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St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions BOOK IX
AUTHOR: Augustine
PUBLISHED ON: March 27, 2003
DOC SOURCE: CCN

St. Augustine of Hippo: CONFESSIONS
“New Advent Catholic Supersite”

St. Augustine of Hippo
Confessions

BOOK IX.

HE SPEAKS OF HIS DESIGN OF FORSAKING THE PROFESSION OF RHETORIC;
OF THE DEATH OF HIS FRIENDS, NEBRIDIUS AND VERECUNDUS; OF HAVING
RECEIVED BAPTISM IN THE THIRTY-THIRD YEAR OF HIS AGE; AND OF THE
VIRTUES AND DEATH OF HIS MOTHER, MONICA.

CHAP. I.–HE PRAISES GOD, THE AUTHOR OF SAFETY, AND JESUS CHRIST,
THE REDEEMER, ACKNOWLEDGING HIS OWN WICKEDNESS.

1. “O LORD, truly I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son
of Thine handmaid Thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to Thee
the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Let my heart and my tongue praise
Thee, and let all my bones say, “Lord, who is like unto Thee?” Let
them so say, and answer Thou me, and “say unto my soul, I am Thy
salvation.” Who am I, and what is my nature? How evil have not my
deeds been; or if not my deeds, my words; or if not my words, my
will? But Thou, O Lord, art good and merciful, and Thy right hand
had respect unto the profoundness of my death, and removed from the
bottom of my heart that abyss of corruption. And this was the
result, that I willed not to do what I willed, and willed to do what
thou willedst. But where, during all those years, and out of what
deep and secret retreat was my free will summoned forth in a moment,
whereby I gave my neck to Thy “easy yoke,” and my shoulders to Thy
“light burden,” O Christ Jesus, “my strength. and my Redeemer”?
How sweet did it suddenly become to me to be without the delights of
trifles! And what at one time I feared to lose, it was now a joy to
me to put away. For Thou didst cast them away from me, Thou true
and highest sweetness. Thou didst cast them away, and instead of
thorn didst enter in Thyself, — sweeter than all pleasure, though
not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more veiled
than all mysteries; more exalted than all honour, but not to the
exalted in their own conceits. Now was my soul free from the gnawing
cares of seeking and getting, and of wallowing and exciting the itch
of lust. And I babbled unto Thee my brightness, my riches, and my
health, the Lord my God.

CHAP. II.–AS HIS LUNGS WERE AFFECTED, HE MEDITATES WITHDRAWING
HIMSELF FROM PUBLIC FAVOUR.

2. And it seemed good to me, as before Thee, not tumultuously to
snatch away, but gently to withdraw the service of my tongue from
the talker’s trade; that the young, who thought not on Thy law, nor
on Thy peace, but on mendacious follies and forensic strifes, might
no longer purchase at my mouth equipments for their vehemence. And
opportunely there wanted but a few days unto the Vacation of the
Vintage; and I determined to endure them, in order to leave in the
usual way, and, being redeemed by Thee, no more to return for sale.
Our intention then was known to Thee; but to men — excepting our
own friends — was it not known. For we had determined among
ourselves not to let it get abroad to any; although Thou hadst given
to us, ascending from the valley of tears, and singing the song of
degrees, “sharp arrows,” and destroying coals, against the
“deceitful tongue,” which in giving coun
sel opposes, and in showing love consumes, as it is wont to do with
its food.

3. Thou hadst penetrated our hearts with Thy charity, and we
carried Thy words fixed, as it were, in our bowels; and the examples
of Thy servant, whom of black Thou hadst made bright, and of dead,
alive, crowded in the bosom of our thoughts, burned and consumed our
heavy torpor, that we might not topple into the abyss; and they
enkindled us exceedingly, that every breath of the deceitful tongue
of the gainsayer might inflame us the more, not extinguish us.
Nevertheless, because for Thy name’s sake which Thou hast sanctified
throughout the earth, this, our vow and purpose, might also find
commenders, it looked like a vaunting of oneself not to wait for the
vacation, now so near, but to leave beforehand a public profession,
and one, too, under general observation; so that all who looked on
this act of mine, and saw how near was the vintage-time I desired to
anticipate, would talk of me a great deal as if I were trying to
appear to be a great person. And what purpose would it serve that
people should consider and dispute about my intention, and that our
good should be evil spoken of?

4. Furthermore, this very summer, from too great literary labour,
my lungs began to be weak, and with difficulty to draw deep
breaths; showing by the pains in my chest that they were affected,
and refusing too loud or prolonged speaking. This had at first been
a trial to me, for it compelled me almost of necessity to lay down
that burden of teaching; or, if I could be cured and become strong
again, at least to leave it off for a while. But when the full
desire for leisure, that I might see that Thou art the Lord, arose,
and was confirmed in me, my God, Thou knowest I even began to
rejoice that I had this excuse ready, — and that not a feigned one,
— which might somewhat temper the offence taken by those who for
their sons’ good wished me never to have the freedom of sons. Full,
therefore, with such joy, I bore it till that period of time had
passed, — perhaps it was some twenty days, — yet they were bravely
borne; for the cupidity which was wont to sustain part of this
weighty business had departed, and I had remained overwhelmed had
not its place been supplied by patience. Some of Thy servants, my
brethren, may perchance say that I sinned in this, in that having
once fully, and from my heart, entered on Thy warfare, I permitted
myself to sit a single hour in the seat of falsehood. I will not
contend. But hast not Thou, O most merciful Lord, pardoned and
remitted this sin also, with my others, so horrible and deadly, in
the holy water?

