The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity
Augustine on Psalm 129
Home, Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity
O LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Source: Sacramentary of Bishop Leo of Rome  and of Gregory. Said the Sunday week before the penitential season of Advent, it begs God for absolution. Today's Gospel echos this theme as the woman was released from her bands of infirmity through faith [Barbee and Zahl]
Malachi iii. 13, Psalm 129, 130, 131 | 144, 145, Colossians i. 3 & St. Matthew ix. 18
Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole
Malachi iii. 13Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
Psalm 129, 130, 131 | 144, 145
Colossians i. 3WE give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: as ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; streng-thened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
St. Matthew ix. 18WHILE Jesus spake these things unto John's disciples, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, he said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
Scripture from 1928 Book of Common Prayer and KJV
The Collects of Thomas Cranmer, Barbee and Zahl
1. The Psalm which we have sung is short: but as it is written in the Gospel of Zacchaeus that he was "little of stature," but mighty in works; as it is written of that widow who cast two mites into the treasury, little was the money, but great was her charity; thus also this Psalm, if thou count the words, is short; if thou weigh the sentiments, is great....Let the Spirit of God speak, let It speak to us, let It sing to us; whether we wish or wish not to dance, let It sing. For as he who danceth, moveth his limbs to the time; so they who dance according to the commandment of God, in their works obey the sound. What therefore saith the Lord in the Gospel to those who refuse to do this? "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced: we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented." Let Him therefore sing; we trust in God's mercy, for there will be those by whom He consoleth us. For they who are obstinate, continuing in wickedness, although they hear the Word of God, by their offences daily disturb the Church. Of such this Psalm speaketh; for thus it beginneth.
2. "Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up" (ver. 1). The Church speaketh of those whom She endureth: and as if it were asked, "Is it now?" The Church is of ancient birth: since saints have been so called, the Church hath been on earth. At one time the Church was in Abel only, and he was fought against by his wicked and lost brother Cain. At one time the Church was in Enoch alone: and he was translated from the unrighteous. At one time the Church was in the house of Noah alone, and endured all who perished by the flood, and the ark alone swam upon the waves, and escaped to shore. At one time the Church was in Abraham alone, and we know what he endured from the wicked. The Church was in his brother's son, Lot, alone, and in his house, in Sodom, and he endured the iniquities and perversities of Sodom, until God freed him from amidst them. The Church also began to exist in the people of Israel: She endured Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The number of the saints began to be also in the Church, that is, in the people of Israel; Moses and the rest of the saints endured the wicked Jews, the people of Israel. We come unto our Lord Jesus Christ: the Gospel was preached in the Psalms. ...For this reason, lest the Church wonder now, or lest any one wonder in the Church, who wisheth to be a good member of the Church, let him hear the Church herself his Mother saying to him, Marvel not at these things, my son: "Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up."
3. "Now may Israel say." She now seemeth to be speaking of herself: for she seemed not to have commenced herself, but to have answered. But to whom hath she replied? To them that think and say, How great evils do we endure, how great are the scandals that every day thicken, as the wicked enter into the Church, and we have to endure them? But let the Church reply through some, that is, through the voice of the stronger, let her reply to the complaints of the weak, and let the stable confirm the unstable, and the full-grown the infant, and let the Church say, "Many a time have they vexed me from my youth up" (ver. 2). Let the Church say this: let her not fear it. For what is the meaning of this addition, "From my youth up," after the words, "Many a time have they fought against me"? At present the old age of the Church is assailed: but let her not fear. Hath she then failed to arrive at old age, because they have not ceased to fight against her from her youth up? have they been able to blot her out? Let Israel comfort herself, let the Church console herself with past examples. Why have they fought against me? "For they could not prevail against me."
4. "Upon my back have sinners built; they have done their iniquity afar off" (ver. 3). Why have they fought against me? Because "they could not prevail upon me." What is this? They could not build upon me. I consented not with them unto sin. For every wicked man persecuteth the good on this account, because the good man consenteth not with him to evil. Suppose he do some evil, and the Bishop censure him not, the Bishop is a good man: suppose the Bishop censure him, the Bishop is a bad man. Suppose he carry off anything, let the man robbed be silent, he is a good man: let him only speak and rebuke, even though he doth not reclaim his goods, he is everything bad. He is bad then who blameth the robber, and he is good who robbeth!...Heed not that such an one speaketh to thee: it is a wicked man through whom It speaketh to thee; but the word of God, that speaketh to thee, is not wicked. Accuse God: accuse Him, if thou canst!
