Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
SERMONS OF THE NATIVITY.
PREACHED UPON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1618.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Friday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXVIII.
Transcribed by Dr Marianne Dorman
St. Luke ii:12-14
And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of heavenly host, praising God and saying
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.
Et hoc erit vobis signum: invenietis Infantem pannis involutum, et positum in praesepio.
Et subito facta est cum angelo multitudomilitiae caelestis laudantium Deum, et dicentiam:
Gloria in altissimis Deo, et in terra pax hominbus bonae voluntatis.
Of these three verses the points be two; 1. the Shepherds' sign, and 2. the Angels' song. The sign is a remain of Angelus ad pastores, O^the Angel's speech to the shepherds.O We called it, as the Angel himself called it, a sermopn; evangelizo, the word he useth is to O^preach.O
Of which sermon these are two parties; 1. His birth the verse before, 2. His finding in this. For this is a double feast; not only the feast of His Nativity, but the feast of His Invention also. Therefore the Angel makes not an end with O^unto you is born,O [196/197] but tells them further; it is not enough Christ is born, but to take benefit by His birth we are to find Him. Natus est His part, Invenietis ours.
Of natus est somewhat hath formerly been said. Invenietis now follows and follows well. For what is natus est without invenietis? Such a one there O^is born.O What shall we be the better, of we O^findO Him not? As good not born, as not knownNto us all one. Nobis nascitur, cum a nobis noscitur. Born He may be before; but nobis natus O^to us He is born when to us He is known,O when we find Him; and not before. Christus inventus is more than Christus natus. Set down invenietis then first.
Invenietis leads us to Hoc erit signum for how will they find Him without a sign? So come we from Christus natus to Christus signatus. Natus O^born,O to be found Signatus, O^signed or marked,O that He may be found. Born He is, that they know: and when. they know; hodie. And where, they knowNin Bethlehem. To Bethlehem they will; but when they come there, how then? In such resort, the town so full of strangers, as O^no room in the inns,O whither should they turn them? What could they wish, but O quod erit signum! Natus est; O that He were signatus! O that we had a sign to find Him by!
Their wish is honest and good, and pity any that seeks Christ should want a sign to find Him by. The angel will not suffer that, but before he end his speech he takes order for their sign, and this it is. When you come to Bethlehem, never search in any house or chamber; in a stable there you will find a O^Babe swaddled and laid in a manger;O you would little think it, but that is He. And so signo dato, O^this sign given,O the sermon ends. For to find Christ is all, all in all.
A sermon would have an anthem of course; it hath so. And one suitable, if it might be. An Angel preached it, and no man; it would be a choir of Angels, and not of men, to sing it. So it is; Gloria in excelsis, all the Fathers call it hymnum Angelicum, O^the Angels' hymn or anthem.O
This is set down in the two latter verses. The 1. choir that sing it, in the former; the 2. song itself, the ditty of it so, in the latter. 1.The choir: in it five. 1. Who? That [197/198] there were certain Heavenly personages first. 2. In what habit? that in the habit of soldiers to see to. 3. What number? that a great multitude of them. 4. What they did? that they took up this hymn and fell on praising God. 5. And fifthly, when? that they did it instantly upon the speech ended.
 The song: that consists of three strains. There are in it 1. God, 2. earth, and 3. men; these three first. And then to these three; 1. glory to God; 2. peace to the earth; 3. to men a good-will. Each sorted to other; 1. glory to God; 2. peace to the earth; 3. to men a good-will.
So have you the sign and the song, the one to balance or counterpoise the other; the song to sing away the sign, to make amends for the manger. The sign very poor and mean, the song exceeding high and heavenly. Paupertas in imis the sign, O^poverty at the lowest;O Gloria in excelsis the song, O^glory at the highest.O That well might Leo ask, O^What Child is this so little, and so great withal?O Tam parvus ut in pr3/4sepi jaceat, tam magnus ut Ei concinant Angeli; O^so little as He lies in a cratch, so great though as He has angels to sing to Him;O the whole choir of Heaven to make Him melody. It is a course this, the Holy Ghost began it here at His birth, and after observed it all along, Sociare ima summis, et insolita solitis temperare; O^to couple low and high together, and to temper things men and usual with others as strange every way.O
3. Out of these we shall learn, 1. First, what our duty is, to find Christ. The Angel presupposes this, that being born we shall not leave till we have found Him; till we can say (it was the first word of the first Apostle) E?rE`kamen, O^We have foundONfound the Messias. Invenietis; by all means O^to findO Christ. 2. Then how to find Him, at what sign. 3. And last, when we have found Him how to salute Him, with what words to praise God for Him. For Him; both for His birth, and for His invention. All considered, His invention to us no less behooful than His Nativity. And this day to be no less solemnized, for invenietis His O^finding,O than for natus est, O^His very birth itself.O It is more often found in the first Fathers by the name of Theophania, O^His appearanceO or being found, than by the name Genethlia, O^of being born [198/199] into the world.O The Angels' evangelizo reacheth to both; their gloria in excelsis is sung for both.
