Pay Heed to His Victory

The most significant patristic source of the Protestant Reformation was Augustine of Hippo (354-430). The so-called Doctor of Grace, Augustine is especially illuminating during Lent when he explains how human temptation serves as an opportunity for Christ’s resurrection power. Such is the point of the following extract, drawn from his Commentary on the Psalms, 60:2-3.

Christ’s possession, his inheritance, his Body, that is the one Church which we all form, cries out to God from the ends of the earth: “O God, hear my cry; listen to my prayer.”

Why does Christ’s Body thus cry out? Because “my heart is troubled.” The Body everywhere shows that it is not glorified but greatly tempted. Indeed, our life as pilgrims cannot be free of temptation, for it is through temptation that we advance. None know themselves if they have not been tempted, nor can they be crowned unless they conquer, or conquer unless they struggle, or struggle unless they meet the enemy and be attacked.

Christ’s Body cries out in torment from the ends of the earth, but it is not left alone. For he foreshadowed us, his Body, in his own earthly body in which he dies and rose and ascended into heaven, so that where he the Head has gone before, we his members may be sure of following.

He, therefore, transformed our lot in his own person when he willed to be tempted by Satan. In Christ we were indeed tempted, for as Christ accepted flesh from us and gave us salvation in return, accepted death from us and gave us life, accepted insults from us and gave us honor, so too he accepted temptation as one of us and gave us the victory.

If we were tempted in his person, in him we also overcame Satan. Pay heed, then, to Christ’s victory no less than to his temptation. Recognize that we were tempted in him, but recognize too that we conquered in him. He could have simply fended off the devil; but if he had not been tempted, he could not teach us how to overcome temptation.

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