The heart, which artists have often portrayed in hand of Augustine, is the key to his approach to life.
The spiritual tradition of Saint Augustine focuses on human warmth and love. For Augustine the heart was the symbol for all that was deepest and truest in oneself. The Augustinian spiritual tradition reflects the actual story of the life of Augustine.
As a young man he was restless and without direction. He pursued a long and painful search for truth that he hoped would provide him with peace. In the drama of his conversion at the age of thirty three years he felt his innermost heart lovingly spoken to by the Word of God. He wrote, "The words of your Scripture knocked at the door of my heart." His fears suddenly left him. It was as though an arrow from God had pierced his heart. "You have pierced our hearts with the arrow of your love, and our minds were shot with the arrows of your words." (Confessions 9:2)
Indeed his heart seemed to burst into flame with the love of God. "By your fire, your generous fire, our hearts are filled with fire." (Confessions 13:9) That the great spiritual events of the life of Augustine took place in the company of others is of significance to his spiritual tradition. Augustine greatly valued relationships with others. He reached out to people; he was in turn beloved and appreciated by them.
The spiritual values reflected in his writings of over five million words is based on love of neighbour and on community. For Augustine only a shared, communal vision is worth having. Thus he placed before people the ideal of love: "Be of one mind and one heart on the way towards God." They are to build up community with one another, in which listening to others and even authority are acts of love.
In the Augustinian spiritual tradition, love for God is experienced as love for one another. We come to God through the love of one another, since our love for other human beings is much more concrete than our love for God. In the teaching of Augustine, human love has divine love running within it. The warmth of friendship is likewise essential for Augustine. "Without a human being who is our friend, nothing in the world appears friendly to us." Life shared with others often culminates in friendship - the gift of loving and of being loved. As we strive for union with others we do so in a shared love of God.
Augustine models for us prayer of a heart that is eager to know and see God. In prayer we progress to God, who is the source of our happiness. "You made us for yourself, O God, and have directed us toward yourself. Our hearts are restless until we rest in you." (Confessions 1:1) In the Augustinian spiritual tradition, all good things come back to love, which is the very centre of Christian existence. AN2443