Augustine teaches that works of mercy should come from the soul like fruit from trees.

Reading old books helps us understand that there is nothing new in human experience. If we understand that there is nothing very new in human experience, we might search out the wisdom of the old authors.

Recently, I was drawn to this passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions, written 1,600 years ago, in which he meditates on the first chapter of Genesis.

"As the earth produces her fruit, so at your command, the command of its Lord God, our soul yields works of mercy ‘according to its kind,’ loving our neighbor in the relief of physical necessities, ‘having in itself seed according to its likeness.’

"Aware of our own infirmity we are moved to compassion to help the indigent, assisting them in the same way as we would wish to be helped if we were in the same distress—and not only in easy ways, like ‘the grass bearing seed,’ but with the protection and aid given with a resolute determination like ‘the tree bearing fruit.’

"This means such kindness as rescuing a person suffering injustice from the hand of the powerful and providing the shelter of protection by the mighty force of just judgment."


Book 13, Chapter 17
Translated by Henry Chadwick


If you think you should be doing something to help another but that it seems too difficult for you, remember that the earth brought forth not only grass but trees.


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