02 July 2011

A Little Augustine

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Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 72: 32

“My heart and my flesh have failed; but he is the God of my heart. This is what is kept for me in heaven: he is the God of my heart, and God is my portion. Take note of this, brothers and sisters. Let us assess our riches, and let the rest of humanity choose the portion it wants. Observe how people are torn apart by their conflicting desires: let some choose to serve in the army, others to practice at law. Let some choose various specialist studies, others trading, others farming; let them claim those avocations for themselves as their own portions out of all human possibilities, but let God’s people cry out: God is my portion. Nor is he my portion for a time only, but God is my portion for eternity. I may possess gold, but even were I to possess it for ever, what would I have? But if I possess God, then even were I not to possess him for ever, how great a good would I have meanwhile! But that is not all: he promises himself to me, and promises that I will have that treasure for eternity. I have so much, and never will there be a time when I have it no longer. What a tremendous happiness that is! God is my portion. For how long? For eternity, for you can see now how he has loved him and how he has purified his heart. He is the God of my heart, and God is my portion for eternity. His heart has become chaste, for now God is loved disinterestedly; the psalmist asks no other reward from God except God. Anyone who begs a different reward from God, and aspires to serve him in order to get it, is rating what he wants to get more highly than the God who, he hopes, will give it. Does this mean that God gives us nothing? Nothing, save himself. God’s award is simply God himself. This is what the psalmist loves, this he chooses as his love. If he chooses anything else, his will not be a chaste love. If he chooses anything else, his will not be a chaste love. If you distance yourself from the eternal fire you will grow cold, and decay. Do not move away, for that would mean corruption for you; and it would be fornication. The psalmist is on his way back now, already penitent; he is embracing repentance, and saying, God is my portion. How intense is his delight in the God he has chosen!   (NCP 490)

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