|COMMENTARY ON ST. AUGUSTINE|
|William G. Most
1. 1: The number stands for Book 1, chapter 1. This system will be used throughout this commentary.
Here A shows a deep appreciation of something that is nearly lost in most people today, a sense of the majesty of God. There are two poles in our relationship to Him: 1) love, closeness, warmth; 2) sense of majesty, infinite greatness. He is infinite in all respects, including these—so we cannot have too much. Yet we can get a picture that is sick, because unbalanced. So many today cultivate the aspect of warmth, and almost if not entirely ignore the other. Hence religion means little to many. If someone told you: "Joe Doaks, three blocks from here, loves you, " you might well say: "Ho hum. Who is that? Why should I be interested?" Similarly if we do not have much notion of the greatness of God, to hear of His love does not make much of an impression.
This loss of the one pole today is not really accidental. In the March 1, 1967 issue of National Catholic Reporter, Daniel Callahan, a noted "liberal", said on p. 6: "....many find the notion of a total dependence upon God somehow a very disturbing one..... So there is a desperate casting around to find a kind of liturgy which is not only intelligible... but one which seems to express a different kind of relationship between God and man..... many of the liturgical experiments seem to be trying to work in the direction of finding whether one can say and liturgically act out this kind of parallel relationship with God, rather than just being a king-and-lowly-subject kind of relationship." This of course is pride: submission even to God is distasteful.
A year before , Leslie Dewart, a Canadian philosopher, in his The Future of Belief (1966) wrote on p. 200: : As Christian theism is dehellenized [as we get the Greek influence out of it], the Christian faith may recast the meaning of religion in terms that do not at all imply God's ascendancy over man, or man's submission to God." And on pp. 203-04: "I think that the Christian theism of the future might so conceive God as to find it possible to look back with amusement on the day when it was thought particularly appropriate that the believer should bend his knee in order to worship God."
The Vatican had ordered that vernacular translation os liturgical texts be accurate. But this was not enforced in the English texts. We compare the Literal Latin from the current English text of Eucharistic prayer I:
Literal Latin English
Most Clement Father
Bending down we ask and beg you We ask you
Remember your men servants (slaves) Remember....your people and women servants (slaves)
We beg, Lord, that, being appeased, Accept this offering from you accept this offering of our your whole family slavery and also that of your whole family.
We your servants (slaves) and We your people and your also your holy people, mindful ministers recall his passion of the passion of the same Christ
Bending down, we beg you, Almighty God, we pray that bid these things to be carried your angel may take this by the hands of your sacrifice to your altar holy angel to your altar on high in heaven in the sight of your Divine Majesty
The only expression of our lowliness that was not removed was the "nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis" "also to us sinners your servants (slaves)". But it was cut down, and put in the middle of the paragraph, to be less prominent.
So Callahan was right. But St. Augustine and other Fathers of the Church understood much better, as the following quotes show:
Arnobius, Against the Nations 1. 31: "To understand you we must be silent; and for fallible conjecture to trace you even vaguely, nothing must even be whispered."
Pseudo Dionysius, Mystical Theology 1. 2: God is best known by unknowing."
St. Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses: "The true vision of the One we seek, the true seeing, consists in this: in not seeing. For the One Sought is beyond all knowledge."
St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 1. 6. 6: "He must not even be called inexpressible, for when we say that word, we say something."
Behind these puzzling expressions is this: When we use a word to refer to God, and to refer to a creature, the sense in the two cases is part same, part different—but much more different than same.
Plato in his Republic 6. 509B, speaking of the Idea of Good, which he seems to identify with God, said it is "beyond being." Plotinus in his Enneads 6. 8. 9 wrote: "The One is other compared to all things."
Near the end of his life, St. Thomas Aquinas had a revelation. He never could bring himself to work on his Summa after that. He said: "Such things have been revealed to me that the things I have written and taught seems light to me." Others filled out his Summa from earlier writings of his.
1. 1. Restless is our heart—A knew from experience of trying to pursue pleasure, that it runs away if one goes after it too much. Every pleasure, even sex, wears down in time—hence NFP, calling for some abstinence, helps to revive it, and helps marriages. Seneca reports that Epicurus himself in view of this principle lived rather frugally. Detachment in general promotes more happiness.
1. 2. Call in is Latin in-vocare—to call in. This is really rhetoric, yet with solid truth in it. What does it mean for God tome within us? Spirits do not take up space. We say they are present wherever they produce an a effect. For God to come means He begins to cause an effect He did not produce before. He is greater than heaven and earth. Cf. Aristotle in Physics 8. 10 says God does not have size—cannot have infinite size, there is no such thing, and finite size would not be enough for Him. We would add: Since God is pure actuality He is without limit (potency is limit).
1. 4. The word Lord is ambiguous in Latin and Greek and Hebrew. But in context, A means God.
Note the series of seeming contradictions (oxymoron): most merciful and most just, etc. These urge the reader to think. Within the divine nature, mercy and justice are identified. We begin to see this if we note a sinner can go down and down on a bad spiral—he becomes more and more blind (justice) and so is less responsible after a time (mercy). A holy person on the good spiral grows in comprehension of God—this is in a sense earned, and is justice. Yet no creature by its own power can generate a claim on God—and so it is basically mercy. You love but are not disturbed—A is thinking of human love, which involves emotion, which does move or disturb. But love really is willing good to another for the other's sake—emotion tends to go along with this in the human scene (somatic resonance). You regret—This word and anger and many other things are anthropomorphism—speaking of God as if He had human characteristics. Scripture often does this. You change works but not plans—Decisions of will are identified with His essence, which is eternal, immutable, since He has no potency. You repay debts, owing no one.—-Cf. 5. 9: "You see fit, since your mercy is forever, to even become a debtor by your promises to those to whom you forgive their debts." Hebrew notion of sin is that it is a debt, a disturbance of the objective order. 1, 5. You order me to love you—-Love of anyone but God is to will good to the other for the other's sake. For us to love God is to obey—He gains nothing from our obedience, but likes it: 1) in His love of all that is right; 2) obeying His commands makes us open to receive His favors, and keeps us from the evils that come from sin, in the very nature of things. From my hidden faults cleanse me.—This is Ps 19. 2, the theme of Hebrew sheggagah—a man violates a command of God without knowing it. When he finds out, must offer a sacrifice: Leviticus 4. Many instances in Scripture OT and NT on this and even modern Eastern liturgy. A probably did not understand. Cf. Gen 12: 17, Lk 12: 47-48; 1 Cor 4. 4; Clement I to Corinth 2. 3. 1. 6 I know not from where I have come here—A. understands sex. He does not know origin of individual souls. Sees 4 options: creation of each; traducianism, derived from souls of parents; souls were in a world of spirits first, came in either voluntarily or involuntarily. Wrote Jerome in Ep. 166 (415 AD). Jerome did not know either. A seems inclined to traducianism—seems to have had a positive notion of original sin, and needed that theory to account for transmission by heredity. Was concerned with Romans 5. 12, which in the poor Latin version read: "In quo omnes peccaverunt—in whom, Adam, all have sinned". We now know orig. sin is a privation, no problem of transmission. Rather, is non-transmission of grace. A says in Ep 166 whatever theory is adopted, it must not oppose the damnation of unbaptized infants. Cf. Teselle, p. 69. 1. 9. Wordy arts—A looks down on rhetoric. Much was artificial in his day, but yet useful. Later he would feel he had to give up teaching rhetoric when he was to be baptized. A beating—Cf. Proverbs 3. 11 and Heb. 12-5-8. Aristotle, Ethics 10. 9 says that lectures on ethics are not enough to make people virtuous. There must be rearing under good laws, as in Sparta. Weary ways....suffering and grief....for the sons of Adam.—Probably reflects his strong views on original sin.
We found....men who prayed to you....I kept asking you, as a little one....that I might not get a beating in school.—St. Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection 1 asked her sisters not to pray for worldly things. She wishes people would entreat God to enable them to trample worldly things under their feet. She does pray for such when asked, but does not think God ever hears such prayers. The world is on fire [Lutheran revolt]. Are we to waste time on things which if God would grant them, might perhaps bring one soul less to heaven? This is not the time to ask God for things of little importance.—Also, we should not pray for what we can d o ourselves—A should have not been a bad boy, then no beatings.
Psalm 22. 2: —A's interpretation is fanciful: the refusal of his prayer was to avoid teaching him folly. The Hebrew probably means: "I cry by day....and by night there is no silence. [i. e. , he prays then too]".
Parents laughed at me, but it was not funny—fascinating comparison to tortures of older persons. But the parallel is not really parallel, for tortures are grave harm, spanking is not.
Ruler and creator....but only the ruler of sins—God governs all things, but sin comes by His permission only, not by His creation. The permission is contained in His decision to create the human race, which must be free or is not human.
Loving to have my ears tickled by false fables, so they might itch more ardently—he means it would develop his taste for silly things. The false fables refer to Virgil etc. free also those who do not yet call on you, so that they may call on you. Normally the first grace is the grace to pray for grace.
1. 11. humility—can also mean lowliness. Christ's descent to us, "He descended to our pride" is clever, almost oxymoron: pride lifts up or rather thinks it does so, actually it casts down. Humility exalts.
Signed with His cross and....salt—he was made a catechumen. In Africa salt was given to the catechumens throughout the year.
You were already then my guardian—A shows confidence in Providence—preoccupied with it in Confessions, as to his personal life—in City of God, as to the world.
Piety—really means devotedness. But his mother puts baptism off. This was common in 4th century, shifted by 5th century. They dreaded more the unworthy reception of Baptism than risk of missing it by death. Was regarded in practice by many as the completion of the Christian state rather than as initiation into it. Fathers also call Baptism the seal—God seals us as His property, we should never break the seal by any sin. Yet the Fathers did teach infant baptism. See Declaration of Doctrinal Congregation of Oct 20, 1980.
As if it were necessary [inescapable] that I become still more filthy if I lived..... after that bath the guilt of sins....would be greater and more dangerous—Cf. again the concept of Baptism as the seal. Cf. Shepherd of Hermas, Mandate 4. 3. 1-6. Clement of Alexandria speaks somewhat like Hermas in Stromata 2. 13. Cf. also Quasten II. 33. For certain, the more light one has and the more advantage, the worse are sins if committed.
In the [case of the] health of the body we do not say: Let him, go, he has not yet been healed.—This is true in a way, but the parallel is not parallel: Doctors do not have divine effectiveness as Baptism does.
1. 12. they who forced me did not do well.—Seems to mean they had a motive of vainglory, but God made it turn out well for A, for God can bring good out of evil. Mt. 10: 30 shows even the smallest things come under God's permission or command. And nothing can rise from potency to actuality without His movement.—A seems to be sure he knew the elders had bad motives—if he did not really know, this would be rash judgment. Cf. the Portuguese proverb: od can write straight with crooked lines.
So little a boy and so great a sinner—not the thing but the ill will is meant.
Every disordered soul is its own punishment: Some examples: hangover after being drunk—failed marriages because premarital sex deceives into thinking there is love, when there is not only chemistry, for by loose sex they are using each other, not being concerned for the welfare of the other. Yet there is a feeling of warmth etc. : chemistry is the same whether real love is or is not present too. To make it concrete: a boy sees a girl, likes her (and she, him). This starts the somatic resonance to love, the chemical or emotional condition that in human affairs normally goes along with love, and can, if used according to our Father's plan, promote real love. But now we see the possibilities in the very nature of things again: 1) If they violate God's law, it is unlikely real love will develop, though they will think it is there, because of warmth of feeling, but later then will find out; 2)if they do stay with the plan of our Father, love will develop, with happiness in this life and in the life to come, and an opening for great spiritual growth—each one, with such different psychology on the two sides, deferring to, giving in to the other so much. This is splendid for character, for real happiness. Cf. also Tacitus Annals 6. 6: after quoting part of a letter of Tiberius to senate telling of his torments, Tacitus said: His crimes and wickedness had rebounded to torment him. How right was the wisest of men [Socrates, in Plato, Gorgias 479-80) who said that the souls of despots, if we could see them, would show wounds and mutilations, like lash-marks on a body, from the cruelty, lust, malevolence they have. Neither the autocracy of Tiberius nor his isolation on isle of Capri could save him from confessing what was happening to him—In the opposite direction, the Beatitudes in the Gospel point the way to happiness even in this life. Cf. also ancient Roman ideal of frugality—they thought it meant happiness, and it did help much. Cf. also Wisdom 11. 16: "A person is punished by the very things in which he sins." Cf. also Origen, De principiis 2. 10. 4.
1. 13: Why did he not like Greek literature too? His poor control of Greek was the real reason, which he did not know about, or was he just posing? He may mean to tie it to original sin, which he makes too positive, probably.
