Nativity Homily, Augustine of Hippo

The Eternal Day who made all days has sanctified this day for us, my brethren. Of Him the Psalmist writes: ‘Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing ye to the Lord and bless his name: bless his salvation from day to day.'[1] What does this phrase ‘from day to day’ mean unless it be that the Son was born of the Father, Light of Light? That Eternal Day called into being this Day, who was born of a virgin today. The Eternal Day, therefore, has no beginning and no end. I refer to God the Father. What is this Day if it be not Light? Not the light of carnal eyes, the light which we share with beasts, but the Light which shines upon the angels, by the brilliance of which hearts are cleansed. The night in which we live, and in which the lamps of the Scriptures are lighted for us, passes; then that Light will come which is foretold in the psalm: In the morning I will stand before thee, and I will contemplate thee.'[2]

That Day, then, the Word of God, the Day which shines upon the angels, the Day which brightens the homeland from whence we came, was born clothed in flesh of the Virgin Mary, was wondrously brought forth, for what is more wondrous than the child-bearing of a virgin? She conceives and is still a virgin; she brings forth her Child and remains a virgin. He was formed in her whom He Himself formed; He gave her fertility but He did not mar her integrity. Whence did Mary spring? From Adam. Whence did Adam come? From the earth. If Mary sprang from Adam, and if Adam came from the earth, then Mary, too, came from the earth. If this is so, let us acknowledge the truth of the words: ‘Truth is sprung out of the earth.’ What benefit has Truth bestowed upon us? ‘Truth is sprung out of the earth and justice hath looked down from heaven.'[3] For the Jews, as the Apostle says, ‘ignorant of the justice of God and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted to the justice of God.'[4] How can man become just? Of himself? What poor man gives bread to himself? What naked person clothes himself unless clothes have been given to him? Whence does justice come? What justice is there without faith? For ‘he who is just lives by faith.'[5] He lies who says that he is just without faith, for he lies in whom there is no faith. If anyone wishes to speak the truth, let him turn to the Truth. For Truth which ‘is sprung out of the earth’ was far removed from you. You were sleeping; Truth came to you. You were wrapped in heavy slumber; Truth aroused you and prepared a path for you lest you should be lost. Hence, ‘Truth is sprung out of the earth,’ since Christ was born of a virgin, and ‘Justice hath looked down from heaven,’ that, through justice men might learn to relish again what through injustice they had foolishly cast aside.

We were mortal, overwhelmed by our sins; we bore the penalties of our sins. Every man, at birth, begins life in wretchedness. Do not seek for a prophetic utterance in this regard; ask the child who is born; see his tears. Since this wretchedness was the mark of God’s anger on the earth, what sort of condescension came suddenly into His attitude? Truth is sprung out of the earth. 5 He created all things; He [as man] was created among all things. He made the day; He came into the day. He is the Lord Christ existing without a beginning eternally with His Father, yet He has a birthday. In the first place, if the Word had not had human generation, we would not have acquired divine regeneration; He was born so that we might be born again. Christ was born; let no one hesitate to be reborn. He was generated with no need of regeneration, for who has experienced the need of rebirth except the one whose birth was blameworthy? Let His compassion, then, be born in our hearts. His Mother carried Him in her womb; let us carry Him in our hearts. The Virgin was heavy with the incarnate Christ; may our hearts be heavily freighted with belief in Christ. The Virgin brought forth the Saviour; may our souls bring forth salvation; may we bring forth praise also. Let us not be sterile; let our souls be full of fruitfulness in the Lord.

The twofold generation of Christ is admirable; the first, His birth of a Father without a mother, is eternal; the second, His birth of a Mother without a father, happened in time. Eternal Himself, He was born of His eternal Father. Why do you wonder? He is God. Consider His divinity, and all cause for wonder will cease. Let amazement pass away; let praise ascend; let faith be present; believe what has happened. Has not God humiliated Himself enough for you? He who was God became Man. The inn was too small; wrapped in swaddling clothes, He was placed in a manger. Who does not marvel? He who fills the world found no room in an inn. Placed in a manger, He became our food. Let the two animals, symbolic of two races, approach the manger, for the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib.[6] Do not be ashamed to be God’s beast of burden. Carrying Christ, you will not go astray; with Him burdening you, you make your way through devious paths. May the Lord rest upon us; may He direct us where He wishes; may we be His beast of burden and thus may we come to Jerusalem. Though He presses upon us, we are not crushed but lifted up; when He leads us, we shall not go astray. Through Him may we come to Him so that we may rejoice forever with the Child who was born today.

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