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“A pledge of eternal life”: Augustine on “dew”
What Does The Prayer Really Say? ^ | June 21, 2006 | Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Posted on 06/22/2006 4:44:21 AM PDT by siunevada

I am sure you are really scratching your head about what “dew” could possibly mean in the Second Eucharistic Prayer: “Hæc ergo dona, quæsumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica, ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiant Domini nostri Iesu Christi... literally… Therefore, we beg, sanctify these gifts by the dew of Your Spirit, in order that they become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I am sure that were you to hear this in church, you might just have a nervous breakdown. It would be far too taxing. We are pretty stupid, after all. We need baby-talk language that sounds just like the way we talk everyday. Everyone except, perhaps, patristibloggers.

But once upon a time, there was a shepherd of souls who thought he could explain things like “dew” and the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist to his flock. We might not all be at the level of St. Augustine of Hippo (+430), but we can aspire nevertheless to do our best while standing on his titanic shoulders.

Augustine delivered a sermon to his flock on these very things. It was probably uttered during Augustine’s later years, so it dates more than likely after 420 and it seems to be a Pentecost sermon.

In this sermon there is a connection between the Holy Spirit and His descent on the 120 who were gathered, dew, and the Eucharist. Note the language of journeying and a homeland. We are pilgrims in this life, far from our homeland, which is the joy of heaven with God. We become marvelously wealthy on our journey away from home because the Spirit enriches us. The riches He gives us, however, are like dew. This wealth of precious dew, which is an “advance”, “an earnest”, ought to make us long for the fountain we will have in heaven. In our sermon there is a distinction made between a pignus and a arrha… a pledge and an earnest (cf. ss. 23,8 and 156, 16). Augustine also connects dew (ros) and the Holy Spirit in other sermons, such as s. 23 where he also employs the image of the pignus and the arr(h)a (cf. s. 23, 8ff).

The language of “pledges” and “earnests” also makes us think of the Eucharist Itself. We know the Eucharist as a “futurae gloriae pignus… a pledge of future glory”. The Eucharist is also known as “viaticum… food for the journey”. The Eucharist, as viaticum and pignus nourishes our faith, hope and charity here and at the same time opens up for us the possibility of heaven in the future and fulfillment of what the Eucharist promises: being face to face with God (cf. STh III, 79, 2, ad 1). With the Angelic Doctor we pray: O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis eius; mens impletur gratia et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

Sermon 378 is very short, and so we may as well read the whole thing. Let us listen to the great Doctor of Grace, a bishop with a deep zeal for souls, explain what “dew” means in the context of the Eucharistic liturgy of Pentecost. The bishop and congregation would have listened to the readings which were sung. Then he would have taken the scroll of the Scriptures onto his lap and taught the people as he sat in his chair (emphasis mine).

1. God takes pleasure in a solemn festivity which is an expression of active piety and of fervent charity. That is, after all, the effect of the presence of the Holy Spirit, as the apostle teaches us when he says, The charity of God has been poured in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Rom 5:5). So the coming of the Holy Spirit filled a hundred and twenty men and women gathered together in one place. When the Acts of the Apostles were read, we heard that there were gathered together in one place one hundred and twenty persons, holding on to the promise Christ had made. He had said, you see, that they should stay in the city until they were vested with power from on high. For I, he said, will send what I have promised upon you (Acts 1:4; Lk 24:49). Faithful in his promises, generous in keeping them (Fidelis promissory, benignus dator.). After ascending into heaven, he sent what he had promised while on earth.

We now have a pledge of eternal life (pignus futurae vitae aeternae) to come and of the kingdom of heaven. He didn’t cheat us of what he had so recently promised, and is he going to cheat us of what we are looking forward to in the future? When people enter into a business contract, and wish to have their minds set at rest by financial guarantees, they all, for the most part, receive or give an earnest (arrha). And the earnest given creates confidence that the property of which an earnest has already been handed over will in due course follow. The earnest Christ has given us is the Holy Spirit. And the one who could not possibly cheat us has all the same given us security, when he gave us this earnest; even if he hadn’t given it, he would most certainly grant us what he has promised. What has he promised us? Eternal life, as the earnest of which he has given us the Holy Spirit. Eternal life is the possession of those who have reached home; the earnest is the reassurance of those who are still on the way there.

