Saturday, May 12, 2012

Augustine: Lent and Easter as Metaphors for Life

Whenever the Office of Readings includes anything from St.Augustine's commentaries and discourses on the Psalms, I start (inwardly) cheering. He reminds us of why we should stick  with the Liturgy of the Hours year after year. He increases our knowledge and appreciation of what we are doing when we pray the hours.

Today's second reading begins with the number one reason for spending lots of time praising God: because it is in praising God that we shall rejoice for ever in the life to come; and no one can be ready for the next life unless he trains himself for it now. My take on this: it's not so much  that we have  to learn to (emotionally) enjoy reciting God's praises five times a day. We just have to do it so much that it becomes second nature to do so. Like breathing. The athlete who has trained for weeks has developed his lungs and muscles --not necessarily a fun things while he's doing it--so that when it's time to complete, he will do with effortless grace, and will enjoy the victory very much!  In heaven, the praise of God will be,I imagine, like breathing out and breathing in. We'll want to build healthy lungs for that sweet, rarefied air.

But what I really wanted to share from Augustine is what he says further down.

Because there are these two periods of time—the one that now is, beset with the trials and troubles of this life, and the other yet to come, a life of everlasting serenity and joy—we are given two liturgical seasons, one before Easter and the other after. The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess. This is why we keep the first season with fasting and prayer; but now the fast is over and we devote the present season to praise. Such is the meaning of the Alleluia we sing.

Both these periods are represented and demonstrated for us in Christ our head. The Lord’s passion depicts for us our present life of trial—shows how we must suffer and be afflicted and finally die. The Lord’s resurrection and glorification show us the life that will be given to us in the future.

Just one more of those Augustine-isms that makes you say, Hey! I'd never thought of it that way before!