Augustine: confessions



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3. What has corporeal matter deserved of thee--even in its invisible and unformed state--since it would not exist even in this state if thou hadst not made it? And, if it did not exist, it could not merit its existence from thee.

Or, what has that formless spiritual creation deserved of thee--that it should flow lightlessly like the abyss--since it is so unlike thee and would not exist at all if it had not been turned by the Word which made it that same Word, and, illumined by that Word, had been “made light”507 although not as thy equal but only as an image of that Form [of Light] which is equal to thee? For, in the case of a body, its being is not the same thing as its being beautiful; else it could not then be a deformed body. Likewise, in the case of a created spirit, living is not the same state as living wisely; else it could then be immutably wise. But the true good of every created thing is always to cleave fast to thee, lest, in turning away from thee, it lose the light it had received in being turned by thee, and so relapse into a life like that of the dark abyss.

As for ourselves, who are a spiritual creation by virtue of our souls, when we turned away from thee, O Light, we were in that former life of darkness; and we toil amid the shadows of our darkness until--through thy only Son--we become thy righteousness,508 like the mountains of God. For we, like the great abyss,509 have been the objects of thy judgments.

CHAPTER III


4. Now what thou saidst in the beginning of the creation--“Let there be light: and there was light”--I interpret, not unfitly, as referring to the spiritual creation, because it already had a kind of life which thou couldst illuminate. But, since it had not merited from thee that it should be a life capable of enlightenment, so neither, when it already began to exist, did it merit from thee that it should be enlightened. For neither could its formlessness please thee until it became light--and it became light, not from the bare fact of existing, but by the act of turning its face to the light which enlightened it, and by cleaving to it. Thus it owed the fact that it lived, and lived happily, to nothing whatsoever but thy grace, since it had been turned, by a change for the better, toward that which cannot be changed for either better or worse. Thou alone art, because thou alone art without complication. For thee it is not one thing to live and another thing to live in blessedness; for thou art thyself thy own blessedness.

CHAPTER IV


5. What, therefore, would there have been lacking in thy good, which thou thyself art, even if these things had never been made or had remained unformed? Thou didst not create them out of any lack but out of the plenitude of thy goodness, ordering them and turning them toward form,510 but not because thy joy had to be perfected by them. For thou art perfect, and their imperfection is displeasing. Therefore were they perfected by thee and became pleasing to thee--but not as if thou wert before that imperfect and had to be perfected in their perfection. For thy good Spirit which moved over the face of the waters511 was not borne up by them as if he rested on them. For those in whom thy good Spirit is said to rest he actually causes to rest in himself. But thy incorruptible and immutable will--in itself all-sufficient for itself--moved over that life which thou hadst made: in which living is not at all the same thing as living happily, since that life still lives even as it flows in its own darkness. But it remains to be turned to him by whom it was made and to live more and more like “the fountain of life,” and in his light “to see light,”512 and to be perfected, and enlightened, and made blessed.

CHAPTER V


6. See now,513 how the Trinity appears to me in an enigma. And thou art the Trinity, O my God, since thou, O Father--in the beginning of our wisdom, that is, in thy wisdom born of thee, equal and coeternal with thee, that is, thy Son--created the heaven and the earth. Many things we have said about the heaven of heavens, and about the earth invisible and unformed, and about the shadowy abyss--speaking of the aimless flux of its being spiritually deformed unless it is turned to him from whom it has its life (such as it is) and by his Light comes to be a life suffused with beauty. Thus it would be a [lower] heaven of that [higher] heaven, which afterward was made between water and water.514

And now I came to recognize, in the name of God, the Father who made all these things, and in the term “the Beginning” to recognize the Son, through whom he made all these things; and since I did believe that my God was the Trinity, I sought still further in his holy Word, and, behold, “Thy Spirit moved over the waters.” Thus, see the Trinity, O my God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Creator of all creation!

