Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Charity is no substitute for justice withheld," and other St. Augustine Quotes

Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.) is one of my favorite ancient mystics, and is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. In Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order. Many Protestants consider him to be one of the theological fountainheads of Reformation teaching on salvation and grace. In Orthodox Churches he is considered blessed or even a saint.

Born in Africa, he lived a hedonistic lifestyle as a youth, and developed a relationship with a young woman who would be his concubine for over fifteen years. During this period he had a son with this young woman. His education and early career was in philosophy and rhetoric, the art of persuasion and public speaking.  He was educated in Carthage and Rome.

At age thirty, Augustine had won the most visible academic chair in the Latin world, at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers. However, he felt the tensions of life at an imperial court, lamenting one day as he rode in his carriage to deliver a grand speech before the emperor, that a drunken beggar he passed on the street had a less careworn existence than he did.   

After a flirtation with skepticism, he began his spiritual quest in earnest during his early 30’s.  In the summer of 386, after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Christianity. He abandoned his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, gave up any ideas of marriage, and devoted himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood.  He eventually relocated back to northern Africa.  

His works—including The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography—are still read around the world.  They include The City of God, Free Choice of the Will, and On Christian Doctrine, which are all seminal and influential on much Christian thought that followed.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Augustine…let me know which ones you like:

Heart speaks to heart.

Nothing conquers except truth and the victory of truth is love.

To sing once is to pray twice.

Lord, you have seduced me and I let myself be seduced.

Love, and do what you will.

God, oh Lord, grant me the power to overcome sin. For sin is that which you gave to us when you granted us free choice of will. If I choose wrongly, then I shall be justly punished for it. Is that not true, my Lord, of whom I indebted for my temporal existence. Thank you, Lord, for granting me the power to will my self not to sin.

Christ is the teacher within us.

Hear the other side.

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently.

Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.

Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

Don't you believe that there is in man a deep so profound as to be hidden even to him in whom it is?

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.

God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.

God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

He that is jealous is not in love.

He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.

He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent.

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.

I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.''

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.

In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.

Love, and do what you like.

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.

No eulogy is due to him who simply does his duty and nothing more.

O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.

Love the sinner and hate the sin.

Our bodies are shaped to bear children, and our lives are a working out of the processes of creation. All our ambitions and intelligence are beside that great elemental point.

Patience is the companion of wisdom.

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.

Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.

The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

There is no possible source of evil except good.

There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.

To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

We cannot pass our guardian angel's bounds, resigned or sullen, he will hear our sighs.

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.

Who can map out the various forces at play in one soul? Man is a great depth, O Lord. The hairs of his head are easier by far to count than his feeling, the movements of his heart.

Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.

Once again, let me know the ones that resonate with you…or perhaps any that I haven’t listed.  : )

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