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

Seek and Journey Toward Truth and Allow Him to Find You

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Augustine.

Catechesis of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience of August 25, 2010

As you know, I too have a special connection to some saints. Among them, in addition to St. Joseph and St. Benedict whose names I bear, there is St. Augustine, whom I had the great gift of knowing quite closely, so to speak, through study and prayer, and who has become a good travelling companion in my life and ministry.

I wish to underscore once more an important aspect of his human and Christian experience, which is relevant even in our time when paradoxically, relativism seems to be the "truth" that guides thinking, choices and behavior.

St. Augustine is someone who never lived with the superficial: the search, the uneasy and constant thirst for Truth, is one of the fundamental characteristics of his existence - not, however, of "pesudo-truths" that are incapable of bringing lasting peace to the human heart, but of that Truth which gives meaning to existence and which is "the home" in which the heart finds serenity and joy.

We know his was not an easy journey. He thought he could find Truth in prestige, in career, in possession of things, in voices that promised him immediate human happiness. He committed errors, he underwent sorrows, he met with failures - but he never stopped, he was never content with anything that only gave him a glimmer of light. He was able to look into the depth of himself and he realized, as he writes in his Confessions, that the Truth he sought, the God whom he sought with all his powers, was more intimate to him than his own self, that He was always with him, had never abandoned him, was waiting to be able to enter into his life definitively (Book III, ch. 6, 11; X, ch. 27, 38).

As I said in commenting on the recent film on his life, St. Augustine came to understand, in his uneasy seeking, that it was not he who had found the Truth, but Truth itself, who is God, who had chased him and found him.

Romano Guardini, commenting on a passage in Chapter 3 of the Confessions, said: "St. Augustine understood that God is "the glory who brings us to our knees, the drink that extinguishes thirst, the treasure that makes us happy . . . (He not only had) the pacifying certainty of someone who had finally understood, but also the beatitude of a love that knows: 'This is everything, and it's all I need'." (Pensatori religiosi, Brescia 2001, p. 177).

Also in the Confessions, Book IX, our saint recalls a conversation with his mother. St. Monica - whose memory we celebrate on Friday, the day after tomorrow. It is a beautiful scene: he and his mother are in Ostia, in an inn, and from the window they can see both sea and sky - they transcend sea and sky, and for a moment, they touch the heart of God in the silence of Creation.

Here appears a fundamental idea in the journey towards Truth: that creatures should be silent in order to achieve the silence within which God can speak. This is true even in our time. At times, we seem to fear silence, meditation, thinking about our own actions, about the profound sense of our life. Often we prefer to live every fleeting moment, deluding ourselves that they bring lasting happiness.

We fear searching for the Truth. Or, perhaps, we fear that Truth will find us, take us in its grip, and change our life, as it had happened with St. Augustine.

Dear brothers and sisters, I wish to tell everyone, even those who are in present difficulty in their journey of faith, and those who take little part in the life of the Church or who live "as though God does not exist" --

Do not fear the Truth, never interrupt the journey towards it, never stop searching for the profound truth about yourself and about things with the interior eyes of the heart. God will not fail to give us light to see and warmth to make our heart feel that He loves us and that He too wants to be loved.

May the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Augustine and St. Monica be with us on this journey.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

God Awaits Us and Upon Passing to the Other World, We Will Find the Mother’s Goodness

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2012
Dear brothers and sisters,

On November 1, 1950, the Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed as dogma that the Virgin Mary “having ended the course of earthly life, was assumed into heavenly glory in soul and body.” (Munificentissimus Deus)

This truth of faith was known by the Tradition, affirmed by the Fathers of the Church, and it was above all a manifestation of the veneration that the Church offered the Mother of Christ. Precisely this element of veneration was the moving force, so to speak, that determined the formulation of this dogma: the dogma appears as act of praise and exaltation with respect to the Holy Virgin. This also emerges from the text of the apostolic constitution itself, where it is stated that the dogma is proclaimed “to honor the Son, for the glorification of the Mother and to the joy of the whole Church.”

In this way, what was already celebrated in the worship and devotion of the People of God as the highest and most stable glorification of Mary was expressed in dogmatic form: the act of the proclamation of her Assumption was presented almost as a liturgy of faith. And in the Gospel that we heard, Mary herself prophetically speaks some words that point in this direction: “From this day forth, all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). It is a prophecy for the whole history of the Church.

The “Magnificat,” which we find in Luke’s Gospel, indicates that the praise of the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, intimately united to Christ her son, regards the Church of all times and places. The evangelist’s report of these words presupposes that the glorification of Mary was already present at that time and that he saw it as a duty and task of the Christian community for all generations. Mary’s words tell us that it is a duty of the Church to recall Our Lady’s greatness in faith. This solemnity is, then, an invitation to praise God and to look to Our Lady’s greatness since we know who God is by gazing about the faces of those who are His.

