by cheri block
The word confession is an attractive one to nosey journalists, betrayed wives, and Catholic priests.
The Confessions of St. Augustine, written in the late 4th Century C.E., is the first autobiography.
In thirteen chapters, Augustine tells his story—that he was a sinner as a baby, that he was a sinner as a small boy, that he was a sinner as a teenager.
He tells the reader he stole a pear from a tree in a garden just because he could.
His father was a pagan (obviously representing the Classical world) who funds Augustine’s classical education.
His mother was a devout Christian (obviously representing the oppressive 1000 years from 400-1400) who followed him wherever he lived—from North Africa to Italy– hounding him about his lifestyle and his sinning.
He adds Sins of the Flesh to his other sins. He writes that his desire for women overrode all his other sins, such as crying selfishly as a baby and eating stolen pears.
Women are flesh. The next 1000 years could be tough for us.
His sins continue to multiply. He took a mistress and fathered a bastard.
And then, in another garden in Milan, where is teaching, he sits under another tree—this time a fig tree—crying. He hears a child’s voice saying, Read it, read it.
His friend Alypius (obviously named for the Classical world) witnesses Augustine picking up his Bible and opening it to a random (but not so random) page.
The passage tells him to give up lust and other sins, so he does.
He cedes rationality to faith.
His mother can now die. She does.
He travels back to Carthage, hoping to live the monastic life, but Carthage teems with sinners. The Church crowns him the Bishop of Hippo. He must now contribute to the society at large, far away from the isolated and contemplative monastery.
The joys of the theater, the glory of the human body and its flesh– represented by the Olympics, by stunning sculpture and art, and by the oratory of Pericles—all will be replaced by a dark cloud and controlling message: we are all filthy sinners and nothing can be done about that fact unless we allow Jesus to save us. He will take the sins off our sagging shoulders.
Pagans, sinners, and non-Christians (no matter what type of lives they have lived) will all go to Hell.
Dante will illustrate this place in 1302 C.E.