The mysteries and allegories of the days of creation. Augustine undertakes to interpret Gen. 1:2-31 in a mystical and allegorical fashion so as to exhibit the profundities of God's power and wisdom and love. He is also interested in developing his theories of hermeneutics on his favorite topic: creation. He finds the Trinity in the account of creation and he ponders the work of the Spirit moving over the waters. In the firmament he finds the allegory of Holy Scripture and in the dry land and bitter sea he finds the division between the people of God and the conspiracy of the unfaithful. He develops the theme of man's being made in the image and likeness of God. He brings his survey to a climax and his confessions to an end with a meditation on the goodness of all creation and the promised rest and blessedness of the eternal Sabbath, on which God, who is eternal rest, "rested."
1. I call on thee, my God, my Mercy, who madest me and didst not forget me, though I was forgetful of thee. I call thee into my soul, which thou didst prepare for thy reception by the desire which thou inspirest in it. Do not forsake me when I call on thee, who didst anticipate me before I called and who didst repeatedly urge with manifold calling that I should hear thee afar off and be turned and call upon thee, who callest me. For thou, O Lord, hast blotted out all my evil deserts, not punishing me for what my hands have done; and thou hast anticipated all my good deserts so as to recompense me for what thy hands have done -- the hands which made me. Before I was, thou wast, and I was not anything at all that thou shouldst grant me being. Yet, see how I exist by reason of thy goodness, which made provision for all that thou madest me to be and all that thou madest me from. For thou didst not stand in need of me, nor am I the kind of good entity which could be a help to thee, my Lord and my God. It is not that I may serve thee as if thou wert fatigued in working, or as if thy power would be the less if it lacked my assistance. Nor is the service I pay thee like the cultivation of a field, so that thou wouldst go untended if I did not tend thee. Instead, it is that I may serve and worship thee to the end that I may have my well-being from thee, from whom comes my capacity for well-being.
2. Indeed, it is from the fullness of thy goodness that thy creation exists at all: to the end that the created good might not fail to be, even though it can profit thee nothing, and is nothing of thee nor equal to thee -- since its created existence comes from thee. For what did the heaven and earth, which thou didst make in the beginning, ever deserve from thee? Let them declare -- these spiritual and corporeal entities, which thou madest in thy wisdom -- let them declare what they merited at thy hands, so that the inchoate and the formless, whether spiritual or corporeal, would deserve to be held in being in spite of the fact that they tend toward disorder and extreme unlikeness to thee? An unformed spiritual entity is more excellent than a formed corporeal entity; and the corporeal, even when unformed, is more excellent than if it were simply nothing at all. Still, these formless entities are held in their state of being by thee, until they are recalled to thy unity and receive form and being from thee, the one sovereign Good. What have they deserved of thee, since they would not even be unformed entities except from thee? 3. What has corporeal matter deserved of thee -- even in its invisible and unformed state -- since it would not exist even in this state if thou hadst not made it? And, if it did not exist, it could not merit its existence from thee. Or, what has that formless spiritual creation deserved of thee -- that it should flow lightlessly like the abyss -- since it is so unlike thee and would not exist at all if it had not been turned by the Word which made it that same Word, and, illumined by that Word, had been "made light" although not as thy equal but only as an image of that Form [of Light] which is equal to thee? For, in the case of a body, its being is not the same thing as its being beautiful; else it could not then be a deformed body. Likewise, in the case of a created spirit, living is not the same state as living wisely; else it could then be immutably wise. But the true good of every created thing is always to cleave fast to thee, lest, in turning away from thee, it lose the light it had received in being turned by thee, and so relapse into a life like that of the dark abyss. As for ourselves, who are a spiritual creation by virtue of our souls, when we turned away from thee, O Light, we were in that former life of darkness; and we toil amid the shadows of our darkness until -- through thy only Son -- we become thy righteousness, like the mountains of God. For we, like the great abyss, have been the objects of thy judgments.
