Writings of Leo the Great. Letters and Sermons

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The Letters and Sermons of Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome

Translated, with Introduction, Notes, and Indices,

by the Rev. Charles Lett Feltoe, M.A.,
Late Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

Prefatory Note.

Except for such valuable help--chiefly however in the way of comment and explanation--as Canon Bright's volume (S. Leo on the Incarnation) has supplied, both the selection and the translation of the Letters and Sermons of Leo Magnus are practically original. It is even more difficult to feel satisfied oneself, than to satisfy others either with a selection from a great man's works or with a translation of them. The powers of Leo as a preacher both of doctrine and of practice are very remarkable, and in my anxiety to keep within the limits imposed by the publishers, I have erred in presenting too few rather than too many of the Sermons to the English reader. Only those that are generally held genuine are represented, though several of the doubtful ones are fine sermons, and those translated are in most cases no better than those omitted. Even when the same thought is repeated again and again (as is often the case), it is almost always clothed in such different language, and surrounded with so many other thoughts of value, that every sermon has an almost equal claim to be selected.

With regard to the Letters, the series connected with the Eutychian controversy--the chief occupation of Leo's episcopate--is given nearly complete, whereas only specimens of his mode of dealing with other matters have been selected for presentation. With one or two exceptions, however, I feel more confident about the Letters than about the Sermons that the omitted are less important than the included. I wish I could make even a similar boast about the merits of the translation.

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BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects
The text rendered is for the most part that of the Ballerinii as given by Migne (Patrologie, Vol. LIV.), though a more critical edition is much to be desired.

Charles Lett Feltoe.

Fornham All Saints',

Eastertide, 1894.



The details of Leo's early life are extremely scanty and uncertain. It is probable that he was born between 390 and 400 a.d. There is a tradition that his father was a Tuscan named Quintian, and that Volaterræ [1] , a town in the north of Etruria, was his birthplace. Of his youth we know nothing: his writings contain no allusions to that or to any other part of his personal history. One may reasonably infer from the essentially Roman character of his literary style, from the absence of quotations out of pagan literature, and from his self-confessed ignorance of Greek, that his education was, though thorough after its kind, limited to Christian and Latin culture. A reference to the pages of any secular history of the Roman empire will give the reader an idea of the scenes amidst which, and no doubt by the aid of which, Leo the boy was formed and moulded into Leo Magnus, the first great Latin-speaking pope and bishop of Rome, the first great Italian theologian, "the final defender of the truth of our Lord's Person against both its assailants [2] " (i.e. Nestorius and Eutyches), whom it pleased God in His providence to raise up in the Western (and not as oftenest hitherto in the Eastern) portion of His Church. Politically, intellectually, and theologically the period in which this great character grew up, lived and worked, was one of transition: the Roman Empire, learning and thought, paganism were each alike at the last gasp, and neither in Church nor State was there any other at all of Leo's calibre. This consideration will account for the wonderful influence, partly for good and partly for bad, which his master-mind and will was permitted to exercise on the after-ages of Christendom.

During his early manhood the Pelagian controversy was raging, and it is thought that the acolyte named Leo, whom Augustine mentions in his letters on this subject as employed by pope Zosimus to carry communications between Rome and the African church, is the future pope. Under Celestine, who was pope from 422 to 432, he was archdeacon of Rome, and he seems already to have made a name for himself: for Cassian, the Gallican writer whom he had urged to write a work on the Incarnation, in yielding to his suggestion, calls him "the ornament of the Roman church and of the Divine ministry," and S. Cyril (in 431, the date of the Council of Ephesus) appeals to Leo (as Leo has himself recorded in Letter CXIX., chap. 4) to procure the pope's support in stopping the ambitious designs of Juvenal, bishop of Jerusalem. Under the next pope, Sixtus (432-440), we hear of him in Prosper's Chronicon (under the year 439) again in connexion with Pelagianism [3] : he seems to have stirred up the vigilance of the pope against the crafty designs of one Julius of Eclanum, who, having been deprived of his bishopric for holding that heresy, was attempting to be restored without full proof of orthodoxy.

