Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 30 (God, Grant us Rest and Peace!)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 30 (God, Grant us Rest and Peace!)

In the past 30 days (our initial rereading began in July), we have been rereading and meditating upon Confessions (ca.397- ca. 401) by Aurelius Augustinus (ca.354- ca. 430), which he wrote in Latin. Many thinkers and scholars, both Christian and non-Christian, have argued that Confessions is the most important intellectual work and spiritual autobiography ever written in Christian history and Western history of literature. Technically, Confessions is the most important work in African Christianity and African literary and intellectual production, as its author was not Western, but African, and was born in Africa, not in Europe. Augustine was born in the small town of Tagaste, Numidia (Libya in Northern Africa) in 354 to a mixed racial family and grew up in an ethnically diverse environment; his African Christian mother Monica was of the Berber background (She is the most important human character in Augustine’s autobiography); his father Patricius (Patrick) was one of the representatives of Roman authority in the African town of Tagaste. He attended went school in Madaura and later in Carthage.

Augustine served as an instructor of rhetoric at Carthage (ca. 376-83), Rome, (383-4), and then at Milan (384-6). He was an excellent theologian, and a brilliant prolific writer in the footsteps of his African theological predecessors (“Church fathers”) Tertullian and Athanasius. He attended school in Madaura and later in Carthage. In 391, he was ordained as a priest and presided as Bishop of Hippo and over the African provinces there. Augustine was the greatest (African) Christian theologian in the history of Christianity.

Among his most influential works include the City of God (De civitate Dei) (412-426), Against the Skeptics (Contra Academicos (387), On the Immortality of the Soul (De immortalitate anima (387), On Free Will (De libero arbitrio) (388), On True Religion (De vera religione), On Christian Discipline (De disciplina Christiana) (398), Confessions (Confessiones) (397-401), On Baptism (400), On Nature and Grace (De natura et gratia), On The Trinity (De Trinatate) (415-420), The Predestination of the Saints (428), The Gift of Perseverance (429). Following Tertullian’s theological logic on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, Augustine brings greater clarity, with theological force and intellectual brilliance, to expound on the nature of the divine life and the interconnecting actions and interdependent movements of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

In his masterpiece, The City of God, Augustine articulates cogently a theological and philosophical vision of human history–one that puts God at the center of human history; thus, global history is theocentric for Augustine–God’s eschatological plan for human destiny, and the rapport between God and his creation. He explained the fall of the Roman Empire as the result of the overwhelmingly polytheistic culture and moral bankruptcy, and the refusal of the Romans to worship and give honor to the true and eternal God. Augustine believed that the fall of the Roman Empire was part of the divine providence and God’s plan of human history. In other words, God had acted negatively toward the Empire because of its moral and theological shortcomings, as well as the problems of balancing justice and equality between the citizens. Overall, for Saint Augustine, Rome fell because of a tremendous politico-theological failure. Augustine’s philosophy of history has had a significant impact on medieval European historians, writers, and philosophers, especially in the way they perceived and articulated the place of Europe in global history: both on the sacred and secular level. As a work of intellectual and philosophical history, in The City of God, Augustine articulates a unified understating of global history that would shape European medieval history and define the West’s sense of itself in the economy and providence of God.

It is from this perspective, I am pleased to share with you the final meditation on the Confessions; the words that I reproduce in the paragraphs below are Augustine’s final words or prayer, which he wrote on the last page of his spiritual autobiography.

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 30 (God, Grant us Rest and Peace!)

“O Lord God grant us peace, for all that we have is your gift. Grant us the peace of repose, the peace of the Sabbath, the peace which has no evening. For this worldly order in all its beauty will pass away. All these things that are very good will come to an end when the limit of their existence is reached. They have been allotted their morning and their evening.

But the seventh day is without evening and the sun shall not set upon it, for you have sanctified it and willed that it shall last forever. Although your eternal repose was unbroken by the fact of creation, nevertheless, after all your works were done and you had seen that they were very good, you rested on the seventh day. And in your Book we read this as a presage that when our work in this life is done, we too shall rest in you in the Sabbath of eternal life, though our works are very good only because you have given us the grace to perform them.

