Saturday, 17 March 2018

A REFLECTION OF SAINT AUGUSTINE’S LIFE IN RELATION TO SIN

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The Confessions of Saint Augustine narrates his spiritual sojourn; it opens for all a way of living characterized by internal coherence and an experience of the transcendent. This went further to present him as an undisputed master in moral theology, there by drawing particular attentions to a beautiful pattern of sin acknowledgements and introspective reflections which developed at the length of this reflection.
Aurelius Augustine was fathered by Patricius and his wife Monica in the year 352 in the city of Tagaste, Africa  which is now the present day Algeria, raised up as a catholic by his devote mother, yet his adolescent stage seems to rest as at the time the church is experiencing great decline due to the ascendancy of the roman empire though from a catholic background, Augustine fought enormously in denying the divinity of Christ thereby wining the love of the Emperor and his mother, this he did due to the Manicheans teachings both from his environmental and academic point of life. In his Confessions, St Augustine reflects upon his life in the light of scripture and the presence of God. He begins with his infancy, pondering the many sins of his life before his conversion, and he confesses not only his sins but even more the greatness of God.
This work is aimed at presenting an academic contrast between the Holy God who created all things and whom heaven and earth cannot contain, and a commonly sinful man who has joyfully received God's loving salvation and mercy.
AN EXPOSITION OF THE CONCEPT CONFESSION
“You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised. Great is your power; and your wisdom is infinite”.[1] The confessions started with exaltation and praise thus, recognizing the supremacy and divine nature of God. The word Confessio is a Latin word which means the “act of disclosing one’s fault”, What does it really mean “to confess”?  In Augustine's time, to confess means both to give an account of one's faults to God and to praise God or ‘to speak one's love for God’. These two aims come together in the Confessions in an elegant but complex sense: the sacrament of Christian Reconciliation is one of the most unique aspects of Christianity (Catholicism) simply because God out of His abundance of love and mercy He grants us pardon and forgives us our sins.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls it the Sacrament of Conversion because it makes Jesus sacramentally present in the call to conversion[2], which is the first step of returning to the father from whom one has strayed by sin, as Augustine narrates his ascent from sinfulness to faithfulness[3]. It is also called Sacrament of Penance because it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance and satisfaction.
Confessions is the out- pouring of a sinful soul unto Yahweh after an introspective reflection has being done, yes it only God who forgives sin, all we need is the acknowledgements of our human weakness and thus, make effort ask the father for forgiveness and pardon;[4] as St Augustine would say, if these sins (venial) piles up it will lead to mortal sins, for mortal sins punctures the sanctifying grace in our souls. This act of recognition is not just a sign of humility but also a sign of humble admittance of our creatureliness, limitations and as well as our total dependence on God’s merciful love. [5]
Sin is an immoral or unlawful act done against the divine law; it is seen as a deviation from God’s revealed will. Sin can be seen as an act of conception and commission. It is only sin that creates a barrier between us and God[6].
WHAT IS THE CONCEPT SIN ?
The catechism of the Catholic Church went further to define Sin as an offence against reason, truth, and right conscience, it is a failure in the genuine love for God and neighbor because by a perverse attachment to certain goods, it wounds the nature of man and injures human sodality.[7] In other words, it is “an utterance, a deed or a desire contrary to eternal law.”[8]
The central point of Augustine’s confessions ventilate his introspective life of reflections; Augustine sees sin as a heinous act because it robs God and pollutes sinners. He went ahead to affirm God is the true pleasure “a sweetness touched by no deception, a sweetness serene and content”, this is as a result of his sexual observation during his adolescent stage of growth, his youthful sex derive led him to confuse the search for love and friendship with the satisfaction of sexual desires and thus he says “the bubbling impulse of puberty befogged and observed my heart so that it could not see the difference between love serenity and lust darkness”[9],
 He reflects upon himself the issues of intimacy in life as he searches for God and inner transformation. Life as a pilgrimage is the underlying metaphor that provides continuity and structure to the narrative (O'Connell 1994). He describes his experiences in a direct and effective style which is marked by a vast array of emotions, motivations, and detailed cognitive processes. In so doing Augustine offers a primary reference for the interface of religion and psychology.[10]

