Saturday, September 26, 2015

Augustine on loving God and beauty

I am benefitting a great deal from Tim Keller’s book on Prayer (though now to sit down and implement it), and I have appreciated much of the material he quotes from John Calvin, Augustine, Luther, John Owen. But here are two quotes from Augustine on what it means to love God (it’s sometimes so hard to grasp what that means) and how good and beautiful things are encapsulated in it, and on the place of beauty.
But what do I love when I love you? Not the beauty of any body or the rhythm of time in its movement; not the radiance of light, so dear to our eyes; not the sweet melodies in the world of manifold sounds; not the perfume of flowers, ointments and spices; not manna and not honey; not the limbs so delightful to the body’s embrace: it is none of these things that I love when I love my God.

And yet when I love my God I do indeed love a light and a sound and a perfume and a food and an embrace—a light and sound and perfume and food and embrace in my inward self. There my soul is flooded with a radiance which no space can contain; there a music sounds which time never bears away; there I smell a perfume which no wind disperses; there I taste a food that no surfeit embitters; there is an embrace which no satiety severs. It is this that I love when I love my God. (Confessions 10.6.8.)
I think the quote above helps us understand what beauty is a reflection of, which makes the quote below easier to follow.
Wherever the soul of man turns, unless towards God, it cleaves to sorrow, even though the things outside God and outside itself to which it cleaves may be things of beauty. (Confessions 4.10.15)

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