthly, fragile, temporal objects, to hold worldly happiness for nothing, to think of God alone, not to rejoice in gain, not to pine at losses, to wish even to sell all his substance, and distribute it among the poor, and to follow Christ; let us see how he suffereth the tongues of detractors and of constant opponents, and--a still greater peril--of pretended counsellors, who lead him astray from salvation...He then, who will ascend, first of all prayeth God against these very tongues: for he saith, "When I was in trouble, I called on the Lord; and He heard me" (ver. 1). Why did He hear him? That He might now place him at the steps of ascent.

3. "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from unrighteous lips, and from a deceitful tongue" (ver. 2). What is a deceitful tongue? A treacherous tongue, one that hath the semblance of counsel, and the bane of real mischief. Such are those who say, And wilt thou do this, that nobody doth? Wilt thou be the only Christian?...Some deter by dissuasion, others discourage yet more by their praise. For since such is the life that hath for some time been diffused over the world, so great is the authority of Christ, that not even a pagan ventureth to blame Christ. [5396] He who cannot be censured is read. They cannot contradict Christ, they cannot contradict the Gospel, Christ cannot be censured; the deceitful tongue turneth itself to praise as an hindrance. If thou praisest, exhort. Why dost thou discourage with thy praise?...Thou turnest thyself to another mode of dissuasion, that by false praise thou mayest turn me away from true praise; [5397] nay, that by praising Christ thou mayest keep me away from Christ, saying, What is this? Behold these men have done this: thou, perhaps, wilt not be able: thou beginnest to ascend, thou fallest. It seemeth to warn thee: it is the serpent, it is the deceitful tongue, it hath poison. Pray against it, if thou wishest to ascend.

4. And thy Lord saith unto thee, "What shall be given thee, or what shall be set before thee, against the deceitful tongue?" (ver. 3). What shall be given thee, that is, as a weapon to oppose to the deceitful tongue, to guard thyself against the deceitful tongue? "Or what shall be set before thee?" He asketh to try thee: for He will answer His own question. For He answers following up his own inquiry, "even sharp arrows of the Mighty One, with coals that desolate, or that lay waste" (ver. 4). They that desolate, or that lay waste (for it is variously written in different copies), are the same, because by laying waste, as ye may observe, they easily lead unto desolation. What are these coals? First, beloved brethren, understand what are arrows. The "sharp arrows of the Mighty One," are the words of God...What then are the "coals that lay waste?" It is not enough to plead with words against a deceitful tongue and unrighteous lips: it is not enough to plead with words; we must plead with examples also...The word coals, then, is used to express the examples of many sinners converted to the Lord. Thou hearest men wonder, and say, I knew that man, how addicted he was to drinking, what a villain, what a lover of the circus, or of the amphitheatre, what a cheat: now how he serveth God, how innocent he hath become! Wonder not; he is a live coal. Thou rejoicest that he is alive, whom thou wast mourning as dead. But when thou praisest the living, if thou knowest how to praise, apply him to the dead, that he may be inflamed; whosoever is still slow to follow God, apply to him the coal which was extinguished, and have the arrow of God's word, and the coal that layeth waste, that thou mayest meet the deceitful tongue and the lying lips.

5. "Alas, that my sojourning is become far off!" (ver. 5). It hath departed far from Thee: my pilgrimage hath become a far one. I have not yet reached that country, where I shall live with no wicked person; I have not yet reached that company of Angels, where I shall not fear offences. But why am I not as yet there? Because sojourning is pilgrimage. He is called a sojourner who dwells in a foreign land, not in his own country. And when is it far off? Sometimes, my brethren, when a man goeth abroad, he liveth among better persons, than he would perhaps live with in his own country: but it is not thus, when we go afar from that heavenly Jerusalem. For a man changeth his country, and this foreign sojourn is sometimes good for him; in travelling he findeth faithful friends, whom he could not find in his own country. He had enemies, so that he was driven from his country; and when he travelled, he found what he had not in his country. Such is not that country Jerusalem, where all are good: whoever travelleth away from thence, is among the evil; nor can he depart from the wicked, save when he shall return to the company of Angels, so as to be where he was before he travelled. There all are righteous and holy, who enjoy the word of God without reading, without letters: for what is written to us through pages, [5398] they perceive there through the Face of God. What a country! A great country indeed, and wretched are the wanderers from that country.