A spirit that walks..... Cf. Psalm 78. 39: "He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again." We recall Herodotus 7. 46: Xerxes looks over the Hellespont with his vast fleet, and is elated, but then weeps. Artabanus asks why. Xerxes says: "I felt a sudden pity when I think of the shortness of man's life, and consider that out of all this so numerous a host, not one will be alive when a hundred years have gone by." Artabanus comments that the god who gives us tastes of pleasant times appears envious in his very gift. Emperor Marcus Aurelius, To Himself 2. 17: "Human life! Its length is momentary, its substance in constant flux. Its senses dim, its physical organism is perishable, its consciousness is a whirlpool, its destiny is dark..... What can see us through? Philosophy.—But the real answer is the perspective of eternity as in Mt 16. 26: "What profits it a man if he were to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?"
Someone called Aeneas—A is posing, as if he did not know Aeneas—he does, and so well. Attitude resembles that of St. Jerome's dream (Epistle 22. 30), in which he appeared for judgment, was called a Ciceronian, not a Christian, and resolved to give up pagan literature—later came back to it. This attitude common in the west, and hence even hymns were late in coming in (first by St. Ambrose). Contrast St. Basil's essay on Greek literature: skip the bad, keep the good.
With dry eyes I could bear myself—but he wept over the imaginary death of Dido, while not weeping for his own wretched spiritual condition—strange reversal!
Veils hang—in so warm a climate, veils might replace doors. A takes it as if it had symbolic meaning, in sarcasm comparing them to curtains before specially holy parts of shrines. Again, his usual improper harshness on teaching rhetoric.
1. 14. most sweetly vain—Homer. He contrasts learning language naturally with doing it under duress. We note the force of motive "my heart pressed me." So he says that free curiosity has greater power for learning than fearful necessity. True. But this does not say anything about teaching method, lecture vs. discussion. Someone eager for truth might well prefer lecture, which can cover far more truth, even though the pleasure might be less.
1. 17. Allow me, my God, to say something also about my ability, your gifts. Humility does not deny what one really has, but attributes it to God, meaning it at every level of one's being. For one can in a subconscious way snatch self-credit, while the lips say all credit goes to God—probably the case of the Pharisee vs publican in the temple. Cf. Epistle 194: "When God crowns your merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts." Same idea as 1 Cor 4: 7: "What have you that you have not received?"
Speak the words of Juno—Juvenal 7. 160ss and Persius 3. 47 alluded to weekly school exercises of this type—and admiring relatives of the boys would watch. Some other subjects we know of: Hannibal deliberating whether to march on Rome after Cannae, or Cato deciding not to survive the collapse of the Pompeian cause. Such exercises, in spite of A's comments, do help to sharpen one in getting into the mental framework of another. Juno hates the Trojans since the son of Priam did not accept her bribe in the beauty contest. So she wants to wreck the Trojan ships to keep them from coming to Italy—though she knows she cannot succeeds: the fates have decreed, and they are more powerful than even Jupiter.
What good was it to me that there was more applause for me....it is smoke and wind—Insofar as it favored vanity, the applause was worse than no good. Insofar as it might stimulate speaking ability, it was good. We note the claim that worldly praise is only smoke and wind, and is often given to the less deserving, and it does not last.
Your praises through your Scripture would have supported the vine shoot—He means he could have gotten same training with topics from Scripture. But not so readily. Not many things in Scripture are easily apt for disputation—unless the difficult things, which a young student would not know. Really , it would be good to use both Scripture and other sources. Rhetoric is useful to defend the truth, cf. his On Christian Doctrine IV on rhetoric (edition by Sr. Therese Sullivan, in CUA Dissertation series). Cicero is his chief basis there, but he uses also other sources.
Shameful prey for birds—In his commentary on Psalm 8. 9 he arbitrarily makes the birds stand for the proud. In context, Psalm 8 praises God: "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth." God has put all things under man's feet: sheep, oxen, beasts of the field, birds, fish..... A is much preoccupied, rightly, with the need of humility. Cf. Against Faustus 20. 22: "For those proud and impious spirits are not fed with odors and smoke [in sacrifices] as some vain men think, but by human errors". Cf. City of God 12. 2, saying the fallen angels wanted to be their own supreme good, and 10. 19: "They are not delighted with odors of bodies but with divine honors."
2. 1. I want to recall my past foulness—To recall past sins can help contrition and humility, but recalling sexual sins clearly can be a temptation to more sin. Recalling unemotional sins is sins is safe in general. Care is needed.
2. 2 nor did I escape your scourges....ever present, mercifully raging, sprinkling with most bitter unpleasantnesses all my illicit pleasures—"Mercifully raging" is fine rhetorical oxymoron, seeming contradiction. God did prevent him from finding full satisfaction even in his sex—this was merciful, preparing for bringing him out of it later, in anticipation of his mother's prayers and penances—which were not happening yet, but God anticipated them, and prepared a extraordinary graces in view of her extraordinary sacrifices.
My own family did not take care to snatch me out by marriage—was living with a mistress. His mother was far from a saint at this point, was concerned only over his career and felt marriage might interfere.
2. 3 Madaura—A town about 20 miles south of Thagaste on the border of Numidia and Gaetulia. Apuleius the Platonist was born there.
Father—his name was Patrick, a member of the local Curia. Since Emperor Caracalla gave citizenship to all free men in the empire, all cities other than Rome were given the name municipium. By this time, citizenship was not a great prize as it had been formerly. His father was still a pagan, but was to become a catechumen not long after this point. Was baptized late in his life as we learn from 9. 9. 22.
Womanly warnings—The sort of contempt some teenagers get for the elders. He would be ashamed to follow ideas of his mother. Instead, in the next paragraph, he reports he became ashamed of not being shameful at times—peer pressure. This shows the need of support from others, cf. Mt 5: 16: "Let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."—The problem for the teenagers is sparked by deep changes in somatic resonance, which is the parallel bodily condition to things in the mind and will. Since somatic resonance is put into a flux in this way, beliefs wobble, religious beliefs and others.
2. 4 he steals for the sake of stealing—yet the will cannot choose evil as evil, but only under the appearance of good. Three things can attract us: real good, pleasurable good, expedient good. The more we let one of these fill out thoughts, the stronger they attract. So to let a temptation fill thoughts and stay there increases its power, and even though one knows it is a sin, he may choose it as a pleasurable good. So A is wrong when he says there was no cause for his malice but malice—this is rhetoric. In 2. 6 he will say he had better fruit, but was just malicious. Again, the remarks just given apply.
2. 8. loved fellowship in crime——peer pressure, not malice was the cause he now says, and is correct. That seemed good to him.
2. 9. we were deceiving those who did not think we wold do it"—a pleasure in thinking self smarter—when really, he was merely contemptible.
Who understands sins?—this is the theme of involuntary sin, sheggagah, which A does not understand. We saw it in 1. 5.
3. 1. Carthage—He plays on the words carthago, sartago (frying pan). Carthage was founded about 814 BC from Tyre. Virgil makes it shortly after the fall of Troy, legendary date was 1184 BC, real date probably 1250. Phoenicia was a great sea power 1000-800 BC. Then Tyre came under Babylonian rule in 6th century, Carthage was free. Other Phoenician settlements were weaker, which gave opportunity to Carthage. Had trade on N. coast of Africa, from Gulf of Syrtis to beyond Gibraltar, and also S and E coasts of Spain as far north as Cape Nao. Also worked Corsica, Sardinia, and most of Sicily. Early commercial treaties with Rome permitted Carthage to hog commerce—Rome not interested. The treaties came in 508, 348. Carthage became an oligarchic republic. It was advanced in agriculture. Religion required the eldest child of each family be sacrificed, often roasting alive on arms of idol of Moloch.
Soul....cast itself outside of me, being eager to be scratched by the touch of things of sense—by this time, the time of writing, A is imbued with Neoplatonism which said we must return to the One and withdraw from the senses. The Plotinian theory of the soul's relation to the body has two stages: (1) the soul animates the body by forming a portion of matter as an image, an expression or reflection of its inward life, (2) the soul's enslavement to things of the body when it becomes fascinated with the brilliant reflections of the divine it finds in the world, and so, losing sight of itself, it turns to them, and goes forth from itself to be present to the body.—So we must return, by fleeing sensory things completely. In Soliloquies 1. 14. 24. Reason says: "There is one thing I can command for you....that these sensory things must be completely shunned, and one must greatly beware while we are in this body that our wings may not be impeded by any of their birdlime—we need them [wings] whole and perfect to fly from this darkness to that light. She [wisdom] does not even see fit to show herself to those who are enclosed in this cave unless they are such that, breaking through and dissolving it, they can escape into her air. So, when you are such that nothing at all of earthly things delights you, believe me, at the same moment, the same point of time, you will see what you desire."
The mention of cave, wings, birdlime, recalls Plato's image of the cave in Book 7 of Republic. Plato says: Imagine prisoners in an underground cave, chained so they cannot turn around, but face a wall on which shadows are cast of things that move between them and a fire that is behind them. They have been there all their lives, and so think shadows are reality. If one escaped, saw the real world, tried to tell the prisoners about it, they would laugh at him. But the world of Ideas is the real world, much more so than this world which is only a poor shadow of it. To seek the truth we must have as little as possible to do with the things of sense—as Socrates said many times over, e. g. , Phaedo 82-83: " Those who really seek wisdom with determination abstain from all bodily desires..... So the soul of the real philosopher....abstains from pleasures and desires and griefs and fears as much as possible..... each pleasure and pain seems to have a nail, and nails the soul to the body and pins it on and makes it bodily, and so it thinks the things are true which the body says are true." Cf. also Phaedo 65, 66; Republic 485-86, 517, 519, 543.
When the soul is scratched by material things, it is scattered. Now For A. that is the opposite of the unity that is proper to having being or existence. In his The Morals of the Catholic Church & The Morals of the Manicheans 2. 6. 8: "The things that tend towards having being, tend to order. To the extent that a thing attains unity, to that extent it has being (it is). God who supremely is, is perfect unity. (Plato arrived at this notion of a world of Ideas by noting that sometimes when Socrates questioned a man who at first said he did not know the answer to a problem in philosophy, sometimes later he would come out with it—He did not learn it in this life—so he learned it in a previous life, they thought. What kind of life? Notice what things the men know—what is justice, truth, goodness etc. So in that world they saw the Ideas of justice, truth etc, with no bodies. After death we return to that, but must be reincarnated—various types of bodies. But if we live several lives as a noble philosopher, we get permission to skip reincarnation, and the soul gets wings and flies away, never to have a body again. So we see why A speaks of wings and flying away, avoiding being held down, caught by the birdlime of the things of sense).
There is a great likeness to Christian doctrine here. We start with Mt 6: 21: " Where your treasure is, there is your heart also." In the narrow sense, the treasure would be a box of coins a man would bury under the floor. If he has such a stash, it is like a magnet, it pulls his thoughts and heart to it. He likes to think of it. But we can put our treasure in almost anything: in huge meals, in gourmet meals, in sex, in travel, in study, even in the study of theology. All these things are lower than God Himself, some much more so than others. So that is one factor. The second factor is this: How strongly does a man let himself be pulled by such things? At the least degree, they pull him only to imperfection—another degree would be occasional venial sin—then habitual venial sin—then occasional mortal sin—then habitual mortal sin. In proportion to these two factors it is that much less easy for thoughts and heart to rise to God, that much less easy to perceive the inspirations God sends us. We supplement this with a modern comparison: We think of a galvanometer—a compass needle on its pivot, with a coil of wire surrounding it. We send a current into the coil and the needle swings, the right direction, the right amount—measuring the current. It will read accurately if there is no competition from outside pulls, such as 33, 000 volt power lines, or much magnetic steel. Then two forces play on the needle—the current in the coil, and the outside pulls. Now if the current in the coil is mild, while the outside pulls are powerful, the current in the coil may have no effect at all on the needle. Now this meter is my mind. Grace comes, and tries to make me see God's will. This is the current in the coil. But that current is always mild in that it respects my freedom—but the outside pulls, if one lets himself be caught greatly, do not respect freedom, they take it away. So a point can be reached at which grace cannot register at all the thought God wills to send. If grace cannot do the first things, it cannot do the rest of the things. So the man is blind, or, hardened. A himself was such for years, wallowing in sex. When ordinary grace cannot get through, is there any hope of salvation? Grace is necessary for that. No, unless somehow an extraordinary grace is sent, one comparable to a miracle, which can forestall or cancel out this resistance without fully taking away his freedom—it does diminish it inasmuch as the first decision ordinarily about how a grace will or will not have its effect is that of the man—but with the extraordinary grace, the first decision is God's. Yet the human retains enough freedom to second the motion.