CHAP. III.–HE RETIRES TO THE VILLA OF HIS FRIEND VERECUNDUS, WHO
WAS NOT YET A CHRISTIAN, AND REFERS TO HIS CONVERSION AND DEATH, AS
WELL AS THAT OF NEBRIDIUS.

5. Verecundus was wasted with anxiety at that our happiness,
since he, being most firmly held by his bonds, saw that he would
lose our fellowship. For he was not yet a Christian, though his wife
was one of the faithful; and yet hereby, being more firmly
enchained than by anything else, was he held back from that journey
which we had commenced. Nor, he declared, did he wish to be a
Christian on any other terms than those that were impossible.
However, he invited us most courteously to make use of his country
house so long as we should stay there. Thou, O Lord, wilt
“recompense” him for this “at the resurrection of the just,” seeing
that Thou hast already given him “the lot of the righteous.” For
although, when we were absent at Rome, he, being overtaken with
bodily sickness, and therein being made a Christian, and one of the
faithful, departed this life, yet hadst Thou mercy on him, and not
on him only, but on us also; lest, thinking on the exceeding
kindness of our friend to us, and unable to count him in Thy flock,
we should be tortured with intolerable grief. Thanks be unto Thee,
our God, we are Thine. Thy exhortations, consolations, and faithful
promises assure us that Thou now repayest Verecundus for that
country house at Cassiacum, where from the fever of the world we
found rest in Thee, with the perpetual freshness of Thy Paradise, in
that Thou hast forgiven him his earthly sins, in that mountain
flowing with milk, that fruitful mountain, — Thine own.

6. He then was at that time full of grief; but Nebridius was
joyous. Although he also, not being yet a Christian, had fallen into
the pit of that most pernicious error of believing Thy Son to be a
phantasm, yet, coming out thence, he
held the same belief that we did; not as yet initiated in any of the
sacraments of Thy Church, but a most earnest inquirer after truth.
Whom, not long after our conversion and regeneration by Thy baptism,
he being also a faithful member of the Catholic Church, and serving
Thee in perfect chastity and continency amongst his own people in
Africa, when his whole household had been brought to Christianity
through him, didst Thou release from the flesh; and now he lives in
Abraham’s bosom. Whatever that may be which is signified by that
bosom, there lives my Nebridius, my sweet friend, Thy son, O Lord,
adopted of a freedman; there he liveth. For what other place could
there be for such a soul? There liveth he, concerning which he used
to ask me much, — me, an inexperienced, feeble one. Now he puts not
his ear unto my mouth, but his spiritual mouth unto Thy fountain,
and drinketh as much as he is able, wisdom according to his desire,
–happy without end. Nor do I believe that he is so inebriated with
it as to forget me, seeing Thou, O Lord, whom he drinketh, art
mindful of us. Thus, then, were we comforting the sorrowing
Verecundus (our friendship being untouched, concerning our
conversion, and exhorting him to a faith according to his condition,
I mean, his married state. And tarrying for Nebridius to follow us,
which being so near, he was just about to do, when, behold, those
days passed over at last; for long and many they seemed, on account
of my love of easeful liberty, that I might sing unto Thee from my
very marrow. My heart said unto Thee,–I have sought Thy face; “Thy
face, Lord, will I seek.”

CHAP. IV.–IN THE COUNTRY HE GIVES HIS ATTENTION TO LITERATURE,
AND EXPLAINS THE FOURTH PSALM IN CONNECTION WITH THE HAPPY
CONVERSION OF ALYPIUS. HE IS TROUBLED WITH TOOTHACHE.

7. And the day arrived on which, in very deed, I was to be
released from the Professorship of Rhetoric, from which in intention
I had been already released. And done it was; and Thou didst deliver
my tongue whence Thou hadst already delivered my heart; and full of
joy I blessed Thee for it, and retired with all mine to the villa.
What I accomplished here in writing, which was now wholly devoted to
Thy service, though still, in this pause as it were, panting from
the school of pride, my books testify, — those in which I
disputed with my friends, and those with myself alone before Thee;
and what with the absent Nebridius, my letters testify. And when
can I find time to recount all Thy great benefits which Thou
bestowedst upon us at that time, especially as I am hasting on to
still greater mercies? For my memory calls upon me, and pleasant it
is to me, O Lord, to confess unto Thee, by what inward goads Thou
didst subdue me, and how Thou didst make me low, bringing down the
mountains and hills of my imaginations, and didst straighten my
crookedness, and smooth my rough ways; and by what means Thou also
didst subdue that brother of my heart, Alypius, unto the name of Thy
only-begotten, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which he at first
refused to have inserted in our writings. For he rather desired that
they should savour of the “cedars”
of the schools, which the Lord hath now broken down, than of the
wholesome herbs of the Church, hostile to serpents.

8. What utterances sent I up unto Thee, my God, when I read the
Psalms of David, those faithful songs and sounds of devotion which
exclude all swelling of spirit, when new to Thy true love, at rest
in the villa with Alypius, a catechumen like myself, my mother
cleaving unto us, — in woman’s garb truly, but with a man’s faith,
with the peacefulness of age, full of motherly love and Christian
piety! What utterances used I to send up unto Thee in those Psalms,
and how was I inflamed towards Thee by them, and burned to rehearse
them, if it
were possible, throughout the whole world, against the pride of the
human race! And yet they are sung throughout the whole world, and
none can hide himself from Thy heat. With what vehement and bitter
sorrow was I indignant at the Manichaeans; whom yet again I pitied,
for that they were ignorant of those sacraments, those medicaments,
and were mad against the antidote which might have made them sane! I
wished that they had been somewhere near me then, and, without my
being aware of their presence, could have beheld my face, and heard
my words, when I read the fourth Psalm in that time of my leisure,
— how that Psalm wrought upon me. When I called upon Thee, Thou
didst hear me, O God of my righteousness; Thou hast enlarged me when
I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. Oh that
they might have heard what I uttered on these words, without my
knowing whether they heard or no, lest they should think that I
spake it because of them! For, of a truth, neither should I have
said the same things, nor in the way I said them, if I had perceived
that I was heard and seen by them; and had I spoken them, they would not so
have received them as when I spake by and for myself before Thee,
out of the private feelings of my soul.

