The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXIX
Home for Lent IV

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Source: Sacramentary of Gregory, Bishop of Rome [600 AD]. This Sunday was sometimes known as "Refreshment Sunday" for "be relieved" from the Latin resperimus and the Gospel where Jesus relieved the multitude of their hunger. Sometimes known as "Mothering Sunday" as Paul says in the Gospel, "the Jerusalem above is the mother of us all"

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2 Sam xv. 30   Psalm 142, 143 | 119:105–144   Galatians iv. 21. St. John vi. 1.
Homily of Augustine on Psalm CXIX NUN (105ff)

Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths

2 Sam xv. 30 (David when he withdrew from Jerusalem after his son had taken the throne)

And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up. And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head: Unto whom David said, If thou passest on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me: But if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father's servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.

Psalms Monrning and Evening 142, 143 | 119:105–144 (Nun-Tzaddi)

Galatians iv. 21.

TELL me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

The Gospel. St. John vi. 1.

JESUS went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

Augustine the Bishop


105. “Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my paths” (ver. 105). The word “lantern” appears in the word “light;” “my feet” are also repeated in “my paths.” What then meaneth “Thy Word”? Is it He who was in the beginning God with God, that is, the Word by whom all things were made? It is not thus. For that Word is a light, but is not a lantern. For a lantern is a creature, not a creator; and it is lighted by participation of an unchangeable light.…For no creature, howsoever rational and intellectual, is lighted by itself, but is lighted by participation of eternal Truth: although sometimes day is spoken of, not meaning the Lord, but that “day which the Lord hath made,” and on account of which it is said, “Come unto Him, and be lightened.” On account of which participation, inasmuch as the Mediator Himself became Man, He is styled lantern in the Apocalypse.. But this sense is a solitary one; for it cannot be divinely spoken of any of the saints, nor in any wise lawfully said of any, “The Word was made flesh,” save of the “one Mediator between God and men.”Since therefore the only-begotten Word, coequal with the Father, is styled a light; and man when enlightened by the Word is also called a light, who is styled also a lantern, as John, as the Apostles; and since no man of these is the Word, and that Word by whom they were enlightened is not a lantern; what is this word, which is thus called a light and a lantern at the same time, save we understand the word which was sent unto the Prophets, or which was preached through the Apostles; not Christ the Word, but the word of Christ, of which it is written, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”?. For the Apostle Peter also, comparing the prophetical word to a lantern, saith, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lantern, that shineth in a dark place.” What, therefore, he here saith, “Thy word” is the word which is contained in all the holy Scriptures.

106. “I have sworn, and am stedfastly purposed to keep Thy righteous judgments” (ver. 106): as one who walked aright in the light of that lantern, and kept to straight paths. For he calleth what he hath determined by a sacrament, an oath; because the mind ought to be so fixed in keeping the righteous judgments of God, that its determination should be in the place of an oath. Now the righteous judgments of God are kept by faith; when, under the righteous judgment of God, neither any good work is believed to be fruitless, nor any sin unpunished; but, because the body of Christ hath suffered many most grievous evils for this faith, he saith, “I was humbled above measure” (ver. 107). He doth not say, I have humbled myself, so that we must needs understand that humiliation which is commanded; but he saith, “I was humbled above-measure;” that is, suffered a very heavy persecution, because he swore and was steadfastly purposed to keep the righteous judgments of God. And, lest in such trouble faith herself might faint he addeth, “Quicken me, O Lord, according to Thy word:” that is, according to Thy promise. For the word of the promises of God is a lantern to the feet, and a light to the paths. Thus also above, in the humiliation of persecution, he prayed that God would quicken him. …

107. “Make the freewill offerings of my mouth well pleasing, O Lord” (ver. 108): that is, let them please Thee; do not reject, but approve them. By the freewill offerings of the mouth are well understood the sacrifices of praise, offered up in the confession of love, not from the fear of necessity; whence it is said, “a freewill offering will I offer Thee.” But what doth he add? “and teach me Thy judgments”? Had he not himself said above, “From Thy judgments I have not swerved”? How could he have done thus, if he knew them not? Moreover, if he knew them, in what sense doth he here say, “and teach me Thy judgments”? Is it as in a former passage, “Thou hast dealt in sweetness with Thy servant:” presently after which we find, “teach me sweetness”? This passage we explained as the words of one who was gaining in grace, and praying that he might receive in addition to what he had received.

108. “My soul is alway in Thy hand” (ver. 109). Some copies read, “in my hand:” but most, “in Thy hand;” and this latter is indeed easy. For “the souls of the righteous are in God’s hand: in whose hand are both we and our words.” “And I do not forget Thy law:” as if his memory were aided to remember God’s law by the hands of Him in whose hands is his soul. But how the words, “My soul is in my hands,” can be understood, I know not. For these are the words of the righteous, not of the ungodly; of one who is returning to the Father, not departing from the Father.…Is it perhaps said, “My soul is in my hands,” in this sense, as if he offered it to God to be quickened? Whence in another passage it is said, “Unto Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul.” Since here too he had said above, “Quicken Thou me.”

109. “The ungodly,” he saith, “have laid a snare for me: but yet I swerved not from Thy commandments” (ver. 110). Whence this, unless because his soul is in the hands of God, or in his own hands is offered to God to be quickened?

110. “Thy testimonies have I gained in heritage for ever” (ver. 111). Some wishing to express in one word what is put in one word in the Greek, have translated it hereditavi. Which although it might be Latin, yet would rather signify one who gave an inheritance than one who received it, hereditavi being like ditavi. Better, therefore, the whole sense is conveyed in two words, whether we say, “I have possessed in heritage,” or, “I have gotten in heritage:” not gotten heritage, but “gotten in heritage.” If it be asked, what he gained in heritage, he replieth, “Thy testimonies.” What doth he wish to be understood, save that he might become a witness of God, and confess His testimonies, that is, that he might become a Martyr of God, and might declare His testimonies, as the Martyrs do, was a gift bestowed upon him by the Father, of whom he is heir?…But even their wish was prepared by the Lord. For this reason he saith he hath gained them in heritage, and this “for ever;” because they have not in them the temporal glory of men who seek vain things, but the eternal glory of those who suffer for a short season, and who reign without end. Whence the next words, “Because they are the very joy of my heart:” although the affliction of the body, yet the very joy of the heart.

111. He then addeth: “I have applied my heart to fulfil Thy righteousness for ever, for my reward” (ver. 112). He who saith, “I have applied my heart,” had before said, “Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies:” so that we may understand that it is at once a divine gift, and an act of free will. But are we to fulfil the righteousnesses of God for ever? Those works which we perform in regard to the need of our neighbours, cannot be everlasting, any more than their need; but if we do not do them from love, there is no righteousness; if we do them from love, that love is everlasting, and an everlasting reward is in store for it.

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