Except you ravish me

JMJ

The readings in the daily office follow a cycle through the year but on Saints days, other readings may take over. On some saints’ days, two readings are moved in – the readings of the day are suppressed. On other feast days, only one reading is swapped in.

I find these days interesting. The saints day can fall on any number of other days, depending on when Easter was. Today, for example, was the Feast of St Augustine of Hippo. It was also the 21st Wednesday Tempus Per Annum. So the Bible reading for this Wednesday was paired with a passage from Augustine’s Confessions. It was a serendipitous admixture of passages.

The passage from Jeremiah starts out accusing God’s people of unfaithfulness but ends with, basically, calling them all – pardon my words – the spiritual equivalent of sluts.

For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. For long ago you broke your yoke and burst your bonds; and you said, ‘I will not serve.’ 

Yea, upon every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down as a harlot. Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, says the Lord GOD. How can you say, ‘I am not defiled, I have not gone after the Ba’als’? Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done–a restive young camel interlacing her tracks, a wild ass used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her. Keep your feet from going unshod and your throat from thirst. But you said, ‘It is hopeless, for I have loved strangers, and after them I will go.’

Although this was addressed to Israel it is true of much of the Church, at least in America. We have fallen in this way. There are, on a smaller scale in Orthodoxy the same problems we see in the Roman Church. But it was just as real and just as bad. Orthodoxy has her James Martins, her feminist women religious, her pro-choice politicians, her young people asking to live in sin, her court cases, her sexual abuse, her financial and racial scandals.

But all Christians, if we draw the circle wide, have fallen prey to an Americanism where we want to be comfortable being both in American and of America. We have become mirrors of our culture forgetting that sexual sins are just as bad as racial and economic ones. Forgetting that economic and racial sins are just as bad as sexual ones. We can’t lead America to God if we won’t go there ourselves.

This is us looking, for a long time, for a teacher who would say we’re ok in our sins. We want to say “we worship God” but we really want to love strangers and go after them.

Then came the passage from the Confessions telling of Augustine’s conversion and his love for his evangelist – who was God.

The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. 

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
  but I outside, seeking there for you,
  and upon the shapely things you have made
  I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
  those things which would have no being,
  were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
  you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
  you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
  I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
  you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

See there? God ravishes the soul with the same glorious love-making that Jeremiah throws back into the faces of Israel.

Even more… God loves us so much that no matter where we have been, no matter how far astray… he is right there waiting for us.

He is shouting.
Breaking in
Flaring
Blazing
Banishing Blindness
Lavishing

And we are overcome with all the senses. 

 I gasped; and now I pant for you;
  I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
  you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

All the strangers we seek after… the thrills. Our divine lover can give to us if we but let him if we but be still, and rest in him. We go looking all over Oz for what we can find in our own back yard.

He will set us a blaze that will never die burning in our hearts with his love.

And we shall live eternally.

So let us pray with Mr Donne

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to’another due,
Labor to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly’I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me’untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

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