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Fathers Of The Church, Catholic Edition

[Hitherto the order followed in the arrangement of the letters has been the chronological. It being impossible to ascertain definitely the date of composition of thirty-nine of the letters, these have been placed by the Benedictine editors in the fourth division, and in it they are arranged under two principal divisions, the first embracing some controversial letters, and the second a number of those which were occasioned either by Augustin’s interest in the welfare of individuals, or by the claims of official duty.]

To the People of Madaura, My Lords Worthy of Praise, and Brethren Most Beloved, Augustin Sends Greeting, in Reply to the Letter Received by the Hands of Brother Florentinus.

1. If, perchance, such a letter as I have received was sent to me by those among you who are Catholic Christians, the only thing at which I am surprised is, that it was sent in the name of the municipality, and not in their own name. If, however, it has pleased all or almost all of your men of rank to send a letter to me, I am surprised at the title “Father” and the “salutation in the Lord” addressed to me by you, of whom I know certainly, and with much regret, that you regard with superstitious veneration those idols against which your temples are more easily shut than your hearts; or, I should rather say, those idols which are not more truly shut up in your temples than in your hearts. Can it be that you are at last, after wise reflection, seriously thinking of that salvation which is in the Lord, in whose name you have chosen to salute me? For if it be not so, I ask you, my lords worthy of all praise, and brethren most beloved, in what have I injured, in what have I offended your benevolence, that you should think it right to treat me with ridicule rather than with respect in the salutation prefixed to your letter?

2. For when I read the words, “To Father Augustin, eternal salvation in the Lord,” I was suddenly elated with such fulness of hope, that I believed you either already converted to the Lord Himself, and to that eternal salvation of which He is the author, or desirous, through our ministry, to be so converted. But when I read the rest of the letter my heart was chilled. I inquired, however, from the bearer of the letter, whether you were already Christians or were desirous to be so. After I learned from his answer that you were in no way changed, I was deeply grieved that you thought it right not only to reject the name of Christ, to whom you already see the whole world submitting, but even to insult His name in my person; for I could not think of any other Lord than Christ the Lord in whom a bishop could be addressed by you as a father, and if there had been any doubt as to the meaning to be attached to your words, it would have been removed by the closing sentence of your letter, where you say plainly, “We desire that, for many years, your lordship may always, in the midst of your clergy, be glad in God and His Christ.” After reading and pondering all these things, what could I (or, indeed, could any man) think but that these words were written either as the genuine expression of the mind of the writers, or with an intention to deceive? If you write these things as the genuine expression of your mind, who has barred your way to the truth? Who has strewn it with thorns? What enemy has placed masses of rock across your path? In fine, if you are desiring to come in, who has shut the door of our places of worship against you, so that you are unwilling to enjoy the same salvation with us in the same Lord in whose name you salute us? But if you write these things deceitfully and mockingly, do you, then, in the very act of imposing on me the care of your affairs, presume to insult, with the language of feigned adulation, the name of Him through whom alone I can do anything, instead of honouring Him with the veneration which is due to Him?

3. Be assured, dearest brethren, that it is with inexpressible trembling of heart on your account that I write this letter to you, for I know how much greater in the judgment of God must be your guilt and your doom if I shall have said these things to you in vain. In regard to everything in the history of the human race which our forefathers observed and handed down to us, and not less in regard to everything connected with the seeking and holding of true religion which we now see and put on record for those who come after us, the Divine Scriptures have not been silent; so far from this, all things come to pass exactly according to the predictions of Scripture. You cannot deny that you see the Jewish people torn from the abodes of their ancestry, dispersed and scattered over almost every country: now, the origin of that people, their gradual increase, their losing of the kingdom, their dispersion through all the world, have happened exactly as foretold. You cannot deny that you see that the word of the Lord, and the law coming forth from that people through Christ, who was miraculously born among their nation, has taken and retained possession of the faith of all nations: now we read of all these announced beforehand as we see them. You cannot deny that you see what we call heresies and schisms, that is, many cut off from the root of the Christian society, which by means of the Apostolic Sees, and the successions of bishops, is spread abroad in an indisputably world-wide diffusion, claiming the name of Christians, and as withering branches boasting of the mere appearance of being derived from the true vine: all this has been foreseen, predicted, and described in Scripture. You cannot deny that you see some temples of the idols fallen into ruin through neglect, others thrown down by violence, others closed, and some applied to other purposes; you see the idols themselves either broken to pieces, or burnt, or shut up, or destroyed, and the same powers of this world, who in defence of idols persecuted Christians, now vanquished and subdued by Christians, who did not fight for the truth but died for it, and directing their attacks and their laws against the very idols in defence of which they put Christians to death, and the highest dignitary of the noblest empire laying aside his crown and kneeling as a suppliant at the tomb of the fisherman Peter.

