DOCTORES ECCLESIAE

AUGUSTINE ON GOD AS LOVE AND LOVE AS GOD
Lewis Ayres

HOW SHOULD WE CALL GOD LOVE? There comes a point at which talking of God as love can seem intensely speculative or simply self-deluding. Love is a term which, perhaps more than any other of those which Christians apply to God, is comprehensible only in the context of a personal relationship with another, or at least in terms of the love of a person for something else. To say "God loves" has always come easily to the lips of Christians, and yet perhaps too easily if such statements result in our failure to think through the implications of what it means for the triune mystery of God to "love." This does not mean that we should stop talking of God as love, in fact one of the things I want to suggest here is that the very ambiguity of the term allows "love" to be one of the most important, most fruitful, theologically potent and suggestive terms which Christians apply to God.
Lewis Ayres, Lecturer in Systematic and Historical Theology, School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.

To say "God loves " has always come easily to the lips of Christians,

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However, this complexity and suggestivenes should perhaps mean that when we try to construct a theology of God's love we can best proceed with a simultaneous discussion of the means by which we learn about that love, including, centrally, discussion of how and on what basis our love may or may not be compared with God's. Going further, the methodological discussion indicated in the last sentence should itself be understood as part of a wider exercise in Christology, theological analogy, eclesiology, and, centrally, trinitarian theology. My intention here is to offer an account of one key, but often controversial, resource in the theological task of talking about God's love, the work of St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 356-430). A great deal of modern A great deal systematic theology has tended to offer a very clear story of theological of modern history in which Augustine is both the originator of much subsequent systematic thought in the West and in particular the originator of many things theology has taken to be bad in that tradition. My own position is that this history tended to offer a is often far too simplified: many of the later positions supposedly taken very clear story of from him bear little relation to his actual thought; many of the things theological history he is taken to have originated are the product or even commonplace of in which his day and can be found in many of those of his contemporaries and Augustine is both near contemporaries that recent theologians have treated much more the originator of generously. However, we will best find the true nature of his genius, much subsequent and the real problems with his thought, if we attend more carefully to thought in the West and in his actual text. particular the Augustine's corpus of writing is huge in quantity and vast in range. I originator of will be centrally concerned here with his commentary in ten homilies many things on 1 John, delivered almost certainly in the year 407. I will also use taken to be bad Augustine's Tractates on the Gospel of John as corroboration at some in that tradition. points; the tractates on 1 John were preached during the Easter octave, interrupting his series of sermons on John, and we find in these two
1. For an attempt to describe some of the problems of such readings of Augustine in the area of trinitarian theology see M. Barnes, "Augustine in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology/' Theological Studies 56 (1995), pp. 237-250. 2. The literature on these homilies is still rather thin, despite the frequency with which Augustine's treatment of God as love is referred to. A key introduction to Augustine's incarnational theology now available in English is to be found in B. Studer, Trinity and Incarnation: The Faith of the Early Church (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1993). On the homilies themselves see D. Dideberg, Saint Augustin et la première épître de s. Jean (Paris: Beauchesne, 1975); for a brief introduction in English E. G. Cassidy, "Augustine's Exegesis of the First Epistle of John," in V. Twomey «e T. Finan (eds.), Scriptural Interpretation in the Fathers (Dublin: Four S Courts Press, 1995), pp. 201-220. More generally on the subject of love in Augustine see R. Canning's recent The Unity of Love for God and Neighbour in St. Augustine (Leuven: Augustinian Historical Institute, 1993), on the specific theme ofthis paper see p. 301ff. I have used the edition of P. Agaaesse, Sources Chrétiennes, vol. 75 (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1961). The translation used here is the very recent St. Augustine: Tractates on the Gospel of John 112-24: Tractates on the First Epistle of John, tr. J. W. Rettig, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 92 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1995). References to homilies are given by section number in the text. 3. For quotation here I have adapted the older translation: St. Augustine: Homilies on the Gospel of John, et al, tr. J. Gibb & J. Innes, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1983). The Latin text is available in R. Willems (ed.), CCSL 36 (1990). Again, references to the homilies are given in the text.

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works both many similar themes and very close mirroring of phraseology at a number of points. Once we are aware that the 1 John series was preached at the time of baptising chatechumens and celebrating the mystery of Easter, it is no surprise Augustine focuses this work on the nature of Christian faith, love and community. Three sections of the homilies on 1 John will be considered here: in the initial sections of the paper I concentrate on the first homily in the series, which does not deal directly with God as love, but which to some extent can be read as a microcosm of the whole series. My aim is to follow the argument of this sermon to get a feel for that whole, and to get a basic grasp of the interconnection of themes found in the homily. The final sections of the paper are devoted to sections of later homilies, in which Augustine looks directly at God as love. THE CHURCH AS WITNESS TO THE INCARNATE WORD The first homily comments on 1 John 1:1-2:11, and links together the theology of incarnation and an understanding of the role and function of the church in witnessing to that event. The homily begins with the statement that Christ is the manifestation of God. This a key theme of the whole series, and is immediately interpreted as meaning that the Word which previously had been manifest only to the angels is now manifest to people. Augustine introduces a key theme of his Christology by saying also that the Word, which should naturally be manifest to the heart, is for us manifest now in the flesh, to the eyes (§1): "And the life itself was manifested" ... and in what way was it manifested? For "it was from the beginning," but it was not manifested to men; it was, however, manifested to the angels, seeing [it] and feeding upon [it] as their bread. But what does Scripture say? "Man ate the bread of angels" Therefore, life itself was manifested in the flesh ... in order that that the reality that can be seen by the heart alone might be seen also by the eyes, in order that it might heal hearts. This initial statement, which follows fairly closely the actual words of 1 John 1, hints both at the importance for Augustine of Christ as the one who can lead us through and in the material and temporal world to "see" God, and also that Christ is usually portrayed by Augustine not abstractly or generally as the manifestation of "God," but concretely as the manifestation of "life itself," of the "one through whom all things were made." This reading of the importance of "life itself" is borne out strongly by the second of Augustine's tractates on John's Gospel (§10): "He was in the world, and the world was made by him." Do not think that he was in the world as the earth is in the world ... [as] the stars,

