The Third Book of “Confessions”

 

I have now listened to the third book once through and then reviewed it yet again. It was practically bursting at the seams, especially compared to the last volume.

I found Augustine’s thoughts on the entertainment of his day to be most thought-provoking and still applicable now. The only real difference between his day and ours is the fact that we watch movies instead of plays. Don’t get me wrong- I love watching movies. But of late, I’ve often questioned the value and worth of some of the things I watch. 

“Why does man like to be made sad when viewing doleful and tragical scenes, which yet he himself would by no means suffer? And yet he wishes, as a spectator, to experience from them a sense of grief, and in this very grief his pleasure consists. What is this but wretched insanity?” For a man is more effected with these actions, the less free he is from such affections. Howsoever, when he suffers in his own person, it is the custom to style it “misery but when he compassionates others, then it is styled “mercy. “But what kind of mercy is it that arises from fictitious and scenic passions? The hearer is not expected to relieve, but merely invited to grieve; and the more he grieves, the more he applauds the actor of these fictions. And if the misfortunes of the characters (whether of olden times or merely imaginary) be so represented as not to touch the feelings of the spectator, he goes away disgusted and censorious; but if his feelings be touched, he sits it out attentively, and sheds tears of joy.”

I loved the part of the book where he spoke of his mother’s prayers! It made me hopeful for the day when some of those I pray for will come to a full and personal relationship with our Savior and awaken from the dulling sleep of erroneous teaching. 

“And Thou sendedst Thine hand from above, and drewest my soul out of that profound darkness, when my mother, Thy faithful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that faith and spirit which she had from Thee, and Thou heardest her, O Lord. Thou heardest her, and despisedst not her tears, when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed; yea, Thou heardest her. For whence was that dream with which Thou consoledst her, so that she permitted me to live with her, and to have my meals at the same table in the house, which she had begun to avoid, hating and detesting the blasphemies of my error? For she saw herself standing on a certain wooden rule,  and a bright youth advancing towards her, joyous and smiling upon her, whilst she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow. But he having inquired of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping (he wishing to teach, as is their wont, and not to be taught), and she answering that it was my perdition she was lamenting, he bade her rest contented, and told her to behold and see “that where she was, there was I also.” And when she looked she saw me standing near her on the same rule. Whence was this, unless that Thine ears were inclined towards her heart? O Thou Good Omnipotent, who so carest for every one of us as if Thou caredst for him only, and so for all as if they were but one!

Whence was this, also, that when she had narrated this vision to me, and I tried to put this construction on it, “That she rather should not despair of being some day what I was,” she immediately, without hesitation, replied, “No; for it was not told me that `where he is, there shalt thou be,’ but `where thou art, there shall he be'”? I confess to Thee, O Lord, that, to the best of my remembrance (and I have oft spoken of this), Thy answer through my watchful mother-that she was not disquieted by the speciousness of my false interpretation, and saw in a moment what was to be seen, and which I myself had not in truth perceived before she spoke-even then moved me more than the dream itself, by which the happiness to that pious woman, to be realized so long after, was, for the alleviation of her present anxiety, so long before predicted.”

I could continue, but my lunch hour is up, so I must draw to a close. Onward, to Book Four!

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My Musings On The Confessions, Book One

 

I just finished Book One of St. Augustine’s “Confessions” and while it is still fresh in my mind, I will try to lay out my thoughts concerning the content. Please bear with me, as it is in the wee hours of the morning and I am somewhat scatter-brained.

I was fortunate enough to find a free audiobook version which I can listen to on my phone/mp3 player, provided by LibriVox. (If you are interested in reading “The Confessions” yourself, I highly recommend downloading it.The reader has a delightful British accent and I found listening to be much easier than sitting in front of the text. Click here for the free audio.)

One thing that struck me was how many of St. Augustine’s  early questions and self-debates about the sin nature of man seem almost childlike, yet are posed by a sharp and philosophizing intellect. He attempts to reconstruct his infancy and boyhood, grasping painstakingly at any and all clues to possible motives of juvenile sin, while both berating and excusing himself, alternatively.

This introspective monologue is broken up by his dumbstruck adoration for the role of Divine destiny in the minutiae of daily existence and punctuated with various exclamations at the wonderful attributes of God. There were several profound phrases throughout, although, the one in the image above is my favorite by far.

I was further surprised to find humor hidden in the text! From time to time, tiny bits of tongue-in-cheek are sprinkled in, subtly bleeding through the translation.

So far, I am quite glad that I put this title on my list and I fully look forward to continuing onward with my listening/reading. I will update you again soon!

Please do feel free to share your own experiences with “The Confessions” in the comment section of this post.