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Ambrose maintains the Stoic tendencies of the earliest Latin authors, but joins to them the Platonism of the Greek Fathers. His De Officiis ministrorum is based on Cicero’s De Officiis, completed by biblical teaching. He follows Cicero in making clear what is upright or useful and what is both upright and useful: but his measure is based on what is eternal, San Jose Metro Map not on the present world Off. I, 9. He distinguishes duties valid for all ordinary from those valid only for some perfect Off. I, 11, and describes the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The good life is eternal life, which is found in knowledge of God and in doing good Off. II, 2. Here Ambrose moves from a plurality of virtues to the one source of goodness, San Jose Metro Map from philosophy to theology and from Stoicism to Platonism. He gives a positive description of the Christian battle and victory Luc. Prol. 6 and Jac. 1, 6, 23. Adversity must be accepted as a school of faith and the way to victory Luc. 6, 37-39. In his last works, Ambrose makes love the highest Christian virtue. Love flows from faith and hope from love, San Jose Metro Map in a perennial cycle Luc. 8, 30. But love is the greatest, the fullness and perfection of all the rest Ep. 78, 9. Augustine sums up the greater part of patristic ethics. Freedom, justice and love remain central.
The tensions in each sphere are unified by Christian discipleship, the single obedience that joins together all the ethical imperatives. Humility must accompany every Christian virtue and point to its origin in God Ep. 118, 22. All human beings have free will, but are incapable of overcoming temptations Enarr. in Ps. 89, 4. Through grace the human will is led back to its original efficacy and the person recovers freedom and charity Ep. 167, 6, 19. Augustine defends free will against Manichean determinism, but rejects the Pelagian claim that people can choose rightly without God. So we do not in any way weaken the free choice of each human will, nor do we deny with ungrateful pride, but affirm with grateful devotion, that grace of God by which the free will is aided De bono vid. 17, 21. Justification comes from God whose eternal law commands that the natural law be observed. This means following the order impressed by the Creator in the creation Faust. 22, 27 and 30. Nature is ruled by laws; living creatures have instincts fixed in accordance with the natural law Gen. ad litt. IX, 17, 32. Measure, form and order are universal goods. Order is what guides us to God De ord. I, 9, 27.
Augustine is aware of the complexity of moral problems. There are various degrees of virtue and vice: e.g., a liar is one who denies truth or affirms falsehood, but lying has eight possible degrees of gravity De mend. 14, 25. War may vary from mass extermination to deplorable necessity. Suicide is always evil. Augustine wrote several times on marriage and celibacy, but concluded that he was limited to showing the complexity of the problems Retract. II, 53. All justice, however, comes from God, fons justitiae Civ. Dei I, 21, sol justitiae Civ. Dei V, 16 and summa justitia Civ. Dei XX, 2. From God flows the justice by which human beings are justified Civ. Dei XXII, 2. God’s goodness, unlike that of creatures, does not change but remains al- ways the same Enchir. 12, 4. Even in his description of love, Augustine is conscious of unity and variety together. The oft-cited Love and do what you will In Ep. Jo. 7, 8 shows how love uses different energies and actions. Love may be severe, as he thought it had to be in dealing with the Donatists.
He is more convincing elsewhere, in his presentation of what he calls the ordo amoris. The good things of the world should be loved as a pledge of love for God who made them. God, then, has given you these things. Love him who has made them In Ep. Jo. 2, 11. Next, in ascending order, comes love of self, the gift of self to God Serm. 34, 7 and 57, 7. Then follows love of neighbor, which shows the church to be a demonstration of the truth of the gospel and a living sacrament. Finally and above all is love of God. God is love, present in every love that binds the good angels and God’s servants. This means that God is nearer and better known since he himself is love Trin. VIII, 11-12. Love thus calls the person to perfection, to the God whom he will praise and love forever Enarr. in Ps. 38, 8. The person’s end, whether one speaks of justice or love, is God himself. Blessed is the one who possesses God De mor. eccl. cath. 11, 18. The variety and unity of ethical concepts find their coherence in the discipleship that derives only from God and that follows and imitates Christ Serm. 304, 22.
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