Select Sunday > Sunday Web Site Home > the Word > Thoughts from the Early Church

Leo the Great
We have come from the East to worship the king. (Mt 2:2)

Dearly beloved, the day on which Christ first showed himself to the Gentiles as the Savior of the world should be held in holy reverence among us. We should experience in our hearts the same joy as the three wise men felt when the sign of the new star led them into the presence of the king of heaven and earth, and they gazed in adoration upon the one in whose promised coming they had put their faith.

Although that day belongs to the past, the power of the mystery which was then revealed has not passed away; we are not left with a mere report of bygone events, to be received in faith and remembered with veneration. God’s bounty toward us has been multiplied, so that even in our own times we daily experience the grace which belonged to those first beginnings.

The gospel story specifically recalls the days when, without any previous teaching from the prophets or instruction in the law, three men came from the far east in search of God; but we see the same thing taking place even more clearly and extensively in the enlightenment of all those whom God calls at the present time.

We can have no doubt that the splendor of divine grace is at work.

We see the fulfillment of that prophecy of Isaiah which says: “The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all nations, and the whole world has seen the salvation that comes from the Lord our God. And again: Those who have not been told about him shall see, and those who have not heard shall understand.”

When we see people being led out of the abyss of error and called to knowledge of the true light, people who, far from professing faith in Jesus Christ, have hitherto devoted themselves to worldly wisdom, we can have no doubt that the splendor of divine grace is at work.

Whenever a shaft of light newly pierces darkened hearts, its source is the radiance of that same star, which impresses the souls it touches by the miracle of its appearance and leads them forward to worship God.

If on the other hand we earnestly ask ourselves whether the same threefold oblation is made by all who come to Christ in faith, shall we not discover a corresponding gift offering in the hearts of true believers?

To acknowledge Christ’s universal sovereignty is in fact to bring out gold from the treasury of one's soul; to believe God’s only Son has made himself truly one with human nature is to offer myrrh, and to declare that he is in no way inferior to his Father in majesty is to worship him with frankincense.

Tractate 36, 1-2: CCL 138, 195-96

Leo the Great (c. 400-61) was elected pope in 440. At a time of general disorder he did much to strengthen the influence of the Roman see. Although he was not a profound theologian, Leo's teaching is clear and forceful. His Tome was accepted as a statement of Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon (451). One hundred and forty-three of his letters and ninety-six sermons have survived. The latter, which cover the whole of the liturgical year, have been published in a critical edition.

Return to the Word
Edith Barnecut, OSB. was a consultant for the International Committee for English in the Liturgy, Sr. Edith was responsible for the final version of many of the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Journey with the Fathers
Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels
- Year B, pp. 26-27.
To purchase or learn more about
this published work and its companion volumes,
go to

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C).
This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go
Return to the Word