Wednesday's Audience - On the Writings of St. Augustine
"He Truly Lives in His Works, He Is Present With Us"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2008 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the greetings Benedict XVI gave Wednesday at St. Peter's Basilica to those who could not be accommodated in Paul VI Hall for the general audience, and a translation of the catechesis he delivered in the Vatican auditorium. This is the fourth address the Pope has dedicated to the figure of St. Augustine.
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[Greetings at St. Peter's Basilica in English]
I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered here in the Basilica of St. Peter. Lent is a privileged time for all Christians to recommit themselves to conversion and spiritual renewal. In this way, we rekindle a genuine faith in Christ, a life-giving relationship with God and a more fervent dedication to the Gospel. Strengthened by the conviction that love is the distinguishing mark of Christian believers, I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to charity in your daily lives.
[Catechesis in Paul VI Hall]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After last week's break for spiritual exercises we return today to the great figure of St. Augustine, about whom I have repeatedly spoken during the Wednesday catecheses. He is the Father of the Church who has left the most works and I intend to discuss these briefly today.
Some of the Augustinian writings are of major importance not only for the history of Christianity but also in terms of the development of Western culture as a whole: The clearest example of this is his "Confessions," without doubt one of the most frequently read books of ancient Christianity -- even today. As other Fathers of the Church in the early centuries, but vastly more influential, the Bishop of Hippo has in fact exercised an extensive and persistent influence as demonstrated by the abundance of manuscripts of his works, which are truly numerous.
He personally reviewed these in the "Retractationes" a few years before his death, and shortly after his death they were carefully recorded in the "Indiculus" (list) attached to the biography of St. Augustine, "Vita Augustini," by his faithful friend Possidius. The list of works by Augustine was created with the express purpose of safeguarding them as the destructive Roman invasion rampaged across Africa, and is made up of more than 1,030 writings numbered by their author, plus others that “cannot be numbered because he did not give them a number.” Possidius, bishop of a nearby town, dictated these words in Hippo --where he had taken refuge and had witnessed the death of his friend -- and almost definitely based these comments on Augustine's personal library.
Today more than 300 letters and 600 sermons from the bishop of Hippo have survived. Originally there would have been many more, perhaps even 3,000 or 4,000, fruit of 40 years of preaching by the ex-rhetorician who decided to follow Christ and not to speak just to important individuals in the imperial court, but to the ordinary population of Hippo.
In recent years the discovery of a group of letters and sermons have enriched our knowledge of this great Father of the Church. His friend, the Bishop Possidius wrote: "Many books were written and published by him, many homilies were given in Church and then transcribed and edited, both to refute various heresies as well as to interpret Sacred Scriptures for the edification of the children of the Church. These works are so numerous that a scholar could hardly find it possible to read all of them and learn them" ("Vita Augustini," 18, 9).
Within Augustine’s literary production -- more than 1,000 publications subdivided into philosophical, apologetic, doctrinal, moral, monastic, exegetic, and anti-heretical writings, as well as the letters and sermons -- are some exceptional works of great theological and philosophical intensity.
Above all it is necessary to remember the already mentioned "Confessions," written in 13 books in praise of God between 397 and 400. It is a sort of autobiography in the form of a dialog with God. This literary genre reflects St. Augustine’s life, which was not a reclusive life, not dispersed in many things, but was a life mainly lived like a conversation with God, a life shared with others. Already the title "Confessions" shows the specificity of his autobiography.
In the Christian Latin developed in the tradition of the Psalms, the word "confessiones" has two meanings that are interlinked. In the first place "confessiones" is the confession of one’s own weaknesses, and of the misery of sins; at the same time "confessiones" means praise of God, gratitude to God.
Seeing one's misery in the light of God becomes praise for God and gratitude because God loves us and accepts us, he transforms us and raises us toward him. In the "Confessions" -- which were already largely successful during ...
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