It is obvious that the farther down on the scale one goes, to the end at which creatures do not pull him at all, the more sensitive to divine light he will be. He will be able to see the truth—Socrates aimed at this, as we saw, in trying to have as little as possible to do with the things of the body.
Even legitimate pulls can hinder one's sensitivity, even the lawful use of sex in marriage, for it is a powerful pull. We think of the thorns in the parable—the grain came up, the thorns choked it off. The Gospel explains that the thorns are the riches, cares, and pleasures of this life. They are not always bad, they can easily be good—yet they may have two sides, as good things, and as thorns. Hence St. Paul in 1 Cor 7: 5 urges married people at times, by mutual consent, to abstain "so they may be free for prayer." Gregory the Great in Epistle 11. 64 goes so far as to say that a man sleeping with his wife should not enter the church until he has washed with water. This resembles Leviticus 15: 18, but Gregory reinterprets: "This is to be understood spiritually....unless first the fire of concupiscence cools in the soul, he should not think himself worthy..... Only a tranquil mind can occupy itself in contemplation."
So A wrote in his On Order 2. 8. 25: "Young people eager for wisdom should so live that they abstain from sexual things, from the enticements of the stomach and throat, from immoderate care and adornment of the body, from the empty matters of the shows, from the sluggishness of sleep and laziness, from rivalry, from detraction, from envy, from ambitions for honors and power, even from immoderate desire for praise. Let them believe that the love of money is a most certain poison to all of their hope."
To return to the subject proposed by A: 1)There are two ways to God, which interlock, namely, authority (faith) and reason. (a)Authority alone is poor (He seems to have been thinking of simplistic people he knew).
(b)Reason plus authority, interlocking, so that (1)Faith or authority is needed to cleanse our heart so we can see, but then it is also needed where we cannot yet take in a thing by reason. Our weakness makes it impossible to bear the light of pure reason all at once. Cf. Sermon 118. 1: "If you cannot understand, believe so that you may be able to understand. Faith goes ahead, understanding follows".
3. 2. spectacles of the theatre....why is it that man wishes to grieve?—The Latin ludi included many kinds of entertainment. Here A seems to have in mind tragedies on the stage. Plato thought these were unfortunate because (a)they made one rejoice in evil coming to another, (b)any stage play is on the third remove from reality—the most real things are the Ideas (of which we spoke above), second are the things of this earth which imitate the Ideas, third, are the imitations of the imitations, on the stage.—A mistakenly followed Plato here. Aristotle, in His Poetics , says the real reason we enjoy a tragedy is that we get an emotional katharsis, a clean-out, by pity or fear.
3. 3. In al these you scourged me. . I dared even....within the walls of the church....to desire and arrange an affair to procure the fruits of death.—We saw above that God injected lack of satisfaction into A's sins, to begin to bring him out. Here he even arranged for sex while he was in the church.
Goal of studies....was law....the more praiseworthy the more crafty. Another example of the overly sour attitude A took to rhetoric and law. They could be abused, rhetoric taught, among other things, how to argue dishonestly—but that could help detect fraud by others. The law could be used to defend the innocent.
I was the leading student..... I was proudly glad, and swollen with smoke, though much more restrained....remote by far from the wreckings that the Wreckers did.—He did have very high natural ability. But he was proud, as if it came from himself, so he was swollen with smoke—he says human praise is a smoke without substance, as he will say in City of God 5. 17. The Wreckers were a wild bunch, with whom he went, and even at times lied to say he did worse things than he really did, he was ashamed not to be shameful.
3. 4. Came upon a certain Cicero—as with Aeneas, he minimizes his acquaintance with Cicero. Really, he knew both very well indeed. But in the West for long it was thought undesirable to read pagan authors, as we saw above in the case of St. Jerome. He adds, "whose tongue almost all admire, not so his heart." This is grossly unfair. As far as we can determine—and our information on that period is very full—Cicero was one of two honest politicians in his own day.—Cicero's Hortensius (now lost) enkindled in A a desire for philosophy—yet he did not want to seek it in pagan works, the name of Christ was not there. This is a strange inconsistency for one living with a mistress! Yet he from early years had had that attitude of wanting the name of Christ in all things. He got that from his mother, along with a belief in God. But from early years he also had the notion that everything is bodily, including the soul and God, and evil is a positive thing, not the lack of what should be there (a privation). He had no sound moral code, for when people saw him doing evil, they would say: He is not yet baptized.
He understood philosophy (philo—sophia) to mean love of Christ—for the roots of the word mean love, plus wisdom. Then: Christ is the wisdom of the Father ( 1 Cor. 1: 24), so philosophy is the love of Christ. This was an unfortunate mistake, for it telescoped theology and philosophy. Both are good, but we should keep the methods distinct. Theology uses revelation, as interpreted by the Church. Philosophy uses reason. how eager I was to fly away from earthly things to you—said only in the light of later experience. He did not really consciously desire God then, for he was sinning constantly. The word fly recalls Platonism—cf. comments above on 3. 1.
There are those who seduce through philosophy—an echo of Col. 2: 8-9. But there St. Paul was answering the false claims of the Gnostics or Jewish apocalyptic speculators—A does not understand the context.
3. 5. He turned to Scripture—He did not find what he wanted for two reasons: 1) the style of the translation he used was poor, and he did not know languages so as to read the original; 2)he was too proud to appreciate Scripture, as he admits here. He says he was swollen with pride—that means, inflated so as to seem big, but inside was just hot air. Let us recall our comments at 3. 1 on the need of purification to understand spiritual things.
3. 6. he fell in with men proudly erring....a very birdlime made of a mixture of the syllables of your name—These were the Manichees. They did speak of Jesus, and that s a trap for him, for he wanted that name. Again, let us recall comments on 3. 1 about birdlime (used to catch birds).
At the very time he was disappointed in Scripture, he came upon the Manichees, founded by Manes, a Persian, executed 277 AD. He promised they would not need to take anything on faith, would prove all. He did not do that at all. (Cf. A. De utilitate credendi 1. 2) Manes said there were two eternal kingdoms, light and darkness, each infinite except in the direction where they bordered on each other. The God of Light rules the one kingdom, but Hyle (matter) rules the other. In the darkness there were five provinces, corresponding to the five evil elements: darkness, evil water, evil wind, evil fire, and smoke. But some natives of the darkness looked up, saw the kingdom of light, got up an army to attack. God saw the five evil elements and forces coming and was terrified! He sent out Primal Man (not same as Adam) who was part of the divine substance, and who had as armor the five good elements. God let him be beaten, imprisoned in matter to prepare the way for a greater victory later—which never came. At request of Primal Man God sent out the Friend of Lights, who evoked the Great Architect, who evoked the Living Spirit—who rescued Primal Man, but the latter had lost some of his light and good elements were mixed with evil. To recover the lost light it was necessary to make a universe. The Living Spirit and his five sons formed ten heavens and eight earths out of the mixture, with everything arranged higher or lower according to the amount of light it had (light particles are parts of God). Four earths are filled with darkness, four with a mixture. So the Sun and Moon are to be adored, and contain holy virtues. The latter can take on either masculine or feminine appearance to attract others. This aroused concupiscence, and the light of the soul which is held captive in matter can be set free. Then the moon, a light ship, can carry it to the sun, dump it there, and come back as a crescent. The large animals and man originated in the realm of darkness. Man came from the den of smoke. When the Third Messenger came, in the third phase of the war, sin was captivated by the beauty of the Exalted One. So Sin made a tree, came forth from it as its fruit. In the fruit was the image of the Exalted One. The light of this image was given to one of the evil princes, Saclas , who was the father of Adam and Eve. So Adam was made in the image of the Exalted One. Man has a body of matter which is evil. He also has two souls, one from God, which is good, the other from the land of darkness. All sins are due to the evil soul. There is a twofold Jesus: 1)the Jesus of the Gospels, but he had no real flesh (flesh is evil) and only seemed to be born and crucified. So the Manichees made little of Easter, but exalted the feast of the Bema, the day on which Manes was killed. 2)the Suffering Jesus—that part of God which is held bound and defiled in demons, animals, and brings forth this suffering Jesus, the life of man, hanging from every tree. At the end will be a final conflagration. All evil plus whatever parts of God have not been liberated, will be bound in a globe of fire. So the greater victory never came.
The Manichees attacked the OT, said misdeeds of some of the chief men proved the book was not of God. There was a hierarchy. There were Twelve Masters plus a chief, 72 Bishops were ordained by the Masters, and priests ordained by the bishops, and also deacons. But they rejected baptism. There were two classes, Elect, and Hearers, Elect did not kill animals or harvest plants or marry. Hearers did all these, furnished vegetables for the Elect, who then by eating, set free gods, from "the factory of their stomachs" (Confessions 4. 1. 1).
A began to have doubts in faith: what they said about the moon did not fit with what he read in astronomy. Local officials could not solve, said Faustus would come. A waited 9 years, but Faustus admitted he did not know. So became disillusioned.
3. 7 I did not know that other reality—he had no notion of a spirit, thought God and soul were bodily, and evil was a positive thing.
Could they be just who had many wives at once and killed men and sacrificed animals—polygamy was permitted in OT—about the ban, herem : God ordered them to wipe out Canaanites to avoid danger of falling into idolatry—they did fall. Further, already in Gen 15: 16 God said He would wait till the sins of the Amorites reached their fullness. By now they did. As to children: life is a moment to moment gift. God can stop giving at any point—or use a human agent for the same effect. The wrong of murder is that it violates the rights of the Creator.
Image of God—By 412 A seems to have thought that the mind's capacity for participation in God meant he is in the image of God—before 412 A thought it means man had the image only so far as he actually participated in the Word through intuition. Real sense: God gave man dominion over creation, just as He Himself has it.
3. 10. fig weeps—plants, insofar as they were bright in color had light particles, particles of God.
3. 11. his mother weeps now—she now sees how wicked A is. For long she refused to live in same house with him—following warning of 2 Thes 3. 14. But then the vision made her willing. A tried to distort it, she saw through his distortion.
You permitted me to roll and roll deeper. This on the one hand refers to the basic permission to have free will, given by God. But A in this passage may also have in mind his notion of what he calls a congruous call—a call of grace adapted to the actual need of the man. In his To Simplicianus 2. 22: "This remains: that the wills [of men] are chosen. But the will itself, unless something comes which delights and invites the soul, cannot be moved at all. That this come along or not is not in the power of man." Accordingly, earlier in the same work, in 1. 14: "who would dare to say that God lacked a way of calling, in which even Esau would apply his mind to faith, and join his will [to that] in which Jacob was justified." Since God did not give Esau such a grace, A thought God did not want Esau to be saved. (A denied that God wills all men to be saved: cf. Wm. Most, New Answers to Old Questions pp. 228-31 (Hereafter = NAOQ). A thought God really hated Esau, on the basis of a misunderstanding of Rom 9. 13. Logically this implies his massa damnata theory, found already (395 AD) in To Simplicianus 1. 2. 16: "Therefore all men are....one condemned mass of sin, that owes a debt of punishment to the divine and supreme justice. Whether it [the debt] be exacted or be condoned, there is no injustice." In the last years of his life, in his On the Gift of Perseverance 21. 55, he referred the reader back to this early work for his true opinion—which he did not change, from 395 to 429. We are not sure that at the time of writing this passage in Confessions (397-401), he had such a view in mind. Probably yes. (For the whole matter, cf. NAOQ, pp. 225-44).
A. thought that by original sin, all men had become a damned and damnable mass (Massa damnata et damnabilis). God could throw all into hell without waiting for any personal sins. But to show mercy, He blindly picks a small percent to rescue—the rest He lets go to hell. He got this theory from a misunderstanding of Romans 9, especially the lines about the potter. There was no support at all in the text or context for such a view. The Greek Fathers all held an incompatible view, as did nearly all the western Fathers. Cf. NAOQ 210-44.
3. 12. I was still unteachable—two forces held him: 1) attachment to novelty, 2)far stronger, his pride, which keeps one from seeing truth since he is so convinced, wrongly, that he has it. Still more, pride is the basic vice, since it implies one is God. When we do good, new being appears—that is, it is created out of nothing. Only God can create.
He had read and even copied out almost all their books—very expensive to buy books then. St. Jerome copied out many books of pagan classics.
It cannot happen that the son of those tears of yours should perish....she received it as if it had sounded forth from the sky—"Ask and you shall receive" applies strictly to requisites for one's own salvation—praying for others can meet with an obstacle on the part of the others. However, extraordinary prayer and penance can call for an extraordinary grace, one that can forestall or even cancel out resistance in the other. A needed that, His mother obtained it.—Her faith caused her to regard the reply of the bishop as something from the sky.
