11.AUGUSTINE 354-430


PLAN

I. AUGUSTINE'S MONASTIC LIFE

II. ST AUGUSTINE'S RULE

III. OTHER MONASTIC WRITINGS


IV. CONCLUSION

 

 

I. SAINT AUGUSTINE'S MONASTIC LIFE

Augustine is, with Origen, the most important Father of the Church, as much by the quantity and value of his writings as by the influence they exercised. Here we shall deal not so much with his life as with those writings which concern Augustinian monasticism.

Augustine was born in 354. Antony was already at the end of his life; he died two years later. Pachomius had been dead for 8 years, Basil for 26 and Jerome for 7. The life of Antony, written in 357, the Pachomian texts, the letters of Jerome on asceticism and the monastic life only became known in the West around 375. In his youth, Augustine did not know any of these writings. He was a young man who needed to be surrounded with friends, who longed for happiness, friendship, wisdom and beauty.

Augustine tells the story of his life in the Confessions. Focusing on what is important for his monastic life; he 1. ST says that during his studies, the reading of Hortensius by Cicero led him to the search for wisdom. His childhood faith did not stop him, for he set reason over against faith; holy Scripture seemed to him to be too simple in style, and its contents too obscure. Then he met some men who promised to lead him to wisdom without the need for faith: the Manicheans.

He followed their teaching for many years, first as a professor at Carthage, then in Rome. There, he began to see more clearly what Manicheism really was: his disppointment made him veer towards scepticism. Then he was appointed professor at Milan where he got to know Ambrose and came in contact with Platonism. Through Ponticianus he learned of the existence of the monks of Trves and the Life of Antony. This meeting was decisive for Augustine's quest; he was converted by what took place in the garden, this led to his baptism and guided him towards the monastic life. For Augustine there was a close link between becoming a Christian and becoming a monk.

Augustine's Monastic Journey

Date

Age

Event

384

30

Conversion at Milan

387

33

Baptism

388

34

Went to Africa

   

Monastic Life at Tagaste

391

37

Priest at Hippo

396

42

Bishop

   

Rule

   

Monastery of clerics

430

76

Death

     

 

Augustine was converted in 384 and baptised in 387. At this time he heard about a group of ascetics living near Milan. Immediately after his baptism he retired to Cassiciacum, a property lent to him by a friend. There with his mother, his brother, his son and some friends he formed a small group dedicated to a quiet life; they undertook light work in the fields, they read and commented on the works of Virgil and engaged in philosophical discussions on three themes which, in Augustine's eyes, were the most important: certitude, happiness and evil. Augustine did not consider seeking truth except within a circle of friends.

The following year he returned to Africa.

On the way he passed through Rome, where he came into contact with groups of ascetics living in and near the city. He described his discovery in: The Customs of the Catholic Church, making a connection between the monastic life and the holiness of the Church. It was through these communities and through Jerome that Augustine came to know Eastern monasticism. In spite of these various influences, he did not try to imitate what he had seen or heard about. The monasticism of Augustine had no other real source than Augustine himself. It is the fruit of his genius, of the way in which he was gripped by reading the Bible and of his vocation as a bishop. The Rule which he soon began to write is one of the three 'Mother-Rules'.

On his return to Tagaste, Augustine made the family home available to a community of friends and pious laymen. The common life which he led with them and his son Adeodatus was similar to the way of the East: a definitive common life based on renunciation of property as its basic tenet. He envisaged study and literary activities as a part of the life, thus early integrating asceticism with learning and letters. On the other hand, the community was near the local church which was much disturbed by the people of Tagaste. Augustine then went to Hippo to look for a place to found a monastery.

It was not a good idea, for he was nominated a priest by the Christians, and assistant to the bishop! Conscious of the good he had lost, Augustine obeyed, crying: "If men refuse to serve the Church, who will be able to help her bring forth children?" To compensate him a little, and enable him to lead his monastic life, the bishop gave him a garden near the church in which to set up his monastery. Some of those who were with him at Tagaste came to join him there.

As bishop, Augustine wanted to continue his monastic life; he organised his clergy into a community. Near the 'garden monastery' of laymen led by Alypius, there was a monastery of clerics.

Augustine died in 430, having founded monasteries all over North Africa.

 

II. AUGUSTINE'S RULE

PLAN OF THE RULE

I. Basis and essential conditions of monastic life:

common ownership.

II. Prayer

III. Food

IV. Guarding of the senses and chastity

Fraternal correction.

V. Compendium: use of possessions:

clothes, books, baths, sickness.

VI. Fraternal relationships, forgiveness.

VII. Obedience and the superior.

VIII. Conclusion.

 

It has long been asked what was St Augustine's rule.

There are in fact three texts: the Ordo monasterii, the Praeceptum, Letter 211. The Praeceptum is now considered to be the rule of St Augustine. He wrote it for the garden monastery at the time when, having become bishop, he left it to found the monastery of clerics. Letter 211 was the Praeceptum adapted for nuns. The Ordo monasterii was written by Alypius for the monastery at Tagaste; only the first and last lines are from the hand of Augustine.

