Thursday, July 31, 2008

Confessions of St. Augustine

You are great, Lord, and highly to be praised (Ps 47:2): great is your power and your wisdom is immeasurable (Ps 146:5) Man, a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being ‘bearing his mortality with him’ (2 Cor 4:10), carrying with him the witness of sin and the witness that you ‘resist the proud’ (1 Peter 5:5). Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for your self, our heart is restless until it rests in you.
Grant me Lord to know and understand (Ps 118:34, 73, 144) which comes first – to call upon you or to praise you, and whether knowing you precedes calling upon you. But who calls upon you when he does not know you? For an ignorant person might call upon someone else instead of the right one. But surely you may be called upon in prayer that you may be known.. Yet how shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed and how shall they believe with out a preacher (Rom 10:14) “They will praise the Lord who seek for him” (Ps 21:27)
In seeking him they find him and in finding they will praise him. Lord, I would seek you, calling upon you- and calling upon you is an act of believing in you. You have been preached to us. My faith, Lord calls upon you. It is your gift to me. You breathed it into me by the humanity of your Son, by the ministry of your preacher.
Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful, most just, deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new and ‘leading’ the proud ‘to be’ old without their knowledge’ (Job 9:5)’ always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking: you love without burning, you are jealous in a way that is free of anxiety, you repent (Gen 6:6) without the pain of regret, you are wrathful and remain tranquil. You will a change without any change in your design. You recover what you find, yet have never lost. Never in any need, you rejoice in your gains (Luke 15:7) you are never avaricious, yet you require interest (Matt 25:27) We pay you more than you require so as to make you our debtor, yet who has anything which does not belong to you? (1 Cor. 4:7) You pay off debts, though owing nothing to anyone; you cancel debts and incur no loss. But in these words what have I said, my God, my life, my holy sweetness? What has anyone achieved in words when he speaks about you? Yet woe to those who are silent you because, though loquacious with verbosity, they have nothing to say.
Who will enable me to find rest in you? Who will grant me that you come to my heart and intoxicate it, so that I forget my evils and embrace my one and only good, yourself? What are you to me? Have mercy so that I may find words. What am I to you that you command me to love you, and that, if I fail to love you, you are angry with me and threaten me with vast miseries? If I do not love you, is that but a little miser? What a wretch I am! In your mercies, Lord God, tell me what you are to me. ‘Say to my soul, I am your salvation’ (Ps 34:3). Speak to me so that I may hear. See the ears of my heart are before you, Lord. Open them and ‘say to my soul, I am your salvation’. After that utterance I will run and lay hold on you. Do not hide your face from me (Ps 26:9). Lest I die, let me die so that I may see it.

This is an excerpt from "St. Augustine Confessions" by St. Augustine and Henry Chadwick (translator)

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