Groaning of Injured Creation

Alfeche: The Cry of a Wounded Heart and the Groaning of an Injured Creation

By Rev. Fr. Mamerto Alfeche, OSA
(This was originally published in the Augustinian Initial Formation Congress 2021 Document. )

           T. J. Van Bavel, O.S.A. said that formation is first of all self-formation. Self-formation is our response to the teachings of the Interior Formator, our Lord Jesus Christ. To be able to form oneself accordingly, one should first of all discover (know) and accept who and what he is. Discovery and acceptance of one’s self leads to one’s better discovery or knowledge of God (Augustine: Noverim me, noverim Te).

            According to Augustine, man is a groaning creation or, to adopt your description, a being who cries with a wounded heart. He cries or groans for complete liberation. This is because, man, for his sin, “was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected him in hope.” Acceptance, right attitude and proper lifestyle lead to healing and finally to complete liberation.

I. The labor pains of a wounded heart or of the groaning creation: (Rom. 8: 18-25)

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).” This verse shows a reason for a groaning creation to hope: “the glory to be revealed in us.” It is a further development of the idea of hope expressed by Paul in the earlier verses, namely, in verse 13: “I f you live by the spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body and you live,” and in verse 17-18: “However, if we suffer with Christ, we suffer in order that we may also be glorified with Him, for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the future glory, which will be revealed in us (Augustine, De Div. Quaestionibus 83, 67, 2).”

            According to Augustine, in verses 13, 17, and 18, Paul had drawn the first main lines of his theology of hope: We all are suffering because of the conflicts in us of the flesh and the spirit. But if we succeed in overcoming the proclivities of our flesh to evil with the propensities of the spirit, we shall live. And if we fuse our suffering with Christ’s suffering, we shall also be glorified with him as He was glorified. Our future glory will much exceed our present suffering (Cf. M. Alfeche, Augustine on the Hope of Groaning Creation, p. 3-4).


Verse 19: “For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.”

Verse 20: “For creation was made subject to futility (vanity), not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope.”

Verse 21: “That creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

            In verses 19 and 21, Augustine notices the contrast that Paul makes between creation (man) and filii Dei (sons of God). With respect to verse 19, Augustine says that creation hopes (waits with eager expectation) for its revelation as “sons of God.” Man’s hope is aroused because of internal and external experiences of sufferings.

            The internal cause of suffering is the pain experienced in the practice of mortification (self discipline or asceticism) and in the practice of the cultivation of the spirit (the process of acquiring virtues or internalizing good habits or good values formation).

            The external cause of man’s suffering is the pain inflicted by others as when, for example, even without any selfish interest, we strive to work for the interest of the Church or for t he integrated development of human society.

With the statement, “For creation waits for the revelation of the sons of God,” he (Paul) is saying this. What suffers in us when we put to death deeds of the flesh, that is, when we are hungry and thirsty by fasting; while we deprive ourselves of the pleasure in marital relations through chastity; while we bear with patience the wounds caused by injuries and the stings of affronts; while we labour without any selfish interest for the benefit of the Mother Church; whatever suffers in us in this and in similar toil is creation (De Div. Quaest. 83, 67, 2).

            It is not the spirit of man alone that suffers pain, but the whole of man, that is, it is his soul and his flesh, that suffers the pain: “For the body and soul that suffers (dolet) is certainly what is referred as “creation.” Humans hope for the revelation of the sons of God (ibid).” 

            The cry or groaning is also caused by the call of God to glory. God’s call makes creation groan the more because it makes it desire to be united fully with Him: “Creation hopes for the appearance of what has been called in glory, to which creation has been called (ibid).” This call to glory is the call to man to develop his potentials and talents to the fullest with which he is able to serve better his fellow men and, consequently, glorify God. 

            The revelation of the sons of God, that is, its future transformation in glory, is the object of hope of the groaning creation. Augustine sees this in the light of 1 Jo. 3: 2,

Therefore, the hope of creation, that is, our hope, hopes for the revelation of the sons of God. That is to say, it hopes for the appearance of what has been promised when what we are now in hope will be manifested in reality itself. For we are now sons of God, and it has not appeared yet what we shall be. We, however, know that when it has appeared, we shall be like Him, since we shall see Him as He is (1 Jo.3:2).

