From Privatization to Community

[INCARNATIONAL SERIES part 11]Segregation2_7
As his tendency towards inwardization was flushed away, the desire to reflect the character of Christ broke into Augustine’s soul.1   So transformational was his conversion, that any aura of rhetorical superiority Augustine once held was swept away by his spontaneous compulsion to share the Good News of Jesus with others.  In a wellspring of passion for Christ, Augustine would urge his fellow believers: “Tell your friends this, so that they may weep in this valley of tears.  Draw them to God with you because it is by God’s Spirit that you speak to them this way, if as you speak you are glowing with the fire of love."2

    Augustine wholeheartedly believed that followers of Jesus were to respond to God’s act of love towards them by displaying God’s love towards others.  Augustine referred to this often in his writings as “charity.”  He suggested that the character of God as revealed in Trinity shapes an intimacy expressed by the Christian community in the form of loving charity.3   Augustine’s movement away from seeking private pleasures for himself is displayed in his vivid picture of the City of God, where unrestrained sharing defines the characteristic of God’s community.4  Clark describes Augustine’s vision of community well: “We hear that no man must be so concerned to contemplation as to ignore the needs of his neighbor, nor so absorbed in action that he forgets the contemplation of God.”5   Augustine makes it clear that as grand a pursuit as was his grasping after philosophical certainty, it paled in comparison with the calling to serve others.  “The caritas veritatis (love of truth) must give way to the necessitas caritatis (necessity of charity).”6   This is why Augustine boldly instructed his diocese in what to think:

“If you wish to see God: ‘God is Love.’  What face has love?  What form has it?  What height?  What feet?  What hands?  No one can say.  Yet it has feet, for they lead to the Church; it has hands, for they care for the poor; it has eyes, for through them the needy one is known: ‘Blessed,’ He said, ‘is he who watches over the poor and the needy’ (Ps 40.2).  Love has ears, of whom the Lord spoke: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Lk 8:8).”7 

1  Also, “Your words had fastened themselves in my heart, and I was surrounded by you on all sides.  I was certain of your eternal life, though I had seen it as ‘only a reflection as in a mirror’ (1 Corinthians 13:12)… I no longer desired to be more certain of you, but to be more steadfast in you.” (Augustine, YCM, 197)
2  Augustine.  YCM, 92.
Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, 12.
4 Sheldrake, 30-31.
Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, 43.
6  Ibid., 43-44.
7  Augustine.  “Treatise Seven on the First Epistle of St. John,” Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, 306.

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