Who is God? (According to St. Augustine)

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A couple of years ago I started reading the book ‘Confessions’ by st. Augustine and it was a surprisingly wonderful book. So many beautiful thoughts and phrases, it inspires me every time I open it and read a bit. 

I read it in Dutch and there was one sentence that struck me. In Dutch it is: “U zoekt maar mist niets.” Which literally translated says: “You search but miss/lack nothing.” 

It’s one of those phrases that show the mystery of God. Why did he create us? Why does he keep on caring for us? He looks for us even though He is absolutely complete, He doesn’t really miss anything or anyone like we do. Yet He searches as though He does. It’s amazing!

Below you can read the context of this phrase in Dutch or English.


“What, therefore, is my God? What, I ask, but the Lord God? “For who is Lord but the Lord himself, or who is God besides our God?”

Most high, most excellent, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful and most just; most secret and most truly present; most beautiful and most strong; stable, yet not supported; unchangeable, yet changing all things; never new, never old; making all things new, yet bringing old age upon the proud, and they know it not; always working, ever at rest; gathering, yet needing nothing; sustaining, pervading, and protecting; creating, nourishing, and developing; seeking, and yet possessing all things.

Thou dost love, but without passion; art jealous, yet free from care; dost repent without remorse; art angry, yet remainest serene. Thou changest thy ways, leaving thy plans unchanged; thou recoverest what thou hast never really lost.

Thou art never in need but still thou dost rejoice at thy gains; art never greedy, yet demandest dividends. Men pay more than is required so that thou dost become a debtor; yet who can possess anything at all which is not already thine? Thou owest men nothing, yet payest out to them as if in debt to thy creature, and when thou dost cancel debts thou losest nothing thereby.”

(Translated by Albert C. Outler – read online)


Wat bent U eigenlijk, mijn God? Ja, wat anders dan God de Heer? Wie is er Heer behalve de Heer? En wie is er God behalve onze God?

U bent verheven, voortreffelijk, machtig en almachtig, barmhartig en rechtvaardig, verborgen en toch aanwezig, mooi en sterk, stabiel en toch ongrijpbaar en zonder zelf te veranderen verandert u alles. U bent nooit nieuw, nooit oud en maakt alles nieuw. De hoogmoedigen maakt u oud zonder dat ze het merken. U bent voortdurend werkzaam en toch altijd in de rust. U haalt naar u toe maar komt niets tekort. U draagt, vervult en beschermt. U schept, u voedt en voltooit. U zoekt maar mist niets.

U bemint maar die gloed verteert u niet. U bent jaloers en blijft onbewogen. U kunt ergens spijt van hebben zonder dat het u pijn doet. U wordt boos en blijft toch rustig. U verandert uw werk maar niet uw plan. U krijgt terug wat U vindt maar niet verloren had.

U hebt nergens behoefte aan en vindt toch vreugde in wat u krijgt. U bent niet hebzuchtig maar vraagt wel rente. U krijgt meer terugbetaald dan het verschuldigde en komt zo zelf in het krijt te staan, en toch, wie heeft er iets dat niet van u is? U betaalt terug zonder iemand iets schuldig te zijn, u scheldt schulden kwijt en schiet er niets bij in.  

(Vertaald door Wim Sleddens- lees deze vertaling via de bieb)


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