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St Augustine of Hippo
Roman Christian theologian
(AD 354 - 430)



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Confessiones (The Confessions) (397–398)

Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
-- The Confessions, I, 1

The weakness of little children's limbs is innocent, not their souls.
-- The Confessions, I, 7

I became evil for no reason. I had no motive for my wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved the self-destruction, I loved my fall, not the object for which I had fallen but my fall itself. My depraved soul leaped down from your firmament to ruin. I was seeking not to gain anything by shameful means, but shame for its own sake.
-- The Confessions, II, 4

Nondum amabam, et amare amabam...quaerebam quid amarem, amans amare.
I was not yet in love, yet I loved to love...I sought what I might love, in love with loving.
-- The Confessions, III, 1

Et illa erant fercula, in quibus mihi esurienti te inferebatur sol et luna.
And these were the dishes wherein to me, hunger-starven for thee, they served up the sun and the moon.
-- The Confessions, III, 6

Veni Karthaginem, et circumstrephebat me undique sartago falgitiosorum amorum. Nondum amabam, et amare amabam... et quaerebam quid amarem, amans amare.
I came to Carthage where a whole frying pan of abomidable loves crackled about me on every side. I was not in love yet, yet I loved to be in love... I was looking for something to love, in love with love itself.
-- The Confessions, III

Already I had learned from thee that because a thing is eloquently expressed it should not be taken to be as necessarily true; nor because it is uttered with stammering lips should it be supposed false. Nor, again, is it necessarily true because rudely uttered, nor untrue because the language is brilliant. Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels — both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish.
-- The Confessions, V, 6

For it still seemed to me “that it is not we who sin, but some other nature sinned in us.” And it gratified my pride to be beyond blame, and when I did anything wrong not to have to confess that I had done wrong. … I loved to excuse my soul and to accuse something else inside me (I knew not what) but which was not I. But, assuredly, it was I, and it was my impiety that had divided me against myself. That sin then was all the more incurable because I did not deem myself a sinner.
-- The Confessions, V, 10, A. Outler, trans. (Dover, 2002)

When he was reading, he he drew his eyes along over the leaves, and his heart searched into the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent.
-- On St Ambrose, in: The Confessions, VI, 3

At ego adulescens miser ualde, miser in exordio ipsius adulescentiae, etiam petieram a te castitatem et dixeram, 'Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.'
As a youth I prayed, "Give me chastity and continence, but not right now."
-- The Confessions, VIII, 7

Dicebam haec et flebam amarissima contritione cordis mei. Et ecce audio vocem de vicina domo cum cantu dicentis et crebro repetentis, quasi pueri an puellae, nescio: tolle lege, tolle lege. Statimque mutato vultu intentissimus cogitare coepi utrumnam solerent pueri in aliquo genere ludendi cantitare tale aliquid. Nec occurrebat omnino audisse me uspiam, repressoque impetu lacrimarum surrexi, nihil aliud interpretans divinitus mihi iuberi nisi ut aperirem codicem et legerem quod primum caput invenissem. Audieram enim de Antonio quod ex evangelica lectione cui forte supervenerat admonitus fuerit, tamquam sibi diceretur quod legebatur: "Vade, vende omnia quae habes, et da pauperibus et habebis thesaurum in caelis; et veni, sequere me," et tali oraculo confestim ad te esse conversum. Itaque concitus redii in eum locum ubi sedebat Alypius: ibi enim posueram codicem apostoli cum inde surrexeram. arripui, aperui, et legi in silentio capitulum quo primum coniecti sunt oculi mei: "Non in comessationibus et ebrietatibus, non in cubilibus et impudicitiis, non in contentione et aemulatione, sed induite dominum Iesum Christum et carnis providentiam ne feceritis in concupiscentiis." Nec ultra volui legere nec opus erat. Statim quippe cum fine huiusce sententiae quasi luce securitatis infusa cordi meo omnes dubitationis tenebrae diffugerunt.
I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which — coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, "Take up and read; take up and read." Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read, received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: "Go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and
come and follow me" [Matt. 19:21]. By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee. So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle’s book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof" [Rom. 13:13]. I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.
-- The Confessions, VIII, 12

Sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi! et ecce intus eras et ego foris, et ibi te quaerebam.
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Late have I loved you! And, behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, and there I searched for you.
-- The Confessions, X, 27, as translated in: Theology and Discovery: Essays in honor of Karl Rahner, S.J. (1980) (William J. Kelly, ed.)

Variant translation of this section:
Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou was with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispell my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.
-- The Confessions, X, 27

Da quod iubes, et iube quod vis. Imperas nobis … continentiam.
Give what you command, and command what you will. You impose continency on us.
-- The Confessions, X, 29

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
-- The Confessions, X

There is another form of temptation, more complex in its peril. … It originates in an appetite for knowledge. … From this malady of curiosity are all those strange sights exhibited in the theatre.
Hence do we proceed to search out the secret powers of nature (which is beside our end), which to know profits not, and wherein men desire nothing but to know.
-- The Confessions, X, 35

Ecce respondeo dicenti, 'quid faciebat deus antequam faceret caelum et terram?' respondeo non illud quod quidam respondisse perhibetur, ioculariter eludens quaestionis violentiam: 'alta,' inquit, 'scrutantibus gehennas parabat.' aliud est videre, aliud ridere: haec non respondeo. libentius enim responderim, 'nescio quod nescio' quam illud unde inridetur qui alta interrogavit et laudatur qui falsa respondit.
How, then, shall I respond to him who asks, “What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?” I do not answer, as a certain one is reported to have done facetiously (shrugging off the force of the question). “He was preparing hell,” he said, “for those who pry too deep.” It is one thing to see the answer; it is another to laugh at the questioner--and for myself I do not answer these things thus. More willingly would I have answered, “I do not know what I do not know,” than cause one who asked a deep question to be ridiculed--and by such tactics gain praise for a worthless answer.
-- The Confessions, XI, 12, E. B. Pusey, trans.