At first sight, the rule of Augustine is essentially practical, as in fact it is. We find there the usages of contemporary Roman life combined with the leisure of the philosophical life as lived at Cassiciacum. Added to this there was a rigorous asceticism, but flexible and adapted to the strength of each individual. However, if one digs a little deeper, we find there a spirituality described in few words, which must be completed by the other monastic works of Augustine.

The theology of the monastic life in this Rule is found at mainly the beginning and the end. The first two verses of the first chapter and the penultimate verse of the last chapter form a sort of bracket and establish the basis of the monastic life: the brothers must be: "turned towards God" (I:2), and they must "observe all these precepts with love, as lovers of spiritual beauty" (VIII:1)
There is an insistence on contemplation: for Augustine, the observance of the Rule is oriented towards contemplation: the love of the beauty of God, as he shows in this text (Text 1). The monastic life has no meaning if it does not turn the soul towards God. Augustine underlines this at the beginning of his Confessions: "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You". The monastic life should offer the necessary conditions for the full flowering of this desire for rest in God which every human person has within him".

You will find the most beautiful passages of the Rule given in the pages of Texts (Book 2, no.2). numbered according to the recognised editions; they are commented on in order here.

I. Here again, the second verse and the last (8) of this first part of the Rule form a sort of bracket underlining one characteristic of the Rule: the 'gathering' of the brothers forms a single temple of God: therefore they must be 'of one mind' in the 'house' where they dwell, which is a symbol of the spiritual temple which they themselves form.

They life in a house. This house is the monastery, the place of the 'gathering' of the brothers, an image of the great Church where Christians are one in the Body of Christ. This physical unity must become a spiritual unity: "one soul and one heart turned towards God". This house is also each one of us, as is shown at the end of the paragraph: "this God whose temples you have become". This implies that each one of us must become one with the rest; one sole person in the house, transformed into Christ, as Augustine has written elsewhere (Text 2). Common life goes very deep.

Such is the beginning and the end of the presentation of monastic life. The rest is an account of the essential condition for community: common ownership. Note the reference to Acts to support this necessity by the example of the first Christians. We find it again elsewhere: (Text 3). Common ownership is prompted by the love of Christ.

In order to bring this unity about, Augustine gives us two forms of renunciation straight away: renunciation of possession: poverty (3-5); renunciation of self: humility (6-7).

There were considerable differences between the rich and the poor in the social life of Antiquity. Augustine insisted on poverty. We have passed over the passage where he dwells at great length on the way to reduce these differences which can harm the unity of the community. Here is a summary:

"The rich should give up their riches.

The poor should not seek to become rich.

They must not be proud because they have been given all that they need

The rich ought to be glad to live with the poor, and find it a source of pride.

Material riches and poverty are nothing without spiritual poverty which both must strive for. This spiritual poverty is humility".

The conclusion, (8), which can be bracketed with (2) shows that common ownership and humility are the cement which which bind the living stones together to make both the community and each individual member a temple for the Lord.

All these ideas which we have seen in this introduction are summarised in a passage of the commentary on psalm 131. (Text 4).

II. Augustine goes on immediately to speak of prayer. This indicates the importance he gives it. Prayer too will form the community. It is not a treatise on prayer, but a warning against certain abuses. However the passage is dense: perseverance in prayer; the place of prayer: the oratory (Augustine is perhaps the creator, in the West, of the conventual oratory of which St Benedict speaks in ch. 52 & 19) - Like St Benedict too, he wants the words and heart to be in harmont. We find the same remark elsewhere. (Text 5).

III. On food. The Manichees hated the body. Augustine, a converted Manichee, did not want to despise the body which is created by God and is servant to the soul.

Augustine knew by experience that, as a result os sin, the passions have become a snare to man. They set themselves up against his reason and overpower it. The concern of the Christian then, is never to be led astray by the passions, but to master them by mortifying the flesh.

Mortification has a positive goal. Fasting and mortification are the expression of the human aspiration towards God. "When one sets aside the joys of the flesh", he said somewhere, "one receives spiritual joy".

This renunciation ought to serve the main goal, the union of hearts. Human love would not allow the brothers to have a single soul turned towards God nor to rejoice together in possessing eternal blessings.

In practice Augustine prescribes fasting according to health (3). Thus he suggests that the degree of fasting be assessed for each person individually, while maintaining the principle, even for the weak. We find in this subject the effects of social inequality noted in I,5-7. In the following paragraph (4) we find the same with regard to the sick.

IV. Going out (4-7). Asceticism must also be practised in what we look at, in particular restraining the roving eye on seeing a woman. Augustine insists on the need for chastity, it is because this too contributes to the union of hearts. Chastity flows from the love due to God; love is chaste.

(8-11) After having drawn attention to the danger of faults, the end of the chapter is devoted to fraternal correction, an important element in the common life. Here Augustine is following oriental monasticism. Charity must be shown by a sincere concern for the spiritual good of one's brethren. The monk has the duty to exercise fraternal correction; to be silent is to be an accomplice. For St Benedict, this duty of correction is reserved to the Abbot.

V.Service. This chapter deals with many matters to do with common ownership, but in more detail; it is an indispensible condition of the monastic ideal according to Augustine. In practice: Not to give gifts - to refuse those given to a particular monk.

All is in common, clothes, books, washing and storage.

Avoid clashes between classes.