9. I alternately quaked with fear, and warmed with hope, and with
rejoicing in Thy mercy, O Father. And all these passed forth, both
by mine eyes and voice, when Thy good Spirit, turning unto us, said,
O ye sons of men, how long will ye be slow of heart? “How long will
ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?” For I had loved vanity,
and sought after leasing. And Thou, O Lord, hadst already magnified
Thy Holy One, raising Him from the dead, and setting Him at Thy
right hand, whence from on high He should send His promise, the
Paraclete, “the Spirit of Truth.” And He had already sent Him, but
I knew it not; He had sent Him, because He was now magnified, rising
again from the dead, and ascending into heaven. For till then “the
Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet
glorified.” And the prophet cries out, How long will ye be slow of
heart? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Know
this, that the Lord hath magnified His Holy One. He cries out, “How
long?” He cries out, “Know this,” and I, so long ignorant, “loved
vanity, and sought after leasing.” And therefore I heard and
trembled, because these words were spoken unto such as I remembered
that I myself had been. For in those phantasms which I once held for
truths was there “vanity” and “leasing.” And I spake many things
loudly and earnestly, in the sorrow of my remembrance, which, would
that they who yet “love vanity and seek after leasing” had heard!
They would perchance have been troubled, and have vomited it forth,
and Thou wouldest hear them when they cried unto Thee; for by a
true death in the flesh He died for us, who now maketh
intercession for us with Thee.

10. I read further, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” And how was I
moved, O my God, who had now learned to “be angry” with myself for
the things past, so that in the future I might not sin! Yea, to be
justly angry; for that it was not another nature of the race of
darkness which sinned for me, as they affirm it to be who are not
angry with themselves, and who treasure up to themselves wrath
against the day of wrath, and of the revelation of Thy righteous
judgment. Nor were my good things now without, nor were they
sought after with eyes of flesh in that sun; for they that would
have joy from without easily sink into oblivion, and are wasted upon
those things which are seen and temporal, and in their starving
thoughts do lick their very shadows. Oh, if only they were wearied
out with their fasting, and said, “Who will show us any good?” And
we would answer, and they hear, O Lord. The light of Thy countenance
is lifted up upon us. For we are not that Light, which lighteth
every man, but we are enlightened by Thee, that we, who were
sometimes darkness, may be light in Thee. Oh that they could
behold the internal Eternal, which having tasted I gnashed my
teeth that I could not show It to them, while they brought me their
heart in their eyes, roaming abroad from Thee, and said, “Who will
show us any good?” But there, where I was angry with myself in my
chamber, where I was inwardly pricked, where I had offered my
“sacrifice,” slaying my old man, and beginning the resolution of a
new life, putting my trust in Thee, — there hadst Thou begun to
grow sweet unto me, and to “put gladness in
my heart.” And I cried out as I read this outwardly, and felt it
inwardly. Nor would I be increased with worldly goods, wasting
time and being wasted by time; whereas I possessed in Thy eternal
simplicity other corn, and wine, and oil.

11. And with a loud cry from my heart, I called out in the
following verse, “Oh, in peace!” and “the self-same!” Oh, what said
he, “I will lay me down and sleep!” For who shall hinder us, when
“shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is
swallowed up in victory?” And Thou art in the highest degree “the
self-same,” who changest not; and in Thee is the rest which
forgetteth all labour, for there is no other beside Thee, nor ought
we to seek after those many other things which are not what Thou
art; but Thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in hope. These things
I read, and was inflamed; but discovered not what to do with those
deaf and dead, of whom I had been a pestilent member, — a bitter
and a blind declaimer against the writings be-honied with the honey
of heaven and luminous with Thine own light; and I
was consumed on account of the enemies of this Scripture.

12. When shall I call to mind all that took place in those
holidays? Yet neither have I forgotten, nor will I be silent about
the severity of Thy scourge, and the amazing quickness of Thy
mercy. Thou didst at that time torture me with toothache; and when
it had become so exceeding great that I was not able to speak, it
came into my heart to urge all my friends who were present to pray
for me to Thee, the God of all manner of health. And I wrote it down
on wax, and gave it to them to read. Presently, as with submissive
desire we bowed our knees, that pain departed. But what pain? Or how
did it depart? I confess to being much afraid, my Lord my God,
seeing that from my earliest years I had not experienced such pain.
And Thy purposes were profoundly impressed upon me; and, rejoicing
in faith, I praised Thy name. And that faith suffered me not to be
at rest in regard to my past sins, which were not yet forgiven me by
Thy baptism.

CHAP. V.–AT THE RECOMMENDATION OF AMBROSE, HE READS THE
PROPHECIES OF ISAIAH, BUT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THEM.

13. The vintage vacation being ended, I gave he citizens of Milan
notice that they might provide their scholars with another seller of
words; because both of my election to serve Thee, and my inability,
by reason of the difficulty of breathing and the pain in my chest,
to continue the Professorship. And by letters I notified to Thy
bishop, the holy man Ambrose, my former errors and present
resolutions, with a view to his advising me which of Thy books it
was best for me to read, so that I might be readier and fitter for
the reception of such great grace. He recommended Isaiah the
Prophet; I believe, because he foreshows more clearly than others
the gospel, and the calling of the Gentiles. But I, not
understanding the first portion of the book, and imagining the whole
to be like it, laid it aside, intending to take it up hereafter,
when better practised in our Lord’s words.

