Our Heart is Restless Until It Rests in You

From the Confessions of Saint Augustine, Bishop (354-430)

Augustine by Carpaccio, 1502

Augustine by Carpaccio, 1502

Our Heart is Restless Until it Rests in You

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Narrated by Frank Dugan, Huntington Beach, California

You are great, Lord, and worthy of our highest praise; your power is great and there is no limit to your wisdom. Man, a tiny part of your creation, wishes to praise you. Though he bears about him his mortality, the evidence of his sin and the evidence that you resist the proud, yet this man, a tiny part of your creation, wishes to praise you. It is you who move man to delight in your praise. For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

Lord, help me to know and understand which is the soul’s first movement, to call upon you for help or to praise you; or if it must first know you before it can call upon you. But if someone does not know you, how can he call upon you? For, not knowing you, he might call upon someone else instead of you. Or must you first be called upon in order to be known? But Scripture says: Unless they believe in him, how shall they call upon him. And how shall they believe unless someone preaches to them?

Those who seek the Lord will praise him. Seeking the Lord they will find him, and finding him they will praise him. Lord, let me seek you by calling upon you, and let me call upon you believing in you, for you have been preached to us. Lord, my faith calls upon you, the faith you have given me, the faith you have inspired in me by the incarnation of your Son and through the ministry of your preacher.

How shall I call upon my God, my Lord and my God? For when I call upon him, I am really calling him into myself. Where within me can my God come? How can God who made heaven and earth come into me/ Lord my God, is there anything in me that can contain you? Can heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me, contain you? Or is it true that whatever exists contains you since without you nothing would exist?

Since I do indeed exist and yet would not exist unless you were in me, why do I ask you to come to me? I am not now in hell, yet you are there. For the psalmist says: If I descend into hell you are there. Therefore, my God, I would not exist at all, unless you were in me; or rather, I would not exist unless I were in you from whom and by whom and in whom all things exist. Yes, Lord, it is so. To what place do I call you to come, since I am in you? Or from what place are you to come to me? Where can I go beyond the bunds of heaven and earth, that my God may come to me, for he has said: I fill heaven and earth?

Who will help me to find rest in you? Who will send you into my heart to inebriate it, so that I will forget my evil ways and embrace you, my only good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, that I may speak. What am I to you that you command me to love you, and grow angry and threaten me with terrible punishment if I do not” Is it them a small sorrow not to love you?

In your mercy, Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. So speak that I may hear you. The ears of my heart are turned to you, Lord; open them and say to my soul: I am your salvation. I will run after your voice and I will lay hold of you. Do not hide your face from me. Let me see your face even if I die, for if I see it not, I shall die of longing.

Source: The Liturgy of the Hours – Office of Readings

Saint Augustine was born at Tagaste in northern Africa, the son of Patricius, a pagan Roman official and Monica, a Christian. At 17, Augustine went to the university at Carthage to study rhetoric and literary pursuits. He became interested in philosophy and accepted the heresy of Manichaeism. He taught at Tagaste and Carthage for ten years then left for Rome in 373 and opened a school of rhetoric but left the following year to teach in Milan. His mother, St. Monica, had prayed relentlessly for his conversion for seventeen years. Then, in Milan, Augustine was so impressed by the Sermons of St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he embraced the Christian faith with zeal. He was baptized by Ambrose on Easter Eve in 387.

He abandoned his secular interests and began a community life of prayer and meditation pouring over the Scriptures and completely reformed his life. Later in 387, he started back to Africa, and on the way, his mother Monica died at Ostia. The following year he established a religious community at Tagaste and began to preach with phenomenal success. He was made Bishop of Hippo in 396. During the next thirty four years Augustine wrote profusely, completing some two hundred treatises, three hundred letters, four hundred sermons and major works in theology and philosophy evidencing a towering intellect which molded the thought of Western Christianity for a thousand years after his death.

St. Augustine died on August 28 during Genseric’s siege of Hippo in 430. Among his best known works are his Confessions, one of the great spiritual classics of all time; City of God, another classic presentation of Christian philosophy and history. He is one of the greatest of the Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church. He is considered one of the greatest single intellects the Catholic Church has ever produced.