Those of us who grew up or lived through the nineteen-sixties remember that it was during that time that the “sexual revolution” allegedly took place. According to this idea, prior to the sixties most people lived in accordance with the norms of the Bible and the church in their sexual lives, and in the sixties this supposedly changed.
However, this is a historically short-sighted view. To think of the whole world as being sexually repressed until the “summer of love” is simply false. One of the corollaries of this point of view is that it is now harder than ever before to live according to the sexual norms of the church. However, to take another point of view, the Roman empire, especially the later Roman empire, was a linguistically, religiously, ethnically and of course, sexually diverse time and place. It is not exaggeration to say that the sexual behavior of that time might even shock a modern person.
It is into this empire that the Blessed Augustine (Saint Augustine, 354-430 AD) was born into a Christian family. His mother was a devout Christian and also a saint. Augustine’s father was baptized on his deathbed. Although raised as a Christian by his mother, he was not baptized until later in life. In those days many people postponed their baptism because it was considered a life-changing event. Augustine was born in North Africa and studied rhetoric there and in Rome and eventually became a Latin teacher in Rome and then Milan. He was on a religious quest and after leaving behind his mother’s faith tried different forms of religion and philosophy. He was also a sexually active, lustful man. Even as he was moving closer to becoming a Christian he prayed “Make me chaste, O Lord, but not yet.” and he struggled with his sexual desires.
After his conversion and baptism he wrote the book “The Confessions”. This details his life from childhood on. The nature of sin and temptation are described with an insight that is as modern as anything written today. If one wants to read an account of the struggle against sin, this book is ideal.
Saint Augustine wrote many important theological books studied even today, and died as a bishop in North Africa. Many Orthodox will criticize some of Augustine’s theological positions, especially in regard to the Holy Spirit and grace, but he never wanted to disagree with the church and he is a saint commemorated in the Orthodox liturgical calendar.
Troparion Tone 4
Today the whole inhabited world rejoices and radiantly celebrates thy memory, thou who hast trampled down heresy and confirmed Orthodoxy, and who hast given drink to the hearts of the faithful with the river of thy words, O servant of the Most Holy Trinity and inextinguishable lamp of the Church, O holy hierarch Augustine, entreat Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion Tone 2
Holy Hierarch and theologian, boast of the Church of Christ, instructor of piety and confirmation of the Orthodox faith, uprooter of heresies, treasury of mystical teachings;
blessed Father Augustine, most wondrous hierarch, ever pray for us all.