Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee,—man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou “resistest the proud,”—yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee. Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.
There’s a big difference in knowing about God and knowing Him. It is certainly important for us to understand His attributes because knowing what He is like is an important aspect of having a meaningful relationship. This will only get you so far. Beyond your head, He wants your heart.
We know what it means to give our hearts to someone. It’s no different with the Lord. As Shakespeare wrote “Those lines that I before have writ do lie, even those that said I could not love you dearer.” Love grows, and so it does with God, but only as it is nurtured by our obedience.
Pray this now:
Gracious God, why do I have to learn this lesson over and over again: that my heart will not rest until it rests in you? Since the moment of my conception, I was destined for union with you. That’s why nothing and no one else can completely satisfy me.
Unite my heart this day to yours.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.
Art: Sant’Agostino by Philippe de Champaigne – 1645-1650
Literature & Liturgy: Saint Augustine of Hippo and The Love of God
(354–430), Bp. of Hippo Regius (modern Annaba, on the coast of Algeria) and ‘*Doctor of the Church’.
Aurelius Augustinus was born at Thagaste (modern Souk-Ahras, in Algeria), to a pagan father Patricius, a member of the town council, and his Christian wife (St *Monica), through whom he was made a *catechumen in infancy. Augustine’s home culture was Latin, and teachers at Thagaste, nearby Madauros, and Carthage gave him a mastery of Latin literature and rhetoric, with some knowledge of Greek. In adolescence he lost his faith, and at the age of 17 he took a concubine with whom he lived for 15 years; she bore him a son, Adeodatus (d. 389). In 373, when he was 18, Augustine read Cicero’s (lost) Hortensius. This reawakened his religious aspirations, but disillusionment with the *Old Latin Bible’s style and content led him away from his mother’s faith to *Manichaeism. The Manichees retained his loose adherence for a decade, as he passed through successive teaching posts at Carthage, Rome, and Milan. Here, for reasons of secular ambition, he painfully abandoned the liaison with the mother of his son and was betrothed to a 12-year-old heiress found by Monica. This turmoil coincided with a religious crisis to which various factors contributed: loss of belief in Mani’s mythology, the positive influence of St *Ambrose’s sermons (which he attended initially for their rhetorical power but increasingly for their content), attachment to a group of enthusiastic students of *Plotinus and *Porphyry, and asthmatic attacks which forced him to retire from his Milan professorship when he was 32. In July 386 in a garden in Milan he came to a decision to abandon secular hopes, his career in rhetoric, and marriage. On Easter Eve 387 he was baptized by Ambrose. He moved to Rome and, having buried Monica at Ostia, returned to Africa in the late summer of 388. At Thagaste he and a group of friends established an ascetic lay community. In 391, when visiting Hippo Regius, Augustine was seized by the people and against his will ordained priest by the aged Bp. Valerius. Probably in the summer of 395 be became coadjutor bishop and was in sole charge after Valerius’ death soon afterwards. He himself died on 28 Aug. 430, when the Vandals were besieging Hippo.
Augustine’s consecration as bishop was controversial, noT least on account of his Manichaean past. During his priesthood he produced tracts against the Manichees and in the three years after he became bishop he wrote the deeply anti-Manichaean *Confessions (q.v.). Against Mani he used *Neoplatonist arguments to counter belief in an ultimate power of darkness too strong for the good Light to eliminate; he defended the canonical OT (rejected by Mani), and he upheld the use of wine in both natural and sacramental contexts as well as the admission of married Christians to full Church membership by Baptism. Crucial to Augustine’s rebuttal of Mani is the vindication of religious authority both in the biblical canon and in the worldwide Church: ‘I would not have believed the gospel unless the universal Church had constrained me to do so’ (C. Ep. Fund. 5. 6). Augustine nevertheless remained influenced by Mani’s contention that unregenerate humanity lacks free will to perform any good action, and the proposition that sexuality exercises a downward pull on the soul (common to Mani and the Platonists) was important to Augustine both in his ascetic ideals and in his articulation of the doctrine of ‘*original sin’.
Augustine’s opposition to *Donatism helped him to win the confidence of the Catholic community. He wrote a popular, versified narrative of the schism’s origin and invited Donatist bishops to public debate on the central issue of unity versus holiness. He persuaded the primate, *Aurelius, Bp. of Carthage, to call episcopal councils to achieve a common front, and he sought to induce his colleagues to recognize the sacraments conferred by Donatists, including Orders. To this end he developed the distinction between *validity (q.v.) and efficacy: even though valid, Baptism or Ordination does not benefit the recipient until brought within the fold. This conciliatory sacramental theology was assisted by the doctrine of *predestination: ‘Many who seem to be without are within, and many who seem to be within are without.’ Augustine initially opposed the use of coercion against the Donatists, but from 405 Imperial government pressure was increasingly successful in reconciling Donatists to Catholicism, and by the time of the conference at Carthage in May 411, he accepted its legitimacy within certain limitations.
