HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe ConfessionsBook 13 Sections 38 53 Summary

The Confessions | Study Guide

Saint Augustine

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The Confessions | Book 13, Sections 38–53 (The Days of Creation, Prophecy of the Church) | Summary

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Summary

The food provided by God is next considered by Augustine; these "fruits of the earth" symbolize "works of mercy produced by fertile soil to meet the needs of this present life." Augustine then continues with a lengthy discourse on providing "food" to others. Next he notes that God looks at his creation several times and finds it good, connecting this to the idea that God is unconditioned by time. He also interprets this statement as showing that "God is loved in what he has made."

With regard to Adam and Eve, Augustine notes that, just as one faculty in the mind makes decisions and another must submit and obey, so too woman was made "physically subordinate to man." Nonetheless, according to Augustine, she is equal in her rational mind and intelligence, and in sexuality "she was subjected to the male, even as the impulse to action must be submissive in order to conceive from the rational mind the sagacity to act aright."

God rests on the seventh day, and Augustine asks God to provide human beings with peace, since he has given them everything else. The order of creation, as lovely as it is, "will pass away when it has served its purpose." Likewise, Augustine says that when "our works are finished ... we too many rest in you, in the Sabbath of eternal life."

Augustine ends by saying human beings see the things God has made because "they exist," but it is different for God: things exist because God sees them. Humanity sees these things outside of themselves, but when they see the goodness of creation, they do so with "inner vision." Meanwhile, God sees them in the same place where he saw them as "non-existent things" he "willed to create."

Analysis

The last section of Book 13 ends with God finding his creation good and resting after his work, although the idea of God "resting" should also be read as allegorical. Augustine sees the relationship between man and woman as physically and sexually unequal, with the woman in a subordinate role. Nonetheless, he admits she is equal to man in her mental capacities, perhaps remembering the discussions with his mother, Monica, and her "virile faith" in Cassiciacum, where he went with her and his friends to prepare for baptism.

Augustine circles back to God's goodness and the idea that people ought to love God in the manifest world: God's goodness can be seen in the beauty of creation, and his love is reflected in people's love for it. Nonetheless, when people enjoy his creation, they ought to think of their creator first and find him in what they see and enjoy. Through his exegesis of Genesis, Augustine clearly shows he does not hate the manifest world or look on it as evil, as the Manichaeans do. Rather, he sees the manifest world as an arena in which the soul, fallen and tainted by original sin, can be tempered and purified sufficiently so that it may return to God's house. For this to happen, the soul must rely on Jesus as a mediator and his Church on earth, along with scripture, as a source of continual guidance.

At some point, the creation will wind down and disappear after it has served God's purpose. Likewise, when each pilgrim finishes his or her journey, they too will rest in God, enjoying a "day" of eternal life. While people see the manifest world as apart from them, they are in the temporal realm, but when they see God's hand in creation, they do so with their inner vision. As for God, he always sees everything in the same way, including each human creature whom he has created from nothing out of his goodness and unwavering will.

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