St. Augustine: “Late Have I Loved You!”

Last week we celebrated the feast of the incomparable St. Augustine of Hippo. In our anti-intellectual age, he sometimes gets dismissed as too complicated. But previous ages considered his thinking to be rooted in the deepest mysticism, and his place in the Catholic intellectual tradition has always been among those who emphasize that God is infinitely above human thought.

Today, just one burst of poetry, from the Confessions. Augustine shows that all the beautiful things in the world are just distractions, unless they lead us inward, to the greatest Beauty, which is God.

 

st-augustine-of-hippo-2So late did I love You, O Beauty, so ancient, and yet so new! So late did I love You!

For behold, You were inside me, but I was outside, and sought you there. I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty that You had made. You were with me, but I was not with You.

Things kept me far from You, which would not have been, if they had not been in You.

You called, and cried aloud, and broke open my deafness. You gleamed and shined, and chased away my blindness. You breathed out odours, and I drew in my breath, and now I breathe heavily for You. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.

–The Confessions, Book 10, chapter 27

eric.m.johnston

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