From “Sermon on the Epiphany of Our Lord” (ca. 1160)
This grace “has appeared to all people,” because, “the one who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16.) In the Baptism of our Lord, the rule of correct faith is show to us, by which we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit For the Holy Spirit appeared in the likeness of a dove and remained over him, and the voice of the Father was heard, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Thus the whole Trinity is revealed: the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Holy Spirit in the dove.
Rightly did the Father reveal himself in the voice, because God spoke and all things were made. The Son too is rightly revealed in the man, who was made from the seed of David according to the flesh. Similarly the Holy Spirit is revealed in the dove, through whom charity is poured forth into our hearts so that, like the dove, we may be free from the poison of bitterness and have peace with all. That is what the kiss of the dove signifies… “For love is patient, is kind; charity does not envy nor act falsely.” The Holy Spirit is the one who makes the groan of the dove in us, as Paul writes, “For the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us with unerring groans.” The Spirit changes water into wine for us, in this the grace of God appears in a most astonishing way for our salvation. Water is changed into wine when fear is transformed into love. O, what a grace!
In all these things “the grace of God our savior has appeared to all people,” illuminating them by faith, sanctifying them by sacraments, setting them on fire with charity. Granted that this grace appeared to all, not everyone receives it. “There is no one who escapes the heat,” because, “the voice of those who have preached this grace goes forth to the whole world.,” and “their words to the ends of the earth.” As scriptures says, “this grace teaches us to reject godless ways and worldly desires that we might live soberly, justly, devoutly in this world.” …
We await a blessed hope that is not poor, nor perishable, nor transitory, but remains forever like God. We await also, “the coming of God in great glory.” Today our God appeared small and humble, but on that day he will appear great and awesome. Today his grace appeared, but on that day his glory will appear. Whoever will receive God in his smallness will surely and certainly see his greatness, and whoever is not ungrateful for God’s grace, however God may now express it, will then undoubtedly participate in his glory.
St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167) was an English Cistercian monk and spiritual writer who served as abbot of Rievaulx in Yorkshire from 1147 until his death. He wrote several histories and spiritual treatises, as well as On Spiritual Friendship, which draws on Cicero and St. Augustine to describe how true friendship is rooted in fellowship in Christ. This text is adapted from a collection of his sermons, translated by M. A. Mayeski, Aelred of Rievaulx: The Liturgical Sermons (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2016). His feast day is January 12.