I have walked through much of my faith journey with Augustine for company. I first heard Augustine’s words through the lips of my mother: “You made us for yourself,” she would recite, “and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Conf. 1.1.1). When I studied his texts for myself in college and graduate school, the depth and beauty I discovered summed up in this sentiment drew me to the Catholic Church. But throughout his Confessions, Augustine asks who this God is, in whom his heart finds rest. And that, I think, is what holds my attention.

Not content with preconceived definitions of God, Augustine keeps up the search, rejecting the temptation to become complacent in his spirituality, or to think that he can lay claim to having identified God, once and for all. Unfortunately for Augustine (and those of us who are heirs of his influence), his search was constrained by a cosmological sensibility that has since been disproved. His sense of order, of love that attaches rightly to all things, without vulnerability to the whims of change, depends upon a vision of the cosmos that is static and hierarchical; and the God of this cosmos is an immovable, all-powerful force, that will “gather us together” as we ascend through this order of love (1.3.3). But we know now that the cosmos is evolutive, not static, and its fundamental descriptor is interconnection, not hierarchy. Might our restless hearts be a description of our internal drive toward wholeness? Might God be the energy of love that moves us all and gathers us together in the Wholeness of Being?

It is sometimes easier, I think, to stop searching—to find a religious expression of God that fits our spirituality and rest there, in its stability. But to do so is to fall into the trap Augustine describes at the end of Book I: “My sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in [God] but in myself and [God’s] other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error” (1.20.31). If we are to seek God, we must always look beyond the boundaries of our limited ideas—they cannot reflect, fully, eternal Love. In Augustine, we find a companion in the search.