Skip to comments.St. Leo the Great on the Papacy"
Posted on 09/24/2002 5:58:56 AM PDT by JMJ333
This is not the place to set forth the whole historical development of the Papacy or to quote the copious testimony home by Orthodox tradition to the lawfulness of the papal sovereignty in the Universal Church. In order to demonstrate the historical basis of our argument to those of our readers who are not familiar with Church history, it will be enough to dwell upon a single epoch memorable in the history of the Papacy, an epoch which is sufficiently primitive to command the respect of our Orthodox traditionalists and which at the same time stands revealed in the broad daylight of historical knowledge and documentary evidence and so presents no obscurity or ambiguity in its essential outlines. The epoch in question is the middle of the fifth century, the period when the Roman Church had so worthy a representative in Pope St. Leo the Great.
It is interesting for us to note the conception which this Roman pontiff, who is also a recognized saint of the Greco-Russian Church, had of his own authority and how his assertions were received in the Eastern part of the Church.
In one of his sermons, after reminding his hearers that Christ is the only pontiff in the strict sense of the word, St. Leo continues thus:
'Now He has not abandoned the care of His flock; and it is from His supreme and eternal authority that we have received the abundant gift of apostolic power and His succor is never absent from His work.... For that firmness of faith which was commended in the prince of the Apostles is perpetual, and as that which Peter believed on in Christ endures, so does that which Christ established in Peter endure also (et sicut permanet quod in Christo Petrus credidit, ita permanet quod in Petro Christus instituit).... The dispensation of the truth therefore abides; and the blessed Peter persevering in the strength of the Rock wherewith he has been endowed has not abandoned the reins of the Church which he received.... Thus if we act or decide justly, if by our daily supplications we obtain aught of the mercy of God, it is the work and the merit of him whose power lives and whose authority prevails in his see.'
And speaking of the bishops gathered at Rome for the feast of St. Peter, St. Leo says that they have desired to honor by their presence 'him whom they know not only to preside in this see (of Rome) but also to be the primate of all the bishops. (Works --ed. Migne, Paris 1846 etc., 1, 145-7).
In another sermon, after expressing what may be called the fundamental truth of the Church, that in the sphere of the inner life of grace all Christians are priests and kings, but that differences and inequalities are necessary in the outward structure of the mystical body of Christ, St. Leo goes on to say:
'And yet out of the whole world Peter alone is chosen to be set above the assembly of all the nations, above all the Apostles and all the Fathers of the Church, to the end that though among God's people there are many priests and many pastors, yet all might be duly governed by Peter, being ultimately governed by Christ. Behold, dearly beloved, how great a share (magnum consortium) in His own power was bestowed by the will of God upon this man, and if God willed that the rest of the Apostles should share aught in common with him, y et it was through him that He bestowed whatever He did not withhold from the others.... And I say unto thee: that is to say, as My Father has revealed unto thee My Godhead so I make known to thee thy pre-eminence; that thou art Peter: that is to say, though I am the inviolable Rock, though I am the Corner-stone Who have made both one, though I am the Foundation other than which none can be laid, yet thou also art the Rock strengthened by My might and so sharing in common with Me that which I possess by My own power.' (ibid., 149)
'The power of binding and loosing was handed on to the other Apostles also and through them to all the rulers of the Church; but not for nothing was a single individual entrusted with what belongs to all.... Peter is fortified with the strength of all and the assistance of divine grace is so ordered that the stability bestowed by Christ on Peter is conferred by Peter on the Apostles.' (ibid., 152; cf 429-32)
As Peter shares in the sovereign authority of Christ over the Universal Church, so the bishop of Rome who occupies the see of Peter is the living representative of this authority.
'Peter does not cease to preside in his see and his consortium with the Eternal Pontiff never fails. For that steadfastness with which he was endowed, when he was first made the Rock, by Christ Who is Himself the Rock, has passed to his successors, and wherever any stability is manifest it is beyond doubt the might of the supreme Pastor which is in evidence. Could anyone consider the renown of blessed Peter and yet be ignorant or envious enough to assert that there is any part of the Church which is not guided by his care and strengthened by his succor?' (ibid., 155-6)
'Though every individual pastor tends his flock with a special care and knows that he must give account of the sheep committed to his charge, nevertheless we alone must share the anxiety of all and our responsibility includes the governance of each individual. For since the whole world has recourse to the see of the blessed Apostle Peter, and since that love towards the Universal Church which was enjoined upon him by our Lord is expected of our administration also, therefore the greater our responsibility towards all the faithful, the heavier is the burden which weighs upon us.' (ibid., 153)
The renown of St. Peter is to St. Leo's mind inseparable from the renown of the Roman Church, which he calls 'the holy nation, the chosen people, the priestly and royal state, which has become the head of the world through the blessed Peter's holy see.' (ibid., 423)
'He, the chief of the apostolic band, was appointed to the citadel of the Roman Empire that the light of the truth which was being revealed for the salvation of all the nations might spread more effectually from the head itself throughout the whole body of the world.' (ibid., 424)
Thanks for the "pingo", I read and enjoyed the entire post. You are always hard at work researching Holy Mother Church. PA Lurker
November 10, 2004
St. Leo the Great
With apparent strong conviction of the importance of the Bishop of Rome in the Church, and of the Church as the ongoing sign of Christs presence in the world, Leo the Great displayed endless dedication in his role as pope. Elected in 440, he worked tirelessly as "Peters successor," guiding his fellow bishops as "equals in the episcopacy and infirmities."
Leo is known as one of the best administrative popes of the ancient Church. His work branched into four main areas, indicative of his notion of the popes total responsibility for the flock of Christ. He worked at length to control the heresies of Pelagianism, Manichaeism and others, placing demands on their followers so as to secure true Christian beliefs. A second major area of his concern was doctrinal controversy in the Church in the East, to which he responded with a classic letter setting down the Churchs teaching on the nature of Christ. With strong faith, he also led the defense of Rome against barbarian attack, taking the role of peacemaker.
In these three areas, Leos work has been highly regarded. His growth to sainthood has its basis in the spiritual depth with which he approached the pastoral care of his people, which was the fourth focus of his work. He is known for his spiritually profound sermons. An instrument of the call to holiness, well-versed in Scripture and ecclesiastical awareness, Leo had the ability to reach the everyday needs and interests of his people. One of his Christmas sermons is still famous today.
BTTT on the Memorial of St. Leo the Great, November 10, 2006!
|A sermon of St Leo the Great|
|The special obligations of our ministry|
|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. No difference in office is so great that anyone can be separated, through lowliness, from the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our community is undivided. There is a common dignity, as the apostle Peter says in these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.
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 than 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 ones heart?
Because, through the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to rejoice in this our day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are especially honoured. For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which consecrates us has richer effects in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.
Sharing in this office, my dear brethren, we have solid ground for a common rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness. It is more helpful and more suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter. We should celebrate this day above all in honour of him. He overflowed with abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received much, nothing was given over to him without his sharing it. The Word made flesh lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself entirely.
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