Tag Archives: St Augustine

Caring for friends

Let us, who have a spiritual as well as natural affection for friends who are deed according to the flesh, though not according to the spirit, have far greater solicitude and care and zeal in offering up for them those things which will help the spirits of the departed –alms, and prayers and supplications.  ~Saint Augustine of Hippo

Saint Augustine of Hippo

The gives to us today in the Office of Readings the following from the Confessions of Saint Augustine of Hippo, whose feast we celebrate today. These are some of the most moving words of the great Augustine! If you have not read the Confessions I urge you to do so; I have always felt thus, so much so that when I taught high school junior theology I had my students read significant sections of the work.

St Augustine's Triumph CCoello.jpg

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance
the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was
I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it
was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending
my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of
the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more
powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The
light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly
different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense
that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because
this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who
knows truth knows this light.

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved
Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to
know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see
exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely
on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew
myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear
your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall
eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be
changed into me”.

Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed
to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God
and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and
blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the
Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough
to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that
your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk
adapted to our infancy.+Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there
that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things
which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things
kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at
all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed,
you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I
drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and
thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Saint Monica

Remembering Saint Monica, mother of the great Saint Augustine of Hippo today, I re-read the account Augustine gave of his mother’s death and his tribute to her in the Confessions (9.12). The intimacy Augustine portrays between he and God and he and his mother is beautiful and very striking. Truly, grace at work. 

 St Monica Andrea Verrocchio[1].jpg

Augustine writes of his mother:

I closed her eyes; and there flowed in a great sadness on my heart and it was passing into tears, when at the strong behest of my mind my eyes sucked back the fountain dry, and sorrow was in me like a convulsion. As soon as she breathed her last, the boy Adeodatus burst out wailing; but he was checked by us all, and became quiet. Likewise, my own childish feeling which was, through the youthful voice of my heart, seeking escape in tears, was held back and silenced. For we did not consider it fitting to celebrate that death with tearful wails and groanings. This is the way those who die unhappy or are altogether dead are usually mourned. But she neither died unhappy nor did she altogether die. For of this we were assured by the witness of her good life, her “faith unfeigned,” and other manifest evidence.

What was it, then, that hurt me so grievously in my heart except the newly made wound, caused from having the sweet and dear habit of living together with her suddenly broken? I was full of joy because of her testimony in her last illness, when she praised my dutiful attention and called me kind, and recalled with great affection of love that she had never heard any harsh or reproachful sound from my mouth against her. But yet, O my God who made us, how can that honor I paid her be compared with her service to me? I was then left destitute of a great comfort in her, and my soul was stricken; and that life was torn apart, as it were, which had been made but one out of hers and mine together.

When the boy was restrained from weeping, Evodius took up the Psalter and began to sing, with the whole household responding, the psalm, “I will sing of mercy and judgment unto thee, O Lord.” And when they heard what we were doing, many of the brethren and religious women came together. And while those whose office it was to prepare for the funeral went about their task according to custom, I discoursed in another part of the house, with those who thought I should not be left alone, on what was appropriate to the occasion. By this balm of truth, I softened the anguish known to thee. They were unconscious of it and listened intently and thought me free of any sense of sorrow. But in thy ears, where none of them heard, I reproached myself for the mildness of my feelings, and restrained the flow of my grief which bowed a little to my will. The paroxysm returned again, and I knew what I repressed in my heart, even though it did not make me burst forth into tears or even change my countenance; and I was greatly annoyed that these human things had such power over me, which in the due order and destiny of our natural condition must of necessity happen. And so with a new sorrow I sorrowed for my sorrow and was wasted with a twofold sadness.

So, when the body was carried forth, we both went and returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured forth to thee, when the sacrifice of our redemption was offered up to thee for her — with the body placed by the side of the grave as the custom is there, before it is lowered down into it — neither in those prayers did I weep. But I was most grievously sad in secret all the day, and with a troubled mind entreated thee, as I could, to heal my sorrow; but thou didst not. I now believe that thou wast fixing in my memory, by this one lesson, the power of the bonds of all habit, even on a mind which now no longer feeds upon deception. It then occurred to me that it would be a good thing to go and bathe, for I had heard that the word for bath [balneum] took its name from the Greek balaneion, because it washes anxiety from the mind. Now see, this also I confess to thy mercy, “O Father of the fatherless”: I bathed and felt the same as I had done before. For the bitterness of my grief was not sweated from my heart.

Then I slept, and when I awoke I found my grief not a little assuaged. And as I lay there on my bed, those true verses of Ambrose came to my mind, for thou art truly,

“Deus, creator omnium,
Polique rector, vestiens
Diem decoro lumine,
Noctem sopora gratia;
Artus solutos ut quies
Reddat laboris usui
Mentesque fessas allevet,
Luctusque solvat anxios.”

“O God, Creator of us all, 
Guiding the orbs celestial,
Clothing the day with lovely light,
Appointing gracious sleep by night:
Thy grace our wearied limbs restore
To strengthened labor, as before,
And ease the grief of tired minds
From that deep torment which it finds.”

