The feast of St. Augustine follows the feast of his mother, St. Monica – so beautifully and appropriately. She who was so devout prayed for years that he return to the Faith she had taught him as a child.
Augustine’s father was apparently more interested in his studies than his faith and Augustine soon became enamored of worldly things. However, he never stopped searching for the truth. While living in Milan, out of curiosity, he went to hear the sermons of St. Ambrose and eventually became convinced of the truth of Christianity.
This did not result in an automatic conversion for him, however, because he did not find it easy to give up the things of the world that were not good for his soul. And perhaps it is for this that he is best remembered and most loved. Who among us cannot relate to this struggle?
While his Confessions are now considered a classic, at the time they were written they were virtually scandalous in that his admission of struggle and weakness was uncommon among those who embracing the relatively new Faith known as Christianity.
Last night, as I listened to a recording of an excerpt from his Confessions, I was moved to tears. This morning, I wanted to read the words in my own voice. I share my recording with you here – but suggest that you too may find yourself wanting to read the words aloud, so as to enter “into the inmost depth” of your soul along with Augustine.
From the Confessions of Saint Augustine
Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance into the inmost depth of my soul. I was able to do so because you were my helper. On entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond my spirit: your immutable light. It was not the ordinary light perceptible to all flesh, nor was it merely something of greater magnitude but still essentially akin, shining more clearly and diffusing itself everywhere by its intensity. No, it was something entirely distinct, something altogether different from all these things; and it did not rest above my mind as oil on the surface of water, nor was it above me as heaven is above the earth. This light was above me because it had made me; I was below it because I was created by it. He who has come to know the truth knows this light.
O Eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and far distant from you, and I thought I heard your voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men; grow then, and you will feed on me. Nor will you change me into yourself like bodily food, but you will be changed into me.”
I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you.
But I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all, God blessed for ever. He was calling me and saying: I am the way of truth, I am the life. He was offering the food which I lacked the strength to take, the food he had mingled with our flesh. For the Word became flesh, that your wisdom, by which you created all things, might provide milk for us children.
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.