Friday, March 4, 2011

Sarah has a New Favorite Book

I just finished reading The Confessions of St. Augustine.  It's a Modern English translation, so it's not difficult to follow at all.

Wow.  "I am swallowed by this ocean, yet not crushed."

Confessions is not a list of sins.  It's a love song.  It is a long, narrated love song of the soul, in the form of an extended monologue of Augustine to God. Augustine describes his soul's journey to God from his unfaithful youth to his conversion, and his prose blows me away.

O Lord our God, under the shadow of Your wings let us hope in Your custody. 
Carry us when we are little. Bear us when our hair is white and we cry out in infirmity. 
When You grasp us, the grip is firm.  When we try to sustain ourselves, the grasp is feeble. 
The only good we can know rests in You. When we turn from the good, You push us aside until we return. 
Oh, Lord, turn us, lest we be overturned. 
Be the good in us that is not corrupted. You are our incorruptible good. 
In You we do not fear that there will be no home to return to if we wander off.  While we are away, You preserve our mansion with a patience that stretches into eternity.

(from Time Loses No Time)

You are as You were before all happened that we can call "before". 
You are, and are God. 
You are, and are Lord of all You created. 
You abide, fixed forever. 
You are.  
The first cause of all things that will not abide.
All things changeable flow from the spring of Your unchanging Being. In You live the eternal reasons of all the time-bound things that cannot reason in themselves. 
So speak to me, Lord.  I stand before You a beggar. Speak pitying words to me, for I am Your pitiable one. Tell me: Were there times of me that died even before my infancy?  Who was the 'me' who lived in my mother's womb? ...
Was I anywhere?
Was I anyone? ... 
Do You laugh at me for even asking this?  Do You tell me instead acknowledge and praise the 'You' that I do know?
I do acknowledge You, Lord of heaven and earth.  I do praise You for assembling the pieces of my being and for the infancy I do not remember.

(from Infancy)

But we, O Lord, are Your little flock. Possess us as Yours. 
Stretch Your wings over us and let us fly under them. 
Be our glory. 
May we be Your love? 
May Your words be our reverence?
 (from The Book of Memory)

Every line fills me with such a sense of such numinous beauty that I read it all breathlessly.  My favorite book before this was Contact, by Carl Sagan.  I love Contact because it so clearly describes the utterly reverent beauty of life and the mystery of what it means to seek God.  It came at a pivotal moment in my life, when I first began to love science and nature.  For the first time, I could look intently at the world around me and hear bits of glory, like a song I can just barely hear before it fades again.*

Confessions comes at another pivotal moment in my life, when I reach tentatively for God with a radical hope I've never before known.  It's also the first book I've ever finished and immediately begun again.

* Yes, that was a blatant plug for Battlestar Galactica.  So say we all.

Thanks be to God.


  1. :D!! I've been reading Confessions too!!!

    I agree. It's completely beautiful.

  2. My goal was to someday read this in its original Latin.

    I now have the (rapidly deteriorating, now that school is over) skills to do so, with a big, fat, dictionary by my side... but not the time or inclination. So goes life.

    Someday, someday...