August 28: Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and Theologian, 430

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

Augustine, perhaps the greatest theologian in the history of Western Christianity, was born in 354 at Tagaste in North Africa. In his restless search for truth, he was attracted by Manichaeism and Neoplatonism, and was constantly engaged in an inner struggle with his personal morals. Finally, under the influence of his mother Monnica, Augustine surrendered to the Christian faith in the late summer of 386. He

was baptized by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, on Easter Eve in 387. After returning to North Africa in 391, Augustine found himself unexpectedly chosen by the people of Hippo to be a presbyter. Four years later he was chosen bishop of that city. His spiritual autobiography, The Confessions of St. Augustine, written shortly before 400 in the form of an extended prayer, is a classic of Western spirituality.

Augustine wrote countless treatises, letters, and sermons. They have provided a rich source of new and fresh insights into Christian truth.

The Manichaeans had attempted to solve the problem of evil by positing the existence of an independent agency eternally opposed to God. In refutation, Augustine affirmed that all creation is essentially good, having been created by God; and that evil is, properly speaking, the privation of good. A rigorist sect, the Donatists, had split from the Great Church after the persecution of Diocletian in the early fourth century. Against them, Augustine asserted that the Church was “holy,” not because its members could be proved holy, but because holiness was the purpose of the Church, to which all its members are called.

Stirred by Alaric the Visigoth’s sack of Rome in 410, Augustine wrote his greatest work, The City of God. In it he writes: “Two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by love of self, even to the contempt of God, the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The earthly city glories in itself, the heavenly city glories in the Lord … In the one, the princes, and the nations it subdues, are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love.”

Augustine died on August 28, 430, as the Vandals were besieging his own earthly city of Hippo.

Collect of the Day

Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you: Help us, following the example of your servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lessons

Isaiah 62:6–12

Hebrews 12:22–24,28–29

John 14:6–15

Psalm 87

Preface of Baptism

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

4 Responses to August 28: Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and Theologian, 430

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    New Hebrew Reading: It mentions the ‘City of God’ … somehow that just seems too cute a choice for a reading on Saint Augustine’s day.. I don’t know.

  2. Celinda Scott says:

    Please pray for St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Atlantic City, NJ. They are celebrating their 110th anniversary today. They are the only black Episcopal church in the area. Lots of enthusiasm One of their former priests. the Rev. Dr. Arnold Hollis (now in Bermuda) was able to come and speak. His daughter Joanna is the first woman from Bermuda to be ordained an Episcopal priest (she went to seminary in California, where she is now an assistant to the rector).

  3. waltknowles says:

    It would probably be worth enriching the biography to recognize that Augustine was Berber in origin, and thus a true African (maybe in contrast to Cyprian of Carthage who was Italic–and thus probably looked much more like the picture than did Augustine) whose native language was neither Latin nor Greek. Augustine should be an important model for cross-cultural theology and and ministry. I note that while the Manichees and Donatists are mentioned, Pelagians are neatly omitted (as they were in the bio in LFF, from which this text comes).

    But this saint was much more (both by word count and the importance of those words) a devoted pastor rather than a controversialist, I’d think that a recognition of desire and Christian growth and a recognition that Augustine was a thinking pastor whose theology grew out of his call to ministry in a backwater of North Africa should be included in both the bio and collect.

    I’d also suggest that since so much of his theology and philosophy is commentary on the creation narrative, the OT lesson should be Genesis 1 or Job 38, rather than Isaiah 62, which played little part in his theology. I agree with Michael Hartney, Is. 62 is too cute by far.

  4. Leonel L. Mitchell says:

    There is really nothig to say. Obviously Augustine belongs on our calendar.

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