Tuesday, 5 February 2008
Knowing God leads one to know his true self and identity, says Benedict XVI in his third general audience dedicated to the figure of St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo.
The Pope spoke today of relationship between faith and reason in Augustine's life. In the last two reflections he commented on the life and last days of the philosopher and theologian.
Augustine, said the Holy Father, abandoned the Catholic faith at an early age, "because he could not see how it could be reasoned out, and did not want a religion that was not also for him an expression of reason -- that is to say, truth."
"His thirst for truth was radical and led him away from the Catholic faith," the Pontiff added. "His radicality was such that he was not satisfied with philosophies that did not reach truth itself, and that did not reach God -- not a God as a last cosmological hypothesis, but the true God, God who gives life and joins our very lives."
Benedict XVI then brought to the forefront the consideration of the relationship between faith and reason: "These two dimensions, faith and reason, should not be separated nor opposed, but rather go forward together.
"As Augustine himself wrote after his conversion, faith and reason are 'the two forces that lead us to knowledge.'"
Quoting two well-known phrases of Augustine -- "I believe in order to understand" and "I understand in order to believe" -- the Pope said the assertions "express the synthesis of this problem."
He continued: "The harmony between faith and reason means above all that God is not far away; he is not far from our reasoning or from our lives; he is close to every human being, close to our hearts and close to our reason if we truly follow his path.
"It is precisely this closeness of God to man that Augustine experienced with extraordinary force."
"The presence of God in man is deep and at the same time mysterious," said the Holy Father. "Distance from God means distance from oneself."
"Because Augustine personally experienced this intellectual and spiritual journey, he managed to convey it in his writings with immediacy, depth and wisdom," said the Pontiff.
"A man who is distant from God is also distant from himself, estranged from himself, he can find himself only by meeting God," said Benedict XVI. "This path leads to himself, to his true self and identity."
The Pope added: "So Augustine found God and throughout his life experienced God to the point that this reality -- which was above all an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ -- changed his life, just as it changed the lives of so many men and women who have had the grace to meet him."