One important text (2) shows that concern for the common good is the measure of our spiritual progress.

This Rule mentions work without going into detail. In Augustine's other works, we can find the following:

  • Work has value in itself.

  • Work is a collaboration with creation, from which it derives its dignity. (This was contrary to

                       the idea of the ancient world in which work was for slaves).

  • It is a way of doing penance, by which man is restored, rescued from pride and taught humility. It is a means of sanctification.

  • Moreover it enables us to glorify God in all our activities.

All those in the monastery must work, even the rich. One must be careful though to give each person work which is adapted to his strength.

In 9. Augustine warns against murmuring.

VI. Fraternal relationships and forgiveness. The ideal would be never to have disputes. But as this is not always the case, they should at least be brought to an end as soon as possible. The confession of faults, mutual support and forgiveness are daily occurrences in the exercise of brotherly love: "He who does not ask forgiveness or who does not give it from the bottom of his heart has no place in a monastery".

Notice an original observation (3) which expresses the mentality of the age rather than the spirit of the Gospel.

VII. Obedience. Augustine does not mention it until the end of his Rule, and then only in a single verse, while the three other verses of this chapter concern the superior. This ties in with Augustine's conception of monastic life. The basis of monastic life is not obedience, as Pachomius or Basil maintain, but love as a form of life in communion with brothers. Thus obedience becomes one of the realities of the common life, a mutual support. What he does say is to the point: "Obey the prior as a father". It is short, but compact. The community must have a head, a father, and one must obey him as one does in a family. Obedience is something important, but secondary; the common life is the essential mark of Augustine's monasticism.

The portrait of the superior (3) is brief, but beautiful. In no. 4 the brothers obey with a good spirit so as not to overburden the superior whose responsibility is heavy. It is compassion that inspires obedience, compassion for the prior, but also for oneself.

VIII. The Rule finishes with a beautiful passage which returns to the aspect of his theology of monastic life describing monks as 'lovers of beauty'.

The Rule of Augustine does not contain everything. It was written in a particular context, as a guide. For Augustine, as for Basil, the rule of the Christian is the Gospel. For the one as for the other, the most essential thing is charity. The whole Rule aims at freeing us from our own self-interest so that we may be entirely given to God and to our brothers.

We had to wait to find in the doctor of love what we saw in Evagrius, Cassian and Basil; it is charity which gives meaning to the life of a monk.

 

III. OTHER MONASTIC WRITINGS

First the Ordo Monasterii: 'Regulations for a Monastery' which we have already mentioned. It is very short text. At the beginning and the end there is the same inclusion on love: "Above all, love God, and your neighbour" (1), and: "If you observe these prescriptions faithfully and with love, you will make progress and your salvation will give us much joy" (11)

No. 2 establishes the order of the seven offices of community prayer. Murmuring, a very human reaction when one's own will is crossed, is forbidden in 5, as we saw in V.9 of the Rule.

A text which dates from his visit to Rome, when on his way back from Africa, and his discovery of ascetics near the city, emphasises that for Augustine, love is at the centre of monastic life.(Text 6).

Some other texts can also be cited to complete the teaching of Augustine on the monastic life.

First there is the rather difficult text on the Trinity: Letter 238. To clarify the mystery of a God who is both three and one, Augustine first takes several examples to show that there are things which are both 'not one' and 'one'. He begins with the simplest: The soul and the body; then, the more abstract: the outer man and the inner man; The Spirit of the Lord and the spirit of man; finally "one faith, one hope, one love" which has made of Christians: "one soul and one heart".

Augustine concludes: With even more reason "the Father and the Son have the same divine nature, this means, if one can say so, that the Father and the Son are one God". Men will become one, but the Father and the Son are "always and ineffably one". All this, he adds, flows from the peace of God which "surpasses all understanding".

It is this peace of God which will make us one, we who are the descendants of the first disciples (Text 7). The harmony and charity of believers should reflect the peace of God, the peace of the Trinity. This it is which keeps the hearts of all one in God.

PLAN of the ENNARATIO ON PSALM 132

1. Introduction: does the first verse apply to all Christians, or only some?

2. This verse has given birth to monasteries

the Jews have not heard, yet monasticism came into existence among them

3. Digression on the ascetics among the heretics.

4 & 5. There are false monks and true ones,

just as there are false clergy and true ones.

                                    

The three states of men each comprising good people and wicked ones.

                                                       

The three states common to Luke and Ezekiel

6. Return to heretic monks.

Etymology of the word 'monk'

7. Explanation of Aaron's beard = strong men

                                                   

8. Digression on Stephen, the strong man.

9. The robe and the collar of the robe.

10. The dew.

11. Hermon.

12. The Mountains of Sion

13. There God has commanded the blessing.

 

A very eloquent and celebrated text on monastic life is the Ennaratio (commentary) on psalm 132. We give first a plan which will make reading easier. The marks the passages in the text which we reproduce. We do not give the complete text; the cuts have been made to omit the digressions which break the thread (Text 8).