In Confessions, 10. 29 (40) Augustine prayed ‘You have commanded continence. Grant what you command and command what you will’. In 405 this was quoted at Rome by a bishop condoning Christians of unregenerate sexual life; it caused outrage to *Pelagius, a respected spiritual director. He felt that Augustine’s doctrine destroyed human responsibility; if God gives a moral command one cannot say that its keeping is inherently impossible, and while the assistance of grace is necessary, the agent of a moral action has a part to play. Against this, in a vast body of anti-Pelagian writings, Augustine argued that without grace there could be no faith, no act of good will; the catastrophic consequences of Adam’s *fall have made humanity corrupt and selfish, locked into a sinful social tradition: therefore the grace needed is more than external instruction and example and has to be the love of God poured into the passive heart by which humanity is enabled to do right because it is then enjoyable. Nevertheless, though Baptism is the sacrament of remission of sins both actual and ‘original’ (i.e. corporately transmitted from Adam), no believer attains perfection, being tied down by the body’s desires. The sexual instinct is never without some flaw of egotism, even if procreative marriage makes good use of it. Even the virtuous actions of good pagans are flawed. That salvation is wholly by grace is the logic of predestination: by an eternal decree antecedent to merit God has shown His mercy in choosing a substantial minority of souls who are granted the gift of perseverance. Augustine sometimes thought it possible that God’s decree not only brought the elect to salvation but also consigned the reprobate to hell; more often in his later works he preferred to say that God allowed but did not decree the latter.
During the years of the Pelagian controversy, Augustine was also engaged in writing a massive vindication of Christianity against pagan critics who held that the abandonment of the old gods was responsible for the sack of Rome in 410. The 22 books of The City of God appeared in instalments (416–22). The old Republic had been sordid and its religion trivial, and its gods had not delivered the human happiness and order they promised. Augustine then discussed the State under a Christian emperor. He disapproved of torture and capital punishment, though conceding that judges had to punish criminals to protect society; slavery was a symptom of humanity’s fallen estate, and in a violent world the Church was called to represent forgiveness and humanity. But the city of God is an otherworldly society towards which one can struggle now by restraining injustice, but which is realized beyond this life. The two ‘cities’, earthly and heavenly, are distinct.
Augustine’s ethic is ascetic. The corruption of society is seen in lust for dehumanizing or degrading entertainments (gladiators killing in the amphitheatre, eroticism in the theatre); in inhuman torture and capital punishment; in war for aggression rather than for self-defence, which he thought ‘just’ provided also that its end was to achieve fraternal peace with the enemy; in the selfish quest for power, honour, wealth, and sex, though all four could also be used for positive social ends. The root cause of injustice and wrong is the treatment of means as ends and ends as means. We enjoy what we ought only to use and vice versa. The morality of an individual action depends on its intention in the situation, and the one moral absolute is the ‘*Golden Rule’. The purpose of the conjugal act is procreation, but its use for mutual delight is pardonable. The foundation of Christian marriage is consent, mutual fidelity, and recognition that in God’s sight it is indissoluble. The problems of sexuality lie in its involuntary and irrational impulses, from which Adam and Eve in paradise were free.
Between 399 and 419 Augustine wrote On the Trinity in 15 books. The central theme is that there is nothing irrational in the notion of being one and three, since being, knowing, and willing are all constitutive of human personality. There are, however, difficulties in using this analogy to understand the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God yet distinct in their mutual relations. An ascending series of triads culminates in the unity of thought, speech, and will, and in the interpenetration of knowing and loving. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son. Jn. 20:22 suggests that the coming forth of the Spirit is from the Father through the Son, and to join the Son with the Father averts an *Arianizing understanding of the Trinity as an unequal Triad. Augustine’s speculation, later taken as formal theology, laid the foundation for the *Filioque.
