May 2012 - Vol. 60
Living stones fashioned by faith, made firm 
by hope, cemented by love
by Augustine of Hippo (185-254 AD)

So the Lord will repay his faithful followers who are so lovingly, so cheerfully, so devotedly carrying out these works, to the effect that he includes them in the construction of his own building, into which they hasten to fit as living stones ( 1 Peter 2:5), fashioned by faith, made solidly firm by hope, cemented together by charity. This is the building in which that wise architect the apostle placed Christ Jesus as the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11), also as the supreme cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16); one which, as Peter also reminds us from the prophetic scripture, was rejected indeed by men, but chosen and honored by God (1 Peter 2:4; Psalm 118:22). 

By adhering to this stone we are joined peaceably together; by resting on it we are fixed firmly in place. You see, he is at one and the same time the foundation stone, because he is the one who regulates us, and the cornerstone, because it is he that joins us together. He is the rock on which the wise man builds his house, and thus continues in utter security against all the trials and temptations of this world, neither collapsing when the rain pours down, nor being swept away when the river floods, nor overthrown when the winds blow.

[Sermons 337]

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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