CHAP. VI.–HE IS BAPTIZED AT MILAN WITH ALYPIUS AND HIS SON
ADEODATUS. THE BOOK “DE MAGISTRO.”

14. Thence, when the time had arrived at which I was to give in
my name, having left the country, we returned to Milan. Alypius
also was pleased to be born again with me in Thee, being now clothed
with the humility appropriate to Thy sacraments, and being so brave
a tamer of the body, as with unusual fortitude to tread the frozen
soil of Italy with his naked feet. We took into our company the boy
Adeodatus, born of me carnal]y, of my sin. Well hadst Thou made him.
He was barely
fifteen years, yet in wit excelled many grave and learned men. I
confess unto Thee Thy gifts, O Lord my God, Creator of all, and of
exceeding power to reform our deformities; for of me was there
naught in that boy but the sin. For that we fostered him in Thy
discipline, Thou inspiredst us, none other, — Thy gifts I confess
unto Thee. There is a book of ours, which is entitled The Master.
It is a dialogue between him and me. Thou knowest that all things
there put into the mouth of the person in argument with me were his
thoughts in his sixteenth year. Many others more wonderful did I
find in him. That talent was a source of awe to me. And who but Thou
could be the worker of such marvels? Quickly didst Thou remove his
life from the earth; and now I recall him to mind with a sense of
security, in that I fear nothing for his childhood or youth, or for
his whole self. We took him coeval with us in Thy grace, to be
educated in Thy discipline; and we were baptized, and solicitude
about our past life left us. Nor was I satiated in those days with
the wondrous sweetness of considering the depth of Thy counsels
concerning the salvation of the human race. How greatly did I weep
in Thy hymns and canticles, deeply moved by the voices of Thy
sweet-speaking Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the
truth was poured forth into my heart, whence the agitation of my
piety overflowed, and my tears ran over, and blessed was I therein.

CHAP. VII.—OF THE CHURCH HYMNS INSTITUTED AT MILAN; OF THE
AMBROSIAN PERSECUTION RAISED BY JUSTINA; AND OF THE DISCOVERY OF THE
BODIES OF TWO MARTYRS.

15. Not long had the Church of Milan begun to employ this kind of
consolation and exhortation, the brethren singing together with
great earnestness of voice and heart. For it was about a year, or
not much more, since Justina, the mother of the boy-Emperor
Valentinian, persecuted Thy servant Ambrose in the interest of her
heresy, to which she had been seduced by the Arians. The pious
people kept guard in the church, prepared to die with their bishop,
Thy servant. There my mother, Thy handmaid, bearing a chief part of
those cares and watchings, lived in prayer. We, still unmelted by
the heat of Thy Spirit, were yet moved by the astonished and
disturbed city. At this time it was instituted that, after the
manner of the Eastern Church, hymns and psalms should be sung, lest
the people should pine away in the tediousness of sorrow; which
custom, retained from then till now, is imitated by many, yea, by
almost all of Thy congregations throughout the rest of the world.

16. Then didst Thou by a vision make known to Thy renowned bishop
the spot where lay the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius, the
martyrs (whom Thou hadst in Thy secret storehouse preserved
uncorrupted for so many years), whence Thou mightest at the fitting
time produce them to repress the feminine but royal fury. For when
they were revealed and dug up and with due honour transferred to the
Ambrosian Basilica, not only they who were troubled with unclean
spirits (the devils confessing themselves) were healed, but a
certain man also, who had been blind many years, a well-known
citizen of that city, having asked and been told the reason of the
people’s tumultuous joy, rushed forth, asking his guide to lead him
thither. Arrived there, he begged to be permitted to touch with his
handkerchief the bier of Thy saints, whose death is precious in Thy
sight. When he had done this, and put it to his eyes, they were
forthwith opened. Thence did the fame spread; thence did Thy praises
burn, — shine; thence was the mind of that enemy, though not yet
enlarged to the wholeness of believing, restrained from the fury of
persecuting. Thanks be to Thee, O my God. Whence and whither hast
Thou thus led my remembrance, that I should confess these
things also unto Thee,–great, though I, forgetful, had passed them
over? And yet then, when the “savour” of Thy “ointments” was so
fragrant, did we not “run after Thee.” And so I did the more
abundantly weep at the singing of Thy hymns, formerly panting for
Thee, and at last breathing in Thee, as far as the air can play in
this house of grass.

CHAP. VIII.–OF THE CONVERSION OF EVODIUS, AND THE DEATH OF HIS
MOTHER WHEN RETURNING WITH HIM TO AFRICA; AND WHOSE EDUCATION HE
TENDERLY RELATES.

