“Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom. And man desires to appraise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to appraise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to appraise thee, for thou hast made us inclined toward thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.
What makes this quote interesting is Augustine’s ability to see humanity’s natural inclination and goal the worship of God. He says that humanity’s grasp is for the infinite, to appraise it, to lay down the lengths of eternity. We have been made, in Augustine’s mind to appraise the infinite. To seek to speak about the ineffable, to desire to measure infinity itself, and to contemplate that which is beyond contemplation.
God’s mercy and very creation has indeed prompted us that we should delight in Him and His appraisal. For we have been made inclined towards the natural, inclined towards the coming of Christ and the embodiment of Justice. We have been made inclined towards divinity towards Christ Himself, and we are restless, fretting to and fro in blindness until we find rest in the fulfillment of the desire of our already claimed heart. This rest is none other than the rest of salvation, which I believe Augustine is picking up from the New testament book of Hebrews.
The Latin text would more or less translate, at least the way i would translate it: “You have made us inclined towards thyself and our unquiet heart is only quieted in you.”
The allusion to Genesis 1:26-27, God’screation of human beings, resounds ex-plicitly, for our ears, in “thou hast madeus” (fecitis nos). But for Augustine’s read-ers it was also evident in ad te, “towardthyself,” because the Latin Bible rendersthe act as God’s creating humans “toward[his] image” (ad imaginam) rather than“in” it. According to this understanding,Christ alone is the Image of God, andhuman beings are made “toward” thatImage. But Augustine’s “toward thyself”also implies an innate inclination in hu-man nature: by our very nature we aredrawn toward God. That is why the hu-man heart is “restless” amidst all the goodsof the created world. So many thingsplease, but none of them, finally, satisfies.
I’m modifying my original position to correct McMahon whose argument I had picked up on, without realizing it when i posted. I’d say that the image-bearing-ness is not toward rather than in, it is both. We are made towards the direction of something we already share in. We may in fact be moving towards the image, as McMahon’s reading of Voegelin seems to imply, however, this is not an either/or.
Likely for Augustine it’s a both/and. Yes the Latin implies motion, but it’s not strictly translated as such, and can also mean according to. I am not sure what the official ruling on the translation is, but I think we’re better off going with the reading that uses according to as the primary, as in, according to a blueprint, and then towards and in.
We are made inclined to Christ Himself by nature, and that is why the world with all its good cannot ultimately satisfy. Augustine presents the restless heart in his argument about appraisal because he’s linking treasure with our heart, and the greatest treasure is to Augustine, appraising that which cannot be appraised, God Himself.
While we have an incompleteness, we do not have a complete lack of direction. Total depravity makes no sense to Augustine because he still thinks in terms of the necessary goodness of creation, unlike Calvin who interprets his work much later and through a lens that affirms the worst ideas about God. We may have a restless heart, a lack of completion and an unquietness about us, but that is not synonymous with total corruption. These are characteristics that are evidence of the direction we have been created in.
Restlessness, uneasiness and lack of tranquility are marks of the direction we’ve been created in, and what we have been created for. They’re markers to us of the nature of what we truly desire. We truly desire God, we truly desire the justice of the resurrection we truly desire that which God has first given us. We desire to know Him, and this we have been given in Christ. Thus adoration of the blessed sacrament is no waste of time, or cultic idiocy it is what we have been created towards. We are restless until we find what it means to truly rest. In the capacity to contemplate the mystery of Christ Himself, we have reached our goal.
Update: this post has been modified from it’s original contents due to a concern with translation and the idea of Being/Becoming in Genesis 1:26. I added the blockquote via McMahon on Voegelin’s reading of Confessions. It seems to be something I was thinking before I knew someone else had applied this reading, or mayhap I read it long ago when i studied Augustine as an undergrad. either way, there’s a source now.