Retractiones II, VI (XXXIII)
Revisions II, 6 (32)
Confessionum, libri tredecim
Thirteen Books of The Confessions
6. 1. Confessionum mearum libri tredecim, et de malis et de bonis meis Deum laudant iustum et bonum, atque in eum excitant humanum intellectum et affectum. Interim quod ad me attinet, hoc in me egerunt cum scriberentur et agunt cum leguntur. Quid de illis alii sentiant, ipsi viderint; multis tamen fratribus eos multum placuisse et placere scio.
1. The thirteen books of my Confessions concern both my bad and my good actions, for which they praise our just and good God. In so doing they arouse the human mind and affections toward him. As far as I am concerned, they had this effect upon me in my writing of them, and still do when I read them now. What others think about them is for them to say; but I know that they have given pleasure in the past, and still do give pleasure, to many of my brethren.
A primo usque ad decimum de me scripti sunt, in tribus ceteris de Scripturis sanctis, ab eo quod scriptum est: in principio fecit Deus caelum et terram, usque ad sabbati requiem.
The first ten books were written about myself; the last three about holy Scripture, from the words: in the Beginning God created heaven and earth as far as the Sabbath rest.
6. 2. In quarto libro, cum de amici morte animi mei miseriam confiterer, dicens quod anima nostra una quodammodo facta fuerat ex duabus: et ideo, inquam, forte mori metuebam, ne totus ille moreretur, quem multum amaveram. Quae mihi quasi declamatio levis quam gravis confessio videtur, quamvis utcumque temperata sit haec ineptia in eo quod additum est: forte.
2. In the fourth book, after I confessed the misery of my soul on the death of a friend, saying that in some way our soul had been made one from two, I say: and perhaps I was so afraid of death because I did not want the whole of him to die, whom I had loved so dearly. This seems to me, as it were, a trifling pronouncement rather than a serious confession, although this absurdity may be moderated to some extent by the word perhaps which I added.
Et in libro tertio decimo quod dixi firmamentum factum inter spiritales aquas superiores et corporales inferiores, non satis considerate dictum est; res autem in abdito est valde.
And what I said in the thirteenth book: the barrier was made between the spiritual waters on high and the lower waters, was said without sufficient deliberation. The subject, however, is exceedingly obscure.
Hoc opus sic incipit: Magnus es, Domine.
This work begins as follows: Magnus es, Domine.
Ortus, infantia et pueritia
Infancy and Boyhood
Opening prayer and meditation
Quomodo invocabimus Deum?
[How shall we call upon God?]
1. 1. Magnus es, Domine, et laudabilis valde: magna virtus tua et sapientiae tuae non est numerus. Et laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae, et homo circumferens mortalitatem suam, circumferens testimonium peccati sui et testimonium, quia superbis resistis; et tamen laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae. Tu excitas, ut laudare te delectet, quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.
1, 1. Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we humans, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you—we who carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. Yet these humans, due part of your creation as they are, still do long to praise you. You stir us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.
Da mihi, Domine, scire et intellegere, utrum sit prius invocare te an laudare te et scire te prius sit an invocare te. Sed quis te invocat o nesciens te? Aliud enim pro alio potest invocare nesciens.
Grant me to know and understand, Lord, which comes first: to call upon you or to praise you? To know you or to call upon you? Must we know you before we can call upon you? Anyone who invokes what is still unknown may be making a mistake.
An potius invocaris, ut sciaris? Quomodo autem invocabunt, in quem non crediderunt? Aut quomodo credunt sine praedicante? Et laudabunt Dominum qui requirunt eum. Quaerentes enim inveniunt eum et invenientes laudabunt eum.
Or should you be invoked first, so that we may then come to know you? But how can people call upon someone in whom they do not yet believe? And how can they believe without a preacher? But scripture tells us that those who seek the Lord will praise him, for as they seek they find him, and on finding him they will praise him.
Quaeram te, Domine, invocans te et invocem te credens in te; praedicatus enim es nobis. Invocat te, Domine, fides mea, quam dedisti mihi, quam inspirasti mihi per humanitatem Filii tui, per ministerium praedicatoris tui.
Let me seek you, then, Lord, even while I am calling upon you, and call upon you even as I believe in you; for to us you have indeed been preached. My faith calls upon you, Lord, this faith which is your gift to me, which you have breathed into me through the humanity of your Son and the ministry of your preacher.
Cur invocabimus Deum?
[Why shall we call upon God?]
2. 2. Et quomodo invocabo Deum meum, Deum et Dominum meum, quoniam utique in me ipsum eum vocabo, cum invocabo eum ? Et quis locus est in me, quo veniat in me Deus meus ? Quo Deus veniat in me, Deus, qui fecit caelum et terram? Itane, Domine Deus meus, est quidquam in me, quod capiat te? An vero caelum et terra, quae fecisti et in quibus me fecisti, capiunt te? An quia sine te non esset quidquid est, fit, ut quidquid est capiat te? Quoniam itaque et ego sum, quid peto, ut venias in me, qui non essem, nisi esses in me? Non enim ego iam inferi, et tamen etiam ibi es. Nam etsi descendero in infernum, ades. Non ergo essem, Deus meus, non omnino essem, nisi esses in me.