You see, it is better to call it an earnest than a pledge. I mean, while these two things seem to be much the same as each other, there is still a difference between them that is not to be ignored. Both when a pledge is given and when an earnest is given, the reason it’s done is to ensure the fulfillment of a promise; but when a pledge is given, you give back what you have received, once the matter has been settled for which you received the pledge (pignus); when an earnest (arrha) is given, though, it isn’t taken back, but is added to for the matter to be settled.

So we have an earnest; let us thirst for the very fountain from which the earnest comes. As an earnest (arrha) we have a kind of dew-fall in our hearts (aspersio … in cordibus nostris) of the Holy Spirit; if any are aware of this sprinkling, they should long for the fountain (fons). Why, after all, do we have an earnest, if not to save us from fainting from hunger and thirst on this journey? We are hungry and thirsty, you see, provided, that is, we acknowledge ourselves to be travelers. Those who are traveling, and know they are traveling, long to reach home (patria); and because they are longing for home, they find traveling irksome. But if they love traveling, they forget home, and don’t want to go back. Our true home is not such that we should put anything else before it.

Sometimes, you see, while people are traveling, they get rich. They were needy at home, they travel and become rich, and don’t want to go back. As for us, we were all born traveling a long way from our Lord, from the moment when he breathed the breath of life into the first man. Our home country is in heaven, its citizens the angels (Patria nostra in caelis est, cives angeli). Letters (= Scriptures) were sent to us from our home country, urging us to return, and they are read out every day in our congregations. May the world grow cheap in our eyes, may we learn to love and prefer the one by whom the world was made.

TOPICS: Catholic; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic
Interesting to "hear" a sermon by Augustine.

Among the comments:

In Croatian we have “the dew” in the second eucharistic prayer. Here’s a short part of the prayer:

Uistinu svet si, Gospodine, izvore svake svetosti.

Tebe, zato, molimo: rosom Duha svoga posveti ove darove,

da nam postanu Tijelo i + Krv Gospodina našega Isusa Krista. (


I’ve always thought that “rosom Duha svoga” (Spiritus tui rore) is very poetic. Maybe in English you don’t think it is so nice, but still I don’t see why anyone would find it hard to understand. Also, as this is the eucharistic prayer I hear most often (probably because it’s so short) when I go to mass, I think it’s nice it begins in such powerful images (spring, dew).

Thanks for the translation, I don’t think I understood all of it (especially the part about the difference between earnest and a pledge), but the part with “we have a kind of dew-fall in our hearts of the Holy Spirit; if any are aware of this sprinkling, they should long for the fountain” is very interesting.

Comment by Tomislav

Fr. Z is Moderator of the Catholic Online Forum and the ASK FATHER Question Box. These WDTPRS columns appear weekly in The Wanderer. Fr. Z is a convert from Lutheranism. He has both secular and ecclesiastical academic degrees, and was ordained by John Paul II in 1991. He has appeared on EWTN and has contributed articles to Sacred Music, Catholic World Report and Inside The Vatican.

1 posted on 06/22/2006 4:44:23 AM PDT by siunevada
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To: siunevada; NYer
"Dew" Bump.

I love the way Fr. Z has been gently skewering certain bishops' patronizing concerns about our intelligence. As if we can't somehow make that leap of imagination when we hear "dew of the Spirit" or "precious chalice". He's really disturbed that our successors to the apostles can't be bothered to teach us. "Why, it's just going to add more burdens to our poor parish priests who've already got so many problems."

And then there's Fr. Thomas Reese who whines, "Why bother?" Here he is with NPR. Do listen and tell me if his whining doesn't grate on you.

2 posted on 06/22/2006 5:06:15 AM PDT by Carolina
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To: siunevada

Do the dew!

