A READING FROM THE SERMONS OF ST LEO THE GREAT
God’s providence of mercy, having determined to save in the last days the world which was perishing, fore-ordained the salvation of all nations in Christ. In this connection, countless descendants to be begotten not by fleshly seed but by fertile faith, were promised of old to the most blessed patriarch Abraham. This posterity was therefore compared to the stars in multitude so that the father of all nations might hope not for an earthly but for a heavenly succession.
Let the whole pagan world enter into the family of the patriarchs, yes, let it enter, and let the children of the promise receive in Abraham’s seed the blessing which his children according to the flesh rejected. In the three Magi let all the nations worship the Author of the universe; and let God be known, not in Judaea alone but throughout the whole world, so that everywhere his name may be great in Israel.
Schooled, then, dearly-beloved, by these mysteries of divine grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first-fruits and the commencement of the nations, giving thanks to the merciful God for making us fit to share the light which saints inherit, for rescuing us from the powers of darkness, and transferring us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. For, as Isaiah prophesied the people of the nations that sat in darkness, have seen a great light and they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shone. Of these he also says to the Lord, nations which knew you not, shall call on you and peoples which were ignorant of you shall run to you.
This is the day which Abraham saw and was glad, when he understood that the sons of his faith would be blessed in his seed which is Christ, and foresaw that by believing he should be the father of the nations, ‘giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
This is the day which David sang of in the psalms: All the nations you have made shall come and worship you, O Lord, and glorify your name; and again, The Lord has made his salvation known; in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
This indeed we know to be taking place ever since the three Magi were called from their far-off land and were led by the star to recognize and worship the king of heaven and earth. And surely their worship of him exhorts us to imitation; that, as far as we can, we should be at the service of this grace which invites all men to Christ.
You ought to help one another, dearly-beloved, in this zeal, so that in the kingdom of God, which is reached by right faith and good works, you may shine as children of the light, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
St Leo the Great, Sermon 3, Epiphany, 1-3, 5, from The Divine Office Vol. I