The work of the day is invenietis, to O^findO Christ. We shall not be better for natus est, if we find Him not. Find Him we cannot, if first we find not a sign to find Him by. O^A sign ye shall haveO and O^this will be it,O saith the Angel, O^ye shall find Him swaddled and laid in a manger.O
Sign never come amiss, but are then so necessary, as we cannot miss them, when we should miss without them; when no sign, no invenietis, as here. For if a sign, if this sign had not been given, ni invenietis; Christ had not been found. Not been found, for never had been sought in such a place. Had not the Angel thither directed the shepherds, had not the star pointed the Magi, neither the one nor the other would ever there have sought Him. A non est inventus had been returned by both.
And reason; for some kind of proportion there would be between signum and signatum, and of the sign be a place as here, between locus and locatus. A chief Person in a chief place, a Lord and Saviour something Lord and Saviour like. To Bethlehem they will. Set the sign by, let them alone, say nothing to them. When they came hither, they would never go to an inn, or ostrie, but to the very best house in the town. Or if to an inn, to the fairest chamber in it; or to a chamber at least; never to the stable, there to look in the manger for Christus Dominus. To the stable we go to look for a horse, to the crib for bos cognovit et asinusNfor one of them; never thither to seek for the Saviour of the world.
Nay, if in their search passing by, by hap they had lighted upon such a birthNa Child so lying; it may be they would have pitied the poor Babe and the mother, but have gone on their way and sought farther. Never, I dare say, taken Him for the Christ the Lord. And if one should have bid them, O^Stay, for this is the Child the Angel spake of,O they would have shaken him off and said with as great scorn as they, 1Sam. 10. Nunquid poterit iste salvare nos, O^What shall this be our Saviour trow?O For invenietis is not all, to O^findO Him; but finding Him, to apply the Angels' words unto Him; to believe of this Child thus there lying, that He should be Christ the Saviour, [199/200] gaudium omni populo, O^the joy of the whole earth.' It goes hard, this.
We said when time was, this message was so high as no man meet to bring it but an Angel of Heaven. We say now ex alio capite, this sign was so unlikely, no man was meet to give it but an Angel only. And it was well it was an Angel. If it had been any else, His birth would have seemed, as His Resurrection, did lcroj, O^a feigned tale;O no man's affidavit would have been taken for it.
What were shepherds like to think of this? Sure, thank Him for natus est, the new of His O^birth,O but not for His sign. Erit signum they like well, but not hoc erit. If He had given them no sign, it would have troubled them. Now the sign given troubles them worse. For this sign they know not what to make of it; it is so poor a one, it is enough to make them half in the mind to give over their journey, as not caring for invenietis, whether they find Him or no. If His sign be no better, as good lost as found. Always this is out of the evangelizo vobis,Nno part of it; for no good new thus to find Him.
And we, if we admit a conference with flesh and blood, when we lay together the sign, and of Whom it is the sign; we find to our thinking a great disparagement, and I not how thoughts arise in our hearts, as if some better sign would have done better. The meaning is, we would find Christ fain, but we would find Him in some better place. Half Jews we are in this point; we would have a Messias in state. Hoc erit, O^this it shall be,O saith the Angel. O^Shall be;O but should it be this? No: how should it be? Let us see. Why, this shall be the sign; ye shall find the Child, not in these clouts or cratch, but in crimson mantle, in a cradle of ivory. That, lo, were somewhat Saviour-like; hoc erit signum.
But in vain, take we upon us to teach the Angel; we would have we know not what. We forget St. Augustine's distinque tempora; as the time is the Angel is right, and a fitter sign could not be assigned. Would we have had Him come in power and great glory? and so He will come, but not now. He that cometh here in clouts, He will come in the clouds one day. But now His coming was for another end, and so be in another manner. His coming now was, as we say in the [200/201] Collect, O^to visit us in great humility;O and so, His sign to be according.
