That in God Alone Satisfaction Is to Be Found, and He Who Shall Set Up His Rest in Anything Else Shall Never Find True Satisfaction

by admin on November 14, 2010

THEY who place their satisfaction in God and His divine will, enjoy unbroken satisfaction and content, for, being built into that firm pillar, the will of God, they share in the immutability of the divine will and so are always firm and immovable and of one mind. But those who are attached to the things of the world and have set their heart and satisfaction in them, cannot have true and lasting con­tent, for they go as things go and depend on things and are subject to the changes of things. The glorious St. Augus­tine declares this very well on that saying of the prophet: He hath conceived sorrow and borne iniquity (Psalm vii. 15). “Hold for certain,” he says, “that you will always be liable to pain and disappointment so long as you do not set up your rest in that which none can take away from you without your will”—Non enim potest labor finiri nisi hoc quisque diligat quod invito non possit auferri.

We read of our Father Francis Borgia that, when he came to Granada with the body of the empress and the time came to deliver over his charge, on opening the leaden cof­fin in which she lay and uncovering her face, it was found to be so changed, so hideous and disfigured, as to strike the beholders with horror. This made such an impression on him, and God touched his heart with such a sense of disillusionment of the things of the world, that he made a firm purpose, saying: “I resolve, my God, never more to serve a master who can die.” Let us, then, take this resolu­tion, which is a very good one: “I purpose, Lord, never more to set my heart on anything that can be taken from me by death, on anything that can come to an end, on any­thing that another can take from me without my will,” since in no other way can we find true contentment.

For, says St. Augustine, if you set your heart on that which they can take away from you without your will, it is clear that, when they do take it away, you must feel it. This is natural: a well-loved possession is not given up without grief; and the greater the love, the greater will be the grief. And in confirmation of this he says in another place: “He who shall wish to find satisfaction in himself shall be sad.” If you set up your rest in such and such an office or in such an occupation or in being in such a place or anything like that, such a satisfaction can easily be taken from you by the superior, and so you will never live in con­tentment. If you set up your rest in exterior things or in the fulfilment of your own will, those things easily change: and when they do not change, you yourself change: for what pleases you and satisfies you today, tomorrow dis­pleases and dissatisfies you. If you do not believe it, see it in that people of Israel, who, having the manna, grew weary and asked for other food; and seeing themselves free, at once turned their desire upon their old state of subjection and sighed after Egypt and the garlic and onions they ate there and longed many times to return there. You will never find satisfaction if you set up your rest in those things. But he who shall place all his satisfaction in God and in the fulfilment of His holy will, shall always live content, for God is everlasting, never changes, always remains such as He once for all is. “Would you attain to perpetual and everlasting joy and contentment,” says the saint, “set up your rest in God, Who is everlasting.”

Holy Writ marks this difference between the fool and the wise and holy man. The fool changeth like the moon: the holy man remaineth in his wisdom unchanged like the sun (Ecclus. xxvii. 12). The fool changes as the moon, today waxing and tomorrow waning; today you will see him cheerful and tomorrow sad; now in one mood, now in another because he has placed his love and satisfaction in the changeable and perishable things of the world; and so he dances to the tune of such things and changes with their vicissitudes; like the sea, he goes with the moon—he is moon-struck. But the just and holy man endures like the sun; he keeps ever the same demeanor and is ever of the same mind; there is no waxing and waning in him; he is always cheerful and content because his contentment is in God and in the fulfilment of His most holy will, which none can alter.

Of that holy abbot called Deicola it is told that he always had a smile on his face. And when someone asked him why, he said: “Be what may be and come what may come, no one can take God away from me.” Christum a me toilers nemo potest. This man had found true contentment because he had set up his rest in what could not fail, and none could take from him. Let us do the like. Rejoice, ye just, in the Lord (Psalm xxxii. 1). On these words St. Basil says: Observe that the prophet does not say: Rejoice in the abundance of earthly things, nor in your great ability, learning, and talents, nor in your vigorous health and great bodily strength, nor in the high name and reputation that you enjoy amongst men; but rejoice in the Lord; put all your satisfaction in God and in the fulfilment of His holy will, for that alone is sufficient, and all the rest together cannot satisfy nor afford true contentment.