4. 1. seduced and seducing, deceived and deceiving..... There are several pairs of splendid rhetorical contrasts and balances here.
Sold a victorious wordiness—teaching rhetoric need not be low. And A seems to scorn having to take pay for it.
Without guile I taught guile—he taught how to argue falsely. But as we said before, this knowledge can be used to detect falsity in others too. Cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1. 1. 12.
Slipping in a slippery place—cf. Psalm 35: 6.
My faith glowing under much smoke—Cf. Mt 12. 20, quoting Is. 42-1-4.
Those who loved vanity and sought a lie—Cf. Ps. 4. 2. Scripture sometimes equates lie with sin, and truth with doing what is right.
Once born it forces one to love it—the son was Adeodatus ("given by God"). God made us so we love babies in general and especially our own. Bonding takes place readily. A sees this as part of the providence of the Father.
4. 4. no true friendship unless you glue it together—Friendship requires mutual wishing well to the other for the other's sake, exchange of benefits. To love is really to will good to the other for the other's sake. Feelings merely tend to go along with it, in the human situation (They are what psychologists call somatic resonance to love). Cf. our comments on "every disordered soul is its own punishment" in 1. 12. True love is based on real goodness—there are false loves, based on sensory pleasure and/or expediency.
With your love diffused in our hearts—Cf. Rom 5: 5: : God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us."—(1)The Holy Spirit IS the substantial love of Father for Son and Son for Father; (2) when we love someone in God, we wish he may be open to what God gives (a) for his benefit, (b) to please God, so God may have the generous pleasure of giving to him, whereby the other will be well-off having the things we wish him. So love of God and of neighbor rightly understood are inseparable.
Pressing on the back of your fugitives—similar to Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven. God's goodness is more eager to give to us than we are to receive from Him.
If I wanted to be his friend—A did not really will good to the "friend", but only what A falsely thought was good. So it was not real love, and so the friendship was not solid.
4. 7. you were not something solid....my error was my God—He still thought God was bodily, and did not really know Him—he had just an empty, erroneous concept of God.
Where could my heart flee from my heart?—compare Seneca, Epistle 28. 1: "You need to change your soul, not [your place under] the sky—you ask why that running away does not help you? You are fleeing from yourself."
5. 3. to speculate about the world—Cf. Wisdom 13: 9: "If they so far advanced in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord?"
Your know the exalted from afar—the exalted means those who exalt themselves in pride. Cf. Psalm 138: 6. A is deeply impressed with the need of humility and returns to the idea many times over. Cf. his Sermon 69. 1. 2: "First think about the foundation, humility....the greater the structure will be, the deeper one digs the foundation. Cf. 1 Peter 5: 5.
They have discovered many things—Greek science after Alexander did some remarkable things: Aristarchus of Samos c. 310-230 held the earth went around the sun—not generally accepted then.
Seleucus c. 150 BC—-found the cause of tides, supported Aristarchus on heliocentrism.
Hipparchus of Nicea c 185-120 BC . Got the length of the solar year within 6 minutes, 14 seconds. Discovered the precession of equinoxes, but rejected heliocentrism.
Eratosthenes of Cyrene c 275-194 BC—observed noon day sun at Alexandria and Syene, a difference of 7 degrees 12 minutes. That is about 1/50 of a circumference—equals 5000 stades (a stade is about 600 Greek feet). He concluded earth is 250, 000 stades around. Thought India could be reached by sailing west.
Herophilus c. 300 BC—dissected cadavers, found the true functions of the brain, sensory and motor nerves. Made nearly accurate description of the circulation of the blood.
Ptolemy c. 150 AD: Ingenious but not correct: Thought the earth is the center and is stationary. All celestial movements are circular at constant speeds. Did not know the distances of the planets. Each day the sphere of the stars rotated once about the earth. Each planet moved at constant speed about a small circle, an epicycle. The center of the epicycle revolved around a larger circle, a deferent (also called eccentric: center not at center of earth). Since this did not account for the movements of planets yet, there was introduced a third circle, the equant, with center neither at center of earth nor center of the deferent. A point on the line from its center to the center of the epicycle moved at constant speed around the equant—the result was variation in speed of the epicycle around the deferent. This theory was gradually abandoned when Kepler proved orbits are elliptical.
Through impious pride they go away form you and suffer an eclipse of your light—if they could even predict eclipses, they should have found God.—In spite of the theoretical error of the system of Ptolemy, yet, as a result of long making of records, the astronomer of that days could predict eclipses accurately.
I was ordered to just believe—the Manichean books, even when A saw they were in error. A great contrast to their opening attitude which we saw: they promised to not ask anything on faith, would prove everything.
5, 5. Manes tried to convince people that the Holy Spirit....was personally present to him—Now some original works have been discovered: C. Schmidt, Manichäische Handschriften der Staatlichen Museum Berlin Bd. 1, Kephalaia 1 Hälfte, Lieferung 1 10, Stuttgart, 1935-40. In Kephalaia 1. 16 Manes speaks of : "....the holy church to which I was sent from the Father..... No one of the Apostles has ever done such..... [When his] disciples had heard all this from him, they were glad. Their mind was enlightened and they said in joy: 'We thank thee....we have....believed that you are the [Paraclete] who [comes] from the Father, the Revealer of all mysteries." So Manes himself seems to have claimed to have been sent from the Father. Did this mean he was the Paraclete? The disciples as quoted here seem to take it that way, and he in the Kephalaia does not correct them on the point. Further, in Kephalaia 67. 165-66 Manes says he is like the sun, and the Elect, are the rays, and he will not allow any of the elect to go into darkness, that his wisdom is anointed upon them all. Cf. A, Acta cum Felice Manichaeo 1. 9: "We believe this [namely] that he is the Paraclete." A summary of the Kephalaia can be found in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 7 (1945) 206-22 and 306-25.
5. 7. he was not altogether ignorant of his ignorance—quite a compliment. If one could always know he did not know when he did not know, he would have more infallibility than the Church! Of course A does not say Faustus had that much.
I began to associate—they shared a common artistic interest in literature.
Snare of death. . had begun to loosen the snare—God can write straight with even crooked lines. So He made use of the snare that Faustus was to begin to loosen the snare in which A was caught. This was due to "the blood of the heart of my mother", her prayers and penances obtained it. Again, an extraordinary weight it the scales is needed to call for an extraordinary grace, which A needed, for he was hardened.—We notice too that A now did not know what to believe—just before he met with the sceptical New Academy in Rome, but was not caught by it: Providence again.
5. 8. Your brought it about—even though A decided on his own to go to Rome, he sees the hand of God behind it. So A sees in this providence "your most profound depths.
Young people [in Rome] studied more quietly—A had been wicked too in Carthage, though not as bad as the Wreckers.
They are the more wretched the more they are allowed to do. Cf. again 1. 2: "Every disordered soul is its own punishment." Permissiveness can be lack of love, since love works for the well-
Being of the other.—We think of Mk 4: 11-12: "To you have been given the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand: then they might turn again and be forgiven." The three "Synoptics vary in their wording here. Greek hina can be either purpose or result. This is a quote form Is 6: 9-10. In the Hebrew it reads: "Go and tell this people: Hear, but do not understand, and see, but do not to perceive. Make the heart of this people gross."—In Mark after the Scribes charge Him with casting out devils by the devil, He turns to parables. Interpretation is much debated. We suggest: The parables were so built that someone well-disposed would begin to get something, someone ill-disposed would not, and would become more blind and dull. He would begin to go out on a bad spiral, his blindness growing. But someone who would act strongly on faith—which says the things of this life are worth hardly anything compared to eternity—will go out on a good spiral, his ability to understand spiritual things growing. In both spirals we see God exercising both mercy and justice in one and the same action (reflecting the fact that all His attributes are identified within Him): on the bad spiral the man is getting more and ore blind, which justice calls for; yet there is mercy, for the more understanding one has, the greater the responsibility. On the good spiral, the added light is in a secondary sense due in justice; but in a more basic sense, in that no creature by its own power can generate a claim on God, it is mere mercy.
My hope and my portion—echoes Psalm 142. 6.
You knew, my God, why I went....nor did you tell me, nor my mother—A marvels at the way God works again—He guided the whole matter, without letting either one know. His mother even wept at what was really part of the fulfillment of her prayer.
Chapel in honor of St. Cyprian—he was Bishop of Carthage, martyr in 258. A admired him, called him " the great sword of God" (Sermon 313 on Cyprian).
Proved in her the inheritance of Eve—seems to mean original sin. Some doubt whether A had a clear concept of original sin at this time. Teselle, p. 182: "There is not yet a doctrine of original sin. But Augustine now begins to think of man as being captured by his first sin, and becoming increasingly accustomed and addicted ." Teselle seems not to notice that already in Confessions 5. 9 A wrote of "the bond of original sin in which all die in Adam." The words "all die in Adam is part of a poor translation of Romans 5: 12, which speaks of original sin. It was current in A's time. Teselle has to make the words original mean really first sin of the individual. A mortal sin does make one more inclined to further sins. Yet we have seen that A. knew of original sin earlier, in the quote from 5. 9.
5. 9. cross of a phantasm—in Manichaeism there was a twofold Jesus, as we saw. The Jesus of the Gospels, according to them, had no real flesh, so did not really die.
Die twice—the death of body and of soul.
Contrite and humble heart—reflects Ps. 51. 19.
Sober widow—the picture is that of 1 Timothy 5: 9-10.
The offering at your altar—daily Mass. She came twice a day. The so-called Apostolic Constitutions (a late forgery, c. 400 AD, circulated as if by Pope Clement I) 2. 59 exhorts people to come twice a day. Monica did that.
Your mercy is forever—cf. Psalm 118. 1, where these words are a refrain.
Become a debtor by your promises—God cannot strictly owe things to creatures, but can owe to Himself to keep His word in the covenant, which gives the same effect. So He becomes a "debtor" to those to whom He forgives debts! The concept that sin is a debt is found widely in Scripture.
Son of your handmaid—echoes Psalm 116. 16.
5. 10. deceived and deceiving saints—Manichees.
It was not we who sinned—as we saw above (on 3. 6), the Manichees held we have two souls, the good soul composed of light and is part of God. But the evil soul comes from the land of darkness and is responsible for the evil we do. So this was comforting to A , "it pleased my pride." Later he wrote a special word, On the Two Souls against the Manicheans.
I was that one whole—there were not really two souls or principles.
The more incurable by the fact that I did not think myself a sinner—the first step in a cure is to recognize one is sick—but he blamed his sins on the evil soul he had.
A guard about my mouth—echoes Psalm 141. 3-4.
Held on to them more loosely and negligently—no longer could believe the Manichees, yet did not know what he should believe.
Academics....neither did I yet understand their intention—This is the New Academy, founded by Carneades (214-129 BC) who took the Scepticism from Arcesilaus of the Middle Academy (315-240). They claimed you cannot know anything for certain—just probability. A seems to think scepticism was just a false front to keep out triflers: cf. Against the Academics 3. 17. 38 and 3. 20. 43 and note 53 on the former passage in the Ancient Christian Writers edition. It was common in Hellenistic times to say philosophical sects had secret doctrine. The idea could come from such things as Plato, Phaedo 62b, and especially his Epistles 2. 312d, 313c, 314a 7. 341c, 344c. Plato himself seems in his Epistles (cf. 2. 314—
Probably not authentic, but apt to have Plato's thought on this) to have said that he did have a secret doctrine, different from that of his published works. This could help lead to scepticism. Also Plato's belief that our senses are unreliable, because they tell us the present world is the chief thing, would undermine knowledge, for all knowledge begins in the senses. the same host—probably he was staying with Constantius. The latter was converted to the Church c 400 AD, as we learn from A's Against Faustus 5. 5.
You had the shape of human flesh....I could think of nothing other than the mass of bodies—he still had no concept of a spirit. Tertullian, in On the Soul 9, and in On the Flesh of Christ 11, thinks that everything is bodily, even the soul. evil was some such substance—there are three possible theories abut the nature of evil: 1)it is a mere negative (such as lack of wings on a cat); 2)it is a privative negative (lack of what should be there, such as paws on a cat); 3)it is a thing not the lack of a thing. The Zoroastrians also held this view. A had held it from early life. Cf. also Confessions 3. 7. 12.
Because my reverence forced me to think a good God could have created no evil nature—the basic error of all dualisms. If one thinks evil is positive, and not the lack of something, he will reason: there are good things in this world, so a good God must have made them; but there are evils, so an evil power must have made them. But this reasoning holds only if one thinks evil is positive. If it is merely the lack of something that should be there, then no power is needed to produce a lack.
Two masses—the two kingdoms. The Manichees thought each infinite except in the direction where they met—a childish notion!