There is no need to give an explanation, except for one of the digressions where Augustine introduces three classes of men. This is in support of his affirmation that there are good men and wicked everywhere. To give an example, he quotes Luke 17:31 and 34-35 where it is written: "On that night, two will be in the field, one will be taken, the other left; there will be two in one bed, one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding together, one will be taken, the other left." Those who are in the field are the pastors of the Church, as St Paul wrote: "I have planted, Apollo watered..." etc; those who are in one bed are the monks who enjoy the repose of contemplation, those who are at the mill grinding the grain are the people of the world occupied with their many labours.

Augustine finds these three classes of men in a text of Ezekiel where Noah, Danel and Job are mentioned: "If a land sins against me, and there are three men there: Noah, Danel and Job, their lives would be saved by their righteousness" (Ez.14:13-14). Noah, who built the ark, is the symbol of the leaders of the Church, the pastors. Danel - Augustine reads Daniel - called in the Bible the 'man of desire', is the symbol of contemplatives; and Job, a married man, is the symbol of the faithful laity. The description of the monk which he gives with reference to Daniel is found in no.5 of the extracts from the Ennaratio on psalm.

This passage is given because it has been taken up by Gregory the Great and Bernard, among others.

 

IV. CONCLUSION

The rule of Augustine, like the other texts which refer to his idea of the monastic life, gives a very different emphasis from the other forms of monasticism we have seen.

There is no incompatibility with this study.

Above all, Augustine wanted to found a community of love oriented towards contemplation.

The ideal behind it was the first community at Jerusalem. For Augustine, this communion in love is the fundamental condition for union with God. Other more practical consequences flow from it: poverty, obedience, chastity. They are at the service of charity; and all this frees us from ourselves and enables us to be entirely at the service of God and our brethren.

It is a community in the image of the Church, Augustine the bishop sees in the monastery the same image as he does in the Church: a community of love centred round Jesus Christ.

 

 

With Augustine we come to the end of the 'golden age' of the eastern and African monks. Before going on to western monasticism in the next chapter, you will find in Book 2 a chronological table of this period: 'Two centuries in the history of monks' (Table9).

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Agatha Mary SPB. The Rule of St Augustine - an essay in understanding. Augustinian Press 1991.

Lawless, George OSA: Augustine of Hippo and his Monastic Rule. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1987

 

11. AUGUSTINE


 

REVISION

 

1) What are the principle stages of Augustine's monastic journey?

2) Which text is the Rule of St Augustine? What are the other two which are similar?

3) Where in the Rule of Augustine is his motivation best expressed? What is it; what are the

key words used to express it? What is the goal of the Rule?

4) What is the place of obedience in this Rule?

5) What renunciation does he insist on?

6) How does Augustine justify manual work in his other writings?

7) What do you think is the dominant characteristic in the Rule of Augustine?

 

11. AUGUSTINE & BENEDICT


STUDY PAPER 6.

 

Here are some extracts from the Rule of Augustine. Some ideas and even entire phrases are found in the Rule of St Benedict. A space is left at the end of each text. Write the number of the chapter in the Rule where the same idea is found.

Underline the passages which are the same in the Rule of St Benedict. Add any remarks you

would like to make.

The chapters concerned are noted at the bottom of the second page, so that you do not have to look through the whole Rule.

 

I.

3. Do not say: "This thing is mine". Everything should be common to all. Your superior ought to give each one food and clothing. He will not give the same to everyone because you do not all enjoy the same health. He must give each one what he needs; for we read in the Acts of the Apostles that: "they had everything in common" and "distribution was made to each according to his need".

 

 

II.

2. No one should do anything in the oratory except what it is meant for, which is why it is called an oratory. So that if someone wishes to pray even outside the fixed times, he will not be prevented by another who thinks he has something else to do there.

 

3. When you pray to God with psalms and hymns, the words you speak should be alive in your hearts.

III.

2. When you come to table, and until you leave it, listen to the customary reading without noise or dissension. Food is not just to be eaten, your ears too should hunger for the Word of God.

3. If there are brothers whose health is poor due to their former way of life, the others should not be upset if they are given different food, nor should it be thought unjust when they who are stronger receive something else. These should not consider others more fortunate for eating what they themselves do not; rather they should be grateful for the strength to do what others cannot.

 

IV.

10. What I have said with regard to custody of the eyes applies also to all other faults; one must carefully and faithfully discern, forestall, and make them known, convincing the culprit of his fault, and punish the offence. This must be done with love for the person and hatred for the sin.

11. If anyone goes so far in evil-doing as to receive letters or small presents secretly; if he confesses it, pardon him and pray for him. But if he is caught and proved guilty, he should be severely punished according to the judgment of the priest or the superior.

 

V.

3. Consequently, if anyone brings something even to his own sons or another close relation in the monastery, an article of clothing or anything else considered necessary, the gift is not to be accepted on the quiet. It is to be given to the superior to be put into the common store and given to whoever needs it.

9. Those who have charge of the food, or the clothes, or the books must serve their brothers without murmuring.

 

VII.

1. Your superior should not think himself fortunate in exercising authority but in serving with love. He should have the place of honour among you, but in fear before God let him lie at your feet as a servant. Let him be an example of good deeds for everyone. Let him correct the wayward, comfort the fainthearted, support the weak and show patience to all. Let him observe the Rule willingly and see that it is respected. Although both are necessary, he should seek to be loved by you rather than feared, remembering always that he must give an account to God for you.

