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.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Schubert on St. Augustine's Teaching on the Eternal Law, Part 1

Continuing the translation of Schubert's work, Augustins Lex-Aeterne-Lehre:

Augustine's Lex Aeterna Teaching

Its Content and its Source

by: P. Alois Schubert, S.V.D.

St. Augustine from the pulpit in the
Oud-Katholieke Kerk (Old Catholic Church)
in The Hague by Jan Baptist Xavéry

Part I

What does Augustine teach regarding the lex aeterna?

1. Concept of Order, Law, and Eternal Law

The concept of order and law play a great role with Augustine. They give his philosophy a theocentric direction.

a) What does Augustine understand by order?

By order, Augustine understands every norm by which all that God has created is active.(1) The bishop uses the word order in its most expansive sense. It means the norm of all activity of all things (Tätigkeitsnorm aller Dinge) (omnia aguntur).

Further, by order Augustine understands the innermost peace (Frieden), the innermost harmony of things. All things strive after peace (Frieden). But the peace of things is based in the stillness of order.(2) The peace of things rests also on the order of things. The order, however, is based in the harmonious fitting together (Zusammenklingen) of the parts to the whole. Every part must take its place, and everything its place which comes to it by nature.(2) The word "order" is used herein the senses of an inner, natural order (Naturordnung).

Sometimes, Augustine binds the concept of order with the concept of the beautiful. "Nothing is in conformity with order (ordnungsgemäß) which is not also beautiful."(3) Beauty is also based upon order. It supports itself upon spatial and rhythmic measure, upon both unity and variety (auf Einheit und Vielheit), upon symmetry and proportion.(4) The order of the respect to both the spatial and numerical orders (der Raum- und Zahlenwelt) are also based upon the same rhythmic measuring, unity and many, and symmetry and proportion. For that reason, only the orderly measure is beautiful. The concept of order is in this manner inextricably intertwined with the concept of beauty.(5) Everything orders itself in conformity with particular purpose (Zwecken) and direction toward the beauty of the universe.(6) The concept of beauty is therefore used here, not in its aesthetic sense, but in the sense of conformity with law (Gesetzlichkeit).

On occasion, the bishop uses the word order in an ethical sense. "That is no right order, indeed, it is no order at all, when one subordinates the better to the worse."(7) "The reasonable soul is in contact with what is morally good when it rests in order and in distinguishing, choosing, and deciding to subordinate the lesser to the greater, the lower to the higher, and the temporal to the eternal.(8) "When we observe it in our lives, order leads to God."(9) Order is essentially the same as complying with the moral law (Sittengesetz).

Augustine therefore understands order as the norm of action of all things, the inner harmony of the part to the whole, the beautiful insofar as it based upon the measure of law, and the keeping of the moral law.

b) What does Augustine understand by Law (Gesetz)?

Augustine often uses the word "order" as having the same meaning as law (Gesetz), lex.(10) He advances the view that the word lex is derived from the word legere or eligere.(11) He understands then under law (Gesetz) the "selection of or choosing of the right (Gerechten)." He distinguishes between a lex temporalis [temporal law] and a lex aeterna [eternal law].(12) "The temporal law is given in time, whether in Paradise, or whether implanted in nature (as moral law), whether as written law."(13) When the bishop speaks of law, he often means the eternal law. He asks his friend Evodius, "what kind of law is it which is called the highest reason, which one must always obey? By which the evil a miserable and the good a happy life merit? Which provide the ground for the right issuance and right amendment of temporal law?"(14)

Evodius answers: "That is the eternal law."(15)

c) How does Augustine define the eternal law?

