Augustin on Psalms 128

PSALM 128 (127)

Ps 128)

1. Felix the Martyr,(2) truly Felix, i.e. "Happy" both in his name and his crown, whose birthday this is, despised the world. Was he, because he feared the Lord, thence happy, thence blessed, because his wife was as a fruitful vine upon the earth, and his children stood around his table? All these blessings he hath perfectly, but in the Body of Him who is here described; and, because he understood them in this sense, he scorned things present, that he might receive things future. Ye are aware, brethren, that he suffered not the death that other martyrs suffered. For he confessed, and was set aside for torments; on another day his body was discovered lifeless. They had closed the prison to his body, not to his spirit. The executioners found him gone; when they were preparing to torture, they spent their rage for nought. He was lying dead, without sense to them, that he might not be tortured; with sense with God, that he might be crowned. Whence was he also happy, brethren, not only in. name, but in the reward of everlasting life, if he loved these things.

2. "Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, and walk in His ways" (verse 1). He speaketh to many; but since these many are one in Christ, in the next words he speaketh in the singular: "For thou shall eat the labours of thy fruits." ... When I speak of Christians in the plural, I understand one in the One Christ. Ye are therefore many, and ye are one; we are many, and we are one. How are we many, and yet one? Because we cling unto Him whose members we are; and since our Head is in heaven, that His members may follow...Let us therefore so hear this Psalm, as considering it to be spoken of Christ: and all of us who cling unto the Body of Christ, and have been made members of Christ, walk in the ways of the Lord; and let us fear the Lord with a chaste fear, with a fear that abideth for ever ....

3. "Thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits" (verse 2). And ye, O thou, ye many who are One, "Thou shall eat of the labours of thy fruits." He seemeth to speak perversely to those who understand not: for he should have said, thou shall eat the fruit of thy labours For many eat the fruit of their labours. They labour in the vineyard; they eat not the to; itself; but what ariseth from their labour they eat. They labour about trees that bear fruit who would eat labours? But the fruit of these labours, the produce of these trees; it is this that delighteth the husbandman. What meaneth, "Thou shall eat the labours of thy fruits "? At present we have toils: the fruits will come afterwards. But since their labours themselves are not without joy, on account of the hope whereof we have a little before spoken, "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation;"(3) at present those very labours delight us, and make us joyful in hope. If therefore our toil has been what could be eaten, and could also delight us; what will be the fruit of our labour when eaten? "They who went weeping on their way, scattering their seed,"(4) did eat their labours; with how much greater pleasure will they eat the fruits of their labours, who "shall come again with joy, bearing their sheaves with them "? "Blessed art thou, and well shall it be with ... thee." "Blessed art thou," is of the present: "well shall it be with bee," is of the future. When thou eatest the labours of thy fruits, "blessed art thou;" when thou hast reached the fruit of thy labours, "well shall it be with thee." What hath he said? For if it be well with thee, thou wilt be happy: and if thou wilt be happy, thou wilt also have all well with thee. But there is a difference between hope and attainment. If hope be so sweet, how much sweeter will reality be?

4. Let us now come to the words, "Thy wife" (verse 3): it is said unto Christ. His wife, therefore, is the Church: His Church, His wife, we ourselves are. "As a fruitful vineyard." But in whom is the vineyard fruitful? For we see many barren ones entering those walls; we see that many intemperate, usurious persons, slave dealers, enter these walls, and such as resort to fortune-tellers, go to enchanters and enchantresses when they have a headache. Is this the fruitfulness of the vine? Is this the fecundity of the wife? It is not. These are thorns, but the vineyard is not everywhere thorny. It hath a certain fruitfulness, and is a fruitful vine; but in whom? "Upon the sides of thy house." Not all are called the sides of the house. For I ask what are the sides. What shall I say? Are they walls, strong stones, as it were? If he were speaking of this bodily tenement, we should perhaps understand this by sides. We mean by the sides of the house, those who cling unto Christ. ...

5. "Thy children." The wife and the children are the same. In these carnal marriages and wedlocks, the wife is one, the children other: in the Church, she who is the wife, is the children also. For the Apostles belonged to the Church, and were among the members of the Church. They were therefore in His wife, and were His wife according to their own portion which they held in His members. Why then is it said concerning them, "When the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall the children of the Bridegroom fast"?(1) She who is the wife, then, is the children also. I speak a wonderful thing, my brethren. In the words of the Lord, we find the Church to be both His brethren, and His sisters, and His mother.(2) ... For Mary was among the sides of His House, and His relatives coming of the kindred of the Virgin Mary, who believed on Him, were among the sides of His House; not in respect of their carnal consanguinity, but inasmuch as they heard the Word of God, and obeyed it. ... He added; "For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother."(3) "Brother," perhaps, on account of the male sex whom the Church hath: "sister," on account of the women whom Christ hath here in His members. How "mother," save that Christ Himself is in those Christians, whom the Church daily bringeth forth Christians through baptism? In those therefore in whom thou understandest the wife, in them thou understandest the mother, in them the children.

