Waħda u Sħiħa hija l-Imħabba - a new book by Fr. Salvino Caruana OSA and Fr. Francis Calleja OSA (2)

This recent work by Professor Salvino Caruana OSA, Director of the Augustinian Institute of Piet , published jointly with Fr Francis Calleja OSA, is a translation into Maltese of another text of Augustine of Hippo, 10 Homilies on the First Letter of St. John to the Parthians. The translation was made from the Latin version of Patrologia Latina v. 35. It is another gem from Augustine of Hippo’s (354-430) immense oruvre translated into the vernacular, thus adding lustre to the various other publications of Augustine’s work into Maltese. It is also a great help towards the advancement of religious instruction in our language very necessary for us as Catholics.

 These 10 Homilies are among the best examples of the preaching of Augustine. The North African bishop, Doctor and Father of the Church, delivered them during the Easter Octave, and two days after, in the renowned Basilica Pacis, in the afternoon, towards evening, a time when his listeners, standing up, would have been more calm and attentive to three, four hour long sermons!

 It took decades until experts in the field of Augustine’s preaching agreed on the date in which he delivered the 10 Homelies, namely in 407. A series of sermons extremely important for the daily life of North African Christians in order that they may understand better the significance of the sacrament of Easter they had just received and celebrated. These homilies have been compared to those preached by Ambroce in Milan, or the Patriarch Cyril in Jerusalem, namely, in the form of a mystagogical catechesis, ad illuminandos (to the enlightened, namely those ready for the Sacrament of Baptism).

 Inspite of the fact that throughout these homelies words like new life, light, anointing, and water, are normally all terms with reference to the Sarament of Baptism, yet Augustine does not conduct any lenghty exposition of them. As a matter of fact, from Homily 7 on, he never ever mentioned the Sacrament at all.

 Besides, throughout these homelies there is no mention of the Risen Lord, or any other reference of the Resurrection. These are, therefore, homelies of Augustine on a particular New Testament text, the First Letter of St John the Apostle, with no reference at all to the particular ecclesiastical liturgical time they were delivered in. Augustine hastens to define the theme: John said a lot of things, and all he said has to do practically with the theme of love of one another.

 The love of neighbour was a theme on which Augustine never tired of preaching and writing. In fact, towards the end of the very first homily, he had already explained away one fifth of John’s Letter to the Parthians, thus revealing the extreme haste he had to get to the underlying theme of the Letter, namely that of love of one another. This ought to create no wonder at the time he is delivering these homelies, the Donatist Controversy is at its height (in chapeter 16, Prof. Caruana provides a detailed history of the Controversy), and Augustine wanted to drive home the fact that this was a serious breach of the love of Christ.

 Readers of the text are encouraged not to read the text with any haste, but are enjoined to use it for their daily meditation. It is in Homily 7 perhaps that the crux of Augustine’s dissertation can be read: Love and do what you will (Dilige et quod uis fac), words which were meant to shock his audience, but which caused enormous havoc among Christian leaders in Catholic North Africa! This was, however, Augustine’s way of provoking a reaction to his preaching.

 The text will be read and analyzed by experts in Augustine’s thought during the first part of academic year 2021-2022 at the Augustinian Institute at Pietà (from Friday 1 October 2021 to 10 December 2021; and the 2nd semester from 21 January 2022 to 11th April 2022 (Graduation Day). The volume will be given to all those who apply for attendance of lectures for academic year 2021-2022. Applications will be available as from May 2021. For all other information please contact Revd Professor Salvino Caruana OSA, Director, PO BOX 61 Msida PO MSD 1000, or on 7929 4177 / 21249407 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Santu Wistin ta’ Ippona. Waħda u Sħiħa hija l-Imħabba. 10 Omeliji ta’ S. Wistin fuq l-I-Ewwel Ittra ta’ S. Ġwann lill-Parti (Malta: Provinċja Agostinjana, 2020) (284p.) (ISBN 978-99957-1-881-7) Price: €15.

 


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