Sunday, November 10, 2013

Restless Until We Rest in Thee

“For though the soul may seem to rule the body admirably, and the reason the vices, if the soul and reason do not themselves obey God, as God has commanded them to serve Him, they have no proper authority over the body and the vices. For what kind of mistress of the body and the vices can that mind be which is ignorant of the true God, and which, instead of being subject to His authority, is prostituted to the corrupting influences of the most vicious demons? It is for this reason that the virtues which it seems to itself to possess, and by which it restrains the body and the vices that it may obtain and keep what it desires, are rather vices than virtues so long as there is no reference to God in the matter. For although some suppose that virtues which have a reference only to themselves, and are desired only on their own account, are yet true and genuine virtues, the fact is that even then they are inflated with pride, and are therefore to be reckoned vices rather than virtues. For as that which gives life to the flesh is not derived from flesh, but is above it, so that which gives blessed life to man is not derived from man, but is something above him; and what I say of man is true of every celestial power and virtue whatsoever.” [Saint Augustine of Hippo (2009-10-22). The City of God (p. 638). Hendrickson Publishers. Kindle Edition.]

I finally finished reading all the way through St. Augustine's City of God. The quote above comes from the Saint's commentary on what Varro has to say about human happiness being rooted in virtue. St. Augustine takes such beyond the earthy city and situates it in the context of the city of God. It is a big, hearty work which St. Augustine did for his own times and of which any half intelligent person can see the application to our world today. Pagan folly and overall cynicism might have a somewhat different vesture in our day, but the whole pantheon still comes up wanting and challenged in 2013.

I'm still haunted a bit by John Senior's dismissal of the possibilities of raising up a first rate Catholic intellectual today for lack of cultural humus (as he would say). Look at what St. Augustine did in the midst of paganism and heresy! There is at least as much belief afoot today as there was in Augustine's day and hence potential for transforming culture. Let us give ourselves to the challenge of replacing bread and circus with humbled and contrite hearts set on the Kingdom which will have no end! Let us open to the Bridegroom!


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