'Run with Me by Believing’

Lent 2014: Readings from Augustine

We have, said the Apostle Peter, a more sure word of prophecy, to which you do well to give heed, as to a lamp in a dark place, until the day dawns and day-star arises in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:17-19). When our Lord Jesus Christ shall come, then, and as the Apostle Paul also says, when he shall illumine things now in darkness and shall reveal the thoughts of hearts so that everyone may have praise from God (1 Cor 4:5), then, in the presence of such a day, lamps will not be necessary. Prophets will not be read to us; no book of an Apostle will be opened; we will not need John’s testimony; we will not even need the Gospel. All the Scriptures will be taken away that were lit for us like lamps in this world’s night so we would not remain in darkness. When they are taken away..., and when the men of God through whom these things were ministered to us will with us see that true and clear light, when all these things are taken away, what shall we see? With what shall our minds be fed? What shall delight our gaze? What will be the source of that joy which eye does not see nor ear hear nor does it arise into the heart of a man (1 Cor 2:9)? What shall we see? I beg you: love with me; run with me by believing. Let us desire the homeland above; let us pant for it; let us feel that we are strangers here. What shall we see then? Let the Gospel tell us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (Jn 1;1). You will come to the fountain from which a little dew has been sprinkled upon you; you will see that pure light from which a ray was sent to your darkened heart by oblique and roundabout ways, to see and bear which you are now being purified. “Beloved,” as I also recalled yesterday, “John himself says: “We are children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2).

I sense that your affections are being lifted up with me toward the things that are above, but the corruptible body weighs down the soul and the earthly dwelling presses down the mind that muses about many things (Wis 9:15). I too am about to put down this book, and you too are about to leave and go home. It was good for us to stand in the common light, to have rejoiced together, to have exulted together. Only, as we depart from each other, let us not depart from him. (In Ioannem 35, 9; PL 35, 1661-1662)

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It's not clear to me here whether the "light" is a metaphor for knowledge of God or for God's love or both, or something else.  That "day-star" arises in our *hearts*, not our minds, but it will reveal "the thoughts of hearts".  Strange phrase, that last one.  But it will feed our *minds* and *delight our gaze".  Heart and head seem all confused here.  (To me the meaning(s) of "heart" in theology are one of the great theological mysteries.)

Was Dante influenced by St. Augustine?  Directly, I mean.  What St. Augustine says here about "light" seems to be echoed very strongly in the Purgatorio and Paradiso, though for Dante it seems light seems to stand more for truth than goodness/beauty.  

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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.