The Things Of The World Are Not The Natural Food Of The Soul

St. Bernard, in a sermon which he preached on those words of St. Peter: See, Lord, how we have left all things (Matt. xix. 27), illustrates and proves this very well. All other things, he says, away from God may occupy the soul and heart of man, but they cannot satisfy it—occupare potest., replere non potest. The covetous man will never have his fill of money, says the Wise Man (Eccles. v. 9). He is hungry after pounds, shillings, and pence; but how­ever much he gets, he will never be satisfied. And so of all the things of the world—they cannot satisfy our soul. And this is St. Bernard’s reason: Do you know why riches and all the things of the world cannot satisfy? It is because they are not the natural food of the soul—quia non sunt naturales cibi animae—nor proportional to its wants. Thus, as air and wind are not the natural food of our body nor proportional to it, and you would laugh if you saw a man starving to death open his mouth to the air like a chameleon, thinking thereby to satisfy and sustain himself, and you would take him for mad; so it is no less madness, says the saint, to think that man’s rational soul, which is a spirit, is to be satisfied with temporal and sen­sible things. It may be puffed out, like the other with air, but it cannot be satisfied, for that is not its food. Inflari potest, satiari non potest. Give to every creature the suste­nance that is proportional to it—to the body, bodily food; to the spirit, spiritual food. Thus they only shall be blessed who hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill.

The blessed St. Augustine further explains this reason in his “Soliloquies,” speaking of the rational soul. He says: “Thou hast made the rational soul, O Lord, capable of Thy majesty, in such a way that nothing else can satisfy or sate it but Thyself.” When the cavity and hollow of a ring is made to the measure of some definite precious stone, noth­ing else that you can put there can fit or completely fill that void, but only that particular precious stone to the measure of which it was made. If the cavity is triangular, no round thing can fill it. Now our soul is created to the image and likeness of the most Holy Trinity, leaving a vacancy and a cavity and a hollow in our heart capable of God and pro­portioned to receive God Himself. It is impossible for any other thing to bulk out and fill that vacant place but God Himself. All the round world will not suffice to fill it. “Thou hast made us, O Lord, for Thyself, and our heart is restless till it rests in Thee”—Fecisti nos, Domine, ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donee in te requiescat (St. Augustine, “Confessions,” i. 1).

A very good comparison, and one which illustrates this matter very well, is that common comparison which is drawn from the needle of the mariner’s compass. The nature of that needle, after it has been touched by the mag­net, is to point to the north, God having given it that nat­ural inclination; and you will see how restless that needle is and how many times it turns and turns back again until it takes its direction to the north; and, that done, it is at once quiet. Now in this way God has created man, with this natural inclination in respect of Himself, as to his north star and last end; and so, until we fix our heart on God, we shall be always like that needle, restless and trou­bled. To whatever point of the revolving heavens that needle looks, it cannot be quiet; but when it looks to that one point of the heavens, the polar star, which does not revolve, there it fixes itself and is immovable. So as long as you set the eyes of your heart on the things of the world, changeable and perishable, you will not be able to find rest or content; set them on God, and you will find it.

This ought to be a great motive for us to seek after God, even though it were only in our own interest, since we all desire to find satisfaction. St. Augustine says: “We know, brethren, that every man desires joy, but not all seek joy where it is to be found. We cannot live without enjoyment; but whether men hit their mark or miss it all depends on this, whether they aim at and fix their eyes and heart on true satisfaction or on satisfactions apparent and false.” The miser, the wrong-doer, the proud man, the ambitious, the glutton, all desire to attain satisfaction; but one puts his satisfaction in heaping up riches, another in gaining high honors and dignities, a third in eating and junketing, another in impure delights. They have not hit the mark in setting up their rest where they ought to have set it and so they will never find it; for all these things, and all that there is in the world, is insufficient to satisfy the soul and give it true content. So the saint says: “Why, then, dost thou range far and wide, poor man, seeking good things for thy soul and body! Love that one Good wherein are all good things, and it suffices; desire that simple Good Which is all good, and it is enough. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, who fittest thy desire with good things (Psalm cii. 5). Blessed and praised and glorified may He be for ever and ever. Amen.”

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