Christmas, December 25: An Introduction

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Confessions are from Thomas Williams’ translation.

“Great are you, Lord, and highly to be praised. Great is your power, and your wisdom is beyond measure. And human beings want to praise you.”

This is the opening of Augustine’s Confessions, which are confessions in the normal sense of that word, but also a prayer. We overhear a conversation with God, Augustine talking with God about himself, his life, and his conversion. God already knows this story, since he in omniscient and he is truly the author of it, since he is omnipotent. But here, to confess, is an act of worship and praise in and of itself. Augustine’s confessions are, in a sense, a gift to God and to us as well.

My gift here is to go back to a point more than four years ago when I opened an old box of papers and things from an earlier era of my life, my early twenties. There was a letter I had written to a professor I wanted to study with at Princeton. The tone of it was consistent with the way I carried myself then: as if I was on the verge of becoming very important, or at least going to be very important someday. I was arrogant and self-assured.

Over twelve days I will answer the question that I asked that day: “How did the person I was then become the person I am now?” I need to do this so I can find out who I am becoming, who I will be. Augustine is showing us that to find ourselves we must find God, and when we find God, we find ourselves.

“For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it comes to rest in you.”

To December 26