Thursday, August 16, 2012

Come to the Lord's Feast!

Tell me how I'm supposed to take these words of St. Augustine about the invitation to the Lord's nuptial banquet and about how He wished to fill the hall after the refusal of the invited guests:

"From the squares and alleys came the Gentiles; let the heretics and schismatics come from the highroads and hedges. Compel them to come in. Here they can find peace, because those who put up hedges are seeking divisions. Let them be dragged from the hedges, wrenched from the thorns. They are stuck fast in the hedges, and they don’t want to be compelled. “Let us come in of our own free will,” they say. That wasn’t the order the Lord gave: Compel them, he said, to come in. Let necessity be experienced outwardly, and hence free willingness be born inwardly." (Augustine, Saint; Daniel Doyle, O.S.A.; Edmund Hill, O.P. (2007-01-01). Essential Sermons (p. 183). New City Press. Kindle Edition.)

There is another text  and more familiar to me than this one from St. Augustine found in the Liturgy of Hours, where he carries on a little dialogue, if you will, with the schismatic, telling him he refuses to let him go. The determination of St. Augustine in both cases, this second one argued from shared Baptism and Sacraments and the other from the Lord's own command: "Compel them to come in!" leave me somewhat speechless. Some of our separated brethren would no doubt pose the question, "Well, who is it that has built the hedge or is caught in the thicket, you or I?" 

Who is it that refuses to come in? How dare I claim priority? There's nothing new in this, as if only our day had discovered free will and respect for the dignity of the other. I would rather suspect that more than one schismatic might have rebuffed St. Augustine in just the same way. That's not the point. I need not be comparing or putting myself pridefully on a pedestal. It is just simply and profoundly that I have to know where I am coming from and act consistently, hearkening to the Lord's command. In all humility, I cannot be unsure of my calling which is from on high, which is to be part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church; I cannot fail to heed the Lord's command, "Compel them to come in!"

What about free will? Yes? And... What about Augustine's seeming reply to that objection as well: "Let necessity be experienced outwardly, and hence free willingness be born inwardly." It is not unlike the frequency with which over the years I have found myself uncomfortable with those marriages where the Catholic party doesn't want to "foist his or her religion on the other party", they say... Is it or is it not the pearl of great price? Should we or should we not be burning to share what is dearest to us with the one we love the most? "Compel them" the Lord says, yes, "Compel them". 

A type of door-to-door, soapbox, street-corner preaching Christianity is not what I'm advocating. Being so verbal is foreign to the Catholicism of the ordinary man or woman in the pew. The efficacy of our witness, if you will, is underscored by the obedience of our moving on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation to assist at Holy Mass. The "compelling" part starts at home. "As long as you're under my roof, son, you're going to Mass with Mother and me!" Let necessity be experienced outwardly, and hence free willingness be born inwardly."


3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. May I ask what of St. Augustin's works the quoted text comes from?

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    1. It is listed as Sermon 112 in the work cited: Augustine, Saint; Daniel Doyle, O.S.A.; Edmund Hill, O.P. (2007-01-01). Essential Sermons (p. 183). New City Press. Kindle Edition.

      The translation is designed, I believe, as a study text to expose non-Latin reading university students to a broader cross-section of Augustine's sermons. It is almost in an American conversational English style. You may have trouble finding the critical Latin text with only the designation Sermon 112, as I have learned from exchanging notes with other people on St. Augustine's sermons, the numbering varies even though it should not.

      The other reference comes from the Office of Readings; I have it vividly in mind, but as it is probably from a weekday in Ordinary Time, I'd be hard pressed to put my finger on it at the moment.

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    2. I have found it. It is the Sermo 112, indeed - the last verses of it. Once again, thank you!

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