Next year (440) was a momentous one in the life of Leo, and in the history of the papacy. Leo was away on one of those political missions, which bear out our estimate of him as perhaps the most conspicuous and popular figure of his times [4] . The powerful general Aetius Placidia, the queen-regent's chief adviser and aide-de-camp, was quarrelling (a not unusual occurrence at this stage of the empire) with Albinus, a rival general in Gaul. Leo was sent to bring about a reconciliation, and apparently with success. In his absence Sixtus died, and it is not surprising that without any hesitation clergy and people should have elected Leo into his place. A deputation was sent after him to hasten his return, and after an interval of forty days he arrived. The whole church received him with acclamation, and on Sept. 29 he was ordained both priest and 47th bishop of Rome. His brief sermon on the occasion is the earliest in the collection, and will be found translated on p. 115 of our selection. His earliest extant letter belongs likewise to the first year of his episcopate, which we have also included in our selection: it is addressed to the bishop of Aquileia in reproof of his and his fellow-bishops' remissness in dealing with Pelagianism in that province. Thus early did he give proof of his conception of his office, as investing him with an authority which extended over the whole of Christendom as the successor of S. Peter. Still clearer proofs were soon forthcoming. Not to speak of a letter in a similarly dictatorial strain to the bishops of the home provinces of Campania, Picenum, and Etruria, which belongs to the year 443, we find him in 444 interfering, though more guardedly, with the province of Illyricum, which was then debatable ground between the East and West; in 445 dictating church regulations to S. Cyril's new successor at Alexandria, Dioscorus, his future adversary; and in 446 and 447 asserting his authority on various pretexts, now in Africa, now in Spain, now in Sicily; while in 444 also occurred his famous and not very creditable encounter with Hilary, bishop of Arles in Gaul. The incidents in this quarrel are briefly these: Hilary in a provincial synod had deposed a bishop, Celidonius, for technical irregularities in accordance with the Gallican canons. Celidonius appealed to Rome. Thereupon Hilary set out in the depth of winter on foot to Rome, but, after an ineffectual statement of his case and some rough treatment from Leo, returned to Gaul. Leo gave orders that Celidonius was to be restored, and Hilary deprived of all his metropolitical rights in the province of Vienne. How far the sentence was carried out is not clear. In a later letter he desires that the bishop of Vienne should be regarded as metropolitan, and yet he seems to recognize Hilary's successor, Ravennius, as still metropolitan in Letter XL., while in 450 the bishops of the one district addressed a formal petition for the restoration of Arles to its old rank, and the bishops of the other a counter-petition in favour of Vienne; whereupon Leo effected a temporary modus vivendi by dividing the jurisdiction between the two sees.

Returning to the year 444, besides consulting S. Cyril and Paschasinus, bishop of Lilybæum, on the right day for keeping Easter that year (a moot point which recurred in other years) we find Leo still taking active measures against heresy, this time that of the Manichæans [5] . The followers of this sect had since 439 greatly increased at Rome, owing to the number of refugees who came over from Carthage after its capture by Genseric and his Vandal hosts (see Sermon XVI. 5). They were an universally abhorred body, and deservedly so, if all we read about them be really true. In 444, therefore, it was determined, if possible, to stamp them out. By Leo's order a strict search was instituted throughout the city, and the large number of those who were discovered, were brought up for trial before a combined bench of civil and ecclesiastical judges. The most heinous crimes were revealed. Those who refused to recant were banished for life and suffered various other penalties by the emperor Valentinian's decree, while Leo used all his influence to obtain similar treatment for them in other parts of Christendom. Three years later the spread of Priscillianism, a heresy which in some points was akin to Manichæism among other heresies, and a long account of which will be found in Letter XV., was the occasion to which we have referred as giving a pretext for his interference in the affairs of the Spanish church.

We now reach the famous Eutychian controversy, on which Leo's chief claim to our thanks and praise rests: for to his action in it the Church owes the final and complete definition of the cardinal doctrine of the Incarnation. The heresy of Eutyches, as was the case with so many other heresies, sprang from the reaction against a counter heresy. Most of the controversies which have again and again imperilled the cause of Christianity, have been due to human frailty, which has been unable to keep the proportion of the Faith. Over-statement on the one side leads to over-statement on the other, and thus the golden mean is lost sight of. Eutyches, an archimandrite (or head of a monastery) at Constantinople, had distinguished himself for zeal during the years 428 to 431 in combating the heresy of Nestorius, who had denied the perfect union of the Godhead and the Manhood in the one Person, Christ Jesus. He had objected to the Virgin being called Theotokos (God-bearing), and said that Christotokos (Christ-bearing) would be more correct. This position, as involving two persons as well as two natures in our Lord, was condemned by the 3rd General Council, which met at Ephesus in 431, S. Cyril being its chief opponent. But Eutyches in his eagerness to proclaim the Unity of the Person of Christ fell into the opposite extreme, and asserted that though the two natures of Christ were originally distinct, yet after the union they became but one nature, the human being changed into the Divine. Eutyches appears to have been a highly virtuous person, but possessed of a dull, narrow mind, unfit for the subtleties of theological discussion, and therefore unable to grasp the conception of two Natures in one Person: and nothing worse than stupidity and obstinacy is brought against him by his stern but clear-headed opponent Leo.