The heart of Augustine’s religion is seen in his Tractates on St John’s Gospel, his Sermons, esp. on the Psalms, and his Rule for monks and nuns (see following entry). These express not only his spirituality, the yearning (desiderium) for God which for him is the hallmark of authentic faith, but also his profound sense of the ecclesial community, the body which with Christ as its head is the totus Christus. No scandal is bad enough to make anyone right to leave it. Exegesis of Scripture became increasingly important to Augustine. His treatise De Doctrina Christiana sought both to place biblical study in relation to secular culture and to articulate principles of interpretation so that one can discern what is literal and what allegorical. His Harmony of the Evangelists answers pagan criticism that the inconsistencies of the Gospels invalidate their authority. Other tracts include De cura pro mortuis, arguing that prayer for the faithful departed is right, but that whether they are buried in any particular place is a matter of indifference; two treatises on lying, which is held to be wrong if intended to deceive and always dangerously likely to diminish respect for the truth; De bono conjugali, implicitly rebutting St *Jerome’s negative evaluation of marriage and sex; and Enchiridion, a handbook of his theology. There are also numerous letters, recently increased by the discoveries of J. Divjak. Near the end of his life he composed a review of his writings (Retractationes), partly correcting and partly defending himself. This work, together with the catalogue of his library made by *Possidius, his biographer, gives the chronology and order of his writings, most of which have survived.
Augustine’s influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense. It moulded that of the W. Church in the early Middle Ages, and even the reaction against Augustinianism with the gradual rediscovery of *Aristotle by the 13th cent. was less complete than has often been supposed. The Reformers appealed to elements of Augustine’s teaching in their attack on the *Schoolmen, and later the *Jansenists invoked his authority. It is still one of the most potent elements in W. religious thought. Feast day, 28 Aug.
ST AUGUSTINE’S WRITINGS:
Earliest are his Dialogues (no doubt an idealization of the actual conversations in which he took part at Cassiciacum), which include Contra Academicos, De Beata Vitu, De Ordine, Soliloquia, and De Immortalitate Animae (all AD 386–7; J. P. Migne, PL 32). Among his anti-Manichaean writings are Acta contra Fortunatum Manichaeum (392), Contra Faustum Manichaeum (33 Bks., 397–8), and Contra Secundinum Manichaeum (399), all in PL 42; among his works against the Donatists, Psalmus contra Partem Donati (394), Contra Epistolam Parmeniani (400), De Baptismo contra Donatistas (400–1), and Breviculus Collationis cum Donatistis (411–12), all in PL 43; among those against the Pelagians, De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione (411–12), De Spiritu et Littera (412), De Natura et Gratia (413–15), De Gestis Pelagii (417), Contra Julianum (6 Bks., 421), all in PL 44; among those against the *Semipelagians, De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio (426–7), De Correptione et Gratia (426–7), De Praedestinatione Sanctorum (428–9), and De Dono Perseverantiae (428–9), in PL 44 and 45. He also wrote a short general treatise, De Haersibus (428; PL 42. 21–50). Of his biblical writings the chief are De Genesi ad Litteram (12 Bks., 401–14; PL 34), De Consensu Evangelistarum (4 Bks., 400; PL 34), Tractatus CXXIV in Joannis Evangelium (414–416/17) and Tractatus X in Ep. Joannis (415–16, both perhaps begun 407–8; PL 35), and Enarrationes in Psalmos (392–420; PL 36–37). His chief dogmatic works include De Diversis Quaestionibus ad Simplicianum (396; PL 40), De Trinitate (15 Bks., 399–419; PL 42), Enchiridion ad Laurentium (421–3; PL 41. 229–90), and De Civitate Dei (22 Bks., 416–22; PL 41). The Confessions are in PL 32. 583–656. Augustine also wrote many important letters, nearly all on dogmatic subjects, of which some 250 survive. To his large collection of Sermons many additions have been made in recent times, esp. through the researches of G. *Morin, OSB, C. Lambot, OSB, and A. *Wilmart, OSB. At the end of his life Augustine reviewed his several works in his Retractationes (426; PL 32. 659–868). For the catalogue of his works by Possidius, see s.v.; also CPL (3rd edn., 1995), pp. 97–153 (nos. 250–386).
First collected edn. of his Works by J. Amerbach (9 vols. Basle, 1506). Other imp. early edns. by *Erasmus (10 vols. Basle, 1528–9) and the ‘Theologi Lovanienses’ (11 vols., Antwerp, 1577). All previous edns. were superseded by that of the *Maurists (T. Blampin, P. *Coustant, and others; 11 vols., Paris, 1679–1700, with valuable index in vol. 11); repr. frequently, incl. J. P. Migne, PL 32–47 (unfortunately with varying pagination in the several Migne reprints); On the Maurist edn. see J. de Ghellinek, SJ, Patristique et Moyen Age, 3 (1948), pp. 339–484 (Étude 8: Une Édition patristique célèbre). Since 1887 crit. edn. of individual works in the CSEL (some items, however, not up to the usual standard of this series); also in CCSL 27–57, 1954 ff., and, with Fr. tr., under the auspices of the Augustinians of Paris, Bibliothéque Augustinienne, 1936 ff.