 

 

VIII.

2. This little book should be read to you once a week so that it may become a mirror in which you see yourselves, and that forgetfulness may never make you negligent. When you find yourselves observing what is written, give thanks to the Lord, the source of all good. But if one of you sees that he has been negligent on some point, let him be sorry for the past, pay attention in the future, praying God to pardon his fault and that he be not lead into temptation.

 

Rule of St Benedict: 2-19-33-34-35-38-46-52-54-64-66

 

 

11. AUGUSTINE


TEXTS

 

1. ON THE RULE

1. Sermon on the Creed

"The believers had but one soul and one heart". There were many souls, faith had made them one. They were a multitude of souls; they loved one another and the whole multitude became one. They loved God with the fire of charity, and this multitude attained the oneness of beauty.

2. Letter 243:4.

Your soul does not belong to you alone, but to all the brothers whose souls also belong to you; or rather, their souls and yours are not many souls, but a single soul, the one soul of Christ.

3. Catechism for beginners 23:42.

Jews by the thousands did penance, were converted and believed in Christ. They no longer wanted temporal blessings and an earthly kingdom; they no longer awaited the promised Christ as king according to the flesh, but they embraced and loved in his immortality him who, for them and at their hand, had suffered so much in his mortality, who had pardoned their sins, who had shed his blood and shown them by his resurrection that it is immortality which must be hoped for and desired. That is why, putting to death the earthly desires of the old man and burning with eagerness for the newness of the spiritual life, they sold all they possessed as the Lord ordained in the Gospel, and laid the money at the feet of the apostles so that these could distribute to each one what he needed. They lived united in the charity of Christ; they did not say about anything: "this is mine", but possessed everything in common; they had but one soul and one heart fixed on God.

4. On Psalm 131:5.

How many thousands believed, my brothers, when they laid their money at the feet of the apostles. But what does Scripture say? Surely that they became the temple of God. Not only did each one become a temple of God, but all of them together were the temple of God. They became a place for the Lord. And so that you may know that there was but one place for the Lord among all of them, Scripture says: "They had but one soul and one heart in God". But there are many who do not prepare a place for the Lord; they seek possessions of their own and love what they own, rejoicing in the power they have and craving that which they are denied.

The one who wishes to prepare a place for the Lord should find his joy in the common good not in his own possessions. That is what these people did, by giving up their own possessions, they shared them with everyone.

5. Commentary on Psalm 18.

The blackbirds, parrots, ravens, magpies and other birds are sometimes trained by men to make sounds which they do not understand. The divine will has given human nature the privilege of understanding its song.

 

2. PRINCIPLE TEXTS OF THE RULE

I.

1. This is what we ask you who live in a monastery to observe.

2. Above all, you are gathered in a community to live harmoniously in the house and to have one soul and one heart turned towards God.

3. So do not say: "This thing is mine". Everything should be common to all. Your superior ought to give each one food and clothing. He will not give the same to everyone because you do not all enjoy the same health. He must give each one what he needs; for we read in the Acts of the Apostles that: "they had everything in common" and "distribution was made to each according to his need".

4. Some brothers owned possessions in the world; when they enter the monastery, they must freely agree to put them to common use.

8. Live together all of you in harmony and concord and give honour to God in one another, whose temples you have become.

II.

1. Be steadfast in prayer at the hours and times fixed for it.

2. No one should do anything in the oratory except what it is meant for, which is why it is called an oratory. So that if someone wishes to pray even outside the fixed times, he will not be prevented by another who thinks he has something else to do there.

3. When you pray to God with psalms and hymns, the words you speak should be alive in your hearts.

III.

1. Subdue your flesh by fasting, depriving yourself of food and drink as far as your health permits...

2. When you come to table, and until you leave it, listen to the customary reading without noise or dissension. Food is not just to be eaten, your ears too should hunger for the Word of God.

3. If there are brothers whose health is poor due to their former way of life, the others should not be upset if they are given different food, nor should it be thought unjust when they who are stronger receive something else. These should not consider others more fortunate for eating what they themselves do not; rather they should be grateful for the strength to do what others cannot.

4. If those who have come to the monastery after having led a more fastidious life receive food, clothes, blankets or other bedding, the stronger and more fortunate brothers to whom such things are not given should realise what kind of life-style their brothers have given up to enter upon this life, even if they cannot practise the frugality of the stronger. No one should crave for the extras given to a few more out of tolerance than as a mark of honour; for it would be a dreadful perversion if the monastery became a place where the rich work hard while the poor become fastidious.

IV.

1. Your habit should not be attract attention. Do not try to please by your clothes, but rather by your manner of life.

4. If you notice a woman, do not stop to look at her. You are not forbidden to see women when you go out, but to desire them or want them to desire you is sinful. It is not only touch or affection but also looks that excite or express the desire for women. Do not pretend to have a chaste soul if your eyes are unchaste, for the shameless eye is the messenger of the shameless heart. Even if the tongue is silent, impure hearts reveal their feelings by glances, and by their lust they find delight in their mutual passion. Then, even if their bodies are not given to unchaste actions, chastity itself flies from such falsity.

10. What I have said with regard to custody of the eyes applies also to all other faults; one must carefully and faithfully discern, forestall, and make them known, convincing the culprit of his fault, and punish the offence. This must be done with love for the person and hatred for the sin.