In Augustine's paradigm, the restoration of the self is a dynamic, endless process in which old questions and conflicts appear and reappear in various forms, following the unevenness of real life. Conversion might be a crucial event in one's life, yet there is always more of a walk ahead. Augustine confides that “from time to time" he has been graced with an inward experience quite unlike any other ... “I have seen your blazing splendor but with a wounded heart” . Peregrinatio keeps alive the awareness that it is always possible to fall back into dispersion, “being dragged down again by my weight of woe, sucked back into everyday things and held fast in them”. Augustine cannot forget the challenges that comes along with the persistent temptations of life and reflects soberly.[11] “How far the first gleaming of your light has illumined me and how dense my darkness still remains and must remain, until my weakness is swallowed in your strength”. At such times Augustine turns to God; “Do not abandon your unfinished work, but bring to perfection all that is wanting in me”. The need for God's grace is always deeply ingrained in his mind. This acknowledgment is perhaps his ultimate act of wisdom confirming the spiritual maturity he has gained during the journey.[12]
AUGUSTINE’S SPIRITUALITY
Spirituality can be defined as an inner longing for perfection. Every one  longs for spirituality. Even though we might not recognize it, because spirituality is an essential means for making real love possible( love of God and neighbor), this gives meaning to our lives, for “man is, in reality, a spiritual being and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy.”[13] This statement affirms that man is a spiritual being that is why Leigh Schmidt went further to say that  “Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the ‘deepest values and meanings by which people live.”[14]
 The term Spirituality be it Augustinian or in literary sense is said to be the relationship between man and God and to speak of Christian Spirituality is to affirm the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. It is crucial to know that Augustinian Spirituality is a special kind of Christian Spirituality that leads to the approach to our Lord Jesus Christ. Although there are several approaches which the Spirituality of St Augustine provides for us, such as a platform or forum to speak and understand the Gospels. St Augustine builds his reflection on humanity from the Sacred Scripture, which is the source of all those who seeks to know, the master of all truths, love and rules for Christian life style.[15] He directs his attention to the book of Genesis which mentions that we have been created in the image and likeness of God. We are created from nothing and because of sin we are limited and shattered interiorly.
 St Augustine places emphasis on interiority and transcendence; for if we dedicate ourselves to things we risk loving creation and not the creator.[16] Augustinian Spirituality constantly avails us the opportunity of seeking and striving beyond all doubt the thirst we share with other contemporaries. This constant search is preceded by a longing for happiness, truths and fulfillment which we experience. Once again St Augustine's confession rings out “You made us for yourself God and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” It is crucial to know that it is God who stirs that restlessness within us through our own doubts and darkness. Luis Rosales says this poetically. At night we shall go, at night, moonless we shall go, moonless in order to find the fountain which alone can enlightens us. The spirit makes itself known on experiencing the depth of our own heart and the doubts that surround us and thus, we become aware of a truth that is greater than all science. It is pertinent to know that we seek in order to find and we find in order to continue seeking. Without spiritual orientation there can be no real understanding of each other, and thus, our relationship with other people will not lead to the happiness we long for, we do not know what constitutes the spiritual realm, all we only know is that it is free from earthly categories of space and time.
 HOW AUGUSTINE’S CONFESSIONS ENHANCES CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY
Christian Spirituality has to do with life, the fullness of life breathed out upon by Jesus Christ and through the spirit we all have a unique call to embody Christ’s presence in the world. All this depends on what we understand to be human before God and in the world; the meaning of human life and human existence is an important issue in any spirituality more especially in our religious belief. St Augustine concludes that love gives meaning to life as we live according to what we love. To understand people it is important to know what they love for if love dies life is paralyzed. The life of St Augustine is the history of someone in love. He speaks with emotion of his soul friend and confesses that without friends he could not be happy.[17] Friendship is vital to him. He always appears to be surrounded by friends. To love and to love was his daily bread. Love for him has a religious quality. An honest life finds its origin in the love of things that should be loved as they should be loved, that is in the love God and neighbor.
Augustine’s confession teaches that the road of salvation is always narrow and difficult. But, we are all called daily to become carriers and dispenser of God’s love. Because, they acknowledgement of the living God is a path which leads to love. This process or act of love is never ‘finished’ and complete throughout life; it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself. Love by its nature should be able to relate to others,   Love grows through love; Love is divine because it comes from God and unites us to God. Love, in the words of Leibniz, is finding pleasure in the perfection of others.  The fruit of Love is service, let us then embrace one another with love because, in love we see the perfect face of God in humanity, we understand other people’s plight and feel her joys, sorrows and anxiety.  
LESSONS LEARNT FROM AUGUSTINE’S CONFESSIONS
 Prayer: this can then be defined as a dialogue that moves the heart the root of our own very life- to change. St Augustine tells us that those essential prayers that demonstrate our constant communication with God gives us what we command and command what we will.[18] This therefore is the basic opinion of God's beggar who acknowledges his own limitation, but is aware of what he is capable of doing with the presence and aid of God's love.
So if God is the centre of communication with the human heart, He is the only Being we need to request. We search for His face in our lives and discover His presence in daily life situations with eyes that believes in hope and love. The whole essence of Christian life is love; Love of God and that of our neighbor as God loves and this is what we dedicate ourselves to while we are in the world.
Humility:  for us to be able to admit our sins there must be a form of acknowledgment which will then lead us to an introspective reflection and the act of asking for forgiveness comes in.
We should recognize our sins and dispose ourselves, then also make ourselves available to God’s mercy. Humility and introspective recognition helps us to acknowledge our sinful nature, it also helps us to know that our brothers and sisters also sin and as humans they sometimes err.           
This inward introspection is an act which guides and helps us to watch ourselves thereby, helping us to avoid seeing our brothers and sisters as worse sinners because our inability to forgive is not just a sign of pride but also a sign which erroneously portrays us as being faultless, because if we are able to acknowledge that we are not faultless then we will be able to know that the other person is as human as we are and is also not faultless.
CONCLUSION
Indeed Augustine’s spiritual narration ventilates a conscientious involvement with the world thus, combining his love for solitude and study which demands a need for community life. He was cut from different cloth. For him, it was not the pursuit of truth or some nebulous journey which of course was somehow an important thing, rather, he longs for truth, real truth and rest in truth which for him is God’s truth. He spent most of his youthful life pursuing that truth through education, through Manicheanism, and through neo-Platonism; it was only when Augustine embrace Christianity that soul finds truth, rest and fulfillment in God.
Written By Ukaegbu Kaosy Christian.


