This excerpt from Leo the Great’s Christmas sermon (preached in 450) draws together biblical themes of baptism with the mystery of the Incarnation:
- Christ’s birth, says Leo, is “the origin of” all Christians, the body of Christ
- Just as we have been joined with Christ’s death and resurrection in baptism, so we are “born along with him in his Nativity”
- Jesus is born to Mary, “the child of a human being” in order that we might “become children of God”
May these ancient words by Leo the Great draw our readers to contemplate the Incarnation and its meaning in daily life in new ways.
When the faithful meditate about divine things, dearly beloved, the Birth of our Lord and Savior from his Mother comes to mind every day and all the time….
But no day suggests to us more than today that this Nativity should be worshipped in heaven and on earth…. We recall not only to mind, but even—in a way—to sight, the conversation of Gabriel with the astonished Mary, the Conception by the Holy Spirit (as marvelous in being promised as it was in being actually granted), the Maker of the world brought forth from a virginal womb, and the one who established all natures made the Son of her whom he had created.
On this day, the Word of God appeared clothed in flesh, and, what could not even have been seen by human eyes before, “could” now “be touched with the hands.” …
… Today’s feast, nevertheless, renews for us the sacred beginnings of Jesus’ Birth from the Virgin Mary. As we worship the Birth of our Savior, we find ourselves celebrating our own origin as well. For the Conception of Christ is the origin of the Christian people, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body.
All of the elect have their own special place, and the Church’s children are set off from one another by the passage of time. Yet all of us, the whole sum of believers who have sprung from the baptismal font, just as we have been crucified with Christ in his Passion, been raised with him in his Resurrection, and been set at the right hand of the Father in his Ascension, so too have we been born along with him in his Nativity.
Whenever believers in any part of the world undergo regeneration in Christ, they become transformed into “new human beings,” through a rebirth … It was precisely so that we might be able to become children of God that he was made the child of a human being. Had he not come down to us in this humility, none could come to him by any merits of their own.Leo the Great: Sermons (translated by Jane Patricia Freeland, C.S.B.J., and Agnes Josephine Conway, S.S.J.)
Image: Leo the Great
Title: Лев I Великий, папа Римский. Константинополь. 985 г. Миниатюра Минология Василия II. Ватиканская библиотека. Рим
Google translation of the Russian: Leo I the Great, Pope of Rome. Constantinople. [date:] 985. Miniature … of Basil II [Byzantine Emperor, r. 976-1025]. Vatican Library. Rome