The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

St Augustine on 1 John 2:3-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 27, 2012

“And in this,” saith he, “we do know Him,44 if we keep His commandments.”45 “What commandments? “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” But still thou askest, What commandments? “But whoso,” saith he, “keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.”46 Let us see whether this same commandment be not called love. For we were asking, what commandments, and he saith, “But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.” Mc the Gospel, whether this be not the commandment: “A new commandment,” saith the Lord, “give I unto you, that ye love one another.47 —In this we know that we are in Him, if in Him we be perfected.”48 Perfected in love, he calls them: what is perfection of love? To love even enemies, and love them for this end, that they may be brethren. For not a carnal love ought ours to be. To wish a man temporal weal, is good; but though that fail, let the soul be safe. Dost thou wish life to any that is thy friend? Thou doest well. Dost thou rejoice at the death of thine enemy? Thou doest ill. But haply both to thy friend the life thou wishest him is not for his good, and to thine enemy the death thou rejoicest at hath been for his good. It is uncertain whether this present life be profitable to any man or unprofitable: but the life which is with God without doubt is profitable. So love thine enemies as to wish them to become thy brethren; so love thine enemies as that they may be called into thy fellowship. For so loved He who, hanging on the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”49 For he did not say, Father let them live long, me indeed they kill, but let them live. He was casting out from them the death which is for ever and ever, by His most merciful prayer, and by His most surpassing might. Many of them believed, and the shedding of the blood of Christ was forgiven them. At first they shed it while they raged; now they drank it while they believed. “In this we know that we are in Him, if in Him we be made perfect.” Touching the very perfection of love of enemies, the Lord admonishing, saith, “Be yetherefore perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.50 He,” therefore, “that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”51 How, brethren what cloth he advise us? “He that saith he abideth in Him,” i.e., in Christ, “ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.” Haply the advice is this, that we should walk on the sea? That be far from us! It is this then, that we walk in the way of righteousness. In what way? I have already mentioned it. He was fixed upon the cross, and yet was He walking in this very way: this way is the way of charity, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If, therefore, thou have learned to pray for thine enemy, thou walkest in the way of the Lord.

“Dearly beloved, I write unto you no new commandment, but the old commandment which ye had from the beginning.”52 What commandment calls he “old? Which ye had,” saith he, “from the beginning. Old” then, in this regard, that ye have already heard it: otherwise he will contradict the Lord, where He saith, “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.”53 But why an “old” commandment? Not as pertaining to the old man. But why? “Which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard.” Old then, in this regard, that ye have already heard it. And the selfsame he showeth to be new, saying, “Again, a new commandment write I unto you.”54 Not another, but the selfsame which he hath called old, the same is also new. Why? “Which thing is true in Him and in you.” Why old,ye have already heard: i.e., because ye knew it already. But why new? “Because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” Lo, whence it is new: because the darkness pertains to the old man, but the light to the new man. What saith the Apostle Paul? “Put ye off the old man, and put ye on the new.”55 And again what saith he “Ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.”56

“He that saith he is in the light”—now he is making all clear that he has been saying—“he that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.”57 What! my brethren, how long shall we say to you, “Love your enemies”?58 See whether, what is worse, ye do not hate your brethren. If ye loved only your brethren, ye would be not yet perfect: but if ye hate59 your brethren, what are ye, where are ye? Let each look to his own heart: let him not keep hatred against his brother for any hard word; on account of earthly contention let him not become earth. For whoso hates his brother, let him not say that he walks in the light. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Thus, some man who was a pagan has become a Christian; mark well: behold he was in darkness, while he was a pagan: now is he made henceforth a Christian; thanks be to God, say all joyfully; the apostle is read, where he saith joyfully, “For ye were sometime darkness, but now light in the Lord.”60 Once he worshipped idols, now he worships God; once he worshipped the things he made, now he worships Him that made him. He is changed: thanks be to God, say all Christians with joyful greeting. Why? Because henceforth he is one that adores the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; one that detests demons and idols. Yet still is Jn solicitous about our convert: while many greet him with joy, by him he is still looked upon with apprehension. Brethren, let us gladly welcome a mother’s solicitude. Not without cause is the mother solicitous about us when others rejoice: by the mother, I mean charity: for she dwelt in the heart of John, when he spake these words. Wherefore, but because there is something he fears in us, even when men now hail us with joy? What is it that he fears? “He that saith he is in the light”—What is this? He that saith now he is a Christian,—“and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Which there is no need to expound: but to be glad of it, if it be not so, or to bewail it, if it be.

