(St. Leo the Great D. 461)
The Voice of Peter
The truths that belong to this day’s solemnity are truly well known to you, Dearly Beloved, and you have frequently been instructed in them. But just as this visible light delights in the healthy eye, so the heart that is healed there comes to joy without end from the Birth of the Savior, which we must not pass over in silence, though it can never be spoken of in a manner that is worthy of it. For the words of the prophet, Who shall declare his generation? (Isaias L,III:8), refer not alone to that mystery wherein the Son of God is co-eternal with the Father, but also to this Birth in which the Word was made Flesh.
God, therefore – the Son of God, equal to, and of the same nature as the Father, and together with the Father the Creator and Lord of all things, present in His Entirety everywhere, and exceeding all things in the order of time, which moves as He has disposed, chose upon this day to be born of the Virgin Mary, for the salvation of the world; preserving in all things the purity of her who bore him. Whose Virginity as it was not profaned by birth, so neither was it defiled at conception. That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a Virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
This wondrous delivery of the Holy Virgin brought forth as offspring one Person, Who was both truly human and truly divine, since either nature did not so retain its separate being that there is in Him a distinction of persons. Neither was the created being so joined with its Creator that the creature became a dwelling, and He the dweller there. And though one is the nature that is received, and another that which receives, yet the diversity of each is united in such unity, that one and the same is the Son Who declares that, as true man, He is less than the Father (John XIV:28), and as true God, He is equal to the Father (John X:30).
- This unity, Dearly Beloved, in which the creature is united to the Creator, the Arian blindness could not discern with the eyes of the mind, not believing that the Only Begotten is of the same nature and substance as the Father, basing their argument on that which was said regarding the form of a servant, but which the same Son of God, to show that in Him (the Divinity) is not separate, nor of another person, in relation to the same, says: I and the Father are one (John X:30).
In the form of a servant, which for the purpose of our redemption He assumed till the end of ages, He is less than the Father. In the form of God, which He was before all ages, He is equal to the Father. In His Human lowliness He was made of woman, and made under the law (Galatians XIV:4); in the Majesty of His Divinity He is the Word of God, through Whom all things are made. In like manner He Who in the form of God has made man, in the form of a servant was made man. But both one and the other are God, in the might of Him Who assumes, and a man in the lowliness of that assumed. Each nature retains without diminution its separate substance, and as the form of God does not take from the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not take from the form of God (Philippians 11:6).
The mystery then of power joined to our infirmity does not, because of this same human nature, permit that the Son be said to be less than the Father. For the Godhead, which is one and the same in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, excludes all notion of inequality. For eternity has not part with time, and nature with that which is outside it. For there is but one Will, the same Substance, equal power, and not three Gods, but one God; because Oneness is true and indivisible, where there can be no diversity.
God therefore was born into the whole and perfect nature of a true man, whole and entire in all His parts, whole and entire in ours. We call these ours, which God in the beginning created in us, and which He took upon Himself that He might restore. For of that which the deceiver corrupted, and which was lost to us by deceit, there is no part whatsoever in the Savior; for though He shared in our infirmities, He was not a partaker of our sins. He took the form of a servant, without the baseness of sin; raising up what was human, not lessening what was divine. That emptying of Himself, whereby the Invisible made Himself Visible, was a bending down of mercy, not a fall from power.
- He, to Whom we could not ascend, came down to us, that we might be brought back from our former bondage and from mundane errors to His eternal blessedness; because though many possessed the love of truth, yet the wavering of unformed minds was beguiled by the craft of deceiving demons; and human ignorance was drawn into diverse and conflicting errors by a learning so-called. To remove this mockery, by which minds made captive served the pride of the evil one, the teaching of the Law was not enough; neither could our nature be healed by the exhortations of the prophets. To these mortal means there had to be joined the truth of the redemption; and our nature, corrupted in its very well-spring, must be born again.
A Victim must be offered as a sacrifice for our reconcilement, Who would be one from amongst us, yet free from our contamination: that this purpose of God, by which it pleased Him to wipe out the sins of the world by the Birth and Passion of Christ would extend to the times of all generations; neither should these mysteries make us confused, by reason of changing times, rather they would strengthen us, since the Faith by which we live shall never vary in any age.
- Let there be an end therefore to the complaining who speak with impious murmurings against the divine decrees, and bring forward the delayed coming of the Lord’s Nativity, as if that was not expended for former ages, which has been accomplished in this last age of the world. For the Incarnation of the Word was brought about that what needed to be done, is done; and the mystery of human redemption did not lie idle at any time in the remote past. That which the Apostles preached, the same the prophets have proclaimed; nor was that late in fulfillment, which was at all times believed.
The wisdom and mercy of God, by this delay of the life-bringing event, has made us the more ready for His call; so that what was foretold throughout by so many ages, by manifold signs, by many voices, by many mysteries, would not be obscure in these days of the Gospel. And the Birth of the Savior, which is above all wonder and above all human understanding, has begotten in us a faith which is the more enduring, the more ancient and the more frequent was its foretelling.
Not then because of some new purpose, or because of a late rising feeling of compassion, did God provide for human needs; but from the beginning of the world He ordained for every man one and the same means of salvation. For the grace of God, by which all the saints have been sanctified, was increased, not begun, when Christ was born. And this mystery of such great tenderness with which the whole world has been filled, was so potent, even in its figures, that they have not received less who believed in the promise, than they who received the gift.
- And so, Dearly Beloved, since such great gifts of the Divine Goodness have been poured out upon us, and with such manifest kindness, the usefulness of the ancient figures has not alone been our aid, who have been called to an eternal inheritance, but Truth Itself, Visible and in bodily form hath appeared. We must therefore celebrate, not with dull, carnal joy, this day of the Lord’s Nativity. And this will be worthily and lovingly fulfilled, if each one recalls of Whose Body he is a member, and to what Head he is united; so that there may be no deformity within the holy Edifice.
Reflect then, Dearly Beloved, and in the light of the Holy Spirit carefully turn your mind to perceive, Who it is that has received us into Himself, and Whom have we received within us. For since the Lord Jesus Christ, by being born, has become our flesh, we also, by being reborn, have become His Body.
Therefore, we are both members of the Body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit: and for this cause the Blessed Apostle says: Glorify and bear God in your body (I Corinthians VI:20): Who, placing within us the nature of His own gentleness and humility, begins in us that power whereby He has redeemed us, as the Lord Himself promises: Come to me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek, and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls (Matthew XI:28-29).
Let us therefore take upon us His not heavy or bitter yoke of truth, and let us be like unto Him in simplicity of heart, in Whose Glory we desire to share, He also helping us and guiding us towards the fulfillment of His own promises, Who, according to His great mercy, is powerful to wipe out our sins, and bring to perfection in each of us His own gifts, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth world with out end. Amen.