Augustine begins by outlining key ideas about the doctrine of creation. God created out of his ‘abundant goodness’ but gained no profit from the experience. He created something which was other than his own substance. Both spiritual and corporeal creations have no rights to exist or no claim on God (13.2.3).
Augustine relates the words, “Let there be light” to the spiritual creation. Just as not part of creation has the right to live or exist so also we have no right to be illuminated and converted to a life of beatitude. God exists alone in utter simplicity, and for him simply to live is to be in beatitude (13.3.4).
God lacked nothing that would drive him to create or to convert or to illumine, he did so out of sheer goodness. He has no need of these things for his own happiness or perfection. The imperfection of creation is displeasing to God in the sense that he wills them to perfection, but not in the sense that he reaches his own perfection by helping them to theirs (13.4.5).
Augustine sees as symbolic form of the Trinity in the words ‘God’ who represents the ‘Father’ the ‘Beginning’ who represents the ‘Son’ and the ‘Spirit poised above the waters.’ He compares this to Romans 5:5 “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was been given to us.” The Spirit is supereminent love the narrative is not to be taken literally of places but of “movements of the heart” (13.7.8). The holiness of the Spirit “bears us upward in love for peace beyond care, that our hearts may be lifted up” to God(13.7.8). The words “Let there be light” relate to divine illumination drawing us into more passionate love. The figure of the spirit poised above also relates to “the eminence of the unchangeable Godhead” far above all that is changeable. Why then is the spirit alone mentioned? The Spirit is said to your Gift and in your gift we find rest. Augustine describes the divine ascent of contemplation and illumination;
Your Gift set us on fire and we are drawn upward; we catch his flame and up we go. In our hearts we climb those upward paths, singing the songs of ascent (13.9.10).
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)