“Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You!” Saint Augustine’s poignant exclamation rings out on his feast day (from the second reading of matins).
The Trinity is primeval-modern, the pulsating Source of the pageantry of the visible world and of the intricacies of personal interiority. The intellectual conversion that was such a crucial stage on Augustine’s way to Christianity involved his insight that, on the one hand, there really is an invisible world, the world of spirit (that of knowing and loving, of personal interiority); and, on the other hand, that created/finite spirit is qualitatively different from uncreated/infinite Spirit. This difference we can call the analogy of spirit. (Hegel fails to recognize this analogical difference in his philosophical pneumatology, which is nevertheless staggering in its power as a tool of social analysis).
My dissertation director, Father Matthew Lamb, provides the best definition of God I know of: God is the infinite act of loving understanding. That is, God is infinite spirit. Where is life the richest? In knowing and loving. Why are our deepest drives the desire to know and the desire for intimacy? Because God is God, and because God is an infinite communion of love. (The Trinitarian doubling of the invisible vitality of spirit, I must leave to another post…)
When Augustine attends to his interiority, what does he find? The immutable light of God, the light of intelligibility and love and reality. Here he recognizes the analogy of spirit: what gives life to his spirit, is a higher Spirit:
“It was not the ordinary light perceptible to all flesh, nor was it merely something of greater magnitude but still essentially akin, shining more clearly and diffusing itself everywhere by its intensity. No, it was something entirely distinct, something altogether different from all these things.”
He gets it. The “height” of God is real, but it is no mere spatial factor. In fact, the verticality of sky or mountain is the manifestation of an invisible supremacy:
“…and [your immutable light] did not rest above my mind as oil on the surface of water, nor was it above me as heaven is above earth. This light was above me because it had made me; I was below it because I was created by it.”