I. Self-Restraint Leads to Higher Enjoyments.
When the Saviour would instruct His disciples about the Advent of God’s Kingdom and the end of the world’s times, and teach His whole Church, in the person of the Apostles, He said, “Take heed lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and care of this life1 .” And assuredly, dearly beloved, we acknowledge that this precept applies more especially to us, to whom undoubtedly the day denounced is near, even though hidden. For the advent of which it behoves every man to prepare himself, lest it find him given over to gluttony, or entangled in cares of this life. For by daily experience, beloved, it is proved that the mind’s edge is blunted by over-indulgence of the flesh, and the heart’s vigour is dulled by excess of food, so that the delights of eating are even opposed to the health of the body, unless reasonable moderation withstand the temptation and the consideration of future discomfort keep from the pleasure. For although the flesh desires nothing without the soul, and receives its sensations from the same source as it receives its motions also, yet it is the function of the same soul to deny certain things to the body which is subject to it, and by its inner judgment to restrain the outer parts from things unseasonable, in order that it may be the oftener free from bodily lusts, and have leisure for Divine wisdom in the palace of the mind, where, away from all the noise of earthly cares, it may in silence enjoy holy meditations and eternal delights. And, although this is difficult to maintain in this life, yet the attempt can frequently be renewed, in order that we may the oftener and longer be occupied with spiritual rather than fleshly cares; and by our spending ever greater portions of our time on higher cares, even our temporal actions may end in gaining the incorruptible riches.
II. The Teaching of the Four Yearly Fasts is that Spiritual Self-Restraint is as Necessary as Corporeal.
This profitable observance, dearly beloved, is especially laid down for the fasts of the Church, which, in accordance with the Holy Spirit’s teaching, are so distributed over the whole year that the law of abstinence may be kept before us at all times. Accordingly we keep the spring fast in Lent, the summer fast at Whitsuntide, the autumn fast in the seventh month, and the winter fast in this which is the tenth month, knowing that there is nothing unconnected with the Divine commands, and that all the elements serve the Word of God to our instruction, so that from the very hinges on which the world turns, as if by four gospels we learn unceasingly what to preach and what to do. For, when the prophet says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork: day unto day uttereth speech, and night showeth knowledge2 ,” what is there by which the Truth does not speak to us? By day and by night His voices are heard, and the beauty of the things made by the workmanship of the One God ceases not to instil the teachings of Reason into our hearts’ ears, so that “the invisible things of God may be perceived and seen through the things which are made,” and men may serve the Creator of all, not His creatures3 . Since therefore all vices are destroyed by self-restraint, and whatever avarice thirsts for, pride strives for, luxury lusts after, is overcome by the solid force of this virtue, who can fail to understand the aid which is given us by fastings? for therein we are bidden to restrain ourselves, not only in food, but also in all carnal desires. Otherwise it is lost labour to endure hunger and yet not put away wrong wishes; to afflict oneself by curtailing food, and yet not to flee from sinful thoughts. That is a carnal, not a spiritual fast, where the body only is stinted, and those things persisted in, which are more harmful than all delights. What profit is it to the soul to act outwardly as mistress and inwardly to be a captive and a slave, to issue orders to the limbs and to lose the right to her own liberty? That soul for the most part (and deservedly) meets with rebellion in her servant, which does not pay to God the service that is due. When the body therefore fasts from food, let the mind fast from vices, and pass judgment upon all earthly cares and desires according to the law of its King
