“Better Than These is He Who Made Them All”

Today is the memorial of St. Augustine, the main inspriation for this blog. In my neglect, I forgot to mark the memorial of his mother, blessed St. Monica yesterday, and for my atonement I plan to write something on St. Augustine at a later date. (Above is the image of a 19th century painting which serves as a background image for my header.)

For now, this will have to suffice:  for all his theological faults (which I might add, were committed in the heat of polemical battle), he was the greatest expositor of the faith in personal terms that we have, outside of the Apostles themselves, St. Paul foremost among them. No one lived the faith in his body after having rejected it in his body, and in his mind, quite like Augustine, who in his own life combined the faith of the Word with the wisdom of the ancients, and made it possible to hand on the Faith in the prayerful but intellectual way that is still possible for those who wish to attain it.  I have not enough words in me to express what my heart feels, so I will only leave you with a testament of his faith, and commend you to his works for contemplation and reflection.

 

O God of hosts, restore us to our own; smile upon us, and we shall find deliverance. For wherever the soul of man may turn, unless it turns to you, it clasps sorrow to itself. Even though it clings to things of beauty, if their beauty is outside God and outside the soul, it only clings to sorrow.

Yet these things of beauty would not exist at all unless they came from you. Like the sun, they rise and set. At their rise they have their first beginning; they grow until they reach perfection; but, once they have reached it, they grow old and die.  Not all reach old age, but all alike must die. When they rise therefore, they are set upon the course of their existence, and the faster they climb towards its zenith, the more they hasten towards the point where they exist no more. This is the law they obey. This is all that you have appointed for them, because they are parts of a whole. Not all the parts exist at once, but some must come as others go, and in this way together they make up the whole of which they are the parts. Our speech follows the same rule, using sounds to signify a meaning. For a sentence is not complete unless each word, once its syllables have been pronounced, gives way to make room for the next. Let my soul praise you for these things, O God, Creator of them all; but the love of them, which we feel, through the senses of the body, must not be like glue to bind my soul to them. For they continue on the course that is set for them and leads to their end, and if the soul loves them and wishes to be with them and find its rest in them, it is torn by desires that can destroy it. In these things there is no place to rest, because they do not last. They pass away beyond the reach of our senses. Indeed, none of us can lay firm hold of them even when they are with us. For the senses of the body are sluggish, because they are the senses of flesh and blood. They are limited by their own nature. They are sufficient for the purposes for which they were made, but they cannot haltthe progress of transient things, which pass fromA their allotted beginning to their allotted end.  All such things are created by your word, which tells them, “Here is your beginning and your end.”

My soul, you too must listen to the word of God. Do not be foolish; do not let the din of your folly deafen the ears of your heart. For the Word himself calls you to return. In him is the place of peace that cannot be disturbed, and he will not withhold himself from your love unless you withhold your love from him. In the world one thing passes away so that another may take its place and the whole be preserved in all its parts.  “But do I pass away elsewhere” says the Word of God. Make your dwelling with him, my soul. Entrust to him whatever  you have, for all that you have is from him. Now, at last, tired of being misled, entrust to the Truth all that the Truth has given to you and nothing will be lost. All that is withered in you will be made to thrive again. All your sickness will be healed. Your mortal body will be refashioned and renewed and firmly bound to you, and when it dies it will not drag you with it to the grave, but will endure and abide with you before God, who abides and endures forever.

My soul, why do you face about and follow the lead of the flesh? Turn forward, and let it follow you! Whatever you feel through the senses of the flesh you only feel in part. It delights you, but it is only a part and you have no knowledge of the whole. To punish you this just limit has been fixed for the senses of your body.  But if this were not so and they could comprehend the whole, you would wish that whatever exists in the present should pass on, so that you might gain greater pleasure from the whole. It is one of these same bodily senses that enables you to hear the words that I speak, but you do not want the syllables to sound for ever in my mouth: you want them to fly from my tongue and give place to the others, so that you may hear the whole of what I have to say. It is always the same with the parts that together make a whole. They are not present at the same time. but if they can all be felt as one, together they give more pleasure than each single part. But far better than these is he who made them all, our God. He does not pass away, because there is none to take his place.

Confessions, Bk IV, Sections 10-11

Memorial of the blessed Saint Augustine of Hippo Regius, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

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~ by Alypius on August 28, 2008.

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