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If you want a systematic introduction to the life and theology of the great Latin Doctor St Augustine (of Hippo) then this is not the book for you. I say this not, in any way wishing to demean the author. He, in fact, writes very much the same thing in his introduction, in which he explains that the book is a collection of essays and sermons written by him over the course of twenty-five years in which he has reflected upon certain aspects of the massive Augustinian corpus.

From the first essay (‘A question to myself’ Time and self-awareness in the Confessions) it becomes clear that this is a book of great wisdom; the product of painstaking and prayerful reflection.  In this essay Williams ponders the Augustinian notion of distension, explaining that perhaps the most famous Augustinian prayer (in which Augustine says the Soul achieves no rest until she finds her rest in God) is underpinned by this rather complicated notion in which memory and expectation infuse the present. There are also essays that deal with political questions (‘Politics and the Soul: Reading the City of God’), Christian ecology (‘Good for Nothing?’ Augustine on creation), Theology and Christology. These are, for the most part, written with theologians in mind and therefore one should expect to expend some thought and effort before they surrender their riches. One small criticism I would make is that there is an expectation that the reader will understand Latin, an expectation which, as any teacher of theology or history will tell you, is an increasingly forlorn one. A few extra footnotes in a future addition might well be of use!

Overall the book is of great and lasting worth and firmly part of the revisionist movement of the past twenty five years in which Augustine, unfairly accused for many years as the architect of many of the Church’s ills, has received a most welcome rehabilitation. For his part in this Dr Williams is to be thanked.

Joseph Emmanuel SSF