Tag Archives: Augustine

Sojourn: A Brief Meditation

The world is quiet around me. And yet it’s not. The bright white of the falling snow, the underlying ice that has frozen the earth, the occasional sing-song chatter of hungry birds, the icy crying wind, and the passing of those who will not be deterred by the winter’s stormy countenance – I see, feel, hear all of these. And yet, there’s something quiet about a snowy day. It is as though, under its milky blanket the earth silently and eagerly awaits the thaw. It may be a cliché that has long been played out, but it is one we do well to remember: winter is awaiting its end, and even in its stillness it presses on to the spring, when the pure white will give way to brilliant greens and the multitudinous colors of God’s gardens, just as light shone through a prism reveals itself to be more than what we first saw. I am an exile, a sojourner to a home I’ve never yet seen, to a spring that will not end. This home is promised to me, the city of wholeness and peace, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-27); I wait, and at the very same time, I press on. I wait… for the Lord must come again and consummate His kingdom. I press on… “I journey to find the place where I will be resurrected,” as the missionary disciples of Columba said. I am a knight of heaven, a son of the King, in this world and in the next. This winter will end; it will not always be this way. In “this world with demons filled” (Luther), we are the church militant, the church sojourning; but the Son will come, and with this winter past, we shall be the church victorious, the church at rest at last. Let us wait for His salvation; let us press on to know Him, to do the works He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10), and one day to see Him with our own resurrected eyes.

“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:12-25

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-16

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62:1

“Toil passes, and rest will come; but rest only through toil. The ship passes, and you arrive at home; but home only by means of the ship. We are sailing the high seas, after all, if we take account of the surges and storms of this world. The reason, I am convinced, that we are not drowned is that we are being carried on the wood of the cross.” Augustine, Sermones ad populum, sermon 104.

Prayer: O Lord, God of sojourners, Who brought His ancient people from slavery in Egypt through the wilderness and to the Promised Land, and have in Christ vouchsafed to bring Your church unto Yourself in the New Jerusalem, protect us as we journey on, and strengthen our waiting faith that the homeland we behold with the eyes of faith now will be the homeland we see in joy with our resurrected eyes when Christ returns to judge the world. We ask in the name of Him Who bore the winter that He might bring His people to the everlasting spring, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Rest for Restless Hearts: A Brief Meditation

Presently, I’m on my vacation. During this time, I’ve been re-reading Augustine’s Confessions and reflecting on what it means to truly rest in the Lord. Often, when we think of “rest” we unconsciously substitute “idleness” in its place. Idleness, though, is certainly not the same; as Benedict points out in his Rule, “Idleness is the enemy of the soul.” (Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of St. Benedict, XLVIII.). “Rest” doesn’t mean the cessation of activity; “rest”, unlike idleness, is an active trusting in and following after the One Who is our Rest – the Lord Jesus Christ. True rest is found in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8), knowing that whatever comes you are His and He is yours. (Song of Solomon 6:3). If, in the midst of the wearying miseries and let-downs of this world I am to find abiding rest, it will be found only in Jesus Christ, in taking His yoke upon myself, being His true disciple, learning from Him. His is an abiding rest, and it is the rest in which I must abide, or else I will continue to be restless and wandering about from one failing happiness to another. Remember as you journey on the Way: “Christ alone is my rest.” The following are a few pieces upon which to meditate, concluded by a prayer.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“You stir us up to take delight in your praise; for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless till it finds its rest in you.” Augustine, Confessions, I.I.I.

The Pulley by George Herbert

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.”

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.

“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.”

Prayer: God of rest, grant that we who are weary and heavy laden and who so often seek our rest in Your gifts rather than in their Giver, be forgiven for our sins, be tossed upon Your breast, take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ by the power of Your Holy Spirit to be His true disciples, and rest in Your steadfast love in Christ all the days of our lives and throughout eternity, in the name of Your beloved Son Jesus, Who abides with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.