Augustine's Conversion to Christianity


"Take up and Read"

Augustine's convesion to Christianity took place shortly after his discovery of Neo-Platonism. that combined rational elements to emotional factors. When Augustine came to Milan he went to listen to Ambrose's preaching only for the purpose of listening how he expressed it rather than what he said. He went there not for the search of truth but solely to learn from his technique. However, he realized soon that he was listening to what Ambrose was saying. Ambrose's allegorical interpretations of the Old Testament solved many difficulties that stood in Augustine's way of Christian faith. Augustine had intellectually accepted the faith, but he refused to follow his mind because he was not ready for the life of continence. His Prayer was: "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet." (Gonzalez pg. 22)

Augustine's final conversion in the garden of Milan

Augustine was led to shame, despair, and finally conversion by teh story of two cases in which others had shown more courage than him. Marius Victorinus whom Augustine admired publicly confessed his Christian faith after a long period of doubt. The other case was the story of two men who read the Life of Saint Anthony, and decided to leave the worldly life to serve God. Augustine was so touched by the story that unable to take the final step he ran to a garden and threw hiself down under a fig tree and cried:

How long, how long? To-morrow, and to-morrow? Why not now? Why is there not this hour an end to my uncleanness? I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or a girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting,and oft repeating, Take up and read; take up and read."...I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell,-Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence eneded,-by a light, as it were, of security into my heart,-all the gloom of doubt vanished away(Confession pg 140-141)

Augustine's baptism

After his conversion Augustine, his son, and a friend returned to Milan, where they were baptized by Ambrose.
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