In that eternal Sabbath you will rest in us, just as now you work in us. The rest that we shall enjoy will be yours, just as the work that we now do is your work done through us. But you, O Lord, are eternally at work and eternally at rest. It is not in time that you see or in time that you move or in time that you rest: yet you make what we see in time; you make time itself and the repose which comes when time ceases.

We see the things which you have made, because they exist. But they only exist because you see them. Outside ourselves we see that they exist, and in our inner selves we see that they are good. But when you saw that it was right that they should be made, in the same act you saw them made.

It was only after a lapse of time that we were impelled to do good, that is, after our hearts had received the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Before then our impulse was to do wrong, because we had deserted you. But you, who are the one God, the good God, have never ceased to do good. By the gift of your grace some of the works that we do are good, but they are not everlasting. After them we hope that we shall find rest, when you admit us to the great holiness of your presence. But you are Goodness itself and need no good besides yourself. You are for ever at rest, because you are your own repose.

What man can teach another to understand this truth? What angel can teach it to an angel? What angel can teach it to a man? We must ask it of you, seek it in you; we must knock at your door. Only then shall we receive what we ask and find what we seek; only then will the door be opened to us.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 29 (Representational Hermeneutics: The Spiritual Truths Revealed in the Created Order)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 29 (Representational Hermeneutics: The Spiritual Truths Revealed in the Created Order)

“I have also considered what spiritual truths you intended to be expressed by the order in which the world was created and the order in which the creation is described. I have seen that while each single one of your works is good, collectively they are very good, and that heaven and earth, which represent the Head and the body of the Church, were predestined in your Word, that is, in your only begotten Son, before all time began, when there was no morning and no evening.

But then you began to enact in time all that you had predestined in eternity, for it was your purpose to reveal what had been hidden and to introduce order where disorder reigned. For we were overwhelmed by our sins; we had fallen away from you into the depths of darkness, and your good Spirit was moving over us, ready to bring help when the time was due. You made just men of sinners and set them apart from the wicked; you established the authority of your Book between those above, who would be obedient to you, and those beneath, who would be made subject to them; and you gathered all the faithless together into one body, so that the earnest devotion of the faithful might be clearly seen and they might bear you fruit in works of mercy, by distributing their worldly wealth to the poor in order to acquire heavenly riches for themselves. Next you set special light to burn the firmament. These were your saints, who are possessed of the word that gives life. In them these shines the sublimed authority that is conferred upon them by their spiritual gifts.

After this, from corporeal matter, you produced sacraments, miracles that men could see, and voices to carry your message according to the firmament of your Book. These were meant for the initiation of unbelievers and also for the blessing of the faithful. Next you formed the living soul of the faithful, the soul that lives because it has learnt to control its passions by unremitting continence. Then you took man’s mind, which is subject to none but you and needs to imitate no human authority and renewed it in your own image and likeness. You made rational action subject to the rule of the intellect, as woman is subject to man, and since your ministers are needed for the perfection of the faithful in this life, you willed that the faithful, by providing them with what they need for temporary use, should good works that would bear fruit in the future life.

All these works of yours we see. We see that together they are very good, because it is you who see them in us and it was you who gave us the Spirit by which we see them and love you in them.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 28 (God and the Power of Human Memory)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 28 (God and the Power of Human Memory)

“When I am told that it is possible to ask three kinds of question—whether a thing is, what it is, and of what sort it is—I retain images of the sounds of which these words are composed. I know that the sounds have passed through the air and now are no more. But the facts which they represent have not reached me through any of my bodily senses. I could not see them at all except in my mind, and it is not their images that I store in my memory but the facts themselves. But they must themselves tell me, if they can, by what means they entered my mind. For I can run through all the organs of sense, which are the body’s gateways to the mind, but I cannot find any by which these facts could have tended. My eyes tell me ‘If they have colour, we reported them.’ My ears say, ‘If they have sound, it was we who gave notice of them.’ My nose says ‘If they have any smell, it was through me that they have passed into the mind.’ The sense of taste says, ‘If they have no taste, do not put your question to me.’ The sense of touch says ‘If it is not a body, I did not touch it, and If I did not touch it, I had no message to transmit.’

