1. Magnus es, domine, et laudabilis valde. magna virtus tua et sapientiae tuae non est numerus. et laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae, et homo circumferens mortalitatem suam, circumferens testimonium peccati sui et testimonium quia superbis resistis; et tamen laudare te vult homo, aliqua portio creaturae tuae. tu excitas ut laudare te delectet, quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.
Da mihi, domine, scire et intellegere utrum sit prius invocare te an laudare te, et scire te prius sit an invocare te. sed quis te invocat nesciens te? aliud enim pro alio potest invocare nesciens. an potius invocaris ut sciaris? quomodo autem invocabunt, in quem non crediderunt?
1. (1) Great are you, O Lord,1 and surpassingly worthy of praisePs 145:3. Great is your goodness, and your wisdom is incalculablePs 147:5. And2 humanity, which is but a part of your creation, wants to praise you; even though humanity bears everywhere its own mortality2 Cor 4:10, and bears everywhere the evidence of its own sin and the evidence that you resist the proudJas 4:6. And even so humanity, which is but a part of your creation, longs to praise you. You inspire us to take delight in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.3
O Lord, let me know and understand which comes first—is it invoking you in prayer or praising you? And again, which comes first—knowing you or invoking you in prayer? Yet how can anyone invoke you without knowing you?4 In ignorance they may invoke something else, mistaking it for you.5 Perhaps then you should be invoked instead, so that you can be known? Yet how will they invoke one in whom they have not believed? Or how will
- 1A. refers to Conf. in Retr. 2.6.1, Persev. 20.53, etc., both by its familiar title and by its incipit, magnus es domine (the placing of the first word is emphatic; cf. the first word of De civ. D., gloriosissimam, and the last of Conf., aperietur [Mt 7:7]).
- 2“And” at the start of a narrative sentence evokes biblical idiom.
- 3The theme of alienation from God introduced here concludes at Conf. 13.35.50–38.53; it is rooted in Plotinus, cf. Introduction, pp. xxvii–xxix.
- 4A. uses sequences of rhetorical questions when working through intellectual problems.
- 5A key theme: experiments with fruitless alternatives to the Christian God.