6. But what he saith, "My pilgrimage hath been made distant," are the words of those, that is, of the Church herself, who toileth on this earth. It is her voice, which crieth out from the ends of the earth in another Psalm, saying, "From the ends of the earth have I cried unto Thee. [5399] ...Where then doth he groan, and among whom doth he dwell? "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar." Since this is a Hebrew word, beyond doubt ye have not understood it. What meaneth, "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar"? "Kedar," as far as we remember of the interpretation of Hebrew words, signifieth darkness. "Kedar" rendered into Latin is called tenebrae. Now ye know that Abraham had two sons, whom indeed the Apostle mentioneth, [5400] and declareth them to have been types of the two covenants...Ishmael therefore was in darkness, Isaac in light. Whoever here also seek earthly felicity in the Church, from God, shall belong to Ishmael. These are the very persons who gainsay the spiritual ones who are progressing, and detract from them, and have deceitful tongues and unrighteous lips. Against these the Psalmist, when ascending, prayed, and hot coals that lay waste, and swift and sharp arrows of the Mighty One, were given him for his defence. For among these he still liveth, until the whole floor be winnowed: he therefore said, "I have dwelt among the tents of Kedar." The tents of Ishmael are called those of Kedar. Thus the book of Genesis hath it: thus it hath, that Kedar belongeth unto Ishmael. [5401] Isaac therefore is with Ishmael: that is, they who belong unto Isaac, live among those who belong unto Ishmael. [5402] These wish to rise above, those wish to press them downwards: these wish to fly unto God, those endeavour to pluck their wings...

7. "My soul hath wandered much" (ver. 6). Lest thou shouldest understand bodily wandering, he hath said that the soul wandered. The body wandereth in places, the soul wandereth in its affections. If thou love the earth, thou wanderest from God: if thou lovest God, thou risest unto God. Let us be exercised in the love of God, and of our neighbour, that we may return unto charity. If we fall towards the earth, we wither and decay. But one descended unto this one who had fallen, in order that he might arise. Speaking of the time of his wandering, he said that he wandered in the tents of Kedar. Wherefore? Because "my soul hath wandered much." He wandereth there where he ascendeth. He wandereth not in the body, he riseth not in the body. But wherein doth he ascend? "The ascent," he saith, "is in the heart." [5403]

8. "With them that hated peace, I was peaceful" (ver. 7). But howsoever ye may hear, most beloved brethren, ye will not be able to prove how truly ye sing, unless ye have begun to do that which ye sing. How much soever I say this, in whatsoever ways I may expound it, in whatsoever words I may turn it, it entereth not into the heart of him in whom its operation is not. Begin to act, and see what we speak. Then tears flow forth at each word, then the Psalm is sung, and the heart doeth what is sung in the Psalm...Who are they who hate peace? They who tear asunder unity. For had they not hated peace, they would have abode in unity. But they separated themselves, forsooth on this account, that they might be righteous, that they might not have the ungodly mixed with them. These words are either ours or theirs: decide whose. The Catholic Church saith, Unity must not be lost, the Church of God must not be cut off. [5404] God will judge afterwards of the wicked and the good...This we also say: Love ye peace, love ye Christ. For if they love peace, they love Christ. When therefore we say, Love ye peace, we say this, Love ye Christ. Wherefore? For the Apostle saith of Christ, "He is our peace, who hath made both one." [5405] If Christ is therefore peace, because He hath made both one: why have ye made two of one? How then are ye peace-makers, if, when Christ maketh one of two, ye make two of one? But since we say these things, we are peace-makers with them that hate peace; and yet they who hate peace, when we spake to them, made war on us for nought.

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



[5393] Lat. CXIX. [5394] In Greek it is written /=nabathmon. [5395] Gen. xxviii. 12. [5396] [Noteworthy.--C.] [5397] [The stratagem of those who glorify Jesus as a man, to deny His true character as Christ.--C.] [5398] [See p. 512, note 4, supra.--C.] [5399] Ps. lxi. 2. [5400] Gal. iv. 22, etc. [5401] Gen. xxv. 13. [5402] Gal. iv. 29. [5403] Ps. lxxxiv. 5. [5404] [Unity on Nicene Constitutions, not those of the Decretals. Augustin himself, to maintain unity, refused communion with the See of Rome, and died in that position.--C.] [5405] Eph. ii. 14.