In our devotion today, we read about Augustine in an excerpt from One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: Christians Through the Centuries, and our hymn text is based on a hymn Augustine wrote.
In his infancy, childhood, and as a young adult, Augustine was searching for something. As an infant and young boy, he sought tangible possessions and physical love. With his own illness and near-death experience, and with the deaths of his father and a close friend, his search continued, but shifted from the physical to the spiritual. Yet of himself, he found nothing good, nothing eternal.
The life of Augustine changed dramatically with his move to Milan, Italy. Through the intercessions of his mother, Monica, the Lord directed Augustine’s life and travels. In Milan, he hastened to hear the famed rhetorical style of Ambrose (ca. 339–97) only to be greatly moved by the content of Ambrose’s homilies. Flanked by his devoutly Christian mother and friends who were also becoming interested in Christianity, Augustine began to contemplate the Christian faith. He and a group of friends briefly retreated from society. In a garden in Milan, one day, a voice called to him: “Pick up and read; pick up and read.” Not unlike Antony, Augustine opened a Bible and read from the thirteenth chapter of Romans. It immediately struck his heart. It condemned his sinful life and called him to be baptized into Jesus. With this, everything changed for Augustine. He informed a friend who was also eager to confess the Christian faith. He then notified his mother, and she rejoiced.
Following Augustine’s conversion, biographical data [in his autobiography] was brief, but not insignificant. He resigned his teaching position and was baptized into the Christian faith at Milan. Augustine, his mother, and friends then departed Milan to return to Africa and live an ascetic life. Passing through Ostia in Italy, Monica died and was buried there. It was as though the purpose for her life was over—her son was converted.
Augustine’s portrayal of his own life was quite intimate and honest. He noted a few positive aspects of his life, like his intelligence and relation to Antony in his conversion. Both of these were the gift of God and not of his own doing. With great personal insight, he very much showed himself to be a descendent of Adam: He was sinful through and through. Because of this, he was in need of grace. God watched over and re-directed his misdirected life and finally intervened, bringing him to the Christian faith. It was through the waters of Holy Baptism that Augustine’s earthly family was supplanted by a heavenly family; that Augustine who had wandered far and away from his heavenly Father was finally united through Christ.
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit
That my thoughts may all be holy;
Act in me, O Holy Spirit
That my work, too, may be holy;
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit
That I love but what is holy;
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit
To defend all that is holy;
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit
That I always may be holy.
Devotional reading is from One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: Christians Through the Centuries, pages 102–03 © 2006 Thomas A. Von Hagel. Published by Concordia Publishing House.
Hymn text is from “Breathe in Me, O Holy Spirit” © 1991 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.