Augustine. Exposition on the Book of Psalms. Schaff, Philip (editor). New York: Christian Literature Publishing Col, 1886. Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers: Series 1: Volume VIII. Re-published 2014, Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle electronic edition, ISBN-13: 978-1-78379-372-3.
Reading Psalm 61, Augustine finds that its voice is that of the reader who is in Christ (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327540). It is highly personal in nature, but can also be understood as the collective call of Christians at all places and all times. Verse one, therefore, speaks “from the ends of the earth.” The cry is of those who are troubled in heart. To Augustine this is part of the process by which God brings growth in His people. “Our life in this sojourning cannot be without temptation: because our advance is made through our temptation, nor does a man become known to himself unless tempted, nor can he be crowned except he shall have striven, nor can he strive except he shall have experienced an enemy, and temptations (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327549). The troubles, therefore, do not indicate a forsaken state, but a state of God’s work of formation. Augustine then ties our trials to those of Christ, describing us as tempted as Jesus was tempted for us (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327558). The Christian, then, in verse three, is “led down” to Christ.
Verse four adds a level of comfort as the speaker affirms being a sojourner with God “unto ages” (forever)). Our sojourn on earth is brief, but we have an eternal home in heaven with Christ. Augustine sees that a sojourn is normally temporary, but that in the Church, though technically temporary before our eternal heavenly home is reached, we still dwell as long as this earth remains (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327577). The safety and confidence Augustine finds for the Christian in this life is, according to verse five, that God has heard the prayer we were praying from the ends of the earth. The answer to prayer is an eternal inheritance from God (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327596). In this way, Augustine sees the Christian dwelling forever in God’s sight, which he understands as the place of truth and mercy. This is from God’s goodness, not ours (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327606). As a response to God’s mercy and truth, Augustine urges his readers to show mercy and truth themselves. “Just as to us God hath shown forth His mercy and His truth, mercy in forgiving our sins, truth in showing forth His promises; so also, I say, let us execute mercy and truth, mercy concerning the weak, concerning the needy, concerning even our enemies; truth in not sinning and in not adding sin upon sin” (Augustine Psalms, loc. 327616). This seeks Christ, not our own gain. It is for the eternal good of all the people involved. The result, in verse eight, is thanksgiving.