Today the Church remembers Pope St Leo the Great. He is a Doctor of the Church, and only one of two Popes to be given the title of "the great", Pope St Gregory being the other. St Leo was elevated to the papal office in 440A.D. He fought against the heresy of Pelagianism which said that grace was not necessary for salvation, but rather something God granted as a bonus to those who earned it by their good works.
Pope St Leo is probably most remembered for convincing Attila the Hun to give up his plans for sacking Rome and withdrawing his troops beyond the Danube River. No small feat!
He wrote 143 letters and 96 sermons in addition to his most famous work, the Tome of St Leo. The Council of Chalcedon based its dogmatic definition of Christ as one Divine Person with two natures, human and divine, on this tome.
His writings cover the entire Liturgical Year, but as we are approaching Advent, I thought I would include one of his writings for that season.
Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.
No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.
In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.
And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?
Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.
Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to you former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.
Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.
(Writing of St Leo courtesy of Crossroads Initiative)