Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Augustine of Hippo: Confessions and the Eternal Law as Internus Aeternus, Part 1

WE WILL BEGIN OUR REVIEW OF AUGUSTINE's teaching on the eternal law and natural law by focusing on the references to the eternal law in his Confessions, a work, that, as we mentioned in our last blog entry, John Paul II described as one "that is simultaneously autobiography, philosophy, theology, mysticism and poetry, a work in which those who thirst for truth and know their own limitations have always discovered their own selves." To understand the concept of the eternal law as St. Augustine understood it means that we need to come to grips with his anthropology. John Paul II mentions that one of St. Augustine's themes, as it were, is the God-man relationship. St. Augustine did not understand man apart from God, and so his anthropology is nothing but a part of his theology. St. Augustine saw God as present in the human person, and therefore God's eternal law was ever present there. This notion of God as "the eternal internal," internus aeternus, is central to his concept of law, for it means that the eternal law, which is equivalent to God, is also the "the eternal internal," the internus aeternus, in man. Conf. 9.4.10. Man cannot escape this internus aeternus, he can only refuse to believe in it and refuse to love it more than the internus temporalis or the externus temporalis, the temporal within him, or the temporal without him, and in so doing he lapses into moral and intellectual darkness. John Paul II states in his Apostolic Letter Augustinum Hipponesem:
But it was above all in studying the presence of God in the human person that Augustine used his genius. This presence is both profound and mysterious. He finds God as "the eternal internal,"(90) most secret and most present(91)—man seeks Him because he is absent, but knows Him and finds Him because He is present. God is present as "the creative substance of the world,"(92) as the truth that gives light,(93) as the love that attracts,(94) more intimate than what is most intimate in man, and higher than what is highest in him. Referring to the period before his conversion, Augustine says to God: "Where were You then for me, and how far away? And I was a wanderer far away from You.... But You were more internal than what was intimate in me, and higher than what was highest in me";(95) "You were with me, and I was not with You."(96) Indeed. he insists:

"You were in front of me; but I had gone away from myself and did not find myself, much less find You."(97) Whoever does not find himself does not find God, because God is in the depths of each one of us.
AH, II.2. (footnotes below).

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

It is within this sort of relationship between God and man that the eternal law plays a role. The eternal law is the eternal internal law, the most secret and yet most present law, more intimate to man than man himself and the laws he posits for himself, the law is higher than what is highest in him. In reality, this relationship between man and the eternal law is derivative, in fact, it is identical to, the relationship between man and God:
He writes in the De Trinitate that man "is the image of the one whom he is capable of enjoying, and whose partner he can become."(99) This faculty "is in the soul of man, which is rational or intellectual . . . immortally located in his immortality," and therefore the sign of his greatness: "he is a great nature, because he is capable of enjoying the highest nature and of becoming its partner."(100)
AH, II.2 (footnotes below).

Keeping this notion of the eternal internal, the internus aeternus, in mind, we can now turn our attention to the references to the eternal law in St. Augustine's Confessions. For example, in his Confessions, St. Augustine chastises men, with whom he was probably familiar during his life as a rhetorician and professor of rhetoric, for being sticklers when it comes to human conventions and custom such as those arising from grammar and rhetoric. Though sticklers for such rules, standards, and customs as they relate to grammar and speech, yet they ignore the infinitely more important "eternal rules of everlasting salvation," the aeterna pacta perpetuae salutis, that "unwearied law," lege infatigabili, that exhibits itself not in a "science of letters," but in "the writing of conscience," in scripta conscientia, and the divine commandments and the Golden Rule found therein. Conf. I.18.28. Such men, intimately familiar with the rules of grammar and speech, are more concerned whether the say hominem or 'ominem, than whether they are disregarding the the great rules of existence, the eternal law of God that speaks to us through principles of the natural law. They are focused on the internus temporalis or the externus temporalis, as it were, and so fail to see the internus aeternus.

