Friday, 11 February 2011

Summary of Book IX - Part 1

Retirement. Writing. Learning. Baptism.

Augustine’s conversion turned his heart mind and will toward serving God. Suddenly it was sweet to be without the sweets of folly. What he had once feared to lose was now a delight to dismiss. He describes himself as really talking with the Lord. It was “in the sight of God” that he decided to keep teaching rhetoric for a short time. Yet plans were made for Augustine to retire from his old vocation. As it happened, illness required that Augustine take time away from teaching. This worried him at first but he was also learning to trust in God’s God-ness.

Friends and acquaintances responded to or followed Augustine’s spiritual progress in their own ways. After retiring as a teacher of rhetoric Augustine spent time completing writing projects based on discussions among his peer group. These books were Neoplatonic yet Christian. They were written in God’s service even though they contained vestiges of the group’s old spirit of pride. But Augustine now “read the Psalms of David, songs of faith, utterances of devotion which allow no pride of spirit to enter in!” He was a beginner in authentic love to God.

Enlightened by his conversion, Augustine was learning more and more through his study. He was learning more about theological truths, including his own sinfulness and his own inability to change others for good. Augustine did not know what to do for the deaf and dead. He himself had been ‘a bitter and blind critic’ of the scriptures. Now, like the psalmist, enemies of the scriptures made him sick with disgust.

Prayer continued to influence life for good. An attack of toothache vanished during special prayer time. On retiring Augustine asked Ambrose for advice on pursuing his call to Christian ministry. The advice was to read the prophet Isaiah. But Augustine found the first passage difficult. Soon after retiring Augustine was baptised along with his son Adeodatus. Among the circle of friends the decision was made to return to Africa, ‘a place where we could be of most use’ in God’s service.