What does Augustine mean by the City Of God?

What St. Augustine means by the City of God is a collection of people who direct their love away from themselves and towards God. The City of God is not an actual place, then, but a metaphor for the ideal Christian community.

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When tackling this question, it's important to understand that for St. Augustine, the City of God isn't an actual city, a city that has existed or ever will. Rather, it's a metaphor for the ideal Christian community. This is a community of the spirit, in which the faithful are bound together by their love of God. Joining the City of God involves directing one's love towards the Almighty instead of oneself.

The City of God is contrasted with another vivid metaphor, the City of Man. This is the spiritual condition of those who put self-love ahead of the love of God, who lead selfish lives in pursuit of earthly pleasures. Most people live in this “city” at some point in their lives, and yet they are never truly satisfied, no matter how much pleasure they may appear to derive. To paraphrase Augustine's famous words, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. It is in such a condition of permanent restlessness that the inhabitants of the City of Man find themselves.

Augustine argues strongly that we cannot attain true happiness in the City of Man. Such a blissful state can only be attained by entering the City of God, that spiritual community of godly Christians whose love is always fixed upon their divine creator. For Augustine, true happiness is eternal bliss, and as earthly joys by their very nature are temporary, the City of Man is not the place to experience true happiness. For that, we must become part of the City of God, which is eternal, not ephemeral.

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