|Memorial of St. Leo the Great
139:1-3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-10
Pope St. Leo the Great may be a doctor of the church, but few
of us, when pressed, would be able to say anything at all about him.
Leo was pope from 440-461. During his pontificate the council of Chalcedon
met in Asia Minor to discuss the orthodox teaching about the relationship
of the humanity and the divinity in Jesus. This council embraced the
position that Jesus was “fully human and fully divine”—that is, that he had
both a complete human nature and a complete divine nature. In short,
this council set the standard for orthodox teaching about Jesus that is still
with us. In preparation for this council Leo wrote a theological treatise,
which, although quite short, has been called by the tradition “Leo’s tome.”
This “tome”, together with some letters of Cyril of Alexandria, was received
as an ideal expression of the Church’s understanding of Jesus. Indeed,
Leo’s contribution was great.
Doubtless, people who knew Leo would have been able to list his faults.
Yet, in what really matters we can say that Leo was someone who lived in
the spirit of wisdom. If we trust that the Spirit is at work in the
Church, we can have confidence that in matters of grave consequence, like
the identity of Jesus, we will not be led astray. Thanks be to the
Spirit and to the fidelity of his saints!
Still, most of us will not have the impact of St. Leo. Because of this,
we may be tempted to think that our failings are of little consequence.
These reading serve to remind us that, fame or lack of it does not matter
when it comes to the consequences of our participation with evil. We
may not mislead the whole church by our failure, but Jesus seems to think
that misleading the “little ones” would be just a bad. It is sobering
to read, “into a soul that plots evil, wisdom enters not.” I do not
wish to be such a soul.
According to today’s readings, prayer seems to be the key to avoiding such
a fate. Since God knows our heart, according Wisdom and the Psalmist,
when we pray we come to see ourselves as God sees us. I cannot image
that Leo did not know this. Indeed, this, more than his theology, is
the real reason he is not just Leo, but Saint Leo.