Quid est ergo tempus? Si nemo ex me quaerat, scio; si quaerenti explicare velim, nescio.
What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that no one asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.
-- The Confessions, XI, 14 (R. S. Pine-Coffin, tr.)

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.
-- The Confessions, XI

Deus, dona hominibus videre in parvo communes notitias rerum parvarum atque magnarum.
God, grant us men to see in a small thing principles which are common things both small and great.
-- The Confessions, XI, 23

De Civitate Dei (On the City of God) (begun c. 413, finished 426)

Quid, si falleris? Si enim fallor, sum. Nam qui non est, utique nec falli potest; ac per hoc sum, si fallor. Quia ergo sum si fallor, quo modo esse me fallor, quando certum est me esse, si fallor.
What difference, if you are mistaken? For if I am mistaken, I am. For he who is not, assuredly cannot be mistaken; and therefore I am, if I am mistaken. Therefore because I am if I am mistaken, how am I mistaken that I am, when it is sure that I am, if I am mistaken.'
-- De Civitate Dei (On the City of God)
NOTE: Commentators have sometime paraphrased this quote as Sum si fallor (I am because I err) and compared it to the later "Cogito ergo sum" in the Principles of Philosophy (1644) of Descartes. Descartes may have been familiar with Augustine's thought which may have inspired Descartes' observation "Doubt is the origin of wisdom" in his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641).

The works of Creation are described as being completed in six days, the same formula being repeated six times. The reason for this is that six is the number of perfection.
-- De Civitate Dei (On the City of God), bk. 9, ch. 30

What varieties man has found out in buildings, attires, husbandry, navigation, sculpture and imagery! What perfection has he shown, in the shows of theatres, in taming, catching and killing wild beasts! What millions of inventions has he against others, and for himself in poisons, arms, engines, strartegems and the like! What thousands of medicines for the health, of meats for the throat, of means and figures to persuade, of elegant figures to delight, of verses for pleasure, of musical inventions and instruments! What excellent inventions are geography, arithmetic, astrology, and the rest! How large is the capacity of man, if we should stand upon particulars!
-- De Civitate Dei (On the City of God)

All the devastation, the butchery, the plundering, the conflagrations, and the anguish which accompanied the recent disaster at Rome were in accordance with the general practice of warfare.
-- De Civitate Dei (On the City of God), vol. 1, ch. 1, sect. 9

Sermons

De vitiis nostris scalam nobis facimus, si vitia ipsa calcamus.
We make a ladder of our vices, if we trample those same vices underfoot.
-- Sermons, 3

Date ergo pauperibus: rogo, moneo, praecipio, iubeo.
So give to the poor; I’m begging you, I’m warning you, I’m commanding you, I’m ordering you.
-- Sermons, 61:13, On Almsgiving

Roma locuta est; causa finita est.
Rome has spoken; the case is concluded.
-- Sermons, 131

Other Works

Salus extra ecclesiam non est or Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.
There is no salvation outside the church.
-- De Baptismo ( On Baptism), Against the Donatists, book IV, ch. 17

An unjust law is no law at all.
-- On Free Choice Of The Will, Book 1, § 5

Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.
-- Tractates on the Gospel of John; tractate XXIX on John 7:14-18, §6, in: A Select Library of the Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Volume VII by St. Augustine, chapter VII (1888) (Philip Schaff, tr.)

To suppose that God formed man from the dust with bodily hands is very childish. ...God neither formed man with bodily hands nor did he breathe upon him with throat and lips.
-- On the Old Testament book of Genesis, in: De Cenesi contra Manichaeos

I have, however, observed this fact of human behaviour, that with certain people, when sexuality is repressed, avarice seems to grow in its place.
-- De Bono Vidultatis, sect. 26

Audi partem alteram.
Hear the other side.
-- De Duabus Animabus contra Manichaeos, ch. 14

Quapropter bono christiano, sive mathematici, sive quilibet impie divinantium, maxime dicentes vera, cavendi sunt, ne consortio daemoniorum animam deceptam, pacto quodam societatis irretiant.
Hence, a devout Christian must avoid astrologers and all impious soothsayers, especially when they tell the truth, for fear of leading his soul into error by consorting with demons and entangling himself with the bonds of such association.
-- De Genesi ad Litteram, II, xvii, 37

Dilige et quod vis fac.
Love and do what you will.
Alterative translation: Love and then, what you will, do.
-- In Epistolam Joannis ad Parthos, tractatus 7, sect. 8
Often quoted in error as: Ama et fac quod vis.

When men desire old age, what else do they desire but prolonged infirmity?
-- "On Catechising of the Unlearned"

Securus iudicat orbis terrarum.
The judgement of the world is sure.
-- Contra Epistolam Parmeniani, III

Multi quidem facilius se abstinent ut non utantur, quam temerent ut bene utantur.
Many find it easier to abstain totally than to use moderation.
-- De Bono Conjugali (On the Good of Marriage), XXI

Nisi credideritis, non intelligitis.
Unless you believe, you will not understand.
-- De Libero Arbitrio

Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum.
Love the sinner and hate the sin.
-- Opera Omnia, Vol II. Col. 962, letter 211
Alternate translation: With love for mankind and hatred of sins (vices).






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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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