|Luis de León, a Baroque Augustinian theologian|
I'll just paste here a tidbit of what was written by these authors of Augustinian Spirituality in the Order of Saint Augustine (OSA) and the canon regulars (priests who took monastic vows). It will be helpful to know that OSA and the other Augustinian orders (like the Recollects) arose during the late Middle Ages, of which OSA still stands today.
"1 Augustinian focus on Charity
Augustinian spirituality, inspired by [St.] Augustine, understands the spiritual life as the perfection of charity, justice, and peace. While all schools of Catholic spirituality recognize charity as the essence of spiritual life, the Augustinian school gives preeminence to charity as the source of human justice before God. In this regard, classical Augustinian spirituality finds the source of human justice in not "faith alone," but in "charity alone." The intimate link between justice and charity is reflected in [St.] Augustine's words: "Charitas ergo inchoata, inchoata justitia est: charitas provecta, provecta justitia est; charitas magna, magna justitia est" (Therfore, intial charity is initial justice; developed charity is developed justice; great charity is great justice). (On Nature and Grace, c. 70, n. 84)
For [St.] Augustine, virtus est charitas (virtue is charity) and Christian perfection consists in the possession and increase of charity. Moreover, charity is a gift from God since it "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). This focus on charity as a divine gift helps to explain why [St.] Augustine is upheld as "the Doctor of Grace."
Augustinian discourse on charity relates to its comprehensive nature, and to the conditions needed for God's grace to effectively produce charity in our souls.
Before all else, charity is the love of God for Himself as the sovereign Good. This love, in its purest form, is completely selfless since it recognizes the loving possession of God Himself as its only recompense (nisi merces esset ipse qui amatur) (Sermon 340, n.1). The Holy triinty is possessed by the blessed [in] heaven and the source of peace for us now. Our hearts will be restless until they rest in God (et inquietum est cor nostrom donec requiescat in Te). (Confessions, Bk 1, Ch 1)
The love of self follows form the true love of God. Whoever would love himself and not God does not really love himself. Man cannot be his own sovereign good. Loving God attaches man to the Good that far transcends himself. This is why man actually serves himself by serving God, since he is reaching towards the source of his true happiness. As [St.] Augustine writes: "No one loves himself except by loving God" (Nemo, nisi Deum diligendo, diligit seipsum) (Letter 155, n. 15).
The love of neighbor also follows from the love of God. It is founded on the mystical [Body] of Christ, since Christ is the bond of charity between His members. As [St.] Augustine writes: "Therefore, when you love the members of Christ, you love Christ" (Cum ergo membra Christi diligis Christum diligis) (On the first epistle of St. John, tractate 10, n. 3). As the Head of the Mystical Body, Christ rejoices and suffers in all His members. Charity towards neighbor, therefore, is the primary means of establishing the unity of Christ on earth; and this charity cannot be limited simply to Christians. Christ has extended His Body over the entire earth, and those who are not Christian must be included in Christ's love. [St.] Augustine believes that "the fire of charity, in some manner, brings all together into one spirit" (in unum spiritum quodammodo igne caritatis conflatum) (On the Trinity, Bk 4, chapter 9). When one loves God, one also wishes others to love Him since loving God is the highest good of all humans. The practice of charity, therefore, seeks to unite all in the love of God, who is source of all love and goodness.
Because charity towards one's neighbor is an exercise of the love of God, it is also a means of purification that enables one to grow in divine love and grace. As [St.] Augustine writes: "By loving your neighbor, you purify the eye so that it may better see God" (Diligendo proximum, purgas oculum ad videndum Deum) (Sermons on the Gospel of John, tractate 17, n. 8). True charity towards one's neighbor is also active; it is a dynamic expression of interior grace in concrete deeds of love.
