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Title: On Christian Asceticism: Spiritual Exercises in Saint Augustine's Confessions
Authors: Grabau, Joseph # ×
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Peeters
Series Title: Studies in Spirituality vol:25 pages:21-43
Abstract: The present article seeks to address an important point of contact between early Christian ascetic practice and the heritage of Platonism through the end of the fourth century AD. In short, I find marked similarities between Pierre Hadot's reading of Plato's Phaedo, for example, and St Augustine's personal prayer book, the Confessions. After outlining essential characteristics of Hadot's take on spiritual exercises and Augustinian anthropology, I subject the text of the Confessions to critical examination in order to determine whether an emphasis on 'spiritual exercises' is indeed present. I argue that similar spiritual practices may be clearly discerned. First, I discuss the distinctly 'Christian' and Augustinian character of 'spiritual exercises' which incorporate biblical typology of Adam and Christ as paradigmatic for the spiritual life. Next, in terms of concrete practices, I then discern from the first four books of the Confessions a series of exercises through which such a path of spiritual progress (i.e. from 'Adam' to 'Christ') may occur. Of note, I consider the dialectic praxis of 1) contemplative reading, 2) prayer-writing and 3) prayer itself, or 'pure' prayer - distinct from Augustine's written reflections; 4) the role of lectio divina or meditation on Scripture; and, finally, 5) meditation on death and dying. In addition to developing these individual practices, it is the traditional Augustinian anthropology (rooted as it is in a theology of divine grace) that reveals the essentially 'Christian' dimension of Augustine's contribution.
Description: With minor revisions, this paper represents the third and final chapter of my 2009 master's thesis directed by Prof. dr. Matthias Vorwerk, Associate Dean of the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
ISSN: 0926-6453
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Research Unit of History of Church and Theology
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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