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A delight of the human heart

Amen, I say to you that he will make them recline and he will pass and minister to them (Lk 12:37) What does He will make them recline mean but that he will make them rest, will free them from labor? What does He will pass and minister to them mean? After this passage, he will minister to them. Christ made a passage here: let us go to where he has passed, where he no loner passes. Pascha in Hebrew means passage. The Lord showed it, the evangelist showed it, where he said of the Lord: When the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father (Jn 13:1). So if he feeds us here, and in such a way, how will he feed us there? ... There is a delight of the human heart in the light of truth, in the flow of wisdom, a delight of the human heart, of the faithful heart, of the holy heart, and no pleasure can in any way be compared to it, not even to be said to be less than it. Something that you say is less may by growth become equal. I dont want to say its less; theres no comparison; its of a different kind; its quite different. What is it, now, when youre all waiting, all listening, all excited, and when something true is said, youre all delighted by it. Is it something you saw? Something you grasped? What color appeared to your eyes? What form or figure, what size, what features of the members, what bodily beauty did you see? None of them. And yet you love it. Why would you have expressed such praise if you didnt love it? And why would you love it, if you didnt see anything? But though I do not show you any form or features or color or beautiful movement, still you see, you love, you praise. If this delight at the truth is sweet now, it will be much sweeter then. (Augustine, 179, 7; PL 38, 969-70)

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The passage that he is discussing is one of the most remarkable evocations of the theme of the Messianic Banquet in the gospels. I almost thought that he was going to allow that dimension of the text to slip away, except that he does reiterate that it is about being fed. I don't doubt that the modern reader catches the significance of the master serving his slaves at table, but I suspect that it would have meant even more to Augustine's audience: the image of the slave reclining while the master serves at the supper really, as the kids say, flips the system.

youre all waiting, all listening, all excited, and when something true is said, youre all delighted by it. That atmosphere sounds just like a Math conference, for example:"One can only try to imagine the emotional rollercoaster Wiles must have been on in 1993-94. First a series of lectures at Cambridge University before an elite audience in an electrified atmosphere, culminating in Wiles' simply writing Fermat's formula on the blackboard and saying: "I think I'll stop there." " (http://www.zenker.se/Books/wiles.shtml)

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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.