THE STORY OF AUGUSTINE
There are various sources for the story of Augustine which may be found listed on the internet.
Augustine was born on the 13th November in the year 354 of the Common Era in the town which is today called Suk Arras in Algeria. His family belonged to a respected African lineage that was influenced by the Roman occupying power, so that the boy was given a Roman name and brought up with the education and culture of Rome. His father worshipped the old North African gods, but his mother had a faith in Jesus Christ.
As a schoolboy Augustine and his friends were naughty. One day they stole pears from a garden. He later wrote, “It was not because we were hungry; it was just because it was wrong. We loved being sinful.”
After becoming a student, aged 17, he went to the big city of Carthage, which is now a ruin in the modern country of Tunisia. Here he and his fellow students pretended each to do worse sexual things so as to be heroes (dpa’-bo gzugs-nyams) among their friends. He knew in his heart that some of his behaviour was wrong, and admitted, “I am foul”; and he once prayed to God, “Help me to be pure in sexual matters, but not yet.” The religions and culture of N. Africa at the time allowed much freedom in sexual relationships.
Academic studies were Augustine’s chief interest. He was intelligent, and advanced in a short time to become appointed professor of philosophy and debating in the capital city of Milan in Italy. By the age of 31 he was among the best debaters in the Roman world.
But at that time he met an even better and more experienced debater, a devout believer in Jesus by the name of Ambrose. Their friendship grew. He wrote, “And I began to love him, not at the first as a teacher of the truth, for I had entirely given up hope of finding philosophical truth in the Christian Church – but as a friendly man. That man received me as a father, and welcomed my coming as a good Christian leader should.”
It was in this way, influenced by his mother and by Ambrose, that Augustine was converted. He tells how it happened. It was after he had been visited back at home by a country friend who had told him stories of simple uneducated believers in Jesus who had succeeded in overcoming sensual desires. What to say! Why was he, a learned professor, still held captive by the flesh? He went into the garden to think about the problem, and threw himself down in tears. It was then he heard from a neighbouring house a child’s chanting voice saying again and again, “Take and read, take and read”. It seemed like a voice from God. He picked up his bible, opened it and read,
“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Roman 13:13, 14)
རོ་མཱ་པ། 13:13-14 – ཉིན་མོར་བགྲོད་པ་བཞིན་སྤྱོད་ལམ་དྲང་པོ་ཡིན་དགོས་ལ། བག་མེད་དང་ར༌བཟི། གཡེམ་སྦྱོར་དང་འདོད་ཆགས། རྩོད་གླེང་དང་ཕྲག་དོག་བཅས་མི་བྱེད༌པར། གཙོ་བོ་ཡེ་ཤུ་མཱ་ཤི་ཀ་ནི་གོས་བཞིན་དུ་ལུས་ལ་གྱོན༌ཏེ། ཤ་གཟུགས་ཀྱི་ཕུང་བོའི་འདོད་པ་ཚིམ་པར་བྱེད་པའི་བསམ་པ་སྤོངས་ཤིག།།
It was clear to Augustine that he must at last obey, and follow Christ. So, later that year, he and his son and a friend went back to Ambrose at Milan, and they were baptized.
Augustine went on to write many famous works. One of them, “Confessions”, tells how he confessed to God what was wrong in his heart and mind to Jesus.
It is the promise of God that if we, with heart-felt sorrow admit our sins, that is confess them, and have the honest desire to turn away from them, then he will clear them completely.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10).
ཡོ་ཧ་ནན་དང་པོ། 1:8-9 – བདག་ཅག་གིས་རང་ལ་སྡིག་པ་མེད་ཟེར་ན། དེ་ནི་རང་མགོ་རང་གིས་གཡོག་པ་ཡིན་པས། བདེན་པ་ཉིད་ནི་བདག་ཅག་གི་སེམས་སུ་གནས༌པ་མ་ཡིན་ནོ།། དཀོན་མཆོག་ནི་ཡིད་རྟོན་རུང་བ་དང་དྲང་བདེན་ཡིན་པས། བདག་ཅག་གིས་རང་གི་སྡིག་པ་མཐོལ་བཤགས་བྱས༌ན། ཁོང་གིས་བདག་ཅག་གི་སྡིག་པ་བསལ་ཞིང་དྲང་བདེན་མ་ཡིན་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་གཙང་མར་མཛད་ངེས་ཡིན། བདག་ཅག་གིས་སྡིག་པ་བྱས་མ་མྱོང་ཟེར་ན། བདག་ཅག་གིས་དཀོན་མཆོག་ནི་ཞལ་རྫུན་གསུང་མཁན་དུ་བརྩིས་པས། ཁོང་གི་བཀའ་ཡང་བདག་ཅག་གི་སེམས་སུ་གནས༌པ་མ་ཡིན་ནོ།།
As I write this it is the first day of Lo Sar – a new year.
In the weeks to come, we will be starting a new series of posts. We’ll explore how sin first arose in people’s hearts, and how in ancient times some continued to walk away from God in bad ways. But how others, tried to do good and walked like pilgrims (gnas skor ba), believing in God’s help. They were not heroes in sinning; the bible describes them as heroes of faith.