"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)


St. Pope Leo The Great: His Devotion To Christ As Divine And Human And Mary As Mother Of God And Of Jesus Christ

During his General Audience, 5 March 2008, Pope Benedict XVI described the papacy of St. Pope Leo The Great, (i.e., the first pope to have been called "the Great"), as "undoubtedly one of the most important in the Church's history." He is a pivotal figure with regard to his theological arguments concerning the person of Jesus Christ (Christology) and Jesus' role as mediator and savior (Soteriology). In Leo's name, the fourth church (or ecumenical) council of Chalcedon in 451 defined the keynote dogma of "the one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation..." (Chalcedon 451).

During the first few centuries after Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, there were fierce debates over what comprised legitimate Christian teaching. In order to give clarity to the faith and, thereby, to bring unity among the churches, councils were called by the Roman Emperors. First was the Council of Nicea in 325 by Constantine the Great which formulated the Nicene Creed. The second was the Council of Constantinople in 381 which reaffirmed the Nicene Creed. It also affirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the "Lord and Giver of Life" who with the Father and the Son "is worshipped and glorified" and that phrase was added to what we have now as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. Two more followed: Council of Ephesus in 431 and Council of Chalcedon in 451. In the 6th century, Gregory the Great said, "I confess that I receive and revere, as the four books of the Gospel so also the four Councils, as on a four-square stone, rises the structure of the holy faith."

Marcian, then the Roman Emperor of the East, coordinated with Pope Leo the Great in convening  the Council of Chalcedon in Thessalonica to address a false teaching, this time Monophysitism (i.e., the false teaching that Christ had only one nature) as espoused by the Abbot Eutyches. Aside from that, the Abbot also asserted that Constantinople should be on an equal basis with Rome ecclesiastically, thus, sowing seeds of discord and confusion among the different churches. Vehemently opposing this and Eutyches, Pope Leo inscribed in his Dogmatic Epistle of October 10, 451 that the See of Peter in Rome is and always shall be the Seat of Primacy with no equal. Leo was proclaimed the 'Soul of Chalcedon' and the Council agreed unanimously that through Leo, Peter had spoken and Eutyches was condemned.

To Pope Leo, his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was key to his Christological viewpoint. Eutyches claimed that before Jesus took flesh in Mary there were two "natures," e.g., a divine and a human nature. After the union of the two natures in the womb, only the divine nature remained. Eutyches believed that the divine nature swallowed up the humanity of Jesus, hence, Jesus merely took on human "appearance." Gregory of Nazianzus, Cappadocian father, has the famed adage, "Whatever was not assumed was not healed." For Pope Leo, the denial of the sacred humanity of Jesus was a big threat to everything that Jesus had accomplished for the whole of humanity. Leo understood that if Christ were divine only, then everything about Jesus too would only be divine, (i.e., only Jesus' divinity would have been crucified, buried and resurrected). Mary, too, would only be the mother of God, and we human beings not only would have been left to wallow in the mud of human condition but also would have been left with no hope for our own resurrection, all because Jesus did not become fully human like us. The nucleus of Christianity would crumble. Under the constant aegis of Mary, the Lord has been protected from the womb to his resurrection in order to accomplish his role as redeemer. For Pope Leo, Mary served a pivotal role not only as Mother of God but as Mediatrix of all grace of our redemption. Fr. JM Manzano, SJ


The Warrior Pope

James Robinson, in the book, Readings In European History Volume I, translates a witness testimony to the famed meeting of wills:
Attila, the leader of the Huns, who was called the scourge of God, came into Italy, inflamed with fury, after he had laid waste with most savage frenzy Thrace and Illyricum, Macedonia and Moesia, Achaia and Greece, Pannonia and Germany. He was utterly cruel in inflicting torture, greedy in plundering, insolent in abuse... 
Then Leo had compassion on the calamity of Italy and Rome, and with one of the consuls and a large part of the Roman senate he went to meet Attila. The old man of harmless simplicity, venerable in his gray hair and his majestic garb, ready of his own will to give himself entirely for the defense of his flock, went forth to meet the tyrant who was destroying all things. He met Attila, it is said, in the neighborhood of the river Mincio, and he spoke to the grim monarch, saying “The senate and the people of Rome, once conquerors of the world, now indeed vanquished, come before thee as suppliants. We pray for mercy and deliverance. O Attila, thou king of kings, thou couldst have no greater glory than to see suppliant at thy feet this people before whom once all peoples and kings lay suppliant. Thou hast subdued, O Attila, the whole circle of the lands which it was granted to the Romans, victors over all peoples, to conquer. Now we pray that thou, who hast conquered others, shouldst conquer thyself. The people have felt thy scourge; now as suppliants they would feel thy mercy.” 
As Leo said these things Attila stood looking upon his venerable garb and aspect, silent, as if thinking deeply. And lo, suddenly there were seen the apostles Peter and Paul, clad like bishops, standing by Leo, the one on the right hand, the other on the left. They held swords stretched out over his head, and threatened Attila with death if he did not obey the pope’s command. Wherefore Attila was appeased, he who had raged as one mad. He, by Leo’s intercession, straightway promised a lasting peace and withdrew beyond the Danube.

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