"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

December 25, 2011

Augustine on Christmas

Filed under: Uncategorized — komonchak @ 7:54 pm

Three texts from Augustine for our great feastday, already sent in separately on other occasions:

What praise of the love of God we should express! What thanks we should give! He loved us so that he through whom all time was made for our sakes came to be in time; he who in his eternity is older than the world became younger in age than many of his servants; he who made man became man; he was created from a mother he created; he was carried by hands he shaped, sucked breasts he filled, and the Word without which human eloquence is dumb squalled in a manger, dumb, unable to speak [in praesepi muta vagiret infantia Verbum , sine quo muta est humana eloquentia].

See what God became for your sake; learn the lesson of such great lowliness, learn it even from a teacher not yet able to speak. Once, in paradise, you were so fluent that you gave names to every living thing (Gen 2:19-20); but for your sake your Creator lay speechless, unable even to call his mother by her name. In that broad estate of fruitful trees you lost yourself by failing to obey; he obediently came as a mortal into a very narrow lodge in order by dying to seek you who had died. Although you were man, you wished to be God, and you were lost; he, although he was God, wished to become a man so that he might find what was lost. So deeply did human haughtiness press you down that only divine lowliness could raise you up. [Tantum te pressit humana superbia, ut te non posset nisi humilitas sublevare divina.]” (Augustine, EnPs. 188, 2-3; PL 38, 1004)

Word of God before all time, Word made flesh at the appropriate time; maker of the sun, made under the sun; disposing all the ages from his Father’s bosom, consecrating this day from his mother’s womb; remaining there, coming forth here; the creator of heaven and earth, born beneath heaven on earth; speechlessly wise, wisely speechless [ineffabiliter sapiens, sapienter infans]; filling the world, lying in a manger; ruling the stars, sucking at a breast; so great in the form of God, so small in the form of a slave, that the greatness was not diminished by the smallness, nor the smallness crushed by the greatness. (Augustine, Sermon 187, 1; PL 38, 1001)

And lest we counterpose Christmas and Easter, there is this from a Lenten sermon:

Eleemosyna, our word for alms, is Greek for “mercy” or “pity.” What greater pity could be shown to the piteous than the mercy that brought the creator of heaven down from heaven and clothed the maker of earth with an earthly body, that made him who was equal to the Father in eternity equal to us in mortality, that lay the form of a slave on the Lord of the world, so that bread hungered, fullness thirsted, strength became weak, health was wounded, and life died? And all this so that our hunger would be fed, our dryness watered, our weakness comforted, our wickedness extinguished, our charity set afire. What greater mercy than that the creator be created, the Lord serve, the redeemer be sold, the one who raises be lowered, the one who revives be killed? We are commanded to give alms, to give bread to the hungry (see Is 58:7); he, in order to give himself to us in our hunger, first handed himself over for us to those who raged against him. We are enjoined to receive strangers; he for our sake came to his own and his own did not receive him (Jn 1:11). So let our soul bless him who forgives all its iniquities, who heals all its diseases, who redeems its life from destruction, who crowns it with mercy and compassion, who satisfies its desires with good things (see Ps 102:3-5). Let us, then, continue at our works of mercy all the more eagerly and all the more constantly the closer comes the day on which the mercy shown to us is celebrated. A fast without mercy is useless to the one fasting. (Augustine, Sermon 207, 1: PL 38, 1043)

All the blessings of Christmas to you all!


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