III. Thus Fasting in Mind as Well as Body, and Giving Alms Freely, We Shall Win God’s Highest Favour.
Let us remember that we owe love first to God, secondly to our neighbour, and that all our affections must be so regulated as not to draw us away from the worship of God, or the benefiting our fellow slave. But how shall we worship God unless that which is pleasing to Him is also pleasing to us? For, if our will is His will, our weakness will receive strength from Him, from Whom the very will came; “for it is God,” as the Apostle says, “who worketh in us both to will and to do for (His) good pleasure4 .” And so a man will not be puffed up with pride, nor crushed with despair, if he uses the gifts which God gave to His glory, and withholds his inclinations from those things, which he knows will harm him. For in abstaining from malicious envy, from luxurious and dissolute living, from the perturbations of anger, from the lust after vengeance, he will be made pure and holy by true fasting, and will be fed upon the pleasures of incorruptible delights, and so he will know how, by the spiritual use of his earthly riches, to transform them into heavenly treasures, not by hoarding up for himself what he has received, but by gaining a hundred-fold on what he gives. And hence we warn you, beloved, in fatherly affection, to make this winter fast fruitful to yourselves by bounteous alms, rejoicing that by you the Lord feeds and clothes His poor, to whom assuredly He could have given the possessions which He has bestowed on you, had He not in His unspeakable mercy wished to justify them for their patient labour, and you for your works of love. Let us therefore fast on Wednesday and Friday, and on Saturday keep vigil with the most blessed Apostle Peter, and he will deign to assist with his own prayers our supplications and fastings and alms which our Lord Jesus Christ presents, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
1 S. Lc 21,34.
2 (Ps 19,1-2.
3 Cf. Rm 1,20 Rm 1,25.
4 (Ph 2,13,
I. All Share in the Joy of Christmas.
Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fulness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin. Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, “no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth1 .” Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body. And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result2 , she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honour that she is soon to be the Mother of God3 . For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin.
II. The Mystery of the Incarnation is a Fitting Theme for Joy Both to Angels and to Men.
Therefore the Word of God, Himself God,the Son of God who “in the beginning was with God,” through whom “all things were made” and “without” whom “was nothing made4 ,” with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join 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.5 Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality: and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition, inviolable naturewas united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, SO that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other6 .
Rightly therefore did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin’s purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honour. Such then beloved was the nativity which became the Power of God and the Wisdom of God even Christ, whereby He might be one with us in manhood and surpass us in Godhead. For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy, unless He were true Man, He would not give us an example. Therefore the exulting angel’s song when the Lord was born is this, “Glory to God in the Highest,” and their message, “peace on earth to men of good will7 .” For they see that the heavenly Jerusalem is being built up out of all the nations of the world: and over that indescribable work of the Divine love how ought the humbleness of men to rejoice, when the joy of the lofty angels is so great?
III. Christians Then Must Live Worthily of Christ Their Head.
Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit8 , Who “for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us,” has had pity on us: and “when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ9 ,” that we might be inHim a new creation and a new production. Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh. Christian, acknowledge thy dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct. Remember the Head and the Body of which thou art a member. Recollect that thou wert rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God’s light and kingdom. By the mystery of Baptism thou weft made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from thee by base acts, and subject thyself once more to the devil’s thraldom: because thy purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge thee in truth Who ransomed thee in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
1 (Jb 19,4,
2 Effectus: the older editions read affatus (sc. the utterances of the angel).
3 Dei genetrix (qeotovko"): in opposing Eutyches, Leo is careful not to fall into Nestorianism. Bright’s note 3 should be read on this passage, and esp. his quotation from Bp. Pearson (note 2 on art. 3) absit ut quisquam S. Mariam Divinoe gratioe privilegiis et speciali gloria fraudare conetur.
4 S. .
5 "Without-other" repeated in almost the same words in Letter XXVIII. chap. 3.
6 "Without-other" repeated in almost the same words in Letter XXVIII. chap. 3.
7 S. Lc 2,14.
8 Bingham observes (b. 14,c. 2S 1), that Leo here uses, though in a catholic sense, that form of doxology which had become associated with Arianism. He could well afford to do as S. Athanasius had done, who ascribes glory to the Father “through the Son” at the conclusion of four treatises. Bright.
9 (Ep 2,4-5.
