A READING FROM A SERMON BY ST LEO THE GREAT
Calling to mind all that has been accomplished by the Saviour of the human race will be of great profit to us, beloved, if we set ourselves to imitate what we believe and venerate. Even his first moments when the Son of God was born from his virgin mother can further our devotion. For the upright of heart behold in one and the same person both human lowliness and divine majesty. He who is seen in the cradle as a newborn child is proclaimed by heaven and the heavenly hosts as their creator. This child with its tiny body is the lord and ruler of the world. His mother holds in her bosom him whom no limits can contain. But therein lies the healing of our wounds and the reversal of our abasement, for without the union of such diversity humankind could never have been reconciled to God.
It is not without reason that when the brilliance of a new star led the three Magi to worship Jesus they did not see him commanding demons, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind, enabling the lame to walk or the dumb to speak, or performing any other act pertaining to divine power. Instead, they saw a child silently resting under his mother’s watchful care – a child who showed no sign of power, but only the great marvel of humility.
So it was that the sight of this holy babe to whom the divine Son of God was united presented our eyes with a teaching that was not yet proclaimed in our ears. For the whole victory of the Saviour by which he overcame the devil and the world was begun in humility and consummated in humility. He began his allotted days under persecution and he ended them under persecution. The child was not without suffering, nor was he who was destined to suffer without the submissiveness of childhood. For by a unique abasement of his majesty the only Son of God freely undertook to be born as a human being and to be put to death by human beings.
If then almighty God has changed our wretched condition into a happy one by the singular grace of his humility, and if he has destroyed death and the author of death by not refusing any of the sufferings inflicted on him by his persecutors but calmly enduring in obedience to the Father the cruelties of those who raged against him, how humble and patient should we not be who never suffer any misfortune without deserving it? Thus the whole practice of Christian wisdom, beloved, consists not in many words, nor in skilful argument, nor in a desire for praise and glory, but in the genuine and voluntary humility which, in preference to any kind of power, our Lord Jesus Christ chose and taught from his mother’s womb to his death upon the cross.
St Leo the Great, In Epiphania Solemnitate sermo VII, 1-3 (SC 22, 276-280), from Word in Season 2