Augustine, it’s clear, was a thoughful man. His Confessions display remarkable analyses of his life’s events and motives, and all conducted in the presence of God. The book reads like a hymn of praise.
Let me just mention one little event which made me smile, though the circumstances were sad. Augustine relates the death of his mother Monica, a faithful Christian woman who patiently prayed for him though he was wayward morally and intellectually (there is encouragement there for parents). However, on the day of her death,
I decided to go and take a bath, because I heard that baths, for which the Greeks say balaneion, get their name from throwing anxiety out of the mind.
– Augustine, Confessions IX.xxi (32)
Chadwick, the translator, footnotes that the etymology of the word for bath is ballo (I throw) and ania (grief), hence Augustine’s belief about baths.
This made me smile. I like a bath rather than a shower. It is a time to stop, think, analyse, pray, rest. You can’t do that in a shower. There is distasteful reductionism about a shower – merely to get clean – just as there can be a reductionism about a meal – merely ‘refuelling’.
Of course, it was foolish for Augustine to think that a bath could remove the grief of bereavement, as he later notes. However, who can deny the value of a bath, well used, at lease for a time?