4. The Divine Scriptures, which have now come into the hands of all, testified long before that all these things would come to pass. We rejoice that all these things have happened, with a faith which is strong in proportion to the discovery thereby made of the greatness of the authority with which they are declared in the sacred Scriptures. Seeing, then, that all these things have come to pass as foretold, are we, I ask, to suppose that the judgment of God, which we read of in the same Scriptures as appointed to separate finally between the believing and the unbelieving, is the only event in regard to which the prophecy is to fail? Yea, certainly, as all these events have come, it shall also come. Nor shall there be a man of our time who shall be able in that day to plead anything in defence of his unbelief. For the name of Christ is on the lips of every man: it is invoked by the just man in doing justice, by the perjurer in the act of deceiving, by the king to confirm his rule, by the soldier to nerve himself for battle, by the husband to establish his authority, by the wife to confess her submission, by the father to enforce his command, by the son to declare his obedience, by the master in supporting his right to govern, by the slave in performing his duty, by the humble in quickening piety, by the proud in stimulating ambition, by the rich man when he gives, and by the poor when he receives an alms, by the drunkard at his wine-cup, by the beggar at the gate, by the good man in keeping his word, by the wicked man in violating his promises: all frequently use the name of Christ, the Christian with genuine reverence, the Pagan with feigned respect; and they shall undoubtedly give to that same Being whom they invoke an account both of the spirit and of the language in which they repeat His name.

5. There is One invisible, from whom, as the Creator and First Cause, all things seen by us derive their being: He is supreme, eternal, unchangeable, and comprehensible by none save Himself alone. There is One by whom the supreme Majesty utters and reveals Himself, namely, the Word, not inferior to Him by whom it is begotten and uttered, by which Word He who begets it is manifested. There is One who is holiness, the sanctifier of all that becomes holy, who is the inseparable and undivided mutual communion between this unchangeable Word by whom that First Cause is revealed, and that First Cause who reveals Himself by the Word which is His equal. But who is able with perfectly calm and pure mind to contemplate this whole Essence (whom I have endeavoured to describe without giving His name, instead of giving His name without describing Him), and to draw blessedness from that contemplation, and by sinking, as it were, in the rapture of such meditation, to become oblivious of self, and to press on to that the sight of which is beyond our sphere of perception; in other words, to be clothed with immortality, and obtain that eternal salvation which you were pleased to desire on my behalf in your greeting? Who, I say, is able to do this but the man who, confessing his sins, shall have levelled with the dust all the vain risings of pride, and prostrated himself in meekness and humility to receive God as his Teacher?

6. Since, therefore, it is necessary that we be first brought down from vain self-sufficiency to lowliness of spirit, that rising thence we may attain to real exaltation, it was not possible that this spirit could be produced in us by any method at once more glorious and more gentle (subduing our haughtiness by persuasion instead of violence) than that the Word by whom the Father reveals Himself to angels, who is His Power and Wisdom, who could not be discerned by the human heart so long as it was blinded by love for the things which are seen, should condescend to assume our nature, and so to exercise and manifest His personality when incarnate as to make men more afraid of being elated by the pride of man, than of being brought low after the example of God. Therefore the Christ who is preached throughout the whole world is not Christ adorned with an earthly crown, nor Christ rich in earthly treasures, nor Christ illustrious for earthly prosperity, but Christ crucified. This was ridiculed, at first, by whole nations of proud men, and is still ridiculed by a remnant among the nations, but it was the object of faith at first to a few and now to whole nations, because when Christ crucified was preached at that time, notwithstanding the ridicule of the nations, to the few who believed, the lame received power to walk, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and the dead were restored to life. Thus, at length, the pride of this world was convinced that, even among the things of this world, there is nothing more powerful than the humility of God, so that beneath the shield of a divine example that humility, which it is most profitable for men to practise, might find defence against the contemptuous assaults of pride.

