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The Voice of Christ

As Moses challenged the Israelites to listen to God’s voice (Dt 18:15-20), so we are called to hear the voice of Christ who as Word of God has the power and authority to transform our lives (Mk 1:21-28). Listening is constitutive of being a Christian because Christ from “the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:2-3).

 

St Augustine wrote: “When we speak, we utter sounds expressing the words that we carry in our heart. What we carry in our soul is apprehended by the ear of the listener through the words we speak. Our thoughts reach the ears of our listener through our voice, yet our thoughts do not change in themselves but remain thoughts even as they are spoken. Likewise, the word of God without change became flesh and dwelt among us” (De Doctrina Christiana I.13.12).

 

God’s Word is both “physician and medicine for us” (De Doctrina Christiana I.14.13) so that truly hearing God’s Word has a transformative, healing effect on us. In the Confessions, Augustine experienced the healing power of God through the Word present in the Scriptures as well as the word present in spiritual conversation. In book VIII of the Confessions, Augustine went into the garden of the lodging where he and Alypius (his friend) were staying in Milan.  He entered the garden weeping because he was unable to follow Christ’s commands, and this inability caused him great anguish. Alypius was right behind him. Augustine heard the voice of a child from a neighbor’s house chanting repeatedly “pick up and read.'' He interpreted hearing this ditty as a divine command to open up and read a book of the letters of St. Paul he had with him. He did so at random and read these words: “Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:13-14). The message was not new for him, but this time reading these words, something was different. In reading Scripture this time, he received the help he needed to act in the very manner that Scripture invited him to act.

 

Another example of transformative listening happened later when he and his mother overlooked a garden standing by a window in the house they were staying at in Ostia. Standing by this window they discussed together what life in heaven could be like. Their minds and hearts were stirred in ardor for God, and they were given a “moment of total concentration of the heart” (Confessions IX.10.24). Augustine and Monica stirred their mutual desire for heaven as they listened to each other and in listening to each other they listened to God.

 

These experiences in the garden in Milan, and by a window overlooking a garden in Ostia exemplify that “the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing” (Spes Salvi, 2). God’s Word at once reveals and transforms. In his Enarrationes in Psalmos, Augustine invites us to: “approach Him and you will be enlightened” (On Psalm 99.5). He continues, “When the soul approaches God, our inner self is recreated in God’s image, because we were made in God’s image…When love begins to grow in you, you are becoming more like God and you are being reformed in the likeness of God” (On Psalm 99.5).

Fr. Carlos Medina, OSA

 

 

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