Thoughts on "The Confessions of St. Augustine"
The "Confessions of St. Augustine" has been called “the greatest spiritual autobiography of all time.” In it St. Augustine reveals with candor and humility details of his life of sin and vice and his intellectual errors, his search for the truth about God and his conversion to Him and the Catholic Church, and then his trust in and praise of God Whom he has finally found.
In the last four books, Augustine presents a method of finding God and the happy life and caps it with an exegesis of the first chapter of Genesis where he expounds on the nature of God and His creation.
Augustine presents his life story and his philosophical and theological musings in the form of meditations and prayer addressed directly to God. All throughout his confessions are manifestations of his extensive and intensive knowledge of Holy Scriptures and his reflections are intimately connected with how certain passages of Scriptures have affected his thoughts and feelings.
The story of Augustine in many parts is probably the story of a lot of us. The consequences of a fallen human nature tend to drag people down to the pursuit of earthly pleasures and materialistic goals. Most everyone, whether they consciously seek God or not, eventually find themselves still far from being satisfied and cannot find perfect happiness in what the world can offer. It is then that they turn to God.
Augustine realized this at a late stage in his life and, feeling there is a void that needed to be filled, cried out:
“You arouse man to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
This is a classic quote from St. Augustine, and we can only agree with him if we look inward and examine if we are completely happy even with a comfortable earthly existence and success in our professional and financial goals.
I have found many parts of The Confessions, and even the philosophical and theological treatises on memory, God and creation, excellent prayer and meditation aids. With a selected chapter from the book, it is not difficult to be contaminated with the “Augustinian mood” of just letting go and addressing our thoughts, cares and concerns to God.
Apart from Augustine’s pointing out that our hearts can find complete rest only in God, I have been touched by another classic quote from him:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were with me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all."
The Confessions being set in prayer form suggests to me that each day of the life of every Christian should be like a prayer.” Augustine’s finding the Lord prodded him to learn more about Him, and, learning more about Him, led him to love and serve Him more and devote his life to serving His people. A Christian must be a “student” of Christ and a prayerful person if he is to be used by God to help proclaim His kingdom.
Reading "The Confessions" gives an insight into how Augustine’s Scriptural erudition affected his conversion process and his life. A lot of what he says can be better understood if one is to read the Scriptural passages appearing in the end notes. One has to have the Bible as a companion book if he is to develop a better knowledge and deeper spirituality and thence let this knowledge and spirituality flow to the people he comes in contact with daily.
The conversion of Augustine was attributed to the untiring prayers of his mother, St. Monica. It also happened within the situation of his association with certain friends and the model provided by St. Ambrose. How much can a prayerful and friendly Christian then be used by the Lord towards bringing people back or closer to Him?
Just like St. Augustine who was called to conversion by the Lord, it is the Lord who draws a person to Himself.
“You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
It is He who also calls a person to discipleship and service. He always calls.
May we hunger and thirst more for Him and yearn to be more intimate with Him. This is where true joy lies. It is the kind of joy that lasts forever. #