A Christmas Sermon: Part II

 I am going to say something that will please you, my very dear brethren. There are three states of life pursued by the members of the Church of Christ: marriage, widowhood, and virginity. Because those states, those different manifestations of purity, were destined to be found in the holy members of Christ, all three states of life gave witness to Christ. In the first place, the conjugal state bore this witness, for, when the Virgin Mary conceived, Elizabeth, the wife of Zachary, having already conceived, bore in her womb the herald of this Judge. Holy Mary came to Elizabeth to greet her cousin. Thereupon, the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. He exulted; she prophesied. Here you have conjugal purity bearing witness to Christ. Where did  the state of widowhood bear such witness? In the case of Anna. When the Gospel was read recently, you heard that Anna was a holy widow with prophetic powers who, having lived seven of her eighty-four years with her husband, was constantly in the Temple, worshiping in prayer both night and day. She, a widow, recognized Christ, She saw a tiny babe; she recognized the great God and she bore Him witness. You have, then, in her an illustration of the state of widowhood. In Mary herself we have an illustration of the virginal state. Let each one choose for himself. Whoever has elected to live outside these states does not make provision for his inclusion in the members of Christ. Let not those women who are married say: ‘We do not belong to Christ, for holy women have had husbands. Let not those women who are virgins boast; let them, rather, humble themselves in all things in proportion to their greatness ’You have all the instances of sanctification set before your eyes. Let no one turn aside from these bounds. Let no one turn away from his wife; it is better to be without a wife. If you seek conjugal chastity, you have Susanna; if chastity of widowhood, you have Anna; if virginity, you have Mary.

The Lord Jesus wished to become man for our sake. Wisdom lies upon this earth; let not His mercy become worthless. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God.’ O Food and Bread of angels! The angels are filled by Thee; they are sated, yet they do not draw away from Thee. They live by Thee; they are wise in Thee; they are happy because of Thee. And where art Thou for my sake? In a narrow dwelling, in swaddling clothes, in a manger. For whom [dost Thou endure] all this? He who guides the stars is nourished at the breast, but He fills the angels; He speaks in the bosom of the Father, but He is silent in the womb of His Mother. As He advances in age, however, He will speak to us; He will finish the Gospel for us. For us He will suffer and die; He will rise again in token of our reward; He will ascend into heaven before the eyes of His disciples; He will come to the judgment from heaven. Behold, He who lay in the manger demeaned but did not destroy Himself; He took upon Himself what He was not but He remained what He was. Behold, we have the Infant Christ; let us grow up in Him.

Let these thoughts be sufficient for your Charity, because it is fitting for me to say something to the crowds whom I see gathered here for the feast. The first of January is near at hand. You are all Christians; by the grace of God, the state is Christian although there are two classes of people in it, that is, Christians and Jews. Let not those things be done which God hates: injustice in games, wickedness in jest. Let not men make themselves judges, lest they fall into the hands of the true Judge. Hearken, O Christians, you are the members of Christ. Consider what you are; ponder at what price you have been bought. . . .

This article is taken from a chapter in Christmas Around the Fire: Stories, Essays, & Poems for the Season of Christ’s Birth by Ryan N. S. Topping which is available from TAN Books.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a prolific author and bishop. His autobiography, The Confessions of St. Augustine, is considered to be one of the greatest works ever written.