2, 2. How shall I call upon my God, my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling him into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How should the God who made heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God? Even heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me—can even they contain you? Since nothing that exists would exist without you, does it follow that whatever exists does in some way contain you? But if this is so, how can I, who am one of these existing things, ask you to come into me, when I would not exist at all unless you were already in me? Not yet am I in hell, after all, but even if I were, you would be there too; for if I descend to the underworld, you are there. No, my God, I would not exist, I would not be at all, were you not in me.
An potius non essem, nisi essem in te, ex quo omnia, per quem omnia, in quo omnia? Etiam sic, Domine, etiam sic. Quo te invoco, cum in te sim? Aut unde venias in me? Quo enim recedam extra caelum et terram, ut inde in me veniat Deus meus, qui dixit: Caelum et terram ego impleo?
Or should I say, rather, that I should not exist if I were not in you, from whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things? Yes, Lord, that is the truth, that is indeed the truth. To what place can I invite you, then, since I am in you? Or where could you come from, in order to come into me? To what place outside heaven and earth could I travel, so that my God could come to me there, the God who said, I fill heaven and earth?
Deus implet omnia
[God fills all things]
3. 3. Capiunt ergone te caelum et terra, quoniam tu imples ea? An imples et restat, quoniam non te capiunt? Et quo refundis quidquid impleto caelo et terra restat ex te? An non opus habes, ut quoquam continearis, qui contines omnia, quoniam quae imples continendo imples?
3, 3. So then, if you fill heaven and earth, does that mean that heaven and earth contain you? Or, since clearly they cannot hold you, is there something of you left over when you have filled them? Once heaven and earth are full, where would that remaining part of you overflow? Or perhaps you have no need to be contained by anything, but rather contain everything yourself, because whatever you fill you contain, even as you fill it?
Non enim vasa, quae te plena sunt, stabilem te faciunt, quia etsi frangantur non effunderis. Et cum effunderis super nos, non tu iaces, sed erigis nos, nec tu dissiparis, sed conligis nos. Sed quae imples omnia, te toto imples omnia.
The vessels which are full of you do not lend you stability, because even if they break you will not be spilt. And when you pour yourself out over us, you do not lie there spilt but raise us up; you are not scattered, but gather us together. Yet all those things which you fill, you fill with the whole of yourself.
An quia non possunt te totum capere omnia, partem tui capiunt et eamdem partem simul omnia capiunt? An singulas singula et maiores maiora, minores minora capiunt ? Ergo est aliqua pars tua maior, aliqua minor? An ubique totus es et res nulla te totum capit?
Should we suppose, then, that because all things are incapable of containing the whole of you, they hold only a part of you, and all of them the same part? Or does each thing hold a different part, greater things larger parts, and lesser things smaller parts? Does it even make sense to speak of larger or smaller parts of you? Are you not everywhere in your whole being, while there is nothing whatever that can hold you entirely?
Quid est Deus?
[What is God?]
4. 4. Quid es ergo Deus meus? Quid, rogo, nisi Dominus Deus? Quis enim Dominus praeter Dominum? Aut quis Deus praeter Deum nostrum? Summe, optime, potentissime, omnipotentissime, misericordissime et iustissime, secretissime et praesentissime, pulcherrime et fortissime, stabilis et incomprehensibilis, immutabilis, mutans omnia, numquam novus, numquam vetus, innovans omnia et in vetustatem perducens superbos et nesciunt; semper agens, semper quietus, colligens et non egens, portans et implens et protegens, creans et nutriens et perficiens, quaerens, cum nihil desit tibi. Amas nec aestuas, zelas et securus es, paenitet te et non doles, irasceris et tranquillus es, opera mutas nec mutas consilium; recipis quod invenis et numquam amisisti; numquam inops et gaudes lucris, numquam avarus et usuras exigis.
4, 4. What are you, then, my God? What are you, I ask, but the Lord God? For who else is lord except the Lord, or who is god if not our God? You are most high, excellent, most powerful, omnipotent, supremely merciful and supremely just, most hidden yet intimately present, infinitely beautiful and infinitely strong, steadfast yet elusive, unchanging yourself though you control the change in all things, never new, never old, renewing all things yet wearing down the proud though they know it not; ever active, ever at rest, gathering while knowing no need, supporting and filling and guarding, creating and nurturing and perfecting, seeking although you lack nothing. You love without frenzy, you are jealous yet secure, you regret without sadness, you grow angry yet remain tranquil, you alter your works but never your plan; you take back what you find although you never lost it; you are never in need yet you rejoice in your gains, never avaricious yet you demand profits.
