Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My writer friend, Saint Augustine


A color print of Saint Augustine hangs on the wall above my computer monitor. It draws my gaze often as I lift my eyes from my own “small potato” writing and seek to write with the same spirit and posture as he. The rich expression of Augustine's life and calling and destiny are captured by Philippe de Champaigne on a canvas painted in the 17th century. I am honored to write in the shadow of this spiritual giant. 
In the framed print, Augustine is seen crushing a scroll and books under his feet on the floor possibly in disdain of some of the writings and errors and heresies he himself followed previously but which now paled in comparison to the Truth he found in Christ and the Catholic Church. On the buckle to his ornate cloak or bishop’s vestment is an image of Christ—his life focus. 

St. Augustine holds a burning heart in his left hand. It might depict the Sacred Heart of Jesus or Augustine's own heart in echo of the Scripture passage concerning the Road to Emmaus event, "Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked with us by the way and opened up the Scriptures?" The flames of the burning heart are directed toward Augustine’s head as if impacting his mind as he writes "with the mind of Christ" as Saint Paul bids us. 

The quill in his right hand is symbolic of Augustine’s writing gift—imagine how much more he could have written with a computer/word processor to “process The Word” that God was giving him to encourage and challenge and instruct the hearts of men and women for generations and centuries to come—even to me in this third millennium and at my late season of life! With his logistic communication limitations, it is amazing what a prolific writer he became. In translation, the surviving collection of his works comprises 48 volumes. The City of God alone is about 1,000 pages.

At the upper left of the painting is a brilliant, golden glow with beams radiating toward him with the word "Veritas" emblazoned on it signifying God and Jesus who said, "I am the Light of the world; I am the Truth.” Since Augustine lived in the era of 354-430, at the left might be depicted the newly compiled and authorized New Testament Canon of Sacred Scripture elevated and opened up on a pedestal under the golden light. Under the table lies a thick volume which might represent the Old Testament foretelling the coming of the one who is Veritas incarnate.

Under the burning heart he holds in his left hand might be the books that Augustine himself was writing as God enlightened and inspired him. His awed and reverent gaze and posture are inclined toward God, Veritas—humility and openness and contemplation and adoration are all reflected in his expression. 

Lord, help me emulate my friend Saint Augustine who is fully alive in Your eternal presence and continues age to age as an eminent intercessor of the Communion of Saints.
Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the ChurchPray for me, Saint Augustine of Hippo.

(Adapted from Leona Choy's book LIVING THE TREASURES IN THE LAND OF MORE, published 2012)

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