The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hippo

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

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BOOK NINE

The end of the autobiography. Augustine tells of his resigning from his professorship and of the days at Cassiciacum in preparation for baptism. He is baptized together with Adeodatus and Alypius. Shortly thereafter, they start back for Africa. Augustine recalls the ecstasy he and his mother shared in Ostia and then reports her death and burial and his grief. The book closes with a moving prayer for the souls of Monica, Patricius, and all his fellow citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.

CHAPTER 1

1. "O Lord, I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." [267] Let my heart and my tongue praise thee, and let all my bones say, "Lord, who is like unto thee?" Let them say so, and answer thou me and say unto my soul, "I am your salvation."

Who am I, and what is my nature? What evil is there not in me and my deeds; or if not in my deeds, my words; or if not in my words, my will? But thou, O Lord, art good and merciful, and thy right hand didst reach into the depth of my death and didst empty out the abyss of corruption from the bottom of my heart. And this was the result: now I did not will to do what I willed, and began to will to do what thou didst will.

But where was my free will during all those years and from what deep and secret retreat was it called forth in a single moment, whereby I gave my neck to thy "easy yoke" and my shoulders to thy "light burden," O Christ Jesus, "my Strength and my Redeemer"? How sweet did it suddenly become to me to be without the sweetness of trifles! And it was now a joy to put away what I formerly feared to lose. For thou didst cast them away from me, O true and highest Sweetness. Thou didst cast them away, and in their place thou didst enter in thyself -- sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more veiled than all mystery; more exalted than all honor, though not to them that are exalted in their own eyes. Now was my soul free from the gnawing cares of seeking and getting, of wallowing in the mire and scratching the itch of lust. And I prattled like a child to thee, O Lord my God -- my light, my riches, and my salvation.

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Notes:

[267] Ps. 116:16, 17.

CHAPTER 2

2. And it seemed right to me, in thy sight, not to snatch my tongue's service abruptly out of the speech market, but to withdraw quietly, so that the young men who were not concerned about thy law or thy peace, but with mendacious follies and forensic strifes, might no longer purchase from my mouth weapons for their frenzy. Fortunately, there were only a few days before the "vintage vacation" [268]; and I determined to endure them, so that I might resign in due form and, now bought by thee, return for sale no more.

My plan was known to thee, but, save for my own friends, it was not known to other men. For we had agreed that it should not be made public; although, in our ascent from the "valley of tears" and our singing of "the song of degrees," thou hadst given us sharp arrows and hot burning coals to stop that deceitful tongue which opposes under the guise of good counsel, and devours what it loves as though it were food.

3. Thou hadst pierced our heart with thy love, and we carried thy words, as it were, thrust through our vitals. The examples of thy servants whom thou hadst changed from black to shining white, and from death to life, crowded into the bosom of our thoughts and burned and consumed our sluggish temper, that we might not topple back into the abyss. And they fired us exceedingly, so that every breath of the deceitful tongue of our detractors might fan the flame and not blow it out.

Though this vow and purpose of ours should find those who would loudly praise it -- for the sake of thy name, which thou hast sanctified throughout the earth -- it nevertheless looked like a self-vaunting not to wait until the vacation time now so near. For if I had left such a public office ahead of time, and had made the break in the eye of the general public, all who took notice of this act of mine and observed how near was the vintage time that I wished to anticipate would have talked about me a great deal, as if I were trying to appear a great person. And what purpose would it serve that people should consider and dispute about my conversion so that my good should be evil spoken of?

4. Furthermore, this same summer my lungs had begun to be weak from too much literary labor. Breathing was difficult; the pains in my chest showed that the lungs were affected and were soon fatigued by too loud or prolonged speaking. This had at first been a trial to me, for it would have compelled me almost of necessity to lay down that burden of teaching; or, if I was to be cured and become strong again, at least to take a leave for a while. But as soon as the full desire to be still that I might know that thou art the Lord [269] arose and was confirmed in me, thou knowest, my God, that I began to rejoice that I had this excuse ready -- and not a feigned one, either -- which might somewhat temper the displeasure of those who for their sons' freedom wished me never to have any freedom of my own.

Full of joy, then, I bore it until my time ran out -- it was perhaps some twenty days -- yet it was some strain to go through with it, for the greediness which helped to support the drudgery had gone, and I would have been overwhelmed had not its place been taken by patience. Some of thy servants, my brethren, may say that I sinned in this, since having once fully and from my heart enlisted in thy service, I permitted myself to sit a single hour in the chair of falsehood. I will not dispute it. But hast thou not, O most merciful Lord, pardoned and forgiven this sin in the holy water [270] also, along with all the others, horrible and deadly as they were?

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Notes:

[268] An imperial holiday season, from late August to the middle of October.

[269] Cf. Ps. 46:10.

[270] His subsequent baptism; see below, Ch. VI.

CHAPTER 3

5. Verecundus was severely disturbed by this new happiness of mine, since he was still firmly held by his bonds and saw that he would lose my companionship. For he was not yet a Christian, though his wife was; and, indeed, he was more firmly enchained by her than by anything else, and held back from that journey on which we had set out. Furthermore, he declared he did not wish to be a Christian on any terms except those that were impossible. However, he invited us most courteously to make use of his country house so long as we would stay there. O Lord, thou wilt recompense him for this "in the resurrection of the just," [271] seeing that thou hast already given him "the lot of the righteous." [272] For while we were absent at Rome, he was overtaken with bodily sickness, and during it he was made a Christian and departed this life as one of the faithful. Thus thou hadst mercy on him, and not on him only, but on us as well; lest, remembering the exceeding kindness of our friend to us and not able to count him in thy flock, we should be tortured with intolerable grief. Thanks be unto thee, our God; we are thine. Thy exhortations, consolations, and faithful promises assure us that thou wilt repay Verecundus for that country house at Cassiciacum -- where we found rest in thee from the fever of the world -- with the perpetual freshness of thy paradise in which thou hast forgiven him his earthly sins, in that mountain flowing with milk, that fruitful mountain -- thy own.

6. Thus Verecundus was full of grief; but Nebridius was joyous. For he was not yet a Christian, and had fallen into the pit of deadly error, believing that the flesh of thy Son, the Truth, was a phantom. [273] Yet he had come up out of that pit and now held the same belief that we did. And though he was not as yet initiated in any of the sacraments of thy Church, he was a most earnest inquirer after truth. Not long after our conversion and regeneration by thy baptism, he also became a faithful member of the Catholic Church, serving thee in perfect chastity and continence among his own people in Africa, and bringing his whole household with him to Christianity. Then thou didst release him from the flesh, and now he lives in Abraham's bosom. Whatever is signified by that term "bosom," there lives my Nebridius, my sweet friend, thy son by adoption, O Lord, and not a freedman any longer. There he lives; for what other place could there be for such a soul? There he lives in that abode about which he used to ask me so many questions -- poor ignorant one that I was. Now he does not put his ear up to my mouth, but his spiritual mouth to thy fountain, and drinks wisdom as he desires and as he is able -- happy without end. But I do not believe that he is so inebriated by that draught as to forget me; since thou, O Lord, who art the draught, art mindful of us.

Thus, then, we were comforting the unhappy Verecundus -- our friendship untouched -- reconciling him to our conversion and exhorting him to a faith fit for his condition (that is, to his being married). We tarried for Nebridius to follow us, since he was so close, and this he was just about to do when at last the interim ended. The days had seemed long and many because of my eagerness for leisure and liberty in which I might sing to thee from my inmost part, "My heart has said to thee, I have sought thy face; thy face, O Lord, will I seek." [274]

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Notes:

[271] Luke 14:14.

[272] Ps. 125:3.

[273] The heresy of Docetism, one of the earliest and most persistent of all Christological errors.

[274] Cf. Ps. 27:8.

CHAPTER 4

7. Finally the day came on which I was actually to be relieved from the professorship of rhetoric, from which I had already been released in intention. And it was done. And thou didst deliver my tongue as thou hadst already delivered my heart; and I blessed thee for it with great joy, and retired with my friends to the villa. [275] My books testify to what I got done there in writing, which was now hopefully devoted to thy service; though in this pause it was still as if I were panting from my exertions in the school of pride. [276] These were the books in which I engaged in dialogue with my friends, and also those in soliloquy before thee alone. [277] And there are my letters to Nebridius, who was still absent. [278]

When would there be enough time to recount all thy great blessings which thou didst bestow on us in that time, especially as I am hastening on to still greater mercies? For my memory recalls them to me and it is pleasant to confess them to thee, O Lord: the inward goads by which thou didst subdue me and how thou broughtest me low, leveling the mountains and hills of my thoughts, straightening my crookedness, and smoothing my rough ways. And I remember by what means thou also didst subdue Alypius, my heart's brother, to the name of thy only Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ -- which he at first refused to have inserted in our writings. For at first he preferred that they should smell of the cedars of the schools [279] which the Lord hath now broken down, rather than of the wholesome herbs of the Church, hostile to serpents. [280]

8. O my God, how did I cry to thee when I read the psalms of David, those hymns of faith, those paeans of devotion which leave no room for swelling pride! I was still a novice in thy true love, a catechumen keeping holiday at the villa, with Alypius, a catechumen like myself. My mother was also with us -- in woman's garb, but with a man's faith, with the peacefulness of age and the fullness of motherly love and Christian piety. What cries I used to send up to thee in those songs, and how I was enkindled toward thee by them! I burned to sing them if possible, throughout the whole world, against the pride of the human race. And yet, indeed, they are sung throughout the whole world, and none can hide himself from thy heat. With what strong and bitter regret was I indignant at the Manicheans! Yet I also pitied them; for they were ignorant of those sacraments, those medicines [281] -- and raved insanely against the cure that might have made them sane! I wished they could have been somewhere close by, and -- without my knowledge -- could have seen my face and heard my words when, in that time of leisure, I pored over the Fourth Psalm. And I wish they could have seen how that psalm affected me. [282] "When I called upon thee, O God of my righteousness, thou didst hear me; thou didst enlarge me when I was in distress. Have mercy upon me and hear my prayer." I wish they might have heard what I said in comment on those words -- without my knowing that they heard, lest they should think that I was speaking it just on their account. For, indeed, I should not have said quite the same things, nor quite in the same way, if I had known that I was heard and seen by them. And if I had so spoken, they would not have meant the same things to them as they did to me when I spoke by and for myself before thee, out of the private affections of my soul.

9. By turns I trembled with fear and warmed with hope and rejoiced in thy mercy, O Father. And all these feelings showed forth in my eyes and voice when thy good Spirit turned to us and said, "O sons of men, how long will you be slow of heart, how long will you love vanity, and seek after falsehood?" For I had loved vanity and sought after falsehood. And thou, O Lord, had already magnified thy Holy One, raising him from the dead and setting him at thy right hand, that thence he should send forth from on high his promised "Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth." Already he had sent him, and I knew it not. He had sent him because he was now magnified, rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. For till then "the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." [283] And the prophet cried out: "How long will you be slow of heart? How long will you love vanity, and seek after falsehood? Know this, that the Lord hath magnified his Holy One." He cries, "How long?" He cries, "Know this," and I -- so long "loving vanity, and seeking after falsehood" -- heard and trembled, because these words were spoken to such a one as I remembered that I myself had been. For in those phantoms which I once held for truth there was vanity and falsehood. And I spoke many things loudly and earnestly -- in the contrition of my memory -- which I wish they had heard, who still "love vanity and seek after falsehood." Perhaps they would have been troubled, and have vomited up their error, and thou wouldst have heard them when they cried to thee; for by a real death in the flesh He died for us who now maketh intercession for us with thee.

10. I read on further, "Be angry, and sin not." And how deeply was I touched, O my God; for I had now learned to be angry with myself for the things past, so that in the future I might not sin. Yes, to be angry with good cause, for it was not another nature out of the race of darkness that had sinned for me -- as they affirm who are not angry with themselves, and who store up for themselves dire wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of thy righteous judgment. Nor were the good things I saw now outside me, nor were they to be seen with the eyes of flesh in the light of the earthly sun. For they that have their joys from without sink easily into emptiness and are spilled out on those things that are visible and temporal, and in their starving thoughts they lick their very shadows. If only they would grow weary with their hunger and would say, "Who will show us any good?" And we would answer, and they would hear, "O Lord, the light of thy countenance shines bright upon us." For we are not that Light that enlightens every man, but we are enlightened by thee, so that we who were formerly in darkness may now be alight in thee. If only they could behold the inner Light Eternal which, now that I had tasted it, I gnashed my teeth because I could not show it to them unless they brought me their heart in their eyes -- their roving eyes -- and said, "Who will show us any good?" But even there, in the inner chamber of my soul -- where I was angry with myself; where I was inwardly pricked, where I had offered my sacrifice, slaying my old man, and hoping in thee with the new resolve of a new life with my trust laid in thee -- even there thou hadst begun to grow sweet to me and to "put gladness in my heart." And thus as I read all this, I cried aloud and felt its inward meaning. Nor did I wish to be increased in worldly goods which are wasted by time, for now I possessed, in thy eternal simplicity, other corn and wine and oil.

11. And with a loud cry from my heart, I read the following verse: "Oh, in peace! Oh, in the Selfsame!" [284] See how he says it: "I will lay me down and take my rest." [285] For who shall withstand us when the truth of this saying that is written is made manifest: "Death is swallowed up in victory" [286]? For surely thou, who dost not change, art the Selfsame, and in thee is rest and oblivion to all distress. There is none other beside thee, nor are we to toil for those many things which are not thee, for only thou, O Lord, makest me to dwell in hope."

These things I read and was enkindled -- but still I could not discover what to do with those deaf and dead Manicheans to whom I myself had belonged; for I had been a bitter and blind reviler against these writings, honeyed with the honey of heaven and luminous with thy light. And I was sorely grieved at these enemies of this Scripture.

12. When shall I call to mind all that happened during those holidays? I have not forgotten them; nor will I be silent about the severity of thy scourge, and the amazing quickness of thy mercy. During that time thou didst torture me with a toothache; and when it had become so acute that I was not able to speak, it came into my heart to urge all my friends who were present to pray for me to thee, the God of all health. And I wrote it down on the tablet and gave it to them to read. Presently, as we bowed our knees in supplication, the pain was gone. But what pain? How did it go? I confess that I was terrified, O Lord my God, because from my earliest years I had never experienced such pain. And thy purposes were profoundly impressed upon me; and rejoicing in faith, I praised thy name. But that faith allowed me no rest in respect of my past sins, which were not yet forgiven me through thy baptism.

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Notes:

[275] The group included Monica, Adeodatus (Augustine's fifteen-year-old son), Navigius (Augustine's brother), Rusticus and Fastidianus (relatives), Alypius, Trygetius, and Licentius (former pupils).

[276] A somewhat oblique acknowledgment of the fact that none of the Cassiciacum dialogues has any distinctive or substantial Christian content. This has often been pointed to as evidence that Augustine's conversion thus far had brought him no farther than to a kind of Christian Platonism; cf. P. Alfaric, L'Evolution intellectuelle de Saint Augustin (Paris, 1918).

[277] The dialogues written during this stay at Cassiciacum: Contra Academicos, De beata vita, De ordine, Soliloquia. See, in this series, Vol. VI, pp. 17-63, for an English translation of the Soliloquies.

[278] Cf. Epistles II and III.

[279] A symbolic reference to the "cedars of Lebanon"; cf. Isa. 2:12-14; Ps. 29:5.

[280] There is perhaps a remote connection here with Luke 10:18-20.

[281] Ever since the time of Ignatius of Antioch who referred to the Eucharist as "the medicine of immortality," this had been a popular metaphor to refer to the sacraments; cf. Ignatius, Ephesians 20:2.

[282] Here follows (8-11) a brief devotional commentary on Ps. 4.

[283] John 7:39.

[284] Idipsum -- the oneness and immutability of God.

[285] Cf. v. 9.

[286] 1 Cor. 15:54.

CHAPTER 5

13. Now that the vintage vacation was ended, I gave notice to the citizens of Milan that they might provide their scholars with another word-merchant. I gave as my reasons my determination to serve thee and also my insufficiency for the task, because of the difficulty in breathing and the pain in my chest.

And by letters I notified thy bishop, the holy man Ambrose, of my former errors and my present resolution. And I asked his advice as to which of thy books it was best for me to read so that I might be the more ready and fit for the reception of so great a grace. He recommended Isaiah the prophet; and I believe it was because Isaiah foreshows more clearly than others the gospel, and the calling of the Gentiles. But because I could not understand the first part and because I imagined the rest to be like it, I laid it aside with the intention of taking it up again later, when better practiced in our Lord's words.

CHAPTER 6

14. When the time arrived for me to give in my name, we left the country and returned to Milan. Alypius also resolved to be born again in thee at the same time. He was already clothed with the humility that befits thy sacraments, and was so brave a tamer of his body that he would walk the frozen Italian soil with his naked feet, which called for unusual fortitude. We took with us the boy Adeodatus, my son after the flesh, the offspring of my sin. Thou hadst made of him a noble lad. He was barely fifteen years old, but his intelligence excelled that of many grave and learned men. I confess to thee thy gifts, O Lord my God, creator of all, who hast power to reform our deformities -- for there was nothing of me in that boy but the sin. For it was thou who didst inspire us to foster him in thy discipline, and none other -- thy gifts I confess to thee. There is a book of mine, entitled De Magistro. [287] It is a dialogue between Adeodatus and me, and thou knowest that all things there put into the mouth of my interlocutor are his, though he was then only in his sixteenth year. Many other gifts even more wonderful I found in him. His talent was a source of awe to me. And who but thou couldst be the worker of such marvels? And thou didst quickly remove his life from the earth, and even now I recall him to mind with a sense of security, because I fear nothing for his childhood or youth, nor for his whole career. We took him for our companion, as if he were the same age in grace with ourselves, to be trained with ourselves in thy discipline. And so we were baptized and the anxiety about our past life left us.

Nor did I ever have enough in those days of the wondrous sweetness of meditating on the depth of thy counsels concerning the salvation of the human race. How freely did I weep in thy hymns and canticles; how deeply was I moved by the voices of thy sweet-speaking Church! The voices flowed into my ears; and the truth was poured forth into my heart, where the tide of my devotion overflowed, and my tears ran down, and I was happy in all these things.

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Notes:

[287] Concerning the Teacher; cf. Vol. VI of this series, pp. 64-101.

CHAPTER 7

15. The church of Milan had only recently begun to employ this mode of consolation and exaltation with all the brethren singing together with great earnestness of voice and heart. For it was only about a year -- not much more -- since Justina, the mother of the boy-emperor Valentinian, had persecuted thy servant Ambrose on behalf of her heresy, in which she had been seduced by the Arians. The devoted people kept guard in the church, prepared to die with their bishop, thy servant. Among them my mother, thy handmaid, taking a leading part in those anxieties and vigils, lived there in prayer. And even though we were still not wholly melted by the heat of thy Spirit, we were nevertheless excited by the alarmed and disturbed city.

This was the time that the custom began, after the manner of the Eastern Church, that hymns and psalms should be sung, so that the people would not be worn out with the tedium of lamentation. This custom, retained from then till now, has been imitated by many, indeed, by almost all thy congregations throughout the rest of the world. [288]

16. Then by a vision thou madest known to thy renowned bishop the spot where lay the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius, the martyrs, whom thou hadst preserved uncorrupted for so many years in thy secret storehouse, so that thou mightest produce them at a fit time to check a woman's fury -- a woman indeed, but also a queen! When they were discovered and dug up and brought with due honor to the basilica of Ambrose, as they were borne along the road many who were troubled by unclean spirits -- the devils confessing themselves -- were healed. And there was also a certain man, a well-known citizen of the city, blind many years, who, when he had asked and learned the reason for the people's tumultuous joy, rushed out and begged his guide to lead him to the place. When he arrived there, he begged to be permitted to touch with his handkerchief the bier of thy saints, whose death is precious in thy sight. When he had done this, and put it to his eyes, they were immediately opened. The fame of all this spread abroad; from this thy glory shone more brightly. And also from this the mind of that angry woman, though not enlarged to the sanity of a full faith, was nevertheless restrained from the fury of persecution.

Thanks to thee, O my God. Whence and whither hast thou led my memory, that I should confess such things as these to thee -- for great as they were, I had forgetfully passed them over? And yet at that time, when the sweet savor of thy ointment was so fragrant, I did not run after thee. [289] Therefore, I wept more bitterly as I listened to thy hymns, having so long panted after thee. And now at length I could breathe as much as the space allows in this our straw house. [290]

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Notes:

[288] This was apparently the first introduction into the West of antiphonal chanting, which was already widespread in the East. Ambrose brought it in; Gregory brought it to perfection.

[289] Cf. S. of Sol. 1:3, 4.

[290] Cf. Isa. 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24: "All flesh is grass." See Bk. XI, Ch. II, 3.

CHAPTER 8

17. Thou, O Lord, who makest men of one mind to dwell in a single house, also broughtest Evodius to join our company. He was a young man of our city, who, while serving as a secret service agent, was converted to thee and baptized before us. He had relinquished his secular service, and prepared himself for thine. We were together, and we were resolved to live together in our devout purpose.

We cast about for some place where we might be most useful in our service to thee, and had planned on going back together to Africa. And when we had got as far as Ostia on the Tiber, my mother died.

I am passing over many things, for I must hasten. Receive, O my God, my confessions and thanksgiving for the unnumbered things about which I am silent. But I will not omit anything my mind has brought back concerning thy handmaid who brought me forth -- in her flesh, that I might be born into this world's light, and in her heart, that I might be born to life eternal. I will not speak of her gifts, but of thy gift in her; for she neither made herself nor trained herself. Thou didst create her, and neither her father nor her mother knew what kind of being was to come forth from them. And it was the rod of thy Christ, the discipline of thy only Son, that trained her in thy fear, in the house of one of thy faithful ones who was a sound member of thy Church. Yet my mother did not attribute this good training of hers as much to the diligence of her own mother as to that of a certain elderly maidservant who had nursed her father, carrying him around on her back, as big girls carried babies. Because of her long-time service and also because of her extreme age and excellent character, she was much respected by the heads of that Christian household. The care of her master's daughters was also committed to her, and she performed her task with diligence. She was quite earnest in restraining them with a holy severity when necessary and instructing them with a sober sagacity. Thus, except at mealtimes at their parents' table -- when they were fed very temperately -- she would not allow them to drink even water, however parched they were with thirst. In this way she took precautions against an evil custom and added the wholesome advice: "You drink water now only because you don't control the wine; but when you are married and mistresses of pantry and cellar, you may not care for water, but the habit of drinking will be fixed." By such a method of instruction, and her authority, she restrained the longing of their tender age, and regulated even the thirst of the girls to such a decorous control that they no longer wanted what they ought not to have.

18. And yet, as thy handmaid related to me, her son, there had stolen upon her a love of wine. For, in the ordinary course of things, when her parents sent her as a sober maiden to draw wine from the cask, she would hold a cup under the tap; and then, before she poured the wine into the bottle, she would wet the tips of her lips with a little of it, for more than this her taste refused. She did not do this out of any craving for drink, but out of the overflowing buoyancy of her time of life, which bubbles up with sportiveness and youthful spirits, but is usually borne down by the gravity of the old folks. And so, adding daily a little to that little -- for "he that contemns small things shall fall by a little here and a little there" [291] -- she slipped into such a habit as to drink off eagerly her little cup nearly full of wine.

Where now was that wise old woman and her strict prohibition? Could anything prevail against our secret disease if thy medicine, O Lord, did not watch over us? Though father and mother and nurturers are absent, thou art present, who dost create, who callest, and who also workest some good for our salvation, through those who are set over us. What didst thou do at that time, O my God? How didst thou heal her? How didst thou make her whole? Didst thou not bring forth from another woman's soul a hard and bitter insult, like a surgeon's knife from thy secret store, and with one thrust drain off all that putrefaction? For the slave girl who used to accompany her to the cellar fell to quarreling with her little mistress, as it sometimes happened when she was alone with her, and cast in her teeth this vice of hers, along with a very bitter insult: calling her "a drunkard." Stung by this taunt, my mother saw her own vileness and immediately condemned and renounced it.

As the flattery of friends corrupts, so often do the taunts of enemies instruct. Yet thou repayest them, not for the good thou workest through their means, but for the malice they intended. That angry slave girl wanted to infuriate her young mistress, not to cure her; and that is why she spoke up when they were alone. Or perhaps it was because their quarrel just happened to break out at that time and place; or perhaps she was afraid of punishment for having told of it so late.

But thou, O Lord, ruler of heaven and earth, who changest to thy purposes the deepest floods and controls the turbulent tide of the ages, thou healest one soul by the unsoundness of another; so that no man, when he hears of such a happening, should attribute it to his own power if another person whom he wishes to reform is reformed through a word of his.

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Notes:

[291] Ecclus. 19:1.

CHAPTER 9

19. Thus modestly and soberly brought up, she was made subject to her parents by thee, rather more than by her parents to thee. She arrived at a marriageable age, and she was given to a husband whom she served as her lord. And she busied herself to gain him to thee, preaching thee to him by her behavior, in which thou madest her fair and reverently amiable, and admirable to her husband. For she endured with patience his infidelity and never had any dissension with her husband on this account. For she waited for thy mercy upon him until, by believing in thee, he might become chaste.

Moreover, even though he was earnest in friendship, he was also violent in anger; but she had learned that an angry husband should not be resisted, either in deed or in word. But as soon as he had grown calm and was tranquil, and she saw a fitting moment, she would give him a reason for her conduct, if he had been excited unreasonably. As a result, while many matrons whose husbands were more gentle than hers bore the marks of blows on their disfigured faces, and would in private talk blame the behavior of their husbands, she would blame their tongues, admonishing them seriously -- though in a jesting manner -- that from the hour they heard what are called the matrimonial tablets read to them, they should think of them as instruments by which they were made servants. So, always being mindful of their condition, they ought not to set themselves up in opposition to their lords. And, knowing what a furious, bad-tempered husband she endured, they marveled that it had never been rumored, nor was there any mark to show, that Patricius had ever beaten his wife, or that there had been any domestic strife between them, even for a day. And when they asked her confidentially the reason for this, she taught them the rule I have mentioned. Those who observed it confirmed the wisdom of it and rejoiced; those who did not observe it were bullied and vexed.

20. Even her mother-in-law, who was at first prejudiced against her by the whisperings of malicious servants, she conquered by submission, persevering in it with patience and meekness; with the result that the mother-in-law told her son of the tales of the meddling servants which had disturbed the domestic peace between herself and her daughter-in-law and begged him to punish them for it. In conformity with his mother's wish, and in the interest of family discipline to insure the future harmony of its members, he had those servants beaten who were pointed out by her who had discovered them; and she promised a similar reward to anyone else who, thinking to please her, should say anything evil of her daughter-in-law. After this no one dared to do so, and they lived together with a wonderful sweetness of mutual good will.

21. This other great gift thou also didst bestow, O my God, my Mercy, upon that good handmaid of thine, in whose womb thou didst create me. It was that whenever she could she acted as a peacemaker between any differing and discordant spirits, and when she heard very bitter things on either side of a controversy -- the kind of bloated and undigested discord which often belches forth bitter words, when crude malice is breathed out by sharp tongues to a present friend against an absent enemy -- she would disclose nothing about the one to the other except what might serve toward their reconciliation. This might seem a small good to me if I did not know to my sorrow countless persons who, through the horrid and far-spreading infection of sin, not only repeat to enemies mutually enraged things said in passion against each other, but also add some things that were never said at all. It ought not to be enough in a truly humane man merely not to incite or increase the enmities of men by evil-speaking; he ought likewise to endeavor by kind words to extinguish them. Such a one was she -- and thou, her most intimate instructor, didst teach her in the school of her heart.

22. Finally, her own husband, now toward the end of his earthly existence, she won over to thee. Henceforth, she had no cause to complain of unfaithfulness in him, which she had endured before he became one of the faithful. She was also the servant of thy servants. All those who knew her greatly praised, honored, and loved thee in her because, through the witness of the fruits of a holy life, they recognized thee present in her heart. For she had "been the wife of one man," [292] had honored her parents, had guided her house in piety, was highly reputed for good works, and brought up her children, travailing in labor with them as often as she saw them swerving from thee. Lastly, to all of us, O Lord -- since of thy favor thou allowest thy servants to speak -- to all of us who lived together in that association before her death in thee she devoted such care as she might have if she had been mother of us all; she served us as if she had been the daughter of us all.

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Notes:

[292] 1 Tim. 5:9.

CHAPTER 10

23. As the day now approached on which she was to depart this life -- a day which thou knewest, but which we did not -- it happened (though I believe it was by thy secret ways arranged) that she and I stood alone, leaning in a certain window from which the garden of the house we occupied at Ostia could be seen. Here in this place, removed from the crowd, we were resting ourselves for the voyage after the fatigues of a long journey.

We were conversing alone very pleasantly and "forgetting those things which are past, and reaching forward toward those things which are future." [293] We were in the present -- and in the presence of Truth (which thou art) -- discussing together what is the nature of the eternal life of the saints: which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man. [294] We opened wide the mouth of our heart, thirsting for those supernal streams of thy fountain, "the fountain of life" which is with thee, [295] that we might be sprinkled with its waters according to our capacity and might in some measure weigh the truth of so profound a mystery.

24. And when our conversation had brought us to the point where the very highest of physical sense and the most intense illumination of physical light seemed, in comparison with the sweetness of that life to come, not worthy of comparison, nor even of mention, we lifted ourselves with a more ardent love toward the Selfsame, [296] and we gradually passed through all the levels of bodily objects, and even through the heaven itself, where the sun and moon and stars shine on the earth. Indeed, we soared higher yet by an inner musing, speaking and marveling at thy works.

And we came at last to our own minds and went beyond them, that we might climb as high as that region of unfailing plenty where thou feedest Israel forever with the food of truth, where life is that Wisdom by whom all things are made, both which have been and which are to be. Wisdom is not made, but is as she has been and forever shall be; for "to have been" and "to be hereafter" do not apply to her, but only "to be," because she is eternal and "to have been" and "to be hereafter" are not eternal.

And while we were thus speaking and straining after her, we just barely touched her with the whole effort of our hearts. Then with a sigh, leaving the first fruits of the Spirit bound to that ecstasy, we returned to the sounds of our own tongue, where the spoken word had both beginning and end. [297] But what is like to thy Word, our Lord, who remaineth in himself without becoming old, and "makes all things new" [298]?

25. What we said went something like this: "If to any man the tumult of the flesh were silenced; and the phantoms of earth and waters and air were silenced; and the poles were silent as well; indeed, if the very soul grew silent to herself, and went beyond herself by not thinking of herself; if fancies and imaginary revelations were silenced; if every tongue and every sign and every transient thing -- for actually if any man could hear them, all these would say, `We did not create ourselves, but were created by Him who abides forever' -- and if, having uttered this, they too should be silent, having stirred our ears to hear him who created them; and if then he alone spoke, not through them but by himself, that we might hear his word, not in fleshly tongue or angelic voice, nor sound of thunder, nor the obscurity of a parable, but might hear him -- him for whose sake we love these things -- if we could hear him without these, as we two now strained ourselves to do, we then with rapid thought might touch on that Eternal Wisdom which abides over all. And if this could be sustained, and other visions of a far different kind be taken away, and this one should so ravish and absorb and envelop its beholder in these inward joys that his life might be eternally like that one moment of knowledge which we now sighed after -- would not this be the reality of the saying, `Enter into the joy of thy Lord' [299]? But when shall such a thing be? Shall it not be `when we all shall rise again,' and shall it not be that `all things will be changed' [300]?"

26. Such a thought I was expressing, and if not in this manner and in these words, still, O Lord, thou knowest that on that day we were talking thus and that this world, with all its joys, seemed cheap to us even as we spoke. Then my mother said: "Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here?"

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Notes:

[293] Phil. 3:13.

[294] Cf. 1 Cor. 2:9.

[295] Ps. 36:9.

[296] Idipsum.

[297] Cf. this report of a "Christian ecstasy" with the Plotinian ecstasy recounted in Bk. VII, Ch. XVII, 23, above.

[298] Cf. Wis. 7:21-30; see especially v. 27: "And being but one, she [Wisdom] can do all things: and remaining in herself the same, she makes all things new."

[299] Matt. 25:21.

[300] 1 Cor. 15:51.

CHAPTER 11

27. I do not well remember what reply I made to her about this. However, it was scarcely five days later -- certainly not much more -- that she was prostrated by fever. While she was sick, she fainted one day and was for a short time quite unconscious. We hurried to her, and when she soon regained her senses, she looked at me and my brother [301] as we stood by her, and said, in inquiry, "Where was I?" Then looking intently at us, dumb in our grief, she said, "Here in this place shall you bury your mother." I was silent and held back my tears; but my brother said something, wishing her the happier lot of dying in her own country and not abroad. When she heard this, she fixed him with her eye and an anxious countenance, because he savored of such earthly concerns, and then gazing at me she said, "See how he speaks." Soon after, she said to us both: "Lay this body anywhere, and do not let the care of it be a trouble to you at all. Only this I ask: that you will remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you are." And when she had expressed her wish in such words as she could, she fell silent, in heavy pain with her increasing sickness.

28. But as I thought about thy gifts, O invisible God, which thou plantest in the heart of thy faithful ones, from which such marvelous fruits spring up, I rejoiced and gave thanks to thee, remembering what I had known of how she had always been much concerned about her burial place, which she had provided and prepared for herself by the body of her husband. For as they had lived very peacefully together, her desire had always been -- so little is the human mind capable of grasping things divine -- that this last should be added to all that happiness, and commented on by others: that, after her pilgrimage beyond the sea, it would be granted her that the two of them, so united on earth, should lie in the same grave.

When this vanity, through the bounty of thy goodness, had begun to be no longer in her heart, I do not know; but I joyfully marveled at what she had thus disclosed to me -- though indeed in our conversation in the window, when she said, "What is there here for me to do any more?" she appeared not to desire to die in her own country. I heard later on that, during our stay in Ostia, she had been talking in maternal confidence to some of my friends about her contempt of this life and the blessing of death. When they were amazed at the courage which was given her, a woman, and had asked her whether she did not dread having her body buried so far from her own city, she replied: "Nothing is far from God. I do not fear that, at the end of time, he should not know the place whence he is to resurrect me." And so on the ninth day of her sickness, in the fifty-sixth year of her life and the thirty-third of mine, [302] that religious and devout soul was set loose from the body.

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Notes:

[301] Navigius, who had joined them in Milan, but about whom Augustine is curiously silent save for the brief and unrevealing references in De beata vita, I, 6, to II, 7, and De ordine, I, 2-3.

[302] A.D. 387.

CHAPTER 12

29. I closed her eyes; and there flowed in a great sadness on my heart and it was passing into tears, when at the strong behest of my mind my eyes sucked back the fountain dry, and sorrow was in me like a convulsion. As soon as she breathed her last, the boy Adeodatus burst out wailing; but he was checked by us all, and became quiet. Likewise, my own childish feeling which was, through the youthful voice of my heart, seeking escape in tears, was held back and silenced. For we did not consider it fitting to celebrate that death with tearful wails and groanings. This is the way those who die unhappy or are altogether dead are usually mourned. But she neither died unhappy nor did she altogether die. [303] For of this we were assured by the witness of her good life, her "faith unfeigned," [304] and other manifest evidence.