Supererogatur tibi, ut debeas, et quis habet quidquam non tuum? Reddis debita nulli debens, donas debita nihil perdens.
You allow us to pay you more than you demand, and so you become our debtor, yet which of us possesses anything that does not already belong to you? You owe us nothing, yet you pay your debts; you write off our debts to you, yet you lose nothing thereby.
Et quid diximus, Deus meus, vita mea, dulcedo mea sancta, aut quid dicit aliquis, cum de te dicit? Et vae tacentibus de te, quoniam loquaces muti sunt.
After saying all that, what have we said, my God, my life, my holy sweetness? What does anyone who speaks of you really say? Yet woe betide those who fail to speak, while the chatterboxes go on saying nothing.
Desiderat anima et invocat Deum
[His soul desires and calls upon God]
5. 5. Quis mihi dabit adquiescere in te? Quis dabit mihi, ut venias in cor meum et inebries illud, ut obliviscar mala mea et unum bonum meum amplectar, te? Quid mihi es? Miserere, ut loquar. Quid tibi sum ipse, ut amari te iubeas a me et, nisi faciam, irascaris mihi et mineris ingentes miserias? Parvane ipsa est, si non amem te? Ei mihi! Dic mihi per miserationes tuas, Domine Deus meus, quid sis mihi. Dic animae meae: Salus tua ego sum. Sic dic, ut audiam. Ecce aures cordis mei ante te, Domine; aperi eas et dic animae meae: Salus tua ego sum. Curram post vocem hanc et apprehendam te. Noli abscondere a me faciem tuam; moriar, ne moriar, ut eam uideam.
5, 5. Who will grant me to find peace in you? Who will grant me this grace, that you would come into my heart and inebriate it, enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace you, my only good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, so that I may tell. What indeed am I to you, that you should command me to love you, and grow angry with me if I do not, and threaten me with enormous woes? Is not the failure to love you woe enough in itself? Alas for me! Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run toward this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.
5. 6. Angusta est domus animae meae, quo venias ad eam: dilatetur abs te. Ruinosa est: refice eam. Habet quae offendant oculos tuos: fateor et scio. Sed quis mundabit eam? Aut cui alteri praeter te clamabo: Ab occultis meis munda me, Domine, et ab alienis parce servo tuo? Credo, propter quod et loquor.
6. The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord, and for those incurred through others pardon your servant? I believe, and so I will speak.
Domine, tu scis. Nonne tibi prolocutus sum adversum me delicta mea, Deus meus, et tu dimisisti impietatem cordis mei? Non iudicio contendo tecum, qui veritas es; et ego nolo fallere me ipsum, ne mentiatur iniquitas mea sibi. Non ergo iudicio contendo tecum, quia, si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?
You know everything, Lord. Have I not laid my own transgressions bare before you to my own condemnation, my God, and have you not forgiven the wickedness of my heart? I do not argue my case against you, for you are truth itself; nor do I wish to deceive myself, lest my iniquity be caught in its own lies. No, I do not argue the case with you, because if you, Lord, keep the score of our iniquities, then who, Lord, can bear it?
Ortus et infantia
Homo nescit unde veniat
[Man knows not whence he comes]
6. 7. Sed tamen sine me loqui apud misericordiam tuam, me terram et cinerem, sine tamen loqui, quoniam ecce misericordia tua est, non homo, irrisor meus, cui loquor. Et tu fortasse irrides me, sed conversus misereberis mei. Quid enim est quod volo dicere, Domine, nisi quia nescio, unde venerim huc, in istam dico vitam mortalem an mortem vitalem? Nescio.
6, 7. Yet allow me to speak, though I am but dust and ashes, allow me to speak in your merciful presence, for it is to your mercy that I address myself, not to some man who would mock me. Perhaps you too are laughing at me, but still you will turn mercifully toward me; for what is it that I am trying to say, Lord, except that I do not know whence I came into this life that is but a dying, or rather, this dying state that leads to life? I do not know where I came from.
Et susceperunt me consolationes miserationum tuarum, sicut audivi a parentibus carnis meae, ex quo et in qua me formasti in tempore; non enim ego memini. Exceperunt ergo me consolationes lactis humani, nec mater mea vel nutrices meae sibi ubera implebant, sed tu mihi per eas dabas alimentum infantiae secundum institutionem tuam et divitias usque ad fundum rerum dispositas.
But this I know, that I was welcomed by the tender care your mercy provided for me, for so I have been told by the parents who gave me life according to the flesh, those parents through whose begetting and bearing you formed me within time, although I do not remember it myself. The comforts of human milk were waiting for me, but my mother and my nurses did not fill their own breasts; rather you gave me an infant’s nourishment through them in accordance with your plan, from the riches deeply hidden in creation.