The First Sunday after the Epiphany
Augustine on Psalm XLVIII
Sunday after Epiphany Home
O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Source Sacramentary of Bishop Gregory of Rome [600 AD]. It is based on James 4:17, John 13:17, and Luke 12:47 -[Barbee and Zahl]
Isaiah lx. 1, Psalm 47, 48 | 66, 67; Romans xii. 1 & St. Luke ii. 41
Psalms 47, 48 | 66, 67
Romans xii. 1I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
St. Luke ii. 41NOW his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
1. The title of this Psalm is, "A song of praise, to the sons of Korah, on the second day of the week." Concerning this what the Lord deigneth to grant receive ye like sons of the firmament. For on the second day of the week, that is, the day after the first which we call the Lord's day, which also is called the second week-day, was made the firmament of Heaven.  ...The second day of the week then we ought not to understand but of the Church of Christ: but the Church of Christ in the Saints, the Church of Christ in those who are written in Heaven, the Church of Christ in those who to this world's temptations yield not. For they are worthy of the name of "firmament." The Church of Christ, then, in those who are strong, of whom saith the Apostle, "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,"  is called the firmament. Of this it is sung in this Psalm. Let us hear, acknowledge, associate, glory, reign. For Her called firmament, hear also in the Apostolic Epistles, "the pillar and firmament  of the truth."  ...
2. "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised" (ver. 1)....That is, "in the city of our God, in His holy mountain." This is the city set upon an hill, which cannot be hid: this is the candle which is not hidden under a bushel,  to all known, to all proclaimed. Yet are not all men citizens thereof, but they in whom "great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised." What then is that city: let us see whether perhaps, since it is said, "In the city of our God, in His holy mountain," we ought not to enquire for this mountain where also we may be heard....What then is that mountain, brethren? One is it with great care to be enquired for, with great solicitude investigated, with labour also to be occupied and ascended. But if in any part of the earth it is, what shall we do? Shall we go abroad out of our own country, that to that mountain we may arrive? Nay, then we are abroad, when in it we are not. For that is our city, if we are members of the King, who is the head of the same city....For there was a certain corner-stone contemptible, whereat the Jews stumbled,  cut out of a certain mountain without hands, that is, coming of the kingdom of the Jews without hands, because human operation went not with Mary of whom was born Christ.  But if that stone, when the Jews stumbled thereat, had remained there, thou hadst not had whither to ascend. But what was done? What saith the prophecy of Daniel? What but that the stone grew, and became a great mountain? How great? So that it filled the whole face of the earth.  By growing, then, and by filling the whole face of the earth, that mountain came to us. Why then seek we the mountain as though absent, and not as being present ascend to it; that in us the Lord may be "great, and greatly to be praised"?
3. Further,...when he had said, "in the city of our God, in His holy mountain," what added he? "Spreading abroad the joys of the whole earth, the mountains of Sion" (ver. 2). Sion is one mountain, why then "mountains"? Is it that to Sion belonged also those which came from the other side, so as to meet together on the Corner Stone, and become two walls, as it were two mountains, one of the circumcision, the other of the uncircumcision; one of the Jews, the other of the Gentiles: no longer adverse, although diverse, because from different sides, now in the corner not even diverse. "For He is our peace, who hath made both one."  The same Corner Stone "which the builders rejected, is become the Head Stone of the corner."  The mountain hath joined in itself two mountains; one house there is, and two houses; two, because coming from different sides; one, because of the Corner Stone, wherein both are joined together. Hear also this, "the mountains of Sion: the sides of the North are the city of the great King."...See the Gentiles; "the sides of the North:" the sides of the North are joined to the city of the great King. The North is wont to be contrary to Sion: Sion forsooth is in the South, the North over against the South. Who is the North, but He who said, "I will sit in the sides of the North, I will be like the Most High"?  The devil had held dominion over the ungodly, and possessed the nations serving images, adoring demons; and all whatsoever there was of human kind anywhere throughout the world, by cleaving to Him, had become North. But since He who binds the strong man, taketh away his goods,  and maketh them His own goods; men delivered from infidelity and superstition of devils, believing in Christ, are fitted on to that city, have met in the corner that wall that cometh from the circumcision, and that was made the city of the great King, which had been the sides of the North. Therefore also in another Scripture is it said, "Out of the North come clouds of golden colour: great is the glory and honour of the Almighty."  For great is the glory of the physician, when from being despaired of the sick recovers. "Out of the North come clouds," and not black clouds, not dark clouds, not lowering, but "of golden colour." Whence but by grace illumined through Christ? See, "the sides of the North are the city of the great King."...
