A reading from a Sermon by pope St. Leo the Great
The infancy which the Son of God did not think beneath his glory, grew over the years to mature manhood. When the triumph of his passion and resurrection was completed, all the actions of humility which were undertaken for us ceased. However the feast of Christmas renews for us the holy infancy of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. And as we adore the birth of our Saviour we find that we are celebrating our own beginnings.
For the birth of Christ is the origin of the people of Christ, and the birthday of the head is the birthday of the body.
It is true that each of those who are called is allotted a particular place, and that all the children of the Church are separated from each other by intervals of time. However, just as all the faithful together, born of the waters of baptism, are cruified with Christ in his passion, raised with him in his resurrection and given a place with him at the Father’s right hand in his ascension, so to, with him they are born in this his birth.
Throughout the world, everyone of the faithful is reborn in Christ, and leaving the path of his old origins passes by rebirth into a new person. No longer is he reckoned among his human father’s stock but among the seed of the Saviour, who became the Son of man in order that we might have the power to be the children of God.
If he had not come down to us by this humility, no one could have come to him by any merits of his own.
Hence the very greatness of the gift conferred demands of us reverence worthy of its splendour. As the blessed Apostle teachers, ‘we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.’ He can in no other way be rightly worshipped, except by offering him what he himself bestowed on us.
But, in the treasury of the Lord’s generosity what can we find more suitable to honour the present feast than the peace first proclaimed by the angels’ chorus at the Lord’s nativity.
Peace it is that gives birth to the sons of God. Peace is the nurse of love, the mother of unity, the repose of the blessed, and our eternal home. The real work and special blessing of peace is to join to God those whom it sets apart from the world.
Let those then who are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God, offer to the Father the oneness of heart of peace-loving children. Let all the members of adoption come together in the first-born of the new creation, who came to do not his own will but the will of him who sent him. The grace of the Father has not adopted as his heirs those who are divided among themselves and at odds with each other, but those who are one in mind and heart. Remodelled according to the one image, they should have a spirit in conformity with it.
The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace. As the Apostle says, ‘He is our peace, who made us both one.’ For, whether we be Jew or Gentile, ‘through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father’.
The birthday of Jesus is our birthday too. Happy birthday to us and may we grow into Christ as we live each day on earth and be well and truly united to him when we pass out of this world into the next. Editor