7. O men of Madaura, my brethren, nay, my fathers, I beseech you to awake at last: this opportunity of writing to you God has given to me. So far as I could, I rendered my service and help in the business of brother Florentinus, by whom, as God willed it, you wrote to me; but the business was of such a nature, that even without my assistance it might have been easily transacted, for almost all the men of his family, who reside at Hippo, know Florentinus, and deeply regret his bereavement. But the letter was sent by you to me, that, having occasion to reply, it might not seem presumptuous on my part, when the opportunity was afforded me by yourselves, to say something concerning Christ to the worshippers of idols. But I beseech you, if you have not taken His name in vain in that epistle, suffer not these things which I write to you to be in vain; but if in using His name you wished to mock me, fear Him whom the world formerly in its pride scorned as a condemned criminal, and whom the same world now, subjected to His sway, awaits as its Judge. For the desire of my heart for you, expressed as far as in my power by this letter, shall witness against you at the judgment-seat of Him who shall establish for ever those who believe in Him and confound the unbelieving. May the one true God deliver you wholly from the vanity of this world, and turn you to Himself, my lords worthy of all praise and brethren most beloved.

This letter was addressed to Ceretius, a bishop, who had sent to Augustin certain apocryphal writings, on which the Spanish heretical sect called Priscillianists founded some of their doctrines. Ceretius had especially directed his attention to a hymn which they alleged to have been composed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and given by Him to His disciples on that night on which He was betrayed, when they sang an “hymn” before going out to the Mount of Olives. The length of the letter precludes its insertion here, but we believe it will interest many to read the few lines of this otherwise long-forgotten hymn, which Augustin has here preserved. They are as follows:—

“Salvare volo et salvari volo;

Solvere volo et solvi volo;

Ornare volo et ornari volo;

Generari volo;

Cantare volo, saltate cuncti:

Plangere volo, tundite vos omnes:

Lucerna sum tibi, ille qui me vides;

Janua sum tibi, quicunque me pulsas;

Qui vides quod ago, tace opera mea;

Verbo illusi cuncta et non sum illusus in totum.”

The reader who ponders these extracts, and remembers the occasion on which the hymn is alleged to have been composed, will agree with us that Augustin employs a very unnecessary fulness of argument in devoting several paragraphs to demolish the claims advanced on its behalf as a revelation more profound and sacred than anything contained in the canonical Scriptures. Augustin also brings against the Priscillianists the charge of justifying perjury when it might be of service in concealing their real opinions, and quotes a line in which, as he had heard from some who once belonged to that sect, the lawfulness of such deceitful conduct was taught:—

“Jura, perjura, secretum prodere noli.”

To Possidius, My Most Beloved Lord and Venerable Brother and Partner in the Sacerdotal Office, and to the Brethren Who are with Him, Augustin and the Brethren Who are with Him Send Greeting in the Lord.