4. Let the Psalm then follow, and say, "God shall be known in her houses." Now in her "houses," because of the mountains, because of the two walls, because of the two sons. "God shall be known in her houses," but he commendeth grace, therefore he added, "when He shall take her up." For what would that city have been, unless He had taken her up? Would it not immediately have fallen, unless it had such foundation? For "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."  Let none then glory in his own merits; but "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."  ...The Lord then hath taken up this city, and is known therein, that is, His grace is known in that city: for whatever that city hath, which glorieth in the Lord, it hath not of itself. For because of this it is said, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" 
5. "For, lo, the kings of the earth are gathered together" (ver. 3). Behold now those sides of the North, see how they come, see how they say, "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord: and He will teach us His way, and we will walk in it."  "And have come together in one." In what one, but that "corner-stone"?  "They saw it, and so they marvelled" (ver. 4). After their marvelling at the miracles and glory of Christ, what followed? "They were troubled, they were moved" (ver. 5), "trembling took hold upon them." Whence took trembling hold upon them, but from the consciousness of sins? Let them run then, king after a king; kings, let them acknowledge the King. Therefore saith He elsewhere, "Yet have I been set by Him a King upon His holy hill of Sion."  ...A King then was heard of, set up in Sion, to Him were delivered possessions even to the uttermost parts of the earth. Kings behoved to fear lest they should lose the kingdom, lest the kingdom be taken from them. As wretched Herod feared, and for the Child slew the children.  But fearing to lose his kingdom, he deserved not to know the King. Would that he too had adored the King with the Magi: not by ill-seeking the kingdom, slain the Innocents, and perished guilty. For as concerning him, he destroyed the Innocents: but as for Christ, even a Child, the children dying for Him did He crown. Therefore behoved kings to fear when it was said, "Yet have I been set a King by Him upon His holy hill of Sion," and inheritance to the uttermost parts of the earth shall He give Him, who set Him up King....Thence also this is said to them, "Understand now therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling."  And what did they? "There pains as of a woman in travail." What are the pains "as of a woman in travail," but the pangs of a penitent? See the same conception of pain and travail: "Of Thy fear" (saith Isaiah) "we have conceived, we have travailed of the Spirit of salvation."  So then the kings conceived from the fear of Christ, that by travailing they brought forth salvation by believing on Him whom they had feared. "There pains as of a woman in travail:" when of travail thou hearest, expect a birth. The old man travaileth, but the new man is born.
6. "With a strong wind Thou shalt break the ships of Tarshish" (ver. 6). Briefly understood, this is, Thou shalt overthrow the pride of the nations. But where in this history is mentioned the overthrowing of the pride of the nations? Because of "the ships of Tarshish." Learned men have enquired for Tarshish a city, that is, what city was signified by this name: and to some it has seemed that Cilicia is called Tarshish, because its metropolis is called Tarsus. Of which city was the Apostle Paul, being born in Tarsus of Cilicia.  But some have understood by it Carthage, being haply sometimes so named, or in some language so signified. For in the Prophet Isaiah it is thus found: "Howl, ye ships of Carthage."  But in Ezekiel  by some interpreters the word is translated Carthage, by some Tarshish: and from this diversity it can be understood that the same which was called Carthage, is called Tharsus. But it is manifest, that in the beginning of its reign Carthage flourished with ships, and so flourished, that among other nations they excelled in trafficking and navigation. For when Dido, flying from her brother, escaped to the parts of Africa, where she built Carthage, the ships which had been prepared for commerce in his country she had taken with her for her flight, the princes of the country consenting to it; and the same ships also when Carthage was built failed not in traffic. And hence that city became too proud, so that justly by its ships may be understood the pride of the nations, presuming on things uncertain, as on the breath of the winds. Now let none presume on full sails, and on the seeming fair state of this life, as of the sea. Be our foundation in Sion: there ought we to be stablished, not to be "carried about with every wind of doctrine."  Whoso then by the uncertain things of this life had been puffed up, let them be overthrown, and be all the pride of the nations subjected to Christ, who shall "with a strong wind break all the ships of Tarshish:" not of any city, but of "Tarshish." How "with a strong wind"? With very strong fear. For so all pride feared Him that shall judge, as on Him humble to believe, lest Him exalted it should fear.