11. If anyone goes so far in evil-doing as to receive letters or small presents secretly; if he confesses it, pardon him and pray for him. But if he is caught and proved guilty, he should be severely punished according to the judgment of the priest or the superior.

V.

2. No one should work for himself alone, but all your work should be for the common good, with greater industry and more joyful enthusiasm than if each one were working for himself. For it is written: "Charity is not self-seeking"; which means that the good of all comes before that of the individual, not the other way round. The more you put the common good before your own the more you will know you are making progress. So, among all the things that must be done in this passing life, it is the love which abides which holds first place.

3. Consequently, if anyone brings something even to his own sons or another close relation in the monastery, an article of clothing or anything else considered necessary, the gift is not to be accepted on the quiet. It is to be given to the superior to be put into the common store and given to whoever needs it.

9. Those who have charge of the food, or the clothes, or the books must serve their brothers without murmuring.

VI.

3. When the need for correction forces you to speak hard words, and if you see that you have been too severe, you are not obliged to ask pardon of those who are under you. An exaggerated humility might undermine your authority over those who must obey you. You should rather seek pardon from the Lord of all who knows that you love with all your heart those whom perhaps you correct somewhat harshly. Your love for one another ought to be spiritual, not carnal.

VII.

1. Your superior should not think himself fortunate in exercising authority but in serving with love. He should have the place of honour among you, but in fear before God let him lie at your feet as a servant. Let him be an example of good deeds for everyone. Let him correct the wayward, comfort the fainthearted, support the weak and show patience to all. Let him observe the Rule willingly and see that it is respected. Although both are necessary, he should seek to be loved by you rather than feared, remembering always that he must give an account to God for you.

4. In being obedient, you show compassion not only for yourselves but also for him; because the higher the position he has among you, the more he is endangered.

VIII.

1. May the Lord grant that you observe all this with love, as lovers of spiritual beauty, spreading the good odour of Christ by your holy lives; not as slaves serving under a law but as a people living in freedom under grace.

2. This little book should be read to you once a week so that it may become a mirror in which you see yourselves, and that forgetfulness may never make you negligent. When you find yourselves observing what is written, give thanks to the Lord, the source of all good. But if one of you sees that he has been negligent on some point, let him be sorry for the past, pay attention in the future, praying God to pardon his fault and that he be not lead into temptation.

 

3. COMPLEMENTARY TEXTS

6. The customs of the Church

Love is experienced in everything. Love is the guide at table, in conversation, in one's manners and behaviour. We are united in a single love and it is in this love that everything breathes. Whatever is opposed to love is fought against and rejected. We do not allow anything which may wound it to last more than a day. For we know that love has been so strongly recommended by Christ and the Apostles that everything is useless without it and perfect when it is present.

7. Letter 238,16

Let us consider what makes peace among brothers who, though many souls and many hearts, have been transformed by it into "one soul and one heart" in God; let us believe all the more, with a sincere love, that in this "peace of God which surpasses all understanding", the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit themselves are not three gods but one God. Let us believe this: as their oneness is far superior to that enjoyed by brothers of "one soul and one heart"; so too the "peace which surpasses all understanding" is more excellent than the peace which makes the heart and soul of all the brothers one in God.

8. On Psalm 132

1. "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together". The melody of these words is so sweet that even those who do not know the psalter love to sing this verse. It is as sweet as the charity which causes brothers to dwell together... First let us reflect carefully whether it is of all Christians that it is said: "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together", or whether there are some perfect people who dwell together in this way; whether this blessing applies not to everyone, but only to some, from whom however it may descend upon the rest.

2. These words of the psalm, this sweet song, this melody pleasant both to sing and to meditate on, gave rise to the monasteries. Brothers who longed to dwell together awoke at this song; this verse became their trumpet. It sounded throughout the earth and those who had been separated were reunited...

3. It is from these words of the psalm that monks took their name...

5. Daniel chose a quiet life, preferring to serve God in celibacy, that is, without seeking a wife. He was a holy man who spent his life desiring the things of heaven. Tried in many things, he was found to be pure gold. How peaceful he was, who was safe among the lions! The name of Daniel, called also 'man of desires', chaste and holy desires, surely designates the servants of God of whom it is said: "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together!"

6. The Greek word monos means 'one'; not just 'one' in any sense, for even in a crowd a man is 'one', but 'one' among many; it can be said that he is 'one', but not that he is monos, that is alone, for monos is 'one' who is 'alone'. Those then who live together so as to become one man so that what is written is really true: "One soul and one heart", are many bodies but not many souls, many bodies but not many hearts; they are truly called monos, that is 'one alone'.

7. "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!" Now let the psalm tell us what they are like: "They are like ointment on the head, ointment running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down to the fringe of his garment". Who was Aaron? The priest. Who is a priest, but the one priest who entered the holy of holies. Who is this priest but he who is both victim and priest; if not he who, finding nothing pure in the world to offer, offered himself.