Defiled with flesh—flesh and all matter was evil in the mind of the Manichees.
5. 12. with a perfect hate—A has in mind Psalm 139. 22: "Do I not hate them that hate thee, O Lord? ....I hate them with a perfect hatred." A had trouble understanding this—as do many people. In his Enarrationes in Ps 138. 22 he wrote: "What is 'perfect hate'? I hated in them their iniquity, I loved what you had made. This is to hate with a perfect hate, in such a way that you do not hate humans because of their vices, nor love the vices because of the humans." But A missed the true sense, which is "with full hatred did I hate them." To help understand this, we turn to Apocalypse 6: 9-10. The souls of martyrs under the altar pray: "O sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and make it right for our blood on those who live on the earth." There are two things that seem the same, but are completely different: 1) to will evil to another so it may be evil to him. This is vengeance, hatred, and very immoral. The martyrs do not do that, their hearts are in unison with God; 2)to will that the objective order, out of balance for sin, may be rebalanced. This is supremely moral, God Himself wills it. A help comes from a Jewish Rabbi, Simeon ben Eleazar (c. 170 AD quoting Rabbi Meir, earlier in same century): "He [anyone] has committed a transgression. Woe to him! He has tipped the scale to the side of debt for himself and for the world!" We imagine a two pan scales. The sinner takes from one pan what he has no right to take—the scales are out of balance. The holiness of God, loving all that is right, wants it rebalanced. If the man stole property, he begins to rebalance by giving it back. If he stole a pleasure, he begins to rebalance by giving up a comparable pleasure he could have lawfully had. But these things only begin to rebalance—for even one mortal sin is an infinite imbalance (offense against an Infinite Person). So if the Father willed it—He did not have to—it could be done only by sending a Divine Person to become Man. Such a Divine Person could generate an infinite value to fully rebalance. This the Father did, in the Redemption. Cf. Paul VI, Indulgentiarum doctrina, the new constitution on indulgences of Jan 1, 1967. This is the true explanation of the so-called "cursing Psalms". The psalmist wills that the objective order be rebalanced—as God Himself does. This is right, but there is a danger in it of sliding over into real hatred, willing evil to another so it may be evil to him—instead of willing that the objective order be rebalanced. Cf. OFP, chapter 4.
Symmachus—he was Prefect of the city, Rome, 384-85, and consul 391. In 384 he wrote to Emperor Valentinian (383-92) asking him to restore the statue of Victory (which pagans worshipped) to the senate house. Gratian had taken it out. St. Ambrose wrote against Symmachus in Epistle 18, and won.
Ambrose—this was the year 384. Ambrose had become Bishop of Milan 10 years before. He came from a noble Roman family, son of the Prefect of Gaul. Ambrose was born about 340, became Prefect of Aemilia and Liguria, with headquarters at Milan. When Bishop Auxentius died, Ambrose was elected bishop, when not yet baptized. Ordained Dec. 7, 374. He was advisor to emperors: Gratian (375-83), Valentinian II (383-90) Theodosius the Great (379-95). Theodosius in 390 had ordered a massacre of all in Thessalonica, tried to recall it, but in vain. Ambrose in his Epistle 51 insisted on public penance. Theodosius did it, reluctantly. Ambrose was one of the few clergy who could read Greek easily. Augustine could not.
Richness of your grain—echo of Psalm 81. 17: "I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock would I satisfy you, " if only you would listen.
Sober drunkenness of wine—from a hymn by Ambrose, Splendor paternae gloriae: "May Christ be our food, and faith our drink. Let us joyfully drink in the sober drunkenness of the Spirit." Ambrose may be alluding to Eph 5: 18 and also Psalm 23: 5. Ambrose was the first to successfully write hymns for use in the liturgy in the West (St. Hilary had tried but failed). The East had had hymns from the start, we see some of them in St. Paul's Epistles. But in the West—as we noted in passing before—they disliked anything that seemed like pagan literature—and metrical compositions did. Hymns are powerful for propaganda—what one sings, sinks in more deeply.
Your led me to him, though I did not know it—A again admires the ways of Providence. A thought he went to hear Ambrose out of professional interest, for Ambrose was a fine speaker, and that is what A taught. But the content came in too.
Salvation is far from sinners—echo of Psalm 119. 155.
5. 14. I despaired—he could not yet answer the charges by Manichees that the great figures of the OT were sinners. So he could not join the Church. Ambrose solved these problems by the use of allegory—not a real solution, but it pleased A. In addition, A still had his bad morals, and the false beliefs that everything is bodily: God, the soul, evil. Neoplatonism would help him see there are spiritual things. Hearing of good example would rescue him from his bad habits.
When I took them literally, I was killed in Confessions 6. 4. 6 we read: "Joyfully I used to hear Ambrose saying in his sermons to the people, as though he were most diligently teaching a rule: 'The letter kills, but the spirit gives life'—when he opened up in a spiritual sense....those things which, if taken literally, seemed to teach perversity. Ambrose was quoting St. Paul 2 Cor 3: 6. The real sense of Paul was this: The old regime, of the law, brings spiritual death, it cannot save, but the new regime of the spirit, faith in Christ, gives life. Neither Ambrose no Augustine understood that.
An example of what A began to think is found in his work On Lying 10. 24: "What Jacob did at his mother's urging, to seem to deceive his father, if we pay faithful and diligent attention is not a lie but a mystery..... He did cover his arms with goat skins: if we look for the proximate cause, we will think it a lie; for he did this to be thought to be one who he was not. But if this is referred to that to signify which it was really done—by the goat skins are meant sins, by him who covered himself with them, He was meant who bore not his own but other's sins. So the true meaning can in no way be rightly called a lie." For more examples, Cf. Against Faustus 22. 1-98.
Allegorical method goes back to Xenophanes, Pythagoras, Plato, Antisthenes and others, as also the Stoics, to interpret myths and fables to avoid the offense of the literal sense. The first Jew to use it was Aristobulus at Alexandria, in 2nd cent. BC. He used it on Greek poetry and on OT. The Epistle of Aristeas (mid 2nd cent) uses it to defend dietary laws of OT. But especially Philo used it—he felt the literal sense is as a shadow to the body—the allegory shows the true and deeper meaning. The Alexandrian school of Scripture used it much, especially Clement and Origen. Origen in First Principles 4. 3. 5 said: "Everything has a spiritual meaning, but not everything has a literal meaning." His verbal notion of inspiration, without the help of the approach by genres, impelled him in this direction. Prominent in this school were St. Athanasius and Didymus the Blind, and the Cappadocians.
The opposite school, that of Antioch, was founded by Lucian of Samosata, a priest of Antioch, a martyr in 312. He seems to have shared the view of Paul of Samosata in denying the divinity of Christ, but recanted. The great period of the school is 360-
430, especially in Flavian, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodoret of Cyrus and especially st. John Chrysostom. It went into decadence after 430. It substituted moral teaching for mystical, and cultivated Aristotle. Stressed the humanity of Christ.
I now criticized my own despair—In his early On the Happy Life 4 (during his retreat before baptism) he wrote: "But when after shaking them off [the Manichees] especially after crossing the sea, for a long time the Academics held my rudder."
Unable to conceive a spiritual substance—finally the Neoplatonists helped him to do this.
I ought to leave the Manichees—We can gather up the scattered texts he has giving his reasons: (1)They gave no spiritual help towards needed asceticism: On the Utility of Believing 1. 3; (2) the morality of some of the elect did not match their profession: On the Morals of the Manichees 68-72; (3) they were good at attack, not at defense: On the Utility of Believing 1. 2; (4) they claimed that all Scripture opposed to them was interpolated: Confessions 5. 11. 21; (5) their false astronomy: Confessions 5. 3. 6; (6) A sect must be mentally poor if their best spokesman is Faustus.
Refused to entrust the cure of the sickness of my soul [to philosophers] because they were without the saving name of Christ. Therefore I decided to become a catechumen—He had turned away from philosophers after reading Hortensius at age 19 for the same reason: lack of name of Christ.
6. 1. I was seeking you outside me—God is within each of us. But A also seems to be thinking of his idea that a person is to the extent that he is unified, not scattered. Please see our comments on 3. 1 above. Cf. also Confessions 2. 1. 1. : "I do this out of love of love [God]....gathering myself from the scattering in which I was torn apart bit by bit, while I turned aside from you, who are One, and became vain toward many things."
Depths of the sea—Cf. Ps 69. 3: "I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me."
The bier of her thought—a fine allusion to the widow of Naim, whose son was on the bier, being carried to burial, but Jesus raised him: Lk 7: 12.
The font of water—seems to refer to Ambrose, who was to give him living water, sound doctrine and later Baptism: cf. John 4: 14: "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst; the water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
6. 3. temptations against his very excellence—probably means temptations arising from his high position, for power tends to corrupt. Could also refer to strong temptations to violate celibacy.
Dwelt on your bread—seems to mean that Ambrose meditated, ruminated on the divine truths.
Crowds of busy men—Possidius, in his life of Augustine, chapters 19-20 tells us that A sometimes acted as a judge in cases all day and got nothing to eat. He used the occasion to teach truth, since even non-Catholics came to him.
His voice and tongue were silent—As late as 3-4 centuries the
Custom of reading aloud even when alone was general.
No one was forbidden to enter—did not have several rows of secretaries to keep people out or make access difficult.
All the knots of calumnies—A is thinking of the Manichean attacks on the Old Testament, which Ambrose solved for him, even if it was by allegory.
6. 6 most bitter difficulties—A sees this as providential, as he had said earlier about lack of complete satisfaction in his sexual sins. God was trying to make him look further.
Without whom no things would be—cf. Acts 17: 28: "In Him we live and move and have our being.
The praises of the Emperor—a panegyric speech. There were many of these, by rhetors. This probably was on Jan 1, 385, for Valentinian II, then living at Milan. Emperors could swallow great extremes of flattery. How? Let us think of early experiments before sending a man into space. A man was put into a capsule, no light, no sound, no sensations at all. Some could stand it longer than others, but eventually all got hallucinations. The reason: In normal conditions, if a wild imagination comes, we compare it with reality, and easily dismiss it. But when there ar no points to compare, things can go far. An ordinary man, if he gets out of line, will be corrected by friends, out of charity, or enemies, out of hatred. But an Emperor was told only what people thought he would like to hear—he lost his checkpoints, and came gradually to absorb outrageous flattery. Thus the poet Statius, in a poem on an equestrian statue of Emperor Domitian said it would be better if Domitian were up in the sky—so much a better god than Jupiter! Not only Emperors can meet this sort of trouble—anyone who has a power position such that no one dares to contradict can go much the same way.
Were crushing my bones—echoes Psalm 51. 10: "The bones you crushed will rejoice".
6. 7. Alypius Born 354 died 430, from Thagaste. Was first a pupil, then a friend of A at Carthage, and a Manichean. Studied law, was counsellor to the Count of the Italian Treasury. Then at Milan with A, a companion in conversion and baptism. On return to Africa, gave self to an ascetic life. Went East, met St. Jerome at Bethlehem. Back to Africa, became bishop of Thagaste in 394. Was quiet by nature, less emotional than A, but good in friendship, fond of games, but chaste. Cf. A's Epistles 39, 83, 125, 127.
Nebridius—From Carthage. Rich, erudite, wise, fervent in nature like A, eager to find answers to deep questions, subtle in mind. He was the first of the friends to see the vanity of the Manichees and of astrology. He left everything to follow A. to Milan where he taught grammar under Verecundus. Baptized with A, returned to Africa, converted his family. Died c. 391.
Correct a wise man Proverbs 9. 8: "do not correct a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man: he will love you." Leviticus 19: 17 (NRSV) said: "You shall reprove your neighbor or you will incur guilt yourself." Some have misunderstood this to meant hat always and in every case one must correct another or incur the same guilt. First, there can be no obligation to do something that will bring harm instead of good, as indicated by Proverbs Most people do not accept correction. But several conditions must be considered before an obligation is present: 1)It must be grave matter—no one is obliged to correct all small things; 2) there should be hope of success—otherwise, harm will result; there seldom is hope, unless it is a superior who does the correcting, and even then, the chances are not often good; 3) it should be able to be done without grave difficulty for the corrector: charity does not oblige with a disproportionate burden; 4)there should be a real spiritual need of neighbor, which requires three things (a) certainty that he has committed a sin or intends to do so; (b) that he has not already corrected himself; (c) that there is not someone else equally or more able to do the job, such as a superior of the person.—Here, Alypius shows special quality of character.
Burning coals—alludes to Proverbs 25: 21-22: If your enemy is hungry give him food; and if he is thirst, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head and the Lord will reward you." This is cited in Rom 12: 20 in same sense. St. Augustine and Jerome thought it meant making the enemy ashamed in this way.