17. Thou, who makest men to dwell of one mind in a house,’ didst
associate with us Evodius also, a young man of our city, who, when
serving as an agent for Public Affairs,’ was converted unto Thee and
baptized prior to us; and relinquishing his secular service,
prepared himself for Thine. We were together, and together were we
about to dwell with a holy purpose. We sought for some place where
we might be most useful in our service to Thee, and were going back
together to Africa. And when we were at the Tiberine Ostia my mother
died. Much I omit, having much to hasten. Receive my confessions and
thanksgivings, O my God, for innumerable things concerning which I
am silent. But I will not omit aught that my soul has brought forth
as to that Thy handmaid who brought me forth,–in her flesh, that I
might be born to this temporal light, and in her heart, that I might
be born to life eternal? I will speak not of her gifts, but Thine in
her; for she neither made herself nor educated herself. Thou
createdst her, nor did her father nor her mother know what a being
was to proceed from them. And it was the rod of Thy Christ, the
discipline of Thine only Son, that trained her in Thy fear, in the
house of one of Thy faithful ones, who was a sound member of Thy
Church. Yet this good discipline did she not: so much attribute to
the diligence of her mother, I as that of a certain decrepid
maid-servant, who had carried about her father when an infant, as
little ones are wont to be carried on the backs: of elder girls. For
which reason, and on account of her extreme age and very good
character, was she much respected by the heads of that Christian
house. Whence also was committed to her the care of her master’s
daughters, which she with diligence performed, and was earnest in
restraining them when necessary, with a holy severity, and
instructing them with a sober sagacity. For, excepting at the hours
in which they were very temperately fed at their parents’ table, she
used not to permit them, though parched with thirst, to drink even
water; thereby taking precautions against an evil custom, and adding
the wholesome advice, “You drink water only because you have not
control of wine; but when you have come to be married, and made
mistresses of storeroom and cellar, you will despise water, but the
habit of drinking will remain.” By this method of instruction, and
power of command, she restrained the longing of their tender age,
and regulated the very thirst of the girls to such a becoming limit,
as that what was not seemly they did not long for.

18. And yet–as Thine handmaid related to me, her son–there had
stolen upon her a love of wine. For when she, as being a sober
maiden, was as usual bidden by her parents to :draw wine from the
cask, the vessel being held under the opening, before she poured the
wine into the bottle, she would wet the tips of her lips with a
little, for more than that her inclination refused. For this she did
not from any craving for drink, but out of the overflowing buoyancy
of her time of life, which bubbles up with sportiveness, and is, in
youthful spirits, wont to be repressed by the gravity of elders. And
so unto that little, adding daily littles (for “he that contemneth
small things shall fall by little and little”), she contracted
such a habit as, to drink off eagerly her little cup nearly full of
wine. Where, then, was the sagacious old woman with her earnest
restraint? Could anything prevail against a secret disease if Thy
medicine, O Lord, did not watch over us? Father, mother, and
nurturers absent, Thou present, who hast created, who callest, who
also by those who are set over us workest some good for the
salvation of our souls, what didst Thou at that time, O my God? How
didst Thou
heal her? How didst Thou make her whole?’ Didst Thou not out of
another woman’s soul evoke a hard and bitter insult, as a surgeon’s
knife from Thy secret store, and with one thrust remove all that
putrefaction?x For the maidservant who used to accompany her to the
cellar, falling out, as it happens, with her little mistress, when
she was alone with her, cast in her teeth this vice, with very
bitter insult, calling her a “wine-bibber.” Stung by this taunt, she
perceived her foulness, and immediately condemned and renounced it.
Even as friends by their flattery pervert, so do enemies by their
taunts often correct us. Yet Thou renderest not unto them what Thou
dost by them, but what was proposed by them. For she, being angry,
desired to irritate her young mistress, not to cure her; and did it
in secret, either because the time and place of the dispute found
them thus, or perhaps lest she herself should be exposed to danger
for disclosing it so late. But Thou, Lord, Governor of heavenly and
earthly things, who convertest to Thy purposes the deepest torrents,
and disposest the turbulent current of the ages, healest one soul
by the unsoundness of another; lest any man, when he remarks this,
should attribute it unto his own power if another, whom he wishes to
be reformed, is so through a word of his.

CHAP. IX.–HE DESCRIBES THE PRAISEWORTHY HABITS OF HIS MOTHER;
HER KINDNESS TOWARDS HER HUSBAND AND HER SONS.

19. Being thus modestly and soberly trained, and rather made
subject by Thee to her parents, than by her parents to Thee, when
she had arrived at a marriageable age, she was given to a husband
whom she served as her lord. And she busied herself to gain him to
Thee, preaching Thee unto him by her behaviour; by which Thou madest
her fair, and reverently amiable, and admirable unto her husband.
For she so bore the wronging of her bed as never to have any
dissension with her husband on account of it. For she waited for Thy
mercy upon him, that by believing in Thee he might become chaste.
And besides this, as he was earnest in friendship, so was he violent
in anger; but she had learned that an angry husband should not be
resisted, neither in deed, nor even in word. But so soon as he was
grown calm and tranquil, and she saw a fitting moment, she would
give him a reason for her conduct, should he have been excited
without cause. In short, while many matrons, whose husbands were
more gentle, carried the marks of blows on their dishonoured faces,
and would in private conversation blame the lives of their husbands,
she would blame their tongues, monishing them gravely, as if in
jest: “That from the hour they heard what are called the matrimonial
tablets read to them, they should think of them as instruments
whereby they were made servants; so, being always mindful of their
condition, they ought :not to set themselves in opposition to their
lords.” And when they, knowing what a furious husband she endured,
marvelled that it had never been reported, nor appeared by any
indication, that Patricius had beaten his wife, or that there had
been any domestic strife between them, even for a day, and asked her
in confidence the reason of this, she taught them her rule, which I
have mentioned above. They who observed it experienced the wisdom of
it, and rejoiced; those who observed it not were kept in subjection,
and suffered.

20. Her mother-in-law, also, being at first prejudiced against
her by the whisperings of evil-disposed servants, she so conquered
by submission, persevering in it with patience and meekness, that
she voluntarily disclosed to her son the tongues of the meddling
servants, whereby the domestic peace between herself and her
daughter-in-law had been agitated, begging him to punish them for
it. When, therefore, he had–in conformity with his mother’s wish,
and with a view to the discipline of his family, and to ensure the
future harmony of its members–corrected with stripes those
discovered, according to the will of her who had discovered them,
she promised a similar reward to any who, to please her, should say
anything evil to her of her daughter-in-law. And, none now daring to
do so, they lived together with a wonderful sweetness of mutual
good-will.

