The Living and Seeing God

 

There are times in our lives when it would seem that a phrase jumps off a page in a book or an article, as though God Himself were using it to tell us something. It may not be particularly striking, per se, especially if it is a simple, supporting sentence in a much larger argument, or a mere example of a further-reaching issue an author is discussing. Nonetheless, one feels compelled to pursue this phrase (even though it may be inconvenient,) until the message is revealed.

This was the case recently while I was reading Alice von Hildebrand’s book, The Privilege of Being a Woman. In Part VI, “Women’s Supernatural Mission,” she introduces a certain phrase: “Deus vivens et videns,” which became a key for me, spurring me to a lot of meditation and research, but finally unlocking a deeper message. I will attempt an explanation of that process, and the message that I found.

In order to see any significance at all in the phrase, however, let me first place it within the context in which it is used. She begins the section with the assertion that, based on the foundation she has built for the reader prior to that, we can “perceive the beauty of femininity as coming out of God’s loving hand, and the glorious mission assigned to it when fecundated by the supernatural.”1 To me, this rather weighty sentence naturally begs the questions, “What is the beauty of femininity?” and “What is its glorious mission, which God has assigned to it?” With this introduction, she begins to develop the idea of the contrast in how men and women view the world around them, and the superiority (beauty) of the feminine point of view.

She says that [now Saint] Edith Stein claimed that women are more interested in people than in things. She also says that they place the concrete over the abstract, and individuals over universals. These views are right, she says.

She adds, however, that

“to make this claim does not denigrate the awesome world of abstraction, which certainly deserves our intellectual admiration. But it should be clear that the one concrete true God, the ‘Deus vivens et videns’ of St. Augustine, is metaphysically superior to the noble Platonic world of ideas. Great metaphysicians have understood that the ultimate reality cannot be an abstraction…It is luminously clear that the one true God cannot be an “idea,” a principle. He must be a person.”2

Thus I encountered the phrase which took me on a temporarily divergent path, but eventually taught me much more than just the context from which it is taken.

Although she usually cites sources for all her quotes, in this particular one she allowed that phrase to stand alone, as though it were so familiar that it can be taken for granted that the reader will understand the reference. I, however, was not familiar with that phrase. In order to truly understand how the “Deus” of St. Augustine contrasts with Plato’s abstract ideas (and why she feels He is metaphysically superior,) I knew I really needed to do a little research.

The first obstacle I faced in that phrase is that she does not provide any translation. After some searching, I found that after translation, word for word, it would say, “God living and seeing.” Translated in a less rudimentary fashion, the English would read, “The living and seeing God.”

That accomplished, I turned to the interpretation of the phrase. Several questions eventually presented themselves:

1. What is the context in which Augustine uses the phrase?
2. Where did he get the phrase?
3. Why did he choose to use that phrase? What’s it really mean?
4. How does it help us understand the “True God” of St. Augustine?
5. How does it lead us to God and our mission?

 

1.

The first question, “What is the context in which Augustine uses the phrase?” was not anywhere near as easy to answer as I’d hoped. Though I was sure that I’d heard the phrase before (now that I had the English translation,) surprisingly few references come to light when searching for that exact phrase.

Somewhat ironically, I found the beginning of the answer, namely, a source which pointed me in the correct direction, in an excerpt from Transformation in Christ: on the Christian Attitude, by Dietrich von Hildebrand (Alice’s husband):

“…confidence in God implies our belief in an omniscient and omnipresent divine love. He who truly trusts in God knows that, as St. Augustine says, “To us is promised the sight of a living and seeing God” (Sermo 69. 1-2); that God…is…constantly aware of us and presiding over our destinies.”3

At that point, armed with an actual reference for St. Augustine’s phrase, I began to search for his sermon, with the hope that it would yield some insight. I must say, the idea of “wondering if I might gain some insight by reading one of Augustine’s sermons” is to me, at least now, pretty comical; (and now that I see my thought in print, it seems actually downright hilarious.) If you haven’t had the pleasure of ever really reading through any, I wholeheartedly suggest it! Just be prepared to find, as I did, a somewhat confusing and inconsistent numbering system.4

