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Archives for February 2016

Augustine on the Delta Factor?

Delta-Factor-Walker-Percy

As I read my Lenten reflections, Augustine’s “On the Psalms” (sadly, the ACW series translation only got as far as Psalm 37) I hear little squeaks of Percian linguistics peeking through Augustine’s take on Psalm 9…

“Thou hast blotted out their name forever to the age of ages [Psalm 9:7]. The name of the wicked has been blotted out; for they who have come to believe in the true God can no longer be called wicked. Their name is blotted out forever: as long, that is, as this world shall last. To the age of ages. Now what is this age of ages? Is it not that of which this world is, as it were, an image and shadow? The course of the seasons following one another, the waning and waxing of the moon, the sun returning to the same position year by year, spring, summer, autumn and winter each passing away only to come round again – all this is a kind of imitation of eternity. But the duration underlying an immutable continuity is termed the age of ages. It may be compared with a line of poetry, first conceived in the mind and then uttered by the tongue. The mind gives form to the spoken word; the one fashioned an abiding work of art, the other resounds in the air and dies away. Thus, too, the age which passes takes its pattern from that unchangeable age which is termed the age of ages. The latter abides in the divine workmanship, that is to say, in the Wisdom and Power of God, whereas the former is worked out in the government of creation.”

Further along, looking at verse 11, Augustine rounds out the notion thus:

“And let them trust in thee who know they name [Psalm 9:11]. Again, the Lord says to Moses: I am who am; and though shalt say to the children of Israel: HE who is hath sent me. Let them trust in thee, then, who know thy name, so that they may not trust in the things that flow by on the rapid stream of time, possessing nothing but the future  “will be” and the past “has been.” For the future, when it comes, at once becomes the past; with longing we await it, with sorrow we see it pass away. [Augustine revisits this idea in greater detail in his Confessions.] But in God’s nature there will be nothing future, as if not yet existing, nor yet past as if existing no longer, but only that which is; and this is what we mean by eternity. Those, then who know the name of Him who said I am who am, and of whom it was said, He who is hath sent me, must cease to trust in and set their hearts upon the things of time, and must betake themselves to the hope of things eternal.”

The question, then, is this: Is the “search” Percy talks about a sort of fumbling around in these ages looking for that age of ages the way Helen Keller fumbled around with her fingers before she grasped the idea of water? Furthermore, when one stumbles upon the search, does he do so as a gift from God or is there something within our nature that desires to find that age of ages even if we’re as deaf, dumb and blind as Ms. Keller?