Voices ever ancient, ever new. Lent, Week 5: Friday

“But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but [as it were] in secret.” (John 7:10)

Saint Augustine of Hippo offers the following insight on this verse from today’s Gospel:

“Let us examine, then, what thing to come was foreshadowed in this feast day. I have explained what this Feast of Tabernacles was. It was a celebration of tabernacles because the people, after their deliverance from Egypt wandered through the wilderness on their way to the promised land dwelling in tents. As we begin to observe what this feast is, we will see how it applies to us if we are members of Christ — but we are, he having made us worthy, not we having earned it for ourselves. Let us then consider ourselves, brothers: We have been led out of Egypt, where we were slaves to the devil as to Pharaoh, where we applied ourselves to works of clay, engaged in earthly desires and worked exceedingly hard. And, while laboring, as it were, at the bricks, Christ cried aloud to us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden.” From there we were led out by baptism as through the Red Sea — red because it is consecrated by the blood of Christ. All our enemies that pursued us were dead, that is, all our sins were blotted out, and we have been brought over to the other side.

At the present time, then, before we come to the land of promise, namely, the eternal kingdom, we are in the wilderness in tabernacles. Those who acknowledge these things are in tabernacles; for it was destined that some would acknowledge this. That person who understands that he is a stranger in this world is, as it were, in a tabernacle. That person understands that he is traveling in a foreign country when he sees himself sighing for his native land. But while the body of Christ is in tabernacles, Christ is in tabernacles. But at that time he was so secretly and not out in the open. For as yet the shadow obscured the light. When the light came, the shadow was removed. Christ was in secret: he was there in the feast of tabernacles, but hidden. At the present time, when these things are already made known, we acknowledge that we are journeying in the wilderness. If we recognize it, then we are in the wilderness.

What is it to be in the wilderness? It is to be in the desert wasteland. Why in the desert wasteland? Because it means we are in this world, where we thirst in a way in which there is no water [to satisfy]. Yet, let us thirst that we may be filled. For “blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” And our thirst is quenched from the rock in the wilderness. For “the Rock was Christ,” and it was struck with a rod so that the water might flow. But that it might flow, the rock was struck twice, suggesting the two beams of the cross. All these things, then, that were once done in a figure are now made known to us. And it is not without meaning that it was said of the Lord, “He went up to the feast day, but not openly, but as it were in secret.” For himself being in secret was what was prefigured because Christ was hid in that same festal day. For that very festal day signified Christ’s members that were to sojourn in a foreign land.” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 28)

O God, who have prepared
fitting helps for us in our weakness,
grant, we pray, that we may receive
their healing effects with joy
and reflect them in a holy way of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to You Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning is now
and will be forever. Amen!