So, what is the context in which Augustine uses the phrase? It is a sermon on the Gospel of Matthew (11: 25-30.) The pertinent verses are:

[28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
[29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
[30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”5

 

And now, the sermon. This is taken from the Roman Breviary,6 (there are numerous other sources in which this can be found,) and contains both the original Latin of Augustine, and also a fairly good English translation:

Veníte ad me, omnes qui laborátis. Quare enim omnes laborámus, nisi quia sumus hómines mortáles, frágiles, infírmi, lútea vasa portántes, quæ fáciunt ínvicem angústias? Sed, si angustiántur vasa carnis, dilaténtur spátia caritátis. Quid ergo dicit, Veníte ad me, omnes qui laborátis, nisi ut non laborétis? Dénique promíssio ejus in promptu est ; quóniam laborántes vocávit, quærent forte qua mercéde vocáti sunt. Et ego vos, inquit, refíciam. Tóllite jugum meum super vos, et díscite a me, non mundum fabricáre, non cuncta visibília et invisibília creáre, non in ipso mundo mirabília fácere et mórtuos suscitáre ; sed, Quóniam mitis sum et húmilis corde. Come unto me, all ye that labour. And wherefore labour we all, but because we are frail, sickly, mortal men, burdened with earthen vessels which distress us? But if these fleshly vessels be distressful, let the open expanse of love be free and wide. Come unto me, all ye that labour. And why? That we may labour no more. His promise is an instant promise, for he calleth such as are laboring. Perchance they will ask him what shall be their reward? And I, saith he, will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me. And he doth not say, Learn of me how to make the world; or how to create all things visible and invisible ; or even how to work wonders on earth, and raise the dead. Rather, he saith, Learn of me for this reason; because I am meek and humble of heart.
Magnus esse vis? a mínimo íncipe. Cógitas magnam fábricam constrúere celsitúdinis? de fundaménto prius cógita humilitátis. Et quantam quisque vult et dispónit superimpónere molem ædifícii, quanto erit majus ædifícium, tanto áltius fodit fundaméntum. Et fábrica quidem cum constrúitur, in supérna consúrgit ; qui autem fodit fundaméntum, ad ima deprímitur. Ergo et fábrica ante celsitúdinem humiliátur, et fastígium post humiliatiónem erígitur. Wilt thou be great? Begin by being little. Dost thou think to raise up a lofty building? Think first how lowly and deep the foundation must be. For the greater soever, and the more massive, the building is planned to be, so much the deeper must the foundation be placed. When the structure is finished, it towereth heavenward. But he that laid the foundation, first went down very low into the earth. The building must therefore be low before it is high. Yea, it can be crowned with its lofty roof only because it had a beginning deep downward.
Quod est fastígium construéndæ fábricæ, quam molímur? quo perventúrum est cacúmen ædifícii? Cito dico, usque ad conspéctum Dei. Vidétis quam excélsum est, quanta res est conspícere Deum. Qui desíderat, et quod dico et quod audit intélligit. Promíttitur nobis conspéctus Dei, veri Dei, summi Dei. Hoc enim bonum est, vidéntem vidére. Nam, qui colunt falsos deos, fácile illos vident ; sed eos vident, qui óculos habent et non vident. Nobis autem promíttitur vísio Dei vivéntis et vidéntis. But what of the roof of this house on which we labour? Whither do its spires rise? I answer you at once, even to the very presence of God. Ye see how high, how great a thing it is, to behold God. He that will, understandeth what I say, and he heareth. What is promised you is to see God, even very God himself, the Supreme. Yea, and blessed is he that seeth him by whom he is seen. Such as worship false gods see them easily, but they see only them who have eyes and see not. But unto us it is promised that we shall see that God who liveth and seeth.