[1] Psalm 145:3
[2] Mark 1:15, Luke 18
[3] Article 4, Paragraph 1423 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
[4] Joseph Kentenich, Sermon, Milwaukee, June 27, 1965
[5] Augustinus-Lexikon. Würzburg,  encyclopedia-style articles on Augustine's life, works, and doctrines;1985
[6] 1 Peter 1:16                                                                              
[7] St Augustine, Contra Faustum 22; Patrologia Latina, ( J. P. Migne Edition), P 42,418, 1841-1855.
[8] Article 8, Paragraph 1849 0f the Catechism of Catholic Church, Pauline’s Publication ( Revised Edition)
[9] Courcelle, Pierre. Les Confessions de S. Augustin dans la tradition litteraire. Paris: Etudes augustiniennes, 1962.       
[10] Browning, D. S., & Cooper, T. D. Religious thought and the modern psychologies (2nd ed.).
Philadelphia: Fortress Press.2004
[11] Dupre, L. Transcendent selfhood. The loss and rediscovery of the inner life. New York: The Seabury Press. 1976
[12]Kohut, H. Introspection, empathy and the semi-circle of mental health. International Journal of
Psychoanalysis, 63, 395-407. 1982
[13] Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks. P.72
[14] Leigh E. Schmidt, Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins,  336 pp. 2005
[15] Ser 46:11:24
[16] Ser 313::20
[17] Con 6:16:26
[18] Con 10: 337: 60