3 posted on 06/22/2006 11:26:15 AM PDT by Unam Sanctam
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To: Carolina
I love the way Fr. Z has been gently skewering certain bishops' patronizing concerns about our intelligence. As if we can't somehow make that leap of imagination when we hear "dew of the Spirit" or "precious chalice".

Which is weird because Psalm 110 and 'dew' recurs regularly at Evening Prayer. They see the word all the time:

"Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like the dew I begot you."

The LORD has sworn and will not waver: "Like Melchizedek you are a priest forever."

4 posted on 06/23/2006 6:40:10 AM PDT by siunevada (If we learn nothing from history, what's the point of having one? - Peggy Hill)
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To: siunevada
St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Saint Augustine,
Bishop & Doctor of the Church
August 28th

Saint Ambrose baptizing Saint Augustine
Benozzo Gozzoli (1464-65)
Apsidal chapel, Sant'Agostino, San Gimignano, Italy

"Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord"
Augustine opens his Confessions with praise of God, and follows this with of the best-known passages in all of Christian literature -- his introductory observations about man's restless search for God.

Prayers, readings - Excerpt from "Confessions" - Recipe

Augustine, one of the most influential thinkers in the entire history of the Church, was born at Tagaste, North Africa, on November 13, 354. His father, Patricius, a city official was not a Christian, though his mother, Monica, was a woman of strong Christian faith. (She eventually led her husband to be baptized, and he died a holy death circa 371.)

Though Augustine received a Christian upbringing, he led a very dissolute life as a youth and young man, according to his "Confessions". Augustine gives an account of his spiritual development in the first nine Books of the "Confessions" -- a work that has engrossed readers for 1600 years, and are as fresh and immediate today as when they were written.

As a nineteen-year old student at Carthage, he espoused the Manichaean heresy, a form of Gnosticism founded in Persia in the late third century, which claimed to be a religion of reason as contrasted with Christianity, a religion of faith. Manichaeism aimed to synthesize all known religions. Its basic dualistic tenet is that there are two equal and opposed Principles ("gods") in the universe: Good (Light/Spirit) and Evil (Darkness/Matter).

After nearly ten years as a Manichaean, Augustine, who taught in Milan, visited Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, became a regular attendant at his preachings, and through his influence became convinced that Catholic teachings are true, and that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Still, he found himself conflicted -- unwilling to give up his desire to satisfy his sexual lusts.

An interview with Simplicianus, spiritual father of St. Ambrose , who told Augustine the story of the conversion of the celebrated neo-Platonic rhetorician, Victorinus (Confessions, VIII, i, ii), and later, a chance visit by a Christian, Ponticianus, who told him of other conversions, led Augustine to a crisis:

I was greatly disturbed in spirit, angry at myself with a turbulent indignation because I had not entered thy will and covenant, O my God, while all my bones cried out to me to enter, extolling it to the skies. The way therein is not by ships or chariots or feet--indeed it was not as far as I had come from the house to the place where we were seated. For to go along that road and indeed to reach the goal is nothing else but the will to go. But it must be a strong and single will, not staggering and swaying about this way and that--a changeable, twisting, fluctuating will, wrestling with itself while one part falls as another rises. (Confessions, Book VIII.8.19)

I was ... weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which--coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, "Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it."[260] Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. ...

So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle's book [Paul's letter to the Romans] when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof."[Romans 13:13] I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away. (Confessions, Book IX.29)

Augustine was thirty-three when he was moved to act on his convictions in that garden at Milan in September, 386. A few weeks later, during the autumn "vintage" holiday, Augustine, resigned his professorship at Milan, resolving to devote himself to the pursuit of true philosophy, now inseparable from Christianity. After a vacation at Cassisiacum, Augustine returned to Milan with Monica, Adeodatus (his son) , and his friends, where the new converts were baptized. Soon after, while preparing to return to North Africa with her sons and grandson, Monica died at Ostia, near Rome. (A moving account of her final days is found in Confessions Book IX, 8-12)

Augustine returned to Africa in August 388, and, with the objective of living a life of poverty and prayer, he sold his property and gave the proceeds to the poor. Although he did not think of becoming a priest, during a visit to Hippo, as he was praying in the church, people suddenly gathered around him and persuaded the bishop of Hippo, Valerius, to ordain Augustine. He was ordained in 391, and in Tagaste, established a monastery, and preached against Manichaeism with great success. When he was forty-two, he becme co-adjutor bishop Hippo, where he was bishop for thirty-four years.

