The City of God

In The City of God, St. Augustine presents a luminous notion of the theology of history.

Newsdesk (June 16 2021 16:54, Gaudium Press) Leafing through the writings of St. Augustine, we are amazed by the outstanding gifts that Providence has bestowed on him.

A man of a powerful soul

Commented Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira:

Through the works of the Bishop of Hippo, we see him “as a man of a powerful soul. He gives the impression of having been physically great, without being a giant, but one of those men who, when they move, seem to carry with them the whole of nature. A person with a vegetative life so intense that one would have the impression that the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom and man lived in him with a kind of bewildering plenitude.

“A man with deep and profound tone of voice, resonating from afar like one of those bells that can wake up a valley or an entire city. And with that characteristics of his own soul […]: his exclamations and his feelings that moved everyone he addressed.

“Because of this extraordinary ability to communicate, to penetrate the souls of others, to make them move like his. Predicated him an incomparable orator.” [1]

The impure person offends the order of the universe

In his autobiography Confessions, “St. Augustine presents an interesting justification for chastity. According to him, the good of every being and that of the order of the universe is in unity.

“A pure man is one who loves God above everything, and other things for the sake of the Creator. On the contrary, the impure man runs after a thousand creatures, and in this kind of plurality he distances himself from the original, primitive unity, towards which he must tend. By doing so, you offend the order of the universe.

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“Such a view contains a wonderful repudiation of polygamy and divorce, and is more valuable, I think, than any sociological refutation against these moral deviations. For Metaphysics is far more appropriate to convince the human spirit than technical data, even when accompanied by psychosocial arguments.” [2]

Revolution and Counter-Revolution

In The City of God, St. Augustine presents a luminous notion of the theology of history.

He enumerates the horrors and crimes practiced by paganism, criticizes the various theories about the theogony – birth of the gods -, and finally presents the world as a place of combat between two cities: the City of God and the city of the devil.

Regarding this last theme, St. Augustine states:

“Two loves founded two cities, namely: self-love, which led to contempt for God, the earthly; love for God, which led to contempt for self, the heavenly.

“The former takes glories in itself and the latter in God, because the former seeks the glory of men and the latter has God as its highest glory, the witness of its conscience.

“The former is puffed up in its glory and the latter says to its God: ‘You are my glory and the One who lifts up my head. [3]

The main book written by Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, develops and clarifies the theme concerning the two cities.

The “Revolution” is composed of those who have inordinate love for themselves, characterized by pride and sensuality; it is the city of ungodly men directed by the devil, who hate God.

The “Counter-Revolution” is made up of those who execrate sin, seek to practice humility and purity, and worship the Creator. It is the City of God, and the Church its very soul. [4]

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Hippo is besieged by the Vandals

Barbarians infested various parts of the Roman Empire and in 430, the Vandals surrounded Hippo.

Although weakened by advanced age – he was 76 years old – Saint Augustine stood in the cathedral like a general on the wall. The inhabitants would come to the church for strength before going off to battle. He prayed with them and exhorted them to fight, using simple but dignified language.

A bishop advised him to flee the city, but he vigorously rejected the idea, saying he would rather die than abandon his flock. The heroism he preached to others, he practiced.

In the third month of the siege, St. Augustine was stricken with a violent fever, which forced him to remain bedridden. A sick man came to ask him to place his hand on his head to be cured.

He had the penitential Psalms written in front of his bed and read them often, shedding tears. Ten days before his death, he did not want to receive any more visitors so that he could get rid of distractions and devote himself to prayer.

Teacher of charity and hammer of heretics

On the last day of his life, “no longer able to read or pray, he called his friends to pray aloud around his bed. Augustine repeated the prayers, and when his lips stopped praying, his soul was already in the bosom of the Creator. It was August 28, 430.

“With reason he is called the fulgent luminary of the Church, model of theologians, master of charity, defender of grace and hammer of heretics.”

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St. Augustine exclaimed, “He who separates himself from the Catholic Church, even supposing his life to be good, will never possess eternal life; rather the wrath of God will fall upon him, solely for the crime of finding himself separated from the unity of Jesus Christ. Such goodness and probity, which is not submissive to the Church, is subtle and pernicious hypocrisy.” [5]

Bishop St. Possidius, biographer of St. Augustine, wrote:

“I spent forty years next to this great man, without the slightest cloud, the slightest bitterness having disturbed the sweetness of a conviviality full of charms. May I, in the rest of my life, imitate his virtues and obtain in the century to come – in eternity – the reward he enjoys at this moment.” [6]

A year after his death, the Vandals took and sacked Hippo, but spared the cathedral and the library of St. Augustine.

By Paulo Francisco Martos

1 – CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. The Church of the Roman Empire – The praise of Europe. In revista Dr. Plinio. São Paulo. Year III, n. 33 (December 2000, p. 24.

2 – Idem. Saint Augustine, beacon of wisdom and love of God. In Dr. Plinio magazine. São Paulo. Year VIII, n. 89 (August 2005, p. 31.

3 – SAINT AUGUSTINE. The City of God. Book XIV, chapter 28.

4 – Cf. CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Revolution and Counter Revolution. 5. Ed. São Paulo: Retornarei. 2002, p. 148.

5 – SAINT JOHN BOSCO. Historia Ecclesiástica. 6 ed. Sao Paulo: Salesiana, 1960, p. 107.

6 – DARRAS, Joseph Epiphane. Histoire Génerale de l’Église. Paris: Louis Vivès. 1889, v. XII, p. 593.

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