Augustine introduces a key theme of his Christology by saying also that the Word, which should naturally be manifest to the heart, is for us manifest now in theflesh, to the eyes.

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trees, cattle and men.... But in what manner then? As the artist and maker ruling what he had made... God, infused (infusus) into the world, fashions it; being everywhere present he fashions... his presence governs what he made.... "The world was made by him and the world knew him not." Did not the heavens know their Creator? ... "he came unto his own" — because all these things were made by him — "and the world knew him not." Who are they? The men whom he made. Returning to the first homily on 1 John, in the paragraphs which follow his initial description of Christ's manifestation, Augustine continues his commentary on 1 John 1:2-3, emphasizing both the physical, the material side to the Word's appearance and the nature of Christian reaction to that appearance. Augustine takes the example of the martyrs and, in §2 of the homily, plays on the wording of his text of 1 John to make the equation between witnesses and martyrs. The martyrs and witnesses — that is the members of the contemporary church — are living testimony to the Word's appearance and thus those in the church bearing witness to Christ are parallel to the martyrs bearing witness by dying for their beliefs. In context, Augustine's point seems to be — and this will I hope be borne out by the development of the homily — not only that the act of witnessing is a serious one involving a potentially life-threatening commitment but, more subtly, that the act of witnessing is a material, a physical, "fleshy" act which witnesses to the material, "fleshy" manifestation of Christ. Augustine ends this section (§2) with the complex and interesting statement, "the martyrs are God's witnesses. God wanted to have men as witnesses in order that men also may have God as a witness." This statement parallels one in §8 of the second tractate on John's Gospel: there Augustine explains that evil came into the world not because God departed but because people were deceived into willing against God. Our "witness" to God ideally involves speaking of the truth present to us, "witnessing" to that truth; in present circumstances we need some means of restoring and preserving our attendance on that truth. God has not ever turned from us, our primal act of will has "wounded our hearts" (factus es sanctus corde), the organ by which he was previously "seen," with the result that we can no longer "see" him. In such a situation it is as if God has turned from humanity, as if we have been
4.1 have translated the one Latin word artifex as "artist and maker": the word implies here both one who plans and makes, and also one who does so with great skill and artistry. 5. Augustine's text reads "the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and are witnesses (et uidimus et testes sumus). The Vulgate reads "...we saw it, and testify..." {et uidimus et testamur). This is a small point but it does make more easy Augustine's statement Vidimus, et testes sumus: uidimus, et martyres sumus (SC 75,114). 6. In so doing Augustine continues the fourth and fifth century trend to find candidates to take over the role of the martyrs in the structures of Christian rhetoric and theology. It is of partiuclar interest here that a) Augustine does not opt for the frequent substitution of ascetic for martyr in Christian discourse, and b) that Augustine locates a theology of witness in general terms within Christology, as described in the text of this paper.

The martyrs and witnesses are living testimony to the Word's appearance and thus those in the church bearing witness to Christ are parallel to the martyrs bearing witness by dying for their beliefs.

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We come to "see" God in the growing in our status as image of God, through performance of our status as image.

Because Christ's life was the real manifestation of "life itself," we may be assured that our inability through sin to see God's presence can slowly be overcome through imitation of Christ.

deserted. In allowing us to offer testimony or not to God, God allows us to judge ourselves. Christ has come in the flesh, in a way which we can now see, to enable us to offer testimony to that which has always been present. When we testify to Christ, to God's presence in Christ, we grow again in awareness of the presence of God who never departed. Thus one of the tasks of these sermons, and of this essay, is to point towards the full paradox of "seeing" God: witness to God in the flesh works through the development of accord between the spiritual and the material, between our conception of ourselves and our task in the world and the presence of God to us. And yet, as we shall see, this accord does not result in our being able to "see" "directly": we come to "see" God in the growing in our status as image of God, through performance of our status as image. "Seeing" God is not what we imagine when we think of seeing an object (remember that for Augustine seeing "through a glass darkly" does not mean looking through a window at some-thing, but seeing in a mirror, by means of a mirror, that fails to reflect fully because God is not an object to be reflected: cf. On the Trinity XV, 8,14ff.). To say that, hence, God may now be our witness is, I think, to say that God's presence now may be as effective as it once was before we turned away. This theme is in continuity with a number of other usages of semi-legal terminology in the homilies, all of which seem to argue that our witness, our active co-operation in the redemptive structures of the church is mirrored by God's faithful return of our witness through a new effectiveness of his continual presence. Further, the language of God answering our witness with his own for us needs also to be understood as saying that, with the beginning of Christian practice in the material life of Christ, we may have real hope that our material and temporal witness may again be in accord with God's faithful presence to us. Because Christ's life was the real manifestation of "life itself," we may be assured that our inability through sin to see God's presence can slowly be overcome through imitation of Christ. He creates the possibility of a new accord between our action and the reality of God's presence. In this light we can understand Augustine's frequent insistence that the testimony of Christian hope may be relied on as something that will be taken up and fulfilled by God, Christ has established a mysterious analogy between our growing hope and the reality which
7. Another instance of this semi-legal terminology is given below in the discussion of Christ's advocacy of our cause; the "loving community" is discussed further in the latter sections of this paper. 8. For similar reasons Augustine strongly holds out against any justification of lying. In On the Trinity, Books 8 and 15, he uses the Stoic theme of the inner word which is conceived in the mind and the outer word spoken on its basis as a metaphor for Christ's relationship to the Father. In both places Augustine unfavourably compares the absolute accord between Son and Father to our own ability for deception and self-deception. Overcoming this lack of accord in us is at the heart of recovering the sense of God's presence to which Augustine so often returns: hence his horror at lying.

