Reading: Job 7:1 – 21
Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service,
his time no better than hired drudgery?
Like the slave, sighing for the shade,
or the workman with no thought but his wages,
months of delusion I have assigned to me,
nothing for my own but nights of grief.
Lying in bed I wonder, ‘When will it be day?’
Risen I think, ‘How slowly evening comes!’
Restlessly I fret till twilight falls.
Vermin cover my flesh, and loathsome scabs;
my skin is cracked and oozes pus.
Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle my days have passed,
and vanished, leaving no hope behind.
Remember that my life is but a breath,
and that my eyes will never again see joy.
The eye that once saw me will look on me no more,
your eyes will turn my way, and I shall not be there.
As a cloud dissolves and is gone,
so he who goes down to Sheol never ascends again.
He never comes home again,
and his house knows him no more.
No wonder then if I cannot keep silence;
in the anguish of my spirit I must speak,
lament in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the Sea, or the Wild Sea Beast,
that you should keep me under watch and guard?
If I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
my couch will soothe my pain’,
you frighten me with dreams
and terrify me with visions.
Strangling I would welcome rather,
and death itself, than these my sufferings.
I waste away, my life is not unending;
leave me then, for my days are but a breath.
What is man that you should make so much of him,
subjecting him to your scrutiny,
that morning after morning you should examine him
and at every instant test him?
Will you never take your eyes off me
long enough for me to swallow my spittle?
Suppose I have sinned, what have I done to you,
you tireless watcher of mankind?
Why do you choose me as your target?
Why should I be a burden to you?
Can you not tolerate my sin,
nor overlook my fault?
It will not be long before I lie in earth;
then you will look for me, but I shall be no more.
Reading from The Confessions of St Augustine
All my hope lies in your great mercy
Where did I find you in order to make your acquaintance in the first place? You could not have been in my memory before I learned to know you. Where then could I have found you in order to learn of you, if not in yourself, far above me? “Place” has here no meaning: further away from you or toward you we may travel, but place there is none. O Truth, you hold sovereign sway over all who turn to you for counsel, and to all of them you respond at the same time, however diverse their pleas.
Clear is your response, but not all hear it clearly. They all appeal to you about what they want, but do not always hear what they want to hear. Your best servant is the one who is less intent on hearing from you what accords with his own will, and more on embracing with his will what he has heard from you.
Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
When at last I cling to you with my whole being there will be no more anguish or labour for me, and my life will be alive indeed, alive because filled with you. But now it is very different. Anyone whom you fill you also uplift; but I am not full of you, and so I am a burden to myself. Joys over which I ought to weep do battle with sorrows that should be matter for joy, and I do not know which will be victorious. But I also see griefs that are evil at war in me with joys that are good, and I do not know which will win the day. This is agony, Lord, have pity on me! It is agony! See, I do not hide my wounds; you are the physician and I am sick; you are merciful, I in need of mercy.
Is not human life on earth a time of testing? Who would choose troubles and hardships? You command us to endure them, but not to love them. No-one loves what he has to endure, even if he loves the endurance, for although he may rejoice in his power to endure, he would prefer to have nothing that demands endurance. In adverse circumstances I long for prosperity, and in times of prosperity I dread adversity. What middle ground is there, between these two, where human life might be free from trial? Woe betide worldly prosperity, and woe again, from fear of disaster and evanescent joy! But woe, woe, and woe again upon worldly adversity, from envy of better fortune, the hardship of adversity itself, and the fear that endurance may falter. Is not human life on earth a time of testing without respite?
On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.