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.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

St. Augustine of Hippo: Confessions and the Eternal Law as Internus Aeternus, Part 2

REJECTION OF THE ETERNAL LAW IS SELF-BLINDING, as St. Augustine states in his Confessions. But it is always the case that we are morally blinded from seeing the eternal law by the created order; we are dazzled by the lesser lights of beautiful things in God's creation. It is perhaps as if created things were basilisks: things the sight of which seems to engender in us moral turpitude, moral blindness, even moral death. But St. Augustine makes it clear that beautiful things, while fleeting, are not evil, and so do not, in themselves, engender moral blindness or death. In his Confessions, St. Augustine clearly rejects a Manicheean or Neoplatonic dualism, where spirit is good and matter evil. Augustine, however, does see that created beauty plays a role in sin. But it is not beauty per se, but our misuse of created beauty, or our disordered attraction to created things that are otherwise beautiful and good that is the cause of sin. The created beauty about us is the cause of moral blindness or death not because it is evil, but because it may be loved inordinately, that is, in ways that are not beautiful.

St. Augustine does not disdain the beauty of the world; he indeed relishes in the beauty that is in it, recognizing it as a trace or signature of God, the beauty ever ancient and ever new. But temporal beauty, wherever we find it, is just that: temporal. Any created beauty is not the internus aeternus, which is beauty eternal that too late St. Augustine learned to love. See Conf. 10.27.38. And our use of temporal beauty needs to be ordered so that it complements, and in a sense follows, and does not distract from, the internus aeternus, the eternal law, the eternal beauty. In his Confessions, St. Augustine regrets that he failed to regulate his disordered passion for women in his youth, and "fixed a bound to their sweetness," so that the tides of his youth "might have spent themselves upon the conjugal shore," and enjoyed the blessings of family as the law of God prescribes (sicut praescribit lex tua, domine). Conf., 2.2.3. Better even than marriage would it have been if he had been able to restrain the passion entirely for the sake of God himself in the gift of celibacy, and could thereby expected the greater happiness of the Lord's own embraces (felicior expectarem amplexus tuos). Conf., 2.2.3. As it was, he enjoyed sexual relations with women in a manner not consonant with the eternal law, and so blinded himself to the God, the internus aeternus, that was present with him, and before him, and within him, though, in his moral blindness, he saw him not.

St. Augustine by Phillippe de Champaigne

St. Augustine elaborates a few chapters later on the goods of this world, expanding beyond the desires of the flesh between the sexes that, by God's law, are ordered to marriage, procreation, and family. He addresses all created goods, and seeks to place them within a proper hierarchy of desire. It is a paragraph that is remarkable for its moderateness, and advocates not so much asceticism, as temperateness:
There is a desirableness in all beautiful bodies, and in gold, and silver, and all things; and in bodily contact sympathy is powerful, and each other sense has his proper adaptation of body. Worldly honor also has its glory, and the power of command, and of overcoming; whence proceeds also the desire for revenge. And yet to acquire all these, we must not depart from you, O Lord, nor deviate from your law [adipiscenda non est egrediendum abs te, Domine, neque deviandum a lege tua]. The life which we live here hath also its peculiar attractiveness, through a certain measure of comeliness of its own, and harmony with all things here below. The friendships of men also are endeared by a sweet bond, in the oneness of many souls. On account of all these, and such as these, is sin committed; while through an inordinate preference for these goods of a lower kind, the better and higher are neglected, even you, our Lord God, your truth, and your law [et veritas tua, et lex tua]. For these meaner things have their delights, but not like unto my God, who has created all things; for in Him do the righteous delight, and He is the sweetness of the upright in heart [rectorum corde].
Conf., 2.5.10. Sin, then, is simply the acting out or willing of this disordered desire. It is the inordinate love of things, which though good in proper order, or in proper proportion, or in due measure, become evil for us when inordinately, disproportionately, or immoderately loved. Even such a good as friendship must be within or under God, who is our friend supreme. Conf., 4.9.14. What happens in such immoderate desire or love is that internus aeternus, that is God, under which all things ought to be ordered, is pushed aside or is demoted from his proper place. And by acting against the internus aeternus, we violate the law of God, the lex aeterna, which is also the lex interna, and we thereby lose God, though he never loses us.
None loses you, but he who leaves you. And he who leaves you, where does he go, or to where does he flee, but from you well pleased to you angry [a te placido ad te iratum]? For where does he not find your law in his own punishment? And your law is the truth, and the truth you [et lex tua veritas et veritas tu].

