Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sing but Keep Going, says Augustine

Augustine talks about singing so much that he makes me think that maybe I ought to sing the hymns at the start of each liturgical hour, even if I'm by myself. Augustine is the one who came up with He who sings prays twice, a line used frequently by frustrated choir directors to browbeat non-musical catholics  into singing.

But this sermon of Augustine, "Alleluia versus Anxiety", is wonderful. Especially the bit about singing on a journey, and the bit about us being pottery in the oven. If you don't have a 4-volume breviary, it's on the ibreviary widget to the left on today's Office of Readings. If you read this after 6pm EST, ibreviary will have changed over to Sunday, so here are a few excerpts. If you are intrigued, you can go over to and read the whole thing.

Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security.

How can all be well with people who are crying out with me: Deliver us from evil? And yet, brothers, while we are still in the midst of this evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God who delivers us from evil.
Even here amidst trials and temptations let us, let all men, sing alleluia. God is faithful, says holy Scripture, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength.
You are like a piece of pottery, shaped by instruction, fired by tribulation. When you are put into the oven therefore, keep your thoughts on the time when you will be taken out again; for God is faithful, and he will guard both your going in and your coming out.

O the happiness of the heavenly alleluia, sung in security, in fear of no adversity! We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both there and here, but here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by those destined to live for ever; here they are sung in hope, there, in hope’s fulfillment; here they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country.

So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going. What do I mean by keep going? Keep on making progress.... If you make progress, you will be continuing your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith and right living.         

Sing then, but keep going.