This is a translation of No. 71 of Augustine’s De diversis quaestionibus octaginta tribus, which translates into English as “On eighty-three various questions”.
For two Augnet pages of explanation about this work, click here.
The following translation is by Sister Margaret Atkins of the Boarbank Hall community in northern England. Sister is a member of the Canonesses of St Augustine of the Mercy of Jesus, a religious congregation founded within the Roman Catholic Church during the eleventh century. Sister Margaret is a Classicist and a theologian who has published translations of Cicero, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo.
For the assistance of other groups of One World Week With Augustine, Sister Margaret has generously offered this translation. It is published on Augnet with her permission, which is gratefully acknowledged.
“Question 71” deals with a sentence from the Epistle to the Galatians: ‘Bear one another’s burdens and thus you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6.2) – which has an obvious relevance to Christian friendship. What appears hereunder and on the pages that follow is Sister Margaret’s translation of what Augustine wrote about it and published probably in the year 396, soon after he had become a bishop.
Augustine On 83 Diverse Questions, no. 71
1. Because the guardian of the Old Testament was afraid, it could not signify that the gift of the New Testament is love as openly as St Paul does here, when he says, ‘Bear one another’s burdens and thus you will fulfil the law of Christ.’ This means the law of Christ by which the Lord himself commanded that we should love one another, only giving this saying the weight of a command with the words, ‘In this you will be known to be my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13.34-5). The responsibility of this love, though, is for us to bear each other’s burdens. This responsibility, which is not everlasting, surely leads us to everlasting blessedness, where we will have no burdens to be told to bear for each other. But since we are now in this life, i.e. on this journey, let us bear each other’s burdens so that we may reach the life that has no burdens.
Certain experts in this sort of area have written that stags when they cross a ford to get to an island for pasture organise themselves so that they support each other’s heavy antlers, with the one behind stretching out its neck and resting its head on the one in front. Since one of them has to go in front of the others, and not have anyone in front to rest its head on, they take it in turns. When the one at the front gets tired from the weight of his head, he goes to the back, and the one whose head he was supporting when he was first then takes over. In this way, carrying each other’s burdens, they cross the ford until they reach solid ground. Solomon might have been referring to this characteristic of stags when he said, ‘May the stag of friendship and the hind of your graces speak with you’ (Proverbs 5.19, Septuagint). For there is no better proof of friendship than bearing a friend’s burdens. © Margaret Atkins 2004
(Continued on the next page.)