Eng. trs. in the *Library of the Fathers by M. Dods, by P. *Schaff in ‘Nicene and Post Nicene Christian Fathers’ (8 vols., 1887–92) and by various contributors in ‘Fathers of the Church’ (1948 ff.) and in ‘Ancient Christian Writers’ (1949 ff.), and A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. J. Rotelle, OSA (New York, 1990 ff.).
LIVES: Contemporary Life by his friend and disciple, Possidius, Bp. of Calama (q.v.). Classic Life in edn. Ben. (repr. PL 32. 65–578). Le N. *Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire Ecclés., 13 (2nd edn., 1710). Modern Lives by G. Bardy (Montpellier, 1940), G. [I.] Bonner (1963; 3rd edn., Norwich, 2002), P. [R. L.] Brown (London, 1967; rev., 2000), A. Mandouze (Paris, 1968), J. J. O’Donnell (Boston, Mass. ), and S. Lancel (Paris ; Eng. tr. ).
STUDIES ON HIS EARLY CHRISTIAN PERIOD:
P. Alfaric, L’Évolution intellectuelle de S. Augustin. 1: Du manichéisme au néoplationisme (all pub., 1918); J. Nörregaard, Augustins Bekehrung (Tübingen, 1923); A. Pincherle, La formazione teologica di Sant’Agostino ; P. Courcelle, Recherches sur les ‘Confessions’ de S. Augustin (1950; 2nd edn., 1968); M. Testard, S. Augustin et Cicéron (2 vols., 1958); R. Holte, Béatitude et sagesse (1962); O. du Roy, L’Intelligence de la foi en la Trinité selon Saint Augustin (1966); R. J. O’Connell, Saint Augustine’s Early Theory of Man (Cambridge, Mass., 1968). E. Feldmann, Der Einfluss des Hortensius und des Manichäismus auf das Denken des jungen Augustinus von 373 (Dissertation, 2 vols., Münster, 1975).
EDITIONS AND MONOGRAPHS ON INDIVIDUAL TREATISES:
(1) De Civitate Dei: Ed. princeps, Subiaco, 1467. Ed. J. E. C. Welldon (2 vols., London, 1924). Eng. tr. by H. Bettenson (Harmondsworth, 1972). J. N. *Figgis, The Political Aspects of St Augustine’s ‘City of God’ (1921); R. H. Barrow, Introduction to St Augustine ‘The City of God’ (1950); H. I. Marrou, L’Ambivalence du Temps de l’Histoire chez Saint Augustin (1950); F. G. Maier, Augustin und das antike Rom (Tübinger Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, 39; 1955); A. Wachtel, Beiträge zur Geschichtstheologie des Aurelius Augustinus (Bonner historische Forschungen, 17; 1960); J. C. Guy, SJ, Unité et structure logique de la ‘Cité de Dieu’ de saint Augustin (1961); U. Duchrow, Christenheit und Weltverantwortung (Forschungen und Berichte der Evangelischen Studiengemeinschaft, 25; Stuttgart, 1970; 2nd edn., 1983); G. Corcoran, St Augustine on Slavery (Studia Ephemeridis ‘Augustinianum’, 22; Rome, 1985); J. van Oort, Jerusalem and Babylon (Supplements to VC, 14; 1991).
(2) Sermons: C. Morin, OSB (ed.), Sermones post Maurinos reperti (Miscellanea Agostiniana, 1; Rome 1930); C. Lambot, OSB (ed.), Sermones selecti (Stromata patristica et mediaevalia, 1; Utrecht and Brussels, 1950); F. Dolbeau (ed.), Vingt-six Sermons au Peuple d’Afrique (Études Augustiniennes, Série Antiquité, 147; 1966; Eng. tr. by E. Hill, OP, in Rotelle series mentioned above, III. 11; 1997). C. Mohrmann, Die altchristliche Sondersprache in den Sermones des hl. Augustin (Latinitas Christianorum primaeva, 3; 1932). M. Pontet, L’Exégèse de S. Augustin prédicateur (Théologie, 7; 1945); B. Blumenkranz, Die Judenpredigt Augustins (Basler Beiträge zur Geschichtswissenschaft, 25; 1946); A. M. La Bonnardière, Recherches de chronologie augustinienne (1965). P. P. Verbraken, OSB, Études critiques sur les sermones authentiques de saint Augustin (Instrumenta Patristica, 12; 1976).