CHAPTER VI
7. But why, O truth-speaking Light? To thee I lift up my heart--let it not teach me vain notions. Disperse its shadows and tell me, I beseech thee, by that Love which is our mother; tell me, I beseech thee, the reason why--after the reference to heaven and to the invisible and unformed earth, and darkness over the abyss--thy Scripture should then at long last refer to thy Spirit? Was it because it was appropriate that he should first be shown to us as “moving over”; and this could not have been said unless something had already been mentioned over which thy Spirit could be understood as “moving”? For he did not “move over” the Father and the Son, and he could not properly be said to be “moving over” if he were “moving over” nothing. Thus, what it was he was “moving over” had to be mentioned first and he whom it was not proper to mention otherwise than as “moving over” could then be mentioned. But why was it not fitting that he should have been introduced in some other way than in this context of “moving over’’?

CHAPTER VII


8. Now let him who is able follow thy apostle with his understanding when he says, “Thy love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us”515 and who teacheth us about spiritual gifts516 and showeth us a more excellent way of love; and who bows his knee unto thee for us, that we may come to the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ.517 Thus, from the beginning, he who is above all was “moving over” the waters.

To whom shall I tell this? How can I speak of the weight of concupiscence which drags us downward into the deep abyss, and of the love which lifts us up by thy Spirit who moved over the waters? To whom shall I tell this? How shall I tell it? For concupiscence and love are not certain “places” into which we are plunged and out of which we are lifted again. What could be more like, and yet what more unlike? They are both feelings; they are both loves. The uncleanness of our own spirit flows downward with the love of worldly care; and the sanctity of thy Spirit raises us upward by the love of release from anxiety--that we may lift our hearts to thee where thy Spirit is “moving over the waters.” Thus, we shall have come to that supreme rest where our souls shall have passed through the waters which give no standing ground.518

CHAPTER VIII
9. The angels fell, and the soul of man fell; thus they indicate to us the deep darkness of the abyss, which would have still contained the whole spiritual creation if thou hadst not said, in the beginning, “Let there be light: and there was light”--and if every obedient mind in thy heavenly city had not adhered to thee and had not reposed in thy Spirit, which moved immutable over all things mutable. Otherwise, even the heaven of heavens itself would have been a dark shadow, instead of being, as it is now, light in the Lord.519 For even in the restless misery of the fallen spirits, who exhibit their own darkness when they are stripped of the garments of thy light, thou showest clearly how noble thou didst make the rational creation, for whose rest and beatitude nothing suffices save thee thyself. And certainly it is not itself sufficient for its beatitude. For it is thou, O our God, who wilt enlighten our darkness; from thee shall come our garments of light; and then our darkness shall be as the noonday. Give thyself to me, O my God, restore thyself to me! See, I love thee; and if it be too little, let me love thee still more strongly. I cannot measure my love so that I may come to know how much there is still lacking in me before my life can run to thy embrace and not be turned away until it is hidden in “the covert of thy presence.”520 Only this I know, that my existence is my woe except in thee--not only in my outward life, but also within my inmost self--and all abundance I have which is not my God is poverty.

CHAPTER IX


10. But was neither the Father nor the Son “moving over the waters”? If we understand this as a motion in space, as a body moves, then not even the Holy Spirit “moved.” But if we understand the changeless supereminence of the divine Being above every changeable thing, then Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “moved over the waters.”

