A combination of autobiography, philosophical and theological treatise, and confession of love for God. One of the, if not the, best I’ve ever read. A book that renews the mind, warms the heart and uplifts the spirit.
Most Accessible and Inspiring
Saint Augustine was an Early Church Father and one of the most influential figures in the history of Christianity, and yet his Confessions relate to ordinary people in so many ways. A precocious child who lost his way; an idealistic youth who detested falsehood and sought after beauty and truth; a professor who had a distinguished career but a purposeless life; a passionate man whose heart was torn apart by the death of a most beloved friend; a sensual man who loved the simple pleasures of life, food, music, sexual pleasures and companionship; a wise man with a keen intellect that probed the attributes of God, the cause of evil, the workings of mind and memory, the nature of time and the mystery of creation.
“He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.”
Most autobiographies lead to and end in the authors themselves and nothing higher. St. Augustine poured his heart and mind into this book in the hope that, through his life’s story and testimony, readers may recognize God’s handiwork and be inspired to seek and love Him also. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. … Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” In the book, he is in constant communion with God, confessing his love for Him, meditating on His words and works, remembering and recounting His grace and guidance throughout his own life, which is also a microcosm of the world, a history of creation, falling away, redemption, and eternal joy and rest in Him.
Time and Eternity
“What did God do before He made heaven and earth?” “He was preparing hell for those prying into such deep subjects.” Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist, quoted Saint Augustine in his bestseller “A Brief History Of Time“, because Augustine’s profound understanding of time and eternity precedes and agrees with a fundamental theory in modern physics, namely, Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Time only exists with matter and form as God’s creation, which are subject to change and variation. There was no time before God made heaven and earth because matter and form didn’t exist. God is eternal and immutable, therefore with Him there is no passing of time. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Meaning and Coherence of the Ever Changing Universe
“Things rise and set: in their emerging they begin as it were to be, and grow to perfection; having reached perfection, they grow old and die. Not everything grows old, but everything dies. So when things rise and emerge into existence, the faster they grow to be, the quicker they rush towards non-being. That is the law limiting their being. So much have You given them, namely to be parts of things which do not all have their being at the same moment, but by passing away and by successiveness, they all form the whole of which they are parts. This is the way our speech is constructed by sounds which are significant. What we say would not be complete if one word did not cease to exist when it has sounded its constituent parts, so that it can be succeeded by another.”
“There would be more delight in all the elements than in individual pieces if only one had the capacity to perceive all of them. But far superior to these things is He who made all things, and He is our God. He does not pass away; nothing succeeds Him.”
By reason of its weight the body strives toward it’s own place. … Not put in proper order, they are without rest; when they are set in due order, they are at rest. My love is my weight! I am borne about by it, wheresoever I am borne. By Your gift we are enkindled, and we are borne upwards. We glow with inward fire, and we go on. We ascend steps within the heart, and we sing a gradual psalm. By your fire, by your good fire, we glow with inward fire, and we go on, for we go upwards to “the peace of Jerusalem”.
- Augustine. The Confessions of St. Augustine. Trans. John K. Ryan. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1960.
- Augustine. Confessions. Trans. Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
- “Confessions” at CCEL
- “Confessions” at New Advent