From Augustine’s “Confessions”

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.
Grant me to know and understand, Lord, which comes first. To call upon you or to praise you? To know you or to call upon you? Must we know you before we can call upon you? Anyone who invokes what is still unknown may be making a mistake. Or should you be invoked first, so that we may then come to know you? But how can people call upon someone in whom they do not yet believe? And how can they believe without a preacher?

But scripture tells us that those who seek the Lord will praise him, for as they seek they find him, and on finding him they will praise him. Let me seek you then, Lord, even while I am calling upon you, and call upon you even as I believe in you; for to us you have indeed been preached. My faith calls upon you, Lord, this faith which is your gift to me, which you have breathed into me through the humanity of your Son and the ministry of your preacher.
How shall I call upon my God, my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling him into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How should the God who made heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God? Even heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me – can even they contain you? Since nothing that exists would exist without you, does it follow that whatever exists does in some way contain you?
But if this is so, how can I, who am one of these existing things, ask you to come into me, when I would not exist at all unless you were already in me? Not yet am I in hell, after all but even if I were, you would be there too; for if I descend into the underworld, you are there. No, my God, I would not exist, I would not be at all, if you were not in me. Or should I say, rather, that I should not exist if I were not in you, from whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things? Yes, Lord, that is the truth, that is indeed the truth. To what place can I invite you, then, since I am in you? Or where could you come from, in order to come into me? To what place outside heaven and earth could I travel, so that my God could come to me there, the God who said, I fill heaven and earth?

Who will grant it to me to find peace in you? Who will grant me this grace, that you should come into my heart and inebriate it, enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace you, my only good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, so that I may tell. What indeed am I to you, that you should command me to love you, and grow angry with me if I do not, and threaten me with enormous woes? Is not the failure to love you woe enough in itself?
Alas for me! Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.

Church Fathers Redux

Anselm (1033-1109 C.E.) said:

“Be it mine to look up to your light, even from afar, even from the depths.  Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me, when I seek you, for I cannot seek you, except you teach me, nor find you, except you reveal yourself.  Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you in love, and love you in finding.  Lord, I acknowledge and I thank you that you have created me in this your image, in order that I may be mindful of you, may conceive of you, and love you; but that image has been so consumed and wasted away by vices, and obscured by the smoke of wrong-doing, that it cannot achieve that for which it was made, except you renew it, and create it anew.  I do not endeavor, O Lord, to penetrate your sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree your truth, which my heart believes and loves.  For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.  For this also I believe–that unless I believed, I should not understand.”

The Church Fathers

Why haven’t I been reading the works of the Church Fathers before now?  I was shocked at the beauty and elegance of some of their writings.  Take, for example, one of my favorite passages I’ve read thus far, written by Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386 C.E.):

“If any man attempt to speak of God, let him first describe the bounds of the earth.  You dwell on the earth, and the limit of this earth which is your dwelling you know not: how then shall you be able to form a worthy thought of its Creator?  You behold the stars, but their Maker you behold not: count these which are visible, and then describe Him who is invisible, Who tells the number of the stars, and calls them all by their names. Violent rains lately came pouring down upon us, and nearly destroyed us: number the drops in this city alone: nay, I say not in the city, but number the drops on your own house for one single hour, if you can, but you can not.  Learn then your own weakness; learn from this instance the mightiness of God: for He has numbered the drops of rain, which have been poured down on all the earth, not only now but in all time.  The sun is a work of God, which, great though it be, is but a spot in comparison with the whole heaven; first gaze steadfastly upon the sun, and then curiously scan the Lord of the sun.  Seek not the things that are too deep for you, neither search out the things that are above your strength: what is commanded you, think thereupon Sirach 3:21-22.

But some one will say, If the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things?  So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me?  Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon him enough to satisfy my wants?  Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?  I praise and glorify Him that made us; for it is a divine command which says, Let every breath praise the Lord. I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe Him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying Him worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all.”

Simply beautiful.