Augustine: On Friendship

…We could talk and laugh together and exchange small acts of kindness. We could join in the pleasure that books can give. We could be grave or [happy] together. If we sometimes disagreed, it was without spite, as a man might differ with himself, and the rare occasions of dispute were the very spice to season our usual accord. Each of us had something to learn from the others and something to teach in return. If any were away, we missed them with regret and gladly welcomed them when they came home. Such things as these are heartfelt tokens of affection between friends. They are signs to be read on the face and in the eyes, spoken by the tongue and displayed in countless acts of kindness. They can kindle a blaze to melt our hearts and weld them into one.

This what we cherish in friendship, and we cherish it so dearly that in conscience we feel guilty if we do not return love for love, asking no more of our friends than these expressions of goodwill. This is why we mourn their death, which shrouds us in sorrow and turns joy into bitterness, so that the heart is drenched in tears and life becomes a living death because a friend is lost. Blessed are those who love you, O God, and love their friends in you and their enemies for your sake. They alone will never lose those who are dear to them, for they love them in one who is never lost, in God, our God who made heaven and earth and fills them with his presence, because by filling them he made them. No one can lose you, my God, unless he forsakes you. And if he forsakes you, where is he to go? If he abandons your love, his only refuge is your wrath. Wherever he turns, he will find your law to punish them, for your law is the truth and the truth is yourself.

Augustine, The Confessions [BOOK IV]


‘Wherever We Taste the Truth, God is There.’

If the things of this world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker, so that in the things that please you, you may not displease him. If your delight is in [people], love them in God, because they too are frail and stand firm only when they cling to him. If they do not, they go their own way and are lost. Love them, then, in him and draw as many with you to him as you can. Tell them ‘He is the one we should love. He made the world and he stays close to it.’ For when he made the world he did not go away and leave it. By him it was created and in him it exists. Wherever we taste the truth, God is there. He is in our very inmost hearts, but our hearts have strayed from him. Think well on it, unbelieving hearts and cling to him who made you. Stand with him and you shall not fall; rest in him and peace shall be yours. What snags and pitfalls lie before you? Where do your steps lead you? The good things which you love are all from God, but they are good and sweet only as long as they are used to do his will. They will rightly turn bitter if God is spurned and the things that come from him are wrongly loved. Why do you still choose to travel by this hard and arduous path? There is no rest to be found where you seek it. In the land of death you try to find a happy life; it is not there. How can life be happy where there is no life at all?

Augustine, The Confessions [BOOK 4.12.18]

Augustine — On Seeking God

I sought the way to get the strength to be able to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all things, God for ever blessed; he who cries out and says, I am the way and the truth and the life; who mixes with flesh the food that I was too weak to receive — for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through which you have created all things might nourish us in our infancy like milk. I did not humbly hold on to my God, Jesus the humble, nor did I know what his weakness had to teach me. For your Word, eternal Truth, towers over the highest parts of your creation and lifts up to himself those that submit to him; but in the lower parts of it he has built for himself a house of our clay, through which to bring men down from themselves and draw them to him to be brought into submission. He heals the swelling of their pride and nurses their love, so that they should not trust in themselves and depart from him, but seeing before their feet the weakness of the Godhead who shares in our clothing of skin might themselves be made weak, and cast themselves in exhaustion upon him; and he, rising, might raise them up.

Augustine, The Confessions [7.18.24]

“Made by God, for God” in Context

Augustine’s introductory prayer in his classic, The Confessions:

Great are you, O Lord, and worthy of high praise (Ps. 48.1, Ps. 96.4, Ps. 145.3). Great is your strength, and of your wisdom there is not counting (Ps. 147.5). Even man is, in his way, a part of your creation, and longs to praise you; even man, who carries in himself his own mortality (2 Cor. 4.19), that testimony of his sin, that testimony also that you resist the proud (Prov. 3.34, 1 Pet. 5.5, James 4.6); for all that, man is part of your creation, and longs to praise you. You stir us up to delight in your praise; for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless till it finds its rest in you.

Grant me knowledge and understanding, O Lord (Ps. 119.34, 73, 144): Can anyone praise you before he calls upon you, or call upon you before he knows you? But surely no one could call upon you if he did not know you, for he might call upon one thing, mistaking it in his ignorance for another. Should we rather call upon you, so as to know you? But how shall any call upon you, if they have not believed in you? And how shall they believe in you, if no one preaches you? (Rom. 10.14). Those who seek the Lord shall praise him (Ps. 22.26). They will seek and they will find him (Matt. 7.7-8, Lk 11.10); they will find and they will praise him. I shall seek you, Lord, as I call upon you, and call upon you as I believe in you (Rom. 10.14); for you have been proclaimed to us. My faith, O Lord, calls upon you; the faith that is your gift to me, which you have inspired through the humanity of your Son, and the ministry of him who proclaimed you.

Augustine, The Confessions [BOOK ONE]