Late Have I Loved You: Augustinian Spirituality in Book 10 of the Confessions -- By: Laurence C. Sibley, Jr.

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 65:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Late Have I Loved You: Augustinian Spirituality in Book 10 of the Confessions
Author: Laurence C. Sibley, Jr.

Late Have I Loved You: Augustinian Spirituality in Book 10 of the Confessions

Laurence C. Sibley, Jr.

[Laurence C. Sibley, Jr., is a lecturer in Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.]

See, I have been eager to love you with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and my neighbor as myself, but “O quicken me,” give me life, not in myself, but in your righteousness, that is, fill me with that love which I have longed for.

On the Psalms 119:411

I. Overview

... in my heart before you in confession ...”2

Book 10 of the Confessions begins with “May I know you, who know me. May I ‘know as I also am known’ (cognoscam te, cognitor meus, cognoscam sicut et cognitus sum).” Augustine’s search for knowledge has finally come home to knowing God. We have traversed his life from birth to baptism under his guidance, as he has reflected3 from the bishop’s chair in Hippo.

The word he uses here at the beginning of Book 10 for knowledge, cognoscam, is different from those used in 1.1.1: da mihi, domine, scire et intellegere (“Grant me, Lord to know and understand”). Without trying to read too much into the different terms, which may simply have come from the several pre-Jerome Latin translations of the Bible that Augustine often quoted from memory, there does seem to be a shift in meaning for Augustine. Scio/scire (Ps 119:34 is cited by the editor, where the Hebrew is בין) has the sense of understanding as skill/expertise in knowing a text, the Torah, whereas cognosco/cognoscere (1 Cor 13:12, where the Greek is ἐπιγινώσκω) speaks of being thoroughly acquainted with a truth or a person, knowing through and through. By the time we arrive at 10.1.1, Augustine has finished “the story of his heart”4 and is focusing on his present desire for growth in knowing God. The knowing he desires is mutual, “know as I am known,” and eschatological, beyond dim mirrors, face-to-face.

In the second paragraph, however, the Lord becomes the object of Augustine’s love and longing (amaris et desideraris). In the early twenty-first century it is probably necessary to clarify what love m...

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