1. It requires more consideration to decide what to do with those who refuse to obey you, than to discover how to show them that things which they do are unlawful. Meanwhile, however, the letter of your Holiness has come upon me when I am exceedingly pressed with business, and the very hasty departure of the bearer has made it necessary for me to write you in reply, but has not given me time to answer as I ought to have done in regard to the matters on which you have consulted me. Let me say, however, in regard to ornaments of gold and costly dress, that I would not have you come to a precipitate decision in the way of forbidding their use, except in the case of those who, neither being married nor intending to marry, are bound to consider only how they may please God. But those who belong to the world have also to consider how they may in these things please their wives if they be husbands, their husbands if they be wives; with this limitation, that it is not becoming even in married women to uncover their hair, since the apostle commands women to keep their heads covered. As to the use of pigments by women in colouring the face, in order to have a ruddier or a fairer complexion, this is a dishonest artifice, by which I am sure that even their own husbands do not wish to be deceived; and it is only for their own husbands that women ought to be permitted to adorn themselves, according to the toleration, not the injunction, of Scripture. For the true adorning, especially of Christian men and women, consists not only in the absence of all deceitful painting of the complexion, but in the possession not of magnificent golden ornaments or rich apparel, but of a blameless life.

2. As for the accursed superstition of wearing amulets (among which the earrings worn by men at the top of the ear on one side are to be reckoned), it is practised with the view not of pleasing men, but of doing homage to devils. But who can expect to find in Scripture express prohibition of every form of wicked superstition, seeing that the apostle says generally, “I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils,” and again, “What concord hath Christ with Belial?” unless, perchance, the fact that he named Belial, while he forbade in general terms fellowship with devils, leaves it open for Christians to sacrifice to Neptune, because we nowhere read an express prohibition of the worship of Neptune! Meanwhile, let those unhappy people be admonished that, if they persist in disobedience to salutary precepts, they must at least forbear from defending their impieties, and thereby involving themselves in greater guilt. But why should we argue at all with them if they are afraid to take off their earrings, and are not afraid to receive the body of Christ while wearing the badge of the devil?

As to ordaining a man who was baptized in the Donatist sect, I cannot take the responsibility of recommending you to do this; it is one thing for you to do it if you are left without alternative, it is another thing for me to advise that you should do it.

To Lampadius, Augustin Sends Greeting.

1. On the subject of Fate and Fortune, by which, as I perceived when I was with you, and as I now know in a more gratifying and more reliable way by your own letter, your mind is seriously disturbed, I ought to write you a considerable volume; the Lord will enable me to explain it in the manner which He knows to be best fitted to preserve your faith. For it is no small evil that when men embrace perverse opinions they are not only drawn by the allurement of pleasure to commit sin, but are also turned aside to vindicate their sin rather than seek to have it healed by acknowledging that they have done wrong.

2. Let me, therefore, briefly remind you of one thing bearing on the question which you certainly know, that all laws and all means of discipline, commendations, censures, exhortations, threatenings, rewards, punishments, and all other things by which mankind are managed and ruled, are utterly subverted and overthrown, and found to be absolutely devoid of justice, unless the will is the cause of the sins which a man commits. How much more legitimate and right, therefore, is it for us to reject the absurdities of astrologers [mathematici], than to submit to the alternative necessity of condemning and rejecting the laws proceeding from divine authority, or even the means needful for governing our own families. In this the astrologers themselves ignore their own doctrine as to Fate and Fortune, for when any one of them, after selling to moneyed simpletons his silly prognostications of Fate, calls back his thoughts from the ivory tablets to the management and care of his own house, he reproves his wife, not with words only, but with blows, if he finds her, I do not say jesting rather forwardly, but even looking too much out of the window. Nevertheless, if she were to expostulate in such a case, saying: “Why beat me? beat Venus, rather, if you can, since it is under that planet’s influence that I am compelled to do what you complain of,”—he would certainly apply his energies not to invent some of the absurd jargon by which he cajoles the public, but to inflict some of the just correction by which he maintains his authority at home.

3. When, therefore, any one, upon being reproved, affirms that Fate is the cause of the action, and insists that therefore he is not to be blamed, because he says that under the compulsion of Fate he did the action which is censured, let him come back to apply this to his own case, let him observe this principle in managing his own affairs: let him not chastise a dishonest servant; let him not complain of a disrespectful son; let him not utter threats against a mischievous neighbour. For in doing which of these things would he act justly, if all from whom he suffers such wrong are impelled to commit it by Fate, not by any fault of their own? If, however, from the fight inherent in himself, and the duty incumbent on him as the head of a family towards all whom for the time he has under his control, he exhorts them to do good, deters them from doing evil, commands them to obey his will, honours those who yield implicit obedience, inflicts punishment on those who set him at naught, gives thanks to those who do him good, and hates those who are ungrateful,—shall I wait to prove the absurdity of the astrologers calculations of Fate, when I find him proclaiming, not by words but by deeds, things so conclusive against his pretensions that he seems to destroy almost with his own hands every hair on the heads of the astrologers?

