Three Posts on Love – I

11 06 2009

Charity therefore brought Him to the flesh. Whoever therefore has not charity denies that Christ is come in the flesh. Here then do you now question all heretics. Did Christ come in the flesh? He did come; this I believe, this I confess. Nay, this you deny. How do I deny? You hear that I say it! Nay, I convict you of denying it. You say with the voice, deniest with the heart; sayest in words, deniest in deeds. How, do you say, do I deny in deeds? Because the end for which Christ came in the flesh, was, that He might die for us. He died for us, because therein He taught much charity. Greater charity than this has no man, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You have not charity, seeing you for your own honor dividest unity. Therefore by this understand ye the spirit that is from God. Give the earthen vessels a tap, put them to the proof, whether haply they be cracked and give a dull sound: see whether they ring full and clear, see whether charity be there. You take yourself away from the unity of the whole earth, you divide the Church by schisms, you rend the Body of Christ. He came in the flesh, to gather in one, you make an outcry to scatter abroad. This then is the Spirit of God, which says that Jesus is come in the flesh, which says, not in tongue but in deeds, which says, not by making a noise but by loving. And that spirit is not of God, which denies that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh; denies, here also, not in tongue but in life; not in words but in deeds. It is manifest therefore by what we may know the brethren. Many within are in a sort within [the Church]; but none without except he be indeed without.

-St. Augustine

Reading St. Augustine’s homilies on I John, the thing that strikes me most is the confluence that Augustine makes between true charity and being in the Church. The homilies of course were against the Donatists who would separate themselves from the Church for reasons of personal “integrity” and discipline. The difficult idea for the modern reader is that the implications of the Church Father’s language drive us far from our own “humanitarian” perspective of love. To sin against love is to hate your brother, and the way that St. Augustine approaches the love of brother is primarily from an ecclesial perspective. It would seem, in my own reading, that there is no real charity outside the Church, and those who sin most gravely against the Church are those who would divide it, or rather tear apart the Body of Christ.
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On the infirmity of the human mind

6 05 2009

santisima-trinidad-unknown

They, then, who see their own mind, in whatever way that is possible, and in it that Trinity of which I have treated as I could in many ways, and yet do not believe or understand it to be an image of God, see indeed a glass, but do not so far see through the glass Him who is now to be seen through the glass, that they do not even know the glass itself which they see to be a glass, i.e. an image. And if they knew this, perhaps they would feel that He too whose glass this is, should by it be sought, and somehow provisionally be seen, an unfeigned faith purging their hearts, that He who is now seen through a glass may be able to be seen face to face. And if they despise this faith that purifies the heart, what do they accomplish by understanding the most subtle disputes concerning the nature of the human mind, unless that they be condemned also by the witness of their own understanding? And they would certainly not so fail in understanding, and hardly arrive at anything certain, were they not involved in penal darkness, and burdened with the corruptible body that presses down the soul. And for what demerit save that of sin is this evil inflicted on them? Wherefore, being warned by the magnitude of so great an evil, they ought to follow the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world.

For if any belong to Him, although far duller in intellect than those, yet when they are freed from the body at the end of this life, the envious powers have no right to hold them. For that Lamb that was slain by them without any debt of sin has conquered them; but not by the might of power before He had done so by the righteousness of blood. And free accordingly from the power of the devil, they are borne up by holy angels, being set free from all evils by the mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Since by the harmonious testimony of the Divine Scriptures, both Old and New, both those by which Christ was foretold, and those by which He was announced, there is no other name under heaven whereby men must be saved. And when purged from all contagion of corruption, they are placed in peaceful abodes until they take their bodies again, their own, but now incorruptible, to adorn, not to burden them. For this is the will of the best and most wise Creator, that the spirit of a man, when piously subject to God, should have a body happily subject, and that this happiness should last for ever.

-St. Augustine, De Trinitate, Bk. 15