Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 10
Chapter 10.—Of the Attainment of Cheerfulness in the Duty of Catechising, and of Various Causes Producing Weariness in the Catechumen.
14. At this point you perhaps desiderate some example of the kind of discourse intended, so that I may show you by an actual instance how the things which I have recommended are to be done. This indeed I shall do, so far as by Gods help I shall be able. But before proceeding to that, it is my duty, in consistency with what I have promised, to speak of the acquisition of the cheerfulness (to which I have alluded). For as regards the matter of the rules in accordance with which your discourse should be set forth, in the case of the catechetical instruction of a person who comes with the express view of being made a Christian, I have already made good, as far as has appeared sufficient, the promise which I made. And surely I am under no obligation at the same time to do myself in this volume that which I enjoin as the right thing to be done. Consequently, if I do that, it will have the value of an overplus. But how can the overplus be super-added by me before I have filled up the measure of what is due? Besides, one thing which I have heard you make the subject of your complaint above all others, is the fact that your discourse seemed to yourself to be poor and spiritless when you were instructing any one in the Christian name. Now this, I know, results not so much from want of matter to say, with which I am well aware you are sufficiently provided and furnished, or from poverty of speech itself, as rather from weariness of mind. And that may spring either from the cause of which I have already spoken, namely, the fact that our intelligence is better pleased and more thoroughly arrested by that which we perceive in silence in the mind, and that we have no inclination to have our attention called off from it to a noise of words coming far short of representing it; or from the circumstance that even when discourse is pleasant, we have more delight in hearing or reading things which have been expressed in a superior manner, and which are set forth without any care or anxiety on our part, than in putting together, with a view to the comprehension of others, words suddenly conceived, and leaving it an uncertain issue, on the one hand, whether such terms occur to us as adequately represent the sense, and on the other, whether they be accepted in such p. 293 a manner as to profit; or yet again, from the consideration that, in consequence of their being now thoroughly familiar to ourselves, and no longer necessary to our own advancement, it becomes irksome to us to be recurring very frequently to those matters which are urged upon the uninstructed, and our mind, as being by this time pretty well matured, moves with no manner of pleasure in the circle of subjects so well-worn, and, as it were, so childish. A sense of weariness is also induced upon the speaker when he has a hearer who remains unmoved, either in that he is actually not stirred by any feeling, or in that he does not indicate by any motion of the body that he understands or that he is pleased with what is said. 1392 Not that it is a becoming disposition in us to be greedy of the praises of men, but that the things which we minister are of God; and the more we love those to whom we discourse, the more desirous are we that they should be pleased with the matters which are held forth for their salvation: so that if we do not succeed in this, we are pained, and we are weakened, and become broken-spirited in the midst of our course, as if we were wasting our efforts to no purpose. Sometimes, too, when we are drawn off from some matter which we are desirous to go on with, and the transaction of which was a pleasure to us, or appeared to be more than usually needful, and when we are compelled, either by the command of a person whom we are unwilling to offend, or by the importunity of some parties that we find it impossible to get rid of, to instruct any one catechetically, in such circumstances we approach a duty for which great calmness is indispensable with minds already perturbed, and grieving at once that we are not permitted to keep that order which we desire to observe in our actions, and that we cannot possibly be competent for all things; and thus out of very heaviness our discourse as it advances is less of an attraction, because, starting from the arid soil of dejection, it goes on less flowingly. Sometimes, too, sadness has taken possession of our heart in consequence of some offense or other, and at that very time we are addressed thus: “Come, speak with this person; he desires to become a Christian.” For they who thus address us do it in ignorance of the hidden trouble which is consuming us within. So it happens that, if they are not the persons to whom it befits us to open up our feelings, we undertake with no sense of pleasure what they desire; and then, certainly, the discourse will be languid and unenjoyable which is transmitted through the agitated and fuming channel of a heart in that condition. Consequently, seeing there are so many causes serving to cloud the calm serenity of our minds, in accordance with Gods will we must seek remedies for them, such as may bring us relief from these feelings of heaviness, and help us to rejoice in fervor of spirit, and to be jocund in the tranquility of a good work. “For God loveth a cheerful giver.” 1393
15. Now if the cause of our sadness lies in the circumstance that our hearer does not apprehend what we mean, so that we have to come down in a certain fashion from the elevation of our own conceptions, and are under the necessity of dwelling long in the tedious processes of syllables which come far beneath the standard of our ideas, and have anxiously to consider how that which we ourselves take in with a most rapid draught of mental apprehension is to be given forth by the mouth of flesh in the long and perplexed intricacies of its method of enunciation; and if the great dissimilarity thus felt (between our utterance and our thought) makes it distasteful to us to speak, and a pleasure to us to keep silence, then let us ponder what has been set before us by Him who has “showed us an example that we should follow His steps.” 1394 For however much our articulate speech may differ from the vivacity of our intelligence, much greater is the difference of the flesh of mortality from the equality of God. And, neverless, “although He was in the same form, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,”—and so on down to the words “the death of the cross.” 1395 What is the explanation of this but that He made Himself “weak to the weak, in order that He might gain the weak?” 1396 Listen to His follower as he expresses himself also in another place to this effect: “For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge that He died for all.” 1397 And how, indeed, should one be ready to be spent for their souls, 1398 if he should find it irksome to him to bend himself to their ears? For this reason, therefore, He became a little child in the midst of us, (and) like a p. 294 nurse cherishing her children. 1399 For is it a pleasure to lisp shortened and broken words, unless love invites us? And yet men desire to have infants to whom they have to do that kind of service; and it is a sweeter thing to a mother to put small morsels of masticated food into her little sons mouth, than to eat up and devour larger pieces herself. In like manner, accordingly, let not the thought of the hen 1400 recede from your heart, who covers her tender brood with her drooping feathers, and with broken voice calls her chirping young ones to her, while they that turn away from her fostering wings in their pride become a prey to birds. For if intelligence brings delights in its purest recesses, it should also be a delight to us to have an intelligent understanding of the manner in which charity, the more complaisantly it descends to the lowest objects, finds its way back, with all the greater vigor to those that are most secret, along the course of a good conscience which witnesses that it has sought nothing from those to whom it has descended except their everlasting salvation.
The sentence, “either in that he is actually not stirred…by what is said,” is omitted in many mss.293:1393
2 Cor. 9.72 Cor. ix. 7293:1394
1 Pet. 2.211 Pet. ii. 21293:1395
Phil. 2.17Phil. ii. 17. The form in which the quotation is given above, with the omission of the intermediate clauses, is due probably to the copyist, and not to Augustin himself. The words left out are given thus in the Serm. XLVII on Ezek. 34.: “Being made in the likeness of men, and being found in the fashion of a man: He humbled Himself, being made obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” [See R.V.]293:1396
Cf. 1 Cor. 9.221 Cor. ix. 22293:1397
2 Cor. 5:13, 142 Cor. 5:13, 14293:1398
Cf. 2 Cor. 12.152 Cor. xii. 15294:1399
Cf. 1 Thess. 2.71 Thess. ii. 7294:1400
Illius gallinœ,—in reference to Matt. 23.37
Next: Chapter 11
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