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Nourished by Our Roots - the Rule of Saint Augustine: Day One

Written by Fr Richard Peers, posted on Friday, November 6, 2020

Day One

Chapter One

Before all things, dearly beloved brothers, love God and then your neighbour, because these were the first commandments given to us.

1:1. Here are the rules we lay down for your observance, once you have been admitted to the monastery.

1:2. The chief motivation for your sharing life together is to live harmoniously in the house and to have one heart and one soul seeking God.

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


At sixty-four words this is sparse language indeed. But it’s a rich diet. It would be tempting to skip over these as all very obvious. But there is a lot here.

Christians have often looked back at the first Christian communities and tried to emulate them.  Acts 4:32 tells us that the believers were ‘one in heart and mind’. This has always been the Christian ideal, Jesus even prayed ‘That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” in John 17.  Augustine, rather characteristically adds ‘on the way to God’ or ‘seeking God’. he is gathering a community of those with restless hearts which will only rest when they find God in community.

This one-ness of heart and mind-soul anima una et cor unum must be about something other than agreement. It is a company walking in the same direction. And that direction is given in 1:2 here, the desire to live harmoniously. That is quite interesting in itself, that harmony or unity is the goal of the community. There is no individualistic living together so that each person will be holy but so that the whole community can be holy. This is not about having spiritual experiences.

We are reading this section backwards but if we return to the first sentence that unity-harmony is given its place. It is love. Love of God and love of neighbour. For Augustine love is not an emotion, it is an act of the will.  A decision, a choice. For him the human psyche consists of memory, understanding and will. When rules seem stifling or un-spontaneous we need to remind ourselves that we are free; gree to choose.

So in these three short statement we have a summary of the whole. Harmony is the goal. Love is the motivation and in the middle statement the ‘rules’ are the way. But all are to satisfy the soul seeking God. Actually ‘precepts’ is better than rules. This is a life-giving way not a series of tick boxes. the precepts are the tora of the Hebrew Scriptures, the ‘law’ of Psalm 119, that is the way, the truth, the life. Jesus himself.


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