Fresco of St. Augustine

Augustine admits that he was foolish like most men, and was not able to see the eternal law of God, that most perfect law of God Almighty, the lege rectissima dei omnipotentis, that which is always and everywhere the same, ipsa ubique ac semper esset. He acted more like a fool in an armory who put greaves on his head instead of a helmet, and then complained that they did not fit.
Nor had I knowledge of that true inner righteousness (iustiam veram interiorem), which does not judge according to custom, but out of the most perfect law of God Almighty (ex lege rectissima dei omnipotentis), by which the manners of places and times were adapted to those places and times-being itself the while the same always and everywhere (ipsa ubique ac semper esset, non alibi alia nec alias aliter), not one thing in one place, and another in another; according to which Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and David, and all those commended by the mouth of God were righteous, but were judged unrighteous by foolish men, judging out of man's judgment, and gauging by the petty standard of their own manners the manners of the whole human race.

Et non noveram iustitiam veram interiorem, non ex consuetudine iudicantem sed ex lege rectissima dei omnipotentis, qua formarentur mores regionum et dierum pro regionibus et diebus, cum ipsa ubique ac semper esset, non alibi alia nec alias aliter, secundum quam iusti essent Abraham et Isaac et Iacob et Moyses et David et illi omnes laudati ore dei, sed eos ab imperitis iudicari iniquos, iudicantibus ex humano die et universos mores humani generis ex parte moris sui metientibus
Conf. 3.7.13. This law governs all things, as it is the underlying law behind the Providence of God. And therefore it is behind all temporal things, governing all things, even those seeming evils, from the schoolmaster's cane (as a child, Augustine disliked to learn Greek, and so apparently recalled suffering the schoolmaster's ferule) to the vicious tyrant who would burn Christians as torches. Some things we learn handily, under the suave impulsion of curiosity in freedom, others we learn by bitter compulsion of external restraint on our liberty and fear. All this is governed by the Providence of God.
But this last restrains the flow of that freedom, through your laws, O God, your laws (legibus tuis, deus, legibus tuis), from the switch of the schoolmaster to the martyr's testing, your laws being effective to mix for us a salutary bitterness, re-calling us back to you from the pestiferous delights which too us away from you.

Sed illius fluxum haec restringit legibus tuis, deus, legibus tuis a magistrorum ferulis usque ad temptationes martyrum, valentibus legibus tuis miscere salubres amaritudines revocantes nos ad te a iucunditate pestifera qua recessimus a te.
Conf., 1.14.23. This interplay between the eternal law of God and the natural law written in men's heart, is also referred to later in his Confessions, in St. Augustine's famous deliberation of the childhood experience in the stealing of a pear gratuitously, officiously since he had absolutely no need for it, and he stole it just so that he could throw it to swine to eat. It was an arbitrary, irrational theft. "Theft is punished by your law (lex tua), O Lord, and by the law written in men's hearts (lex scripta in cordibus hominum), which iniquity itself cannot blot out." Thus the lex tua, the lex Domini, the law of the Lord, is reflected in the lex scripta in cordibus hominum, the law written in the heart of man. It manifests itself even inconsistently in the corrupt heart of a thief, who will not suffer that the goods he has obtained by thievery ought to be stolen by any man. And yet man can be so wanton that--for the most arbitrary and shallow reasons, even no reason at all, or even for the sake of violating it and no other reason--he can violate that law, as St. Augustine himself did in stealing pears in his youth. Man has the faculty of free will in which he can act in accordance or against that eternal law, although he cannot escape the consequences of his decision. There is nothing man can do to escape the internus aeternus of the eternal law of God; it is indeed, writ in his nature, in his very intimate heart, and it remains there, even in the most inveterate sinner, like the hound of heaven, waiting for the bearer to turn to it. When he does, he will lament like St. Augustine, in what may be the most beautiful words in Western literature ever written by a penitent sinner come to God:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi! Et ecce intus eras et ego foris, et ibi te quaerebam, et in ista formosa quae fecisti deformis inruebam. Mecum eras, et tecum non eram. Ea me tenebant longe a te, quae si in te non essent, non essent. vocasti et clamasti et rupisti surditatem meam; coruscasti, splenduisti et fugasti caecitatem meam; fragrasti, et duxi spiritum et anhelo tibi; gustavi et esurio et sitio; tetigisti me, et exarsi in pacem tuam.
Conf. 10.27.38. When we sin, it is not that we sin against the eternal law of God that is outside us, it is we sin against the eternal law of God that is within us. Our failure to discover the eternal law of God within us, and to embrace it, and to love it, is, in fact, a failure to discover ourselves, to embrace ourselves, and to love ourselves. This is because we have no meaning, we have no existence, we have no law, but for God. All this is true because God (and his eternal law, for there is no law only where there is no God) is the internus aeternus.

