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For Ash Wednesday: a reading from Augustine of Hippo

February 14, 2018

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.

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