Drawn By Delight

From Tractates on St. John’s Gospel, 26, 4-6 (ca. 416-417)

You are being drawn not merely by your free will, but also by delight. But what does it mean to be drawn by delight? In the psalms, it is written: “Let the Lord be your delight, and he will grant you the desires of your heart.” And one of our own poets has also said: “Everyone is drawn by his own dear delight” – note: not by necessity but by delight, not by compulsion but by pleasure. So there is all the more reason to suppose that when people delight in eternal life, they are in fact being drawn by Christ himself, for Christ is all these things.

Must we assume that although the bodily senses have their delights, the mind is not permitted any? If the soul has no delights, how is it that Scripture says, “All nations will take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They will feast on the abundance of your house, and you will give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”?

Show me a lover, for lovers understand what I am talking about. Show me someone who wants something, someone who is hungry, someone who is a pilgrim in this wilderness, thirsting and panting for the fountains of their eternal home, show me such a person and he or she will understand what I am saying. But if I am speaking to those without feeling, then they will not know what I am talking about. Offer a handful of green grass to a sheep and you draw it toward you. Show a boy some nuts and he is enticed. The child is drawn by the things he wants to grasp, drawn simply by the pull of his own appetite.

If then, the things that lovers see as the delights and pleasures of the earth can draw them (because it is true that “everyone is drawn by his own dear delight”), then does not Christ draw us when he is revealed to us by the Father? What does the mind desire more strongly than truth? For what does it have an insatiable appetite, and why is it so concerned to cleanse its palate from discerning the truth, unless it is that it may eat and drink wisdom, righteousness, truth, and eternity.

St. Augustine (354-430) was a theologian and philosopher who served as Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was a voluminous author, whose writings about God’s grace, the Sacraments, and the Church have been profoundly influential in the development of Western Christianity. His Tractates on John are a collection of expository sermons he delivered in his cathedral in Hippo during the Donatist controversy. His feast day is August 26.

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