Monday, September 19, 2011

Here We Go!

Friends, the time has come to begin our discussion of Book I of Confessions! Throughout the week I'll be posting bits and pieces to foster our discussion, but I wanted to start by creating a space for you to share your initial insights and questions from this portion of the work. What did you think? What did you like? What did you hate? What surprised you? What challenged you? What might you take with you? What might you reject? Was there anything mentioned that you'd like to explore further?

Your willingness to share your insights and questions here helps to ensure that we'll chat about the things that interest you and not my own pet interests. I might feel like rambling about Neo-Platonism while you are eager to challenge Augustine's assertions about the sinful nature of babies. I want to privilege the discussion that you want to have!

Also, you might find that the reading prompts you to want to offer a longer response. That's great!  I am glad to feature your reflection or question as a guest post so that it gets more attention and feedback than it might as simply a comment. Feel free to email me at charlotte@heavenlybanquet.com if you have as little as a paragraph or as much as an essay that you want highlighted. You can also email me there if you want to submit a video response or even an audio podcast to the site. And don't stifle your creativity! If the reading prompts a prayer or a doodle, then please consider sharing that with us as well. All that I ask is that you follow any email up with a tweet to me or a post on the Heavenly Banquet's Facebook Page if you don't get a response from me within a couple of hours. I'd hate for your thoughts to be trapped in my spam folder!

So here we go! What did you think? What topics do you want to highlight? Share your first thoughts below or send a note to charlotte@heavenlybanquet.com with your larger pieces. I'm eager to hear from you!

10 comments:

  1. I used the section of text from Book 1 Chapter v that begins "O Lord my God, what Thou art to me" and ends with "Cramped is the dwelling of my soul; do Thou expand it, that Thou mayest enter in." As the Prayer for Illumination for our Wednesday Vesper Service. I would like any thoughts of other practical applications of the text.

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  2. I am always drawn to his description of God in I.4 that says "Most highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong, stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, and they know
    it not; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating,nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, without passion; art jealous, without anxiety; repentest, yet grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, Thy purpose unchanged; receivest again what Thou findest, yet didst never lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet exacting usury. Thou receivest over and above, that Thou mayest owe; and who hath aught that is not Thine? Thou payest debts, owing nothing; remittest debts, losing nothing. (Pusey Trans.)

    How can we even speak of God? In a sense we cannot, yet we must. I take it this is what drives Augustine's work.

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  3. Well, since you mentioned it, what is up with Augustine's discussion of sinful infants? Is this (for example) a volley in a long argument about original sin that I'm not aware of? Help me understand why it was so important for him to assert how sinful he was as a baby.

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  4. While I scribbled "original sin" in the margins, my thought as to the extent he goes in speaking about his infancy is to show how all good things are from God, and to what extent our redemption is by God's grace alone.

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  5. My thought was, he is showing that there is no age where one suddenly begins to sin, but a basic selfish is there even in infants. I think he presses the case too hard. I wonder how much of it is stylistic?

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  6. Vern, that's a great use of the text! We'll definitely want to create a space for sharing liturgical ideas. The opening section of Confessions, "Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise..." has struck me as a possible portion of an anaphora. I could just hear that section following the Sanctus. Somewhere I have a file in which I was building a Great Thanksgiving from parts of Confessions. Perhaps we could all work on that together.

    On other note, I wonder how much Augustine actually quotes the language of the liturgy he knew. He has obviously absorbed the language of the psalms, most likely through liturgical use, and it seems likely that the bishop could have had the prayers of the church on his lips throughout the Confessions, particularly in these more doxological sections. Given how very little we know about the liturgy of North Africa, it is an interesting prospect to consider the Confessions as a possible source for euchological texts.

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  7. David, thanks for highlighting this wonderful section for us. I think there is much we can learn from Confessions about the process of theology, (even when we might not agree with Augustine's theological conclusions!). The tension between what we cannot know and what we must say about God is ever-present in this work and often brings Augustine to his knees in prayer.

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  8. I remember a study David and I were doing with some colleagues. One colleague was having difficulty with the concept of original sin. The three of us who had children told him to come back once he had kids,for once he had kids he would understand original sin.

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  9. Folks, check out the latest post which includes a video of another participant reading and commenting on Augustine's description of infants: http://www.heavenlybanquet.com/2011/09/babies-worlds-tiniest-terrorists.html

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  10. There are probably lots of seminary students who can identify thoroughly with Augustine's dislike of learning Greek, described in chapters 13 and 14: 'For I did not understand a word of the language, and yet I was driven with threats and cruel punishments to learn it.'

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