A splendid weapon

“What is our soul? A splendid weapon it may be, long, sharp, oiled, and coruscating with the light of wisdom as it is brandished. But what is this soul of ours worth, what is it capable of, unless God holds it and fights with it? Any sword, however beautifully made, lies idle if there is no warrior to take it up…. So God does whatever he wishes with our soul. Since it is in his hand, it is his to use as he will.”

~ Augustine, Exposition of Psalm 34, exp. 1, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B.

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Psalm 148

To the tune King’s Weston

Praise Him in the heavens,
Praise Him in the height,
Praise Him, day and evening,
Praise Him, stars of light:
Angels and archangels,
All the fiery host,
Praise Him: God the Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost.

By the Lord’s commandment
Were the heavens made,
At his word and summons
All the spheres obeyed:
For all times and seasons
He has set them fast,
Keepers of creation
While the world shall last.

Praise Him, earth and ocean,
Praise Him from below:
Fire, hail, and vapor
And all winds that blow:
All ye storms and dragons,
All ye snowy steeps:
Praise Him from the mountains
And the ancient deeps.

Let the trees and cedars
Praise the Lord on high,
Let the beasts and cattle
Utter their reply:
Every thing that creepeth,
All that draweth breath:
Praise the Lord who keepeth
Us in life and death.

Praise Him, men and maidens:
Praise Him, old and young:
Every tribe and nation,
Every voice and tongue;
All ye courts and princes,
Raise the mighty strain:
Praise Him, all ye powers
And all kings that reign.

For the Lord Almighty
Is the only Lord,
He is king and father,
Honored and adored;
He has called us children,
He has drawn us nigh,
And His love shall lead us
To His courts on high.

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Late Have I Loved You

A famous Augustinian prayer, on this Feast Day of St. Augustine:

Late have I loved you,
Beauty so old and so new:
Late have I loved you.

And see, you were within
And I was within the external world
And sought you there,
And in my unlovely state
I plunged into those lovely created things
which you made
The lovely things kept me far from you
Though if they did not have their existence in you
They had no existence at all.

You called and cried out loud
And shattered my deafness
You were radiant and resplendent,
You put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant,
And I drew in my breath and now pant after you.
I tasted you,
And I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me,
And I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

~ St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions 10.27

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The Dove

O cease my wandering soul,
On restless wing to roam;
All the wide world, to either pole,
Has not for thee a home.

Behold the Ark of God,
Behold the open door;
Hasten to gain that dear abode,
And rove, my soul, no more.

And when the waves of ire
Again the earth shall fill,
The Ark shall ride the sea of fire,
And rest on Zion’s hill.

~ “Like Noah’s Weary Dove,” William A. Muhlenberg (1827)

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Wondrous Type

“Oh wondrous type” is a wondrous Transfiguration hymn. Some hymnals emend “type” to “sight,” but that is clearly a mistake. A “type” in the old sense of the word is closer to what we now call a “prototype.” Christ’s transfiguration is a first instance of, and authoritative model for, something else: his people’s own transformation into glory.

That, anyhow, is the point of this hymn. It’s based on an old Latin text from the Sarum Rite, which was the liturgical book of the Church of England before the Book of Common Prayer.  The hymn is sung to the tune “Deo gracias” (also known as “Agincourt,” the same tune as “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High.” A reconstruction of the medieval tune with period instruments is here).

Oh wondrous type
Sarum, 1495; trans. John Mason Neale

Oh, wondrous type! Oh, vision fair
Of glory that the church may share,
Which Christ upon the mountain shows,
Where brighter than the sun he glows!

With Moses and Elijah nigh
Th’incarnate Lord holds converse high;
And from the cloud the Holy One
Bears record to the only Son.

With shining face and bright array
Christ deigns to manifest today
What glory shall be theirs above
Who joy in God with perfect love.

And faithful hearts are raised on high
By this great vision’s mystery,
For which in joyful strains we raise
The voice of prayer, the hymn of praise.

O Father, with the eternal Son
And Holy spirit ever one,
We pray you, bring us by your grace
To see your glory face to face.

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Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration in the new Western calendar. It’s an old feast, with old traditions. The following is one of the oldest anthems for the day, written by a contemporary of Augustine.

All Ye Who Seek
by Aurelius Prudentius (348-413)
trans. W. C. Dix (1837-1898)

All ye who seek for Jesus, raise
your eyes above, and upward gaze:
there may ye see the wondrous sign
of never-ending glory shine.

Behold him in celestial rays
who never knoweth end of days;
exalted, infinite, sublime;
older than heav’n or hell or time.

This is the Gentiles’ King and Lord;
the Prince by Judah’s race adored,
promised to Abraham of yore
and to his seed for evermore.

To him the prophets testify;
and that same witness from on high,
the Father seals by his decree:
“Hear and believe my Son,” saith he.

All glory, Lord, to thee we pay,
transfigured on the mount today;
all glory as is ever meet,
to Father and to Paraclete

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by George Herbert (1633)

Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave,
Let me once know.
I sought thee in a secret cave,
And ask’d, if Peace were there,
A hollow wind did seem to answer, No:
Go seek elsewhere.

I did; and going did a rainbow note:
Surely, thought I,
This is the lace of Peace’s coat:
I will search out the matter.
But while I looked the clouds immediately
Did break and scatter.

Then went I to a garden and did spy
A gallant flower,
The crown-imperial: Sure, said I,
Peace at the root must dwell.
But when I digged, I saw a worm devour
What showed so well.

At length I met a rev’rend good old man;
Whom when for Peace
I did demand, he thus began:

There was a Prince of old
At Salem dwelt, who lived with good increase
Of flock and fold.

He sweetly lived; yet sweetness did not save
His life from foes.
But after death out of his grave
There sprang twelve stalks of wheat;
Which many wond’ring at, got some of those
To plant and set.

It prospered strangely, and did soon disperse
Through all the earth:
For they that taste it do rehearse
That virtue lies therein;
A secret virtue, bringing peace and mirth
By flight of sin.

Take of this grain, which in my garden grows,
And grows for you;
Make bread of it: and that repose
And peace, which ev’ry where
With so much earnestness you do pursue,
Is only there.

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