The Venerable Bede: The Church at sea, the Lord on the land

From today’s (Saturday after Ash Wednesday) Matins reading (1960 edition):

Bede the Venerable on today’s Gospel: And when it was late, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and himself alone on the land. And seeing them labouring in rowing, (for the wind was against them,) and about the fourth watch of the night, he cometh to them walking upon the sea.

Again, my own translation:

The disciples’ labor at their rowing, and the wind against them, means the various labors of the holy Church, who attempts, among the waves of a hostile world and the breath of impure spirits, to reach the calm of the heavenly homeland like to a trusted harbor on the shore.  So it is well said there that the boat was in the midst of the sea, and He was alone on the land: since often the Church is not only afflicted but even defiled by the pressures of the pagan peoples so much that – if such a thing be possible! – her Redeemer seems for a time to have utterly deserted her.

This is the reason for that saying of her who is caught among the waves and storms of trials breaking upon her, and seeking the aid of His protection with a groaning cry: Why, O Lord, have you withdrawn so far away?  Why do you look away in times of trial?  Then she relates the saying of her persecuting enemy as well, adding in the continuation of the Psalm: For he said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He has turned away His face, He will not see it again.”

But He does not forget the prayer of the poor, nor does He turn away His face from those who hope in Him: nay, rather, He assists those who strive against their foes, that they might conquer, and He crowns them as victors forever.  That is why this also is clearly said, that He saw them laboring at their rowing.  The Lord certainly does see them laboring on the sea, though He Himself is situated on the land: since even if He seems for a while to delay expending his aid on those who are troubled, nonetheless He is strengthening them by the gaze of His kindness, so that they do not fail in their trials: and eventually, revealing His aid and conquering their adversities, He frees them like by treading upon the swells of the surges and calming them.


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