As most of you know, Augustine’s Confessions are indescribably amazing. No matter how many times you’ve read them, each time you open the book and start to read you feel like Lucy did when she saw Narnia for the first time.
One thing that sticks out for me is how Augustine brilliantly sets up his mother Monica’s joy over his conversion. Before writing of Monica’s joy and his own conversion, Augustine discusses the conversion of Victorinus (4th C. AD).
Victorinus was a big time Greek philosopher who was swimming deeply in the cults of the Greco-Roman empire. Since Victorinus read everything, of course he read the Bible. After reading the Scriptures, he appreciated them, and went to a bishop named Simplicianus and said, “Did you know that I am already a Christian?” Simplicianus said, “I shall not believe that or count you among the Christians untill I see you in the Church of Christ.” Victorinus laughed, saying, “Then do walls make Christians?” He and Simplicianus would go back and forth this way for quite a long time. Victorinus at first was afraid of what his pagan friends would say about him being a Christian, but then slowly he was convicted by Luke 12.9, that he needed to publicly profess faith in Christ.
One day he went to Simplicianus and said, “Let us go to the Church; I want to become a Christian.” They did, and to make a long story short, the joy of the local church was amazing as she received him. “He proclaimed his unfeigned faith with ringing assurance. All of them wanted to clasp him to their hearts, and the hands with which they embraced him were their love and their joy.”
Later, after recounting his own conversion (“A light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart.”), he writes of his mother’s joy. “She was filled with joy…she saw that You had granted her far more than she had long been praying for in her unhappy and tearful groans…. You changed her grief into joy (Ps 29.12) far more abundantly than she desired.”
This is a powerful section of the Confessions. It is fascinating to see how much these Christians valued the church – Simplicianus said essentially what Cyprian before and Calvin after said: outside of the church there is no salvation. I’m also deeply amazed by the literary genius of Augustine as he ends the section with Monica’s joy – the church receiving Victorinus in joy is how Monica receives Augstine in joy (which reflects Luke 15.10). Simply brilliant. Go read it – you can find it in book VIII of Confessions.