“He that loveth his brother abideth (manet) in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”61 —I beseech you by Christ: God is feeding us, we are about to refresh our bodies in the name of Christ; they both are in some good measure refreshed, and are to be refreshed: let the mind be fed. Not that I am going to speak for a long time, do I say this; for behold, the lesson is now coming to an end: but lest haply of weariness we should hear Jess attentively than we ought that which is most necessary.—“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no scandal,” or “none occasion of stumbling, in him.” Who are they that take scandal or make scandal? They that are offended in Christ, and in the Church. They that are offended in Christ, are as if burnt by the sun, those in the Church as by the moon. But the Psalm saith, “The sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night:62 i.e., if thou hold fast charity, neither in Christ shall thou have occasion of falling, nor in the Church; neither Christ shall thou forsake, nor the Church. For he that forsakes the Church, how is he in Christ who is not in the members of Christ? How is he in Christ who is not in the body of Christ? Those therefore take scandal, or, occasion of failing, who forsake Christ or the Church. Whence do we understand that the Psalm in saying, “By day shall the sun not burn thee, nor the moon by night,” saith it of this, that the burning means scandal, or occasion of stumbling? In the first place mark the similitude itself. Just as the person whom something is burning saith, I cannot bear it, I cannot away with it, and draws back; so those persons who cannot bear some things in the Church, and withdraw themselves either from the name of Christ or from the Church, are taking scandal. For see how those took scandal as from the sun, those carnal ones to whom Christ preached of His flesh, saying, “He that eateth not the flesh of the Son of Man and drinketh His blood, shall have no life in him.”63 Some seventy persons64 said, “Thisis an hard saying,” and went back from Him, and there remained the twelve. All those the sun burnt, and they went back, not being able to bear the force of the Word. There remained therefore the twelve. And lest haply men should imagine that they confer a benefit upon Christ by believing on Christ, and not that the benefit is conferred by Him upon them; when the twelve were left, the Lord said to them, “Will ye also go?” That ye may know that I am necessary to you, not ye to me. But those whom the sun had not burnt, answered by the voice of Peter: “Lord, Thou hast the word65 of eternal life; whither shall we go?” But who are they that the Church as the moon burneth by night? They that have made schisms. Hear the very word used in the apostle: “Who is offended, and I burn not?”66 In what sense then is it, that there is no scandal or occasion of stumbling in him that loveth his brother? Because he that loveth his brother, beareth all things for unity’s sake; because it is in the unity of charity that brotherly love exists. Some one, I know not who, offendeth thee: whether it be a bad man, or as thou supposest a bad man, or as thou pretendest a bad man: and dost thou desert so many good men? What sort of brotherly love is that which hath appeared in these67 persons? While they accuse the Africans, they have deserted the whole world! What, were there no saints in the whole world? Or was it possible they should be condemned by you unheard? But oh! if ye loved your brethren, there would be none occasion of stumbling in you. Hear thou the Psalm, what it saith: “Great peace have they that love Thy law, and there is to them none occasion of stumbling.”68 Great peace it saith there is for them that love the law of God, and that is why there is to them none occasion of stumbling. Those then who take scandal, or, occasion of stumbling, destroy peace. And of whom saith he that they take not and make not occasion of stumbling? They that love God’s law. Consequently they are in charity. But some man will say, “He said it of them that love God’s law, not of the brethren.” Hear thou what the Lord saith: “A new commandment give I unto you that ye love one another.”69 What is the Law but commandment? Moreover, how is it they do not take occasion of stumbling, but because they forbear one another? As Paul saith, “Forbearing one another in love, studying to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”70 And to show that this is the law of Christ, hear the same apostle commending this very law. “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” saith he, “and so shall ye fulfill the law of Christ.”71

