The Church through
354-1054 Augustine, Monasticism,
and the Dark Ages
Larry Fraher
Augustine (354-430)
Influences in Augustine’s Life
– Plato: “Humans are inclined to seek the
 The Pear Tree
– Manicheaism
 “Star Wars of the 5th Century”
 Two Gods, 1 Good and 1 Evil.
– Augustine’s Own Desires…
The Pear Tree
“There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard…Late
one night…a group of young scoundrels, and I among
them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off
a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to
dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting them
ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more
because it was forbidden. Behold, now let my heart
confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I
was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement
to evil but the evil itself. It was foul and I loved it. I
loved my own undoing. I loved my error – not that
for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved
soul…seeking nothing from the shameful deed but
shame itself. …” (Confessions, 4.9)
The first “Playboy to Priest”
“To love and be loved was sweet to
me, and all the more when I gained
the enjoyment of the body of the
person I loved. Thus I polluted the
spring of friendship with the filth of
concupiscence and I dimmed its luster
with the slime of lust. Yet, foul and
unclean as I was, I still craved, in
excessive vanity, to be thought elegant
and urbane. And I did fall precipitately
into the love I was longing for.”
Baptism of Augustine
(Confessions, Ch. 3)
A (False) Story
There was a man, who was the CEO of Creamy Crisp
Doughnut Company. Later in life and unmarried, he
decides to become a priest in the Catholic Church.
When the sexual abuse scandal rocked the church, he
began a “ministry” to victims and their families,
preaching that because of the lack of moral standing of
the priests who have been convicted of abuse, the
sacraments that were received at the hands of these
priests were never valid because the priests themselves
were immoral. This movement became known as the
How would you respond to this issue, or a person who
might say something similar?
The Donatists
First Puritans
– Only a person who is morally good and right
can perform the sacraments
– All Christians must be morally good and right
Augustine Responds
– Ex opere operatum!
– In personae Christi Capitis
– In personae Christi Corpus
Ex Opere Operatum
When you were baptized, you could not know
the ‘faith’ of the one who baptized you.
– Presumption to faith
– Sacraments are Effected by:
 The will of Christ and the Church
 Desire of the Recipient
– Form & Intention
 Prescribed by the Church
 Intent of the Church
In Personae Christi Capitis
Once ordained, the priest, when “confecting” the
sacraments of the Paschal Mystery (Confirmation,
Eucharist, Penance, Ordination, Anointing), acts in
the Person of Christ the Head. (In Personae Christi
– Connection to the Church (Granting of Faculties)
– Ordination (Apostolic Succession)
– When the Church acts Sacramentally:
– Cannot be divorced from, and only finds meaning within,
the Church (In Personae Christi Corpus)
Free Will
Is sin a weakness of the will, or a natural
disposition, toward self (concupiscence)
with which we are born?
If I, as an Individual, choose to follow
Christ, remain strong and faithful in that
following, then do I need Christ?
Do I need Grace?
Pelagius Taught:
– Human freedom was sufficient.
 Grace, was for the most part, an unnecessary extra
– The Human was not bound to a sinful pre-disposition.
 Could choose to act according to the good
– Capacity, Volition and Action
 Capacity – The ability to do good in our nature bestowed
upon us by God
 Volition – The ability to direct our action in life…
 Action – The ability to commit actions…
For Pelagius, where does Grace come in?
Dangers in Pelagianism
Christology: dual natures are unnecessary.
– In freedom, Jesus chooses all good.
– As such, Adam’s sin has no effect on us. Selfcenteredness (original sin) is not pre-disposed
in Human Nature.
Rejection of the Divine Economy
– Grace is unnecessary
– In my person and freedom, I may choose
good, without God’s assistance.
– Role of Jesus?
“In this system Pelagius posits and distinguishes three
faculties, by which he says God’s commandments are
fulfilled – capacity, volition, and action: meaning by
capacity, that by which a man is able to be righteous; by
volition that by which he wills to be righteous; by action,
that by which he is actually righteous. The first of these,
the capacity, he allows to have been bestowed on us by
the Creator of our nature; it is not in our power and we
possess it even against our will. The other two,
however, the volition and the action, he asserts to be
our own; and he assigns them so strictly as to contend
that they proceed simply from ourselves.”
On the Grace of Christ, Ch. 4.
Original Sin
“Whence it comes to pass that each man, being
derived from a condemned stock, is first of all
born of Adam evil and carnal, and becomes
good and spiritual only afterwards when he is
grafted into Christ by regeneration: so was it the
human race as a whole.” City of God, 15.1
Doctrine of Depravity
– Humanity is evil and carnal… (Luther and Calvin)
Nature or Act?
– Analogy of the wheel.
“Now, what makes such evil possible is the fact
that no created nature can be immutable.
Every such nature is made, indeed, by God, the
supreme and immutable Good who made all
things good, but, by choosing to sin, such a
nature brings evil upon itself. This very sinning,
however, bears witness to the fact that the
nature in itself, as it comes from the hand
of God, is good.”
–City of God, Book 22, Chapter 1
Augustine -- Conclusions
Essential to Sacramental Understanding
– In Personae Christi Capitis/Corpus
– The Action of the Priest and Church
Original Sin and Free Will
– Capacity: We all have the capacity to do good, inherent in
our nature
– Volition: We certainly have the ability to direct our will,
but that volition is tainted by the human condition of
original sin – the propensity to selfishness.
