Almighty God, give us the increase of faith, hope, and love; and, that we may obtain what you have promised, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Each week I try to provide a new devotional; however, there are times when I reissue something I’ve written in the past. Today is one of those days. So, although you may remember bits and pieces of this devotional, hopefully, it speaks freshly to you this morning.
Saint Augustine, the fourth-century bishop, influenced Western Christianity more than most. A prolific theologian and writer, he penned fourteen volumes of theology, sermons, and letters defending and proliferating our great Christian faith. Of his many works, The City of God is one of the more famous classics. But in his early years, he was not a Christian. Before he dedicated his life to Christ and his vocation to the monastery, Augustine was heavily involved in pagan philosophy and pursued worldly success. A committed hedonist, he was addicted to sexual indulgence and cohabited with his lover for thirteen years. Yet, God took this most unlikely person and transformed him into one of the great Fathers of the Church.
Because this week’s collect implores Almighty God to make us love what he commands, something yearned for by Augustine, I included his prayer.
“On your exceedingly great mercy rests all my hope. Give what you command, and then command whatever you will. You order us to practice continence… By continence the scattered elements of the self are collected and brought back into the unity from which we have slid away into dispersion; for anyone who loves something else along with you, but does not love it for your sake, loves you less. O Love, ever burning, never extinguished, O Charity, my God, set me on fire! You command continence: give what you command, and then command whatever you will.”
Although his vernacular is archaic to modern ears, his words resonate with our longings and struggles. I never use words like continence (constraint, discretion, self-control, willpower, self-denial), but I recognize my need for it; along with faith, hope, and love (Galatians 5:22–23).
As we meditate on St. Augustine’s words, may God craft love for what he commands, increase the Spirit’s fruit, and set us on fire for him.
The Lord’s peace be with you.