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Leo the Great: from Sermon 22, on the Incarnation

December 28, 2007
Here is another repost from 2005: a quote from Leo the Great on the Incarnation–this one from Sermon 22:

The festival has nothing to do with Sun- worship, as some maintain. Having therefore so confident a hope, dearly beloved, abide firm in the Faith in which you are built: lest that same tempter whose tyranny over you Christ has already destroyed, win you back again with any of his wiles, and mar even the joys of the present festival by his deceitful art, misleading simpler souls with the pestilential notion of some to whom this our solemn feast day seems to derive its honour, not so much from the nativity of Christ as, according to them, from the rising of the new sun. Such men’s hearts are wrapped in total darkness, and have no growing perception of the true Light: for they are still drawn away by the foolish errors of heathendom, and because they cannot lift the eyes of their mind above that which their carnal sight beholds, they pay divine honour to the luminaries that minister to the world. Let not Christian souls entertain any such wicked superstition and portentous lie. Beyond all measure are things temporal removed from the Eternal, things corporeal from the Incorporeal, things governed from the Governor. For though they possess a wondrous beauty, yet they have no Godhead to be worshipped. That power then, that wisdom, that majesty is to be adored which created the universe out of nothing, and framed by His almighty methods the substance of the earth and sky into what forms and dimensions He willed. Sun, moon, and stars may be most useful to us, most fair to look upon; but only if we render thanks to their Maker for them and worship GOD who made them, not the creation which does Him service. Then praise GOD, dearly beloved, in all His works and judgments. Cherish an undoubting belief in the Virgin’s pure conception. Honour the sacred and Divine mystery of man’s restoration with holy and sincere service. Embrace Christ born in our flesh, that you may deserve to see Him also as the GOD of glory reigning in His majesty, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit remains in the unity of the Godhead for ever and ever. Amen.

This particular admonition appears to be just as true now as it was in Leo’s day, does it not? But then one thing one learns from reading Scripture (and the Fathers as well) is that human nature is the same today as it was centuries ago–and our need for reconciliation to God has not changed–nor will it be lessened in this world.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. rob k permalink
    December 28, 2007 5:50 pm

    Will – Over on Titus One Nine there is extensive discussion of our Bishop of California’s sermon at Midnight Mass as Grace Cathedral. Your ex-suffragan, by the way! Leo’s Christmas sermon is short, to the point, orthodox, and inspiring, in almost total contrast to Andrus’. You don’t have to have the theological and most godly mind of Leo to deliver a decent sermon. The worst thing is to try to be grandiose or too “relevant” (to your favorite cultural/social/political issues). Please read the comments, especially mine, and tell me what you think. I had a dialogue with someone who had, I thought, some very peculiar ideas. Happy New Year!

  2. December 29, 2007 1:18 am


    Thanks for pointing me to that thread on Titus One Nine–quite interesting. Regarding your discussion with others on said thread, I guess I see Word and Sacrament as being equally important–somewhat like a Lutheran perspective on that. I think the strengthening of our souls thru the grace of the Sacrament is needed, and I also think the preaching and teaching of the Word is needed; we are as impoverished over time without one as we are without the other.

  3. rob k permalink
    December 29, 2007 6:36 am

    I guess we differ a bit there, Will. As I see it, the Word is preached in the liturgy more than in the sermon (I do enjoy interesting sermons and always sincerely listen, even to the most sleep-inducing ones), and most of all the Word is met in the action and Communion in the mass itself. Good sermons are helpful, but I don’t think it is right to elevate preaching to nearly the same level of the celebration of the Sacrament, and I obviously therefore disagree with traditions that do so hold preaching in that regard. Cheers for a Happy New Year.

  4. December 30, 2007 12:29 am


    In some respects I would dearly love to agree with you on this “in theory.” But in practice, though, it seems to me (based on my experiences and observations, I suppose) that churches that emphasize the Eucharistic liturgy but severely neglect the preaching and teaching of the Word tend to either fall into error more easily or have parishioners who never develop deep spirituality. There may be an “equal and opposite reaction” for churches that go too far in the other direction (say, perhaps, in a direction that stresses overly-long sermons and only infrequently observes Holy Communion) but I am not sure what the fruits of that would be: perhaps legalism? So I guess I have concluded that both Word and Sacrament are equally necessary.

    Best wishes to you as well for a blessed New Year, and thanks for the card by the way–a most beautiful one, which we appreciate very much.

  5. rob k permalink
    December 30, 2007 5:43 am

    Will- Fair enough – But I think that any any liturgically advanced parish that did not develop spiritual lives failed not so much with bad preaching, but with bad or non-existent teaching about the faith, and how praying the liturgy is our faith, and how it relates to our lives. A good homily should be a teaching tool in this effort, as I see it.

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