6. ... Such children ought therefore to be "around" the Lord's" table, like olive-branches."(4) A complete Vine it is, a great bliss: who would now refuse to be there? When thou seest any blasphemer have a wife, children, grandchildren, and thyself perchance without them, envy them not; discern that the promise hath been fulfilled in thee also, but spiritually. If therefore we have, why have we? Because we fear the Lord. "Lo, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord" (verse 4). He is the man, who is also the men; and the men are one man; because many are one, because Christ is One.

7. "The Lord from out of Sion bless thee: and mayest thou see thee good things that are of Jerusalem" (verse 5). Even to the birds was it said, "Be fruitful and multiply."(5) Dost thou wish to hold as a great blessing what was given unto birds? Who can be ignorant, that it was given indeed by the voice of God? But use these goods, if thou receive them; and rather think how thou mayest nourish those who have been born, than that others may be born. For it is not happiness to have children, but to have good ones. Labour in the task of nourishing them, if they be born; but if they be not born, give thanks unto God ....Thy children are infants: thou dost caress the infants: the infants caress thee: do they abide thus? But thou wishest they may grow, thou wishest that their age may increase. But consider that when one age cometh, another dieth. When boyhood cometh, infancy dieth; when youth cometh, boyhood dieth: when manhood cometh, youth dieth; when old age cometh, manhood dieth: when death cometh, all age dieth. As many successions of ages as thou wishest for, so many deaths of ages dost thou wish for. These things therefore "are" not. Finally, are children born unto thee to share life with thee on earth, or rather to shut thee out and to succeed thee? Rejoicest thou in those born to exclude thee? Boys when born speak somewhat like this to their parents: "Now then, begin to think of removing hence, let us too play our parts on the stage." For the whole life of temptation in the human race is a stage play;(6) for it is said, "Every man living is altogether vanity."(7) Nevertheless, if we rejoice in children who will succeed us; how much must we rejoice in children with whom we shall remain, and in that Father for whom we are born, who will not die, but that we may evermore live with Him? These are the good things of Jerusalem: for they "are." And how long shall I see the good things of Jerusalem? "All thy life long." If thy life be for ever, thou wilt see the good things of Jerusalem for evermore. ...

8. For, "if in this life only," saith the Apostle, "we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." s For what reason were the Martyrs condemned to beasts? What is that good? Can it be declared? by what means, or what tongue can tell it? or what ears can hear it? That indeed, "Neither ear hath heard, nor hath it entered into man's heart:"(9) only let us love, only let us grow in grace: ye see, then, that battles are not wanting, and that we fight with our lusts. We fight outwardly with unbelieving and disobedient men; we fight inwardly with carnal suggestions and perturbations: we everywhere as yet fight .... What sort of peace then is this? One from Jerusalem, for Jerusalem is interpreted, A vision of Peace. Thus then "mayest thou see the good things that are of Jerusalem," and that, "all thy life long--and mayest thou see," not only thy children, but, "thy children's children." What meaneth, Thy children? Thy works which thou here dost. Who are thy children's children? The fruits of thy works. Thou givest alms: these are thy children: for the sake of thine alms thou receivest everlasting life, these are thy children's children. "Mayest thou see thy children's children;" and there shall be "peace upon Israel" (verse 6), the last words of the Psalm ....

PSALM 129 (128)

Ps 129)

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,"(1) 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;(2) 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."(3) 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.

5. "Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up" (verse 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.(4) At one time the Church was in Enoch alone: and he was translated from the unrighteous.(5) 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.(6) 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 Sodore, and he endured the iniquities and perversities of Sodom, until God freed him from amidst them.(7) 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.(8) ... 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" (verse 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 (verse 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.(9) 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.(1) ...

6. Lend not money at interest. Thou accusest Scripture which saith, "He that hath not given his money upon usury."(2) 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."(3) ...

7. "The righteous Lord shall hew the necks of the sinners" (verse 4) ....Which of us doth not fix his eyes upon the earth, like the Publican, and say, "Lord, be merciful unto me a sinner"?(4) 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:(5) ... 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; "(6) 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."(7) 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" (verse 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" (verse 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" (verse 7). And, "the reapers are the angels,"(8) 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" (verse 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."(9) 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, l 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.