I. The Mystery of the Incarnation Demands Our Joy.
Let us be glad in the Lord, dearly-beloved, and rejoice with spiritual joy that there has dawned for us the day of ever-new redemption. of ancient preparation1 , of eternal bliss. For as the year rolls round, there recurs for us the commemoration2 of our salvation, which promised from the beginning, accomplished in the fulness of time will endure for ever; on which we are bound with hearts up-lifted3 to adore the divine mystery: so that what is the effect of God’s great gift may be celebrated by the Church’s great rejoicings. For God the almighty and merciful, Whose nature as goodness, Whose will is power, Whose work is mercy: as soon as the devil’s malignity killed us by the poison of his hatred, foretold at the very beginning of the world the remedy His piety had prepared for the restoration of us mortals: proclaiming to the serpent that the seed of the woman should come to crush the lifting of his baneful head by its power, signifying no doubt that Christ would come in the flesh, God and man, Who born of a Virgin should by His uncorrupt birth condemn the despoiler of the human stock.4 Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was His own, complete in what was ours. And “ours” we call what the Creator formed in us from the beginning and what He undertook to repair. For what, the deceiver brought in and the deceived admitted had no trace in the Saviour Nor because He partook of man’s weaknesses, did He therefore share our faults. He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the Divine: because that “emptying of Himself” whereby the Invisible made Himself visible and Creator and Lord Of all things as He was, wished to be mortal, was the condescension of Pity not the failing of Power5 .
II. The New Character of the Birth of Christ Explained.
Therefore, when the time came, dearly beloved, which had been fore-ordained for men’s redemption6 , there enters these lower parts of the world, the Son of God, descending from His heavenly throne and yet not quitting His Father’s glory, begotten in a new order, by a new nativity. In a new order, because being invisible in His own nature He became visible in ours, and He whom nothing could contain, was content to be contained: abiding before all time He began to be in time: the Lord of all things, He obscured His immeasurable majesty and took on Him the form of a servant: being God, that cannot suffer, He did not disdain to be man that can, and immortal as He is, to subject Himself to the laws of death7 . And by a new nativity He was begotten, conceived by a Virgin, born of a Virgin, without paternal desire, without injury to the mother’s chastity: because such a birth as knew no taint of human flesh, became One who was to be the Saviour of men, while it possessed in itself the nature of human substance. For when God was born in the flesh, God Himself was the Father, as the archangel witnessed to the Blessed Virgin Mary: “because the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee: and therefore, that which shall be born of thee shall be called holy, the Son of God8 .” The origin is different but the nature like: not by intercourse with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bare, and a Virgin she remained. Consider here not the condition of her that bare but the will of Him that was born; for He was born Man as He willed and was able. If you inquire into the truth of His nature, you must acknowledge the matter to be human: if you search for the mode of His birth, you must confess the power to be of God. For the Lord Jesus Christ came to do away with not to endure our pollutions: not to succumb to our faults but to heal them9 . He came that He might cure every weakness of oar corruptness and all the sores of our defiled souls: for which reason it behoved Him to be born by a new order, who brought to men’s bodies the new gift of unsullied purity. For the uncorrupt nature of Him that was born had to guard the primal virginity of the Mother, and the infused power of the Divine Spirit had to preserve in spotlessness and holiness that sanctuary which He had chosen for Himself: that Spirit (I say) who had determined to raise the fallen, to restore the broken, and by overcoming the allurements of the flesh to bestow on us in abundant measure the power of chastity: in order that the virginity which in others cannot be retained in child-bearing, might be attained by them at their second birth.
