Augustine on the Use of Symbols

“But, all those truths which are presented to us in figures tend, in some manner, to nourish and arouse that flame of love by the impulse of which we are carried upward and inward toward rest, and they stir and enkindle love better than if they were set before us unadorned, without any symbolism of mystery.  It is hard to explain the reason for this; nevertheless, it is true that any doctrine suggested under an allegorical form affects and pleases us more, and is more esteemed, than one set forth explicitly in plain words.  I believe that the soul makes its response slothfully as long as it is involved in earthly things, but, if it is borne along to corporeal representations and from them to spiritual ones, which are symbolized by those figures, it gains strength by that transition, it is enkindled like fire shaken in a torch, and by that more ardent love it is carried on to rest.” Augustine of Hippo, Letter 55: Book II of the Inquiries of Januarius, Saint Augustine: Letters, vol. 1, trans. Sister Wilfrid Parsons, Fathers of the Church, vol. 12  (Washington, D.C.  1951), p. 277.  [Find older translation in Letter LV, ed. Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 1 (1886), p. 309-310.]

This entry was posted in Augustine of Hippo, languages, teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.