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Behold Him

Augustine in his Christmas sermons led his congregation to consider more closely the mysteries of the birth of Christ. He wanted to point out the humility of Christ in order to lead his congregation to praise the savior. We can imagine ourselves as part of his congregation as He preached: “Consider what God became for our sake, so you might better understand a lesson of surpassing humility. This lesson is presented by a teacher who, on this day, lies in a manger as a newborn baby not yet able to speak” (S. 188.3) In this sermon Augustine goes on to consider how parents name their children, however our Creator as a newborn did not even call His mother by her name. He then contrasts the infancy of Christ to the infancy of humanity in Adam and Eve:


By disregarding obedience, Adam and Eve lost themselves amid a lush and fruitful garden; whereas He, in obedience, came into the barren and narrow confines of our mortality, so that by dying He might find us who were dead. In wishing to be gods on their own, Adam and Eve plunged into their own destruction; in contrast, Christ, though He was God, wished to be one of us, so that He might find us who were lost. Human pride brought Adam and Eve so low that only divine humility could lift us up again. (S. 188.3)


In sermon 189, Augustine contemplates the paradoxes of how He who was God became human. Augustine contemplates the irony that the one who fills the world found no room in an inn. Placed in a feeding trough, He became our food. (S. 189.4) These contrasts are explored also in Christmas sermons 191: “The Ruler of the stars, became an infant who was nourished at the breast. He, the Bread, experienced hunger. He, the Fountain, was thirsty. He, the Light, slept [in Mary’s arms]…He endured all these [and worse] indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures." (S. 191.1) 


Augustine asked his congregation -and we can ponder along: “Who does not marvel at such mysteries?” Only to answer his rhetorical question with another one, followed by a simple answer: “Why do you wonder? He is God. Consider His divinity, and all cause for wonder will cease. He who was God became human so that we can be like Him.” What ought to be our proper response? Augustine offers us at least these two guidelines in his Christmas sermons: Allow your amazement to fade into praise of Him (S. 189.4) and let us behold the infant Christ so as to grow up in Him. (S. 196.3)


Fr. Carlos Medina, O.S.A.


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