 

That’s a lot to take in. I wrote a quick outline of his main points, just to help myself understand what he’s saying:

  • Jesus says, “Come unto me all ye who labor”
  • But aren’t we all laboring? We are all in distressed mortal bodies.
  • Why does He ask us to come to Him?
  • So we may labor no more – “His promise is…that He will give you rest.”
  • Take my yoke on you and learn of me.
  • Notice He doesn’t say, “learn how to do great things.” No, He says, “learn of me….for I am meek and humble of heart.”
  • Do you want to be great? Start by being little.
  • The tallest buildings need the deepest (humblest) foundations
  • How tall (high) should we aim? God! To the heights!
  • It is awesome, to behold God.
  • God promises us that we shall see Him…and blessed is the one who “sees Him by whom he is seen.”
  • Those who worship false gods see them easily, but the false gods do not have the True Presence [all attributes] of God (the ability to see, to know.)
  • The True God liveth and seeth!

And so, we find in the last line “the Living and Seeing God.” So I then knew what Alice von Hildebrand was referring to as the Deus vivens et videns of St. Augustine. But there is so much more to answer about this entire topic.

 

2.

In answer to the next question, “Where did Augustine get the phrase?” I found reference to it in the Handbook of Bible Geography.7 There is a well, or fountain between Kadesh and Bered, near which the angel of the Lord found Hagar. In Hebrew this well is called Be’er-lahai’-Roi, “the well of the living one that sees me, or of the living and seeing God.” This comes from the story of Abram, his wife Sarah, and her servant Hagar, in chapter 16 of Genesis.

After Sarah had abused Hagar so much that she ran away, an angel found her out in the wilderness, and tells her to return. Hagar was near a well when the angel came to her, and as was common in Biblical times, after the occurrence, she renamed the place where it happened:

[13] To the LORD who spoke to her she gave a name, saying, “You are the God of Vision”; she meant, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after my vision?”
[14] That is why the well is called Beer-lahai-Roi. It is between Kadesh and Bered.8

The footnote for verse 14 in the New American Bible translates the name of the well: “Beer-lahai-Roi: probably “the well of living sight,” i.e., the well where one can see (God) and yet live.”

Other translations of the Bible do not even include the Hebrew name, but rather, translate the entire phrase in the verse itself. Looking additionally at these translations gives a richer understanding of the concept:

The Douhey-Rheims translation reads, “Therefore she called that well, the well of him that liveth and seeth me.” According to the Bible in Basic English, it is called the “Fountain of Life and Vision,” and in Young’s Literal Translation, “The well of the Living One, my beholder.”

It is apparent from her choice of name for the site, that Hagar is highly aware of her theophany and its uniqueness, in that she has not died after seeing God.

 

But, where did the idea come from, that one can not see God and live? My theory is: right from the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. I think in God’s telling Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, he is laying the groundwork for this belief:

[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;
[17] but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”9

After eating from the Tree of Knowledge, their eyes were opened (Gen 3:7) and they knew right from wrong, and attempted to hide from God’s sight; though in reality the only purpose their hiding serves is to keep them from seeing God–much as a very young child thinks that if they cover their eyes and cannot see you, that you also cannot see them. To me, their sin in eating the fruit also seemingly would have changed the way in which they saw God, or experienced his presence, thus causing them to fear looking directly at God.

They were then banished from the Garden, and thus eternal life:
[22] Then the LORD God said: “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever.”
[23] The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken.
[24] When he expelled the man, he settled him east of the garden of Eden; and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Because they disobeyed God, and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they were then cut off from the possibility of immortality, the “freedom from death or the capacity to decay and disintegrate.”10 By their action they irreversibly altered humankind’s ability to see God (or remain directly in his presence, as in the Garden,) and live.

 

3.

So, the next questions are, “Why does St. Augustine choose to use that phrase?” and, “What does it really mean?”

“Living” seems straightforward enough, but I stumbled on “seeing.” Why, specifically, seeing? There must have been some reason that St. Augustine chose to pair that particular verb with “living,” rather than “breathing,” “judging,” “walking,” “cooking,” or any other number of possible actions that Our Lord could be performing.

