[Introduction: In the exposition of the preceding
verse 19, the holy bishop speaks of the Blessed Virgin, in words which form
a suitable prelude to his exposisiton of today's gospel. In this verse
the Evangelist says of her: But Mary kept all these words, pondering them
in her heart. The sermon begins from his comment upon verse 19.]
Let us learn chastity in all things from the Holy Virgin, who no less contained
in word as in person, reflected in the quiet of her heart upon the proofs
of her faith. If Mary learns from the Shepherds, why will you not learn
from the priests? If Mary kept silence before the Apostles had taught,
why, now that they have spoken, do you wish to teach rather than learn? Learn
also, that vice belongs to the person, not to the sex; for sex is holy. Mary
received no command to teach, yet she has left us an example.
And so the Child was circumcised. Who is this Child, unless He of
Whom it was said: a Child is born to us, a son is given to us (Is.
ix. 6.). He was made under the Law, that He might redeem those Who
were under the Law (Gal. iv. 4, 5). To present Him to the Lord.
What it means to be presented to the Lord in Jerusalem I would
explain but that I have already spoken of it in the commentary on Isaias.
For He was circumcised with the vices (Gal. v. 24.), and
is judged worthy to be looked upon by the Lord: the eyes of the Lord are
upon the just (Ps. 33. 16). You see how every practice
of the Old Law was a figure of that to come; for circumcision was a sign
of the forgiveness of our sins.
But since by reason of a certain base inclination to sin, the fragility
of the human body and soul is enfolded in a never ending maze of evil, the
cleansing from all guilt, that shall be at the time of the resurrection,
was prefigured by the circumcision on the eighth day. This was because
of the saying: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy
to the Lord. By the words of the Law the Child of a Virgin was
promised. And He was holy, because immaculate. Then, that it
was He that was signified in the Law, the words that were spoken by the angel
make clear: The Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called
the Son of God.
He alone of all that are born of woman is Holy: the Lord Jesus Who,
in the immaculate newness of His Birth, has received no contagion of our earthly
corruption; nor has He put off his celestial might. For if we adhere
to the letter: how would every male be holy, since it is plain that there
have been many who were very wicked? Was Achab holy? Were the
false prophets holy whom, at the prayer of Elias, the Avenger of offence against
heaven consumed by fire? But He is Holy Whom the sacred precepts of
the divine law presignified in the figure of the Mystery that was to come;
in that He alone would open the hidden womb, of unblemished fruitfulness,
of the Holy Virgin Church, so as to bring to life the people of God.
He alone therefore opened the womb, for Himself. Nor is that a wonder
in Him Who had said to the prophet: Before I formed thee in the bowels
of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou comest forth out of the womb,
I sanctified thee (Jer. i. 6). He who sanctified another's womb,
that a prophet might be born, He it is Who opened the womb of His own Mother,
that He might come forth Immaculate. Amen.