Great Sights, Promised and Experienced

Lenten Reflections 2015: Readings from Augustine

Great sights [spectacula] does God offer to the Christian heart. No sight more pleasant could be found as long as one has the palate of faith that has a taste for God’s honey. We think that in all of you who with all your heart believe in our Savior his Spirit is present who gives you delight as the prophecies are read that were uttered so many years ago by the mouths of the righteous and were fulfilled so many years later when the Gentiles came to believe. Back then the holy prophets themselves took pleasure when they saw those things in spirit, not yet fulfilled but still to come. Their delight was great, but they burned with such love for us whom they did not yet see, though they desired to give birth to us, that they wished it were possible to live with us at this time and to see fulfilled the things they were prophesying in the spirit. That is why the Lord said to his disciples who were seeing those things begin: “Many righteous people and prophets desired to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it” (Mt 13:17). Though they saw those things in the spirit, to them they were presented as future, while to the Apostles they were being given as present.

That is why Simeon, that old righteous man, exulted greatly when he saw the infant Jesus and perceived greatness in littleness, in mere flesh recognizing the Creator of heaven and earth. He rejoiced greatly because he had received the answer that he would not depart from this life until he had seen the salvation of God. He saw it; he was delighted; he exulted with joy and said: “Lord, now you may dismiss your servant in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lk 2:25-30).

Great is this delight, then, the delight that love creates, the delight we experienced when this Psalm was being sung. Some of the things in it were understood by everyone; some of them , as far as I can see, were understood by only a few or at least not by everyone. Let us together reflect on this Psalm as I offer this sermon as my service to you, and let us see with what great mercy God has wished to give us joy, presenting the things he promised and displaying to us the truth of his promises....

May the Lord our God himself stir up in us expectation and pleasure worthy of so great a thing. May he adapt what I say to fit your hearts so that whatever joy I experience at such sights he may bring to my tongue and from there to your ears and then to your hearts and from there to your deeds. (EP 96[97], 1, 3; PL 37, 1237, 1239)

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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