"Late have I loved thee, O beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved thee."
OK all you lovers of a finely turned poetic phrase. Who wrote this? Shakespeare? No! Browning? Nay! Maya Angelou (egad..parce nobis, Domine.) No way, Jose. No this beautiful phrase was written by one of my favorite Church Fathers, St. Augustine. I am a sucker for a well-crafted sentence. Just recently I was reading G.K. Chesterton. Listen to this description of a cold winter's eve: The thousand arms of the forest were grey, and its million fingers silver. In a sky of dark-green-blue-like slate, the stars were bleak and brilliant like splintered ice. Now this is a work of art. Like a sculpted piece of marble. I enjoy savoring such phrases when I find them. Smelling the fragrance and sipping them like a rare, fine wine. When I read Augustine, my heart literally...well it literally swooned. (OK. Am I going mad?)
Augustine (+430 AD) lived the first 30 years of his life as a pagan profligate. When he was converted by the grace of God, his unremitting search for Love was ended. And in this realization he continues ever so beautifully:
You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unlovliness, I plunged into the lovely things which you created...
You called. You shouted. You broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone and dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me and now I burn for your peace....
Who says that saints are not sensual and passionate even in their spirituality? Only a man in love could ever write like this. As a convert at age 32, Augustine's words are my own: Late have I loved Thee...O so late have I loved Thee...