There is a gravitas in the second half of life, but it is now held up by a much deeper lightness, or “okayness.” Our mature years are characterized by a kind of bright sadness and a sober happiness, if that makes any sense. There is still darkness in the second half of life—in fact maybe even more. But there is now a changed capacity to hold it creatively and with less anxiety. It is what John of the Cross called “luminous darkness,” and it explains the simultaneous coexistence of deep suffering and intense joy that we see in the saints, which is almost impossible for most of us to imagine.
Life is much more spacious now, the boundaries of the container having been enlarged by the constant addition of new experiences and relationships. You are like an expandable suitcase, and you became so almost without your noticing. Now you are just here, and here holds more than enough. Such “hereness,” however, has its own heft, authority, and influence.
One’s growing sense of infinity and spaciousness is no longer found just “out there” but most especially “in here.” The inner and the outer have become one. You can trust your inner experience now, because even God has allowed it, used it, received it, and refined it. As St. Augustine dramatically put it in his Confessions:
You were within, but I was without. You were with me, but I was not with you. So you called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed, and banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance, and I gasped.
— Richard Rhor
- What Year Did St Augustine Died (st-augustine-travel-guide.com)
Augustine of Hippo speaking to those who doubted the God of creation tells us: “Where could such a creature come but from you, O Lord? Is any man clever enough to have fashioned himself? Or is there any other source from which being and life could flow into us…”
Let us examine two questions.
Where did we originate if not from God?
Recently, Scientist Stephen Hawking has concluded that the Big Bang was the result of the inevitable laws of physics and did not need God to spark the creation of the Universe. Augustine set forth a really good contrary argument when he challenges our origin, if not from God where? This whole concept of scientific randomness is very difficult for me to believe. I believe that the whole mystery of life and death points to a creator. That may be an old fashioned concept, but it brings me a sense of place that far exceeds that I am a random act of physics.
Can we create ourselves?
Man has been trying to create himself for a very long time, but we have never become clever enough to succeed. From the earliest days of science we have sought to find the key to life, and it is a noble quest. A man can no more create himself than he suspend himself in the air. There must be help to do such a thing. Creation is God’s providence. Humans are very presumptuous when they claim to have this matter solved. Life and faith are about mystery, not certainty!
May God allow His essence to continue to flow through us.
Augustine of Hippo
“Love, and do what you will. If you keep silence, do it out of love. If you cry out, do it out of love. If you refrain from punishing, do it out of love.”
― Augustine of Hippo
Augustine speaks of silence as a form of love. I propose that in our silence , we show the ultimate love to others. Our world is a place of “getting it straight,” but Augustine tells us that is not always the answer. Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek,” and by doing so we have expressed true Christianity. The challenge is to know when to speak and when to refrain from speaking. The twenty-first century world tells us that every doubt must be addressed, every question must be answered, every offense must be rectified, but that is not always so. Might we hear the word of the great Church Father, and know that silence is, at times, pure love. Think about it.
- Augustine of Hippo (farrightandproud.wordpress.com)