Nay then I say, first go to the nature of a sign: if Christ had come in His excellency, that had been no sign, no more than the sun in the firmament shining in his full strength; hoc non erit signum. Contrary to the course of nature it would be, else it is no sign. The sun eclipsed, the sun is sackcloth; that is signum in sole, O^the sign indeed.O And that is the sign here: O^the Sun of RightousnessO entering into His eclipse begins to be darkened in His first point, the point of His Nativity. This is the sign say I, and that had been none.
I say again; it is not only signum, that is not all, it is signum vobis. We shall do well to look to vobis. There is a matter in that, for whom this sign was given;Nnot the persons so much, as the condition. For if He had been so gloriously born, such as these should never have been suffered to come near Him. But this is a sign for you, you who keep sheep, and such other poor people; you have a Saviour too. He is not the Saviour of great states only, but even of poor shepherds. The poorest of the earth may repair to Him, being no other place but this, and by this sign to find Him, and so hoc erit signum vobis.
I say thirdly, Vobis, and take in ourselves too. So hoc erit signum. For what praise or thanks had it been for us to have believed in Him, born in all glorious manner? But being thus born with this sign, if now we do it, toOto crij kaoN klu`oj to speak in St. Peter's phrase, O^this hath thanks and praise with God,O and so hoc erit signum.
Fourthly, without regard of them or of us, I say that even in regard of Himself hoc erit signum. Would there be a proportion between the sign and the signatum? There is so. This holds good proportion with the ensuing course of His life and death. And all considered, it is even signum ad3/4quatum. We may well begin with Christ in the cratch; we must end with Christ on the cross. The cratch is a sign of the cross. They that write de re rusticñ, describe the form of making a cratch cross-wise. The scandal of the cratch is a good preparative to the scandal of the Cross. To be swaddled thus as a child, does that offend? What then, when ye shall see [201/202] Him pinioned and bound as a malefactor? To lie in a manger, is that so much? How then, when you will see Him hang on the cross? But so,Nprimo ... ne discrepet imum; O^that the beginning and His end may suit well and not disagree, sic oportuit Christum nasci, thus ought Christ to be born,O and this behoved to be His sign.
But then to remove this scandal, I say fifthly: that the less glorious His sign, the more glorious He. And even in this respect of His glory, He was to be born under this sign. Had He come in the power and glory we spake of, what great matter had it been for Him then to have done things powerful and glorious? But coming in this sort, these same panni and pr3/4sepe were an evident sign of the power of His might, in nothing so manifest as in this, that from so poor a beginning He was able to advance so glorious a work. It was much from a babe floating in the flags of Nilus in a basket of bulrushes, Moses, to gather himself a people, even the nation and kingdom of the Jews, and to deliver his law. It was infinitely much more from this Babe here lying in the cratch, to work the bringing in of the Gentiles, and the turning about of the whole world, and to publish His Gospel, O^the power of God to salvation.O Herein is power, from His cratch to do this. There to lay Him, and there lying to make so many nations come and adore Him, as since He hath. That if ever O^in His humility His judgment were exalted,O if His O^power were ever made perfect in weakness,O if ever He shewed that infirmum Dei fortius est hominibus, O^God at the weakest is stronger than men in all their strength;O hoc erit signum, O^in this sign it was.O
A sign, cum externa rejicit, quod sibi sufficit, O^in that He casts from Him all outward signs and means, that He is of Himself all sufficient;O et nullo indiget nisi se, O^and needs no power but His own.O His cratch and He will bring this work to pass. His gloria in excelsis will be hoc ipso excelsior, O^His glory on high, so much the higher for this.O Ever, but now more than ever; and in all His signs, but in this more glorious than in any, nay than in all them. And so hoc erit signum, O^this shall be the sign.O shall be, and should be both.
But I waive all these, and say sixthly. Make of the sign [202/203] what ye will; it skills not what it is, never so mean. In the nature of a sign there is nothing but it may be such; all is in the thing signified. So it carry us to a rich signatum and worth the finding, what makes it a matter how mean the sign be. We are sent to a crib, not to an empty crib; Christ is in it. Be the sign never so simple, the signatum it carries us to makes amends. Any sign with such a signatum.
And I know not the man so squeamish but if, in his stable and under his manger, there were a treasure his and he were sure of it, but thither he would, and pluck up the planks, and dig and rake for it, and never be a whit offended with the homeliness of the place. If then Christ be a treasure, as in Him are O^all the treasures of the wisdom and bounty of GodO what skills it what be His sign? With this, with any other, Christ is worth the finding. Though the cratch be not worth the going to, Christ is worth the going for. He is not worthy of Christ who will not go any whither to find Christ.
