Sunday, 1 March 2009

Augustine's best prayer?

Tomorrow night I am presenting an introduction to Augustine's Confessions at Get to know the Classics. It is a wonderful book and as I've been preparing I've been tempted just to read great slabs of Augustine's poetic prayer. I won't do that, I'll give some background and orientation which helps people read Confessions for themselves. I will, however, quote these wonderful words which are a summary of Augustine's reflection on his life in Book X. It captures his Christian theistic worldview in its Neoplatonic expression, his view of sin and his wonder at God's grace. Is it his best prayer? It certainly beats "Give me continence but not yet"!

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved
you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

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