The Example Of A Woman Essay Research — страница 8

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Ambrose’s celibacyhe has only naive pity. Even when Augustine talks about the danger that hadengulfed him, a danger that Ambrose knew nothing of,Augustine appears to be talking of something other thanincontinence. What he has in mind when he firstencounters the visage of Ambrose is the skepticism ofthe Academics (Conf. 6.3.3). Having arrived in Rome adisconsolate Manichaean auditor, he now found himself awholly disaffected Manichee and a skeptic. Shortlythereafter the Manichees would lose their tenuous holdon him, but the Catholics had not yet won. It is in thisstate of great uncertainty that Augustine sat inAmbrose’s church. No longer a Manichee, but not yet aCatholic he was for the taking. While the Manichees hadmade him a materialist and something of a libertine

inrecognizing his responsibility for his own evils, theskepticism of the Academics> went to the root. Theyremoved the very foundations of knowing. For the wiseman there were to be no certainties, a pragmatism ofsuspended judgment was all one could hope for. Augustinewould continue for the better part of his lifenegotiating the dialectic between reason and authoritybecause of all this.> This and other questions he wouldhave liked to pose to Ambrose who had very little timefor the young rhetorician. All the same, Ambrose’s possible influence in theequation of conversion and sexual renunciation may havecome in another way. It is more than likely that whileAugustine may have considered Ambrose’s celibacy ananomaly, that very anomaly may have been part of thecomplex of

impressions that moved him to the position hecame to hold eventually.> As we catch Augustinepondering the kind of inner conflicts that might wellconfound a man of Ambrose’s reputation and stature wecan sense already that the Bishop’s personal life isbeginning to be more than just a curiosity.> And it isnot surprising that when he came to found his ownmonastic community later on in Hippo Regius Augustinewould invoke Ambrose on many occasions. Possidius offersrare glimpses of how much Augustine referred toAmbrose’s monastic example.> All this is the stuff oflater years, no doubt. As far as Augustine’s pre-conversion experience isconcerned it is difficult to pinpoint exactly in whatway he appropriated Ambrose’s example. Nor can we evenbe sure how Augustine would

have responded to Ambrose’ssermons in those moments when he presented sexualrenunciation as the ideal of the Christian experience.> A lost work of Ambrose’s, De sacramentoregenerationis siue de philosophia, a copy of whichAugustine had been able to obtain for study at about thetime that he was writing the Confessions seems a mostlikely candidate to have influenced Augustine’sposition, if he had known it prior to his conversion.>The argument of the work would have met Augustine’sproblem head on: “the way of the philosophers is not thetrue way, it is not enough to know the truth, one musthave in addition sacramental membership in the Christianchurch.”> It is an unusual argument. Moreover, Ambroseupped the ante.Ambrose found it polemically necessary and useful

tocounter the claims of the philosophers to have achieveda higher standard of moral life by their chastity;’continence is the pedestal on which right worshiprests’, says Ambrose.> For someone in Augustine’s position Ambrose’srobust, “masculine” Christianity would have beencongenial if a bit too rigorous in its aims: he whowould take on true philosophy, he who would venture onthe road to Christian philosophy, ought to prove by hislife of continence the superiority of Christianity.>Construed this way Ambrose’s De sacramentoregenerationis siue philosophia would reach Augustine asanother “firing-me-up-for-philosophy” book, along thelines of Cicero’s Hortensius. Or, failing that,Augustine could have received it like the Platonicorumlibros which had

precipitated one of his manyconversions. That Augustine does not mention Ambrose’s text inthe Confessions is a bit unusual since he has been atpains to indicate his philosophical and theologicaldebts, not only to Cicero, but to the Platonists, andeven other lesser figures who had been instrumental inturning him away from one error or another. What ismore, he does not overlook Ambrose’s influence inhelping him gain a better handle on the problem ofinterpreting the Bible. In addition, he speaks aboutcontinence in reference to Ambrose and appears to havebeen naively unimpressed, so it would be very odd tohave taken the decisive actions in response to Ambrose’stext without acknowledging it in any way. Had he beenmoved towards continence and baptism by this lost work,it would