Lamp and Compass

Called by Love
2 May, 2020
Augustinian Way to Vocational Discernment (Part 1)
19 January, 2021

The Sacred Scriptures ought to be the lamp and compass for those who follow St. Augustine, serving as their guide in prayer and in life towards their encounter with God, especially in their listening to God’s will when engaging in an internal dialogue with the Lord; for the good servant of the Lord is not he who listens to what he wants to hear from the Lord, but he who ends up liking and embracing with love the will of God: “He is Your best servant who does not so much look to hear that from You which he himself wishes, as to wish that which he hears from You”[1].

For Saint Augustine the Scriptures are the privileged instrument to purify our heart’s internal eye, so we can contemplate God Himself.  The calm and constant reading and the meditation of the Word of God help us to live a process of interior purification to discover what God wants of us during our life. For that reason, Saint Augustine wrote: “All our effort in this life must consist in healing the eye of the heart with which to see God… for this purpose the word of God is preached; This is what the moral exhortations of the Church are directed to… All the actions of the divine and holy Scriptures are directed to this end so that our interior is purified of what prevents us from contemplating God[2]. But fundamentally the Scriptures are for Saint Augustine the reminder of an essential element: that his life, and the life of every believer, is immersed in the mystery of God’s love. In this way, Saint Augustine would invite us to think about what the writer Ray Bradbury brilliantly proposed in his novel Fahrenheit 451. The novelist points out that at some point in the future they had wanted to destroy all culture, and for this reason, a police force had been established with the task of recalling all the books that existed and burning them. In fact, the title, Fahrenheit 451, refers to the temperature at which the paper burns. In this way, this special police was in charge of requisitioning and burning all the books. However, Bradbury points out that culture did not die, since many people had memorized various books, and thus they became the bearers of these literary works of art until better times came and books could be written anew. The same would happen if all the Bibles were burned and destroyed. Saint Augustine says that if only the text of 1 Jn 4, 8, where the Apostle Saint John reminds us that God is love, survives, that should be enough for us. All the rest of Scripture, in fact, is but a gloss and a commentary on that essential text. This is how Saint Augustine comments on it: «God is love. What else could he say, brothers? Although in the remaining pages of this letter he does not say anything else in praise of charity, although he does not say anything else in the rest of the entire Scripture, let us listen to the voice of the Spirit of God this very thing, that God is love, with this there is nothing more we need to search”[3].

[1] Confessions. 10, 37.

[2] Sermon 88, 5

[3] ep. Io. tr. 7, 4.