The Confessions by St. Augustine

The Confessions, by St. Augustine, are “one long prayer, a poetic, passionate, intimate prayer.”  His writing, supposedly written in layman’s language, reflect his rhetorical training.  Steep in philosophy and theology, St. Augustine presents his own journey towards an approximation of being in God’s presence.  He takes on along the way the problem of evil, false prophets, humility, existentialism, human understanding and its limitations, and God’s awesome, unchangeable, presence.  He tackles a series of complicated  “proofs” regarding age old questions of God’s existence and intentions.  If you think you know confession, if you think you know God, if you think you have it all figured out – this is a good read.   Also excellent deconstruction of creation, examination of our imagination, and enlightenment on the Trinity.

“Saint Augustine reflects upon his life in the light of scripture and the presence of God. He begins with his infancy, pondering the many sins of his life before his conversion, and he confesses not only his sins but even more the greatness of God.”

Excerpts

1: Infancy and Boyhood: Was it not all smoke and wind? pg 57.

2: Adolescence: Theft of a pear story.

3: Student Years at Carthage: Take care that no one deceives you with philosophy  and empty, misleading ideas derived by man-made traditions, centered on the elemental spirits of this world and not on Christ:  for in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily wise.  pg. 79

4: Augustine the Manichee: “How can these warring loves be carried in a single soul and balanced against each other?  …….A human being is an immense abyss…..” pg. 106

5:  Faustus at Carthage, Augustine to Rome and Milan:  This in tern leads them into a blind perversity, where they will even prescribe to you what is theirs,  blaming you, who are the Truth, for their own lies, and changing the glory of the incorruptible God, into the likeness of corruptible human beings, or birds, or four footed beasts or crawling things.  pg. 117.  It does harm him, however, if he thinks his view forms an essential part of our doctrines and belief, and presumes to go on obstinately making assertions about what he does not know.” pg. 119.  Augustine also meets Ambrose here.

6: Milan, 385: Progress, Friends, Perplexities:  The Drunkard Beggar story.  “It was my habitual attempt to sate the insatiable concupiscence that for the most part savagely tormented me and held me captive….” pg. 154

7: Neo-Plutonium Frees Augustine’s Mind:  “So I was seeking the origin of evil, but seeking in an evil way, and failing to see the evil inherent in my search itself……and my imagination gave form to them.”pg 163.  (The problem of evil dive not entirely eclipsed for me, but the way of salvation in this chapter is powerful).

8:  Conversion:  “And once we are, will that not be a precarious position?  Will it not mean negotiating many a hazard, only to end in great danger still?   And how long would it take us to get  there?  Whereas I can become a friend of God here and now if I want to.” pg. 197.   “The frivolity of frivolous aims, the futility of futile pursuits, these things that had been my cronies of long standing, still held me back, plucking softly at the garment of flesh and murmuring in my ear, Do you mean to get rid of us?” pg. 204.

9:  Death and Rebirth:    “How long will you be heavy hearted, human creatures?  Why love emptiness and chase falsehood?”  pg. 215

10:  Memory:  “I state that there are four passions that disturb the soul  — desire, joy, fear, and sadness; for purpose of disputation I state whatever analysis of them I have formulated by dividing each according to species and genus; I find in my memory what I am to say and it is from there that I am to produce my statement, yet when I run through these passions  from memory I suffer no emotional disturbance from any of them.” pg. 251  “I hear the voice of God commanding us, Let not your hearts become gross with gluttony and drunkenness.” pg. 266 (Luke 21:34) “Whatever circumstances I am in, I have learned to be content with them; I know how to have enough and to spare, and also how to endure privation.” pg. 267 (Phil 4: 11-13).  (A dense chapter of delving into human motivation and perceptions, temptations such as worldly happiness (through the five senses), curiosity (for its power and sensations), and pride (power, etc). Finishes with the salvation of Jesus Christ, our mediator, for however close we come to ascending, to getting close proximity to God, we fall back).

11: Time and Eternity:  “These are three realities in the mind, but nowhere else as far as I can see, for the present of past things is memory, the present of present things is attention, and the present of future things is expectation.” pg. 300  (Mindfulness?)

12: Heaven and Earth:  “But when they contend that Moses did not meant what I say, but what they say, I reject their claim and have no time for it, because even if what they say is correct, so reckless an assertion is a mark of presumption, not knowledge; it is the fruit of no vision but of conceit.” pg. 333

13:  The Days of Creation, Prophecy of the Church:  “Can anyone comprehend the almighty Trinity?  Everyone talks about it — but is it the Trinity of which they talk?  Rare indeed is the person who understands the subject of his discourse, when he speaks of that.  People argue and wrangle over it, yet no one sees that vision unless he is at peace.” And then there is the human trinity:  “The Triad I mean is being, knowledge and will.  I am, I know, and I will.”   pg. 349

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