Lastly, I would fain know why should the shepherds, why should any be ashamed of this sign? the Angels are not. Non erubescit quis quod pr3/4dicat O^no man proclaims or preaches of that, makes a hymn of that he is ashamed of.O And indeed, why should the Angels be ashamed to report it, seeing Christus non est confusus, O^Christ is not ashamedO to wear it? And if He be not so to be found, never let us be so to find Him.
I conclude then. They that will have a Saviour without such a sign, best stay for the Jews' Messias, or get them for their sign to somebody else. The Angel hath none, the Gospel knows none but this, We must take Christ as we find Him, cratch and all. The invention of the cratch, and the invention of Christ fall both upon one feastNthis day both: no severing of them. All which I trust by this shew plainly, the sign was well assigned by the Angel. And so I hope we shall not let the shepherds go alone, but go along with them too for company, to find Christ, in hoc signo, O^by this sign.O
But the cratch is gone many years ago. What is our sign now? Why, what was this sign of? There needs no straining at allNof humility clear; signum humile, signum humilis. Not always so, not with us where the highest minds will use the lowest signs; but with Christ, with such [203/204] in whom is the mind of Christ there is no odds at all. Ye may strike a tally between the sign and the signatum. Humility then: we shall find Him by that sign, where we find humility, and not fail; and where that is not, be sure we shall never find Him. This day it is not possible to keep off of this theme; we cannot but we must fall upon it; it is so woven into every text there is avoiding upon it. But of all, into the sign, most of all. Such a sign of such humility as never was.
Sign are taken for wonders. O^Master, we would fain see a sign,O that is a miracle. And in this sense it is a sign to wonder at. Indeed, every word here is a wonder. TIL bru`foj, an infant; Verbum infans, the Word without a word; the eternal Word not able to speak a word; 1. a wonder sure. 2. And the sparganismoj, swaddled; and that a wonder too. O^He,O that (as in the thirty-eighth of Job he saith) O^taketh the vast body of the main sea, turns it to and fro, as a little child, and rolls it about with the swaddling bands of darkness;ONHe to come thus into clouts, Himself! 3. But yet, all this is well; all children are so. But in pr3/4sepi, that is it, there is the wonder. Children lie not there; He doth. There lieth He, the Lord of glory without glory. Instead of a palace, a poor stable, of a cradle of state, a beast's cratch; no pillow but a lock of hay; no hangings but dust and cobwebs; no attendants, but in medio animalium, as the Fathers read the third of Habakkuk. For if the inn were full, the stable was not empty we may be sure. A sign this, nay three in one, able to amaze any.
And O^is it true?O saith Solomon, and makes a wonder of it: O^Will God accept a place in earth to receive Him?O when He had built Him a stately Temple, and meant it by that. And is that a wonder, if in such a Temple? What is it then, if in a corner, in a cratch there? Will He accept of that trow? If He will, hoc erit signum indeed. O^O Lord, O Lord,O saith King David, his father, rapt with admiration, O^how wonderful!O What? why minorasti Eum ab Angelis, Thou madest Him lower than the Angels'Nfor to Christ doth the Apostle apply that verse Hebrews 2. O^lower than the Angels.O Nay, lower yet, saith Esay in his fifty-third, Novissimus virorum, O^The lowest of men.O Nay, lower yet, saith the Angel [204/205] here, lower than the lowest of men. For a stable, a cratch is a place for beasts, not for men. So low. Well may this be said a sign, in this sense, to wonder at. If it be well looked into, it is able to strike any man into an ecstasy.
But if we stand but gazing and wondering at this sign, the Angel will blame us at the Nativity, as they did the Apostles for the like at His Ascension. What learn we by it?
For loquitor signis, O^signs have their speech,O and this is no dumb sign. What saith it then to us? Christ, though as yet He cannot speak as a new born babe, yet by it He speaks, and out of His crib, as a pulpit, this day preaches to us; and His theme is, Discite a Me, O^Learn of Me, for I a humble,O humble in My birth you all see. This is the pr3/4cipe of the pr3/4epe, as I may call it, the lesson of Christ's cratch.
A sign it is, but not a sign at large indefinitely, nothing but hoc erit signum. But signum vobis, O^for you,O limited to some, not to all. For not to come some others, but O^to youO and such as you are a sign it is; a sign it is how to find Him. A sign for whom He was born That thus was born; to whom He, to whom His birth belongs. Sure, humilis nascitur humilibus, O^so He was born, and for them that are so He was born.O Such He was found, and of such He will be found, and of none but such.
