Augustine, in Sermon 184, speaks of the difference between the “wise” and the wise, those who are wise with regard to “this world” (huius mundi) and those who are wise with regard to the one “by whom the world was made” (a quo factus est mundus). The difference is that the latter can assent to God taking on human nature without admixture or loss of divinity. Through a series of nicely balanced paradoxical juxtapositions, with each pair connected merely by the word “and” (indicating that the two elements are simultaneously true), Augustine reminds us of the mystery of the Incarnation.
Nam si esset in eis vera sapientia, quae Dei est et Deus est, intellegerent a Deo carnem potuisse suscipi, nec eum in carnem potuisse mutari; intellegerent eum assumpsisse quod non erat, et permansisse quod erat; et in homine ad nos venisse, et a Patre non recessisse; et id eum perseverasse quod est, et nobis apparuisse quod sumus; et corpori infantili potentiam esse inditam, et mundanae moli non esse subtractam. (Serm. 184.1)
For if true wisdom were in them, which is of God and is God, they would understand that flesh was able to be taken up by God and that he was not able to be changed into flesh; they would understand that he assumed what he was not, and remained what he was; and that in [a] man (in homine) he came to us, and did not withdraw from the Father; and that he persisted as that which he is, and appeared to us as that which we are; and that power was imparted to an infant body, and was not taken away from the world’s mass.
E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.
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