Why, then, is this said of thy Spirit alone? Why is it said of him only--as if he had been in a “place” that is not a place--about whom alone it is written, “He is thy gift”? It is in thy gift that we rest. It is there that we enjoy thee. Our rest is our “place.” Love lifts us up toward that place, and thy good Spirit lifts our lowliness from the gates of death.521 Our peace rests in the goodness of will. The body tends toward its own place by its own gravity. A weight does not tend downward only, but moves to its own place. Fire tends upward; a stone tends downward. They are propelled by their own mass; they seek their own places. Oil poured under the water rises above the water; water poured on oil sinks under the oil. They are moved by their own mass; they seek their own places. If they are out of order, they are restless; when their order is restored, they are at rest. My weight is my love. By it I am carried wherever I am carried. By thy gift,522 we are enkindled and are carried upward. We burn inwardly and move forward. We ascend thy ladder which is in our heart, and we sing a canticle of degrees523; we glow inwardly with thy fire--with thy good fire524--and we go forward because we go up to the peace of Jerusalem525; for I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”526 There thy good pleasure will settle us so that we will desire nothing more than to dwell there forever.527

CHAPTER X
11. Happy would be that creature who, though it was in itself other than thou, still had known no other state than this from the time it was made, so that it was never without thy gift which moves over everything mutable--who had been borne up by the call in which thou saidst, “Let there be light: and there was light.”528 For in us there is a distinction between the time when we were darkness and the time when we were made light. But we are not told what would have been the case with that creature if the light had not been made. It is spoken of as though there had been something of flux and darkness in it beforehand so that the cause by which it was made to be otherwise might be evident. This is to say, by being turned to the unfailing Light it might become light. Let him who is able understand this; and let him who is not ask of thee. Why trouble me, as if I could “enlighten every man that comes into the world”529?

CHAPTER XI


12. Who can understand the omnipotent Trinity? And yet who does not speak about it, if indeed it is of it that he speaks? Rare is the soul who, when he speaks of it, also knows of what he speaks. And men contend and strive, but no man sees the vision of it without peace.

I could wish that men would consider three things which are within themselves. These three things are quite different from the Trinity, but I mention them in order that men may exercise their minds and test themselves and come to realize how different from it they are.530

The three things I speak of are: to be, to know, and to will. For I am, and I know, and I will. I am a knowing and a willing being; I know that I am and that I will; and I will to be and to know. In these three functions, therefore, let him who can see how integral a life is; for there is one life, one mind, one essence. Finally, the distinction does not separate the things, and yet it is a distinction. Surely a man has this distinction before his mind; let him look into himself and see, and tell me. But when he discovers and can say anything about any one of these, let him not think that he has thereby discovered what is immutable above them all, which is immutably and knows immutably and wills immutably. But whether there is a Trinity there because these three functions exist in the one God, or whether all three are in each Person so that they are each threefold, or whether both these notions are true and, in some mysterious manner, the Infinite is in itself its own Selfsame object--at once one and many, so that by itself it is and knows itself and suffices to itself without change, so that the Selfsame is the abundant magnitude of its Unity--who can readily conceive? Who can in any fashion express it plainly? Who can in any way rashly make a pronouncement about it?

CHAPTER XII


13. Go forward in your confession, O my faith; say to the Lord your God, “Holy, holy, holy, O Lord my God, in thy name we have been baptized, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” In thy name we baptize, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For among us also God in his Christ made “heaven and earth,” namely, the spiritual and carnal members of his Church. And true it is that before it received “the form of doctrine,” our “earth”531 was “invisible and unformed,” and we were covered with the darkness of our ignorance; for thou dost correct man for his iniquity,532 and “thy judgments are a great abyss.”533 But because thy Spirit was moving over these waters, thy mercy did not forsake our wretchedness, and thou saidst, “Let there be light; repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”534 Repent, and let there be light. Because our soul was troubled within us, we remembered thee, O Lord, from the land of Jordan, and from the mountain535--and as we became displeased with our darkness we turned to thee, “and there was light.” And behold, we were heretofore in darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.536

