August 28, 2014 - SAINT AUGUSTINE:

1 CORINTHIANS 1:1-9 ; MATTHEW 24:42-51

These two readings we have just heard provide fitting context for our reflection on the life and work of Saint Augustine whom we honor at this evening liturgy.  Jesus is quoted by Saint Matthew as saying of the servant who distributes food to the household "Blessed is that servant".  In his numerous letters and sermons, and in the large number of books he authored, the Bishop of Hippo has expounded the faith for persons of all conditions from Popes and theologian to lay persons, unbelievers as well as the faithful.  Augustine remains and example to the whole Church of a man who followed assiduously the words Jesus speaks in today's Gospel "Stay awake".  His writings are studied not only in Christian settings but are taught in secular Universities, and included in the series Great Books of the West are his "Confessions" and "The City of God".

Saint Paul begins his First Epistle to the Corinthians with an expression of thanksgiving to God that we can make our own in regards to the graces bestowed on the Church through the conversion of Saint Augustine.  Paul wrote: "I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge."  There is a broad consensus among those who best know the history of the Church that far more than any another after the death of the apostles and evangelists Augustine was the most significant teacher and preacher of the faith in the Latin Church.  Not only his extensive writings but his dedicated pastoral activities still serve as a guide and stimulus to the Church today.  Active as he was, yet he remained an example of fidelity to the life of prayer and community living.   Our Cistercian Fathers read him assiduously and assimilated much of his writing and example.  His series of 120 sermons on the Gospel of Saint John continue to be models of lectio divina accessible to all who serious seek to penetrate the most mystical of the Gospels.

As learned and intelligent as he was, Augustine remains above all a prominent example of humility and of gratitude to God.  He never forgot that he had been sought out by our Lord and saved from a life of alienation and sin.  Upon realizing he was soon to die, he spent the last days of his life in the solitude of his monastic cell, concentrating his prayer on seeking God's mercy and fervently reciting the seven penitential psalms.  As our Cistercian fathers thoroughly understood, Augustine is not only our teacher of the great mysteries of our faith, but he remains our brother who accompanies us in our life of prayer, study, penance, and praise.  May this Eucharist obtain for each of us here the grace to follow in the same path that brought Augustine of Hippo to eternal life in the Blessed Trinity of whom he wrote with the insight of loving faith.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger