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St. Augustine's Legacy to the Church
Vivificat! - News, Opinion, Commentary & Reflections from a personal Catholic perspective ^ | 28 August 2008 | Teófilo

Posted on 08/28/2008 4:09:51 PM PDT by Teófilo

Folks, today we remember St. Augustine of Hippo, Father and Doctor of the Church — at least of the Latin Church since he is not as prominent in the East for a variety of reasons, which I may discuss some other time. Nevertheless, his influence on Catholic theology has been profound and lasts to this very day.

St. Augustine's legacy to us has not been a method as much as an attitude. This attitude can be summarized in one sentence that reverberates from his Confessions, rich in meaning and overtones. In fact, it summarizes the angst and the want for total and perpetual happiness that is to be found in the heart of every man and woman:

Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te. Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
In one bold stroke, St. Augustine defined the ultimate object of Catholic theology and of our Christian pilgrimage to this very day. This quote is, in fact, the core of his theology.

Theology, "the science of God," the ordered and methodical inquiry into the things of God is something we do on His terms, not ours. God revealed himself ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ. Ours is a theology of personal encounter. Syllogism, casuistry, and sober speculation—and St. Augustine excelled in all of these—may serve some purposes but they are not ends in themselves. God is the end of theology.

St. Augustine reminded us that theology is a pilgrimage and that God is its end. Fads, fashions, and "original ideas" in academic theology are but distractions in the way of the God. Theologians are not called to be "original," but to be faithful. They are called to be pilgrims, unswerving in their pursuit of God in whom we will find final rest and complete happiness.

A note about the unusual icon of St. Augustine pictured here. The iconwriter, that is, the artist who painted this portrait in the ancient style of Byzantine iconography is Fr. Richard G. Cannuli, O.S.A. It is unusual for two reasons: first, because iconographic portrayals of St. Augustine are somewhat rare. In the West he is most often depicted in the robes of a Latin bishop, always bearded. Yet, these portrayals reflect Western medieval artistic conventions and perhaps a little bit of Latin chauvinism. It is almost certain he never dressed like a Western prelate. We must look to the East for a more accurate representation of how he might actually have looked like.

Older Byzantine icons of St. Augustine do exist in the East. Such a one adorns the cover of Fr. Seraphim Rose's The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church. If memory serves, it is the copy of one found in one of the monasteries at the Holy Mountain in Greece.

Many in the East prefer to give Augustine the titled of "Blessed" (makarios) rather than "Holy" or "Saint" yet, ironically, the Greek inscription on the icon does refer to him as such (o hagios or "the holy one"). Some Eastern Orthodox commentators assert that the titles are really interchangeable and the distinction meaningless, but the contrast becomes clearer when one struggles to find other Greek Fathers such as St. John Chrysostom referred to as "blessed" in lieu of "saint." The different title does reflect somewhat of a descent, not in Augustine's actual beatific state, but in the estimation of a number of Orthodox theologians and commentators. Hence, the relative scarcity of icons of St. Augustine and Fr. Seraphim's honest attempt at restoring St. Augustine's rightful place as a "Father of Orthodox piety" in the eastern Orthodox Church.

Now, I spoke of two unusual characteristics of this icon. The second reason why this icon is unusual is because Fr. Cannuli chose to portray St. Augustine as a beardless young man. This portrayal is also true to history. St. Augustine was relatively young when he was elected bishop and a relatively new convert, a fact that created some heartburn among many more senior priests and prelates who were angling for the bishop's cathedra of Hippo Regius. Fr. Cannuli also portrays St. Augustine as dark-skinned, as it befits a descendant of North-African Berbers, wearing a headpiece which is, to this day, typical of many Coptic Orthodox Christian prelates in North Africa. Fr. Cannuli's one concession to St. Augustine's latinitas on this icon is the pallium St. Augustine wears in place of the ampler Greek homophorion. I am talking about the stole the saint displays around his neck as an insignia of his episcopal rank. The pallium is a Western version of the Greek counterpart. On his right hand, the saint holds his heart on fire and on his left a scroll with the quotation "Restless is Our Heart" with which we started this already too long post.