Te nemo amittit nisi qui dimittit, et quia dimittit, quo it aut quo fugit nisi a te placido ad te iratum? nam ubi non invenit legem tuam in poena sua? et lex tua veritas et veritas tu.
Conf., 4.9.14. "And your law is the truth, and the truth you!" Et lex tua veritas, et veritas tu! The eternal law, truth, God, all joined by the implied copula of identity. Indeed, by avoiding the compula is (est) between lex, veritas, and tu (Deus), law, truth, you (God), perhaps St. Augustine desires to stress their absolute identity, avoiding any Clintonesque ambiguity in the word "is". The eternal law = truth = God. Assertio ambigua non est. By acting outside of the eternal law, we act outside of truth, by acting outside of truth, we act outside God, though we never really flee God. But because of the state of our soul caused by our choice, we change a God well pleased to a God angry, and, though St. Augustine neglects to mention it, it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" when were are outside his law. (Heb. 10:31). For even outside his law we are in his law, and we find in his law our own punishment, which is nothing but the necessary fruit of our own act against the internus aeternus; violating the lex aeterna is violating the lex interna. Sin is therefore not only an act against God, an insult and act of injustice against him, but equally an insult to ourselves. And whereas God is not hurt by our sins (to suggest that God is hurt would be to suggest that we can change God, that God is passible, which is blasphemy; although unquestionably our act is a great injustice against God), we, passible creatures that we are, are the only ones hurt by our sins.

Augustinus und der Teufel (Saint Augustine and the Devil) by Michael Pacher

Acting against the internus aeternus, the lex aeterna, veritas, Deus (it is all one and the same), puts us in a form of torpor, of moral slumber, spiritual lethargy, even one that may feel (in the fuzziness ambivalence of our state) and we may mistakenly classify as sweet (dulciter). Conf. 8.5.12. But the reality is that no one would prefer the state of drowsiness when one finally comes to the sober waking state. And this is true for the man that wakes to internus aeternus, the lex aeterna, the veritas that is God. At some point in time expressly or formally, and perhaps always implicitly or materially, St. Augustine knew that he should rouse himself from his ambivalent state between sleep and wakedness. "So it became certain to me," St. Augustine says, "that it would be better to give my self up to your love [caritas], than to give myself up to my own cupidity [cupiditas]." Conf. 8.5.12.
But the former course pleased me and overcame me, the latter pleased me and bound me. For I did not have the means to answer your calling to me, "Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." And to you showing me on every side, that what you said was true, I, convicted by the truth, had nothing at all to reply, but the drawling and drowsy words: "Presently, see here, presently," "Give me a while." But "presently, presently," had no present; and my "Give me a while" went on for a long while. In vain did I "delight in your law after the inner man [legi tuae secundum interiorem hominem]," when "another law in my members [alia lex in membris] warred against the law of my mind [legi mentis meae] and brought me into captivity to the law of sin [lege peccati] which is in my members." For the law of sin [lex peccati] is the violence of custom, whereby the mind is drawn and held, even against its will; deserving to be so held in that it so willingly falls into it. "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death" but your grace only, through Jesus Christ our Lord?

Sed illud placebat et vincebat, hoc libebat et vinciebat. Non enim erat quod tibi responderem dicenti mihi, `surge qui dormis et exsurge a mortuis, et inluminabit te Christus,' et undique ostendenti vera te dicere, non erat omnino quid responderem veritate convictus, nisi tantum verba lenta et somnolenta: `modo,' `ecce modo,' `sine paululum.' sed `modo et modo' non habebat modum et `sine paululum' in longum ibat. frustra condelectabar legi tuae secundum interiorem hominem, cum alia lex in membris meis repugnaret legi mentis meae et captivum me duceret in lege peccati quae in membris meis erat. Lex enim peccati est violentia consuetudinis, qua trahitur et tenetur etiam invitus animus eo merito quo in eam volens inlabitur. miserum ergo me quis liberaret de corpore mortis huius nisi gratia tua per Iesum Christum, dominum nostrum?
Conf. 8.5.12. This discussion, clearly drawing from St. Paul's letter to the Romans (7:22-25), is the story of the ambivalent soul. In this section, there are a lot of laws that St. Augustine appears to mention here, but they may be reduced to two, and their interaction in the soul half-awake and half-asleep causes an impossible irresolution. There is a call upwards, and a pull downwards. There is a desire to be awake, but the desire to remain in the comfort of one's slumber. There is the desire to rouse into a better life, but the heavy momentum or intertial resistance which seems impossible to overcome. Our waking souls are like Jean Buridan's ass, seemingly unable to decide between the hay of the lex aeterna and the hay of the lex peccati. We are stuck in the internal epic struggle between two regimes in man, two regimes that are at odds. The first regime is that of the internus aeternus, where God in us is chief, and where the lex aeterna, which is also the law in our mind seek rule. The other regime is where the Devil is chief, where the lex peccati, the so-called fomes peccati, the "violence of custom," violentia consuetudinis, rule by default of our fallen human state. Only Christ's grace can provide the impetus that gets our souls out of their ambivalency, that ends the tug-of-war between laws that is within us, and places us solidly into the camp of the lex aeterna. Grace is the divine addendum that creates the catalysis, that sufficiently overcomes the urge of the lex peccati, the lex membris nostris of Romans 7:23. Grace appeared personified as Lady Continence to St. Augustine elsewhere (Conf. 8.11.27), saying, "Stop your ears against those unclean members of yours upon the earth, that they may be mortified. They speak to you of delights, but not as the law of the Lord your God (lex domini dei tui)."