30. What was it, then, that hurt me so grievously in my heart except the newly made wound, caused from having the sweet and dear habit of living together with her suddenly broken? I was full of joy because of her testimony in her last illness, when she praised my dutiful attention and called me kind, and recalled with great affection of love that she had never heard any harsh or reproachful sound from my mouth against her. But yet, O my God who made us, how can that honor I paid her be compared with her service to me? I was then left destitute of a great comfort in her, and my soul was stricken; and that life was torn apart, as it were, which had been made but one out of hers and mine together. [305]

31. When the boy was restrained from weeping, Evodius took up the Psalter and began to sing, with the whole household responding, the psalm, "I will sing of mercy and judgment unto thee, O Lord." [306] And when they heard what we were doing, many of the brethren and religious women came together. And while those whose office it was to prepare for the funeral went about their task according to custom, I discoursed in another part of the house, with those who thought I should not be left alone, on what was appropriate to the occasion. By this balm of truth, I softened the anguish known to thee. They were unconscious of it and listened intently and thought me free of any sense of sorrow. But in thy ears, where none of them heard, I reproached myself for the mildness of my feelings, and restrained the flow of my grief which bowed a little to my will. The paroxysm returned again, and I knew what I repressed in my heart, even though it did not make me burst forth into tears or even change my countenance; and I was greatly annoyed that these human things had such power over me, which in the due order and destiny of our natural condition must of necessity happen. And so with a new sorrow I sorrowed for my sorrow and was wasted with a twofold sadness.

32. So, when the body was carried forth, we both went and returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured forth to thee, when the sacrifice of our redemption was offered up to thee for her -- with the body placed by the side of the grave as the custom is there, before it is lowered down into it -- neither in those prayers did I weep. But I was most grievously sad in secret all the day, and with a troubled mind entreated thee, as I could, to heal my sorrow; but thou didst not. I now believe that thou wast fixing in my memory, by this one lesson, the power of the bonds of all habit, even on a mind which now no longer feeds upon deception. It then occurred to me that it would be a good thing to go and bathe, for I had heard that the word for bath [balneum] took its name from the Greek balaneion [ [ [beta]] [ [alpha]] [ [lambda]] [ [alpha]] [ [nu]] [ [epsilon]] [ [iota]] [ [omicron]] [ [nu]]] because it washes anxiety from the mind. Now see, this also I confess to thy mercy, "O Father of the fatherless" [307]: I bathed and felt the same as I had done before. For the bitterness of my grief was not sweated from my heart.

Then I slept, and when I awoke I found my grief not a little assuaged. And as I lay there on my bed, those true verses of Ambrose came to my mind, for thou art truly,

"Deus, creator omnium,
Polique rector, vestiens
Diem decoro lumine,
Noctem sopora gratia;
Artus solutos ut quies
Reddat laboris usui
Mentesque fessas allevet,
Luctusque solvat anxios."

"O God, Creator of us all,
Guiding the orbs celestial,
Clothing the day with lovely light,
Appointing gracious sleep by night:

Thy grace our wearied limbs restore
To strengthened labor, as before,
And ease the grief of tired minds
From that deep torment which it finds." [308]


33. And then, little by little, there came back to me my former memories of thy handmaid: her devout life toward thee, her holy tenderness and attentiveness toward us, which had suddenly been taken away from me -- and it was a solace for me to weep in thy sight, for her and for myself, about her and about myself. Thus I set free the tears which before I repressed, that they might flow at will, spreading them out as a pillow beneath my heart. And it rested on them, for thy ears were near me -- not those of a man, who would have made a scornful comment about my weeping. But now in writing I confess it to thee, O Lord! Read it who will, and comment how he will, and if he finds me to have sinned in weeping for my mother for part of an hour -- that mother who was for a while dead to my eyes, who had for many years wept for me that I might live in thy eyes -- let him not laugh at me; but if he be a man of generous love, let him weep for my sins against thee, the Father of all the brethren of thy Christ.

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Notes:

[303] Nec omnino moriebatur. Is this an echo of Horace's famous memorial ode, Exegi monumentum aere perennius . . . non omnis moriar? Cf. Odes, Book III, Ode XXX.

[304] 1 Tim. 1:5.

[305] Cf. this passage, as Augustine doubtless intended, with the story of his morbid and immoderate grief at the death of his boyhood friend, above, Bk. IV, Chs. IV, 9, to VII, 12.

[306] Ps. 101:1.

[307] Ps. 68:5.

[308] Sir Tobie Matthew (adapted). For Augustine's own analysis of the scansion and structure of this hymn, see De musica, VI, 2:2-3; for a brief commentary on the Latin text, see A. S. Walpole, Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge, 1922), pp. 44-49.

CHAPTER 13

34. Now that my heart is healed of that wound -- so far as it can be charged against me as a carnal affection -- I pour out to thee, O our God, on behalf of thy handmaid, tears of a very different sort: those which flow from a spirit broken by the thoughts of the dangers of every soul that dies in Adam. And while she had been "made alive" in Christ [309] even before she was freed from the flesh, and had so lived as to praise thy name both by her faith and by her life, yet I would not dare say that from the time thou didst regenerate her by baptism no word came out of her mouth against thy precepts. But it has been declared by thy Son, the Truth, that "whosoever shall say to his brother, You fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire." [310] And there would be doom even for the life of a praiseworthy man if thou judgedst it with thy mercy set aside. But since thou dost not so stringently inquire after our sins, we hope with confidence to find some place in thy presence. But whoever recounts his actual and true merits to thee, what is he doing but recounting to thee thy own gifts? Oh, if only men would know themselves as men, then "he that glories" would "glory in the Lord" [311]!

35. Thus now, O my Praise and my Life, O God of my heart, forgetting for a little her good deeds for which I give joyful thanks to thee, I now beseech thee for the sins of my mother. Hearken unto me, through that Medicine of our wounds, who didst hang upon the tree and who sittest at thy right hand "making intercession for us." [312] I know that she acted in mercy, and from the heart forgave her debtors their debts. [313] I beseech thee also to forgive her debts, whatever she contracted during so many years since the water of salvation. Forgive her, O Lord, forgive her, I beseech thee; "enter not into judgment" with her. [314] Let thy mercy be exalted above thy justice, for thy words are true and thou hast promised mercy to the merciful, that the merciful shall obtain mercy. [315] This is thy gift, who hast mercy on whom thou wilt and who wilt have compassion on whom thou dost have compassion on. [316]

36. Indeed, I believe thou hast already done what I ask of thee, but "accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord." [317] For when the day of her dissolution was so close, she took no thought to have her body sumptuously wrapped or embalmed with spices. Nor did she covet a handsome monument, or even care to be buried in her own country. About these things she gave no commands at all, but only desired to have her name remembered at thy altar, where she had served without the omission of a single day, and where she knew that the holy sacrifice was dispensed by which that handwriting that was against us is blotted out; and that enemy vanquished who, when he summed up our offenses and searched for something to bring against us, could find nothing in Him, in whom we conquer.

Who will restore to him the innocent blood? Who will repay him the price with which he bought us, so as to take us from him? Thus to the sacrament of our redemption did thy hand maid bind her soul by the bond of faith. Let none separate her from thy protection. Let not the "lion" and "dragon" bar her way by force or fraud. For she will not reply that she owes nothing, lest she be convicted and duped by that cunning deceiver. Rather, she will answer that her sins are forgiven by Him to whom no one is able to repay the price which he, who owed us nothing, laid down for us all.

37. Therefore, let her rest in peace with her husband, before and after whom she was married to no other man; whom she obeyed with patience, bringing fruit to thee that she might also win him for thee. And inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire thy servants, my brothers; thy sons, my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that as many of them as shall read these confessions may also at thy altar remember Monica, thy handmaid, together with Patricius, once her husband; by whose flesh thou didst bring me into this life, in a manner I know not. May they with pious affection remember my parents in this transitory life, and remember my brothers under thee our Father in our Catholic mother; and remember my fellow citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, for which thy people sigh in their pilgrimage from birth until their return. So be fulfilled what my mother desired of me -- more richly in the prayers of so many gained for her through these confessions of mine than by my prayers alone.

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Notes:

[309] 1 Cor. 15:22.

[310] Matt. 5:22.

[311] 2 Cor. 10:17.

[312] Rom. 8:34.

[313] Cf. Matt. 6:12.

[314] Ps. 143:2.

[315] Matt. 5:7.

[316] Cf. Rom. 9:15.

[317] Ps. 119:108.
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

Postby admin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:28 am

Part 1 of 2

BOOK TEN

From autobiography to self-analysis. Augustine turns from his memories of the past to the inner mysteries of memory itself. In doing so, he reviews his motives for these written "confessions," and seeks to chart the path by which men come to God. But this brings him into the intricate analysis of memory and its relation to the self and its powers. This done, he explores the meaning and mode of true prayer. In conclusion, he undertakes a detailed analysis of appetite and the temptations to which the flesh and the soul are heirs, and comes finally to see how necessary and right it was for the Mediator between God and man to have been the God-Man.

CHAPTER 1

1. Let me know thee, O my Knower; let me know thee even as I am known. [318] O Strength of my soul, enter it and prepare it for thyself that thou mayest have and hold it, without "spot or blemish." [319] This is my hope, therefore have I spoken; and in this hope I rejoice whenever I rejoice aright. But as for the other things of this life, they deserve our lamentations less, the more we lament them; and some should be lamented all the more, the less men care for them. For see, "Thou desirest truth" [320] and "he who does the truth comes to the light." [321] This is what I wish to do through confession in my heart before thee, and in my writings before many witnesses.

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Notes:

[318] Cf. 1 Cor. 13:12.

[319] Eph. 5:27.

[320] Ps. 51:6.

[321] John 3:21.

CHAPTER 2

2. And what is there in me that could be hidden from thee, Lord, to whose eyes the abysses of man's conscience are naked, even if I were unwilling to confess it to thee? In doing so I would only hide thee from myself, not myself from thee. But now that my groaning is witness to the fact that I am dissatisfied with myself, thou shinest forth and satisfiest. Thou art beloved and desired; so that I blush for myself, and renounce myself and choose thee, for I can neither please thee nor myself except in thee. To thee, then, O Lord, I am laid bare, whatever I am, and I have already said with what profit I may confess to thee. I do not do it with words and sounds of the flesh but with the words of the soul, and with the sound of my thoughts, which thy ear knows. For when I am wicked, to confess to thee means nothing less than to be dissatisfied with myself; but when I am truly devout, it means nothing less than not to attribute my virtue to myself; because thou, O Lord, blessest the righteous, but first thou justifiest him while he is yet ungodly. My confession therefore, O my God, is made unto thee silently in thy sight -- and yet not silently. As far as sound is concerned, it is silent. But in strong affection it cries aloud. For neither do I give voice to something that sounds right to men, which thou hast not heard from me before, nor dost thou hear anything of the kind from me which thou didst not first say to me.

CHAPTER 3

3. What is it to me that men should hear my confessions as if it were they who were going to cure all my infirmities? People are curious to know the lives of others, but slow to correct their own. Why are they anxious to hear from me what I am, when they are unwilling to hear from thee what they are? And how can they tell when they hear what I say about myself whether I speak the truth, since no man knows what is in a man "save the spirit of man which is in him" [322]? But if they were to hear from thee something concerning themselves, they would not be able to say, "The Lord is lying." For what does it mean to hear from thee about themselves but to know themselves? And who is he that knows himself and says, "This is false," unless he himself is lying? But, because "love believes all things" [323] -- at least among those who are bound together in love by its bonds -- I confess to thee, O Lord, so that men may also hear; for if I cannot prove to them that I confess the truth, yet those whose ears love opens to me will believe me.

4. But wilt thou, O my inner Physician, make clear to me what profit I am to gain in doing this? For the confessions of my past sins (which thou hast "forgiven and covered" [324] that thou mightest make me blessed in thee, transforming my soul by faith and thy sacrament), when they are read and heard, may stir up the heart so that it will stop dozing along in despair, saying, "I cannot"; but will instead awake in the love of thy mercy and the sweetness of thy grace, by which he that is weak is strong, provided he is made conscious of his own weakness. And it will please those who are good to hear about the past errors of those who are now freed from them. And they will take delight, not because they are errors, but because they were and are so no longer. What profit, then, O Lord my God -- to whom my conscience makes her daily confession, far more confident in the hope of thy mercy than in her own innocence -- what profit is there, I ask thee, in confessing to men in thy presence, through this book, both what I am now as well as what I have been? For I have seen and spoken of my harvest of things past. But what am I now, at this very moment of making my confessions? Many different people desire to know, both those who know me and those who do not know me. Some have heard about me or from me, but their ear is not close to my heart, where I am whatever it is that I am. They have the desire to hear me confess what I am within, where they can neither extend eye nor ear nor mind. They desire as those willing to believe -- but will they understand? For the love by which they are good tells them that I am not lying in my confessions, and the love in them believes me.

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Notes:

[322] 1 Cor. 2:11.

[323] 1 Cor. 13:7.

[324] Ps. 32:1.

CHAPTER 4

5. But for what profit do they desire this? Will they wish me happiness when they learn how near I have approached thee, by thy gifts? And will they pray for me when they learn how much I am still kept back by my own weight? To such as these I will declare myself. For it is no small profit, O Lord my God, that many people should give thanks to thee on my account and that many should entreat thee for my sake. Let the brotherly soul love in me what thou teachest him should be loved, and let him lament in me what thou teachest him should be lamented. Let it be the soul of a brother that does this, and not a stranger -- not one of those "strange children, whose mouth speaks vanity, and whose right hand is the right hand of falsehood." [325] But let my brother do it who, when he approves of me, rejoices for me, but when he disapproves of me is sorry for me; because whether he approves or disapproves, he loves me. To such I will declare myself. Let them be refreshed by my good deeds and sigh over my evil ones. My good deeds are thy acts and thy gifts; my evil ones are my own faults and thy judgment. Let them breathe expansively at the one and sigh over the other. And let hymns and tears ascend in thy sight out of their brotherly hearts -- which are thy censers. [326] And, O Lord, who takest delight in the incense of thy holy temple, have mercy upon me according to thy great mercy, for thy name's sake. And do not, on any account whatever, abandon what thou hast begun in me. Go on, rather, to complete what is yet imperfect in me.

6. This, then, is the fruit of my confessions (not of what I was, but of what I am), that I may not confess this before thee alone, in a secret exultation with trembling and a secret sorrow with hope, but also in the ears of the believing sons of men -- who are the companions of my joy and sharers of my mortality, my fellow citizens and fellow pilgrims -- those who have gone before and those who are to follow after, as well as the comrades of my present way. These are thy servants, my brothers, whom thou desirest to be thy sons. They are my masters, whom thou hast commanded me to serve if I desire to live with and in thee. But this thy Word would mean little to me if it commanded in words alone, without thy prevenient action. I do this, then, both in act and word. I do this under thy wings, in a danger too great to risk if it were not that under thy wings my soul is subject to thee, and my weakness known to thee. I am insufficient, but my Father liveth forever, and my Defender is sufficient for me. For he is the Selfsame who didst beget me and who watcheth over me; thou art the Selfsame who art all my good. Thou art the Omnipotent, who art with me, even before I am with thee. To those, therefore, whom thou commandest me to serve, I will declare, not what I was, but what I now am and what I will continue to be. But I do not judge myself. Thus, therefore, let me be heard.

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Notes:

[325] Ps. 144:7, 8.

[326] Cf. Rev. 8:3-5. "And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints went up before God out of the angel's hand" (v. 4).

CHAPTER 5

7. For it is thou, O Lord, who judgest me. For although no man "knows the things of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him," [327] yet there is something of man which "the spirit of the man which is in him" does not know itself. But thou, O Lord, who madest him, knowest him completely. And even I -- though in thy sight I despise myself and count myself but dust and ashes -- even I know something about thee which I do not know about myself. And it is certain that "now we see through a glass darkly," not yet "face to face." [328] Therefore, as long as I journey away from thee, I am more present with myself than with thee. I know that thou canst not suffer violence, but I myself do not know what temptations I can resist, and what I cannot. But there is hope, because thou art faithful and thou wilt not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist, but wilt with the temptation also make a way of escape that we may be able to bear it. I would therefore confess what I know about myself; I will also confess what I do not know about myself. What I do know of myself, I know from thy enlightening of me; and what I do not know of myself, I will continue not to know until the time when my "darkness is as the noonday" [329] in thy sight.

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Notes:

[327] 1 Cor. 2:11.

[328] 1 Cor. 13:12.

[329] Isa. 58:10.

CHAPTER 6

8. It is not with a doubtful consciousness, but one fully certain that I love thee, O Lord. Thou hast smitten my heart with thy Word, and I have loved thee. And see also the heaven, and earth, and all that is in them -- on every side they tell me to love thee, and they do not cease to tell this to all men, "so that they are without excuse." [330] Wherefore, still more deeply wilt thou have mercy on whom thou wilt have mercy, and compassion on whom thou wilt have compassion. [331] For otherwise, both heaven and earth would tell abroad thy praises to deaf ears.

But what is it that I love in loving thee? Not physical beauty, nor the splendor of time, nor the radiance of the light -- so pleasant to our eyes -- nor the sweet melodies of the various kinds of songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers and ointments and spices; not manna and honey, not the limbs embraced in physical love -- it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet it is true that I love a certain kind of light and sound and fragrance and food and embrace in loving my God, who is the light and sound and fragrance and food and embracement of my inner man -- where that light shines into my soul which no place can contain, where time does not snatch away the lovely sound, where no breeze disperses the sweet fragrance, where no eating diminishes the food there provided, and where there is an embrace that no satiety comes to sunder. This is what I love when I love my God.

9. And what is this God? I asked the earth, and it answered, "I am not he"; and everything in the earth made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps and the creeping things, and they replied, "We are not your God; seek above us." I asked the fleeting winds, and the whole air with its inhabitants answered, "Anaximenes [332] was deceived; I am not God." I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars; and they answered, "Neither are we the God whom you seek." And I replied to all these things which stand around the door of my flesh: "You have told me about my God, that you are not he. Tell me something about him." And with a loud voice they all cried out, "He made us." My question had come from my observation of them, and their reply came from their beauty of order. And I turned my thoughts into myself and said, "Who are you?" And I answered, "A man." For see, there is in me both a body and a soul; the one without, the other within. In which of these should I have sought my God, whom I had already sought with my body from earth to heaven, as far as I was able to send those messengers -- the beams of my eyes? But the inner part is the better part; for to it, as both ruler and judge, all these messengers of the senses report the answers of heaven and earth and all the things therein, who said, "We are not God, but he made us." My inner man knew these things through the ministry of the outer man, and I, the inner man, knew all this -- I, the soul, through the senses of my body. [333] I asked the whole frame of earth about my God, and it answered, "I am not he, but he made me."

10. Is not this beauty of form visible to all whose senses are unimpaired? Why, then, does it not say the same things to all? Animals, both small and great, see it but they are unable to interrogate its meaning, because their senses are not endowed with the reason that would enable them to judge the evidence which the senses report. But man can interrogate it, so that "the invisible things of him . . . are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." [334] But men love these created things too much; they are brought into subjection to them -- and, as subjects, are not able to judge. None of these created things reply to their questioners unless they can make rational judgments. The creatures will not alter their voice -- that is, their beauty of form -- if one man simply sees what another both sees and questions, so that the world appears one way to this man and another to that. It appears the same way to both; but it is mute to this one and it speaks to that one. Indeed, it actually speaks to all, but only they understand it who compare the voice received from without with the truth within. For the truth says to me, "Neither heaven nor earth nor anybody is your God." Their very nature tells this to the one who beholds [335] them. "They are a mass, less in part than the whole." Now, O my soul, you are my better part, and to you I speak; since you animate the whole mass of your body, giving it life, whereas no body furnishes life to a body. But your God is the life of your life.

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Notes:

[330] Rom. 1:20.

[331] Cf. Rom. 9:15.

[332] One of the pre-Socratic "physiologers" who taught that aither was the primary element in e phusigz. Cf. Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods (a likely source for Augustine's knowledge of early Greek philosophy), I, 10: "After Anaximander comes Anaximenes, who taught that the air is God. . . ."

[333] An important text for Augustine's conception of sensation and the relation of body and mind. Cf. On Music, VI, 5:10; The Magnitude of the Soul, 25:48; On the Trinity, XII, 2:2; see also F. Coplestone, A History of Philosophy (London, 1950), II, 51-60, and E. Gilson, Introduction a l'etude de Saint Augustin, pp. 74-87.

[334] Rom. 1:20.

[335] Reading videnti (with De Labriolle) instead of vident (as in Skutella).

CHAPTER 7

11. What is it, then, that I love when I love my God? Who is he that is beyond the topmost point of my soul? Yet by this very soul will I mount up to him. I will soar beyond that power of mine by which I am united to the body, and by which the whole structure of it is filled with life. Yet it is not by that vital power that I find my God. For then "the horse and the mule, that have no understanding," [336] also might find him, since they have the same vital power, by which their bodies also live. But there is, besides the power by which I animate my body, another by which I endow my flesh with sense -- a power that the Lord hath provided for me; commanding that the eye is not to hear and the ear is not to see, but that I am to see by the eye and to hear by the ear; and giving to each of the other senses its own proper place and function, through the diversity of which I, the single mind, act. I will soar also beyond this power of mine, for the horse and mule have this too, for they also perceive through their bodily senses.

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Notes:

[336] Ps. 32:9.

CHAPTER 8

12. I will soar, then, beyond this power of my nature also, still rising by degrees toward him who made me. And I enter the fields and spacious halls of memory, where are stored as treasures the countless images that have been brought into them from all manner of things by the senses. There, in the memory, is likewise stored what we cogitate, either by enlarging or reducing our perceptions, or by altering one way or another those things which the senses have made contact with; and everything else that has been entrusted to it and stored up in it, which oblivion has not yet swallowed up and buried.

When I go into this storehouse, I ask that what I want should be brought forth. Some things appear immediately, but others require to be searched for longer, and then dragged out, as it were, from some hidden recess. Other things hurry forth in crowds, on the other hand, and while something else is sought and inquired for, they leap into view as if to say, "Is it not we, perhaps?" These I brush away with the hand of my heart from the face of my memory, until finally the thing I want makes its appearance out of its secret cell. Some things suggest themselves without effort, and in continuous order, just as they are called for -- the things that come first give place to those that follow, and in so doing are treasured up again to be forthcoming when I want them. All of this happens when I repeat a thing from memory.

13. All these things, each one of which came into memory in its own particular way, are stored up separately and under the general categories of understanding. For example, light and all colors and forms of bodies came in through the eyes; sounds of all kinds by the ears; all smells by the passages of the nostrils; all flavors by the gate of the mouth; by the sensation of the whole body, there is brought in what is hard or soft, hot or cold, smooth or rough, heavy or light, whether external or internal to the body. The vast cave of memory, with its numerous and mysterious recesses, receives all these things and stores them up, to be recalled and brought forth when required. Each experience enters by its own door, and is stored up in the memory. And yet the things themselves do not enter it, but only the images of the things perceived are there for thought to remember. And who can tell how these images are formed, even if it is evident which of the senses brought which perception in and stored it up? For even when I am in darkness and silence I can bring out colors in my memory if I wish, and discern between black and white and the other shades as I wish; and at the same time, sounds do not break in and disturb what is drawn in by my eyes, and which I am considering, because the sounds which are also there are stored up, as it were, apart. And these too I can summon if I please and they are immediately present in memory. And though my tongue is at rest and my throat silent, yet I can sing as I will; and those images of color, which are as truly present as before, do not interpose themselves or interrupt while another treasure which had flowed in through the ears is being thought about. Similarly all the other things that were brought in and heaped up by all the other senses, I can recall at my pleasure. And I distinguish the scent of lilies from that of violets while actually smelling nothing; and I prefer honey to mead, a smooth thing to a rough, even though I am neither tasting nor handling them, but only remembering them.

14. All this I do within myself, in that huge hall of my memory. For in it, heaven, earth, and sea are present to me, and whatever I can cogitate about them -- except what I have forgotten. There also I meet myself and recall myself [337] -- what, when, or where I did a thing, and how I felt when I did it. There are all the things that I remember, either having experienced them myself or been told about them by others. Out of the same storehouse, with these past impressions, I can construct now this, now that, image of things that I either have experienced or have believed on the basis of experience -- and from these I can further construct future actions, events, and hopes; and I can meditate on all these things as if they were present. "I will do this or that" -- I say to myself in that vast recess of my mind, with its full store of so many and such great images -- "and this or that will follow upon it." "O that this or that could happen!" "God prevent this or that." I speak to myself in this way; and when I speak, the images of what I am speaking about are present out of the same store of memory; and if the images were absent I could say nothing at all about them.

15. Great is this power of memory, exceedingly great, O my God -- a large and boundless inner hall! Who has plumbed the depths of it? Yet it is a power of my mind, and it belongs to my nature. But I do not myself grasp all that I am. Thus the mind is far too narrow to contain itself. But where can that part of it be which it does not contain? Is it outside and not in itself? How can it be, then, that the mind cannot grasp itself? A great marvel rises in me; astonishment seizes me. Men go forth to marvel at the heights of mountains and the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vastness of the ocean, the orbits of the stars, and yet they neglect to marvel at themselves. Nor do they wonder how it is that, when I spoke of all these things, I was not looking at them with my eyes -- and yet I could not have spoken about them had it not been that I was actually seeing within, in my memory, those mountains and waves and rivers and stars which I have seen, and that ocean which I believe in -- and with the same vast spaces between them as when I saw them outside me. But when I saw them outside me, I did not take them into me by seeing them; and the things themselves are not inside me, but only their images. And yet I knew through which physical sense each experience had made an impression on me.

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Notes:

[337] The notion of the soul's immediate self-knowledge is a basic conception in Augustine's psychology and epistemology; cf. the refutation of skepticism, Si fallor, sum in On Free Will, II, 3:7; see also the City of God, XI, 26.

CHAPTER 9

16. And yet this is not all that the unlimited capacity of my memory stores up. In memory, there are also all that one has learned of the liberal sciences, and has not forgotten -- removed still further, so to say, into an inner place which is not a place. Of these things it is not the images that are retained, but the things themselves. For what literature and logic are, and what I know about how many different kinds of questions there are -- all these are stored in my memory as they are, so that I have not taken in the image and left the thing outside. It is not as though a sound had sounded and passed away like a voice heard by the ear which leaves a trace by which it can be called into memory again, as if it were still sounding in mind while it did so no longer outside. Nor is it the same as an odor which, even after it has passed and vanished into the wind, affects the sense of smell -- which then conveys into the memory the image of the smell which is what we recall and re-create; or like food which, once in the belly, surely now has no taste and yet does have a kind of taste in the memory; or like anything that is felt by the body through the sense of touch, which still remains as an image in the memory after the external object is removed. For these things themselves are not put into the memory. Only the images of them are gathered with a marvelous quickness and stored, as it were, in the most wonderful filing system, and are thence produced in a marvelous way by the act of remembering.

CHAPTER 10

17. But now when I hear that there are three kinds of questions -- "Whether a thing is? What it is? Of what kind it is?" -- I do indeed retain the images of the sounds of which these words are composed and I know that those sounds pass through the air with a noise and now no longer exist. But the things themselves which were signified by those sounds I never could reach by any sense of the body nor see them at all except by my mind. And what I have stored in my memory was not their signs, but the things signified.

How they got into me, let them tell who can. For I examine all the gates of my flesh, but I cannot find the door by which any of them entered. For the eyes say, "If they were colored, we reported that." The ears say, "If they gave any sound, we gave notice of that." The nostrils say, "If they smell, they passed in by us." The sense of taste says, "If they have no flavor, don't ask me about them." The sense of touch says, "If it had no bodily mass, I did not touch it, and if I never touched it, I gave no report about it."

Whence and how did these things enter into my memory? I do not know. For when I first learned them, it was not that I believed them on the credit of another man's mind, but I recognized them in my own; and I saw them as true, took them into my mind and laid them up, so to say, where I could get at them again whenever I willed. There they were, then, even before I learned them, but they were not in my memory. Where were they, then? How does it come about that when they were spoken of, I could acknowledge them and say, "So it is, it is true," unless they were already in the memory, though far back and hidden, as it were, in the more secret caves, so that unless they had been drawn out by the teaching of another person, I should perhaps never have been able to think of them at all?

CHAPTER 11

18. Thus we find that learning those things whose images we do not take in by our senses, but which we intuit within ourselves without images and as they actually are, is nothing else except the gathering together of those same things which the memory already contains -- but in an indiscriminate and confused manner -- and putting them together by careful observation as they are at hand in the memory; so that whereas they formerly lay hidden, scattered, or neglected, they now come easily to present themselves to the mind which is now familiar with them. And how many things of this sort my memory has stored up, which have already been discovered and, as I said, laid up for ready reference. These are the things we may be said to have learned and to know. Yet, if I cease to recall them even for short intervals of time, they are again so submerged -- and slide back, as it were, into the further reaches of the memory -- that they must be drawn out again as if new from the same place (for there is nowhere else for them to have gone) and must be collected [cogenda] so that they can become known. In other words, they must be gathered up [colligenda] from their dispersion. This is where we get the word cogitate [cogitare]. For cogo [collect] and cogito [to go on collecting] have the same relation to each other as ago [do] and agito [do frequently], and facio [make] and factito [make frequently]. But the mind has properly laid claim to this word [cogitate] so that not everything that is gathered together anywhere, but only what is collected and gathered together in the mind, is properly said to be "cogitated."

CHAPTER 12

19. The memory also contains the principles and the unnumbered laws of numbers and dimensions. None of these has been impressed on the memory by a physical sense, because they have neither color nor sound, nor taste, nor sense of touch. I have heard the sound of the words by which these things are signified when they are discussed: but the sounds are one thing, the things another. For the sounds are one thing in Greek, another in Latin; but the things themselves are neither Greek nor Latin nor any other language. I have seen the lines of the craftsmen, the finest of which are like a spider's web, but mathematical lines are different. They are not the images of such things as the eye of my body has showed me. The man who knows them does so without any cogitation of physical objects whatever, but intuits them within himself. I have perceived with all the senses of my body the numbers we use in counting; but the numbers by which we count are far different from these. They are not the images of these; they simply are. Let the man who does not see these things mock me for saying them; and I will pity him while he laughs at me.

CHAPTER 13

20. All these things I hold in my memory, and I remember how I learned them. I also remember many things that I have heard quite falsely urged against them, which, even if they are false, yet it is not false that I have remembered them. And I also remember that I have distinguished between the truths and the false objections, and now I see that it is one thing to distinguish these things and another to remember that I did distinguish them when I have cogitated on them. I remember, then, both that I have often understood these things and also that I am now storing away in my memory what I distinguish and comprehend of them so that later on I may remember just as I understand them now. Therefore, I remember that I remembered, so that if afterward I call to mind that I once was able to remember these things it will be through the power of memory that I recall it.

CHAPTER 14

21. This same memory also contains the feelings of my mind; not in the manner in which the mind itself experienced them, but very differently according to a power peculiar to memory. For without being joyous now, I can remember that I once was joyous, and without being sad, I can recall my past sadness. I can remember past fears without fear, and former desires without desire. Again, the contrary happens. Sometimes when I am joyous I remember my past sadness, and when sad, remember past joy.

This is not to be marveled at as far as the body is concerned; for the mind is one thing and the body another. [338] If, therefore, when I am happy, I recall some past bodily pain, it is not so strange. But even as this memory is experienced, it is identical with the mind -- as when we tell someone to remember something we say, "See that you bear this in mind"; and when we forget a thing, we say, "It did not enter my mind" or "It slipped my mind." Thus we call memory itself mind.

Since this is so, how does it happen that when I am joyful I can still remember past sorrow? Thus the mind has joy, and the memory has sorrow; and the mind is joyful from the joy that is in it, yet the memory is not sad from the sadness that is in it. Is it possible that the memory does not belong to the mind? Who will say so? The memory doubtless is, so to say, the belly of the mind: and joy and sadness are like sweet and bitter food, which when they are committed to the memory are, so to say, passed into the belly where they can be stored but no longer tasted. It is ridiculous to consider this an analogy; yet they are not utterly unlike.

22. But look, it is from my memory that I produce it when I say that there are four basic emotions of the mind: desire, joy, fear, sadness. Whatever kind of analysis I may be able to make of these, by dividing each into its particular species, and by defining it, I still find what to say in my memory and it is from my memory that I draw it out. Yet I am not moved by any of these emotions when I call them to mind by remembering them. Moreover, before I recalled them and thought about them, they were there in the memory; and this is how they could be brought forth in remembrance. Perhaps, therefore, just as food is brought up out of the belly by rumination, so also these things are drawn up out of the memory by recall. But why, then, does not the man who is thinking about the emotions, and is thus recalling them, feel in the mouth of his reflection the sweetness of joy or the bitterness of sadness? Is the comparison unlike in this because it is not complete at every point? For who would willingly speak on these subjects, if as often as we used the term sadness or fear, we should thereby be compelled to be sad or fearful? And yet we could never speak of them if we did not find them in our memories, not merely as the sounds of the names, as their images are impressed on it by the physical senses, but also the notions of the things themselves -- which we did not receive by any gate of the flesh, but which the mind itself recognizes by the experience of its own passions, and has entrusted to the memory; or else which the memory itself has retained without their being entrusted to it.

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Notes:

[338] Again, the mind-body dualism typical of the Augustinian tradition. Cf. E. Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1940), pp. 173-188; and E. Gilson, The Philosophy of Saint Bonaventure (Sheed & Ward, New York, 1938), ch. XI.

CHAPTER 15

23. Now whether all this is by means of images or not, who can rightly affirm? For I name a stone, I name the sun, and those things themselves are not present to my senses, but their images are present in my memory. I name some pain of the body, yet it is not present when there is no pain; yet if there were not some such image of it in my memory, I could not even speak of it, nor should I be able to distinguish it from pleasure. I name bodily health when I am sound in body, and the thing itself is indeed present in me. At the same time, unless there were some image of it in my memory, I could not possibly call to mind what the sound of this name signified. Nor would sick people know what was meant when health was named, unless the same image were preserved by the power of memory, even though the thing itself is absent from the body. I can name the numbers we use in counting, and it is not their images but themselves that are in my memory. I name the image of the sun, and this too is in my memory. For I do not recall the image of that image, but that image itself, for the image itself is present when I remember it. I name memory and I know what I name. But where do I know it, except in the memory itself? Is it also present to itself by its image, and not by itself?

CHAPTER 16

24. When I name forgetfulness, and understand what I mean by the name, how could I understand it if I did not remember it? And if I refer not to the sound of the name, but to the thing which the term signifies, how could I know what that sound signified if I had forgotten what the name means? When, therefore, I remember memory, then memory is present to itself by itself, but when I remember forgetfulness then both memory and forgetfulness are present together -- the memory by which I remember the forgetfulness which I remember. But what is forgetfulness except the privation of memory? How, then, is that present to my memory which, when it controls my mind, I cannot remember? But if what we remember we store up in our memory; and if, unless we remembered forgetfulness, we could never know the thing signified by the term when we heard it -- then, forgetfulness is contained in the memory. It is present so that we do not forget it, but since it is present, we do forget.

From this it is to be inferred that when we remember forgetfulness, it is not present to the memory through itself, but through its image; because if forgetfulness were present through itself, it would not lead us to remember, but only to forget. Now who will someday work this out? Who can understand how it is?

25. Truly, O Lord, I toil with this and labor in myself. I have become a troublesome field that requires hard labor and heavy sweat. For we are not now searching out the tracts of heaven, or measuring the distances of the stars or inquiring about the weight of the earth. It is I myself -- I, the mind -- who remember. This is not much to marvel at, if what I myself am is not far from me. And what is nearer to me than myself? For see, I am not able to comprehend the force of my own memory, though I could not even call my own name without it. But what shall I say, when it is clear to me that I remember forgetfulness? Should I affirm that what I remember is not in my memory? Or should I say that forgetfulness is in my memory to the end that I should not forget? Both of these views are most absurd. But what third view is there? How can I say that the image of forgetfulness is retained by my memory, and not forgetfulness itself, when I remember it? How can I say this, since for the image of anything to be imprinted on the memory the thing itself must necessarily have been present first by which the image could have been imprinted? Thus I remember Carthage; thus, also, I remember all the other places where I have been. And I remember the faces of men whom I have seen and things reported by the other senses. I remember the health or sickness of the body. And when these objects were present, my memory received images from them so that they remain present in order for me to see them and reflect upon them in my mind, if I choose to remember them in their absence. If, therefore, forgetfulness is retained in the memory through its image and not through itself, then this means that it itself was once present, so that its image might have been imprinted. But when it was present, how did it write its image on the memory, since forgetfulness, by its presence, blots out even what it finds already written there? And yet in some way or other, even though it is incomprehensible and inexplicable, I am still quite certain that I also remember forgetfulness, by which we remember that something is blotted out.

