Augustinian Studies

Volume 52, Issue 2, 2021

Margaret R. Miles
Pages 135-160

St. Augustine’s Last Desire

In his last years, St. Augustine became impatient with the doctrinal questions and requests for advice on practical matters of ecclesiastical discipline frequently referred to in correspondence of his last decade. Scholars have often attributed his uncharacteristic reluctance to address these matters to the diminishing competence and energy of old age. This article demonstrates that his evident unwillingness to respond at length to such queries relates rather to his desire to sequester increased time for meditation. Throughout his Christian life, he described and refined his practice of meditation; it gathered urgent importance as he neared death. Augustine’s lifelong search for “God and the soul,” articulated in his first writings, evolved through his meditation, changing from an intellectual effort to achieve a vision of God by the use of reason to a search for the truth of his own life. In meditation he sought to recall in detail God’s loving leading within the chaos and pain of his youthful desires and throughout his life. I explore his understanding of “God is love” from his earliest (extant) treatise, De beata uita (386 CE), his Easter sermons on First John (415 CE), to his Enchiridion (421 CE) as the core of his developing understanding of God’s activity in himself.