Sermon 24 on the Nativity of Christ

by St. Leo the Great

nativity117Our father among the saints, Leo the Great was the bishop of Rome during difficult times. He was an eminent scholar of Scripture and rhetoric. During an invasion by Attila the Hun, St. Leo met him outside the gates of Rome. After some short words, to everyone’s surprise, Attila turned and left. Three years later, during an invasion by Genseric the Vandal, St. Leo’s intercession again saved the Eternal City from destruction.

The Divine goodness, dearly beloved, has indeed always taken thought for mankind in diverse manners, and in many portions, and of His mercy has imparted many gifts of His providence to the ages of old. But in these later times has exceeded all the abundance of His usual kindness, when in Christ the very Mercy has descended to sinners, the very Truth to those that are astray, and very Life to those that are dead; so that the Word, which is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, might take our humble nature into union with His Godhead, and, being born God of God, might also be born Man of man. This was indeed promised from the foundation of the world, and has always been prophesied by many facts and words. For the Lord says to Abraham:

“In thy seed shall all nations be blessed;”

hence the Lord again says through Isaiah:

“behold a virgin shall conceive in her womb, and shall bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us,”

and again,

“a rod shall come forth from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall arise from his root.”

Let the righteous, then rejoice in the Lord, and let the hearts of believers turn to God’s praise, and the sons of men confess His wondrous acts. That after His great gift to mankind in making us after His image, He contributed far more largely to our restoration when the Lord Himself took on Him “the form of a slave.” For the first man received the substance of flesh from the earth, and was quickened with a rational spirit by the in-breathing of his Creator, so that living after the image and likeness of his Maker, he might preserve the form of God’s goodness and righteousness as in a bright mirror. But because he trusted the envious deceiver, not only did that one man, in him all that came after him also hear the verdict: “earth thou art, and unto earth, shalt thou go,” “as in the earthy,” therefore, “such are they also that are earthy,” and no one is immortal, because no one is heavenly….

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But you, dearly beloved, whom I address in no less earnest terms than those of the blessed Apostle Peter,

“a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,”

built upon the impregnable rock, Christ, and joined to the Lord our Savior by His true assumption of our flesh, remain firm in that Faith, which you have professed before many witnesses, and in which you were born through water and the Holy Ghost, and received the anointing of salvation, and the seal of eternal life. But

“if any one preach to you any thing beside that which you have learned, let him be anathema;”

refuse to put wicked fables before the clearest truth, and what you may happen to read or hear contrary to the rule of the catholic and Apostolic creed, judge it altogether deadly and diabolical. Be not carried away by their deceitful keepings of sham and pretended fasts, to the destroying of men’s souls.

A mighty bulwark is a sound faith, a true faith, to which nothing has to be added or taken away: because unless it is one, it is no faith, as the Apostle says,

“one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”

Cling to this unity, dearly beloved, with minds unshaken, and in it “follow after” all “holiness,” in it carry out the Lord’s commands, because “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and without it nothing is holy, nothing is pure, nothing alive: “for the just lives by faith,” and he who by the devil’s deception loses it, is dead though living, because as righteousness is gained by faith, so too by a true faith is eternal life gained, as says our Lord and Saviour. And this is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent.

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May He make you to advance and persevere to the end, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

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