5. Thou accusest a man of avarice, and he accuseth God on the ground that He made gold. Be not covetous. And God, thou repliest, should not make gold. This now remaineth, because thou canst not restrain thine evil deeds, thou accusest the good works of God: the Creator and Architect of the world displeaseth thee. He ought not to make the sun either; for many contend concerning the lights of their windows, and drag each other before courts of law. O if we could restrain our vices! for all things are good, because a good God made all things: and His works praise Him, when their goodness is considered by him who hath the spirit of considering them, the spirit of piety and wisdom. ...
6. Lend not money at interest. Thou accusest Scripture which saith, "He that hath not given his money upon usury." I wrote not this: it went not forth first from my mouth: hear God. He replieth: let not the clergy lend upon usury. Perchance he who speaketh to thee, lendeth not at interest: but if he do so lend, suppose that he doth so lend; doth He who speaketh through him lend at interest? If he doth what he enjoineth thee, and thou dost it not; thou wilt go into the flame, he into the kingdom. If he doth not what he enjoineth thee, and equally with thee doth evil deeds, and preaches duties which he doth not; ye will both equally go into the flames. The hay will burn; but "the word of the Lord abideth for evermore." ...
7. "The righteous Lord shall hew the necks of the sinners" (ver. 4)....Which of us doth not fix his eyes upon the earth, like the Publican, and say, "Lord, be merciful unto me a sinner"? If therefore all are sinners, and none is found without sin; all must fear the sword that hangs above their neck, because "the righteous Lord shall hew the necks of the sinners." I do not imagine, my brethren, of all sinners; but in the member which He striketh, He marks what sinners He striketh. For it is not said, The righteous Lord will hew the hands of the sinners; or their feet; but because proud sinners were meant to be understood, and all proud men carry lofty necks, and not only do evil deeds, but even refuse to acknowledge them to be such, and when they are rebuked, justify themselves: ...as it is written in Job (he was speaking of an ungodly sinner), "he runneth against God, even upon his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers;" so he here nameth the neck, because it is thus thou exaltest thyself, and dost not fix thine eyes upon the ground, and beat thy breast. Thou shouldest cry unto Him, as it is cried in another Psalm, "I said, Lord, be merciful unto me, for I have sinned against Thee." Since thou dost not choose to say this, but justifiest thy deeds against the Word of God; what followeth in Scripture cometh upon thee: the righteous Lord shall hew the necks of sinners.
8. "Let them be confounded and turned backward, as many as have evil will at Sion" (ver. 5). They who hate Sion, hate the Church: Sion is the Church. And they who hypocritically enter into the Church, hate the Church. They who refuse to keep the Word of God, hate the Church: "Upon my back have they built:" what will the Church do, save endure the burden even unto the end?
9. But what saith he of them? The next words are, "Let them be even as the grass of the house tops: that withereth before it be plucked up" (ver. 6). The grass of the house tops is that which groweth on house tops, on a tiled roof: it is seen on high, and hath not a root. How much better would it be if it grew lower, and how much more joyfully would it bloom? As it is, it riseth higher to a quicker withering. It hath not yet been plucked up, yet hath it withered: not yet have they received sentence from the judgment of God, and already they have not the sap of bloom. Observe their works, and see that they have withered....The reapers will come, but they fill not their sheaves from these. For the reapers will come, and will gather the wheat into the barn, and will bind the tares together, and cast them into the fire. Thus also is the grass of the house tops cleared off, and whatever is plucked from it, is thrown into the fire; because it had withered even before it was plucked up. The reaper filleth not his hands thence. His next words are, "Whereof the reaper filleth not his hand; neither he that bindeth up the sheaves his bosom" (ver. 7). And, "the reapers are the angels," the Lord saith.
10. "So that they who go by say not so much as, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we have blessed you in the name of the Lord" (ver. 8). For ye know, brethren, when men pass by others at work, it is customary to address them, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you." And this was especially the custom in the Jewish nation. No one passed by and saw any one doing any work in the field, or in the vineyard, or in harvest, or anything of the sort; it was not lawful to pass by without a blessing....Who are the passers by? They who have already passed hence to their country through this road, that is, through this life: the Apostles were passers by in this life, the Prophets were passers by. Whom did the Prophets and Apostles bless? Those in whom they saw the root of charity? But those whom they found lifted on high on their house tops, and proud in the bosses of their bucklers, they declared against these what they were doomed to become, but they gave them no blessing. Ye therefore who read in the Scriptures, find all those wicked men whom the Church beareth, who are declared cursed, pertain unto Antichrist, pertain unto the devil, pertain to the chaff, pertain to the tares....But they who say, None save God sanctifieth, nor is any man good save by the gift of God; they bless in the name of the Lord, not in their own name: because they are the friends of the bridegroom, they refuse to be adulterers of the bride.
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