Book 10: Introduction
In this book Augustine makes a transition to the present time of his writing the Confessions. The story moves from the death of his mother in 386 A.D. to a period ten to thirteen years later. The concept of memory is the means through which recollection has been made possible. The shift in time also allows for a shift in audience. There is a shift from a universal audience in Books 1-9 to a Christian community in Book 10.[i] The Structure of Book 10 is a mirror of the first nine books.
Who is like the Lord? (10.1.1)
Augustine begins with a prayer as he did in 1.1.1. In this prayer he no longer says his “heart is restless,” though he continues to long for God. Augustine brings his faith and understanding together in a trusting quest for knowledge of God.
The Benefits of Confession (10.2.2-10.5.7)
In the next section Augustine thinks about his motives for making a confession. Clearly he notes that nothing is hidden from God (10.2.2). Yet should he make this public? He notes the danger of other people’s poor human motives for hearing. He complains, “A Curious lot they are, eager to pry into the lives of others, but tardy when it comes to correcting their own” (10.3.3). In the end he must act with charity assuming the best of everyone.
He also notes the graces he receives in confessing his sins and how this transforms his soul. We must remember that public, rather than private confession, was common in this era as part of the rite of penance. He notes, “It is cheering to good people to hear about the past evil deeds of those who are now freed from them: cheering not because the deeds were evil but because they existed once but exist no longer” (10.3.4). Those who hear will congratulate him and pray for him as fellow citizens on a pilgrimage with him (10.4.6).
Looking for God in Earthly Loves (10.6.8-10.7.11)
Augustine confesses his love for God who has pieced his heart with his Word (10.6.8). He reflects of various kinds of earthly loves and their relation to his love for God. His love for God has transformed his loves. He notes, “none of these do I love when I love my God” (10.6.8). Yet how does his love of God manifest itself. It is not like the love of earthly things. He asks, “What is it, then, that I love when I love my God?” (107.11).
Text © Scott McKellar 2011
All quotes in this series of blogs from Confessions are from, St. Augustine,Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., The Works of Saint Augustine for the 21st Century, Ed John Rotelle, O.S.A., (New York, New City Press, 1997)
[i] Vaught, Access, p. 28.