Augustine’s Confessions – Seven Questions with Answers
Love and Lust and the Stage Confessions
Book II paragraphs 1-8 and Book III paragraphs 1-9
Augustine’s confessions in Book II and III are recollections of his growing up and how he is being formed by the world to become worldly. His recollections also shows how great his parents influenced in molding his character and how he was guided by his experience to seek, know, and find Christ.
Learning teaches man to grasp the truth while ignorance makes a man proud and damned.
Augustine proved on wisdom with his experiences. Those experiences served as his spiritual battle to renounce the vanity of earth for a more noble ambition and that is to renounce self gratification by serving Christ with his whole heart, body, mind, and soul.
However, realization came after finding the truth and the truth which Augustine received was of the divine light which only pours in the heart of humble souls.
These humble souls are those who knew their weaknesses and try to overcome them.
The Theft of Pears
Book II Paragraph 9-18
Augustine speaks about human love which is defiled when it do not coincide with the will of God. During his younger years when his soul is still untouched by grace he recalled that those sinful acts are being shamelessly committed simply because of the pleasure of doing it and to show that he is the master of himself.
A sinful act to be called sin must be committed with consent; this means full knowledge. As in Augustine’s confessions, he deliberately committed the sinful act wanting to do a pleasurable thing in the absence of good. This absence of good means for example, engaging in sexual act irresponsibly by using the procreative action just a tool of gratification. The absence of purity is a sheer ignorance and that love to be true must be exclusive.
What particularly disturbs Augustine about his theft of the pears? How does he account for his motives in the theft?
In Augustine’s conscience since it is already overflowing with goodness when he began to write the confessions, the Saint admitted that his young self during the theft of pears is to show his own dominance. The flooding of consciousness on his elicits acts made him tremble on the sight of God. Here, conversion is clearly marked on his soul because there is no trace of justification but an acceptance of own wickedness. That self knowledge led Augustine to conversion and atonement.
He even mentioned that those little loves he had experienced has slowly taught him how to know the truth and open the desire for a higher love which is to seek God’s love. Those human loves that he had experienced in some way made him seek the truth. Augustine in his conversion was able to realize the truth by accepting humbly that he has sinned and it was self knowledge that he was cured of his spiritual ailments.
Is immoral act considered as a private sin?
Although sin is a personal act, sin affects the whole humanity. In fact, it is the reason why the second person of the trinity, the God made man redeemed mankind.
There is evil in the world but the grace of God is never lacking that even a calloused sinner gets converted or is enlightened by grace if the soul is open towards it. Man’s entire existence tells each one that what we sow we reap and what harms the smallest member of our organ affects the whole body itself. It is a miracle that the whole human race from ancient to present are connected with each other. There is an upheaval of good and evil but those who choose the love of God from self are capable of finding true happiness.
What does this teach us about morality (in light of social responsibility)?
Man’s existence is ordained towards good, and if an act is done without the conditions of the good intention towards others but only for oneself, that act becomes evil or self serving.
Morality is based on the “mandatum novum” the new commandment which guides men how to love himself by loving God who created him. The selfless love described in the new commandment frees man of every earthly attachment that could make any soul’s soars high in search for the infinite truth. Though man wishes to do good there is this capability of doing the other way which can be regarded as the inclination to sin or to save the self and step on the others. Man struggle to survive and to lord over self is too strong, as if God test whether how strong we believe in his words. God teachings are ways how we can love and live with all men.
Augustine recalls an incident at the bloody gladiatorial games at Carthage (in North Africa) and the cruel sports sponsored by the Roman government (Carthage was under Roman rule).
Book VI, paragraph 11 – 13
Augustine’s recollection of Alypius is about the madness his friend for a bloody entertainment which is a disordered desire of man to show dominion over another’s weakness. It was indeed a recollection of man’s desire to resist sinful recreation and at the same time the savage instinct of man to venture into violent human acts.
His friend tried to resist the temptation by banking on his own power to say no to sin but only to find out that it is wiser to run away from temptation than to test oneself. His friend realized that it is more painful to harm one’s soul than that of harming the body as he experienced it when he finally opened his eyes and saw the blood of the wounded gladiator. He felt his pain more intense than that of the physically wounded man.
Today, there are various entertainments or sports, knowledge that man call achievements. Pondering about it, it is just vanity and pride. Most of this sports and entertainments are working its way through the computer or the internet – the consumerist attitude is being propelled by pornography which caused young minds and even couples by turning human love into merely self gratification.
The wrong notion on human love destroys family values that could lead society towards hedonism. Or a society where sin becomes a virtue.
In other words, man is getting confused because of his continuous search for material well being in a world that lease to life becomes so expensive. There may no longer be martyrs fed to the lions today but there are men and women who suffered injustices due to avariciousness of the greedy.
Essay No. 8. What does the call to holiness mean to you? You may wish to use the word “wholeness” if you desire to avoid the spirituality of Augustine.
