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Word Made Flesh


Augustine began preaching one Christmas day with these words: “Let us direct our ears and minds for a little while to see if, we can say something suitable and worthy, not by reason of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God, but because the Word was made flesh.” (S. 188.2)

 

The mystery of the Incarnation is a theme Augustine explored in more than one Christmas: “When the Word assumed flesh in time, He did not, in this flesh, give up His eternity. The Word took upon Himself what He was not in the beginning, namely being human; the Word remained what He was, namely God. Remaining God, He became human; that is, He began to be what he had not been before. Therefore, not one but two natures may truthfully be ascribed to Him.” (S. 187.4). Without relinquishing what He was, He desired to become what He had made. (S. 192.1)

 

Augustine explained that Christ preserved His divine nature while He dwelt among us in human nature. (S. 184.1) So, Augustine explains, “when the Virgin conceived and brought forth a Son, we read: 'A child is born to us' (Is 9:6), and the words of the Angel Gabriel were that he would be called Emmanuel or 'God with us.'” (S. 187.4) And he adds how later in the life of Jesus, the Lord himself spoke of his two natures: “Because of the true nature of a servant which He had taken upon Himself, Jesus said truthfully: 'The Father is greater than I' (Jn 14:28); and because of the true nature of God which He retained, He said with equal veracity: The Father and I are one (Jn 10:30).” (S. 187.4)

 

Augustine asked his congregation: “Why would God who is unparalleled in greatness come in such lowliness?” and he answered by explaining that in Jesus, God came for us: Certainly not for personal advantage, but definitely for our great benefit. For you, I repeat, God has become human. If He had not thus been born in time, you would have been dead for all eternity. Everlasting misery would have engulfed you, if He had not taken this merciful form. You would not have been restored to life, had He not submitted to your death. You would have perished, had He not come.” (S. 185.1)

 

Augustine explained that Christ brought wealth for an impoverished humanity. He brought it concealed under the poverty of His humanity. For, 'being rich, he became poor for our sake that by his poverty we might become rich.' (2 Cor 8:9) (S. 194.3) He who was God became human in His effort to make us godlike. (S. 192.1)

 

Augustine invited his congregation to celebrate this saving mystery: “Let us, O Christians, celebrate this feast, not of the divine nativity of the Lord, but of His human nativity when He became one of us. Let us celebrate the invisible God made visible.” (S. 190.2)

 

Augustine added the exhortation to follow Christ: “The Lord Jesus wished to become human for our sake. Let not His mercy become worthless” (S. 196.3), but “manifest Him in good works” (192.2). And if you say: 'Look, I wish to follow Him, but I do not find the strength to accomplish what is good,' Augustine is sympathetic and provides encouragement: “If you are delighted with the law of God, but find yourself prisoner to the law of sin, hold fast to your good will and cry out and beg for the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Do not trust in your own strength. Even in your weariness, praise Him. For He is near you with the words: 'If you abide in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (S. 193.2) Augustine adds: “Even the ability to beg for help comes from Him. His mercy anticipates our need. If at the present moment you can only wish and beg God for the ability to obey him, offer him the free offerings of your praise and supplication.” (S. 193.2)

 

Fr. Carlos Medina, OSA

 


 

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