The Measure of a Woman
In one of his most famous works, Confessions, Aurelius Augustine maps out important details and happenings throughout his life in reference to his loved ones and his God. An undeniable aspect of his life is the influence of his mother, Monica, and her perspective on life, love, and death. If compared to another famous female figure in the Christian life, such as Rebekah, the mother of Jacob, Monica’s virtues of patience and eternal perspective shine through, revealing her Biblical view of marriage and her husband. Augustine commends his mother’s virtues and lifestyle, providing an example for women everywhere to carefully consider. Monica shows one of the most difficult qualities in life to possess-patience. She demonstrates patience toward her son, Augustine, in her continual prayer and intercession for his salvation. In his Confessions, Augustine describes his mother’s prayers mixed with tears as he sets sail for Rome (5.1232). Despite his departure, she continues to seek God for His power in the life of her son. Her patience is rewarded years later when Augustine finally comes to know the Lord. When Augustine brings her the good news, she is “filled with triumphant exultation” (8.1238). Ultimately Monica realizes that God has done more than she could ever imagine. In Carl G. Vaught’s The Journey Toward God in Augustine’s Confessions: Book I-VI, he presents the importance of Augustine’s relationship with his mother concerning his conversion. He proposes that because of his relationship with his mother Augustine “begins to move beyond
space and time toward the positive relationship with God that Monica wants him to embrace” (68). No doubt Monica’s patience influences her son to embark on his journey towards the Lord. By the time her son is converted, Monica already has countless opportunities to develop patience in her life. Before her enduring attitude touches Augustine’s life, she is able to influence both her husband and mother-in-law. Referring to his mother’s impact on the life of his grandmother, Augustine confirms that Monica “won her completely by her unfailing patience and mildness” (Confessions 9.1243). Such a straightforward statement proves that he not only recognizes, but also admires the virtue of patience he sees in his mother’s life. In one of his other works, Encounters With God in Augustine's Confessions: Books VII-IX, Carl G. Vaught draws attention to the fact that “Monica’s victory in this case is an unusual feat in any culture” (122). Perhaps demonstrating patience towards her mother-in-law is one of a woman’s greatest accomplishments in life. If so, this would greatly substantiate Monica’s character. Another virtue that Augustine reveres in Monica’s life is her eternal perspective. This is seen in his account of her last few days before her death. He reports that to both of them “the world with all its delights seemed cheap” (Confessions 9.1245). Monica’s focus on the life to come causes her to disregard the importance of her physical body’s final resting place. She gives instruction that her body is to be buried “wherever it may be” at the time of her death (9.1246). Vaught again comments on the life of Monica, suggesting that “she points beyond death and the need to place the body in a particular place” (Encounters 135). Monica’s ability to see past the temporal life on earth illustrates her faith and obedience to God’s Word, which encourages the believer in II Corinthians 4:18 to concentrate on that which is eternal. In comparison, Rebekah of the Old Testament is not as patient nor eternally minded as Monica. Rather than waiting on the Lord to work in the lives of her family members, Rebekah feels the need to make things happen for herself. When Rebekah discovers that her husband Skellenger 3
desires to bless their two sons she wastes no time to command the younger of the two boys, Jacob, to trick his father in order to receive the greater...