We've come full circle. The icon tells us all we need to know about St. Augustine, theology, and the end of theology. Our hearts must be in fire with the love of God in Christ; we are truly restless until we come to rest in God. Once we rest in Him, we have arrived at our destination as fully human beings and Christians.

Jesus said: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, NKJV). St. Augustine understood this saying to a tee. All he ever wrote and said was oriented toward God as our final resting end. This is his legacy to us.

- To access more of Fr. Cannuli's iconographic work, please visit his website,

TOPICS: Catholic; Orthodox Christian; Theology
Typos. Blunders. Mine. I fix them all on the blog upon discovery.
1 posted on 08/28/2008 4:09:51 PM PDT by Teófilo
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To: Salvation; NYer; bornacatholic; rrstar96; mileschristi; Nihil Obstat; Kolokotronis


2 posted on 08/28/2008 4:10:48 PM PDT by Teófilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Teófilo
BTW - today is his feast day!!!
3 posted on 08/28/2008 4:24:41 PM PDT by Fred (The Democrat Party is the Nadir of Nihilism)
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To: Fred; Teófilo
St. Augustine's Legacy to the Church

On St. Augustine's Conversion

On the Writings of St. Augustine

On St. Augustine's Search for Truth

St. Augustine's Last Days

On St. Augustine

Pope to Visit Tomb of St. Augustine

Was St. Augustine Catholic? YES!


Pope: St Monica and St Augustine for youth who go down “wrong roads” and “dead ends”

“A pledge of eternal life”: Augustine on “dew”

You Have to Love A Pope Who Loves St. Augustine

Pope Receives Relics of St. Augustine

St. Augustine, August 28

Two Cities: Augustine’s City of God

Archbishop Sheen Today! -- St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo Two Cities: Augustine’s City of God (Chuck Colson on citizenship)

St Augustine Of Hippo

Saint Augustine

Teaching Of St.Augustine of Hippo

4 posted on 08/28/2008 4:49:04 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Teófilo

Thinker, Intellectual, Father of the Inquisition.

5 posted on 08/28/2008 5:21:04 PM PDT by Texas Songwriter
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To: Teófilo

Thinker, Intellectual, Father of the Inquisition.

6 posted on 08/28/2008 5:21:30 PM PDT by Texas Songwriter
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To: Texas Songwriter

I disagree. He was more like the Inquisition’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather on the mother’s side.

7 posted on 08/28/2008 9:16:23 PM PDT by Teófilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Teófilo

Check the history books. It is there.

8 posted on 08/28/2008 9:19:56 PM PDT by Texas Songwriter
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To: Texas Songwriter

I do happen to read history. And to call St. Augustine “the Father of the Inquisition” is quite an exaggeration, in my opinion. Can a connection be made? I suppose so, in the same way that a connection can be made between Bob Jones and Paul Z. Myers. Tenous, but arguable.

9 posted on 08/28/2008 9:52:24 PM PDT by Teófilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Teófilo

“Who shall grant me to rest in Thee? By Whose Gift wilt Thou enter into my heart, and fill it so compellingly that I shall turn no more to my sins, but embrace Thee, my only Good?

“What art Thou to me? Have mercy, that I may tell. What rather am I to Thee, that Thou shouldst demand my love, and if I do not love Thee, threaten such great woe? Surely, not to love Thee is already a great woe!”

—St. Augustine

I was reading a book about +Augustine’s prayers, and when I read this, long before I became Catholic, was the moment Christ came into my heart. Still, I almost slipped away, until circumstances brought me to do volunteer work with a very holy nun who became a dear friend and brought me (and my husband and children eventually) into the church.

The moment of reading this bit for the first time was so compelling that I memorized it on the spot. Even now, to write it down, brings back in brilliant memory the shock of the knowledge of the presence of Christ, the incredible breathtaking Love He is, and the utter unshakeable Reality of God.

