The church book club have just gone through the first 5 books (chapters) of Augustine’s Confessions. We intend to read through to book 9 as a group but I’d like read right through them. I’ve previously dipped very briefly into a few on-line versions but never actually read through them. There’s nothing – in my opinion – quite like having a book to read. The translation we are using is by Henry Chadwick and is proving to be very readable in terms of text. I’m really enjoying the book. Before we quote – and comment – from the text, two preliminary observations might be in order. i) Augustine noted what we might call the mundane or ordinary and sees God at work in these in a very powerful and humbling way. ii) Some of the things could have been written yesterday as comment on human behaviour. People are still the same, nothing has changed except maybe the clothes!
A few choice quotes
Book iv (30) p. 70. ‘I had my back to the light and my face towards the things which are illuminated. So my face, by which I was enabled to see the things lit up, was not itself illuminated’
People look out on creation and see its wonders but completely fail to be themselves enlightened at all. Or even to see the beauty of Jesus but again it’s not their own illumination and are still in their sins. And as Augustine said previously ‘…while travelling away from the truth I thought I was going towards it. Book iii (12) p. 43.
Augustine was given amazing insight into his own soul and into ours too. It’s no wonder this book is a classic. Augustine was taken in by the Manichees cult for about 9 years and Faustus one of their most able leaders came on the scene. Augustine was beginning to question the truthfulness of their teachings to which he writes (Book iv section iv 10 p. 77 & 76):
‘When he came, I found him gracious and pleasant with words. He said the things they usually say, but put it much more agreeably. But what should the most presentable waiter do for my thirst by offering precious cups? My ears were already satiated with this kind of talk, which did not seem better to me because more elegantly expressed. Fine style does not make something true, nor has a man a wise soul because he has a handsome face and well chosen eloquence. They who promised he would be so good were not good judges. He seemed so prudent and wise because he charmed them by the way he talked.’
A quotation with his view of God (Book i p.4 & 5, iv (4).
‘Who then are you my God? What, I ask, but God who is Lord? For ‘who is the Lord but the Lord’, or ‘who is God but our God? (Psalm 17:32). Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet intimately present, perfection of beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old….’
Finally, Book i p. 5, v (5):
‘…’Say to my soul, I am your salvation‘ (Psalm 34:3). Speak to me so that I might hear.’