In the early reconnaissance stages of a new book on St. Augustine, I’ve been reading his Expositions of the Psalms and came across this striking passage, given the time in which we find ourselves. In some ways, it reminded me of my Cardus colleague Ray Pennings’ recent op-ed in the National Post.
Augustine, preaching on (Vulgate) Psalm 57:8 (“They will be scorned like water that flows away”):
You should not be intimidated by rivers that are reputed to be powerful torrents, my brothers and sisters. They are full of winter rain, but don’t worry; after a short time their force abates. The water rushes down and roars for a while, but it will soon subside; it cannot continue its spate for long. There have been plenty of heresies that have died away. They flowed between their bands as long as any force remained in them; but then the water level dropped, the river-beds dried, and their memory scarcely survives today. People do not recall they they ever existed. They will be scorned like water that runs away. But the same is true of the whole world. It does on in its noisy course for a while and tries to drag along anyone it can catch. All the unbelievers, all the proud folk, crash against the rocks of their pride with a din like that of water rushing toward a confluence, but they must not frighten you. They are only swollen winter rivers that cannot flow all the year round; they will inevitably dwindle toward their proper place, which means the end of them.
Yet the Lord himself drank from this torrent of the world. Here it was that he suffered, from this same torrent he drank, but he drank by the wayside, as he passed it, for he did not stand in the way of sinners. What does scripture say of him? He will drink from the torrent beside the way, and therefore he will raise his head (Ps. 109 :7). This means: because he died, he was glorified; because he suffered, he rose again. Had he been unwilling to drink from the torrent on the way, he would not have died; if he had not died, he would not have risen from the aded, and would not have been glorified. But in fact he will drink from the torrent beside the way, and therefore he will raise his head. Our Head is raised up already; let his members follow him.