            In the foregoing text, Augustine says that the “groaning creation” is identified only with believers. This is clear from two points. First, he identifies the hope of creation with our hope: exspectatio creaturae, id est, exspectatio nostra. Second, by seeing the meaning of “the revelation of the sons of God” in the light of 1 Jo 3:2, he identifies  “creation”  with  the  sons  of  God  who  will  be  transformed  into  a  better  state.  It is because for him, only the sons of God (the just ones) will merit the eschatogical transformation to a better state.

            With respect to verse 20: “For creation was made subject to futility (vanity),” Augustine says that the cause of man’s cry or groaning is his having been subjected by God to vanity because of his inclination to sin. He identifies “vanity”(vanitas) with “deceiving”(falsitas) or he opposes it to “truth”(veritas).This subjection to vanity is a “curse,” which is expressed in Gen.3:19: “In labor you shall eat your bread.” Humans find it difficult to hold on to what is true or to stand by the truth. Very often they seek delight in what is easy and personally convenient at the expense of truth. But, Augustine identifies truth with God. He laments: “Lord, Your Truth never depart from us, yet it is hard for us to return to you (Conf. VIII, 3).” This curse clearly applies to the entire human race.

            Furthermore, in connection with verse 21, Augustine identifies “creation” with nonbelievers only in search of truth and on the way to faith. Augustine bases his interpretation on the succeeding phrase: [creation] “would be set free from slavery of corruption.” He understands this phrase to refer to the liberating function of faith. The Pauline phrase indicates that though nonbelievers are on the way to liberation, they do not yet possess the faith. They are called [groaning] creation in contrast to those who already possess the Christian faith and are called the sons of God. This groaning creation, however, will become sons of God, and like those who are already sons of God, they will also reach their ultimate glorification.

“But also creation itself,” that is, human kind itself after it had lost the seal of the image on account of sin, remained only a creation. Therefore, “also creation itself,” that is, that too which is not yet called the perfect form of sons, but is called only creation, will be freed from the slavery of corruption (Rom 18:21). Therefore, in what he says, “also itself will be freed,” he intends t he (the words) “also itself” to be understood as “us too,” that is, one should not despair even of those who are not yet called sons of God, since they have not yet believed but are only creation. They also will believe and will be freed from the bondage of corruption like us who are already sons of God, although it has not yet appeared what we shall be ( 1 Jo 3:2). Therefore they will be freed from the bondage of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. That is to say, they will be liberated both from themselves and from being slaves, and from the dead they will be glorious in perfect life, which the sons of God will have (De Div. Quaest. 83, 67.4).”

            Augustine pays special attention to the word “also” (et) in verse 21. For him, this means that the groaning creation is man himself: Quia et ipsa creatura, id est, ipse homo.

II. Augustine’s later elaborations

            Augustine later clarifies his earlier statement in the foregoing text, “humankind itself after it had lost the seal of the image on account of sin,” in his Retractationes 1, 25, by saying that man did not completely lose the seal of the image. Otherwise, he would have absolutely no chance of recovery from sin into a newness of life.

In the passage where I explained what has been written: “Also the creation itself will be freed from the bondage of corruption,” I said, “also creation itself, that is, humankind itself after it had lost the seal of the image on account of sin, has remained only a creation” is not to be taken as though man had lost the whole seal which he had of the image of God. If he had lost it entirely, there would be no basis for saying, “Be reformed in the newness of your mind (Rom. 12:2),” and “We are changed into His likeness (2 Cor 3:180).”  But again, if he had lost it entirely, there would no longer be reason to say, “although man lives in the image, nevertheless in vain is he perturbed (Ps.38, 7).”

A.   Romans 8:22: We know that all creation is groaning in labour pains even until now.

            Do other creations, that is, besides man, also groan in labour pains?  Or, in your own language, do other creation, that is, besides man, cry as one with a wounded heart?

            Augustine consistently says “no” in his early works. He explains that Paul uses “omnis creatura” (all creation) and not “tota  creatura” (whole  creation)  as groaning in labour  pains.  He sticks to his Platonic, and possibly Manichean also, background on the consideration of man as a microcosmos. In the world (cosmos), there exist beings belonging to different levels or forms of life: some are spiritual (partim spiritualis), some are animate (partim animalis), and some are corporeal (partim corporalis). All these forms of life are present in man generically (generatim). They correspond to the different forms of life of man:

And the higher angels live spiritually; but the lower angels in the manner the animals and beasts and other animals live carnally. The body, however, does not live but is made alive. Every creature is in a human being because he understands with his spirit, he feels with his soul, and moves in space with his body (De Div. Quaes. 83, 67.5).

