repentance · Saints

St Augustine of Hippo: a truth seeker and timeless model of profound repentance

On this day also of the year 146 of the martyrs (430 AD.) St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo (Modern day Annaba, NE of Algeria), departed. This saint was born in the city of Thagaste (Modern day Souk Ahras, NE of Algeria) in the year 354 AD to a pagan father called Patricius and a devout Christian mother called Monica who taught him the principals of the Christian faith since his childhood.

At the beginning he studied in his hometown however he mingled with some evil youth who led him to sin and depravity. As a result he neglected his education and lived a life of idleness, transgression and failure for evil company corrupts good habits.

Later on he went to Carthage (Tunis) to continue his education and there he also lived a life of sin and immorality. His mother often advised him and prayed for his sake with tears to abandon his iniquity. However he increased in wrongdoing and corruption what made his pious mother in great pain and grief. After he had received a good deal of education in Carthage, he travelled to Rome then to Milan.

In Milan the ruler of the city chose him as a teacher of rhetoric. His mother travelled following him to Milan. She prayed for his sake fervently with tears revealing her grief to St. Ambrose bishop of Milan. He used to comfort her saying;”Be assured O my daughter that the son of this tears would not perish.”

With divine providence Augustine met St. Ambrose and he was delighted with his spirituality and eloquence. He diligently came to hear his profound spiritual sermons. His conscience started to awaken and admonish him for his sins and iniquities. He started to read in the Holy Bible and in particular the book of Isaiah, the Gospels and the epistles of our teacher St. Paul. He was touched by the works of the Lord Christ, His miracles and His life giving death for the salvation of mankind. He also came across the book of St. Athanasius the apostolic “the Life of the saint Anba Antonius the father of all monks.” He read the book and admired it much. He perceived the calling of God for him so he decided to offer God a sincere repentance and live the rest of his life for God.

He met St. Ambrose and confessed before him with all his sins and previous evil deeds. Then he talked to him about his desire for forsaking the affairs of this world to live for God. With the guidance of St. Ambrose, Augustine secluded himself in a quite place outside Milan to pray, study in depth the Holy bible, study the theological and doctrinal books and to get ready to receive the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Later on St. Ambrose baptized him in the year 387 AD. His life completely changed and all his care was only for God. His mother greatly rejoiced for his repentance and return to God then departed in peace.

Augustine returned later on to his hometown Thagaste, sold all his possessions and gave it to the poor as St. Antonius did. Then he went to Hippo where he lived a life of asceticism and worship. Many disciples gathered around him. He established for them a monastery and became a father and a guide for them in the way of monasticism, worship and asceticism. The aroma of his holiness and virtues started to spread in all the surrounding regions. When Hippo needed a priest the bishop of the city ordained him a priest in the year 389 AD. then was consecrated an auxiliary bishop in the year 395 AD.

When the bishop of the city departed St. Augustine succeeded him in the year 396 AD. and he was 41 years old. His ministry and pastoral service were characterized by the call for repentance and the compassion for the poor and needy. When he was 72 years old he consecrated an auxiliary bishop to assist him. Shortly after he was overcame with an illness then departed in peace. He was 76 years old and served his flock with all sincerity and was an example for the true repentance in all generations. Because he was a spiritual philosopher, he left to the church a wealth of spiritual heritage of profound writings.

The blessing of his prayers be with us all and glory be to our God for ever. Amen.

Ref: taken from the liturgical readings of the the fourth Sunday of Mesra (August 28th) from Coptic Reader. A more extensive and quality account of his life can be found here.

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