The ointment is on his head, because Christ is one with the Church, But the ointment runs down from the head. Our head is Christ; crucified, buried, risen, he has ascended to heaven. And the Holy Spirit came down from the head. Whither? On the beard. The beard signifies dauntless young men, courageous and vigorous. That is why we say of such men: "He has a beard". The ointment ran down first upon the Apostles, upon those who bore the first assaults of the world. The Holy Spirit came down upon them. They were the ones who first began to live together, who suffered persecution. But because the ointment ran down upon the beard, they suffered but were not overcome. The head from whence the ointment ran down had suffered before them. After such an example, who could conquer the beard?

9. These strong men suffered and endured many persecutions. But if the ointment had not run down from the beard, we should not have monasteries today. But it ran down to the border of his garment, as the psalm says, and the Church followed this movement, and from the garment of the Lord she brought forth monasteries. The priestly garment is the symbol of the Church. It is the garment of which the Apostle speaks: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her, so as to present her glorious, without spot or wrinkle". What is the border of the garment? The border is the extremity of the garment, the edge. What must we understand by the edge of the garment? Is it not that at the end of time the Church should have brothers who live together? Or can we understand by the border of the garment the symbol of perfection, because it is there that the garment is completed and that those who know how to live together in unity are perfect? Those who fulfil the law are perfect. But how is the law of Christ fulfilled by those who live together as brothers? Listen to the Apostle: "Bear one another's burdens and you will fulfil the law of Christ". This is the border of the garment.

But which border does he mean? I do not think that the prophet can have meant the borders on the sides. The ointment could only run down from the beard onto the border which is nearest the head, at the collar. Such are those who live together. In the same way that a man puts on his garment by way of the collar to dress, so Christ who is our head, through brotherly concord puts on his garment so that the Church may cling to him.

10. What else does the prophet say? "Like the dew of Hermon which runs down on the mountains of Sion" (dew = grace). By this the prophet wants to say that it is by God's grace that brothers dwell together; They cannot do it of their own strength or merits, but by his gift, his grace, like the dew which falls from heaven...

11. ...Hermon means 'a light set on high'. For the dew comes from Christ and there is no other 'light set on high' but Christ. How has he been set on high? First on the cross, then in heaven. Christ was lifted up on the cross at the time of his abasement; but his abasement set him on high...

Thus the light set on high is Christ, whence comes the dew of Hermon. You then who desire to live together, yearn for that dew, desire to be watered together. Otherwise you will not be able to keep what you have professed...

12. As for the mountains of Sion, they are the great ones in the Church. Those who are signified by the mountains are also signified by the beard and by the border of the garment. By the beard is meant the perfect. Only those who dwell together are the ones in whom the love of Christ is perfected. When those in whom the love of Christ is not perfected come together they are full of hatred, disagreable and turbulent. They are like a skittish horse in a team which not only will not pull together, but breaks the traces with its hoofs. But on the contrary, if a person is soaked with the dew of Hermon, he is tranquil, gentle, humble, and he prays rather than murmurs. Scripture admirably describes the murmurer: "The heart of a fool is like the wheel of a cart". The cart carries hay and it creaks, for a wheel cannot turn without creaking. It is the same with many brothers, they only dwell together in the body. But who are those who dwell together? Those of whom it is said: "They had but one heart and one soul".

 

 

11. AUGUSTINE


EXPLANATION

OF THE TEXTS

 

The texts from the Rule have already been explained in the Course; here we give a few comments on the other texts.

 

4.

Here again, as in texts 1 and 3, mention is made of the primitive Christian community. If it is a sort of nostalgic leit-motiv for other authors of cenobitic rules, it is even more so for Augustine whose ideal is a community of love.

In this text we see that the community makes room for God, creates a place for the Lord. It becomes the temple of God.

11.

Communion on earth comes from the peace of God. It is the image of the future communion and peace of heaven.

8. On Psalm 132

6. The name monk which is derived from monos, alone, originally meant one who lives alone, the anchorite who lives in solitude, far from other people. Then the meaning deepened and came to mean someone who is 'one'. To be a monk is then to be someone who has one single objective, who has an undivided heart, who is integrated within himself. The term is close to the judaeo-christian virtue of 'simplicity'. It is the condition of continual prayer.

Like the two other authors of 'Mother-Rules', Augustine does not speak of members of the community as 'monks', but as 'brothers'. For him, it is the community which is 'monk', if the hearts of all the members are 'one', if a union of hearts is achieved.

7 & 9. Two passages where we have to follow the sequence of ideas. The head is Christ. The ointment is the Holy Spirit which runs down first on the beard = the Apostles who have suffered persecution after the example of Christ, who is the head filled with the Holy Spirit (7).

"If the ointment had not run down from the beard, we should not have monasteries". The idea expressed in texts 1,3,4,11, is again a reference to the apostolic community, the model of the monastic community. The ointment then ran down from the beard to the garment which is the Church.

But the psalm specifies: "on the border of the garment". What is this border? Augustine explains the different meanings it can have; the way of life which will come at the end of time, the perfect way of life. This border of the garment nearest the beard can only be the top border, the collar, symbol of brotherly concord.

12. Here again we find the idea that monastic life is an apostolic life in the sense that it reflects the life of the apostles. To dwell together in peace assumes that there is love. It assumes a certain perfection which Augustine describes: "the monk is tranquil, gentle, humble and he prays rather than murmurs". Then follows a humourous description of the murmurer: wheels were then made of wood bound with an iron circle, and the roads were paved with stone or in an even worse state!

