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Meditation on the Humility of Christ
St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(Miscellania Agostiniana, Sermones Reperti, Mai, XXII, p. 314.)
We commend to you, dearest brethren, the humility of Christ Jesus our Lord; rather, He commends it to us Himself. Reflect upon the wonder of His humility. The prophet Isaias cries out: All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered and the flower is fallen: but the word of our Lord endureth for ever (xl. 6, 8). How he contemns and humbles the flesh! And how he exalts and praises the word of God!

Again I say, and again give ear: behold the lowliness of the flesh: All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. And what does he say of the grass? What of the flower of the field? He goes on to tell us. Do you wish to hear what he says of the grass? The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen. And what of the word of God? It endureth for ever. Let us know the Word that endureth for ever.

Listen to the Evangelist as he praises the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was made nothing. What was made in him was life: And the life was the light of men (Jn. i. 1-4). Great this praise of the Eternal Word. Sublime the praise of the Word of God enduring for ever. And after this what does the Evangelist say? AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, AND DWELT AMONG US.

Had God the Word done only this; had He only become Flesh, His humility would be unbelievable. And blessed are they who believe this unbelievable thing: for it is from unbelievable things our faith is made up. That the Word of God became grass, that dead He rose again, that God was crucified, are unbelievable things. It was because your sickness had become great, it was healed through unbelievable things. For He came, the humble Physician, He finds man lying sick; He shares his sickness, inviting man to become a sharer in His Divinity. He was offered in suffering, destroy-ing suffering; and hung dying upon a Cross, that He might destroy death. He became Food for us: that we might eat, and be healed.

For whom is this Food; whom does it nourish. Those who imitate the Lord in His humility. If you will not imitate His humility, how much more shall you not imitate His divinity? Imitate His humility if you can. When? How? He Who is God became a man. You who are man, know that you are a man. Would that you might know clearly what He became for you! Know thyself, for His sake. Let you reflect on this, that you are a man, and yet of such value that because of you God became man. Do not attribute this happening to your own lofty spirit, but to His mercy. For God our Lord redeemed us by His Blood; willing that the price of our souls should be His Blood, His innocent Blood.

2. And since I began, brethren, by saying that had God only humbled Himself to this; that He became a man, who could have looked for more from Him? For you would not humble yourself to this; that from being a man you would become an animal: something not unlike man? And should you so humble yourself, that from being a man you became a beast, you would have not humbled yourself, as God has humbled Himself. For a man to become a beast, what was rational would become something irrational; yet what was mortal would be mortal: for man is mortal, and a beast is mortal; man is born, and a beast is born; man is conceived, as a beast is conceived; man eats corporal food, and increases as a beast increases. How many things has he not in common with the beast! In one thing only is he different: In his reasoning soul, upon which has been imprinted the image of the Creator. Yet God Who became man, the Eternal Who became mortal, took flesh from the substance of our race, without sin, became man, was born, taking upon Him that in which He would suffer for us.

But at this point He has not yet suffered. Contemplate Him now; what He has become for you, before He suffers. Is this lowliness a little thing? God has become man. O man! reflect that you are a man. It is because of you that God is man: And you do not acknowledge you are a man? Let us consider, brethren, who they are who do not wish to know they are men? Who are they; who are they who will not accept they are men? They are those who justify themselves, and blame God. Does one of them suffer something harsh or severe in this present life: From his tongue comes nothing but blame for God, praise of himself; and crying out in indignation at his affliction, he will admit no sin, rather he boasts of his merits, and exclaims: ‘God, what have I done to Thee? Why must I suffer these things?’

‘God, what have I done to thee?’ says man to God. Let God answer him. ‘Well indeed do you say: “What have I done to Thee?” For to me you have done nothing. All this have you done to yourself.’ For had you done something to God, you would have done something that would please Him: for this is to serve Him. But now, whatever you have done, you have done to yourself: for you followed your own will, and ignored His authority. It is plain that if this is what you mean you are speaking the truth. For what can you do to God, that you should cry out: ‘What have I done to Thee?’ He who throws a stone at heaven, does it fall on heaven or on himself? What you have thrown has not remained there, but has fallen on you. So is it with all blasphemies, should you hurl them at God: so is it with all insults; so is it with whatever stirs up your sacrilegious, impious and insolent mind: whatever you hurl upwards, falls back with far greater weight upon yourself.

3. What was it you would have done to God? You would have done something to Him had you obeyed His word. Had you done what He commanded you, you might well cry out: ‘What have I done to Thee?’ But now instead, look well into this justice of yours, examine your conscience, enter in to your own heart, make no noise without, look inward, to the inner chambers of your heart. See whether it is true or not that you have done no wrong; see whether you are not suffering what you deserve, for something you have done, for which you now suffer some affliction; for all that is owing to the sinner is the scourge of burning and eternal fire. You abandoned your God; and you followed your own desires. What is it you suffer, when you feel the scourge? Correction: not damnation.

If God scourges you in this life, He is not angry with you. Do not offend Him because He chastises you; do not provoke Him, that He may spare you. Provoke Him by murmuring, and He will abandon you. Fly towards the scourge of the Chastiser, not from it; bow beneath it: where it falls, hasten thither. He knows where He strikes, and where to find thee; and in vain do you hide from His eyes Who is everywhere. Do you desire to escape from an angry God? Then fly to an appeased One: fly nowhere from Him, only to Him.

You thought to escape from Him when you lifted your heads in pride. Humble them, and fly to Him. He scourgeth every son whom he receiveth (Heb. xii. 6). You think it unworthy of yourself to suffer chastisement. And do you also disdain to receive from Him an inheritance? Your Good Father trained thee for an inheritance (Deut. viii. s). He is Good, both when He spares thee, and when He chastises thee; and everywhere truly Merciful. (Explicit De Humilitate Domini Nostri Jesu Christi.)

Turning then to the Lord our God, we pray that the power of His mercy may strengthen our hearts in His holy truth, and confirm and give peace to our souls. May His grace abound in us, and may He have pity on us, and deliver us from all evil, and help us to please Him for ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord His Son, Who with Him and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.