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Home » Daily Readings, Psalms

Great Things are Said of You, O City of God

Submitted by on Tuesday, 5 May 2009No Comment


Listen to this verse, “Sion, my mother, a man shall say.” There is then a man who saith this: through whom all those I have mentioned make their approach. Who is this man? It tells if we hear, if we understand. It follows, as if a question had been raised, through whose aid Rahab, Babylon, the Philistines, Tyre, and the Morians, gained an entrance. Behold, through whom they come; “Sion, my mother, a man shall say; and a man was born in her, and Himself the Most High hath founded her” (verse 5). What, my brethren, can be clearer? Truly, because “very excellent things are spoken of thee, thou city of God.” Lo, “Sion, O mother, a man shall say.” What man? “He who was born in her.” It is then the man who was born in her, and He Himself hath rounded her. Yet how can He be born in the city which He Himself founded? It had already been founded, that therein He might be born. Understand it thus, if thou canst: “Mother Sion, he shall say;” but it is “a man” that “shall say, Mother Sion; yea, a man was born in her:” and yet “he hath founded her” (not a man, but), “the Most High.” As He created a mother of whom He would be born, so He founded a city in which He would be born. What hope is ours, brethren! On our behalf the Most High, who founded the city, addresses that city as a mother: and “He was born in her, and the Most High hath founded her.” (Augustine on Psalm 87)

 The selection from Acts 11:19-20 traces the spread of Christianity outside Jerusalem because of the persecution that broke out. Three places are marked: Phoenicia (a part of the Syrian Province), Cyprus and Antioch. There are two Antiochs, one in Pisidia and the other in Syria. The Antioch mentioned here is in Syria. At first, the gospel was proclaimed only to Jews, but later, to Greeks as well. In the Lucan narrative, it is mentioned that Cypriots and Cyrenians were responsible for bringing the good news to the Greeks of those places (v.20). The narrative focuses on Antioch in Syria where the believers were first called “Christians” (v.26). The churches in these places were confirmed in the faith by the church in Jerusalem. For this purpose, Barnabas was sent to Antioch who later on called in Paul (21-25). It was in Actioch that Agabus prophesied a severe famine “all over the world.” Relief missions were then set up for those in Judea; Barnabas and Paul (Saul) were in charge of this. With this mention of relief missions, Luke — whether consciously or unconsciously — ties up the narratives with some letters of Paul, especially, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.

Acts 11

That Psalm 87 is used as the responsorial psalm for this reading is quite understandable. The psalm points to a time when all the world will look to Jerusalem as their mother city in the spirit of the Isaianic prophecies about Mt. Sion as the center of the world. Christian readings of the Psalm (see the one of Augustine above) see the Church as symbolized here. The last line of the psalm “All my springs are within you” (RSV) point to the baptismal waters.


Acts 11:19-20
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19Now they who had been dispersed by the persecution that arose on occasion of Stephen, went about as far as Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none, but to the Jews only.
20But some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were entered into Antioch, spoke also to the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus.

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