7. "As we have heard, so have we seen" (ver. 7). Blessed Church! at one time thou hast heard, at another time thou hast seen. She heard in promises, seeth in performance: heard in Prophecy, seeth in the Gospel. For all things which are now fulfilled were before prophesied. Lift up thine eyes then, and stretch them over the world; see now His "inheritance even to the uttermost parts of the earth:"  see now is fulfilled what was said, "All kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him:"  see fulfilled what was said, "Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Thy glory above all the earth."  See Him whose feet and hands were pierced with nails, whose bones hanging on the tree were counted, upon whose vesture lots were cast:  see reigning whom they saw hanging; see sitting in Heaven  whom they despised walking on earth: see thus fulfilled, "All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him." Seeing all this, exclaim with joy, "As we have heard, so have we seen." Justly the Church herself is so called out of the Gentiles....They to whom the Prophets were not sent, first heard and understood the Prophets: they who first heard not, afterwards hearing marvelled. They remained behind to whom they were sent, carrying the books, understanding not the truth: having the tables of the Testament, and not holding the inheritance. But we,..."As we have heard, so have we seen." And where hearest thou? where seest thou? "In the city of the Lord of Hosts, in the city of our God. God hath founded it for ever." Let not heretics insult, divided into parties, let them not exalt themselves who say, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there."  Whoso saith, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," inviteth to parties. Unity God promised. The kings are gathered together in one, not dissipated through schisms. But haply that city which hath held the world, shall sometime be overthrown? Far be the thought! "God hath founded it for ever." If then God hath founded it for ever, why fearest thou lest the firmament should fall?
8. "We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy people" (ver. 8). Who have received, and where received? Hath not the same Thy people received Thy mercy. If Thy people hath received Thy mercy, how then, "in the midst of Thy people"? As if they who received were one party, they in the midst of whom they received another. A great mystery, but yet well known. When hence also, that is, out of these verses, hath been extracted and brought forth what ye know; it will be not ruder, but sweeter. Now forsooth all are reckoned the people of God, who carry His Sacraments, but not all belong to His Mercy. All forsooth receiving the Sacrament of the Baptism of Christ, are called Christians, but not all live worthily of that Sacrament. There are some of whom saith the Apostle, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."  Yet on account of this form of godliness they are named among God's people. As to the floor, until the corn is threshed, belongs not the wheat only, but the chaff. But will it also belong to the garner? In the midst then of an evil people is a good people, which hath received the Mercy of God. He liveth worthily of the Mercy of God who heareth, and holdeth, and doeth what the Apostle saith, "We beseech you that ye receive not the Grace of God in vain."  Whoso then receiveth not the Grace of God in vain, the same receiveth not only the Sacrament, but also the Mercy of God as well....So those who have the Sacraments, and have not good manners, are both said to be of God, and not of God; are both said to be His, and to be strangers: His because of His own Sacraments, strangers because of their own vice. So also strange daughters:  daughters, because of the form of godliness; strange, because of their loss of virtue. Be the lily there; let it receive the Mercy of God: hold fast the root of a good flower, be not ungrateful for soft rain coming from heaven. Be thorns ungrateful, let them grow by the showers: for the fire they grow, not for the garner. In the midst of Thy people not receiving Thy mercy, we have received Thy mercy. For "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not," yet, in the midst of them, "as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God."  ...