The person, however, who first brought the poor recluse's heretical statements prominently into notice was much more reckless and intemperate in his language. This was Eusebius, bishop of Dorylæum, who took the opportunity of a local synod held in Constantinople under the presidency of the gentle Flavian, in November, 448, for other business, to petition against his former friend and ally as a blasphemer and a madman. The synod, after expostulating with the accuser for his violence, at last reluctantly consented to summon Eutyches to an account. The summons was at least twice repeated and disobeyed under the pretext first that he might not leave the monastery, then that he was ill. At last Eutyches yielded, and appeared accompanied by a crowd of monks and soldiers and by Florentius, a patrician for whom the weak Emperor (Theodosius II.) had been influenced by the eunuch Chrysaphius, Eutyches' godson, to demand a seat at the council. After a long conversation, in which Eutyches tried to evade a definite statement, he was at last forced to confess that our Lord was of two natures before the union, but that after the union there was but one nature (see Letter XXVIII. (Tome), chap. vi.). As he persisted in maintaining this position, he was condemned and thrust out of the priesthood and Church-communion. During the reading of the condemnation and the breaking up of the conclave, Eutyches is alleged to have told Florentius that he appealed to the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. Flavian, as president of the council, thought it his duty to acquaint the bishops of Rome and other Sees of the first rank with what had taken place. For some unknown reason his letter to Leo was delayed, and the appeal of Eutyches and a letter from the Emperor was the first information that he received. As might be expected from Leo's conception of his office, he was much incensed at this apparent neglect, and wrote to the Emperor explaining his ignorance of the facts, and to Flavian, complaining of being kept in ignorance, and prima facie of Eutyches' treatment. Meanwhile the delayed epistle arrived from Flavian, and the account given was enough to satisfy Leo, who thereupon (May, 449) replied briefly expressing his approval and promising a fuller treatment of the question. This promise was fulfilled next month in the shape of the world-famous "Tome," which forms Letter XXVIII. in the Leonine collection. The proper significance of this document is well expressed by Mr. Gore [6] : it is, he says, "still more remarkable for its contents than for the circumstances which produced it," though "in itself it is a sign of the times: for here we have a Latin bishop, ignorant of Greek, defining the faith for Greek-speaking bishops, in view of certain false opinions of Oriental origin." Without reviewing in detail the further correspondence that Leo carried on with the various civil and ecclesiastical authorities at Constantinople (among them being the influential and orthodox Pulcheria the Emperor's sister), we pass on to the events connected with the second council of Ephesus. Through the influence of Chrysaphius, as we have already seen, the Emperor was all along on the side of Eutyches, and it was apparently at his instigation and in spite of Leo's guarded dissuasion that the council was now convened and met in August, 449. The bishop of Rome excused himself from personal attendance on the score of pressing business at home, and sent three legates with instructions to represent his views, viz. Julius, bishop of Puteoli, Renatus, a presbyter, and Hilary, a deacon, together with Dulcitius, a notary [7] . They started about the middle of June, and the Synod opened on the 8th of August, in the church of the B.V.M. By the Emperor's order Dioscorus, patriarch of Alexandria, was president, Leo's chief representative sat next him, and Flavian was placed only 5th, the bishop of Antioch and Jerusalem being set above him: 130 bishops in all were admitted, those who had condemned Eutyches being excluded. Owing partly to the presence of the soldiery and a number of turbulent monks under the Syrian archimandrite Barsubas, the proceedings soon became riotous and disorderly. The "Tome" was not read at all, though that was the purpose of its composition. Eutyches was admitted to make his defence, which was received as completely satisfactory. The acts of the Synod of Constantinople on being read excited great indignation. Amid tremendous uproar Eutyches was formally restored to communion and his former position, and the president pronounced deposition upon Flavian and Eusebius. Flavian appealed, and Hilary [8] , after uttering a monosyllabic protest, "contradicitur," managed to make good his escape and carry the lamentable tidings to his anxiously-expectant chief at Rome. The other bishops all more or less reluctantly subscribed the restoration of Eutyches and the deposition of Flavian and Eusebius. The end of Flavian is variously recorded, but the most accurate version appears to be that amid many blows and rough usage he was cast into prison, then driven into exile, and that within a few days he died of the bodily and mental injuries he had received at Epypa, a village in Lydia. These calamitous proceedings Leo afterwards stigmatized as Latrocinium (brigandage), and the council is generally known as the Robber council of Ephesus.

At the time when the disastrous news arrived at Rome, Leo was presiding over a council which he had convened; in violent indignation he immediately dispatched letters right and left in his own and his colleagues' name. There is a letter to Flavian, of whose death of course he was not yet aware; there are others to the archimandrites and the whole church of Constantinople, to Julian, bishop of Cos, and to Anastasius, bishop of Thessalonica. He used all his influence to prevail on the Emperor to summon a fresh council, this time in Italy, writing to him himself, and getting Pulcheria on the spot, and Valentinian, his mother Placidia and his wife Eudoxia, by letters from Rome, to assist his cause. As yet, however, the very stars in their courses seemed to fight against him, and the outlook grew yet darker. In the spring of 450 Dioscorus' predominance in the East had become so great that ten bishops were found to join with him in actually excommunicating the bishop of Rome. At the Court, though Pulcheria remained true to the Faith, Chrysaphius still seems to have swayed the Emperor, and to have obtained from him the edict which was issued confirming the acts of the Ephesine council. The fact, too, that Flavian's successor, Anatolius, had in the past been associated with Dioscorus caused him not unnatural anxiety, and this feeling turned to one of actual offence on receiving a letter from Anatolius, in which he simply announces his consecration without asking his consent. Thereupon Leo demanded of the Emperor that Anatolius should make some public proof and profession of his orthodoxy on the lines of the Tome and other catholic statements, and in the month of July sent legates to support this demand.

At this moment the horizon suddenly brightened. Before the arrival of the legates, Theodosius was killed by a fall from his horse, and to the triumph of the orthodox cause, his sister, Pulcheria (the first Roman Empress), succeeded him. The whole aspect of things was soon changed. Chrysaphius was almost at once executed, and shortly afterwards Pulcheria married and shared the Eastern empire with Marcian, who was for bravery, wisdom and orthodoxy an altogether suitable partner of her throne.

