How to inhabit the world? And where to start? The miniature of THEa Terrestrial City and the Heavenly City, which illuminates a page of an edition of La Cité de Dieu by Saint Augustine in the middle of the 15th centurye century, comes to our aid to find out how to navigate.
Two cities are superimposed one above the other. Two registers are shown to delimit the space, the earth below, the sky above. The lower circle, divided into seven contiguous slices, clearly represents the world in which we live, the earthly city. This city, ours, is defended by powerful towers, surrounded by a solid wall. Above all, she is surrounded by demons who lead a disturbing circle around her. What is happening in our world that causes it to give rise to a grotesque and threatening dance?
Seven is undoubtedly the number of perfection. But it is not the perfection that characterizes this city. While some gut, others give; while some are lazy, others are working. While we are bombing here, there we show sobriety; while we fly here, there we give alms. Different are human activities, different behaviors. It takes everything to make a world, it is well known. Except that there are mainly vices in the city of men, as recalled, if need be, their names written in gold letters.
Above, luckily, sits the celestial city, which overlooks the stage. Under the circle inhabited by the figures of the Trinity and the Virgin Mary, the people of the redeemed advance in procession, haloed women and men, clerics, princes and angels mingled. The most perfect peace reigns in this high world, where the virtues lead the elect, in opposition to the agitation which trembles the one below. Saint Augustine warned us: the peace of God and that of men do not overlap; the city of God is certainly present in the Church, and therefore in the world, but it is not “realized” and never will be. The Christian, for his part, lives in this tension of the two cities, let us understand: of the two lives which form his own.
Discouraging? Not at all. Of course, there is evil, you only have to see how we stab ourselves and how we scar ourselves in the illumination. Of course, we behave better at the top. But you would have to be blind not to see, down below, at home, as we are helping a wounded here, as we are going to repair a collapsed roof there, as we are giving to the needy there again. We would have to be very perfect to judge our imperfection: it is up to us to lift each other up.