The Conqueror’s victory would have profited us nothing if the battle had been fought outside our human condition.
Pope Saint Leo I is only one of two Popes to be called "the Great."However, it seems apparent to many, myself included, that he will soon be joined by the late Servant of God, John Paul II in that esteemed group. Just as the faithful affirmed this title in their esteem and affection for Leo, they have done and are doing the same for John Paul II.
Leo was a deacon who served the church in Rome. He was chosen from among the faithful to fill the Chair of Peter in 440 AD. Among the grave threats to orthodox teaching in those days was a form of rigorism which was to bear the name of its exponent, Pelagius. Pelagius basically denied the necessity of grace for salvation, claiming that though it was present and available to men and women, it was like a bonus of sorts, given in payment to those who really earned it. Leo knew that to allow such an error to spread among the faithful would threaten the very heart of the Christian claim and cause real confusion and spiritual illness throughout the whole Church.
He was a strong teaching Pope who defended the full divinity AND the full humanity of Jesus Christ, the heart of the Incarnation. In fact, it was Leo's "Tome" (449)which was read aloud at the Council of Chalcedon (451) and became the foundation of the extraordinarily important theological and doctrinal expression of that great Council, the dogmatic definition that Jesus Christ was One Divine Person with two natures. Jesus Christ was - and is - both fully human and fully divine.
Pope Leo served the Church, and the world into which she was sent during the middle of the fifth century, with courage and deep conviction. This was a time of brutal warfare with the barbarian armies who were eviscerating the armies of Rome. The empire was in a state of collapse. There was a deep emptiness within the people giving rise to a hunger for true leadership and direction. Leo stood For the Lord Jesus Christ and on behalf of the people, advocating for both their spiritual and physical needs. He was deeply loved by them for it and viewed as a rock of courage. Among his acts of heroism, he persuaded Attila the Hun not to invade Rome and defended the people through his dialogue with the Vandals who would only a few years after seek their harm. Clearly, Pope St. Leo was "the Great". Here is an Advent reflection from him:
The mystery of our reconciliation with God
To speak of our Lord, the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as true and perfect man is of no value to us if we do not believe that he is descended from the line of ancestors set out in the Gospel.
Matthew’s gospel begins by setting out the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, and then traces his human descent by bringing his ancestral line down to his mother’s husband, Joseph. On the other hand, Luke traces his parentage backward step by step to the actual father of mankind, to show that both the first and the last Adam share the same nature.
No doubt the Son of God in his omnipotence could have taught and sanctified men by appearing to them in a semblance of human form as he did to the patriarchs and prophets, when for instance he engaged in a wrestling contest or entered into conversation with them, or when he accepted their hospitality and even ate the food they set before him. But these appearances were only types, signs that mysteriously foretold the coming of one who would take a true human nature from the stock of the patriarchs who had gone before him.
No mere figure, then, fulfilled the mystery of our reconciliation with God, ordained from all eternity. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon the Virgin nor had the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so that within her spotless womb Wisdom might build itself a house and the Word become flesh. The divine nature and the nature of a servant were to be united in one person so that the Creator of time might be born in time, and he through whom all things were made might be brought forth in their midst.
For unless the new man, by being made in the likeness of sinful flesh, had taken on himself the nature of our first parents, unless he had stooped to be one in substance with his mother while sharing the Father’s substance and, being alone free from sin, united our nature to his, the whole human race would still be held captive under the dominion of Satan. The Conqueror’s victory would have profited us nothing if the battle had been fought outside our human condition.
But through this wonderful blending the mystery of new birth shone upon us, so that through the same Spirit by whom Christ was conceived and brought forth we too might be born again in a spiritual birth; and in consequence the evangelist declares the faithful to have been born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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