In [St.] Augustine's view, all the other virtues are rooted in charity, even the theological virtues of faith and hope. Acts are worthy of praise to the extent that they are inspired by charity, and only deeds that flow from charity serve the purpose of eternal life. The excellence of charity above all other virtues is explicitly affirmed in Scripture (1 Corinthians 13:13), and [St.] Augustine insists that nothing serves the purpose of the good unless it has charity (non autem utitur bene, qui non habet caritatemm). (Serm. Denis XIX, 11, 2-7 in Miscellanea Agostiniana (Roma, 1931), vol. 1, p 101)
This brings us to the topic of the conditions needed for the production of charity in the human soul. Augustinian spirituality is rooted in the recognition of charity as a supernatural gift of God. Thus, the doctrine of grace, so central to [St.] Augustine's theological system, is at the heart of his spirituality. Since spiritual perfection consists primarily in the perfection of charity, the movements of grace are always operative in the spiritual ascent. However, [St.] Augustine does not teach a purely passive spirituality, for "He who made you without you does not save you without you" (Qui fecit te sine te non justificat te sine te) (Sermon 169, II, 13). Thus, there is need for a number of conditions-chiefly five- for God's grace to effectively produce charity in our souls: prayer, humility, ascetical living, the imitation of Christ, and the practice of the evangelical counsels.
Prayer (condition 1) is not only a way of coming to know God; it is also a means by which our desires and affections are purified and our will becomes more perfectly united with the will of God. Since daily occupations distract us, it is important that there be specific times set aside for prayer. However, everyday actions can also be prayers if done out of love for God. The ultimate goal is to reach a contemplative state of mind where prayer can be continuous.
According to [St.] Augustine, humility (condition 2) is the only way to God. This virtue rises in us when we receive the grace to recognize our own weakness. We must come to understand who we are and the truth of our condition. We owe all to God's mercy. Christ is the great source of humility for He brought this virtue into the world and He communicates it to His members. Opposed to humility is pride, which is the source of the vices. In order to overcome vice and to be perfected in charity, humility is essential.
An ascetical life (condition 3) is likewise necessary for growth in charity. The Christian must undergo the spiritual combat, which consists in the effort to detach the heart from the love of temporal goods and the love of self. This enables the heart to love God above all things. This is the process of detachment, renunciation, and abnegation. Personal effort is required in this struggle against the spirit of the world, but progress can only be made because of divine grace.
Christ is the great model of abnegation. He is the great teacher of the ascetical path. As [St.] Augustine writes: "Christ has come to transform love." (Sermon 344, n. 1). This transformation of love is revealed in His infancy, His public life, and, most especially, on the cross. By contemplation the humility of the INcarnate Word in these special moments, the Christian is moved to a deeper love of God. Ultimately, life is lived in imitation of Christ (condition 4). The example of the Lord Jesus provides a remedy for the concupiscence of the flesh. His compassion, nobility, and chastity enable the soul to overcome temptations, and to live in peaceful harmony with God's will.
For those who wish to progress in the spiritual life, the evangelical counsels (condition 5) are especially recommended. Voluntary poverty, absolute continence, and religious obedience are important supports for the cultivation of charity. For [St.] Augustine, obedience is especially important since "obedience is in some way that mother of all the virtues" (omnium virtutum quodam modo matrem esse obedientiam) (On the good of marriage, c.24, n. 28). Poverty, chastity, and obedience form the heart of the monastic life. However, they are also necessary, in their own way, for those who are not monks or nuns. Thus, [St.] Augustine exhorts those who are married to practice periodic continence by mutual consent, and to young men and women he recommends the state of virginity."
This analysis comes from the book, and I think it is a pretty good summary of St. Augustine's approach to the prayerful and faithful life, though I think there are some anachronisms here, such as making statements about St. Augustine's view of the supernatural and natural, which is a later theological notion, though I think he would agree with it, since there is a dichotomy between nature and grace. There is much emphasis in St. Augustine's theology regarding love and God's love as shown by His Incarnation. The poverty which the Lord took on by becoming man is important to St. Augustine in terms of his invocation to humility. Other than that I thought this was a good introduction to Augustinian spirituality.
There will be another post soon regarding the Augustinian view of the Beatitudes as guides for the spiritual life. These will be incorporated into a look at Baroquian Augustinian spirituality, which will follow these next two posts in perhaps another few months, or whenever I get to read them.