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The One Christ: St. Augustine's Theology of Deification

The One Christ: St. Augustine's Theology of Deification

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Provocative passages on deification abound in St. Augustine of Hippo. He relies on the term "deification" far more than other Latin fathers do. Even more important, the reality of the deified life runs throughout every major aspect of Augustine's presentation of Christianity.

By tracing how deification and related metaphors appear throughout Augustine's writings, David Meconi corrects generations of faulty readings on this crucial patristic theme. For Augustine, the Christian life is essentially an incorporation of the elect into the very person of Christ, forming his mystical body inchoately now in via and perfectly
in patria. This is the "whole Christ," the totus Christus, where Christ and Christian become one through the charity of the Holy Spirit and the church's sacraments that elevate and enable men and women to participate in God's own life. This work opens by showing how the metaphysic of deification are set in principio, as all creation is an imitation of the Logos. Among all creatures, though, the human person alone bears
the imago Dei, and emerges as the one called to appropriate God's life freely. For this purpose, the Son becomes human.

By treating Augustine's passages on deification both chronologically and constructively, Meconi situates Augustine in a long chorus of Christian pastors and theologians who understand the essence of Christianity as the human person's total and transformative union with God.


David Vincent Meconi, SJ, is assistant professor of theology at Saint Louis University.


"In recent years, many Western Christians have shown growing interest in what is usually thought of as a theme peculiar to the works of the Eastern Fathers: that committed participation in the life and prayer of the Church can open up for a believer the path to 'divinization' - to a geniune share by human creatures, through Christ and in the power of the Spirit, in the life of God himself. Fr. David Meconi's new book reveals, by careful analysis of many texts, that this kind of transformation is also a major theme in the thought of St. Augustine, even though it is not always expressed in the same terms that his Greek contemporaries used, and that divinization thus also lies at the source of mainstream Western Christian theology and spirituality. This is an original and important piece of scholarship on a largely neglected subject, and should be welcomed by all who are nourished by Augustine's thought"

- Father Brian Daley, SJ, the Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame

"For decades scholars have debated Augustine's theology of deification. David Meconi culminates that debate with a clear and persuasive account of the evidence. Of particular importance is Meconi's attention to the full implications of Augustine's insistence that Christians live and are transformed within the totus Christus, the 'whole Christ.' The book opens new avenues for students of Augustine himself, and also for all who want to see increased understanding between the Church's eastern and western 'lungs.'"

- Lewis Ayres, Bede Professor in Catholic Theology, Durham University

"Meconi goes to the heart of Augustine's life and thought: we are called to become Christ. Much has been written about the human condition as if Augustine only saw its downside. This book invites us to revel in the many ways that Augustine highlights human destiny as deification. It is a must-read for anyone who is 'stuck' on Augustine's supposed pessimism and―even more so―for those who want to explore what Augustine is really saying about God's plan for us."

―Allan Fitzgerald, OSA, The Augustinian Institute, Villanova University

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