[INCARNATIONAL SERIES part 10]
Augustine came to realize, however, that only in the Incarnation was a person able to be connected with the Divine. For in taking on human flesh Jesus was able then to take on our sin, which had been responsible for the segregation between the spiritual and the secular. In Jesus, Augustine understood, was the “true Mediator.” Jesus came in humility in order to “make void that death of sinners." In Augustine’s words, Jesus "was now made righteous, which He willed to have in common with them… For as a Man, He was a Mediator; but as the Word, not in the middle between God and man, because equal to God, and God with God, and together one God.”1 So finally Augustine had to admit the amazing truth that “God willed to be son of man and willed that men become sons of God. He descended because of us; we ascend because of Him.”2
The transformation in Augustine’s life stemmed from his prayerful desire that God would continue to move him away from his sinful self by making himself increasingly known in and through him. Augustine prayed: “The house of my soul is narrow. Enlarge it, so that you may enter it. It’s in ruins! Repair it! It has things in it that would offend your eyes. I confess and know it.”3 He also prayed: “You awake us to delight in your praise; for you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” 4 Every thought and action of Augustine’s personal and public life became fused and shaped by his encounter with God:
“Therefore once for all this short command is given you: ‘Love and do what you will.’ If you keep silent, keep silent by love, if you speak, speak by love; if you correct, correct by love; if you pardon, pardon by love: let love be rooted in you, and from this root nothing but good can grow.”5
Mary Clark, in her introduction to her translations of selected Augustinian writings, notes that “as Augustine deepened his theology of the Incarnation, he experienced union with God through Christ” and that he became more motivated by an amplified concern for others.6 As he grew in faith he learned to incarnate his relationship with God more and more daily in the context of his community and his contextual culture. Over time, Augustine’s heart was moved further away from the inwardization of his self and more towards a posture of openness to God and others reflected in communal resonance created by God’s Spirit:
“For just as you ought to enjoy yourself, but not in yourself but in Him who made you, so you ought also to enjoy him whom you love as yourself. And, therefore, let us enjoy ourselves and our brethren in the Lord, and not dare to return from there to ourselves, and, as it were, to let ourselves slip downwards. But the word is born when that which is thought pleases us, either for the purpose of committing sin or of acting rightly. Love, therefore, as a means, joins our word with our mind from which it is born; and as a third it binds itself with them in an incorporeal embrace, without any confession.”7
1 Confessions, 297
2 Selected Writings, Twelve Homily on the Gospel of John, 287
3 YCM, 5
4 YCM, 1
5 Augustine. “Treatise Seven on the First Epistle of St. John,” Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, 305.
6 Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, 41-42
7 Augustine, from Augustinus Aurelius, The Trinity, Book Nine, Chs 1-12. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1963, p.448.