(3) Epistles: Excellent edn. by A. Goldbacher in CSEL 34 (1), 1895; 34 (2), 1898; 44, 1904; 57, 1911. Further letters ed. J. Divjak (ibid. 88, 1981; rev. edn., with Fr. tr., as Œuvres de Saint Augustin, 46B; Bibliothéque Augustinienne, 1987); cf. H. Chadwick, ‘New Letters of St Augustine’, JTS NS 34 (1983), pp. 425–52. Eng. tr. of new letters by R. B. Eno, SS (Fathers of the Church, 81; 1989).
ON HIS PLACE IN THE HISTORY OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION:
cf. E. *Troeltsch, Augustin, die christliche Antike und das Mittelalter im Anschluss an die Schrift, De Civitate Dei (1915); E. Przywara, SJ (ed.), Augustinus: Die Gestalt als Gefüge (Leipzig, 1934), introd. repr. separately as Augustinisch: Ur-Haltung des Geistes (Kriterien, 17; Einsiedeln ); H. I. Marrou, St Augustin et la fin de la culture antique (1938); id., Saint Augustin et l’Augustinisme (1955; Eng. tr., 1957); H. Hagendahl, Augustine and the Latin Classics (Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia, 20; 2 Vols., 1967).
ON HIS THEOLOGY AND OUTLOOK:
O. Rottmanner, Der Augustinismus (1892); K. *Adam, Die Eucharistielehre des hl. Augustin (1908); J. Mausbach, Die Ethik des hl. Augustinus (2 vols., 1909); P. *Batiffol, Le Catholicisme de S. Augustin (2 vols., 1920); E. *Gilson, Introduction à l’étude de saint Augustin (Études de philosophie médiévale, 11; 1929; 2nd edn., 1943; Eng. tr., New York, 1960; London, 1961); A Monument to St Augustine (by various authors, London, 1930); J. Burnaby, Amor Dei: A Study of the Religion of St Augustine (1938; repr., Norwich, 1991); F. van der Meer, Augustinus de Zielzorger (1947; Eng. tr., 1961); T. J. van Bavel, OESA, Recherches sur la Christologie de saint Augustin (Paradosis, 10; Fribourg, Switzerland, 1954); J. Ratzinger, Volk und Haus Gottes in Augustins Lehre von der Kirche (Münchener Theologische Studien, 2. Systematische Abteilung, 7; 1954); G. Nygren, Das Prädestinationsproblem in der Theologie Augustins (Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, 5; 1956); R. A. Markus, Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St Augustine (Cambridge, 1970); E. TeSelle, Augustine the Theologian (1970); O. [M. T.] O’Donovan, The Problem of Self-Love in St Augustine (New Haven, Conn., and London ); I. Bochet, Saint Augustin et le désir de Dieu (Études Augustiniennes; 1982); G. O’Daly, Augustine’s Philosophy of Mind (1987); C. Kirwan, Augustine (London and New York, 1989); J. M. Rist, Augustine: Ancient thought baptised (Cambridge, 1994); G. Madec [AA], Petites Études Augustiniennes (Études Augustiniennes, Série Antiquité, 142; 1994); P.-M. Hombert, Gloria Gratiae: Se glorifier en Dieu, principe et fin de la théologie augustinienne de la grâce (ibid., 148; 1996); C. Harrison, Augustine: Christian Truth and Fractured Humanity (Oxford, 2000). R. Dodaro and G. Lawless (eds.), Augustine and his Critics: Essays in honour of Gerald Bonner (2000). Introd. by H. Chadwick, Augustine (Past Masters; Oxford, 1986). C. Mayer (ed.), Augustinus-Lexikon (Basle and Stuttgart, 1986 ff.). A. D. Fitzgerald (ed.), Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cambridge ). C. Andresen, Bibliographia Augustiniana (Darmstadt, 1962; 2nd edn., 1973); T. van Bavel, OESA, Répertoire Bibliographique de Saint Augustin 1950–1960 (Instrumenta Patristica, 3; The Hague, 1963); T. L. Miethe, Augustinian Bibliography, 1970–1980 (Westport, Conn., and London, 1982). Current literature is noted in Revue des études augustiniennes (1955 ff.).
Of the arts. in dictionaries and encyclopaedic works, one of the fullest is that by E. Portalié, DTC 1 (1903), cols. 2268–472, with bibl.; separate Eng. tr. by R. J. Bastian, SJ, A Guide to the Thought of St Augustine (1960).
F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 129–132.