Lesson 19B Preview: Saint Augustine’s Poem “Ever Ancient, Ever New”; Selections from “The Confessions of Saint Augustine”; Bishop Fulton Sheen classic TV kinescope “The Three Greatest Confessions of History”; Rev. Marcelo Souza of the Reformed Church in America returns with a lecture on The Fifth, Sixth, And Seventh Ecumenical Councils with Consideration of St. Augustine.
EVER ANCIENT, EVER NEW
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
More From The Confessions of Saint Augustine
BOOK VI, Chapter IV
5. Since I could not then understand how this image of thine could subsist, I should have knocked on the door and propounded the doubt as to how it was to be believed, and not have insultingly opposed it as if it were actually believed. Therefore, my anxiety as to what I could retain as certain gnawed all the more sharply into my soul, and I felt quite ashamed because during the long time I had been deluded and deceived by the [Manichean] promises of certainties, I had, with childish petulance, prated of so many uncertainties as if they were certain. That they were falsehoods became apparent to me only afterward. However, I was certain that they were uncertain and since I had held them as certainly uncertain I had accused thy Catholic Church with a blind contentiousness. I had not yet discovered that it taught the truth, but I now knew that it did not teach what I had so vehemently accused it of. In this respect, at least, I was confounded and converted; and I rejoiced, O my God, that the one Church, the body of thy only Son–in which the name of Christ had been sealed upon me as an infant–did not relish these childish trifles and did not maintain in its sound doctrine any tenet that would involve pressing thee, the Creator of all, into space, which, however extended and immense, would still be bounded on all sides–like the shape of a human body.
6. I was also glad that the old Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets were laid before me to be read, not now with an eye to what had seemed absurd in them when formerly I censured thy holy ones for thinking thus, when they actually did not think in that way. And I listened with delight to Ambrose, in his sermons to the people, often recommending this text most diligently as a rule: “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life,” while at the same time he drew aside the mystic veil and opened to view the spiritual meaning of what seemed to teach perverse doctrine if it were taken according to the letter. I found nothing in his teachings that offended me, though I could not yet know for certain whether what he taught was true. For all this time I restrained my heart from assenting to anything, fearing to fall headlong into error. Instead, by this hanging in suspense, I was being strangled. For my desire was to be as certain of invisible things as I was that seven and three are ten. I was not so deranged as to believe that this could not be comprehended, but my desire was to have other things as clear as this, whether they were physical objects, which were not present to my senses, or spiritual objects, which I did not know how to conceive of except in physical terms.
If I could have believed, I might have been cured, and, with the sight of my soul cleared up,it might in some way have been directed toward thy truth, which always abides and fails in nothing. But, just as it happens that a man who has tried a bad physician fears to trust himself with a good one, so it was with the health of my soul, which could not be healed except by believing. But lest it should believe falsehoods, it refused to be cured, resisting thy hand, who hast prepared for us the medicines of faith and applied them to the maladies of the whole world, and endowed them with such great efficacy.
BOOK VIII, Chapter X
…While I was deliberating whether I would serve the Lord my God now, as I had long purposed to do, it was I who willed and it was also I who was unwilling. In either case, it was I. I neither willed with my whole will nor was I wholly unwilling. And so I was at war with myself and torn apart by myself. And this strife was against my will; yet it did not show the presence of another mind, but the punishment of my own. Thus it was no more I who did it, but the sin that dwelt in me–the punishment of a sin freely committed by Adam, and I was a son of Adam.
Three Greatest Confessions of History (Part 1) – Archbishop Fulton Sheen
This slice of Americana provides a journey back to the 1950’s. From Wikipedia we learn about Bishop Sheen that,
…In 1951 he began a weekly television program on the Dumont network, Life is Worth Living. Filmed at the Adelphi Theatre in New York City, the program consisted of the unpaid Sheen simply speaking in front of a live audience without a script or cue cards often discussing the evils of “Darwin, Freud, Marx, and Satan”, occasionally using a chalkboard. The show, scheduled in a graveyard slot on Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m., was not expected to challenge the ratings giants Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra but did surprisingly well. Berle joked, “He uses old material, too”, and observed that “[i]f I’m going to be eased off the top by anyone, it’s better that I lose to the One for whom Bishop Sheen is speaking.”In 1952, Sheen won an Emmy Award for his efforts, accepting the acknowledgment by saying, ‘I feel it is time I pay tribute to my four writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.’ ”
Rev. Marcelo Souza of the Reformed Church in America returns with a lecture on The Fifth, Sixth, And Seventh Ecumenical Councils with Consideration of St. Augustine. This excellent lecture is about an hour long.
A Quote for Your Consideration: “…conversion consists essentially in this, that the terrified and penitent sinner believes in Christ and with such faith indeed as strenuously repudiates all work-righteousness and trusts for salvation in nothing else than in the merits of Christ…such faith in Christ implies a complete and absolute change to the sinner’s heart and mind.” (John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 343)
Discussion Questions for Lesson 19B
1. In the first selection above, Augustine’s prayer Ever Ancient, Ever New. he writes “in my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created” What is he confessing to in this statement?
2. How would you interpret Augustine’s use of the passage, acknowledged as very important to Ambrose by Augustine, “The Letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life…”. (See 2 Cor. 3:6 as Paul was of course the ultimate source for Ambrose.)
3. When Augustine points out that he is “a Son of Adam” what is his theological intent? (See above in chapter X of Book VIII)
4. In his writing on Genesis Augustine emphasizes that Adam and Eve “blushed”. What does this suggest about his interpretation of Genesis? How would a pelagian analyze Genesis do you think in light of what you have read in Olson’s book? How did Augustine’s view of man and his free will before the fall differ when compared to man and his will following the fall?
5. How, according to Bishop Sheen, were Augustine and St. Anthony of the Desert similar?
6. According to Rev. Souza there are “two main reasons” for the rise of iconoclasm. What are they? How would you define an “icon”?
7. What is the preferred theological argument used by iconoclasts in opposing icons? How did the human nature of Christ influence the content of the debate with iconophiles?
8. What was John of Damascus’ position on icons? How did the nature of matter enter into John’s soteriological rationale for his position? Why is 843 AD a significant date in this controversy?