Hello everyone and welcome to today’s discussion of Confessions by St. Augustine and the first ever read for the Quarterly Classics Club! In case you aren’t sure of the who, what and whys of Augustine, here’s a quick description of what Confessions is all about:
The son of a pagan father and a Christian mother, Saint Augustine spent his early years torn between conflicting faiths and world views. His Confessions, written when he was in his forties, recount how, slowly and painfully, he came to turn away from his youthful ideas and licentious lifestyle, to become instead a staunch advocate of Christianity and one of its most influential thinkers. A remarkably honest and revealing spiritual autobiography, the Confessions also address fundamental issues of Christian doctrine, and many of the prayers and meditations it includes are still an integral part of the practice of Christianity today.
I also need to give a big shout out to Wesley for taking care of the bulk of this discussion. She’s awesome and y’all should be her friend! Also, scholar here wasn’t aware that there was a version without the thee/thous and so you’ll be able to guess my quotes – haha!
Here’s from Wesley:
For my part I was pleasantly surprised by how readable this book was for me. I started reading a translation that was all “thees” and “thous” and I didn’t get very far. So I picked up the translation that was sitting on my shelf from a purchase at Barnes and Noble at least 5 years ago and settled into that “thee and thou free” translation.
This book is infinitely quotable. The great little tidbits seemed like mini prayers to me and I think that’s the first time I’ve ever had that while reading a religious book. It wouldn’t be a book discussion of Jamie’s without a slew of quotes so here are some of my favorites:
“Restless is our heart until it comes to rest in you”. (1.1.1)
“Let me come to love you wholly, and grasp your hand with my whole heart so that you may deliver me from every temptation, until the very last” (1.15.24)
“Lord our God, under the shadow of your wings let us hope- defend us and support us.” (4.16.31)
I agree with Wesley – I could probably just post the whole book and say ALL OF THIS! But instead, I’ll leave a couple quotes as well:
The very first sentence breaks it down: “Can any praise be worthy of the Lord’s majesty? How magnificent His strength! How inscrutable His wisdom!”
“For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? Most highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong, stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, and they know it not; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having all things.”
“Those who look for the Lord will cry out in praise of him, because all who look for him shall find him, and when they find him they will praise him.”
“What other refuge can there be, except our God?”
Alright! So have y’all read this one? We’d love for you to join in! Here’s some questions to get things going:
1. What are some of your favorite quotes? Oh I know, so many to pick from.
2. Do you think that a book written somewhere in the 400 A.D. is still relevant to how we live today?
Wesley: I think it’s still incredibly relevant. Actually I was laughing while I read a few of the parts because so little has changed. Doing bad things just because we want to, rebelling against our parents, etc. etc. We are not snowflakes, the pattern for human behavior is sometimes laughably predictable.
Jamie: I agree with Wesley – there’s some things that never change – and the human heart is definitely one of them!
3. Do you think Augustine is more easily relatable because he isn’t a poster-boy of perfection?
Wesley: There are many religious figure that start off outside of the faith and then find their way into the fold and that’s always a relief for me. God can work through and with anyone.
Jamie: I think he’s another incredible example of the power of Jesus to work in any way. The Prodigal Son story never gets old for me.
4. Were there any surprises for you in this book?
Wesley: I didn’t know very much about St Augustine, but was surprised that he had a child.
Jamie: I read Confessions of X, which was about the woman he loved, recently, so I learned quite a bit about him from that book (If you enjoy historical fiction, I definitely recommend that one!)
5. Did your experience with this book make you want to read some of his other works (“City of God”, etc.)?
Wesley: I absolutely want to read more of his stuff!
Jamie: Count me in too! Things are so much better when translated into modern English. 🙂
P.S. If interested in reading Classics occasionally, let me know and I’ll keep you in the loop! I think next will be Dracula. I haven’t read it in years and it’s one of my top 5 books, so I think it’s time for a re-read! Also, it’s probably not all you expect, so give it a shot if you haven’t yet!