How, then, did these facts get into my memory? Where did they come from? I do not know. When I learned them, I did not believe them with another man’s mind. It was my own mind which recognized them and admitted that they were true. I entrusted them to my own mind as though it were a place of storage from which I could produce them at will. Therefore, they must have been in my mind even before I learned them, though not present to my memory. Then whereabouts in my mind were they? How was it that I recognized them when they were mentioned and agreed that they were true? It must have been that they were already in my memory, hidden away in its deep recesses, in so remote a part of it that I might not have been able to think of them at all, if some other person had not brought them to the fore by teaching me about them.

The memory also contains the innumerable principles and laws of numbers and dimensions. None of these can have been conveyed to it by means of the bodily senses, because they cannot be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched. I have heard the sounds of the words by which their meaning is expressed when they are discussed, but the words are one thing and the principles another. The words may sometimes be spoken in Latin and at other times in Greek, but the principles are neither Greek nor Latin. They are not language at all. I have seen lines drawn by architects, and they are sometimes as fine as the thread spun by spiders. But these principles are different. They are not images of things which the eye of my body has reported to me. We know them simply bye recognizing them inside ourselves without reference to any material object. With all the senses of my body I have become aware of numbers as they are used in counting things. But the principle of number, by which we count, is not the same. But the principle of number, by which we count, is not the same. It is not an image of things we count, but something which is there in its own right. If anyone is blind to it, he may laugh may words: I shall pity him for his ridicule.

The power of the memory is great, O Lord. It is awe-inspiring in its profound and incalculable complexity. Yet is it my mind: it is my self. What, then, am I, my God? What is my nature? A life that is every varying, full of change, and of immense power. The wide plains of my memory and its innumerable caverns and hollows are full beyond compute of countless things of all kinds. Material things are there by means of their images; knowledge is there of itself; emotions are there in the form of ideas or impressions of some kind, for the memory retains them even while the mind does not experience them, although whatever is in the memory must also be in the mind. My mind has the freedom of them all. I can glide from one to the other. I can probe deep into them and never find the end of them. This is the power of memory! This is the great force of life in living man, mortal though he is!

My God, my true Life, what, then, am I to do? I shall go beyond this force that is in me, this force which we call memory, so that I may come to you, my Sweetness and my Light. What have you to say to me? You are always there above me, and as I rise up towards you in my mind, I shall go beyond even this force which is in me, this force which we call memory, longing to reach out to you by the only possible means and to cling to you in the only way in which it is possible to cling to you. For beasts and birds also have memory: otherwise they could never find their lairs or nets or the many other things which are part of their habitual life. In fact, they could have no habits at all if it were not for their memory. So, I must go beyond memory too, if I am to reach the God who made me different from the beasts that walk on the earth and wiser than the birds that fly in the air. I must pass beyond memory to find you, my true Good, my sure Sweetness. But where will the search lead me? Where am I to find you? If I find you beyond my memory, it means that I have no memory of you. How, then, am I to find you, if I have no memory of you?”

Happy Bwa Kayiman Day (August 14, 1791)! “The Politics of God and the Imperative of Black Freedom: God, Dutty Boukman, and the Bois Caiman Event”

Happy Bwa Kayiman Day!