I found numerous references to the fact that, throughout Scripture and Tradition:

Sight = Knowledge

This is seen in the last section, where Adam and Eve’s eyes are opened, and they knew right from wrong. It is found in numerous examples from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in literature, and even in modern-day expressions.

We use, in writing, two abbreviations that indicate very similar meanings. A very modern source, Wikipedia, indicates that the expression viz. is an abbreviation of videlicet, which itself is a contraction from Latin of “videre licet” meaning “it is permitted to see.” It also says that “A similar expression is scilicet, abbreviated as sc., which is Latin for “it is permitted to know.” Both abbreviations are actually read aloud, “that is,” “namely,” or “to wit.” The fact that in listening alone, one has no way of discerning if the expression “it is permitted to know,” or “it is permitted to see,” was written, would seem to support the idea that seeing and knowing are definitely terms we think of as synonymous in many instances in our everyday lives.

I learned that there are two types of knowledge in relation to God: God’s omniscience, and our knowledge of God. The first of the two is what Augustine is referring to in his sermon. We must study God’s omniscience to understand the contrast of false gods’ knowledge (the eyes that see not,) and the knowledge of the True God.

Fr. Hardon’s definition of omniscience is extremely interesting:

Omniscience: God’s knowledge of all things. Revelation discloses that the wisdom of God is without measure (Psalm 146:5). And the Church teaches that his knowledge is infinite.
The primary object of divine cognition is God himself, whom he knows immediately, that is, without any medium by which he apprehends his nature. He knows himself through himself.
The secondary objects of divine knowledge are everything else, namely the purely possible, the real, and the conditionally future. He knows all that is merely possible by what is called the knowledge of simple intelligence. This means that, in comprehending his infinite imitability and his omnipotence, God knows therein the whole sphere of the possible.
He knows all real things in the past, present, and the future by his knowledge of vision. When God, in his self-consciousness, beholds his infinite operative power, he knows therein all that he, as the main effective cause, actually comprehends, i.e., all reality. The difference between past, present, and future does not exist for the divine knowledge, since for God all is simultaneously present.
By the same knowledge of vision, God also foresees the future free acts of the rational creatures with infallible certainty. As taught by the Church, “All things are naked and open to His eyes, even those things that will happen through the free actions of creatures” (Denzinger 3003). The future free actions foreseen by God follow infallibly not because God substitutes his will for the free wills of his creatures but because he does not interfere with the freedom that he foresees creatures will exercise. (Etym. Latin omnis, all + scire, to know.)11

To understand Augustine’s use of living and seeing, I return to Dietrich von Hildebrand’s writing on the subject, wherein he says “…confidence in God implies our belief in an omniscient and omnipresent divine love.” And, he later says within that same section, “Confidence in God also requires the consciousness that the glance of God penetrates everywhere and that nothing at all can escape it…” My interpretation of this is that a God who sees (knows) without limits would obviously be an infinitely and eternally living (omnipresent) God.

In his definition of the Divine Attributes, however, Fr. Hardon declares the distinction nearly null:

Divine Attributes: the perfections of God, which, according to a human way of thinking, proceed from and belong to the essence of God. In reality the divine attributes are identical among themselves and with the divine essence. Theology distinguishes the attributes from the essence because they correspond, in human language, to different properties in creatures which reflect, so to speak, the perfections of God.12

So in reality, God’s living and seeing are really just different ways for our human minds to understand Him. However, the Catechism still asserts that “We really can name God, starting from the manifold perfections of his creatures, which are likenesses of the infinitely perfect God, even if our limited language cannot exhaust the mystery.”13

 

4.

Further understanding of the phrase will really be gained by answering the next question: “How does it help us understand the “True God” of St. Augustine?” The simple answer is, “in God’s revelation.” It is through this that we gain all the knowledge we have of God, while here on Earth. It is only through His revelation that the phrase “the living and seeing God” will be understood in the way Augustine intended.

