Theology of the Heart: Teachings of the Saints
Hearts are Restless Until They Rest in You"
From the Confessions
Saint Augustine of Hippo
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.
Excerpted from the Confessions of St. Augustine (Book I,
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