Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Homily of St. Leo the Great

1. Our Saviour, dearly Beloved, was born this day. Let us rejoice. Sadness is not becoming upon the Birth Day of Life Itself, which, now that the fear of death is ended, fills us with gladness, because of our own promised immortality. No one is excluded from sharing in this cheerfulness, for the reason of our joy is common to all men. Our Lord, the Conqueror of sin and death, since there was no one free from servitude, came that He might bring deliverance to all.

Let him who is sanctified rejoice, for he draws nigh to the palm. Let the sinner rejoice, since he is invited to grace. Let the Gentiles exult, for they are called to life. For the Son of God, in the fullness of time, has taken upon Himself the nature of our humanity, as the unsearchable depths of the divine counsel hath decreed, in order that the inventor of death, the devil, by that very nature which he defeated, would be himself overcome.

And in this contest that was undertaken for us, the battle was waged in accordance with a great and wondrous law of justice. For the Omnipotent God engaged in combat with His most bitter enemy, not in the strength of His own Majesty, but in our human infirmity; confronting him with our very form and nature, and sharing likewise in our mortality; but free of all stain.

Unlike this Holy Nativity, is that of which we read of all men: No one is there free from sin, not even the infant whose life upon the earth is but a day.[Job 14:4] But of the concupiscence of the flesh, nothing has been transmitted in this unique generation; nothing of the law of sin has descended. A royal virgin of the house of David is chosen as the bearer of the Sacred Fruit, who had conceived her divine and human Offspring in her soul, before she conceived Him in her body.

And knowing not the divine purpose, and lest she be fearful at such unheard of tidings, she learns from the angelic colloquy of that which was to be wrought in her by the Holy Spirit; nor did she, who was about to become the Mother of God, believe that this betokened the loss of her virginity.

Why should she be fearful, to whom fruitfulness is promised through the power of the Most High? The faith of the believer is confirmed by the witness of the miracle that went before, when to Elizabeth was given unlooked for fruitfulness; that it might not be doubted, that He Who had given to the barren to conceive, would give it likewise to the Virgin.

2. The Word of God, therefore, God, the Son of God, Who in the beginning was with God, by Whom all things were made, and without Whom was made nothing that was made, became Man, that He might free man from eternal death; bending down to the taking of our lowliness, without diminution of His own Majesty, so that remaining what He was, and taking upon Himself what He was not, He might join the form of a true servant to that form in which He is equal to God the Father [Phil. 2:6]; and by such a bond so link both natures, that this exaltation might not swallow up the lesser, nor adoption lessen the Higher.

Preserving therefore, the substance of both natures, and uniting them in One Person, lowliness is assumed by Majesty; infirmity, by Power; mortality, by Immortality. And to pay the debt of our present state, an inviolable Nature is united to our suffering one; and true God and true man are welded into the unity of One Lord, so that, as was needed for our healing, one and the same Mediator of God and men, might, by the one, suffer death, and by the Other, rise again from the dead. Rightly then, did this Birth of our salvation bring no taint of corruption to the Virginal integrity; for the birth of Truth, was the defense of virginity.

Such a Birth, dearly Beloved, befitted Christ, the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God; whereby He would be both joined to our lowliness, yet remain far above us in His divinity. For unless He were true God, He could bring us no aid; and were He not true man, He could offer us no example. The exulting angels, therefore, sing to the new born Lord, Glory to God in the Highest, and they announce unto me, peace on earth to men of good will. For they see the heavenly Jerusalem made up from all peoples of the earth. With what joy may not the lowliness of mankind rejoice in this unspeakable work of the divine compassion, when the angels in their glory so greatly rejoice.

3. Let us, therefore, give thanks, dearly Beloved, to God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit; Who, because of the exceeding great love, wherein He has loved us, has had compassion on us. And even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ [Eph. 2:5], that in Him we might be a new creature, and a new clay. Let us strip ourselves of the old man with his deeds; for being made partakers of the Birth of Christ, let us renounce the deeds of the flesh [Col. 3:9].

Acknowledge, O Christian, the dignity that is yours! Being made a partaker of the divine nature, do not by an unworthy manner of living fall back into your former abjectness of life. Be mindful of Whose Head, and of Whose Body, you are a member. Remember, that wrested from the powers of darkness, thou art now translated into the Light and the Kingdom of God. By the sacrament of baptism you have become the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not, by evil deeds, drive out from you such a One dwelling with thee, and submit yourself again to the bondage of the devil. Because your price was the Blood of Christ; because in strictness He shall judge you Who in mercy has redeemed you, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.

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