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 Skellenger 2 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. 245). 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 of the blessings. Though Jacob attempts to warn his mother of the potential danger she disregards it replying in Genesis 27:13, “My son, let the curse fall on me.
Just do what I say. ” The reader virtually hears the impatience and haste in Rebekah’s voice. In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, he describes Rebekah’s response as “a very rash word” (162). He also points out the fact that if Rebekah would have walked in patience and trust, rather than impulsiveness and anxiety, Jacob could have received the blessing in a proper way since God had already promised in Genesis 23:25 that he would be blessed (164). Both Rebekah and Monica receive the things they are after, yet in contrast to Monica’s patience which produces peace nd harmony in her home, Rebekah’s impatience results in additional strife and dissension amongst her family. It also displays Rebekah’s earthly and temporal mindset. She is so concerned with an earthly inheritance for her son that she fails to remember that it is God who blesses and fulfills His Word in His perfect timing and way. The virtues a woman possesses can have a huge impact on her view of marriage. Particular virtues may also shape her understanding and belief about her responsibilities to her husband.
While counseling her peers, Monica reveals her personal belief and view of marriage, calling it a “matrimonial contract…an instrument by which they became servants” (Confessions 9. 1243). She also sees her life and the institute of marriage as a way to reach others and bring peace. Her son calls her a “peacemaker between people quarreling and minds at discord” (Confessions 9. 1244). Monica considered herself a servant within the realm of marriage. This concept consequently affects her opinion of what her responsibilities are to her husband. Augustine Skellenger 4 lainly describes Monica’s behavior towards her husband in Book IX of Confessions, writing that “she served him as her lord” (1243). Such behavior apparently touches Augustine so greatly that he takes the time to include these particular facts in his work. Elizabeth A. Clark also observes in her book, St. Augustine On Marriage and Sexuality, that Augustine “praises her for the meekly subordinate position she had assumed in relation to his father” (21). Not only does Monica desire to live as a humble servant, she also sees her responsibility to be a witness for Christ to her husband.
Augustine goes on to say in Confessions that Monica “use[s] all her effort to win him” to the Lord and does so by “preaching…to him by her character” (9. 1243). What a beautiful picture of Christ’s love shining through her actions and integrity. She understands the power of her pure and submissive conduct, as well as the negative influence words possess while spoken in uncontrolled emotion. As Vaught so beautifully articulates, Monica “is prepared to wait for God’s mercy to transform him” (Encounters 121).
Her approach to her husband may appear backwards to her peers, yet Monica’s demeanor proves to have amazing influence in her husband’s life. In comparison to Monica’s submission and faithfulness to her husband, Rebekah chooses to act out of desperation and fear. Though she serves her husband and family for the majority of her life, the story of her and Jacob’s deception illustrates a time when she decided to be lord of her house, instead of submitting to the head of their home, Isaac. During that time she does not walk in integrity towards her husband as Monica did.
On the contrary, she devises a plan found in Genesis 27:14-17 to deceive Isaac by dressing up Jacob in order to appear as Esau, his brother. Instead of utilizing her position of wife and mother to promote peace she attempts to orchestrate a selfish and cunning plan. This is a complete contrast to Monica’s desire to be a witness and model of God’s love. Skellenger 5 Monica is a Godly woman, referred to by her son with same qualities found in the third chapter of I Timothy, such as making herself beautiful by submitting to her husband.
Her perspective and conduct would be magnificent to see in today’s women. Perhaps her ways might be considered old fashioned, weak, or even a way of suppressing women’s power. On the other hand, Rebekah’s choice to take charge is widely accepted and viewed as powerful in society today. Yet by humbling herself, Monica receives God’s power, as well as answers to her many prayers, and in her supposed weaker state she has enormous influence and power that goes far beyond the realm of Rebekah’s misleading strength.