Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Book IX, Chapters 1-3

Augustine returns to Africa. While on the return trip, his mother Monica dies, and his state of joy over coming to Christ turns to grief over his mother.

1. Augustine offers obedience and praise to God. He marvels at the change in himself at how he has turned from his will to God’s, how God has entered him interiorly, and that his mind is free.

2. Augustine decides to quit his teaching position, which he has expressed extreme cynicism about anyway, calling it a “professorship of lies.” He keeps his decision quiet in order to avoid other people’s disapproval, criticism, and censure. He only tells his close friends. Augustine also had a breathing condition, and, partly, he plans on using that as an excuse for quitting. He wants more freedom.

3. Notice that there is a lot of “male bonding” going on in the Confessions. Augustine’s friends are very, very dear to him. This chapter is centered on Verecundus, who was one of Augustine’s close friends. Verecundus wanted very badly to join Augustine and his friends in becoming a Christian and becoming a member of their embryonic Christian community, but Verecundus was married. Verecundus did not want to become a Christian unless he could become celibate. For him, becoming a Christian was an all or nothing thing. The idea that one could not become a full or compete Christian without becoming celibate was common at the time. I must admire his zeal. Far fewer zealous Christians, today, desire to commit themselves to celibacy.

On his part, Augustine expresses a mysogynistic attitude towards Verecundus’ wife, but at least Augustine agrees that Verecundus should remain married. Note that for church fathers of the time, Augustine’s attitude toward marriage is a very moderate one.

Verecundus died an early death from disease. He did become a baptized Christian before his death. Just like, I wish we knew something about Augustine’s former mistress, at the very least, her name, I wish we knew something about Verecundus’ wife as well.

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