The catalysis caused by the grace of God through Christ gets St. Augustine over the ambivalence caused by the equipotent pulls of the two laws in man, the lex aeterna which is part of the internus aeternus, and the lex peccatis or lex membris, which is part of the disorder in the nature of post-lapsarian man. The shift in him is patent in the prayer he makes in the Eleventh Book of his Confessions:
Lord, have mercy on me and hear my desire. For I think that it is not of the earth, nor of gold and silver, and precious gems, nor decorative apparel, nor honor and power, nor the pleasures of the flesh, nor the body's necessaries during this life of our pilgrimage; all which are added to those that seek your kingdom and your righteousness. Behold, O Lord my God, where my desire comes. The unrighteous have told me of delights, but not such as your law, O Lord. [non sicut lex tua, Domine] Behold where comes my desire. Behold, Father, look and see, and approve; and let it be pleasing in the sight of your mercy, that I may find grace before you, that the secret things of your Word may be opened unto me when I knock. I beseech, by our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, "the Man of your right hand, the Son of man, whom you made strong for yourself," as your Mediator and ours, through whom you have sought us, although not seeking you, but did seek us that we might seek you, [per quem nos quaesisti non quaerentes te, quaesisti autem ut quaereremus te], your Word through whom you have all things, and among them me also, your only (begotten), through whom you have called to to adoption the people who believe, and therein me also. I beseech you through him, who sits at your right hand, and "makes intercession for us," "in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Him do I seek in your books. Of him did Moses write; this he himself said; this Truth said.
Conf., 11.2.4

Fresco of St. Augustine by Botticelli in the Church of Ognissanti, Florence

The eternal law, therefore, is the law that the leads us to heed to the internus aeternus. Heeding the internus aeternus, which remains supressed while we are in the sloughs of slavery, under the tyranny of of the fomes peccati, while we are chained to the demanding lex peccati, at first leads to the equipolent situation, where the lex aeterna and the lex peccati have seeming equal claim upon the struggling soul. Grace, the catalyst, breaks the tie, and sends the penitent sinner into the company of the saints. His life become re-ordered in light of the lex aeterna, and his desires find origin in the internus aeternus, and find joy in the easy yoke and light burden of the lex Domini.

What is the end of the lex aeterna? "The law," St. Augustine says, "is good to edify, if a man use it lawfully." Ad
aedificationem autem bona est lex, si quis ea legitime utatur. Conf. 12.18.27. Why? Because the end (finis) of the law, says St. Augustine, quoting 1 Tim. 1:5, is "charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned,"caritas de corde puro et conscientia bona et fide non ficta. Conf. 12.18.27.

And what, or better, who, is love? Deus caritas est. God is love. So the lex aeterna has its beginning, its source, in the internus aeternus, which is God. The lex aeterna, which is nothing other than God and truth, is the means by which we are edified, if used legitimately. And what is the end of this legitmate use? Love, which is to say, God himself. For St. Augustine, God is the source of the eternal law, the eternal law is the means that comes from the source and the royal way whose end is God. So God is the source, means, end of the eternal law. And the source, means, and end is to be found, and all it wants is discovery, in the internus aeternus in each and every human person.

This completes our review of the lex aeterna in St. Augustine's Confessions. We will now turn to his mention of the lex aeterna in his other works.

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