January 2013 - Vol. 65

Make your Love as Big as the World
by Augustine of Hippo (185-254 AD)
Augustine said:

It is by running along the road of true love that we can reach our heavenly homeland.

Without love, everything we do is useless. We are wasting our energies if we do not have love, which is God.

Human beings only become perfect when they are overflowing with love.

One can believe in the right way, but without love one cannot attain eternal happiness.

Love is so strong that without it neither prophecy nor martyrdom avail.

Love is the sweet and saving food without which the rich are poor, thanks to which the poor become rich.

Enlarge your love to the size of the world if you want to love Christ, since the members of Christ are to be found all over the world.

Only those who have the perfection of Christ's love are able to live together. Those who are without it continually upset one another and their anxiety is a misery to the others.

[Quotes from the writings of Augustine compiled by Defensor Grammaticus (after 600 AD) in his Book of Sparkling Sayings, I, 5ff. (SC77 pp.58ff.). Also quoted in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Cistercian Publications. English translation by Paul Drake.]

Painting above, Christ of St. John of the Cross, is by Salvador Dali, 1951. Its design is based on a drawing by the 16th century Spanish friar Saint John of the Cross.

Aurelius Augustine was born in 345 in the town of Tagaste, in Roman North Africa, in what is today Algeria. His mother was Monica, a very devout Christian who had a significant influence on her son’s life. His father, named Patricius, was a pagan of significant status in society. Patricius became a Christian shortly before his death. 

Augustine was educated at Carthage where he enjoyed academic success. He also enjoyed the party life, and at the age of 17 fell in love with a woman whom he never named. They lived together unmarried for 13 years and had a son whom Augustine named Adeodatus, meaning “gift from God.” His son died in his youth.

At the age of 19, after reading Cicero's Hortensiusat, Augustine fell in love with philosophy. He later wrote, “It gave me different values and priorities. Suddenly every vain hope became empty to me, and I longed for the immortality of wisdom with an incredible ardour in my heart.” While he pursued Platonic philosophy and the theology of the Manichaens, a Christian heretical sect, he became restless for truth and virtue. Shortly before his 30th birthday, Augustine encountered Ambrose, the saintly bishop of Milan. Augustine was moved by Ambrose’s example and his inspired teaching and preaching of the gospel. At the age of 32 Augustine found peace with God and was baptized by Ambrose during the Easter liturgy in 387. Augustine returned to North Africa and formed a monastic community with a group of friends. He was ordained a priest in 391 and became a noted preacher. In 396 he reluctantly became a bishop and remained the bishop of Hippo until his death in 430. He left his monastic community, but continued to lead a monastic life with the parish priests of Hippo in his episcopal residence. Augustine died on August 28, 430, during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals.

Augustine was a prolific writer and original thinker. His numerous writings, including theological treatises, sermons, scripture commentaries, and philosophical dialogues, number into the hundreds. His autobiography, the Confessions, was considerded the first Western autobiography. It was highly read among his contemporaries and has continued as a classic throughout the ages. 

Augustine is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. He is esteemed as a great Latin church father and a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. Many Protestants consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation teaching. Among Orthodox he is called St. Augustine the Blessed.

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