Augustine: Son of Her Tears – A Few Reflections

Yesterday I was finally able to watch the last film about Augustine, directed by Samir Seif, and produced originally in Arabic.

My friends know that I am not a fan of Augustine, as a person and as a theologian, even if I admire his genius and certain of his contributions as a Father of the Church.

My main theological reservation has to do with his psychologising views on the Trinity. Also, in a typically Western fashion, he roots divine unity in a common ousia, rather than in the person of the Father, as fons divinitatis.

However, and more importantly, I view Augustine as the father of Church misogyny. His disdain of women, a pathological reaction to his life of debauchery before his conversion to Christianity, together with his (and others of his contemporaries) Neoplatonist disdain of the body and physicality, paved the way for the marginalisation of women in the cultus and the demonisation of sexuality which still dominates the mindset of most Christians until today.

Yet, Augustine was one of the greatest minds in the history of the church and nobody in their right mind should ignore him or underestimate his influence, for better or for worse.

I am not a specialist in cinematography, so my considerations here are those of a mere spectator, with an interest in the subject matter.

The fact that the movie is set in North African context and played by Arab actors is a plus, giving more authenticity to the story and to its contextualisation. This, however, has a downside, it seems to me. The life of Augustine before his conversion is highly ‘sanitised’ and reflects very little the scandalous sexual immorality in which the young Augustine lived his life before conversion.

One the other side, the ambiguity of Augustine’s relationship to power is illustrated quite well in the movie. His daylight dream of being received in triumph in Tagaste, after his initial failure in the school of rhetoric is emblematic in this sense. As is his cowardice, pointedly underline by his other, which prompted him to disappear from Bishop Ambrose’s palace when the hierarch was supposed to be arrested. No surprise then to see, years later, Bishop Augustine’s utterly unjust attitude towards his theological opponent, Pelagius.

Monica, the great hero of the story in Christian chronicles, appears to me, besides her undeniable commitment to the Christian faith, as she understood it, as a pale character and a confused woman. She buys completely into the patriarchal mindset of the time, and not only gladly accepts, but appears to justify the abusive attitude of her husband, almost finding justification for it as a divine right. Furthermore, she has no hesitation in accepting the injustice of the social rules of the time that forbid Augustine’s marriage with his concubine, Tanit, (played brilliantly by Sandra Chihaoui), with whom he had a son, Adeodatus. Even more, Monica does not hesitate to suggest to Augustine another woman for marriage, in total insensitivity to the mother of his child.

Tanit (Sandra Chihaoui)

For me, the great hero of this movie was Tanit, the Christian slave who was Augustine’s concubine. She is in this story the best illustration of Christian love, during her entire relationship with Augustine, as proven, in the end, by her supreme sacrifice, in leaving her son in Monica’s care and disappearing forever from Augustine’s life, in order not to be an obstacle in his ecclesiastic career. Similarly, in the contemporary parallel story of the documentary on Augustine, Kenza is the luminous loving figure, in comparison with Hedi, the confused French-Algerian journalist.

The historical part of the movie ends with Augustine’s decision of celibacy being presented as an act of Christian heroism. For me, the true heroism would have been for Augustine to look for the estranged Tanit, and to establish with her a legitimate family, in spite of social convenience. But, of course, that would have been to much to expect even from a genius hero like ‘Saith’/Blessed Augustine.

Sorry! Not my cup of tea. Or coffee if you wish.

The movie could be watched, probably for a limited time, on youtube

11 quotes Saint Augustine Essential for Our Christian Life

A beautiful image gallery inspired by 11 quotes from Saint Augustine in his work The Confessions. May these words keep inspiring us as much today as yesterday in our search for the truth, which is nothing other than the search for God.

Source: 11 quotes Saint Augustine Essential for Our Christian Life

Some great truths to ponder for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Charles Twombly – Pelagius and His Nemesis, Augustine: A Tale of Two Temperaments

Pelagius1  Augustine_of_Hippo
Pelagius and Augustine

Pelagius was an amiable chap,
A nice man on the whole.
He thought that we had all the stuff
We needed for our soul.
The sacraments were extra help
That some need more than others;
But most of us can do just fine,
Especially with good mothers.

Augustine had a good mom too,
Though she could scheme and plan.
Might be the reason he took off
To live in another land.
Now they live in America
But still live far away;
‘Gus now lives in Florida;
Monica’s near LA. Continue reading “Charles Twombly – Pelagius and His Nemesis, Augustine: A Tale of Two Temperaments”

St Augustine – A Prayer for Pentecost

Pentecost – Coptic ikon (source, HERE)

Breathe in me, O, Holy Spirit
that my thoughts may all be holy;

Act in me, O, Holy Spirit
that my works, too, may be holy; Continue reading “St Augustine – A Prayer for Pentecost”

Why Evangelicals Turn to the Church Fathers

St. Seraphim of Sarov

Ikon of Ft. Serafim of Sarov

Why Evangelicals Turn to the Church Fathers?

Because of their mutual commitment to Scripture, says Robert Louis Wilken, evangelicals and the church fathers have a natural affinity.

by David Neff | November 4, 2009

On October 29, the nation’s attention was focused on Yankee Stadium and game two of the World Series. But at Wheaton College, several hundred people chose instead to crowd into Barrows Auditorium to mark the public beginning of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies.

Continue reading “Why Evangelicals Turn to the Church Fathers”