John Was the Voice, Christ Is the Word
John was the voice, but the Lord is the Word that already existed in the beginning. John was a provisional voice; Christ, from the beginning, is the eternal Word.
Remove the word, and what is the voice? If there is no concept, there can be no more than an empty noise. The voice without the word reaches the hearing, but it doesn't edify the heart.
But let us see what takes place in the edification of our heart. When I think about what I will say, the word is already present in my heart; but, if I want to speak to you, I search for a way of making what is already in my heart reach yours.
When I try to make the word inside me reach you and lodge inside you, I use my voice and, by means of it, I speak to you: the sound of the voice makes the understanding of the word reach you; and once the sound of the voice has brought to you the concept, the sound disappears, but the word that the sound carried to you is already inside your heart, without having abandoned mine.
When the word has been passed to you, doesn't it seem as if it's the same sound as the one that is saying: He must increase and I must decrease? The sound of the voice stopped being heard to complete its task and it disappeared, as if it said: My happiness is complete. Let us retain the word, let us not lose the word conceived in the marrow of the soul.
Do you want to see how the voice passes away, while the divinity of the Word remains? What became of John's baptism? He completed his mission and disappeared. Now the one that continues is Christ's baptism. We all believe in Christ, we await salvation in Christ: this is what the voice sounded.
And in fact because it is difficult to distinguish the word from the voice, they took John to be the Messiah. The voice was confused with the word: but the voice recognized its own identity, so as not to offend the word. He said: I am not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet.
And when they asked him: Who are you?, he replied: "I am the voice that cries in the desert: " Make level the way of the Lord". The voice that cries in the desert, the voice that breaks the silence. "Make level the way of the Lord", as if he said: "I make a sound to introduce the word into the heart; but it won't condescend to come to where I try to introduce it, if you don't level the way for it."
What does it mean: Level the way, but: "Make supplication as is befitting"? What does it mean: Level the way, but: "think with humility"? Learn from this man John an example of humility. They took him for the Messiah, and he refused it; it didn't cross his mind to use the other peoples' mistake for his own benefit.
If he had said: "I am the Messiah", how could they have failed to readily believe him, if they already had him for such before he had said it? But he didn't say it: he recognized himself, he didn't allow them to mistake him, he humbled himself.
He understood where he had his salvation; he understood that he was no more than a torch, and he feared lest the wind of arrogance should extinguish it. (Augustine of Hippo).