Leo's petition for a new Synod was now granted, but the place of meeting was to be in the East, not in the West, as more convenient for the Emperor. In the interval S. Flavian's body was brought by reverent hands to Constantinople and buried in the church of the Apostles, and a still more hopeful sign of the times--Anatolius and many other bishops signed the Tome. Hitherto Leo had asked that both councils (that which had condemned and that which had acquitted Eutyches of heresy) should be treated as null and void, and that the matter should be discussed de novo. Now, however, he shows a significant change of front: the Faith, he maintains, is decided: nothing needs now to be done but to reject the heretics and to use proper caution in re-admitting the penitents: there is no occasion for a general council. And consequently he sends bishop Lucentius and Basil a presbyter as legates to assist Anatolius in this matter of rejection and re-admission. But, as the Emperor adhered to his determination, Leo was obliged to give way, and though still declining to attend in person, sent bishop Paschasinus of Sicily and Boniface a presbyter with written instructions to act with the former two as his representatives; Julian of Cos, who from his knowledge of Greek and Eastern affairs was a most useful addition, was also asked to be of the number. Nicæa in Bithynia had been fixed upon as the rendezvous, and there on Sept. 1, 451, 520 bishops assembled [9] . The Emperor, however, was too busy and too anxious over his military operations against Attila and the Huns to meet them there, and therefore invites them to Chalcedon, which being on the Bosporus was much nearer to Constantinople. There accordingly on Oct. 8, in the church of S. Euphemia the Martyr, the council was at last opened. The Emperor himself was still absent, but he was well represented by a goodly number of state officials. In accordance with Leo's request, Paschasinus, with his brother legates, presided: next sat Anatolius, Dioscorus, Maximus of Antioch and Juvenal of Jerusalem, with a copy of the Gospels in the midst. Leo's representatives began by trying to have Dioscorus ejected: they only succeeded in getting him deposed from his seat of honour and placed in the middle of the room together with Eusebius of Dorylæum, his accuser, and Theodoret of Cyrus, the eminent theologian, who was suspected of Nestorianizing language. The remainder of the first day was spent in reading the acts of the Ephesine council, which in the midst of much uproar were provisionally condemned.

At the second session (Oct. 10), the Tome was read by the Imperial secretary, Veronician, and enthusiastically received: "Peter has spoken by Leo," they said. But objections being raised by the bishops of Palestine and Illyria that the twofold Nature was over-stated, its final acceptance was postponed for a few days, that a committee which was nominated might reason with the dissentients.

At the third Session (Oct. 13), Dioscorus, who refused to appear, was accused by Eusebius and by general consent condemned, being deprived of his rank and office as bishop, and the Emperor having confirmed the sentence, he was banished to Gangra in Paphlagonia, and there three years later (in 454) died. His successor at Alexandria was the orthodox Proterius, who was however never recognized by a large portion of the Egyptian Church: even in the Synod of Chalcedon many of the Egyptian bishops refused to sign the "Tome" at the fourth session, on the plea that the custom of their church forbade them to act without the consent of the archbishop, who was not yet appointed, and the still surviving "Jacobite" schism originated with the deposition of Dioscorus.

The fourth session was held on the 17th, and the misgivings of the Palestinian and Illyrian bishops having been quieted in the interval, the Tome was adopted.

In the fifth session (Oct. 24), a difficulty arose over a definition of the Faith which had been composed, but did not satisfy the Roman legates with regard to Eutychianism. However a committee, which was appointed, took it in hand again, and the result of their labours was accepted as fully guarding against the errors both of Nestorius and Eutyches. The remaining sessions were occupied with less important matters, and with drawing up the canons of the Council, of which one--the 28th--was designed to settle the precedence of the patriarch of Constantinople ("New Rome" as it was called), and to give him a place second to the bishop of old Rome. Against this audacious innovation the Roman legates in vain protested; the bitter pill, enwrapped in much sugar, was conveyed to Leo in the synodal letter, and produced the most lamentable results.

The last meeting of the Council on Nov. 1 was graced by the attendance in full state of Marcian and Pulcheria. The Emperor delivered an address, and at its conclusion he and the Empress were vociferously applauded, Marcian being styled the "second Constantine."

To return to Leo, we have letters from Marcian, Anatolius, and Julian, all trying to carry off the difficulty of the 28th Canon under the triumph of the Roman views in other respects. But Leo refused to be conciliated. The canon, he maintains, is in direct violation of the decrees of Nicæa (in which statement he makes an unpardonable [10] confusion between the Nicene canons and those of Sardica, which were often appended to them). With Anatolius he was especially displeased, considering that his doubtful precedents ought to have made him extremely careful not to offend. He therefore ceased all communication with him, eagerly seizing at pretexts of complaint against him, and appointing Julian his apocrisiarius or resident representative and correspondent. All this time Marcian continued pleading and Leo inflexible, until Anatolius at last yielded, and the matter for the time is satisfactorily settled, though it must not be imagined that the disputed canon was ever annulled.

