Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Augustine in His Own Words


You have made us for Yourself and our heart has no rest until it rests in You.
--Book III, ch. 6

The soul is weak and helpless unless it clings to the firm rock of truth. Men give voice to their opinions, but they are only opinions, like so many puffs of wind that waft the soul hither and thither and make it veer and turn. The light is clouded over and the truth cannot be seen, although it is there before our eyes.
--Book IV, ch. 14

Let the ears of my heart move close to your lips, and let me listen to you, who are the Truth . . . You are steadfast, constant in yourself; but we are tossed on a tide that puts us to the proof, and if we could not sob our troubles in your ear, what hope should we have left to us?
--Book IV, ch. 5

Make your dwelling in Him, my soul. Entrust to Him whatever you have, for all that you have is from Him. Now, at last, tired of being misled, entrust to the Truth all that the Truth has give to you and nothing will be lost. All that is withered in you will be made to thrive again. All your sickness will be healed. Your mortal body will be refashioned and renewed and firmly bound to you, and when it dies, it will not drag you with it to the grave, but will endure and abide with you before God, who abides and endures forever.
--Book IV, ch. 11

Eternal Truth, true Love, beloved Eternity – all this, my God, you are, and it is to you that I sigh by night and day. When first I knew you, you raised me up so that I could see that there was something to be seen, but also that I was not yet able to see it. I gazed on you with eyes too weak to resist the dazzle of your splendor. Your light shone upon me in its brilliance, and I thrilled with love and dread alike. I realized that I was far away from you. . . . And far off, I heard your voice saying I am the God who IS. I heard your voice, as we hear voices that speak to our hearts, and at once I had no cause to doubt. I might more easily have doubted that I was alive than that Truth had being.
--Book VII, ch. 10

When He made the world, He did not go away and leave it. By Him, it was created and in Him it exists. Wherever we taste the truth, God is there. He is in our very inmost hearts, but our hearts have strayed from Him. Think well on it, unbelieving hearts, and cling to Him who made you. Stand with Him and you shall not fall; rest in Him and peace shall be yours. * * *
--Book IV, ch. 12

Our Life Himself came down into this world and took away our death. He slew it with His own abounding life, and with thunder in His voice He called us from this world to return to Him in heaven. From heaven He came down to us, entering first the Virgin’s womb, where humanity, our mortal flesh, was wedded to Him, so that it might not be forever mortal. * * * He did not linger on His way but ran, calling us to return to Him, calling us by His words and deeds, by His life and death, by His descent into hell and His ascen­sion into heaven. He departed from our sight, so that we should turn to our hearts and find Him there. He departed, but He is here with us. He would not stay long with us, but He did not leave us. He went back to the place which He had never left, because He, through whom the world was made, was in the world, and He came into the world to save sinners.
--Book IV, ch. 12

I was in a ferment of wickedness. I deserted You and allowed myself to be carried away by the sweep of the tide. * * * But in my mother’s heart you had already begun to build Your temple and laid the foundations of Your holy dwelling * * * How presumptuous it was of me to say that You were silent, my God, when it was I who drifted farther and farther away from You! Can it be true that You said nothing to me at that time? Surely the words which rang in my ears, spoken by Your faithful servant, my mother, could have come from none but You? Yet none of them sank into my heart to make me do as You said. * * * It all seemed womanish advice to me and I should have blushed to accept it. Yet the words were Yours, though I did not know it. I thought that You were silent and that she was speaking, but all the while, You were speaking to me through her, and when I disregarded her, your handmaid, I was disregard­ing You, though I was both her son and Your servant.
--Book II, ch. 2-3

City of God--

St. Augustine points out that there cannot exist a nature in which there is no good. It is because there is still good in man that he can feel the anguish of the desolation of modern times:
"There exists, then, a nature in which there is no evil, in which, indeed, no evil can exist; but there cannot exist a nature in which there is no good. Hence not even the nature of the Devil himself is evil, in so far as it is a nature; it is perversion that makes it evil. . . . The good that God imparts, which the Devil has in his nature, does not withdraw him from God's justice by which his punishment is ordained. But God, in punishing, does not chastise the good which He created, but the evil which the Devil has committed. And God does not take away all that He gave to that nature; He takes something, and yet He leaves something, so that there may be some being left to feel pain at the deprivation.
"Now this pain is in itself evidence of the good that was taken away and the good that was left. In fact, if no good had been left there could have been no grief for lost good. For a sinner is in a worse state if he rejoices in the loss of righteousness; but a sinner who feels anguish, though he may gain no good from his anguish, is at least grieving at the loss of salvation."
--Book XIX, Chapter 13

On Free Choice of the Will--

St. Augustine teaches that evil results from freely choosing to be ignorant and by turning away from Truth: "each evil man . . . is the author of his own misdeeds. . . . Possibly, evil comes about from the fact that man turns his back upon learning and estranges himself from it. . . . to do evil is nothing than to stray from the path of learning."

Those that choose to turn away from this truth, must then live in darkness and slavery to error. "Freedom . . . is not true freedom except for those who are happy and who adhere to the eternal law." "Hence, when we say that men are unhappy by their own choice, we are not saying they want to be unhappy but that their will is such that unhappiness results of necessity and even against their will."

"Augustine: [W]hatever that nature is which rightfully excels a mind adorned with virtue, it cannot possibly be unjust. Consequently, though it were within its power to do so, not even this nature will force the mind to become a slave to passion. . . . where passion lords it over the mind, dragging it about, poor and needy, in different directions, stripped of its wealth of virtue, now mistaking the false for the true, even defending something vigorously at one time only to reject at another what it had previously demonstrated, while all the while it rushes headlong into other false judgment; now withholding all assent, while fearful for the most part of the clearest demonstrations; now in despair of the whole business of finding the truth while it clings tenaciously to the darkness of its folly; now at pains to see the light and understand, and again falling back out of weariness to the darkness? And all the while, the cruel tyranny of evil desire holds sway, disrupting the entire soul and life of man by various and conflicting surges of passion; here by fear, there by desire, here by anxiety, there by empty and spurious delights; here by torment over the loss of a loved object, there by a burning desire to acquire something not possessed; here by pain for an injury received, there by the urge to revenge an injury. On every possible side, the mind is shriveled up by greed, wasted away by sensuality, a slave to ambition, is inflated by pride, tortured by envy, deadened by sloth, kept in turmoil by obstinacy, and distressed by its condition of subjugation. And so with other countless impulses that surround and plague the rule of passion. How could we ever think that this is not a punishment when, as you see, it is something that all have to suffer who do not hold fast to wisdom?
"Evodius: I do indeed consider this a heavy penalty and one that is absolutely just, if a man, who once occupied the summit of wisdom, should choose to descend therefrom and become the slave of passion. . . . [but] man was so perfectly created by God and established in happiness that it was only by his own will that he fell from this state into the miseries of this mortal life."

"[I]t is the mark of a wicked and perverse soul to become a slave to the pursuit of those things which should rather be regulated according to the good pleasure of the soul whose right to rule derives from divine order and law. . . . we do evil from the free choice of the will."

Miscellaneous --

Believe that you may understand . . . Understand that you may believe.
--Serm. 43, 9: PL 38, 258

He who made you without your participation, does not justify you without your participation. He has made you without your knowledge; He justifies you if you will it.
--Serm 169, 11, 13: PL 38, 923.

God does not command what is impossible; but when He commands, He exhorts you to do what you can and to ask for what you cannot do.
--De natura et gratia 43, 50: PL 44, 271, Cf. Conc. Trid., D-S

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