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For Quinquagesima: Augustine on love

March 3, 2019

For Quinquagesima, here is another excerpt from Faith and Life, this one from Augustine of Hippo, on charity, or love:

IF you have not leisure to examine all the sacred pages, to unfold all the recondite discourses, to penetrate all the secrets of Scripture, hold fast Charity, on which all depend; so will you hold fast what you have learned, and also what you have not yet learned. For if you know Charity, you know something on which that also depends which perhaps you know not; and in what you understand in Scripture, Charity is patent—in what you do not understand, Charity is latent. Accordingly, he who holds fast Charity in his conduct, holds both what is patent and what is latent in the Divine discourses. Wherefore, brethren, follow after Charity, the sweet and salutary bond of souls, without which the rich man is poor, with which the poor man is rich. Charity is patient in adversities, temperate in prosperity, strong in grievous sufferings, cheerful in good works; most secure in temptation, most expansive in hospitality; most joyous among true brethren, most patient among false ones. In Abel it is acceptable through sacrifice, in Noah fearless amid the deluge, in Abraham’s wanderings most faithful, in Moses most forbearing amid injuries, in David’s tribulations most gentle; in the three Children it awaits with innocence the harmless fires; in the Maccabees it bravely endures the cruel ones. It is chaste in Susanna towards her husband, in Anna’s widowed life, in Mary’s virginal one. It is freespoken in Paul for rebuke, humble in Peter for submission; human in Christians for confessing, divine in Christ for pardoning. But what can I say of Charity, that is greater or richer than those praises of it which the Lord thunders forth by the mouth of the Apostle when he points to the “far-surpassing way?” How great is Charity! The soul of letters, the power of prophecy, the saving virtue of sacraments, the basis of knowledge, the fruit of faith, the riches of the poor, the life of the dying.

–St. Augustine, Sermon cccl.

Truly, love is the greatest of the gifts, and without it all else is vain.

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