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awaits. Later I hope to show that God's "witness" for us takes the form of the prevenient Spirit continually offering himself to realise the accord between human willing and acting and the divine exchange of love. However, in the next paragraphs this initial conception of the incarnation is expanded through seeing the accord between Christ's two natures, and between God's presence and the "body" of Christ. Just as, in §1-2.1 of the first homily on 1 John, Augustine links the manifestation of the Word to the physical witness of the martyrs, in the next sections, §2.2-3, Augustine links the two-natures of Christ's person both to his revelation of the order of creation and to the need to educate his "body," the church. First, then, Christ is a manifestation not of himself but of the true relationship of the world and God, of the physical and the spiritual. Augustine works initially, in §2.2, through using the picture of Christ as the bridegroom and champion in Psalm 19 and Isaiah 61 who pitches his tent in the sun that all may see him: But how could he who made the sun be seen in the sun except that "he has pitched his tent in the sun and he, as a bridegroom coming out of his bridal chamber, has rejoiced as a giant to run the course..." the true Creator... in order that he might be seen by carnal eyes that see the sun, he pitched his tent in the sun, that is, he showed his flesh in the manifestation of this natural daytime light. Augustine's allusion to Psalm 19 in particular emphasizes that Christ manifests at a particular point what should already be clear: as the bridegroom or champion Christ takes a place in the created order so that those who now see only according to the material part of that order may understand him. He does not take his place as part of this order — he is not himself created — but in order that we might see that of which this order should be a many faceted manifestation. Augustine places the doctrine of the two natures at the core of his exposition. He continues, immediately after the passage quoted in the previous paragraph (§2.2): And the bridal chamber of that Bridegroom was the womb of a Virgin, for two have been conjoined in that virginal womb... For it has been written, "And they will be two in one flesh" [Gen. 2:24]... One person seems to speak, and he has both made himself the Bridegroom and the bride, because not two, but one flesh — for "the word was made flesh and dwelt among us." To that flesh the Church is joined, and there comes to be the whole Christ, Head and Body. The bridegroom coming forth from his chamber in order to be married is symbolic for Augustine of the Word taking flesh, the two natures becoming one. The significance of this equation (which has many other parallels in Augustine's work) is hinted at strongly through the last
9. This point is the essence of Augustine's annoyance at Cicero's scepticism about the relationship between present hope and the actual reality of God, see On the Trinity, XIV, 19,25-26.

Augustine links the two-natures of Christ's person both to his revelation of the order of creation and to the need to educate his "body," the church.

Augustine places the doctrine of the two natures at the core of his exposition.

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As the Father has shown grace through the union of God and humanity in the person of Christ, so we are united by grace to the person of Christ

Our participation in and learning of that mystery takes the form of a complex interweaving of our Christian practice and our contemplation, in which we learn that we may keep God's commandments only if we accept his prior love. In §2.3 of the first homily on 1 John Augustine returns to the meaning of witness, adding also to his picture of the incarnation and the church.
10. Augustine's development of this theme in the slightly later context of the Pelagian dispute is clearly presented in R. Dodaro, "Sacramentum Christi: Augustine on the Christology of Pelagius," Studia Patristica 27 (1993), pp. 274-805.

sentence of this particular passage: the union of the two natures in Christ enables both the manifestation of the God who is continually in his creation, and the assumption of redeemed humanity into the body of Christ. The whole Christ is manifest to us when the head is joined to the body—the mediation of the Word is completed through Christ's assumption of the church as his body. Augustine's exegesis in these passages is theologically very dense, but it should now be apparent that, like so many of the best exegetes of the early church, his presentation of the incarnation is inseparable from his presentation of how we participate in the incarnation as part of the body of Christ. It will be helpful here to note one aspect of Augustine's 82nd tractate on John's gospel, a short sermon on the relationship between the Father's love for his Son and Christ's love for humanity. There, in a fairly dense argument, Augustine interprets John 15:9 ("As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love") as refering to the humanity of Christ, not to his divinity. For Augustine this statement reflects the truth that humanity is united to divinity in Christ through the grace of God, and that Christ functions as mediator because his humanity has been the subject of such a great act of grace. As the Father has shown grace through the union of God and humanity in the person of Christ, so we are united by grace to the person of Christ (this is argued through sermons 82-89). That primal act of grace in Christ demonstrates the absolute priority of love, and the way in which we are incorporated into Christ: neither we nor Christ are saved through merit, and we may see that we are not by looking to the structure of the incarnation. This theological picture may help to show that Augustine does not conceive of the incarnation as something through which we "see" God: rather the incarnation is that which makes God's creating and sustaining mystery (sacramentum) present. Our participation in and learning of that mystery takes the form of a complex interweaving of our Christian practice and our contemplation, in which we learn that we may keep God's commandments only if we accept his prior love. In this "complex interweaving" we may then progress towards a redeemed, created and transformed bodily existence in which we learn to act in ways in accord with that always present love. The earlier picture I offered of a new accord between our bodily existence and the presence of God is here deepened and given further theological coherence through the link Augustine draws between the two-natured person of Christ and the nature of our incorporation into a redeemed humanity.