CHAPTER XIII


14. But even so, we still live by faith and not by sight, for we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope. Thus far deep calls unto deep, but now in “the noise of thy waterfalls.”537 And thus far he who said, “I could not speak to you as if you were spiritual ones, but only as if you were carnal”538--thus far even he does not count himself to have apprehended, but forgetting the things that are behind and reaching forth to the things that are before, he presses on to those things that are ahead,539 and he groans under his burden and his soul thirsts after the living God as the stag pants for the water brooks,540 and says, “When shall I come?”541--“desiring to be further clothed by his house which is from heaven.”542 And he called to this lower deep, saying, “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”543 And “be not children in understanding, although in malice be children,” in order that “in understanding you may become perfect.”544 “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?”545 But this is not now only in his own voice but in thy voice, who sent thy Spirit from above through Him who both “ascended up on high”546 and opened up the floodgates of his gifts, that the force of his streams might make glad the city of God.547

For that city and for him sighs the Bridegroom’s friend,548 who has now the first fruits of the Spirit laid up with him, but who is still groaning within himself and waiting for adoption, that is, the redemption of his body.549 To Him he sighs, for he is a member of the Bride550; for him he is jealous, not for himself, but because not in his own voice but in the voice of thy waterfalls he calls on that other deep, of which he is jealous and in fear; for he fears lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his subtlety, his mind should be corrupted from the purity which is in our Bridegroom, thy only Son. What a light of beauty that will be when “we shall see him as he is”551!--and when these tears shall pass away which “have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, ‘Where is your God?’”552

CHAPTER XIV
15. And I myself say: “O my God, where art thou? See now, where art thou?” In thee I take my breath for a little while, when I pour out my soul beyond myself in the voice of joy and praise, in the voice of him that keeps holyday.553 And still it is cast down because it relapses and becomes an abyss, or rather it feels that it still is an abyss. My faith speaks to my soul--the faith that thou dost kindle to light my path in the night: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted in me? Hope in God.”554 For his word is a lamp to your feet.555 Hope and persevere until the night passes--that mother of the wicked; until the Lord’s wrath subsides--that wrath whose children once we were, of whom we were beforehand in darkness, whose residue we still bear about us in our bodies, dead because of sin.556 Hope and endure until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.557 Hope in the Lord: in the morning I shall stand in his presence and keep watch558; I shall forever give praise to him. In the morning I shall stand and shall see my God, who is the health of my countenance,559 who also will quicken our mortal bodies by the Spirit that dwells in us,560 because in mercy he was moving over our lightless and restless inner deep. From this we have received an earnest, even now in this pilgrimage, that we are now in the light, since already we are saved by hope and are children of the light and children of the day--not children of the night, nor of the darkness,561 which we have been hitherto. Between those children of the night and ourselves, in this still uncertain state of human knowledge, only thou canst rightly distinguish--thou who dost test the heart and who dost call the light day, and the darkness night.562 For who can see us clearly but thee? What do we have that we have not received from thee, who madest from the same lump some vessels to noble, and others to ignoble, use563?

CHAPTER XV


16. Now who but thee, our God, didst make for us that firmament of the authority of thy divine Scripture to be over us? For “the heaven shall be folded up like a scroll”564; but now it is stretched over us like a skin. Thy divine Scripture is of more sublime authority now that those mortal men through whom thou didst dispense it to us have departed this life. And thou knowest, O Lord, thou knowest how thou didst clothe men with skins when they became mortal because of sin.565 In something of the same way, thou hast stretched out the firmament of thy Book as a skin--that is to say, thou hast spread thy harmonious words over us through the ministry of mortal men. For by their very death that solid firmament of authority in thy sayings, spoken forth by them, stretches high over all that now drift under it; whereas while they lived on earth their authority was not so widely extended. Then thou hadst not yet spread out the heaven like a skin; thou hadst not yet spread abroad everywhere the fame of their death.

17. Let us see, O Lord, “the heavens, the work of thy fingers,”566 and clear away from our eyes the fog with which thou hast covered them. In them567 is that testimony of thine which gives wisdom even to the little ones. O my God, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, perfect thy praise.568 For we know no other books that so destroy man’s pride, that so break down the adversary and the self-defender who resists thy reconciliation by an effort to justify his own sins. I do not know, O Lord, I do not know any other such pure words that so persuade me to confession and make my neck submissive to thy yoke, and invite me to serve thee for nothing else than thy own sake. Let me understand these things, O good Father. Grant this to me, since I am placed under them; for thou hast established these things for those placed under them.

