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St- Augustine

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Day 39: Finding God after a Long Search

Augustine, wanted to be a committed Christian, but he couldn’t get to resolve one issue in his life, which was the lust of the flesh. He was determined to leave his mistress, and to start a fully Christian life for some time, but he did not know how to break with this sin, which was captivating his life.

One day, Anthony’s friend, Simplicianus, came to visit, and shared a story about a famous Roman philosopher, Victorianus, who converted to Christianity, and publically acknowledged it. This impacted his life strongly, as some of the Christians in higher ranks of society were not public about their faith, fearing being ridiculed.

Soon afterwards another friend visited him, Ponticianus, who was a high official in the emperor’s court, a Christian. Seeing the apostle Paul’s writings on Augustine’s desk, he shared with Augustine news about Anthony, the Egyptian monk, who lived in a solitude in the desert and many others were following his lifestyle of prayer and fasting. He told him about two of his friends, “secret service agents” from the emperor’s court, who visited a Christian house and found a book talking about life of Anthony. Upon reading the stories form that book, they wondered:

“Tell me, I beg you, what goal are we seeking in all these toils of ours? What is that we desire?…Can our hopes in the court rise higher than to be ‘friends of the emperor’? …But if I choose to become a friend of God, see, I can become one now.”

They were so touched and changed just by reading this testimony of a hermit, that one of them exclaimed:

“… I enter into that service from this hour in this place.”

While Ponticianus was talking, Augustine felt an unusual urge to reconsider his life. He was fighting within himself, remembering his prayers and suffering. He somehow tried to compose himself by rejecting the grace which was falling upon him, but after Ponticianus’ departure, he went to his other friend and exclaimed:

“What is the matter with us? What is this? What did you hear? The uninstructed start up and take heaven, and we - with all our learning but so little heart - see how we follow in flesh and blood!!!”

He went outside to a garden and his soul was struggling within him to say the final FIAT to God, started to cry with tears and with his voice:

“Will You be angry forever? How long? How long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour make an end to my uncleanness?”

Suddenly he heard a voice of a child chanting over and over:

“Pick it up, read it”.

Quickly he opened apostles Paul’s writings and his eyes fell on the passage:

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

He was freed instantly. And that’s how the saint was born, know today as St. Augustine, one of the brightest minds and hearts of human kind.

Prayer on Finding God after a Long Search

by Augustine

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.

all citations from “Confessions” by St. Augustine

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Day 35: The Beloved loves to be leaned on!

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wants us to know that even in the midst of the struggle - whether it be with mortal sin or venial sin, worldliness or temptation, perseverance in prayer or growth in virtue, loving or forgiving - we profoundly need to "lean on the Beloved". Bernard knows that to "fight against yourself without respite in a continual and hard struggle, and renounce your inveterate habits and inborn inclinations" is very hard, impossible really, without the help of the Lord.

But this is a hard thing. If you attempt it in your own strength, it will be as though you were trying to stop the raging of a torrent, or to make the Jordan run backwards (Ps. 113:3). What can you do then? You must seek the Word... you have need of strength, and not simply strength, but strength drawn from above (Lk. 24:49).

The words from Hebrews come to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (12:1-2)

The journey up the summit of the mountain of God (or Mount Carmel, as St. John of the Cross calls it) is difficult. And St. John of the Cross, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, and St. Francis de Sales know that it's impossible to attain the summit - spiritual marriage in this life, beatific vision in the next, without leaning heavily of the Beloved.

As Bernard, in accord with his fellow Doctors, explains:

"Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?" (Ps. 23:3) If anyone aspires to climb to the summit of that mountain (Ex. 24:17), that is to the perfection of virtue, he will know how hard the climb is, and how the attempt is doomed to failure without the help of of the Word. Happy the soul which causes the angels to look at her with joy and wonder and hears them saying, "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, rich in grace and beauty, leaning upon her beloved?" (Song 8:5). Otherwise, unless it leans on Him, its struggle is in vain. But it will gain force by struggling with itself and, becoming stronger, will impel all things towards reason... bringing every carnal affect into captivity (2 Cor. 10:5), and every sense under the control of reason in accordance with virtue. Surely all things are possible to someone who leans upon Him who can do all things? What confidence there is in the cry, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me!" (Phil. 4:13)... "Thus if the mind does not rely upon itself, but is strengthened by the Word, it can gain such command over itself that no unrighteousness will have power over it" (Ps. 118:133). - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The Good News is that the Beloved loves to be leaned on!

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Day 18: powerful means through which God can work

The story of St. Augustine's conversion is quite striking to see the powerful means through which God can work - through books, providential encounters, disillusionment with the things of the world, intercessory prayer, the power of other people's decisions and example, and, especially, the power of the Word, in verbal testimony and in the written Scriptures. And through it all we see the merciful, wise, patient, and powerful hand of of the Lord, as He guides us, to the freedom and peace that can only be found in Him.

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