Day Thirty-eight: St. Leo the Great: Sermon XXI (On the Nativity Feast I)
Who: Leo the Great, also known as Pope St. Leo I (the Great), was Pope from 440-61 AD. Place and date of birth unknown; died 10 November, 461. Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity, as he tried to combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West, such as Pelagianism.
What: A sermon on the Nativity at Christmas time, about the incarnation of the Word of God.
Why: To explain the incarnation and preach the Good News of our Lord and Saviour becoming man for our sake so that we may be saved and born again.
When: Between 440 and 461 AD
You can find today’s reading on page 189 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf
Today's reading is a Christmas sermon from Pope Leo I. This may seem totally out of place during Lent and you may be wondering why this was included, but there is some sense and logic going on here! This reading marks the beginning of the final three days of Lent, and the topics covered all work together in the build up to the glorious resurrection of Christ.
This sermon reading deals with the first coming of our Lord as a baby, the mighty Word of God incarnated as a small and fragile child to save the world. Tomorrow’s sermon goes over aspects of Lent itself, in which we celebrate and remember the life and ministry of Jesus; and then finally, the last sermon is on the resurrection where we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death and sin which is what Easter is all about. So in short, these sermons cover the major points in the life of Jesus, which is quite fitting to close this series with.
Celebrating Christmas is to celebrate “the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity”.
Through his birth, Jesus has “taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author” by defeating the devil and death (Gal 4:4).
And so it was, “the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God”, the one who was in the beginning with God; the one by which all things came into being (Jn 1:1-3), came with the purpose of saving us from “eternal death” by “bending Himself to take on Him our humility”.
By doing this, the Word did not “decrease in His own majesty”, but he remained “what He was and [assumed] what He was not”. This was so that he “might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father”; this then joined “both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate”.
Without detriment, the nature of God came together with the nature of man in one person; “inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord”.
This Lord is our Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5) due to his dual nature, and because of this, he “could both die with the one and rise again with the other”.
“By the mystery of Baptism you were made the temple of the Holy Ghost”, and through that act we put off the old man, and thus “obtained a share in the birth of Christ” and became “a partner in the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
So even though this was a sermon about the Nativity, it was more focused on the nature of the incarnation and how that relates to us with regards to salvation. We were purchased for a price, the “money is the blood of Christ” which brings salvation to all of the world.
Let us go forth towards the resurrection in confidence at what Christ has done for us, working out our salvation by the power of the Spirit in us, who “reigns for ever and ever. Amen”