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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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?

What can man do to me?

This morning I had a thought while I was showering. Most people kinda edge around the book of Job, mainly because we don’t really understand why God would be so “unfair” as to let all that stuff happen to him.

But then I realized- that is the point of it all. It wasn’t some kind of weird test- God was just showing Job- and all of us- that Satan really couldn’t touch anything that really “mattered”. And you think… wait a sec, Satan messed with everything in Job’s life!

Well, did he? He couldn’t take away Job’s relationship with God, which was the only thing that would have more than a temporary effect, in the view of eternity. That is what Satan was really after, and God was saying, “See? You can never mess with My relationship with My kids and you can’t do any lasting harm.”

The only person who can jeopardize our relationship with God is us ourselves.

So, therefore, we really don’t have anything in the whole world to be afraid of.

I never really understood that scripture that says, “The Lord is with me, I’m not afraid. What can man do to me?” I was always like, “Dude. There are TONS of things man can do to me! Are you flippin’ kidding??”

But really, there isn’t anything that people or the devil can do to us. Not that has permanent consequences.

I mean, kill me? I go to heaven.

Torture me? I experience the presence of God like never before.

Hate me? Give me a chance to love, like I have never had before.

Keep me from sleeping? I stay up and pray.

Plant strife between family members? Give me a chance to overcome and discover a deeper level of relationship.