CHAPTER 17

26. Great is the power of memory. It is a true marvel, O my God, a profound and infinite multiplicity! And this is the mind, and this I myself am. What, then, am I, O my God? Of what nature am I? A life various, and manifold, and exceedingly vast. Behold in the numberless halls and caves, in the innumerable fields and dens and caverns of my memory, full without measure of numberless kinds of things -- present there either through images as all bodies are; or present in the things themselves as are our thoughts; or by some notion or observation as our emotions are, which the memory retains even though the mind feels them no longer, as long as whatever is in the memory is also in the mind -- through all these I run and fly to and fro. I penetrate into them on this side and that as far as I can and yet there is nowhere any end.

So great is the power of memory, so great the power of life in man whose life is mortal! What, then, shall I do, O thou my true life, my God? I will pass even beyond this power of mine that is called memory -- I will pass beyond it, that I may come to thee, O lovely Light. And what art thou saying to me? See, I soar by my mind toward thee, who remainest above me. I will also pass beyond this power of mine that is called memory, desiring to reach thee where thou canst be reached, and wishing to cleave to thee where it is possible to cleave to thee. For even beasts and birds possess memory, or else they could never find their lairs and nests again, nor display many other things they know and do by habit. Indeed, they could not even form their habits except by their memories. I will therefore pass even beyond memory that I may reach Him who has differentiated me from the four-footed beasts and the fowls of the air by making me a wiser creature. Thus I will pass beyond memory; but where shall I find thee, who art the true Good and the steadfast Sweetness? But where shall I find thee? If I find thee without memory, then I shall have no memory of thee; and how could I find thee at all, if I do not remember thee?

CHAPTER 18

27. For the woman who lost her small coin [339] and searched for it with a light would never have found it unless she had remembered it. For when it was found, how could she have known whether it was the same coin, if she had not remembered it? I remember having lost and found many things, and I have learned this from that experience: that when I was searching for any of them and was asked: "Is this it? Is that it?" I answered, "No," until finally what I was seeking was shown to me. But if I had not remembered it -- whatever it was -- even though it was shown to me, I still would not have found it because I could not have recognized it. And this is the way it always is when we search for and find anything that is lost. Still, if anything is accidentally lost from sight -- not from memory, as a visible body might be -- its image is retained within, and the thing is searched for until it is restored to sight. And when the thing is found, it is recognized by the image of it which is within. And we do not say that we have found what we have lost unless we can recognize it, and we cannot recognize it unless we remember it. But all the while the thing lost to the sight was retained in the memory.

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Notes:

[339] Luke 15:8.

CHAPTER 19

28. But what happens when the memory itself loses something, as when we forget anything and try to recall it? Where, finally, do we search, but in the memory itself? And there, if by chance one thing is offered for another, we refuse it until we meet with what we are looking for; and when we do, we recognize that this is it. But we could not do this unless we recognized it, nor could we have recognized it unless we remembered it. Yet we had indeed forgotten it.

Perhaps the whole of it had not slipped out of our memory; but a part was retained by which the other lost part was sought for, because the memory realized that it was not operating as smoothly as usual and was being held up by the crippling of its habitual working; hence, it demanded the restoration of what was lacking.

For example, if we see or think of some man we know, and, having forgotten his name, try to recall it -- if some other thing presents itself, we cannot tie it into the effort to remember, because it was not habitually thought of in association with him. It is consequently rejected, until something comes into the mind on which our knowledge can rightly rest as the familiar and sought-for object. And where does this name come back from, save from the memory itself? For even when we recognize it by another's reminding us of it, still it is from the memory that this comes, for we do not believe it as something new; but when we recall it, we admit that what was said was correct. But if the name had been entirely blotted out of the mind, we should not be able to recollect it even when reminded of it. For we have not entirely forgotten anything if we can remember that we have forgotten it. For a lost notion, one that we have entirely forgotten, we cannot even search for.

CHAPTER 20

29. How, then, do I seek thee, O Lord? For when I seek thee, my God, I seek a happy life. I will seek thee that my soul may live. [340] For my body lives by my soul, and my soul lives by thee. How, then, do I seek a happy life, since happiness is not mine till I can rightly say: "It is enough. This is it." How do I seek it? Is it by remembering, as though I had forgotten it and still knew that I had forgotten it? Do I seek it in longing to learn of it as though it were something unknown, which either I had never known or had so completely forgotten as not even to remember that I had forgotten it? Is not the happy life the thing that all desire, and is there anyone who does not desire it at all? [341] But where would they have gotten the knowledge of it, that they should so desire it? Where have they seen it that they should so love it? It is somehow true that we have it, but how I do not know.

There is, indeed, a sense in which when anyone has his desire he is happy. And then there are some who are happy in hope. These are happy in an inferior degree to those that are actually happy; yet they are better off than those who are happy neither in actuality nor in hope. But even these, if they had not known happiness in some degree, would not then desire to be happy. And yet it is most certain that they do so desire. How they come to know happiness, I cannot tell, but they have it by some kind of knowledge unknown to me, for I am very much in doubt as to whether it is in the memory. For if it is in there, then we have been happy once on a time -- either each of us individually or all of us in that man who first sinned and in whom also we all died and from whom we are all born in misery. How this is, I do not now ask; but I do ask whether the happy life is in the memory. For if we did not know it, we should not love it. We hear the name of it, and we all acknowledge that we desire the thing, for we are not delighted with the name only. For when a Greek hears it spoken in Latin, he does not feel delighted, for he does not know what has been spoken. But we are as delighted as he would be in turn if he heard it in Greek, because the thing itself is neither Greek nor Latin, this happiness which Greeks and Latins and men of all the other tongues long so earnestly to obtain. It is, then, known to all; and if all could with one voice be asked whether they wished to be happy, there is no doubt they would all answer that they would. And this would not be possible unless the thing itself, which we name "happiness," were held in the memory.

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Notes:

[340] Cf. Isa. 55:3.

[341] Cf. the early dialogue "On the Happy Life" in Vol. I of The Fathers of the Church (New York, 1948).

CHAPTER 21

30. But is it the same kind of memory as one who having seen Carthage remembers it? No, for the happy life is not visible to the eye, since it is not a physical object. Is it the sort of memory we have for numbers? No, for the man who has these in his understanding does not keep striving to attain more. Now we know something about the happy life and therefore we love it, but still we wish to go on striving for it that we may be happy. Is the memory of happiness, then, something like the memory of eloquence? No, for although some, when they hear the term eloquence, call the thing to mind, even if they are not themselves eloquent -- and further, there are many people who would like to be eloquent, from which it follows that they must know something about it -- nevertheless, these people have noticed through their senses that others are eloquent and have been delighted to observe this and long to be this way themselves. But they would not be delighted if it were not some interior knowledge; and they would not desire to be delighted unless they had been delighted. But as for a happy life, there is no physical perception by which we experience it in others.

Do we remember happiness, then, as we remember joy? It may be so, for I remember my joy even when I am sad, just as I remember a happy life when I am miserable. And I have never, through physical perception, either seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched my joy. But I have experienced it in my mind when I rejoiced; and the knowledge of it clung to my memory so that I can call it to mind, sometimes with disdain and at other times with longing, depending on the different kinds of things I now remember that I rejoiced in. For I have been bathed with a certain joy even by unclean things, which I now detest and execrate as I call them to mind. At other times, I call to mind with longing good and honest things, which are not any longer near at hand, and I am therefore saddened when I recall my former joy.

31. Where and when did I ever experience my happy life that I can call it to mind and love it and long for it? It is not I alone or even a few others who wish to be happy, but absolutely everybody. Unless we knew happiness by a knowledge that is certain, we should not wish for it with a will which is so certain. Take this example: If two men were asked whether they wished to serve as soldiers, one of them might reply that he would, and the other that he would not; but if they were asked whether they wished to be happy, both of them would unhesitatingly say that they would. But the first one would wish to serve as a soldier and the other would not wish to serve, both from no other motive than to be happy. Is it, perhaps, that one finds his joy in this and another in that? Thus they agree in their wish for happiness just as they would also agree, if asked, in wishing for joy. Is this joy what they call a happy life? Although one could choose his joy in this way and another in that, all have one goal which they strive to attain, namely, to have joy. This joy, then, being something that no one can say he has not experienced, is therefore found in the memory and it is recognized whenever the phrase "a happy life" is heard.

CHAPTER 22

32. Forbid it, O Lord, put it far from the heart of thy servant, who confesses to thee -- far be it from me to think I am happy because of any and all the joy I have. For there is a joy not granted to the wicked but only to those who worship thee thankfully -- and this joy thou thyself art. The happy life is this -- to rejoice to thee, in thee, and for thee. This it is and there is no other. But those who think there is another follow after other joys, and not the true one. But their will is still not moved except by some image or shadow of joy.
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

Postby admin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:28 am

Part 2 of 2

CHAPTER 23

33. Is it, then, uncertain that all men wish to be happy, since those who do not wish to find their joy in thee -- which is alone the happy life -- do not actually desire the happy life? Or, is it rather that all desire this, but because "the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh," so that they "prevent you from doing what you would," [342] you fall to doing what you are able to do and are content with that. For you do not want to do what you cannot do urgently enough to make you able to do it.

Now I ask all men whether they would rather rejoice in truth or in falsehood. They will no more hesitate to answer, "In truth," than to say that they wish to be happy. For a happy life is joy in the truth. Yet this is joy in thee, who art the Truth, O God my Light, "the health of my countenance and my God." [343] All wish for this happy life; all wish for this life which is the only happy one: joy in the truth is what all men wish.

I have had experience with many who wished to deceive, but not one who wished to be deceived. [344] Where, then, did they ever know about this happy life, except where they knew also what the truth is? For they love it, too, since they are not willing to be deceived. And when they love the happy life, which is nothing else but joy in the truth, then certainly they also love the truth. And yet they would not love it if there were not some knowledge of it in the memory.

Why, then, do they not rejoice in it? Why are they not happy? Because they are so fully preoccupied with other things which do more to make them miserable than those which would make them happy, which they remember so little about. Yet there is a little light in men. Let them walk -- let them walk in it, lest the darkness overtake them.

34. Why, then, does truth generate hatred, and why does thy servant who preaches the truth come to be an enemy to them who also love the happy life, which is nothing else than joy in the truth -- unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something else besides her wish that to be the truth which they do love. Since they are unwilling to be deceived, they are unwilling to be convinced that they have been deceived. Therefore, they hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is that they love in place of the truth. They love truth when she shines on them; and hate her when she rebukes them. And since they are not willing to be deceived, but do wish to deceive, they love truth when she reveals herself and hate her when she reveals them. On this account, she will so repay them that those who are unwilling to be exposed by her she will indeed expose against their will, and yet will not disclose herself to them.

Thus, thus, truly thus: the human mind so blind and sick, so base and ill-mannered, desires to lie hidden, but does not wish that anything should be hidden from it. And yet the opposite is what happens -- the mind itself is not hidden from the truth, but the truth is hidden from it. Yet even so, for all its wretchedness, it still prefers to rejoice in truth rather than in known falsehoods. It will, then, be happy only when without other distractions it comes to rejoice in that single Truth through which all things else are true.

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Notes:

[342] Gal. 5:17.

[343] Ps. 42:11.

[344] Cf. Enchiridion, VI, 19ff.

CHAPTER 24

35. Behold how great a territory I have explored in my memory seeking thee, O Lord! And in it all I have still not found thee. Nor have I found anything about thee, except what I had already retained in my memory from the time I learned of thee. For where I found Truth, there found I my God, who is the Truth. From the time I learned this I have not forgotten. And thus since the time I learned of thee, thou hast dwelt in my memory, and it is there that I find thee whenever I call thee to remembrance, and delight in thee. These are my holy delights, which thou hast bestowed on me in thy mercy, mindful of my poverty.

CHAPTER 25

36. But where in my memory dost thou abide, O Lord? Where dost thou dwell there? What sort of lodging hast thou made for thyself there? What kind of sanctuary hast thou built for thyself? Thou hast done this honor to my memory to take up thy abode in it, but I must consider further in what part of it thou dost abide. For in calling thee to mind, I soared beyond those parts of memory which the beasts also possess, because I did not find thee there among the images of corporeal things. From there I went on to those parts where I had stored the remembered affections of my mind, and I did not find thee there. And I entered into the inmost seat of my mind, which is in my memory, since the mind remembers itself also -- and thou wast not there. For just as thou art not a bodily image, nor the emotion of a living creature (such as we feel when we rejoice or are grief-stricken, when we desire, or fear, or remember, or forget, or anything of that kind), so neither art thou the mind itself. For thou art the Lord God of the mind and of all these things that are mutable; but thou abidest immutable over all. Yet thou hast elected to dwell in my memory from the time I learned of thee. But why do I now inquire about the part of my memory thou dost dwell in, as if indeed there were separate parts in it? Assuredly, thou dwellest in it, since I have remembered thee from the time I learned of thee, and I find thee in my memory when I call thee to mind.

CHAPTER 26

37. Where, then, did I find thee so as to be able to learn of thee? For thou wast not in my memory before I learned of thee. Where, then, did I find thee so as to be able to learn of thee -- save in thyself beyond me. [345] Place there is none. We go "backward" and "forward" and there is no place. Everywhere and at once, O Truth, thou guidest all who consult thee, and simultaneously answerest all even though they consult thee on quite different things. Thou answerest clearly, though all do not hear in clarity. All take counsel of thee on whatever point they wish, though they do not always hear what they wish. He is thy best servant who does not look to hear from thee what he himself wills, but who wills rather to will what he hears from thee.

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Notes:

[345] When he is known at all, God is known as the Self-evident. This is, of course, not a doctrine of innate ideas but rather of the necessity, and reality, of divine illumination as the dynamic source of all our knowledge of divine reality. Cf. Coplestone, op. cit., ch. IV, and Cushman, op. cit.

CHAPTER 27

38. Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. These things kept me far from thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in thee. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace.

CHAPTER 28

39. When I come to be united to thee with all my being, then there will be no more pain and toil for me, and my life shall be a real life, being wholly filled by thee. But since he whom thou fillest is the one thou liftest up, I am still a burden to myself because I am not yet filled by thee. Joys of sorrow contend with sorrows of joy, and on which side the victory lies I do not know.

Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me; my evil sorrows contend with my good joys, and on which side the victory lies I do not know. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. Woe is me! Behold, I do not hide my wounds. Thou art the Physician, I am the sick man; thou art merciful, I need mercy. Is not the life of man on earth an ordeal? Who is he that wishes for vexations and difficulties? Thou commandest them to be endured, not to be loved. For no man loves what he endures, though he may love to endure. Yet even if he rejoices to endure, he would prefer that there were nothing for him to endure. In adversity, I desire prosperity; in prosperity, I fear adversity. What middle place is there, then, between these two, where human life is not an ordeal? There is woe in the prosperity of this world; there is woe in the fear of misfortune; there is woe in the distortion of joy. There is woe in the adversities of this world -- a second woe, and a third, from the desire of prosperity -- because adversity itself is a hard thing to bear and makes shipwreck of endurance. Is not the life of man upon the earth an ordeal, and that without surcease?

CHAPTER 29

40. My whole hope is in thy exceeding great mercy and that alone. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt. Thou commandest continence from us, and when I knew, as it is said, that no one could be continent unless God gave it to him, even this was a point of wisdom to know whose gift it was. [346] For by continence we are bound up and brought back together in the One, whereas before we were scattered abroad among the many. [347] For he loves thee too little who loves along with thee anything else that he does not love for thy sake, O Love, who dost burn forever and art never quenched. O Love, O my God, enkindle me! Thou commandest continence; give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.

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Notes:

[346] Cf. Wis. 8:21.

[347] Cf. Enneads, VI, 9:4.

CHAPTER 30

41. Obviously thou commandest that I should be continent from "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." [348] Thou commandest me to abstain from fornication, and as for marriage itself, thou hast counseled something better than what thou dost allow. And since thou gavest it, it was done -- even before I became a minister of thy sacrament. But there still exist in my memory -- of which I have spoken so much -- the images of such things as my habits had fixed there. These things rush into my thoughts with no power when I am awake; but in sleep they rush in not only so as to give pleasure, but even to obtain consent and what very closely resembles the deed itself. Indeed, the illusion of the image prevails to such an extent, in both my soul and my flesh, that the illusion persuades me when sleeping to what the reality cannot do when I am awake. Am I not myself at such a time, O Lord my God? And is there so much of a difference between myself awake and myself in the moment when I pass from waking to sleeping, or return from sleeping to waking?

Where, then, is the power of reason which resists such suggestions when I am awake -- for even if the things themselves be forced upon it I remain unmoved? Does reason cease when the eyes close? Is it put to sleep with the bodily senses? But in that case how does it come to pass that even in slumber we often resist, and with our conscious purposes in mind, continue most chastely in them, and yield no assent to such allurements? Yet there is at least this much difference: that when it happens otherwise in dreams, when we wake up, we return to peace of conscience. And it is by this difference between sleeping and waking that we discover that it was not we who did it, while we still feel sorry that in some way it was done in us.

42. Is not thy hand, O Almighty God, able to heal all the diseases of my soul and, by thy more and more abundant grace, to quench even the lascivious motions of my sleep? Thou wilt increase thy gifts in me more and more, O Lord, that my soul may follow me to thee, wrenched free from the sticky glue of lust so that it is no longer in rebellion against itself, even in dreams; that it neither commits nor consents to these debasing corruptions which come through sensual images and which result in the pollution of the flesh. For it is no great thing for the Almighty, who is "able to do . . . more than we can ask or think," [349] to bring it about that no such influence -- not even one so slight that a nod might restrain it -- should afford gratification to the feelings of a chaste person even when sleeping. This could come to pass not only in this life but even at my present age. But what I am still in this way of wickedness I have confessed unto my good Lord, rejoicing with trembling in what thou hast given me and grieving in myself for that in which I am still imperfect. I am trusting that thou wilt perfect thy mercies in me, to the fullness of that peace which both my inner and outward being shall have with thee when death is swallowed up in victory. [350]

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Notes:

[348] 1 John 2:16.

[349] Eph. 3:20.

[350] 1 Cor. 15:54.

CHAPTER 31

43. There is yet another "evil of the day" [351] to which I wish I were sufficient. By eating and drinking we restore the daily losses of the body until that day when thou destroyest both food and stomach, when thou wilt destroy this emptiness with an amazing fullness and wilt clothe this corruptible with an eternal incorruption. But now the necessity of habit is sweet to me, and against this sweetness must I fight, lest I be enthralled by it. Thus I carry on a daily war by fasting, constantly "bringing my body into subjection," [352] after which my pains are banished by pleasure. For hunger and thirst are actual pain. They consume and destroy like fever does, unless the medicine of food is at hand to relieve us. And since this medicine at hand comes from the comfort we receive in thy gifts (by means of which land and water and air serve our infirmity), even our calamity is called pleasure.

44. This much thou hast taught me: that I should learn to take food as medicine. But during that time when I pass from the pinch of emptiness to the contentment of fullness, it is in that very moment that the snare of appetite lies baited for me. For the passage itself is pleasant; there is no other way of passing thither, and necessity compels us to pass. And while health is the reason for our eating and drinking, yet a perilous delight joins itself to them as a handmaid; and indeed, she tries to take precedence in order that I may want to do for her sake what I say I want to do for health's sake. They do not both have the same limit either. What is sufficient for health is not enough for pleasure. And it is often a matter of doubt whether it is the needful care of the body that still calls for food or whether it is the sensual snare of desire still wanting to be served. In this uncertainty my unhappy soul rejoices, and uses it to prepare an excuse as a defense. It is glad that it is not clear as to what is sufficient for the moderation of health, so that under the pretense of health it may conceal its projects for pleasure. These temptations I daily endeavor to resist and I summon thy right hand to my help and cast my perplexities onto thee, for I have not yet reached a firm conclusion in this matter.

45. I hear the voice of my God commanding: "Let not your heart be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness." [353] Drunkenness is far from me. Thou wilt have mercy that it does not come near me. But "surfeiting" sometimes creeps upon thy servant. Thou wilt have mercy that it may be put far from me. For no man can be continent unless thou give it. [354] Many things that we pray for thou givest us, and whatever good we receive before we prayed for it, we receive it from thee, so that we might afterward know that we did receive it from thee. I never was a drunkard, but I have known drunkards made into sober men by thee. It was also thy doing that those who never were drunkards have not been -- and likewise, it was from thee that those who have been might not remain so always. And it was likewise from thee that both might know from whom all this came.

I heard another voice of thine: "Do not follow your lusts and refrain yourself from your pleasures." [355] And by thy favor I have also heard this saying in which I have taken much delight: "Neither if we eat are we the better; nor if we eat not are we the worse." [356] This is to say that neither shall the one make me to abound, nor the other to be wretched. I heard still another voice: "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. . . . I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." [357] See here a soldier of the heavenly army; not the sort of dust we are. But remember, O Lord, "that we are dust" [358] and that thou didst create man out of the dust, [359] and that he "was lost, and is found." [360] Of course, he [the apostle Paul] could not do all this by his own power. He was of the same dust -- he whom I loved so much and who spoke of these things through the afflatus of thy inspiration: "I can," he said, "do all things through him who strengtheneth me." Strengthen me, that I too may be able. Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt. This man [Paul] confesses that he received the gift of grace and that, when he glories, he glories in the Lord. I have heard yet another voice praying that he might receive. "Take from me," he said, "the greediness of the belly." [361] And from this it appears, O my holy God, that thou dost give it, when what thou commandest to be done is done.

46. Thou hast taught me, good Father, that "to the pure all things are pure" [362]; but "it is evil for that man who gives offense in eating" [363]; and that "every creature of thine is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving" [364]; and that "meat does not commend us to God" [365]; and that "no man should judge us in meat or in drink." [366] "Let not him who eats despise him who eats not, and let him that does not eat judge not him who does eat." [367] These things I have learned, thanks and praise be to thee, O my God and Master, who knockest at my ears and enlightenest my heart. Deliver me from all temptation!

It is not the uncleanness of meat that I fear, but the uncleanness of an incontinent appetite. I know that permission was granted Noah to eat every kind of flesh that was good for food; that Elijah was fed with flesh; that John, blessed with a wonderful abstinence, was not polluted by the living creatures (that is, the locusts) on which he fed. And I also know that Esau was deceived by his hungering after lentils and that David blamed himself for desiring water, and that our King was tempted not by flesh but by bread. And, thus, the people in the wilderness truly deserved their reproof, not because they desired meat, but because in their desire for food they murmured against the Lord.

47. Set down, then, in the midst of these temptations, I strive daily against my appetite for food and drink. For it is not the kind of appetite I am able to deal with by cutting it off once for all, and thereafter not touching it, as I was able to do with fornication. The bridle of the throat, therefore, must be held in the mean between slackness and tightness. And who, O Lord, is he who is not in some degree carried away beyond the bounds of necessity? Whoever he is, he is great; let him magnify thy name. But I am not such a one, "for I am a sinful man." [368] Yet I too magnify thy name, for he who hath "overcome the world" [369] intercedeth with thee for my sins, numbering me among the weak members of his body; for thy eyes did see what was imperfect in him, and in thy book all shall be written down. [370]

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Notes:

[351] Cf. Matt. 6:34.

[352] 1 Cor. 9:27.

[353] Cf. Luke 21:34.

[354] Cf. Wis. 8:21.

[355] Ecclus. 18:30.

[356] 1 Cor. 8:8.

[357] Phil. 4:11-13.

[358] Ps. 103:14.

[359] Cf. Gen. 3:19.

[360] Luke 15:24.

[361] Ecclus. 23:6.

[362] Titus 1:15.

[363] Rom. 14:20.

[364] 1 Tim. 4:4.

[365] 1 Cor. 8:8.

[366] Cf. Col. 2:16.

[367] Rom. 14:3.

[368] Luke 5:8.

[369] John 16:33.

[370] Cf. Ps. 139:16.

CHAPTER 32

48. I am not much troubled by the allurement of odors. When they are absent, I do not seek them; when they are present, I do not refuse them; and I am always prepared to go without them. At any rate, I appear thus to myself; it is quite possible that I am deceived. For there is a lamentable darkness in which my capabilities are concealed, so that when my mind inquires into itself concerning its own powers, it does not readily venture to believe itself, because what already is in it is largely concealed unless experience brings it to light. Thus no man ought to feel secure in this life, the whole of which is called an ordeal, ordered so that the man who could be made better from having been worse may not also from having been better become worse. Our sole hope, our sole confidence, our only assured promise, is thy mercy.

CHAPTER 33

49. The delights of the ear drew and held me much more powerfully, but thou didst unbind and liberate me. In those melodies which thy words inspire when sung with a sweet and trained voice, I still find repose; yet not so as to cling to them, but always so as to be able to free myself as I wish. But it is because of the words which are their life that they gain entry into me and strive for a place of proper honor in my heart; and I can hardly assign them a fitting one. Sometimes, I seem to myself to give them more respect than is fitting, when I see that our minds are more devoutly and earnestly inflamed in piety by the holy words when they are sung than when they are not. And I recognize that all the diverse affections of our spirits have their appropriate measures in the voice and song, to which they are stimulated by I know not what secret correlation. But the pleasures of my flesh -- to which the mind ought never to be surrendered nor by them enervated -- often beguile me while physical sense does not attend on reason, to follow her patiently, but having once gained entry to help the reason, it strives to run on before her and be her leader. Thus in these things I sin unknowingly, but I come to know it afterward.

50. On the other hand, when I avoid very earnestly this kind of deception, I err out of too great austerity. Sometimes I go to the point of wishing that all the melodies of the pleasant songs to which David's Psalter is adapted should be banished both from my ears and from those of the Church itself. In this mood, the safer way seemed to me the one I remember was once related to me concerning Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who required the readers of the psalm to use so slight an inflection of the voice that it was more like speaking than singing.

However, when I call to mind the tears I shed at the songs of thy Church at the outset of my recovered faith, and how even now I am moved, not by the singing but by what is sung (when they are sung with a clear and skillfully modulated voice), I then come to acknowledge the great utility of this custom. Thus I vacillate between dangerous pleasure and healthful exercise. I am inclined -- though I pronounce no irrevocable opinion on the subject -- to approve of the use of singing in the church, so that by the delights of the ear the weaker minds may be stimulated to a devotional mood. [371] Yet when it happens that I am more moved by the singing than by what is sung, I confess myself to have sinned wickedly, and then I would rather not have heard the singing. See now what a condition I am in! Weep with me, and weep for me, those of you who can so control your inward feelings that good results always come forth. As for you who do not act this way at all, such things do not concern you. But do thou, O Lord, my God, give ear; look and see, and have mercy upon me; and heal me -- thou, in whose sight I am become an enigma to myself; this itself is my weakness.

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Notes:

[371] Cf. the evidence for Augustine's interest and proficiency in music in his essay De musica, written a decade earlier.

CHAPTER 34

51. There remain the delights of these eyes of my flesh, about which I must make my confession in the hearing of the ears of thy temple, brotherly and pious ears. Thus I will finish the list of the temptations of carnal appetite which still assail me -- groaning and desiring as I am to be clothed upon with my house from heaven. [372]

The eyes delight in fair and varied forms, and bright and pleasing colors. Let these not take possession of my soul! Rather let God possess it, he who didst make all these things very good indeed. He is still my good, and not these. The pleasures of sight affect me all the time I am awake. There is no rest from them given me, as there is from the voices of melody, which I can occasionally find in silence. For daylight, that queen of the colors, floods all that we look upon everywhere I go during the day. It flits about me in manifold forms and soothes me even when I am busy about other things, not noticing it. And it presents itself so forcibly that if it is suddenly withdrawn it is looked for with longing, and if it is long absent the mind is saddened.

52. O Light, which Tobit saw even with his eyes closed in blindness, when he taught his son the way of life -- and went before him himself in the steps of love and never went astray [373]; or that Light which Isaac saw when his fleshly "eyes were dim, so that he could not see" [374] because of old age, and it was permitted him unknowingly to bless his sons, but in the blessing of them to know them; or that Light which Jacob saw, when he too, blind in old age yet with an enlightened heart, threw light on the nation of men yet to come -- presignified in the persons of his own sons -- and laid his hands mystically crossed upon his grandchildren by Joseph (not as their father, who saw them from without, but as though he were within them), and distinguished them aright [375]: this is the true Light; it is one, and all are one who see and love it.

But that corporeal light, of which I was speaking, seasons the life of the world for her blind lovers with a tempting and fatal sweetness. Those who know how to praise thee for it, "O God, Creator of Us All," take it up in thy hymn, [376] and are not taken over by it in their sleep. Such a man I desire to be. I resist the seductions of my eyes, lest my feet be entangled as I go forward in thy way; and I raise my invisible eyes to thee, that thou wouldst be pleased to "pluck my feet out of the net." [377] Thou dost continually pluck them out, for they are easily ensnared. Thou ceasest not to pluck them out, but I constantly remain fast in the snares set all around me. However, thou who "keepest Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." [378]

53. What numberless things there are: products of the various arts and manufactures in our clothes, shoes, vessels, and all such things; besides such things as pictures and statuary -- and all these far beyond the necessary and moderate use of them or their significance for the life of piety -- which men have added for the delight of the eye, copying the outward forms of the things they make; but inwardly forsaking Him by whom they were made and destroying what they themselves have been made to be!

And I, O my God and my Joy, I also raise a hymn to thee for all these things, and offer a sacrifice of praise to my Sanctifier, because those beautiful forms which pass through the medium of the human soul into the artist's hands come from that beauty which is above our minds, which my soul sighs for day and night. But the craftsmen and devotees of these outward beauties discover the norm by which they judge them from that higher beauty, but not the measure of their use. Still, even if they do not see it, it is there nevertheless, to guard them from wandering astray, and to keep their strength for thee, and not dissipate it in delights that pass into boredom. And for myself, though I can see and understand this, I am still entangled in my own course with such beauty, but thou wilt rescue me, O Lord, thou wilt rescue me, "for thy loving-kindness is before my eyes." [379] For I am captivated in my weakness but thou in thy mercy dost rescue me: sometimes without my knowing it, because I had only lightly fallen; at other times, the rescue is painful because I was stuck fast.

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Notes:

[372] Cf. 2 Cor. 5:2.

[373] Cf. Tobit, chs. 2 to 4.

[374] Gen. 27:1; cf. Augustine's Sermon IV, 20:21f.

[375] Cf. Gen., ch. 48.

[376] Again, Ambrose, Deus, creator omnium, an obvious favorite of Augustine's. See above, Bk. IX, Ch. XII, 32.

[377] Ps. 25:15.

[378] Ps. 121:4.

[379] Ps. 26:3.

CHAPTER 35

54. Besides this there is yet another form of temptation still more complex in its peril. For in addition to the fleshly appetite which strives for the gratification of all senses and pleasures -- in which its slaves perish because they separate themselves from thee -- there is also a certain vain and curious longing in the soul, rooted in the same bodily senses, which is cloaked under the name of knowledge and learning; not having pleasure in the flesh, but striving for new experiences through the flesh. This longing -- since its origin is our appetite for learning, and since the sight is the chief of our senses in the acquisition of knowledge -- is called in the divine language "the lust of the eyes." [380] For seeing is a function of the eyes; yet we also use this word for the other senses as well, when we exercise them in the search for knowledge. We do not say, "Listen how it glows," "Smell how it glistens," "Taste how it shines," or "Feel how it flashes," since all of these are said to be seen. And we do not simply say, "See how it shines," which only the eyes can perceive; but we also say, "See how it sounds, see how it smells, see how it tastes, see how hard it is." Thus, as we said before, the whole round of sensory experience is called "the lust of the eyes" because the function of seeing, in which the eyes have the principal role, is applied by analogy to the other senses when they are seeking after any kind of knowledge.

55. From this, then, one can the more clearly distinguish whether it is pleasure or curiosity that is being pursued by the senses. For pleasure pursues objects that are beautiful, melodious, fragrant, savory, soft. But curiosity, seeking new experiences, will even seek out the contrary of these, not with the purpose of experiencing the discomfort that often accompanies them, but out of a passion for experimenting and knowledge.

For what pleasure is there in the sight of a lacerated corpse, which makes you shudder? And yet if there is one lying close by we flock to it, as if to be made sad and pale. People fear lest they should see such a thing even in sleep, just as they would if, when awake, someone compelled them to go and see it or if some rumor of its beauty had attracted them.

This is also the case with the other senses; it would be tedious to pursue a complete analysis of it. This malady of curiosity is the reason for all those strange sights exhibited in the theater. It is also the reason why we proceed to search out the secret powers of nature -- those which have nothing to do with our destiny -- which do not profit us to know about, and concerning which men desire to know only for the sake of knowing. And it is with this same motive of perverted curiosity for knowledge that we consult the magical arts. Even in religion itself, this prompting drives us to make trial of God when signs and wonders are eagerly asked of him -- not desired for any saving end, but only to make trial of him.

56. In such a wilderness so vast, crammed with snares and dangers, behold how many of them I have lopped off and cast from my heart, as thou, O God of my salvation, hast enabled me to do. And yet, when would I dare to say, since so many things of this sort still buzz around our daily lives -- when would I dare to say that no such motive prompts my seeing or creates a vain curiosity in me? It is true that now the theaters never attract me, nor do I now care to inquire about the courses of the stars, and my soul has never sought answers from the departed spirits. All sacrilegious oaths I abhor. And yet, O Lord my God, to whom I owe all humble and singlehearted service, with what subtle suggestion the enemy still influences me to require some sign from thee! But by our King, and by Jerusalem, our pure and chaste homeland, I beseech thee that where any consenting to such thoughts is now far from me, so may it always be farther and farther. And when I entreat thee for the salvation of any man, the end I aim at is something more than the entreating: let it be that as thou dost what thou wilt, thou dost also give me the grace willingly to follow thy lead.

57. Now, really, in how many of the most minute and trivial things my curiosity is still daily tempted, and who can keep the tally on how often I succumb? How often, when people are telling idle tales, we begin by tolerating them lest we should give offense to the sensitive; and then gradually we come to listen willingly! I do not nowadays go to the circus to see a dog chase a rabbit, but if by chance I pass such a race in the fields, it quite easily distracts me even from some serious thought and draws me after it -- not that I turn aside with my horse, but with the inclination of my mind. And unless, by showing me my weakness, thou dost speedily warn me to rise above such a sight to thee by a deliberate act of thought -- or else to despise the whole thing and pass it by -- then I become absorbed in the sight, vain creature that I am.

How is it that when I am sitting at home a lizard catching flies, or a spider entangling them as they fly into her webs, oftentimes arrests me? Is the feeling of curiosity not the same just because these are such tiny creatures? From them I proceed to praise thee, the wonderful Creator and Disposer of all things; but it is not this that first attracts my attention. It is one thing to get up quickly and another thing not to fall -- and of both such things my life is full and my only hope is in thy exceeding great mercy. For when this heart of ours is made the depot of such things and is overrun by the throng of these abounding vanities, then our prayers are often interrupted and disturbed by them. Even while we are in thy presence and direct the voice of our hearts to thy ears, such a great business as this is broken off by the inroads of I know not what idle thoughts.