But then, as St. Augustine saith well, Signum vobis, si signum in vobis, O^A sign for you, if a sign in you.O For in this sense also it is a sign to sign us with, a signature to make a mark on us. Theirs, in the ninth of Ezekiel, that were saved, they were O^marked with the sign of Tau in their foreheads.O That is this very sign, the mark of humility, as being the last and lowest letter of the whole alphabet.
O^And this shall follow them that believe,O and by this mark will He know them. By the sign we find Him, by the same will He find us, invenietis and inveniemini, by one and the same sign both. For nunquam erit aliud Servatoris signum, aluid servatti; O^Never He that saves one sign, they that saved another.O At least not a quite contrary, but the same sign both. Bt the same that Christ found, by the same a Christian: or to speak more clearly to the day, by the same that Christ's birth, by the same the Christian's new birth. For as faith is the virtue appropriate to His conceptionNby [205/206] faith He was conceived, Beata qu3/4 crediditNso is humility as proper to His Nativity; in great humility this day was He born and brought into the world. Then, if the sign of Christ's birth be the proper sign of a Christian's new birth, O^wherein Christ is fashioned in us anew;O hoc erit signum, that they who to faith have not joined humility, are not yet come so far as to be babes in Christ; not yet, as St. Basil speaks, come to their sprgana swthrELaj, O^their swaddling clouts in the state of salvation.O And what time, trow ye, will these be come to O^the measure of the full age in ChristO that yet are no farther forward? Many a meganE`pioj are there among us, if this sign hold.
But then if it be signum volis to some, it is for some others signum contra vos; and that is proud. For the word of God has two edges; and if it go one way thus for humility, it cuts as deep the contrary against pride. And withal, under one leads us to the cause straight, and shows us the malignity of the disease of pride, for the cure whereof this so profound humility was requisite in Christ. There was one when time was took the disease of eros similis Altissimo, and he breathed upon our first parents with his eritis sicut dii, and infected them with it. To make themselves equal with God is plain robbery, saith the Apostle. For that robbery of theirs was the Son of God robbed, as I may say, and quite spoiled of his glory. For their puffing up, ?ku`nwse, O^He was made empty;O for their lifting up, ?tapeELuwse, O^was He brought thus low;O for their comparing with God, came He to be O^compared to the beasts that perishONlay in the manger, we see.
Never blame the angel for giving this sign; he had no other to give. As Christ was born, so was He to tender Him. Ask Christ why He would be so born. Of any child this could not be asked; they are born they neither know where nor how. Of Christ it may; He knew both. For as oblatus est quia, so natus est, O^He was so bornO because He would so be. And why would He so be His O^coming' was to recover man. Man was to be recovered by the contrary of that by which he perished. By pride he perished, that is confessed. Then, by humility to be recovered, according to the rule, Contraria curantur contrariis. So He to come in humility. The pride was high, eritis sicut dii; [206/207] the contrary as low, factus est sicut jumenta, O^as low as they,O lie in their cratch.
It is strange this point of Christ in the cratch, how tedious, how harsh it is to be stood on. Harsh, but to none more, may none so much as to the proud; and they of all other have least cause to be offended with it, it is they that were the cause of it. They should not, one would think, be offended with their own doing; it is long of them all this. If there they find Him, it is they and none but they who laid Him. If He be otherwise than He should, their pride is to blame for it. But for it we had found Him in a better place. And fie upon pride, say I, if it were but for this only; enough to make us loathe this vice that laid this so great a disgrace as we count it upon the Son of God.
But marvel not if this be signum contra to them , a O^sign against them;O they are against it. Well said Bernard, In signum positum est pr3/4epe Tuum Domine, sed in signum cui a multis contradicitur; O^Thy cratch, O Lord, is set for a sign, but for a sign which of many is spoken againstONdone against I am sureNalluding to that of Simeon at the 34th verse after, that Christ O^should be a sign (and if Christ, His cratch sure) to be spoken againstO by many O^whose pride,O saith the Prophet, O^testifies to their faces.O You may take up the edges of their garments and shew it them, year that even this day come hither to make a show of it, as it were to affront this sign and the Angel that gave it, come to celebrate the feast of humility in excess of pride. Should the Angel ever have persuaded one of these to have gone into the stable, and have them; you would think they had some other Saviour by themselves that lay in an ivory cradle, and never looked to be saved by him That this day lay in a manger.