Eutychianism still lingered on and caused disturbances in various parts of the East, especially among the monks. In Palestine, Juvenal, the bishop of Jerusalem, was deposed, and the Empress Eudocia, Theodosius II.'s widow, who was living in retirement in that city, was suspected of favouring the rioters. Leo therefore wrote letters to her and to others, in which he restates the doctrine of the Incarnation, endeavouring to clear up any misconceptions which the inaccuracy of the Greek version of the Tome may possibly have caused. Eventually he was able to congratulate the Emperor on the restoration of peace and order in that quarter of their empire.

Similar riots were reported in Cappadocia, where the monks were led by one of their number named George, in Constantinople itself, where the ringleaders were Carosus and Dorotheus, and in Egypt.

But before we narrate the final victory of the orthodox cause throughout Christendom against the Eutychians, there are two events in the political world, belonging one to the year 452 and the other to 455, to which reference must be made, as showing the remarkable prestige which Leo's character had gained for him among all classes of society. When he was made pope we found him absent in Gaul mediating between rival generals. We now find him employed on still harder missions. Leo himself makes none but the slightest indirect allusion to either of these later incidents, but this silence is only characteristic of the man, in whom there is no trace of vain-boasting, and who consistently sank the personality of himself as well as of others in the principles and causes which absorbed him. There seems no reason, however, to doubt the substantial truth of what Prosper and others have related. In 452 Attila and the Huns, notwithstanding the defeat they had sustained from Aetius at Chalons, continued their devastating inroad into Italy. The whole city of Rome was paralysed with terror, and at last sent Leo with the Consular Avienus and the Prefect Tregetius to intercede with them. The meeting took place on lake Benacus, and Leo's arguments, aided, it is thought, by rumours of threatened invasion at home, persuaded Attila to retire beyond the Danube, on condition of receiving Honoria with a rich dowry as his wife. This was the last time that Attila troubled the Romans: for he died the next year.

Less than three years after this successful encounter with the barbarian, in 455 Leo's powerful services were again brought into requisition by the State. That year the licentious Valentinian was murdered at the instigation of an enraged husband, Maximus, who subsequently compelled the widow, Eudoxia, to marry him. Eudoxia, however, discovering the part Maximus had taken in Valentinian's death, invited the Vandals under Genseric to invade Italy. Maximus himself was put to death before the invaders reached Rome: but, when they did arrive, the panic-stricken citizens again threw themselves into the hands of Leo, who at the head of the clergy went forth to meet the foe outside the city. Once more his intercessions in some measure prevailed, but not sufficiently to prevent the city being pillaged fourteen days.

We now return to more purely religious matters. In 457 Marcian died (his wife having pre-deceased him four years), and was succeeded by a Thracian, named Leo [11] . Fresh outbreaks immediately took place both at Constantinople and at Alexandria: at the former place they were soon stopped, but at Alexandria they were more serious and prolonged. The disaffected monks set up one of their number, Timothy Ælurus (or the Cat) in opposition to Proterius, who was soon after foully murdered in the baptistery, to which he had fled. This flagrant outrage at once aroused the bishop of Rome to fresh energy in every direction: by his promptitude the new Emperor was stirred to action, among the other means employed being a re-statement of the Faith in a long epistle with a catena of patristic authority, sometimes called "the Second Tome." Ælurus was deposed and banished, and another Timothy, surnamed Solophaciolus, of well-approved orthodoxy, elected into his place. This satisfactory consummation was effected in 460, while a no less orthodox successor, named Gennadius, had been found two years before, when Anatolius died, for the See of Constantinople. Thus Leo's joy was full at last, as his latest letters testify. Late in the year 461 he died, after a rule of twenty-one years, during which he had won at least one great victory for the Faith, and had given the See of Rome a prestige, which may be said to have lasted even to the present day.

His body was buried in the church of S. Peter's, since which time it has been thrice moved to different positions, once towards the end of the 7th century by Pope Sergius, again in 1607, after the re-building of the church in its present form, and lastly in 1715. As "saint" and "confessor" from the earliest times, as "doctor of the church" since 1754, he is commemorated in the East on Feb. 18, in the West on April 11.

"It will not be wholly out of place," says Mr. Gore [12] , "to mention that tradition looks back to Leo as the benefactor of many of the Roman churches: he is said to have restored their silver ornaments after the ravages of the Vandals, and to have repaired the basilicas of S. Peter and S. Paul, placing a mosaic in the latter, which represented the adoration of the four and twenty elders: we are told also that he built a church of S. Cornelius, established some monks at S. Peter's, instituted guardians for the tombs of the Apostles, and erected a fountain before S. Paul's, where the people might wash before entering the church."

The only writings of Leo which are usually accepted as authentic are his numerous Sermons and Letters. Certain anti-Pelagian treatises and a long tract upon Humility in the form of a letter to Demetrias, a virgin, have been ascribed to him; but the most important work of all the doubtful ones is a "Sacramentary," which is one of the earliest extant of the Roman church, and is sometimes held to be Leo's composition or compilation. Many of the collects and prayers which it contains bear a remarkable resemblance to his teaching, and may well have come from his pen: there is indeed good reason for the opinion that the Collect proper, which is a distinct feature of the Western Church, owes its origin to Leo.

