CHAPTER XVI—THAT NO ONE BUT THE UNCHANGEABLE LIGHT KNOWS HIMSELF.
For altogether, as Thou art, Thou only knowest; Who art unchangeably, and knowest unchangeably, and willest unchangeably. And Thy Essence Knoweth, and Willeth unchangeably; and Thy Knowledge Is, and Willeth unchangeably; and Thy Will Is, and Knoweth unchangeably. Nor seemeth it right in Thine eyes, that as the Unchangeable Light knoweth Itself, so should it be known by the thing enlightened, and changeable. Therefore is my soul like a land where no water is, because as it cannot of itself enlighten itself, so can it not of itself satisfy itself. For so is the fountain of life with Thee, like as in Thy light we shall see light.
CHAPTER XVII—ALLEGORICAL EXPLANATION OF THE SEA AND THE FRUIT-BEARING EARTH—VERSES 9 AND 11.
Who gathered the embittered together into one society? For they have all one end, a temporal and earthly felicity, for attaining whereof they do all things, though they waver up and down with an innumerable variety of cares. Who, Lord, but Thou, saidst, Let the waters be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear, which thirsteth after Thee? For the sea also is Thine, and Thou hast made it, and Thy hands prepared the dry land. Nor is the bitterness of men’s wills, but the gathering together of the waters, called sea; for Thou restrainest the wicked desires of men’s souls, and settest them their bounds, how far they may be allowed to pass, that their waves may break one against another: and thus makest Thou it a sea, by the order of Thy dominion over all things.
But the souls that thirst after Thee, and that appear before Thee (being by other bounds divided from the society of the sea), Thou waterest by a sweet spring, that the earth may bring forth her fruit, and Thou, Lord God, so commanding, our soul may bud forth works of mercy according to their kind, loving our neighbour in the relief of his bodily necessities, having seed in itself according to its likeness, when from feeling of our infirmity, we compassionate so as to relieve the needy; helping them, as we would be helped; if we were in like need; not only in things easy, as in herb yielding seed, but also in the protection of our assistance, with our best strength, like the tree yielding fruit: that is, well-doing in rescuing him that suffers wrong, from the hand of the powerful, and giving him the shelter of protection, by the mighty strength of just judgment.
CHAPTER XVIII—OF THE LIGHTS AND STARS OF HEAVEN—OF DAY AND NIGHT, VER. 14.
So, Lord, so, I beseech Thee, let there spring up, as Thou doest, as Thou givest cheerfulness and ability, let truth spring out of the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven, and let there be lights in the firmament. Let us break our bread to the hungry, and bring the houseless poor to our house. Let us clothe the naked, and despise not those of our own flesh. Which fruits having sprung out of the earth, see it is good: and let our temporary light break forth; and ourselves, from this lower fruitfulness of action, arriving at the delightfulness of contemplation, obtaining the Word of Life above, appear like lights in the world, cleaving to the firmament of Thy Scripture. For there Thou instructest us, to divide between the things intellectual, and things of sense, as betwixt the day and the night; or between souls, given either to things intellectual, or things of sense, so that now not Thou only in the secret of Thy judgment, as before the firmament was made, dividest between the light and the darkness, but Thy spiritual children also set and ranked in the same firmament (now that Thy grace is laid open throughout the world), may give light upon the earth, and divide betwixt the day and the night, and be for signs of times, that old things are passed away, and, behold, all things are become new; and that our salvation is nearer than when we believed: and that the night is far spent, and the day is at hand: and that Thou wilt crown Thy year with blessing, sending the labourers of Thy goodness into Thy harvest, in sowing whereof, others have laboured, sending also into another field, whose harvest shall be in the end.
Thus grantest Thou the prayers of him that asketh, and blessest the years of the just; but Thou art the same, and in Thy years which fail not, Thou preparest a garner for our passing years. For Thou by an eternal counsel dost in their proper seasons bestow heavenly blessings upon the earth. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, as it were the greater light: for their sakes who are delighted with the light of perspicuous truth, as it were for the rule of the day. To another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, as it were the lesser light: to another faith; to another the gift with the light of perspicuous truth, as it were for the rule of the day. To another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit, as it were the lesser light: to another faith; to another the gift of healing; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues. And all these as it were stars. For all these worketh the one and self-same spirit, dividing to every man his own as He will; and causing stars to appear manifestly, to profit withal.
But the word of knowledge, wherein are contained all Sacraments, which are varied in their seasons as it were the moon, and those other notices of gifts, which are reckoned up in order, as it were stars, inasmuch as they come short of that brightness of wisdom, which gladdens the forementioned day, are only for the rule of the night. For they are necessary to such, as that Thy most prudent servant could not speak unto as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal; even he, who speaketh wisdom among those that are perfect. But the natural man, as it were a babe in Christ and fed on milk, until he be strengthened for solid meat and his eye be enabled to behold the Sun, let him not dwell in a night forsaken of all light, but be content with the light of the moon and the stars. So dost Thou speak to us, our All-wise God, in Thy Book, Thy firmament; that we may discern all things, in an admirable contemplation; though as yet in signs and in times, and in days, and in years.
Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine