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Augustinian Studies

Volume 52, Issue 1, 2021

Douglas Finn
Pages 43-70

Unwrapping the Spectacle
Social Critique, Sectarian Polemics, and Communal Transfiguration in Augustine’s Enarratio in Psalmum 147

In this article, I explore how Augustine uses sermonic rhetoric to bring about the transfiguration of Babylon, the city of humankind, into Jerusalem, the city of God. Focusing on Enarratio in Psalmum 147, I show how Augustine situates his audience between two spectacles, the Roman theater and games and the eschatological vision of God. Augustine seeks to turn his hearers’ eyes and hearts from the one spectacle to the other, from the love of this world to love of the next. In the process, Augustine wages battle on two fronts: he criticizes pagan Roman culture, on the one hand, and Donatist Christian separatism and perfectionism, on the other. Through his preaching, Augustine stages yet another spectacle, the history of God’s mercy and love, whereby God affirmed the world’s goodness by using it as the means of healing and transfiguration. Indeed, Augustine does not simply depict the spectacle of salvation; he seeks to make his hearers into that spectacle by exhorting them to practice mercy, thereby inscribing them into the history of God’s love and helping gradually transfigure them into the heavenly Jerusalem.