4. Now what thou saidst in the beginning of the creation -- "Let there be light: and there was light" -- I interpret, not unfitly, as referring to the spiritual creation, because it already had a kind of life which thou couldst illuminate. But, since it had not merited from thee that it should be a life capable of enlightenment, so neither, when it already began to exist, did it merit from thee that it should be enlightened. For neither could its formlessness please thee until it became light -- and it became light, not from the bare fact of existing, but by the act of turning its face to the light which enlightened it, and by cleaving to it. Thus it owed the fact that it lived, and lived happily, to nothing whatsoever but thy grace, since it had been turned, by a change for the better, toward that which cannot be changed for either better or worse. Thou alone art, because thou alone art without complication. For thee it is not one thing to live and another thing to live in blessedness; for thou art thyself thy own blessedness.
5. What, therefore, would there have been lacking in thy good, which thou thyself art, even if these things had never been made or had remained unformed? Thou didst not create them out of any lack but out of the plenitude of thy goodness, ordering them and turning them toward form, but not because thy joy had to be perfected by them. For thou art perfect, and their imperfection is displeasing. Therefore were they perfected by thee and became pleasing to thee -- but not as if thou wert before that imperfect and had to be perfected in their perfection. For thy good Spirit which moved over the face of the waters was not borne up by them as if he rested on them. For those in whom thy good Spirit is said to rest he actually causes to rest in himself. But thy incorruptible and immutable will -- in itself all-sufficient for itself -- moved over that life which thou hadst made: in which living is not at all the same thing as living happily, since that life still lives even as it flows in its own darkness. But it remains to be turned to him by whom it was made and to live more and more like "the fountain of life," and in his light "to see light," and to be perfected, and enlightened, and made blessed.
6. See now, how the Trinity appears to me in an enigma. And thou art the Trinity, O my God, since thou, O Father -- in the beginning of our wisdom, that is, in thy wisdom born of thee, equal and coeternal with thee, that is, thy Son -- created the heaven and the earth. Many things we have said about the heaven of heavens, and about the earth invisible and unformed, and about the shadowy abyss -- speaking of the aimless flux of its being spiritually deformed unless it is turned to him from whom it has its life (such as it is) and by his Light comes to be a life suffused with beauty. Thus it would be a [lower] heaven of that [higher] heaven, which afterward was made between water and water. And now I came to recognize, in the name of God, the Father who made all these things, and in the term "the Beginning" to recognize the Son, through whom he made all these things; and since I did believe that my God was the Trinity, I sought still further in his holy Word, and, behold, "Thy Spirit moved over the waters." Thus, see the Trinity, O my God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Creator of all creation!
7. But why, O truth-speaking Light? To thee I lift up my heart -- let it not teach me vain notions. Disperse its shadows and tell me, I beseech thee, by that Love which is our mother; tell me, I beseech thee, the reason why -- after the reference to heaven and to the invisible and unformed earth, and darkness over the abyss -- thy Scripture should then at long last refer to thy Spirit? Was it because it was appropriate that he should first be shown to us as "moving over"; and this could not have been said unless something had already been mentioned over which thy Spirit could be understood as "moving"? For he did not "move over" the Father and the Son, and he could not properly be said to be "moving over" if he were "moving over" nothing. Thus, what it was he was "moving over" had to be mentioned first and he whom it was not proper to mention otherwise than as "moving over" could then be mentioned. But why was it not fitting that he should have been introduced in some other way than in this context of "moving over"?
8. Now let him who is able follow thy apostle with his understanding when he says, "Thy love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us" and who teacheth us about spiritual gifts and showeth us a more excellent way of love; and who bows his knee unto thee for us, that we may come to the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ. Thus, from the beginning, he who is above all was "moving over" the waters. To whom shall I tell this? How can I speak of the weight of concupiscence which drags us downward into the deep abyss, and of the love which lifts us up by thy Spirit who moved over the waters? To whom shall I tell this? How shall I tell it? For concupiscence and love are not certain "places" into which we are plunged and out of which we are lifted again. What could be more like, and yet what more unlike? They are both feelings; they are both loves. The uncleanness of our own spirit flows downward with the love of worldly care; and the sanctity of thy Spirit raises us upward by the love of release from anxiety -- that we may lift our hearts to thee where thy Spirit is "moving over the waters." Thus, we shall have come to that supreme rest where our souls shall have passed through the waters which give no standing ground.