Thursday, April 14, 2016

Devious and Deadly

Continuing my posts of patristic texts coinciding with this Sunday’s Psalm study.

Deliver me, O Lᴏʀᴅ, from evil men;
    preserve me from violent men,
who plan evil things in their heart
    and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a serpent's,
    and under their lips is the venom of asps.  (Ps 140:1-3)

From them free me, from them let Your hand be most powerful to deliver me.  For it is easy to avoid open enmities and to turn aside from an open, declared enemy, while iniquity is in his lips as well as his heart.  He who bears good things in his lips, while in his heart he conceals evil things, is a troublesome enemy: he is secret; he is with difficulty avoided.

What is, “war”?  They made for me what I was to fight against all day long.  For from there, from such hearts as these, arises all that the Christian fights against.  Whether sedition, schism, heresy, or turbulent opposition, it does not spring except from these imaginings which were concealed, and while they spoke good words with their lips, “all the day long did they make war.”  You hear words of peace, yet war does not depart from their thoughts.  For the words, “all the day long,” signify without intermission, throughout the whole time.

If you still seek to make out the man, behold a comparison.  In the serpent above all beasts is there cunning and craft to hurt, for therefore does it creep.  It has no feet, so that its footsteps when it comes may be heard.  In its progress it draws itself, as it were, gently along, yet not straightly.  In this way do they creep and crawl to hurt, having poison hidden even under a gentle touch.  And so it follows, “the poison of asps is under their lips.”  Behold, it is “under” their lips, that we may perceive one thing under their lips, another in their lips.

Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms 140.5

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