Wine in the Thought of Augustine

St. Augustine, also known as Augustine of Hippo, was a philosopher, theologian, and one of the most important figures in the development of Christianity. He lived in the fourth and fifth centuries AD and his writings continue to be influential today. One of the lesser-known aspects of his philosophy is his relationship with wine. In this blog post, we will explore the role of wine in the thought and writings of St. Augustine.

A Statue of Saint Augustine in a Church

A Statue of Saint Augustine in a Church

Wine as a Symbol of Joy

In St. Augustine’s writings, wine is often used as a symbol of joy and celebration.

In his Confessions, he writes, “I came to Carthage, where a cauldron of unholy loves bubbled up all around me. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love…I came to Carthage, and all around me seethed a cauldron of unholy loves. I was not yet in love, but I was in love with the idea of love, and this alone can be a great thing, something far sweeter than any pleasure.”

Here, Augustine uses the metaphor of a cauldron to describe the excitement and anticipation of his youthful desires.

In his later writings, Augustine still used wine as a symbol of joy, but with a more nuanced view. He saw the excess of drinking as a danger to the soul, but he also recognized the value of wine as a gift from God to be enjoyed in moderation.

In his commentary on Psalm 75, Augustine writes, “Wine has the power to gladden the heart of man…This is why Christ himself not only gave wine to the wedding guests but also chose wine as the sacramental sign of his blood.”

Wine as a Temptation

While Augustine saw the joy and celebration of wine, he also recognized the dangers of drinking. In his Confessions, he writes about his own struggles with alcohol and his desire to overcome the temptation of wine. He saw drunkenness as a sin that could lead to moral corruption, and he urged his followers to avoid the excesses of drinking.

Augustine also recognized the social and cultural dangers of wine. In his City of God, he writes about the decline of the Roman Empire, and he saw the excess of drinking as a sign of moral decay. He believed that the decline of Rome was caused, in part, by the culture of wine and drunkenness that had overtaken the city.

Wine as a Symbol of the Divine

In addition to using wine as a symbol of joy and temptation, Augustine also saw wine as a symbol of the divine. He believed that wine was a gift from God, and he saw its creation and enjoyment as a reflection of the beauty and goodness of creation.

In his commentary on the Song of Songs, Augustine writes, “In all these ways, the vine of the Lord is described as producing wine which is His blood, for He called Himself the vine, and the disciples His branches.”

Conclusion

St. Augustine’s philosophy on wine is complex and nuanced, reflecting his understanding of the human condition and the complexities of Christian theology. Augustine saw wine as a symbol of joy, temptation, and the divine, and he recognized both its dangers and its gifts. His views on wine continue to influence Christian theology and the philosophy of religion today.

On this Day

13 November 354: Augustine of Hippo is born in Thagaste, Numidia (present-day Souk Ahras, Algeria).

24 April 387: Augustine converts to Christianity and is baptized by Ambrose in Milan.

413: Augustine writes “On the Holy Spirit,” where he discusses the spiritual significance of wine and its connection to the Eucharist.

430: Augustine passes away on 28 August in Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria).

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Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , By Published On: August 1, 2023Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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