Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 22 (God, the Most Majestic and the Most Beautiful One!)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 22 (God, the Most Majestic and the Most Beautiful One!)

“O Lord, since you are outside time in eternity, are you are aware of the things that I tell you? Or do you see in time the things that occur in it? If you see them, why do I lay this lengthy record before you? Certainly it is not through me that you first hear of these things. But by setting them down I fire my own heart and the hearts of my readers with love of you, so that we all may ask: Can any praise be worthy of the Lord’s majesty? I have said before, and I shall say again, that I write this book for love of your love….

But if my pen is my spokesman, when shall I be able to tell of all the means you used to make of me a preacher of your word and a minister of your sacrament to your people? When shall I be able to tell how you urged me, how you filled me with fear, how you consoled and guided me? Every particle of sand in the glass of time is precious to me, even I were able to set my facts in order and give an account of them. I have long been burning with desire to contemplate your law and to confess to you both what I know of it and where my knowledge fails; how far the first gleams of your light have illumined me and how dense my darkness still remains and must remain, until my weakness is swallowed up in your strength. And I do know wish to allow my time to slip away by undertaking any other task when I am free from the necessity of caring for my bodily needs, of studying, and of giving to others the service which I render them, whether it is my duty to give it or not.

O Lord my God, listen to my prayer. In your mercy grant what I desire, for it is not for myself alone that I ardently desire it: I wish also that it may serve the love I bear to others…Circumcise the lips of my mind and my mouth. Purify them of all rash speech and falsehood. Let your Scriptures be my chaste delight. Let me not deceive myself in them nor deceive others about them. Hear me, O Lord. Have mercy on me, O Lord my God, Light of the blind and Strength of the weak, Light, too, of those who see and Strength of the Strong. Listen to my soul as it cries from the depths. For if you are not there to hear us even in our deepest plight, what is to become of us? To whom shall we cry?

O Lord my God, how deep are your mysteries! How far from your safe haven have I been cast away by the consequences of my sins! Heal my eyes and let me rejoice in your light. If there were a mind endowed with such great power of knowing and foreknowing that all the past and all the future were known to it as clearly as I know a familiar psalm, that mind would be wonderful beyond belief. We should hold back from it in awe at the thought that nothing in all the history of the past and nothing in all the ages yet to come was hidden from it. It would know all this as surely as, when I sing the psalm, I know what I have already sung and what I have still to sing, how far I am from the beginning and how far from the end. But it is unthinkable that you, Creator of the universe, Creator of souls and bodies, should know all the past and all the future merely in this way.

Your knowledge is far more wonderful, far more mysterious than this. It is not like the knowledge of a man who sings words well known to him or listens to another singing a familiar psalm. While he does this, his feelings vary and his senses are divided, because his partly anticipating words still to come and partly remembering words already sung. It is far otherwise with you, for you are eternally without change, the truly eternal Creator of minds. In the Beginning you knew heaven and earth, and there was no change in your foreknowledge. In just the same way, in the Beginning you created heaven and earth, and there was no change in your action. Some understand this and some do not: let all alike praise you. You are supreme above all, yet your dwelling is in the humble of heart. For you comfort the burdened, and none fall who lift their eyes to your high place.”

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