A Prayer for the Feast Day of Leo the Great

O Lord our God, grant that thy Church, following the teaching of thy 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 thy divine Being; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

One comment on “A Prayer for the Feast Day of Leo the Great

  1. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Leo (I) is one of only two popes (so far) that are officially called “the Great.” Unofficially, many RCs (and others) like to call John Paul II “the Great” as well. Gregory (I) is the other official one, and naturally he’s dear to Anglicans as the pope who dispatched Augustine of Canterbury to evangelize England.

    Among other claims to fame, Leo the Great stood in the gap in one of Rome’s darkest hours and negotiated a deal with the barbaric Attila the Hun that bribed the pagan into dropping his plan to sack the city. Theologically, he’s best known as the author of a large tome on the Two Natures of Christ (divine and human) that was very influential at the crucial Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in Chalcedon in AD 451. Although there were hardly any westerners present there, the assembled bishops cheered after Leo’s tome was read to the council, supposedly shouting, “[i]Peter has spoken![/i]” That is, in his essay, they recognized the authentic voice of the apostles, and especially the chief apostle, Peter, whose successor Leo was.

    Personally, I’m fond of Leo’s sermons, many of which are still extant. But most of all, I’m deeply influenced by the incomparable Latin poem, probably by Leo (it uses some of his phrasing), that adorns the papal baptistery in the ancient cathedral of St. John on the Lateran hill, which was remodeled when Leo was Archdeacon (before he became pope from AD 440-461).

    That immortal, splendid poem can’t be adequately translated (poetry doesn’t transfer well into other languages), but goes something like this:

    “Here is born, in Spirit-soaked fertility,
    a brood destined for another City,
    begotten by God’s blowing,
    and borne upon this torrent by the Church, their virgin mother.

    Reborn in these depths, they reach for heaven’s realm,
    the felicity unknown by those born but once.
    This spring is life that floods the world,
    the wounds of Christ its awesome source.

    Sinner, sink beneath this sacred surf,
    that swallows age and spits up youth.
    Sinner, here scour sin away down to innocence,
    for they know no strife who are by one font,
    one Spirit, one faith made one.

    Sinner, shudder not at sin’s kind and number,
    for those born here are holy!”

    Marvelous. Unsurpassed in vision and eloquence.

    Every time I remember that spectacular statement of the baptismal theology of the ancient Church, I’m inclined to follow the lead of the bishops gathered in Chalcedon, and cry out,

    “Peter has spoken!”

    Is it any wonder that Leo is my favorite pope of all time?

    David Handy+