Fifth Sunday of Easter, and Augustine’s Tale of Two Cities

The earliest known image of Augustine, 6th century (at the Lateran, Rome)

I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out heaven from God…and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God among men. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his people, and God himself will be with them(Rev. 21:2-3).

With these words from the Book of Revelation we are given a vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God of which we are already citizens as we walk the pilgrimage of life on earth. In his classic work, The City of God (De civitate Dei), St. Augustine speaks of two cities, an earthly one and a heavenly one; each formed by a similar but different force. Two loves formed two cities: the love of self, reaching even to contempt for God, an earthly city; and the love of God, reaching to contempt of self, a heavenly one. Just before the attempts at the so-called ‘great reset’ began in earnest, the Rome Life Forum met in 2019, and its theme was: City of God vs. City of Man – Global One World Order vs. Christendom. Among the speakers, the noted Catholic historian, Roberto de Mattei observed: The City of God consists of the Church of Jesus and the other City the followers of Satan, who opposes Christ. The two cities fight one another on earth as two armies: their aim is to annihilate one another and their encounter is therefore continuous and implacable. The globalisation of chaos represents the final historical phase of the centuries-old attack waged by anti-Christian forces against the Church and Christian civilisation. We are combatants in this battle; and at this point, it is more than likely that we are battle weary. We have endured much. We are engaged in a spiritual battle that has been waged in fact, since the very beginning of time.

All of us, because of original sin experience the effects of this cosmic battle between good and evil in our own souls. Humanity is diseased but not dead; and the healing of our condition comes to us through the healing grace of Jesus. Our adherence to the Mystery of Christ engages us in a life-long spiritual battle not only against the powers of darkness but also in an interior battle of sorts where the two opposing forces are our self-love or selfishness and charity – the selfless love of God and neighbour. Our Saviour reminds us in today’s gospel reading: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another(Jn. 13:35). This is the supernatural charity that we must foster and nurture in docile hearts formed and molded by grace, love and the imitation of Christ. We must never lose sight of the fact that our membership in the Church, the City of God enables us to participate in the Communion of Saints with its share in supernatural blessings.

It may seem at times that the forces of evil have the upper hand, that the satanic revolution against Christian civilization has all but succeeded in the globalization of chaos, but we must never forget Our Lord’s promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church (Mt. 16:18). Likewise, we must also keep in mind Our Lady’s promise made at Fatima: In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. We are especially mindful of this as we continue to observe this month dedicated to Our Lady. How are we to understand this triumph? What exactly does it mean? The triumph of the Immaculate Heart promised at Fatima is the spiritual re-conquest of the entire world when the reign of Mary, our Mother and our Queen will see the destruction of sin, its structures and its consequences. Lest you think this an exaggeration, think only of what has happened to our healthcare institutions and ask whether they are in need of being spiritually renewed. Abortion is not reproductive health; MAID or medical assistance in dying is hardly a health option. Education should be education in virtue, not the corruption of innocence and the glorification of vice.

The spiritual re-conquest of the entire world is our task. It begins however, with our own conformity to the love of Christ Our Saviour. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another(Jn. 13:35). Saint Peter Chrysologus reminds and exhorts us: Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest. Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourselves with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you. Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar. Then with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will (From a Sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop, The Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. II, p. 772).

The spirit of sacrifice which is characteristic of authentic disciples of Christ is what our troubled world most needs. Let us live our lives in the knowledge of these truths for they will sustain us in our battle and bring both illumination and consolation to those who dwell exclusively in the earthly city. These are the times that Divine Providence has allotted to us. While the task at hand may seem daunting and even fearful, Our Lord never leaves us without the help of His grace. The promise of Fatima nourishes our hope and trust in the fulfillment of the promise and vision recorded by the Apostle John: ‘I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem… ‘See, the home of God among men. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his people, and God himself will be with them(Rev. 21:2-3). May God hasten the triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart and grant tranquility of order both to the Church and to the world.