ADVENT readings from the early church fathers:


God's Promises Are Held Out to Us by His Son
from a discourse on the Psalms by Augustine, bishop, 354-430 A.D.

God established a time for his promises and a time for their fulfillment.

The time for promises was in the time of the prophets, until John the Baptist; from John until the end is the time of fulfillment.

God, who is faithful, put himself in our debt, not by receiving anything but by promising so much.  A promise was not sufficient for him; he chose to commit himself in writing as well, as it were making a contract of his promises.  He wanted us to be able to see the way in which his promises were redeemed when he began to discharge them.  And so the time of the prophets was, as we have often said, the foretelling of the promises.

He promised eternal salvation, everlasting happiness with the angels, an immortal inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of his face, his holy dwelling in heaven, and after resurrection from the dead no further fear of dying.  This is as it were his final promise, the goal of all our striving.  When we reach it, we shall ask for nothing more.  But as to the way in which we
are to arrive at our final goal, he has revealed this also, by promise and prophecy.

He has promised men divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, the poor a rising to glory.

But, brethren, because Godís promises seemed impossible to men - equality with the angels in exchange for mortality, corruption, poverty, weakness, dust and ashes - God not only made a written contract with men, to win their belief but also established a mediator of his good faith, nor a prince or angel or archangel, but his only Son.  He wanted, through his Son, to show us and give us the way he would lead us to the goal he has promised.

It was not enough for God to make his son our guide to the way; he made him the way itself, that you might travel with him as leader, and by him as the way.

Therefore, the only Son of God was to come among men, to take the nature of men, and in this nature to be born as a man.  He was to die, to rise again, to ascend into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfill his promises among the nations, and after that to come again, to exact now what he had asked for before, to separate those deserving his anger form those deserving his mercy, to execute his threats against the wicked, and to reward the just as he had promises.

All this had therefore to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future, in order that we might wait for it in faith, not find it a sudden and dreadful reality.



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(c) 1999, 2000 Don Schwager