9. For when he had said, "We have received Thy mercy in the midst of Thy people," he signified that there is a people not receiving the mercy of God, in the midst of whom some do receive the mercy of God: and then lest it should occur to men that there are so few, as to be nearly none, how did He console them in the words following? "According to Thy Name, O God, so is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth" (ver. 9). What is this? ...That is, as Thou art known through all the earth, so Thou art also praised through all the earth, nor are there wanting who now praise Thee through all the earth. But they praise Thee who live well. For, "According to Thy Name, O God, so is Thy praise," not in a part, but "unto the ends of the earth." "Thy right hand is full of righteousness." That is, many are they also who shall stand at Thy right hand. Not only shall they be many who shall stand at Thy left hand, but there also shall be a full heap set at Thy right hand.
10. "Let mount Zion rejoice, and the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Thy judgments, O Lord" (ver. 10). O mount Zion, O daughters of Judah, ye labour now among tares, among chaff, among thorns ye labour: yet be glad because of God's judgments. God erreth not in judgment. Live ye separate, though separate ye were not born; not vainly hath a voice gone forth from your mouth and heart, "Destroy not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men."  He shall winnow with such art, carrying in His hand a fan, that not one grain of wheat shall fall into the heap of chaff prepared to be burned, nor one beard of chaff pass to the heap to be laid up in the garner.  Be glad, O ye daughters of Judaea, because of the judgments of God that erreth not, and do not yet judge rashly. To you let it belong to collect, to Him let it belong to separate. But think not that the "daughters of Judah" are Jews. Judah is confession; all the sons of confession are all the sons of Judah. For "salvation is of the Jews,"  is nothing else than that Christ is of the Jews. This saith also the Apostle, "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God."  Be such a Jew; glory in the circumcision of the heart, though thou hast not the circumcision of the flesh. Let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Thy judgments, O Lord.
11. "Walk about Zion, and embrace her" (ver. 11). Be it said to them who live ill, in the midst of whom is the people, which hath received the mercy of God. In the midst of you is a people living well, "Walk about Zion." But how? "embrace her." Not with scandals, but with love go round about her: that so those who live well in the midst of you ye may imitate, and by imitation of them, be incorporate with Christ, whose members they are. "Walk about Zion, go round about her: speak in the towers thereof." In the height of her bulwarks, set forth the praises thereof.
12. "Set your hearts upon her might" (ver. 12). Not that ye may have the form of godliness, deny the power thereof,  but, "upon her might set your hearts. Speak ye in her towers." What is the might of this city? Whoso would understand the might of this city, let him understand the force of love. That is a virtue which none conquereth. Love's flame no waves of the world, no streams of temptation, extinguish. Of this it is said, "Love is strong as death."  For as when death cometh, it cannot be resisted; by whatever arts, whatever medicines, you meet it; the violence of death can none avoid who is born mortal; so against the violence of love can the world do nothing. For from the contrary the similitude is made of death; for as death is most violent to take away, so love is most violent to save. Through love many have died to the world, to live to God; by this love inflamed, the martyrs, not pretenders, not puffed up by vain-glory, not such as they of whom it is written, "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing,"  but men whom truly a love of Christ and of the truth led on to this passion; what to them were the temptations of the tormentors? Greater violence had the eyes of their weeping friends, than the persecutions of enemies. For how many were held by their children, that they might not suffer? to how many did their wives fall upon their knees, that they might not be left widows? How many have their parents forbidden to die; as we know and read in the Passion of the Blessed Perpetua!  All this was done; but tears, however great, and with whatever force flowing, when did they extinguish the ardour of love? This is the might of Sion, to whom elsewhere it is said, "Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces." 