“For he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth.”72 A great thing, my brethren: mark it, we beseech you. “He that hateth his brother walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.” What so blind as these who hate their brethren? For that ye may know that they are blind, they have stumbled at a Mountain. I say the same things often, that they may not slip out of your memory. The Stone which was “cut out of the Mountain without hands,” is it not Christ, who came of the kingdom of the Jews, without the work of man?73 Has not that Stone broken in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth, that is, all the dominations of idols and demons? Has not that Stone grown, and become a great mountain, and filled the whole earth? Do we point with the finger to this Mountain in like manner as the moon on its third day74 is pointed out to men? For example, when they wish people to see the new moon, they say, Lo, the moon! lo, where it is! and if there be some there who are not sharp-sighted, and say, Where then the finger is put forth that they may see it. Sometimes when they are ashamed to be thought blind, they say they have seen what they have not seen. Do we in this way point out the Church, my brethren? Is it not open? Is it not manifest? Has it not possessed all nations? Is not that fulfilled which so many .years before was promised to Abraham, that in his seed should all nations be blessed?75 It was promised to one believer, and the world is filled with thousands of believers. Behold here the mountain filling the whole face of the earth! Behold the city of which it is said, “A city set upon a mountain cannot be hid!”76 But those stumble at the mountain, and when it is said to them, Go up; “There is no mountain,” say they, and dash their heads against it sooner than seek a habitation there. Esaias was read yesterday; whosoever of you was awake not with his eyes only but with his ear, and not the ear of the body but the ear of the heart, noted this; “In the last days shall the mountain of the house of the Lord be manifest, prepared upon the top of the mountains.”77 What so manifest as a mountain? But there are even mountains unknown, because they are situated in one part of the earth. Which of you knows Mount Olympus? Just as the people who dwell there do not know our Giddaba. These mountains are in different parts of the earth. But not so that Mountain, for it hath filled the whole face of the earth, and of it is said, “Prepared upon the top of the mountains.” It is a Mountain above the tops of all mountains. “And,” saith he, “to it shall be gathered all nations.” Who can fail to be aware of this Mountain? Who breaks his head by stumbling against it? Who is ignorant of the city set upon a mountain? But marvel not that it is unknown by these who hate the brethren, because they walk in darkness and know not whither they go, because the darkness hath blinded their eyes. They do not see the Mountain: I would not have thee marvel; they have no eyes. How is it they have no eyes? Because the darkness hath blinded them. How do we prove this? Because they hate the brethren, in that, while they are offended at Africans, they separate themselves from the whole earth: in that they do not tolerate for the peace of Christ those whom they defame, and do tolerate for the sake of Donatus78 those whom they condemn.

44 In hoc cognoscimus eum; si: but all the Greek copies, ejn touvtw genwvskomen o]ti ejgnwvkamen aujtovn, ejavn. Vulg). In hoc scimus quoniam cognovimus eum, si.
45  1Jn 2,3-4
46  1Jn 2,5
47  Jn 13,34
48  1Jn 2,5  (Si in ipso perfecti fuerimus. Augustin and two or three Latin Mss.: an addition unknown to the Greek and to the other copies of the Latin.
49  Lc 23,34
50  Mt 5,48
51 1 Jn 2:6
52  1Jn 2,7).
53  Jn 13,34
54  1Jn 2,8
55  Col 3,9-10
56  Ep 5,8
57  1Jn 2,9
58  Mt 5,44
59 (Si autem oditis So ed  and four Mss. cited in So ed which however has in the text oderitis.One Ms. cited ibid. has, Si autem odistis. Edd. Lugd. and Ven. have si autem auditis, “if ye are called brethren.” Four Oxf). Mss. oditis.
60  Ep 5,8
61  1Jn 2,10
62  Ps 121,6).
63  Jn 6,54-69.
64  So in Epist. 173, sec. 30, Augustin writes, Attendis enim et saepe repetis, sicut audio, quod in Evangelio scriptum est recessisse a Domino septuaginta discipules.…caeterisque duodecim qui remanserant fuisse responsum, Numquid et vos vultis abire? The notion entertained by some of the Ancients and, as it seems, by St. Augustin, that the disciples who took offense at our Lord’s discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum were the Seventy, may have been derived from the Hypotyposes of St. Clem. Alex. (comp. Euseb. H. E. 1,12) or one of the Clementines. (Thus S. Epiphanius Haer. 51, p. 186, 188, relates from some such authority, that the Evangelists Mc and Lc were of the number of the Seventy, and of those who were offended; and that they were reclaimed to the faith, the one by St. Peter, the other by St. Paul). But the notion, from whatever quarter it came, seems to have no foundation in Scripture, since it is sufficiently evident that the mission of the Seventy, Lc 10,1  was subsequent to the first miracle of feeding, Jn 6; Lc 9,12.
65 Verbum.
66  2Co 11,29
67  Donatists.
68  Ps 119,165
69  Jn 13,34
70  Ep 4,2-3
71  Ga 6,2
72  1Jn 2,11
73 Supra, Hom. in Ev. 4,4; Da 2,34-35.
74 Luna tertia; i.e. the moon at its first appearance: for the first phasis in Africa as in Egypt usually took place on the third day after conjunction. See the passages cited from Geminus in the Uranolog. 7,39, B. Horapoll, Hieroglyph. 1,66, in Mr. Greswell’s Dissertations on the Harmony of the Gospels, vol. 1,p. 323, note).
75  Gn 22,18
76  Mt 5,14
77  Is 2,2
78  See on Ps 37,Ser. 2. (Augustin on 1John 113)

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