Today is All Saints Day, and it reminds me how deeply aware, in his homilies on 1 John, Augustine was of the connectedness of this world with the world which is to come. God’s love, he explained, is drawing us into an unimaginable future, where we will be one with Jesus, and with all the family of God. Trying to describe the indescribable, Augustine told his congregation,
we are to see a certain vision, … a vision surpassing all earthly beautifulness, of gold, of silver, of groves and fields; the beautifulness of sea and air, the beautifulness of sun and moon, the beautifulness of the stars, the beautifulness of angels: surpassing all things: because from it are all things beautiful.
Yet in his fourth century congregation he must have been aware of many who lived with uninvited suffering and tragedy of their lives. For them, as well as for us, life at times could feel like a wilderness, a desert. However, said Augustine, what makes the suffering of this world bearable, and leads us to the joy of the world to come, is love.
That therefore which God promises us is ineffable sweetness and a good … But by temporal labours we are exercised, and by temptations of this present life are trained. Howbeit, if you would not die of thirst in this wilderness, drink love. It is the fountain which God has been pleased to place here that we faint not in the way: and we shall more abundantly drink thereof when we have come to our own land.
In the suffering and tragedy we see around us, love alone will quench the thirst of our souls, sustain us on our journey, and draw us into the deep, indescribable love of the One who is Love. May you this week, be aware of that love which alone will sustain you, quench the thirst of your soul, and draw you into the joy of the world which is to come.
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