As a theologian Leo is thoroughly Western in type, being not speculative but dogmatic: no one was better suited in God's Providence to give the final completeness to the Church's Doctrine of the Incarnation than this clear-sighted, unimaginative, and persistent bishop of Rome. His theological position on the cardinal doctrines of the Faith is identical with that of the Athanasian symbol, to the language of which his own language often bears a close resemblance. With his theory of the Pope as universal Ruler of the Church in virtue of his being the successor of S. Peter, the vast majority of English-speaking people will have but little sympathy: and yet it can but be admired from an objective standpoint as a bold, grand, and almost original [13] conception. And there are no doubt many smaller points of detail in his writings connected more with discipline than with doctrine, which will now be reckoned if not as actually objectionable, at least as arising from forgotten needs or belonging to a byegone system: among these may be instanced his objection to slaves as clergy and to the celebration of the Eucharist more than once in one day except on festivals, where the church is too small to hold all the worshippers at once: his advocacy of the innovation of private instead of public confession for ordinary penitents, and on the other hand his insisting on the old rule that baptism should be administered only twice a year (at Easter and at Whitsuntide): and again the somewhat undue prominence that he gives to fasting and almsgiving as being on a level with prayer for Lenten or Ember exercises, and to the intercessions of the saints--particularly of the patron saints of Rome, SS. Peter, Paul, and Lawrence. And yet at the same time there is very much more to be thankful for as instructive than to object to as obsolete or dangerous. For on the negative side we have no trace after all of the later direct invocation of the saints, nor of the modern cultus of the B.V.M. and of relics, while among the many positive good points in his teaching must be reckoned his most proper theory of a bishop as not only the channel of divine grace in virtue of ordination (sacerdos) but also the overseer of the flock (episcopus), in virtue of the people's choice and approval, which is essential to his office; his strong condemnation of the practice of usury in laity as well as clergy; his high appreciation of corporate even more than individual action among the faithful; the thoroughly practical view he always puts before us of the Christian life; and above all the "singularly Christian" character of all his sermons, in which Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all his thoughts and of all his exhortations. These are some of the benefits which Leo has conferred upon the Church, and which have rightfully earned for him the title "Great."


[1] The objection that Prosper and Leo himself both speak of Rome as his patria does not seem of sufficient weight to overthrow a tradition, which it is somewhat hard to account for the existence of. To a native of central Italy under the Empire, who had spent all his public life in Rome, the Eternal city was equally patria, whether it was his actual birthplace or not. At the same time there is no evidence that Volaterræ any more than Rome or any other Italian city can claim the honour with certainty. [2] Wilberforce on Doctrine On The Holy Eucharist, p. 246, quoted by Bright. [3] The chief error of Pelagius (=Morgan), who is commonly thought to have been of British origin, was, as is well-known, the denial of original or birth-sin: see Article ix. [4] This is seen still more clearly when we remember how completely he held the Western, if not always the Eastern, Emperors in his power, and made them support and carry out his wishes. [5] The essential point in the Manichæan heresy (which took its rise in the far East) was the existence of two independent and conflicting principles: good, whose kingdom was light and the spiritual world, and evil, whose kingdom was over the elements of matter. [6] Leo the Great, p. 53 (S.P.C.K.): this writer should also be consulted (pp. 53 to 70), on the merits and importance of the Eutychian controversy generally. [7] Of these Renatus is said to have died at Delos on the way, and Hilary is the future pope of that name. Julius of Puteoli must be carefully distinguished from Julian of Cos, who was also a confidant of Leo's. [8] What happened to Julius and Dulcitius is not known, though Leo does not express any disapproval of their action. [9] 110 others voted by proxy in absence through their metropolitans (Gore). [10] Unpardonable in any case from one in his position, but especially so, if he was really connected with the church of Rome, as we have suggested, under Zosimus, in whose time the confusion, already existing then, was completely cleared up: see Gore's Life, pp. 113 and 114. The Canon itself professed only to confirm one already passed in 381. [11] Styled "Magnus," like his great namesake, though with infinitely less good reason. [12] Life, p. 165. [13] Milman attributes the real initiation of the Papal theory to the imperious Innocent I., who held the See of Rome at the beginning of the fifth century (402-417).


I. At the Vatican. (a) Of the Sermons. (1) Codd. 3835 and 6 are two volumes in Roman Character of a Lectionary of about the 8th century; the second volume contains the "Tome" (which in the 8th and 9th centuries used to be read in the Church offices before Christmas): (2) 3828, a parchment (10th century), also a lectionary: (3) 1195, a parchment folio (11th century), a lectionary containing inter alia some of Leo's homilies: (4) 1267, 8 and 9 of the same character (11th century): (5) 1270 contains the Sermon de Festo Petri cathedræ, (now xiv. in Migne's Appendix), from which Cacciari restored Quesnel's imperfect edition of it to its present state: (6) 1271 and 2 are also lectionaries: (7) 4222 in Lombardic characters (9th century), a lectionary: (8) 5451 in Roman characters (12th century), a lectionary: (9) 6450 parchment (12th century): a lectionary containing the sermon de Festo Petri cathedræ in the form found and printed by Quesnel; (10) 6451 similar: it contains sermons de Quadragesima and others: (11) 6454 similar.

