A READING FROM AN ANCIENT SERMON
Now that the season has arrived for me to speak to you about the Lord’s incarnation and his coming among us, it would not be right to let these days pass by in silence. Rejoice, Zion! Your King is coming. Let Zion rejoice, I say; and by Zion I mean our own souls. Let our souls reject all that is evil and fix their gaze on the blessings that are to come. See, he is coming to dwell among you. To dwell among us? But who? None other than the God who would make us his own possession, desiring to gather a people to himself and establish them as his chosen portion. The God who would dwell in our midst is the subject of another prophetic text that reads: I shall walk among them and dwell in their midst; I shall be their God and they will be my people.
When he has established his dwelling place within us and taken full possession of our souls, he will make our whole being holy, perfect, and blameless. Let him come then and take possession of those he has redeemed; let him dwell in their hearts and complete the work he has begun in them; let him go ahead of them, leading the way for them out of the land of Babylon. He will find his resting place among us and be glorified in our midst when other people see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father, whose sons we have become not through anything we have done to deserve it, nor on account of our good deeds, but solely because of his mercy. Yes, it is through God’s mercy that we have received our freedom and are counted among his adopted sons.
God is glorified among us when we grow in love and compassion, when we carry out his commands and persevere in doing his will; these are the ways in which he is glorified. Now we know that the Lord has been sent to us as our redeemer, our life, and our healing, bringing us his loving mercy and grace beyond all our deserts. So when we see ourselves lifted up from the dust of the earth to receive a heavenly prize, let all of us believers be glad of heart and rejoice, and, as living souls raised up from the dead, let each one of us seek the Lord.
What return shall we make to the Lord for such blessings? All we can do is to bow our heads and beat our breasts, saying with the publican: O God, be merciful to me a sinner! Rejoice, then, my friends, at these great gifts of his, exult in such great blessings! Take care not to ascribe to yourselves the good things you have received from him, for if you do, you will lose what you have. You must be convinced that you possess nothing that you have not received. And if you have received it, do not boast as though you had not. If you keep to this rule the gifts you have received will be preserved among you, and anything you now lack will be granted to you in full.
An ancient sermon, Sermo 12 (PLS 4, 770-771), from Word in Season 1