GREAT art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou "resistest the proud, " -- yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee. Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on Thee, or to praise Thee; and likewise to know Thee, or to call upon Thee. But who is there that calls upon Thee without knowing Thee? For he that knows Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art. Or perhaps we call on Thee that we may know Thee. "But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher?" And those who seek the Lord shall praise Him. For those who seek shall find Him, and those who find Him shall praise Him. Let me seek Thee, Lord, in calling on Thee, and call on Thee in believing in Thee; for Thou hast been preached unto us. O Lord, my faith calls on Thee, --that faith which Thou hast imparted to me, which Thou hast breathed into me through the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher.'
Folks, I'm afraid that I have been quite busy of late, but I thought I'd share one of the things that has been bouncing around my little head for the past few weeks.
It's about the start of St Augustine's Confessions. It seems to me that people have jumped on the famous line our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee without fully considering the context. Certainly, the restlessness of our hearts and the insatiability of our will does in some sense point to the fact that our destiny is not confined to this passing world, but I sometimes think that we make the mental leap from this restlessness to our supernatural destiny. One of the difficulties that the believer needs to face is that the mysteries of Christianity become commonplace, and we fail to grasp how extraordinary the life of the believer is. This intuition of Augustine is a hard-won and subtle insight that grounds the potential of our communion with the Divine and the possibility of our Redemption.
Furthermore, I am not sure that we are not doing Augustine an injustice by reading that line in isolation. Firstly, I think it can lead us to take our supernatural destiny as less than gratuitious. Secondly, I think that we run the danger of confusing our natural (and insatiable) will with a genuine love and desire for the Divine. I think that it is significant that Augustine seems to suggest that it's not simply some kind of natural desire within him that is crying out to God, but rather he says: my faith calls on Thee, --that faith which Thou hast imparted to me, which Thou hast breathed into me through the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher.' Augustine himself is wrestling with the problem of knowing God and the relationship between Creator and creature, but I suspect that we neglect the role of explicit (supernatural) faith in this reflection at our peril.