Big picture: Augustine is still talking about demons. I think that he has ended the main arguments about why nobody should be worshipping demons and is now performing some mop-up duties, taking on little side arguments that defenders of Rome’s worship life might present so that they can agree with parts of Augustine’s argument without changing anything about their lives and worship rituals. I think. We are within striking distance of book 11, which will begin to deal more particularly with the two cities. For now, we are still talking about demons. That said, the quotes this morning are excellent.
On humanity’s final good: “For His most true prophet says: ‘But it is good for me to draw near to God [Psalm 73.28].’ Among the philosophers, the question is asked, What is the final good, to the achievement of which all our duties are toe be referred? The psalmist did not say, It is good for me to have plenty of money, or to wear imperial purple and bear a scepter and diadem. Nor did he say, as not a few philosophers have said with shame, I is good for me to have bodily pleasure; or, as worthier philosophers have been sees to say, It is good for me to have virtue of soul. Rather, he said: ‘It is good for me to draw near to God.’ He had learned this from Him to Whom alone sacrifice is due, as the holy angels have shown us by the evidence of miracles; and hence he himself became a sacrifice to God, by whose intelligible flame he was quickened and kindled, and into Whose ineffable and incorporeal embrace his holy yearning bore him.”
But, can’t we offer ourselves as invisible sacrifices to the One True God while still offering visible (and therefore less important) sacrifices to the others gods/demons, as some of the Platonists argue? “Some believe that it is proper to offer visible sacrifices to other gods, but that invisible sacrifices – of which kind are a pure mind and a good will – should, as greater and better, be offered only to the invisible God Who is greater and better than all others. These persons, however, surely do not know that such visible sacrifices are symbols of invisible ones in the way that the words we speak are signs of things. Therefore, just as we direct to God in prayer and praise words that have meaning and thereby off to Him in our hearts the actual things which the meaning represents, so let us understand that, in sacrificing, we offer visible sacrifice only to Him to Whom, in our hearts, we ought to present ourselves as an invisible sacrifice.”
So, the visible sacrifices that we offer are not disconnected from the invisible sacrifices of ourselves. Within the history of the church, there have been some who disconnect visible and the invisible, or the body from the soul. This is the Gnostic option, where the incarnation is false, where Christ’s humanity and divinity are separate, where my body serves one God and my soul serves another. This is still a live option in the church, where we serve with our bodies the demons we’ve talked about in previous posts but claim to serve God with our souls. Augustine rightly rejects that option. Gnosticism is just a way of claiming to serve God while really serving ourselves, or whatever else we want to serve. The visible is the sign of the invisible; the body is the sign of the soul. That sums up the sacramental worldview, which opposes the Gnostic (body and soul are disconnected) and materialist (soul, if it exists, is basically at one with the body) worldviews. In the sacramental world, creation is a sign (or sacrament) of a greater reality and visible sacrifices are signs of invisible ones. The visible and invisible are connected and they impact one another. If I serve The Market or The Military or Freedom or Celebrity, or whatever demons, with my body but claim to serve God with my soul, then I will end up serving whatever it is that my body is serving. My visible sacrifices will move my heart and soul, so that my invisible sacrifices will follow the visible ones.
A quote on Jesus, our great Mediator: “Hence, the true Mediator, the man Jesus Christ, became the Mediator between God and man by taking the form of a servant. In the form of God, He receives sacrifice together with the Father, with Whom He is one God. In the form of a servant, however, He chose to be a sacrifice Himself, rather than to receive it, so that not even in this case might anyone have reason to think that sacrifice is to be offered t a creature, no matter what kind. Thus, He is both the priest who offers and the sacrifice which is offered; and He intended that there should be a daily sign of this in the sacrament of the Church’s sacrifice. For the Church, being the body of which He is the Head, is taught to offer herself through Him. The sacrifices of the holy men of old were the many and various signs of this true sacrifice, which was in this way refigured in many things, just as one thing may be expressed in many different words, in order to commend it frequently but without tedium. To this supreme and true sacrifice all false sacrifices have yielded.”
I love this. Christ is both priest and sacrifice; He both offers Himself and receives the offering. And, He teaches the Church to do the same. As we participate in the bodily, visible sacrifice (the Lord’s Supper/ the Eucharist), we train our invisible souls and offer ourselves as sacrifices to God. All false sacrifices give themselves up to this true sacrifice. When we falsely offer our visible sacrifices to demons and false gods, we train our souls to offer themselves to false gods. Jesus has overcome all false gods with His sacrifice; Jesus effectively and truly mediates between humanity and God. Praise be to God, and to His Son, Jesus, our true High Priest and Sacrifice!