III. Justice Required that Satan Should Be Vanquished by God Made Man.
And, dearly beloved, this very fact that Christ chose to be born of a Virgin does it not appear to be part of the deepest design? I mean, that the devil should not be aware that Salvation had been born for the human race, and through the obscurity of that spiritual conception, when he saw Him no different to others, should believe Him born in no different way to others. For when he observed that His nature was like that of all others, he thought that He had the same origin as all had: and did not understand that He was free from the bonds of transgression because he did not find Him a stranger to the weakness of mortality. For though the true10 mercy of God had infinitely many schemes to hand for the restoration of mankind, it chose that particular design which put in force for destroying the devil’s work, not the efficacy of might but the dictates of justice. For the pride of the ancient foe not undeservedly made good its despotic rights over all men, and with no unwarrantable supremacy tyrannized over those who had been of their own accord lured away from God’s commands to be the slaves of his will. And so there would be no justice in his losing the immemorial slavery of the human race, were he not conquered by that which he had subjugated. And to this end, without male seed Christ was conceived of a Virgin, who was fecundated not by human intercourse but by the Holy Spirit. And whereas in all mothers conception does not take place without stain of sin, this one received purification from the Source of her conception. For no taint of sin penetrated, where no intercourse occurred. Her unsullied virginity knew no lust when it ministered the substance. The Lord took from His mother our nature, not our fault11 . The slave’s form is, created without the slave’s estate, because the New Man is so commingled with the old, as both to assume the reality of our race and to remove its ancient flaw.
IV. The Incarnation Deceived the Devil and Caused Him to Break the Bond Under Which He Held Men.
When, therefore, the merciful and almighty Saviour so arranged the commencement of His human course as to hide the power of His Godhead which was inseparable from His manhood under the veil of our weakness, the crafty foe was taken off his guard and he thought that the nativity of the Child, Who was born for the salvation of mankind, was as much subject to himself as all others are at their birth. For he saw Him crying and weeping, he saw Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, subjected to circumcision, offering the sacrifice which the law required. And then he perceived in Him the usual growth of boyhood, and could have had no doubt of His reaching man’s estate by natural steps. Meanwhile, he inflicted insults, multiplied injuries, made use of curses, affronts, blasphemies, abuse, in a word, poured upon Him all the force of his fury and exhausted all the varieties of trial: and knowing how he had poisoned man’s nature, had no conception that He had no share in the first transgression Whose mortality he had ascertained by so many proofs. The unscrupulous thief and greedy robber persisted in assaulting Him Who had nothing of His own, and in carrying out the general sentence on original sin, went beyond the bond on which he rested12 , and required the punishment of iniquity from Him in Whom he found no fault. And thus the malevolent terms of the deadly compact are annulled, and through the injustice of an overcharge the whole debt is cancelled. The strong one is bound by his own chains, and every device of the evil one recoils on his own head. When the prince of the world is bound, all that he held in captivity is released13 . Our nature cleansed from its old contagion regains its honourable estate, death is destroyed by death, nativity is restored by nativity: since at one and the same time redemption does away with slavery, regeneration changes our origin, and faith justifies the sinner.
V. The Christian is Exhorted to Share in the Blessings of the Incarnation.
Whoever then thou art that devoutly and faithfully boastest of the Christian name, estimate this atonement at its right worth. For to thee who wast a castaway, banished from the realms of paradise, dying of thy weary exile, reduced to dust and ashes, without further hope of living, by the Incarnation of the Word was given the power to return from afar to thy Maker, to recognize thy parentage, to become free after slavery, to be promoted from being an outcast to sonship: so that, thou who wast born of corruptible flesh, mayest be reborn by the Spirit of God, and obtain through grace what thou hadst not by nature, and, if thou acknowledge thyself the son of God by the spirit of adoption, dare to call God Father. Freed from the accusings of a bad conscience, aspire to the kingdom of heaven, do God’s will supported by the Divine help, imitate the angels upon earth, feed on the strength of immortal sustenance, fight fearlessly on the side of piety against hostile temptations, and if thou keep thy allegiance14 in the heavenly warfare, doubt not that thou wilt be crowned for thy victory in the triumphant camp of the Eternal King, when the resurrection that is prepared for the faithful has raised thee to participate in the heavenly Kingdom.
