Prayer Pope St. Leo the Great
God our Father, you will never allow
the power of hell to prevail against
your church, founded on the rock of
the apostle Peter. Let the prayers of
Pope Leo the Great keep us faithful to
your truth and secure in your peace
and listen to his intercession on our
behalf. Please grant the petitions we
ask of you, St. Leo. I ask this through our
Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin.
I promise to spread your devotion and goodness to all.
St. Leo the Great
Leo I, Pope and Doctor of the Church, ruled from 440 to 461. He is surnamed “the Great” and ranks among the most illustrious sovereigns that ever sat on the throne of St. Peter. Of his life, we know little; with him the man seems to disappear before the Pope. He saw most clearly that one of his greatest tasks was to vindicate the primacy of the Roman bishop, St. Peter’s successor, and to raise the prestige of the Holy See before the entire world. Hardly any Pope in history has occupied a like position in the ecclesiastical and political world.
As a writer, too, his name is famous. His sermons, which occur frequently in the Divine Office, belong to the finest and most profound in patristic literature. The Council of Chalcedon was held under his direction (451). The Breviary tells us: Leo I, an Etruscan, ruled the Church at the time when Attila, King of the Huns, who was called the Scourge of God, invaded Italy. After a siege of three years, he took, sacked and burned Aquileia, and then hurried on toward Rome. Inflamed with anger, his troops were already preparing to cross the Po, at the point where it is joined by the Mincio.
Here Attila was stopped by Leo (452). With God-given eloquence, the Pope persuaded him to turn back, and when the Hun was asked by his servants why, contrary to custom, he had so meekly yielded to the entreaties of a Roman bishop, he answered that he had been alarmed by a figure dressed like a priest that stood at Leo’s side; this individual was holding a drawn sword and acted as if he would kill him if he advanced farther. As a result Attila retreated to Pannonia.
(Painting of St. Leo the Great meeting with Attila the Hun to persuade him to abandon his plans to sack the city of Rome and to withdraw his forces beyond the Danube River in the year 452.)
Meanwhile, Leo returned to Rome, and was received with universal rejoicing. Some time later, the Vandal Genseric entered the city, and again Leo, by the power of his eloquence and the authority of his holy life, persuaded him to desist from atrocity and slaughter (455). Leo was also active in matters liturgical. The so-called Leonine sacramentary, a compendium of Missal prayers, contains
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Writing for the coming Advent and Christmas by St. Leo:
“Christian Remember Your Dignity!”
St. Leo, one of the early Church Fathers, was Pope in the middle of the 5th century and is especially renowned for his preaching on the mystery of the incarnation. This excerpt from one of his most famous Christmas sermons (Sermo 1 in Nativitate Domini, 1-3; PL 54, 190-193) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for Christmas Day, the Solemnity of the Nativity of Christ, on December 25.
Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.
No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.
In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.
And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?
Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.
Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.
Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.
This site by Marcellino D’Ambrosio has a list of excerpts of the Letters and Writings of St. Leo to read online or download: http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_author/12/st.__leo_the_great.html
From the Office of Readings/Matins for St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church – the second reading:
A Sermon by St. Leo the Great
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