Hidden from us, but perfectly known to God


Why Does God Allow This?

Today at Matins, Saint Augustine had a message that spoke directly to the post–Synodal preoccupations of not a few souls.  One often hears, “Why does God allow this?” or again, “Why does God not purify His Church of the bad elements wreaking havoc in her?”. Saint Augustine says that it is not a fruitless task to bear with the hostility of the enemies of the City of God — even with those marked by the sacramental sign — until such time as they confess the true faith. In every age there has been the temptation to murmur against God, who appears to have lost control over His Church. There is, in all things — even in the most disruptive and disconcerting personages and events in the Church — “an order completely hidden from us, but perfectly known to God himself”. God, says Saint Augustine, “is himself in control, as the master of events, and arranges the order of things as a governor”. This being said, the Votive Mass for the Defense of the Church authorizes us to pray boldly:

Exsúrge, quare obdórmis, Dómine? exsúrge, et ne repéllas in finem: quare fáciem tuam avértis, oblivísceris tribulatiónem nostram? adhaésit in terra venter noster: exsúrge, Dómine, ádjuva nos, et líbera nos. (Psalm 43:23–24)

Arise, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? arise, and cast us not off to the end. Why turnest Thou Thy face away, and forgettest our trouble? our belly hath cleaved to the earth: arise, O Lord, help us and deliver us.

From the Treatise on the City of God by St Augustine, Bishop & Doctor

The City of God must bear in mind that among her very enemies are hidden her future citizens; and when confronted with them she must not think it a fruitless task to bear with their hostility until she finds them confessing the faith.  In the same way, while the City of God is on pilgrimage in this world, she has in her midst some who are united with her in participation in the Sacraments, but who will not join with her in the eternal destiny of the Saints.  Some of these are hidden, some are well known, for they do not hesitate to murmur against God, whose sacramental sign they bear, even in the company of his acknowledged enemies.  But, such as they are, we have less right to despair of the reformation of some of them, when some predestined friends, as yet unknown even to themselves, are concealed among our most open enemies.  In truth, those two cities are interwoven and intermixed in this era, and await separation at the last judgment.

It is therefore God, the author and giver of felicity, who, being the one true God, gives earthly dominion both to good people and to evil.  And he does this not at random or, as one may say, fortuitously, because he is God, not Fortune.  Rather he gives in accordance with the order of events in history, an order completely hidden from us, but perfectly known to God himself.  Yet God is not bound in subjection to this order of events.  He is himself in control, as the master of events, and arranges the order of things as a governor.  As for felicity, he grants that only to the good.  People may have this happiness — or not have it — when they are slaves, or when they are rulers.  But it can only be enjoyed in its fulness in that life where no one is any longer a slave.

The reason why God gives worldly dominions both to the good and to the evil is this: to prevent any of his worshippers who are still infants in respect of moral progress from yearning for such gifts from him as if they were of any importance.  This is the sacrament, the hidden meaning, of the Old Testament, where the New Testament lay concealed.  In the Old Testament the promises and gifts are of earthly things; but even then people of spiritual perception realised, although they did not yet proclaim the fact for all to hear, that by those temporal goods eternity was signified; they understood also what were the gifts of God which constituted true felicity.

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