And then, little by little, there came back to me my former memories of thy handmaid: her devout life toward thee, her holy tenderness and attentiveness toward us, which had suddenly been taken away from me — and it was a solace for me to weep in thy sight, for her and for myself, about her and about myself. Thus I set free the tears which before I repressed, that they might flow at will, spreading them out as a pillow beneath my heart. And it rested on them, for thy ears were near me — not those of a man, who would have made a scornful comment about my weeping. But now in writing I confess it to thee, O Lord! Read it who will, and comment how he will, and if he finds me to have sinned in weeping for my mother for part of an hour — that mother who was for a while dead to my eyes, who had for many years wept for me that I might live in thy eyes — let him not laugh at me; but if he be a man of generous love, let him weep for my sins against thee, the Father of all the brethren of thy Christ.

Don’t let your words contradict your actions, St Augustine tells us

I am not sure you read the Office of Readings in the Divine Office, and if you don’t may I suggest that you begin; the readings from the Church Fathers is rich for meditation. The Liturgy, Mass AND the Divine Office is the daily magisterium for our faith. Today, the Church proposes a a sermon by Saint Augustine of Hippo, a portion of larger piece actually, titled “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Augustine says SO much worth chewing on, and so I find it difficult pointing out from the text only one item.


Perhaps one of the following points is worthy of our meditation today: “anyone who has learned to love the new life [new life in Christ] has learned to sing a new song,” or “what is the object of your love?” or that “God loved us first and therefore we are capable of loving,” or “do we know how to sing with our voices, our hearts, our lips and our lives?” or “is Augustine pointing ought the obvious that we can’t comprehend making sure our words don’t contradict our lives?”

Read Saint Augustine’s Semon 34….


Sing to the Lord
a new song; his praise is in the assembly of the saints. We are urged to sing a
new song to the Lord, as new men who have learned a new song. A song is a thing
of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love. Anyone, therefore, who has
learned to love the new life has learned to sing a new song, and the new song
reminds us of our new life. The new man, the new song, the new covenant, all
belong to the one kingdom of God, and so the new man will sing a new song and will
belong to the new covenant.


There is not one who does not love something, but
the question is, what to love. The psalms do not tell us not to love, but to
choose the object of our love. But how can we choose unless we are first
chosen? We cannot love unless someone has loved us first. Listen to the apostle
John: We love him, because he first loved us. The source of man’s love for God
can only be found in the fact that God loved him first
. He has given us himself
as the object of our love, and he has also given us its source. What this source
is you may learn more clearly from the apostle Paul who tells us: The love of
God has been poured into our hearts. This love is not something we generate
ourselves; it comes to us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


Since
we have such an assurance, then, let us love God with the love he has given us.
As John tells us more fully: God is love, and whoever dwells in love dwells in
God, and God in him. It is not enough to say: Love is from God. Which of us
would dare to pronounce the words of Scripture: God is love? He alone could say
it who knew what it was to have God dwelling within him. God offers us a short
route to the possession of himself. He cries out: Love me and you will have me
for you would be unable to love me if you did not possess me already.


My dear
brothers and sons, fruit of the true faith and holy seed of heaven, all you who
have been born again in Christ and whose life is from above, listen to me; or
rather, listen to the Holy Spirit saying through me: Sing to the Lord a new
song. Look, you tell me, I am singing. Yes indeed, you are singing; you are
singing clearly, I can hear you. But make sure that your life does not
contradict your words
. Sing with your voices, your hearts, your lips and your
lives: Sing to the Lord a new song.


Now it is your unquestioned desire to sing
of him whom you love, but you ask me how to sing his praises. You have heard
the words: Sing to the Lord a new song, and you wish to know what praises to
sing. The answer is: His praise is in the assembly of the saints; it is in the
singers themselves. If you desire to praise him, then live what you express.
Live good lives, and you yourselves will be his praise.


Sermo 34, 1-3. 5-6:
CCL 42, 424-426)

Christ’s glorified body heals us of disbelief

Incredulity of Thomas.jpgLooking at Luke 24:38ff Christ says, “Why are you troubled, and doubts arise in your heart? Look at my hands and my feet, touch and see.”

Commenting on appearance of Christ in His glorified body, Saint Augustine of Hippo in Sermon 246 tells us that Christ wanted to offer evidence of His resurrection from the dead as a reality!  “Was He perhaps already ascended to the Father when He said: ‘Touch me and see’? He let His disciples touch Him, indeed, not only touch but feel, to provide a foundation for faith in the reality of His flesh, in reality of His body [ut fides fiat verae carnis veri corporis]. The well-foundedness of the reality had to be made obvious also through human touch [ut exhibibeatur etiam tactibus humanis solidatus veritatis]. Thus He let Himself be touched by the disciples.”

Later on Augustine asks about the women who were asked by the Lord not to touch Him because He had yet made the ascension, “What is this inconsistency? The men could not tocuh Him if not here on earth, while the women would be able to touch Him once He ascended to heaven? But what does touching mean if not believing? By faith we touch Christ. And it is better not to touch Him with faith than feel with the hand and not touch Him with faith.”

Augustine points us to the proof Christ offers: faith. “The scar of the wound on His flesh served to heal the wound of disbelief.” The Lord wanted to cure those who disbelieved.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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