Burn....heal—there is a maxim attributed to Hippocrates: "What cannot be cured by medicine is cured by the knife; what cannot be cured by the knife is cured by fire; what cannot be cured by fire is incurable."
6. 8. bold rather than strong in mind—good psychological description. Our physical side responds to emotional things in spite of our mind: the only remedy is to turn away from them.
6. 10. assessor—Roman magistrates were not necessarily trained in laws, and so used the advice of assessors for legal information.
Count of the Italian Treasury—one of the provincial treasuries, subordinate to the Count of the Sacred Largess who presided over the finances of the Western Empire.
Not despair—not give in to the New Academy who said we cannot know anything for certain.
6. 11. what if death cuts off....consciousness?—It is pitiful to see the great philosophers of antiquity trying to prove to themselves that there was some survival, that there was no annihilation. For example, Socrates after receiving a death sentence, says in Plato, Apology 40: "One of two things—either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to pick the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights of his life he had passed in the course of life better or more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man—I will not say a private man, but even the Great King—will not find many such days or nights when compared with the others. Now if death be of such a nature, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead abide: what good, my friends and judges, can be greater than this?" Socrates tries to convince himself annihilation is not to be feared—but it is the greatest terror, the loss of all existence. For in sleep one exists, and is gaining bodily refreshment. Picture a cutoff point somewhere ahead of you—when you reach it—you stop existing—after thousands of ages will you make it back to existence? No—you simply are not. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, imagines Satan just expelled from heaven, finding himself in hell, and saying: At least I still exist. For Plato's attempts to prove survival, see Phaedo 70d-72e; 72e—77d; 78b-80e; 103c—107a; or his Republic 608 d—611a, or Phaedrus 245c ff.
So eminent a peak of Christian authority—it is there to make clear what we might not know otherwise. A is thinking probably of the spread of the faith by miracles, of which he speaks in City of God 22, 5.
Wife—he wonders if having a wife will be a hindrance to the search for wisdom. Behind this is the thought we commented on in notes on 3. 1.
Medicine of your mercy Compare his words in On nature and grace 23. 25: " To go into sin, free will was sufficient....to return to righteousness, there is need of a physician, for the person is not in health; he has need of a life-giver, for he is dead. He [Pelagius] said nothing at all about that grace, as if by one's own will he could heal himself since free will by itself could put him in vice."
6. 13. she was daily asking you to show her a vision....she did see certain vain fantasies—His Mother's strong desire set her up for suggestion and even deception of the devil. St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel 1, 11 2-3 says about visions a soul might be offered: "We should never rely on them or let them in, but we should always fly from them, without trying to determine whether they be good or evil..... So he who esteems such things is greatly in error, and puts himself in great danger of deception; and at best will have in himself a full impediment to the attainment of spirituality. For....between spiritual things and all these bodily things there exists no kind of proportion at all. And so it may always be supposed that such things as these are more likely to come from the devil than from God." Later, in 3. 13. 6, he compares these things to fruit and the rind—cast way the rind, may use the fruit, the good effects of the love of God. Also St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle 6. 9: "I will just warn you that when you hear that God is giving souls these graces, you should never ask or desire Him to lead you on this road. Even if you think it a very good one, one to be prized and respected, there are certain reasons why such a course is not wise." It show slack of humility, leaves door open "to great danger, because the devil needs only to see a door left a bit ajar to enter, " and there is danger of auto-suggestion: "When someone has a great desire for something, he convinces himself he is seeing or hearing what he wants." Also it is presumptuous for one to want to choose his own path: only the Lord knows what is best for us. And very heavy trials usually go with these favors. Further, "There are many saintly persons who have never known what it is to get a favor of this sort, and there are others who receive such favors, although they are not saintly. One may even work miracles and be in the state of sin, as we learn from Mt 7. 22: "Many will say to me on that day: Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and do many wonderful works in your name? And then I will say to them: I never knew you: depart from me, you workers of evil."
Marriageable age—the legal age was 12, in Justinian's Institutes 1. 10. 22. The girl here was only 10.
6. 15. natural son—his only illegitimate son, Adeodatus.
More coldly, but more despairingly—In his On the nature of good 20 (399AD) he wrote: "It is better to have a wound in the body with pain, than decay without pain."
7. 9. you resist the proud, but give grace to the humble—1 Peter 5. 5.
A certain man—this is probably Manlius Theodorus, consul in 399, a great man in the service of the princes at Milan.
Certain Platonic books—most likely the Enneads of Plotinus. , a great Neoplatonist. The founder of Neoplatonism was Ammonius Saccas, a day laborer in Alexandria, Egypt (c 175-240). Plotinus was born in Egypt in 203 or 204, studied under Ammonius Sacas when he was 28, remained his pupil till around 240. Then he joined the Persian expedition of Emperor Gordian, to learn Persian philosophy. Gordian was assassinated, and Plotinus went to Rome, arriving about at age 40. He opened a school, enjoyed much favor even from Emperor Gallienus. When Plotinus was about 60, Porphyry became his pupil, who later wrote the life of Plotinus. Porphyry tried to arrange the writings of Plotinus in systematic form, into 6 books, each with nine chapters (hence called Enneads, from Greek ennea, 9). Plotinus even took in orphaned children, was ascetic, gentle and affectionate. Porphyry says that Plotinus experienced ecstatic union with God four times in 6 years. Died in 269/70. His last words: "I was waiting for you [the physician Eustochius] before that which is divine in me departs to unite itself with the Divine in the universe." He attacked Gnosticism, was silent on Christianity.
1)God is the One. Enneads. 4. 1 (516 b-c):
"Of whom there is no word, nor knowledge, who is even beyond being." (Cf. Plato Republic 409b, speaking of the Good, which he probably identified with God: "In like manner the Good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, yet the Good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power." Neither essence nor being nor life can be predicated of Him—He is beyond these. Enneads 6. 8. 9 (743 e): "He is other than all things." This is a strong concept of transcendence. A says in On Order 2. 16. 44: "that supreme God who is known best by not knowing". This is not pantheism—the One is not identical with the sum of individual things as Parmenides said, for these need a source, which must be distinct and logically prior. So Plotinus even said we cannot ascribe thought or will or activity to Him. Not thought—for that implies a distinction between thinker and object of thought, but He is One. Similarly for will and activity: he is beyond all distinctions whatsoever, is beyond self-consciousness.
He did not create the world, for we cannot ascribe activity to Him, it would impair His unchangeability. So God emanates things. Copleston, History of Philosophy I, 466 says emanate is a metaphor. The Greek is usually rhein or aporrhein. He seems to say every nature should make that which is less perfect than itself, as a seed unfolds itself. He also uses the metaphor of perilampsis, ellampsis, comparing the One to the sun, which illuminates, yet stays undiminished in its own place.
2)Nous, thought, mind—This is the first emanation. It has a twofold object: the one and itself. In the Nous are Ideas not only of classes but of individuals: Enneads 5. 7. 1ff, though the whole multitude of Ideas is contained indivisibly in Nous. So the Nous is the intelligible world, the kosmos noetos: . Enneads 5. 9. 9. It is in the Nous then that multiplicity first appears, for the One is above all multiplicity. The Demiurge of Plato and the noesis noeseos [thinking of thinking] of Aristotle thus come together in the Plotinian Nous. Nous in Beauty. A thought the Nous was like the Divine Word [Logos], and so this attracted him.
3)World-soul—it proceeds from Nous. It is incorporeal and indivisible, but forms the link between the super-sensual world and the sensual world. Plato had supposed there was just one World-soul—Plotinus put in two, higher and lower—the latter is the real soul of the phenomenal world. Plato calls the second soul nature [physis]. The phenomenal world owes all its reality to participation in the Ideas that are in Nous. Since the Ides do not operate in the sensible world, Plotinus put reflections of the Ideas in the World—soul: logoi spermatikoi [seminal reasons]—an adaptation of a Stoic idea. The protoi logoi [primary reasons] are in the higher of the two souls, the derivative logoi are in the lower soul.
4)Individual human souls come from the World-soul, and are subdivided into two elements: a higher one which belongs to the sphere of Nous, and a lower one which is directly connected with the body. The soul preexisted before union with the body [as in Plato]. That union is a fall. It survives death of the body, but without memory of the period of earthly existence. There is transmigration of souls.
5)The material world: Light comes from the centre, passes outwards, grows gradually dimmer, until it shades off into the total darkness which is matter in itself—matter is a privation [steresis] of light. In this way matter remotely emanates from the One. Matter is also the antithesis to the One. Inasmuch as it enters into composition of material objects and is so illumined by form, it cannot be said to be total darkness—but insofar as it stands against the intelligible and represents the ananke [necessity] of Plato's Timaeus, it is unilluminated, is darkness. Plotinus in this way combined Platonic and Aristotelian themes: He saw matter as the substrate [the underlying element onto which form comes] of form: Enneads 2. 4. 6: "It is necessary that there me a substrate for bodies, other then them—the change of the elements into one another shows this—each is of matter and form.
Matter is the principle of evil inasmuch as at its lowest grade, as devoid of quality, as unilluminated privation, it is privation—which is evil. However this is not a dualism, since matter is privation, not a positive substance.
Plotinus did not thereby scorn the world like the Gnostics, but praises the world as the word of the World soul. No cosmos can be better except the intelligible cosmos in the Nous. The material world is the image or exteriorisation of the intelligible. The sensible reproduces the intelligible according to its capacity: Enneads 4. 8. 6.
The universal harmony and cosmic unity are the rational basis for prophecy and for influencing superhuman powers by magic—we will see this in the City of God 10. 12, in connection with theurgy. In Enneads 4. 4. 40 Plotinus thinks there are three levels of things: sensory, rational, and beyond reason . Magic does not seem reasonable, but it is beyond reason. Plotinus thought there were star-gods, and also other gods and daimones invisible to man.
6)The ascent: We aim to become like to God, and then to reach union with God. in the ascent the ethical is subordinate to the intellectual element:
A) First stage: Katharsis, purification, to free man from the dominion of the body and the senses, to rise to the four cardinal virtues, the highest of which is phronesis, prudence. Please recall the notes on the soul in 3. 1.
B) Second stage: One should rise above sense perception, turning towards Nous, occupying self with philosophy and science.
C) Third stage: The soul goes beyond discursive thought to union with the Nous, the first beauty [protos kalos]. But the soul retains its self-consciousness. d) Final stage: Enneads 6. 9. 9: The soul comes to see both God and himself, himself made radiant and filled with intelligible light, really, grown to be one with that light in its purity, without any heaviness, transfigured to the divinity, really, being god in essence. For that point of time he is enkindled, but when once more he becomes heavy, it is as though the fire is quenched. Such a union is brief in this life, but can be permanent when we are freed from the body. There will be "a flight of the alone to the alone." "There is a fatherland for us, from whence we came, and the father is there": Enneads 1. 6. 8.
Certain Platonic books translated from Greek into Latin—Translation was by Victorinus Afer, of whom we will see in 8. 3.
A certain man swollen with immense pride—seems to be Amelius, a disciple of Plotinus.
Porphyry of Tyre (232 to after 301 AD). He wrote a life of Plotinus and other works, of which the most famous is the Isagoge, an introduction to the Categories of Aristotle. He wrote 15 books against the Christians, which were burned in 448 under Valentinian III and Theodosius II. Some suspect Porphyry had been a Christian, but dropped, wanted to stop conversion of cultured people to Christianity, and tried to show Christianity is illogical, ignoble, involved in contradictions. He attacked the Bible and Christian interpretations of it. Reminds one of the much later higher criticism. He attacked the divinity of Christ. Plotinus had shown no hostility to Christianity.
Augustine himself: had probably read at least these treatises of Plotinus: On beauty, on providence, on the soul, on the three divine hypostases, and how that which is one and the same can be everywhere. Cf. Teselle pp. 44-45.
However, Neoplatonism did great service for Augustine: it led him to see that God and the soul are spiritual, not bodily, and that evil is a privation, not a substance. But it did nothing to check his long running immorality. In fact, its demands to rise above the senses may have been counterproductive in A.
As we saw St. Ambrose answered the Manichean attacks on the Old Testament. Soon, therefore, A will say openly that all his intellectual difficulties were gone—it was just his immorality that held him back. What really would bring the change was extraordinary grace, working through the heroic examples he heard about.
In the beginning was the Word—A seems to take Nous for the Word. But he noted that Plotinus did not teach the incarnation of course. Porphyry specially attacked it.
7. 17. not a fantasm—as we saw before, Jesus in the Manichean system had no real body—and their idea of God as bodily was just an error: there is no such a god.
By my own weight—compare Confessions 13. 9. 10: "My weight is my love—by it I am carried wherever I am carried." By weight he really means gravitational force—but did not yet know of gravitation.
Fleshy habit—he thinks that when a person lets sin get a hold of him, what began as a single sin becomes a sort of addiction, from which the soul by its own power cannot free itself. Please recall the explanation given on Mt 6: 21 in the notes on 3. 1.
The body that is corrupted—cf. Wisdom 9: 15: "The corruptible body burdens the soul, and the earthy shelter bears down the mind that has many concerns."
8. 2. Simplicianus—he was already an old man when A consulted him. St. Ambrose in Epistle 37. 2 speaks of him as his father in the faith, for he had baptized Ambrose. Simplicianus handled A prudently, and encouraged his esteem for Neoplatonism. Simplicianus became Bishop of Milan in 397 when Ambrose died. A wrote a major work, To Simplicianus, to him.
Hidden to the wise—cf. Mt 11: 25: "I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise....and revealed them to babes." Humility makes it more possible for one to see spiritual truths. Please recall the comments in notes on 1. 4 on the bad spiral and the good spiral.
Incline the heavens and come down—echoes Psalm 144. 5.
Afraid he would be denied by Christ—cf. Mt 10: 32: "Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I too will acknowledge him before my Father..... but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny him before my Father who is in Heaven."
His profession in set words—a form of the Creed. Cf. Romans 10: 10: "By the heart one believes, leading to justification; by the mouth moreover a profession [of faith]
Is made leading to being saved, ." "Saved" here means entry into the Church, as Victorinus was doing. It does not mean the Protestant "infallible salvation", by taking Christ once as your Savior. There is no such concept in Scripture at all. If there were infallible salvation for that, St. Paul would surely have it, and would not say he had to chastise his body and bring it into subjection, so that when he had preached to others, he might not be rejected himself: 1 Cor 9: 27.
Drachma is put back—echoes Lk 15: 8.
8. 4 be fragrant and sweet, let us love and run—echo of Canticle of Canticles 1: 2-3.
Least of the Apostles—because he had persecuted the Church. He did it in good faith, thinking he was pleasing God. Yet God wants the objective order rebalanced even for unwitting violations. Cf. Leviticus chapter 4. Cf. the comments on "with a perfect hate" in the notes on 5. 8, and notes on hidden faults in 1. 5.
Pride being conquered—perhaps an illusion to the words of Anchises, father of Aeneas, spoken to Aeneas in the underworld in Vergil's Aeneid 6. 851-53: You, O Roman, remember to rule peoples." These will be your arts, to impose the way of peace, to spare those who are subject, and to beat down the proud in war." Aeneas is seeing preexistent souls of Romans. At the time of writing A had considered as possible the preexistence of souls.
Provincial—Sergius Paulus, governor of Cyprus, became a common soldier of Christ, being a Roman consul (Acts 13: 12). A often calls laymen provincials, and clerics soldiers, e. g, in Sermon 351. 5.
Paul as a mark of so great a victory—Roman generals after a great victory got an adjectival form of the name of the conquered nation as part of their name, e. g. , Scipio Africanus. A speculates how it is that Saul starts to be called Paul at this point in the Acts of the Apostles. Actually, Jews commonly had two names since Romans would find it hard to pronounce some Semitic names. But in his work On the Spirit and the Letter 7. 12 he speculates Saul took the name Paul for humility, to show himself little.
8. 5. eager to imitate him—A is moved by the example of Victorinus, feels self pulled to be converted too. Later in this section he admits: : For now it was certain"—all his intellectual difficulties against the faith were gone—but his immorality was not gone.
Emperor Julian—Julian (361-63) returned to paganism, forbade Christians to teach literature. The Classics were sacred books to Julian, and so he felt they should not be expounded by unbelievers in paganism, who might even contaminate them with the Gospel. He also wanted to degrade Christianity by cutting it off from literary culture. Julian wrote a work Against the Galileans. St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote an Apology against Julian. Julian claimed Christianity was a debased Judaism. AS a result, Apollinaris and his father rewrote much of Scripture in classical forms, making comedies, tragedies, epics, and even Platonic dialogues out of Gospel material.
I feared to be loosed—In 8. 7 he said that long before that he had even asked chastity of God and said: "Give me chastity and continence, but not now.
I was delighted with your law according to the inner man Resembles Romans 7: 22-23. That passage is often misunderstood. If it meant that he saw what was right, but could not do it, it would be total corruption, as Luther claimed. Really, it is a focused passage We mean this, that St. Paul has two ways of looking at the law, focused and factual. In the focused view it is as if one is looking through a tubs, and so sees only what is inside the circle made by the tube: the law lets one know what morality calls for, but gives no strength—in such a perspective, fall is inevitable. In the factual view we would add: In no relation to the law, grace was offered even before Christ: if one used it, the fall need not happen. Romans 7: 7-24 is entirely a focused picture. Chapter 8 is a focused picture that is different: the regime of Christ, which as such, cannot do anything but save.
If that can be given by teaching—Cf. On Christian Doctrine 4. 3. 4 and Cicero, On the Orator 1. 32. 146. Both point out that teaching alone cannot make a man eloquent, much ability is also needed.
Verecundus—he let A use his villa at Cassiciacum before baptism.
Anthony—(c. 250-356), spent 20 years in solitude in the Egyptian desert, then gathered disciples and founded settlements which are regarded as the beginnings of monasticism. There is a life of him attributed to St. Athanasius—authorship is debated.
Monasteries of which we knew nothing....at Milan—even though A lived at Milan he did not know of these—so an argument from silence is weak.
Trier—also called Treves, in those times it was Augusta Trevirorum. From the time of Diocletian the Emperor often used it as capital of the western part of the empire. St. Athanasius spent his first exile there. This incident probably happened under Emperor Gratian (375-83) who resided chiefly at Trier.
Poor in spirit—In Enarrationes in Psalmos 73. 24: "Who are the poor in spirit? The humble, who fear the words of God, who confess their sins, who do not presume on their own merits or their own justice." The original Scriptural word was the anawim, the poor who did not have lands or power and were humiliated. After the Babylonian Captivity it came to mean the poor who trusted in God. Ascetic writers use the word to stand for those who are detached from earthly things (in the sense explained above in 3. 1 in commenting on Mt 6: 21).
A book in which was written the life of Anthony—Since St. Athanasius was in exile in Trier, it may well be his work.
Special agents—they seem to have been couriers, commissariat officers and secret police. Cf. Code of Justinian 12. 20-23.
Friends of the Emperor—title for persons of senatorial or equestrian rank who formed the immediate entourage of the Emperor, and were called into council by him on official matters. Special agents could rise to this.
They take wing—Cf. Plato, Phaedrus 259: "Ten thousand years must elapse before the soul of each one can return to the place from whence she came, for she cannot grow her wings in less; only the soul of a philosopher, guileless and true, or the soul of a lover, who is not devoid of philosophy, may acquire wings in the third of the recurring periods of a thousand years." Cf. the framework for this in notes on 3. 1 above. Also ibid: "He who loves the beautiful is called a lover because he partakes of it "[the Idea of Beauty].
8. 8. all my bones cried out—cf. Psalm 35. 10, as A read it: "All my bones swill say: Lord, who is like to you?"
One does not reach that point by ship or on foot—a clear echo of Plotinus, Enneads 1. 6. 8: "Let us flee to the fatherland. We have a fatherland from whence we came, and the father is there. . we do not go [there] on foot or on horseback, or in any sea-conveyance.
Not only to go, but also to arrive....was nothing other than to will—He did not fully will to go. He notes that in things where the will commands the body, the body will obey if it is physically able—but why does the will not obey itself? It does not really fully command, does not really fully will yet.—He was struggling trying to make a decision to become chaste.
8. 9. the hiding places of the penalties of man—Actually this should refer to both the effects of original sin, and of long habits of personal sin. A exaggerated the effects of original sin, most probably—Luther thought A meant total corruption. Probably he did not mean that. But he is apt to have meant a damage to our minds and wills taking them down farther than would have been the case with Adam if God had given him only basic humanity without added gifts. Pope John Paul II in General Audience of Oct 8, 1986: "It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin..... However, according to the Church's teaching, it is a case of a relative and not an absolute deterioration, not intrinsic to the human faculties..... not of a loss of their essential capacities even in relation to the knowledge and love of God" [underlines added]. So when it is said that our mind is darkened and will weakened, it is true only in this relative sense: Human nature without anything extra would have many drives, each good in themselves, but yet each going after its own object blindly, with no concern for the other drives or the whole person. God had given Adam and Eve a coordinating gift (often called Gift of Integrity) to make it easy to keep them all in their proper places. Without the coordinating gift, the drives would tend to rebel, and so the struggle and emotion tends to cloud the mind and pull at the will. Before the fall, Adam was naked, but it did not bother him. After it, when God called, he said he hid himself because he was naked—the sex drive had begun to rebel against reason, due to the loss of the coordinating gift.—Cf. also comments above on A's notion of the congruous call in the second note on 3. 11.
8. 11. thin chain—he means it should not take much to break it and turn to God—but yet that little was holding him. In a very different context, St. John of the Cross, in Ascent of Mt. Carmel 1. 11. 4 asks us to imagine a bird tied to the ground by a thin cord. He says it makes no difference if the cord is thin or thick—the bird can fly only so far up as the cord permits. He means that an attachment to anything even a small thing sets a limit to the spiritual growth of a soul. A of course means the cord of mortal sin, but the idea is similar.
Severe mercy—fine oxymoron!
The worse—compare Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 20 (Medea is speaking: "I see the better and approve of it—I follow the worse.
Vanity of vanities—cf. Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) 1. 2: "Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities, and all is vanity."
8. 12. not in rioting—from Romans 13. 13-14.
Rule of faith—recalls the earlier vision of his Mother.
Turned her grief into joy—Psalm 30: 12. The measure of her grief was also the measure of her rejoicing.
9. 1. where was my free will?—again an echo of the problem we dwelt on in a note to 3. 11.
9. 2. harvest holidays—about this time an edict of Theodosius and Valentinian fixed the vacations for imperial tribunals, and probably also for schools. The vintage vacation was for two months: Aug 22 to Oct 15. Cf. Code of Theodosius 2. 8. 19.
Song of the steps—There are several "gradual" psalms. A probably means here Ps 120: 1-4, This Psalm is probably one of the "pilgrim psalms" (120-34) sung by people going to Jerusalem for the great annual feasts. Also possible they were sung by Levites on the 15 steps from the court of women to the court of Israelites in the temple. Could also have been for the returning exiles.
9. 4. Cassiciacum—A villa owned by his friend Verecundus where he went for a sort of retreat before baptism, with his mother, Navigius his brother, cousins and some former pupils and Adeodatus his illegitimate son, and Alypius.
Once there was a debate: was he converted in the fall of 386 to Christianity or Neoplatonism—the works written then were thought to point to Neoplatonism. The claim is generally abandoned today. In this passage he speaks disdainfully of these works as "panting of the school of pride: " He is right about that, he was still proud, very literary, thought blessedness could be had in the present life: Soliloquies 1. 7. 14.
There are four works, seemingly taken down in shorthand: cf. Against Academics 1. 1. 4. The works are: 1)Against the Academics; 2)On the Blessed Life; 3)On Order (providence); 4)Soliloquies (on the qualifications needed for pursuit of knowledge; immortality of the soul).
Letters—Epistles 1, 2, 3, 4—to Hermogenianus, Zenobius and two to Nebridius.
Bringing low the mountains—echo of Isaiah 40: 4: "Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill brought low."
Latin Salvator—Alypius thought such a word improper in Latin-a misguided notion—resulted in a very small vocabulary for Latin at that period. In our selections from the City of God, A used only about 2500 words—a factory man in US today uses 5 to 10 thousand.
Cedars—refers to the cedars of Lebanon as a sign of lofty pride. Cf. Psalm 29: 5: "The Lord will break the cedars of Lebanon."
Pride of the human race—he uses Greek typhum, meaning smoke. Pride darkens a man's mind. Cf. Enarrationes in Ps 18. 1. 4.
Sacraments—here used broadly—it took until 12th century to settle on our present precise meaning for the word.
Faith did not let me b e at east over past sins—did he fail to see that perfect contrition can remit sin even before baptism? Cf. the case of Valentinian II, who was assassinated in Gaul at age 20, while St. Ambrose was on the way to baptize him. St. Ambrose in a sermon on him said: "If martyrs are washed in their own blood, his devotedness and intention washed him."
9. 6. when time came for me to give in my name—near end of Lent, the catechumens gave their names and came for catechesis. In 387 Lent began on March 10. At Milan before baptism he wrote On the Immortality of the Soul.