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Notes:

[380] 1 John 2:16.

CHAPTER 36

58. Shall we, then, also reckon this vain curiosity among the things that are to be but lightly esteemed? Shall anything restore us to hope except thy complete mercy since thou hast begun to change us? Thou knowest to what extent thou hast already changed me, for first of all thou didst heal me of the lust for vindicating myself, so that thou mightest then forgive all my remaining iniquities and heal all my diseases, and "redeem my life from corruption and crown me with loving-kindness and tender mercies, and satisfy my desires with good things." [381] It was thou who didst restrain my pride with thy fear, and bowed my neck to thy "yoke." [382] And now I bear the yoke and it is "light" to me, because thou didst promise it to be so, and hast made it to be so. And so in truth it was, though I knew it not when I feared to take it up.

59. But, O Lord -- thou who alone reignest without pride, because thou alone art the true Lord, who hast no Lord -- has this third kind of temptation left me, or can it leave me during this life: the desire to be feared and loved of men, with no other view than that I may find in it a joy that is no joy? It is, rather, a wretched life and an unseemly ostentation. It is a special reason why we do not love thee, nor devotedly fear thee. Therefore "thou resistest the proud but givest grace to the humble." [383] Thou thunderest down on the ambitious designs of the world, and "the foundations of the hills" tremble. [384]

And yet certain offices in human society require the officeholder to be loved and feared of men, and through this the adversary of our true blessedness presses hard upon us, scattering everywhere his snares of "well done, well done"; so that while we are eagerly picking them up, we may be caught unawares and split off our joy from thy truth and fix it on the deceits of men. In this way we come to take pleasure in being loved and feared, not for thy sake but in thy stead. By such means as this, the adversary makes men like himself, that he may have them as his own, not in the harmony of love, but in the fellowship of punishment -- the one who aspired to exalt his throne in the north, [385] that in the darkness and the cold men might have to serve him, mimicking thee in perverse and distorted ways.

But see, O Lord, we are thy little flock. Possess us, stretch thy wings above us, and let us take refuge under them. Be thou our glory; let us be loved for thy sake, and let thy word be feared in us. Those who desire to be commended by the men whom thou condemnest will not be defended by men when thou judgest, nor will they be delivered when thou dost condemn them. But when -- not as a sinner is praised in the wicked desires of his soul nor when the unrighteous man is blessed in his unrighteousness -- a man is praised for some gift that thou hast given him, and he is more gratified at the praise for himself than because he possesses the gift for which he is praised, such a one is praised while thou dost condemn him. In such a case the one who praised is truly better than the one who was praised. For the gift of God in man was pleasing to the one, while the other was better pleased with the gift of man than with the gift of God.

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Notes:

[381] Cf. Ps. 103:3-5.

[382] Cf. Matt. 11:30.

[383] 1 Peter 5:5.

[384] Cf. Ps. 18:7, 13.

[385] Cf. Isa. 14:12-14.

CHAPTER 37

60. By these temptations we are daily tried, O Lord; we are tried unceasingly. Our daily "furnace" is the human tongue. [386] And also in this respect thou commandest us to be continent. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt. In this matter, thou knowest the groans of my heart and the rivers of my eyes, for I am not able to know for certain how far I am clean of this plague; and I stand in great fear of my "secret faults," [387] which thy eyes perceive, though mine do not. For in respect of the pleasures of my flesh and of idle curiosity, I see how far I have been able to hold my mind in check when I abstain from them either by voluntary act of the will or because they simply are not at hand; for then I can inquire of myself how much more or less frustrating it is to me not to have them. This is also true about riches, which are sought for in order that they may minister to one of these three "lusts," or two, or the whole complex of them. The mind is able to see clearly if, when it has them, it despises them so that they may be cast aside and it may prove itself.

But if we desire to test our power of doing without praise, must we then live wickedly or lead a life so atrocious and abandoned that everyone who knows us will detest us? What greater madness than this can be either said or conceived? And yet if praise, both by custom and right, is the companion of a good life and of good works, we should as little forgo its companionship as the good life itself. But unless a thing is absent I do not know whether I should be contented or troubled at having to do without it.

61. What is it, then, that I am confessing to thee, O Lord, concerning this sort of temptation? What else, than that I am delighted with praise, but more with the truth itself than with praise. For if I were to have any choice whether, if I were mad or utterly in the wrong, I would prefer to be praised by all men or, if I were steadily and fully confident in the truth, would prefer to be blamed by all, I see which I should choose. Yet I wish I were unwilling that the approval of others should add anything to my joy for any good I have. Yet I admit that it does increase it; and, more than that, dispraise diminishes it. Then, when I am disturbed over this wretchedness of mine, an excuse presents itself to me, the value of which thou knowest, O God, for it renders me uncertain. For since it is not only continence that thou hast enjoined on us -- that is, what things to hold back our love from -- but righteousness as well -- that is, what to bestow our love upon -- and hast wished us to love not only thee, but also our neighbor, it often turns out that when I am gratified by intelligent praise I seem to myself to be gratified by the competence or insight of my neighbor; or, on the other hand, I am sorry for the defect in him when I hear him dispraise either what he does not understand or what is good. For I am sometimes grieved at the praise I get, either when those things that displease me in myself are praised in me, or when lesser and trifling goods are valued more highly than they should be. But, again, how do I know whether I feel this way because I am unwilling that he who praises me should differ from me concerning myself not because I am moved with any consideration for him, but because the good things that please me in myself are more pleasing to me when they also please another? For in a way, I am not praised when my judgment of myself is not praised, since either those things which are displeasing to me are praised, or those things which are less pleasing to me are more praised. Am I not, then, quite uncertain of myself in this respect?

62. Behold, O Truth, it is in thee that I see that I ought not to be moved at my own praises for my own sake, but for the sake of my neighbor's good. And whether this is actually my way, I truly do not know. On this score I know less of myself than thou dost. I beseech thee now, O my God, to reveal myself to me also, that I may confess to my brethren, who are to pray for me in those matters where I find myself weak.

Let me once again examine myself the more diligently. If, in my own praise, I am moved with concern for my neighbor, why am I less moved if some other man is unjustly dispraised than when it happens to me? Why am I more irritated at that reproach which is cast on me than at one which is, with equal injustice, cast upon another in my presence? Am I ignorant of this also? Or is it still true that I am deceiving myself, and do not keep the truth before thee in my heart and tongue? Put such madness far from me, O Lord, lest my mouth be to me "the oil of sinners, to anoint my head." [388]

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Notes:

[386] Cf. Prov. 27:21.

[387] Cf. Ps. 19:12.

[388] Cf. Ps. 141:5.

CHAPTER 38

63. "I am needy and poor." [389] Still, I am better when in secret groanings I displease myself and seek thy mercy until what is lacking in me is renewed and made complete for that peace which the eye of the proud does not know. The reports that come from the mouth and from actions known to men have in them a most perilous temptation to the love of praise. This love builds up a certain complacency in one's own excellency, and then goes around collecting solicited compliments. It tempts me, even when I inwardly reprove myself for it, and this precisely because it is reproved. For a man may often glory vainly in the very scorn of vainglory -- and in this case it is not any longer the scorn of vainglory in which he glories, for he does not truly despise it when he inwardly glories in it.

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Notes:

[389] Ps. 109:22.

CHAPTER 39

64. Within us there is yet another evil arising from the same sort of temptation. By it they become empty who please themselves in themselves, although they do not please or displease or aim at pleasing others. But in pleasing themselves they displease thee very much, not merely taking pleasure in things that are not good as if they were good, but taking pleasure in thy good things as if they were their own; or even as if they were thine but still as if they had received them through their own merit; or even as if they had them through thy grace, still without this grace with their friends, but as if they envied that grace to others. In all these and similar perils and labors, thou perceivest the agitation of my heart, and I would rather feel my wounds being cured by thee than not inflicted by me on myself.

CHAPTER 40

65. Where hast thou not accompanied me, O Truth, teaching me both what to avoid and what to desire, when I have submitted to thee what I could understand about matters here below, and have sought thy counsel about them?

With my external senses I have viewed the world as I was able and have noticed the life which my body derives from me and from these senses of mine. From that stage I advanced inwardly into the recesses of my memory -- the manifold chambers of my mind, marvelously full of unmeasured wealth. And I reflected on this and was afraid, and could understand none of these things without thee and found thee to be none of them. Nor did I myself discover these things -- I who went over them all and labored to distinguish and to value everything according to its dignity, accepting some things upon the report of my senses and questioning about others which I thought to be related to my inner self, distinguishing and numbering the reporters themselves; and in that vast storehouse of my memory, investigating some things, depositing other things, taking out still others. Neither was I myself when I did this -- that is, that ability of mine by which I did it -- nor was it thou, for thou art that never-failing light from which I took counsel about them all; whether they were what they were, and what was their real value. In all this I heard thee teaching and commanding me. And this I often do -- and this is a delight to me -- and as far as I can get relief from my necessary duties, I resort to this kind of pleasure. But in all these things which I review when I consult thee, I still do not find a secure place for my soul save in thee, in whom my scattered members may be gathered together and nothing of me escape from thee. And sometimes thou introducest me to a most rare and inward feeling, an inexplicable sweetness. If this were to come to perfection in me I do not know to what point life might not then arrive. But still, by these wretched weights of mine, I relapse into these common things, and am sucked in by my old customs and am held. I sorrow much, yet I am still closely held. To this extent, then, the burden of habit presses us down. I can exist in this fashion but I do not wish to do so. In that other way I wish I were, but cannot be -- in both ways I am wretched.

CHAPTER 41

66. And now I have thus considered the infirmities of my sins, under the headings of the three major "lusts," and I have called thy right hand to my aid. For with a wounded heart I have seen thy brightness, and having been beaten back I cried: "Who can attain to it? I am cut off from before thy eyes." [390] Thou art the Truth, who presidest over all things, but I, because of my greed, did not wish to lose thee. But still, along with thee, I wished also to possess a lie -- just as no one wishes to lie in such a way as to be ignorant of what is true. By this I lost thee, for thou wilt not condescend to be enjoyed along with a lie.

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Notes:

[390] Ps. 31:22.

CHAPTER 42

67. Whom could I find to reconcile me to thee? Should I have approached the angels? What kind of prayer? What kind of rites? Many who were striving to return to thee and were not able of themselves have, I am told, tried this and have fallen into a longing for curious visions and deserved to be deceived. Being exalted, they sought thee in their pride of learning, and they thrust themselves forward rather than beating their breasts. [391] And so by a likeness of heart, they drew to themselves the princes of the air, [392] their conspirators and companions in pride, by whom they were deceived by the power of magic. Thus they sought a mediator by whom they might be cleansed, but there was none. For the mediator they sought was the devil, disguising himself as an angel of light. [393] And he allured their proud flesh the more because he had no fleshly body.

They were mortal and sinful, but thou, O Lord, to whom they arrogantly sought to be reconciled, art immortal and sinless. But a mediator between God and man ought to have something in him like God and something in him like man, lest in being like man he should be far from God, or if only like God he should be far from man, and so should not be a mediator. That deceitful mediator, then, by whom, by thy secret judgment, human pride deserves to be deceived, had one thing in common with man, that is, his sin. In another respect, he would seem to have something in common with God, for not being clothed with the mortality of the flesh, he could boast that he was immortal. But since "the wages of sin is death," [394] what he really has in common with men is that, together with them, he is condemned to death.

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Notes:

[391] Cf. the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Luke 18:9-14.

[392] Cf. Eph. 2:2.

[393] 2 Cor. 11:14.

[394] Rom. 6:23.

CHAPTER 43

68. But the true Mediator, whom thou in thy secret mercy hast revealed to the humble, and hast sent to them so that through his example they also might learn the same humility -- that "Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," [395] appeared between mortal sinners and the immortal Just One. He was mortal as men are mortal; he was righteous as God is righteous; and because the reward of righteousness is life and peace, he could, through his righteousness united with God, cancel the death of justified sinners, which he was willing to have in common with them. Hence he was manifested to holy men of old, to the end that they might be saved through faith in his Passion to come, even as we through faith in his Passion which is past. As man he was Mediator, but as the Word he was not something in between the two; because he was equal to God, and God with God, and, with the Holy Spirit, one God.

69. How hast thou loved us, O good Father, who didst not spare thy only Son, but didst deliver him up for us wicked ones! [396] How hast thou loved us, for whom he who did not count it robbery to be equal with thee "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" [397]! He alone was "free among the dead." [398] He alone had power to lay down his life and power to take it up again, and for us he became to thee both Victor and Victim; and Victor because he was the Victim. For us, he was to thee both Priest and Sacrifice, and Priest because he was the Sacrifice. Out of slaves, he maketh us thy sons, because he was born of thee and did serve us. Rightly, then, is my hope fixed strongly on him, that thou wilt "heal all my diseases" [399] through him, who sitteth at thy right hand and maketh intercession for us. [400] Otherwise I should utterly despair. For my infirmities are many and great; indeed, they are very many and very great. But thy medicine is still greater. Otherwise, we might think that thy word was removed from union with man, and despair of ourselves, if it had not been that he was "made flesh and dwelt among us." [401]

70. Terrified by my sins and the load of my misery, I had resolved in my heart and considered flight into the wilderness. But thou didst forbid me, and thou didst strengthen me, saying that "since Christ died for all, they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them." [402] Behold, O Lord, I cast all my care on thee, that I may live and "behold wondrous things out of thy law." [403] Thou knowest my incompetence and my infirmities; teach me and heal me. Thy only Son -- he "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" [404] -- hath redeemed me with his blood. Let not the proud speak evil of me, because I keep my ransom before my mind, and eat and drink and share my food and drink. For, being poor, I desire to be satisfied from him, together with those who eat and are satisfied: "and they shall praise the Lord that seek Him." [405]

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Notes:

[395] 1 Tim. 2:5.

[396] Cf. Rom. 8:32.

[397] Phil. 2:6-8.

[398] Cf. Ps. 88:5; see Ps. 87:6 (Vulgate).

[399] Ps. 103:3.

[400] Cf. Rom. 8:34.

[401] John 1:14.

[402] 2 Cor. 5:15.

[403] Ps. 119:18.

[404] Col. 2:3.

[405] Cf. Ps. 21:27 (Vulgate).
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

Postby admin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:58 am

Part 1 of 2

BOOK ELEVEN

The eternal Creator and the Creation in time. Augustine ties together his memory of his past life, his present experience, and his ardent desire to comprehend the mystery of creation. This leads him to the questions of the mode and time of creation. He ponders the mode of creation and shows that it was de nihilo and involved no alteration in the being of God. He then considers the question of the beginning of the world and time and shows that time and creation are cotemporal. But what is time? To this Augustine devotes a brilliant analysis of the subjectivity of time and the relation of all temporal process to the abiding eternity of God. From this, he prepares to turn to a detailed interpretation of Gen. 1:1, 2.

CHAPTER 1

1. Is it possible, O Lord, that, since thou art in eternity, thou art ignorant of what I am saying to thee? Or, dost thou see in time an event at the time it occurs? If not, then why am I recounting such a tale of things to thee? Certainly not in order to acquaint thee with them through me; but, instead, that through them I may stir up my own love and the love of my readers toward thee, so that all may say, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised." I have said this before [406] and will say it again: "For love of thy love I do it." So also we pray -- and yet Truth tells us, "Your Father knoweth what things you need before you ask him." [407] Consequently, we lay bare our feelings before thee, that, through our confessing to thee our plight and thy mercies toward us, thou mayest go on to free us altogether, as thou hast already begun; and that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves and blessed in thee -- since thou hast called us to be poor in spirit, meek, mourners, hungering and athirst for righteousness, merciful and pure in heart. [408] Thus I have told thee many things, as I could find ability and will to do so, since it was thy will in the first place that I should confess to thee, O Lord my God -- for "Thou art good and thy mercy endureth forever." [409]

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Notes:

[406] In the very first sentence of Confessions, Bk. I, Ch. I. Here we have a basic and recurrent motif of the Confessions from beginning to end: the celebration and praise of the greatness and goodness of God -- Creator and Redeemer. The repetition of it here connects this concluding section of the Confessions, Bks. XI-XIII, with the preceding part.

[407] Matt. 6:8.

[408] The "virtues" of the Beatitudes, the reward for which is blessedness; cf. Matt. 5:1-11.

[409] Ps. 118:1; cf. Ps. 136.

CHAPTER 2

2. But how long would it take for the voice of my pen to tell enough of thy exhortations and of all thy terrors and comforts and leadings by which thou didst bring me to preach thy Word and to administer thy sacraments to thy people? And even if I could do this sufficiently, the drops of time [410] are very precious to me and I have for a long time been burning with the desire to meditate on thy law, and to confess in thy presence my knowledge and ignorance of it -- from the first streaks of thy light in my mind and the remaining darkness, until my weakness shall be swallowed up in thy strength. And I do not wish to see those hours drained into anything else which I can find free from the necessary care of the body, the exercise of the mind, and the service we owe to our fellow men -- and what we give even if we do not owe it.

3. O Lord my God, hear my prayer and let thy mercy attend my longing. It does not burn for itself alone but longs as well to serve the cause of fraternal love. Thou seest in my heart that this is so. Let me offer the service of my mind and my tongue -- and give me what I may in turn offer back to thee. For "I am needy and poor"; thou art rich to all who call upon thee -- thou who, in thy freedom from care, carest for us. Trim away from my lips, inwardly and outwardly, all rashness and lying. Let thy Scriptures be my chaste delight. Let me not be deceived in them, nor deceive others from them. O Lord, hear and pity! O Lord my God, light of the blind, strength of the weak -- and also the light of those who see and the strength of the strong -- hearken to my soul and hear it crying from the depths. [411] Unless thy ears attend us even in the depths, where should we go? To whom should we cry?

"Thine is the day and the night is thine as well." [412] At thy bidding the moments fly by. Grant me in them, then, an interval for my meditations on the hidden things of thy law, nor close the door of thy law against us who knock. Thou hast not willed that the deep secrets of all those pages should have been written in vain. Those forests are not without their stags which keep retired within them, ranging and walking and feeding, lying down and ruminating. [413] Perfect me, O Lord, and reveal their secrets to me. Behold, thy voice is my joy; thy voice surpasses in abundance of delights. Give me what I love, for I do love it. And this too is thy gift. Abandon not thy gifts and despise not thy "grass" which thirsts for thee. [414] Let me confess to thee everything that I shall have found in thy books and "let me hear the voice of thy praise." [415] Let me drink from thee and "consider the wondrous things out of thy law" [416] -- from the very beginning, when thou madest heaven and earth, and thenceforward to the everlasting reign of thy Holy City with thee.

4. O Lord, have mercy on me and hear my petition. For my prayer is not for earthly things, neither gold nor silver and precious stones, nor gorgeous apparel, nor honors and power, nor fleshly pleasures, nor of bodily necessities in this life of our pilgrimage: all of these things are "added" to those who seek thy Kingdom and thy righteousness. [417]

Observe, O God, from whence comes my desire. The unrighteous have told me of delights but not such as those in thy law, O Lord. Behold, this is the spring of my desire. See, O Father, look and see -- and approve! Let it be pleasing in thy mercy's sight that I should find favor with thee -- that the secret things of thy Word may be opened to me when I knock. I beg this of thee by our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, the Man of thy right hand, the Son of Man; whom thou madest strong for thy purpose as Mediator between thee and us; through whom thou didst seek us when we were not seeking thee, but didst seek us so that we might seek thee; thy Word, through whom thou madest all things, and me among them; thy only Son, through whom thou hast called thy faithful people to adoption, and me among them. I beseech it of thee through him who sitteth at thy right hand and maketh intercession for us, "in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge." [418] It is he I seek in thy books. Moses wrote of him. He tells us so himself; the Truth tells us so.

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Notes:

[410] An interesting symbol of time's ceaseless passage; the reference is to a water clock (clepsydra).

[411] Cf. Ps. 130:1, De profundis.

[412] Ps. 74:16.

[413] This metaphor is probably from Ps. 29:9.

[414] A repetition of the metaphor above, Bk. IX, Ch. VII, 16.

[415] Ps. 26:7.

[416] Ps. 119:18.

[417] Cf. Matt. 6:33.

[418] Col. 2:3.

CHAPTER 3

5. Let me hear and understand how in the beginning thou madest heaven and earth. [419] Moses wrote of this; he wrote and passed on -- moving from thee to thee -- and he is now no longer before me. If he were, I would lay hold on him and ask him and entreat him solemnly that in thy name he would open out these things to me, and I would lend my bodily ears to the sounds that came forth out of his mouth. If, however, he spoke in the Hebrew language, the sounds would beat on my senses in vain, and nothing would touch my mind; but if he spoke in Latin, I would understand what he said. But how should I then know whether what he said was true? If I knew even this much, would it be that I knew it from him? Indeed, within me, deep inside the chambers of my thought, Truth itself -- neither Hebrew, nor Greek, nor Latin, nor barbarian, without any organs of voice and tongue, without the sound of syllables -- would say, "He speaks the truth," and I should be assured by this. Then I would confidently say to that man of thine, "You speak the truth." [420] However, since I cannot inquire of Moses, I beseech thee, O Truth, from whose fullness he spoke truth; I beseech thee, my God, forgive my sins, and as thou gavest thy servant the gift to speak these things, grant me also the gift to understand them.

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Notes:

[419] Augustine was profoundly stirred, in mind and heart, by the great mystery of creation and the Scriptural testimony about it. In addition to this long and involved analysis of time and creation which follows here, he returned to the story in Genesis repeatedly: e.g., De Genesi contra Manicheos; De Genesi ad litteram, liber imperfectus (both written before the Confessions); De Genesi ad litteram, libri XII and De civitate Dei, XI-XII (both written after the Confessions).

[420] The final test of truth, for Augustine, is self-evidence and the final source of truth is the indwelling Logos.

CHAPTER 4

6. Look around; there are the heaven and the earth. They cry aloud that they were made, for they change and vary. Whatever there is that has not been made, and yet has being, has nothing in it that was not there before. This having something not already existent is what it means to be changed and varied. Heaven and earth thus speak plainly that they did not make themselves: "We are, because we have been made; we did not exist before we came to be so that we could have made ourselves!" And the voice with which they speak is simply their visible presence. It was thou, O Lord, who madest these things. Thou art beautiful; thus they are beautiful. Thou art good, thus they are good. Thou art; thus they are. But they are not as beautiful, nor as good, nor as truly real as thou their Creator art. Compared with thee, they are neither beautiful nor good, nor do they even exist. These things we know, thanks be to thee. Yet our knowledge is ignorance when it is compared with thy knowledge.

CHAPTER 5

7. But how didst thou make the heaven and the earth, and what was the tool of such a mighty work as thine? For it was not like a human worker fashioning body from body, according to the fancy of his mind, able somehow or other to impose on it a form which the mind perceived in itself by its inner eye (yet how should even he be able to do this, if thou hadst not made that mind?). He imposes the form on something already existing and having some sort of being, such as clay, or stone or wood or gold or such like (and where would these things come from if thou hadst not furnished them?). For thou madest his body for the artisan, and thou madest the mind which directs the limbs; thou madest the matter from which he makes anything; thou didst create the capacity by which he understands his art and sees within his mind what he may do with the things before him; thou gavest him his bodily sense by which, as if he had an interpreter, he may communicate from mind to matter what he proposes to do and report back to his mind what has been done, that the mind may consult with the Truth which presideth over it as to whether what is done is well done.

All these things praise thee, the Creator of them all. But how didst thou make them? How, O God, didst thou make the heaven and earth? For truly, neither in heaven nor on earth didst thou make heaven and earth -- nor in the air nor in the waters, since all of these also belong to the heaven and the earth. Nowhere in the whole world didst thou make the whole world, because there was no place where it could be made before it was made. And thou didst not hold anything in thy hand from which to fashion the heaven and the earth, [421] for where couldst thou have gotten what thou hadst not made in order to make something with it? Is there, indeed, anything at all except because thou art? Thus thou didst speak and they were made, [422] and by thy Word thou didst make them all.

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Notes:

[421] Cf. the notion of creation in Plato's Timaeus (29D-30C; 48E-50C), in which the Demiurgos (craftsman) fashions the universe from pre-existent matter (to upodoche) and imposes as much form as the Receptacle will receive. The notion of the world fashioned from pre-existent matter of some sort was a universal idea in Greco-Roman cosmology.

[422] Cf. Ps. 33:9.

CHAPTER 6

8. But how didst thou speak? Was it in the same manner in which the voice came from the cloud saying, "This is my beloved Son" [423]? For that voice sounded forth and died away; it began and ended. The syllables sounded and passed away, the second after the first, the third after the second, and thence in order, till the very last after all the rest; and silence after the last. From this it is clear and plain that it was the action of a creature, itself in time, which sounded that voice, obeying thy eternal will. And what these words were which were formed at that time the outer ear conveyed to the conscious mind, whose inner ear lay attentively open to thy eternal Word. But it compared those words which sounded in time with thy eternal word sounding in silence and said: "This is different; quite different! These words are far below me; they are not even real, for they fly away and pass, but the Word of my God remains above me forever." If, then, in words that sound and fade away thou didst say that heaven and earth should be made, and thus madest heaven and earth, then there was already some kind of corporeal creature before heaven and earth by whose motions in time that voice might have had its occurrence in time. But there was nothing corporeal before the heaven and the earth; or if there was, then it is certain that already, without a time-bound voice, thou hadst created whatever it was out of which thou didst make the time-bound voice by which thou didst say, "Let the heaven and the earth be made!" For whatever it was out of which such a voice was made simply did not exist at all until it was made by thee. Was it decreed by thy Word that a body might be made from which such words might come?

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Notes:

[423] Matt. 3:17.

CHAPTER 7

9. Thou dost call us, then, to understand the Word -- the God who is God with thee -- which is spoken eternally and by which all things are spoken eternally. For what was first spoken was not finished, and then something else spoken until the whole series was spoken; but all things, at the same time and forever. For, otherwise, we should have time and change and not a true eternity, nor a true immortality.

This I know, O my God, and I give thanks. I know, I confess to thee, O Lord, and whoever is not ungrateful for certain truths knows and blesses thee along with me. We know, O Lord, this much we know: that in the same proportion as anything is not what it was, and is what it was not, in that very same proportion it passes away or comes to be. But there is nothing in thy Word that passes away or returns to its place; for it is truly immortal and eternal. And, therefore, unto the Word coeternal with thee, at the same time and always thou sayest all that thou sayest. And whatever thou sayest shall be made is made, and thou makest nothing otherwise than by speaking. Still, not all the things that thou dost make by speaking are made at the same time and always.

CHAPTER 8

10. Why is this, I ask of thee, O Lord my God? I see it after a fashion, but I do not know how to express it, unless I say that everything that begins to be and then ceases to be begins and ceases when it is known in thy eternal Reason that it ought to begin or cease -- in thy eternal Reason where nothing begins or ceases. And this is thy Word, which is also "the Beginning," because it also speaks to us. [424] Thus, in the gospel, he spoke through the flesh; and this sounded in the outward ears of men so that it might be believed and sought for within, and so that it might be found in the eternal Truth, in which the good and only Master teacheth all his disciples. [425] There, O Lord, I hear thy voice, the voice of one speaking to me, since he who teacheth us speaketh to us. But he that doth not teach us doth not really speak to us even when he speaketh. Yet who is it that teacheth us unless it be the Truth immutable? For even when we are instructed by means of the mutable creation, we are thereby led to the Truth immutable. There we learn truly as we stand and hear him, and we rejoice greatly "because of the bridegroom's voice," [426] restoring us to the source whence our being comes. And therefore, unless the Beginning remained immutable, there would then not be a place to which we might return when we had wandered away. But when we return from error, it is through our gaining knowledge that we return. In order for us to gain knowledge he teacheth us, since he is the Beginning, and speaketh to us.

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Notes:

[424] Cf. the Vulgate of John 8:25.

[425] Cf. Augustine's emphasis on Christ as true Teacher in De Magistro.

[426] Cf. John 3:29.

CHAPTER 9

11. In this Beginning, O God, thou hast made heaven and earth -- through thy Word, thy Son, thy Power, thy Wisdom, thy Truth: all wondrously speaking and wondrously creating. Who shall comprehend such things and who shall tell of it? What is it that shineth through me and striketh my heart without injury, so that I both shudder and burn? I shudder because I am unlike it; I burn because I am like it. It is Wisdom itself that shineth through me, clearing away my fog, which so readily overwhelms me so that I faint in it, in the darkness and burden of my punishment. For my strength is brought down in neediness, so that I cannot endure even my blessings until thou, O Lord, who hast been gracious to all my iniquities, also healest all my infirmities -- for it is thou who "shalt redeem my life from corruption, and crown me with loving-kindness and tender mercy, and shalt satisfy my desire with good things so that my youth shall be renewed like the eagle's." [427] For by this hope we are saved, and through patience we await thy promises. Let him that is able hear thee speaking to his inner mind. I will cry out with confidence because of thy own oracle, "How wonderful are thy works, O Lord; in wisdom thou hast made them all." [428] And this Wisdom is the Beginning, and in that Beginning thou hast made heaven and earth.

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Notes:

[427] Cf. Ps. 103:4, 5 (mixed text).

[428] Ps. 104:24.

CHAPTER 10

12. Now, are not those still full of their old carnal nature [429] who ask us: "What was God doing before he made heaven and earth? For if he was idle," they say, "and doing nothing, then why did he not continue in that state forever -- doing nothing, as he had always done? If any new motion has arisen in God, and a new will to form a creature, which he had never before formed, how can that be a true eternity in which an act of will occurs that was not there before? For the will of God is not a created thing, but comes before the creation -- and this is true because nothing could be created unless the will of the Creator came before it. The will of God, therefore, pertains to his very Essence. Yet if anything has arisen in the Essence of God that was not there before, then that Essence cannot truly be called eternal. But if it was the eternal will of God that the creation should come to be, why, then, is not the creation itself also from eternity?" [430]

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Notes:

[429] Plenivetustatis suae. In Sermon CCLXVII, 2 (PL 38, c. 1230), Augustine has a similar usage. Speaking of those who pour new wine into old containers, he says: Carnalitasvetustas est, gratia novitas est, "Carnality is the old nature; grace is the new"; cf. Matt. 9:17.

[430] The notion of the eternity of this world was widely held in Greek philosophy, in different versions, and was incorporated into the Manichean rejection of the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo which Augustine is citing here. He returns to the question, and his answer to it, again in De civitate Dei, XI, 4-8.

CHAPTER 11

13. Those who say these things do not yet understand thee, O Wisdom of God, O Light of souls. They do not yet understand how the things are made that are made by and in thee. They endeavor to comprehend eternal things, but their heart still flies about in the past and future motions of created things, and is still unstable. Who shall hold it and fix it so that it may come to rest for a little; and then, by degrees, glimpse the glory of that eternity which abides forever; and then, comparing eternity with the temporal process in which nothing abides, they may see that they are incommensurable? They would see that a long time does not become long, except from the many separate events that occur in its passage, which cannot be simultaneous. In the Eternal, on the other hand, nothing passes away, but the whole is simultaneously present. But no temporal process is wholly simultaneous. Therefore, let it [431] see that all time past is forced to move on by the incoming future; that all the future follows from the past; and that all, past and future, is created and issues out of that which is forever present. Who will hold the heart of man that it may stand still and see how the eternity which always stands still is itself neither future nor past but expresses itself in the times that are future and past? Can my hand do this, or can the hand of my mouth bring about so difficult a thing even by persuasion?

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Notes:

[431] The unstable "heart" of those who confuse time and eternity.

CHAPTER 12

14. How, then, shall I respond to him who asks, "What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?" I do not answer, as a certain one is reported to have done facetiously (shrugging off the force of the question). "He was preparing hell," he said, "for those who pry too deep." It is one thing to see the answer; it is another to laugh at the questioner -- and for myself I do not answer these things thus. More willingly would I have answered, "I do not know what I do not know," than cause one who asked a deep question to be ridiculed -- and by such tactics gain praise for a worthless answer.

Rather, I say that thou, our God, art the Creator of every creature. And if in the term "heaven and earth" every creature is included, I make bold to say further: "Before God made heaven and earth, he did not make anything at all. For if he did, what did he make unless it were a creature?" I do indeed wish that I knew all that I desire to know to my profit as surely as I know that no creature was made before any creature was made.

CHAPTER 13

15. But if the roving thought of someone should wander over the images of past time, and wonder that thou, the Almighty God, the All-creating and All-sustaining, the Architect of heaven and earth, didst for ages unnumbered abstain from so great a work before thou didst actually do it, let him awake and consider that he wonders at illusions. For in what temporal medium could the unnumbered ages that thou didst not make pass by, since thou art the Author and Creator of all the ages? Or what periods of time would those be that were not made by thee? Or how could they have already passed away if they had not already been? Since, therefore, thou art the Creator of all times, if there was any time before thou madest heaven and earth, why is it said that thou wast abstaining from working? For thou madest that very time itself, and periods could not pass by before thou madest the whole temporal procession. But if there was no time before heaven and earth, how, then, can it be asked, "What wast thou doing then?" For there was no "then" when there was no time.

16. Nor dost thou precede any given period of time by another period of time. Else thou wouldst not precede all periods of time. In the eminence of thy ever-present eternity, thou precedest all times past, and extendest beyond all future times, for they are still to come -- and when they have come, they will be past. But "Thou art always the Selfsame and thy years shall have no end." [432] Thy years neither go nor come; but ours both go and come in order that all separate moments may come to pass. All thy years stand together as one, since they are abiding. Nor do thy years past exclude the years to come because thy years do not pass away. All these years of ours shall be with thee, when all of them shall have ceased to be. Thy years are but a day, and thy day is not recurrent, but always today. Thy "today" yields not to tomorrow and does not follow yesterday. Thy "today" is eternity. Therefore, thou didst generate the Coeternal, to whom thou didst say, "This day I have begotten thee." [433] Thou madest all time and before all times thou art, and there was never a time when there was no time.

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Notes:

[432] Cf. Ps. 102:27.

[433] Ps. 2:7.

CHAPTER 14

17. There was no time, therefore, when thou hadst not made anything, because thou hadst made time itself. And there are no times that are coeternal with thee, because thou dost abide forever; but if times should abide, they would not be times.

For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who can even comprehend it in thought or put the answer into words? Yet is it not true that in conversation we refer to nothing more familiarly or knowingly than time? And surely we understand it when we speak of it; we understand it also when we hear another speak of it.

What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know. Yet I say with confidence that I know that if nothing passed away, there would be no past time; and if nothing were still coming, there would be no future time; and if there were nothing at all, there would be no present time.

But, then, how is it that there are the two times, past and future, when even the past is now no longer and the future is now not yet? But if the present were always present, and did not pass into past time, it obviously would not be time but eternity. If, then, time present -- if it be time -- comes into existence only because it passes into time past, how can we say that even this is, since the cause of its being is that it will cease to be? Thus, can we not truly say that time is only as it tends toward nonbeing?
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

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Part 2 of 2

CHAPTER 15

18. And yet we speak of a long time and a short time; but never speak this way except of time past and future. We call a hundred years ago, for example, a long time past. In like manner, we should call a hundred years hence a long time to come. But we call ten days ago a short time past; and ten days hence a short time to come. But in what sense is something long or short that is nonexistent? For the past is not now, and the future is not yet. Therefore, let us not say, "It is long"; instead, let us say of the past, "It was long," and of the future, "It will be long." And yet, O Lord, my Light, shall not thy truth make mockery of man even here? For that long time past: was it long when it was already past, or when it was still present? For it might have been long when there was a period that could be long, but when it was past, it no longer was. In that case, that which was not at all could not be long. Let us not, therefore, say, "Time past was long," for we shall not discover what it was that was long because, since it is past, it no longer exists. Rather, let us say that "time present was long, because when it was present it was long." For then it had not yet passed on so as not to be, and therefore it still was in a state that could be called long. But after it passed, it ceased to be long simply because it ceased to be.

