Better Late than Never

Lenten Reflections 2016

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new! Late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and that is where I was seeking you. In my unloveliness I rushed toward those lovely things you made. You were with me, but I was not with you. And those lovely things kept me far from you even though they would not exist, did they not exist in you. You called and cried out, and you shattered my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you put my blindness to flight. You were fragrant, and I drew a breath, and now pant for you. I tasted you, and now I hunger and I thirst. You touched me, and I burst into flames in desire for your peace. (Confessions, 10: 38; PL 32, 795). Commenting on Proverbs 8:17: “I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me,” John Donne evokes that passage from Augustine:

Yet if we omitted our first early, our youth, there is one early left for us: this minute; seek Christ early, now, now, as you begin your day of Regeneration, seek him the first minute of this day, for you know not whether this day shall have two minutes or no, that is, whether his Spirit, that descends upon you now, will tarry and rest upon you or not, as it did upon Christ at his baptism. Therefore shall every one that is godly make his prayer unto thee: O God, in a time when thou mayst be found, we acknowledge this to be that time, and we come to thee now early, with the confession of thy servant Augustine, “Sero te amavi pulchritudo tam antiqua, tam nova,” O glorious beauty, infinitely reverend, infinitely fresh and young, we come late to thy love, if we consider the past days of our lives, but early if thou beest pleased to reckon with us from this hour of the shining of thy grace upon us, and therefore, O God, as thou hast brought us safely to the beginning of this day, as thou hast not given us over to a final perishing in the works of night and darkness, as thou hast brought us to the beginning of this day of grace, so defend us in the same with thy mighty power, and grant that this day, this day of thy visitation, we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, no such sin, no such danger as may separate us from thee, or frustrate us of our hopes in that eternal kingdom which thy Son our Savior Christ Jesus hath purchased for us, with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. (Donne, Sermon 5)

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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