St. Maximus of Turin (380-465) on the Daily Christian Life

St. Maximus of Turin (380-465) was the Bishop of Turin, a suffragan see of Milan (Italy). In one homily, he speaks to the basic daily exercise of a true Christian whose life is offered to God. What I found interesting here is the detailed function given to sleep. When one sits back to think about what he says, sleep takes on another picture. It is a gift from God both to enter sleep and remain in it to get rest. Secondly, the picture of the birds as a testimony to morning and evening prayer is quite serene and pleasing. Lastly, the role of daily work is to bring everything to Christ such that sleep is the rest in order to be prepared to do it again the next day.

“When We wake up at the first light of dawn, the first thing we have to do is to thank the Saviour. And before doing anything else we ought to show him our love, because he has watched over us while we slept and rested. For, if it is not God who keeps watch over man while he sleep, who does? For when man goes to sleep he loses all his strength and becomes a stranger to himself to such an extent that he is unaware as to where he has been and so is unable to look after himself. Clearly, the help of God is absolutely necessary for those who are asleep, for they cannot look after themselves… He welcomes those who go to bed into an embrace of rest; he envelops them in a treasure of peace… We should give thanks to Christ when we awake, and do all the deeds of the day in the presence of the Saviour… The name of Christ should preside over all our actions, and we should refer all the activities of our life to Him… And when night falls, we ought to praise him and sign his glory, so that we may merit rest as winners in the duty to carry out our obligations and sleep be the victory-palm for our work. To get to this stage not only do we have the use of reason, but also the encouragement of the birds of the air. When dawn brings the first rays of light, even the smallest bird breaks into chirping before leaving its nest, so as to praise the creator with its trills, for it cannot do so with words. The better they sing, the better they express their offering. They do the same as day comes to an end. And what are these songs, but a deep rendition of their gratitude? This is the way the innocent little birds behave toward their shepherd, for they can do so in no other way.” (𝑆𝑒𝑟𝑚𝑜 LXXII, 3; LXXIII, 1-4; Eng. Trans. Claire Russel, 𝐺𝑙𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐶ℎ𝑢𝑟𝑐ℎ 𝐹𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑠, 389-90)

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