19. Let us, therefore, O human soul, see whether present time can be long, for it has been given you to feel and measure the periods of time. How, then, will you answer me?

Is a hundred years when present a long time? But, first, see whether a hundred years can be present at once. For if the first year in the century is current, then it is present time, and the other ninety and nine are still future. Therefore, they are not yet. But, then, if the second year is current, one year is already past, the second present, and all the rest are future. And thus, if we fix on any middle year of this century as present, those before it are past, those after it are future. Therefore, a hundred years cannot be present all at once.

Let us see, then, whether the year that is now current can be present. For if its first month is current, then the rest are future; if the second, the first is already past, and the remainder are not yet. Therefore, the current year is not present all at once. And if it is not present as a whole, then the year is not present. For it takes twelve months to make the year, from which each individual month which is current is itself present one at a time, but the rest are either past or future.

20. Thus it comes out that time present, which we found was the only time that could be called "long," has been cut down to the space of scarcely a single day. But let us examine even that, for one day is never present as a whole. For it is made up of twenty-four hours, divided between night and day. The first of these hours has the rest of them as future, and the last of them has the rest as past; but any of those between has those that preceded it as past and those that succeed it as future. And that one hour itself passes away in fleeting fractions. The part of it that has fled is past; what remains is still future. If any fraction of time be conceived that cannot now be divided even into the most minute momentary point, this alone is what we may call time present. But this flies so rapidly from future to past that it cannot be extended by any delay. For if it is extended, it is then divided into past and future. But the present has no extension [434] whatever.

Where, therefore, is that time which we may call "long"? Is it future? Actually we do not say of the future, "It is long," for it has not yet come to be, so as to be long. Instead, we say, "It will be long." When will it be? For since it is future, it will not be long, for what may be long is not yet. It will be long only when it passes from the future which is not as yet, and will have begun to be present, so that there can be something that may be long. But in that case, time present cries aloud, in the words we have already heard, that it cannot be "long."

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Notes:

[434] Spatium, which means extension either in space or time.

CHAPTER 16

21. And yet, O Lord, we do perceive intervals of time, and we compare them with each other, and we say that some are longer and others are shorter. We even measure how much longer or shorter this time may be than that time. And we say that this time is twice as long, or three times as long, while this other time is only just as long as that other. But we measure the passage of time when we measure the intervals of perception. But who can measure times past which now are no longer, or times future which are not yet -- unless perhaps someone will dare to say that what does not exist can be measured? Therefore, while time is passing, it can be perceived and measured; but when it is past, it cannot, since it is not.

CHAPTER 17

22. I am seeking the truth, O Father; I am not affirming it. O my God, direct and rule me.

Who is there who will tell me that there are not three times -- as we learned when boys and as we have also taught boys -- time past, time present, and time future? Who can say that there is only time present because the other two do not exist? Or do they also exist; but when, from the future, time becomes present, it proceeds from some secret place; and when, from times present, it becomes past, it recedes into some secret place? For where have those men who have foretold the future seen the things foretold, if then they were not yet existing? For what does not exist cannot be seen. And those who tell of things past could not speak of them as if they were true, if they did not see them in their minds. These things could in no way be discerned if they did not exist. There are therefore times present and times past.

CHAPTER 18

23. Give me leave, O Lord, to seek still further. O my Hope, let not my purpose be confounded. For if there are times past and future, I wish to know where they are. But if I have not yet succeeded in this, I still know that wherever they are, they are not there as future or past, but as present. For if they are there as future, they are there as "not yet"; if they are there as past, they are there as "no longer." Wherever they are and whatever they are they exist therefore only as present. Although we tell of past things as true, they are drawn out of the memory -- not the things themselves, which have already passed, but words constructed from the images of the perceptions which were formed in the mind, like footprints in their passage through the senses. My childhood, for instance, which is no longer, still exists in time past, which does not now exist. But when I call to mind its image and speak of it, I see it in the present because it is still in my memory. Whether there is a similar explanation for the foretelling of future events -- that is, of the images of things which are not yet seen as if they were already existing -- I confess, O my God, I do not know. But this I certainly do know: that we generally think ahead about our future actions, and this premeditation is in time present; but that the action which we premeditate is not yet, because it is still future. When we shall have started the action and have begun to do what we were premeditating, then that action will be in time present, because then it is no longer in time future.

24. Whatever may be the manner of this secret foreseeing of future things, nothing can be seen except what exists. But what exists now is not future, but present. When, therefore, they say that future events are seen, it is not the events themselves, for they do not exist as yet (that is, they are still in time future), but perhaps, instead, their causes and their signs are seen, which already do exist. Therefore, to those already beholding these causes and signs, they are not future, but present, and from them future things are predicted because they are conceived in the mind. These conceptions, however, exist now, and those who predict those things see these conceptions before them in time present.

Let me take an example from the vast multitude and variety of such things. I see the dawn; I predict that the sun is about to rise. What I see is in time present, what I predict is in time future -- not that the sun is future, for it already exists; but its rising is future, because it is not yet. Yet I could not predict even its rising, unless I had an image of it in my mind; as, indeed, I do even now as I speak. But that dawn which I see in the sky is not the rising of the sun (though it does precede it), nor is it a conception in my mind. These two [435] are seen in time present, in order that the event which is in time future may be predicted.

Future events, therefore, are not yet. And if they are not yet, they do not exist. And if they do not exist, they cannot be seen at all, but they can be predicted from things present, which now are and are seen.

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Notes:

[435] The breaking light and the image of the rising sun.

CHAPTER 19

25. Now, therefore, O Ruler of thy creatures, what is the mode by which thou teachest souls those things which are still future? For thou hast taught thy prophets. How dost thou, to whom nothing is future, teach future things -- or rather teach things present from the signs of things future? For what does not exist certainly cannot be taught. This way of thine is too far from my sight; it is too great for me, I cannot attain to it. [436] But I shall be enabled by thee, when thou wilt grant it, O sweet Light of my secret eyes.

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Notes:

[436] Cf. Ps. 139:6.

CHAPTER 20

26. But even now it is manifest and clear that there are neither times future nor times past. Thus it is not properly said that there are three times, past, present, and future. Perhaps it might be said rightly that there are three times: a time present of things past; a time present of things present; and a time present of things future. For these three do coexist somehow in the soul, for otherwise I could not see them. The time present of things past is memory; the time present of things present is direct experience; the time present of things future is expectation. [437] If we are allowed to speak of these things so, I see three times, and I grant that there are three. Let it still be said, then, as our misapplied custom has it: "There are three times, past, present, and future." I shall not be troubled by it, nor argue, nor object -- always provided that what is said is understood, so that neither the future nor the past is said to exist now. There are but few things about which we speak properly -- and many more about which we speak improperly -- though we understand one another's meaning.

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Notes:

[437] Memoria, contuitus, and expectatio: a pattern that corresponds vaguely to the movement of Augustine's thought in the Confessions: from direct experience back to the supporting memories and forward to the outreach of hope and confidence in God's provident grace.

CHAPTER 21

27. I have said, then, that we measure periods of time as they pass so that we can say that this time is twice as long as that one or that this is just as long as that, and so on for the other fractions of time which we can count by measuring.

So, then, as I was saying, we measure periods of time as they pass. And if anyone asks me, "How do you know this?", I can answer: "I know because we measure. We could not measure things that do not exist, and things past and future do not exist." But how do we measure present time since it has no extension? It is measured while it passes, but when it has passed it is not measured; for then there is nothing that could be measured. But whence, and how, and whither does it pass while it is being measured? Whence, but from the future? Which way, save through the present? Whither, but into the past? Therefore, from what is not yet, through what has no length, it passes into what is now no longer. But what do we measure, unless it is a time of some length? For we cannot speak of single, and double, and triple, and equal, and all the other ways in which we speak of time, except in terms of the length of the periods of time. But in what "length," then, do we measure passing time? Is it in the future, from which it passes over? But what does not yet exist cannot be measured. Or, is it in the present, through which it passes? But what has no length we cannot measure. Or is it in the past into which it passes? But what is no longer we cannot measure.

CHAPTER 22

28. My soul burns ardently to understand this most intricate enigma. O Lord my God, O good Father, I beseech thee through Christ, do not close off these things, both the familiar and the obscure, from my desire. Do not bar it from entering into them; but let their light dawn by thy enlightening mercy, O Lord. Of whom shall I inquire about these things? And to whom shall I confess my ignorance of them with greater profit than to thee, to whom these studies of mine (ardently longing to understand thy Scriptures) are not a bore? Give me what I love, for I do love it; and this thou hast given me. O Father, who truly knowest how to give good gifts to thy children, give this to me. Grant it, since I have undertaken to understand it, and hard labor is my lot until thou openest it. I beseech thee, through Christ and in his name, the Holy of Holies, let no man interrupt me. "For I have believed, and therefore do I speak." [438] This is my hope; for this I live: that I may contemplate the joys of my Lord. [439] Behold, thou hast made my days grow old, and they pass away -- and how I do not know.

We speak of this time and that time, and these times and those times: "How long ago since he said this?" "How long ago since he did this?" "How long ago since I saw that?" "This syllable is twice as long as that single short syllable." These words we say and hear, and we are understood and we understand. They are quite commonplace and ordinary, and still the meaning of these very same things lies deeply hid and its discovery is still to come.

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Notes:

[438] Cf. Ps. 116:10.

[439] Cf. Matt. 25:21, 23.

CHAPTER 23

29. I once heard a learned man say that the motions of the sun, moon, and stars constituted time; and I did not agree. For why should not the motions of all bodies constitute time? What if the lights of heaven should cease, and a potter's wheel still turn round: would there be no time by which we might measure those rotations and say either that it turned at equal intervals, or, if it moved now more slowly and now more quickly, that some rotations were longer and others shorter? And while we were saying this, would we not also be speaking in time? Or would there not be in our words some syllables that were long and others short, because the first took a longer time to sound, and the others a shorter time? O God, grant men to see in a small thing the notions that are common [440] to all things, both great and small. Both the stars and the lights of heaven are "for signs and seasons, and for days and years." [441] This is doubtless the case, but just as I should not say that the circuit of that wooden wheel was a day, neither would that learned man say that there was, therefore, no time.

30. I thirst to know the power and the nature of time, by which we measure the motions of bodies, and say, for example, that this motion is twice as long as that. For I ask, since the word "day" refers not only to the length of time that the sun is above the earth (which separates day from night), but also refers to the sun's entire circuit from east all the way around to east -- on account of which we can say, "So many days have passed" (the nights being included when we say, "So many days," and their lengths not counted separately) -- since, then, the day is ended by the motion of the sun and by his passage from east to east, I ask whether the motion itself is the day, or whether the day is the period in which that motion is completed; or both? For if the sun's passage is the day, then there would be a day even if the sun should finish his course in as short a period as an hour. If the motion itself is the day, then it would not be a day if from one sunrise to another there were a period no longer than an hour. But the sun would have to go round twenty-four times to make just one day. If it is both, then that could not be called a day if the sun ran his entire course in the period of an hour; nor would it be a day if, while the sun stood still, as much time passed as the sun usually covered during his whole course, from morning to morning. I shall, therefore, not ask any more what it is that is called a day, but rather what time is, for it is by time that we measure the circuit of the sun, and would be able to say that it was finished in half the period of time that it customarily takes if it were completed in a period of only twelve hours. If, then, we compare these periods, we could call one of them a single and the other a double period, as if the sun might run his course from east to east sometimes in a single period and sometimes in a double period.

Let no man tell me, therefore, that the motions of the heavenly bodies constitute time. For when the sun stood still at the prayer of a certain man in order that he might gain his victory in battle, the sun stood still but time went on. For in as long a span of time as was sufficient the battle was fought and ended. [442]

I see, then, that time is a certain kind of extension. But do I see it, or do I only seem to? Thou, O Light and Truth, wilt show me.

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Notes:

[440] Communes notitias, the universal principles of "common sense." This idea became a basic category in scholastic epistemology.

[441] Gen. 1:14.

[442] Cf. Josh. 10:12-14.

CHAPTER 24

31. Dost thou command that I should agree if anyone says that time is "the motion of a body"? Thou dost not so command. For I hear that no body is moved but in time; this thou tellest me. But that the motion of a body itself is time I do not hear; thou dost not say so. For when a body is moved, I measure by time how long it was moving from the time when it began to be moved until it stopped. And if I did not see when it began to be moved, and if it continued to move so that I could not see when it stopped, I could not measure the movement, except from the time when I began to see it until I stopped. But if I look at it for a long time, I can affirm only that the time is long but not how long it may be. This is because when we say, "How long?", we are speaking comparatively as: "This is as long as that," or, "This is twice as long as that"; or other such similar ratios. But if we were able to observe the point in space where and from which the body, which is moved, comes and the point to which it is moved; or if we can observe its parts moving as in a wheel, we can say how long the movement of the body took or the movement of its parts from this place to that. Since, therefore, the motion of a body is one thing, and the norm by which we measure how long it takes is another thing, we cannot see which of these two is to be called time. For, although a body is sometimes moved and sometimes stands still, we measure not only its motion but also its rest as well; and both by time! Thus we say, "It stood still as long as it moved," or, "It stood still twice or three times as long as it moved" -- or any other ratio which our measuring has either determined or imagined, either roughly or precisely, according to our custom. Therefore, time is not the motion of a body.

CHAPTER 25

32. And I confess to thee, O Lord, that I am still ignorant as to what time is. And again I confess to thee, O Lord, that I know that I am speaking all these things in time, and that I have already spoken of time a long time, and that "very long" is not long except when measured by the duration of time. How, then, do I know this, when I do not know what time is? Or, is it possible that I do not know how I can express what I do know? Alas for me! I do not even know the extent of my own ignorance. Behold, O my God, in thy presence I do not lie. As my heart is, so I speak. Thou shalt light my candle; thou, O Lord my God, wilt enlighten my darkness. [443]

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Notes:

[443] Cf. Ps. 18:28.

CHAPTER 26

33. Does not my soul most truly confess to thee that I do measure intervals of time? But what is it that I thus measure, O my God, and how is it that I do not know what I measure? I measure the motion of a body by time, but the time itself I do not measure. But, truly, could I measure the motion of a body -- how long it takes, how long it is in motion from this place to that -- unless I could measure the time in which it is moving?

How, then, do I measure this time itself? Do we measure a longer time by a shorter time, as we measure the length of a crossbeam in terms of cubits? [444] Thus, we can say that the length of a long syllable is measured by the length of a short syllable and thus say that the long syllable is double. So also we measure the length of poems by the length of the lines, and the length of the line by the length of the feet, and the length of the feet by the length of the syllable, and the length of the long syllables by the length of the short ones. We do not measure by pages -- for in that way we would measure space rather than time -- but when we speak the words as they pass by we say: "It is a long stanza, because it is made up of so many verses; they are long verses because they consist of so many feet; they are long feet because they extend over so many syllables; this is a long syllable because it is twice the length of a short one."

But no certain measure of time is obtained this way; since it is possible that if a shorter verse is pronounced slowly, it may take up more time than a longer one if it is pronounced hurriedly. The same would hold for a stanza, or a foot, or a syllable. From this it appears to me that time is nothing other than extendedness; [445] but extendedness of what I do not know. This is a marvel to me. The extendedness may be of the mind itself. For what is it I measure, I ask thee, O my God, when I say either, roughly, "This time is longer than that," or, more precisely, "This is twice as long as that." I know that I am measuring time. But I am not measuring the future, for it is not yet; and I am not measuring the present because it is extended by no length; and I am not measuring the past because it no longer is. What is it, therefore, that I am measuring? Is it time in its passage, but not time past [praetereuntia tempora, non praeterita]? This is what I have been saying.

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Notes:

[444] Cubitum, literally the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger; in the imperial system of weights and measures it was 17.5 inches.

[445] Distentionem, "spread-out-ness"; cf. Descartes' notion of res extensae, and its relation to time.

CHAPTER 27

34. Press on, O my mind, and attend with all your power. God is our Helper: "it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves." [446] Give heed where the truth begins to dawn. [447] Suppose now that a bodily voice begins to sound, and continues to sound -- on and on -- and then ceases. Now there is silence. The voice is past, and there is no longer a sound. It was future before it sounded, and could not be measured because it was not yet; and now it cannot be measured because it is no longer. Therefore, while it was sounding, it might have been measured because then there was something that could be measured. But even then it did not stand still, for it was in motion and was passing away. Could it, on that account, be any more readily measured? For while it was passing away, it was being extended into some interval of time in which it might be measured, since the present has no length. Supposing, though, that it might have been measured -- then also suppose that another voice had begun to sound and is still sounding without any interruption to break its continued flow. We can measure it only while it is sounding, for when it has ceased to sound it will be already past and there will not be anything there that can be measured. Let us measure it exactly; and let us say how much it is. But while it is sounding, it cannot be measured except from the instant when it began to sound, down to the final moment when it left off. For we measure the time interval itself from some beginning point to some end. This is why a voice that has not yet ended cannot be measured, so that one could say how long or how briefly it will continue. Nor can it be said to be equal to another voice or single or double in comparison to it or anything like this. But when it is ended, it is no longer. How, therefore, may it be measured? And yet we measure times; not those which are not yet, nor those which no longer are, nor those which are stretched out by some delay, nor those which have no limit. Therefore, we measure neither times future nor times past, nor times present, nor times passing by; and yet we do measure times.

35. Deus Creator omnium [448]: this verse of eight syllables alternates between short and long syllables. The four short ones -- that is, the first, third, fifth, and seventh -- are single in relation to the four long ones -- that is, the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth. Each of the long ones is double the length of each of the short ones. I affirm this and report it, and common sense perceives that this indeed is the case. By common sense, then, I measure a long syllable by a short one, and I find that it is twice as long. But when one sounds after another, if the first be short and the latter long, how can I hold the short one and how can I apply it to the long one as a measure, so that I can discover that the long one is twice as long, when, in fact, the long one does not begin to sound until the short one leaves off sounding? That same long syllable I do not measure as present, since I cannot measure it until it is ended; but its ending is its passing away.

What is it, then, that I can measure? Where is the short syllable by which I measure? Where is the long one that I am measuring? Both have sounded, have flown away, have passed on, and are no longer. And still I measure, and I confidently answer -- as far as a trained ear can be trusted -- that this syllable is single and that syllable double. And I could not do this unless they both had passed and were ended. Therefore I do not measure them, for they do not exist any more. But I measure something in my memory which remains fixed.

36. It is in you, O mind of mine, that I measure the periods of time. Do not shout me down that it exists [objectively]; do not overwhelm yourself with the turbulent flood of your impressions. In you, as I have said, I measure the periods of time. I measure as time present the impression that things make on you as they pass by and what remains after they have passed by -- I do not measure the things themselves which have passed by and left their impression on you. This is what I measure when I measure periods of time. Either, then, these are the periods of time or else I do not measure time at all.

What are we doing when we measure silence, and say that this silence has lasted as long as that voice lasts? Do we not project our thought to the measure of a sound, as if it were then sounding, so that we can say something concerning the intervals of silence in a given span of time? For, even when both the voice and the tongue are still, we review -- in thought -- poems and verses, and discourse of various kinds or various measures of motions, and we specify their time spans -- how long this is in relation to that -- just as if we were speaking them aloud. If anyone wishes to utter a prolonged sound, and if, in forethought, he has decided how long it should be, that man has already in silence gone through a span of time, and committed his sound to memory. Thus he begins to speak and his voice sounds until it reaches the predetermined end. It has truly sounded and will go on sounding. But what is already finished has already sounded and what remains will still sound. Thus it passes on, until the present intention carries the future over into the past. The past increases by the diminution of the future until by the consumption of all the future all is past. [449]

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Notes:

[446] Ps. 100:3.

[447] Here Augustine begins to summarize his own answers to the questions he has raised in his analysis of time.

[448] The same hymn of Ambrose quoted above, Bk. IX, Ch. XII, 39, and analyzed again in De musica, VI, 2:2.

[449] This theory of time is worth comparing with its most notable restatement in modern poetry, in T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets and especially "Burnt Norton."

CHAPTER 28

37. But how is the future diminished or consumed when it does not yet exist? Or how does the past, which exists no longer, increase, unless it is that in the mind in which all this happens there are three functions? For the mind expects, it attends, and it remembers; so that what it expects passes into what it remembers by way of what it attends to. Who denies that future things do not exist as yet? But still there is already in the mind the expectation of things still future. And who denies that past things now exist no longer? Still there is in the mind the memory of things past. Who denies that time present has no length, since it passes away in a moment? Yet, our attention has a continuity and it is through this that what is present may proceed to become absent. Therefore, future time, which is nonexistent, is not long; but "a long future" is "a long expectation of the future." Nor is time past, which is now no longer, long; a "long past" is "a long memory of the past."

38. I am about to repeat a psalm that I know. Before I begin, my attention encompasses the whole, but once I have begun, as much of it as becomes past while I speak is still stretched out in my memory. The span of my action is divided between my memory, which contains what I have repeated, and my expectation, which contains what I am about to repeat. Yet my attention is continually present with me, and through it what was future is carried over so that it becomes past. The more this is done and repeated, the more the memory is enlarged -- and expectation is shortened -- until the whole expectation is exhausted. Then the whole action is ended and passed into memory. And what takes place in the entire psalm takes place also in each individual part of it and in each individual syllable. This also holds in the even longer action of which that psalm is only a portion. The same holds in the whole life of man, of which all the actions of men are parts. The same holds in the whole age of the sons of men, of which all the lives of men are parts.

CHAPTER 29

39. But "since thy loving-kindness is better than life itself," [450] observe how my life is but a stretching out, and how thy right hand has upheld me in my Lord, the Son of Man, the Mediator between thee, the One, and us, the many -- in so many ways and by so many means. Thus through him I may lay hold upon him in whom I am also laid hold upon; and I may be gathered up from my old way of life to follow that One and to forget that which is behind, no longer stretched out but now pulled together again -- stretching forth not to what shall be and shall pass away but to those things that are before me. Not distractedly now, but intently, I follow on for the prize of my heavenly calling, [451] where I may hear the sound of thy praise and contemplate thy delights, which neither come to be nor pass away.

But now my years are spent in mourning. [452] And thou, O Lord, art my comfort, my eternal Father. But I have been torn between the times, the order of which I do not know, and my thoughts, even the inmost and deepest places of my soul, are mangled by various commotions until I shall flow together into thee, purged and molten in the fire of thy love.

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Notes:

[450] Ps. 63:3.

[451] Cf. Phil. 3:12-14.

[452] Cf. Ps. 31:10.

CHAPTER 30

40. And I will be immovable and fixed in thee, and thy truth will be my mold. And I shall not have to endure the questions of those men who, as if in a morbid disease, thirst for more than they can hold and say, "What did God make before he made heaven and earth?" or, "How did it come into his mind to make something when he had never before made anything?" Grant them, O Lord, to consider well what they are saying; and grant them to see that where there is no time they cannot say "never." When, therefore, he is said "never to have made" something -- what is this but to say that it was made in no time at all? Let them therefore see that there could be no time without a created world, and let them cease to speak vanity of this kind. Let them also be stretched out to those things which are before them, and understand that thou, the eternal Creator of all times, art before all times and that no times are coeternal with thee; nor is any creature, even if there is a creature "above time."

CHAPTER 31

41. O Lord my God, what a chasm there is in thy deep secret! How far short of it have the consequences of my sins cast me? Heal my eyes, that I may enjoy thy light. Surely, if there is a mind that so greatly abounds in knowledge and foreknowledge, to which all things past and future are as well known as one psalm is well known to me, that mind would be an exceeding marvel and altogether astonishing. For whatever is past and whatever is yet to come would be no more concealed from him than the past and future of that psalm were hidden from me when I was chanting it: how much of it had been sung from the beginning and what and how much still remained till the end. But far be it from thee, O Creator of the universe, and Creator of our souls and bodies -- far be it from thee that thou shouldst merely know all things past and future. Far, far more wonderfully, and far more mysteriously thou knowest them. For it is not as the feelings of one singing familiar songs, or hearing a familiar song in which, because of his expectation of words still to come and his remembrance of those that are past, his feelings are varied and his senses are divided. This is not the way that anything happens to thee, who art unchangeably eternal, that is, the truly eternal Creator of minds. As in the beginning thou knewest both the heaven and the earth without any change in thy knowledge, so thou didst make heaven and earth in their beginnings without any division in thy action. [453] Let him who understands this confess to thee; and let him who does not understand also confess to thee! Oh, exalted as thou art, still the humble in heart are thy dwelling place! For thou liftest them who are cast down and they fall not for whom thou art the Most High. [454]

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Notes:

[453] Note here the preparation for the transition from this analysis of time in Bk. XI to the exploration of the mystery of creation in Bks. XII and XIII.

[454] Celsitudo, an honorific title, somewhat like "Your Highness."
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

Postby admin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:11 am

Part 1 of 2

BOOK TWELVE

The mode of creation and the truth of Scripture. Augustine explores the relation of the visible and formed matter of heaven and earth to the prior matrix from which it was formed. This leads to an intricate analysis of "unformed matter" and the primal "possibility" from which God created, itself created de nihilo. He finds a reference to this in the misconstrued Scriptural phrase "the heaven of heavens." Realizing that his interpretation of Gen. 1:1, 2, is not self-evidently the only possibility, Augustine turns to an elaborate discussion of the multiplicity of perspectives in hermeneutics and, in the course of this, reviews the various possibilities of true interpretation of his Scripture text. He emphasizes the importance of tolerance where there are plural options, and confidence where basic Christian faith is concerned.

CHAPTER 1

1. My heart is deeply stirred, O Lord, when in this poor life of mine the words of thy Holy Scripture strike upon it. This is why the poverty of the human intellect expresses itself in an abundance of language. Inquiry is more loquacious than discovery. Demanding takes longer than obtaining; and the hand that knocks is more active than the hand that receives. But we have the promise, and who shall break it? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" [455] "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for everyone that asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocks, it shall be opened." [456] These are thy own promises, and who need fear to be deceived when truth promises?

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Notes:

[455] Rom. 8:31.

[456] Matt. 7:7, 8.

CHAPTER 2

2. In lowliness my tongue confesses to thy exaltation, for thou madest heaven and earth. This heaven which I see, and this earth on which I walk -- from which came this "earth" that I carry about me -- thou didst make.

But where is that heaven of heavens, O Lord, of which we hear in the words of the psalm, "The heaven of heavens is the Lord's, but the earth he hath given to the children of men"? [457] Where is the heaven that we cannot see, in relation to which all that we can see is earth? For this whole corporeal creation has been beautifully formed -- though not everywhere in its entirety -- and our earth is the lowest of these levels. Still, compared with that heaven of heavens, even the heaven of our own earth is only earth. Indeed, it is not absurd to call each of those two great bodies [458] "earth" in comparison with that ineffable heaven which is the Lord's, and not for the sons of men.

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Notes:

[457] Vulgate, Ps. 113:16 (cf. Ps. 115:16, K.J.; see also Ps. 148:4, both Vulgate and K.J.): Caelum caeli domino, etc. Augustine finds a distinction here for which the Hebrew text gives no warrant. The Hebrew is a typical nominal sentence and means simply "The heavens are the heavens of Yahweh"; cf. the Soncino edition of The Psalms, edited by A. Cohen; cf. also R.S.V., Ps. 115:16. The LXX reading (o ouranoz tou ouranou) seems to rest on a variant Hebrew text. This idiomatic construction does not mean "the heavens of the heavens" (as it is too literally translated in the LXX), but rather "highest heaven." This is a familiar way, in Hebrew, of emphasizing a superlative (e.g., "King of kings," "Song of songs"). The singular thing can be described superlatively only in terms of itself!

[458] Earth and sky.

CHAPTER 3

3. And truly this earth was invisible and unformed, [459] and there was an inexpressibly profound abyss [460] above which there was no light since it had no form. Thou didst command it written that "darkness was on the face of the deep." [461] What else is darkness except the absence of light? For if there had been light, where would it have been except by being over all, showing itself rising aloft and giving light? Therefore, where there was no light as yet, why was it that darkness was present, unless it was that light was absent? Darkness, then, was heavy upon it, because the light from above was absent; just as there is silence where there is no sound. And what is it to have silence anywhere but simply not to have sound? Hast thou not, O Lord, taught this soul which confesses to thee? Hast thou not thus taught me, O Lord, that before thou didst form and separate this formless matter there was nothing: neither color, nor figure, nor body, nor spirit? Yet it was not absolutely nothing; it was a certain formlessness without any shape.

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Notes:

[459] It is interesting that Augustine should have preferred the invisibiliset incomposita of the Old Latin version of Gen. 1:2 over the inaniset vacua of the Vulgate, which was surely accessible to him. Since this is to be a key phrase in the succeeding exegesis this reading can hardly have been the casual citation of the old and familiar version. Is it possible that Augustine may have had the sensibilities and associations of his readers in mind--for many of them may have not known Jerome's version or, at least, not very well?

[460] Abyssus, literally, the unplumbed depths of the sea, and as a constant meaning here, "the depths beyond measure."

[461] Gen. 1:2.

CHAPTER 4

4. What, then, should that formlessness be called so that somehow it might be indicated to those of sluggish mind, unless we use some word in common speech? But what can be found anywhere in the world nearer to a total formlessness than the earth and the abyss? Because of their being on the lowest level, they are less beautiful than are the other and higher parts, all translucent and shining. Therefore, why may I not consider the formlessness of matter -- which thou didst create without shapely form, from which to make this shapely world -- as fittingly indicated to men by the phrase, "The earth invisible and unformed"?

CHAPTER 5

5. When our thought seeks something for our sense to fasten to [in this concept of unformed matter], and when it says to itself, "It is not an intelligible form, such as life or justice, since it is the material for bodies; and it is not a former perception, for there is nothing in the invisible and unformed which can be seen and felt" -- while human thought says such things to itself, it may be attempting either to know by being ignorant or by knowing how not to know.

CHAPTER 6

6. But if, O Lord, I am to confess to thee, by my mouth and my pen, the whole of what thou hast taught me concerning this unformed matter, I must say first of all that when I first heard of such matter and did not understand it -- and those who told me of it could not understand it either -- I conceived of it as having countless and varied forms. Thus, I did not think about it rightly. My mind in its agitation used to turn up all sorts of foul and horrible "forms"; but still they were "forms." And still I called it formless, not because it was unformed, but because it had what seemed to me a kind of form that my mind turned away from, as bizarre and incongruous, before which my human weakness was confused. And even what I did conceive of as unformed was so, not because it was deprived of all form, but only as it compared with more beautiful forms. Right reason, then, persuaded me that I ought to remove altogether all vestiges of form whatever if I wished to conceive matter that was wholly unformed; and this I could not do. For I could more readily imagine that what was deprived of all form simply did not exist than I could conceive of anything between form and nothing -- something which was neither formed nor nothing, something that was unformed and nearly nothing.

Thus my mind ceased to question my spirit -- filled as it was with the images of formed bodies, changing and varying them according to its will. And so I applied myself to the bodies themselves and looked more deeply into their mutability, by which they cease to be what they had been and begin to be what they were not. This transition from form to form I had regarded as involving something like a formless condition, though not actual nothingness. [462]

But I desired to know, not to guess. And, if my voice and my pen were to confess to thee all the various knots thou hast untied for me about this question, who among my readers could endure to grasp the whole of the account? Still, despite this, my heart will not cease to give honor to thee or to sing thy praises concerning those things which it is not able to express. [463]

For the mutability of mutable things carries with it the possibility of all those forms into which mutable things can be changed. But this mutability -- what is it? Is it soul? Is it body? Is it the external appearance of soul or body? Could it be said, "Nothing was something," and "That which is, is not"? If this were possible, I would say that this was it, and in some such manner it must have been in order to receive these visible and composite forms. [464]

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Notes:

[462] Augustine may not have known the Platonic doctrine of nonbeing (cf. Sophist, 236C-237B), but he clearly is deeply influenced here by Plotinus; cf. Enneads, II, 4:8f., where matter is analyzed as a substratum without quantity or quality; and 4:15: "Matter, then, must be described as to apeiron (the indefinite). . . . Matter is indeterminateness and nothing else." In short, materiainformis is sheer possibility; not anything and not nothing!

[463] Dictare: was Augustine dictating his Confessions? It is very probable.

[464] Visibiles et compositas, the opposite of "invisible and unformed."

CHAPTER 7

7. Whence and how was this, unless it came from thee, from whom all things are, in so far as they are? But the farther something is from thee, the more unlike thee it is -- and this is not a matter of distance or place.

Thus it was that thou, O Lord, who art not one thing in one place and another thing in another place but the Selfsame, and the Selfsame, and the Selfsame -- "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" [465] -- thus it was that in the beginning, and through thy Wisdom which is from thee and born of thy substance, thou didst create something and that out of nothing. [466] For thou didst create the heaven and the earth -- not out of thyself, for then they would be equal to thy only Son and thereby to thee. And there is no sense in which it would be right that anything should be equal to thee that was not of thee. But what else besides thee was there out of which thou mightest create these things, O God, one Trinity, and trine Unity? [467] And, therefore, it was out of nothing at all that thou didst create the heaven and earth -- something great and something small -- for thou art Almighty and Good, and able to make all things good: even the great heaven and the small earth. Thou wast, and there was nothing else from which thou didst create heaven and earth: these two things, one near thee, the other near to nothing; the one to which only thou art superior, the other to which nothing else is inferior.

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Notes:

[465] Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8.

[466] De nihilo.

[467] Trina unitas.

CHAPTER 8

8. That heaven of heavens was thine, O Lord, but the earth which thou didst give to the sons of men to be seen and touched was not then in the same form as that in which we now see it and touch it. For then it was invisible and unformed and there was an abyss over which there was no light. The darkness was truly over the abyss, that is, more than just in the abyss. For this abyss of waters which now is visible has even in its depths a certain light appropriate to its nature, perceptible in some fashion to fishes and the things that creep about on the bottom of it. But then the entire abyss was almost nothing, since it was still altogether unformed. Yet even there, there was something that had the possibility of being formed. For thou, O Lord, hadst made the world out of unformed matter, and this thou didst make out of nothing and didst make it into almost nothing. From it thou hast then made these great things which we, the sons of men, marvel at. For this corporeal heaven is truly marvelous, this firmament between the water and the waters which thou didst make on the second day after the creation of light, saying, "Let it be done," and it was done. [468] This firmament thou didst call heaven, that is, the heaven of this earth and sea which thou madest on the third day, giving a visible shape to the unformed matter which thou hadst made before all the days. For even before any day thou hadst already made a heaven, but that was the heaven of this heaven: for in the beginning thou hadst made heaven and earth.

But this earth itself which thou hadst made was unformed matter; it was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss. Out of this invisible and unformed earth, out of this formlessness which is almost nothing, thou didst then make all these things of which the changeable world consists -- and yet does not fully consist in itself [469] -- for its very changeableness appears in this, that its times and seasons can be observed and numbered. The periods of time are measured by the changes of things, while the forms, whose matter is the invisible earth of which we have spoken, are varied and altered.

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Notes:

[468] Cf. Gen. 1:6.

[469] Constat et non constat, the created earth really exists but never is self-sufficient.

CHAPTER 9

9. And therefore the Spirit, the Teacher of thy servant, [470] when he mentions that "in the beginning thou madest heaven and earth," says nothing about times and is silent as to the days. For, clearly, that heaven of heavens which thou didst create in the beginning is in some way an intellectual creature, although in no way coeternal with thee, O Trinity. Yet it is nonetheless a partaker in thy eternity. Because of the sweetness of its most happy contemplation of thee, it is greatly restrained in its own mutability and cleaves to thee without any lapse from the time in which it was created, surpassing all the rolling change of time. But this shapelessness -- this earth invisible and unformed -- was not numbered among the days itself. For where there is no shape or order there is nothing that either comes or goes, and where this does not occur there certainly are no days, nor any vicissitude of duration.

