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Confessions: I Exist In You

So how will I call on my God, my God and my Master, since inevitably calling on him is calling him into myself? But what place is there in me to come into for my God—for God to come into me—the God who made heaven and earth? Is it as if, God my Master, there is anything in me that could hold you? Could in fact the sky and the earth, which you created, and in which you created me, hold you? Or, because without you whatever is would not be, does it come about that whatever is holds you? Since, therefore, I also exist, why do I beg that you come into me, when I wouldn’t exist in the first place unless you were in me? I am not now in hell, and yet you are there, too, because if I go down into hell, there you are.

To sum up, I would not exist, my God, I would not exist at all, unless you existed in me. Or is it rather that I would not exist unless I existed in you, from whom, through whom, in whom, everything exists? That’s it, Master, that’s it. To what place can I call you, if I am in you? And from what place can you come into me? Where would it be, outside heaven and earth, that I could withdraw, so that God could come into me there—the God who said, “Heaven and earth are filled with me”?—Saint Augustine, Confessions 1.2

After building the temple, Solomon reflected, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27; ref: 2 Ch 2:6, 2 Ch 6:18). If all of creation cannot contain his presence, neither can a temple. If a temple cannot contain his presence, neither can a sinful human.

If we cannot contain him, then how is it that we exist? The Psalmist gives us a clue when he writes, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:8). Augustine concludes that It is not because God is in us that we exist, but because we are in God that we exist. We are fish looking for water.

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

—Jer 23:24

Lord, make me aware. Note: These are my daily reflections as I go through Saint Agustine's Confessions. Unless otherwise noted, I am using Sarah Ruden's translation of the original text, and the NIV.


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