21. This great gift Thou bestowedst also, my God, my mercy, upon
that good handmaid of Thine, out of whose womb Thou createdst me,
even that, whenever she could, she showed herself such a peacemaker
between any differing and discordant spirits, that when she had
heard on both sides most bitter things, such as swelling and
undigested discord is wont to give vent to, when the crudities of
enmities are breathed out in bitter speeches to a present friend
against an absent enemy, she would disclose nothing about the one
unto the other, save what might avail to their reconcilement. A
small good this might seem to me, did I not know to my sorrow
countless persons, who, through some horrible and far-spreading
infection of sin, not only disclose to enemies mutually enraged the
things said in passion against each other, but add some things that
were never spoken at all; whereas, to a generous man, it ought to
seem a small thing not to incite or increase the enmities of men by
ill-speaking, unless he endeavour likewise by kind words to
extinguish them. Such a one was she,–Thou, her most intimate
Instructor, teaching her in the school of her heart.

22. Finally, her own husband, now towards the end of his earthly
existence, did she gain over unto Thee; and she had not to complain
of that in him, as one of the faithful, which, before he became so,
she had endured. She was also the servant of Thy servants. Whosoever
of them knew her, did in her much magnify, honour, and love Thee;
for that through the testimony of the fruits of a holy conversation,
they perceived Thee to be present in her heart. For she had “been
the wife of one man,” had requited her parents, had guided her house
piously, was “well-reported of for good works,” had “brought up
children,” x as often travailing in birth of them as she saw them
swerving from Thee. Lastly, to all of us, O Lord (since of Thy
favour Thou sufferest Thy! servants to speak), who, before her
sleeping in’ Thee,a lived associated together, having received the
grace of Thy baptism, did she devote, care such as she might if she
had been mother of us all; served us as if she had been child of
all.

CHAP. X.–A CONVERSATION HE HAD WITH HIS MOTHER CONCERNING THE
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

23. As the day now approached on which she was to depart this
life (which day Thou knewest, we did not), it fell out–Thou, as I
believe, by Thy secret ways arranging it–that she and I stood
alone, leaning in a certain window, from which the garden of the
house we occupied at Ostia could be seen; at which place, removed
from the crowd, we were resting ourselves for the voyage, after the
fatigues of a long journey. We then were conversing alone very
pleasantly; and, “forgetting those things which are behind, and
reaching forth unto those things which are before,” we were seeking
between ourselves in the presence of the Truth, which Thou art, of
what nature the eternal life of the saints would be, which eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of
man. But yet we opened wide the mouth of our heart, after those
supernal streams of Thy fountain, “the fountain of life,” which is
“with Thee; ” that being sprinkled with it according to our
capacity, we might in some measure weigh so high a mystery.

24. And when our conversation had arrived at that point, that the
very highest pleasure of the carnal senses, and that in the very
brightest material light, seemed by reason of the sweetness of that
life not only not worthy of comparison, but not even of mention, we,
lifting ourselves with a more ardent affection towards “the
Selfsame,” did gradually pass through all corporeal things, and
even the heaven itself, whence sun, and moon, and stars shine upon
the earth; tea, we soared higher yet by inward musing, and
discoursing, and admiring Thy works; and we came to our own minds,
and went beyond them, that we might advance as high as that region
of unfailing plenty, where Thou feedest Israel for ever with the
food of truth, and where life is that Wisdom by whom all these
things are made, both which have been, and which are to come; and
she is not made, but is as she hath been, and so shall ever be; yea,
rather, to “haVe been,” and “to be hereafter,” are not in her, but
only “to be,” seeing she is eternal, for to “have been” and “to be
hereafter” are not eternal. And while we were thus speaking, and
straining after her, we slightly touched her with the whole effort
of our heart; and we sighed, and there left bound “the first-fruits
of the Spirit;” and returned to the noise of our own mouth, where
the word uttered has both beginning and end. And what is like unto
Thy Word, our Lord, who remaineth in Himself without becoming old,
and “maketh all things new”?

25. We were saying, then, If to any man the tumult of the flesh
were silenced,–silenced the phantasies of earth, waters, and air,
–silenced, too, the poles; yea, the very soul be silenced to
herself, and go beyond herself by not think
ing of herself,–silenced fancies and imaginary revelations, every
tongue, and every sign, and whatsoever exists by passing away,
since, if any could hearken, all these say, “We created not
ourselves, but were created by Him who abideth for ever:” If, having
uttered this, they now should be silenced, having only quickened our
ears to Him who created them, and He alone speak not by them, but by
Himself, that we may hear His word, not by fleshly tongue, nor
angelic voice, nor sound of thunder, nor the obscurity of a
similitude, but might hear Him–Him whom in these we love–without
these, like as we two now strained ourselves, and with rapid thought
touched on that Eternal Wisdom which remaineth over all. If this
could be sustained, and other visions of a far different kind be
withdrawn, and this one ravish, and absorb, and envelope its
beholder amid these inward joys, so that his life might be eternally
like that one moment of knowledge which we now sighed after, were
not this “Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord”? And when shall that
be? When we shall all rise again; but all shall not be changed?

26. Such things was I saying; and if not after this manner, and
in these words, yet, Lord, Thou knowest, that in that day when we
were talking thus, this world with all its delights grew
contemptible to us, even while we spake. Then said my mother, “Son,
for myself, I have no longer any pleasure in aught in this life.
What I want here further, and why I am here, I know not, now that my
hopes in this world are satisfied. There was indeed one thing for
which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I
might see thee a Catholic Christian before I died? My God has
exceeded this abundantly, so that I see thee despising all earthly
felicity, made His servant,–what do I here?”