            Man is expected to live accordingly as one who subjects himself to t he rule of God. In life he is responsibly-bound to follow a determined order. The reversal is a transgression; and he will find himself in trouble.

When we consider creation from the inferior, the corporeal extends through space; the animate, however, enlivens the corporeal; the spiritual rules the animate, and then it rules properly when in turn it subjects itself to the rule of God; when it transgresses His commandments, its transgressions impact on other creatures, which it could rule, causing it difficulties and troubles. He, therefore, who lives by the body is called a carnal or an animal man; carnal because it follows what are carnal, animal because it bears the unloosed lasciviousness of his soul, which the spirit does not rule or force within the bounds of the natural order, because the spirit does not subject itself to God. He, however, who rules his soul with his spirit, and who rules his body with his soul, which cannot be done unless he has God as his ruler, because as a man is the head of a woman so Christ is the head of man (1 Cor. l1, 3) is called spiritual (De Div. Quaes. 83,  67, 5).

B.   Romans 8: 22: . . . even until now (usque adhuc).

            The “cry of a wounded heart” or the groaning of creation will cease only at the resurrection of the body. The spirit of man is in sympathy with the body.

            Paul says that “all creation groans in labor pains even until now.” Why even until now? It is because, as Augustine explains, even when creation ceases to suffer to a certain extent at its coming to faith and when some human beings are already in the “bosom of Abraham (Lk 16:23),” every creature can still be considered to exist in those who are not yet liberated entirely, that is, in spirit and in soul. Saint Augustine, after establishing at some length that omnis creatura is verified in man . . . he identifies omnis creatura with those who are not yet liberated. From his previous comment on verse 21, where, as we have seen, this liberation was identified with the coming to faith and divine sonship, it is clear that he is still thinking of unbelieving men as contrasted with the sons of God who will, as we expect, be spoken of in verse 23. But Augustine’s entire idea is not that simple. For him, the spirit of the believers also groan in sympathy with the body. Augustine speaks of this in De Div. Quaest. 83, 67, 2. Here, although he does not make a distinction between the spiritus and anima, it is clear that he speaks of the suffering that permeates the entire beings of believers. This position is clear in his later writings. In Contra Julianum 6, 23, Augustine tells Julian that he now maintains that believers groan also to be freed from concupiscence, thus correcting his earlier view. He anchors his position on Rom 7:18-25, Gal 5:17, and Wis 9:15. Earlier he had maintained that on the basis of Rom 7:18- 25 the unbelievers always obeyed the bidding of concupiscence . This position is also expressed in Ad Simpficianum 1, 1, Expositio Quarundam Propositionum ad Romanos 41 and 42, and in Expositio ad Galatas 47. The later position is expressed in De Gratia Christi 39, 43, Contra Duos Epistolas Pelagianorum 1, 17-25, Retractationes 1.23, 24 and 2. 1 and Contra Julianum 2, 3.

C.   Even those who are already advanced in virtues also groan in pain.

            Even those who are advanced in the practice of virtues still groan in soul and body, although they no longer groan in spirit. This is the reason why Augustine asserts this: the meaning that Paul gives to his words “those who have the first-fruits of the spirit (primitias habentes spiritus) is that these believers have already offered their spiritus as a sacrifice to God, and these spiritus are already absorbed by the divine fire of love. In other words, their spiritus have already risen.  However, they still groan (congemiscunt) in body because in faith there is still no complete offering of the whole human being: nondum est holocaustum. This holocaust will take place beyond history, that is, at the resurrection of the body, when death has been absorbed in victory (1 Cor. 15, 54-55) and no resistance or conflict in whatsoever form is experienced; and when everything has been made subject to Christ and He himself will be subject to the Father then “God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).”

He (Paul) says, “Not only, however, does all creation groan and suffer (congemiscit et dolet), but also we ourselves.” That is to say, in man not only the body, the soul, and the spirit suffer at the same time by reason of the difficulties arising from the body, but also we ourselves taken separately from our bodies, inwardly, who have the first-fruits of the spirit groan (Rom 18:23). And Paul rightly said, “Who have the first-fruits of the spirit.” These are those whose spirits have already offered as a sacrifice to God and have been absorbed by the divine fire of love. The reason for this is that truth receives first our spirit in order that through the spirit, the rest may be included. Therefore, he has already offered the first-fruits to God who says: “With my mind I serve the law of God, however, with my flesh I serve the law of sin (Rom 7:25)”; and he who says, “God whom I serve with my spirit” (Rom 1:19).” This is also true of him, of whom it is said: “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak (Mt. 26, 41).”  He says again, “I am an unhappy man, who will deliver me from the body of this death (Rom 7:24)?”  And to such people it is still said, “He will make alive also your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwells in you (Rom 8:11),” but there is no holocaust yet. There will be, however, when death is absorbed in victory; when “Death, where is your strife? Death, where is your sting? (1 Cor 15, 54-55)” is asked of death (De Div. Quaest. 83 , 67).

