Yesterday’s reading from the Office, the last of the liturgical year, is also one of the best, St. Augustine at his most eloquent. Like this time of year in the liturgy itself, it’s as much about beginning as it is about ending. It captures that joyful hope that so characterizes the Advent season and which I think is much in need these days — that flicker of unfailing light to guide us through the winter darkness.
There’s nothing saccharine in Augustine — Rome was crumbling as he wrote, and his honesty about his own failings and man’s sinfulness is unflinching — but that’s what makes his alleluia really count. Despite his own weakness and wrongheadedness, he knew God’s pursuit was unfailing. And he knew — something I feel acutely today given the state of the Church and the world — that there is still so much work before us…
“Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security… Even here amidst trials and temptations let us, let all men, sing alleluia. God is faithful, says holy Scripture, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. So let us sing alleluia, even here on earth. Man is still a debtor, but God is faithful…
“O the happiness of the heavenly alleluia, sung in security, in fear of no adversity! We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both there and here, but here they are sung in anxiety, there, in security; here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by those destined to live forever; here they are sung in hope, there, in hope’s fulfillment; here they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country.
“So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do — sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going…”
St. Augustine, Sermo 256
Office of Readings
Saturday, 34th Week in Ordinary Time