If we understand that God knows all and is present in all, we realize that all of our knowledge of Him serves to lead us closer to Him. We must build on our humble foundations, as St. Augustine says, to erect a structure that reaches to the very presence of God Himself. We should be constantly striving to reach ever higher in our knowledge of God. We can attain this knowledge of God, according to the Catechism, in two ways: the physical world, and the human person:

32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe…

33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul…can have its origin only in God.

34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God” (St. Thomas Aquinas, S Thess I, 2, 3.)14

Again, turning to Fr. Hardon, one finds in his definition of knowledge, that the more we know about Him, the more we will become like God,:

Knowledge: Any act, function, state, or effect of mental activity. Essential to knowledge is that some of reality from outside the mind is re-presented in the mind by what is called an intentional likeness or similarity to the object known. Knowledge, therefore, is assimilation of mind with object. As a result there is an intentional (assimilative) union between knower and known. We become what we know.15

Everything that we learn about God brings us to the conclusion that the Living and Seeing God sees all; he knows all; he has always been and always will be. He is unchanging and His plan for us has never changed. The True God of Augustine is constant and divinely immanent, in contrast with Plato’s ever-changing world of ideals. Because of this consistency, we have the opportunity to climb higher and higher in our spiritual growth, as we learn more and more of God.

 

5.

This brings me to the last question: How does the concept of Augustine’s “Living and Seeing God” lead us to God and our mission?

We go back to his sermon to discover what Augustine meant. He starts out by telling us that Jesus asks us to come to Him, all we who labor. That is all of humankind here on earth. “Why is is asking us to do this?” Augustine asks. So that we may labor no more–His promise is that He will give you rest.

There are two meanings to the word rest in this statement. The rest of which he is talking is not just a bodily rest, but rather, also an eternal rest in God. The immediate meaning of the sentence is for the people of the time; according to the footnote for verse 29, in the New American Bible: “In place of the yoke of the law, complicated by scribal interpretation, Jesus invites the burdened to take the yoke of obedience to his word, under which they will find rest.” But He is also telling us how to achieve eternal life in Him. Jesus is drawing on the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “Thus says the LORD: Stand beside the earliest roads, ask the pathways of old Which is the way to good, and walk it; thus you will find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk it.” (Jeremiah 6:16.)

The word used in the original Greek is ἀνάπαυσιν; written as it would be pronounced in English: anapausis.16 It means an intermission, implying a stopping of work, and in the second sense that Jesus talked about it, a final rest. In fact, the translation from the original New Testament yields the word “requiem” in Latin. Requiem is the word, coming from the introit of the Mass of the Dead, that has come to mean the final rest, eternal life in God. Jesus is telling us that we need not rush about, worrying as the Pharisees did, about every last point of the law, but rather, we should follow the original words of the Lord, which tell us which way is good, and will lead us to this rest in Him.

This is where the genius of St. Augustine is manifest. Within three paragraphs of his sermon, he explains to us in several different ways the plan God has for us, and how we are to respond, in order to realize the awe-inspiring potential we have, as God originally created us: to be with him eternally in Heaven.

How are we to find this incredible potential, this divine original plan of God’s?
Two ways:
In the Eucharist, especially in Adoration.
The revelation of God’s plan in our very natures…male and female.

The Eucharist affords us the only way on Earth to directly experience God and live. Jesus takes it even further in that we must have it in order to live: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”17

In Adoration of our Eucharistic Lord, we are permitted to look directly upon the body of Jesus. This is an immeasurable privilege! The Catechism describes this privelege, especially in the last line of this paragraph:

Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God. “The promise [of seeing God] surpasses all beatitude…. In Scripture, to see is to possess…. Whoever sees God has obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.”

So in the Eucharist, and especially in Adoration, how could we ever ask for anything more? What more could we need? It is, truly, a foretaste of the Beatific Vision, to which we are called, and which is the greatest joy our souls will ever be able to experience.

Fr. Hardon’s description of the Beatific Vision is simply breathtaking:

[The Beatific Vision is] the intuitive knowledge of God which produces heavenly beatitude. As defined by the Church, the souls of the just “see the divine essence by an intuitive vision and face to face, so that the divine essence is known immediately, showing itself plainly, clearly and openly, and not mediately through any creature” (Denzinger 1000-2). Moreover, the souls of the saints “clearly behold God, one and triune, as He is” (Denzinger 1304-6). It is called vision in the mind by analogy with bodily sight, which is the most comprehensive of human sense faculties; it is called beatific because it produces happiness in the will and the whole being. As a result of this immediate vision of God, the blessed share in the divine happiness, where the beatitude of the Trinity is (humanly speaking) the consequence of God’s perfect knowledge of his infinite goodness. The beatific vision is also enjoyed by the angels, and was possessed by Christ in his human nature even while he was in his mortal life on earth.18

We know that the Eucharist is one of the most intimate ways we can experience our God here on earth; we can “see Him by whom we are seen,” as Augustine phrases it. The Catechism, drawing on St. Ignatius of Loyola, puts it very eloquently. In describing adoration, it states:

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy cure used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of our Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.19

Deeply interconnected with this illumination of the eyes of our heart, and teaching of Truth is the second way in which God’s revelation is manifest to us: our very natures as male and female, images of God. God has given us each a particular body and the nature that goes with it, and we must work within that gift in order to achieve the greatest holiness. This is what Alice von Hildebrand refers to in “perceiving the beauty of femininity as coming out of God’s loving hand, and the glorious mission assigned to it…”

Many of us today (especially women,) seem to be fighting that very nature that God gave us. We spend much time denying it, rather than embracing it. We would do better to imitate Jesus, as he asks us to do, in the Gospel upon which Augustine’s sermon expounds: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart.” Augustine points out: notice, God did not say, “learn how to do great things.” No, he says: “Rather, He saith, Learn of me for this reason; because I am meek and humble of heart.”

This is where, in his sermon, Augustine begins to show us the true way to knowledge (sight) of God. He tells us that if we want to be great, we should start by being little. He refers to the tallest buildings having the deepest foundations. He shows us how, when we submit to Him, in humility, God blesses us.

How tall (high) should we aim? God!  To the heights!!! Augustine tells us it is awesome, to behold God. Is this simple?  No–but considering the reward, what else could be more important?

How do we get there?  According to Fr. Thomas Dubay, in his book Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer, there are three degrees of conversion, or levels through which one must pass to get to full communion with God. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila speak of seven. To all of them, each degree involves a greater surrender of oneself, a purification process, in submission to God’s will.

Jesus Himself tells us in the Beatitudes, that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5.8) According to Fr. Hardon, there is a

“general term in mystical theology to identify every form of purification through which God leads persons whom he is calling to a high degree of sanctity. It is called “night” to distinguish a person’s normal spiritual condition of seeing, although dimly, by the light of faith; whereas in mystical purification a person is deprived of much of this light…The purpose of such purification is to cleanse the soul of every vestige of self-love and unite a person more and more closely with God.”20

This sounds somewhat difficult, doesn’t it? Didn’t God say, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”? But in reality, obedience to God in humility actually seems a fairly logical answer to the question, “how do we achieve eternal life (rest in God?)”

After all, what are we really obeying?   God’s commands; the way in which God created us.  Why are we fighting our very nature(s)?  Don’t we think God knows what is right? I find myself telling my 3 ½ year old son fairly often, “Just do what Mama tells you, and it will go so much easier.” My teachers have told my classmate and me many times, “It usually works out so much easier when you do it the right way.” And I picture God saying to us humans, “Don’t eat from this tree…TRUST ME! I probably know what I’m talking about! (And what you need to know.)”

Sometimes it helps to make ourselves small in order to listen to God. It is similar to going up in a high building, climbing up to the top of a mountain, or flying in a plane and looking down. We see how tiny we really are when we see the big picture (the magnificence of God’s creation.) We are able to get just a minute glimpse of how God sees the world, and us. The only real way we can see this is to empty ourselves, make ourselves small, allow God to lift us up. We must get over ourselves and see what God wants to show us. We seek to change the response of Adam and Eve; to obey and enjoy Eternal Life as God planned.