Sure it is no good to be ad oppositum to this sign. If signum vobis to the one, signum contra vos to the other. For if humility be the sign of finding Christ, pride must needs be the sign of losing Him; and whoso loses Him, is himself even the child of perdition; and therefore look to this sign well.
But humility is not all we find in this sign. The philosopher saith, signs are either indicant or co-indicant. Indicant it [207/208] is of humility; co-indicant of that which in Him and on His part, as pride on ours, was the cause that made Him stoop to this humility, and that was His love. He left gloriam in excelsis for eo^dokELa ?n nqr?poij, O^His glory on high,O for O^His good-will towards men.O It was a sign of love too this. A sign, nay an ensign, His very colours, as in the second of Cant. He terms it, O^love His banner or ensign over us.O Signal love indeed, that for our sakes refused not first our nature, our mortalityNthat alone had been love enoughNbut not the basest estate of our nature, not poverty; poverty, and such poverty as the like was never heard of, usque ad squalorem et factorem stabuli to be found where He was found, there to lie.
O^Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb,O so we may sing. Thou didst not abhor the beasts' manger, so we may sing too; and is not this hoc erit signum, a very O^ensign of love?O
Two ways take we measure of love. 1. Of quanti fecit nos, first, by quanta fecit pro nobis, O^how much He made of us,O by O^how much He did for us,ONthe ordinary way of the world's measuring.
2. But there is another, and that is quanti fecit nosa, by quantillus factus est pro nobis, O^how much He made of us,O by O^how little He was for us.O This latter we hold to be the more, by how much it is easier for Him many times to make great than once to be made little.
3. But then, will ye take in the text, nobis, to make a third O^for us?O O^UsO who even at that time when He shewed so great love to us showed so little to Him, that if the beasts had not been better to Him than we, He had found no place to be born in? O^For usO He came, and we thrust Him out from us and from all place with us, into the place of beasts. And if He had not borrowed their stable, caruisset tecto, O^He had no roof to cover Him;O if He had not borrowed their crib, caruisset lecto, O^He had lain on the cold groundO at this time of the year. Nobis sure is somewhat.
And now to quanta fecit pro nobis. For all this was not so much to shew the love in Himself, as to work in God eo^dokELa ?n nqr?poij, O^good-will toward men,O the foot of the Angels' song; to regain His Father's love, to make Him well-pleased towards men by His humility with whom for their pride He was justly displeased. Thus unlovely He became [208/ 209] to make us beloved, thus poor to make us rich in the grace and favour of God, more worth when the time comes than all the riches of the world.
This lo, is the co-indicant sign of love, these colours of it. The cratch is the cradle of His love, no less than of His humility, and able to provoke our love again. The less He made for us, the more we to make of Him; and that, not so much for that He was made, as for the love by which He was made it. And these two signatures made in us, this sign erit signum nobis, and nobis signum in bonum; O^a sign it shall be, and to us, and to us for our good.O And this for the sign.
Will ye now to this inglorious sign hear a glorious song? to this cratch of humility a hymn of celestial harmony? If the sign mislike you, ye cannot but like the song, and the choir that sing it. The song I shall not be able to reach to; will ye but see the choir? and that shall serve for this time; for by all means before I end I would deal with somewhat that might balance this sign of His low estate.
This the Evangelists never fail to do, even they look to this point carefully; if they mention ought that may offend, to wipe it away straight and the scandal of it by some other high regard. See you a sort of poor shepherds? Stay, and ye shall see a troop of God's Angels. Hear ye one say, O^laid in the cratchO below? Abide, and ye shall hear many sing O^Glory on high,O in honour of Him that lieth in it.
Vidisti vilia, saith St. Ambrose, audi mirifica, O^were the things mean you have seen? Wonderful shall they be ye now shall hear and see both.O Vilescit pr3/4sepe, et ecce Angelicis cantibus honoratur; O^is the cratch mean? Mean as it is, it is honoured with the music of Angels;O it hath the whole choir of Heaven to sing about it. This also will prove a sign if it be well looked into, a counter-sign to the other; that of His humility, this of glory.
Surely, seeing the other three Evangelists omitted this sign, one would wonder why St. Luke did not so too. In discretion small credit there was in it, better have concealed it, one would think; he would never have mentioned the sign, but sure he was when he had laid Him so low he was able to up with Him again, and sing away all the disgrace of [209/210] the sign with a strange carol, and as strange a choir sent from Heaven to sing it
To the choir then Who were they? Where the first I pitch on, is the word O^Heavenly.O For thence they came, and thither they went again. Quid pr3/4sepi et Caeli? O^What hath heaven or heavenly personages to do here with the cratch? O^ It should seem, some celestial thing there is in it; as low as it seems it reacheth high, as high as Heaven; Heavenly things, and Heavenly personages both. About it, here comes divers from Heaven; for it, there goes glory up to Heaven. So that the sign is also, signum de Caelo sursum, O^from on high,O by reason of the choir; as well as O^a sign from the earth beneath,O in respect of the cratch here.
