Living in the City of God


The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble; (Psalms 9:9)

St. Augustine (354 AD) Bishop of Hippo in North Africa.

After ruling the world for 6 centuries, “suddenly” in 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome. The glory of “the queen of cities” was gone. Eternal Rome was eternal no more.

Across the Mediterranean in North Africa, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, watched as refugees filed through its port. In shock, they demanded answers. “If God is so powerful, how could he let this happen?”

It’s a question as real today as it was in the fifth century.

In *City of God, Augustine provides perspective that offers some comfort to those of us who are sickened by the growing loss of moral boundaries and increasing violence we witness everyday. He describes a world divided between two cities. Those living in the City of Man are self-dedicated to the ways of man rather than to God. In contrast, the City of God is the Pilgrim Church on Earth. The two cities exist in parallel.

They’re yoked together and, despite Paul’s warning, often intermingle.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Says Augustine…

  • The two cities were formed by two loves: one by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the other by the love of God, even to the contempt of self.
  • One lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”
  • One delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.”

Anyone living in the City of God coexists within the City of Man as an alien sojourner. It’s not a place to put down roots, simply a place to reside temporarily.

In her book, *The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, the Carmelite nun speaks as one passing through the City of Man.

 

He said: write down the vision that you had,

and I wrote what I saw.

 

I saw the world kissing its own darkness.

 

It happened thus: I rose to meet the sunrise

and suddenly over the hill a horde appeared

dragging a huge tarpaulin.

They covered unwary land and hapless city

and all sweet waters and fields.

And there was no sunrise.

 

I strained my eyes for a path and there was no path.

I bumped into trees and the bushes hissed at me,

and the long-armed brambles cried in a strident voice:

never through here!

But I struggled on, fumbling my beads of no.

 

I came to a dark city where nobody knew

that there was darkness.

And strange! Though there was no light I still could see

what I did not want to see:

people who moved to the loveless embrace of folly.

They ate her gourmet foods; they drank her wine,

danced to her music that was crazed with rhythm,

were themselves discord though they knew it not,

or if they knew, cared less.

 

Outside the city wall I stood in thought,

parried a moment with a frightening urge

to court the darkness;

but I held back, fearing the face of love.

 

Crossing a field I wandered through a desert

when suddenly behind a rock I found

a little sagebrush where a fire was burning,

though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

shining and dancing. After my first amazed

worship of silence I was loud with praise.

 

I watched with fear the darkness circling it,

lunging against it, swirling a black cloak

to suffocate the light,

until the shades broke loose and one by one

in terror fled.

 

The flame burned on, innocent, unimperiled.

There was no darkness that could put it out.

 

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