PSALM 130 (129)

Ps 130)

1. "Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice" (verse 1). Jonas cried from the deep; from the whale's belly.(3) He was not only beneath the waves, but also in the entrails of the beast; nevertheless, those waves and that body prevented not his prayer from reaching God, and the beast's belly could not contain the voice of his prayer. It penetrated all things, it burst through all things, it reached the ears of God: if indeed we ought to say that, bursting through all things, it reached the ears of God, since the ears of God were in the heart of him who prayed. For where hath not he God present, whose voice is faithful? Nevertheless, we also ought to understand from what deep we cry unto the Lord. For this mortal life is our deep. Whoever hath understood himself to be in the deep, crieth out, groaneth, sigheth, until he be delivered from the deep, and come unto Him who sitteth above all the deeps. ... For they are very deep in the deep, who do not even cry from the deep. The Scripture saith, "When the wicked hath reached the depth of evils, he despiseth."(4) Now consider, brethren, what sort of deep that is, where God is despised. When each man seeth himself overwhelmed with daily sins, pressed down by heaps and weights, so to speak, of iniquities: if it be said unto him, Pray unto God, he laughs. In what manner? He first saith, If crimes were displeasing unto God, should I live? If God regarded human affairs, considering the great crimes which I have committed, should I not only live, but be prosperous? For this is wont to happen to those who are far in the deep, and are prosperous in their iniquities: and they are the more plunged in the deep, in proportion as they seem to be more happy; for a deceitful happiness is itself a greater unhappiness. ...

2. "Lord, hear my voice. O let Thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint" (verse 2). Whence doth he cry? From the deep. Who is it then who crieth? A sinner. And with what hope doth he cry? Because He who came to absolve from sins, gave hope even to the sinner down in the deep. What therefore followeth after these words: "If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?" (verse 3). So, he hath disclosed from what deep he cried out. For he crieth beneath the weights and billows of his iniquities ....He said not, I may not abide it: but, "who may abide it?" For he saw that nigh the whole of human life on every side.was ever bayed at by its sins, that all consciences were accused by their thoughts, that a clean heart trusting in its own righteousness could not be found.

3. But wherefore is there hope? "For there is propitiation with Thee" (verse 4). And what is this propitiation, except sacrifice? And what is sacrifice, save that which hath been offered for us? The pouring forth of innocent blood blotted out all the sins of the guilty: so great a price paid down redeemed all captives from the hand of the enemy who captured them. "With Thee," then, "there is propitiation." For if there were not mercy with Thee, if Thou chosest to be Judge only, and didst refuse to be merciful, Thou wouldest mark all our iniquities, and search after them. Who could abide this? Who could stand before Thee, and say, I am innocent? Who could stand in Thy judgment? There is therefore one hope: "for the sake of Thy law have I borne Thee, O Lord." What law? That which made men guilty. For a "law, holy, just, and good,"(5) was given to the Jews; but its effect was to make them guilty. A law was not given that could give life,(6) but which might show his sins to the sinner. For the sinner had forgotten himself, and saw not himself; the law was given him, that he might see himself. The law made him guilty, the Lawgiver freed him: for the Lawgiver is the Supreme Power.(7) ... There is therefore a law of the mercy of God, a law of the propitiation of God.(8) The one was a law of fear, the other is a law of love. The law of love giveth forgiveness to sins, blotteth out the past, warneth concerning the future; forsaketh not its companion by the way, becometh a companion to him whom it leadeth on the way. But it is needful to agree with the adversary, whilst thou art with him in the way.(9) For the Word of God is thine adversary, as long as thou dost not agree with it. But thou agreest, when it has begun to be thy delight to do what God's Word commandeth. Then he who was thine adversary becometh thy friend: so, when the way is finished, there will be none to deliver thee to the Judge. Therefore, "For the.sake of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord," because thou hast condescended to bring in a law of mercy, to forgive me all my sins, to give me for the future warnings that I may not offend. ... "For the sake," therefore," of" this "law I have waited for Thee, O Lord." I have waited until Thou mayest come and free me from all need, for in my very need Thou hast not forsaken the law of mercy. ... "My soul hath waited for Thy word." ...

