28 August 2009

Commemoration of Saint Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian

Today our Synod commemorates St. Augustine, no doubt the single most influential Church Father on the whole of the Western Church. From Synod's website and the Treasury:

Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin church fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in A.D. 354 in North Africa, Augustine's early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother Monica and the preaching of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (339–97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the 5th century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from A.D. 395 until his death in 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to the book Confessions, Augustine's book City of God had a great impact upon the church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Today's writing from the Treasury, from one of his anti-Donatist works is quite choice. He defines "come out from among them, and touch no unclean thing" - "It means not consenting to them in will and not sparing them in word. I say this of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, who did not retire from the wicked people, lest they shoul desert the good who were mingled with that people." (Treasury, p. 666)

The prayer for today asks: "Give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and loving You we may fully serve You - for to serve You is perfect freedom." (Treasury, p. 666)

P.S. Yesterday, we commemorated St. Monica, although Treasury had the grace to blush and note that "On some Church Year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4." Um, YEAH. Like the day she died?

8 comments:

Past Elder said...

Blush it should, but not because she died on 4 May.

Nobody knows the date she died. The Augustinian Order for centuries observed a Feast of the Conversion of St Augustine on 5 May, in addition to his regular feast, and they celebrated the greatest human agency in that conversion, his mother, the day before.

The Conversion feast never made it beyond the order to the general calendar of the church, and when St Monica's did about the time of Trent, they kept the Augustinian date 4 May.

Then came the liturgical sack of Rome called Vatican II. For a discussion on the St Monica thing, both in itself and as an example and demonstration of the carnage wrought by Vatican II including among us, I came across a new post a few days ago on this blog called Past Elder, which I recommend.

Chris said...

We Orthodox, at least those of us who actually do, commemorate him on June 15. It is really quite unfortunate that we have demonized him to the point of calling him a heretic which he does not deserve. Too many of our theologians have linked him with the innovations of the Papacy and hte Roman Catholic Church in the middle ages though he would have been as aghast by them.

If you've never read it, Fr. Weedon, I'd recommend "the Place of the Blessed Augutine in the Orthodox Churcy" by +Fr. Seraphim Rose. And whether one is an Eastern or WEstern Christian, I agree that no other Father spoke and defended the neede for repentance with equal fervour as he did.

THrough the intercessions of St. Augustine, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us.

Past Elder said...

Hey Chris, any idea why 15 June?

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Blame me, in part, for the date on which St. Monica and St. Augustine are commemorated in the LSB. Even though I had every reason to prefer 4 May for St. Monica, since my daughter is named after her because of her birthday in early May.

All of the dates that we used had at least some precedent in earlier calendars, and we almost always went with the strongest consensus. However, as these comments have also noted, there are differences, not only between East and West, but also among the western churches with sanctoral calendars.

In addition, because we also took seriously the "local" saints of our LCMS heritage, and followed the old Lutheran calendars that used to be included in the Lutheran Annual (originally based on the same sanctoral calender preserved and promoted by Loehe). For us in the LCMS, the 4th of May commemorates Friedrich Wyneken, a missionary pastor worth his salt and worthy of our remembrance.

In view of that, and in view of the fact that St. Monica (and St. Augustine) are also remembered with thanksgiving at the end of August, I suggested and urged the 27 August date to our committee as we were compiling the sanctoral calendar for LSB. It does have the advantage, for which I am glad, of falling outside of the Time of Easter; which means that it is firmly attached to the same set of proper in the Treasury.

With apologies to those who have been caused to blush. I also added that little note at the end, as I recall, because I am generally a proponent of full disclosure.

Past Elder said...

To my knowledge, East or West, there was no divergence on 4 May as the date for St Monica -- until Rome changed it with the novus ordo in 1969 and other Western churches followed suit. So it would be a common observance for centuries versus a change by one church, though a BIG one, barely 40 years old. One nice thing about the East, they are less wont to call councils and such to tinker with stuff. I think the usual pattern when faced by an established feast conflicting with a date for a newer one is, the older one generally representing a great saint, to displace the newer one a day in deference.

Past Elder said...

PS Rome, the Church of the Eternal Jacking Around, which when it sneezes Lutherans should not catch cold but reach for cold medicine immediately, has the anomaly where the Augustinians themselves have jacked around with their own Feast of the Conversion of Augustine, some celebrating it on not the traditional 5 May, but 24 April, that being considered the date of the Easter Vigil in 389 when Ambrose baptised Augustine. Those dates are pretty close; maybe it was a calendar thing. Then again, some give the year as 338. Then again again, some say the two went on to jam the Te Deum, basically an ornate creed, and it's been in Matins ever since. Then again again again, Vatican II did away with Matins altogether for an anytime Office of Readings. Maybe we'll follow suit next time around.

orrologion said...

Augustine was added to the Russian Calendar during the years of the 'western captivity' and only to the Greek calendar in the 1980s - it is not unusual for local saints or certain past saints to never make it to the Calendar or to be dropped. (This makes sense if you've ever seen how unwieldy all the service books in Orthodoxy are already - without taking into account the local particularities in each local church or region).

If I had to guess as to 'why June 15', I would say they probably just put him with the other Latin Father of the same time that was already on the Calendar, St. Jerome, who is celebrated on June 15 on the Orthodox calendar, too.

Sometimes such things have to do with the translation of relics, opening of churches, etc. It could be that this was the day in long lost days of yore that relics of these two saints arrived in Rus' or when a chapel was consecrated, etc. (I wonder if it times with the date of recognition of Augustine by the 5th EC?) The Greeks probably just took the date from the Russians.

Past Elder said...

Well that makes sense, orrologion.

Jerome is 30 September in the West, and I forgot that the East is, shall we say, less enthusiastic about Augustine than the West -- a lessened enthusiasm being something the West could profitably borrow from the East, if you ask me, though neither you nor anyone else has.

The drooling and frothing maniacs of Vatican II did exactly such a thing to the excellent and venerable St Benedict, whose order against all odds pulled Europe and thus the West's head out after the Fall of Rome -- took his real feast day, 21 March, 14 March to you guys, his traditional date of death in 547, and moved it to 11 July, which wasn't even observed throughout the order, but a local observance in a few places of moving his bones, er, translating his relics, from one monkery to another later. Oy.