Circumcise My Lips (and Pass the Coffee): Confessions Book Club


The Confessions of St. Augustine (Week 12 of 15)

We’re far enough in Confessions now that I can say a few things with confidence.

1. I’m glad I read it.

2. Augustine might just be the kind of saint I could hang out with…because he was truly human (and also much smarter than me, but that’s a different conversation).

Now, with that said, this week’s reading was some that I didn’t highlight very much. There were, in fact, only two parts that really stuck out when I reviewed the chapter.

Circumcise my lips (cf. Exod. 6:12), inwardly and outwardly, from all rashness and falsehood. May your scriptures be my pure delight, so that I am not deceived in them and do not lead others astray in interpreting them.

Confessions, Book XI, ii (3)

This encapsulates some of what I love most about Augustine: he’s real about it and maybe just a touch more dramatic than he needs to be. I need that. I need to be reminded that this — this life, here and now! — is an eternal battle. This is important, big time stuff! And you know, if circumcision is what it takes, God, bring it on.

(But please pass the coffee first, OK?)

The other part of this that really speaks to me is the reminder to turn to scripture and to delight in it.

Admittedly, I’ve been trying to read scripture for the last few years. I was raised with a love of it and I realized, somewhere along the way, that I’m doing a great disservice to myself and my family by not reading it more often.

But it’s not just the reading that I need to be doing. I need to be delighting.

If I think of my daily scripture reading time, I don’t know if you would call it “delighting.”

Let’s contrast that to my morning coffee time.

I’ll spare you the lengthy comparison and summarize it with this: the two are not equal. And I think Augustine not only understands my struggle, but challenges me, in this passage and the surrounding commentary, to work at changing that.

The first step, I think, lies in asking God for his help. (And right after that comes bracing myself, because God has a way of answering those kinds of prayers with big old wallops to the head…)

Augustine doesn’t leave us empty-handed in this, either. At the end of this chapter, we have a prayer that I have dog-eared and recopied into my personal prayer journal.

Lord my God, how deep is your profound mystery, and how far away from it have I been thrust by the consequences of my sins. Heal my eyes and let me rejoice with your light. Certainly if there were a mind endowed with such great knowledge and prescience that all things past and future could be known in the way I know a very familiar psalm, this mind would be utterly miraculous and amazing to the point of inducing awe. From such a mind nothing of the past would be hidden, nor anything of what remaining ages have in store, just as I have full knowledge of that psalm I sing. I know by heart what and how much of it has passed since the beginning, and what and how much remains until the end. But far be it from you, Creator of the universe, creator of souls and bodies, far be it from you to know all future and past events in this kind of sense. You know them in a much more wonderful and much more mysterious way. A person singing or listening to a song he knows well suffers a distension or stretching in feeling and in sense-perception from the expectation of future sounds and the memory of past sound. With you it is otherwise. You are unchangeably eternal, that is the truly eternal Creator of minds. Just as you knew heaven and earth in the beginning without that bringing any variation into your knowing, so you made heaven and earth in the beginning without that meaning a tension between past and future in your activity. Let the person who understands this make confession to you. Let him who fails to understand it make confession to you. How exalted you are, and the humble in heart are your house (Ps. 137:6; 145:8). You lift up those who are cast down (Ps. 144:14; 145:8), and those whom you raise to that summit which is yourself do not fall.

Confessions, Book XI, xxxi (41)

I want to know God and turn to God with that sort of confidence, with that sort of expectation, with that sort of demand.

Reading Assignment:

Book XII

Discussion Questions:

1. How would you circumcise your lips? What temptations do you face when it comes to how you speak, what you say, or the communications you use?

2. If you were to compose a prayer, how would it read? What would you ask from God and where in scripture would you turn to inspire your prayer?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

Read More:

For More Information on the Book Club:

About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She’s online at and is the author of a number of books for families.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

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