Teeth, Gnashing

Yes, I am a stickler for form. I do not deny it. But there is great reason to expect that those who publish quoted excerpts from [other] quoted works will cite their sources, and it scorches my toast when they just wave their hands and say (in the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews) ‘someone has testified somewhere.’

Case in point (you knew I wasn’t just spontaneously irritable, I hope): the Office of Readings gives a passage that includes the following observation.

What fresh sort of suffering, brothers, does the human race now endure that our fathers did not undergo? Or when do we endure the kind of sufferings which we know they endured? Yet you find men complaining about the times they live in, saying that the times of our parents were good. What if they could be taken back to the times of their parents, and should then complain? The past times that you think were good, are good because they are not yours here and now.

But all it says by way of documentation is ‘from a sermon by Saint Augustine,’ as if there were only one or two and the passage could easily be found. The quotation is striking enough that it appears in a variety of devotional webpages, but nowhere with proper attribution.

I see that in Sermon 25, Augustine says, ‘Listen to what it all means. There are baleful, evil days. Is it here we spend evil days, from the moment we were thrown out of paradise? Not only did our elders complain about their days, their grandparents too complained about their days. People have never been pleased with the days they lived in. But the days of the ancestors please their descendants, and they too were pleased with days they hadn’t experienced — and that’s precisely why they thought them pleasant. It’s what’s present that is sharply felt. I don’t mean it comes nearer, but it touches the heart every day.’ Close, but not an exact match; and it doesn’t even look like a different translation of the same text.

Ha! Success! ‘So we really mustn’t grumble, brothers and sisters, as some of them grumbled, so the apostle says, and perished from the serpents. What unusual horror, brothers and sisters, is the human race enduring now, that our ancestors didn’t have to endure? Or when do we have to endure such things as we know they endured? And you’ll find people grumbling about their times, and saying that the times of our parents were good. Suppose, though, they could be whisked back to the times of their parents, they would still grumble even then.’ It’s Sermon 346C. This version is from The Works of Saint Augustine – A Translation for the 21st Century, Part III — Sermons, Volume 10: Sermons 341-400, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., and ed. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A. (Hyde Park NY: New City Press, 1995), p. 84. Whew.

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