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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters of St. Augustine > Letter 2

Letter 2 (A.D. 386)

To Zenobius Augustine Sends Greeting.

1. We are, I suppose, both agreed in maintaining that all things with which our bodily senses acquaint us are incapable of abiding unchanged for a single moment, but, on the contrary, are moving and in perpetual transition, and have no present reality, that is, to use the language of Latin philosophy, do not exist. Accordingly, the true and divine philosophy admonishes us to check and subdue the love of these things as most dangerous and disastrous, in order that the mind, even while using this body, may be wholly occupied and warmly interested in those things which are ever the same, and which owe their attractive power to no transient charm. Although this is all true, and although my mind, without the aid of the senses, sees you as you really are, and as an object which may be loved without disquietude, nevertheless I must own that when you are absent in body, and separated by distance, the pleasure of meeting and seeing you is one which I miss, and which, therefore, while it is attainable, I earnestly covet. This my infirmity (for such it must be) is one which, if I know you aright, you are well pleased to find in me; and though you wish every good thing for your best and most loved friends, you rather fear than desire that they should be cured of this infirmity. If, however, your soul has attained to such strength that you are able both to discern this snare, and to smile at those who are caught therein, truly you are great, and different from what I am. For my part, as long as I regret the absence of any one from me, so long do I wish him to regret my absence. At the same time, I watch and strive to set my love as little as possible on anything which can be separated from me against my will. Regarding this as my duty, I remind you, in the meantime, whatever be your frame of mind, that the discussion which I have begun with you must be finished, if we care for each other. For I can by no means consent to its being finished with Alypius, even if he wished it. But he does not wish this; for he is not the man to join with me now in endeavouring, by as many letters as we could send, to detain you with us, when you decline this, under the pressure of some necessity to us unknown.

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Source. Translated by J.G. Cunningham. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102002.htm>.

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