During his years as bishop, Augustine combatted the Manichaean heresy, strongly affirming free will and expounding on the problem of evil; he struggled against the Donatist heresy that attacked the divine institution and hierchical nature of the Church. In later years he would confront the Pelagian heresy that denied the doctrine of original sin and the effects of grace; and the heresy of Arianism, which denied that the Son is of the same substance as the Father.

Augustine died August 28, 430 at the age of seventy-five. His perennial contribution to and influence on Catholic doctrine and thought and on Christian belief and piety is incalculable, and his many theological and philosophical works, especially the Confessions and the City of God have continuee to captivate and inspire mankind for more than fifteen-hundred years.

Prayers, Readings

Lord, renew in your Church the spirit you gave Saint Augustine.
Filled with this spirit, may we thirst for you alone as the fountain of wisdom and seek you as the source of eternal love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading:
I John 4:7-16
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Gospel Reading:
Matthew 23:8-12
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Prayers of Saint Augustine:

God of life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and wear us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies gray and threatening; when our lives have no music in them and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, we beseech you; turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise.

(From Prayers of the Saints: An Inspired Collection of Holy Wisdom, ed. Woodeene Koenig-Bricker - San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996)


"Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or
weep tonight, and give your angels charge over
those who sleep.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest your weary ones.
Bless your dying ones.
Soothe your suffering ones.
Pity your afflicted ones.
Shield your joyous ones.
And for all your love's sake.  Amen."


"Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you."

Augustine opens his Confessions with praise of God, and follows this with of the best-known passages in all of Christian literature -- his introductory observations about man's restless search for God.

Excerpt from:Confessions

Excerpt from Confessions, Book I, Chapter I

"Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom." And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee. Grant me, O Lord, to know and understand whether first to invoke thee or to praise thee; whether first to know thee or call upon thee. But who can invoke thee, knowing thee not? For he who knows thee not may invoke thee as another than thou art. It may be that we should invoke thee in order that we may come to know thee. But "how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe without a preacher?" Now, "they shall praise the Lord who seek him," for "those who seek shall find him," and, finding him, shall praise him. I will seek thee, O Lord, and call upon thee. I call upon thee, O Lord, in my faith which thou hast given me, which thou hast inspired in me through the humanity of thy Son, and through the ministry of thy preacher.

Excerpt from:Confessions -Book VI

Chapter I.--His mother, Monica, having followed Augustine to Milan, declares that she will not die before her son shall have embraced the Catholic Faith.