Augustine defines the eternal law as that law through which all is completely in accordance with order and is therefore right.(16) The eternal law is that legal foundation (Rechtsgrund) of the inner ordering of things. The bishop shows further that the eternal law as the Wisdom of God,(17) the divine reason or divine will,(18) the command to keep the natural order and prohibit the violation of it,(19) the highest reason,(20), as God himself.(21) With it Augustine characterized the the two sides of the lex aeterna. He calls it the highest reason and wisdom. With that he colors it as the apparent knowledge in God as to how to order things and to direct them to their end. Then he calls the eternal law the divine will. Thereby, he means the decision of God to bind things constantly to the chosen order. The eternal law is revealed in time by the constant tendencies and impulses in all things, and by reason in some created natures. So does the eternal law show itself as an ideal and realized world plan of God in the one and the many (der Einheit und Vielheit) of all things in the world. This wonderful order which ascends from the lowest to the highest, and descends from highest to the lowest, and is nowhere broken, but through properly proportioned dissimilarity praises in its entire expanse the Lord God.(22)


(1) Aug., De ord. lib. 1, c. 10, n. 28, PL. 32, col. 991. Ordo est inquit, per quem aguntur omnia quae Deus constituit.
(2) Aug., De civ. Dei, lib. 19, c. 13; n. 1, PL 41, col. 640 . . . pax omnium rerum est tranqullitas ordinis. Ordo est parium dispariumque rerum sua cuisque loca tribuens dispositio.
(3) Aug., De ver rel. 56, PL. 34. Nihil enim est ordinatum, quod non sit pulchrum.
(4) Vgl. Mausbach, J., Ethik des hl. Augustin, Freiburg 1909, I. Bd., Seite 92.
(5) Aug., De ver rel. n. 86, PL. 34. Ordinata convenientia pulchra iudicetur.
(6) Aug., De ver rel., c. 40, n. 76, PL. 34. Ita ordinantur omnia officiis et finibus suis in pulchritudinem universitatis, ut quod horremus in parte, si cum toto consideremus, plurimum placeat.
(7) Aug., De lib. arb. 1, 18, PL. 32. Non enim ordo rectus, aut ordo appellandus est omino, ubi deterioribus melior subiiciuntur.
(8) Aug., Epistola 140, c. 2, n. 4, PL. 33, col. 539. Ita bene agit in his anima rationalis, si ordinem servet, et distinguendo, eligendo, pendendo, subdat minora majoribus, corporalis spiritualibus, inferiora superioribus, temporalis sempiternis.
(9) Aug., De ord. 1, c. X, n. 28, PL. 32, col. 991, Ordo est, quem si tenuerimus in vita, perducet ad Deum.
(10) Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus, Bd. II, S. 275 writes with accuracy: "The concept of order and law clasp each other(verschränken sich) in Augustine."
(11) Aug., PL. 34, col. 681. Lex a legendo seu eligendo dicta est. Unde etiam legem a legendo id est eligendo latine auctores appellatam esse dixerunt. Cf. Cicero de leg. lib. 2, c. 5
(12) Aug., PL. 32, col. 1229. Les alia aeterna, alia est temporalis.
(13) Aug., PL. 37, col. 1574. Haec lex (temporalis) est triplex: In paradiso data, naturaliter insita, in litteris promulgata.
(14) Aug., De lib. arb. 1, c. VI, n. 14 and 15. PL. 32, col. 1228. Quid illa lex, quae summa ratio nominatur, cui semper obtemperandum est, per quam mali miseram, boni beatam vitam merentus? Per quam denique illam quam temporalem vocandam diximus, recte fertur, recteque mutatur.
(15) Ibidem. Evodius inquit: video hanc aeternam esse.
(16) Ibidem. Ut igitur breviter aternae legis notionem, quae impressa nobis est, quantum valeo verbis explicem, ea est, qua iustum est, ut omnia sint ordinatissima.
(17) Aug., De div. quaest. 83, PL. 40, col. 90. Voluntas Dei ipsa lex est.
(18) Ibidem. Est enim lex universitatis divina sapientia.
(19) Aug., Contra Faustum Manic. Lib. 22, c. 27, PL. 42, col. 418. Lex vero aeterna est ratio divina vel voluntas Dei ordinem naturalem conservari iubens et perturbari vetans.
(20) Aug., De lib. arb. 1, c. VI, PL. 32, col. 1228. Quid illa lex, quae summa ratio nominatur.
(21) Aug., De vera rel. c. 31, PL. 34, col. 147. Deus summa ista lex est secundum quam ratio iudicat, sed quam iudicare non licet.
(22) Aug., Enarr. in psalm., 144, PL. 37, col. 1869.

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