28 August 2010

The Word of God is All in all

Today on this feast of Saint Augustine, the Carthusians at the hour of Matins listened to this great saint’s words from his ‘Sermo CXX’. Here are those words.

Saint John begins his Gospel with these words: ‘In the beginning was the Word’ (Saint John 1:1). The evangelist saw it, and rising above the whole creation, mountains, air, the heavens, the stars, Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, Powers, all Angels, and Archangels, transcending all; he saw the Word that was in the beginning and he drank. He saw above every creature, he drank in from the Lord's Breast. Of all the disciples, the evangelist was the beloved of Jesus; insomuch that he lay on His Breast at supper. There was this secret: that from there might be drunk in, what in the Gospel was to be poured forth. Happy are they who hear and understand. Of the next degree of blessedness are they who though they do not understand, yet believe. For how great a thing it is to see this Word of God. Who can explain it in human words?

Lift up your hearts, my brethren; lift them up as best you can; reject whatsoever occurs to you from the idea of any body. If the Word of God occurs to you under the idea of the light of this sun, expand, extend how you will; set no bounds in your thought to that light; it is nothing compared to the Word of God. Whatsoever of this sort the mind conceives, is less in one part than in the whole. Conceive the Word of God as Whole everywhere. Understand what I say; because of my stress of time I am limiting myself as much as I can for your sakes. Understand what I say.

This light from heaven, which is called the sun, when it comes forth, it enlightens the earth, rules over the day, develops forms, distinguishes colours. A great blessing it is, a great gift of God to all mortal men; let His works magnify Him. If the sun is so beautiful, how much more beautiful is the sun's Maker? And yet look, brethren; the sun pours its rays through the whole earth; penetrates open places, the closed resist it; it sends its light through windows; but can it also do so through a wall? To the Word of God all is open; from the Word of God nothing is hid.

Observe another difference, how far from the Creator is the creature, especially the bodily creature. When the sun is in the East, it is not in the West. Its light indeed sheds from that vast body and reaches even to the West; but itself is not there. When it begins to set, then it will be there. When it rises, it is in the East; when it sets it is in the West. By these operations, it has given name to those quarters. Because it is in the East when it rises at the East, it is called the Rising Sun; because it is at the West when it sets at the West, it is called the Setting Sun. At night it is nowhere seen. Is this true of the Word of God? When He is in the East, is He not in the West; or when He is in the West, is He not in the East? Does He ever leave the earth, and go under or behind the earth? He is All in all.

Who can in words explain this? By what means of proof shall I establish to you what I say? I am speaking as a man, and it is to men that I speak; I am speaking as one weak, to men weaker am I speaking. And yet, my brethren, I am bold to say that I do in some sort see what I am saying to you, though ‘through a glass’, or ‘darkly’, I do in some way understand even within my heart a word touching this thing. But it seeks to go forth to you, and finds no vehicle. The vehicle of the word is the sound of the voice. What I am saying within my own self I seek to say to you, and words fail. For I wish to speak of the Word of God. How great a Word, what kind of Word? ‘All things were made by Him’ (Saint John 1:3).

Return with me, O human infirmity, return, I say. Let us comprehend these human things if we can. We are men, I who speak, I am a man, and to men I speak, and utter the sound of my voice. I convey the sound of my voice to men's ears, and by the sound of my voice I somehow through the ear lay up understanding also in the heart. Let us then study on the way human speech is produced. But if we have not the ability to comprehend even this, in respect of the Word of God what are we? You are listening to me; I am speaking a word. If any one goes out from us, and is asked outside what is being done here, he answers, ‘The Bishop is speaking a word’. I am speaking a word of the Word. But what a word, of what a Word? A mortal word, of the Word Immortal; a changeable word, of the Word Unchangeable; a passing word of the Word Eternal.

Nevertheless, consider my word. For I have told you already, the Word of God is Whole everywhere. See, I am speaking a word to you; what I say reaches to all. Now that what I am saying might come to you all, did you divide what I say? If I were to feed you, to wish to fill not your minds, but your bodies, and to set loaves before you to be satisfied; would you not divide my loaves among you? Could my loaves come to every one of you? If they came to one only, the rest would have none. But now see, I am speaking, and you all receive. Not only do all receive, but all receive it whole. It comes whole to all, to each whole. O the marvels of my word! What then is the Word of God?

Hear again. I have spoken; what I have spoken, has gone forth to you, and has not gone away from me. It has reached you, and has not been separated from me. Before I spoke, I had it, and you had not; I spoke, and you began to have, and I lost nothing. O the marvel of my word! What then is the Word of God? From little things form conjectures of things great. Consider earthly things, praise the heavenly. I am a creature, you are creatures; and such great miracles are done with my word in my heart, in my mouth, in my voice, in your ears, in your hearts. What then is the Creator? O Lord, hear us. Make us, for that which You have made us. Make us good.