October 12, 2016

The Sacking of the West

‘Saint Augustine writing’; illumination from Augustine’s City of God, 1459
 Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris

Sometimes we’re tempted to despair, also—but not only—because of the cowardice and hypocrisy of those who should be supposed to fight for what they say they believe in. But we simply cannot give in to this temptation, because, as St. Augustine reminds us, the City of Man will fall and be rebuilt, but the City of God is unshakable.

In The City of God—the writing of which had as its immediate historical context the sacking of Rome by Alaric in 410—he writes that “Rome, which was founded and increased by the labors of these ancient heroes, was more shamefully ruined by their descendants while its walls were still standing, than it is now by the razing of them.”

Yes, Rome fell internally before it fell externally. It was ravaged by an interior cancer—an internal rot of the moral kind—which left it hollow and brittle.

As the Author of this excellent Crisis Magazine article puts it, 

As we look around at these uncertain times, and ask how it came to choosing between these two candidates, it might appear, that the world is falling to pieces. It is not. The West might be, just as Rome did, but the world is God’s and God will not forsake it.

If, like me, you are tempted to accept all as futile, let us remember the words of Augustine in his preface.

“But God is my helper. For I am aware what ability is requisite to persuade the proud how great is the virtue of humility.”

The City of God will prevail, and God is our helper.