A Homily by St. Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Ravenna, on the Nativity of Our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Today in order for me, brothers, to be able to proclaim the Nativity of the Lord in all its majesty, I need your prayers to obtain from the Lord the means to do this, that He Himself put His word in the mouth of His priest, and that He Who has today seen fit to enter a partnership with our flesh may not refuse to do this favor for our mouth. For we are not striving, brothers, to reveal the Ineffable Mystery of the Divine Generation, but we are eager to announce the great and wonderful joy of our salvation, just as the Angels said: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Lk. 2:10)
May This Conception, may This Birth frighten no one today, brothers. For when Virginity Conceives, when Purity gives Birth, it is the Power of God, and not pleasure, that is clearly at work. Listen to the Angel’s words: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” (Lk. 1:35) Today, brothers, Divinity did not have its start, but Humanity is made new; today Christ was Born, not for Himself, but for m. So, “come to Him and be enlightened, and your faces will not blush with shame”; because today, as the Prophet has said: “In the sun hath He set His Tabernacle.” (Ps. 18:6)
What is being accomplished, brothers, is something Divine and not human. Never is the Virginity naked which is adorned with the eternal cloak of its purity. The Angel comes as forerunner to the dwelling place of chastity, in order to prepare the royal court for the King, the Temple for God, and the marriage chamber for the Heavenly Bridegroom. For when the Lord was Born, Virginity was not lost but consecrated, which itself Bore the Bridegroom and Guardian of its purity.
Mary offers faithful service; pregnant, yet a Virgin; a Virgin, yet a Mother; for it was barrenness, not purity, that she lacked. There stand at hand sanctity, sincerity, modesty, chastity, integrity, and faith, and all the virtues were present together, so that the fearless maidservant would carry her Creator in her womb, and, while being the champion of her sex, she would know no pain nor groans in giving Birth to the Power of Heaven. Blessed is that Fruitfulness which both acquired the honour of Motherhood and did not lose the prize of chastity. Therefore, He does not disdain to inhabit what He deigned to fashion; He does not think that it is undignified for Him to touch flesh since He had handled it in the past with His Heavenly Hand when it was in the form of dust.
He has come to your face, O man, because you were unable to reach His Face; and He Who was invisible has become visible for your redemption. The One besought by your ancestors has come. Listen to the voice of One Who cries out: “Cause Thy Face to shine, and we shall be saved.” (Ps. 79:4) The witness of innocence and defender of purity stands at hand, and does not grieve that he has lost his bride, but exults in having recognize the Lord; he follows, not as an husband, but as a servant, and he rejoices that he is paying homage to the One Whom he observes all the Angels serving.
So, at the time of His Birth, Christ, through Whom every place was created, finds no place in the inn; and He Who is Lord of all the world is Born as though a foreigner, to enable us to be citizens whose homeland is Heaven. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes in order to restore in His Own Body the unity of the human race that had been rent asunder, and bring to the Kingdom of Heaven the garment of immortality whole and entire, resplendent with the purple color of His Blood. He is Born, brothers, in order to improve the very nature which the first human being had corrupted. He lies in swaddling clothes, but He reigns in Heaven; He rests humbly in a cradle, but He thunders amid the clouds; He is placed in a manger, because it is evident that “all flesh is grace,” (Is. 40:6) as Isaias says. This is the grass, brothers, whose blossom is transformed into Heavenly Bread, and by feasting on it we reach life eternal.