Acceptance of of God’s life-giving plan, both in our physical natures and their potential, and in the spiritual fruits we may bear, in accepting our God in the Eucharist; seems in the end, a very logical way to go about things. Our preference in viewpoints (as earlier stated in the quote from Alice von Hidebrand,) only reflect our natures as God created us, and He has a divine plan–immense and rich–for us involving those very natures, if we will but submit ourselves to that plan.

“To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the ‘nothingness of the creature’ who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that he has done great things and holy is his name. The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.”21

We need to stop fussing and worrying and over-analyzing (especially as women,) and thinking in general we have any idea what we’re doing. We need to give ourselves over to God (who IS the big picture,) rest in Him, and let Him use us as he meant us to be, to HIS glory.

If we obey God, he will give us rest:

“There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?”22

 

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1 Alice von Hildebrand, The Privilege of Being a Woman (Ypsilanti, MI: Ave Maria University Communications, 2002), Part VI: Women’s Supernatural Mission, p.59.

2 Ibid., p. 60. (Emphasis in original.)

3 Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ: on the Christian Attitude (Ft. Collins, CO: Ignatius Press, 2001), p. 191.

4 Although Dietrich von Hildebrand cites Sermo 69 as the origin of the phrase, most modern sources refer to this sermon as number 19 of Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament.

The number 69 for the sermon comes from the Latin collection of St. Augustine’s works, transcribed and published by the Benedictines of Saint-Maur of France, Sancti Aurelii Augustini Hipponensis Episcopi Operum, 12 volumes published between 1679–1703. Its reference number is LXIX, of De verbis Evangelii Matthaei.

This sermon is also published in the later work, Patrologia Latina (cited as “PL”,) a 221-volume collection of early Church documents, printed by J.P. Migne, between 1841-42. Many are reprints of the Benedictines‘ transcriptions. Augustine’s works are volumes 32-48, and the sermon’s reference number in this work is PL 38, 440-44. The original printing plates were destroyed in a fire, and subsequent printings are not as carefully produced, resulting in occasional inconsistencies in numbering, and possibly making PL citations confusing.

A free online version of this sermon (1844 English translation by Rev. R. G. MacMullen, MA,) in several different formats, can be found at the Internet Archive, under “Sermons on selected lessons of the New Testament (Volume 16) – Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo.”

A history of the printing of Augustine’s “complete works,” based on the 2006 exhibit at Villanova University, Commemorating 500 Years of the Complete Works of Saint Augustine, is available at http://oldlibrarysite.villanova.edu/services/exhibits/OperaOmnia/index.500.htm. This explains in greater detail some of the reasons there may be conflicting or confusing references to Augustine’s works.

5 The Revised Standard Version of the Bible; © National Council of Churches of Christ in America.

6 http://www.breviary.net/comsaints/altlect/comabb-b.htm

7 Rev. George H. Whitney, D.D., Handbook of Bible Geography (New York: Nelson and Phillips, 1874), p. 55.

8 New American Bible © United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Gen 16:13,14.

9 Ibid., Gen 2:16,17.

10 Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary (online) © 1999 by Inter Mirifica.

11 Ibid. (Emphasis mine.)

12 Ibid. (Emphasis mine.)

13 English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America, © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Part I, Section I, Chapter I, Subsection 4 (#48.)

14 Ibid., Part I, Section I, Chapter I, Subsection 2 

15 Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary (online) © 1999 by Inter Mirifica.

16 The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005
Ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πρᾷόςN εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ· καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν.” (Matt 11:29.)

17 New American Bible © United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, John 6:53.

18 Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary (online) © 1999 by Inter Mirifica.

19 English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Part 4, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 1, SubSection 3 (#2715.)
Cf. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 104:
“This is to ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.”

20 Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary (online) © 1999 by Inter Mirifica. 

21 English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America, © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, SubSection 2, Heading 1 (#2097.)

22 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.

 

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