The Two Cities

From The City of God, Preface xiv.58 (426)

I am aware how difficult it is to convince the proud of the power and excellence of humility, an excellence which makes it soar above all the summits of this world, which sway in their temporal instability, overtaking them all with an eminence not arrogated by human pride, but granted by divine grace. For the King and Founder of this city has revealed in the Scriptures of his people the following statement of the divine law: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” This is the prerogative of God; but the human spirit in its arrogance and swelling pride has claimed it as its own.

It is evident that the two cities of which I speak were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the heavenly city by the love of God carried as far as contempt for self.

In fact, whereas the earthly city glories in itself, the heavenly city glories only in its Lord. The former looks for the glory bestowed by mere mortals, the latter finds its highest glory in God, the witness of a good conscience. The earthly city lifts up its head in its own glory, the heavenly city says to its God: “You are my glory and the lifter up of my head.”

In the former, the lust for power controls its functionaries and determines the fate of the nations it subjugates; in the other those put in authority and those under them serve one another in love, the rulers y their counsel, the citizens by their obedience. The one city loves its own strength shown in powerful leaders, the other says to God, “I will love you, my Lord, my strength.”

St. Augustine (354-430) was a theologian and philosopher who served as Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was a voluminous author, whose writings about God’s grace, the Sacraments, and the Church have been profoundly influential in the development of Western Christianity. The City of God, his greatest work, explicates human history as a perpetual conflict between the earthly city and the city of God, and considers the nature of sin and salvation, divine Providence, and other related topics. His feast day is August 26.


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