Saturday, December 14, 2013

Megyn Kelly, St Augustine, and the Gay Sasquatch

We were sitting down to translate Augustine's Sermon 184, as a pre-Christmas gift to ourselves, when we found that it has already been done, and decently.  So much the better.

Here is the text in Latin.  Here is the English translation.  The latter comes from a website devoted to "proving" that Jesus was born on December 25.  How this sermon could do such a thing is anybody's guess, as -- unfortunately -- is the original source of the translation.

Our favorite part, by far, is the second section.  It contains two passages which we may steal for our own Christmas sermon, and you may consider as well.

It begins:
Proinde Natalem Domini frequentia et festivitate debita celebremus. Exsultent viri, exsultent feminae: Christus vir est natus, ex femina est natus; et uterque sexus est honoratus. Iam ergo ad secundum hominem transeat, qui in primo fuerat ante damnatus. Mortem nobis persuaserat femina: vitam nobis peperit femina. Nata est similitudo carnis peccati, qua mundaretur caro peccati. Non itaque caro culpetur, sed ut natura vivat, culpa moriatur; quia sine culpa natus est, in quo is qui in culpa fuerat, renascatur. 
Hence, let us celebrate the birthday of the Lord with a joyous gathering and appropriate festivity. Let men and women alike rejoice, for Christ, the Man, was born and He was born of a woman; thus, each sex was honored. Now let the honor accorded to the first man before his condemnation pass over to this second Man.   (1 Cor. 15:49)  A woman brought death upon us; a woman has now brought forth life. The likeness of our sinful flesh (Cf. Rom. 8:3) was born so that this sinful flesh might be cleansed. Let not the flesh be blamed, but let it die to sin so that it may live by its real nature; let him who was in sin be born again in Him who was born without sin. 

This may speak to our own time more deeply than it did to Augustine's.  The culture of the fourth century was not awash in identity politics, as ours has been for some decades now.  One did not feel the need to defend one's sex, skin color, or sexual preference, much less to define oneself by them.  Although tribe and nation mattered very much indeed, even these had lost some of their weight within the Christian church.

Evidence for this may be found in the person of Augustine himself.  Was he a Berber?  The descendant of white people from Europe or black ones from southern Africa?  Although guesses abound, there is no certainty about his descent -- because it did not matter enough for anybody to talk about.

But our time is different.  In the past week, we have seen a national "news" broadcaster insist, on air, that she knows for a certainty the skin color of both Santa Claus and Jesus.  This is, no doubt, part of her network's annual attempt to make Christmas a bone of sociopolitical contention.  Still, these remarks are especially weird.  They're a little like trying to argue that Sasquatch is gay and John Henry Newman is straight.  Bigfoot is about as well-documented as the pole-dwelling elf.  As for Newman, well, he may have liked the ladies, but it seems improbable, we just don't know, and it hardly matters.

So to our identity-obsessed age, with its theologies splintered and divided into "conservative" or "liberal," "mujerista" or "traditionalist," Augustine speaks a sober word.  By the Incarnation of God, both sexes were honored.  Men and women, all flesh alike -- and all flesh, alike, is redeemed.  We are not divided against each other by the birth of Christ, but united and washed clean.

The sermon continues with a series of imperatives, which may conceivably mirror by design the Exsultet of the Easter Vigil:*
Exsultate, pueri sancti, qui Christum praecipue sequendum elegistis, qui coniugia non quaesistis.  .... Exsultate, virgines sanctae: Virgo vobis peperit, cui sine corruptione nubatis; quae nec concipiendo, nec pariendo potestis perdere quod amatis. Exsultate, iusti: Natalis est Iustificatoris. Exsultate, debiles et aegroti: Natalis est Salvatoris. Exsultate, captivi: Natalis est Redemptoris. Exsultate servi: Natalis est Dominantis. Exsultate liberi: Natalis est Liberantis. Exsultate omnes Christiani: Natalis est Christi.
Let's make that easier for you to preach:

  • Exult, you holy youths, who, having chosen Christ as a model eminently worthy of imitation, have not sought marriage. .... 
  • Exult, you holy virgins. A Virgin has brought forth for you One whom you may wed without defilement, and you can lose the One whom you love neither by conceiving nor by bringing forth children. 
  • Exult, you who are just; it is the birthday of the Justifier. 
  • Exult, you who are weak and ill; it is the birthday of the Saviour. 
  • Exult, you who are captives; it is the birthday of the Redeemer. Exult, you who are slaves; it is the birthday of the Ruler. 
  • Exult, you who are free; it is the birthday of the Liberator. 
  • Exult, all Christians; it is the birthday of Christ! 

For what it's worth, Salvator might here be translated as "Healer."  Buy you get the idea, and could ring whatever changes seemed best in your own sermon.

As usual, Augustine is our contemporary here, offering us two things we are obliged to share with the faithful at Christmas:  a vision of the Gospel as a universal message, and palpable excitement about the content of that message.

*Although if St. Augustine were here alluding to the Exsultet, it would push back somewhat our evidence for when that hymn of blessing and encouragement was introduced.


mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.