As we begin lent I am setting forth reading St. Augustine’s Confessions. Right on the first page is one of the most famous quotes from the book—I’m not gonna lie this disappointed me because there is so much left to read and I already encountered one of the nuggets I was looking forward to—for you have made us for yourself and our heart is restless till it finds its rest in you writes Augustine. I do hope there are more pithy quotes in the 350 pages still to be read:) At any rate, I suppose this is a good set up of the book, everyone desires more peace and calm in life, I have never met a single person who said what they want in life is to feel more restless. I suppose this forms a bit of a promise, the book will be about Augie’s story of moving from restlessness to finding his heart in God and thus rest.
Interestingly Augie moves directly from this to a long series of questions, queries about life, faith, theology, doctrine. This makes him appear a little more human to me, in my mind he is a giant of the faith (like many of you I am almost intimidated to read him again because I know there is so much I will not get, so much I will miss) and here he is wrestling with many questions that I have pondered myself, almost word for word. Some of them, to be honest, read like someone high on cannabis asking questions like where God is or how he can both be in the world and bigger than it, and the like. Fun times.
One line that jumped out to me, likely because this is where I am in life is this: The house of my souls is narrow, too narrow for you to come into it; enter it and make it wider. What a good prayer! Is that not, in a sense, a major element of all spiritual practices, making our souls wider in the hope that it creates more space for the divine?
What happens when we do this well? When God takes us up on the request? Here is Augie This, Lord, and nothing else, is what I want to say…your tender mercies received me and comforted me.
As we step into lent during a year marked by Covid 19, protest, war in Europe, climate disasters, broken supply chains, increasing inflation and the like, what more can we ask than that God would enter us and show us the sort of mercy that comforts?
This is not to over-spiritualize, to turn off the news or our minds. Augie says, I learnt by using my own mind, the mind you gave me, my God.
This lent let’s use our minds and also take time for reflection prayer, simplicity; let’s create space for the divine and watch for results, even as we face the very real world with its problems.