For the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany: two readings
Here again are two readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, the first being from the previously referenced Faith and Life: Readings Compiled from Ancient Writers by W. A. Bright, and the second from Melville Scott’s Harmony of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels. As Fr. Dennis Washburn notes in his post for this date, “In the English Books of Common Prayer from 1549 through 1662, the Gospel for Epiphany IV was St. Matthew 8:23-34.” This was consistent with the ancient uses, and thus it is that both St. Augustine and Melville Scott refer to the miracle of Christ’s calming the storm. From St. Augustine, quoted in Bright’s work:
I am going to address you, by the Lord’s help, on the lesson which has just been read from the holy Gospel; and thereupon I exhort you not to let faith go to sleep in your hearts, when you have to face the storms and billows of this world. For do not suppose that Christ our Lord had not full power over death as over sleep; or that the Almighty, during His voyage, was by chance, and apart from His own will, oppressed by sleep. If you believe this, He is asleep in you; but if Christ is awake in you, your faith is awake. The Apostle tells us that Christ should “dwell in our hearts by faith.” Therefore Christ’s sleeping is the sign of a mysterious truth10. The ship was a figure of the Church; and individuals, indeed, are temples of God, and every one is in his own soul a voyager; nor does he make shipwreck if he keeps good thoughts. A temptation has sprung up; that is the wind. You are agitated; the wave mounts high. Wake up Christ; let Him speak to you. “Who is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” “The sea is His, and He made it.” “All things were made by Him.” Do you rather imitate the winds and the sea; obey your Creator. Do not be overcome by the waves when your heart is agitated. But still, since we are human, if the wind has come down upon us, if it has stirred up the feelings of our soul, let us not despair; let us wake up Christ, that we may sail on in quietness, and reach our Country. –St. Augustine, Sermon lxiii.
And from Melville Scott, on “Christ the Lord of Nature”:
The disciples had learned to love Christ as a Man, and to listen to Him as a Teacher; now they must learn to trust Him. Doubtless Christ sent the storm that they might find in Him one mightier than the storm. They saw the calmness of trust and how faith can sleep while the storm rages. He wonders that the disciples have not the same confidence. They saw the quiet naturalness of Kingly power, for He acted with the untoiling ease of Godhead, and the powers of nature in their wildest uproar yielded immediate obedience to His voice.
We dread nature now more than ever, for though man has made nature his servant, nature only serves so long as man obeys. We stand in awe of the magnitudes, regularities, and potencies around us; there is, therefore, the greater need to retain faith in a Christ Who is above nature. We may not speak of interference, for Christ is at home in nature, and Master in His home.
Our lives are scenes of storm as well as of calm. We need not suppose that because we meet with storms Christ is not with us, nor that because Christ is with us we shall not meet with storms. So the Church is often storm-tossed, but this does not prove her Lord to be absent. There is a calm which might prove this, and a sleep more like that of Jonah than that of Christ. The sleep of conscience is by no means the sleep of faith, and better any storm endured with Christ than calm without His presence.
Both of these readings impart to us the valuable lesson that we must remember our faith in Christ can bring us through any storm. “Let us not despair, let us wake up Christ, that we may sail on in quietness, and reach our Country.”