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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lessons for November 3 in the Octave of All Saints

The Venerabel Bede
From a Sermon by the Venerable Saint Bede the Priest

Never shall there be discord anywhere there, but all things in harmony. For everywhere there, things are in such concord that all the Saints are at unity with each other in one peace and joy. Everywhere there, all things are tranquil and quiet. Perpetual is the splendour there ; not like unto the sunlight which we know here, but a light which is the brighter, as it is the more blessed. For that city, as saith Scripture, needeth not the light of the sun, because the Lord Almighty doth enlighten it by the Lamb which is the Light thereof. There the Saints shall shine like as the brightness of the firmament, and they that have turned many to righteousness, as the stars, for ever and ever.

And so there is no night there, no darkness, no gathering of clouds, no asperity of heat or cold. But such is the nature of things there as no eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, except of those only who have been found worthy to enjoy it, whose names are written in the book of life ; and who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and are before the throne of God, serving him day and night. There is no old age anywhere there, nor misery of old age, for all are come to perfect manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

But far above all these things is the fellowship there. That is, to enjoy the companionship of the heavenly citizens : to look upon the choirs of Angels and Archangels, of Thrones and Dominions, Principalities, Powers, and all the heavenly Virtues on high : and to behold the army of the Saints shining more gloriously than the stars ; of the Patriarchs glowing with faith; of the Prophets rejoicing in hope ; of the Apostles judging the world reformed into twelve tribes of the new Israel ; of the Martyrs resplendent in their ruddy crowns of victory ; and of Virgins wearing garlands of the purest white.
St. Augustine the Bishop
A homily by St. Augustine the Bishop

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Thus do the Beatitudes begin with humility, whereby the soul doth submit itself to God, and that through the Gift of Holy Fear. Thereafter the soul goeth on in blessedness to grasp things divine, such as are set forth in the Scriptures ; wherefore the soul cometh to be meek as it is said : Blessed are the meek : and that by reason of the Gift of Piety (or True Godliness, as it is also called). Then it beginneth to know what are the entanglements of this world, whereby we are held back in the customs of the world and in fleshly desires ; and so in this third stage is the Gift of Knowledge, whereby the loss of the highest good is mourned for, from knowing how the soul is fain to cleave to the lowest ; and hence : Blessed are those that mourn. Next, in the fourth state, is the Gift of Ghostly Strength (or Might, or Fortitude, as it is variously called) ; for in this stage of blessedness there is much labour, and the soul must exert itself greatly, to wrench itself away from those things wherewith, by reason of their pestilential sweetness, it was entangled. Hence : Blessed are they, which do hunger and thirst after righteousness. To which end such Fortitude is very necessary, for what is retained with delight is not abandoned without pain.

Then for all such as have shown Fortitude in this labour, at the fifth stage is the Gift of Counsel, that is, perception as to how to escape from these entanglements. For unless one hath assistance in the matter from some one higher, he cannot fit himself to get out of his so many miserable entanglements. And it is only just that he who would have assistance of another’s strength should assist one weaker than himself. For which reason Counsel is indicated in the fifth stage, thus: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. The sixth benediction: Blessed are the pure in heart : sheweth that at the sixth state there is purity which is the Gift of Understanding, springing from a good conscience, obtained by all these good works, wherein the soul is able to contemplate the Highest Good, which can be discerned only by a mind pure and tranquil.

Lastly, there is, as the seventh, the Gift of Wisdom, that is, such a grace of contemplation of the Truth as doth completely tranquilize the whole man, and give to him the likeness of God, thus bringing us to the conclusion : Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. The eighth, as it were, returneth to the beginning, because it sheweth forth and commandeth what is complete and perfect. Therefore in the first and in the eighth is named the kingdom of heaven, thus: Blessed are the poor in spirit : Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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