Disobedience of the eternal law, though it may go unpunished by human authority, and though it may even suggest a seeming liberty, is not to be mocked. Disobedience to the eternal law leads not only to punishment associated with divine justice, but it anticipates divine punishment by resulting in moral blindness. In such a manner St. Augustine viewed the academia at the schools in Carthage, which apparently acted under a false notion of academic freedom not unlike our professorate of today:
Different is it at Carthage where there exists among the scholastics a most disgraceful and unruly license. They burst in impudently, with gestures almost furious, disturb all order which is established for the good of the students. Divers outrage they perform, with a wonderful fastness, that would be punishable by law, were they not considered supported by custom [read academic freedom]; that custom evincing them to be the more miserable, in that they now do as licit is what by your eternal law shall never be lawful (quod per tuam aeternam legem numquam licebit); and they think they do it impunity, whereas they are punished with the very blindness whereby they do it, and suffer incomparably worse than what they do.

Contra apud Carthaginem foeda est et intemperans licentia scholasticorum: irrumpunt impudenter et prope furiosa fronte perturbant ordinem, quem quisque discipulis ad proficiendum instituerit. Multa iniuriosa faciunt mira hebetudine et punienda legibus, nisi consuetudo patrona sit, hoc miseriores eos ostendens, quo iam quasi liceat faciunt, quod per tuam aeternam legem numquam licebit, et impune se facere arbitrantur, cum ipsa faciendi caecitate puniantur et incomparabiliter patiantur peiora, quam faciunt.
Conf. 5.8.14. In ignoring the internus aeternus, and in seeking a law in another place, whether it be our will (autonomy); or the customs of men; or in the academic halls where all sorts of foolishness may be whispered in the halls, spoken of in academic conferences, or published in erudite journals under the guise of human ingenuity; or in the brothels; or in the bottle; or at the bank; in Main Street or on Wall Street or in the Red Light District, it matters not where, we are only blinding ourselves. There is no liberty in blindness, in self-mutilation, in the plucking out of our moral eyes. And refusal to listen and to cede one's will and one's reason to the internus aeternus, or what is the same thing, the lex aeterna, is not some act of maturity or independence or noble declaration of freedom. It is in fact, nothing less than some sort of perverse metaphysical self-spite, an acting out, in the life of the soul, of an Oedipal self-blinding. And we can hear the words of Tiresias to the Theban King Oedipus, that all the world's fortunes, bring but little joy, and all the world's raiment are but beggar's weeds, and that by desiring these temporal things inordinately, we have blinded ourselves, though we still wear the purple robes of a child of God, and the staff of one on pilgrimage in a strange land. Our job will be to come back home by listening to the internus aeternus, the lex aeterna that is our guide to sight and to haleness and joy.

And yet his fortune brings him little joy;
For blind of seeing, clad in beggar's weeds,
For purple robes, and leaning on his staff,
To a strange land he soon shall grope his way.

Footnotes to cited text of JP II, Augustinum Hipponesem
90. Confess. 9, 4, 10: PL 32, 768.
91. Cf. Confess. 1, 4, 4: PL 32, 662.
92. Ep 187, 4, 14: PL 33, 837.
93. Cf. De magistro 11, 38-14, 46: PL 32, 1215-1220.
94. Cf. Confess. 13, 9, 10 PL 32, 848-849.
95. Confess. 3, 6, 11: PL 32, 687-688.
96. Confess. 10, 27, 38: PL 32, 795.
97. Confess. 5, 2, 2: PL 32, 707.
. . .
99. De Trin. 14, 8, 11: PL 12, 1044.
100. De Trin. 14, 4, 6: PL 42, 1040.

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