chapter  VIII
13 Pages

Meditations on beginnings

Creation Augustine wrote the Confessions in his early 40s, when he had been bishop for about five years. In the Latin usage of his time a confessor was not-as we oddly apply the wordone who hears confessions, but one who makes them; and there are two ways of making them, by acknowledgement of sins and declaration of allegiance. Augustine sees the latter as praise:

The former’, he says in another place, ‘expresses sorrow, the latter joy; the former shows the wound to the doctor, the latter says thank you for curing it’ (Enarr. Ps 110.2). What these passages ignore is that a confession of praise must be advertised: it is an act by which a Christian-particularly in earlier penal times a persecuted Christian-proclaims his Christianity, takes sides, ‘comes out’. This, as much as confession of sins, is the theme of Augustine’s Confessions; and although the work is addressed as a prayer to God, it is essentially a public document.