Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXXI

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 he commends the detachment of Proba, a devout widow, from the things of this earth, and her conviction that the evils of this life can bring us closer to God.

Provenance

The extant correspondence of St. Augustine includes more than 270 letters, including well over 200 written by him. Those numbered 124-231 span the period from the conference between Catholic and Donatist bishops held in 411, and the rise of the Pelagian heresy, until Augustine’s death in 430.

by Augustine of Hippo in 412 | translated by J. G. Cunningham

TO HIS MOST EXCELLENT DAUGHTER, THE NOBLE AND DESERVEDLY ILLUSTRIOUS LADY PROBA, AUGUSTIN SENDS GREETING IN THE LORD.

You speak the truth when you say that the soul, having its abode in a corruptible body, is restrained by this measure of contact with the earth, and is somehow so bent and crushed by this burden that its desires and thoughts go more easily downwards to many things than upwards to one. For Holy Scripture says the same: "The corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things." But our Saviour, who by His healing word raised up the woman in the gospel that had been eighteen years bowed down (whose case was, perchance, a figure of spiritual infirmity), came for this purpose, that Christians might not hear in vain the call, "Lift up your hearts," and might truly reply, "We lift them up to the Lord." Looking to this, you do well to regard the evils of this world as easy to bear because of the hope of the world to come. For thus, by being rightly used, these evils become a blessing, because, while they do not increase our desires for this world, they exercise our patience; as to which the apostle says, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God: " all things, he saith — not only, therefore, those which are desired because pleasant, but also those which are shunned because painful; since we receive the former without being carried away by them, and bear the latter without being crushed by them, and in all give thanks, according to the divine command, to Him of whom we say, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth," and, "It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I might learn Thy statutes." The truth is, most noble lady, that if the calm of this treacherous prosperity were always smiling upon us, the soul of man would never make for the haven of true and certain safety. Wherefore, in returning the respectful salutation due to your Excellency, and expressing my gratitude for your most pious care for my welfare, I ask of the Lord that He may grant to you the rewards of the life to come, and consolation in the present life; and I commend myself to the love and prayers of all of you in whose hearts Christ dwells by faith.

[In another hand.] May the true and faithful God truly comfort your heart and preserve your health, my most excellent daughter and noble lady, deservedly illustrious.

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.