Augustine had sought God through an exotic Eastern cult and then through the best that Greco-Roman philosophy had to offer before he finally found Him through the Catholic Christianity that he had rejected as a teen. So he could proclaim from personal experience that Jesus is the one mediator, the only Way to intimate knowledge of God. “Late have I loved you, beauty ever ancient, ever new!”
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.
Eternal Truth, Beloved Eternity
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.”
Jesus Christ, the One Mediator & Only Way
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 [1Tim. 2:5], 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 [Jn. 14:6], 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
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.
This post on Jesus as the one mediator, the only way to God contains the famous line “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new.” It is an excerpt from the Confessions of St. Augustine (Lib. 7, 10, 18; 10, 27: CSEL 33, 157-163, 255). It appears in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast (liturgical memorial) of Saint Augustine on August 28th.
Banner/featured image by an unknown artist. Public domain.