Living Six Months with St. Augustine
categorized as such. Moreover, those sermons that have been preserved as said to represent perhaps only 10% of his preaching.
Those sermons of St. Augustine that have been preserved as the result of the practice of having an amanuensis present in the Church--a sort of ancient stenographer or clerk called notarius ecclesiae--who wrote things down as St. Augustine spoke them. We must be thankful for this foresight, as it is in St. Augustine's sermons where he is perhaps most accessible, least guarded, and certainly most personal and pastoral. In reading these sermons, we are beneficiaries to St Augustine's great humanity as well as his great spiritual gifts.
It is impossible to condense to a short article the veritable treasures that are contained in these sermons. I have preserved about 30 pages worth of worthwhile quotes. So the best one can do is to highlight some of this saint's great broad themes.
First, St. Augustine uses Scripture in the free style of analogical or allegorical interpretation to find its spiritual sense; however, he always insists that Scripture is, at heart, witness to actual historical events. For St. Augustine, everything in Scripture is anchored in a historical event, an event that actually happened. "We believe," he tells his flock in one sermon for example dealing with the ten plagues of Egypt, "that they [the plagues] happened just as we read that they did; at the same time, however, we know from the teaching of the apostle that these happenings were foreshadowing of things to come." (Sermon 8.2) Hence we always have more than one sense to Scripture, but in each and every case, the historical one is presupposed. Indeed, to remove the historical base of scripture is to build castles in the air. (Sermon 2.7)
Second, St. Augustine insists that the Old Testament must always be interpreted in light of the New Testament, specifically, in the light of Jesus Christ, for the Old Testament points to, and finds its fulfillment in, Christ Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. (e.g., Sermon 300.3, 5) Jesus Christ is what gives Scripture its unity. It is because of their witness to Jesus Christ that all the books of scripture, both Old and New, are "as if they formed a single reading, because they all proceeding from a single mouth." (Sermon 170.1) This single mouth, of course, is the mouth of Christ the Word.
There is no question of St. Augustine's dedication to the Scriptures. St. Augustine saw himself as a servant to the Word of God and in no way its master. "We are servants of the word, not our own word, of course, but the word of God and of our Lord." (Sermon 114.1)
That Scriptures all were to be understood as a witness to the Word of God also mean that Scripture had to understood within Christian tradition, that is, within the Church and her teaching office, and never apart from it. The Bible saw birth in the Church, and it is in the arms of the Church that the Bible must be nursed, coddled, and nourished. Else, one might find himself with the heretics--Arians, Donatists, Manicheans, Pelagians and the like--who--wresting the Scriptures away from the Church--invariably get it wrong, using Scripture as it were to hang and damn themselves.
St. Augustine's focus on Jesus the Incarnate Word of God is intensely scrupulous and scrupulously intense. Not only are we to focus on the words of Jesus, but also on his deeds. Everything that the Lord said or did has revelational significance. "Christ is the Word of God," St. Augustine says, "who speaks to human beings not only in the sound of words, but also in deeds." (Sermon 252.1)
Third, St. Augustine is as passionately devoted to the Church as he is to Christ. The references in his sermons of the Church as the body of Christ, with Jesus as the head are simply legion. It was inconceivable to him that one could claim to follow Jesus and not be in communion with the Church Jesus founded. It would be akin to lopping of the head from a body and claiming that way better to be able to love the head.
For St. Augustine, the whole Christ (Christus totus) is found only in the entirety of the Church, that is both head and body, a Church which traverses time and indeed is even out of time and into eternity. (Sermon 341.1, 11) Love is what binds the Christian to Jesus, the head, the Christian to the Church, Christ's body, and the members of the body to each other. "We have no union with this head except by love." (Sermon 162A.5) While God is our Father, the Church is "our true Mother, and the true bride of Christ." (Sermon ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: St. Augustine, sermons, interior life, prayer, City of God, Augustine of Hippo, Faith and works, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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