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At the core of this second mention of the witness theme is the figure of the apostle Thomas: ...we, therefore, have heard, but we have not seen... And yet how does he add, "that you may also have fellowship with us?" They have seen, we have not seen, and nonetheless we are fellows, for we hold a certain faith. For a certain one, even in seeing, did not believe and wanted to touch and so believe... And at a suitable occasion he offered himself to be touched by the hands of men, he who always offers himself to be seen by the eyes of angels. And that disciple touched him and exclaimed, "My Lord and my God." Because he touched the Man, he confessed the God. And the Lord — now sitting in heaven, comforting us who cannot with the hand physically touch him, but can come into contact [with him] by faith — said to him, "Because you have seen you have believed; blessed are they who do not see and believe." The physical touch led to the confession of what lies beyond: "Because he touched the Man, he confessed God" (quia tetigit hominem, confessus est Deus). It is important that we notice how closely this follows Augustine's earlier presentation of Christ's role: Thomas does not confess Christ himself, but sees the significance of the Word's pedagogical appearance in the flesh and God is immediately confessed as present in Christ, as having acted in Christ. As Augustine says in §1 of tractate 79 on John: "he perceived and touched the living flesh, which he had seen in the act of dying, and he believed in the God enfolded in that flesh." In the course of offering this interpretation of Thomas' actions Augustine also passes comment on present-day Christians: "Christ, now sitting in heaven, comforting us who cannot with the hand physically touch him, but can come into contact [with him] by faith..." PostThomas Christians stand in the light of Thomas: just as he touched and confessed, so too we may "touch" in faith and confess. In the case of Thomas, Christ's human nature acts as a pointer to God's action: God is not seen by Thomas but confessedly him. The event of touching Christ results in Thomas having faith: he has seen and believed as opposed to those who do not see and believe, but the result in both cases is faith, belief which forms hope and love. In our case we also cannot see Christ, but we may have the same faith as Thomas through believing without seeing. We believe it for Augustine on the authority of those who have seen, and if we do so believe then we may have faith in what lies beyond sight. Our belief, repetition and imitation of the belief of those who have seen is answered by the gift of faith through the presence of the Spirit. The two discussions of witnessing both mirror each other and are both dependent on the account of the Incarnation which forms their constant background. The end of this paragraph offers a vision of the result of faith: faith results not primarily in fellowship (societas) with
11. For an account of the distinctions between faith, hope and love, and for hints of what counts as a good foundation for faith see Augustine's Enchiridion, 2,7-2,8.

Post-Thomas Christians stand in the light of Thomas: just as he touched and confessed, so too we may "touch" in faith and confess.

In our case we also cannot see Christ, but we may have the samefaith as Thomas through believing without seeing.

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This ecclesiology of witness is directly dependent on a Christology which sees the two-natured person of the incarnate Word as enabling the restoration of a created practice in accord with God's sustaining presence in his creation.

other people understood without reference to God's presence, but in fellowship with the love and unity of Father and Son. This section of the paper has followed a path from noting the importance of Christ's manifestation of the Word to seeing how Augustine conceives of the church as a community of witnesses. This ecclesiology of witness is directly dependent on a Christology which sees the two-natured person of the incarnate Word as enabling the restoration of a created practice in accord with God's sustaining presence in his creation. Seeing' in these texts is a concept used with conscious ambiguity to explore the nature of "seeing" God. In the next section I want to follow the way in which this account is immediately taken up and developed through more detailed discussion of Christian practice. FAITH, LOVE AND HUMILITY Augustine pursues this theme at the beginning of §2.4 by discussing 1 John 1:5: "This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all." For Augustine the second half of the verse gives us the very confession or teaching (adnuntiatio or praeceptum) essential for true faith in answer to the question posed in the first half of the verse. The argumentation which draws out this reading is again very dense, but vital for the whole enterprise of these homilies. The opposition of light and dark at the core of the "answer" given by 1 John 1:5 is to be understood as an exhortation to a new way of life. This style of interpreting biblical metaphor follows through a key principle outlined previously in his On Christian Teaching (De doctrina Christiana): whatever in the biblical text is unclear should be taken to refer to the building up of virtue or the expunging of vice: "So anyone who thinks he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them." Augustine thus tries to interpret 1 John 1:5 by describing how we should grow in awareness that "God is light and in him there is no darkness at all": such growth in awareness pertains directly to our love of God and neighbor. We come to understand this statement in three stages: first comes the realization that God's light far surpasses what we know, second a desire grows as sinful people to see that light and to be enlightened by it, and third we realize that such "seeing" will only come when we learn to live in such a way that we do not sin. Thus mirroring the Thomas episode, true confession of God, true faith in the reality of God leads
12. On Christian Teaching 1,36,40.1 have used the new translation with text in R. P. H. Green, ed. & tr., Augustine: De doctrina Christiana, Oxford Early Christian Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

