Sunday, March 13, 2005

Book II, Chapters 1-3

Augustine begins, “I want to call back to mind my past impurities and the carnal corruptions of my soul, not because I love them, but so that I may love you, my God. It is for the love of your love that I do it, going back over those most wicked ways of mine in the bitterness of my recollections so that the bitterness may be replaced by the sweetness of you, O unfailing sweetness, happy sweetness and secure!” And so, Augustine plunges deep into his confession of lust and fornication. In the narrative, he is now sixteen and, “on fire to take my fill of hell.”

Chapter 2 is a very powerful evocation of his state of mind. He uses outstanding imagery throughout—muddy carvings of the flesh, whirlpools of vice, brambles of lust, the clanking chain of his mortality, and plenty more. It is one of the most literarily powerful passages in the book. It calls to mind the fire and brimstone sermon in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce. Augustine again uses the word disorder to describe himself. He describes himself as being completely controlled by lust and having run amok with immorality:

“But I, poor wretch, boiled up and ran troubled along the course of my own stream, forsaking you. I broke through all the boundaries of your law but did not escape your chastisement.” Similar to his statement, “every inordinate affection should be its own punishment,” In Book I, Chapter 2, Augustine writes, “in you Lord, except in you, who shape sorrow to be an instructor, who give wounds in order to heal, who kill us lest we should die away from you.”

“The madness of lust…held complete sway over me and to this madness I surrendered myself completely.”

So far, I have chosen not to criticize Augustine, positively or negatively, for his stand on sex, but to let his statements speak for themselves. It is his confession, after all. Perhaps at the end of this exercise I will state my own opinion on the matter.


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