How appear they? These personages were Angels. It is said expressly ver.15, yet are they here said to be soldiers. What, shall we have war then? for they are in the habit of war. True, of war, not that now is or hereafter should be, but of war that had been before even to the day of this birth, but now to cease.- witness pax in terris. There had been no peace with Heaven, but plain hostility between earth and it, no O^good-will towards men,O but filii ir3/4, O^children of wrath all.O Ever since the Cherubim first drew upon Adam, and with a shaken sword kept the entry of paradise, ever since in arms till this very day. Their habit shews what was before, their song what now should be. By virtue of Christ's Nativity, O^peace to earthO from heaven, O^good-will to menO from God. So now upon His birth they were to disarm; but before they put their armour off, .yet being in it they would have a p3/4an, and sing of the new world that was now to ensue. A sign this and a strange one, this conjunction, species pr3/4liantium, and voces cantantium, O^the habit of warO and O^the song of peace.O Soldiers make a camp, come to fight; these make a choir, come to sing. They are not in the habit of choir-men, yet they sing; they are in the habit of men of war, yet sing of peace.
What number? A multitude there was of them. First, for the more authority, that in the mouths of many this truth might be establishedNmany to witness it. 2. Then for the better music; if a full choir, many to sound it out. It was a matter of great weight, so divers to testify it; it was a matter [210/211] of high praise, divers therefore to celebrate and set it forth.
When we hear of a multitude, we fear a confusion. But you will observe, this multitude was multitudo militi3/4; no confused rout. No; but acies ordinata, O^a well-ordered army.O There is order in an army, there is order in a choir, there is order among Angels; coordinate among themselves, subordinate to their Head and Leader. So a multitude without confusion.
And yet there is a farther matter in this same multitude. For that there were not some few of them but a great many, that was a sign it was no petty Saviour that was born. To have Angels come by one and by two as at the birth of Samson, or Isaac, and others; but the grand Saviour of all by His troops of them, the Lord of Hosts Himself as attended by the whole army.
For at His birth was fulfilled that the Apostle speaks of' Hebrews 1.6 O^When He brings His only-begotten Son into the world He saith, Let all the Angels of God worship Him;O let the whole host of Heaven do Him honour, as honour Him here they do. For they O^that offer Him praise, honour Him;O and praise they offer Him, the next word is laudantium. And even now they do it, even here is this honour done, even to Him in His cratch is it done, and Heaven itself for awhile left empty that it may be done. All which is but a sign to shew what a show He could have made if He had listed; that He might have had the O^legionsO He speaks of at His death, That had them in such a multitude to-day at His birth. A sign He was not weak, whatever He seemed, That had these military forces, if He would, to take arms for Him. That He was not to be despised, however He appeared, That had these concerts of Angels to sing about His cratch, and to praise God for Him.
What did they? O^praised God.O For angels to praise God is no new thing. From the beginning it was their occupation so to do. But to praise Him for a Child in a cratch, that lo, is new, a new thing, a new song, and if you will a new sign too. For never the like seen before. Before, in Job, their praise was for the creating, they had that only then to praise Him for; now for restoring of all things. For the birth of the world then; for the new birth of it now by the [211/212] birth of Him by Whom the world at first was made, and now ne perderet quod condidit, made Him again, created anew, and many a new creature in it. To Him sitting in the throne sing they their Sanctus. For to Christ was the Sanctus sung, saith St. John directly in his twelfth and forty-first. Now to Him here lying in the manger, which is great odds, but indeed to both; in imis Puero, in excelsis Deo, for He was both. And His being both was an Ecce signum, if ever there were any upon earth.
