Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book XI/Chapter 29
Chapter XXIX.—That Human Life is a Distraction But that Through the Mercy of God He Was Intent on the Prize of His Heavenly Calling.
39. But “because Thy loving-kindness is better than life,” behold, my life is but a distraction, and Thy right hand upheld me in my Lord, the Son of man, the Mediator between Thee, The One, and us the many,—in many distractions amid many things,—that through Him I may apprehend in whom I have been apprehended, and may be recollected from my old days, following The One, forgetting the things that are past; and not distracted, but drawn on, not to those things which shall be and shall pass away, but to those things which are before, not distractedly, but intently, I follow on for the prize of my heavenly calling, where I may hear the voice of Thy praise, and contemplate Thy delights, neither coming nor passing away. But now are my years spent in mourning. And Thou, O Lord, art my comfort, my Father everlasting. But I have been divided amid times, the order of which I know not; and my thoughts, even the inmost bowels of my soul, are mangled with tumultuous varieties, until I flow together unto Thee, purged and molten in the fire of Thy love.
- Ps. lxiii. 3.
- Distentio. It will be observed that there is a play on the word throughout the section.
- Ps. lxiii. 8.
- 1 Tim. ii. 5.
- Non distentus sed extentus. So in Serm. cclv. 6, we have: “Unum nos extendat, ne multa distendant, et abrumpant ab uno.”
- Phil. iii. 13.
- Phil. iii. 14. Many wish to attain the prize who never earnestly pursue it. And it may be said here in view of the subject of this book, that there is no stranger delusion than that which possesses the idle and the worldly as to the influence of time in ameliorating their condition. They have “good intentions,” and hope that time in the future may do for them what it has not in the past. But in truth, time merely affords an opportunity for energy and life to work. To quote that lucid and nervous thinker, Bishop Copleston (Remains, p. 123): “One of the commonest errors is to regard time as agent. But in reality time does nothing and is nothing. We use it as a compendious expression for all those causes which operate slowly and imperceptibly; but, unless some positive cause is in action, no change takes place in the lapse of one thousand years; e. g., a drop of water encased in a cavity of silex.”
- Ps. xxvi. 7.
- Ps. xxvii. 4.
- Ps. xxxi. 10.