Wonderful summary of the spiritual teachings one of the great Church Fathers. St. Augustine is one of my favorite theologians.
The Servants of The Lord - "An Augustinian Heart"
"An Augustinian Heart"
Andrew of the Transfiguration
Sinai Covenant House, Singapore
Dear Sisters and Brothers, we band ourselves together for a purpose and vision. We must clarify for just what an ‘Augustinian’ purpose and vision might be. This is accomplished by first articulating an Augustinian spirituality and “reason for being”. This then, is a theological overview of the “Augustinian”.
1. THE BASIC PRINCIPLE: VICTORIOUS DELECTATION
The principle of victorious delectation (delectatio victrix) was formulated by St. Augustine and used effectively by Augustinian theologians to explicate the central plan of the Augustinian way of considering Christianity. The concept of victorious delectation could be translated as "triumphant desire". Fundamentally this is a principle to describe man's essential being, that man is an infinite nothing seeking for infinite being, that man is infinite impotence searching for omnipotence, fulfilment. "Our hearts are restless till they rest in You" (Confessions I, 1, 1). This principle sets up the basic orientation of Augustinian theology and spirituality.
2. CONCRETE EXPERIENCE
Augustinian Spirituality is about concrete experience and not abstract theory. Mankind and history is the focus of concern. We try to decipher our human condition so that we can change and improve it. We discover the truths of living (and helping others to live) dignified lives. Consequently the criteria of verification are in our real life experiences and not in some ideology or thought system. We search for goals, vision and happiness – whether personal or communal – in reality.
3. PRIMACY OF INTERIORITY
The beginning of our search and journey is from within, in our own subjectivity. We need to know ourselves first. We need to discover our needs, wants and fears. And the interior is also the place of fulfilment and completion. Therefore, the intrinsic is superior to the extrinsic, the mysterious to the “merely problematical”, reality to appearance, the soul to the body. Man in his interiority: this is the place of life and the place to quest God. “You are within me, more deeply than my deepest soul” (Confessions III, 6, 10)
4. CONTINUOUS CONVERSION
Because we are finite – always wanting and desiring – we cannot grasp the Wisdom of the Infinite. Therefore, we must continuously change ourselves in the light of God’s Wisdom. To truly live, we must constantly go beyond ourselves, our achievements and our satisfactions to new realizations of joy, insight and love. To "grasp" the Infinite is an infinite process; a dialectical process; a ceaseless process. We never stop learning, developing bonds and deepening our experiences. We are in permanent change, constant growth, and continuous conversion. Our delectation, our desiring is again and again. This is the nature of historical concrete man.
5. UNITY OF MIND AND HEART
Our delectation expresses itself in searching to know, to understand and to see true values, so that our entire being (heart and will) can love and rejoice in it. “Augustinian Thought” defines a perfect correlation and interdependence of knowing and loving. Thus good doctrine is good piety and vice versa. True teaching is what successfully motivates the heart. The heart motivated by it seeks true learning, insight and vision, which will in turn re-activate the heart and the whole cycle thereby repeats itself. This interplay is the nature of happiness. That is why Augustinian Theology and Spirituality are identical.
Faith is more important and prior to articulation; though articulation is a help to faith and to believing more eagerly by making conscious of one’s belief, one’s values and one’s love. This understanding is primarily intuitional faith, opens the mind to that which is beyond itself and therefore calls the heart to love more passionately. For the totality of man is needed and called for in the experience of God. Man's mind, heart, emotions, will, body, soul, is all for happiness in God.
6. COMMUNITY IS FORMED OUT OF WEAKNESS
It is because we personally failed to discover the path to God or got lost by bad choice (sin) that we need others to help us learn the truth which sets us free. So it is knowledge of our fallibility and needfulness that we turn to each other for mutual education, inspiration, encouragement and enlightenment. To develop interiorly we need to be prodded by one another. We need to support each other in the quest that knows “no cease”. So we form community on the basis of our common need. We are indeed equal in our need for help. Recognizing this, we find our brotherhood in humbleness and humility. Therefore, we are confreres who are poor together and need to share to grow towards God.