D.  Man groans because he is a captive and because of the Holy Spirit.

            In a homily on the Psalms, Augustine sees the cause of the groaning of creation from a different perspective. A human being groans because he is in captivity. He desires to be liberated and to dwell in a new world, the eternal Jerusalem. Augustine likewise points out that a human being is able to groan by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s presence in Him.  Paul himself is a typical example of t his groaning creation.

However, let us ask the Apostle Paul how human being came into captivity. He himself particularly groans in this captivity, sighing for the eternal Jerusalem. And he taught us to groan because of the Holy Spirit because he too was filled with it and groaned. For he says this: “All creation groans and suffers until now (Rom 8, 22).” And he likewise says: “For creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will but by the will of Him who subjected it in hope (Rom 8, 20) [En. In Ps. 125, 2].”

Commenting on Rom. 8:20 in De Moribus Ecclessiae Catholicae, written in 388, Augustine writes:

Not I but Paul himself claims this: “For creation has been subjected to vanity (Rom 8:20).”  What has been subjected to vanity cannot sunder us from vanity and unite us to truth. But the Holy Spirit does this for us (De Mar. Eccl. Cath. 12, 23).

            The assurance of liberation that is sighed for is guaranteed because it has been demonstrated by Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is the “exemplum.” Jesus Christ, the Head, who has ascended into heaven ahead, longs for the resurrection of our bodies, his brothers and sisters, to join Him. The resurrection of Jesus includes in hope the resurrection of the bodies of the just. The resurrection of their bodies is the final redemption of the just.

            In hope there are the aspects of the already and the not yet. The dynamism of these two aspects makes a human being restless and groan continuously.

Which redemption do they hope for? It is the redemption of their body which precedes in the Lord, who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Before this comes upon us it is necessary that we, who are only believers and hoping, groan . . . Look at the reason why we groan and how we groan. It is because the thing which we are hoping for is precisely the same thing which we are waiting for; but we do not possess it yet. But we sigh for it now until we possess it because we desire the thing we do not possess yet. Why? Because “in hope we were saved (Rom 8, 24) [En. in Ps.125.2].”

III.  A mellowing of Augustine’s position in his later works.

            Despite Augustine’s consistency and insistence that only human beings are referred to as the “groaning creation,” he later actually found it very difficult to maintain his earlier position in the face of many who oppose it. In fact, he even earlier seemed to have admitted that other creatures, besides human beings, also groan in pain. He acknowledges the validity of other sources besides the Holy Scriptures.

We see further that the sun and moon and other planets are heavenly bodies. We do not see that they have souls. But we believe that (this account) may be read outside the Holy Scriptures (Ad Orosium Contra Priscillanistas et Origenistos 8, 11).

A.   “Thorns and Thistles” and “Paradise Lost”

            Toward the end of his intellectual life he says that there exists a close affinity between human beings and the rest of creation. Since there is a bond that exists between human beings and the rest of creation, the former get only what they deserve. Before the fall, the world was a Paradise to man. In his fallen nature, the world has been made difficult for him to live in and the damaged world is getting back at him.

            In his interpretation of Gen 2:15 in De Genesi ad Literram 8, 8 Augustine says that before the fall, human beings enjoyed a pleasant and even delightful relationship with other creations, a sign of their close bond with one another:

Therefore farming has everything delightful, especially then (i.e. before the fall) when nothing harmful came upon it from either the earth or from the sky. For there was not the pain of labour but joy of a free action . . . For what can be a greater and a more wonderful spectacle, or where can human reason speak in a more intimate manner with nature than when after he has sown the seeds, planted the shoots, transferred the shrubs, and grafted the slips, he appears to ask himself “What can the strength of the roots support and what can it not? In what kind of ground can it do it and in which ground can it not? In this consideration, see that it is neither he who plants nor he who waters anything, but only God who gives the growth (1 Cor 3.7). The work that is added exteriorly is given by man, whom God created, leads and rules invisibly (De Genesi ad Litteram 8, 8).

