A READING FROM A SERMON BY ST LEO THE GREAT
Rejoice, dearly beloved, for today our Saviour is born! There can be no place for sadness on the birthday of life itself. For this day has swallowed up all fear of death, and in its promise of eternity has replaced fear with joy. No one at all is excluded from today=s festive celebration, for there is a single great cause of joy which applies to everyone alike. For our Lord is the destroyer of sin and death; and since he found no one at all free from guilt, so he came in order to set all alike free. Let the Saint then be filled with joy, for he is hastening to receive his palm. Let the sinner rejoice, for he is invited to receive pardon. Let the gentile be filled with eager hope, for he is called to life.
According to the inscrutable disposition of Divine Providence, so far beyond our capacity to fathom, when the fullness of time had come, the Son of God took upon himself the nature of the human race, in order to reconcile us with our Creator. He did this so that the devil, through whom death entered the world, might be conquered in the very nature which he himself had conquered.
Thus the Word of God, the Son of God, who is himself God, in order to free mankind from eternal death, became a man. He bent down in order to take our lowliness upon himself, yet without in any way diminishing his own majesty. Remaining what he was he took upon himself what he was not. The divine and human natures came together in him in such a way that the lower would not be annihilated by the glory conferred upon it, nor the superior diminished by what it had assumed.
If Christ were not true God, dearly beloved, he could never have conferred upon us the remedy we need. On the other hand, if he were not true man, he could have offered us no example for our imitation. It was in recognition of this that on the day of his birth the exulting Angels first of all sang Glory be to God on high; and then they announced: Peace on earth to men of good will. These Angels could see the heavenly Jerusalem being constructed out of every nation on earth. If they, from their lofty height, rejoice so much before this ineffable work of divine love, how much more ought we to be glad, we who contemplate it from the lowliness of our mortality?
Dearly beloved, let us together give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit: for in his great mercy and love he has made us a new creation. Let us put aside the old man with his actions. Now that we have been made participants in the generation of Christ, let us renounce all works of the flesh. O Christian: recognise your dignity! You have been made a sharer in the divine nature! Do not then by an unworthy way of life return to your former wretchedness! You have been snatched from the power of darkness, and transferred into the light and the Kingdom of God. You have been made a temple of the Holy Spirit: do not by your behaviour drive him away again, and subject yourself once more to the tyranny of the devil! For Christ who has redeemed you in mercy will judge you in truth: he who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.