Walking barefoot on the icy soil—this was a strenuous instance of mortification for reparation of sins, and to help tame the disordered appetites within us. Cf. 3. 1 for the framework in notes there.
On the Teacher—A dialogue with Adeodatus, written in Thagaste in 389. In his Retractations (a review, not nearly all was retracting things) 1. 12 he said: "In it we find there is no teacher to teach men knowledge except God, according to that which is written in the Gospel : One is your teacher, Christ." This was Mt 23. 10. This is the much debated Illumination theory of Augustine. What he means is debated: (1)The Divine Word is the giver of forms to the intellect, it supplies intelligible species or forms to the mind on the occasion of sensation (this view came from the followers of the Arab commentator on Aristotle, Avicenna); (2) all intelligibles are known 'in God' through an immediate vision of God Himself; (3)the Thomistic view: illumination is the creation of the human mind with its ability to confer intelligibility upon the contents of sensation; (4)view of St. Bonaventure: A was not concerned primarily with the origin of ideas in man, but with the validity of our judgments and the regulating authority under which our minds act." Cf. Teselle 105, or Vernon Bourke, Augustine's Quest of Wisdom pp. 116-17.
Quickly did you take his life—Adeodatus went back to Thagaste, joined the monastic community of his father, including Alypius, and Evodius. Adeodatus probably died in 389 or 390.
Concern for past life left us—even though sins can be remitted before Baptism by perfect contrition, which is not too difficult, yet there is greater assurance with the sacrament, and further, Baptism removes all liability to temporal punishment for sins committed before Baptism.
9. 10. the Selfsame—this is from a fanciful interpretation by A of Psalm 4. 9, in the Latin: "In pace in idipsum dormiam et requiescam, quoniam tu, Domine, singulariter in spe constituisti me" That would mean, as A saw it: "I will sleep and rest in the One who is always the same [God], for you, Lord have singularly put me in peace." the true sense is debated. Possibilities: "at once" or "both". He speaks more on this in Confessions 9. 4. 11.
We walked step by step—in our meditation, we went from one step to another from physical nature, higher and higher by steps, up to the thought of God. This is a Neoplatonic path to enlightenment. Wordsworth gives a similar thought: ....in such strength of usurpation, when the light of sense goes out, but with a flash that has revealed the invisible world, doth greatness make above.....
Our destiny, our being's heart and home is with infinitude and only there.
Is this really infused contemplation? Definitely no, though some commentators think it is the same as what St. John of the Cross and St. Bonaventure describe. Real infused contemplation does not come by human effort at the time it arrives (cf. on this Wm. Most, Our Father's Plan, chapters 21 & 22). Still less is it like the ascent in Plato, Symposium—which begins with the foulness of homosexual feelings, rises to contemplate the Idea (in Plato's sense) of Beauty. Plato's thought there, though put in the mouth of Socrates, is really Plato himself. Socrates himself avoided homosexuality ( cf. his refusal of homosexual acts with Alcibiades as reported near the end of the Symposium), and instead said the one who seeks for truth must have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. Cf. comments on "soul cast itself outside of me" in notes on 3. 1. Cf. Teselle 113—thinks A means to claim an immediate vision of God such as Plotinus claimed in Enneads 1. 6. 7—but not the same as what medieval theologians would call infused contemplation.
To have been and to be are not found in it....it is eternal—this means that in God there is no past, and no future—He possesses all at once, simultaneously. This is much like the concept of eternity given by Boethius, very unlike that of Aristotle, for whom eternity is simply time with no beginning and no end, including constant change.
First fruits of the spirit—echo of Romans 8. 23. We now, if in the state of grace, have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us—in heaven that will also be true, but then we shall know Him directly.
Where a word has a beginning and an end—contrast with the eternal Word, without beginning or end, without change. Compare Wisdom 7: 27.
If for any man there grew silent. . .—a close echo of Plotinus Enneads 5. 1. 2: "Let there be silent for it [the soul]
Not only the body that surrounds it or the wave of the body, but also everything that is about. Let the earth be silent, let the sea and the air and the heaven itself, still better, be silent."
Passed beyond itself, not thinking of itself—Cf. Enneads 3. 8. 9: "It is necessary that the mind, as much as is possible, go behind [itself] and as much as is possible, leave itself....if it wills to see that being." this reminds os\us of the words of Dionysius (on p. 2 of these notes) that God is best known by "Unknowing".
Riddle of a likeness: echo of 2 Cor 13: 12: "We know God now darkly, through a glass."
When will this be?—A wonders if most souls that are just can reach the vision of God even before the general resurrection ("when we shall all rise"). Many in the patristic age thought only martyrs could have that vision before the resurrection: St. Justin, Dialogue 5; St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5. 31. 2, Tertullian On the Soul 55. 3, Lactantius, Institutes 7. 21, Aphraates, Demonstration 8. 20, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Against the Anthropomorphites 15—and Augustine himself in Retractations 1. 13. 2.
Became cheap—when one realizes, the things of this life seem worth nothing compared to eternal things. Cf. St. Paul, Philippians 3: 7-8.
9. 12. we did not think it proper—There is really a tendency to Stoicism in A's attitude on her death. He seems to say, in effect: we should not weep, for she has gone to a better world. But he did not notice that Jesus Himself allowed Himself to weep at the tomb of Lazarus, not a relative, just a good friend. Jesus wanted to teach us that we should not be Stoics.
A tendency to Stoicism appears in some other saints, e. g. , Clement of Alexandria speaks of Jesus as apathes, without feelings (Stromata 6. 9. 71. 2). St. Hilary of Poitiers (On the Trinity 10. 23) spoke similarly.
And in saying she went to a better world, A ignores what he knows, that there is a purgatory, as we read in Enchiridion 69: "That there should be some such fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly, and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degrees in which they loved the good things [of this world] that perish—through a certain purgatorial fire. Cf. also ibid. 109. In City of God 18. 3. he explains Mt 12: 32 as referring to purgatory.
And in 9. 13 he will ask prayers for her soul—written 10-15 years after her death!
He shows a more balanced attitude later, in Epistle 263. 2. Cf. also Sermones 173. 2. 2. : "The human heart is capable of not grieving over a deceased dear one, but it is better, when it grieves, that the human heart be healed, than that by not grieving it becomes inhuman.
Unfeigned faith—an echo of 1 Tim 1. 5.
Sacrifice of our ransom—The Mass. We gather it was the custom at Rome to offer Mass at the graveside. The Council of Carthage in 397 in canon 29 provides that if the mourners are not fasting, there is to be no Mass, only prayers—seems to reflect a strict rule on Eucharistic fast, and a feeling all must communicate.
Her remains rested at Ostia until 1430 when Pope Martin V caused them to be moved to Rome and placed in the church of St. Augustine. Today, under the high altar of the church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro in Pavia is a silver casket which many believe contain the remains of St. Augustine. Cf. Bourke, p. 298.
Ambrose—Before him, St. Hilary of Poitiers tried, without success, to introduce hymns into the western liturgy—they were too classical. St. Ambrose did succeed, and his hymns were very popular, so that there are many today under his name , which may be by admirers of his. Eastern liturgy had hymns from the beginning. The west felt a bit guilty about dealing with any of the forms of classical literature, which they had abandoned.
9. 13. dies in Adam—echoes 1 Cor 15: 22.
I do not dare to say that ever since her baptism—seems imply she never went to Confession. That sacrament, for the most part at least, was used for the great sins (murder, adultery, apostasy), which she would not have committed. Yet there is evidence the sacrament was used for some other kinds of serious sins: cf. Shepherd of Hermas, Mandate 4. 1; Tertullian, On Penance 4; On Modesty 18. 8; 19. 24-26; 18. 3; 19. 24-26. St. Cyprian Epistle 10; On the Lapsed 28;Origen, On Leviticus 15; On Psalm 37. 6. Homily 2; St. Gregory of Nyssa, Epistula Canonica. There is also a bit of evidence for the existence of a private use of the Sacrament of Penance, cf. Tertullian, On Penance 3-4, and Paul F . Palmer, "Jean Morin and the Problem of Private Penance" in Theological Studies 6 (1945). pp. 319-51, and 7 (1946) pp. 281-303. (Public penance did not mean public confession—but the penance performed was public, and so long and difficult, so all would know the person had done something serious. The church in that age understood more than today the need of a lot of penance for sin, and the need especially of a lot in cases were someone might have become hard, such as apostasy—needed to induce real change of heart. But it did not see the possible use of the Sacrament for spiritual growth, as some see the fact today. There is a gradual growth, over the centuries, of the Church's deepening understanding of the deposit of faith).
Without mercy—If we recall the need for rebalance of the objective order, as illustrated by Paul VI and Simeon ben Eleazar (in note on "with perfect hate" at 5. 12) we can see that if a person has ever committed just one mortal sin, he can never by his own power, even with a lifetime of penance, rebalance the scales—so without the mercy paid for by the sufferings of Jesus and His Mother, there could be no forgiveness, for as the words of consecration at Mass recall, "it will be shed for all, so that sins may be forgiven." God is losing money, as it were, on practically all. Cf. A's Enarrationes in Psalmos 129. 3: "If there were not propitiation with you, if you willed to be merely a judge, and did not will to be merciful, you would observe all our iniquities, and would seek them out—who could sustain it?
Whoever recounts to you his own merits—cf. Epistle 194. 5. 19: "When God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing other than His own gifts."
Those who glory—from 2 Cor 10. 17. There are two levels. On the fundamental level, where we consider what good we have produced by ourselves, and have not received it from God—we have nothing at all. Cf. the quote above from Epistle 194, also and 1 Cor 4. 7:
"What have you that you have not received." So on that level we deserve no esteem at all, in fact, less, for by sin we have sunk still lower. But on the secondary level, where we consider what we have as gifts of God—we are magnificent: adopted children of God, sharing in the divine nature. Any earthly dignity compared to this is nothing.
She forgave debts—the correct word in the Our Father should be: "forgive us our debts". Sin is a debt, which the Holiness of God wants to have paid. Cf. again the first note on 5. 12 above.
Do not enter into judgment—echo of Psalm 143. 2.
Let mercy be exalted—echo of James 2: 13: "Judgment without mercy to him who has not done mercy; mercy however super-exalts judgment". Cf. also Wisdom 6: 5: "Terribly and quickly shall He come against you, because judgement is severe for the exalted. The lowly can be pardoned out of mercy , but the mighty shall be mightily tested." [speaking to kings].
You will have mercy—A. does not recognize the context. This is from Romans 9: 16 where the word mercy has a different sense, namely the special favor of full membership in the People of God. God gives that without regard to merits. Most likely He considers those who need more, and gives them more. Cf. OFP, pp. 112-16.
The handwriting—cf. Col. 2: 14: "Destroying the handwriting that was against us, He took it out of the midst and affixed it to the cross." The price of redemption rebalanced the objective order. Cf. again the matter of the first note on 5. 12
Lion and dragon—cf. Psalm 91: 13: You will walk on the asp and the viper, you will trample the lion and the dragon." A. comments (On John 1. 1): "the lion, referring to open anger, the dragon, referring to hidden snares."
Owing nothing, paid for us—again, the concept of the redemption as the rebalance of the objective order. A sinner takes from one pan of the scales what he has no right to—to rebalance, Jesus who owed nothing, gave up much more than all sinners had taken.
Might gain him for you—the conversion of her husband. Cf. 1 Peter 3: 21: "Similarly, let wives be subject to their husbands, so those who do not believe the Word, may be gained through the way of living of the women without a word." There is an interesting play on the sense of word here—it could mean the divine Word, or could mean preaching, or it could mean words from the wife urging conversion. The general sense is clear: the wife has better hope by her way of life than from much urging of conversion. On the relation of husband and wife , Pius XI, in his Encyclical on marriage, has the proper picture, of course: "This order includes both the primacy of the husband in relation to the wife and children, and the ready and willing obedience, as the Apostle commands [here the Pope cites Ephesians 5: 22-23]. This obedience does not deny or take away the freedom which fully belongs to the woman, both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble position as wife and mother and companion. Nor does it direct her to obey every request of her husband, if not in harmony with right reason, or with the dignity due to a wife, nor, finally, does it imply the wife should be on a level with those who are legally minors."
The Catholic mother....eternal Jerusalem—cf. Enarrationes in Psalmos 149. 5: "But the true Sion and the true Jerusalem....is eternal in the heavens, which is our mother. She begot us, she is the Church of the holy ones; she nourished us, partly being in pilgrimage, partly remaining in heaven."
Pilgrimage—Cf. Hebrews 13: 14: "We have not here a lasting city, but we look for one to come.": Cf. also First Epistle of Clement 1: "The Church of God which is in exile in Rome, to the Church of God in exile in Corinth".
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