Literature Study GuidesThe ConfessionsBook 13 Sections 1 15 Summary

The Confessions | Study Guide

Saint Augustine

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The Confessions | Book 13, Sections 1–15 (The Days of Creation, Prophecy of the Church) | Summary

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Summary

Augustine now turns to the question of why God created at all, and his answer is that God did so because of his "abundant goodness" and since he "didn't want so good a thing to be missing." In Section 3, Augustine says creation became "converted to him who made it and ... [became] light at his illumination, not indeed as his equal, but by being shaped and conformed to [the Second Person], who, being in the form of God is equal to you." Augustine says a creature's job is to "hold fast" to God; those who turn away will "lose the light" and "slip back into the old life, dark and abysmal."

Augustine interprets God's pronouncement of "Let there be light" as his manifesting his "spiritual creation." He then brings in the Trinity, saying God made creation through Wisdom, his Son. He mentions that he looks for the Holy Spirit in Genesis's "holy utterances" and finds the Spirit "poised above the waters." There he also sees the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of the whole created universe." The love of God is put in people's hearts by the Holy Spirit, Augustine says, which is why the Spirit appears at that point in the story.

Augustine returns to the spiritual quest, saying those who are disgusted with their darkness are converted, and for them the light dawns. He begins praying again, asking God where he is, saying he finds respite when he "pour[s] out ... [his] soul in ... praise," yet still it is "sad" because it falls again into the abyss. He looks forward to the "morning" when he will see God "who sheds the light of salvation." Even so, the "Spirit who dwells in us ... [is] hovering over the dark chaos of our inner being." Nonetheless, those on their "pilgrim way" have already received the assurance that they "are all children of the light already."

Analysis

Augustine brings many ideas together in his explication of the meaning of "let there be light." The reader has now reached the last book of The Confessions, in which the saint means to summarize Catholic theology, which for him is the only means for traveling the path to salvation. The metaphor of light is used continually throughout his story to symbolize God. At the end of his story and the beginning of creation, God's light remains a constant promise of his saving grace. The editors of Maria Boulding's translation of The Confessions explain that "creation exists because it imitates the Son's reception of the Father." All people receive existence and essence and thus "cry out the Word's divine beauty and goodness in whom they are made." According to the editors, this "conversion and formation" imitates Jesus, who is always "cohering" to the Father, although he is God's equal. Another way to look at Section 3 is to see it as a reference to the idea that God created humanity in his own image. Through the process of conversion, Augustine comes to know God as transcendent, not immanent. Thus, human beings are created in God's image in that they too can cohere to the Father as Jesus does.

In these sections, Augustine finally takes some time to explain the Trinity. So far he has not said much about the Third Person, the Holy Spirit. In Genesis, the "Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" before God introduces light, and Augustine equates that spirit with the Third Person, whom he finds "poised above the waters." The saint equates the Holy Spirit with God's love. Out of love God creates light, which will illumine men's darkness and show them the way back home. "In your Gift we find rest, and there we enjoy you," Augustine says. "Our true place is where we find rest. We are borne toward it by love, and it is your good Spirit who lifts up our sunken nature from the gates of death."

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