WHAT saves a man is, again, not what man does in his helplessness, but what the word of God does dwelling in us. …
Even in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, God says to man: “Be holy, because I am holy!” He does not say “be holy because it is good, it is nice”. “Because I am holy!”
It is God speaking that word by Moses. To Moses he revealed that “I AM.” God is He Who Is. And he wants to bring man to the same state of being. He shared something of this in the beginning; and to the degree that man allows himself to share in this word of God, he finds in that word of God the vigour of life.
IN a sermon on the Nativity, St Bede (+735), a monk of Jarrow in what is now the North East of England, drew lessons from the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to be assessed for tax.
NOW, the holy church is our citizenship (Phil 3:20-21), which in part wanders here in the earth, absent from the Lord (2 Cor 5:6), and in part reigns now with the Lord in heaven; and after the end of this age, will reign together with him, perfect for evermore.
So we ought all of us to walk in this citizenship, nothing should excuse us from such a wholesome journey.
We must all pay a tax debt to the King who was born: that is, we must comply with the divine commands in the unity of this present church, and by a tireless course of good works, make haste towards our entry into our heavenly homeland.
Now, in enrolling for the tax a denarius amounting to ten silver pennies was handed over, bearing the image of Caesar and his name (cf. Mt 22:15-22). This is something we should imitate spiritually.
For we render our denarius to our king, when we make it our business to fulfil the ten commandments of his law.
We bear the name of our king inscribed on the denarius, when in all our actions we remember that we are named Christians from Christ (cf. Acts 11:26), and so take care to keep the honour of his name unsullied in ourselves.
Onto this denarius of our good manner of life we should also stamp his image, and that image only, as he himself taught, saying “Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2 Vulg.). This is that same image of God, for which we were made in the first man (Gen 1:26), so that we might be holy by an endless sharing in divine holiness (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). For on this subject the Psalmist said: The light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us (Ps 4:6 Vulg.).
But because man lost this light of the divine countenance by sin, it pleased God to clothe himself in the countenance of a man by being born in flesh, by which he taught us that we must be reborn in the Spirit. It pleased him to appear in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin (Heb 4:15), so that he could wash us clean from every sin, and retrace the clean brightness of his image in us.
St Bede, Homily 44 (Christmas Eve). My translation.
THY kingdom, O Christ God, is a kingdom of all the ages, and thy rule is in generation and generation. Thou who wast incarnate of the holy Spirit, and made man from the ever-Virgin Mary, hast shined light upon us, O Christ God, by thy presence, light from light, the radiance of the Father, making all creation bright and clean. Everything that hath breath praiseth thee (Ps 150:6), the expression of the Father’s glory (Heb 1:3; Wisd 7:24-26). Thou who art I AM, and I AM before all,* and didst shine out as God from the Virgin, have mercy upon us.
* Ὁ ὢν καὶ προών. See Ex 3:14.
At Vespers for December 31. Source.
O GLADSOME light, O grace
Of God the Father’s face,
The eternal splendour wearing;
Celestial, holy, blest,
Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Joyful in thine appearing.
Now, ere day fadeth quite,
We see the evening light,
Our wonted hymn outpouring;
Father of might unknown,
Thee, his incarnate Son,
And Holy Spirit adoring.
To thee of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Son of God, Lifegiver;
Thee, therefore, O Most High,
The world doth glorify,
And shall exalt forever.
Translation by Robert Bridges (1844-1930)