7. COMMUNITY MORE THAN INSTITUTION
Community is “shared interiority”. We discover our interiority through community life and we begin to share our inwardness, our helplessness and our insights with each other. Community, then, is really intimate communication. Where there is intimate communication there is community. We experience revelation of our personal insights, dreams, visions, hopes, philosophies. In sharing these revelations we get to know ourselves and each other on a deeper, more personal and adequate level. Even though this process cannot be perfect ever, it leads to the formation of interpersonal relationships because persons experientially and intellectually know each other's thoughts, beliefs and value systems. This is obviously risky because to expose one's values is to become vulnerable. But this discipline is the price of community. Dialogue about beliefs, favourite ideas, dreams etc. causes mutual education and mutual concrete comprehension of one another. In this way a real person gets to understand another real person and therefore both can deal with each other more intelligently and successfully. Opportunities for such dialogue and revelation must be built into the community life. Theological discussions, dialogues about spirituality should be regular experiences in the life of the community. We are never done understanding ourselves, each other, and God.
8. VICTORIOUS - MORE POSITIVE THAN NEGATIVE
The seeking and searching, the delectation, which we are, is victorious in Christ and through Christ. The Gospel is simply that we work; that we get what we want out of life; that we can reach God by growing in love. God – Who is grace and gracious – efficaciously calls us to Himself and to happiness and joy in Christ. Therefore, there is more to be happy about than sad; more positive than negative. Although both expects are present in everyday life, the Gospel shows that there is an existential preference – God triumphs! Therefore, our outlook must be more optimistic than pessimistic. In the Augustinian tradition, God (Grace) is Supreme, and not free will nor man. So we celebrate the victory of grace in Christ's resurrection and in our growing towards happiness in God.
And so Augustinian Spirituality values intrinsic motivation above extrinsic motivation, love above fear. "Not as slaves under the law but free under grace" (Rule). The rights of conscience over extrinsic law are paramount. God rules the conscience and man makes the law. We freely obey them.
9. EXPLICIT APOSTOLATE OVER THE INDIRECT
As we realize then the great gifts we share and received, we rejoice in our happiness in God and want to share our joys with others. Only happy people can make others happy. One can only give what he has got. So we Augustinians try to find ways of sharing our blessings and our discoveries. Our common apostolate is this “sharing”. Our primary activity should be witnessing to God’s Word – through works of mercy, conversation, catechising, counselling, etc. Any other secular activities should be curtailed.
Because of our particular calling, communal apostolate should be preferred to single or individual apostolate. Team work is better and more like a community. It produces a better effect and draws those working together closer.
For the Augustinian, spiritual goals are supreme. Otherwise our life will be disordered and unhappy. “People to people” apostolate is preferable to all others. Worshipping together is a dynamic apostolate for spreading the Gospel – both worshipping together as a community and also as an apostolate – that is helping others to worship better by giving example and assistance.
10. THE ULTIMATE CONCLUSION
As we live out our search towards the infinite fullness, we make friends along the way. We consolidate gradually and become a community of shared faith, destiny and hope. We are working toward the ultimate experience for the whole human family. We look forward too the climax when God is loved most appreciatively, most affectively, most intensively. This is our ideal, our goal. In moving toward this objective we love each other and transform our social relations, we make them happier and more cooperative and loving, and we consider the needs (signs of time) to improve the social conditions of those we love. So we promote the liberation of our brothers and sisters from poverty, disease, injustice and unhappiness. Thus Augustinian theology is a kind of liberation theology looking forward to establishment of the final “City of God”, where God is all in all. Then our victorious delectation shall be complete, fulfilled, actualised perfectly. Then shall ultimate Resurrection come and we shall be transfigured eternally. Then shall our burning desire (delectation) for knowing and loving God together, be victorious in Christ!