CHAP. XI.–HIS MOTHER, ATTACKED BY FEVER, DIES AT OSTIA.

27. What reply I made unto her to these things I do not well
remember. However, scarcely five days after, or not much more, she
was prostrated by fever; and while she was sick, she one day sank
into a swoon, and was ‘for a short time unconscious of visible
things. We hurried up to her; but she soon regained her senses, and
gazing on me and my brother as we stood by her, she said to us
inquiringly, “Where was I?” Then looking intently at us stupefied
with grief, “Here,” saith she, “shall you bury your mother.” I was
silent, and refrained from weeping; but my brother said something,
wishing her, as the happier lot, to die in her own country and not
abroad. She, when she heard this, with anxious countenance arrested
him with her eye, as savouring of such things, and then gazing at
me, “Behold,” saith she, “what he saith;” and soon after to us
both she saith, “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it
trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at
the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.” And when she had given forth
this opinion in such words as she could, she was silent, being in
pain with her increasing sickness.

28. But, as I reflected on Thy gifts, O thou invisible God, which
Thou instillest into the hearts of Thy faithful ones, whence such
marvellous fruits do spring, I did rejoice and give thanks unto
Thee, calling to mind what I knew before, how she had ever burned
with anxiety respecting her burial-place, which she had provided and
prepared for herself by the body of her husband. For as they had
lived very peacefully together, her desire had also been (so little
is the human mind capable of grasping things divine) that this
should be added to that happiness, and be talked of among men, that
after her wandering beyond the sea, it had been granted her that
they both, so united on earth, should lie in the same grave. But
when this uselessness had, through the bounty of Thy goodness, begun
to be no longer in her heart, I knew not, and I was full of joy
admiring what she had thus disclosed to me; though indeed in that
our conversation in the window also, when she said, “What do I here
any longer?” she appeared not to desire to die in her own country. I
heard afterwards, too, that at the time we were at Ostia, with a
maternal confidence she one day, when I was absent, was speaking
with certain of my friends on the contemning of this life, and the
blessing of death; and when they–amazed at the courage which Thou
hadst given to her, a woman–asked her whether she did not dread
leaving her body at such a distance from her own city, she replied,
“Nothing is far to God; nor need I fear lest He should be ignorant
at the end of the world of the place whence He is to raise me up.”
On the ninth day, then, of her sickness, the fifty-sixth year of her
age, and the thirty-third of mine, was that religious and devout
soul set free from the body.

CHAP. XII. — HOW HE MOURNED HIS DEAD MOTHER,

29. I closed her eyes; and there flowed a great sadness into my
heart, and it was passing into tears, when mine eyes at the same
time, by the violent control of my mind, sucked back the fountain
dry, and woe was me in such a struggle! But, as soon as she breathed
her last the boy Adeodatus burst out into wailing, but, being
checked by us all, he became quiet. In like manner also my own
childish feeling, which was, through the youthful voice of my heart,
finding escape in tears, was restrained and silenced. For we did not
consider it fitting to celebrate that funeral with tearful plaints
and groanings; for on such wise are they who die unhappy, or are
altogether dead, wont to be mourned. But she neither died unhappy,
nor did she altogether die. For of this were we assured by the
witness of her good conversation her “faith unfeigned,” and other
sufficient grounds.

30. What, then, was that which did grievously pain me within, but
the newly-made wound, from having that most sweet and dear habit of
living together suddenly broken off? I was full of joy indeed in her
testimony, when, in that her last illness, flattering my
dutifulness,: she called me “kind,” and recalled, with great
affection of love, that she ‘had never heard any harsh or
reproachful sound come out of my mouth against her. But yet, O my
God, who madest us, how can the honour which I paid to her be
compared with her slavery for me? As, then, I was left destitute of
so great comfort in her, my soul was stricken, and that life torn
apart as it were, which, of hers and mine together, had been made
but one.

31. The boy then being restrained from weeping, Evodius took up
the Psalter, and began to sing–the whole house responding–the
Psalm, “I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto Thee, O Lord.” a But
when they heard what we were doing, many brethren and religious
women came together; and whilst they whose office it was were,
according to custom, making ready for the funeral, I, in a part of
the house where I conveniently could, together with those who
thought that I ought not to be left alone, discoursed on what was
suited to the occasion; and by this alleviation of truth mitigated
the anguish known unto Thee–they being unconscious of it, listened
intently, and thought me to be devoid of any sense of sorrow. But in
Thine ears, where none of them heard, did I blame the softness of my
feelings, and restrained the flow of my grief, which yielded a
little unto me; but the paroxysm returned again, though not so as to
burst forth into tears, nor to a change of countenance, though I
knew what I repressed in my heart. And as I was exceedingly annoyed
that these human things had such power over me, which in the due
order and destiny of our natural condition must of necessity come to
pass, with a new sorrow I sorrowed for my sorrow, and was wasted by
a twofold sadness.