But why is Mary glorified by the Assumption into heaven? St. Luke, as we have heard, sees the root of Mary’s exaltation and praise in Elizabeth’s words: “Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 1:45). And the “Magnificat,” this song to the living God who acts in history, is a hymn of faith and love that flows from the heart of the Virgin. She lived with exemplary fidelity and treasured in the depths of her heart God’s words to His people, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them the content of her prayer. In the “Magnificat,” God’s Word becomes Mary’s word, the light of her path, making her open even to receiving the Word of God made flesh in her womb.

Today’s Gospel passage recalls this presence of God in history and in the very unfolding of events; in particular it is a reference to the second Book of Samuel, chapter 6 (6:1-5), in which David transports the Ark of the Holy Covenant. The parallel that the evangelist makes is clear: Mary awaiting the birth of the Son, Jesus, is the Holy Ark. Mary is God’s “visit” that brings joy.

Zachariah, in his song of praise, will say this explicitly: “Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68). Zachariah’s house had experienced God’s visit with the birth of John the Baptist, but above all with the presence of Mary, who bears the Son of God in her womb.

But we now ask ourselves: what does Mary’s Assumption do for our journey, our life?

The first answer is: in the Assumption, we see that in God, there is space for man, God Himself is the mansion with many rooms of which Jesus speaks (cf. John 14:2); God is the house of man; in God there is the space of God. And Mary, uniting herself, and united to God, does not distance herself from us, she does not enter an unknown galaxy, but those who go to God comes near to us because God is near to us, and Mary, united to God, participates in God’s presence, very near to us, to each one of us.

There is a beautiful line that St. Gregory the Great says of St. Benedict but that we can also apply to Mary: St. Gregory the Great says that heart of St. Benedict became so large that whole of creation was able to enter into his heart. This is even more true of Mary: Mary, completely united to God, has a heart that is so immense that the whole of creation can enter into her heart, and the ex-votos (votive offerings) that are in every part of the world show this. Mary is near, she can hear, she can help, she is near to all of us. There is space for man in God, and God is near, and Mary, united to God, is very near, she has a heart that is great like the heart of God.

But there is another aspect: not only is there space for man in God; in man there is space for God. We also see this in Mary, the Holy Ark that bears the presence of God. In us, there is space for God and this presence of God in us – so important for bringing light to the world’s sadness, its problems – this presence is realized in faith: in faith, we open the gates of our being so that God may enter into us, so that God can be the power that gives a light and a path to our being.

There is space in us, let us open ourselves us as Mary did, saying: “Thy will be done, I am the Lord’s servant.” Opening up to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary: our life becomes rich and great.

And thus, faith and hope and love combine. Today there are many things said about a better world in the future: it would be our hope. Whether and when this better world will come, we do not know, I do not know. It is certain that a world that distances itself from God does not become better, but worse. Only the presence of God can guarantee a good world too. But let us take this aside. One thing, one hope is certain: God awaits us, He attends to us, we are not headed for a void, we are expected. God awaits us and upon passing to the other world, we will find the Mother’s goodness, we will find our loved ones, we will find Eternal Love. God awaits us: this is our great joy and our great hope that is born precisely from this feast. Mary visits us, and she is the joy of our life and joy is hope.

So, what, then, should be said? Great heart, presence of God in the world, space of God in us and space of God for us, hope, being awaited: this is the symphony of this feast, the instruction that we are given by meditating on this solemnity.

Mary is the dawn and splendor of the Church triumphant; she is the consolation and hope of the people still on pilgrimage, says today’s preface. Let us entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession, so that she obtain from the Lord the strengthening of our faith in eternal life; may she help us to live well and with hope the time offered to us by God. A Christian hope, that is not only a nostalgia for heaven, but a living and active desire of God here in the world, desire of God that makes us pilgrims who are unwearied, nourishing in courage in us and the power of faith, which at the same time is the courage and power of love. Amen.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Pope has been busy while on vacation

From Vatican Radio --
Pope Benedict XVI has finished the third volume of Jesus of Nazareth, dedicated to the stories of Jesus’ infancy. A statement from the Press Office of the Holy See explains that this third volume, which is the completion of the previous two, is at present being translated from the original German into several languages – including English.

The statement goes on to express the hope that the new book will be translated contemporaneously into the most-spoken languages. The statement further reports the expectation that all appropriate time will be taken to complete the work of making accurate translations of the Pope’s important and highly anticipated work.

Meanwhile speaking in Introd, Northern Italy, where he is passing a period of rest, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said that there may be a new encyclical from the Holy Father in the near future.

It would be the fourth encyclical by Benedict XVI following Deus caritas est in 2005, Spe salvi in 2007 and Caritas in veritate in 2009.
A new encyclical? Hmm. Following encyclicals on Love and Hope, could this be an encyclical on Faith (especially with the upcoming Year of Faith)?