“The Politics of God and the Imperative of Black Freedom: God, Dutty Boukman, and the Bois Caiman Event”

For many Haitian and Haitianist historians, August 14 is one of the most memorable and significant events in human history and in Haiti’s national history. As many have reported, on August 14, 1791, the enslaved African population in the French colony at Saint-Domingue (known as Haiti today) met at a place called Bois Caiman, located a few miles outside of the city of Cap-Haitien (Northern Haiti) for a religious and political conference that would lead to five most important and transformative events in the Western world: 1) the abolition of slavery, 2) the end of white supremacy in the colony, 3) the end of European colonization at Saint-Domingue, 4) the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), and 5) the founding of the Republic of Haiti. To commemorate this watershed event in the history of anti-slavery movements, human rights, and universal emancipation, in June 2011, I published a major article on the subject matter; you can access the article for free online (PDF version) by clicking on the link below:

“The Rhetoric of Prayer: Dutty Boukman, The Discourse of “Freedom from Below,” and the Politics of God,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion 2:9 (June 2011):1-33.

Click to access Joseph%202%209.pdf

Do let me know what you think!

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 27 (Creation and the Creator)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 27 (Creation and the Creator)

“Your works proclaim your glory, and because of this we love you; and it is in our love for you that they proclaim your glory.

They have their beginning and their end in time, their rising and their setting, their progress and decline, their beauty and defect. So it is that they pass in due course through morning and their evening, in part hidden from our sight, in part plainly to be seen. For you created them from nothing, not from your own substance or from some matrer not created by yourself or already in existence, but from some matter you created at one and the same time as the things that you made from it, since there was no interval of time before you gave form to this formless matter.

For the matter of heaven and earth is one thing, their form another. You created the matter from absolutely nothing and the form of the world from this formless matter. But you created both in one act, so that the form followed upon matter with no interval of delay.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 26 (The God who Commands: He is the Common Good of all)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 26 (The God who Commands: He is the Common Good of all)

“Can it ever, at any time or place, be unrighteous for a man to love God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind; and his neighbor as himself? Similarly, offenses against nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in detestation and should be punished. Such offenses, for example, were those of the Sodomites; and, even if all nations should commit them, they would all be judged guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which has not made men so that they should ever abuse one another in that way. For the fellowship that should be between God and us is violated whenever that nature of which he is the author is polluted by perverted lust. But these offenses against customary morality are to be avoided according to the variety of such customs. Thus, what is agreed upon by convention, and confirmed by custom or the law of any city or nation, may not be violated at the lawless pleasure of any, whether citizen or stranger. For any part that is not consistent with its whole is unseemly.
Nevertheless, when God commands anything contrary to the customs or compacts of any nation, even thought were never done by them before, it is to be done; and if it has been interrupted, it is to be restored; and if it has never been established, it is to be established. For it is lawful for a king, in the state over which he reigns, to command that which neither he himself nor anyone before him had commanded. And if it cannot be held to be inimical to the public interest to obey him–and, in truth, it would be inimical if he were not obeyed, since obedience to princes is a general compact of human society–how much more, then, ought we unhesitatingly to obey God, the Governor of all his creatures! For, just as among the authorities in human society, the greater authority is obeyed before the lesser, so also must God be above all.

This applies as well to deeds of violence where there is a real desire to harm another, either by humiliating treatment or by injury. Either of these may be done for reasons of revenge, as one enemy against another, or in order to obtain some advantage over another, as in the case of the highwayman and the traveler; else they may be done in order to avoid some other evil, as in the case of one who fears another; or through envy as, for example, an unfortunate man harming a happy one just because he is happy; or they may be done by a prosperous man against someone whom he fears will become equal to himself or whose equality he resents. They may even be done for the mere pleasure in another man’s pain, as the spectators of gladiatorial shows or the people who deride and mock at others. These are the major forms of iniquity that spring out of the lust of the flesh, and of the eye, and of power. Sometimes there is just one; sometimes two together; sometimes all of them at once.

