Feast of St. Augustine

August 28, 2007

Augustine received his name either on account of his high dignity or because of the fervor of his love, or again due to the etymology of the name. He was augustinus by his high rank, because, as Augustus the emperor had excelled above all kings, so Augustine, as Remy says, surpasses all doctors. Other doctors are compared to the stars: “They that instruct many to justice [shall shine] as stars for all eternity.” But Augustine is compared to the sun, as is clear from the epistle that is sung in his honor, since “as the sun when it shines, so did he shine in the temple of God.” Secondly, his name befitted the fervor of his love, because, as the month of August is fervent with the heat of the weather, so Augustine is fervent with the fire of the love of God. In his Confessions he says of himself: “You have pierced my heart with the arrow of your love”; and in the same book: “Sometimes you put into my innermost being a very unaccustomed affection — I know not what sweetness — which, if it be made perfect in me, I know not what it will be unless it will be eternal life.”

Thirdly, there is the etymology of the name. Augustinus comes from augeo, I increase, astin, city, and ana, above. Hence Augustine is one who increases the city on high, wherefore we sing of him: “qui praevaluit amplificare civitatem” — he who is powerful enough to enlarge the city. About this city he himself says in the eleventh book of the City of God: “The city of God has origin, knowledge, happiness. If one asks whence the city comes, God founded it; if whence its wisdom comes, it is enlightened by God; if whence its happiness, it has God to enjoy. From him it has subsistence and measure, contemplating him it has its light, inhering in him, its pleasure. It sees and loves, it flourishes in God’s eternity, it shines in God’s truth, it has enjoyment in God’s goodness.” Or, as the Glossary says, the name Augustine means magnificent, happy, excellent. The saint was magnificent in his life and excellent in his teaching, and is happy in eternal glory.

His life was complied by Possidius, bishop of Calama, as Cassiodorus says in his Book of Illustrious Men.

– Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda Aurea
(trans. William Granger Ryan)

 

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