            After the fall, however, the relationship between human beings and nature has been wounded. The first sin and, for that matter every other sin thereafter, damaged the order of the constituents of the universe generically present in human beings, thus resulting also in the rupture of the bond that human being has with the external world. Paradise, then, was lost.

Finally since man did not like anymore to remain subjected (to God) by protecting the likeness of Paradise in himself which he cultivated, he received a field similar to his cursed condition. God said: “(The field) shall bring forth to you thorns and thistles” (Gen 3:18).” [De Genesi ad Litteram 8, 10].

            Later, in  Contra Julianum  Opus  lmperfectum  6, 27,  written  in 429/430,  Augustine discusses with the Pelagian Julian the meaning of Gen 3: 17-19: “Cursed is the field because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Augustine uses a part of this passage, that is, “in toil you shall eat,” to explain the meaning of Rom 8:20: “For creation was subjected to vanity.”

            Julian and Augustine maintain opposing positions. Julian contends that the material world was not implicated by the sinning of the first couples:

It has not been said here, “I will multiply your thorns or your sweat.” But they are said to have been created at that moment in the beginning . . . Therefore that un-productivity of the trees, that abundance of thistles, that increased difficulty of painful childbirth, are imputed to individual persons and not to the human race.

            Augustine answers that Julian’s way of arguing appears absurd: “It is as though God, when He said this, did not give him punishment for sin but gave him reward as well.” In another discussion with the Pelagian Julian on the same issue in Contra Julianum Pelagium 6, 20, 65, while reducing Julian’s argument to absurdity, Augustine indirectly states that the sin of human being implicated his relationship with the rest of creation: “You could say that farmers resist God and disturb his order by ridding the fields of thorns and thistles which he (God) commanded to bring forth to sinners as punishment (Gen 3:18) [Contra Julianum Pelagianum 6, 20, 65].”

            We have not seen any very clear text from Augustine where he believes and elaborates on the implication of the rest of the material world in the sinning of human beings. But we do not believe that this vagueness is maintained unconsciously. He apparently evades further discussions on this question. We suspect that he does not want to appear to Julian as still having some traces of Manicheism in him. For otherwise the world for him would also be evil and this is a Manichean doctrine. Had he insisted on the opposite, he would have appeared to have adopted a Pelagian view.

            There are other references in the works of Augustine on the theme “thorns and thistles.” In En. in Ps 102, 17, “thorns and thistles” stand for scourge and corruption in the mortal condition. They also symbolize toil and struggle in our day to day life. In En. in Ps 137, 3, they stand for all human suffering as a consequence of sin.  Here Augustine juxtaposes Gen. 3, 17 with Rom 7, 25 and Rom 8, 23. In Opus lmperfectum Contra Julianum 6, 21, no one is exempted from the pain of work after the curse.

B.   Two lands (terrae)

            It is a matter of choice on how we live our lives:

What is the meaning of the statement: “The face of the Lord is against the evil doers to cut off remembrance of them from the earth (Ps 33, 16).”There is another land where the unchaste do not dwell; there is another land in the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived: neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6, 9-10). This means that he will cut off remembrance of them from the earth (Ps 33, 16). For many doing such evil deeds place hope in themselves. On account of those who while living depravedly, place hope in themselves, with regard to living in the kingdom of God, where they will not enter, the following statement has been made: “He will cut off remembrance of them from the earth ( Is 65,17; Is. 66, 22; 2 Pet. 3,13)” which the righteous will inhabit. The ungodly, the evil, and the wicked are not allowed to dwell there. Choose now as you are where you long to live while there is time for you to change (Sermo 161, 3).

            One chooses at present the kind of society where he wants to live hereafter. The wicked will join the society of the condemned. The just will form the society of the blessed. Since the coming of the kingdom in full glory takes place through the development of society in history, this means that we choose even now the future of human society in history. But while yet in history (in the present world), Augustine exhorts that we form ourselves and pattern our life as a community on that life in the eschaton. He urges more concern for our proper formation of life here and now. This idea makes Augustine’s eschatology both prophetic, that is, it expresses hope for a better world within history and apocalyptic, that is, it expresses hope for a new world beyond history.

