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Saint Augustine: Late Have I Loved Thee

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Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  and here to read the first four posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent.  We repent our sins and turn away from them, but these are not ends in themselves.  We do them to help reawaken in our souls our love of God.  God loves each of us with a love the intensity and magnitude of which we, in this life, cannot hope to fathom.  It has been said that God loves each man as if he were the only one.  He loves us enough to die for us, the creator of life suffering an ignominious human death to bring us to Him.  Blinded by sin and the follies of this Vale of Tears we are often unable to see that the sweet loves we encounter in this life are but pale reflections of His love.  Saint Augustine, after a wasted youth, did finally understand that love, and wrote about his discovery in imperishable words:

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.

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

7 Comments

  1. “Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all.”
    .
    St Augustine traces his being, his very soul, back to his Creator, our Creator, the Creator Who creates a soul for each of us from the beginning, at procreation, of an individual substance of a rational nature, a person.
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    St. Augustine sees God before he sees himself. In the depth of his soul, of his very being, body and soul, he finds who he is, his identity, his purpose, his pursuit of Happiness and the FREEDOM created for him by God, in God and through God, “through Him and with Him and in Him.” the Truth, the Life and the Way of Jesus Christ, Who was in complete and perfect accord with the will of His Father in heaven, Jesus Christ, Who came to serve, not to be served.

    Thank you, Donald McClarey, May God continue to bless and keep you and yours.

  2. I just discovered this today via link on BigPulpit.com.

    Please — Which translation is this? I had the Frank Sheed’s highly respected translation, but it is more formal than this, which reads so beautifully for modern ears.

    I will be reading this aloud in our Fr. Barron’s New Evangelization class at our parish, after someone talked about all her friends who did not even come close to knowing or caring about God. I wonder how many Catholics today even know this passage, much less that it was from St. Augustine.

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