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St. Augustine and the Weight of Love
Posted By Eric Sammons On August 28, 2009 @ 7:00 am In Saints,Spirituality | Comments Disabled
St. Augustine, who died on this day in 430 and whose feast we celebrate today, wrote in the first paragraph of his Confessions the famous exclamation,
You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
This beautiful statement of each person’s destiny in God has been quoted countless times and has been the feeling of many who have converted to the Lord over the centuries. Its meaning is clear: we were made for God and only in God will we find peace and contentment.
Yet a deeper understanding of Augustine’s view of gravity, believe it or not, actually brings out a deeper understanding of this passage. In Augustine’s world, the law of gravity was not understood quite like it is today. Instead, an object was considered to have a “weight” which moved it towards its proper place in the universe. In Book 13 of Confessions, Augustine writes,
A body by its weight tends to move towards its proper place. The weight’s movement is not necessarily downwards, but to its appropriate position: fire tends to move upwards, a stone downwards. They are acted on by their respective weights; they seek their own place. Oil poured under water is drawn up to the surface on top of the water. Water poured on top of oil sinks below the oil. They are acted on by their respective densities, they seek their own place. Things which are not in their intended position are restless. Once they are in their ordered position, they are at rest.
Did you notice those last two lines? “Things which are not in their intended position are restless. Once they are in their ordered position, they are at rest.” For an object like oil or water, this occurs naturally based on their “weight” or density. But what is the “weight” of man? Augustine answers this in the next paragraph:
My weight is my love. Wherever I am carried, my love is carrying me. By your gift we are set on fire and carried upwards: we grow red hot and ascend. We climb “The ascents in our heart” (Ps. 83:6), and sing “the song of steps” (Ps. 119:1). Lit by your fire, your good fire, we grow red-hot and ascend, as we move upwards “to the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps. 121:6). “For I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord” (Ps. 121:1). There we will be brought to our place by a good will, so that we want nothing but to stay there for ever.
So, for Augustine, every object – including man – has a weight which brings it to its “ordered position”, its “place” in the world. For man, his weight is love, and that weight will be restless until it finds its rest in God, who is Love.
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