Following on from the previous post Augustine focuses on Jesus’ victory (IV. xii. 19 – Chadwick’s translation, occasionally abbreviated). This is tantalisingly beautiful, and ever so slightly obscure in places, but ultimately encouraging – God is not found by climbing, but in the depths, because it is to the depths that Jesus descends. At least that’s how I read it. (I imagine Augustine would be fine with any misreading of his words that led us to love Jesus more – see his “On Christian teaching” Book 1)
He who for us is life itself
descended here and endured our death
and slew it by the abundance of his life.
In a thuderous voice he called us
to return to him,
at that secret place where he came forth to us.
First he came into the Virgin’s womb
where the human creation was married to him,
so that mortal flesh should not for ever be mortal.
Coming forth from thence
“as a bridegroom from his marriage bed
he bounded like a giant to run his course” (Ps 18:6)
He did not delay, but ran crying out loud
by his words, deeds, death, life, descent and ascent –
calling us to return to him.
And he has gone from our sight that we should “return to our heart” (Isa. 46:8)
and find him there.
He went away, and behold, here he is.
He did not wish to remain long with us, yet he did not abandon us.
He has gone to that place which he never left,
“for the world was made by him”;
and he was in the world, and ‘came into the world to save sinners’.
Sons of men, how long will you be heavy at heart?
Surely after the descent of life, you cannot fail to wish to ascend and live.
But where will you ascend when “you are set on high and have put your mouth in heaven”.Come down so that you can ascend and make your ascent to God.
For it is by climbing up against God that you have fallen.
Tell souls that they should weep in the valley of tears.
So take them with you to God, for by his Spirit
you declare these things to them
if you say it burning with the fire of love.