City of God Augustine

Anselm also added the passion of repentance and the exhilaration of praise to the bare texts, involving the supplicant in an intensity of feeling and a deepening of understanding. In the intensity of sorrow for sin, he is the heir of Augustine of Hippo, and the language of the Confessions is very close to Anselms self-revelation and repentance.

(McGinn, Meyendorff, and Ledercq 202)

So, in City of God the textual concepts from his earlier works became the stuff of reformative language that would apply itself not only to the personal but to how the person was meant to build upon the institutions that surrounded him, influenced him and in turn was influenced by him. Bernard of Clairvaux was a direct descendant of Augustine in his ideas. He strove to recreate the church not as a calling of finery and social stratification but of one that encompassed a monastic tradition of subsistence means, as to set and example for good living to monasteries, as well as the laity, who looked to the church for answers in all things. Clairvaux then carried these ideas to real reformation of the monastic as well as the lay life. Furthering Augustines observations in City of God. Though it is clear that this transformation of faith, persona and institution was not met with rapid embrace or that Augustines works were not questioned, they were significantly influential in the ability of the church and its teachers and reformers to build a case for the kind of finery and opulence that was literally burgeoning at the seams of the church institutions previously to be eliminated through reform, as these characteristics demonstrated the ability to sway even the most ardent believer to sin, Augustines personal challenge as proof.

The great successor to Anselm in this kind of prayer was Bernard of Clairvaux. Augustine presented a spirituality of knowledge which is love; Bernard, a spirituality of love which is knowledge. Bernard was the heir to Anselms distinction between love and knowledge, and he gave a new and minor place to knowledge in prayer. It is no longer the sapientia of Augustine that is diminished, but the scientia of the schools. The emotional use of language reached new heights in Bernard. In many specific ways he popularized and expanded the piety presented by Anselm. For instance, the devotion to the name of Jesus so strongly associated with Bernard is expressed by Anselm in his First Meditation.

(McGinn, Meyendorff, and Ledercq 202-203)

Bernard sought to bring back the traditions of the early church, by holding even those in high office of the church to a standard that was not representative of wealth and privilege but was a representation of the life of Jesus, who became during this period the central figure in monastic and educational traditions.

But these are minor abuses. I shall go on to major ones which seem minor because they are so common. I say nothing of the enormous height, extravagant length and unnecessary width of the churches, of their costly polishings and curious paintings which catch the worshippers eye and dry up his devotion, things which seem to me in some sense a revival of ancient Jewish rites. Let these things pass, let us say they are all to the honor of God. Nevertheless, just as the pagan poet Persius inquired of his fellow pagans, so I as a monk ask my fellow monks: “Tell me, oh pontiffs,” he said, “what is gold doing in the sanctuary?” I say (following his meaning rather than his metre): “Tell me, poor men, if you really are poor what is gold doing in the sanctuary?” There is no comparison here between bishops and monks. We know that the bishops, debtors to both the wise and unwise, use material beauty to arouse the devotion of a carnal people because they cannot do so by spiritual means. But we who have now come out of that people, we who have left the precious and lovely things of the world for Christ, we who, in order to win Christ, have reckoned all beautiful, sweet-smelling, fine-sounding, smooth-feeling, good-tasting things– in short, all bodily delights — as so much dung, what do we expect to get out of them? Admiration from the foolish? Offerings from the ignorant? or, scattered as we are among the gentiles, are we learning their tricks and serving their idols? (Bernarc of Clairvaux trans.

Burr NP)

Abelard on the other hand stresses the importance of repentance, partly as a result of his not so appropriate involvement with a young woman who he later made his wife and then separated from to pursue education and teaching and the monastic life, she also followed this path, as an educated upper class woman, this was the most logical alternative to marriage.

OFTEN the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are soothed in their sorrows more by example than by words. And therefore, because I too I have known some consolation from speech had with one who was a witness thereof, am I now minded to write of the sufferings which have sprung out of my misfortunes, for the eyes of one who, though absent, is of himself ever a consoler. This I do so that, in comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover that yours are in truth nought, or at the most but of small account, and so shall you come to bear them more easily. (Abelard trans. Bellows NP)

The period brought clarity to the laity and reformation to the church and the people. Much the same way the church fathers of the past had done. Education was demonstrative of theology, and theology alone as the driving desire was to understand the relationship between God and man and God. Which was done through the writings and teaching of the short list who became known as the church fathers, of whom Augustine was a recognized cornerstone of membership.

What is, however, beyond dispute is that throughout Augustines life as a Christian minister, the ideal of contemplation — the desire to behold the Vision of God in His kingdom-was an ever-present inspiration. There we shall be still and see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise. Behold what will be, in the end, without end! For what is our end but to reach that kingdom which has no end? (City of God XXII, 30).

Bonner 5)

Augustines simple utterances of faith, and how Gods ability to forgive and demonstrate mercy were paramount to the message of the church and the reformative period, in short his works fulfilled the role of accepting past sin, as that which need be punished but not as a source of complete condemnation and therefore separation from God. “I will visit their iniquities with a rod, and their sins with scourges: but I will not disperse my mercy from them…” (Augustine trans. Betterson 13) Augustine surmised that through free will all is possible and yet he also stressed that it was through good deeds or repentance for bad deeds that would be the ultimate salvation of man, and to create an environment, however figurative that would be conducive to the development of good deeds and the acceptance of repentance for bad would be the greatest need and the greatest deed of man.

A the knowledge that God, the one true God, is to be worshipped for the sake of eternal life and everlasting gifts and for participation in that City on high, and not for earthly and temporal blessings, which divine providence bestows on good and evil without discrimination…” (Augustine trans. Betterson 211)

Augustine, in his rambling sense of self reprobation, though works like Confessions are considered highly valuable, are preliminary developments of greater ideals of development, i.e. that of an environment that would build the ability of the lay and called to create within themselves and around them the good deeds, worthy of the blessings of God. Augustines work therefore became a launching pad for medieval thought, medieval reformations and new doctrines of truth that can even be traced to the modern.

Works Cited

Abelard, Peter. Henry Adams Bellows trans., Historia Calamitatum the Story of My Misfortunes Online Fordham Medieval Sourcebook, 1922: Retrieved, Oct 12, 2008 at

Augustine of Hippo. Henry Betterson trans, City of God. New York: Penguin Group. 2003.

Bernard of Clairvaux. David Burr trans, Apology Online Fordham Medieval Sourcebook, 1996: Retrieved, Nov 1, 2008 at

Bonner, Gerald. St. Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies. London: Canterbury Press, 1986.

McGinn, Bernard, John Meyendorff, and Jean Ledercq, eds. Christian Spirituality: Origins to the Twelfth Century. New York: Crossroad. 1985.

Webb, Clement C.J.. Studies.


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