BY PABLO BOTEYO
The theology department hosted Dr. C. C. Pecknold this week as he gave a talk on “Augustine and the Powers” in light of the mediation of angels often expressed in Augustine’s work, “The City of God”.
“People don’t talk about angelic nature, Augustinians themselves don’t talk about Augustine’s treatment of angels,” Pecknold said. “But it has everything to do with this phrase ‘Principalities and Powers.’”
Pecknold began his talk with an explanation on angelic nature and modern perspectives that humanity gives to the angels. He then added the political perspective to lead to his task of understanding Augustine’s framework of the phrase “Principles and Principalities” in “The City of God”.
“My own conclusion will be that it is not merely a speculative detour for Augustine to reflect on angelic natures in Books 11-12, but constitutes an important, if neglected, aspect he wants to tell concerning a cosmic struggle between two cities that has earthly consequences,” Pecknold said.
The first part of the talk consisted of daemons and new daemons, which were Ancient Greek mediators between the gods, good or bad. He then gave historical background of worship to these daemons, which lead to Augustine’s argument against Rome and the daemons in the infant Catholic faith.
“Augustine had initiated an argument about the worship of the gods in Book 6, but by the end of Book 7 he states clearly what constitutes the proper worship of God and it’s bound up with his argument about mediation,” Pecknold said. “But now the mediation of…angels, comes into the picture to set up what he’ll say later.”
Pecknold then segued into the second part of his talk, which focused on angelic meditation argument and angelic nature made by Augustine about the Roman belief of daemon mediation. He expanded not only on angelic mediation, but also on the absolute, finite mediation of Christ and God.
“We need a mediator who becomes truly one with us, yet who can help purify us, who can heal us, who can free us from sin and defilement,” Pecknold said. “Augustine confesses that God has indeed done this. Indeed in his incarnation Christ has done this in his cross, Christ has done this in his resurrection, and so on.”
In this argument on angelic nature and mediation, Pecknold spoke of powers or lack of powers the demons have over humans through example of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ. He also spoke on sin and the angels, primarily in reference to Lucifer, and the roots of good and evil in nature.
“I really like how he spoke about how demons essentially have no power over us,” first year student Julie McConnell. “It’s kind of awesome to think of it that way especially looking at scripture and Jesus’ days in the desert. It’s nice to know that we aren’t the ones who are powerless to demons.”
Some visiting friars who knew Pecknold also came to see him talk and speak with their former teacher.
“The main thrust as I took it was how real the angels are, and how real the spiritual realms are.
Also their importance in understanding the two cities, and God’s agency through the angels,” Brother Richard Fornwalt, TOR, said. “Academically speaking, it brought in the world view to recognize that the relationship expands beyond human and God. That there is mediation between angels and saints and we should call on it often. I think that is a great contribution to spirituality in our own personal lives and relationship to others.”
Pecknold is a professor at Catholic University of America in historical and systematic theology, as well as a writer of many works. He is also currently working on a monologue for Augustine’s “The City of God.”