This section of Augnet will look at how Augustine heard that song, and how he responded. The spiritual tradition (spirituality, and in Italian spiritualità) of a person is the way that he or she relates to God as Father, Son and Spirit. It is his or her "window" through which he or she sees the Christian Faith and attempts to live it.
We all seek relationship with the same Christ, but the spiritual tradition through which each one of us does this can differ just as much as the personalities of individuals differ. In seeking to clarify our own spiritual tradition, we can benefit from looking at that of those who have gone before us. What is it about their spiritual tradition that suits us? We wish to be ourselves, and not "another Augustine", yet what was there about the successful journey of Augustine towards God that it would benefit us to know about and to imitate? The spiritual tradition of Augustine has much to offer most people because it is primarily focused on love, which is the core of the Christian faith, and because it suits busy and active people - as Augustine was.
A final disclaimer. Augustine never used the word "spirituality" (in Italian spiritualita), a word that was not current in his day. As well, he never formally developed or wrote down a "spirituality" (spiritual tradition). What is labelled today as "the spiritual tradition of Augustine" is a blending of the spiritual emphases and tones that come through amidst the great amount that scholars know about the life, writings and preaching of Augustine. The spiritual tradition of Augustine is summarised by Augustine's famous words: "Lord you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you."This spiritual tradition that is richly expressed in the writings of Augustine is one of warmth and of love. The heart, which artists have often placed in the hand of Augustine, is a key to this spiritual tradition. For Augustine the heart is a metaphor for all that is deepest, truest and personal in one's self. He makes frequent use of the heart to signify the affective aspect of faith in God. The starting point of his spiritual tradition is the fact that the human race is created in the image of God. Augustine affirms that man is created with an immediate tendency toward God, thus man is capable of God. God then proposes the way of interiority as a means by which man can reach God. In so doing man is assisted by the grace (gratia in Latin) of God.
Augustine approaches the spiritual life in terms an interiority, which is a withdrawing into the inner depths of oneself, where Christ is to be found. This requires an intense desire for love. Even with this interiority, the spiritual tradition of Augustine is still quite consciously one of persons who are in relation, and not one of isolated individuals. This is because another fundamental facet of the spiritual tradition of Augustine is its communitarian and social dimension. Augustine places a high value on friendship as the expression of the love of God for us and of our love for God in and through others. But it is his emphasis of unanimity in community that is his special contribution to the understanding of the Church about the Christian life. It is no surprise, therefore, that he said that the perfect Christian community would be unus Christus amans seipsum, i.e., "one Christ loving Himself". (Homilies on 1 John, 10, 3)
Augustine was very much influenced by the Platonic ideal of flight from the world. Indeed, soon after his conversion when he retired to the country villa of his friend Verecundus at Cassiciacum, it was possible that he did so to engage in a philosophical form of retreat and not a religious one. This theory is not universally accepted, yet merits evaluation. In everyday living, the sacrifice cannot be the actual "flight from the world" like that of Antony of Egypt and the other desert monks in the previous century, as had fascinated Augustine when he read about it. For his or her everyday living, a Christian had to live as a traveller on earth, even though his baptism granted him citizenship in the "city of heaven" the Jerusalem of the next world - the City of God to be experienced in the next life. In the distinction made by Augustine, a Christian had to undertake a fuga saeculi (a flight from a purely secular existence) rather than usually a fuga mundi (a flight from the world by going to live in a desert).
This withdrawal is essentially an internal withdrawal. It is not necessarily a physical moving to the desert or to another place separated from the surrounding people, but via the Augustinian method of withdrawing inwards. This is called interiority in English, interioridad in Spanish, and interiorita in Italian. It is a declining to be lead by the material world of the surrounding society. This withdrawal is not prompted by a Manichean assertion that all material things are evil, or by a Pelagian or semi-Pelagian suspicion, but because Christ is to be found there. When a person has withdrawn inwards (interiority), then the world of the senses can be seen in correct relationship with the rest of the order of creation, and its real purpose appreciated irrespective of the demands of secular society.
In the Augustinian spiritual tradition all good things come back to the one thing: love, the very centre of Christian existence. The heart, which artists have often portrayed Augustine holding, is a key to this spiritual tradition. For Augustine the heart is a metaphor for all that is deepest, truest and personal in any person. He makes frequent use of the heart to signify the affective aspect of faith in God.
A Theology of the Augustinian Heart. Ten main points of Augustinian spiritual tradition are briefly explained. http://www.angelfire.com/pa5/augustinian16/
Loving a Hidden God - Forty-two reflections on the Augustinian Spiritual tradition. By the late Fr Donald Burt O.S.A., formerly of Villanova University, United States of America. http://www41.homepage.villanova.edu/donald.burt/god/table.htm AN2201