From “Sermon 66”
The Lord appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, as you have heard, and saluted them, saying, Peace be unto you. This is peace indeed, and the salutation of salvation… Christ is our salvation. He is our salvation, who was wounded for us, and fixed by nails to the tree, and being taken down from the tree, was laid in the sepulcher. And from the sepulcher he arose, with his wounds healed, his scars remained… If there are any heretics who still in their hearts maintain that Christ exhibited himself to sight, but that Christ’s was not true flesh, let them now lay aside that error, and let the Gospel persuade them… Lo you suppose that he appeared unto the eyes of men what he really was not? That he was a spirit, not flesh? Hear him: he loves you, let him not condemn you … See, he says, my hands and my feet. Handle and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see me have…
What then did the disciples not see? The body, that is, the church. Him they saw; her they saw not. They saw the bridegroom; the bride yet lay hidden… They did not yet see the church throughout all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. They saw the head, and they believed the head touching the body. By this which they saw, they believed that which they did not see.
We too are like to the disciples in that we see something which they did not see, and something we do not see which they did see. What do we see, which they did not see? The Church throughout all nations. And what do we not see, which they saw? Christ present in the flesh. As they saw him, and believed concerning the body, so do we see the body. Let us believe concerning the head. Let what we have respectively seen help us.
The sight of Christ helped them to believe the future church. So, the sight of the Church helps us to believe that Christ has risen. Their faith was made complete and ours is made complete also. Their faith was made complete from the sight of the head; ours is made complete by the sight of the body.
Let the nations hear; let the nations believe; let the nations multiply; let the Lord’s empurpled spouse spring forth from the blood of Martyrs. And from her how many have come already, how many members have cleaved to the head, and cleave to him still and believe! They were baptized, and others shall be baptized, and after them shall others come. Then I say, at the end of the world shall the stones be joined to the foundation, living stones, holy stones, that at the end the whole edifice may be built by that church, yea by this very church which now sings the new song, while the house is in building. For so the psalm itself says, when the house was in building after the captivity; and what says it, ‘Sing unto the Lord a new song, sing unto the Lord all the earth.’
St. Augustine (354-430) was a theologian and philosopher who served as Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was a voluminous author, whose writings about God’s grace, the Sacraments, and the Church have been profoundly influential in the development of Western Christianity. He preached Sermon 66 during his ministry as Bishop of Hippo. His feast day is August 26.