Thus we live, offending against the Three and the Seven, that harp of ten strings, thy Decalogue, O God most high and most sweet. But now how can offenses of vileness harm thee who canst not be defiled; or how can deeds of violence harm thee who canst not be harmed? Still thou dost punish these sins which men commit against themselves because, even when they sin against thee, they are also committing impiety against their own souls. Iniquity gives itself the lie, either by corrupting or by perverting that nature which thou hast made and ordained. And they do this by an immoderate use of lawful things; or by lustful desire for things forbidden, as “against nature”; or when they are guilty of sin by raging with heart and voice against thee, rebelling against thee, “kicking against the pricks”; or when they cast aside respect for human society and take audacious delight in conspiracies and feuds according to their private likes and dislikes. This is what happens whenever thou art forsaken, O Fountain of Life, who art the one and true Creator and Ruler of the universe. This is what happens when through self-willed pride a part is loved under the false assumption that it is the whole. Therefore, we must return to thee in humble piety and let thee purge us from our evil ways and be merciful to those who confess their sins to thee and hear the groanings of the prisoners and loosen us from those fetters which we have forged for ourselves. This thou wilt do, provided we do not raise up against thee the arrogance of a false freedom–for thus we lose all through craving more, by loving our own good more than thee, the common good of all.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 25 (The Literary and Analogical Trinity of God)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 25 (The Literary and Analogical Trinity of God)

When I read that your Spirit moved over the waters, I catch a faint glimpse of the Trinity which you are, my God. For it was you, the Father, who created heaven and earth in the Beginning of our Wisdom – which is your Wisdom, born of you, equal to you, and co-eternal with you – that is, in your Son. I have had much to say of the Heaven of Heavens, of the earth invisible and without form, and of the deep, showing how its darkness was in keeping with the spiritual creation, which, in its formlessness, had no cohesion or stability. Such it would have remained unless, by being turned to God, from whom it already drew such life as it had, it had received beauty as well as life by the reflection of his glory. In this way the Heaven of Heavens came into being, that is, the heaven of the heaven which was later created between the waters above and the waters below. When I spoke of these things, I took the word ‘God’, who made them, to mean the Father and the ‘Beginning’, in which he made them, to mean the Son. But, believing that my God is a Trinity, I searched for this truth in the sacred words of his Scripture and found it where it says that your Spirit moved over the waters. Here, then, is the Trinity, my God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the Creator of all creation.

Did not the Father and the Son also move over the waters? If we think of this as movement in space, as a body moves, we cannot say that even the Holy Spirit moved in this sense. But if we think of it as Divinity, changeless and supreme, moving over all that is mutable, then the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit moved over the waters. Why, then, does Genesis speak only of your Holy Spirit? Why is it only in that case that the Spirit is mentioned as if the Spirit were in a particular place, which of course is not a place at all? We are also told of him alone that he is ‘your free gift’ (Acts 8:20). It is in your Gift that we find our rest. It is in him that we enjoy you. The place where we find rest is the right one for us. To it we are raised by love. To it your Spirit lifts us up, lowly creatures as we are, from ‘the gate of death’. It is in goodness of will that we find our peace.

A body inclines by its own weight towards the place that is fitting for it. Weight does not always tend towards the lowest place, but the one which suits it best, for though a stone falls, flame rises. Each thing acts according to its weight, finding its right level. If oil is poured into water, it rises to the surface, but if water is poured on to oil, it sinks below the oil. This happens because each acts according to its weight, finding its right level. When things are displaced, they are always on the move until they come to rest where they are meant to be. In my case, love is the weight by which I act. To whatever place I go, I am drawn to it by love. By your Gift, the Holy Spirit, we are set aflame and borne aloft, and the fire within us carries us upward. ‘Our hearts are set on an upward journey’ (Ps 83:6 [84:5]), as we sing the ‘song of ascents’ (Ps 119:33 [120:34]). It is your fire, your good fire, that sets us aflame and carries us upward. For our journey leads us upward to the peace of the heavenly Jerusalem; it was a welcome sound when I heard them saying, We will go into the Lord’s house. There, if our will is good, you will find room for us, so that we shall wish for nothing but to remain in your house for ever.

Who can understand the omnipotent Trinity? We all speak of it, though we may not speak of it as it truly is, for rarely does a soul know what it is saying when it speaks of the Trinity. Men wrangle and dispute about it, but it is a vision that is given to none unless they are at peace.

