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message 1: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3906 comments Mod
I think the best way to summarize a Book in leading the discussion is to list the titles of the sub-chapters within each book. I think this shows you the general flow of the Book and Augustine’s thought structure that supports the book’s thesis.

Book I
- Barbarian Respect for Christ’s Churches as Places of Sanctuary
- Rome’s Conquered Gods
- Neither the Greeks or the Romans Respected the Temples of the Gods as Places of Sanctuary
- Divine Providence, Human Suffering, and Temporal Goods and Evils
- Why the Good also suffered in the Sack of Rome: Failure to Correct the Evil
- Forms of Christian Suffering: Loss of Riches
- Forms of Christian Suffering: Torture and Famine
- Forms of Christian Suffering: Dreadful Types of Death and Death Without Burial
- Forms of Christian Suffering: Captivity
- Captivity: The Example of Regulus and His Loyalty to His Gods
- Forms of Christian Suffering: Rape; Moral Purity and the Issue of Suicide
- Rape and Suicide: The Example of Lucretia
- Suicide: The Example of Cato
- Is Suicide Permissible to Avoid Sin?
- The Perils of Unfettered Prosperity: Scipio Nasica against Roman Extravagance
- The Theaters and the Gods
- The Intermingling of the Two Cities in this World
- Points of Further Discussion

My take as the central thesis of Book I, then, is that the sack of Rome cannot be seen as punishment from God because it is not clear that events in history can be discerned to God’s will. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people. Any event can be seen as a test from God, a punishment from God, or a result of collateral damage of an overarching movement of God’s will to shape history.

message 2: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 645 comments What surprises me is that the barbarians respected the Christian sanctuary unlike most conquering invaders, who have no qualms about violating the sacred spaces of their enemies.

message 3: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3906 comments Mod
Madeleine wrote: "What surprises me is that the barbarians respected the Christian sanctuary unlike most conquering invaders, who have no qualms about violating the sacred spaces of their enemies."

You may have missed it Madeleine. The Visigoths were Christians themselves, albeit under the heresy of Arianism. So they understood the sacredness of the sanctuaries.

message 4: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 645 comments Yes, I did miss that! Thanks.

message 5: by Lawanda (new)

Lawanda Reading and understanding old documents can be intimidating. Academically, I’m barely familiar with Roman or Greek mythology, philosophy or even their ancient political history, but I have given myself permission to read City of God and rely on His grace to enlighten my small mind to absorb whatever He wishes to reveal to me from this rather weighty volume. My hope is to glean knowledge and enlightenment. Knowledge for the mind and enlightenment for the soul. Afterall, Saint Augustine is an especially well-known Doctor of the Church, and Latin Father of the Church, and a powerful intercessor of prayer. On the personal side, my grandson, Samuel Augustine, is named for him.

A few take-aways from the first book:

Our beloved Saint Augustine of Hippo reminds me of that beautiful song “Windmills of the Mind”. His mind tumbles with ideas and memories one after another. For instance, he begins discussing the travesties of war and mentions the rape of probably a large number of women including married, unmarried, and religious sisters. He attempts to minister and reassure them by saying “so long as the mind stays firm in its resolve, through which the body also deserved to be sanctified, the violence of another’s lust does not take away the body’s holiness, which is preserved by the mind’s own perseverance in continence.” He goes on to say that sexual violation can cause shame to the victim and that shame can cause some women to become suicidal. He cautions them not to commit a worse sin than your offender committed by taking your own life. He remembers the story of Lucretia, who did commit suicide, and encourages Christian women not to follow her footsteps. Next, he discusses the commandment, You shall not kill. Augustine insists that scripture does not say You shall not kill your neighbor; therefore since nothing else is stated, there no exceptions. You shall not kill yourself or your neighbor; killing of animals who do not have reason and plants are okay, just don’t kill humans. Oh yes he said, there are a few exceptions to killing humans and he shares those with the reader. From subject to subject he moves: war, rape, holiness of mind and body, shame, suicide, etc. He can hardly complete one thought before another one occupies him. Some readers think he goes off on tangents; I think he is brilliant.

My translator, William Babcock, promises that Augustine’s idea that the pagan gods of fallen Rome are “actually pernicious demons” prevails throughout The City of God. That’s good, I have plenty of time to meditate on these two cities made by love. I feel the tension of these cities of earthly egos and eternal goodness living together every day in my life, just as Augustine centuries ago. I have started to pray earnestly for the church. I like what Saint Luke wrote, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” (4:8) No false idols!

One last thing this book is doing for me . . . Augustine wrote “Christ’s faithful, do not let your lives become a burden to you, even if your enemies have made a plaything of your chastity. . . . . his judgements are inscrutable and his ways past finding out. But even so, question your souls honestly. Perhaps you took too much pride in your virginity and continence or purity. Perhaps you took delight in human praise and even envied others in this regard.” After reading those lines I began to examine my own conscience.

message 6: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3906 comments Mod
Nice comment Lawanda. I haven't had time to comment on Book 1 yet, but I intend to.

message 7: by Lawanda (new)

Lawanda Thank you, Manny. I look forward to your post.

message 8: by Galicius (new)

Galicius | 460 comments Those are good and valid points and helpful in reading St. Augustine’s critique or more appropriately denunciation or the Roman Empire and its citizens’ eccentric relationship with their strange gods. Could anyone be more thorough in the listing of historical travesties and horrors that was Rome in the pre-Christian era? The examples that St. Augustine gives us were surpassed in magnitude perhaps only in the 20th Century. This was the earthly city worshipping false gods.

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