Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An Augustine Quotation

Saint Augustine had said, "Angel is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is spirit; if you seek the name of their office, it is angel; from what they are, spirit, from what they do, angel.

Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife, chapter 12.

The proximate source is almost certainly the Catechism of the Catholic Church (section 329), which in a footnote gives the reference as "St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 103, 1, 15: PL 37, 1348". It's actually very difficult to find this passage, in English at least; English editions tend to leave it out, presumably because most of them are following the Nicene Fathers edition, in which a lot of the original Enarrationes is left out. The original Latin is:

Qui facit angelos suos spiritus, et ministros suos ignem flagrantem. Et hoc, quamvis non videamus apparitionem Angelorum; abscondita est enim ab oculis nostris, et est in quadam republica magna imperatoris Dei, tamen esse Angelos novimus ex fide, et multis apparuisse scriptum legimus, et tenemus, nec inde dubitare fas nobis est. Spiritus autem Angeli sunt; et cum spiritus sunt, non sunt angeli; cum mittuntur, fiunt angeli. Angelus enim officii nomen est, non naturae. Quaeris nomen huius naturae, spiritus est; quaeris officium, angelus est: ex eo quod est, spiritus est; ex eo quod agit, angelus est. Vide illud in homine. Nomen naturae homo, officii miles: nomen naturae vir, officii praeco; homo enim fit praeco, id est, qui homo erat fit praeco; non qui erat praeco fit homo. Sic ergo qui erant iam spiritus conditi a creatore Deo, facit eos angelos, mittendo eos nuntiare quod iusserit; et ignem flagrantem facit ministros suos. Legimus apparuisse ignem in rubo 72, legimus etiam missum ignem desuper, et implesse quod praeceptum est. Ministravit ergo, cum impleret: cum esset, in natura sua erat; cum egit quod iussum est, ministerium implevit. Sic secundum litteram in creatura.

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