Space in coercive poetry. Augustine’s Psalm against the donatists and his interpretation of the fear of god in Enarrationes in Psalmos

Paul J.J. Van Geest*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

This contribution consists of two parts. The first part identifies Augustine’s qualities as a mystagogue on the basis of the only poem he wrote that has been handed down: the Psalm against the Donatists. It shows that little is to be gained by studying Augustine as both poeta and mystagogue. Not his poetry itself, but his commentary on poetry as such reveals the transformative power that he ascribes to this genre. For this reason the second part examines Augustine’s Enarrationes in psalmos. In this work, he makes explicit the transformative power that is contained in the 150 Psalms, which are both poetry and prayer. This part asks the question how Augustine articulates or heightens fear when the Psalmist in his dialogue with God ‘compels’ him to do this, as it were, by expressing fear of enemies or of the Last Judgement. He shows that he acknowledges that fear alone can lead to an unbalanced, and even a bad relationship with God. Fear should result in introspection and should be a guarantee against pride. That Augustine furthermore is not content to heighten the fear of God alone, but wants it to coincide with desire, joy, and hope, shows that he wishes to prevent any imbalance in the human who seeks a relationship with God. For Augustine, fear is necessary, but it is ‘only’ an ancilla of hope, joy, love, and desire. But as such, timor is indispensible. Fear causes attentiveness and carefulness: virtues that love presuppose and that also correlate with it. Nevertheless, love does not stand at the service of fear; for Augustine, it is the reverse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalPerichoresis
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© EMANUEL UNIVERSITY of ORADEA.

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