32. So, when the body was carried forth, we both went and
returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured
forth unto Thee when the sacrifice of our redemption was offered up
unto Thee for her,–the dead body being now placed by the side of
the grave, as the custom there is, prior to its being laid
therein,–neither in their prayers did I shed tears; yet was I most
grievously sad in secret all the day, and with a troubled mind
entreated ‘Thee, as I was able, to heal my sorrow, but Thou didst
not; fixing, I believe, in my memory by this one lesson the power of
the bonds of all habit, even upon a mind which now feeds not upon a
fallacious word. It appeared to me also a good thing to go and
bathe, I having heard that the bath [balneum] took its name from the
Greek balaneton, because it drives trouble from the mind. Lo,
this also I confess unto Thy mercy, “Father of the fatherless,”
that I bathed, and felt the same as before I had done so. For the
bitterness of my grief exuded not from my heart. Then I slept, and
on awaking found my grief not a little mitigated; and as I lay alone
upon my bed, there came
into my mind those true verses of Thy Ambrose, for Thou art ” Deus
creator omnium, Pollque rector, vesfiens Diem decon [umine, Noctem
sopon gratia; Artus solutos ut quies Reddat laboris usui, Mentesque
fessas a|levet, Luctusque solvat. anxios.”

33. And then little by little did I bring back my former thoughts
of Thine handmaid, her devout conversation towards Thee, her holy
tenderness and attentiveness towards us, which was suddenly taken
away from me; and it was pleasant to me to weep in Thy sight, for
her and for me, concerning her and concerning myself. And I set free
the tears which before I repressed, that they might flow at their
will, spreading them beneath my heart; and it rested in them, for
Thy ears were nigh me,–not those of man, who would have put a
scornful interpretation on my weeping. But now in writing I confess
it unto Thee, O Lord! Read it who will, and interpret how he will;
and if he finds me to have sinned in weeping for my mother during so
small a part of an hour,–that mother who was for a while dead to
mine eyes, who had for many years wept for me, that I might live in
Thine eyes,–let him not laugh at me, but rather, if he be a man of
a noble charity, let him weep for my sins against Thee, the Father
of all the brethren of Thy Christ.

CHAP. XIII.–HE ENTREATS GOD FOR HER SINS, AND ADMONISHES HIS
READERS TO REMEMBER HER PIOUSLY.

34. But,–my heart being now healed of that wound, in so far as
it could be convicted of a carnal I affection,–I pour out unto
Thee, O our God, on behalf of that Thine handmaid, tears of a far
different sort, even that which flows from a spirit broken by the
thoughts of the dan- ] gets of every soul that dieth in Adam. And
although she, having been “made alive” in Christs even before she
was freed from the flesh had so lived as to praise Thy name both by
her faith and conversation, yet dare I not say that from the time
Thou didst regenerate her by baptism, no word went forth from her
mouth against Thy precepts. And it hath been declared by Thy Son,
the Truth, that “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool,
shall be in danger of hell fire.” And woe even unto the
praiseworthy life of man, if, putting away mercy, Thou shouldest
investigate it. But because Thou dost not narrowly inquire after
sins, we hope with confidence to find some place of indulgence with
Thee. But whosoever recounts his true merits to Thee, what is it
that he recounts to Thee but Thine own gifts? Oh, if men would know
themselves to be men; and that “he that glorieth” would “glory in
the Lord! ”

35. I then, O my Praise and my Life, Thou God of my heart,
putting aside for a little her good deeds, for which I joyfully give
thanks to Thee, do now beseech Thee for the sins of my mother.
Hearken unto me, through that Medicine Of our wounds who hung upon
the tree, and who, sitting at Thy right hand, “maketh intercession
for us.” I know that she acted mercifully, and from the hearts
forgave her debtors their debts; do Thou also forgive her debts,n
whatever she contracted during so many ears since the water of
salvation. Forgive er, O Lord, forgive her, I beseech Thee; ‘center
not into judgment” with her. Let Thy mercy be exalted above Thy
justice, because Thy words are true, and Thou hast promised mercy
unto “the merciful;” which Thou gavest them to be who wilt ‘ ‘ have
mercy” on whom Thou wilt “have mercy,” and wilt “have compassion” on
whom Thou hast had compassion.*

36. And I believe Thou hast already done that which I ask Thee;
but “accept the free-will offerings of my mouth, O Lord.” For she,
when the day of her dissolution was near at hand, took no thought to
have her body sumptuously covered, or embalmed with spices; nor did
she covet a choice monument, or desire her paternal burial-place.
These things she entrusted not to us, but only desired to have her
name remembered at Thy altar, which she had served without the
omission of a single day; whence she knew that the holy sacrifice
was dispensed, by which the handwriting that was against us is
blotted out; by which the enemy was triumphed over, who, summing
up our offences, and searching for something to bring against us,
found nothing in Him in whom we conquer. Who will restore to Him
the innocent blood? Who will repay Him the price with which He
bought us, so as to take us from Him? Unto the sacrament of which
our ransom did Thy handmaid bind her soul by the bond of faith. Let
none separate her from Thy protection. Let not the “lion” and the
“dragon” introduce himself by force or fraud. For she will not
reply that she owes nothing, lest she be convicted and got the
better of by the wily deceiver; but she will answer that her “sins
are forgiven” by Him to whom no one is able to repay that price
which He, owing nothing, laid down for us.

37. May she therefore rest in peace with her husband, before or
after whom she married none; whom she obeyed, with patience bringing
forth fruit unto Thee, that she might gain him also for Thee. And
inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire Thy servants my brethren, Thy
sons my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that
so many of them as shall read these confessions may at Thy altar
remember Monica, Thy handmaid, together with Patricius, her sometime
husband, by whose flesh Thou introducedst me into this life, in what
manner I know not. May they with pious affection be mindful of my
parents in this transitory light, of my brethren that are under Thee
our Father in our Catholic mother, and of my fellow-citizens in the
eternal Jerusalem, which the wandering of Thy people sigheth for
from their departure until their return. That so my mother’s last
entreaty to me may, through my confessions more than through my
prayers, be more abundantly fulfilled to her through the prayers of
many.

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