Empty Days

Wednesday, September 21, 2005



To all things their time:

I have an old french pocket edition of St.Augustine's Confessions - it has pencil marks in it which by all appearances are by myself when I was in my late teens. Tellingly enough I don't even remember ever reading this book - most likely because in those days I devoured literally tones and tones of books but for all the wrong reasons most of the time. In fact I simply wanted to appear well-read and knowledgeable in order to impress everyone around me. In this I succeeded. But all this assumed wisdom proved of no use to me whatsoever.

I wonder if this sort of early-life pitfall can really be avoided - or whether it should be even. To each his own road with its own potholes.

In light of which this passage by Augustin hits close to home:
Of all this I was convinced, yet I was too weak to enjoy thee. I chattered away as if I were an expert; but if I had not sought thy Way in Christ our Saviour, my knowledge would have turned out to be not instruction but destruction.[222] For now full of what was in fact my punishment, I had begun to desire to seem wise. I did not mourn my ignorance, but rather was puffed up with knowledge. For where was that love which builds upon the foundation of humility, which is Jesus Christ?[223] Or, when would these books teach me this? I now believe that it was thy pleasure that I should fall upon these books before I studied thy Scriptures, that it might be impressed on my memory how I was affected by them; and then afterward, when I was subdued by thy Scriptures and when my wounds were touched by thy healing fingers, I might discern and distinguish what a difference there is between presumption and confession -- between those who saw where they were to go even if they did not see the way, and the Way which leads, not only to the observing, but also the inhabiting of the blessed country. For had I first been molded in thy Holy Scriptures, and if thou hadst grown sweet to me through my familiar use of them, and if then I had afterward fallen on those volumes, they might have pushed me off the solid ground of godliness -- or if I had stood firm in that wholesome disposition which I had there acquired, I might have thought that wisdom could be attained by the study of those [Platonist] books alone.
***

When I think that these very candid and true Confessions have been endlessly used by ignorant and arrogant fanatics of the outer church as some sort of glorified *proof* of the superiority/infaillibility of the christian faith - I mourn for Augustine and his heart. There are and can be no proofs-for-all - this is what this book is about!

Outside of which this is indeed a powerful testimony to the unfathomable ways of living God (whose reality does not become any clearer from reading this book alone) - and how these ways cannot be forced on those yet unwilling to listen.

Holy Christ :-/

***

Funny detail: the french and english editions talk of the "Catholic Church" while the russian translation (which is actually better done in terms of precision) translates everything as "the Orthodox Church". Now, this really doesn't matter much since in Augustine's time the christian tradition was still in one piece. But I must wonder what other devious interpretations there occured in the course of such biased translations.





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