When I read that +Augustine is the “Father of the Inquisition,” I realize that if it IS so, it is because he first turned the questions on himself, and his relationship to God, and in the light of that truth, helped to define some of the great demonic errors that threatened the Church.

My 2 cents.

10 posted on 08/28/2008 10:37:12 PM PDT by Judith Anne
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To: Judith Anne

Greetings Judith,

Excellent reflection! Thank you for sharing it.


11 posted on 08/29/2008 5:27:55 AM PDT by Teófilo (Visit Vivificat! - - A Catholic Blog of News, Commentary and Opinion)
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To: Texas Songwriter

I checked the history books and this what I found out. Augustine apparently had no problem with civil authority involved in opposing heresies. Is that different than using the state to oppose gay marriage? Or alchol sales on Sundays or “blue laws”? HMMMM?

12 posted on 08/29/2008 9:20:05 AM PDT by Augustinian monk
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To: Teófilo

My pleasure. St. Augustine may have been a giant intellect with an interesting life, but he was also a human standing before Christ the Savior with his heart in his hand, just as are we all. His clear and compelling statement of the near-inexpressible has always touched me deeply. The man understood the Mystery of Salvation.

13 posted on 08/29/2008 9:22:16 AM PDT by Judith Anne
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To: Augustinian monk
The fourth century Donatists believed that the church should be a pure communion of true believers who demonstrated the truth of the gospel in their lives. They abhorred the apostasy that had come into the church when Constantine wedded Christianity to paganism in order to unify the empire. Compromising clergy were "evil priest working hand in glove with the kings of the earth, who show that they have no king but Caesar." To the Donatists, the church was a "small body of saved surrounded by the unregenerate mass." This, of course, is the biblical view.

Augustine, on the other hand, saw the church of his day as a mixture of believers and unbelievers, in which purity and evil should be allowed to exist side by side for the sake of unity. He used the power of the state to compel church attendance: "Whoever was not found within the Chruch was not asked the reason, but was to be corrected and converted." Augustine compelled attendance by threat (and worse) against the citizenery. Frend says of Augustine, "The questing, sensitive youth had become the the father of the inquisition. Though he (Augustine) preferred persuasion if possible, Augustine supported military force against those who were rebaptized as believers after conversion to Christ and for other alleged heretics. In his controvery with the Donatists, using a distorted and un-CKhristian interpretation of Luke 14:23, Augustine declared:

Why therefore should not the Chruch use force in compelling her lost sons to return?..The Lord Himself said, "Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in..." Wherefore is the power which the Church has received theough the religious character and faith of kings the instrument by which those who are found in the highways and hedges - that is, in heresies and schisms - are compelled to come in, and let them not find fault with being compelled.

There is no question Augustine played an major role in propagating church thinking,theology and its subsequent action.

His prescriptions were a little more than the state opposing gay marriage. I don't recall the state sending the military in to arrest and torture these homosexuals to "get their minds right." Augustine did just that. He taught the requirement to torture as a technique to convert the lost by prescribing burning unto death, and other horrors. And he, himself, characterized his action as a mercy he showed the victim.

Your analogies are not serious comparisons. Your rivisionist history does not wash with me. Keep it to yourself.

14 posted on 08/29/2008 11:43:42 AM PDT by Texas Songwriter
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To: Texas Songwriter

Arent he Donatists the one who beleived marriage and baptism was invalid if the minster became an apostate later? Is that biblical? How so? SOunds like a recipe for chaos.

15 posted on 08/29/2008 11:59:26 AM PDT by Augustinian monk
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To: lsucat; Mrs. Don-o; narses


16 posted on 09/03/2008 6:29:11 PM PDT by Ebenezer (Strength and Honor!)
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To: rrstar96; informavoracious; larose; RJR_fan; Prospero; Conservative Vermont Vet; ...

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.

17 posted on 09/03/2008 7:28:48 PM PDT by narses (...the spirit of Trent is abroad once more.)
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