Augustine: Calling Upon God

‘You are great, Lord, and highly to be praised (Ps. 47: 2): great is your power and your wisdom is immeasurable’ (Ps. 146:5). Man, a little piece of your creation, desires to praise you, a human being ‘bearing his mortality with him’ (2 Cor. 4:10), carrying with him the witness of his sin and the witness that you ‘resist the proud’ (I Pet. 5:5).

Nevertheless, to praise you is the desire of man, a little piece of your creation. You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

‘Grant me Lord to know and understand’ (Ps. 118:34, 73, 144) which comes first—to call upon you or to praise you, and whether knowing you precedes calling upon you. But who calls upon you when he does not know you? For an ignorant person might call upon someone else instead of the right one. But surely you may be called upon in prayer that you may be known. Yet ‘how shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe without a preacher?’ (Rom. 10: 14). ‘They will praise the Lord who seek for him’ (Ps. 21: 27). In seeking him they find him, and in finding they will praise him.

Lord, I would seek you, calling upon you—and calling upon you is an act of believing in you. You have been preached to us. My faith, Lord, calls upon you. It is your gift to me. You breathed it into me by the humanity of your Son, by the ministry of your preacher.

How shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord? Surely when I call on him, I am calling on him to come into me, But what place is there in me where my God can enter into me? ‘God made heaven and earth’ (Gen. 1:1). Where may he come to me? Lord my God, is there any room in me which can contain you? Can heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me, contain you? Without you, whatever exists would not exist. Then can what exists contain you? I also have being. So why do I request you to come to me when, unless you were within me, I would have no being at all?

-Augustine, Confessions, Book I, i.

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