4. We therefore trust without fear on the word of Him who cannot deceive. "My soul hath trusted in the Lord, from the morning watch even unto night" (verse 5). This morning watch is the end of night. We must therefore understand it so that we may not suppose we are to trust in the Lord for one day only. What do you conceive to be the sense, then, brethren? The words mean this: that the Lord, through whom our sins have been remitted, arose from the dead at the morning watch, so that we may hope that what went before in the Lord will take place in us. For our sins have been already forgiven: but we have not yet risen again: if we have not risen again, not as yet hath that taken place in us which went before in our Head. What went before in our Head? Because the flesh of that Head rose again; did the Spirit of that Head die? What had died in Him, rose again. Now He arose on the third day; and the Lord as it were thus speaketh to us: What ye have seen in Me, hope for in yourselves; that is, because I have risen from the dead, ye also shall rise again.

5. But there are who say, Behold, the Lord hath risen again; but must I hope on that account that I also may rise again? Certainly, on that account: for the Lord rose again in that which He assumed from thee. For He would not rise again, save He had died; and He could not have died, except He bore the flesh. What did the Lord assume from thee? The flesh. What was He that came Himself? The Word of God, who was before all things, through whom all things were made. But that He might receive something from thee, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."(1) He received from thee, what He might offer for thee; as the priest receiveth from thee, what he may offer for thee, when thou wishest to appease God for thy sins. It hath already been done, it hath been done thus. Our Priest received from us what He might offer for us: for He received flesh from us, in the flesh itself He was made a victim, He was made a holocaust, He was made a sacrifice. In the Passion He was made a sacrifice; in the Resurrection He renewed that which was slain, and offered it as His first-fruits unto God, and saith unto thee, All that is thine is now consecrated: since such first-fruits have been offered unto God from thee; hope therefore that that will take place in thyself which went before in thy first-fruits.

6. Since He then rose with the morning watch, our soul began to hope from hence: and how far? "Even unto night;" until we die; for all our carnal death is as it were sleep. ...

7. And he returns to this," From the morning watch let Israel hope in the Lord." Not only "let Israel hope," but "from the morning watch let Israel hope." Do I then blame the hope of the world, when it is placed in the Lord? No; but there is another hope belonging to Israel. Let not Israel hope for riches as his highest good, not for health of body, not for abundance of earthly things: he will indeed have to suffer tribulation here, if it should be his lot to suffer any troubles for the sake of the truth. ...

8. "For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption" (verse 7). Admirable! This could not have been better said in its own place, on account of the words, "From the morning watch." Wherefore? Because the Lord rose again from the morning watch; and the body ought to hope for that which went before in the Head. But, lest this thought should be suggested: The Head might rise again, because It was not weighed down with sins, there was no sin in Him; what shall we do? Shall we hope for such a resurrection, as went before in the Lord, whilst we are weighed down by our sins? But see what followeth: "And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins" (verse 8). Though therefore he was weighed down with his sins, the mercy of God is present to him. For this reason, He went before without sin, that He may blot out the sins of those that follow Him. Trust not in yourselves, but trust from the morning watch. ...

Ps 131)

PSALM 131 (130)

1. In this Psalm, the humility of one that is a servant of God and faithful is commended unto us, by whose voice it is sung; which is the whole body of Christ.(3) For we have often warned you, beloved, that it ought not to be received as the voice of one man singing, but of all who are in Christ's Body. And since all are in His Body, as it were one man speaketh: and he is one who also is many. ... Now he prayeth in the temple of God, who prayeth in the peace of the Church, in the unity of Christ's Body; which Body of Christ consisteth of many who believe in the whole world: and therefore he who prayeth in the temple, is heard. For he prayeth in the spirit and in truth,(4) who prayeth in the peace of the Church; not in that temple, wherein was the figure. ...

2. "Lord, my heart is not lifted up" (verse 1). He hath offered a sacrifice. Whence do we prove that he hath offered a sacrifice? Because humility of heart is a sacrifice. ... If there is no sacrifice, there is no Priest. But if we have a High Priest in Heaven, who intercedeth with the Father for us (for He hath entered into the Holy of Holies, within the veil), ... we are safe, for we have a Priest; let us offer our sacrifice there. Let us consider what sacrifice we ought to offer; for God is not pleased with burnt-offerings, as ye have heard in the Psalm. But in that place he next showeth what he offereth: "The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, shall Thou not despise.(1)

3. "Lord, my heart was not lifted up, neither were mine eyes raised on high" (verse 1); "I have not exercised myself in great matters, nor in wonderful things which are too high for me" (verse 2). Let this be more plainly spoken and heard. I have not been proud: I have not wished to be known among men as for wondrous powers; nor have I sought anything beyond my strength, whereby I might boast myself among the ignorant. As that Simon the sorcerer wished to advance into wonders above himself, on that account the power of the Apostles more pleased him, than the righteousness of Christians. ... What is above my strength, he saith, I have not sought; I have not stretched myself out there, I have not chosen to be magnified there. How deeply this self-exaltation in the abundance of graces is to be feared, that no man may pride himself in the gift of God, but may rather preserve humility, and may do what is written: "The greater thou art, the more humble thyself, and thou shall find favour before the Lord:"(2) how deeply pride in God's gift should be feared, we must again and again impress upon you. ...