VI. The Festival Has Nothing to Do with Sunworship, as Some Maintain.
Having therefore so confident a hope, dearly beloved, abide firm in the Faith in which you are built: lest that same tempter whose tyranny over you Christ has already destroyed, win you back again with any of his wiles, and mar even the joys of the present festival by his deceitful art, misleading simpler souls with the pestilential notion of some to whom this our solemn feast day seems to derive its honour, not so much from the nativity of Christ as, according to them, from the rising of the new sun15 . Such men’s hearts are wrapped in total darkness, and have no growing perception of the true Light: for they are still drawn away by the foolish errors of heathendom, and because they cannot lift the eyes of their mind above that which their carnal sight beholds, they pay divine honourto the luminaries that minister to the world.Let not Christian souls entertain any suchwicked superstition and portentous lie. Beyond all measure are things temporal removed from the Eternal, things corporeal from the Incorporeal, things governed from the Governor. For though they possess a wondrous beauty, yet they have no Godhead to be worshipped. That power then, that wisdom, that majesty is to be adored which created the universe out of nothing, and framed by His almighty methods the substance of the earth and sky into what forms and dimensions He willed. Sun, moon, and stars may be most useful to us, most fair to look upon; but only if we render thanks to their Maker for them and worship God who made them, not the creation which does Him service. Then praise God, dearly beloved, in all His works and judgments. Cherish an undoubting belief in the Virgin’s pure conception. Honour the sacred and Divine mystery of man’s restoration with holy and sincere service. Embrace Christ born in our flesh, that you may deserve to see Him also as the God of glory reigning in His majesty, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit remains in the unity of the Godhead for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Proeparationis (viz. the day to which prophecies and types were leading up): another reading is reparationis (restoration), which is less apposite.
3 Erectis sursum cordibus, the phrase reminds us of the Eucharistic V). sursum corda R. habemus ad Dominum).
4 “From Thus” to the end of the chapter is repeated in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome), chap. 3.
5 “From Thus” to the end of the chapter is repeated in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome), chap. 3.
6 From “there enters” to “death” is repeated in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome), chap 4.
7 From “there enters” to “death” is repeated in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome), chap 4.
8 S Lc 1,35.
9 For the impeccability of Christ involved in this statement cf. Serm. LXIV. chap. 2, and Lett. XXVIII. (Tome) chap. 3, and especially Bright’s note 15 (to Sermon XXIII. chap. 2).
10 Verax, literally truth speaking, and so genuine, sincere, &c).
11 This sentance is found also in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome), chap.3: but here instead of de matre Domini, natura there is a variant reading, de matre, hominis natura.
12 Dum vitatoe proeiudicium generale persequitur, chirographum quo nitebatur excedit. Cf. Col 2,14, and Lett. CXXIV. 7.
13 Captivitatis vasa rapiuntur : the passage in the writer’s mind is S. Lc 11,21-22, q.v.
14 (Si coelestis militioe sacramenta servaveris : here we have a return to the earlier classical meaning of sacramentum).
15 Such an idea is no doubt to be referred to the Manichoeans.
I. The Truths of the Incarnation Never Suffer from Being Repeated.
The things which are connected with the mystery1 of to-day’s solemn feast are well known to you, dearly-beloved, and have frequently been heard: but as yonder visible light affords pleasure to eyes that are unimpaired, so to sound hearts does the Saviour’s nativity give eternal joy; and we must not keep silent about it, though we cannot treat of it as we ought. For we believe that what Isaiah says, “who shall declare his generation2 ?” applies not only to that mystery, whereby the Son of God is co-eternal with the Father, but also to this birth whereby “the Word became flesh.” And SO God, the Son of God, equal and of the same nature from the Father and with the Father, Creator and Lord of the Universe, Who is completely present everywhere, and completely exceeds all things, in the due course of time, which runs by His own disposal, chose for Himself this day on which to be born of the blessed virgin Mary for the salvation of the world, without loss of the mother’s honour. For her virginity was violated neither at the conception nor at the birth: “that it might be fulfilled,” as the Evangelist says, “which was spoken by the Lord through Isaiah the prophet, saying, behold the virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us3 .” For this wondrous child-bearing of the holy Virgin produced in her offspring one person which was truly human and truly Divine4 , because neither substance so retained their properties that there could be any division of persons in them; nor was the creature taken into partnership with its Creator in such a way that the One was the in-dweller, and the other the dwelling; but so that the one nature was blended5 with the other. And although the nature which is taken is one, and that which takes is another, yet these two diverse natures come together into such close union that it is one and the same Son who says both that, as true Man, “He is less than the Father,” and that, as true God, “He is equal with the Father.”
