Friday, March 15, 2019

The Confessions of St. Augustine (Modern English Version)

If you put off reading the classics because you are intimidated by their outdated language, this version of Augustine's Confessions is an excellent way to become acquainted with his most personal work. It is not a confession as we normally think of it, but is more a prayer of praise interspersed with personal anecdotes.

As Augustine looks back over his life, he perceives God's mercy at every turn. Even as he ran from God, God's presence surrounded him. In misery my soul cast about seeking sensual objects that could scratch where the pox itched. Yet there was no love to be found. None of these things had a soul, so they could not be objects of love. To love then, and to be loved was sweet to me. But when I found someone I loved, I wanted only to possess and enjoy the body of the person I loved. I found a spring of friendship and polluted it with lascivious filth. I veiled the brightness of real love with a hell of foul, unseemly lust. My God, my Mercy, how much bitter root did You sprinkle on that sweetness? You were gracious to do it. (p. 32)

Although not a heavy book (except for the last few chapters), it merits careful reading. I normally eschew paraphrases, but thought this one was well done. It retained the rich language while giving the sentences better flow. Here is one example:

Original: Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. Modern English Version: Narrow is the mansion of my soul. Enlarge it, so that You can enter. It lies in ruins. Repair it. (p. 19)

One drawback of the Modern English Version is that it skims over two very famous passages that are often mentioned in other books (the pear stealing and Augustine's astonishment at seeing Ambrose reading silently). Still, there is much to be gained by reading this version. I was greatly encouraged by the influence of Augustine's mother's prayers for his life, which spurred me to greater faithfulness in praying for my own grown children.

The band Gungor wrote a lovely song (Late Have I Loved You) based on several lines from Augustine's Confessions, which you can listen to on YouTube.


1 comment:

Carol in Oregon said...

Lovely post, Hope. It reminds me that I need to revisit Augustine. Thank you!