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UPDATE: “Confessions”: Book IX – Chapters 7 – 13

Clergymen bow and touch relics of Lebanese St. Rafqa as they are displayed for visitors on Nov. 6, 2014, at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Easton.

 

Today, we concluded the autobiographical portion of Augustine’s Confessions.  Most colleges courses covering this book would normally stop here, but we will continue with the rest of the books.

It is interesting, as one person put it, that when he went seminary in his late 30’s, he was surrounded by young 20-year olds straight out of college.  When it came to reading Augustine’s Confessions, many of the young people found it a bit boring and less applicable; however, the handful of older people in the class felt a deeper connection while reading the book because they went through the same struggles, experiences, and questions as Augustine had but afraid to share them with others.  So I guess when you re-read Confessions later on in your life, the deeper the connection you feel with Augustine.

We discussed whether or not traditional “biblical” gender roles still apply till this day, as well as how Protestants uphold the doctrine of Sola Scriptura  and some problems it has in today’s context; the use and abuse of relics in the Church in history; Augustine’s Neoplatonic view of the afterlife after his vision or epiphany with his mother Monica; and Mike (not written here) talked about whether or not salvation was conditional or unconditional – the Bible seems ambivalent in some respects with the issue.

Our essays can be found here.

 

 

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UPDATE: “Confessions”: Book VI – Chapters 1 – 8

 

Here are our essays for Book VI: Chapters 1 – 8, where we discuss about materialism and happiness, and on the culture of anti-intellectualism in American churches in general and what it means to love God with all your mind.

 

 

Confessions – Book VI: Chapters 1 – 8

 

Detail of the Gladiator Mosaic, 4th century CE. Augustine’s friend Alypius became obsessed with gladiatorial shows.

 

Starting from Book VI and onward through Book VIII, Augustine describes his conversion to the Christian faith. It is good to bear in mind that he depicts conversion (or at least his own personal conversion) as a long process and not as a single event.

 

He devotes a large amount of Book VI to the people in his life in Milan: his mother Monica; Ambrose; and two friends from Africa, Alypius and Nebridius.

 

Please write on one of the following questions:

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“Confessions: Book II”

We will go over all of Book II of Confessions for our next meeting.

 

In this Book , Augustine describes the onset of adolescence (he was around sixteen at the time – c. 370-371 AD) and enters what he seems to consider the most lurid and sinful period of his life. He describes how he returned home after having spent a year in Madaura, a nearby city where he had gone to study rhetoric. His parents had now expended their meager resources for his schooling, which led the young Augustine to take a year off and give him the opportunity to get into some trouble. He “ran wild,” he writes, “in the jungle of erotic adventures…and became putrid in [God’s] sight.”

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UPDATE: “Confessions” Book I, Chapters 11 – 20

 

https://tomperna.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/st_augustine_of_hippo-icoin.jpg

Orthodox icon of St. Augustine – the patron saint of theologians

Here are our responses from last week on Augustine’s Confessions: Book I, Chapters 11 – 20.

We investigated Augustine’s thoughts on the relationship between the human condition and sin; baptism; mankind’s desire for wealth and fame; and his criticisms of educational institutions.

Questions for ‘Confessions’ – Book I, Chapters 11 – 20

 

external image roman_education_fresco_hi.jpg

“The rich people of Rome had a great education. They were often schooled and were taught by their own private tutor, at home they would go to schools. The schools were boys only. All the learning was based from fear, The boys would be beaten for any offence. They did this because they figured if children fear getting the wrong answer they will get it correct. If a student were to get lots of answers wrong they would be held down and beaten with a leather strap. If you were poor chances are you would be able to read and write , but you would not be able to have your own tutor or be able to go to school. ” (source: https://historicalroots.wikispaces.com/Ancient+Romans) Augustine wrote about how he was beaten at school for bad performance. He writes, “I was still a boy when I first began to pray to you, my Help and Refuge. I used to prattle away to you, and though I was small, my devotion was great when I begged you not to let me be beaten at school. Sometimes, for my own good, you did not grant my prayer, and then my elders and even my parents, who certainly wished me no harm, would laugh at the beating I got – and in those days beatings were my one great bugbear.” (Confessions, Book I, Chapter 9)

 

 

 In these chapters, Augustine describes his early education and what his childhood was like.

 

Here are some interesting facts about the time in which Augustine lived in that will provide some background information to clarify some historical details.

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UPDATE: “Confessions” – Book I: Chapters 1 – 10

 

"St. Augustine Writing in His Cell"

“St. Augustine Writing in His Cell”, Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510), Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, c. 1490 – 94.

 

This past Thursday we had our first fruitful discussion of Augustine’s Confessions.

 

We had interesting discussions on topics about who makes the first step in reaching out to us: God or us?  Musings on life and death (even reincarnation) and the ‘sinfulness’ of infants and babies were discussed.

 

You can take a look at our responses here.

 

 

Questions for ‘Confessions’ Book I: Chapters 1 – 10

 

Infant sinner

Don’t let this baby’s unbearable cuteness deceive you. She’s a helpless, natural born sinner according to Augustine.

 

Hi everyone, we will be covering Book I, chapters 1 – 10.

 

Augustine titled his deeply philosophical and theological autobiography Confessions to implicate two aspects of the form the work would take. To ‘confess’, in Augustine’s time, meant both to give an account of one’s faults to God and to praise God or to speak one’s love for God. These two aims come together in the Confessions in an elegant but complex sense: Augustine narrates his ascent from sinfulness to faithfulness not simply for the practical edification of his readers, but also because he believes that his narrative itself is really a story about God’s greatness and of the fundamental love all things have for Him. Thus, in the Confessions form equals content to a large degree—the natural form for Augustine’s story of redemption to take would be a direct address to God, since it is God who must be thanked for such redemption. (That said, a direct address to God was a highly original form for Augustine to have used at the time).

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Plotinus and Neo-Platonism’s Influence on Augustine

Plotinus (205 - 270)

Plotinus (205 – 270)

Before we delve into Confessions, we will start exploring the development of Augustine’s philosophy and theology.

For a while, Augustine had been influenced by Manichaeism, a Persian adaptation of Christianity, which added in Zoroastrianism, speculative philosophy and superstition.  Augustine was a Manichee for nine years.  Then during a trip to Rome in 383, due to his education in the liberal arts, he began to question Manichaeism when he saw that its understanding of the universe owed more to astrology than astronomy.

The next year, he met the formidable figure of Ambrose, bishop of Milan.  His great intellect and fiery sermons left a deep impression on Augustine.  In Ambrose, Augustine found someone who could communicate at his own intellectual level, further confirming his rejection of the Manichees and opening the way for his return to the Christian faith.

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Brief Overview of St. Augustine’s Philosophy

I know that I stated that we’d be doing Augustine’s Confessions later on this month, but I’ve decided to hold off a bit longer to see if we can recruit some more people into the group, so we will not begin until June.

In the meantime, we will spend the rest of the month getting to know Augustine and the world he lived in better.

The video above gives an overview of Augustine’s philosophy and the world he lived in, which is vital to understand what and why he wrote.  Although much of the video focuses on his monumental The City of God, we still get a good general overall sense of his beliefs, especially his political philosophy, and why he is still relevant today.