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to the expression of appropriate love, not to introspective despair about the possibility of "seeing" God. Confession of God here involves confession of his existence symbiotically with confession of our sinfulness; in this process we do not first discover God's nature and then form our desire for him, the process is far more complicated. The third stage, the realization that seeing God comes only through learning to live correctly is developed in the next section of the homily. §5 of the hoirJly concentrates on the difficulty of following this road to being enlightened by God. We are able to talk of drawing near to God all too easily without noticing the purpose of the revelation that God is light. As we saw earlier, the purpose and goal of this revelation as described in 1 John 1:3 is fellowship (societas) with the Father and Son. Augustine reinforces the imperative nature of the metaphorical light and dark image used by John by commenting on 1 John 1.6, "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according the truth," which makes clear that we cannot simply talk of light but must also "walk" in it. Once we realize that this is the case then we might find ourselves in despair at the seemingly absolute separation of light and darkness, and the seemingly complete separation of sinful humanity (inescapably part of darkness) from the societas Dei (§5,2). However, we should not stop at this point because the attempt to walk in the light is immediately pre-empted, followed, and facilitated by Christ's removal of our sins (§5,3): "Therefore, let a man do what he can; let him confess what he is, so that he may be healed by him who always is what he is. For he always was and is; we were not and are." "Light" and "Truth" are equivalent here for Augustine: 1 John 1:8, "If we say that we have no sin, we decieve ourselves, and the truth is not in us," indicates that we cannot come near to God's "light" without entering a process of confession. In the first two part-sections of §6 Augustine balances confession, humility and love within the process of Christian life. In §6.1, then, our confession is essential to beginning a life of formed love: "Before all, therefore, confession, then love" (ante omnia ergo confessio, deinde dilectio). In §6.2 love and humility are described as essential to correct confession and to the attempt to move beyond sin: "...humility strengthens love, love extinguishes offenses. Humility is conducive to confession by which we confess that we are sinners." Thus John calls us to love as the best way to avoid being overcome by the strains of post-baptismal life. This dynamic of humility, love and confession is again linked to Christology and to the invocation of God in §7 of the homily. Augustine
13. My argument is not that Augustine is unaware of the possibility of self-deception, or of the possiblity of unquestioning fideism; rather I am pointing towards a way of reading Augustine which does not accuse him of a modernist interiority, and which takes full account of the classical rhetorical origins of his notion of faith, in which the building up of appropriate faith is all important.

Confession of God here involves confession of his existence symbiotically with confession of our sinfulness.

The attempt to walk in the light is immediately pre-empted, followed, and facilitated by Christ's removal of our sins.

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We come to understand true reliance on God through reflection on the true advocate, and we come to see the full nature of Christian humility by reflection on Christ's universal advocacy.

again uses semi-legal imagery to emphasize the nature of invocation of God in two ways: first, to attempt persuasion before the final court while having lived badly will be to no good end; only true invocation of our only advocate will prepare us. Secondly, and taking up the centrality of Christ's removal of sin in §5, Augustine connects the possibility of constant confession, which is necessary for us, with reliance on the constancy of our advocate. In this second sense he says, Make the effort not to sin, but if from the weakness of life sin stealthily creeps upon you, immediately look to it... immediately condemn it. And when you have condemned it, you will come before the judge, free of anxiety. There you have an advocate; fear not that you may lose the case due to your confession... you are entrusting yourself to the Word ... shout out "we have an advocate before the Father/' We come to understand true reliance on God through reflection on the true advocate, and we come to see the full nature of Christian humility by reflection on Christ's universal advocacy: in §8, John himself is taken to be careful to say that we have an advocate, not you. Augustine characterizes the church as a community of equals: although the bishops pray for the people, the people must also pray for the bishops, and all must pray to Christ as the one who will intercede. Taking account of Augustine's earlier emphasis on the link between confession of God and learning how to live — connecting awareness of God with awareness of the right relation between God and creation — humility is the virtue of beings taught by Christ to be aware of the constancy of their Creator.

In §9 of the homily, commenting on 1 John 2.3, Augustine explores further how Christians come to knowledge of God. Once again the key is love: "and in this we know him, if we keep his commandments." Augustine then resolves "his commandments" into the one command of love and makes the statement that for us ultimate love is and "even Augustine's to love enemies, and to love them to this end, that they may be interpretation of brothers." To love our enemies is to love them in order that they become loving one's our brothers, to love someone is to love them that they may be at one enemies is with us, that they also may love. We love them that they may love, and thus given hence also that they may equally desire humility before God: to be "at a christological one" is always in this sermon to be at one under Christ, as we saw in foundation discussion of Christ's advocacy. Augustine's interpretation of loving through one's enemies is thus given a christological foundation through interinterpretation pretation of Christ's attitude to the thieves crucified with him: Christ prays of Christ's attitude for them absolute forgiveness, which is complete fellowship with him. to the thieves I want to leave this homily here, but one can perhaps summarize its crucified with him. theological progress, and the direction in which it points in three steps:
14.1 have found Greg Jones's Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1995) particularly good in following through this theme in a modern context.

