Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone
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Tenebrae


Last night (Wednesday in Holy Week) we had our Tenebrae service at church. This is a dark, heavy, and sometimes tedious service of psalms, readings, and decreasing light. It's not called the "liturgy of shadows" for nothing.

Anyway, three of the readings were taken from St. Augustine of Canterbury's commentary on Psalm 54. I found these readings particularly moving last night, and thought I would pass them on to you.

I have much to say about Holy Week, and life in general, but am swamped in my worship leading responsibilities. I hope to write again once Easter has passed.

A Reading from the Treatise of Saint Augustine of Canterbury on the Psalms.

Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my
petition. Listen to me and answer me. I mourn in my trial
and am troubled.”

These are the words of one disquieted, in trouble and
anxiety. He prays under much suffering, desiring to be
delivered from evil. Let us now see under what evil he lies;
and when he begins to speak, let us place ourselves beside
him, that, by sharing his tribulation, we may also join in his
prayer.

“I mourn in my trial,” he says, “and am troubled.”
When does he mourn? When is he troubled? He says, “In my
trial.” He has in mind the wicked who cause him suffering,
and he calls this suffering his “trial.” Do not think that the
evil are in the world for no purpose, and that God makes no
good use of them. Every wicked person lives either that he
may be corrected, or that through him the righteous may be
tried and tested.

Would that those who now test us were converted and tried
with us; yet though they continue to try us, let us not hate
them, for we do not know whether any of them will persist
to the end in their evil ways. And most of the time, when you
think you are hating your enemy, you are hating your
brother without knowing it.

Only the devil and his angels are shown to us in the Holy
Scriptures as doomed to eternal fire. It is only their
amendment that is hopeless, and against them we wage a
hidden battle. For this battle the Apostle arms us, saying,
“We are not contending against flesh and blood,” that is, not
against human beings whom we see, “but against the
principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world.” So that you may not think that
demons are the rulers of heaven and earth, he says, “of the
darkness of this world.”

He says, “of the world,” meaning the lovers of the world––
of the “world,” meaning the ungodly and wicked––
the “world” of which the Gospel says, “And the world
knew him not.”

“For I have seen unrighteousness and strife in the city.”
See the glory of the cross itself. On the brow of kings that
cross is now placed, the cross which enemies once mocked.
Its power is shown in the result. He has conquered the
world, not by steel, but by wood. The wood of the cross
seemed a fitting object of scorn to his enemies, and standing
before that wood they wagged their heads, saying, “If you
are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” He
stretched out his hands to an unbelieving and rebellious
people. If one is just who lives by faith, one who does not
have faith is unrighteous. Therefore when he says
“unrighteousness,” understand that it is unbelief. The Lord
then saw unrighteousness and strife in the city, and stretched
out his hands to an unbelieving and rebellious people. And
yet, looking upon them, he said, “Father, forgive them, for
they know not what they do.”



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