13. What here understand we, "Set your hearts upon her might, and distribute her houses"? That is, distinguish house from house. Do not confound. For there is a house having the form of godliness, and not having godliness; but there is a house having both form and godliness. Distribute, confound not. But then ye distribute and confound not, when ye "set your hearts upon her might;" that is, when through love ye are made spiritual. Then ye will not judge rashly, then ye will see that the evil harms not the good as long as we are in this floor. "Distribute her houses." There can be also another understanding. The two houses, one coming of the circumcision, one of the uncircumcision, it is commanded the Apostles to distribute. For when Saul was called, and made the Apostle Paul, agreeing in unity with his fellow Apostles, he so with thorn determined, that they should go to the circumcision, he to the uncircumcision. By that dispensation of their Apostleship, they distributed the houses of the city of the great King; and meeting in the corner, divided the Gospel in dispensation, in love united it. And truly this is rather to be understood; for it followeth and showeth that it is here said to the preachers, "distribute her houses: that ye may tell it to the generation following:" that is, that even to us, who were to come after them, their dispensation of the Gospel should reach: For not for those only they laboured, with whom they lived in the earth; nor the Lord for those Apostles only to whom He deigned to show Himself alive after His Resurrection, but for us also. For to them He spake, and signified us when He spake, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world."  Were they then to be here alway, even to the end of the world? Also He said, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word."  Therefore He considereth us, because He suffered on account of us. Justly then it is said, "That ye may tell it to the generation following."
14. Tell what? "For this is God, even our God" (ver. 13). The earth was seen, the earth's Creator was not seen; the flesh was held, God in the flesh was not acknowledged. For the flesh was held by those from whom had been taken the same flesh, for of the seed of Abraham was the Virgin Mary. At the flesh they stayed, the Divinity they did not understand. O Apostles, O mighty city, preach thou on the towers, and say, "This is God, even our God." So, even so as He was despised, as He lay a stone before the feet of the stumbling, that He might humble the hearts of the confessing; even so, "This is God, even our God." Certainly He was seen, as was said, "Afterward did He show Himself upon earth, and conversed with men."  "This is God, even our God." He is also Man, and who is there will know Him? "This is God, even our God." But haply for a time as the false gods. For because they can be called gods, but cannot be so, for a time they are even called so. For what saith the Prophet, or what warneth He to be said to them? This shall ye say to them, "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from those that are under the heavens."  He is not such a god: for our God is above all gods. Above all what gods? "For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens."  The same then is our God. "This is God, even our God." For how long? "For ever and ever: He shall rule us for ever." If He is our God, He is also our King. He protecteth us, being our God, lest we die; He ruleth us, being our King, lest we fall. But by ruling us He doth not break us; for whom He ruleth not, He breaketh. "Thou shalt rule them," saith He, "with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."  But there are whom He ruleth not; these He spareth not, as a potter's vessel dashing them in pieces. By Him then let us wish to be ruled and delivered, "for He is our God for ever and ever, and He shall rule us for ever." 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. XLVII.  Gen. i. 6-8.  Rom. xv. 1.  E.V. "ground."  1 Tim. iii. 15.  Matt. v. 14, 15.  Rom. ix. 32.  Matt. i. 16.  Dan. ii. 35.  Eph. ii. 14.  Ps. cxviii. 22.  Isa. xiv. 13, 14.  Matt. xii. 29.  Job xxxvii. 22.  1 Cor. iii. 11.  1 Cor. i. 31.  1 Cor. iv. 7.  Isa. ii. 3.  Eph. ii. 20.  Ps. ii. 6.  Matt. ii. 16.  Ps. ii. 10, 11.  Isa. xxvi. 17, 18.  Acts xxi. 39.  So LXX.; Heb. Tarshish. Isa. xxiii. 1.  Ezek. xxxviii. 13. [Note the author's interest in all that bears upon his own field of labour.--C.]  Eph. iv. 14.  Ps. ii. 8.  Ps. lxxii. 11.  Ps. cviii. 5.  Matt. xxvii. 35.  Matt. xxvi. 64.  Matt. xxiv. 23.  2 Tim. iii. 5.  2 Cor. vi. 1.  Cant. ii. 2.  John i. 11, 12.  Ps. xxvi. 9.  Matt. iii. 12.  John iv. 22.  Rom. ii. 28, 29.  2 Tim. iii. 5.  Cant. viii. 6.  1 Cor. xiii. 3.  Ruinart. Acta Martyrum, p. 86, which supports the reading adopted from the Oxford mss. Ben. has, "How many parents did their sons forbid." [See A.N.F. vol. iii., p. 700.--C.]  Ps. cxxii. 7.  Matt. xxviii. 20.  John xvii. 20.  Baruch iii. 37.  Jer. x. 11.  Ps. xcvi. 5.  Ps. ii. 9. ______