Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Late Have I Loved You" - Loving the God Who Loves Us

Music has a way of getting into my soul...  That's not particularly surprising, since according to the Called and Gifted process, one of my charisms is music. Anyhow, the song that keeps making me hit the repeat button on my iPod lately is this one from musician and blogger Sam Rocha, based on this famous passage from St. Augustine: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!"

It's been about a week since I purchased this song, from the album of the same name, which has been haunting my every waking moment. The question that came to me strongly a day or two ago was "Do I really love God?" Sure, I thought - intellectually speaking. That's not hard. But that answer did not seem good enough. I was gripped by Augustinian restlessness.

I was awakened very early this morning with a strong sense of that restlessness. Rolling around in my brain were lots of fragments, along with the refrain from "Late to Love." I struggled to recall what it was that had hit me as I led another song at Mass recently. Ah, "Servant Song" by McCargill - that old "chestnut!" The phrase "I am your song" had jumped out at me, along with the plaintive "Jesus, Jesus..."  Sure, I love Jesus, I thought. I have come to know and love him more deeply over the years - no problem. And for the past few years, I had come to a deeper love of the Holy Spirit, who fills me with song and inspires my writing.

But the Father. That's another thing entirely. But, I wondered, how could I say I love God, if I only have a formal, reverent respect and awe for one person of the Trinity - an intellectual assent to his authority and power? How does one move from the formal respectfulness of the public prayer of the Church to the Father to a lived sense of "Abba" - the Father who loves and is loved?

I won't go into the complicated history of my own stormy relationship with my father and father-figures in my life. It's messy. Affection, divorce, death, betrayal... yeah. Each person has a paternal relationship story of either presence or absence. Each of us has to navigate that and discover what it means to be loved by and to love the Father.

Botticelli: "St. Augustine in his Study"
The only answer to falling in love with an ineffable being is to see the face he showed us: Jesus. It's still a journey, but I feel like I'm getting closer to discovering the kind of love that Augustine found within the struggle to know God...
Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light. 
O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.
Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Confessions of St. Augustine, Office of Readings for August 28, Feast of St. Augustine
There's a reason this song is haunting me. God is calling. Thank you, St. Augustine... and Sam Rocha for being "the bell that chimes."

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