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first, Christ manifests the one through whom all things were created through combining two natures in his one person. Second, Thomas touches Christ and confesses God's action, and we may repeat that confession as response to true teaching about — true witnessing to — God's appearance in the flesh. Third, through a dynamic of love and confession we may come to see how our witness reveals God's constant faithful and prior witness for us: our act of faith is responded to by God, is found to have been the result of God's presence. Through the mystery of the two-natured one person of the incarnation, we may be incorporated by the Spirit into the fellowship of Father and Son, which, as we shall see in the next section, is itself the communion of Father, Son and Spirit. Third, such an incorporation takes the form of a struggle to see the presence of this movement in all, the struggle to be in accord with God's forming of a community in which we love that love may be in all.15 This third point has begun to hint at ways in which Augustine insists that the struggle for a life of correctly formed love in the body of Christ is at the core of our attempts to understand the scope of doctrine and Scripture, and of attempts to understand Augustine's ourselves: we seek such understanding within the dynamic of love picture of the and confession. The temporal and bodily practice of love of neigh- theological bor is the process at the core of all our attempts to come to terms foundation of the Christian with the mystery of God's presence. community as a Before moving on, it is important to note that Augustine's picture of the theological foundation of the Christian community as a community community drawn drawn into active participation in and manifestation of the "fellowship into active of God" is deeply eschatalogical. This theme is not at the forefront on participation in the first homily in the series, but is central to a number of the later and manifestation homilies. In §6 of the fourth homily, for instance, Augustine uses the of the "fellowship picture of a pocket stretched by what is put in it to describe the soul of God" is deeply being "stretched" by God. The longing and training which we learn eschatalogical. through Christian lives is described as stretching our capacity to receive God when the longing is ended. The stretching is, note, a training, and appropriate hope is formed through learning to love properly. This image follows in §5 a picture of the just at the last day as those who will see Christ as Word and as "Word made flesh," but in seeing the latter will finally see the truth of Christ's manifestation in the flesh.16 Thus, our "training" again depends on the confession of God in Christ and the development of a life which longs to see and live the mystery of God's presence to all. The image is a profoundly temporal one: Augustine's metaphors emphasize the process of longing, the growth of our love and hope.
15. My understanding of love here is greatly indebted to R. Williams, "Sapientia and the Trinity: Reflections on the De trinitate," in B. Bruning et al. (eds.), Collectanea Augustiniana: Mélanges T.J. Van Bavel (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1990) [=Augustiniana 40-41 (1990-91)], vol. 1, pp. 317-332. 16. Cf. On the Trinity 1,13,30-31.

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GOD'S TRINITARIAN LOVE I want now to turn to some of the passages later in the series where Augustine directly comments on the theme of God as love. The central passage in this examination is Augustine's commentary on 1 John 4:4-12 which is the subject of Sermon 7 in the series. In §1 of homily 7 God is said to have indicated to the Church that love {caritas) is the fountain, the pillar, which directs through our desert. Indeed the whole of the gospel can be explained as the command of love, and love, says Augustine, is the reason for the incarnation. In §2 denial of love, a failure to practice love, is also a denial of the incarnation, for one must judge the presence of the Spirit by acts rather than by words (Augustine here takes u p a key theme of homily 6). Augustine goes on to say that we learn the nature of love by watching him who embodies love most fully. John 15:13, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" is to be understood as pointing to the example of Christ. Christ has shown us the supreme act of love and has done so as part of his taking flesh. The two themes of love as the test of faith and Christ as the focus for the formation of faith are joined: "How could the Son of God lay down his life for us unless he put on flesh whereby he could die? Whoever, then, violates love, whatever he may say with his tongue, by his life denies that Christ has come in the flesh..." Later in the same sermon, in §7, Augustine links this display of love by Christ with the Father's display of love in sending his Son: both display the love of God. Again the key is Christology: God does not hand over Christ as Judas hands over: God hands over himself m love, while Judas betrays his master. Thus we understand Christ's laying down his life as an expression of the common willing of Father and Son in love, an expression of the love of the Trinity towards us (§7 is discussed again below). Turning back to §4, we find Augustine commenting on that most famous passage of the letter 1 John, 4:6-9: We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love {quia Deus dilectio est). In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
18

Thus we understand Christ's laying down his life as an expression of the common willing of Father and Son in love, an expression of the love of the Trinity towards us.

Augustine is happy to take the step from which so many theologians have fought shy and say that not only is God love, but hence, love is
17. A similar interpretation of John 15:13 is to be found in the 84th tractate on John's Gospel. 18. Unimpeded, it is important to note, by the significance of the article in the original Greek which prevents the linguistic, if not theological move in that language.

