The attention of the preacher to the listeners.
For Augustine, a key factor in preparing a sermon or homily was giving due attention to the nature of the specific group of listeners for which it was intended.
The audience intended for the sermon consciously influenced Augustine on what he preached and even how he preached it.
The homily had to correspond to the ability of the listeners to understand what was to be preached.
According to Augustine, the skilled preacher would know his listeners and, being led by Christ the Internal Teacher, choose his words carefully in accordance with the capacity of the people to comprehend them.
Augustine held a high regard for his listeners (imperfect as it is known that they were), and other encouraged other preachers to do the same.
He said that, intellectually, the preacher had to assume the best.
When tough issues were applicable and in need of explaining, Augustine said that appropriate arguments were to be used, "always assuming that our listener has the will to learn and does not lack the mental capacity to absorb such things, in whatever way they are presented by a teacher concerned not for the beauty of his teaching but its clarity." (De Doctrina Christiana 4, 8, 22).
Secondly, he said that, emotionally, the audience is to be approached by the preacher with compassion.
It was a tense time, and people needed encouragement to persevere with their Christian faith and with daily living generally.
Additionally, at the end of his life Augustine had to preach to his people while Hippo was literally being surrounded by Vandals,
and while they knew that his great age and declining health meant that he would not be with them very much longer.
Even in these precarious circumstances, Augustine was an appropriate pastor in his preaching to his people during this problematic time.
Peter_Brown, a noted historian and a biographer of Augustine, suggests that the sermons of Augustine during this time were just what a demoralised group needed to hear.
Peter_Brown commented, "When such a time of calamity came with the sack of Rome, he will prefer to join in with his hearers, addressing them as "fellow-citizens of Jerusalem", talking to them, not of the punishment they would deserve at the Last Judgement, but of their future life, all together, in 'that sweet City'" (Brown, 1967, p.251).
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