Friday, April 01, 2005

Augustine's Confessions: Book I

In Book I, Augustine speaks about his infancy. The questions he
asks, if made in another context, might seem almost silly to us. I guess
context and tone really matter. There is a difference between
sincerely asking a question such as: "Does heaven and earth, then
contain the whole of you, since you fill? Or, when you have filled
them, is some part of you left over because they are too small to
hold you?" and glibly or mockingly asking: "Can God make a stone he can't
move?" Help me, Father, to always be devout in my questions and
respectful in my search for knowledge after you.

It is difficult for me to read Book I: Chapter 9: "My devotion was
great when I begged you not to let me be beaten at school.
sometimes, for my own good, you did not grant my prayers, and then my elders
and even my parent, who certainly wished me no harm, would laugh at the
beating I go..." As Augustine says, some who pray to escape
beatings fear them as much as the rack, but later he says: "But we SINNED
[emphasis added] by reading and writing and studying less than was
expected of us." By placing the punishing teacher/master in the
role of God, Augustine seems to say it was his own fault he was beaten.
And while I recoil at this, a part of me wonders if I am not the
product of a 20th century sensibility--always going to the other
extreme--that says, "It is never your fault if you are punished."
God's word says we are punished at times for our betterment and at
times for our chastisement. Help me Lord to know and accept the