Saturday, December 2, 2017

Cantemus Alleluia

Samoan firefighters singing an Alleluia
as they come off of the fireline,
Helena Fire, Trinity County, CA,
September 2017.
"[1. . . .] Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety [(solliciti)], so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security [(securi)]. Why do we now live in anxiety? Can you expect me not to feel anxious [(sollicitus)] when I read: Is not man’s life on earth a time of trial? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when the words still ring in my ears: Watch and pray that you will not be put to the test? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when there are so many temptations here below that prayer itself reminds us of them, when we say: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us? Every day we make out petitions, every day we sin. Do you want me to feel secure [(securus)] when I am daily asking pardon for my sins, and requesting help in time of trial? Because of my past sins I pray: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and then, because of the perils still before me, I immediately go on to add: Lead us not into temptation. 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.

"[3. . . .] 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. So let us sing alleluia, even here on earth. Man is still a debtor, but God is faithful. Scripture does not say that he will not allow you to be tried, but that he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength. Whatever the trial, he will see your through it safely, and so enable you to endure. You have entered upon a time of trial but you will come to no harm – God’s help will bring you through it safely. 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.

"But in the next life, when this body of ours has become immortal and incorruptible, then all trials will be over. Your body is indeed dead, and why? Because of sin. Nevertheless, your spirit lives, because you have been justified. Are we to leave our dead bodies behind then? By no means. Listen to the words of holy Scripture: If the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells within you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your own mortal bodies. At present your body receives its life from the soul, but then it will receive it from the Spirit.

"O the happiness of the heavenly alleluia, sung in security, in fear of no adversity [(O felix illic Alleluia! O secura! o sine adversario)]! 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 [(Ibi laudes Deo, et hic laudes Deo: sed hic a sollicitis, ibi a securis; hic a morituris, ibi a semper victuris; hic in spe, ibi in re; hic in via, illic in patria)].

"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 [(Modo ergo, fratres mei, cantemus, non ad delectationem quietis, sed ad solatium laboris. Quomodo solent cantare viatores; canta, sed ambula: laborem consolare cantando, pigritiam noli amare: canta, et ambula. Quid est ambula? Profice, in bono profice)]. This progress, however, must be in virtue; for there are some, the Apostle warns, whose only progress is in vice. 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 [(Tu si proficis, ambulas: sed in bono profice, in recta fide profice, in bonis moribus profice: canta, et ambula).  Desire neither to wander, nor to turn back, nor to remain.  Wheel about [and head straight] for the Lord (Noli errare, noli redire, noli remanere. Conversi ad Dominum), etc.]"

     St. Augustine, Sermo 256, "De Alleluia" (Sunday, 5 May 418), secs. 1 and 3, as excerpted without ellipses in the Office of Readings for the Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Liturgy of the hours (vol. 4, pp. 608-610).  Cf. WSA III/7, trans. Hill.  PL 38, cols. 1191-1193 (1190-1193).
     Cf. the lovely The Oikos or Ikos (Ὁ Οἶκος) to the Kontakion for the Orthodox funeral service in the church.

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