St Augustine of Africa

To Proba, a devoted handmaid of God….

In the darkness…of this world, in which we are pilgrims absent from the Lord as long as “we walk by faith and not by sight,” the Christian soul ought to feel itself desolate, and continue in prayer, and learn to fix the eye of faith on the word of the divine sacred Scriptures, as “on a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts.”

For the ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is “the Light which shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.”

In order to seeing this Light our hearts must be purified by faith; for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”; and “we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, foe we shall see Him as He is.”

Then after death shall come the true life, and after desolation the true consolation, that life shall deliver our “souls from death “that consolation shall deliver our “eyes from tears,” and, as follows in the psalm, our feet shall be delivered from falling; for there shall be no temptation there.

Moreover, if there be no temptation, there will be no prayer; for there we shall not be waiting for promised blessings, but contemplating the blessings actually bestowed.

Therefore he adds, “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living,” where we shall then be — not in the wilderness of the dead, where we now are: “For ye are dead,” says the apostle, “and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”

For that is the true life on which the rich are exhorted to lay hold by being rich in good works; and in it is the true consolation, for want of which, meanwhile, a widow is “desolate” indeed, even though she has sons and grandchildren, and conducts her household piously, entreating all dear to her to put their hope in God.

And in the midst of all this, she says in her prayer, “My soul thirsteth for Thee; my flesh longeth in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;” and this dying life is nothing else than such a land, however numerous our mortal comforts, however pleasant our companions in the pilgrimage, and however great the abundance of our possessions.

You know how uncertain all these things are; and even if they were not uncertain, what would they be in comparison with the felicity which is promised in the life to come!

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Letter to Proba (Letter 130), II,5 @ Crossroads Initiative.

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