Feast of St Agathus of Rome
MY BRETHREN, seeing that you have gathered together today as for a solemn feast and that you have come in greater numbers than usual, I admonish you in your devotedness to remember what you have just sung so that your voice may not resound while your heart is silent, but, rather, that what you have uttered for one another’s ears may reach the ears of God. For this is what you sang: “Save us, O Lord our God: and gather us from among the nations: that we may give thanks to Thy holy name” (Ps. 105:47). Now, if this feast of the pagans which is celebrated today with such joy of the world and of the flesh, with the singing of meaningless and base songs, with banquets and shameful dances, if these things which the pagans do in the celebration of this false festival do not please you, then you shall be gathered from among the nations. Yes, indeed, you have sung this psalm and its echo is still sounding in our ears: “Save us, O Lord our God: and gather us from among the nations.” Who can be gathered from among the nations without being saved? Therefore, those who are intermingled with the pagans are not saved; those are saved who are gathered from among them, in the salvation of faith, in the salvation of the spirit, in the salvation of the promises of God. Hence, he who believes, hopes, and loves, must not, on that account, be assured of salvation. For what he believes, what he hopes, and what he loves make a difference. No one lives in any type of life without those three movements of the soul, that is, of believing, hoping, loving. If you do not believe what the pagans believe, if you do not hope for what they hope for, if you do not love what they love, then you are gathered from among the pagans; you are removed from them; that is, you are separated from the nations. Let not mere physical association alarm you when you are separated in mind. For what greater separation can there be than that they believe in demons as gods while you believe in Him who is the one and true God; that they hope in the vanities of this passing age but you, in eternal life with Christ; that they love this world but you, the Creator of the world? Let him, therefore, who believes, hopes, and loves something other than these people prove it by his life and show it by his deeds. Are you going to take part in a celebration of the New Year? Are you, just like a pagan, going to play dice and become intoxicated when you believe, hope, and love otherwise? How can you then sing with an open countenance: “Save us, O Lord our God: and gather us from among the nations”? For you are segregated from the pagans; associated with them physically, you are unlike them in your way of life. See how marked this separation is if only you make it so, if only you prove it. For our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became Man for our sake, paid a price for us. He gave Himself as a price and He did so for this purpose, namely, to redeem and to separate you from the pagans. But, if you wish to intermingle with the pagans, you do not wish to follow Him who redeemed you. Moreover, you intermingle with the pagans in your life, your deeds, your heart, by believing, hoping, and loving as they do. Then you are ungrateful to your Redeemer; you do not appreciate your purchase price, the blood of the Immaculate Lamb. Therefore, in order to follow your Redeemer, who bought you back with His own blood, do not mix with the pagans by aping their customs and deeds. When they give gifts; you give alms. They are called away by songs of license; you, by the discourses of the Scriptures. They run to the theatre; you, to the church. They become intoxicated; you fast. If you are not able to fast today, at least dine with moderation. If you have acted thus, then you have rightly sung: “Save us, O Lord our God: and gather us from among the nations.”
~St. Augustine, Sermon 198 on New Years Day
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