HOW CAN WE ATTAIN HEAVEN

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So many persons have pondered over the basic prerequisite for attaining the kingdom of heaven but I put it to you that to attain heaven is not a game of chance or survival of the fittest. Heaven is a prepared place for the prepared people. There is no ambiguity, only the souls of the righteous will be there. Heaven as a matter of fact, is for those who do the will of God.      
The qualifications or conditions for accomplishing the great task of getting to heaven is therefore living the virtues of Christ in faithfulness till the end of time. Accordingly, the Christians must struggle to kowtow to the image of our Lord and redeemer Jesus Christ because it is the guarantee of attaining heaven. Christian baptism only makes one a candidate of heaven but one must make every effort to make Christ’s rule one’s life. One of Christ attributes is holiness but in this case, it is not the facial holiness rather, it is the holiness in words, actions and thoughts. In this regard, the Church Fathers state that “all the faithful are invited and obliged to holiness’and the perfection of their own state of life.” this call for holiness, rules out unholy acts and deeds like impurity in its forms and shapes (by words, actions and thoughts), willfully designed masturbation, pre- and post-marital infidelity (fornication and adultery), etcetera. This was even stressed by St. Paul when he stated that the sins of the flesh should not be mentioned by Christians talk more of being practiced by Christians.
            However, the grace of God which calls us to live a holy life, a life of perfection, and total submission to Christ in purity of heart and body is there to assist one in the battle for getting to the kingdom of heaven. Hence, we you to be courageous in the battle, for you are not alone. Again, it should come to our attention that there is no democracy in morality that is, everyone will have to give a personal account of himself or herself on the last day. Finally, we have to prepare ourselves for that kingdom and we should not hope for miracle on that day. Remember, he who enjoys to the end, he shall be lost, but he who endures to the end, he shall be saved. Think of the story of Lazarus and the rich man.
                                                                                                          Ukaegbu Christian


Friday, 26 May 2017

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

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“God exercises His Mercy to sinners in three ways: first, in calling them to repentance; second, in waiting for them to return; and thirdly, in welcoming them when they return.”
-St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year, Sermon       XXXII)

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A CATHOLIC FATHER AS AN APOSTLE OF MERCY

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            Roy Angell once told a beautiful story about a widow during the First World War who lost her only son and her husband. One night while this woman's grief was so terribly severe, she had a dream. An angel stood before her and said, "You might have your son back again for ten minutes. What ten minutes would you choose? Would you have him back as a little baby, a dirty-faced little boy, a schoolboy just starting to school, a student just completing high school, or as the young soldier who marched off so bravely to war?" The mother thought a few minutes and then, in her dream, told the angel she would choose none of those times. "Let me have him back," she said, "when as a little boy, in a moment of anger, he doubled up his fists and shook them at me and said, ’I hate you! I hate you!''   Continuing to address the angel, she said: "In a little while his anger subsided and he came back to me, his dirty little face stained with tears, and put his arms around me.  He said, ‘Momma, I'm sorry I was so naughty. I promise never to be bad again and I love you with all my heart.’ Let me have him back then," the mother sobbed. "I never loved him more than at that moment when he changed his attitude and came back to me." This is exactly how God feels about each of us.

THE NEED FOR THANKSGIVING

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Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with songs. Know ye that the Lord is God; he made us , we belong to him, we are his people the flock of his sheepflock. Come within his gates giving thanks,to his courts 
singing praise, give thanks to him and bless his name.(Psalm 100:1-4)

Saturday, 25 February 2017

I AM INNOCENT; PLEASE SPARE MY LIFE

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Life is a gift, treasure it

“What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard the fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore an object of God’s care [and then kill it].
-Athenagoras of Athens (Legatio35)

Friday, 24 February 2017

WHY FIGHT; WHEN ACTUALLY WE ARE ONE.

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Let brotherly love abound

PREAMBLE
Statistical research has revealed that tribalism which is the ill will of self-reformation is  blowing in the life of many Nigerians and it is occasioned by the colossal of wrong orientations, false ideas, false conception of things, misplacement of values, lack of basic formation, absence of fundamental home training, ignorance, loss the sense of sin and distorted value syndrome. But William Hoard in his book “Thought of Achievement” (1998, P. 90), once opined that “very much of what we call progress of things today consist in getting rid of false ideas, false conception of things and in taking a point of view that enables us to see  the principles, ideas and things in right direction”. Thus, it makes reference to a positive psychological renewal which we may call self-reformation.