If your eager desire is not satisfied with these few sentences, and demands a book which will take longer time to read on this subject, you must wait patiently until I get some respite from other duties; and you must pray to God that He may be pleased to allow both leisure and capacity to write, so as to set your mind at rest on this matter. I will, however, do this with more willing readiness, if your Charity does not grudge to remind me of it by frequent letters, and to show me in your reply what you think of this letter.

To His Beloved Lord and Venerable Brother and Partner in the Priestly Office, Auxilius, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. Our son Classicianus, a man of rank, has addressed to me a letter complaining bitterly that he has suffered excommunication wrongfully at the hand of your Holiness. His account of the matter is, that he came to the church with a small escort suitable to his official authority, and begged of you that you would not, to the detriment of their own spiritual welfare, extend the privilege of the sanctuary to men who, after violating an oath which they had taken on the Gospel, were seeking in the house of faith itself assistance and protection in their crime of breaking faith; that thereafter the men themselves, reflecting on the sin which they had committed, went forth from the church, not under violent compulsion, but of their own accord; and that because of this transaction your Holiness was so displeased with him, that with the usual forms of ecclesiastical procedure you smote him and all his household with a sentence of excommunication.

On reading this letter from him, being very much troubled, the thoughts of my heart being agitated like the waves of a stormy sea, I felt it impossible to forbear from writing to you, to beg that if you have thoroughly examined your judgment in this matter, and have proved it by irrefragable reasoning or Scripture testimonies, you will have the kindness to teach me also the grounds on which it is just that a son should be anathematized for the sin of his father, or a wife for the sin of her husband, or a servant for the sin of his master, or how it is just that even the child as yet unborn should lie under an anathema, and be debarred, even though death were imminent, from the deliverance provided in the laver of regeneration, if he happen to be born in a family at the time when the whole household is under the ban of excommunication. For this is not one of those judgments merely affecting the body, in which, as we read in Scripture, some despisers of God were slain with all their households, though these had not been sharers in their impiety. In those cases, indeed, as a warning to the survivors, death was inflicted on bodies which, as mortal, were destined at some time to die; but a spiritual judgment, founded on what is written, “That which ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,”—is binding on souls, concerning which it is said, “As the soul of the father is mine, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth it shall die.”

2. It may be that you have heard that other priests of great reputation have in some cases included the household of a transgressor in the anathema pronounced on him; but these could, perchance, if they were required, give a good reason for so doing. For my own part, although I have been most grievously troubled by the cruel excesses with which some men have vexed the Church, I have never ventured to do as you have done, for this reason, that if any one were to challenge me to justify such an act, I could give no satisfactory reply. But if, perchance, the Lord has revealed to you that it may be justly done, I by no means despise your youth and your inexperience, as having been but recently elevated to high office in the Church. Behold, though far advanced in life, I am ready to learn from one who is but young; and notwithstanding the number of years for which I have been a bishop, I am ready to learn from one who has not yet been a twelvemonth in the same office, if he undertakes to teach me how we can justify our conduct, either before men or before God, if we inflict a spiritual punishment on innocent souls because of another person’s crime, in which they are not involved in the same way as they are involved in the original sin of Adam, in whom “all have sinned.” For although the son of Classicianus derived through his father, from our first parent, guilt which behoved to be washed away by the sacred waters of baptism, who hesitates for a moment to say that he is in no way responsible for any sin which his father may have committed, since he was born, without his participation? What shall I say of his wife? What of so many souls in the entire household?—of which if even one, in consequence of the severity which included the whole household in the excommunication, should perish through departing from the body without baptism, the loss thus occasioned would be an incomparably greater calamity than the bodily death of an innumerable multitude, even though they were innocent men, dragged from the courts of the sanctuary and murdered. If, therefore, you are able to give a good reason for this, I trust that you will in your reply communicate it to me, that I also may be able to do the same; but if you cannot, what right have you to do, under the promptings of inconsiderate excitement, an act for which, if you were asked to give a satisfactory reason, you could find none?

