Augustinus (354-430), son of a pagan, Patricius of Tagaste & his Xian wife Monica, while studying in Africa to become a rhetorician, plunged into psycho-philosophical doubts in search of truth, joining for a time the Manichaeans. He became a grammar teacher at Tagaste & lived much under the influence of Monica & his friend Alypius. About 383 he went to Rome &amAugustinus (354-430), son of a pagan, Patricius of Tagaste & his Xian wife Monica, while studying in Africa to become a rhetorician, plunged into psycho-philosophical doubts in search of truth, joining for a time the Manichaeans. He became a grammar teacher at Tagaste & lived much under the influence of Monica & his friend Alypius. About 383 he went to Rome & soon after to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric, being now attracted by the Sceptics & Neo-Platonists. His studies of Paul's letters with Alypius & the preaching of Bishop Ambrose led in 386 to his rejection of sensuality & to his famous conversion from mixed beliefs to Xianity. He returned to Tagaste & there founded a religious community. In 395/6 he became Hippo's bishop & was henceforth engrossed with duties, writing & controversy. He died there during the successful Vandal siege. From Augustine's large output the Loeb Classical Library offers the autobiographical Confessions (2 vols); On the City of God (7 vols), which unfolds God's action in world history, & propounds the superiority of Xian beliefs over pagan in adversity; & a selection of Letters which are important for the study of ecclesiastical history & his relations with other theologians....
|Number of Pages||:||590 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Select Letters Reviews
This book was read for Father David Hassel's Augustine course during the first semester of 1981/82 at Loyola University Chicago and used for the paper "Plato and the New Academny in the Early Writings of St. Augustine: A Case Study in Cultural Metamorphosis".
The following excerpts are from a letter written by St. Augustine a year before his death at age 75. They provide a glimpse of the type of person St. Augustine was and the general theme and tone of the select letters.On PraiseFor when good men are praised, the praise confers a benefit on those who bestow it, not on those who receive it. For as far as concerns the good, the fact that they are good is sufficient, but the others, whose interest it is to imitate the good, are to be congratulated when they bestow praise on the good, since by doing so they show that they are pleased by those whom they praise in sincerity. ... Why should I not therefore find pleasure in being praised by you, when you are (unless I am mistaken in you) a good man and bestow your praise upon the things which you admire and which it is profitable and wholesome for you to admire, even if they be lacking in me? This benefits not only you, but me too, for if they are lacking in me, it is wholesome for me to be shamed and inflamed with desire to acquire them. And so the qualities I recognize in your praises as my own I rejoice in possessing and in having you love them and me for their sake; those on the other hand that I fail to recognize as mine I yearn to acquire, not only in order to possess them for myself, but also to keep those who have a genuine love for me from being deluded when they praise me.On His ConfessionsTake them, my son, take, excellent Sir, Christian that you are not on the surface only, but with Christian love--take, I repeat, those books of my Confessions that you asked for; in them behold me, so that you praise me not beyond what I am; in them give your belief to me, not to others who speak of me; in them observe me and see what I was of myself, by myself, and if anything in me gives you pleasure, join me in praising for it Him Whom I desired to have praise from me, and not myself; for "He hath made us and not we ourselves" --indeed we had destroyed ourselves, but He Who made us, re-made us. And when in them you find me, pray for me that I may not suffer defeat, but may be made complete; pray my son, pray.
I have embarked on a tour through some of the writings of Saint Augustine of Hippo. For years, I have come on echoes of his thoughts and influence on the development of Western Christianity and found much to dislike. I fairness to the man, I ought to know what he, himself, actually said before I fight with him. And so I have embarked on my exploration. I have begun with this collection of his "Letters" and will move on to his "Confessions" and thence to "The City of God". My hunch is that I still won’t find much on which we agree, but at least I will understand what he said. Augustine was born in 354 A. D. and died in 430 A. D. The Roman Empire in the West was in decline and fell not too long after his death. Christianity had become the official religion of the Empire (East and West). Prior to Constantine, Christians had had a multitude of views on theology, how to live the Christian life, the role of the clergy, and much else. Constantine and his successors may or may not have been devout Christians, but they had an empire to run and they wanted order. They organized, and sometimes presided over, councils of bishops and other experts whose task it was to organize and codify a single set of official beliefs. From this came the Nicene Creed and the selection of the canonical books of the Bible, among other things. Among those other things was the role of women. Ute Ranke-Heinemann, in "Eunuchs for the Kingdom of God", has a good deal to say about this last topic, not much of it favorable to the Church Fathers, of whom Augustine was one. Augustine and his orthodox colleagues found themselves in the position of departmental bureaucrats after Congress has passed major legislation. Congress has spelled out the broad philosophical outline, but until the civil servants write the regulations, no one can be sure how it is all going to work. Augustine and others gradually worked out how uniform, orthodox Christianity was to be applied. This was done in the context of widespread schism and heresy. The Donatists and the Pelagians were but two of the non-conforming groups with which Augustine had to deal. Believers took their faith seriously and were not shy about kidnapping, forcibly converting, and even