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Posts Tagged ‘Confessions of St. Augustine’

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well

St. John 4: 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Intro:  The appointed Gospel lesson for 11 February is St. John 4: 7-21, a selection of the meeting between the Lord and the Samaritan Woman at the well.  Pr. Scott Murray, in his book of daily meditations, A Year with the Church Fathers, cites the quote below from The Confessions of St. Augustine.  St. Augustine’s Confessions is a first in literature, an autobiography, but an autobiography set as a prayer to the Lord.  It is very much akin to St. Paul’s several accounts of his conversion (see Acts 22: 1-21) .  Christian autobiography is not to set the record straight, or to boast in the self, but to show in writing the way the Lord came to a man and saved him:  to boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).   The Confessions  is not about religious enthusiasm but the actuality of His mercy in our misery and sinfulness. St. Augustine’s Confession is eminently quotable, such as, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee”.  In the quote below, I have italicized another great quote for memory.

“When I shall cleave to You with all my being, then shall I in nothing have pain and labor, and my life shall be a real life, being completely full of You. But now, since he whom You fill is the one You lift up, I am a burden to myself, as not being full of You. Joys of sorrow contend with sorrows of joy, and on which side the victory may be I do not know. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. My evil sorrows contend with my good joys, and on which side the victory may be I do not know. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. Woe is me! See, I do not hide my wounds. You are the Physician; I am the sick. You are merciful; I am miserable. Is not the life of man upon earth a trial (Job 7:1)? Who is he that wishes for troubles and difficulties? You command them to be endured, not to be loved. No man loves what he endures, though he may love to endure. Although he rejoices to endure, he would rather there was nothing for him to endure. In adversity, I desire prosperity; in prosperity, I fear adversity. What middle place, then, is there between these, where human life is not a trial? Woe to the prosperity of this world, once and again, from fear of misfortune and a corruption of joy! Woe to the adversities of this world, once and again, and for the third time, from the desire of prosperity; and because adversity itself is a hard thing and makes shipwreck of endurance! Is not the life of man upon earth a trial, and that without pause?

“My whole hope is only in Your exceedingly great mercy. Give what You command, and command what You will. You impose self-control on us; ‘I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, unless God gave it. This was also a matter of wisdom, to know whose gift it was.’ (Wisdom8:21, author). By self-control are we bound up and brought into one, from which we were scattered abroad into many. For he loves You too little who loves anything with You, and which he loves not for Your own sake, 0 Love, who burns forever and is never quenched! 0 Love, my God, kindle me. You command self-control; give what You command, and command what You will” (Augustine, Confessions, 10.28-29).

Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

While the hope of endless glory

Fills my heart with joy and love,

Teach me ever to adore Thee;

May I still Thy goodness prove.

—Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (LSB 686:1)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You have called Your Church to worship Your Son in Spirit and truth. Through the Spirit of Jesus, keep us faithful to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, so that we may be partakers of His divine life and inherit the kingdom promised for those who drink from the water of life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

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I have read that this mosaic of Ambrose might actually be a rendering of his likeness.

The Son of God, being about to bring together His Church, first works through his young servant: and so it is well said: the word of the Lord came unto John, etc., so that the Church has its beginning not from man, but from the Word. (Ambrose on Matthew 3: 1-11, the Season of Advent)

Ambrose was the Bishop of Milan from today’s date, December 7, beginning in 374 till his death in 397.  He was the first of great Church fathers to be born, raised and educated as a Christian (the others were pagans who converted) and in the western part of the Roman Empire in what is now Trier, France.   He studied the classics and the law at Rome and before he was thirty-three was named governor of Ligoria and Aemilia, with headquarters at Milan.  Milan at the time was the seat of the imperial court.  The bishop was an Arian.  Arianism is a Christian heresy.  Bishop Arius taught, “There was a time when Christ was not”, thus denying the plain teaching of Scripture, for instance, see John 1:1-3, and thus denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, His equality in the Godhead  and salvation in Him. (This is not far to the doctrine  that Jesus was a good teacher, for instance, see the book “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth“, by Thomas Jefferson who took the Gospels and cut out all the miracles and the resurrection and left only His sayings).  This resulted in violent clashes between the Arians and the Catholics in Milan.  Ambrose, as Governor, settled the conflict.  Both sides unanimously insisted that Ambrose become their Bishop, or pastor.  At this time, though a believer, Ambrose had not been baptized.  The human tradition  at the time  was to delay baptism till the time of death, so as not to sin after baptism.  Ambrose finally bowed to pressure from church and state, and on this date, December 7th, he was baptized, ordained a priest and consecrated Bishop: all in one day!  Usually, a known saint’s day is the day the saint died, thus in Christ awaiting the resurrection unto eternal life. Today we remember Ambrose’s re-birth into the Kingdom, see John 3:5.

  Ambrose is noted for the following:

  1. a powerful preacher of the Gospel
  2. a hymn writer
  3. a peacemaker
  4. and through it all, defender of the true Faith:  when Arians were sentenced to death, Ambrose saved their lives and yet  he did not compromise the  saving and sound doctrine of the Scriptures with their heresy.

One of the many people who ‘attended church’ and the Liturgy in Milan was a young Manichean philospher,  who had had  a child out of wedlock and who was searching:  Augustine.  Augustine became one of the great teachers and preachers of Jesus Christ. 

“In Milan I found Your devoted servant the bishop Ambrose, who was known throughout the world as a man whom there was few to equal in goodness.  At that time his gifted tongue never tired of dispensing the richness of Your corn, the joy of Your oil, and the sober intoxication of Your wine.  Unknown to me, it was You who led me to him,so that I might knowingly be led by him to You.”  ( From the Confessions of St. Augustine)

On Easter, 387, Ambrose administered the Sacrament of  Holy Baptism for Augustine.

His most reknowned hymn is the Advent hymn we sung for the 1st Sunday of Advent:  ‘Savior of the Nations, Come’:

1. Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

2. Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh–
Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.

3. Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heaven enthroned.

4. From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell–
High the song of triumph swell!

5. Thou, the Father’s only Son,
Hast o’er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?

6. Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin o’ercloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.

7. Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eternally.

(The Lutheran Hymnal Hymn # 95  Text: John 1: 14 Author: St. Ambrose, +397 German version translated by Martin Luther, 1524)

Let us pray…O God, You gave Your servant Ambrose grace to proclaim the Gospel with eloquence and power.  As bishop of the great congregation of Milan, he fearlessly bore reproach for the honor of Your name.  Mercifully grant to all bishops and pastors such excellence in preaching and fidelity in ministering Your Word that Your people shall be partakers of the divine nature;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

(Source for this piece from Festivals and Commemorations by Philip H. Pfatteicher;  to read more about Ambrose:  Cyberbrethren: Ambrose)

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