Augustine of Hippo
Aurelius Augustinus was born in 354 in Tagaste to a Christian mother and a Pagan father, raised in Roman north Africa, educated in Carthage, and employed as a professor of rhetoric in Milan by 383. He followed the Manichaean religion in his student days, and was converted to Christianity by the preaching and example of Ambrose of Milan. He was baptized at Easter in 387, and returned to north Africa and created a monastic foundation at Tagaste for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba, in Algeria). He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combatting the Manichaean heresy.
In 396 he was made coadjutor bishop of Hippo (assistant with the right of succession on the death of the current bishop), and remained as bishop in Hippo until his death in 430. He left his monastery, but continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a Rule (Regula in Latin) for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of Regular Clergy," that is, parish clergy who live by a monastic rule.
Augustine died on August 28, 430, during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals. He is said to have encouraged its citizens to resist the attacks, primarily on the grounds that the Vandals adhered to heretical Arian Christianity.
Influence as a theologian and thinker
Augustine remains a central figure, both within Christianity and in the history of Western thought. Himself much influenced by Platonism and neo-Platonism, particularly by Plotinus, Augustine was important to the "baptism" of Greek thought and its entrance into the Western Christian (and subsequently the European) intellectual tradition. Also important was his early and influential writing on the human will, a central topic in ethics, and one which became a focus for later philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, but also to the Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.
Augustine's writings developed St Ambrose of Milan's theory of just war. He also advocated the use of force against the Donatists, asking "Why . . . should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction?" (The Correction of the Donatists, 22-24). However, he objected to capital punishment and said that it would be preferable to set his opponents free than to execute them.
The addition of Augustine to the Menologion is uncertain. Some regard him as glorified by popular recognition in the distant past, yet he was not added to the Horologion in Greece until 1983 (and then only in the index, but with no mention of his name on the page for June 15). He appears to have been added to the calendar in Russia during the "Western Captivity" when the influence of Latin scholasticism was at a high point. His feast day in the Orthodox Church is June 15. In the West, he is remembered on August 28. which was the day of his death in A.D. 430.
Reception of Augustine in the Orthodox Church
The Fifth Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in A.D. 553, listed Augustine among other Fathers of the Church, though there is no unqualified endorsement of his theology mentioned (just as there is none for most saints of the Church):
- We further declare that we hold fast to the decrees of the four Councils, and in every way follow the holy Fathers, Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Theophilus, John (Chrysostom) of Constantinople, Cyril, Augustine, Proclus, Leo and their writings on the true faith. (emphasis added)
In the acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (not yet translated into English), he is called the "most excellent and blessed Augustine" and is referred to as "the most wise teacher." In the Comnenian Council of Constantinople in 1166 he is referred to as "Ό Αγίος Αυγουστίνος - "Saint Augustine."
Despite these acclamations, most of his works were not translated into Greek until circa 1360 by Demetrios Cydones and some Orthodox Christians identify errors in his theology—especially those in his Triadology which gave rise to the Filioque addition to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed—and regard him as being one of the major factors in the Great Schism between the Church in the East and in the West. Thus, there are those among the Orthodox who regard Augustine as a heretic, although there has never been any conciliar condemnation of either him or his writings.
More moderate views regard Augustine as (1) a theological writer who made too many mistakes to be included among the Church Fathers but still a saint, (2) a theological writer among many in the early Church (but not a saint), and (3) a theological writer with, perhaps, the title "Blessed" before his name. It should be noted, however, that the Orthodox Church has not traditionally ranked saints in terms of "blessed" or "saint" (i.e., suggesting that the latter has a greater degree of holiness than the former). Saint "rankings" are usually only differences in kind (e.g., monastics, married, bishops, martyrs, etc.), not in degree. The practice of ranking by degree is much more characteristic of the Roman Catholic tradition.
There are at least two books explicitly dealing with the issue of Augustine's place in Orthodoxy: The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church by Fr. Seraphim Rose (ISBN 0938635123), which is generally favorable toward Augustine, citing his importance as a saint in terms of his confessional and devotional writings rather than in his theology, and The Influence of Augustine of Hippo on the Orthodox Church by Dr. Fr. Michael Azkoul (ISBN 0889467331), which tends to see Augustine as the root of all Western Christendom's errors. (There is also a condensation of this book into a booklet titled Augustine of Hippo: An Orthodox Christian Perspective.) The former's cover (shown on right) includes a traditional Greek icon of Augustine, where he is labelled as "Ό Αγίος Αυγουστίνος"—"Saint Augustine."
Another view is expressed by Christos Yannaras, who descibed Augustine as "the fount of every distortion and alteration in the Church's truth in the West" (The Freedom of Morality, p. 151n.).
From The City of God
St. Augustine evidently originated the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin", which he tied in with a privative notion of evil:
- For this reason, the man who lives by God's standards and not by man's, must needs be a lover of the good, and it follows that he must hate what is evil. Further, since no one is evil by nature, but anyone who is evil is evil because of a perversion of nature, the man who lives by God's standards has a duty of "perfect hatred" (Psalm 139:22) towards those who are evil; that is to say, he should not hate the person because of the fault, nor should he love the fault because of the person. He should hate the fault, but love the man. And when the fault has been cured there will remain only what he ought to love, nothing that he should hate. (14:6, Penguin ed., transl. Bettenson)
- Our hearts shall ever restless be, until they find their rest in Thee. (1:1)
At the end of his life (426-428?) Augustine revisited his previous works in chronological order and suggested what he would have said differently in a work titled the Retractations, which gives us a remarkable picture of the development of a writer and his final thoughts.
- On Christian Doctrine, 397-426
- Confessions, 397-398
- City of God, begun c. 413, finished 426.
- On the Trinity, 400-416.
- On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
- On Faith and the Creed
- Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
- On the Profit of Believing
- On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
- On Continence
- On the Good of Marriage
- On Holy Virginity
- On the Good of Widowhood
- On Lying
- To Consentius: Against Lying
- On the Work of Monks
- On Patience
- On Care to be Had For the Dead
- On the Morals of the Catholic Church
- On the Morals of the Manichaeans
- On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans
- Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean
- Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental
- Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
- Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans
- On Baptism, Against the Donatists
- Answer to Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta
- The Correction of the Donatists
- Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
- On the Spirit and the Letter
- On Nature and Grace
- On Man's Perfection in Righteousness
- On the Proceedings of Pelagius
- On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
- On Marriage and Concupiscence
- On the Soul and its Origin
- Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
- On Grace and Free Will
- On Rebuke and Grace
- The Predestination of the Saints/Gift of Perseverance
- Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount
- The Harmony of the Gospels
- Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament
- Tractates on the Gospel of John
- Homilies on the First Epistle of John
- The Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms
- Dr. Fr. Michael Azkoul, The Influence of Augustine of Hippo on the Orthodox Church (ISBN 0889467331)
- Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967) (ISBN 0-520-00186-9)
- Fr. Seraphim Rose, The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church, 1997 (ISBN 0938635123)
- Adolphe Tanquerey, The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology, 1930, reprint edition 2000 (ISBN 0895556596) p. 37.
- St. Augustine in the Greek Orthodox Tradition, by Fr. George C. Papademetriou
- Theological Discussion on Eight Teachings of Augustine of Hippo
- On Christian Doctrine, Confessions, and City of God are available freely at http://www.ccel.org/a/augustine/
- Other writings are available freely at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/
- St. Augustine: Between Two Worlds
- Augustine and 'other catholics'
- The Enchiridion by Augustine
- eTexts of Augustine's works, at Project Gutenberg