torturing and killing their theological opponents. The Donatists were particularly strong in that part of Africa where Augustine worked. The emperors, who objected to riots in the streets, put pressure everywhere to conform to a single “True” faith. The government could, and did, arrest, imprison, torture, and execute heretics and schismatics. Pagan Rome had occasionally persecuted Christians, generally for political rather than theological reasons. Toleration was the normal standard. When Christianity gained control, tolerance disappeared, not to reappear until our own times, if then. In this environment, Augustine went about his business of running his diocese, attempting to convert the Donatist and other heretics while protecting his own people from counter-conversion, answering questions about how Christianity should be practised in real life, and living his own life in Christian terms as best he could understand them. Several themes emerge from these letters. First is Augustine as a much harassed and badly over-worked official. It turns out that he became a bishop after the local believers kidnapped him, told him they wanted him for a bishop, and would not let him go until he accepted. He reminds his correspondents that he really didn’t want the post and would give it up if his conscience and his parishioners would let him. Two more themes emerge which were taken up by the Church and passed down through the centuries. They echo even now. On one occasion, Augustine writes the local governor requesting that he not execute a prisoner convicted of heresy. He points out that it is their duty, as Christians, to save the man’s soul and preserve it for all eternity. If the governor kills the prisoner, he will be dead and beyond the reach of repentance, conversion, mercy, or Heaven. Augustine also argues for proportionality, and where possible, mercy in the treatment of these offenders. If the man confessed freely, be lenient. Don’t execute where you did not need to torture to convict. On the other hand, one sees the notion that the soul is of sufficient importance that almost any means are justifiable to obtain conversion, adherence to the true faith, and therefore immortal life. Forced, compulsory conversion is perfectly appropriate if no other means will suffice. We certainly see that played out over the succeeding centuries. The Heimskringla’s “Saga of King Olaf Trygvesson” describes how Olaf converted Norway to Christianity. Olaf would summon a Thing (Assembly) in each district and graciously encourage those in attendance to accept Christianity. Those who did were baptized. Those who did not and were lucky were exiled. Those who were less lucky were executed. The really unlucky ones lost hands, feet, tongue, eyes, or some combination of the above. A few iterations of this and people got the point and converted, at least publicly. From the correspondence emerges the rationale for this. To Augustine, the soul and its preparation for eternity with God are the only important part of life. Life is ephemeral and therefore unimportant, including women (especially women). One should devote one’s full attention to things of substance, the Eternal Verities, i. e. God, eternity, and Heaven. He writes one couple of his pleasure that, though married, they have resolved to life celibate lives in order better to focus on the eternal life ahead. In another letter, one reads one of the first Rules for the organization of monastic life, in this case a convent of nuns. Monastic life, which was of great importance in the Middle Ages, and is with us still, is aimed at removing as much contact with life, humanity, and the activities of living with other people as possible so that the monastic members may focus exclusively on the study of God and the preparation of their souls for eternity. Poor Augustine found himself torn by some of this. Despite his faith and his earnest desire to live a “Christian” life, he was also human. When he let himself, he liked people and their company. “We are quite agreed, I think, that everything that is the object of our bodily senses is incapable of remaining a single moment in the same state, but is in motion and transition and possesses no actuality, that is, in plain language, has no real existence. In consequence, true, divine philosophy admonishes us to check and mitigate our affection for such things, as being very baneful and productive of detriment, so that even while in control of this mortal body, the soul may with intensity and fervour pursue those things that are ever the same and satisfy with no transient charm. Although this is true and although my mind envisages you in your simple and unalloyed character, as an individual who may be loved without disquietude, still I must confess that when you are absent in body and distant in space, I miss the pleasure of meeting and seeing you, and desire it, when it can be had, for the brethren.“Select Letters, Epistle II (To Zenobius), Translated by James Houston BaxterAnd there one has both his belief and the unfortunate side effects of that belief. He wants to be pure and focused but, Damn it, he misses his friend. We should remember that Augustine was a rhetorician and philosopher before he found religion and his churchly calling. His training taught him to find incontrovertible premises and then build a logical structure on that foundation. One of the reasons it took him so long to come to the church was his inability immediately to build such a structure. I come away disagreeing with Augustine on much, particularly on the premises that underlie his logical edifice. But I cannot dislike the man who misses his friend.
This has about a fourth of the letters Augustine wrote from 386 and 429, from baptism to death. He writes to everyone - not just bishops and generals but old friends and women who have screwed up their marriage. A window onto the times, onto early western Christianity and onto Augustine himself. Great footnotes. The worst part: when Augustine quotes the Bible, Baxter does not translate Augustine's actual Latin words but instead sticks in the translation from the Revised Version, an updated King James Bible. This leads to inaccurate translations since Augustine's Bible is not quite the same as what comes down through English Protestant translations.