St. Augustine’s Confessions St. Augustine lived during a period in which the Roman Empire was in deep decline and Christianity was taking root as the official religion. It was a time of great political stress and widespread religious concern. The Confessions reveals much about his formative years, when he strove to overcome his sensual desires, find faith, and understand religious and philosophical doctrines. Augustine treats this autobiography as much more than an opportunity to narrate his life, however, and there is hardly an event mentioned in his autobiography that does not have an accompanying religious or philosophical clarification.
St. Augustine’s confessions also provide one with a critical aspect of the Christian Bible. Augustine’s confessions form a work that corresponds closely to its content and achieves what it set out to achieve, which is redemption from sins for Augustine and a revelation for the readers. His writing is basically an idea of the return of creation to God; its aim is to inspire others to actively seek this return and to believe in the creation of God. The relationship St. Augustine has with love and God is undeniably irrevocable due to the fact that he cannot distinguish love and God with out one another.
Augustine often experiences darkness, blindness, and confusion while attempting to find truth in God, but he knows that when he eventually finds him his confused heart will be redeemed. Augustine started out in childhood with a state of confusion because he had to live in two different worlds. These two worlds consisted of that of his mother’s (Monica) religious faith and teachings, and the rest of the outside world. The two worlds confused Augustine as a child because his mother praised Christ and Christianity and about the almighty God who helps humans to go to heaven.
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In the outside world, it was completely nonreligious. The talk was about striving to achieve. In Carthage, while successfully pursuing his studies, he abandoned his Christian moral teachings of his early years and took in a mistress, with whom he lived with for 10 years. Augustine’s relation to his mistress focuses primarily on the problem of restless love, while showing that Augustine had the desire to love and wanted to be loved. Many young men stayed with a woman until the time came to marry them back then. This is what Augustine performed. He states that, “In those days I lived with a oman, not my lawful wedded wife but a mistress whom I had chosen for no special reason but that my restless passions had alighted on her. But she was the only one and I was faithful to her” (Confessions, IV). This is just one of the many aspects in his life that he considered sinful. Later in his writings, when Augustine talks about his conversation to Neo-Platonism (all actions are considered good or evil) and then Christianity that he classifies his previous behavior as sinful and regrets many of his previous actions. By the time he converted, he viewed every act in which he put himself ahead of God as sinful.
One sin that he mourns greatly and faults himself for is allowing him to be sexually free and having various partners. Although Augustine was regretful for his sin, he also mentions that it was the hardest sin to give up when he was trying to determine if he wanted to convert to Christianity completely. Augustine also attempts to provide another explanation for his previous actions by speculating that his actions were a result of his love for God being somehow misleading; “To him I was led by thee without my knowledge, that by him I might be led to thee in full knowledge” (Confessions, XIII).
One of the biggest struggles that Augustine faced was his belief in God and how God exists. His concern was how we can seek God without really knowing what he is or what we’re exactly looking for. “Within me I had a dearth of that inner food which thyself, my God—although that dearth caused me no hunger” (Confessions, I). He constantly questions the existence of God and his belief in Him. Asking God to “come into me”, Augustine again questions what that phrase could really mean when expressed to God.
Later on in the writing, Augustine came across a book, in which he referred to as “books of eloquence” (Confessions, IV), called Hortensius by Cicero. He admired this book very much and its philosophical ways which he proclaims it “changed my whole attitude and turned my prayers toward thee, O Lord, and gave me new hope and new desires” (Confessions, IV). The reading caused him to reach toward God, even though he had only learned of God seriously through Monica, his mother whom was of Christian faith. It helped him to develop a different outlook on God and take life more seriously.
Furthermore, the death of Augustine’s friend made him realize that all love should be rooted in God. His friend became very ill with a fever and eventually passed away. Augustine felt extreme grief and sorrow for his friend’s death. He believes that the main cause of his misery lies in the fact that he loves his friend with the type of love that should have been reserved for God alone. Therefore, he felt that all human love is going to fade unless this love is grounded in the eternal God who never changes and will always remain.
While love exists between two souls with whom we want to be with, this type of love will always have a basis from God. Throughout the Confessions, love and wisdom, his desire to love and be loved, are all driving forces for Augustine’s desire to find peace in God. Augustine often experiences darkness, blindness, and confusion while attempting to find peace in God and peace within himself, but he knows that when he eventually finds him his restless heart will be saved. Augustine felt that love might help him have a solid purpose in life and would guide him through his time of conversion.
Love is a natural feeling for human race and becomes a necessity for all people. For Augustine, the first love has to be for the love of God. It must come before all others. He states that “the thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you” (Confessions, I). Holding God as love’s priority, it helped Augustine to shape his life, his mind and his beliefs.
He never realized what a big difference it makes in one’s life when it is opened up to love and to love Christ. For Augustine, the answer to his questions and confusion lies in God’s grace. These answers are to the most difficult questions on life and faith. Throughout his writing, there was no time where he had been without love, but he had loved in pieces, hidden, and conflicting ways. He had loved his mother, Monica, from the beginning. He had also loved the name and image of Christ, but was in state of confusion many times therefore doubting his faith and beliefs.
Through the Confessions, Augustine leaves himself and his past to praising God and loving him because he felt guilty with himself and his importance of God in his life. He found a place in God that he never imagined could happen. His guilty mind and heart finally found rest in God. Love also played a significant role during his conversion. It helped guide him towards God and Christ in a positive way that influenced the rest of his life. All these various themes of love helped and guided Augustine through his conversion.
This formation was the discovery of a new self and the discovery of the new world he sees now through his conversion. The conversion taught him truth and to believe in God. His desire to understand wisdom, which was through the readings by Cicero, brought about a new view for Christ. Though he converted, Augustine’s full connection with the love of Christ was still yet incomplete for him. His mind was not satisfied with any one direction. The most critical and influential form of love that Augustine had was love for God and the love for Christ.
It was almost as if he was exposed to a new realm and he opened up his life up to God more and more each day by praising him, telling God how much he loves him now. Augustine states, “then, O Lord, you laid your most gentle, most merciful finger on my heart and set my thoughts in order, for I began to realize that I believed countless things which I had never seen or which I had taken place when I was not there to see” (Confessions, VI). The Confessions tells a story in the form of a long conversion with God. Through this conversion to Catholic Christianity, Augustine encounters many aspects of love.
These forms of love guide him towards an ultimate relationship with God. His restless heart finally finds peace and rest in God after the conversion. Augustine finds many ways in which he can find peace in God. He is genuinely sorry for having turned away from God, the one source of peace and happiness. Augustine is extremely thankful for having been given the opportunity to live with God. Augustine uses love as his gate to God’s grace. All in all, the Confessions can be read as Augustine’s way of redemption from his sins and his revelation of love to God and Christ.
Augustine’s transition from a sinner to a faithful Christian was also evidence to God’s greatness. Even though Augustine committed unacceptable sins, it was a good thing for him in that he found the strength to believe and love God. This is because of what he has obtained from analyzing texts, such as Cicero’s writings, and Christian philosophy and the fact that he can truly understand the root causes of his sins that he committed instead of simply implying them based on what a book says.
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