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Notes:

[470] Moses.

CHAPTER 10

10. O Truth, O Light of my heart, let not my own darkness speak to me! I had fallen into that darkness and was darkened thereby. But in it, even in its depths, I came to love thee. I went astray and still I remembered thee. I heard thy voice behind me, bidding me return, though I could scarcely hear it for the tumults of my boisterous passions. And now, behold, I am returning, burning and thirsting after thy fountain. Let no one hinder me; here will I drink and so have life. Let me not be my own life; for of myself I have lived badly. I was death to myself; in thee I have revived. Speak to me; converse with me. I have believed thy books, and their words are very deep.

CHAPTER 11

11. Thou hast told me already, O Lord, with a strong voice in my inner ear, that thou art eternal and alone hast immortality. Thou art not changed by any shape or motion, and thy will is not altered by temporal process, because no will that changes is immortal. This is clear to me, in thy sight; let it become clearer and clearer, I beseech thee. In that light let me abide soberly under thy wings.

Thou hast also told me, O Lord, with a strong voice in my inner ear, that thou hast created all natures and all substances, which are not what thou art thyself; and yet they do exist. Only that which is nothing at all is not from thee, and that motion of the will away from thee, who art, toward something that exists only in a lesser degree -- such a motion is an offense and a sin. No one's sin either hurts thee or disturbs the order of thy rule, either first or last. All this, in thy sight, is clear to me. Let it become clearer and clearer, I beseech thee, and in that light let me abide soberly under thy wings.

12. Likewise, thou hast told me, with a strong voice in my inner ear, that this creation -- whose delight thou alone art -- is not coeternal with thee. With a most persevering purity it draws its support from thee and nowhere and never betrays its own mutability, for thou art ever present with it; and it cleaves to thee with its entire affection, having no future to expect and no past that it remembers; it is varied by no change and is extended by no time.

O blessed one -- if such there be -- clinging to thy blessedness! It is blest in thee, its everlasting Inhabitant and its Light. I cannot find a term that I would judge more fitting for "the heaven of the heavens of the Lord" than "Thy house" -- which contemplates thy delights without any declination toward anything else and which, with a pure mind in most harmonious stability, joins all together in the peace of those saintly spirits who are citizens of thy city in those heavens that are above this visible heaven.

13. From this let the soul that has wandered far away from thee understand -- if now it thirsts for thee; if now its tears have become its bread, while daily they say to it, "Where is your God?" [471]; if now it requests of thee just one thing and seeks after this: that it may dwell in thy house all the days of its life (and what is its life but thee? And what are thy days but thy eternity, like thy years which do not fail, since thou art the Selfsame?) -- from this, I say, let the soul understand (as far as it can) how far above all times thou art in thy eternity; and how thy house has never wandered away from thee; and, although it is not coeternal with thee, it continually and unfailingly clings to thee and suffers no vicissitudes of time. This, in thy sight, is clear to me; may it become clearer and clearer to me, I beseech thee, and in this light may I abide soberly under thy wings.

14. Now I do not know what kind of formlessness there is in these mutations of these last and lowest creatures. Yet who will tell me, unless it is someone who, in the emptiness of his own heart, wanders about and begins to be dizzy in his own fancies? Who except such a one would tell me whether, if all form were diminished and consumed, formlessness alone would remain, through which a thing was changed and turned from one species into another, so that sheer formlessness would then be characterized by temporal change? And surely this could not be, because without motion there is no time, and where there is no form there is no change.

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Notes:

[471] Ps. 42:3, 10.

CHAPTER 12

15. These things I have considered as thou hast given me ability, O my God, as thou hast excited me to knock, and as thou hast opened to me when I knock. Two things I find which thou hast made, not within intervals of time, although neither is coeternal with thee. One of them is so formed that, without any wavering in its contemplation, without any interval of change -- mutable but not changed -- it may fully enjoy thy eternity and immutability. The other is so formless that it could not change from one form to another (either of motion or of rest), and so time has no hold upon it. But thou didst not leave this formless, for, before any "day" in the beginning, thou didst create heaven and earth -- these are the two things of which I spoke.

But "the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss." By these words its formlessness is indicated to us -- so that by degrees they may be led forward who cannot wholly conceive of the privation of all form without arriving at nothing. From this formlessness a second heaven might be created and a second earth -- visible and well formed, with the ordered beauty of the waters, and whatever else is recorded as created (though not without days) in the formation of this world. And all this because such things are so ordered that in them the changes of time may take place through the ordered processes of motion and form.

CHAPTER 13

16. Meanwhile this is what I understand, O my God, when I hear thy Scripture saying, "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth, but the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss." It does not say on what day thou didst create these things. Thus, for the time being I understand that "heaven of heavens" to mean the intelligible heaven, where to understand is to know all at once -- not "in part," not "darkly," not "through a glass" -- but as a simultaneous whole, in full sight, "face to face." [472] It is not this thing now and then another thing, but (as we said) knowledge all at once without any temporal change. And by the invisible and unformed earth, I understand that which suffers no temporal vicissitude. Temporal change customarily means having one thing now and another later; but where there is no form there can be no distinction between this or that. It is, then, by means of these two -- one thing well formed in the beginning and another thing wholly unformed, the one heaven (that is, the heaven of heavens) and the other one earth (but the earth invisible and unformed) -- it is by means of these two notions that I am able to understand why thy Scripture said, without mention of days, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." For it immediately indicated which earth it was speaking about. When, on the second day, the firmament is recorded as having been created and called heaven, this suggests to us which heaven it was that he was speaking about earlier, without specifying a day.

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Notes:

[472] Cor. 13:12.

CHAPTER 14

17. Marvelous is the depth of thy oracles. Their surface is before us, inviting the little ones; and yet wonderful is their depth, O my God, marvelous is their depth! It is a fearful thing to look into them: an awe of honor and a tremor of love. Their enemies I hate vehemently. Oh, if thou wouldst slay them with thy two-edged sword, so that they should not be enemies! For I would prefer that they should be slain to themselves, that they might live to thee. But see, there are others who are not critics but praisers of the book of Genesis; they say: "The Spirit of God who wrote these things by his servant Moses did not wish these words to be understood like this. He did not wish to have it understood as you say, but as we say." To them, O God of us all, thyself being the judge, I give answer.

CHAPTER 15

18. "Will you say that these things are false which Truth tells me, with a loud voice in my inner ear, about the very eternity of the Creator: that his essence is changed in no respect by time and that his will is not distinct from his essence? Thus, he doth not will one thing now and another thing later, but he willeth once and for all everything that he willeth -- not again and again; and not now this and now that. Nor does he will afterward what he did not will before, nor does he cease to will what he had willed before. Such a will would be mutable and no mutable thing is eternal. But our God is eternal.

"Again, he tells me in my inner ear that the expectation of future things is turned to sight when they have come to pass. And this same sight is turned into memory when they have passed. Moreover, all thought that varies thus is mutable, and nothing mutable is eternal. But our God is eternal." These things I sum up and put together, and I conclude that my God, the eternal God, hath not made any creature by any new will, and his knowledge does not admit anything transitory.

19. "What, then, will you say to this, you objectors? Are these things false?" "No," they say. "What then? Is it false that every entity already formed and all matter capable of receiving form is from him alone who is supremely good, because he is supreme?" "We do not deny this, either," they say. "What then? Do you deny this: that there is a certain sublime created order which cleaves with such a chaste love to the true and truly eternal God that, although it is not coeternal with him, yet it does not separate itself from him, and does not flow away into any mutation of change or process but abides in true contemplation of him alone?" If thou, O God, dost show thyself to him who loves thee as thou hast commanded -- and art sufficient for him -- then, such a one will neither turn himself away from thee nor turn away toward himself. This is "the house of God." It is not an earthly house and it is not made from any celestial matter; but it is a spiritual house, and it partakes in thy eternity because it is without blemish forever. For thou hast made it steadfast forever and ever; thou hast given it a law which will not be removed. Still, it is not coeternal with thee, O God, since it is not without beginning -- it was created.

20. For, although we can find no time before it (for wisdom was created before all things), [473] this is certainly not that Wisdom which is absolutely coeternal and equal with thee, our God, its Father, the Wisdom through whom all things were created and in whom, in the beginning, thou didst create the heaven and earth. This is truly the created Wisdom, namely, the intelligible nature which, in its contemplation of light, is light. For this is also called wisdom, even if it is a created wisdom. But the difference between the Light that lightens and that which is enlightened is as great as is the difference between the Wisdom that creates and that which is created. So also is the difference between the Righteousness that justifies and the righteousness that is made by justification. For we also are called thy righteousness, for a certain servant of thine says, "That we might be made the righteousness of God in him." [474] Therefore, there is a certain created wisdom that was created before all things: the rational and intelligible mind of that chaste city of thine. It is our mother which is above and is free [475] and "eternal in the heavens" [476] -- but in what heavens except those which praise thee, the "heaven of heavens"? This also is the "heaven of heavens" which is the Lord's -- although we find no time before it, since what has been created before all things also precedes the creation of time. Still, the eternity of the Creator himself is before it, from whom it took its beginning as created, though not in time (since time as yet was not), even though time belongs to its created nature.

21. Thus it is that the intelligible heaven came to be from thee, our God, but in such a way that it is quite another being than thou art; it is not the Selfsame. Yet we find that time is not only not before it, but not even in it, thus making it able to behold thy face forever and not ever be turned aside. Thus, it is varied by no change at all. But there is still in it that mutability in virtue of which it could become dark and cold, if it did not, by cleaving to thee with a supernal love, shine and glow from thee like a perpetual noon. O house full of light and splendor! "I have loved your beauty and the place of the habitation of the glory of my Lord," [477] your builder and possessor. In my wandering let me sigh for you; this I ask of him who made you, that he should also possess me in you, seeing that he hath also made me. "I have gone astray like a lost sheep [478]; yet upon the shoulders of my Shepherd, who is your builder, I have hoped that I may be brought back to you." [479]

22. "What will you say to me now, you objectors to whom I spoke, who still believe that Moses was the holy servant of God, and that his books were the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Is it not in this `house of God' -- not coeternal with God, yet in its own mode `eternal in the heavens' -- that you vainly seek for temporal change? You will not find it there. It rises above all extension and every revolving temporal period, and it rises to what is forever good and cleaves fast to God."

"It is so," they reply. "What, then, about those things which my heart cried out to my God, when it heard, within, the voice of his praise? What, then, do you contend is false in them? Is it because matter was unformed, and since there was no form there was no order? But where there was no order there could have been no temporal change. Yet even this `almost nothing,' since it was not altogether nothing, was truly from him from whom everything that exists is in whatever state it is." "This also," they say, "we do not deny."

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Notes:

[473] Cf. Ecclus. 1:4.

[474] 2 Cor. 5:21.

[475] Cf. Gal. 4:26.

[476] 2 Cor. 5:1.

[477] Cf. Ps. 26:8.

[478] Ps. 119:176.

[479] To "the house of God."

CHAPTER 16

23. Now, I would like to discuss a little further, in thy presence, O my God, with those who admit that all these things are true that thy Truth has indicated to my mind. Let those who deny these things bark and drown their own voices with as much clamor as they please. I will endeavor to persuade them to be quiet and to permit thy word to reach them. But if they are unwilling, and if they repel me, I ask of thee, O my God, that thou shouldst not be silent to me. [480] Speak truly in my heart; if only thou wouldst speak thus, I would send them away, blowing up the dust and raising it in their own eyes. As for myself I will enter into my closet [481] and there sing to thee the songs of love, groaning with groanings that are unutterable now in my pilgrimage, [482] and remembering Jerusalem with my heart uplifted to Jerusalem my country, Jerusalem my mother [483]; and to thee thyself, the Ruler of the source of Light, its Father, Guardian, Husband; its chaste and strong delight, its solid joy and all its goods ineffable -- and all of this at the same time, since thou art the one supreme and true Good! And I will not be turned away until thou hast brought back together all that I am from this dispersion and deformity to the peace of that dearest mother, where the first fruits of my spirit are to be found and from which all these things are promised me which thou dost conform and confirm forever, O my God, my Mercy. But as for those who do not say that all these things which are true are false, who still honor thy Scripture set before us by the holy Moses, who join us in placing it on the summit of authority for us to follow, and yet who oppose us in some particulars, I say this: "Be thou, O God, the judge between my confessions and their gainsaying."

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Notes:

[480] Cf. Ps. 28:1.

[481] Cubile, i.e., the heart.

[482] Cf. Rom. 8:26.

[483] The heavenly Jerusalem of Gal. 4:26, which had become a favorite Christian symbol of the peace and blessedness of heaven; cf. the various versions of the hymn "Jerusalem, My Happy Home" in Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology, pp. 580-583. The original text is found in the Liber meditationum, erroneously ascribed to Augustine himself.
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

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Part 2 of 2

CHAPTER 17

24. For they say: "Even if these things are true, still Moses did not refer to these two things when he said, by divine revelation, `In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' By the term `heaven' he did not mean that spiritual or intelligible created order which always beholds the face of God. And by the term `earth' he was not referring to unformed matter."

"What then do these terms mean?"

They reply, "That man [Moses] meant what we mean; this is what he was saying in those terms." "What is that?"

"By the terms of heaven and earth," they say, "he wished first to indicate universally and briefly this whole visible world; then after this, by an enumeration of the days, he could point out, one by one, all the things that it has pleased the Holy Spirit to reveal in this way. For the people to whom he spoke were rude and carnal, so that he judged it prudent that only those works of God which were visible should be mentioned to them."

But they do agree that the phrases, "The earth was invisible and unformed," and "The darkened abyss," may not inappropriately be understood to refer to this unformed matter -- and that out of this, as it is subsequently related, all the visible things which are known to all were made and set in order during those specified "days."

25. But now, what if another one should say, "This same formlessness and chaos of matter was first mentioned by the name of heaven and earth because, out of it, this visible world -- with all its entities which clearly appear in it and which we are accustomed to be called by the name of heaven and earth -- was created and perfected"? And what if still another should say: "The invisible and visible nature is quite fittingly called heaven and earth. Thus, the whole creation which God has made in his wisdom -- that is, in the beginning -- was included under these two terms. Yet, since all things have been made, not from the essence of God, but from nothing; and because they are not the same reality that God is; and because there is in them all a certain mutability, whether they abide as the eternal house of God abides or whether they are changed as the soul and body of man are changed -- then the common matter of all things invisible and visible (still formless but capable of receiving form) from which heaven and earth were to be created (that is, the creature already fashioned, invisible as well as visible) -- all this was spoken of in the same terms by which the invisible and unformed earth and the darkness over the abyss would be called. There was this difference, however: that the invisible and unformed earth is to be understood as having corporeal matter before it had any manner of form; but the darkness over the abyss was spiritual matter, before its unlimited fluidity was harnessed, and before it was enlightened by Wisdom."

26. And if anyone wished, he might also say, "The entities already perfected and formed, invisible and visible, are not signified by the terms `heaven and earth,' when it reads, `In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth'; instead, the unformed beginning of things, the matter capable of receiving form and being made was called by these terms -- because the chaos was contained in it and was not yet distinguished by qualities and forms, which have now been arranged in their own orders and are called heaven and earth: the former a spiritual creation, the latter a physical creation."

CHAPTER 18

27. When all these things have been said and considered, I am unwilling to contend about words, for such contention is profitable for nothing but the subverting of the hearer. [484] But the law is profitable for edification if a man use it lawfully: for the end of the law "is love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned." [485] And our Master knew it well, for it was on these two commandments that he hung all the Law and the Prophets. And how would it harm me, O my God, thou Light of my eyes in secret, if while I am ardently confessing these things -- since many different things may be understood from these words, all of which may be true -- what harm would be done if I should interpret the meaning of the sacred writer differently from the way some other man interprets? Indeed, all of us who read are trying to trace out and understand what our author wished to convey; and since we believe that he speaks truly we dare not suppose that he has spoken anything that we either know or suppose to be false. Therefore, since every person tries to understand in the Holy Scripture what the writer understood, what harm is done if a man understands what thou, the Light of all truth-speaking minds, showest him to be true, although the author he reads did not understand this aspect of the truth even though he did understand the truth in a different meaning? [486]

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Notes:

[484] Cf. 2 Tim. 2:14.

[485] 1 Tim. 1:5.

[486] This is the basis of Augustine's defense of allegory as both legitimate and profitable in the interpretation of Scripture. He did not mean that there is a plurality of literal truths in Scripture but a multiplicity of perspectives on truth which amounted to different levels and interpretations of truth. This gave Augustine the basis for a positive tolerance of varying interpretations which did hold fast to the essential common premises about God's primacy as Creator; cf. M. Pontet, L'Exegese Saint Augustin predicateur (Lyons, 1944), chs. II and III.

CHAPTER 19 [487]

28. For it is certainly true, O Lord, that thou didst create the heaven and the earth. It is also true that "the beginning" is thy wisdom in which thou didst create all things. It is likewise true that this visible world has its own great division (the heaven and the earth) and these two terms include all entities that have been made and created. It is further true that everything mutable confronts our minds with a certain lack of form, whereby it receives form, or whereby it is capable of taking form. It is true, yet again, that what cleaves to the changeless form so closely that even though it is mutable it is not changed is not subject to temporal process. It is true that the formlessness which is almost nothing cannot have temporal change in it. It is true that that from which something is made can, in a manner of speaking, be called by the same name as the thing that is made from it. Thus that formlessness of which heaven and earth were made might be called "heaven and earth." It is true that of all things having form nothing is nearer to the unformed than the earth and the abyss. It is true that not only every created and formed thing but also everything capable of creation and of form were created by Thee, from whom all things are. [488] It is true, finally, that everything that is formed from what is formless was formless before it was formed.

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Notes:

[487] In this chapter, Augustine summarizes what he takes to be the Christian consensus on the questions he has explored about the relation of the intellectual and corporeal creations.

[488] Cf. 1 Cor. 8:6.

CHAPTER 20

29. From all these truths, which are not doubted by those to whom thou hast granted insight in such things in their inner eye and who believe unshakably that thy servant Moses spoke in the spirit of truth -- from all these truths, then, one man takes the sense of "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" to mean, "In his Word, coeternal with himself, God made both the intelligible and the tangible, the spiritual and the corporeal creation." Another takes it in a different sense, that "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" means, "In his Word, coeternal with himself, God made the universal mass of this corporeal world, with all the observable and known entities that it contains." Still another finds a different meaning, that "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" means, "In his Word, coeternal with himself, God made the unformed matter of the spiritual and corporeal creation." Another can take the sense that "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" means, "In his Word, coeternal with himself, God made the unformed matter of the physical creation, in which heaven and earth were as yet indistinguished; but now that they have come to be separated and formed, we can now perceive them both in the mighty mass of this world." [489] Another takes still a further meaning, that "In the beginning God created heaven and earth" means, "In the very beginning of creating and working, God made that unformed matter which contained, undifferentiated, heaven and earth, from which both of them were formed, and both now stand out and are observable with all the things that are in them."

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Notes:

[489] Mole mundi.

CHAPTER 21

30. Again, regarding the interpretation of the following words, one man selects for himself, from all the various truths, the interpretation that "the earth was invisible and unformed and darkness was over the abyss" means, "That corporeal entity which God made was as yet the formless matter of physical things without order and without light." Another takes it in a different sense, that "But the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss" means, "This totality called heaven and earth was as yet unformed and lightless matter, out of which the corporeal heaven and the corporeal earth were to be made, with all the things in them that are known to our physical senses." Another takes it still differently and says that "But the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss" means, "This totality called heaven and earth was as yet an unformed and lightless matter, from which were to be made that intelligible heaven (which is also called `the heaven of heavens') and the earth (which refers to the whole physical entity, under which term may be included this corporeal heaven) -- that is, He made the intelligible heaven from which every invisible and visible creature would be created." He takes it in yet another sense who says that "But the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss" means, "The Scripture does not refer to that formlessness by the term `heaven and earth'; that formlessness itself already existed. This it called the invisible `earth' and the unformed and lightless `abyss,' from which -- as it had said before -- God made the heaven and the earth (namely, the spiritual and the corporeal creation)." Still another says that "But the earth was invisible and formless, and darkness was over the abyss" means, "There was already an unformed matter from which, as the Scripture had already said, God made heaven and earth, namely, the entire corporeal mass of the world, divided into two very great parts, one superior, the other inferior, with all those familiar and known creatures that are in them."

CHAPTER 22

31. Now suppose that someone tried to argue against these last two opinions as follows: "If you will not admit that this formlessness of matter appears to be called by the term `heaven and earth,' then there was something that God had not made out of which he did make heaven and earth. And Scripture has not told us that God made this matter, unless we understand that it is implied in the term `heaven and earth' (or the term `earth' alone) when it is said, `In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.' Thus, in what follows -- 'the earth was invisible and unformed' -- even though it pleased Moses thus to refer to unformed matter, yet we can only understand by it that which God himself hath made, as it stands written in the previous verse, `God made heaven and earth.'" Those who maintain either one or the other of these two opinions which we have set out above will answer to such objections: "We do not deny at all that this unformed matter was created by God, from whom all things are, and are very good -- because we hold that what is created and endowed with form is a higher good; and we also hold that what is made capable of being created and endowed with form, though it is a lesser good, is still a good. But the Scripture has not said specifically that God made this formlessness -- any more than it has said it specifically of many other things, such as the orders of `cherubim' and `seraphim' and those others of which the apostle distinctly speaks: `thrones,' `dominions,' `principalities,' `powers' [490] -- yet it is clear that God made all of these. If in the phrase `He made heaven and earth' all things are included, what are we to say about the waters upon which the Spirit of God moved? For if they are understood as included in the term `earth,' then how can unformed matter be meant by the term `earth' when we see the waters so beautifully formed? Or, if it be taken thus, why, then, is it written that out of the same formlessness the firmament was made and called heaven, and yet is it not specifically written that the waters were made? For these waters, which we perceive flowing in so beautiful a fashion, are not formless and invisible. But if they received that beauty at the time God said of them, `Let the waters which are under the firmament be gathered together,' [491] thus indicating that their gathering together was the same thing as their reception of form, what, then, is to be said about the waters that are above the firmament? Because if they are unformed, they do not deserve to have a seat so honorable, and yet it is not written by what specific word they were formed. If, then, Genesis is silent about anything that God hath made, which neither sound faith nor unerring understanding doubts that God hath made, let not any sober teaching dare to say that these waters were coeternal with God because we find them mentioned in the book of Genesis and do not find it mentioned when they were created. If Truth instructs us, why may we not interpret that unformed matter which the Scripture calls the earth -- invisible and unformed -- and the lightless abyss as having been made by God from nothing; and thus understand that they are not coeternal with him, although the narrative fails to tell us precisely when they were made?"

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Notes:

[490] Cf. Col. 1:16.

[491] Gen. 1:9.

CHAPTER 23

32. I have heard and considered these theories as well as my weak apprehension allows, and I confess my weakness to Thee, O Lord, though already thou knowest it. Thus I see that two sorts of disagreements may arise when anything is related by signs, even by trustworthy reporters. There is one disagreement about the truth of the things involved; the other concerns the meaning of the one who reports them. It is one thing to inquire as to what is true about the formation of the Creation. It is another thing, however, to ask what that excellent servant of thy faith, Moses, would have wished for the reader and hearer to understand from these words. As for the first question, let all those depart from me who imagine that Moses spoke things that are false. But let me be united with them in thee, O Lord, and delight myself in thee with those who feed on thy truth in the bond of love. Let us approach together the words of thy book and make diligent inquiry in them for thy meaning through the meaning of thy servant by whose pen thou hast given them to us.

CHAPTER 24

33. But in the midst of so many truths which occur to the interpreters of these words (understood as they can be in different ways), which one of us can discover that single interpretation which warrants our saying confidently that Moses thought thus and that in this narrative he wishes this to be understood, as confidently as he would say that this is true, whether Moses thought the one or the other. For see, O my God, I am thy servant, and I have vowed in this book an offering of confession to thee, [492] and I beseech thee that by thy mercy I may pay my vow to thee. Now, see, could I assert that Moses meant nothing else than this [i.e., my interpretation] when he wrote, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," as confidently as I can assert that thou in thy immutable Word hast created all things, invisible and visible? No, I cannot do this because it is not as clear to me that this was in his mind when he wrote these things, as I see it to be certain in thy truth. For his thoughts might be set upon the very beginning of the creation when he said, "In the beginning"; and he might have wished it understood that, in this passage, "heaven and earth" refers to no formed and perfect entity, whether spiritual or corporeal, but each of them only newly begun and still formless. Whichever of these possibilities has been mentioned I can see that it might have been said truly. But which of them he did actually intend to express in these words I do not clearly see. However, whether it was one of these or some other meaning which I have not mentioned that this great man saw in his mind when he used these words I have no doubt whatever that he saw it truly and expressed it suitably.

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Notes:

[492] Note how this reiterates a constant theme in the Confessions as a whole; a further indication that Bk. XII is an integral part of the single whole.

CHAPTER 25

34. Let no man fret me now by saying, "Moses did not mean what you say, but what I say." Now if he asks me, "How do you know that Moses meant what you deduce from his words?", I ought to respond calmly and reply as I have already done, or even more fully if he happens to be untrained. But when he says, "Moses did not mean what you say, but what I say," and then does not deny what either of us says but allows that both are true -- then, O my God, life of the poor, in whose breast there is no contradiction, pour thy soothing balm into my heart that I may patiently bear with people who talk like this! It is not because they are godly men and have seen in the heart of thy servant what they say, but rather they are proud men and have not considered Moses' meaning, but only love their own -- not because it is true but because it is their own. Otherwise they could equally love another true opinion, as I love what they say when what they speak is true -- not because it is theirs but because it is true, and therefore not theirs but true. And if they love an opinion because it is true, it becomes both theirs and mine, since it is the common property of all lovers of the truth. [493] But I neither accept nor approve of it when they contend that Moses did not mean what I say but what they say -- and this because, even if it were so, such rashness is born not of knowledge, but of impudence. It comes not from vision but from vanity.

And therefore, O Lord, thy judgments should be held in awe, because thy truth is neither mine nor his nor anyone else's; but it belongs to all of us whom thou hast openly called to have it in common; and thou hast warned us not to hold on to it as our own special property, for if we do we lose it. For if anyone arrogates to himself what thou hast bestowed on all to enjoy, and if he desires something for his own that belongs to all, he is forced away from what is common to all to what is, indeed, his very own -- that is, from truth to falsehood. For he who tells a lie speaks of his own thought. [494]

35. Hear, O God, best judge of all! O Truth itself, hear what I say to this disputant. Hear it, because I say it in thy presence and before my brethren who use the law rightly to the end of love. Hear and give heed to what I shall say to him, if it pleases thee.

For I would return this brotherly and peaceful word to him: "If we both see that what you say is true, and if we both say that what I say is true, where is it, I ask you, that we see this? Certainly, I do not see it in you, and you do not see it in me, but both of us see it in the unchangeable truth itself, which is above our minds." [495] If, then, we do not disagree about the true light of the Lord our God, why do we disagree about the thoughts of our neighbor, which we cannot see as clearly as the immutable Truth is seen? If Moses himself had appeared to us and said, "This is what I meant," it would not be in order that we should see it but that we should believe him. Let us not, then, "go beyond what is written and be puffed up for the one against the other." [496] Let us, instead, "love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourself." [497] Unless we believe that whatever Moses meant in these books he meant to be ordered by these two precepts of love, we shall make God a liar, if we judge of the soul of his servant in any other way than as he has taught us. See now, how foolish it is, in the face of so great an abundance of true opinions which can be elicited from these words, rashly to affirm that Moses especially intended only one of these interpretations; and then, with destructive contention, to violate love itself, on behalf of which he had said all the things we are endeavoring to explain!

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Notes:

[493] Cf. De libero arbitrio, II, 8:20, 10:28.

[494] Cf. John 8:44.

[495] The essential thesis of the De Magistro; it has important implications both for Augustine's epistemology and for his theory of Christian nurture; cf. the De catechizandis rudibus.

[496] 1 Cor. 4:6.

[497] Cf. Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18; see also Matt. 22:37, 39.

CHAPTER 26

36. And yet, O my God, thou exaltation of my humility and rest of my toil, who hearest my confessions and forgivest my sins, since thou commandest me to love my neighbor as myself, I cannot believe that thou gavest thy most faithful servant Moses a lesser gift than I should wish and desire for myself from thee, if I had been born in his time, and if thou hadst placed me in the position where, by the use of my heart and my tongue, those books might be produced which so long after were to profit all nations throughout the whole world -- from such a great pinnacle of authority -- and were to surmount the words of all false and proud teachings. If I had been Moses -- and we all come from the same mass, [498] and what is man that thou art mindful of him? [499] -- if I had been Moses at the time that he was, and if I had been ordered by thee to write the book of Genesis, I would surely have wished for such a power of expression and such an art of arrangement to be given me, that those who cannot as yet understand how God createth would still not reject my words as surpassing their powers of understanding. And I would have wished that those who are already able to do this would find fully contained in the laconic speech of thy servant whatever truths they had arrived at in their own thought; and if, in the light of the Truth, some other man saw some further meaning, that too would be found congruent to my words.

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Notes:

[498] Cf. Rom. 9:21.

[499] Cf. Ps. 8:4.

CHAPTER 27

37. For just as a spring dammed up is more plentiful and affords a larger supply of water for more streams over wider fields than any single stream led off from the same spring over a long course -- so also is the narration of thy minister: it is intended to benefit many who are likely to discourse about it and, with an economy of language, it overflows into various streams of clear truth, from which each one may draw out for himself that particular truth which he can about these topics -- this one that truth, that one another truth, by the broader survey of various interpretations. For some people, when they read or hear these words, [500] think that God, like some sort of man or like some sort of huge body, by some new and sudden decision, produced outside himself and at a certain distance two great bodies: one above, the other below, within which all created things were to be contained. And when they hear, "God said, `Let such and such be done,' and it was done," they think of words begun and ended, sounding in time and then passing away, followed by the coming into being of what was commanded. They think of other things of the same sort which their familiarity with the world suggests to them.

In these people, who are still little children and whose weakness is borne up by this humble language as if on a mother's breast, their faith is built up healthfully and they come to possess and to hold as certain the conviction that God made all entities that their senses perceive all around them in such marvelous variety. And if one despises these words as if they were trivial, and with proud weakness stretches himself beyond his fostering cradle, he will, alas, fall away wretchedly. Have pity, O Lord God, lest those who pass by trample on the unfledged bird, [501] and send thy angel who may restore it to its nest, that it may live until it can fly.

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Notes:

[500] "In the beginning God created," etc.

[501] An echo of Job 39:13-16.

CHAPTER 28

38. But others, to whom these words are no longer a nest but, rather, a shady thicket, spy the fruits concealed in them and fly around rejoicing and search among them and pluck them with cheerful chirpings: For when they read or hear these words, O God, they see that all times past and times future are transcended by thy eternal and stable permanence, and they see also that there is no temporal creature that is not of thy making. By thy will, since it is the same as thy being, thou hast created all things, not by any mutation of will and not by any will that previously was nonexistent -- and not out of thyself, but in thy own likeness, thou didst make from nothing the form of all things. This was an unlikeness which was capable of being formed by thy likeness through its relation to thee, the One, as each thing has been given form appropriate to its kind according to its preordained capacity. Thus, all things were made very good, whether they remain around thee or whether, removed in time and place by various degrees, they cause or undergo the beautiful changes of natural process.

They see these things and they rejoice in the light of thy truth to whatever degree they can.

39. Again, one of these men [502] directs his attention to the verse, "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth," and he beholds Wisdom as the true "beginning," because it also speaks to us. Another man directs his attention to the same words, and by "beginning" he understands simply the commencement of creation, and interprets it thus: "In the beginning he made," as if it were the same thing as to say, "At the first moment, God made . . ." And among those who interpret "In the beginning" to mean that in thy wisdom thou hast created the heaven and earth, one believes that the matter out of which heaven and earth were to be created is what is referred to by the phrase "heaven and earth." But another believes that these entities were already formed and distinct. Still another will understand it to refer to one formed entity -- a spiritual one, designated by the term "heaven" -- and to another unformed entity of corporeal matter, designated by the term "earth." But those who understand the phrase "heaven and earth" to mean the yet unformed matter from which the heaven and the earth were to be formed do not take it in a simple sense: one man regards it as that from which the intelligible and tangible creations are both produced; and another only as that from which the tangible, corporeal world is produced, containing in its vast bosom these visible and observable entities. Nor are they in simple accord who believe that "heaven and earth" refers to the created things already set in order and arranged. One believes that it refers to the invisible and visible world; another, only to the visible world, in which we admire the luminous heavens and the darkened earth and all the things that they contain.

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Notes:

[502] The thicket denizens mentioned above.

CHAPTER 29

40. But he who understands "In the beginning he made" as if it meant, "At first he made," can truly interpret the phrase "heaven and earth" as referring only to the "matter" of heaven and earth, namely, of the prior universal, which is the intelligible and corporeal creation. For if he would try to interpret the phrase as applying to the universe already formed, it then might rightly be asked of him, "If God first made this, what then did he do afterward?" And, after the universe, he will find nothing. But then he must, however unwillingly, face the question, How is this the first if there is nothing afterward? But when he said that God made matter first formless and then formed, he is not being absurd if he is able to discern what precedes by eternity, and what proceeds in time; what comes from choice, and what comes from origin. In eternity, God is before all things; in the temporal process, the flower is before the fruit; in the act of choice, the fruit is before the flower; in the case of origin, sound is before the tune. Of these four relations, the first and last that I have referred to are understood with much difficulty. The second and third are very easily understood. For it is an uncommon and lofty vision, O Lord, to behold thy eternity immutably making mutable things, and thereby standing always before them. Whose mind is acute enough to be able, without great labor, to discover how the sound comes before the tune? For a tune is a formed sound; and an unformed thing may exist, but a thing that does not exist cannot be formed. In the same way, matter is prior to what is made from it. It is not prior because it makes its product, for it is itself made; and its priority is not that of a time interval. For in time we do not first utter formless sounds without singing and then adapt or fashion them into the form of a song, as wood or silver from which a chest or vessel is made. Such materials precede in time the forms of the things which are made from them. But in singing this is not so. For when a song is sung, its sound is heard at the same time. There is not first a formless sound, which afterward is formed into a song; but just as soon as it has sounded it passes away, and you cannot find anything of it which you could gather up and shape. Therefore, the song is absorbed in its own sound and the "sound" of the song is its "matter." But the sound is formed in order that it may be a tune. This is why, as I was saying, the matter of the sound is prior to the form of the tune. It is not "before" in the sense that it has any power of making a sound or tune. Nor is the sound itself the composer of the tune; rather, the sound is sent forth from the body and is ordered by the soul of the singer, so that from it he may form a tune. Nor is the sound first in time, for it is given forth together with the tune. Nor is it first in choice, because a sound is no better than a tune, since a tune is not merely a sound but a beautiful sound. But it is first in origin, because the tune is not formed in order that it may become a sound, but the sound is formed in order that it may become a tune.

From this example, let him who is able to understand see that the matter of things was first made and was called "heaven and earth" because out of it the heaven and earth were made. This primal formlessness was not made first in time, because the form of things gives rise to time; but now, in time, it is intuited together with its form. And yet nothing can be related of this unformed matter unless it is regarded as if it were the first in the time series though the last in value -- because things formed are certainly superior to things unformed -- and it is preceded by the eternity of the Creator, so that from nothing there might be made that from which something might be made.

