Sermon 186

 St. Augustine


(1) Let us rejoice, my brethren, let the nations exult and be glad because, not the visible sun, but the invisible Creator of the sun has consecrated this day on which the Virgin, a true but inviolate Mother, gave birth to Him who became visible for our sake and by whom she herself was created. A virgin conceives, yet remains a virgin;[1] 1 a virgin is heavy with child; a virgin brings forth her child, yet she is always a virgin. Why are you amazed at this, O man? It was fitting for God to be born thus when He deigned to become man. Such did He make her, who was born from her; He existed before she was created; and, because He was omnipotent, He was able to become man while remaining what He was. He created His own Mother when He was with the Father; and when He was born of that Mother He remained in His Father. How would He who granted to His Mother the privilege of remaining a virgin when she brought forth her child cease to be God when He became Man? Furthermore, the fact that the Word became flesh does not imply that the Word withdrew and was destroyed on being clothed with flesh, but rather that flesh, to avoid destruction, drew near to the Word, so that, as man is soul and body, Christ might be God and Man. The same One who is Man is God, and the same One who is God is Man, not by a confusion of nature but by a unity of person. Finally, He who is the Son of God, being born of the Father, is always co-eternal with His Father; He, being born of the Virgin, became the Son of Man. Thus, humanity was added to the divinity of the Son without producing a fourfold union of Persons; the Trinity remains.


(2) Do not, therefore, let the opinion of certain persons who are unmindful of the rule of faith and of the words of the sacred Scriptures influence you. For these persons say: 'He who was the Son of Man became the Son of God; He who is the Son of God did not become the Son of Man.' In making this statement they have concentrated their attention on a principle that is true, but they have not been able to elucidate the truth. For to what principle did they direct their attention except that human nature could have been changed into something higher, but that divine nature could not have been changed into something lower? That is true, but, even so, the Word became flesh without the divinity being changed into something lower, for the Gospel does not say: 'Flesh was made the Word,' but it does say: The Word was made flesh. Moreover, the Word is God, [as the Evangelist says:] 'The Word was God.'[2] And what is flesh but man? Furthermore, this flesh of man did not exist in Christ without a soul, since He says: 'My soul is sad, even unto death.'[3] If, therefore, the Word is God and man is flesh, what else does the statement, 'The Word was made flesh,' signify except that He who was God became Man? And, by the same reasoning, He who was the Son of God became the Son of Man by taking upon Himself a lower nature without changing His higher nature, by receiving what He was not, not by losing what He was. For, how would we proclaim in the Creed that we believe in the Son of God who was born of the Virgin Mary, if it were not the Son of God but the Son of Man who was born of the Virgin Mary? What Christian would deny that the Son of Man was born of that woman; that God became Man; and that, thus, a God-Man was born, since 'The Word was God' and 'the Word was made flesh'? Therefore, we must admit that He who was the Son of God, in order to be born of the Virgin Mary, assumed the form of a servant and became the Son of Man, remaining what He was and taking upon Himself what He was not, beginning to exist in that, as Man, He was less than the Father, yet always existing in so far as He and the Father are one.


(3) For, if He who is eternally the Son of God did not become the Son of Man, how does the Apostle say of Him: 'Who though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave, being made like unto men, and appearing in the form of man'? [4] Not another, but He Himself, equal to the Father in the form of God, He the only-begotten Son of the Father 'emptied himself, being made like unto men.' Not another, but He Himself, equal to the Father in the form of God, 'humbled' not another but 'himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross.'[5] All this the Son of God accomplished only under the form of the Son of Man. Likewise, if He who is always the Son of God did not become the Son of Man, how does the Apostle describe himself in his Epistle to the Romans as: set apart for the gospel of God, which he had promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son who was born to him according to the flesh of the offspring of David 1 ?[6]  Behold, He who had always been the Son of God was made one of the offspring of David according to the flesh, becoming that which He had not been before. Likewise, if He who is the Son of God did not become the Son of Man, how it is that 'God sent his Son, born of a woman'?[7] In the Hebrew language, virginal integrity is not denied by this word, but female sex is indicated. Who was sent by the Father except the only-begotten Son of God? How, then, was He born of a woman unless this same Son of God who was with the Father was sent and became the Son of Man? Born of the Father without the limits of time, He was born of a Mother on this day. This day, which He created, He chose for His own creation in the flesh, just as He was born of the Mother whom He Himself had created. This day, from which each subsequent day receives additional light, symbolizes the work of Christ by whom our inner man is renewed day by day.[8] It was indeed fitting that the day on which all temporal creation was in peace and harmony should be the birthday of the eternal Creator now created in time.

[1] The reading permanent virgo of the Mss. was adopted here in place

of parie'ns virgo of the text.

[2] John 1.14,1.

[3] Matt. 26.38.

[4] Phil. 2.6-8.

[5] Phil. 2.8.

[6] Rom. 1.1-4.

[7] Gal. 4.4.

[8] Cf. 2 Cor. 4.16.


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