“With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit will I seek thee early” (Is 26:9). St. Augustine knew that longing, when he wrote this most poignant passage in his Confessions:
Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong—I, misshapen. You were with me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you. You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
There we have the aching paradox of human life. God has showered us with beauty, the skies, the sea, the meadows, the trees and flowers and animals with which we share this world; and then the beauty of children, and of men and women. They all cry out, with the psalmist, “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves!” (Ps 100:2). But when we seek fulfillment in them, they disappoint us. then we know the bitterness of the Preacher, who, speaking in the person of the rich and glorious King Solomon, says that all the garden he planted, the silver and gold he treasured up, the singers he enlisted at his court, the houses he built and the vineyards he stretched across the hills, amounted to nothing: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was not profit under the sun” (Eccl 2:11). The man who seeks his good in the Lord gains all the good of these things and infinitely more: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33). But if we seek those things first, we lose heaven, and earth into the bargain.
Consider the gallimaufry of luxuries with which a man will try to fill the vacuity in himself—houses, boats, cruises, fine food, sex, money, glitter—and yet the prospect of death remains, and in his quiet moments, he understands that it is all pointless, a vexation of spirit.
Therefore the rest cannot come from within, and cannot be provided by the transient things of the world. It must come from God. But it must come from God; it must be a gift. That is, the heart cannot be a fit tabernacle for the Most High unless God makes it so. No strenuous spiritual striving will suffice, without the grace of God.
“Herein is love,” writes St. John, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).
—from the book Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (book and CD) by Anthony Esolen, Ch. 6: Our Love for Jesus