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God. He moves to this statement in a number of stages. First, Scripture says we are "of God" because of the presence of love in us; second, Augustine adds that to act against love is to act against God; third, because the Spirit dwells in those who love, true love is thus the presence of God. This third stage thus depends on trinitarian theology, in §6 we find: How then... "love is of God," and now "love is God"? The Son is God of God; the Holy Spirit is God of God. And these three are one God not three gods. For God is Father and Son and Holy Spirit... If the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God and he in whom the Holy Spirit dwells loves, therefore love is God, but God because [it is] of God. For you have both in the epistle, both "love is of God" and "love is God."19 This is a dense argument, and depends on the exegetical principle that, because of the principium of the Father, things said to be God and to be of God are best understood to refer to the Son or to the Spirit. Following this principle, Romans 5:5, "...God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us," indicates for Augustine that the presence of love within us is most properly the presence of the Spirit. To show love is to accept the gift of the Spirit, which is to accept the Spirit itself: "...even an evil man can have all these mysteries [the sacraments]. But he cannot have love and be evil. This then is the peculiar gift.... For drinking of this the Spirit of God encourages you; for drinking of himself the Spirit of God encourages you...." It is this theology of the Spirit's presence which completes the vision of the redeemed, loving community, loving through God's presence, which I began to outline in the first sections of the paper. The gift of the Spirit is continually offered, and in §7 — in the passage mentioned only a few paragraphs ago — Augustine relates this theme of God as love to the overall thrust of the homilies by using 1 John 4.9, "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him," to emphasize that the gift is offered prior to our acceptance. The prevenience of the gift is demonstrated through the act of incarnation. This picture is reinforced in §9 where Augustine emphasizes the intimate relationship between the form and purpose of God's love. God has loved us in order that we might love, and has offered himself as sacrifice: the way in which he offers himself thus mirrors the offering of love within the Trinity itself. Turning to Book XV of On the Trinity
19. Most commentators agree that the parallel with John 1 is important in Augustine making the equation between "of God" and being God. 20. Things which are both said to he and to be o/God are taken to most appropriately refer to the persons who are both God and of God, i.e., Son and Spirit. This is one exegetical principle which needs to be understood in the context of others which cannot be set out here: but see also On the Trinity XV, 19,37, where it is also made clear that to call the Spirit "love" is also to speak of the Trinity as a whole as love.

God has loved us in order that we might love, and has offered himself as sacrifice: the way in which he offers himself thus mirrors the offering of love within the Trinity itself.

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The Father is principium in the Trinity, but is the originator of a truly self-giving reciprocal communion, not of a hierarchy of powers.

(§26, 47), we might note first the importance Augustine places on the Father giving the Son "to have life in himself," taking this to imply that the Son is not temporally "after" the Father, and that the Father's utter self-gift to the Son does not imply a subordinationist Trinity. Second, in the same section, one might note that the Father's gift to the Son includes the power to bestow the Spirit, who is also the communion of both: the Father's act of generation and spiration involves an act of sharing himself absolutely as loving, continually self-offering communion. The Father is principium in the Trinity, but is the originator of a truly self-giving reciprocal communion, not of a hierarchy of powers. Thus, returning to homily 7 of the 1 John series, if we are to love, love involves this form: he offered himself. "Most beloved, if God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another." Two aspects of this vision of love which have been hinted at now need to be drawn out again. First, Augustine does not here offer a theology in which God offers his Son as propitiation, an exchange simply analogous to one subject's offering of an object. Augustine rather combines an understanding of the Son's self-offering with a conception of the Father's self-gift through the use of their unity and separation in the Trinity. Although we use the language of a father sending his son, we only understand the form of the transaction when we see that although the son comes to make an appropriate sacrifice he actually offers himself as victim. The Son offers himself as sacrifice, showing the extent of God's love for us. Also the absolute accord between the will of the Father and the will of the Son means that the whole "sending" is an act expressive of the exchange of love of the Trinity. The second aspect which needs drawing out concerns Augustine's conception of the Spirit as the gift of love. The Spirit, as the gift of God which is God, continues and is a central part of his theology of God's self-offering on the cross. God's redemptive dispensation {dispensatici) involves both the life death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the sending of the Spirit. The incarnation reveals God's prior love for us, the Spirit leads us to share in that love through forming the church into a community which participates in the love of the Trinity through incorporation into the body of Christ. Augustine's understanding of the work of the Spirit seems to involve two aspects. On the one hand the Spirit is a "unifying" force, drawing us all into a form of loving which participates in the always prior loving exchange of God; on the other hand the Spirit permits a diversity through calling us to participate in this love by showing love to others that they may be our "brothers." Only
21. Despite their different understandings of God's unchangeability this theology is in some ways paralell to von Balthasare theology of the cross: especially as seen in Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter, tr. A. Nicholls (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1990). 22. See On the Trinity, XV, 17, 31; 19, 37. 23. See On the Trinity, XV, 19, 34.

The Spirit, as the gift of God which is God, continues and is a central part of his theology of God's self-offering on the cross.

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in the love of neighbour can we "see" the priority of God's love revealed in Christ. This section has attempted to draw out Augustine's discussion of God as love and love as God. Because of the presence of the Spirit with us when we love, love is God. This picture is reliant on a theology of the Christian community as the community taken u p by the gift of incarnation and Spirit into the life of the Trinity, and that in turn is understood here as expressive of the potential of creation: Christian practice is understood as a realisation and discernment of God's presence to creation through attendance on the practices inaugurated within the body of Christ. Because of Augustine's theology of the person of Christ these practices draw us to participate in the incarnation which manifested God to us. In the final section of the paper I want to turn again to the relationship between "seeing" God and the practice of love. "SEEING" THE TRINITY The "seeing" of God in the practice of Christian charity is the subject of the next few sections of homily 7, and provides clearer textual justification for the hints about the ambiguities of "seeing" God that have been offered in earlier sections of the paper. In §10 Augustine searches for a way to reconcile 1 John 4:12, "No man has ever seen God," with Matt. 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." We should avoid trying to imagine God with the "desire of the eyes" {concupiscentiaoculorum) because we would in that way be unable to avoid imagining God according to size and limit: we need rather to see him according to the "eyes of the heart." This leads Augustine to state that we see God in love, and in the actions of love: [This] is what you should imagine if you wish to see God: "God is love." What sort of face does love have? What sort of form does it have? ... No one can say. Nonetheless it does have feet, for they lead to the Church. It does have hands, for they are stretched out to the poor man... It does have ears, about which the Lord says, "he who has ears to hear, let him hear." They are not members separated by places, but by means of the understanding he who has love sees the whole at one time. Dwell and you will be a dwelling, abide and you will be an abode. Towards the end of §10 Augustine insists that love is something present to all people, and that the acceptance of love is not dependent on our taking something external to us; it is there with us prior to our acceptance. Nevertheless the preservation of love, the subject of §11, involves the formation of loving habits, a process of discernment and
24. The brief presentation of this theme here is mirrored at many other places in his work.

