Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hold the Ocean in a Cup

One morning St. Augustine was walking along the road and he came to the seashore just as the sun was emerging on the horizon. He had been seeking God day and night and his eyes had become heavy and tired. His head, too, was bowed down as if he were carrying a great weight, and in fact, he was. He was weighed down by the different scriptures he had read, by the logical systems he had studied, by the words he had spoken for so many years.

That morning as he walked he encountered a boy anxiously holding a cup in his hand.

St. Augustine was intrigued and said, “My son what is wrong? Why do you seem so worried, and why are you holding that cup in your hand?” The boy answered: “Sir, you seem no less anxious and burdened. Maybe you could tell me what is weighing on your heart, what has produced such heaviness in you and where is your cup?"

St. Augustine was amused and said “What cup are you talking about? All that matters to me is seeking God. I long to know him.” The boy said “Sir, I am trying to find a way to hold the ocean in this cup, but I’m not having any luck. That’s why I am anxious and worried."

When Augustine heard these words his eyes were opened and understanding dawned . He realized that he had been trying to hold the ocean of the Infinite in the tiny cup of his ego and that he could never succeed. Only if he threw the cup into the sea could the sea fill it, inside and out.

Thus he became aware of the cup of his intellect, the cup of his ego, and the infinite ocean of the love of God surging in his heart. He had only to surrender the cup to the ocean and he would attain fulfillment.

St. Augustine flung his cup into the sea and the cup became one with the sea.

For Augustine, God is at the center of our being and so he invites us to return to ourselves - to come back from our wandering “out there”. He tells God in The Confessions, “I looked for you everywhere, and you were within me all the time.” In Augustine’s terms we return to the heart by being still, in the body; in the mind; and in the spirit. “God speaks to us in the great silence of the heart” he says. So Contemplation is finding the meaning of silence within ourselves and we do this by sinking down away from the chatter of our minds, the turmoil of our emotions, to a place that is equally valid where we can unfold in the mystery of this divine companionship.

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