Orthodox America


  Blessed Augustine


354-431
Commemorated June 15

 

Thou, Lord abidest forever, and Thou art not angry with us forever because Thou hast pity on our dust and ahses, and it was pleasing in Thy sight of reform my deformity. Inside me Thy good was working on me to make me restless until Thou shouldst become clear and certain to my inward sight. (Confessions)

This fourth century Father was born in Numidia in northern Africa in 354. His mother, St. Monica, tried to instill in him a love of virtue, but he was insensible to all but his own selfish desires. Following schooling and years of youthful folly, he went to Carthage, where he became a teacher.

As an adult he fell into the error of Manicheism (founded in the first century by the Persian prophet, Mani). However, as one priest told his mother, who was grieving over his waywardness, "the fount of so many tears cannot be lost." In 387 St. Ambrose of Milan was able to inspire Augustine to fully commit himself to Christ and the True Church. Ordained a priest, he was consecrated·Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa in 395. For 35 years he ruled his diocese wisely, participating widely in the controversies of his time, and attending the councils of African bishops.

Blessed Augustine wrote about 1000 books, of which the Confessions and the City of God are justly renowned and still read today (see "Spiritual Life", of this issue). In other works this Father sometimes taught in an exaggerated or erroneous manner on one or two points of doctrine, but near the end of his life he reviewed his works and made some corrections, "with judicial severity," where necessary, submitting them also to the judgment of the Church and humbly adding: "Let all those who will read this work imitate me not in my errors."

Cited as a patristic authority by many other Holy Rathers of the East (and pre-schism West), he was called "holy" by St. Photios the Great, Patriarch of: Constantinople.

 

From the experience of his passionate youth, Blessed Augustine recognized the need for the soul to free itself from the enticements of the world before it could hope to grasp the things of the spirit. Much of his writing is devoted to exhorting his readers not to be conformed to the ways of the world: "We are thus admonished that we ought to turn our love from bodily pleasures to the eternal essence of truth .... With God's guidance a man of good will can turn the troubles of this present life to the advantage of courage. Among abounding pleasures and temporal prosperity, he may prove and strengthen temperance. In temptations he may sharpen his prudence, that he may not only be led into them, but may also become more vigilant and more eager in his love of truth which alone never deceives ·"

(Of True Religion)

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