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Vigils Reading

December 1, 2022

Sermon for the Coming of the Lord

by Aelred of Rievaulx[1]


It is time, dear brothers, for us to sing to the Lord of mercy and judgment.  For it is the coming of the Lord, of the Almighty, who came and is to come.  But how or to what place will he come or did he come?  It is clearly his voice that says, I fill heaven and earth.  But how could he have come to heaven or earth if he fills heaven and earth?  Listen to the gospel: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did not know him.  He was, therefore, both present and absent.  He was present because he was in the world; he was absent, because the world did not know him.


He is not far, says Paul, from any one of us.  In him we live, move, and are.  And yet salvation is far from sinners.  He was near in terms of his essence, but far in terms of his grace.  How could he not be far, since he was neither recognized, believed, feared, nor loved?  He was far from sinners: he did not call back the wandering, raise up the downtrodden, ransom the captives, or raise up the dead.  He was far, I say, when he neither bestowed a heavenly reward upon the righteous nor openly imposed eternal damnation on the wicked.


The unrecognized one came so as to be recognized; the unbelieved, to be believed; he who was not feared, to be feared; the unloved, to be loved.  Thus, he who was essentially present came mercifully, so that we might recognize his humanity, believe in his divinity, fear his power, and love his kindness.  His humanity appeared in the taking up of our weakness, his divinity in performing miracles, his power in overthrowing the demons, his kindness in welcoming sinners.

Consider, if you will, what God is, and why he laid aside such majesty, why he emptied himself of such power, why he weakened such strength, why he brought low such loftiness, why he made a fool of such wisdom.  Is this human righteousness?  Far from it.  Everyone turned aside, all were made useless; there was no one who did good.  What then?  Did he lack anything?  Not at all.  His is the earth and its fullness.  Or did he by chance need us for something?  By no means.  He is my God, and he does not need my goods.  What then?  Truly, Lord, it is not my righteousness, but your mercy; not your lack, but my need.  For you said, “Mercy will be built in the heavens.”  This is clearly so, for wretchedness abounds on earth.  Therefore, of your first coming, I will sing to you of mercy, Lord.


            For it was from mercy that, having become human, he took our weaknesses on himself.  From mercy he instilled faith in his divinity by miracles.  It was just as much from mercy that he revealed the demons’ shrewdness to us and emptied their power.  From mercy, he did not reject the prostitute’s touch, but approved her devotion.  Thus he showed himself humble in his humanity, powerful in his miracles, strong in overcoming the demons, and gentle in taking on our sins.  And all of this came forth from the fountain of mercy, all flowed forth from the depths of goodness.  And therefore, in this your first coming, I will sing to you of mercy, Lord.  Rightly, because the earth is full of your mercy.

[1] Aelred of Rievaulx. Homilies on the Prophetic Burdens of Isaiah.  Trans. Lawrence White. CF 83. Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications, 2018. 5-7.


December 1, 2022
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