I. O Thou, my hope from my youth, where wert Thou to me, and whither hadst Thou gone? For in truth, hadst Thou not created me, and made a difference between me and the beasts of the field and fowls of the air? Thou hadst made me wiser than they, yet did I wander about in dark and slippery places, and sought Thee abroad out of myself, and found not the God of my heart;' and had entered the depths of the sea, and distrusted and despaired finding out the truth. By this time my mother, made strong by her piety, had come to me, following me over sea and land, in all perils feeling secure in Thee. For in the dangers of the sea she comforted the very sailors (to whom the inexperienced passengers, when alarmed, were wont rather to go for comfort), assuring them of a safe arrival, because she had been so assured by: Thee in a vision. She found me in grievous danger, through despair of ever finding truth. But when I had disclosed to her that I was now no longer a Manichaean, though not yet a Catholic Christian, she did not leap for joy as at what was unexpected; although she was now reassured as to that part of my misery for which she had mourned me as one dead, but who would be raised to Thee, carrying me forth upon the bier of her thoughts, that Thou mightest say unto the widow's son, "Young man, I say unto Thee, arise," and he should revive, and begin to speak, and Thou shouldest deliver him to his mother? Her heart, then, was not agitated with any violent exultation, when she had heard that to be already in so great a part accomplished which she daily, with tears, entreated of Thee might be done, -- that though I had not yet grasped the truth, I was rescued from falsehood. Yea, rather, for that she was fully confident that Thou, who hadst promised the whole, wouldst give the rest, most calmly, and with a breast full of confidence, she replied to me, "She believed in Christ, that before she departed this life, she would see me a Catholic believer." And thus much said she to me; but to Thee, O Fountain of mercies, poured she out more frequent prayers and tears, that Thou wouldest hasten Thy aid, and enlighten my darkness; and she hurried all the more assiduously to the church, and hung upon the words of Ambrose, praying for the fountain of water that springeth up into everlasting life. For she loved that man as an angel of God, because she knew that it was by him that I had been brought, for the present, to that perplexing state of agitation I was now in, through which she was fully persuaded that I should pass from sickness unto health, after an excess, as it were. of a sharper fit, which doctors term the "crisis."

Link to Confessions on Fordham's website.

A recipe for celebrating the Feast of Saint Augustine

Chiles En Nogada (Stuffed Peppers in Walnut Sauce)
(from Cooking with the Saints,
Ignatius Press)

This recipe is from the Mexican state of Pueblo, where the Feast of St. Augustine is celebrated with this dish. An unsusal mix of ingredients produces a tasty and filling dish. It requires a bit of effort, shelling and skinning the walnuts. It is important to use fresh walnuts, because it is almost impossible to remove the skin from store-bought shelled walnuts, which tend to be older and may also have an off-flavor. If shelling and skinning the nuts are too cumbersome, shelled or ground walnuts may be used, or even blanched almonds. The flavor will be somewhat different, but the work is considerably less.

Serves 6 - 8 people.
50 walnuts, shelled, or 2 cups (200g) ground walnuts or ground blanched almonds
Milk (if using fresh walnuts)
1/4 lb (100g) goat cheese, or, if not available, cream cheese
1 hard roll or crust end of bread soaked in milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of cinnamon

To make the sauce:
If starting with fresh walnuts, soak the shelled nuts in milk for about 20 to 30 minutes to loosen the skin and then remove the skins.
Using a blender, grind the nuts, cheese, hard roll in milk together to make a sauce. The sauce should be thin enough to pour; if not, add some more milk. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and a pinch of cinnamon.

3 tomatoes, or 8 oz (300 g) can of tomatoes, drained
1/2 cups (100 g) almonds, whole, blanched
2 peaches, peeled, chopped
2 pears, peeled, chopped
1/2 cup (100g) raisins
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb (250g) pork, ground
1/2 lb (250g) beef, ground
4 tbsp onion, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp saffron
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the stuffing:
Peel tomatoes and chop them. Chop almonds. Peel fruit and chop. Soak raisins in hot water. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat. Add tomatoes, onion and garlic. Cook covered for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Add the almonds, drained raisins, saffron and fruits. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook till the filling is quite thick and most of the liquid has evaporated.

7 to 8 peppers, medium size, different colors

Put the peppers into boiling water for a couple of minutes, till they have softened somewhat. Remove the top and the seeds.

3/4 cup (100g) flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
2 tsp sugar
2 eggs

parsley and pomegranate seeds

1. Prepare the coating mixture by mixing together all the dry ingredients. Beat the 2 eggs slightly.

2. Stuff the peppers with the meat mixture. Make sure the outside of the peppers is wet before dipping them in the flour spice mixture and then into the egg. Sprinkle again with the flour mixture.

3. Fry in hot fat at 375°F (190°C) until browned. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve with the cold sauce, garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley.

Plain or Mexican rice goes nicely with this dish.

5 posted on 08/28/2008 5:35:20 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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