There are three things, all found in man himself, which I should like men to consider. They are far different from the Trinity, but I suggest them as a subject for mental exercise by which we can test ourselves and realize how great this difference is. The three things are existence, knowledge, and will, for I can say that I am, I know, and I will. I am a being which knows and wills; I know both that I am and that I will; and I will both to be and to know. In these three – being, knowledge, and will – there is one inseparable life, one life, one mind, one essence; and therefore, although they are distinct from one another, the distinction does not separate them. This must be plain to anyone who has the ability to understand it. In fact he need not look beyond himself. Let him examine himself closely, take stock, and tell me what he finds.

But when he has found a common principle in these three and has told me what he finds, he must not think that he has discovered that which is above them all and is unchangeable, that which immutably is, immutably knows, and immutably wills. For none of us can easily conceive whether God is a Trinity because all these three – immutable being, immutable knowledge, and immutable will – are together in him; whether all three are together in each person of the Trinity, so that each is threefold; or whether both these suppositions are true and in some wonderful way, in which the simple and the multiple are one, though God is infinite he is yet an end to himself and in himself, so that the Trinity is in itself, and is known to itself, and suffices to itself, the supreme Being, one alone immutably, in the vastness of its unity. This is a mystery that none can explain, and which of us would presume to assert that he can?”

“African Concept of Time and History”

“African Concept of Time and History”

One of the reasons I like reading African writers and thinkers, especially those who are interested in instructioning the reader about African traditional culture, is not only to understand (Sub-Saharan Africa) African traditional culture and cosmology; studying African indigenous way of life, way of thinking, and way of being in the world, has helped me to understand the connections between Africa and the African Diaspora, as well as the African remnants and practices in the Caribbean, especially in Haiti. I’m interested both in roots and routes, ancestral identity and affiliation and syncretic cultures formed in the so-called New World. For example, let us consider the concept of time and history in (Sub-Saharan Africa) African traditional culture; people in the Caribbean and African American people will be able to relate to both ideas and practices.

“The traditional African understanding of time differs from the Western understanding of time. This has caused many understandings. Westerners have even complained that Africans have no concept of time, but this is not the case. Time for us is not a matter of ‘chronometric exactitude,’ nearly segmented into hours, seconds and minutes. So when scheduling an event, we focus on the event itself rather than on its exact duration. The social interactions that occur because of the event are seen as more important than when exactly the event starts and ends. As in all things African, what is most important is the building of rrelationships.

When it comes to understanding of the past, present and future, some traditional African thought is two-dimensional: it acknowledges a long past and a present, but no future. For others, the future exists but is merely a continuation of the present, so that it can be referred to as the potential present. The Western concept of time as linear, with an indefinite past, a present, and an indefinite future does not exist in traditional thought.

The idea of history progressing towards an ultimate goal is absent in African thinking. The universe was brought by the Supreme Being ‘in order to function according to regular patterns, rhythms and movements… As long as man maintains his proper relations with fellow men and with nature, the universe will continue as it has always done, unless of course, God chooses to change the course of events. The future is understood as an extension of the present, and so those who live wisely in the present will be guaranteed a prosperous tomorrow. However, those who live unwisely, are sure to face the consequences of their choices in the near future.

The event-based concept of time is still very real in Africa today. While one might expect that urban Africa would be different, this is not the case. Instead, we live with a divided or dichotomized view of time. In a professional environment, we value chronological time and so show up on time for work; in a social environment, we are hapoy to interact with people regardless of how long the event takes. It does not matter whether a social event begins ‘on time’ because we expect delays. The time spent waiting is not wasted because it provides an opportunity for valuable interactions and building relationships with others attending the event.”

–Elizabeth Mburu, “African Hermeneutics” (2019)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 24 (The God Who Makes both Men and Women Feel Special!)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 24 (The God Who Makes both Men and Women Feel Special!)

