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Something in the eye

Our whole business in this life, brothers and sisters, is to heal the eye of the heart so that God may be seen. This is why the holy mysteries are celebrated, why the word of God is preached; why the Church has moral exhortations for the correction of behavior, the amendment of carnal lusts, the renouncing of the world, not in word only, but by a change of life; and this is the entire aim of the divine and holy Scriptures: that the inner eye may be purged of what hinders us from seeing God. The eye was formed to see this temporal light, a light from heaven, yet corporeal and manifest not to us only, but even to the lowest animals.... If anything irritates the eye, however, by being thrown or blown into it, it shuts out that light; and even though the light surrounds the eye with its presence, still the eye turns away and closes itself away from the light. The very light to see which the eye was formed becomes painful to it. In the same way, the hearts eye, when disturbed and wounded, turns away from the light of righteousness and dares not and cannot look at it. And what is it that disturbs the hearts eye? Evil desires, greed, wickedness, worldly concupiscence--these are what disturb, close, blind the eye of the heart.When the bodys eye is irritated, how quickly we look for a doctor so it can be opened and cleansed so that this light can be seen! We run around, cant rest, cant wait, if the slightest thing gets in the eye! It was God, of course, who made this sun that we desire to see with healthy eyes. Much brighter still is the one who made it, and quite different in kind is the light meant for the minds eye. That light is eternal wisdom. God made you, man, after his own image. Do you suppose that he would give you an eye to see the sun that he made and not give you an eye to see him who made it, when he made you according to his own image? He has given you this eye, too; he has given you both kinds of eye. But while you take great care of these outer eyes, you greatly neglect your inner eye, impaired and wounded as it is. Its painful to you if your Maker desires to show himself to you; it hurts your eye until it is cured and healed. Adam sinned even in paradise and hid himself from Gods face. As long as he had the healthy heart of a pure conscience, he rejoiced in the presence of God, but after that eye was wounded by sin, he began to dread the divine light, fled back into the darkness and the thick woods, fleeing the truth, longing for shadows. (Augustine Sermon 88, 5-6; PL 38, 540-41)

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.



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When St. Augustine talks about "renouncing: the world he sounds like he hasn't renounced Manicheeanism completely. It's the sort of statement John Calvin would love, I suspect.

Well, Calvin, of course, claimed to be a faithful disciple of Augustine. But it all depends on what one means by "the world," doesn't it? There are several meanings to the word in the NT, and in Augustine.

Yes, there are several meanings of "the world", but only one I can think of sounds like something that ought to be renounced. I know there's more to Calvinism than Calvinism (I don't know how else to say that) but at its worst it certainly is repulsive. It's unChristian in itself, and it drives people away from the Church. And I have to admit that St. Aug. sounds Calvinistic at times. OK, so he might have been misunderstood, but . . .

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