Fathers of the Church

Letter XV

Description

”Augustine’s correspondence, the mark and expression of the influential personality and apostolic zeal of the author, is rich in historical, philosophical, theological, exegetical, spiritual, literary, and autobiographical content” (Agostino Trapè). Here, in response to a friend’s letter describing the joys of his home life, Augustine comments briefly on the use of temporal blessings.

Provenance

The correspondence of St. Augustine that has been preserved includes more than 270 letters, including well over 200 written by him. Those numbered 1-30 span the period between his conversion and his episcopal ordination.

by Augustine of Hippo in 390 | translated by J. G. Cunningham

TO ROMANIANUS AUGUSTIN SENDS GREETING.

1. This letter indicates a scarcity of paper, but not so as to testify that parchment is plentiful here. My ivory tablets I used in the letter which I sent to your uncle. You will more readily excuse this scrap of parchment, because what I wrote to him could not be delayed, and I thought that not to write to you for want of better material would be most absurd. But if any tablets of mine are with you, I request you to send them to meet a case of this kind. I have written something, as the Lord has deigned to enable me, concerning the Catholic religion, which before my coming I wish to send to you, if my paper does not fail me in the meantime. For you will receive with indulgence any kind of writing from the office of the brethren who are with me. As to the manuscripts of which you speak, I have entirely forgotten them, except the books de Oratore; but I could not have written anything better than that you should take such of them as you please, and I am still of the same mind; for at this distance I know not what else I can do in the matter.

2. It gave me very great pleasure that in your last letter you desired to make me a sharer of your joy at home; but

"Wouldst thou have me forget how soon the deep,
So tranquil now, may wear another face,
And rouse these slumbering waves?"

Yet I know you would not have me forget this, nor are you yourself unmindful of it. Wherefore, if some leisure is granted you for more profound meditation, improve this divine blessing. For when these things fall to our lot, we should not only congratulate ourselves, but show our gratitude to those to whom we owe them; for if in the stewardship of temporal blessings we act in a manner that is just and kind, and with the moderation and sobriety of spirit which befits the transient nature of these possessions,—if they are held by us without laying hold on us, are multiplied without entangling us, and serve us without bringing us into bondage, such conduct entitles us to the recompense of eternal blessings. For by Him who is the Truth it was said: "If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who will give you that which is your own?" Let us therefore disengage ourselves from care about the passing things of time; let us seek the blessings that are imperishable and sure: let us soar above our worldly possessions. The bee does not the less need its wings when it has gathered an abundant store; for if it sink in the honey it dies.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (NPNF I/I, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.