Because of the presence of the Spirit with us when we love, love is God.

We see God in love, and in the actions of love.

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The dove which descends rests above the head of Christ symbolising that Christ receives baptism in order that he may give it.

correction. The dove which descends on Christ at his baptism is a peculiarly appropriate form for the Spirit: the dove is both loving and yet defends its children; the dove expresses love and anger with love. The dove which descends rests above the head of Christ symbolising that Christ receives baptism in order that he may give it (just as he receives love and all that he is from the Father so that he may show love); we receive baptism from Christ and must refer all that we do back to him. His baptism is thus an expression of the trinitarian life into which we are drawn. This passage can be helpfully supplemented with one from homily 9 in the series where Augustine directly examines the question of theological analogy. In §3, commenting on 1 John 4:17, "...because as he is so are we in this world," Augustine asks how far we may draw analogies between our lives and our love and God. The answer follows the general thrust of what we one finds in considerations of analogy in the series (and Augustine himself points back to §9 of homily 4), but here Augustine adds to the picture his conception of our being made in the image and likeness of God. The argument can perhaps be set out in three stages: first, the "as" in the phrase "we are as he is" is to be understood as indicating not equality but resemblance. There is a certain appropriate place in creation for us, a certain "measure" appropriate to us, and only by understanding this can we see how we resemble the creator and how we do not. Second, this growth towards resemblance must be understood in the light of the theology of love in these sermons; we may be like him in this world by following his example of love and attempting to love our enemies. Third, we never become equal to God because he is the one whose love is always prior; we love because he loved us. This passage takes up and follows again the structure of homily seven where we learn to love through our learning to attend to the love shown in Christ. Perhaps we can identify three key facets of Augustine's view of theological analogy here: first, our drawing analogies from our world to God is dependent always on God's prior act towards us in the incarnation; second, our drawing analogies is integrally related to our participation in the redemptive life of Christian love (because that love is simply God present in us), learning to see how the material acts as revelation of the divine, the created of the uncreated; third, that life is a continual movement into a theology of creation: only as we learn to
25.1 have attempted to set out and hint at the possible appropriation of the theological dynamic of this text without appropriating the particulars of its clear polemical context. Augustine is opposing the Donatists as schismatics on the grounds that they are claiming the right to have power over the sacraments which is properly Christ's (this parallels other treatments of Simon Magus in Augustine's work). 26. What we often take to be "love" is what we might perhaps call a "love-shaped desire," a "love-shaped space," not love itself. I am grateful to Rowan Williams for suggesting this way of explaining the difference.

We never become equal to God because he is the one whose love is always prior; we love because he loved us.

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see God as love under the impetus of the incarnation and the sending of the Spirit do we come to see the purpose of the creation and the true appropriate relations between Creator and created. Thus talk of learning to "see" God in love must be understood in the context of Augustine's insistence that true love is the presence of the Spirit. We are not called to see in our human love an image of the trinitarian God, as some readings of his trinitarian theology suggest: we are called to see through the process of faith and longing how God is present to us, and how the redemptive dispensation of God takes us up into the trinitarian life, which God has always intended to share with his creation. The process of theological analogy for Augustine depends on coming to see beyond our picture of a material or simply distant God and learning to see how our created lives may be both like and unlike the exchange of love which is the Trinity, how our love may both be simply a realisation and a sharing of God's love and yet always dependent on the prior love of God towards us. To draw analogy properly is to come to terms with the reality of God's love for his creation. It is because of this perception that Augustine is so insistent on the need for us to undergo the discipline of actual love in community, if we are to see how God may be called love, and hence how he may be loved. We cannot understand what it means for Augustine to call God love, and to call love God, without beginning to get an overall picture of the interrelationship between his theology of the Trinity, his theology of incarnation and his ecclesiology. I hope here I have offered the beginnings of such an account. I have not been able to consider how one might read in any detail the process of drawing analogies for the Trinity which is so famous a part of his On the Trinity, but I have offered a context within which those texts should be considered. Augustine's theological point of departure here — and elsewhere I would like to suggest — is our participation in the mystery of Easter, the participation of the contemporary Christian community in the saving events of God's redemptive dispensation. His vision is always that this dispensation is a revealing and sharing anew of that sharing of the trinitarian God which we call creation. On this basis he is able to build u p a profoundly trinitarian theology which is also a theology attentive to the process of actual Christian life and formation, attentive to the central place of our created temporal existence as a gift of God, a gift enabling our sharing in God. Calling God love is for Augustine an activity which thus only makes sense within the slow process of coming to realize that the one who is love has revealed himself and inauguarted a practice of formed love and confession through which we may share in the Triune life of love itself. D

We cannot understand what it means for Augustine to call God love, and to call love God, without beginning to get an overall picture of the interrelationship between his theology of the Trinity, his theology of incarnation and his ecclesiology.

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