(b) Of the Letters: these are mostly rather later (i.e. about 12th or 13th century): but (1) 1322 is of an older date, and contains besides the epistles, all the acts of the Council of Chalcedon: (2) 5759 is earlier than the 9th century; it used to belong to the monastery of S. Columban at Bobbio, and contains 31 letters: (3) 5845 is very ancient, and according to Cacciari, Lombardic: it contains 24 letters.

(g) Letters and Sermons together: of these there are nine collections in the Vatican, of which 548 and 9 contain the sermon de Absalom which is condemned by Cacciari. The Regio-Vaticanus codex 139 is a fine collection of Leo's works (12th century).

II. At other places: (1) The codex Urbinas 65 is thought to be a copy of the Regio-Vaticanus 139 made in the 14th century.

(2) Codex Grimanicus [14] is a ms. on which Quesnel lays great stress: Quesnel assigns it to the ninth century; it contains 107 letters, of which 28 had never been printed before Quesnel.

(3) The Thuanei; (a) 129 contains 123 letters: (b) 780 contains the Tome: (g) 729 contains the spurious de vocatione gentium and some epistles.

(4) The Corbeienses are old.

(5) The Taurinensis 29 D. iv. is a fine 13th-century ms. containing 52 letters.

(6) The Florentinus codex belongs to the 13th century also.

(7) Ratisbonensis 113 DD. AA., in the monastery of S. Emeramus, contains 72 letters: it is said to date from about 750 a.d.

(8) The two Bergonenses are of 12th century, and contain 12 sermons.

(9) Two Chigiani also of 12th century contain 4 sermons.

(10) The Padilironenses contain 9 sermons and the Tome.

(11) There are three Patavini, of which two contain the Tome.

(12) Vallicellani: these are a number of 11th or 12th-century codices.

There are also the Veneti, the Vercellenses, the Veronenses, &c.

N.B. The foregoing account is taken from Schönemann's Notitia Historico-Literaria (1794), and the translator has no means of knowing whether it is still correct (1890).


[14] Grimanus, from whom this Codex is named, was Cardinal of S. Mark, &c., in the 16th century.


1. The earliest important edition is P. Quesnel's (prêtre de l'oratoire), Paris, 1675, Lyons, 1700, of which Migne's Dict. de Bibliogr. catholique says, `on reproche aux éditions du P. Quesnel un grand nombre de falsifications, par lesquelles le P. Quesnel se proposait notamment d'affaiblir l'autorité pontificale [15] ....L'edition que l'on doit aujourd'hui préférer, est (naturally enough!) celle qui a été publiée par M. l'abbé Migne sous le titre d'

2. OEuvres très complètes de Saint Leon le Grand publièes d'après l'édition des frères Ballerinii et celle de Paschase Quesnel enrichées de préfaces, d'avertissements et de commentaires, suivies des exercices de Cacciari sur toutes les oeuvres du saint docteur. Paris 1846.

3. P. Cacciari (a carmelite) brought out editions at Rome, 1751 and 1753-5, the latter with dissertations.

4. The edition of the brothers P. and H. Ballerinii (Jesuists), Venice, 1753-7, was a recension of Quesnel's second edition with copious dissertations and notes.

5. H. Hurter, S. J., has published selections of Sermons and Letters in vols. xiv., xxv. and xxvi. of his SS. PP. opuscula selecta, 1871-4.


[15] That is to say, it upheld the Gallican opinions; and so it was condemned and put on the Index in 1682. But being too valuable a work to be altogether suppressed, Benedict XIV. enjoined the issue of (4), which rebutted and rectified Quesnel's false deductions in its notes and excursuses.


1. Bright's Leo on the Incarnation, London, 1862 (2nd edn. enlarged, 1886, in which the Tome is translated), consists of xviii. sermons translated and the Tome in Latin, with many valuable notes.

2. Reithmayr's Bibliothek (1869) contains a German translation.

3. Dr. Neale's History of the Alexandrian Patriarchate embodies a translation of the Tome.

4. Dr. Heurtley published a version of the Tome in 1886.

Authorities and Materials.

The chief ancient and medieval authorities for the life and times of Leo the Great are such works as Prosper's, and Idatius' Chronicles, Iornandes de rebus Geticis, Anastasius Bibliothecarius Historia de vitis Romanorum Pontificum (9th cent.), the Historia Miscella (10th cent.), &c.

