20 February 2009

Saint Augustine: "Officium vestrum in desiderio sit"

“Let your duty be in desire.” These wonderful words come to us from Saint Augustine. We cannot see what has been promised by our Lord therefore, “Tota vita Christiani boni sanctum desiderium est” – “The whole life of a good Christian is a holy desire.” He continues by telling us that the desire or longing for the promise to come to fruition makes us capable, so that when the promise is fulfilled and we are able to see it, then shall we be satisfied.

Recall the words of Saint Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard; neither has it entered into the heart of man what things God has prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Thus, as Saint Augustine tells us, our lives as Christians must be driven by a desire to receive our Savior’s promises.

When adoring the Blessed Sacrament, faith tells us that what looks like a piece of bread is not a thing but a Person – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Coupled with that faith, though, is a desire to be like Him and see Him as He is (cf. 1 John 2). This desire, as Saint John’s First Epistle continues, sanctifies us (ibid. verse 3).

Saint Augustine then teaches that by God’s delay in fulfilling our desire, the soul is expanded and its capacity increased. Of course, this would mean that there must be a complete commitment to serving our Lord; for how dangerous it would be to increase the soul’s capacity if our desire was to fill it with the things of this world. As Saint Augustine puts it: “Tantum autem nos exercet sanctum desiderium, quantum desideria nostra amputaverimus ab amore sæculi” – “But only are we exercised by holy desire, in as much as we cut off our longings for the love of the world.”

And so, the soul’s capacity is expanded by God when we cast out temporal desires and replace them with holy desires. For example, if we look at the vocation of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, it’s hard to imagine that her very difficult living conditions were driven by a longing for this world’s goods. Of course not! It would be ridiculous to even entertain such thoughts. No, it was as she said: “Jesus is my God, Jesus is my Spouse, Jesus is my Life, Jesus is my only Love, Jesus is my All in All; Jesus is my Everything.”

Concluding with Saint Augustine, he teaches us: “Extendamus nos in eum, ut, cum venerit, impleat” – “Let us stretch ourselves towards Him, that when He comes, He may fill us.”