18. There are other waters that are above this firmament, and I believe that they are immortal and removed from earthly corruption. Let them praise thy name--this super-celestial society, thy angels, who have no need to look up at this firmament or to gain a knowledge of thy Word by reading it--let them praise thee. For they always behold thy face and read therein, without any syllables in time, what thy eternal will intends. They read, they choose, they love.569 They are always reading, and what they read never passes away. For by choosing and by loving they read the very immutability of thy counsel. Their book is never closed, nor is the scroll folded up, because thou thyself art this to them, and art this to them eternally; because thou didst range them above this firmament which thou madest firm over the infirmities of the people below the heavens, where they might look up and learn thy mercy, which proclaims in time thee who madest all times. “For thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and thy faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”570 The clouds pass away, but the heavens remain. The preachers of thy Word pass away from this life into another; but thy Scripture is spread abroad over the people, even to the end of the world. Indeed, both heaven and earth shall pass away, but thy words shall never pass away.571 The scroll shall be rolled together, and the “grass” over which it was spread shall, with all its goodliness, pass away; but thy Word remains forever572--thy Word which now appears to us in the dark image of the clouds and through the glass of heaven, and not as it really is. And even if we are the well-beloved of thy Son, it has not yet appeared what we shall be.573 He hath seen us through the entanglement574 of our flesh, and he is fair-speaking, and he hath enkindled us, and we run after his fragrance.575 But “when he shall appear, then we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’’576 As he is, O Lord, we shall see him--although that time is not yet.

CHAPTER XVI


19. For just as thou art the utterly Real, thou alone dost fully know, since thou art immutably, and thou knowest immutably, and thou willest immutably. And thy Essence knows and wills immutably. Thy Knowledge is and wills immutably. Thy Will is and knows immutably. And it does not seem right to thee that the immutable Light should be known by the enlightened but mutable creature in the same way as it knows itself. Therefore, to thee my soul is as a land where no water is577; for, just as it cannot enlighten itself by itself, so it cannot satisfy itself by itself. Thus the fountain of life is with thee, and “in thy light shall we see light.”578

CHAPTER XVII


20. Who has gathered the “embittered ones”579 into a single society? For they all have the same end, which is temporal and earthly happiness. This is their motive for doing everything, although they may fluctuate within an innumerable diversity of concerns. Who but thee, O Lord, gathered them together, thou who saidst, “Let the waters be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear”--athirst for thee? For the sea also is thine, and thou madest it, and thy hands formed the dry land.580 For it is not the bitterness of men’s wills but the gathering together of the waters which is called “the sea”; yet thou dost curb the wicked lusts of men’s souls and fix their bounds: how far they are allowed to advance, and where their waves will be broken against each other--and thus thou makest it “a sea,” by the providence of thy governance of all things.

21. But as for the souls that thirst after thee and who appear before thee--separated from “the society of the [bitter] sea” by reason of their different ends--thou waterest them by a secret and sweet spring, so that “the earth” may bring forth her fruit and--thou, O Lord, commanding it--our souls may bud forth in works of mercy after their kind.581 Thus we shall love our neighbor in ministering to his bodily needs, for in this way the soul has seed in itself after its kind when in our own infirmity our compassion reaches out to the relief of the needy, helping them even as we would desire to be helped ourselves if we were in similar need. Thus we help, not only in easy problems (as is signified by “the herb yielding its seed”) but also in the offering of our best strength in affording them the aid of protection (such as “the tree bearing its fruit”). This is to say, we seek to rescue him who is suffering injury from the hands of the powerful--furnishing him with the sheltering protection which comes from the strong arm of a righteous judgment.582

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