This is another repost from past years – a quote for Ash Wednesday from Faith and Life: Readings Compiled from Ancient Writers, and it is from St. Leo:
WE have come, dearly beloved, to the beginning of Lent, that is, to the more earnest service of our Lord ; and as we are entering on a kind of contest of holy exertion, let us prepare our souls for strife with temptation, and understand that exactly in proportion to our greater heartiness in pursuing our salvation will be the vehemence of our enemies’ assault. But stronger is He that is in us than he that is against us, and we have force through Him in whose power we confide; for it was to this end that our Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the Tempter, that, as we are guarded by His aid, we should be instructed by His example. For He conquered the adversary by authorities from the Law, not by the exertion of superior might; that by this means He might at once put a higher honour on man, and inflict a heavier punishment on the adversary, in that the foe of mankind was conquered not as it were by God, but by man. He therefore fought then, that we too might fight afterwards; He conquered, that we too might conquer likewise. For there are no works of virtue without the trials of temptation, no faith without probation, no conflict without a foe, no victory without an engagement. This life of ours lies in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles. If we do not mean to be deceived, we must keep watch; if we do mean to conquer, we must fight.
–St Leo, First Sermon on Lent.
As J.C. Ryle said, “True Christianity is a fight.” Lent is a reminder of that.
This is a repost from previous years, for I find this excerpt from Augustine of Hippo from Faith and Life: Readings Compiled from Ancient Writers to be powerful:
In the night of this world a lion is prowling abroad, seeking whom he may devour; it is our adversary the Devil. Amid the night of this world, so full of perils and temptations, who would not fear? who would not tremble to the depths of his being, lest he should be adjudged to deserve being hurled into the devouring jaws of so cruel an enemy? Therefore we must fast and pray. And when should we rather do so, when more earnestly, than at the approach of the solemnity of our Lord’s Passion, by which annual celebration the thought of that same night is, so to speak, again engraven upon our memory, lest it should be effaced by forgetfulness, lest that roaring devourer should find us sleeping, not in body, but in spirit. For that very Passion of our Lord,—what else did it chiefly set forth to us in our Head Christ Jesus, than the long trial of this life? Wherefore, when the time of His own death was drawing near, He said to Peter, “Satan asked to sift you as wheat; but I prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith should not fail: go and strengthen thy brethren.” And indeed he has strengthened us by his apostleship, by his martyrdom, by his epistles; wherein also, warning us of the terrors of that night of which I am speaking, he has taught us, by the consolation of prophecy, as of a nocturnal light, to be forewarned and wakeful. “For we have, more sure, the word of prophecy; to which ye do well to attend, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts’.” Let our “loins, therefore, be girded about, and our lamps burning, and let us be like men awaiting their Lord, when he returns from the wedding.” Let us not say to each other, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” but the rather, in that the day of death is uncertain, and the day of life is grievous, “Let us fast and pray, for to-morrow we die.” Now, therefore, in the person of Christ I exhort you, lest ye be circumvented by Satan, to obtain God’s mercy by daily fastings, by more bountiful alms, by more fervent prayers.
–St. Augustine, Sermon ccx.
This is a good statement for why we have Lent.
This is a message by Dr. Ravi Zacharias, the noted apologist for the Christian faith. The title of this particular message is “An Ancient Message in a Post-Modern World” and this is the first of three parts.
Here is another excerpt from Faith and Life, this one from Augustine of Hippo, on charity, or love:
IF you have not leisure to examine all the sacred pages, to unfold all the recondite discourses, to penetrate all the secrets of Scripture, hold fast Charity, on which all depend; so will you hold fast what you have learned, and also what you have not yet learned. For if you know Charity, you know something on which that also depends which perhaps you know not; and in what you understand in Scripture, Charity is patent—in what you do not understand, Charity is latent. Accordingly, he who holds fast Charity in his conduct, holds both what is patent and what is latent in the Divine discourses. Wherefore, brethren, follow after Charity, the sweet and salutary bond of souls, without which the rich man is poor, with which the poor man is rich. Charity is patient in adversities, temperate in prosperity, strong in grievous sufferings, cheerful in good works; most secure in temptation, most expansive in hospitality; most joyous among true brethren, most patient among false ones. In Abel it is acceptable through sacrifice, in Noah fearless amid the deluge, in Abraham’s wanderings most faithful, in Moses most forbearing amid injuries, in David’s tribulations most gentle; in the three Children it awaits with innocence the harmless fires; in the Maccabees it bravely endures the cruel ones. It is chaste in Susanna towards her husband, in Anna’s widowed life, in Mary’s virginal one. It is freespoken in Paul for rebuke, humble in Peter for submission; human in Christians for confessing, divine in Christ for pardoning. But what can I say of Charity, that is greater or richer than those praises of it which the Lord thunders forth by the mouth of the Apostle when he points to the “far-surpassing way?” How great is Charity! The soul of letters, the power of prophecy, the saving virtue of sacraments, the basis of knowledge, the fruit of faith, the riches of the poor, the life of the dying.