C.   Regaining Paradise

            The first sin of disobedience of mankind brought about damage to ourselves, to our relationship with one another and with God. It also distorted our relationship with our environment and nature. Our own sins have the same effects. We have been made subject to corruption in hope and, thus while still living here, we cry as persons with “wounded hearts.” We “groan” for complete healing. This healing, while it is a gift, becomes effective only with man’s participation. (Augustine: Deus qui creavit te sine te non salvabit te sine te.

            Full healing will come to the just ones only in the eschaton. Augustine describes his own images of life in the eschaton. There the life of the saints is one of an ideal human family. In In Jo. Evan. Tract. 67, 2, he says that the relationship among the blessed is one of a perfect family with a father figure and a mother and child figures. The father figure sees to it that there is no sign of discrimination of any member of the family. On the other hand, in an ideal family, there is among members mutual concern for one another, and this is illustrated by the mother and child figure. In the eschaton, burdens and suffering will no longer exist because the Lord, like a mother and father, will give all the just and the righteous the fullness of comfort.

            Full human happiness will be experienced in the world. Not in this world but in the new one which is the numerically the same world. There creation will cease to cry or groan in pain because it will be fully healed. The transformed new human being will rest in the transformed world while contemplating the face of his Creator, loving Him and praising Him eternally (City of God 20, 16).

            Meanwhile, as humanity progresses in the “newness of life (Rom. 6, 6 ff., 2 Cor. 5:17),” the New Jerusalem continuously unfolds until it becomes manifest to all creation (Rev. 21, 2-5) [De Civ. Dei 20, 17]. Since other forms of material creation have been ordained for the benefit of mankind, from the beginning up to and beyond the present, after the wicked have been separated and the just have been transformed for the better, the material world, in a twinkling of an eye, will also be transformed for the better in order to provide a fitting place for mankind. Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Is 65, 17; 66, 22; 2 Pet. 3, 13; Rev. 21, 1).

For after judgment has been passed on those who are not recorded in the book of life and they have been flung into the eternal fire (a fire whose nature and whose location in the world or the universe is not known by anyone, I think, except by someone to whom the Spirit of God has perhaps revealed it), then the form of this world will pass away in the conflagration of earthly fires, just as the flood was caused by the overflowing of earthly waters.  Therefore, as I have said, by that conflagration the qualities of the corruptible elements, which correspond to our corruptible bodies, will utterly perish in the burning, and the substance will itself acquire those qualities which will be appropriate to bodies which has been renewed for the better and will be adapted suitably to human-kind, renewed for the better also with respect to the flesh (De Civ. Dei, 20, 16).

            It is in the new heaven and the new earth where the “lnquietum Cor” will find its happy rest; because it is only there where the fullness of God’s presence will fill up to overflowing what man lacks and what he possesses now in hope (Augustine: Figura transit ad rem. Feciste nos ad te, Domine, et inquietum est cor nostrum donee requiescot in te. Deus est omnia in omnibus).

            In the new heaven and new earth, there will be fullness of unity among the blessed, for it is there where together they will contemplate, praise and love the Lord eternally. God is manifested in his fullness as the “Supreme Common Good.”

D.  The Concupiscence of the flesh and the spirit is lifetime.

            The concupiscence of the flesh struggling against the concupiscence of the spirit causes groaning or crying in pain both in believers on the way to conversion and in unbelievers (En. In Ps. 118; Sermo 19, 3; En. In Ps 134, 12). It pricks them both from their first day of birth to their day of burial (Sirach 40, l ff.; En. In Ps. 140, 16; Opus Imp. Contra Julianum 6, 14: The concupiscence of the flesh is a vitium congenitum ). It is more readily aroused by memory (Conf. 8, 11) by those who have experienced incontinence in the past; it is heightened in the unchaste as they become older; it is much stronger among the youth; it is tempered, although not absent, among the near elderly and the elderly and old persons:

“Sisters and Brothers, so long as we live here, this is always the case. It is the case even with us, who have grown old in this warfare. Indeed, we have fewer enemies but we have them. Our enemies have already been worn out in a certain sense through age; nevertheless even when worn out, they do not stop to disturb the tranquillity of old age with many sorts of motions. The conflict is sharper among the youth. We know it; we passed through it. Therefore, the flesh lust against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh (Gal. 5, 17; Sermon 128, 9.11).”

IV.  Other topics

A.   Augustinian writings that tackle “Habit as becoming a


“You Lord, never depart from us, yet it is hard for us to return to you (Conf. VIII, 3).”

