Augustine is commenting on Psalm 121[122, which is one of the “songs of ascents,” or “songs of steps.”
This Psalm, which we have taken up to treat today for you, is of desire for Jerusalem itself; that is, the one who is going up in this Psalm, because it is a “song of steps.” And these steps, as we have often told you, are the steps, not of those who are going down, but of those who are going up. So the Psalmist wishes to go up. And where does he wish to go up if not to heaven? What does that mean? Does it mean he wants to go up to be with the sun and the moon and the stars? Of course not! But in heaven there is the eternal Jerusalem where our fellow citizens, the angels are, from whom we are wanderers here on earth. We sigh while wandering; we shall rejoice in the city. But we also find companions while we wander here, those who have already seen this city itself, and they are inviting us to run towards it. The Psalmist also rejoices with them and says: “I rejoiced at those who said to me, ‘We shall go into the house of the Lord’” (Ps 1211).
Brothers and sisters, think of some feast of the martyrs and of some shrine where crowds flock on certain days for a celebration. Think of those crowds and of how they stir each other up and exhort one another and say, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” And some ask, “Where are we to go?” and they’re told, “To that place, to that shrine.” They talk to one another, and it’s as if, individually on fire, they make a single flame, and that single flame, kindled as their conversation sets them on fire, hurries them toward the shrine, and their holy thoughts make them holy.
If a holy love hurries them on to a shrine here, what love must it be that hurries people of the same mind on toward heaven as they say to one another, “We shall go into the house of the Lord!” So let’s run! Let’s run because we’re going to enter the house of the Lord! Let’s run, and not grow weary because we’re going to a place where we will never be tired. Let’s run toward the house of the Lord; let our souls rejoice at those who are telling us this. For those who are telling us have seen the homeland first, and from afar they are shouting to those who are coming later: “We shall go into the house of the Lord!” Walk! Run! The Apostles saw it and said to us: “Run, walk, follow us! We are going into the house of the Lord!” And what does each of us say? “I rejoiced at those who said to me: ‘We are going into the house of the Lord.’” I rejoiced in the Prophets. I rejoiced in the Apostles. For all of them told us: “We are going into the house of the Lord!” (Augustine, EnPs 121, 2; PL 37:1619)