Tuesday, November 10, 2015

St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor



Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor. He is regarded as one of the most important of the Western Fathers of the Church.

St. Leo the Great (d. 461) was born in Rome of Italian nobility. As a deacon of the Church, he opposed the heresy of Pelagianism, which taught that grace was not necessary for salvation, but was rather a bonus that God granted to those who earned it by their good works. He was elevated to the office of Pope in 440 and reigned as pope for twenty-one years. As pope, St. Leo labored strenuously to safeguard the integrity of the faith and vigorously defended the unity of the Church. He affirmed the full divinity and humanity of Christ. His most famous writing, commonly known as the Tome of St. Leo (449), was the basis of the Council of Chalcedon's dogmatic definition of Christ as one Divine Person possessing two complete natures, human and divine.

When Attila the Hun marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in Priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to Saint Peter, it is generally believed the first Pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns.

When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo's sanctity and eloquence saved the city again. Besides saving Rome, Leo earned the title “Great” because of his personal sanctity, the majesty of his bearing, his profound sermons, his desire for Church unity, and his building up of the Petrine office. He died in 461. St. Leo wrote 143 letters and 96 sermons encouraging and teaching his flock, many of which survive today; it is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574 by Pope Benedict XIV .

Quotes from St. Leo the Great

“The effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive.”

"Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God."

"Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife."

"Short and fleeting are the joys of this world's pleasures which endeavors to turn aside from the path of life those who are called to eternity. The faithful and religious spirit, therefore, must desire the things which are heavenly, and being eager for the Divine promises, lift itself to the love of the incorruptible Good and the hope of the true Light."

From a sermon by Leo the Great:

"Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: we are all one in Christ. . . For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like that to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one's heart?"

Prayer
O Lord our God, grant that your Church, following the teaching of your servant Leo of Rome, may hold fast the great mystery of our redemption, and adore the one Christ, true God and true Man, neither divided from our human nature nor separate from your divine Being; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and  or ever.

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