Confessions of St Augustine, Book Four

This fourth book of the Confessions took me FOREVER to get through. I’m not quite sure why it took so long for me to finish listening to this section, as it was interesting. The main themes dealt with are deception and heresy, death and loss, and the origin and substance of love.

I will share just a few quotes with you:

“For good it is to confess unto Thee, and to say, “Be merciful unto me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee;” and not to abuse Thy goodness for a license to sin, but to remember the words of the Lord, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” All of which salutary advice they endeavour to destroy when they say, “The cause of thy sin is inevitably determined in heaven;” and, “This did Venus, or Saturn, or Mars;” in order that man, forsooth, flesh and blood, and proud corruption, may be blameless, while the Creator and Ordainer of heaven and stars is to bear the blame. And who is this but Thee, our God, the sweetness and well-spring of righteousness, who renderest “to every man according to his deeds,”and despisest not “a broken and a contrite heart!””

And, speaking of the death of his closest friend, during the time when his view of God was skewed by a mystical and fairytale-like form of heresy:

“At this sorrow my heart was utterly darkened, and whatever I looked upon was death. My native country was a torture to me, and my father’s house a wondrous unhappiness; and whatsoever I had participated in with him, wanting him, turned into a frightful torture. Mine eyes sought him everywhere, but he was not granted them; and I hated all places because he was not in them; nor could they now say to me, “Behold; he is coming,” as they did when he was alive and absent. I became a great puzzle to myself, and asked my soul why she was so sad, and why she so exceedingly disquieted me; but she knew not what to answer me. And if I said, “Hope thou in God,” she very properly obeyed me not; because that most dear friend whom she had lost was, being man, both truer and better than that phantasm she was bid to hope in. Naught but tears were sweet to me, and they succeeded my friend in the dearest of my affections.”

And then, he seeks of his search to define beauty and fitness, outside of a full knowledge of the nature and being of God.

But not yet did I perceive the hinge on which this impotent matter turned in Thy wisdom, O Thou Omnipotent, “who alone doest great wonders;” and my mind ranged through corporeal forms, and I defined and distinguished as “fair,” that which is so in itself, and “fit,” that which is beautiful as it corresponds to some other thing; and this I supported by corporeal examples. And I turned my attention to the nature of the mind, but the false opinions which I entertained of spiritual things prevented me from seeing the truth. Yet the very power of truth forced itself on my gaze, and I turned away my throbbing soul from incorporeal substance, to lineaments, and colours, and bulky magnitudes. And not being able to perceive these in the mind, I thought I could not perceive my mind. And whereas in virtue I loved peace, and in viciousness I hated discord, in the former I distinguished unity, but in the latter a kind of division. And in that unity I conceived the rational soul and the nature of truth and of the chief good to consist. But in this division I, unfortunate one, imagined there was I know not what substance of irrational life, and the nature of the chief evil, which should not be a substance only, but real life also, and yet not emanating from Thee, O my God, from whom are all things. And yet the first I called a Monad, as if it had been a soul without sex,  but the other a Duad,-anger in deeds of violence, in deeds of passion, lust,-not knowing of what I talked. For I had not known or learned that neither was evil a substance, nor our soul that chief and unchangeable good.”

 

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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!

Book Rave: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

 

Water. Something so simple, so overlooked… and yet, so necessary for survival.

Follow two children through the burning heat and bitter tragedy of Ethiopia’s history.

As we are entering the season where we take time to count all the things we are thankful for, the journey recounted in its pages  is especially poignant.

This story is about the ties that bind us all together;  human determination, love, and survival. The narrative weaves back and forth between the lives of two children, Salva, an 11 year old boy in 1980s  and Nya, a young girl living in the 2000s. A string of calamity and war brings us full circle, leaving you not only with a greater sense of awareness, but also a feeling of hope and purpose.

I highly recommend this book, it can be appreciated by readers of almost any age.

A slight caution for parents of young readers, there are some violent scenes that may be disturbing to sensitive children.

That said, those same scenes can start many interesting and needed discussions.

 

I am enthralled with an old dead dude…

For those of you who instantly disapprove of the title of this post:

It could be worse- at least I’m not crushing on a pasty thousand-year-old bloodsucker! (Yes, Edward Cullen, I’m talking about you…)

No, the man I am referring to is Carl Sandburg.

Now, most of you just went “Wha- who?? Is he like a politician or something?” And maybe, a few of you actually scratched your heads and said, “Wait, isn’t that the guy who wrote that lame poem they made us memorize in grade school about fog having little cat feet?”

But… I’m getting ahead of myself…

This past week, I climbed the wide staircase in the beautiful old library I work at, made my way past the grimly staring taxidermied animals from the 1800s, and randomly pulled this book off of the poetry shelf.

I brought it home and began reading it, half-heartedly at first, and then with growing excitement.

I don’t read books of poetry in an orderly fashion, from cover to cover. I take a tentative bite in the middle, then I pick at the edges, rolling them carefully across my tongue. If I like what I taste, I dig in, shoveling luscious mouthfuls as fast as I can. I pretty much pigged out on this book.

My poor husband had to endure me reading multiple verses to him in the car, with me smiling the whole time, like a lovesick teenager.

It is absolutely CRIMINAL that Carl Sandburg’s whole legacy has been reduced to a pathetic poetry fragment he probably scribbled on his napkin, while eating dinner. His “cat-foot” poem doesn’t even SOUND like him!

The poetry contained in his book “Chicago” has grit! It lives and breathes and sweats. It cries, makes love, and dies.

The people he pinned to paper are preserved with the lost art of the ancient Egyptians…. lifelike faces and mummies of souls, caught in crisp black ink.

If you appreciate poetry at all, even a little bit, please go to this website and see for yourself. Warning: he is highly addictive!

A good place to start is with his poem, “Skyscraper“:

“…A young watchman leans at a window and sees the lights
    of barges butting their way across a harbor, nets of
    red and white lanterns in a railroad yard, and a span
    of glooms splashed with lines of white and blurs of
    crosses and clusters over the sleeping city.
By night the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the stars
    and has a soul….”

Or with his sobering portrayal of earth’s long ages, “I Am the People, the Mob“:

“…Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red
    drops for history to remember. Then–I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the
    People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer
    forget who robbed me last year, who played me for
    a fool–then there will be no speaker in all the world…”