4. "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul, as one taken from his mother's breast, such the reward for my soul" (verse 2). He seemeth as it were to have bound himself by a curse: ... as though he had been going to say, Let it so happen to me. "As one taken away from his mother's breast, may be my soul's reward." Ye know that the Apostle saith to some weak brethren, "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."(3) There are weak persons who are not fit for strong meat; they wish to grasp at that which they cannot receive: and if they ever do receive, or seem to themselves to receive what they have not received, they are puffed up thereby, and become proud thereupon; they seem to themselves wise men. Now this happeneth to all heretics; who since they were animal and carnal, by defending their depraved opinions, which they could not see to be false, were shut out of the Catholic Church. ...

5. Another opinion indeed hath been entertained, and another sense in these words. ... It has been evidently explained, my brethren, where God would have us to be humble, where lofty. Humble, in order to provide against pride; lofty, to take in wisdom. Feed upon milk, that thou mayest be nourished; be nourished, so that thou mayest grow; grow, so that thou mayest eat bread. But when thou hast begun to eat bread, thou wilt be weaned, that is, thou wilt no longer have need of milk, but of solid food. This he seemeth to have meant: "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul:" that is, if I was not an infant in mind, I was in wickedness. In this sense, he said before, "Lord, my heart was not lifted up, nor mine eyes raised on high: I do not exercise myself in great matters, nor in wonderful things above me." Behold, in wickedness I am an infant. But since I am not an infant in understanding, "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul," may that reward be mine which is given unto the infant that is weaned from his mother, that I may at length be able to eat bread.

6. This interpretation, also, brethren, displeaseth me not, since it doth not militate against the faith. Yet I cannot but remark that it is not only said, "As one taken away from milk, such may be my soul's reward;" but with this addition, "As one taken away from milk when upon his mother's breast, such may be my soul's reward." Here there is somewhat that induces me to consider it a curse. For it is not an infant, but a grown child that is taken away from milk; he who is weak in his earliest infancy, which is his true infancy, is upon his mother's breast: if perchance he hath been taken away from the milk, he perisheth. It is not without a reason then that it is added, "Upon his mother's breast." For all may be weaned by growing. He who groweth, and is thus taken away from milk, it is good for him; but hurtful for him who is still upon his mother's breast. We must therefore beware, my brethren, and be fearful, lest any one be taken away from milk before his time. ... Let him not therefore wish to lift up his soul, when perchance he is not fit to take meat, but let him fulfil the commandments of humility. He hath wherein he may exercise himself: let him believe in Christ, that he may understand Christ. He cannot see the Word, he cannot understand the equality of the Word with the Father, he cannot as yet see the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Word; let him believe this, and suck it. He is safe, because, when he hath grown, he will eat, which he could not do before he grew by sucking: and he hath a point to stretch towards. Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, and search not the things that are above thy strength; that is, things which thou art not as yet fit to understand. And what am I to do? thou repliest. Shall I remain thus? "But what things the Lord hath commanded thee, think thereupon always."(1) What hath the Lord commanded thee? Do works of mercy, part not with the peace of the Church, place not thy trust in man, tempt not God by longing for miracles. ...

7. For if ye be not exalted, if ye raise not your heart on high, if ye tread not in great matters that are too high for you, but preserve humility, God will reveal unto you what ye are otherwise minded in.(2) But if ye choose to defend this very thing, which ye are otherwise minded about, and with pertinacity assert it, and against the peace of the Church; this curse which he hath described is entailed upon you; when ye are upon your mother's breast, and are removed away from the milk, ye shall die of hunger apart from your mother's breast. But if ye continue in Catholic peace, if perchance ye are in anything otherwise minded than ye ought to be, God will reveal it to you, if ye be humble. Wherefore? Because "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble."(3)

8. This Psalm therefore concludeth to this purpose: "O Israel, trust in the Lord, from this time forth and even unto eternity"(4) (verse 3). But the word seculum doth not always mean this world, but sometimes eternity; since eternity is understood in two ways; until eternity, that is, either evermore without end, or until we arrive at eternity. How then is it to be understood here? Until we arrive at eternity, let us trust in the Lord God; because when we have reached eternity, there will be no longer hope, but the thing itself will be ours.

PSALM 132 (131)

Augustin on Psalms 128