3. What I have said hitherto applies to the case even on the supposition that our son Classicianus has done something which might appear to demand most righteously at your hands the punishment of excommunication. But if the letter which he sent to me contained the truth, there was no reason why even he himself (even though his household had been exempted from the stroke) should have been so punished. As to this, however, I do not interfere with your Holiness; I only beseech you to pardon him when he asks forgiveness, if he acknowledges his fault; and if, on the other hand, you, upon reflection, acknowledge that he did nothing wrong, since in fact the right rather lay on his side who earnestly demanded that in the house of faith, faith should be sacredly kept, and that it should not be broken in the place where the sinfulness of such breach of faith is taught from day to day, do, in this event, what a man of, piety ought to do,—that is to say, if to you as a man anything has happened such as was confessed by one who was truly a man of God in the words of the psalm, “Mine eye was discomposed by anger,” fail not to cry to the Lord, as he did, “Have pity on me, O Lord, for I am weak,” so that He may stretch forth His right hand to you, rebuking the storm of your passion, and making your mind calm that you may see and may perform what is just; for, as it is written, “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” And think not that, because we are bishops, it is impossible for unjust passionate resentment to gain secretly upon us; let us rather remember that, because we are men, our life in the midst of temptation’s snares is, beset with the greatest possible dangers. Cancel, therefore, the ecclesiastical sentence which, perhaps under the influence of unusual excitement, you have passed; and let the mutual love which, even from the time when you were a catechumen, has united him and you, be restored again; let strife be banished and peace invited to return, lest this man who is your friend be lost to you, and the devil who is your enemy rejoice over you both. Mighty is the mercy of our God; it may be that His compassion shall hear even my prayer, imploring of Him that my sorrow on your account may not be increased, but that rather what I have begun to suffer may be removed; and may your youth, not despising my old age, be encouraged and made full of joy by His grace! Farewell!

[Annexed to this letter is a fragment of a letter written at the same time to Classicianus; it is as follows:—

To restrain those who for the offence of one soul bind a transgressor’s entire household, that is, a large number of souls, under one sentence of excommunication, and especially to prevent any one from departing this life unbaptized in consequence of such an anathema,—also to decide the question whether persons ought not to be driven forth even from a church, who seek a refuge there in order that they may break the faith pledged to sureties, I desire with the Lord’s help to use the necessary measures in our Council, and, if it be necessary, to write to the Apostolic See; that, by a unanimous authoritative decision of all, we may have the course which ought to be followed in these cases determined and established. One thing I say deliberately as an unquestionable truth, that if any believer has been wrongfully excommunicated, the sentence will do harm rather to him who pronounces it than to him who suffers this wrong. For it is by the Holy Spirit dwelling in holy persons that any one is loosed or bound, and He inflicts unmerited punishment upon no one; for by Him the love which worketh not evil is shed abroad in our hearts. ]

To Benenatus, My Most Blessed Lord, My Esteemed and Amiable Brother and Partner in the Priestly Office, and to the Brethren Who are with Him, Augustin and the Brethren Who are with Him Send Greeting in the Lord.

