As we draw near to the end of summer, after reaching the end of the Marian eschatology which takes us from the Assumption to the Queenship, we pass into a week of memorable saints. On the 26th there is Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God, who received Blessed John Henry Newman into the church. Then on the 27th and 28th we have St Monica and St Augustine, the son holding the door open for his mother as the Church reminds us of the beautiful moments that kinship can give rise to. Around this time last year I was sitting in Ostia with my youngest daughter, contemplating the sea as we talked about how the dead are never truly lost to us, even if they have passed out of view over the distant horizon.
The Gospel for the feast of St Augustine is Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the bridesmaids. I remember a song from an evangelical phase in my teens, which started: “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning!” It may have been a simplistic ditty compared to the beautiful solemnity of the Chant, or the glories of Byrd, Palestrina and Monteverdi, but it certainly burned that parable into my memory.
St Augustine, in a typically imaginative meditation (p 397), manages to burn the meaning of it into our memories too: to have oil with us at all times, he says, is to “have it within”. If we are more concerned about impressing others with our abstinence or other virtues, than with attending to the presence of God within our souls, our lamps will surely go out. Keep the holy oil replenished from within, and “then shall that Bridegroom fold you in his spiritual embrace, then shall he bring you into his house where you shall never sleep, where your lamp can never be extinguished.”
Leonie Caldecott is the editor of MAGNIFICAT UK and Ireland
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