Changes of the Heart

Lent 2014: Readings from Augustine

The Lord Jesus Christ calls, and not by speaking in any tone of voice, but by crying out, that anyone who thirsts should come to him (Jn 7:37). If we are thirsty, let us go to him, not, of course, by our feet but by our affections, not by moving from one place to another, but by loving–although in the inner self, one who loves does change his place. It’s one thing to move by one’s body, another to move by one’s heart. By moving your body you change places, by moving your heart you move your affections. If you once loved one thing and now love another, you’re no longer where you were. (In Ioannem, Tr. 32, 1; PL 35, 1642)

Delight the soul of your servant, for to you, Lord, have I lifted up my soul” (Ps 85,4). Give it joy because I have lifted it to you. For it was on earth and on the earth experienced bitterness, and so that it would not waste away in that bitterness, so that it would not lose all the sweetness of your grace, I lifted my soul up to you. For you alone are delight, while the world is full of bitterness. Christ rightly urges his members to lift up their hearts; let them listen, then, and do it: let them lift up to him what goes poorly on the earth. The soul doesn’t rot if it’s lifted up to God. If you had grain in a low spot, you’d move it to a higher spot so that it doesn’t rot. You change the place of your grain, but you allow your heart to rot on earth? If you raise your grain, raise your heart to heaven. “And how,” you ask, “can I do that? What ropes, what scaffold, what ladder do I need?” The ladder is your affections, your path your will. You go up by loving, you go down by failing to love. While still here on earth, you are in heaven if you love God. The heart isn’t raised the way a body is: a change of place raises a body; a change of will raises a heart. (Augustine, EnPs 85, 6; PL 37, 1085)

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About the Author

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.