Augustine viewed himself as a rational being, employing his reasonable self to pursue truth. He spent many years studying under various philosophical sects. Each experience, however, left his questions unanswered and his new philosophy soon rejected.
Spirituality seemed elusive…faith even more intangible.
Over 1,600 years later, many of us can say the same. We explore…with fellow seekers as well as privately. Nearly 31,000,000 results show up in a Google search on spirituality conference. Amazon lists 124,892 titles on spirituality.
Following his post as Professor of Rhetoric in Milan (384 AD), Augustine returned to the Catholic Church. The sermons of Bishop Ambrose stirred Augustine’s soul. Over the course of the next two years, Augustine embarked on a spiritual journey as never before in his life. The focus of his search became God as revealed in the Scripture and as spoken by Ambrose.
Ultimately, Augustine viewed contemplation as critical to one’s spiritual journey. While not the goal of one’s life, it is the tool to the enjoyment and knowledge of God.
Wrestling and Finding God
By 386, Augustine felt the call of God upon his heart. His subsequent conversion began his restoration to the Divine through a lifelong pilgrimage.
He spent many long hours pondering and wrestling matters of faith. Ancient concepts upon which we too continue to muse.
Many philosophers and scholars built upon Augustine’s works. Their ruminations have been preserved and we have the privilege to follow developments of thought. At the feet of these teachers we can gain precious insights.
Steps to a Contemplative Life
Contemporary contemplative practices can be developed from the ancient teachings. The practices, however, are not the end goal. As Augustine himself cautioned, they are the means to the end. The goal is to fully worship God. The tools remain merely tools.
Acquiring the latest garden tool does not make the garden grow. Even the most expensive Sneeboer trowel will not cultivate if not put to use. The Sneeboer company does not manufacture quality garden tools so they can hang on a hook as part of a pretty collection. They are forged to move dirt so plants can grow. Let’s move some dirt…
Over the years, I’ve read numerous Christian classics. I’ve incorporated their teachings into my own spiritual walk with the Lord. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they further my study into Scripture, enhance my ability to pray, and help me enter into the tabernacle of worship of the Almighty. The tools serve me well along the trek!
In subsequent posts, I will explore the means of contemplation, leaning heavily on Augustine’s writings. I will share a course of study to encourage contemplation in the 21st century believer of Jesus Christ.
* Augustine, Faith, Hope and Charity, trans. Louis A. Arand, Vol. 3, Ancient Christian Writers (NY: Newman Press), 22.81.
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