Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Thursday, July 15, 2004

Interesting discussion at Pontifications 

Over the role (or lack thereof) of St. Augustine in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The post includes this article from an Easterner defending St. Augustine.

Most of the Eastern hostility towards St. Augustine, of course, centers on his teachings on human guilt and divine grace. It's been my general observation that the dogmatic Pelagianism against which St. Augustine waged a lifelong assault seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to the soteriological formulations that have held sway in the Eastern Church for centuries. There are differences, of course, both in terminology and in general approach, and I doubt these formulations would technically fall under the papal condemnations of Pelagianism. But it is no accident that the Pelagian controversy, historically speaking, was caught up in the growing tensions - becoming evident to keen observers even in the fifth century - between the late Roman and [proto-]Byzantine cultures. When Pelagius and his deputy, Caelestius, were torpedoed by a pair of African synods, they immediately sought a safehouse among the Eastern bishops residing in Palestine, and were given a signifiant degree of patronage by, if I remember correctly, John of Jerusalem. Of course, even these bishops quickly distanced themselves from Pelagius once they realized that the famed Augustine had him in his sights (St. Augustine's reputation for reconciling the broiling African Church had granted him international respect), but the incident served to increase the growing rift between Rome (which eventually was brought around to echoing the African denunciations) and the East.

Today, however, many Eastern writers cannot even say Augustine's name without a pained grimace. Pity, for a man whose works have a great degree of potential for reuniting East and West (he was one of the first Western thinkers to give Eastern Trinitarian developments their due, and he in fact re-wrote the later chapters of his De Trinitate after reading some of the Cappadocians' work). Besides, recall that St. Augustine's conversion was instigated by a reading of St. Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony, the Desert Father of Egypt, and the monastic community St. Augustine established on the cathedral grounds in Hippo was modelled very closely upon the coenobitic communities he had read of in the East (a development hastened by the transmigration of Cassian and others only a generation later). The similarities which the twin traditions of East and West continued to hold in common, even during the sharp divergences which emerged in the Middle Ages, were due in no small part to the influence of St. Augustine on imparting into the Latin tradition the monastic and spiritual achievements of the East.

# posted by Jamie : 3:18 PM


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Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

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