–St. Augustine, Sermon cccl.
Truly, love is the greatest of the gifts, and without it all else is vain.
This being the last of the Sundays before Lent – the one called “Quinquagesima” -again from Faith and Life, here is an excerpt on love or “charity” – this one by John Chrysostom:
This is the marvellous point about Charity, that all other good things have evils yoked with them; the man who has no property is often puffed up on that account, the eloquent man has a morbid passion for glory, the humble-minded man is often, in his secret soul, actually proud of his humility; but love is free from every such mischief, for no one would ever be lifted up against the person he loves. And do not suppose the case of only one person loving, but of all alike, and then you will see the excellence of love. Or rather, if you choose, first imagine one person beloved and one person loving; that is, of course, loving as it is meet to love. Why, he will live on earth just as if he were in Heaven, every where enjoying tranquillity, and weaving for himself innumerable crowns. He who is such will guard his soul clear from envy, and anger, and jealousy, and arrogance, and vain-glory, and evil desire, and every unhallowed love, and every moral disorder. He will be as far from doing any evil to his neighbours as any other man from doing evil to himself. Being such as he is, he will be standing by the side of Gabriel himself, while yet he walks on earth. Consider how vast a blessing is the mere act of loving; how much cheerfulness it produces, in how great grace it establishes the soul; which is its peculiar excellence; for the other parts of virtue have each their pain connected with them, but love, together with its profitableness, has its pleasure too in abundance, and no pain at all. He who loves is more pleased to be commanded than to command (pleasant as that is); yea, love changes the nature of things, and appears with all blessings in her hands, gentler than any mother, wealthier than any queen, and makes difficult things light, rendering virtue easy and vice most bitter.
Hence it is that Paul says that Charity is the mother of all good things, and prefers it to miracles and all other gifts. For as, if golden robes and shoes appear, we need some other indication of sovereignty, but seek for no other if we see the purple and the diadem; so it is here. When a man wears the diadem of love, that is enough to point out the thorough disciple of Christ, not to us only, but also to the unbeliever. For, says He, “by this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So that this sign is greater than all signs, since by means of it the disciple is recognized. For if any men were to do innumerable miracles, yet be at variance with each other, they would be laughed at by unbelievers; so, if they do no miracle, but thoroughly love one another, they continue to be reverenced and to be invincible by all. For Paul also is admired not for the dead whom he raised nor the lepers whom he cleansed, but because he said, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” For if you add innumerable miracles to this, you will say nothing so grand. If he even glories, it is in weaknesses, in outrages, in his intense sympathy with the injured; just as here he also says, “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” These words are greater than dangers, and hence, when increasing the emphasis of his discourse, he places them last of all. Both soul and body did he give up that the men who stoned and beat him might attain a kingdom. “For thus,” says he, “has Christ taught me to love, who left that new commandment of His about love, and Himself fulfilled it by His own actions.” Combining then in our view these deeds of God and of men, let us emulate these virtues, and possess ourselves of that Charity which transcends all spiritual gifts.
–St. Chrysostom, Hom, xxxii. on 1 Cor.
Love is the “mark of the Christian.”
Continuing with his series on the Book of Acts, here is another message from Phillip Jensen, titled “Living as a Flexible Fanatic”. It is based on Acts 21.
I freely admit I do not have a clue as to what to think about the Iowa caucus results. But here are Bill Whittle, Stephen Green, and Scott Ott on a Trifecta that might have some insights. The YouTube notes say: “The Iowa caucus has provided yet another strange start to the election year. Record turnout by Republicans helped Ted Cruz take down Donald Trump. Democrats decided who won with a coin toss! Do these results even matter? Check out this Trifecta for the answer!”
From the Preaching Matters series at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in London, here is a message by their rector, William Taylor, on “Do we need to contextualise our preaching?” Here, he talks to Preaching Matters about the problems with the contextualisation agenda. As they note, “Using biblical examples, we discuss the way forward for preachers as they seek to preach into their specific contexts. Be a beaver with the word but a magpie with the world!”