II.the Arians Could Not Comprehend the Union of God And Man.
This union, dearly beloved, whereby the Creator is joined to the creature, Arian blindness could not see with the eyes of intelligence, but, not believing that the Only-begotten of God was of the same glory and substance with the Father, spoke of the Son’s Godhead as inferior, drawing its arguments front those words which are to be referred to the “form of a slave,” in respect of which, in order to show that it belongs to no other or different person in Himself, the same Son of God with the same form, says, “The Father is greater than I6 ,” just as He says with the same form, “I and my Father are one7 .” For in “the form of a slave,” which He took at the end of the ages for our restoration, He is inferior to the Father: but in the form of God, in which He was before the ages, He is equal to the Father. In His human humiliation He was “made of a woman, made under the Law8 :” in His Divine majesty He abides the Word of God, “through whom all things were made9 .”10 Accordingly, He Who in the form of God made man, in the form of a slave was made man. For both natures retain their own proper character without loss: and as the form of God did not do away with the form of a slave, so the form of a slave did not impair the form of God11 . And so the mystery of power united to weakness, in respect of the same human nature, allows the Son to be called inferior to the Father: but the Godhead, which is One in the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, excludes all notion of inequality. For the eternity of the Trinity has nothing temporal, nothing dissimilar in nature: Its will is one, Its substance identical, Its power equal, and yet there are not three Gods, but one God12 ; because it is a true and inseparable unity, where there can be no diversity13 . Thus in the whole and perfect nature of true man was true God born, complete in what was His own, complete in what was ours. And by “ours” we mean what the Creator formed in us from the beginning, and what He undertook to repair. For what the deceiver brought in, and man deceived committed, had no trace in the Saviour; nor because He partook of man’s weaknesses, did He therefore share our faults. He took the form of a slave without stain of sin, increasing the human and not diminishing the divine: for that “emptying of Himself,” whereby the Invisible made Himself visible, was the bending down of pity, not the failing of power.
III. The Incarnation Was Necessary to the Taking Away of Sin.
In order therefore that we might be called to eternal bliss from our original bond and from earthly errors, He came down Himself to us to Whom we could not ascend, because, although there was in many the love of truth, yet the variety of our shifting opinions was deceived by the craft of misleading demons, and man’s ignorance was dragged into diverse and conflicting notions by a falsely-called science. But to remove this mockery, whereby men’s minds were taken captive to serve the arrogant devil, the teaching of the Law was not sufficient, nor could our nature be restored merely by the Prophets’ exhortations; but the reality of redemption had to be added to moral injunctions, and our fundamentally corrupt origin had to be re-born afresh. A Victim had to be offered for our atonement Who should be both a partner of our race and free from our contamination, so that this design of God whereby it pleased Him to take away the sin of the world in the Nativity and Passion of Jesus Christ, might reach to all generations14 : and that we should not be disturbed but rather strengthened by these mysteries, which vary with the character of the times, since the Faith, whereby we live, has at no time suffered variation.
IV.the Blessings of the Incarnation Stretch Backwards as Well as Reach Forward.
Accordingly let those men cease their complaints who with disloyal murmurs speak against the dispensations of God, and babble about the lateness of the Lord’s Nativity as if that, which was fulfilled in the last age of the world, had no bearing upon the times that are past. For the Incarnation of the Word did but contribute to the doing of that which was done15 : and the mystery ofman’s salvation was never in the remotest age at a standstill. What the apostles foretold, that the prophets announced: nor was that fulfilled too late which has always been believed. But the Wisdom and Goodness of God made us more receptive of His call by thus delaying the work which brought salvation: so that what through so many ages had been foretold by many signs, many utterances, and many mysteries, might not be doubtful in these days of the Gospel: and that the Saviour’s nativity, which was to exceed all wonders and all the measure of human knowledge, might engender in us a Faith so much the firmer, as the foretelling of it had been ancient and oft-repeated. And so it was no new counsel, no tardy pity whereby God took thought for men: but from the constitution of the world He ordained one and the same Cause of Salvation for all. For the grace of God, by which the whole body of the saints is ever justified, was augmented, not begun, when Christ was born: and this mystery of God’s great love, wherewith the whole world is now filled, was so effectively presignified that those who believed that promise obtained no less than they, who were the actual recipients.