“Simplicianus … found the means of devoting himself entirely to you. I longed to do the same, but I was held fast, not in fetters clamped upon me by another, but by my own will, which had the strength of iron chains. The enemy held my will in his power and from it he had made a chain and shackled me. For my will was perverse and lust had grown from it, and when I gave in to lust, habit was born; and when I did not resist the habit it became a necessity. These were the links which together formed what I called my chain, and held me fast in the duress of servitude. But the new will which had come to life in me and made me wish to serve you freely and enjoy you, my God, who are our only certain joy, was not yet strong enough to overcome the old, hardened as it is by the passage of time. So these two wills within me, one old, one new, one the servant of the flesh, the other of the spirit, were in conflict and between them they tore my soul apart (Conf. VIII, 5).”

“Many years of my life had passed – twelve, unless I am wrong – since I had read Cicero’s Hortensius at the age of nineteen and it had inspired me to study philosophy. But I still postponed my renunciation of this world’s joys . . . As a youth I have been woefully at fault, particularly in early adolescence. I had prayed to you for chastity and said ‘Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.’  For I was afraid that you would answer my prayer at once and cure me too soon of the disease of lust, which I wanted satisfied, not quelled. I had wandered on along the road of vice in the sacrilegious superstition of the Manichees, not because I thought that it was right, but because I preferred it to the Christian belief, which I did not explore as I ought but opposed it out of malice (Conf. VIII, 7).”

“Why does this strange phenomenon occur?  What causes it? The mind gives an order to the body and is at once obeyed, but when it gives an order to itself it is resisted.   The mind commands the hand to move and is so readily obeyed that the order scarcely be distinguished from its execution.  Yet the mind is mind and the hand is part of the body.  But when the mind commands the mind to make an act of the will, these two are one and the same and yet the order is not obeyed. Why does this happen? What is the cause of it? The mind orders itself to make an act of the will, and it would not give this order unless it willed to do so; yet it does not carry out its own command. But it does not fully will to do this thing; therefore, its orders are not fully given. It gives the order only in so far as it wills, and in so far as it does not will, the order is not carried out. For the will commands that an act of the will should be made, and it gives this command to itself, not to some other will. The reason, then, why the command is not obeyed is that it is not given with full will. For if the will were full, it would not command itself to be full, since it would be so already. It is therefore no strange phenomena partly to will to do something and partly to will not to do it. It is a disease of the mind which does not wholly rise to the heights where it is lifted by the truth, because it is weighed down by habit. So, there are two wills in us, because neither by itself is the whole will, and each possesses what the order lacks (Conf. VIII, 9).”

“Habit was too strong for me when it asked, ‘Do you think you can live without these things?’ But, by now the voice of habit was very faint. I had turned my eyes elsewhere, and while I stood trembling at the barrier, on the other side I could see the chaste beauty of Continence in all her serene, unsullied joy, as she modestly beckoned me to cross over and to hesitate no more. She stretched out loving hands to welcome and embrace me, holding up a host of good examples to my sight. With her were countless boys and girls, great numbers of the young and people of all ages, staid widows and women still virgins in old age. And in their midst was Continence herself, not barren but a fruitful mother of children, of joys born of you, 0 Lord, her Spouse. She smiled at me to give me courage, as though she were saying, ‘Can you not do what these men and these women do? Do you think they find the strength to do it in themselves and not in the Lord their God? It was the Lord their God who gave to them. Why do you try to stand in your own strength and fail? Cast yourself upon God and have no fear. He will not shrink away and let you fall. Cast yourself upon God without fear, for he will welcome you and cure you of your ills.’ I was overcome with shame, because I was still listening to the futile mutterings of my lower self and I was still hanging to suspense. And again Continence seemed to say, ‘Close your ears to the unclean whispers of your body, so that it may be mortified. It tells you of things that delight you, but not such things as the law of the Lord your God has to tell (Ps 118.85),’ (Conf. VIII, 11).”

B.   Thoughts gathered from the Villanova lecture of Luc Verheijen, OSA

Wrong notions of community life lead to improper motivations.

“Some who join consider community life as a form of splendid isolation, a place of refuge for the individual fostering a carefree existence.”(Augustine)

“Community life is not a romantic dream, but a school of realism.  Augustine tells us that it is like a furnace:  ‘Many promised that they would live fully that holy life in which everything is held in common and no one calls anything his own.   This is the life of those who have one heart as they journey towards God.   When they are put the fiery test, they totally fall apart’ (En. In Ps. 99, 11).”

Note: A furnace gives warmth but it is also a testing instrument of one’s strength.