And lastly all ?xaELfnhj, that O^instantlyONno pause between, between Amen and Hallelujah. No sooner the speech ended but straight, as it the word cratch had been their rest, immediately took they up the hymn and begin it. A plain song sign that one of these did depend on the other. This the anthem, that properly belongs to that sermon; and back again this the sermonO that requireth this anthem, and both to the Child in the manger. The ditty meant by Him, and none but Him. For Him this glory, by Him this peace, through Him this good-will. Glory, peace, and good will, from Him all three. And mark that the word O^cratchO is the last word in the sermon, and the word O^gloryO the first in the song; and nothing comes between to part these two. Nothing to part humility below from glory on high. Even as He drew O^light out of darkness,O so doth He glory on high from humility below by a sequence. Which when we hear, and hear it from the mouths of Angels, sure we are all that before seemed to tend to His disgrace were but the Auspicia of His glory; all that beneath appear in ignominia in imis is pronounced gloria in excelsis, and for such celebrated by the whole choir of Heaven. And this for the choir, and for this time.
But I ask, do the Angels praise God for this birth? Ut quid illis concio, vel cantio, O^what do they preaching of Him, or praising God for Him?O For them all this is not; they put it not in the first, but in the second person, Vobis. Here is now Vobis the third time.1.Evangelizo Vobis, saith the Angel firstl 2. Natus est obis, saith he second: and now Erit Vobis signum, third.1. Vobis, the news: 2. Vobis, the birth: 3. and Vobis, the sign: all three. And who are these Vobis? In the song it is expressly set down, in hominibus, O^for men.O [212/213] What mean the Angels then to make this ado with laudantium , and dicentium, and it concerns not them at all? What then? the blessed Angels, they rejoice and sing at the good of others, O^at the conversion but of one poor sinner:O Hoc Angelicum est. As on the other side the devil's manner is to howl and to grieve at others' good; if Christ come to save men, to cry, He is to come to torment them: Hoc est diabolicum.
But well; from this yet that the Angels thus sing whom in their own particular it concerns not, I rise to make this inference; that they whom it concerns are to do it with far greater reason, and that is ourselves, to whom solely and wholly this birth and the benefit of this birth redounds. Shall they for us and not we for us, for ourselves? Shall we be in at the other three, 1. at the news, 2. at the birth, and 3. at the sign, and be out at this of laudatium Deum? No, I trust. The choir of heaven did it, but to set us in; we to bear a part, and it should be a chief part, since the best part of it is ours. They but took it up; we to keep it up, and never to let it go down or die on our hands, but from year to year as we have occasion still to renew it. The Angels began here; the shepherds they follow and praise God, O^for that they had heard and seen.O We to come in at our turn, and to do the like.
The Sacrament we shall have besides, and of the Sacrament we may well say, Hoc erit signum. For a sign it is, and by it invenietis Puerum, O^ye will find this Child.O For finding His flesh and blood, ye cannot miss but find Him too. And a sign, not much from this here. For Christ in the Sacrament is not altogether unlike Christ in the cratch. To the cratch we may well like the husk or outward symbols of it. Outwardly it seems little worth but it is rich of contents, as was the crib this day with Christ in it. For what are they, but infirma et egena elementa, O^weak and poor elementsO of themselves? yet in them find we Christ. Even as they did this day in the beasts' crib the food of Angels; which very food our signs both represent, and present unto us. [213/214]
Let me say this farther; it is the last word in the Sacrament, O^this is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,O and the whole text resolves into laudatium Deum, and not to praise Him alone, but to praise Him with this hymn of Angels. Now being to praise Him with the Angels' hymn, it behoves to be in or as near the state of Angels as we can; of very congruity to be in our very best state, when they and we to make but one choir. And when are we so? If at any time, at that time when we have newly taken the holy Sacrament of His blessed Body and most precious BloodNwhen we come fresh from it. And as if there were some near alliance between this song of the Angels and these signs, to show that the signs or Sacrament have a special interest in this hymn; therefore is it, that even then upon the administration of it has the Church ordered this very hymn ever to be sung or said, whatever day it fall in the whole year. For then sure of all other times are we on earth most near to Angelic perfection, then meetest to give glory unto God, then at peace with the whole earth, then a good-will and purpose in us if ever.
But as the time falleth out we have more inducements than one. The day itself is one most proper, for it is the very day this hymn was first sung on. And the celebration of the Sacrament, that is another; but the Sacrament now falling on the day, a double. Either of these if itself apart, but together much more. For the Sacrament, that comes at other times; the day, but once a year. On this day they both meet, and never but on this; not to slip it then, but then when it is most proper, most kindly, then to do it. I would to God we were as meet to do it as the Sacrament is to do it at, and as the time is to do it on. But as we may, let us endeavour to do it. So inuring ourselves to record it as often as we may, especially when most meetly we may, here O^on earthO among men, that in His good time we may be counted worthy to do it O^on highO with the Angels in the bliss of heaven.