Holiness is absolutely fine because it means perfection or in other words wholeness or we may say completeness. Each and everyone journey this life looking for a perfect place, a perfect spouse, and a perfect family. Holiness is written in every one’s heart which fuels the heart to seek happiness.
In fact holiness means sanctification, and in truth the saints are the ones who are the truly happy people who lived on earth. Someone has said too that you can not give what you do not have but the same way as with hurt people also hurt other people. So basically, sanctification is serving God and men at whatever state of life one chooses because love is shown in deeds and with responsibility.
Essay No. 9. Beginning in Book V, Augustine meets the Christian bishop at Milan, Italy, Ambrose. This man was a major influence on Augustine’s life. Explain how and why?
Ambrose was the confessor of Augustine’s mother Monica. His attachment towards his mother is very significant in his conversion. Monica’s spiritual life is guided by his confessor at the same time Augustine was baptized by Ambrose. In the life of the saints the sacrament of Penance was the turning point of his conversion that made Augustine gave up the pull of the flesh and to serve God completely.
Essay No. 17. Book I, paragraph 1 “You stir us so that praising you may bring joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet (restless) until it rests in you.” And in Book X paragraph 38 he wrote: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you, and unlovely, I rushed heedlessly headlong among the lovely things you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you…
Now I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burn for your peace.”
“My heart is restless until it rest in You …” is the most famous words of St. Augustine but these are not merely words; they belong to the interior life or spiritual life that is filled with grace. These are words of Augustine which explains that man is nothing without Divine Love because it is only through that friendship that man’s existence is made complete. Without the knowledge of God, man’s existence is a farce for it is only in God man finds goodness, and perfection. To Augustine, God is an Absolute Goodness.
In Book X paragraph 38, he lamented on how life is too short to love an Infinite Goodness. Perhaps this is a feeling of consolations as possibly described by a poor human language. Some gifted individuals for instance the Saints have experienced ecstasy when they are shed with the light of the heavens even in this mortal life. The confession of Augustine is similar to how human love craves for more and may complain in the same way “why only now have I met you”. Love is a very profound word, some say it is indescribable and how much more if that love of Augustine pertains to the Divine Love?
Augustine also expresses how stubborn he was with the divine grace and at the same time accepted that he do not deserve such predilection. However, in the lives of the saints and as affirmed by those who met God and enjoy God’s vision while on earth, those predilected individuals are the ones’ who seek God humbly like a little child.
Those lamentations of Augustine in his book Confessions tell that life on earth is very short to offer to God because of the reward of heaven which is eternal. Heaven is the true end of man governed by divine rule. Heaven is man’s true home but man was expelled from it because of the sin of Adam and Eve.
History has recorded man’s civilization, one rises and one falls. There are achievements as well as disasters. There is glory and humiliations. Everything is sort of making choices and that freedom of choice is only given by God to man. Irrational creatures have the mind to protect them but are not capable of making a holocaust just like what Christ did. Only a human person has a soul and for that reason he was said to be created in the image and likeness of God. For these reason, one discovers that fame, honor, achievements, disasters are just passing scenes.
Man longs for fleeting things and at the same time craves for the immortality of his soul. It is still striking to realize, that even if this truth is written in every man’s heart, due to ignorance or what theologians described as the lust of the eyes and concupiscence of the flesh man is still misguided and man commits a mistake in using his freedom for the exchange of ones soul.
Essay No. 20. Examine Augustine’s statements about free will in the Confessions. To what degree are human beings really free to make their own choices? How is the problem of evil connected with the human will? Do you agree with Augustine’s conclusions?
In Augustine’s statements about free will he elaborated that human beings are capable of committing the grievous mistake by choosing damnation if he is a disbeliever. Augustine believes that God is fair and just and for that reason He showers his graces equally to all His creatures. However man is free to choose either to serve himself or to serve God.
He concluded that God created man without asking for his consent but he can not be saved either without his grace. Man in comparison with Divine justice is inferior and therefore man’s freedom is limited to do only what is good. Meaning if he chooses the absence of good, it is simply being unable to use one’s freedom well.
Man is free to act in order to do what he must do and is also free to transgress. But man is not like angels and for that reason; God redeemed man and forgave those who asked for pardon. Augustine in his personal conversation with God was able to discern the incapacity of man to be redeemed without God’s redemptive action while at the same time he had a profound understanding that God allowed man to be free and is given a free choice between loving God or self.
Augustine concluded that even if man is inclined to do evil he is at the same time created by God in his image and likeness. Man is redeemed and is given the privilege to partake in the divine life for which man has to be eternally grateful. Sometime it is good to ask why God who is the master of the universe allowed himself to die bleeding on the cross; in fact all His blood was shed because when the soldier pierced Him only water came out. As St. Thomas would say in his prayer “With just one drop the world was saved” God’s creation was saved through the mystery of salvation but it is only granted to those who accept it freely. Self knowledge illumined with the grace of God without man’s meriting it is a supreme gift that every man should received and asked gratuitously.
Albert C. Outler, Ph.D., D.D… “Augustine: Confessions”
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