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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Thoughts On The Confessions, Book Two

 

Having just finished the second book of St. Augustine’s “Confessions”, the best way I can think of to sum it up is to say that it seems to mainly be a remorseful remembrance of blooming sexuality and stolen pears. That, and to follow with a rather lengthy, but enlightening quote:

“For thus we see pride wearing the mask of high-spiritedness, although only thou, O God, art high above all. Ambition seeks honor and glory, whereas only thou shouldst be honored above all, and glorified forever. The powerful man seeks to be feared, because of his cruelty; but who ought really to be feared but God only? What can be forced away or withdrawn out of his power–when or where or whither or by whom? The enticements of the wanton claim the name of love; and yet nothing is more enticing than thy love, nor is anything loved more healthfully than thy truth, bright and beautiful above all. Curiosity prompts a desire for knowledge, whereas it is only thou who knowest all things supremely. Indeed, ignorance and foolishness themselves go masked under the names of simplicity and innocence; yet there is no being that has true simplicity like thine, and none is innocent as thou art. Thus it is that by a sinner’s own deeds he is himself harmed. Human sloth pretends to long for rest, but what sure rest is there save in the Lord? Luxury would fain be called plenty and abundance; but thou art the fullness and unfailing abundance of unfading joy. Prodigality presents a show of liberality; but thou art the most lavish giver of all good things. Covetousness desires to possess much; but thou art already the possessor of all things. Envy contends that its aim is for excellence; but what is so excellent as thou? Anger seeks revenge; but who avenges more justly than thou? Fear recoils at the unfamiliar and the sudden changes which threaten things beloved, and is wary for its own security; but what can happen that is unfamiliar or sudden to thee? Or who can deprive thee of what thou lovest? Where, really, is there unshaken security save with thee? Grief languishes for things lost in which desire had taken delight, because it wills to have nothing taken from it, just as nothing can be taken from thee.

Thus the soul commits fornication when she is turned from thee, and seeks apart from thee what she cannot find pure and untainted until she returns to thee. All things thus imitate thee–but pervertedly–when they separate themselves far from thee and raise themselves up against thee. But, even in this act of perverse imitation, they acknowledge thee to be the Creator of all nature, and recognize that there is no place whither they can altogether separate themselves from thee.”

 

And now, I will bid you adieu and go on to Book Three…

 

Taking Home “The Confessions of St. Augustine”

I just took the very first book on this year’s reading list off of the shelf, at the library where I work. Guess what? I’m going to be the FIRST person to read it and it was purchased June 7, 2007.

I’m a little scared, to be honest. Yet, intrigued at the same time…

I’m not going to try and gobble this one down. It will be a process and I’m definitely going to read other books while I’m working on this one.

What about you? Have you ever read it? If so, what were YOUR thoughts?

That Special Book in My Life

When Plinky sent me an email asking "What book could you read over and over?" I could not resist the urge to answer. My choice may be somewhat unique, and maybe for that very reason alone, I must tell you about it…

Les Misérables

The one book (besides the Bible) that I can and have read over and over is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I read it for the first time when I was about 14.

You might wonder how I came to read it for the first time… it isn't exactly something you hear American teenagers raving about.

At the time, I was taking piano lessons in a quaint little backwoods town. Right down the street from my piano teacher's house was one of the most fascinating libraries I have ever been in. It was located inside an old house and most of the books were antiques. When you wanted to check out a book, all you did was sign your name in a spiral bound notebook and write your phone number.

One summer afternoon as I explored the wonderfully spicy aged smelling stacks, I stumbled across a copy of Les Miserable divided into five hardbound volumes that looked old enough to be the very first English translation.

I started reading on the way home and as our sped down the winding mountain roads, I fell in love with the story of the man named Jean Valjean.

Before I was done I was hopelessly smitten with a young passionate rebel named Enjolras and was quite indignant at the ungrateful and somewhat brainless actions of the young Cosette. My heart went out more to her mother, the tragic beauty, Fantine.

Since that time, I have been gifted with my own unabridged paperback version. It sits proudly on my shelf, or wherever it happens to get dropped when I start rereading it. The spine is now severely creased in several spots and looked to be in danger of splitting apart all together.

Someday soon, I will purchase a hardcover version, which no doubt I will wear out also.

If you haven’t read Les Miserable yet, I challenge you, read it! Don’t cheat and get an abridged version either. Victor Hugo took 7 years to write that. Any abridgement takes out the heart and soul he poured into it. It is more than a novel… it is a discourse on all of life and humanity and comes very close to capturing the mysterious essence of the human spirit.