Cathedral Blog

Search all blog posts

Nourished by Our Roots – the Rule of Saint Augustine: Introduction

Written by Fr Richard Peers, posted on Thursday, November 5, 2020

View of the CathedralIt was our indefatigable verger and unofficial guide and historian Jim Godfrey who introduced me to my favourite view of Christ Church Cathedral. It’s a spot I always take visitors to. Southeast of the cathedral in the Pocock garden just by the gate. Looking up towards the cathedral a tree blocks the view of the Victorian bell tower. Everything else visible is part of the Augustinian house that was here from early in the twelfth century. To the south the Prior’s house, next to it the Chapter house with dormitory above and then the church. Gilbert Scott's 1870 re-ordering of the Cathedral's east end may be somewhat different to the view seen by an Augustinian canon but otherwise it is not very different. Even the sense of being on the edge of the settlement with the country behind you remains.

The continuity of prayer in this place is a part of who we are. I have found the cathedral one of the easiest places to pray in I know.  It is thick with the prayers of the thirteen centuries since Frideswide established her community here and thick with the presence of the saints, past, present  and future.

This cathedral and the communities - monks, nuns, canons, college, Cathedral - that form it has seen plagues come and go. It is a valuable reminder to us that ‘this too shall pass’. It is also a reminder that we are called to live in community. No Christian is a Christian alone. St Paul’s vivid image of the body with Christ as its Head is fundamental to who we are. Redemption, Jesus’ work of saving us is only possible because we are part of each other and part of Him.

How Christians, human beings live in community is part of our ongoing journey, we fall out, we irritate each other, we even sometimes fight, but we also reconcile, we restore relationships, we make peace.

One way of living in community is demonstrated by those Augustinian canons. The rule that formed their life was written in North Africa in the fourth century by St Augustine. He is one of my favourite people, saints of the church. He must have been a very attractive person because throughout his life he attracted a community of people around him, before he became a Christian and afterwards.

In this period of lockdown I am going to blog about the Rule that he wrote. I have arranged it so that it can be read, just a very short section a day, over thirty days. I hope that all of us at Christ Church will join in praying the Rule together. I suggest a simple form of prayer for doing this beginning with the Beatitudes, reading the section of the Rule for the day and then the prayer by St Augustine that I have taken from Chapter 8 of his Rule. Some days the reflection will be a link to an outside source. If you have any suggestions for these please let me know. 

Not every section of the Rule will seem relevant to us but I think we can learn from every section as we seek to form our own lives. By reflecting on our history and where we have come from as a Christ Church community we can also nourish not just the present, but the future. What kind of community are we going to be?

Here are the prayers I suggest for each day. The Beatitudes are themselves a distilled form of the Gospel, a summary of evangelical living and a Rule of Life (I said more about this in my sermon on All Saints Day)


The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, 
for they shall be comforted!

Blessed are the meek, 
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger 
          and thirst for righteousness, 
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, 
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, 
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, 
for they shall be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted 
            for righteousness’ sake, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


V.         You have made us for yourself, O Lord.
R.         Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.


May the Lord 
grant that we may observe all these things with love,
as lovers of spiritual beauty,
radiating by our lives
the sweet fragrance of Christ,
not like slaves under the law
but as free persons
established in grace.
Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord.  



You can find the full text of the Rule of Saint Augustine by clicking here