11. AUGUSTINE


REVISION

ANSWERS

 

1) What are the principle stages of Augustine's monastic journey?

Milan, where he first met Christian monasticism * Cassiciacum where, in a community of friends, the undertaking to serve God was thought out * Rome, where he came into contact with groups of ascetics in the city and nearby * Tagaste where he led a common life with a group of friends, having renunciation of possessions as their basic tenet * Hippo, with two monasteries: the 'garden' lay monastery and the monastery for clergy.

 

2) Which text is the Rule of St Augustine? What are the other two which are similar?

The Praeceptum is the Rule of St Augustine. The two others which are like it are Letter 221 which is the feminine version, and the Ordo Monasterii which was written for Alypius for the monastery at Tagaste.

 

3) Where in the the Rule of Augustine is his motivation best expressed? What is it; what are key words used to express it? What is the goal of the Rule?

The beginning and the end show his motive for monastic life: the search for contemplation: we have the words "turned towards God" and"lovers of spiritual beauty" . The goal is the God of love.

 

 

4) What is the place of obedience in this Rule?

Obedience is given very little emphasis in comparison with the rules of Pachomius and Basil. It is not, as they teach, the basis of monastic life, but one of the facts of the common life.

 

5) What renunciation does he insist on?

Augustine insists above all on poverty = renunciation of possessions, and on humility = renuncation of self. Humility is spiritual poverty, the way to go to Christ.

 

 

6) How does Augustine justify manual work in his other writings?

Augustine sees in it a collaboration with creation, a means of penance and sanctification. Moreover, man's activity gives glory to God.

 

 

7) What do you think is the dominant characteristic in the Rule of Augustine?

The dominant characteristic in the Rule of St Augustine is community, as a reflection of the primitive community in Jerusalem. It is the union of all the brothers in their search for the God of love. It is a community of love centred round Christ Jesus.

11. AUGUSTINE & BENEDICT


 

STUDY PAPER 6.

ANSWERS

 

Here are some extracts from the Rule of Augustine. Some ideas and even entire phrases are found in the Rule of St Benedict. A space is left at the end of each text. Write the number of the chapter in the Rule where the same idea is found.

Underline the passages which are the same in the Rule of St Benedict. Add any remarks you would like to make.

The chapters concerned are noted at the bottom of the second page, so that you do not have to look through the whole Rule.

 

 

I.

3. Do not say: "This thing is mine". Everything should be common to all. Your superior ought to give each one food and clothing. He will not give the same to everyone because you do not all enjoy the same health. He must give each one what he needs; for we read in the Acts of the Apostles that: "they had everything in common" and "distribution was made to each according to his need.

33:6 + 34:2 + 34:1

 

II.

2. No one should do anything in the oratory except what it is meant for, which is why it is called an oratory. So that if someone wishes to pray even outside the fixed times, he will not be prevented by another who thinks he has something else to do there.

52:1, 3.

 

3. When you pray to God with psalms and hymns, the words you speak should be alive in your hearts.

19:7.

 

III.

2. When you come to table, and until you leave it, listen to the customary reading without noise or dissension. Food is not just to be eaten, your ears too should hunger for the Word of God.

38:5, 8.

3. If there are brothers whose health is poor due to their former way of life, the others should not be upset if they are given different food, nor should it be thought unjust when they who are stronger receive something else. These should not consider others more fortunate for eating what they themselves do not; rather they should be grateful for the strength to do what others cannot.

34:3, 6.

 

IV.

10. What I have said with regard to custody of the eyes applies also to all other faults; one must carefully and faithfully discern, forestall, and make them known, convincing the culprit of his fault, and punish the offence. This must be done with love for the person and hatred for the sin.

64:11

 

11. If anyone goes so far in evil-doing as to receive letters or small presents secretly; if he confesses it, pardon him and pray for him. But if he is caught and proved guilty, he should be severely punished according to the judgment of the priest or the superior.

54:1 + 46:3-4.

 

V.

3. Consequently, if anyone brings something even to his own sons or another close relation in the monastery, an article of clothing or anything else considered necessary, the gift is not to be accepted on the quiet. It is to be given to the superior to be put into the common store and given to whoever needs it.

54:2-3.

 

9. Those who have charge of the food, or the clothes, or the books must serve their brothers without murmuring.

35:13

VII.

1. Your superior should not think himself fortunate in exercising authority but in serving with love. He should have the place of honour among you, but in fear before God let him lie at your feet as a servant. Let him be an example of good deeds for everyone. Let him correct the wayward, comfort the fainthearted, support the weak and show patience to all. Let him observe the Rule willingly and see that it is respected. Although both are necessary, he should seek to be loved by you rather than feared, remembering always that he must give an account to God for you.

64:15 + 2:38

 

VIII.

2. This little book should be read to you once a week so that it may become a mirror in which you see yourselves, and that forgetfulness may never make you negligent. When you find yourselves observing what is written, give thanks to the Lord, the source of all good. But if one of you sees that he has been negligent on some point, let him be sorry for the past, pay attention in the future, praying God to pardon his fault and that he be not lead into temptation.

66:8