Every year at my silent retreat I try to take at least one book by the well known(ish) saints and/or mystics of the Christian tradition. Last year I read St. Teresa’s The Interior Castle and her use of the term “Beloved” for God moved me so deeply that for this past year in all my personal devotional/prayer time I too have used “Beloved” for God and as is always the case when I use expansive language, the expansiveness of God was once again demonstrated.
This year I chose Saint Augustine. I had this small book (130 pg) of meditations that has been sitting on my shelf for years and I thought, “it can’t be that bad right? He is such a pillar of theological thought and church doctrine I can’t just ignore the man forever.” So I took this little book and I was blown away…well, a strong breeze of God’s divine humor came my way at least.
The first five reflections in this book were extremely connective for me. They are in regards to the relationship between “the sinner” and God and how God gazes upon us and we hope for grace and love even though we don’t deserve it. You know – that Lutheran thing called grace ;). For the start of my retreat (Ignatius exercises) as I try to dwell in the loving gaze of God, I experience an unworthiness of that love and Augustine’s reflection, his language, images and prayers honestly connected deeply for me, providing me language and images that reflected my mood and experience. I never would have thought Augustine could ever be my “preacher” but alas, I was wrong. For four meditations as least I was with him…
And although I balked at a lot of the 42 meditations I also realize that though Augustine’s Christianity, faith and language for relationship to God were ridiculously different than mine, we also have a lot in common and I can read him, I can appreciate that which connects and better understand his influence and legacy with a more critical yet nonjudgmental eye.
All to say, sometimes you gotta give dead white guys a chance too ;).
Happy reading everyone!