The maiden about whom your Holiness wrote to me is at present disposed to think, that if she were of full age she would refuse every proposal of marriage. She is, however, so young, that even if she were disposed to marriage, she ought not yet to be either given or betrothed to any one. Besides this, my lord Benenatus, brother revered and beloved, it must be remembered that God takes her under guardianship in His Church with the design of protecting her against wicked men; placing her, therefore, under my care not so as that she can be given by me to whomsoever I might choose, but so as that she cannot be taken away against my will by any person who would be an unsuitable partner. The proposal which you have been pleased to mention is one which, if she were disposed and prepared to marry, would not displease me; but whether she will marry any one,—although for my own part, I would much prefer that she carried out what she now talks of,—I do not in the meantime know, for she is at an age in which her declaration that she wishes to be a nun is to be received rather as the flippant utterance of one talking heedlessly, than as the deliberate promise of one making a solemn vow. Moreover, she has an aunt by the mother’s side married to our honourable brother Felix, with whom I have conferred in regard to this matter,—for I neither could, nor indeed should have avoided consulting him,—and he has not been reluctant to entertain the proposal, but has, on the contrary, expressed his satisfaction; but he expressed not unreasonably his regret that nothing had been written to him on the subject, although his relationship entitled him to be apprised of it. For, perhaps, the mother of the maiden will also come forward, though in the meantime she does not make herself known, and to a mother’s wishes in regard to the giving away of a daughter, nature gives in my opinion the precedence above all others, unless the maiden herself be already old enough to have legitimately a stronger claim to choose for herself what she pleases. I wish your Honour also to understand, that if the final and entire authority in the matter of her marriage were committed to me, and she herself, being of age and willing to marry, were to entrust herself to me under God as my Judge to give her to whomsoever I thought best,—I declare, and I declare the truth, in saying that the proposal which you mention pleases me meanwhile, but because of God being my Judge I cannot pledge myself to reject on her behalf a better offer if it were made; but whether any such proposal shall at any future time be made is wholly uncertain. Your Holiness perceives, therefore, how many important considerations concur to make it impossible for her to be, in the meantime, definitely promised to any one.

To the Eminently Religious Lady and Holy Daughter Sapida, Augustin Sends Greeting in the Lord.

1. The gift prepared by the just and pious industry of your own hands, and kindly presented by you to me, I have accepted, lest I should increase the grief of one who needs, as I perceive, much rather to be comforted by me; especially because you expressed yourself as esteeming it no small consolation to you if I would wear this tunic, which you had made for that holy servant of God your brother, since he, having departed from the land of the dying, is raised above the need of the things which perish in the using. I have, therefore, complied with your desire, and whatever be the kind and degree of consolation which you may feel this to yield, I have not refused it to your affection for your brother. The tunic which you sent I have accordingly accepted, and have already begun to wear it before writing this to you. Be therefore of good cheer; but apply yourself, I beseech you, to far better and far greater consolations, in order that the cloud which, through human weakness, gathers darkness closely round your heart, may be dissipated by the words of divine authority; and, at all times, so live that you may live with your brother, since he has so died that he lives still.

2. It is indeed a cause for tears that your brother, who loved you, and who honoured you especially for your pious life, and your profession as a consecrated virgin, is no more before your eyes, as hitherto, going in and out in the assiduous discharge of his ecclesiastical duties as a deacon of the church of Carthage, and that you shall no more hear from his lips the honourable testimony which, with kindly, pious, and becoming affection, he was wont to render to the holiness of a sister so dear to him. When these things are pondered, and are regretfully desired with all the vehemence of long-cherished affection, the heart is pierced, and, like blood from the pierced heart, tears flow apace. But let your heart rise heavenward, and your eyes will cease to weep. The things over the loss of which you mourn have indeed passed away, for they were in their nature temporary, but their loss does not involve the annihilation of that love with which Timotheus loved [his sister] Sapida, and loves her still: it abides in its own treasury, and is hidden with Christ in God. Does the miser lose his gold when he stores it in a secret place? Does he not then become, so far as lies in his power, more confidently assured that the gold is in his possession when he keeps it in some safer hiding-place, where it is hidden even from his eyes? Earthly covetousness believes that it has found a safer guardianship for its loved treasures when it no longer sees them; and shall heavenly love sorrow as if it had lost for ever that which it has only sent before it to the garner of the upper world? O Sapida, give yourself wholly to your high calling, and set your affections on things above, where, at the right hand of God, Christ sitteth, who condescended for us to die, that we, though we were dead, might live, and to secure that no man should fear death as if it were destined to destroy him, and that no one of those for whom the Life died should after death be mourned for as if he had lost life. Take to yourself these and other similar divine consolations, before which human sorrow may blush and flee away.

