Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book VII/Chapter 10
Chapter X.—Divine Things are the More Clearly Manifested to Him Who Withdraws into the Recesses of His Heart.
16. And being thence warned to return to myself, I entered into my inward self, Thou leading me on; and I was able to do it, for Thou wert become my helper. And I entered, and with the eye of my soul (such as it was) saw above the same eye of my soul, above my mind, the Unchangeable Light. Not this common light, which all flesh may look upon, nor, as it were, a greater one of the same kind, as though the brightness of this should be much more resplendent, and with its greatness fill up all things. Not like this was that light, but different, yea, very different from all these. Nor was it above my mind as oil is above water, nor as heaven above earth; but above it was, because it made me, and I below it, because I was made by it. He who knows the Truth knows that Light; and he that knows it knoweth eternity. Love knoweth it. O Eternal Truth, and true Love, and loved Eternity! Thou art my God; to Thee do I sigh both night and day. When I first knew Thee, Thou liftedst me up, that I might see there was that which I might see, and that yet it was not I that did see. And Thou didst beat back the infirmity of my sight, pouring forth upon me most strongly Thy beams of light, and I trembled with love and fear; and I found myself to be far off from Thee, in the region of dissimilarity, as if I heard this voice of Thine from on high: “I am the food of strong men; grow, and thou shalt feed upon me; nor shall thou convert me, like the food of thy flesh, into thee, but thou shall be converted into me.” And I learned that Thou for iniquity dost correct man, and Thou dost make my soul to consume away like a spider. And I said, “Is Truth, therefore, nothing because it is neither diffused through space, finite, nor infinite?” And Thou criedst to me from afar, “Yea, verily, ‘I Am that I Am.’” And I heard this, as things are heard in the heart, nor was there room for doubt; and I should more readily doubt that I live than that Truth is not, which is “clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”
- Not the “corporeal brightness” which as a Manichee he had believed in, and to which reference has been made in iii. secs. 10, 12, iv. sec. 3, and sec. 2, above. The Christian belief he indicates in his De Trin. viii. 2: “God is Light (1 John i. 5), not in such way that these eyes see, but in such way as the heart sees when it is said, ‘He is Truth.’” See also note 1, sec. 23, above.
- If we knew not God, he says, we could not love Him (De Trin. viii. 12); but in language very similar to that above, he tells us “we are men, created in the image of our Creator, whose eternity is true, and whose truth is eternal; whose love is eternal and true, and who Himself is the eternal, true, and adorable Trinity, without confusion, without separation”, (De Civ. Dei, xi. 28); God, then, as even the Platonists hold, being the principle of all knowledge. “Let Him,” he concludes, in his De Civ. Dei (viii. 4), “be sought in whom all things are secured to us, let Him be discovered in whom all truth becomes certain to us, let Him be loved in whom all becomes right to us.”
- Ps. xxxix. 11, Vulg.
- Ex. iii. 14. Augustin, when in his De Civ. Dei (viii. 11, 12) he makes reference to this text, leans to the belief, from certain parallels between Plato’s doctrines and those of the word of God, that he may have derived information concerning the Old Testament Scriptures from an interpreter when in Egypt. He says: “The most striking thing in this connection, and that which most of all inclines me almost to assent to the opinion that Plato was not ignorant of those writings, is the answer which was given to the question elicited from the holy Moses when the words of God were conveyed to him by the angel; for when he asked what was the name of that God who was commanding him to go and deliver the Hebrew people out of Egypt, this answer was given: ‘I am who am; and thou shalt say to the children of Israel, He who is sent me unto you;’ as though, compared with Him that truly is, because He is unchangeable, those things which have been created mutable are not,—a truth which Plato vehemently held, and most diligently commended. And I know not whether this sentiment is anywhere to be found in the books of those who were before Plato, unless in that book where it is said, ‘I am who am; and thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Who is sent me unto you.’ But we need not determine from what source he learned these things,—whether it was from the books of the ancients who preceded him or, as is more likely, from the words of the apostle (Rom. i. 20), ‘Because that which is known of God has been manifested among them, for God hath manifested it to them. For His invisible things from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by those thing which have been made, also His eternal power and Godhead.’”—De Civ. Dei, viii. 11, 12.
- Rom. i. 20.