Augustine on Christ as Teacher
Several years ago I had the privilege to travel to Annaba, Algeria and visit the ruins of ancient Hippo Regius where Augustine served as bishop from 395-430. One of the highlights was walking through the basilica of peace where Augustine preached thousands of sermons. Perhaps the most unique element of the church building (reflecting early church practice) was that there were no pews and the faithful stood while they listened to the sermon, which could last for up to 2 hours. On the other hand, the bishop, flanked by presbyters and deacons, sat while he preached the Scriptures. If you look front and center you will see the bishop's seat (cathedra) where the sermon was delivered.
Despite being in this central and elevated position, Augustine reminded his hearers in Sermon 301A (Harmless 2010:162), that ultimately it was Christ who taught the bishop and people alike:
Now just when I speak to you from this elevated place [in the basilica], that does not mean that I am your teacher. That One--Christ--is the teacher of us all, the One whose professional chair sits above all the heavens. Under that One we come together, convening as a single school. And you and I--we are fellow students. But I'm here to advise you, just the way older students tend to do.
Reading this quote reminded me of a discipleship value that I gleaned from Augustine years ago--that a mentor or teacher always remains a disciple and mentors others from the posture of being a life long learner in Christ. In Augustine as Mentor, I asserted, "Augustine demonstrated a personal commitment to growing spiritually from the time of his conversion to the end of his life. Hence, he mentored other spiritual leaders by inspiring them from his own example example and by providing a model for them to imitate. Augustine once told his congregation [Sermon 340.1] at Hippo, 'For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian'" (Smither 2009:222).
For Augustine, while pastors and teachers mentor others, all make progress in the faith as students in the school of Christ.
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