V. The Coming of Christ in Our Flesh Corresponds with Our Becoming Members of His Body.
Wherefore since the loving-kindness is manifest, dearly beloved, wherewith all the riches of Divine goodness are showered on us, whose call to eternal life has been assisted not only by the profitable examples of those who went before, but also by the visible and bodily appearing of the Truth Itself, we are bound to keep the day of the Lord’s Nativity with no slothful nor carnal joy. And we shall each keep it worthily and thoroughly, if we remember of what Body we are members, and to what a Head we are joined, lest any one as an ill-fitting joint cohere not with the rest of the sacred building. Consider, dearly beloved and by the illumination of the Holy Spirit thoughtfully bear in mind Who it was that received us into Himself, and that we have received in us: since, as the Lord Jesus became our flesh by being born, so we also became His body by being re-born. Therefore are we both members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Ghost: and for this reason the blessed Apostle says, “Glorify and carry God in your body16 :” for while suggesting to us the standard of His own gentleness and humility, He fills us with that power whereby He redeemed us, as the Lord Himself promises: “come unto Me all ye who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls17 ” Let us then take the yoke, that is not heavy nor irksome, of the Truth that rules us, and let us imitate His humility, to Whose glory we wish to be conformed: He Himself helping us and leading us to His promises, Who, according to His great mercy, is powerful to blot out our sins, and to perfect His gifts in us, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Sacramentum(as usual). I would venture to urge that Bright is hardly justified in interpreting this as “sacred observance” here, unless I have misunderstood his note 8. Surely Leo means, the facts and details and consequences arising from the mystery of the Incarnation are well known to you. This agrees better with the context and is in accordance with his common use of the word.
2 (Is 53,8,
3 S. Mt 1,22-23.
4 Vere humanum vereque aivinam unam ediait prole personam.
5 Misceretur: Quesnel truly remarks that the fathers securius locuti sunt nondum litigantibus Eutychianis post cuius haeresis ortum cautim-locutus est Leo. That no “fusion” of the natures is really implied Bright (note 11) clearly shows).
6 S. Jn 14,28.
7 Jn 10,30.
8 (Ga 4,4,
9 S. Jn 1,3.
10 From “accordingly” to “form of GOD” occurs again in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome) chap. 3.
11 From “accordingly” to “form of GOD” occurs again in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome) chap. 3.
12 Several times in this chapter and elswhere in Leo the language reminds us forcibly of the Quicunque “which,” says Bright (note 14), “whatever be its date, was clearly compiled by some one accustomed to the theological terminology of the Latin church of the fifth century.”
13 From here to end of chapter occurs again in Lett. XXVIII. (Tome) chap. 3.
14 From what he goes on to say in the next chapter, is clear that Leo meant that both past and future generations of mankind shared in the benefits of the Incarnation: cf. Bright’s note 16.
15 Hoc contulit faciendum quod factum, i.e. the Incarnation was but a part (though an essential part) in the Divine scheme of redemption, and, as he goes on to show, could not have occurred sooner than it did occur: for it would have marred the sequence of the whole design: cf. Brights note 17: also S. Jn 8,56).
16 (1Co 6,20). Glorificate et portate deum in corpore vestro, quoted again in this form in Sermon LIII. 3. Observe (1) that , “et portate ”is doubtless a very old ’Western gloss" Bright, note 18), and (2) that the words “and in your spirit which are GOD’S” (A.V). find no place in the Latin Versions, and are now omitted n R.V.
17 S. Mt 11,28.