This Advent on each Sunday we will look at portions of sermons that Saint Augustine wrote for delivery during Advent. We begin with Saint Augustine’s meditation on one of the chief mysteries of the Incarnation: the emptying of Christ:
When the Word assumed flesh in time, so that He might enter into our temporal life, He did not, in this flesh, give up His eternity, but gave immortality to this flesh. Thus He, ‘as a bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber, hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way, who, ‘though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to,’but, so that for our sake He might become what He was not, ‘He emptied himself,’ not laying aside the nature of God, but ‘taking the nature of a slave,’ and by this nature ‘being made like unto men,’ not in His own nature [as God], but ‘appearing in the form of man.’ For, all that we are in soul and body constitutes, for us, our complete nature, but, for Him, only a visible nature. If we had not this soul and body, we would still exist; if He had not this soul and body, He would still be God. Remaining God, He became Man; that is, He began to be what had not been before, so that not one but two natures may truthfully be ascribed to Him. Because He was made Man, the statement, ‘for the Father is greater than I,’ is true; because He remained God, the statement, ‘I and the Father are one,’ is true. If the Word were changed into flesh, that is, if God were changed into man, only the statement, ‘for the Father is greater than I,’ would be true because God is greater than man; but the other statement, I and the Father are one,’ would be false since God and man are not one. In such a case, He could say: ‘I and the Father were one,’ but not ‘are one,’ implying that He has ceased to be what He was; that He was so in the past, but is so no longer. On the contrary, because of the true nature of servant which He had taken upon Himself, He said truthfully: ‘The Father is greater than I’; because of the true nature of God which He retained, He said with equal veracity: The Father and I are one.’Therefore, He emptied Himself among men, becoming what He had not been previously, not in such a way as to cease to be what He was, but, hiding what He was, He showed forth only what He had become. Hence, since the Virgin conceived and brought forth a Son, because of His manifest nature of servant, [we read:] ‘A child is born to us’; but, because the Word of God, which remains forever, became flesh so that He might dwell with us, on account of His real, though hidden nature of God, we, using the words of the Angel Gabriel, call e his name Emmanuel/ Remaining God, He has become Man so that the Son of Man may rightly be called ‘God with us’ and so that [in Him] God is not one person and man another. Let the world rejoice In those who believe, for whose salvation He came, by whom the world was made, the Creator of Mary born of Mary, the Son of David yet Lord of David, the Seed of Abraham.