“Wherever people try to build up a community, be this in youth movement, peer groups, support groups, in families or in religious life, they will be confronted with tensions and conflicts. For it is a fact that we all have different personalities, perceptions, expectations, ideas, choices, needs and values. The tension between the self and the other (or the group) can express itself in egoism, pride, exploitation, or destructive criticism.   Such tension and conflicts should not be considered abnormal; they are natural part of human interaction, at both the individual and the group levels.   However, neither   should they be merely frustrating experiences.  They should be rewarding ones, insofar as they further personal growth and foster greater pleasure in group participation.  In   the past, formation to religious life taught people how to pray, how to live the vows, and how to be a good apostle, but not necessarily how to live in a community. But in the true Augustinian formation, religious life must be considered, first of all, as a preparation for living in a community.”

B.   Augustine on human relationship

Note: Augustine used Acts 4:32-35 more in the context of marriage and in other relationships than in community life. What is noteworthy of his teaching is that in every form of human relationship, in order that it be truly fruitful, such relationship should be anchored in and directed to Christ.

            Candidates to and members of Augustinian communities should be trained to live as friends in Chrirst or in God in order that there may be a communion of life with one another in them. Friendship is not partnership. Persons may be partners in crimes or in business but not necessarily friends.

“This is what we cherish in friendship, and we cherish it so dearly that in conscience we fee l guilty if we do not return love for love, asking no more of our friends than these expressions of good w ill. This is why we mourn their death, which shrouds us in sorrow and turns joy into bitterness, so that the heart is drenched in tears and life becomes a living death because a friend is lost.  Blessed are those who love you, 0 God, and love their friends in you and their enemies for your sake. They alone will never lose those who are dear to them, for they love them in one who is never lost, in God . . . No one can lose you, my God, unless he forsakes you. And if he forsakes you, where is he to go? If he abandons your love, his only refuge is your wrath. Wherever he turns, he will find your law to punish him, for your law is the truth and the truth is yourself (Conf. IV, 9).”

            Since every human being has a “wounded heart,” healing could come to him only if he searches for Truth and is engulfed by Truth. Possession of and being possessed by Truth makes a man truly happy. Good will and honesty are necessary in the process and in order for one to remain in the state of happiness. Unfortunately, this is difficult for man, for while still on earth, the flesh continues to lust against the spirit.

“It may be that all men do desire to be happy, but because the impulses of nature and the impulses of the spirit are at war with one another, so that they cannot do all that their will approves (Gal 5:17), they fall back upon what they are able to do and find contentment in this way. For their will to do what they cannot do is not strong enough to enable them to do it.  If I ask them whether they prefer truth or falsehood as the foundation of their joy, they all reply that they would choose truth, and they say this unhesitatingly as they say that they wish to be happy. True happiness is to rejoice in you, 0 God, who are the Truth, you, my God, my true Light, to whom I look for salvation. This is the happiness that all desire. All desire this, the only true state of happiness. All desire to rejoice in truth.

But why does truth engender hatred? Why does your servant meet with hostility when he preaches the truth, although men love happiness, which is simply the enjoyment of truth? It can only be that man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place. Men love the truth when it bathes them in its light; they hate it when it proves them wrong (Conf.  X, 23).”


Primary Sources:

Augustine. Against Julian. Fathers of the Church. Translated by M. A. Schumacher. New York: Catholic University of America Press, 1957.
________. Confessions. Translated by E. B. Pusey. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1975.
________. Expositions on the Psalms. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers v. viii. Translated by A. C. Coxe. Grand Rapids: wm Eerdmans, 1888.
________. Homilies on the Gospel of St. John. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers v. vii. Translated y J. Cibb and J. Innes. Grand Rapids: Wm Eerdmans, 1888.
________. On Eighty-three Various Questions. PL 40.
________. Retractations. CSEL 36.
________. Sermons. PL 38.
________. The City of God. Translated by H. Bettenson. USA: Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1972.
________. The Literal meaning of Genesis. CSEL 28.
________. The Ways of the Catholic Church. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers v. iv. Grand Rapids: Wm Eerdmans, 1887.

Secondary Sources:

Alfeche, Mamerto. Augustine on the Hope of Groaning Creation. Iloilo: University of San Agustin Publishing House, 2006.
Verheijen, Luc. Saint Augustine’s Monasticism in the Light of Acts. Villanova, PA: Villanova University Press, 1975.

Registration Form