– Action: Because our volition is tainted by Original sin –
our action is also tainted and often directed to our selves
Historical Developments
Fall of Rome – 410
– Collapse of the Roman Empire
Christianity becomes ‘secularized’
– Begins to take on the politics of the world.
Setting the Stage for the Rise of Monasticism
– Antony “The Father of Christian Monasticim”
 Traditionally Aligned with “the Desert Fathers”
 Divorced self from the material possessions of the world to
go to the desert and follow Christ.
– Benedict of Nursia “The Father of Western Christian
 The ‘Roots of the Modern Western Civilization’
“Now it was not six months after the death of his
parents, and going according to custom into the
Lord’s House, he communed with himself and
reflected as he walked how the Apostles left all
and followed the Savior…Pondering over these
things he entered the church, and it happened
the Gospel was being read, and he heard the
Lord saying to the rich man, “If thou wouldest
be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give
to the poor, and come follow Me and thou shalt
have treasure in heaven.”
-Athanasius, The Life of Antony
Benedict of Nursia (480-560)
Three Major Reforms for Monastic Life
– Moderation
– Ora et Labora (Prayer and Work)
– Life in Common
As People Flee the Busy-ness of the
World, Monasticism Provides a new and
different approach:
– Escapism or Singlehearted Focus on Christ?
– Community: essential to Christian Life
Regarding Private/Personal Property
“Above all, this evil practice must be
uprooted and removed from the
monastery. We mean that without
an order from the abbot, no one may
presume to give, receive or retain
anything as his own, nothing at all –
not a book, writing tablet or stylus –
in short, not a single item, especially
since monks may not have the free
disposal even of their own bodies
and wills.”
-The Rule of Benedict, Chapter 33
Benedictine Life
– Choice for a ‘Home’
Life in Common
– Different than Poverty
– Seeking the Shared Gifts and Resources of
the Community (Stewardship)
– Obvious
– In Omnibus Glorificateur Deus
The Expansion of Islam
To the Confusion of the Christian World, its
politics and Theologies, Islam offered an easy
“black and white”.
– Strict Monotheism: Christ is not Divine…
– Strict Morality
– Equality Among Peoples
After Muhammad's death, the followers split,
only to re-unite in the effort to takeover the
Christian World.
– By 715 most of today’s Middle-East and all of Spain
were under Muslim control
Remnant of Arianism
Barbarian Influence
Analogy: American Catholicism in the Age
of Immigration
– Differing Cultures and Practices
– Inculturation or Assimilation?
– How the church was helped…
Christian/Roman Response
– Destruction
– Transplantation
– Incorporation
Crowned Roman Emperor on Christmas
Day 800.
 Establishes the Carolingian Era
– Writing becomes uniform
– Chant moves from basic to Gregorian
– Established order in the Roman Empire
Much of the ‘Gregorian Reforms’ can be
attributed to Charlemagne
– Reforms become centered in Monastic
The Great Schism
Two World-views
– Who is Christ? (Eastern)
– What is Christ expecting of us? (Western)
– Constantinople or Rome?
 Role of successor or Role of Location?
 Where the Social Order is established, there the Church
order ought be established as well – Eastern Argument for
the Primacy of Constantinople
– Charlemagne named as Holy Roman Emperor (800)
 Ability to rule over Church and State
– Unifying against Constantinople
– Thwarted by papal understanding
The Great Schism
– Petrine Primacy
 First among equals or First among the apostles?
– Early Traditions of Dispute Settlement
– Iconoclasm
 Do away with Icons (Iconoclasts)
 Keep Images and Icons (Iconophiles)
– Image and word are equal
– Image informed by word is not to be put down.
 The Incarnation and Image
The Great Schism
– Filioque
 East: Spirit proceeds from the Father
 West: Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son
 Becomes the “straw” that breaks the unity of the
The Great Schism
Modern Desire for Unity…
“The Church must breathe with both lungs.” -- JPII
– Politics aside
– Theologically
 Papal Primacy
– Major Stumbling block
– Schismatic Protests after Vatican I (Dutch Reform 1870s)
 Filioque
– Not as much of an issue.
– Both sides see and understand the other’s arguement
 Iconoclasm
– Rediscovery of the power of image in a literal and literary
The Monastic Influence
(Gregorian Reform)
Monasteries become centers of Learning and
– Early Monasteries fall under the local bishops.
– Monastic Exemption
 Abbot vs. Bishop
 Papal Tax on Monastic Communities – Direct to Rome
As Monastics are elevated to Bishops and Popes,
Monastic rules become elevated in the church.
– Through the Monastic Exemption, Abbots and
superiors of religious communities become the
ecclesiastical equals to bishops.
Charlemagne’s Cultural Program
– Rooted in centers of learning (monasteries)
Other Issues
– Who owns the saints?
– Church or Patrons?
– Who declares one a saint?
The Politics of Emperors and Popes
– Popes use emperors who use popes…
Conclusions for the Dark Ages
As the church becomes secularized and
materialized, there arise people and movements
of fidelity to the tradition.
 The discovery of faith and the conversion of
immigrants and transitory peoples may keep the
church alive.
– The Spirit moves in newness of faith
Theology and Politics were once a motive to
– Could theology without politics be the pre-cursor to