CHAPTER 30

41. In this discord of true opinions let Truth itself bring concord, and may our God have mercy on us all, that we may use the law rightly to the end of the commandment which is pure love. Thus, if anyone asks me which of these opinions was the meaning of thy servant Moses, these would not be my confessions did I not confess to thee that I do not know. Yet I do know that those opinions are true -- with the exception of the carnal ones -- about which I have said what I thought was proper. Yet those little ones of good hope are not frightened by these words of thy Book, for they speak of high things in a lowly way and of a few basic things in many varied ways. But let all of us, whom I acknowledge to see and speak the truth in these words, love one another and also love thee, our God, O Fountain of Truth -- as we will if we thirst not after vanity but for the Fountain of Truth. Indeed, let us so honor this servant of thine, the dispenser of this Scripture, full of thy Spirit, so that we will believe that when thou didst reveal thyself to him, and he wrote these things down, he intended through them what will chiefly minister both for the light of truth and to the increase of our fruitfulness.

CHAPTER 31

42. Thus, when one man says, "Moses meant what I mean," and another says, "No, he meant what I do," I think that I speak more faithfully when I say, "Why could he not have meant both if both opinions are true?" And if there should be still a third truth or a fourth one, and if anyone should seek a truth quite different in those words, why would it not be right to believe that Moses saw all these different truths, since through him the one God has tempered the Holy Scriptures to the understanding of many different people, who should see truths in it even if they are different? Certainly -- and I say this fearlessly and from my heart -- if I were to write anything on such a supreme authority, I would prefer to write it so that, whatever of truth anyone might apprehend from the matter under discussion, my words should re-echo in the several minds rather than that they should set down one true opinion so clearly on one point that I should exclude the rest, even though they contained no falsehood that offended me. Therefore, I am unwilling, O my God, to be so headstrong as not to believe that this man [Moses] has received at least this much from thee. Surely when he was writing these words, he saw fully and understood all the truth we have been able to find in them, and also much besides that we have not been able to discern, or are not yet able to find out, though it is there in them still to be found.

CHAPTER 32

43. Finally, O Lord -- who art God and not flesh and blood -- if any man sees anything less, can anything lie hid from "thy good Spirit" who shall "lead me into the land of uprightness," [503] which thou thyself, through those words, wast revealing to future readers, even though he through whom they were spoken fixed on only one among the many interpretations that might have been found? And if this is so, let it be agreed that the meaning he saw is more exalted than the others. But to us, O Lord, either point out the same meaning or any other true one, as it pleases thee. Thus, whether thou makest known to us what thou madest known to that man of thine, or some other meaning by the agency of the same words, still do thou feed us and let error not deceive us. Behold, O Lord, my God, how much we have written concerning these few words -- how much, indeed! What strength of mind, what length of time, would suffice for all thy books to be interpreted in this fashion? [504] Allow me, therefore, in these concluding words to confess more briefly to thee and select some one, true, certain, and good sense that thou shalt inspire, although many meanings offer themselves and many indeed are possible. [505] This is the faith of my confession, that if I could say what thy servant meant, that is truest and best, and for that I must strive. Yet if I do not succeed, may it be that I shall say at least what thy Truth wished to say to me through its words, just as it said what it wished to Moses.

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Notes:

[503] Cf. Ps. 143:10.

[504] Something of an understatement! It is interesting to note that Augustine devotes more time and space to these opening verses of Genesis than to any other passage in the entire Bible -- and he never commented on the full text of Genesis. Cf. Karl Barth's 274 pages devoted to Gen., chs. 1;2, in the Kirchliche Dogmatik, III, I, pp. 103-377.

[505] Transition, in preparation for the concluding book (XIII), which undertakes a constructive resolution to the problem of the analysis of the mode of creation made here in Bk. XII.
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

Postby admin » Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:23 am

Part 1 of 2

BOOK THIRTEEN

The mysteries and allegories of the days of creation. Augustine undertakes to interpret Gen. 1:2-31 in a mystical and allegorical fashion so as to exhibit the profundities of God's power and wisdom and love. He is also interested in developing his theories of hermeneutics on his favorite topic: creation. He finds the Trinity in the account of creation and he ponders the work of the Spirit moving over the waters. In the firmament he finds the allegory of Holy Scripture and in the dry land and bitter sea he finds the division between the people of God and the conspiracy of the unfaithful. He develops the theme of man's being made in the image and likeness of God. He brings his survey to a climax and his confessions to an end with a meditation on the goodness of all creation and the promised rest and blessedness of the eternal Sabbath, on which God, who is eternal rest, "rested."

CHAPTER 1

1. I call on thee, my God, my Mercy, who madest me and didst not forget me, though I was forgetful of thee. I call thee into my soul, which thou didst prepare for thy reception by the desire which thou inspirest in it. Do not forsake me when I call on thee, who didst anticipate me before I called and who didst repeatedly urge with manifold calling that I should hear thee afar off and be turned and call upon thee, who callest me. For thou, O Lord, hast blotted out all my evil deserts, not punishing me for what my hands have done; and thou hast anticipated all my good deserts so as to recompense me for what thy hands have done -- the hands which made me. Before I was, thou wast, and I was not anything at all that thou shouldst grant me being. Yet, see how I exist by reason of thy goodness, which made provision for all that thou madest me to be and all that thou madest me from. For thou didst not stand in need of me, nor am I the kind of good entity which could be a help to thee, my Lord and my God. It is not that I may serve thee as if thou wert fatigued in working, or as if thy power would be the less if it lacked my assistance. Nor is the service I pay thee like the cultivation of a field, so that thou wouldst go untended if I did not tend thee. [506] Instead, it is that I may serve and worship thee to the end that I may have my well-being from thee, from whom comes my capacity for well-being.

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Notes:

[506] This is a compound -- and untranslatable -- Latin pun: nequeut sic te colam quasi terram, ut sis uncultus si non te colam.

CHAPTER 2

2. Indeed, it is from the fullness of thy goodness that thy creation exists at all: to the end that the created good might not fail to be, even though it can profit thee nothing, and is nothing of thee nor equal to thee -- since its created existence comes from thee.

For what did the heaven and earth, which thou didst make in the beginning, ever deserve from thee? Let them declare -- these spiritual and corporeal entities, which thou madest in thy wisdom -- let them declare what they merited at thy hands, so that the inchoate and the formless, whether spiritual or corporeal, would deserve to be held in being in spite of the fact that they tend toward disorder and extreme unlikeness to thee? An unformed spiritual entity is more excellent than a formed corporeal entity; and the corporeal, even when unformed, is more excellent than if it were simply nothing at all. Still, these formless entities are held in their state of being by thee, until they are recalled to thy unity and receive form and being from thee, the one sovereign Good. What have they deserved of thee, since they would not even be unformed entities except from thee?

3. What has corporeal matter deserved of thee -- even in its invisible and unformed state -- since it would not exist even in this state if thou hadst not made it? And, if it did not exist, it could not merit its existence from thee.

Or, what has that formless spiritual creation deserved of thee -- that it should flow lightlessly like the abyss -- since it is so unlike thee and would not exist at all if it had not been turned by the Word which made it that same Word, and, illumined by that Word, had been "made light" [507] although not as thy equal but only as an image of that Form [of Light] which is equal to thee? For, in the case of a body, its being is not the same thing as its being beautiful; else it could not then be a deformed body. Likewise, in the case of a created spirit, living is not the same state as living wisely; else it could then be immutably wise. But the true good of every created thing is always to cleave fast to thee, lest, in turning away from thee, it lose the light it had received in being turned by thee, and so relapse into a life like that of the dark abyss.

As for ourselves, who are a spiritual creation by virtue of our souls, when we turned away from thee, O Light, we were in that former life of darkness; and we toil amid the shadows of our darkness until -- through thy only Son -- we become thy righteousness, [508] like the mountains of God. For we, like the great abyss, [509] have been the objects of thy judgments.

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Notes:

[507] Cf. Enneads, I, 2:4: "What the soul now sees, it certainly always possessed, but as lying in the darkness. . . . To dispel the darkness and thus come to knowledge of its inner content, it must thrust toward the light." Compare the notions of the initiative of such movements in the soul in Plotinus and Augustine.

[508] Cf. 2 Cor. 5:21.

[509] Cf. Ps. 36:6 and see also Augustine's Exposition on the Psalms, XXXVI, 8, where he says that "the great preachers [receivers of God's illumination] are the mountains of God," for they first catch the light on their summits. The abyss he called "the depth of sin" into which the evil and unfaithful fall.

CHAPTER 3

4. Now what thou saidst in the beginning of the creation -- "Let there be light: and there was light" -- I interpret, not unfitly, as referring to the spiritual creation, because it already had a kind of life which thou couldst illuminate. But, since it had not merited from thee that it should be a life capable of enlightenment, so neither, when it already began to exist, did it merit from thee that it should be enlightened. For neither could its formlessness please thee until it became light -- and it became light, not from the bare fact of existing, but by the act of turning its face to the light which enlightened it, and by cleaving to it. Thus it owed the fact that it lived, and lived happily, to nothing whatsoever but thy grace, since it had been turned, by a change for the better, toward that which cannot be changed for either better or worse. Thou alone art, because thou alone art without complication. For thee it is not one thing to live and another thing to live in blessedness; for thou art thyself thy own blessedness.

CHAPTER 4

5. What, therefore, would there have been lacking in thy good, which thou thyself art, even if these things had never been made or had remained unformed? Thou didst not create them out of any lack but out of the plenitude of thy goodness, ordering them and turning them toward form, [510] but not because thy joy had to be perfected by them. For thou art perfect, and their imperfection is displeasing. Therefore were they perfected by thee and became pleasing to thee -- but not as if thou wert before that imperfect and had to be perfected in their perfection. For thy good Spirit which moved over the face of the waters [511] was not borne up by them as if he rested on them. For those in whom thy good Spirit is said to rest he actually causes to rest in himself. But thy incorruptible and immutable will -- in itself all-sufficient for itself -- moved over that life which thou hadst made: in which living is not at all the same thing as living happily, since that life still lives even as it flows in its own darkness. But it remains to be turned to him by whom it was made and to live more and more like "the fountain of life," and in his light "to see light," [512] and to be perfected, and enlightened, and made blessed.

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Notes:

[510] Cf. Timaeus, 29D-30A, "He [the Demiurge-Creator] was good: and in the good no jealousy . . . can ever arise. So, being without jealousy, he desired that all things should come as near as possible to being like himself. . . . He took over all that is visible . . . and brought it from order to order, since he judged that order was in every way better" (F. M. Cornford, Plato's Cosmology, New York, 1937, p. 33). Cf. Enneads, V, 4:1, and Athanasius, On the Incarnation, III, 3.

[511] Cf. Gen. 1:2.

[512] Cf. Ps. 36:9.

CHAPTER 5

6. See now, [513] how the Trinity appears to me in an enigma. And thou art the Trinity, O my God, since thou, O Father -- in the beginning of our wisdom, that is, in thy wisdom born of thee, equal and coeternal with thee, that is, thy Son -- created the heaven and the earth. Many things we have said about the heaven of heavens, and about the earth invisible and unformed, and about the shadowy abyss -- speaking of the aimless flux of its being spiritually deformed unless it is turned to him from whom it has its life (such as it is) and by his Light comes to be a life suffused with beauty. Thus it would be a [lower] heaven of that [higher] heaven, which afterward was made between water and water. [514]

And now I came to recognize, in the name of God, the Father who made all these things, and in the term "the Beginning" to recognize the Son, through whom he made all these things; and since I did believe that my God was the Trinity, I sought still further in his holy Word, and, behold, "Thy Spirit moved over the waters." Thus, see the Trinity, O my God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Creator of all creation!

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Notes:

[513] In this passage in Genesis on the creation.

[514] Cf. Gen. 1:6.

CHAPTER 6

7. But why, O truth-speaking Light? To thee I lift up my heart -- let it not teach me vain notions. Disperse its shadows and tell me, I beseech thee, by that Love which is our mother; tell me, I beseech thee, the reason why -- after the reference to heaven and to the invisible and unformed earth, and darkness over the abyss -- thy Scripture should then at long last refer to thy Spirit? Was it because it was appropriate that he should first be shown to us as "moving over"; and this could not have been said unless something had already been mentioned over which thy Spirit could be understood as "moving"? For he did not "move over" the Father and the Son, and he could not properly be said to be "moving over" if he were "moving over" nothing. Thus, what it was he was "moving over" had to be mentioned first and he whom it was not proper to mention otherwise than as "moving over" could then be mentioned. But why was it not fitting that he should have been introduced in some other way than in this context of "moving over''?

CHAPTER 7

8. Now let him who is able follow thy apostle with his understanding when he says, "Thy love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us" [515] and who teacheth us about spiritual gifts [516] and showeth us a more excellent way of love; and who bows his knee unto thee for us, that we may come to the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ. [517] Thus, from the beginning, he who is above all was "moving over" the waters.

To whom shall I tell this? How can I speak of the weight of concupiscence which drags us downward into the deep abyss, and of the love which lifts us up by thy Spirit who moved over the waters? To whom shall I tell this? How shall I tell it? For concupiscence and love are not certain "places" into which we are plunged and out of which we are lifted again. What could be more like, and yet what more unlike? They are both feelings; they are both loves. The uncleanness of our own spirit flows downward with the love of worldly care; and the sanctity of thy Spirit raises us upward by the love of release from anxiety -- that we may lift our hearts to thee where thy Spirit is "moving over the waters." Thus, we shall have come to that supreme rest where our souls shall have passed through the waters which give no standing ground. [518]

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Notes:

[515] Rom. 5:5.

[516] 1 Cor. 12:1.

[517] Cf. Eph. 3:14, 19.

[518] Cf. the Old Latin version of Ps. 123:5.

CHAPTER 8

9. The angels fell, and the soul of man fell; thus they indicate to us the deep darkness of the abyss, which would have still contained the whole spiritual creation if thou hadst not said, in the beginning, "Let there be light: and there was light" -- and if every obedient mind in thy heavenly city had not adhered to thee and had not reposed in thy Spirit, which moved immutable over all things mutable. Otherwise, even the heaven of heavens itself would have been a dark shadow, instead of being, as it is now, light in the Lord. [519] For even in the restless misery of the fallen spirits, who exhibit their own darkness when they are stripped of the garments of thy light, thou showest clearly how noble thou didst make the rational creation, for whose rest and beatitude nothing suffices save thee thyself. And certainly it is not itself sufficient for its beatitude. For it is thou, O our God, who wilt enlighten our darkness; from thee shall come our garments of light; and then our darkness shall be as the noonday. Give thyself to me, O my God, restore thyself to me! See, I love thee; and if it be too little, let me love thee still more strongly. I cannot measure my love so that I may come to know how much there is still lacking in me before my life can run to thy embrace and not be turned away until it is hidden in "the covert of thy presence." [520] Only this I know, that my existence is my woe except in thee -- not only in my outward life, but also within my inmost self -- and all abundance I have which is not my God is poverty.

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Notes:

[519] Cf. Eph. 5:8.

[520] Cf. Ps. 31:20.

CHAPTER 9

10. But was neither the Father nor the Son "moving over the waters"? If we understand this as a motion in space, as a body moves, then not even the Holy Spirit "moved." But if we understand the changeless supereminence of the divine Being above every changeable thing, then Father, Son, and Holy Spirit "moved over the waters."

Why, then, is this said of thy Spirit alone? Why is it said of him only -- as if he had been in a "place" that is not a place -- about whom alone it is written, "He is thy gift"? It is in thy gift that we rest. It is there that we enjoy thee. Our rest is our "place." Love lifts us up toward that place, and thy good Spirit lifts our lowliness from the gates of death. [521] Our peace rests in the goodness of will. The body tends toward its own place by its own gravity. A weight does not tend downward only, but moves to its own place. Fire tends upward; a stone tends downward. They are propelled by their own mass; they seek their own places. Oil poured under the water rises above the water; water poured on oil sinks under the oil. They are moved by their own mass; they seek their own places. If they are out of order, they are restless; when their order is restored, they are at rest. My weight is my love. By it I am carried wherever I am carried. By thy gift, [522] we are enkindled and are carried upward. We burn inwardly and move forward. We ascend thy ladder which is in our heart, and we sing a canticle of degrees [523]; we glow inwardly with thy fire -- with thy good fire [524] -- and we go forward because we go up to the peace of Jerusalem [525]; for I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the Lord." [526] There thy good pleasure will settle us so that we will desire nothing more than to dwell there forever. [527]

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Notes:

[521] Cf. Ps. 9:13.

[522] The Holy Spirit.

[523] Canticumgraduum. Psalms 119 to 133 as numbered in the Vulgate were regarded as a single series of ascending steps by which the soul moves up toward heaven; cf. The Exposition on the Psalms, loc. cit.

[524] Tongues of fire, symbol of the descent of the Holy Spirit; cf. Acts 2:3, 4.

[525] Cf. Ps. 122:6.

[526] Ps. 122:1.

[527] Cf. Ps. 23:6.

CHAPTER 10

11. Happy would be that creature who, though it was in itself other than thou, still had known no other state than this from the time it was made, so that it was never without thy gift which moves over everything mutable -- who had been borne up by the call in which thou saidst, "Let there be light: and there was light." [528] For in us there is a distinction between the time when we were darkness and the time when we were made light. But we are not told what would have been the case with that creature if the light had not been made. It is spoken of as though there had been something of flux and darkness in it beforehand so that the cause by which it was made to be otherwise might be evident. This is to say, by being turned to the unfailing Light it might become light. Let him who is able understand this; and let him who is not ask of thee. Why trouble me, as if I could "enlighten every man that comes into the world" [529]?

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Notes:

[528] Gen. 1:3.

[529] John 1:9.

CHAPTER 11

12. Who can understand the omnipotent Trinity? And yet who does not speak about it, if indeed it is of it that he speaks? Rare is the soul who, when he speaks of it, also knows of what he speaks. And men contend and strive, but no man sees the vision of it without peace.

I could wish that men would consider three things which are within themselves. These three things are quite different from the Trinity, but I mention them in order that men may exercise their minds and test themselves and come to realize how different from it they are. [530]

The three things I speak of are: to be, to know, and to will. For I am, and I know, and I will. I am a knowing and a willing being; I know that I am and that I will; and I will to be and to know. In these three functions, therefore, let him who can see how integral a life is; for there is one life, one mind, one essence. Finally, the distinction does not separate the things, and yet it is a distinction. Surely a man has this distinction before his mind; let him look into himself and see, and tell me. But when he discovers and can say anything about any one of these, let him not think that he has thereby discovered what is immutable above them all, which is immutably and knows immutably and wills immutably. But whether there is a Trinity there because these three functions exist in the one God, or whether all three are in each Person so that they are each threefold, or whether both these notions are true and, in some mysterious manner, the Infinite is in itself its own Selfsame object -- at once one and many, so that by itself it is and knows itself and suffices to itself without change, so that the Selfsame is the abundant magnitude of its Unity -- who can readily conceive? Who can in any fashion express it plainly? Who can in any way rashly make a pronouncement about it?

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Notes:

[530] Cf. the detailed analogy from self to Trinity in De Trinitate, IX-XII.

CHAPTER 12

13. Go forward in your confession, O my faith; say to the Lord your God, "Holy, holy, holy, O Lord my God, in thy name we have been baptized, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." In thy name we baptize, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For among us also God in his Christ made "heaven and earth," namely, the spiritual and carnal members of his Church. And true it is that before it received "the form of doctrine," our "earth" [531] was "invisible and unformed," and we were covered with the darkness of our ignorance; for thou dost correct man for his iniquity, [532] and "thy judgments are a great abyss." [533] But because thy Spirit was moving over these waters, thy mercy did not forsake our wretchedness, and thou saidst, "Let there be light; repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." [534] Repent, and let there be light. Because our soul was troubled within us, we remembered thee, O Lord, from the land of Jordan, and from the mountain [535] -- and as we became displeased with our darkness we turned to thee, "and there was light." And behold, we were heretofore in darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. [536]

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Notes:

[531] I.e., the Church.

[532] Cf. Ps. 39:11.

[533] Ps. 36:6.

[534] Gen. 1:3 and Matt. 4:17; 3:2.

[535] Cf. Ps. 42:5, 6.

[536] Cf. Eph. 5:8.

CHAPTER 13

14. But even so, we still live by faith and not by sight, for we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope. Thus far deep calls unto deep, but now in "the noise of thy waterfalls." [537] And thus far he who said, "I could not speak to you as if you were spiritual ones, but only as if you were carnal" [538] -- thus far even he does not count himself to have apprehended, but forgetting the things that are behind and reaching forth to the things that are before, he presses on to those things that are ahead, [539] and he groans under his burden and his soul thirsts after the living God as the stag pants for the water brooks, [540] and says, "When shall I come?" [541] -- "desiring to be further clothed by his house which is from heaven." [542] And he called to this lower deep, saying, "Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." [543] And "be not children in understanding, although in malice be children," in order that "in understanding you may become perfect." [544] "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" [545] But this is not now only in his own voice but in thy voice, who sent thy Spirit from above through Him who both "ascended up on high" [546] and opened up the floodgates of his gifts, that the force of his streams might make glad the city of God. [547]

For that city and for him sighs the Bridegroom's friend, [548] who has now the first fruits of the Spirit laid up with him, but who is still groaning within himself and waiting for adoption, that is, the redemption of his body. [549] To Him he sighs, for he is a member of the Bride [550]; for him he is jealous, not for himself, but because not in his own voice but in the voice of thy waterfalls he calls on that other deep, of which he is jealous and in fear; for he fears lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his subtlety, his mind should be corrupted from the purity which is in our Bridegroom, thy only Son. What a light of beauty that will be when "we shall see him as he is" [551]! -- and when these tears shall pass away which "have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, `Where is your God?'" [552]

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Notes:

[537] Ps. 42:7.

[538] Cf. 1 Cor. 3:1.

[539] Cf. Phil. 3:13.

[540] Cf. Ps. 42:1.

[541] Ps. 42:2.

[542] Cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-4.

[543] Rom. 12:2.

[544] 1 Cor. 14:20.

[545] Gal. 3:1.

[546] Eph. 4:8, 9.

[547] Cf. Ps. 46:4.

[548] Cf. John 3:29.

[549] Cf. Rom. 8:23.

[550] I.e., the Body of Christ.

[551] 1 John 3:2.

[552] Ps. 42:3.

CHAPTER 14

15. And I myself say: "O my God, where art thou? See now, where art thou?" In thee I take my breath for a little while, when I pour out my soul beyond myself in the voice of joy and praise, in the voice of him that keeps holyday. [553] And still it is cast down because it relapses and becomes an abyss, or rather it feels that it still is an abyss. My faith speaks to my soul -- the faith that thou dost kindle to light my path in the night: "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted in me? Hope in God." [554] For his word is a lamp to your feet. [555] Hope and persevere until the night passes -- that mother of the wicked; until the Lord's wrath subsides -- that wrath whose children once we were, of whom we were beforehand in darkness, whose residue we still bear about us in our bodies, dead because of sin. [556] Hope and endure until the day breaks and the shadows flee away. [557] Hope in the Lord: in the morning I shall stand in his presence and keep watch [558]; I shall forever give praise to him. In the morning I shall stand and shall see my God, who is the health of my countenance, [559] who also will quicken our mortal bodies by the Spirit that dwells in us, [560] because in mercy he was moving over our lightless and restless inner deep. From this we have received an earnest, even now in this pilgrimage, that we are now in the light, since already we are saved by hope and are children of the light and children of the day -- not children of the night, nor of the darkness, [561] which we have been hitherto. Between those children of the night and ourselves, in this still uncertain state of human knowledge, only thou canst rightly distinguish -- thou who dost test the heart and who dost call the light day, and the darkness night. [562] For who can see us clearly but thee? What do we have that we have not received from thee, who madest from the same lump some vessels to noble, and others to ignoble, use [563]?

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Notes:

[553] Cf. Ps. 42:4.

[554] Ps. 43:5.

[555] Cf. Ps. 119:105.

[556] Cf. Rom. 8:10.

[557] Cf. S. of Sol. 2:17.

[558] Cf. Ps. 5:3.

[559] Ps. 43:5.

[560] Cf. Rom. 8:11.

[561] 1 Thess. 5:5.

[562] Cf. Gen. 1:5.

[563] Cf. Rom. 9:21.

CHAPTER 15

16. Now who but thee, our God, didst make for us that firmament of the authority of thy divine Scripture to be over us? For "the heaven shall be folded up like a scroll" [564]; but now it is stretched over us like a skin. Thy divine Scripture is of more sublime authority now that those mortal men through whom thou didst dispense it to us have departed this life. And thou knowest, O Lord, thou knowest how thou didst clothe men with skins when they became mortal because of sin. [565] In something of the same way, thou hast stretched out the firmament of thy Book as a skin -- that is to say, thou hast spread thy harmonious words over us through the ministry of mortal men. For by their very death that solid firmament of authority in thy sayings, spoken forth by them, stretches high over all that now drift under it; whereas while they lived on earth their authority was not so widely extended. Then thou hadst not yet spread out the heaven like a skin; thou hadst not yet spread abroad everywhere the fame of their death.

17. Let us see, O Lord, "the heavens, the work of thy fingers," [566] and clear away from our eyes the fog with which thou hast covered them. In them [567] is that testimony of thine which gives wisdom even to the little ones. O my God, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, perfect thy praise. [568] For we know no other books that so destroy man's pride, that so break down the adversary and the self-defender who resists thy reconciliation by an effort to justify his own sins. I do not know, O Lord, I do not know any other such pure words that so persuade me to confession and make my neck submissive to thy yoke, and invite me to serve thee for nothing else than thy own sake. Let me understand these things, O good Father. Grant this to me, since I am placed under them; for thou hast established these things for those placed under them.

18. There are other waters that are above this firmament, and I believe that they are immortal and removed from earthly corruption. Let them praise thy name -- this super-celestial society, thy angels, who have no need to look up at this firmament or to gain a knowledge of thy Word by reading it -- let them praise thee. For they always behold thy face and read therein, without any syllables in time, what thy eternal will intends. They read, they choose, they love. [569] They are always reading, and what they read never passes away. For by choosing and by loving they read the very immutability of thy counsel. Their book is never closed, nor is the scroll folded up, because thou thyself art this to them, and art this to them eternally; because thou didst range them above this firmament which thou madest firm over the infirmities of the people below the heavens, where they might look up and learn thy mercy, which proclaims in time thee who madest all times. "For thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and thy faithfulness reaches to the clouds." [570] The clouds pass away, but the heavens remain. The preachers of thy Word pass away from this life into another; but thy Scripture is spread abroad over the people, even to the end of the world. Indeed, both heaven and earth shall pass away, but thy words shall never pass away. [571] The scroll shall be rolled together, and the "grass" over which it was spread shall, with all its goodliness, pass away; but thy Word remains forever [572] -- thy Word which now appears to us in the dark image of the clouds and through the glass of heaven, and not as it really is. And even if we are the well-beloved of thy Son, it has not yet appeared what we shall be. [573] He hath seen us through the entanglement [574] of our flesh, and he is fair-speaking, and he hath enkindled us, and we run after his fragrance. [575] But "when he shall appear, then we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.'' [576] As he is, O Lord, we shall see him -- although that time is not yet.

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Notes:

[564] Isa. 34:4.

[565] Cf. Gen. 3:21.

[566] Ps. 8:3.

[567] "The heavens," i.e. the Scriptures.

[568] Cf. Ps. 8:2.

[569] Legunt, eligunt, diligunt.

[570] Ps. 36:5.

[571] Cf. Matt. 24:35.

[572] Cf. Isa. 40:6-8.

[573] Cf. 1 John 3:2.

[574] Retia, literally "a net"; such as those used by retiarii, the gladiators who used nets to entangle their opponents.

[575] Cf. S. of Sol. 1:3, 4.

[576] 1 John 3:2.

CHAPTER 16

19. For just as thou art the utterly Real, thou alone dost fully know, since thou art immutably, and thou knowest immutably, and thou willest immutably. And thy Essence knows and wills immutably. Thy Knowledge is and wills immutably. Thy Will is and knows immutably. And it does not seem right to thee that the immutable Light should be known by the enlightened but mutable creature in the same way as it knows itself. Therefore, to thee my soul is as a land where no water is [577]; for, just as it cannot enlighten itself by itself, so it cannot satisfy itself by itself. Thus the fountain of life is with thee, and "in thy light shall we see light." [578]

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Notes:

[577] Cf. Ps. 63:1.

[578] Ps. 36:9.

CHAPTER 17

20. Who has gathered the "embittered ones" [579] into a single society? For they all have the same end, which is temporal and earthly happiness. This is their motive for doing everything, although they may fluctuate within an innumerable diversity of concerns. Who but thee, O Lord, gathered them together, thou who saidst, "Let the waters be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear" -- athirst for thee? For the sea also is thine, and thou madest it, and thy hands formed the dry land. [580] For it is not the bitterness of men's wills but the gathering together of the waters which is called "the sea"; yet thou dost curb the wicked lusts of men's souls and fix their bounds: how far they are allowed to advance, and where their waves will be broken against each other -- and thus thou makest it "a sea," by the providence of thy governance of all things.

21. But as for the souls that thirst after thee and who appear before thee -- separated from "the society of the [bitter] sea" by reason of their different ends -- thou waterest them by a secret and sweet spring, so that "the earth" may bring forth her fruit and -- thou, O Lord, commanding it -- our souls may bud forth in works of mercy after their kind. [581] Thus we shall love our neighbor in ministering to his bodily needs, for in this way the soul has seed in itself after its kind when in our own infirmity our compassion reaches out to the relief of the needy, helping them even as we would desire to be helped ourselves if we were in similar need. Thus we help, not only in easy problems (as is signified by "the herb yielding its seed") but also in the offering of our best strength in affording them the aid of protection (such as "the tree bearing its fruit"). This is to say, we seek to rescue him who is suffering injury from the hands of the powerful -- furnishing him with the sheltering protection which comes from the strong arm of a righteous judgment. [582]

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Notes:

[579] Amaricantes, a figure which Augustine develops both in the Exposition of the Psalms and The City of God. Commenting on Ps. 65, Augustine says: "For the sea, by a figure, is used to indicate this world, with its bitter saltiness and troubled storms, where men with perverse and depraved appetites have become like fishes devouring one another." In The City of God, he speaks of the bitterness of life in the civitas terrena; cf. XIX, 5.

[580] Cf. Ps. 95:5.

[581] Cf. Gen. 1:10f.

CHAPTER 18

22. Thus, O Lord, thus I beseech thee: let it happen as thou hast prepared it, as thou givest joy and the capacity for joy. Let truth spring up out of the earth, and let righteousness look down from heaven, [583] and let there be lights in the firmament. [584]

Let us break our bread with the hungry, let us bring the shelterless poor to our house; let us clothe the naked, and never despise those of our own flesh. [585] See from the fruits which spring forth from the earth how good it is. Thus let our temporal light break forth, and let us from even this lower level of fruitful action come to the joy of contemplation and hold on high the Word of Life. And let us at length appear like "lights in the world," [586] cleaving to the firmament of thy Scripture.

For in it thou makest it plain to us how we may distinguish between things intelligible and things tangible, as if between the day and the night -- and to distinguish between souls who give themselves to things of the mind and others absorbed in things of sense. Thus it is that now thou art not alone in the secret of thy judgment as thou wast before the firmament was made, and before thou didst divide between the light and the darkness. But now also thy spiritual children, placed and ranked in this same firmament -- thy grace being thus manifest throughout the world -- may shed light upon the earth, and may divide between the day and night, and may be for the signs of the times [587]; because old things have passed away, and, lo, all things are become new [588]; and because our salvation is nearer than when we believed; and because "the night is far spent and the day is at hand" [589]; and because "thou crownest the year with blessing," [590] sending the laborers into thy harvest, in which others have labored in the sowing and sending laborers also to make new sowings whose harvest shall not be until the end of time. Thus thou dost grant the prayers of him who seeks, and thou dost bless the years of the righteous man. But thou art always the Selfsame, and in thy years which fail not thou preparest a granary for our transient years. For by an eternal design thou spreadest the heavenly blessings on the earth in their proper seasons.

23. For "to one there is given by thy Spirit the word of wisdom" [591] (which resembles the greater light -- which is for those whose delight is in the clear light of truth -- as the light which is given for the ruling of the day [592]). But to another the word of knowledge is given by the same Spirit (as it were, the "lesser light"); to another, faith; to another, the gift of healing; to another, the power of working miracles; to another, the gift of prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, other kinds of tongues -- and all these gifts may be compared to "the stars." For in them all the one and selfsame Spirit is at work, dividing to every man his own portion, as He wills, and making stars to appear in their bright splendor for the profit of souls. But the word of knowledge, scientia, in which is contained all the mysteries [593] which change in their seasons like the moon; and all the other promises of gifts, which when counted are like the stars -- all of these fall short of that splendor of Wisdom in which the day rejoices and are only for the ruling of the night. Yet they are necessary for those to whom thy most prudent servant could not speak as to the spiritually mature, but only as if to carnal men -- even though he could speak wisdom among the perfect. [594] Still the natural man -- as a babe in Christ, and a drinker of milk, until he is strong enough for solid meat, and his eye is able to look into the sun -- do not leave him in a lightless night. Instead, let him be satisfied with the light of the moon and the stars. In thy book thou dost discuss these things with us wisely, our God -- in thy book, which is thy "firmament" -- in order that we may be able to view all things in admiring contemplation, although thus far we must do so through signs and seasons and in days and years.

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Notes:

[582] In this way, Augustine sees an analogy between the good earth bearing its fruits and the ethical "fruit-bearing" of the Christian love of neighbor.

[583] Cf. Ps. 85:11.

[584] Cf. Gen. 1:14.

[585] Cf. Isa. 58:7.

[586] Cf. Phil. 2:15.

[587] Cf. Gen. 1:19.

[588] Cf. 2 Cor. 5:17.

[589] Cf. Rom. 13:11, 12.

[590] Ps. 65:11.

[591] For this whole passage, cf. the parallel developed here with 1 Cor. 12:7-11.

[592] In principio diei, an obvious echo to the Vulgate ut praesset diei of Gen. 1:16. Cf. Gibb and Montgomery, p. 424 (see Bibl.), for a comment on in principio diei and in principio noctis, below.

[593] Sacramenta; but cf. Augustine's discussion of sacramenta in the Old Testament in the Exposition of the Psalms, LXXIV, 2: "The sacraments of the Old Testament promised a Saviour; the sacraments of the New Testament give salvation."

[594] Cf. 1 Cor. 3:1; 2:6.

CHAPTER 19

24. But, first, "wash yourselves and make you clean; put away iniquity from your souls and from before my eyes" [595] -- so that "the dry land" may appear. "Learn to do well, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow," [596] that the earth may bring forth the green herb for food and fruit-bearing trees. "And come, let us reason together, saith the Lord" [597] -- that there may be lights in the firmament of heaven and that they may shine upon the earth.

