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In honor of the day, Pope Saint Leo the Great

I’m still working through my notes on the NH Eucharistic Conference as time allows, but I simply had to share with you the words of Dom Gueranger, OSB on the saint whose memorial we celebrate today.  In his The Liturgical Year we find:

One of the grandest Saints in the Church’s Calendar is brought before us to-day.  Leo, the Pontiff and Doctor, rises on the Paschal horizon, and calls for our admiration and love.  As his name implies, he is the Lion of Holy Church; thus representing, in his own person, one of the most glorious of our Lord’s titles.  There have been thirteen Popes who have had this name, and five of the number are enrolled in the catalogue of Saints; but not one of them has so honoured the name as he whose feast we keep to-day:  hence he is called ‘Leo the Great.’

He deserved the appellation by what he did for maintaining the faith regarding the sublime mystery of the Incarnation.  The Church had triumphed over the heresies that had attacked the dogma of the Trinity, when the gates of hell sought to prevail against the dogma of God having been made Man.  Nestorius, a bishop of Constantinople, impiously taught that there were two distinct Persons in Christ – the Person of the Divine Word, and the Person of Man.  The Council of Ephesus condemned this doctrine, which, by denying the unity of Person in Christ, destroyed the true notion of the Redemption.  A new heresy, the very opposite of that of Nestorianism, but equally subversive of Christianity, soon followed.  The monk Eutyches maintained that in the Incarnation the human nature was absorbed by the Divine.  The error was propagated with frightful rapidity.  There was needed a clear and authoritative exposition of the great dogma, which is the foundation of all our hopes.  Leo arose, and, from the Apostolic Chair, on which the Holy Ghost had placed him, proclaimed with matchless eloquence and precision the formula of the ancient faith – ancient indeed, and ever the same, yet ever acquiring greater and fresher brightness.  A cry of admiration was raised at the General Council of Chalcedon, which had been convened for the purpose of condemning the errors of Eutyches.  ‘Peter,’ exclaimed the Fathers, ‘Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo!’  […]

The barbarian hordes were invading the West; the Empire was little more than a ruin: and Attila, ‘the Scourge of God,’ was marching on towards Rome.  Leo’s majestic bearing repelled the invasion, as his word had checked the ravages of heresy.  The haughty king of the Huns, before whose armies the strongest citadels had fallen, granted an audience to the Pontiff on the banks of the Mincio, and promised to spare Rome.  The calm and dignity of Leo – who thus unarmed confronted the most formidable enemy of the Empire, and exposed his life for his flock – awed the barbarian, who afterwards told his people that, during the interview, he saw a venerable person standing in an attitude of defence, by the side of Rome’s intercessor:  it was the Apostle St. Peter.  Attila not only admired, he feared the Pontiff.  It was truly a sublime spectacle, and one that was full of meaning – a priest, with no arms save those of his character and virtues, forcing a king, such as Attila, to do homage to a devotedness which he could ill understand, and recognize by submission the influence of a power which had heaven on its side.  Leo, single-handed and at once, did what it took the whole of Europe several ages to accomplish in later times.

He goes on later to ask the Doctor’s intercession, in words as poignant and incisive then as they are now, sixty years after they were first published:

Thou dist triumph over barbarian invaders:  Attila acknowledged the influence of thy sanctity and eloquence, by withdrawing his troops from the Christian land they infested.  In these our days, there have risen up new barbarians – civilized barbarians, who would persuade us that religion should be eliminated from education, and that the State, in its laws and institutions, should simply ignore our Lord Jesus Christ, the King to whom all power has been given, not only  in heaven but on EARTH also.  Oh! help us by thy powerful intercession, for our danger is very great.  Many are seduced, and have fallen into apostasy, whilst flattering themselves that they are still Christians.  Pray that the light that is left within us may not be extinguished, and that the public scandals which now exist may be brought to an end.  Attila was but a pagan; our modern statesmen and governments are, or at least call themselves, Christians: have pity on them, and gain for them light to see the precipice to which they are hurrying society.

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