Here’s a wonderful reflection from St. Augustine on desiring God, from today’s Office of Readings:
“The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied.
“Suppose you are going to fill some holder or container, and you know you will be given a large amount. Then you set about stretching your sack or wineskin or whatever it is. Why? Because you know the quantity you will have to put in it and your eyes tell you there is not enough room. By stretching it, therefore, you increase the capacity of the sack, and this is how God deals with us. Simply by making us wait he increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is to be given to us.
“So, my brethren, let us continue to desire, for we shall be filled. Take note of Saint Paul stretching as it were his ability to receive what is to come: Not that I have already obtained this, he said, or am made perfect. Brethren, I do not consider that I have already obtained it. We might ask him, “If you have not yet obtained it, what are you doing in this life?” This one thing I do, answers Paul, forgetting what lies behind, and stretching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the prize to which I am called in the life above. Not only did Paul say he stretched forward, but he also declared that he pressed on toward a chosen goal. He realised in fact that he was still short of receiving what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived.”
I’m reading “The Education of Henry Adams” now, by one of the great observers of our time. Adams was overwhelmed by the complexity of life brought about by the machine and rapid industrialization he experienced in the latter part of the 19th century. Though seen as progress, the changes caused a loss of a unified vision of life. There were too many things going on; too many facts to evaluate, too much happening to look ahead to the future. The world was entering a dizzying stage.
We are still in that stage.
How does our time affect the way we desire God? In a more settled time, God had a recognized place. Not so now. Augustine speaks of desire as a container, a sack that we must enlarge to be filled. We might use the image today of a shopping cart that’s filled to the brim with stuff, and there’s still more to come.
How can we make room for desiring God?