Leo the Great: The Mystery of the Magi and of the Star Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

leo1Taught then, dearly-beloved, by these mysteries of Divine grace, let us with reasonable joy celebrate the day of our first-fruits and the commencement of the nations’ calling:

“giving thanks to” the merciful God “who made us worthy,” as the Apostle says, “to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:  who delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

As Isaiah prophesied, “the people of the nations that sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

Of whom he also said to the Lord, “nations which knew not thee, shall call on thee:  and peoples which were ignorant of thee, shall run together unto thee.”

This day “Abraham saw and was glad,” when he understood that the sons of his faith would be blessed in his seed that is in Christ, and foresaw that by believing he should be the father of all nations, “giving glory to God and being fully assured that What He had promised, He was able also to perform.”

This day David sang of in the psalms saying:  “all nations that thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord:  and they shall glorify Thy name.”

And again:  “The Lord hath made known His salvation:  His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the nations.”

This in good truth we know to have taken place ever since the three wise men aroused in their far-off land were led by a star to recognize and worship the King of heaven and earth.

And surely their worship of Him exhorts us to imitation; that, as far as we can, we should serve our gracious God who invites us all to Christ.

For whosoever lives religiously and chastely in the Church and “sets his mind on the things which are above, not on the things that are upon the earth,” is in some measure like the heavenly light.

And, whilst he himself keeps the brightness of a holy life, he points out to many the way to the Lord like a star.

In which regard, dearly-beloved, ye ought all to help one another in turn, that in the kingdom of God, which is reached by right faith and good works, ye may shine as the sons of light.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 33, 5.

Bede the Venerable: “My Soul Proclaims the Greatness of the Lord” Wednesday, Dec 22 2010 

And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

The Lord has exalted me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it; and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it.

I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving.

As I contemplate his greatness, which knows no limits, I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgement, for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead of that Jesus, that Saviour, whom I have conceived in this world of time.

The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Mary looks back to the beginning of her song, where she said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.

Only that soul for whom the Lord in his love does great things can proclaim his greatness with fitting praise and encourage those who share her desire and purpose, saying: Join with me in proclaiming the greatness of the Lord; let us extol his name together.

[…] His name is called holy because in the sublimity of his unique power he surpasses every creature and is far removed from all that he has made.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy.

In a beautiful phrase Mary calls Israel the servant of the Lord. The Lord came to his aid to save him.

Israel is an obedient and humble servant, in the words of Hosea: Israel was a servant, and I loved him.

Those who refuse to be humble cannot be saved. They cannot say with the prophet: See, God comes to my aid; the Lord is the helper of my soul.

But anyone who makes himself humble like a little child is greater in the kingdom of heaven.

The promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.

This does not refer to the physical descendants of Abraham, but to his spiritual children.

These are his descendants, sprung not from the flesh only, but who, whether circumcised or not, have followed him in faith.

Circumcised as he was, Abraham believed, and this was credited to him as an act of righteousness.

The coming of the Saviour was promised to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

These are the children of promise, to whom it is said: If you belong to Christ, then you are descendants of Abraham, heirs in accordance with the promise.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Commentary on Luke (Lib 1, 46-55) from the Office of Readings during the Fourth Week of Advent on December 22 @ Crossroads Initiative.

Bernard of Clairvaux: In Mary’s Brief Response We are Remade and Recalled to Life Tuesday, Dec 21 2010 

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit.

The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him.

We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die.

In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it.

All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet.

It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God.

Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident.

This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous.

Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.

Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter.

If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves.

Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): In Praise of the Virgin Mother (Hom. 4, 8-9) from the Office of Readings for December 20 in the fourth week of Advent @ Crossroads Initiative.

Odilo of Cluny: “Lord, Son of David, Have Mercy on Us” Friday, Dec 17 2010 

Know that I am with you every day until the end of the world.

If our Lord has promised to be with his faithful people every day, we can expect him to be even closer to us on the day of his birth:

The greater our eagerness to serve him, the more we shall perceive his presence among us.

The one who spoke through Solomon, saying: I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, as the firstborn of all creation;

and again; The Lord possessed me when his purpose first unfolded, before the earliest of his works; from everlasting I was firmly established;

and who said through Isaiah: Do I not fill heaven and earth?

– this same one it is who, in the mysterious plan of his own providence, is born on earth and laid in a manger.

While Solomon’s words teach us that Christ was eternally in existence before the world began, Isaiah’s declare that there is no place in the whole of creation from which he is absent.

And if he exists always and everywhere, he cannot be absent from ourselves.

The testimony of the ancient prophets to Christ’s eternal being and his boundless divine presence is indeed trustworthy.

Our Saviour himself tells the Jews in the Gospel: Before Abraham ever existed, I am.

With God the Father from all eternity, before Abraham existed (more accurately, before anything existed) he had his eternal being.

And yet he chose to be born in time from the stock of Abraham – Abraham who was told by God the Father: In your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.

The blessed patriarch David was also granted privilege of a similar promise.

Revealing to him hidden secrets of his wisdom, God the Father told him: The fruit of your body I will set upon your throne….

According to the evangelist Matthew, the opening words of whose Gospel are: The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham….

The man in the Gospel who was freed from the darkness of ignorance and enlightened by faith addressed God’s Son as Son of David.

Not only did he receive spiritual insight, but he also deserved to have his bodily sight restored.

Christ the Lord desires to be called by this name, knowing that there is no other name by which the world can be saved.

And if we ourselves wish to be saved by him who is the one and only Saviour, each of us must also say to him: Lord, son of David, have mercy on us.

Odilo of Cluny (c.962-1048/1049): Sermo 1 In Nativitate Domini (PL 142, 993-994), from the Monastic Office of Vigils, December 21st in Advent Year I.

Cyril of Alexandria: Christ’s Flesh for the Life of the World Tuesday, Oct 27 2009 

I die (he says) for all, that I may quicken all by myself, and I made my flesh a ransom for the flesh of all.

For death shall die in my death, and with me shall rise again (he says) the fallen nature of man.

For this became I like to you, man, that is, and of the seed of Abraham, that I might be made like in all things unto my brethren.

The blessed Paul himself also, well understanding what Christ just now said, says to us: inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.

For in no other way was it possible that he who had the power of death should be destroyed, and that death itself should be destroyed, had not Christ given himself for us, a ransom, one for all, for he was in behalf of all….

…For with his stripes we were healed, as the prophet says, and his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree; and he was crucified for all and on account of all, that if one died for all, all we might live in him.

For it was not possible that he should be held by death, neither could corruption over-master that which is by nature life.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376-444): Commentary on John, book 4 [on John 6:52].