Friday, March 29, 2013

Live good lives, and you are the day which the Lord has made...

St. Augustine of Hippo
Preached on Holy Easter Sunday
Sermon 229B, Date: uncertain

Live good lives, and you are the day which the Lord has made
In seeing the risen Christ, Saint Theresa of Avila experienced a mystical transverberation, which she described as the piercing of her heart by an angel. She called this spiritual union with God, her "mystical marriage."

The Lord has indeed made every day – and not only has made, but also continues to make; I mean, He makes every day as follows: He makes His sun rise on the good and the bad, and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45).  So we are not to imagine that this ordinary kind of day, which is common to good and bad alike, is meant in this place, where we heard,This is the day which the Lord has made.  A particular sort of day is being proclaimed more formally, and our attention is being drawn to a particular sort of day by its saying, This is the day which the Lord has made. What sort of day can it be, when it says Let us exult and be joyful in it (Ps 118:24)?  What sort, but a good one?  What sort but a very choice, lovable, desirable one, the sort about which Saint Jeremiah said, And the day of men I have not yearned for, you know it well (Jer 17:16)?
So what is this day which the Lord has made?  Live good lives, and you will be this day yourselves.  The apostle, you see, was not talking about the day which begins with sunrise and ends with sunset, when he said Let us walk honorably, as in the day (Rom 13:13); where he also said, For those who get drunk are drunk at night (1 Thes 5:7).  Nobody sees people getting drunk at the midday meal; but when this does happen, it is a matter of the night, not of the day which the Lord has made.  You see, just as that day is realized in those who live godly, holy, and religious lives, marked by moderation, justice, sobriety; so too on the contrary, for those who live in an ungodly, loose-living, proud, and irreligious manner – for that sort of night, the night will undoubtedly be a thief: The day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night (1 Thes 5:2) – that’s what’s written, after all.
But after reminding us of this testimony, the apostle turned to those to whom he had elsewhere said You were once darkness, but now light in the Lord (Eph 5:8) – that is where the day was made which the Lord has made.  He turned to them, after saying, You know, brothers, that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night, and he said to them, You, however, are not in darkness, that that day should catch you out like a thief.  For you are all children of the light and children of the day; we are not of the night nor of the darkness (1 Thes 5:4-5).  So this song we sing over and over again is a constant reminder to us to live good lives.  When we all say together with harmonious voices, joyful spirits, hearts beating together, This is the day which the Lord has made, let us fit ourselves to the sound we make, or else our tongues may be giving evidence against us.  You’re going to drink yourself silly today, and you still say This is the day which the Lord has made?  Aren’t you afraid He may answer you, ‘This is certainly not the day which the Lord has made’?  And can it be called a good day, when by self-indulgence and loose living it has made it into the worst possible day for itself?”
2. Here we have such joy, my brothers and sisters, joy in your coming together, joy in the psalms and hymns, joy in the memory of Christ’s passion and resurrection, joy in the hope of future life.  If what we are still hoping for fills us with such tremendous joy, what will it be like when we actually posses it?  Just look how these days, when ‘Alleluia’ is ringing in our ears, our spirits soar!  Isn’t it as though we were getting I don’t know what little taste of that city beyond the stars?  If these days fill us with such tremendous joy, what will that day be like when we are told, Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom (Mt25:34); when all the saints are gathered together there in unity; where in that great reunion those who hadn’t met before now see each other; where those who had known each other now recognize one another; where they will all be together in such a way that a friend is never lost, an enemy never to be feared?
I mean, here we are, saying Alleluia; it’s good, it’s enjoyable, it’s full of happiness, delight, pleasure. And yet, if we said it all the time, we would get bored.  But when it recurs at a fixed season of the year, with what delight its return is greeted, with what wistfulness its departure!  Will enjoyment be like that there, and will there be boredom then?  There won’t be.
Someone says, perhaps, ‘And how can it happen that this goes on all the time, and never gets boring?’  If I can show you something in this life that can never get boring, will you believe that there everything will be like that?  Yes, food can get boring, drink can get boring, entertainment can get boring, this, that and the other can get boring; good health, though, has never been found boring.  So just as in this time of the mortality of the flesh, this time of frailty, this time of the weariness of the burden of the body, it has never been possible to get bored with good health; so there, in the same way, there will never be any boredom with charity, with immortality, with eternity.

Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever

St. Hippolytus (AD 190-236)

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