Lent 2014: Reflections from Augustine

Happy are those who dwell in your house. [Ps 83:5]... They will possess the heavenly Jerusalem without being confined, without being pressed, without boundaries dividing them from each other. All will possess it, and each will possess the whole....

And what will they do there? After all, the mother of all human activities is necessity... Tell me what they will do there since I don’t see any needs that would move me to act. That I am now speaking and preaching is out of necessity. Do you think there will be preaching there, the kind that teaches the ignorant and reminds the forgetful? Will the Gospel be recited there where the very Word of God is being contemplated? The Psalmist whose desires and sighs express our desires and sighs has told us what they will have in that sighed-for homeland: Blessed are they who dwell in your house; well, then, let him tell us what they will do there: For ever will they praise you. Our whole employment then will be an unfailing Alleluia. [Hoc erit totum negotium nostrum, sine defectu Alleluia.]

And don’t think that you will get tired of it, as happens now if you do it for a long while until some need calls you from this joy.... When death has been swallowed up in victory, when this mortal has put on immortality, and this corruptible has put on incorruption, no one will say, “I’ve been standing so long!” No one will say, “I’ve been fasting so long!” No one will say, “I’ve been keeping vigil so long!” There will be great steadiness there, and the very immortality of our body will be caught up in the contemplation of God. If the word I am giving to you can keep your frail flesh standing for so long, what will that joy do! How it will change us! For we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2). If we shall be like him, how shall we grow weak? To what could we be turned aside? Don’t worry, then: the praise of God, the love of God, will not cloy us. If your love were to fail, your praise would fail. But if your love will be eternal because that beauty will never cloy [insatiabilis pulchritudo], don’t be afraid that you will not be able always to praise the one whom you will be able to love always.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; for ever will they praise you. Let us desire this life. (Augustine, In Ps 83, 8; PL 37:1061-63)


These holy days that are celebrated after the resurrection of the Lord symbolize the future life after our resurrection. Just as the days of Lent before Easter symbolized the labor and troubles of this mortal life, so these happy days symbolize the future life when we will reign with the Lord. The life symbolized by the forty days before Easter is the life we have now; the life which is symbolized by the fifty days after the resurrection of the Lord we do not yet have; we hope for it, and in our hope love it, and in that love the God who promised it is praised, and these praises are our Alleluia. For what does “Alleluia” mean? It is a Hebrew word, and it means “Praise God.” Allelu is “Praise”, and Ia is “God”. When we praise God with our Alleluia, we are stirring each other to the praise of God.  With hearts more in tune than the strings of a lute, we praise God, sing Alleluia. (Sermon 243, 8; PL 38, 1147)

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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