The Genre of Augustine's Confessions

Augustine's Confessions is a species of prayer and praise, yet the work is also an autobiographical testimony.

1.5 --

Augustine prays that his soul will be a house for God to inhabit, yet he recognizes that it needs to be enlarged; confession in part makes this possible.

"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 cleanse my house? . . . I do not argue my case against you, for you are truth itself, nor do I wish to deceive myself, lest my inquity be caught in its own lies."
2.1 - Love of God's love leads to confession.
"Now I want to call to mind the foul deeds I committed, those sins of the flesh that corrupted my soul, not in order to love them, but to love you, my God. . . . I will try now to give a coherent account of my disintegrated self, for when I turned away from you, the one God, and pursued a multitide of things, I went to pieces."
11.1 -- Yet God already knows these things; rather, we confess for our own hearts, for others, and in obedience to God.
"Why then am I relating all this to you at such length? Certainly not in order to inform you. I do it to arouse my own loving devotion toward you, and that of my readers, so that together we may declare, 'Great is the Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise.' . . . We confess to you our miseries and the mercies you have shown us in your will to set us free completely, as you have begun to do already; and so by confessing to you we lay bare our loving devotion."
10.1-2 -- We confess in order to know ourselves better, which leads to repentance and eventually joy. Confession is for self-examination.
"Truth it is that I want to do, in my heart by confession in your presence, and with my pen before many witnesses. . . . To you, then, Lord, I lie exposed, exactly as I am. I have spoken of what I hope to gain by confessing to you. My confession to you is made not with words of tongue and voice, but with words of my soul and the clamor of my thought, to which your ear is attuned."
10.3 -- The danger is that readers will listen in on Augustine's work in order to satisfy their own voyeuristic appetites, yet the work may also act as a witness to those who do not follow God.
"What point is there for me in other people hearing my confessions? Are they likely to heal my infirmities? A curious lot they are, eager to pry into the lives of others, but tardy when it comes to correcting their own. . . . If on the contrary, they hear from you about themsleves, they will be in no position to say, 'The Lord is lying.' Is hearing the truth about oneself from you anything different from knowing oneself?"
10.4a -- Augustine's confessions allow other followers of God to join in thanksgiving for God's providence, mercy, and grace.
"It is cheering to good people to hear about the past evil deeds of those who are now freed from them: cheering not because the deeds were evil but because they existed once but exist no more."
10.4b-5 -- Confessions teaches us more about our own mortality and deepens Augustine's understanding of his own spiritual state.

"They want to hear and are ready to believe me: will they really recognize me? Yes, because the charity that makes them good assures them that I am not lying when I confess about myself; that very charity in them believes me. . . . I confess not only before you in secret exultation tinged with fear and secret sorrow infused with hope, but also in the ears of believing men and women, the companions of my joy and sharers in my mortality, my fellow citizens still on pilgrimage with me, those who have gone before and those who will fellow, and all who bear me company in my life."

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding