Before the lovely Augustine passage, a quick note: Two links have just been added to my Listen to Talks page. You can hear highlights from my recent talk to the Stanford University Anscombe Society on the meaning of the sexual powers, and if those seem interesting, you can listen to the whole talk too.
But now for Augustine. He’s commenting on Romans 1:19-20, where St. Paul exclaims, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
I suspect that St. Paul himself is alluding to Wisdom 13:5-9:
“For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator. Yet these men [who are ignorant of God] are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him. For as they live among his works they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?” (RSV-CE)
Here is St. Augustine’s comment:
“How did those philosophers know God? From the things which He had made. Question the beautiful earth; question the beautiful sea; question the beautiful air, diffused and spread abroad; question the beautiful heavens; question the arrangement of the constellations; question the sun brightening the day by its effulgence; question the moon, tempering by its splendor the darkness of the ensuing night; question the living creatures that move about in the water, those that remain on land, and those that flit through the air, their souls hidden but their bodies in view, visible things which are to be ruled and invisible spirits doing the ruling; question all these things and all will answer: 'Behold and see! We are beautiful.' Their beauty is their acknowledgment. Who made these beautiful transitory things unless it be the unchanging Beauty?” -- Sermon 241, trans. Mary Sarah Muldowney, RSM