“I call upon you, O God, my Mercy, who made me and did not forget me when I forgot you. I call you to come into my soul, for by inspiring it to long for you you prepare it to receive you. Now, as I call upon you, do not desert me, for you came to my aid even before I called upon you. In all sorts of ways, over and over again, when I was far from you, you coaxed me to listen to your voice, to turn my back on you no more, and to call upon you for aid when, all the time, you were calling to me yourself. You blotted out all my evil deeds, in other not to repay me with the punishment I deserved for the work of my hands, which had led me away from you; and even before I did them, you took into account all the good deeds by which I should deserve well of you, in order to recompense yourself for the work of your hands which made me. For before I was, you were: I was nothing, that you should give me being. Yet now I am; and this is because out of your goodness you provided for all that you have made and all from which you have made me.

You had no need of me, nor am I a creature good in such a way as to be helpful to you, my Lord and my God. It is not as though you could grow tired by working and I could serve you by preventing your fatigue, nor would your power be any the less if my service were lacking. I cannot serve you as a peasant tills the land, for your works bear fruit even if I fail to serve you with my husbandry. I can only serve you and worship you so that good may come to me from you, and but for you no good could come to me, for I should not even exist to retrieve it.

It is from the abundance of your goodness that your creation subsists, for you do not withheld existed from good which neither benefits you nor is of your own substance and therefore equal to you, but exists simply because it can derive its being from you.”

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 23 (Toward the Quest for True Happiness and Joy, and Truth)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 23 (Toward the Quest for True Happiness and Joy, and Truth)

“O Lord, far be it from the heart of your servant who confesses to you, far be it from me to think that whatever joy I feel makes me truly happy. For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you, but only to those who love you for your own sake. You yourself are their joy. Happiness is to rejoice in you and for you and because of you. This is true happiness and there is no other. Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy. Yet their minds are set upon something akin to joy.

We cannot therefore be certain that all men desire true happiness, because there are some who do not look for joy in you; and since to rejoice in you is the only true happiness, we must conclude that they do not desire true happiness. It may be that all men do desire to be happy, but because the impulses of nature and the impulses of the spirit are at war with one another, so that they cannot do all that their will approves, they fall back upon what they are able to do and find contement in this way. For their will to do what they cannot do is not strong enough to enable them to do it. If I ask them whether they prefer truth or falsehood as the foundation of their joy, they all reply that they would choose truth, and they say this as unhesitatingly as they say that they wish to be happy. True happiness is to rejoice in the truth, for to rejoice in the truth is to rejoice in you, O God, who are the Truth, you, my God, my true Light, to whom I look for salvation. This is the happiness that all desire. All desire this, the only true state of happiness.

All desire to rejoice in truth. I have known many men who wished to deceive, but none who wished to be deceived. Where did they learn the meaning of happiness unless it was where they learned the meaning of truth? For they love truth, since they do not like to be deceived, and when they love happiness—which is the same as to rejoice in truth—they must love truth also. But they could not love it unless they had some knowledge of it in their memory. Why, then, do they not take joy in it? Why are they not happy? It is because they attend far more closely to other things whose power to make them unhappy is greater than the power of their dim memory of truth to make them happy. There is still a faint glow of light in man. Let him walk on, for fear that darkness may engulf him.

But why does truth engender hatred? Why does your servant meet with hostility when he preaches the truth, although men love happiness, which is simply the enjoyment of truth? It can only be that man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place. Men love the truth when it bathes them in its light: they hate it when it proves them wrong. Because they hate to be deceived themselves, but are glad if they can deceive others, they love the truth when it is revealed to them but hate it when it reveals that they are wrong. They reap their just reward, for those who do not wish to stand condemned by the truth find themselves unmasked against their will and also find that truth is denied to them.

This is precisely the behavior of the human mind. In its blind inertia, in its abject shame, it loves to lie concealed, yet it wished that nothing should be concealed from it. Its reward is just the opposite of its desire, for it cannot conceal itself from the truth, but truth remains hidden from it. Yet even in this wretched state it would still rather find joy in truth than in falsehood. One day, then, it shall be happy, if it learns to ignore all that distracts it and to rejoice in truth, the sole Truth by which all else true.”