3. There is nothing in the sorrow of mortals over their dearly beloved dead which merits displeasure; but the sorrow of believers ought not to be prolonged. If, therefore, you have been grieved till now, let this grief suffice, and sorrow not as do the heathen, “who have no hope.” For when the Apostle Paul said this, he did not prohibit sorrow altogether, but only such sorrow as the heathen manifest who have no hope. For even Martha and Mary, pious sisters, and believers, wept for their brother Lazarus, of whom they knew that he would rise again, though they knew not that he was at that time to be restored to life; and the Lord Himself wept for that same Lazarus, whom He was going to bring back from death; wherein doubtless He by His example permitted, though He did not by any precept enjoin, the shedding of tears over the graves even of those regarding whom we believe that they shall rise again to the true life. Nor is it without good reason that Scripture saith in the book of Ecclesiasticus: “Let tears fall down over the dead, and begin to lament as if thou hadst suffered great harm thyself;” but adds, a little further on, this counsel, “and then comfort thyself for thy heaviness. For of heaviness cometh death, and the heaviness of the heart breaketh strength.”

4. Your brother, my daughter, is alive as to the soul, is asleep as to the body: “Shall not he who sleeps also rise again from sleep?” God, who has already received his spirit, shall again give back to him his body, which He did not take away to annihilate, but only took aside to restore. There is therefore no reason for protracted sorrow, since there is a much stronger reason for everlasting joy. For even the mortal part of your brother, which has been buried in the earth, shall not be for ever lost to you;—that part in which he was visibly present with you, through which also he addressed you and conversed with you, by which he spoke with a voice not less thoroughly known to your ear than was his countenance when presented to your eyes, so that, wherever the sound of his voice was heard, even though he was not seen, he used to be at once recognised by you. These things are indeed withdrawn so as to be no longer perceived by the senses of the living, that the absence of the dead may make surviving friends mourn for them. But seeing that even the bodies of the dead shall not perish (as not even a hair of the head shall perish), but shall, after being laid aside for a time, be received again never more to be laid aside, but fixed finally in the higher condition of existence into which they shall have been changed, certainly there is more cause for thankfulness in the sure hope for an immeasurable eternity, than for sorrow in the transient experience of a very short span of time. This hope the heathen do not possess, because they know not the Scriptures nor the power of God, who is able to restore what was lost, to quicken what was dead, to renew what has been subjected to corruption, to re-unite things which have been severed from each other, and to preserve thenceforward for evermore what was originally corruptible and shortlived. These things He has promised, who has, by the fulfilment of other promises, given our faith good ground to believe that these also shall be fulfilled. Let your faith often discourse now to you on these things, because your hope shall not be disappointed, though your love may be now for a season interrupted in its exercise; ponder these things; in them find more solid and abundant consolation. For if the fact that I now wear (because he could not) the garment which you had woven for your brother yields some comfort to you, how much more full and satisfactory the comfort which you should find in considering that he for whom this was prepared, and who then did not require an imperishable garment, shall be clothed with incorruption and immortality!

To Nobilius, My Most Blessed and Venerable Brother and Partner in the Priestly Office, Augustin Sends Greeting.

So important is the solemnity at which your brotherly affection invites me to be present, that my heart’s desire would carry my poor body to you, were it not that infirmity renders this impossible. I might have come if it had not been winter; I might have braved the winter if I had been young: for in the latter case the warmth of youth would have borne uncomplainingly the cold of the season; in the former case the warmth of summer would have met with gentleness the chill languor of old age. For the present, my lord most blessed, my holy and venerable partner in the priestly office, I cannot undertake in winter so long a journey, carrying with me as I must the frigid feebleness of very many years. I reciprocate the salutation due to your worth, on behalf of my own welfare I ask an interest in your prayers, and I myself beseech the Lord God to grant that the prosperity of peace may follow the dedication of so great an edifice to His sacred service.

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