There was that rich man who asked of the good Teacher what he should do to attain eternal life. Let the good Teacher (whom the rich man thought a man and nothing more) give him an answer -- he is good for he is God. Let him answer him that, if he would enter into life, he must keep the commandments: let him put away from himself the bitterness of malice and wickedness; let him not kill, nor commit adultery, nor steal, nor bear false witness [598] -- that "the dry land" may appear and bring forth the honoring of fathers and mothers and the love of neighbor. "All these," he replied, "I have kept." Where do so many thorns come from, if the earth is really fruitful? uproot the brier patch of avarice; "sell what you have, and be filled with fruit by giving to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and follow" the Lord if you would be perfect and joined with those in whose midst he speaketh wisdom -- who know how to give rightly to the day and to the night -- and you will also understand, so that for you also there may be lights in the firmament of heaven -- which will not be there, however, unless your heart is there also. And your heart will not be there unless your treasure is there, [599] as you have heard from the good Teacher. But "the barren earth" [600] was grieved, and the briers choked the word. [601]

25. But you, O elect people, set in the firmament of the world, [602] who have forsaken all that you may follow the Lord: follow him now, and confound the mighty! Follow him, O beautiful feet, [603] and shine in the firmament, that the heavens may declare his glory, dividing the light of the perfect ones [604] -- though not yet so perfect as the angels -- from the darkness of the little ones -- who are nevertheless not utterly despised. Shine over all the earth, and let the day be lighted by the sun, utter the Word of wisdom to the day ("day unto day utters speech" [605]) and let the night, lighted by the moon, display the Word of knowledge to the night. The moon and the stars give light for the night; the night does not put them out, and they illumine in its proper mode. For lo, it is as if God were saying, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven": and suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as if it were a rushing mighty wind, and there appeared cloven tongues of fire, and they sat on each of them. [606] And then they were made to be lights in the firmament of heaven, having the Word of life. Run to and fro everywhere, you holy fires, you lovely fires, for you are the light of the world and you are not to be hid under a peck measure. [607] He to whom you cleave is raised on high, and he hath raised you on high. Run to and fro; make yourselves known among all the nations!

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Notes:

[595] Isa. 1:16.

[596] Isa. 1:17.

[597] Isa. 1:18.

[598] Cf. for this syntaxis, Matt. 19:16-22 and Ex. 20:13-16.

[599] Cf. Matt. 6:21.

[600] I.e., the rich young ruler.

[601] Cf. Matt. 13:7.

[602] Cf. Matt. 97 Reading here, with KnOll and the Sessorianus, in firmamento mundi.

[603] Cf. Isa. 52:7.

[604] Perfectorum. Is this a conscious use, in a Christian context, of the distinction he had known so well among the Manicheans -- between the perfecti and the auditores?

[605] Ps. 19:2.

[606] Cf. Acts 2:2, 3.

[607] Cf. Matt. 5:14, 15.
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Re: The Confessions of St. Augustine, by St. Augustine of Hi

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Part 2 of 2

CHAPTER 20

26. Also let the sea conceive and bring forth your works, and let the waters bear the moving creatures that have life. [608] For by separating the precious from the vile you are made the mouth of God [609] by whom he said, "Let the waters bring forth." This does not refer to the living creatures which the earth brings forth, but to the creeping creatures that have life and the fowls that fly over the earth. For, by the ministry of thy holy ones, thy mysteries have made their way amid the buffeting billows of the world, to instruct the nations in thy name, in thy Baptism. And among these things many great and marvelous works have been wrought, which are analogous to the huge whales. The words of thy messengers have gone flying over the earth, high in the firmament of thy Book which is spread over them as the authority beneath which they are to fly wheresoever they go. For "there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard," because "their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" [610] -- and this because thou, O Lord, hast multiplied these things by thy blessing.

27. Am I speaking falsely? Am I mingling and confounding and not rightly distinguishing between the knowledge of these things in the firmament of heaven and those corporeal works in the swelling sea and beneath the firmament of heaven? For there are those things, the knowledge of which is solid and defined. It does not increase from generation to generation and thus they stand, as it were, as lights of wisdom and knowledge. But there are many and varied physical processes that manifest these selfsame principles. And thus one thing growing from another is multiplied by thy blessing, O God, who dost so refresh our easily wearied mortal senses that in our mental cognition a single thing may be figured and signified in many different ways by different bodily motions.

"The waters" have brought forth these mysteries, but only at thy word. The needs of the people who were alien to the eternity of thy truth have called them forth, but only in thy gospel, since it was these "waters" which cast them up -- the waters whose stagnant bitterness was the reason why they came forth through thy Word.

28. Now all the things that thou hast made are fair, and yet, lo, thou who didst make all things art inexpressibly fairer. And if Adam had not fallen away from thee, that brackish sea -- the human race -- so deeply prying, so boisterously swelling, so restlessly moving, would never have flowed forth from his belly. Thus, there would have been no need for thy ministers to use corporeal and tangible signs in the midst of many "waters" in order to show forth their mystical deeds and words. For this is the way I interpret the phrases "creeping creatures" and "flying fowl." Still, men who have been instructed and initiated and made dependent on thy corporeal mysteries would not be able to profit from them if it were not that their soul has a higher life and unless, after the word of its admission, it did not look beyond toward its perfection.

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Notes:

[608] Cf. Gen. 1:20.

[609] Cf. Jer. 15:19.

[610] Ps. 19:4.

CHAPTER 21

29. And thus, in thy Word, it was not the depth of the sea but "the earth," [611] separated from the brackishness of the water, that brought forth, not "the creeping and the flying creature that has life," but "the living soul" itself! [612]

And now this soul no longer has need of baptism, as the heathen had, or as it did when it was covered with the waters -- and there can be no other entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, since thou hast appointed that baptism should be the entrance. Nor does it seek great, miraculous works by which to buttress faith. For such a soul does not refuse to believe unless it sees signs and marvels, now that "the faithful earth" is separated from "the waters" of the sea, which have been made bitter by infidelity. Thus, for them, "tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to those who do not believe." [613]

And the earth which thou hast founded above the waters does not stand in need of those flying creatures which the waters brought forth at thy word. Send forth thy word into it by the agency of thy messengers. For we only tell of their works, but it is thou who dost the works in them, so that they may bring forth "a living soul" in the earth.

The earth brings forth "the living soul" because "the earth" is the cause of such things being done by thy messengers, just as the sea was the cause of the production of the creeping creatures having life and the flying fowl under the firmament of heaven. "The earth" no longer needs them, although it feeds on the Fish which was taken out of the deep, [614] set out on that table which thou preparest in the presence of those who believe. To this end he was raised from the deep: that he might feed "the dry land." And "the fowl," even though they were bred in the sea, will yet be multiplied on the earth. The preaching of the first evangelists was called forth by reason of man's infidelity, but the faithful also are exhorted and blessed by them in manifold ways, day by day. "The living soul" has its origin from "the earth," because only to the faithful is there any profit in restraining themselves from the love of this world, so that their soul may live to thee. This soul was dead while it was living in pleasures -- in pleasures that bear death in them -- whereas thou, O Lord, art the living delight of the pure heart.

30. Now, therefore, let thy ministers do their work on "the earth" -- not as they did formerly in "the waters" of infidelity, when they had to preach and speak by miracles and mysteries and mystical expressions, in which ignorance -- the mother of wonder -- gives them an attentive ear because of its fear of occult and strange things. For this is the entry into faith for the sons of Adam who are forgetful of thee, who hide themselves from thy face, and who have become a darkened abyss. Instead, let thy ministers work even as on "the dry land," safe from the whirlpools of the abyss. Let them be an example unto the faithful by living before them and stirring them up to imitation.

For in such a setting, men will heed, not with the mere intent to hear, but also to act. Seek the Lord and your soul shall live [615] and "the earth" may bring forth "the living soul." Be not conformed to this world; [616] separate yourselves from it. The soul lives by avoiding those things which bring death if they are loved. Restrain yourselves from the unbridled wildness of pride, from the indolent passions of luxury, and from what is falsely called knowledge. [617] Thus may the wild beast be tamed, the cattle subdued, and the serpent made harmless. For, in allegory, these figures are the motions of our mind: that is to say, the haughtiness of pride, the delight of lust, and the poison of curiosity are motions of the dead soul -- not so dead that it has lost all motion, but dead because it has deserted the fountain of life, and so has been taken up by this transitory world and conformed to it.

31. But thy Word, O God, is a fountain of life eternal, and it does not pass away. Therefore, this desertion is restrained by thy Word when it says to us, "Be not conformed to this world," to the end that "the earth" may bring forth a "living soul" in the fountain of life -- a soul disciplined by thy Word, by thy evangelists, by the following of the followers of thy Christ. For this is the meaning of "after his kind." A man tends to follow the example of his friend. Thus, he [Paul] says, "Become as I am, because I have become as you are." [618]

Thus, in this "living soul" there shall be good beasts, acting meekly. For thou hast commanded this, saying: "Do your work in meekness and you shall be loved by all men." [619] And the cattle will be good, for if they eat much they shall not suffer from satiety; and if they do not eat at all they will suffer no lack. And the serpents will be good, not poisonous to do harm, but only cunning in their watchfulness -- exploring only as much of this temporal nature as is necessary in order that the eternal nature may "be clearly seen, understood through the things that have been made." [620] For all these animals will obey reason when, having been restrained from their death-dealing ways, they live and become good.

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Notes:

[611] That is, the Church.

[612] An allegorical ideal type of the perfecti in the Church.

[613] 1 Cor. 14:22.

[614] The fish was an early Christian rebus for "Jesus Christ." The Greek word for fish, ichthuz, was arranged acrostically to make the phrase Iesouz Christos, Theou Uioz, Soter; cf. Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, pp. 673f.; see also Cabrol, Dictionnaire d'archeologie chretienne, Vol. 14, cols. 1246-1252, for a full account of the symbolism and pictures of early examples.

[615] Cf. Ps. 69:32.

[616] Cf. Rom. 12:2.

[617] Cf. 1 Tim. 6:20.

[618] Gal. 4:12.

[619] Cf. Ecclus. 3:19.

[620] Rom. 1:20.

CHAPTER 22

32. Thus, O Lord, our God, our Creator, when our affections have been turned from the love of the world, in which we died by living ill; and when we began to be "a living soul" by living well; and when the word, "Be not conformed to this world," which thou didst speak through thy apostle, has been fulfilled in us, then will follow what thou didst immediately add when thou saidst, "But be transformed by the renewing of your mind." [621] This will not now be "after their kind," as if we were following the neighbor who went before us, or as if we were living after the example of a better man -- for thou didst not say, "Let man be made after his kind," but rather, "Let us make man in our own image and our own likeness," [622] so that then we may be able to prove what thy will is.

This is why thy minister -- begetting children by the gospel so that he might not always have them babes whom he would have to feed with milk and nurse as children -- this is why he said, "Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." [623] Therefore thou didst not say, "Let man be made," but rather, "Let us make man." And thou didst not say, "After his kind," but after "our image" and "likeness." Indeed, it is only when man has been renewed in his mind, and comes to behold and apprehend thy truth, that he does not need another man as his director, to show him how to imitate human examples. Instead, by thy guidance, he proves what is thy good and acceptable and perfect will. And thou dost teach him, now that he is able to understand, to see the trinity of the Unity and the unity of the Trinity.

This is why the statement in the plural, "Let us make man," is also connected with the statement in the singular, "And God made man." Thus it is said in the plural, "After our likeness," and then in the singular, "After the image of God." Man is thus transformed in the knowledge of God, according to the image of Him who created him. And now, having been made spiritual, he judges all things -- that is, all things that are appropriate to be judged -- and he himself is judged of no man. [624]

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Notes:

[621] Rom. 12:2.

[622] Gen. 1:26.

[623] Rom. 12:2 (mixed text).

[624] Cf. 1 Cor. 2:15.

CHAPTER 23

33. Now this phrase, "he judges all things," means that man has dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over all cattle and wild beasts, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. And he does this by the power of reason in his mind by which he perceives "the things of the Spirit of God." [625] But, when man was put in this high office, he did not understand what was involved and thus was reduced to the level of the brute beasts, and made like them. [626]

Therefore in thy Church, O our God, by the grace thou hast given us -- since we are thy workmanship, created in good works (not only those who are in spiritual authority but also those who are spiritually subject to them) -- thou madest man male and female. Here all are equal in thy spiritual grace where, as far as sex is concerned, there is neither male nor female, just as there is neither Jew nor Greek, nor bond nor free. Spiritual men, therefore, whether those who are in authority or those who are subject to authority, judge spiritually. They do not judge by the light of that spiritual knowledge which shines in the firmament, for it is inappropriate for them to judge by so sublime an authority. Nor does it behoove them to judge concerning thy Book itself, although there are some things in it which are not clear. Instead, we submit our understanding to it and believe with certainty that what is hidden from our sight is still rightly and truly spoken. In this way, even though a man is now spiritual and renewed by the knowledge of God according to the image of him who created him, he must be a doer of the law rather than its judge. [627] Neither does the spiritual man judge concerning that division between spiritual and carnal men which is known to thy eyes, O God, and which may not, as yet, be made manifest to us by their external works, so that we may know them by their fruits; yet thou, O God, knowest them already and thou hast divided and called them secretly, before the firmament was made. Nor does a man, even though he is spiritual, judge the disordered state of society in this world. For what business of his is it to judge those who are without, since he cannot know which of them may later on come into the sweetness of thy grace, and which of them may continue in the perpetual bitterness of their impiety?

34. Man, then, even if he was made after thy own image, did not receive the power of dominion over the lights of heaven, nor over the secret heaven, nor over the day and the night which thou calledst forth before the creation of the heaven, nor over the gathering together of the waters which is the sea. Instead, he received dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowls of the air; and over all cattle, and all the earth; and over all creeping things which creep on the earth.

Indeed, he judges and approves what he finds right and disapproves what he finds amiss, whether in the celebration of those mysteries by which are initiated those whom thy mercy hast sought out in the midst of many waters; or in that sacrament in which is exhibited the Fish itself [628] which, being raised from the depths, the pious "earth" [629] feeds upon; or, in the signs and symbols of words, which are subject to the authority of thy Book -- such signs as burst forth and sound from the mouth, as if it were "flying" under the firmament, interpreting, expounding, discoursing, disputing, blessing, invoking thee, so that the people may answer, "Amen." [630] The reason that all these words have to be pronounced vocally is because of the abyss of this world and the blindness of our flesh in which thoughts cannot be seen directly, [631] but have to be spoken aloud in our ears. Thus, although the flying fowl are multiplied on the earth, they still take their origins from the waters.

The spiritual man also judges by approving what is right and reproving what he finds amiss in the works and morals of the faithful, such as in their almsgiving, which is signified by the phrase, "The earth bringing forth its fruit." And he judges of the "living soul," which is then made to live by the disciplining of her affections in chastity, in fasting, and in holy meditation. And he also judges concerning all those things which are perceived by the bodily senses. For it can be said that he should judge in all matters about which he also has the power of correction.

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Notes:

[625] 1 Cor. 2:14.

[626] Cf. Ps. 49:20.

[627] Cf. James 4:11.

[628] See above, Ch. XXI, 30.

[629] I.e., the Church.

[630] Cf. 1 Cor. 14:16.

[631] Another reminder that, ideally, knowledge is immediate and direct.

CHAPTER 24

35. But what is this; what kind of mystery is this? Behold, O Lord, thou dost bless men in order that they may be "fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth." In this art thou not making a sign to us that we may understand something [allegorically]? Why didst thou not also bless the light, which thou calledst "the day," nor the firmament of heaven, nor the lights, nor the stars, nor the earth, nor the sea? I might reply, O our God, that thou in creating us after thy own image -- I might reply that thou didst will to bestow this gift of blessing upon man alone, if thou hadst not similarly blessed the fishes and the whales, so that they too should be fruitful and multiply and replenish the waters of the sea; and also the fowls, so that they should be multiplied on the earth. In like fashion, I might say that this blessing properly belonged only to such creatures as are propagated from their own kind, if I could find it given also as a blessing to trees, and plants, and the beasts of the earth. But this "increase and multiply" was not said to plants or trees or beasts or serpents -- although all of these, along with fishes and birds and men, do actually increase by propagation and so preserve their species.

36. What, then, shall I say, O Truth, O my Life: that it was idly and vainly said? Surely not this, O Father of piety; far be it from a servant of thy Word to say anything like this! But if I do not understand what thou meanest by that phrase, let those who are better than I -- that is, those more intelligent than I -- interpret it better, in the degree that thou hast given each of us the ability to understand.

But let also my confession be pleasing in thy eyes, for I confess to thee that I believe, O Lord, that thou hast not spoken thus in vain. Nor will I be silent as to what my reading has suggested to me. For it is valid, and I do not see anything to prevent me from thus interpreting the figurative sayings in thy books. For I know that a thing that is understood in only one way in the mind may be expressed in many different ways by the body; and I know that a thing that has only one manner of expression through the body may be understood in the mind in many different ways. For consider this single example -- the love of God and of our neighbor -- by how many different mysteries and countless languages, and, in each language, by how many different ways of speaking, this is signified corporeally! In similar fashion, the "young fish" in "the waters" increase and multiply. On the other hand, whoever you are who reads this, observe and behold what Scripture declares, and how the voice pronounces it in only one way, "In the beginning God created heaven and earth." [632] Is this not understood in many different ways by different kinds of true interpretations which do not involve the deceit of error? Thus the offspring of men are fruitful and do multiply. [633]

37. If, then, we consider the nature of things, in their strictly literal sense, and not allegorically, the phrase, "Be fruitful and multiply," applies to all things that are begotten by seed. But if we treat these words figuratively, as I judge that the Scripture intended them to be -- since it cannot be for nothing that this blessing is attributed only to the offspring of marine life and man -- then we discover that the characteristic of fecundity belongs also to the spiritual and physical creations (which are signified by "heaven and earth"), and also in righteous and unrighteous souls (which are signified by "light and darkness") and in the sacred writers through whom the law is uttered (who are signified by "the firmament established between the waters and the waters"); and in the earthly commonwealth still steeped in their bitterness (which is signified by "the sea"); and in the zeal of holy souls (signified by "the dry land"); and the works of mercy done in this present life (signified by "the seed-bearing herbs and fruit-bearing trees"); and in spiritual gifts which shine out for our edification (signified by "the lights of heaven"); and to human affections ruled by temperance (signified by "the living soul"). In all these instances we meet with multiplicity and fertility and increase; but the particular way in which "Be fruitful and multiply" can be exemplified differs widely. Thus a single category may include many things, and we cannot discover them except through their signs displayed corporeally and by the things being excogitated by the mind.

We thus interpret the phrase, "The generation of the waters," as referring to the corporeally expressed signs [of fecundity], since they are made necessary by the degree of our involvement in the flesh. But the power of human generation refers to the process of mental conception; this we see in the fruitfulness of reason. Therefore, we believe that to both of these two kinds it has been said by thee, O Lord, "Be fruitful and multiply." In this blessing, I recognize that thou hast granted us the faculty and power not only to express what we understand by a single idea in many different ways but also to understand in many ways what we find expressed obscurely in a single statement. Thus the waters of the sea are replenished, and their waves are symbols of diverse meanings. And thus also the earth is also replenished with human offspring. Its dryness is the symbol of its thirst for truth, and of the fact that reason rules over it.

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Notes:

[632] Here, again, as in a coda, Augustine restates his central theme and motif in the whole of his "confessions": the primacy of God, His constant creativity, his mysterious, unwearied, unfrustrated redemptive love. All are summed up in this mystery of creation in which the purposes of God are announced and from which all Christian hope takes its premise.

[633] That is, from basic and essentially simple ideas, they proliferate multiple -- and valid -- implications and corollaries.

CHAPTER 25

38. I also desire to say, O my Lord God, what the following Scripture suggests to me. Indeed, I will speak without fear, for I will speak the truth, as thou inspirest me to know what thou dost will that I should say concerning these words. For I do not believe I can speak the truth by any other inspiration than thine, since thou art the Truth, and every man a liar. [634] Hence, he that speaks a lie, speaks out of himself. Therefore, if I am to speak the truth, I must speak of thy truth.

Behold, thou hast given us for our food every seed-bearing herb on the face of the earth, and all trees that bear in themselves seed of their own kind; and not to us only, but to all the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field and all creeping things. [635] Still, thou hast not given these things to the fishes and great whales. We have said that by these fruits of the earth the works of mercy were signified and figured forth in an allegory: thus, from the fruitful earth, things are provided for the necessities of life. Such an "earth" was the godly Onesiphorus, to whose house thou gavest mercy because he often refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of his bonds. [636] This was also the way of the brethren from Macedonia, who bore such fruit and supplied to him what he lacked. But notice how he grieves for certain "trees," which did not give him the fruit that was due, when he said, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God, that it be not laid up to their charge." [637] For we owe "fruits" to those who minister spiritual doctrine to us through their understanding of the divine mysteries. We owe these to them as men. We owe these fruits, also, to "the living souls" since they offer themselves as examples for us in their own continence. And, finally, we owe them likewise to "the flying creatures" because of their blessings which are multiplied on the earth, for "their sound has gone forth into all the earth." [638]

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Notes:

[634] Cf. Rom. 3:4.

[635] Cf. Gen. 1:29, 30.

[636] Cf. 2 Tim. 1:16.

[637] 2 Tim. 4:16.

[638] Cf. Ps. 19:4.

CHAPTER 26

39. Those who find their joy in it are fed by these "fruits"; but those whose god is their belly find no joy in them. For in those who offer these fruits, it is not the fruit itself that matters, but the spirit in which they give them. Therefore, he who serves God and not his own belly may rejoice in them, and I plainly see why. I see it, and I rejoice with him greatly. For he [Paul] had received from the Philippians the things they had sent by Epaphroditus; yet I see why he rejoiced. He was fed by what he found his joy in; for, speaking truly, he says, "I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me has flourished again, in which you were once so careful, but it had become a weariness to you. [639] These Philippians, in their extended period of weariness in well-doing, had become weak and were, so to say, dried up; they were no longer bringing forth the fruits of good works. And now Paul rejoices in them -- and not just for himself alone -- because they were flourishing again in ministering to his needs. Therefore he adds: "I do not speak in respect of my want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased and how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." [640]

40. Where do you find joy in all things, O great Paul? What is the cause of your joy? On what do you feed, O man, renewed now in the knowledge of God after the image of him who created you, O living soul of such great continence -- O tongue like a winged bird, speaking mysteries? What food is owed such creatures; what is it that feeds you? It is joy! For hear what follows: "Nevertheless, you have done well in that you have shared with me in my affliction." [641] This is what he finds his joy in; this is what he feeds on. They have done well, not merely because his need had been relieved -- for he says to them, "You have opened my heart when I was in distress" -- but because he knew both how to abound and how to suffer need, in thee who didst strengthen him. And so he said, "You [Philippians] know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in regard to giving and receiving, except you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent time and time again, according to my need." [642] He now finds his joy in the fact that they have returned once again to these good works, and he is made glad that they are flourishing again, as a fruitful field when it recovers its fertility.

41. Was it on account of his own needs alone that he said, "You have sent me gifts according to my needs?" Does he find joy in that? Certainly not for that alone. But how do we know this? We know it because he himself adds, "Not because I desire a gift, but because I desire fruit." [643]

Now I have learned from thee, O my God, how to distinguish between the terms "gift" and "fruit." A "gift" is the thing itself, given by one who bestows life's necessities on another -- such as money, food, drink, clothing, shelter, and aid. But "the fruit" is the good and right will of the giver. For the good Teacher not only said, "He that receives a prophet," but he added, "In the name of a prophet." And he did not say only, "He who receives a righteous man," but added, "In the name of a righteous man." [644] Thus, surely, the former shall receive the reward of a prophet; the latter, that of a righteous man. Nor did he say only, "Whoever shall give a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink," but added, "In the name of a disciple"; and concluded, "Truly I tell you he shall not lose his reward." The "gift" involves receiving a prophet, receiving a righteous man, handing a cup of cold water to a disciple: but the "fruit" is to do all this in the name of a prophet, in the name of a righteous man, in the name of a disciple. Elijah was fed by the widow with "fruit," for she knew that she was feeding a man of God and this is why she fed him. But he was fed by the raven with a "gift." The inner man of Elijah was not fed by this "gift," but only the outer man, which otherwise might have perished from the lack of such food.

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Notes:

[639] Phil. 4:10 (mixed text).

[640] Phil. 4:11-13.

[641] Phil. 4:14.

[642] Phil. 4:15-17.

[643] Phil. 4:17.

[644] Cf. Matt. 10:41, 42.

CHAPTER 27

42. Therefore I will speak before thee, O Lord, what is true, in order that the uninstructed [645] and the infidels, who require the mysteries of initiation and great works of miracles -- which we believe are signified by the phrase, "Fishes and great whales" -- may be helped in being gained [for the Church] when they endeavor to provide that thy servants are refreshed in body, or otherwise aided in this present life. For they do not really know why this should be done, and to what end. Thus the former do not feed the latter, and the latter do not feed the former; for neither do the former offer their "gifts" through a holy and right intent, nor do the others rejoice in the gifts of those who do not as yet see the "fruit." For it is on the "fruit" that the mind is fed, and by which it is gladdened. And, therefore, fishes and whales are not fed on such food as the earth alone brings forth when they have been separated and divided from the bitterness of "the waters" of the sea.

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Notes:

[645] Idiotae: there is some evidence that this term was used to designate pagans who had a nominal connection with the Christian community but had not formally enrolled as catechumens. See Th. Zahn in Neue kirkliche Zeitschrift (1899), pp. 42-43.

CHAPTER 28

43. And thou, O God, didst see everything that thou hadst made and, behold, it was very good. [646] We also see the whole creation and, behold, it is all very good. In each separate kind of thy work, when thou didst say, "Let them be made," and they were made, thou didst see that it was good. I have counted seven times where it is written that thou didst see what thou hadst made was "good." And there is the eighth time when thou didst see all things that thou hadst made and, behold, they were not only good but also very good; for they were now seen as a totality. Individually they were only good; but taken as a totality they were both good and very good. Beautiful bodies express this truth; for a body which consists of several parts, each of which is beautiful, is itself far more beautiful than any of its individual parts separately, by whose well-ordered union the whole is completed even though these parts are separately beautiful.

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Notes:

[646] Gen. 1:31.

CHAPTER 29

44. And I looked attentively to find whether it was seven or eight times that thou didst see thy works were good, when they were pleasing to thee, but I found that there was no "time" in thy seeing which would help me to understand in what sense thou hadst looked so many "times" at what thou hadst made. And I said: "O Lord, is not this thy Scripture true, since thou art true, and thy truth doth set it forth? Why, then, dost thou say to me that in thy seeing there are no times, while this Scripture tells me that what thou madest each day thou didst see to be good; and when I counted them I found how many `times'?" To these things, thou didst reply to me, for thou art my God, and thou dost speak to thy servant with a strong voice in his inner ear, my deafness, and crying: "O man, what my Scripture says, I say. But it speaks in terms of time, whereas time does not affect my Word -- my Word which exists coeternally with myself. Thus the things you see through my Spirit, I see; just as what you say through my Spirit, I say. But while you see those things in time, I do not see them in time; and when you speak those things in time, I do not speak them in time."

CHAPTER 30

45. And I heard this, O Lord my God, and drank up a drop of sweetness from thy truth, and understood that there are some men to whom thy works are displeasing, who say that many of them thou didst make under the compulsion of necessity -- such as the pattern of the heavens and the courses of the stars -- and that thou didst not make them out of what was thine, but that they were already created elsewhere and from other sources. It was thus [they say] that thou didst collect and fashion and weave them together, as if from thy conquered enemies thou didst raise up the walls of the universe; so that, built into the ramparts of the building, they might not be able a second time to rebel against thee. And, even of other things, they say that thou didst neither make them nor arrange them -- for example, all flesh and all the very small living creatures, and all things fastened to the earth by their roots. But [they say] a hostile mind and an alien nature -- not created by thee and in every way contrary to thee -- begot and framed all these things in the nether parts of the world. [647] They who speak thus are mad [insani], since they do not see thy works through thy Spirit, nor recognize thee in them.

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Notes:

[647] A reference to the Manichean cosmogony and similar dualistic doctrines of "creation."

CHAPTER 31

46. But for those who see these things through thy Spirit, it is thou who seest them in them. When, therefore, they see that these things are good, it is thou who seest that they are good; and whatsoever things are pleasing because of thee, it is thou who dost give us pleasure in those things. Those things which please us through thy Spirit are pleasing to thee in us. "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of a man which is in him? Even so, no man knows the things of God, but the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us from God." [648] And I am admonished to say: "Yes, truly. No man knows the things of God, but the Spirit of God: but how, then, do we also know what things are given us by God?" The answer is given me: "Because we know these things by his Spirit; for no one knows but the Spirit of God." But just as it is truly said to those who were to speak through the Spirit of God, "It is not you who speak," so it is also truly said to them who know through the Spirit of God, "It is not you yourselves who know," and just as rightly it may be said to those who perceive through the Spirit of God that a thing is good; it is not they who see, but God who seeth that it is good.

It is, therefore, one thing to think like the men who judge something to be bad when it is good, as do those whom we have already mentioned. It is quite another thing that a man should see as good what is good -- as is the case with many whom thy creation pleases because it is good, yet what pleases them in it is not thee, and so they would prefer to find their joy in thy creatures rather than to find their joy in thee. It is still another thing that when a man sees a thing to be good, God should see in him that it is good -- that truly he may be loved in what he hath made, he who cannot be loved except through the Holy Spirit which he hath given us: "Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us." [649] It is by him that we see whatever we see to be good in any degree, since it is from him, who doth not exist in any particular degree but who simply is what he is. [650]

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Notes:

[648] 1 Cor. 2:11, 12.

[649] Rom. 5:5.

[650] Sed quod est, est. Note the variant text in Skutella, op. cit.: sed est, est. This is obviously an echo of the Vulgate Ex. 3:14: ego sum qui sum.

CHAPTER 32

47. Thanks be to thee, O Lord! We see the heaven and the earth, either the corporeal part -- higher and lower -- or the spiritual and physical creation. And we see the light made and divided from the darkness for the adornment of these parts, from which the universal mass of the world or the universal creation is constituted. We see the firmament of heaven, either the original "body" of the world between the spiritual (higher) waters and the corporeal (lower) waters [651] or the expanse of air -- which is also called "heaven" -- through which the fowls of heaven wander, between the waters which move in clouds above them and which drop down in dew on clear nights, and those waters which are heavy and flow along the earth. We see the waters gathered together in the vast plains of the sea; and the dry land, first bare and then formed, so as to be visible and well-ordered; and the soil of herbs and trees. We see the light shining from above -- the sun to serve the day, the moon and the stars to give cheer in the night; and we see by all these that the intervals of time are marked and noted. We see on every side the watery elements, fruitful with fishes, beasts, and birds -- and we notice that the density of the atmosphere which supports the flights of birds is increased by the evaporation of the waters. We see the face of the earth, replete with earthly creatures; and man, created in thy image and likeness, in the very image and likeness of thee -- that is, having the power of reason and understanding -- by virtue of which he has been set over all irrational creatures. And just as there is in his soul one element which controls by its power of reflection and another which has been made subject so that it should obey, so also, physically, the woman was made for the man; for, although she had a like nature of rational intelligence in the mind, still in the sex of her body she should be similarly subject to the sex of her husband, as the appetite of action is subjected to the deliberation of the mind in order to conceive the rules of right action. These things we see, and each of them is good; and the whole is very good!

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Notes:

[651] Augustine himself had misgivings about this passage. In the Retractations, he says that this statement was made "without due consideration." But he then adds, with great justice: "However, the point in question is very obscure" (res autem in abdito est valde); cf. Retract., 2:6.

CHAPTER 33

48. Let thy works praise thee, that we may love thee; and let us love thee that thy works may praise thee -- those works which have a beginning and an end in time -- a rising and a setting, a growth and a decay, a form and a privation. Thus, they have their successions of morning and evening, partly hidden, partly plain. For they were made from nothing by thee, and not from thyself, and not from any matter that is not thine, or that was created beforehand. They were created from concreated matter -- that is, matter that was created by thee at the same time that thou didst form its formlessness, without any interval of time. Yet, since the matter of heaven and earth is one thing and the form of heaven and earth is another thing, thou didst create matter out of absolutely nothing (de omnino nihilo), but the form of the world thou didst form from formless matter (de informi materia). But both were done at the same time, so that form followed matter with no delaying interval.

CHAPTER 34

49. We have also explored the question of what thou didst desire to figure forth, both in the creation and in the description of things in this particular order. And we have seen that things taken separately are good, and all things taken together are very good, both in heaven and earth. And we have seen that this was wrought through thy Word, thy only Son, the head and the body of the Church, and it signifies thy predestination before all times, without morning and evening. But when, in time, thou didst begin to unfold the things destined before time, so that thou mightest make hidden things manifest and mightest reorder our disorders -- since our sins were over us and we had sunk into profound darkness away from thee, and thy good Spirit was moving over us to help us in due season -- thou didst justify the ungodly and also didst divide them from the wicked; and thou madest the authority of thy Book a firmament between those above who would be amenable to thee and those beneath who would be subject to them. And thou didst gather the society of unbelievers [652] into a conspiracy, in order that the zeal of the faithful might become manifest and that they might bring forth works of mercy unto thee, giving their earthly riches to the poor to obtain heavenly riches. Then thou didst kindle the lights in the firmament, which are thy holy ones, who have the Word of Life and who shine with an exalted authority, warranted to them by their spiritual gifts. And then, for the instruction of the unbelieving nations, thou didst out of physical matter produce the mysteries and the visible miracles and the sounds of words in harmony with the firmament of thy Book, through which the faithful should be blessed. After this thou didst form "the living soul" of the faithful, through the ordering of their passions by the strength of continence. And then thou didst renew, after thy image and likeness, the mind which is faithful to thee alone, which needs to imitate no human authority. Thus, thou didst subordinate rational action to the higher excellence of intelligence, as the woman is subordinate to the man. Finally, in all thy ministries which were needed to perfect the faithful in this life, thou didst will that these same faithful ones should themselves bring forth good things, profitable for their temporal use and fruitful for the life to come. We see all these things, and they are very good, because thou seest them thus in us -- thou who hast given us thy Spirit, by which we may see them so and love thee in them.

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Notes:

[652] See above, amaricantes, Ch. XVII, 20.

CHAPTER 35

50. O Lord God, grant us thy peace -- for thou hast given us all things. Grant us the peace of quietness, the peace of the Sabbath, the peace without an evening. All this most beautiful array of things, all so very good, will pass away when all their courses are finished -- for in them there is both morning and evening.

51. But the seventh day is without an evening, and it has no setting, for thou hast sanctified it with an everlasting duration. After all thy works of creation, which were very good, thou didst rest on the seventh day, although thou hadst created them all in unbroken rest -- and this so that the voice of thy Book might speak to us with the prior assurance that after our works -- and they also are very good because thou hast given them to us -- we may find our rest in thee in the Sabbath of life eternal. [653]

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Notes:

[653] Cf. this requiescamus in te with the requiescat in te in Bk. I, Ch. I.

CHAPTER 36

52. For then also thou shalt so rest in us as now thou workest in us; and, thus, that will be thy rest through us, as these are thy works through us. But thou, O Lord, workest evermore and art always at rest. Thou seest not in time, thou movest not in time, thou restest not in time. And yet thou makest all those things which are seen in time -- indeed, the very times themselves -- and everything that proceeds in and from time.

CHAPTER 37

53. We can see all those things which thou hast made because they are -- but they are because thou seest them. [654] And we see with our eyes that they are, and we see with our minds that they are good. But thou sawest them as made when thou sawest that they would be made.

And now, in this present time, we have been moved to do well, now that our heart has been quickened by thy Spirit; but in the former time, having forsaken thee, we were moved to do evil. [655] But thou, O the one good God, hast never ceased to do good! And we have accomplished certain good works by thy good gifts, and even though they are not eternal, still we hope, after these things here, to find our rest in thy great sanctification. But thou art the Good, and needest no rest, and art always at rest, because thou thyself art thy own rest.

What man will teach men to understand this? And what angel will teach the angels? Or what angels will teach men? We must ask it of thee; we must seek it in thee; we must knock for it at thy door. Only thus shall we receive; only thus shall we find; only thus shall thy door be opened. [656]

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Notes:

[654] Cf. The City of God, XI, 10, on Augustine's notion that the world exists as a thought in the mind of God.

[655] Another conscious connection between Bk. XIII and Bks. I-X.

[656] This final ending is an antiphon to Bk. XII, Ch. I, 1 above.
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