By Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.)
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water…. Because your steadfast love is better than life. — Psalm 63.1,3
In the darkness of this world—in which we are pilgrims absent from the Lord as long as “we walk by faith and not by sight”—the Christian soul ought to feel itself desolate, and continue in prayer, and learn to fix the eye of faith on the word of the divine sacred Scriptures, as “to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
For the ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is the Light which shines in darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it—the Light, in order to see that which our hearts must be purified from by faith; for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
In the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. — Psalm 63.7-8
If there is no temptation, there will be no prayer; for there we shall not be waiting for promised blessings, but contemplating the blessings actually bestowed. Scripture adds, “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living”—not in the wilderness of the dead, where we are now—“For you have died,” says the apostle. “and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
For that is the true life on which the rich are exhorted to lay hold by being rich in good works. It is the true consolation; for want of which another is desolate—even though she conducts her household piously, entreating all dear to her to put their hope in God: and in the midst of all this. She says in her prayer, “my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
This dying life is nothing else than such a land—however numerous our mortal comforts, however pleasant our companions in the pilgrimage, and however great the abundance of our possessions.
But the king shall rejoice in God. — Psalm 63.11
*Abridged and language updated from The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work (Vol. 1).