This book written between 398-400 AD by probably the most influential early Church father, Augustine of Hippo, is widely recognized as the first Western autobiography.
Part journal, part autobiography and all parts worship, Confessions lets the reader peer into the window of Augustine’s prayer closet as he recounts back to God the spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional journeys that they have walked together.
His writing is deeply theological, philosophical, honest and passionate…and at times hard to follow. Seeing this work not as a traditional, chronological history or autobiography but as a series of fervent prayers ignited by Augustine’s memory and discernment of God’s loving hand in his personal history helps to keep pace with and more fully appreciate Augustine’s writing style.
Although I have read about Augustine and interacted with excerpts of his writings before, this was my first time reading a complete work of his. I understand why he has been so influential. While many things flew over my head I constantly found myself being challenged and encouraged. Many sections of this book were filled with pages of emotional sentences ending with question marks. Questions like, “By what tricks and suggestions does the enemy lure me to desire some sign from You, O Lord my God, to whom I owe humble and single-hearted service?” or “But what do I love, when I love You?” I found myself identifying with his way of thinking and struggling through questions with God, as many of my journals are filled with similar questions, although they are not nearly asked with the same theological depth or eloquence. Particularly Augustine’s lust filled life as an unbeliever, his mother’s faithful and agonizing prayers for his salvation, and his struggles with purity as a believer were aspects that I identified with.
As far as quotations go, Augustine is the 4th cent. C.S. Lewis. Here is just a small taste:
“You initiate conversation with all, whatever the varied ways they ask to gain Your counsel. You make Your answers clear. The problem is that not all clearly hear. All in some way consult You, according to what they are willing to ask. Not all are able to hear beyond what they desire to hear.”
“Give us what You command us to have, and You can command anything You want to.”
“He alone moved free among the dead.
He only had power to lay down His life.
He only had power to take it again.
Victor and Victim, and so Victor because Victim.
Priest and Sacrifice, and so Priest because Sacrifice.”