Tag Archive: St. Augustine


The Heaven of Our Hearts

The wicked man is a punishment to himself, but the upright man is a grace to himself—and to either, whether good or bad, the reward of his deeds is paid in his own person.

~ St. Ambrose of Milan, De Officiis 1.12

This perspective of St. Ambrose of Milan is one that is quite common among ancient Christians. In some sense they also expect a coming, final judgment, of course, but I am not clear that such was any different than the natural consequences of our actions now, simply taken to their logical ends. In any case, many today, perhaps, could benefit from reconsidering their concepts of sin, merit, reward, and punishment from this more anthropological perspective of St. Ambrose. Continue reading

From Death to Life

691px-Der_Kreislauf_des_Lebens,_Hans_CanonMan’s will, out of cowardice, tends away from suffering, and man, against his own will, remains utterly dominated by the fear of death, and, in his desire to live, clings to his slavery to pleasure.

~ St. Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 21

I previously mentioned this pointed and insightful saying of St. Maximus in an earlier reflection, but it is one about which I could probably write 100 posts. I have found no more succinct, clear, and comprehensive statement of the human condition. Death, that ultimate evil, that anti-natural state of being, casts a dark shadow over all our actions, though we seldom are conscious of it. We suffer and, out of fear of the direction suffering appears to lead—death—we cling in desperation to fleeting pleasures, which run like water through our hands. And when those pleasures die, as all such pleasure does (as opposed to true joy, which is eternal), we once again suffer, and suffering we fear, and fearing we desire, and desiring we enslave ourselves, against our own will to live, to pleasures that so assuredly pass away. It is a vicious spiral, always increasing the magnitude of the pleasure needed to distract ourselves from our suffering, which, in turn, always increases the magnitude of our suffering once it comes. Continue reading

The World is Not Enough

“Great are you, O Lord, and worthy to be praised”; “great is your strength and your wisdom cannot be measured.” And man—some portion of your creation—wants to praise you, and yet man is surrounded by his mortality, surrounded by the testimony of his sin and the testimony that “you resist the proud”; and nevertheless man—some portion of your creation—wants to praise you. You excite him, in order that he delights to praise you, because you made us for yourself and our heart is restless, until it rests in you.

~ St. Augustine, Confessions 1.1.1

Today, August 28, was St. Augustine’s day. Thus, though the character of his writings can be significantly different and often more overtly philosophical than the desert fathers, I felt like I ought to give such a master of spiritual reflection his due today. He was himself, after all, inspired by the desert fathers, especially St. Antony. Despite the difference of style, however, I think—at least with regards to this passage—there is a unity of focus. Continue reading