Among lives may be mentioned the following:--(1) La vie et religion de deux bons papes Léon premier et Gregoire premier par Pierre Du Moulin (the younger: a protestant theologian), Sedan, 1650. 12mo. (2) Quesnel's valuable Dissertatio de vita et rebus gestis S. Leonis Magni, originally included in his edition of Leo and re-printed by Migne in Vol. ii. of his edition with the Ballerinii's annotations and critical remarks, Paris, 1675, Lyons, 1700. (3) Histoire du Pontificat de Saint Léon le Grand par Monsr. L. Maimbourg La Haye, 1687. (4) The Bollandists' Life by Canisius (Acta Sanctorum), April, vol. ii. pp. 14-22. (5) Alphonsi Ciaconii Vitæ Pontificum (Tom. 1, pp. 303-314), Rome, 1677, 4to. (6) Le Nain de Tillemont, Memoires pour servir à l'histoire Ecclesiastique (vol. xv. pp. 414-832, 885-934), Paris, 1711. (7) Breve Descrizione della vita di S. Leone Primo di Gabrielle Bertazzolo: Mantova, 1727. (8) Memoire istoriche di Sa. Leone Papa da Teofilo Pacifico: Brescia, 1791, 8vo. (9) Du Pin, L. E., History of Ecc. writers (Eng Edn. vol. 1, pp. 464-480), Dublin, 1722. (10) C. Oudinus, de Scriptoribus Ecclesiæ (vol. 1, pp. 1271-5), Leipzig, 1722. (11) Wilhelm Amadeus Arendt (Roman Catholic), Leo der Grosse und seine Zeit, Mainz, 1835, 8vo. (12) Eduard Perthel, Papst Leo's I. Leben und Lehren, Jena, 1843, 8vo. (a counterblast to No. 11, and no less exaggerated and prejudiced in statement). (13) A. de Saint-Chron, Histoire du pontificat de Saint Léon le Grand, Paris, 1846. (14) F. Böhringer, die Kirche Xti und ihre Zeugen (vol. 1 part 4, pp. 170-309), Zürich, 1845. (15) Charles Gore's Life of Leo the Great (S.P.C.K.); also his article in Smith's Dict. of Christian Biogr. (16) The article in Herzog's Real-Encyklopädie of which a condensed English edition was edited by Dr. Philip Schaff at New York in 1883. Other more general accounts of his times will be found in (1) l'abbé Fleury, Histoire du Xtianisme (vol. ii. pp. 384-480), Paris, 1836. (2) Bright's History of the Church from 313-451 (chaps. xiv., xv.), Oxford and London, 1860. (3) Milman's Latin Christianity (Book ii. chap. 4), London, 1864. (4) R. J. Rohrbacher's Histoire Universelle de l'Eglise catholique (15th edn., vol. 4, pp. 461-575), Paris, 1868. A short account of Leo's writings is given in Alzog's Grundriss der Patrologie, § 78, pp.368-375: a most exhaustive one in Ceillier's Histoire générale des Auteurs sacrés (new edition) (vol. x., pp. 169-276), 1858-1869. Bähr's Geschichte der Römischer Literatur-Supplement Band II. Abtheilung (pp. 354-362), im Abendland, vol. 1, p. 448, may also be consulted; and Ebert's Allgemeine Geschichte der Literatur des Mittelalters.



Letter I.

To the Bishop of Aquileia.

I. Through the negligence of the authorities the Pelagian heresy has been spreading in his province.

From the account of our holy brother and fellow-bishop Septimus which is contained in the subjoined letter [16] , we have understood that certain priests and deacons and clergy of various orders [17] in your province who have been drawn in by the Pelagian or Cælestian heresy, have attained to catholic communion without any recantation of their peculiar error being required of them; and that, whilst the shepherds set to watch were fast asleep, wolves clothed in sheep-skins but without laying aside their bestial minds have entered into the Lord's sheep-fold: and that they make a practice of what is not allowed even to non-offenders by the injunctions of our canons and decrees [18] : to wit that they should leave the churches in which they received or regained their office and carry their uncertainty in all directions, loving to continue wandering and never to remain on the foundations of the Apostles. For without being sifted by any test or bound by any previous confession of faith, they make a great point of their right to the privilege of going to one house after another under cover of their being in communion with the Church, and corrupting the hearts of many through men's ignorance [19] of their false name. And yet I am sure they could not do this, if the rulers of the churches had exercised their rightful diligence in the matter of receiving such, and had not allowed any of them to wander from place to place.

II. He orders a provincial synod to be convened to receive the recantation of the heretics in express terms.

Accordingly, lest this should be attempted any further, and lest this pernicious habit, which owes its introduction to certain persons' negligence, should result in the overthrow of many souls, by this our authoritative injunction we charge you, brother, to give diligence that a synod of the clergy [20] of your province be convened, and all, whether priests or deacons or clerics of any rank who have been re-admitted from their alliance with the Pelagians and the Cælestians into catholic communion with such precipitation that they were not first constrained to recant their error, be now at least forced to a true correction, which can advantage themselves and hurt no one, since their deceitfulness has in part been disclosed. Let them by their public confession condemn the authors of this presumptuous [21] error and renounce all that the universal Church has repudiated in their doctrine: and let them announce by full and open statements, signed by their own hand, that they embrace and entirely approve of all the synodal decrees which the authority of the Apostolic See has ratified to the rooting out of this heresy. Let nothing obscure, nothing ambiguous be found in their words. For we know that their cunning is such that they reckon that the meaning of any particular clause of their execrable doctrine can be defended if they only keep it distinct from the main body of their damnable views [22] .

III. The Pelagian view of God's grace is unscriptural.

And when they pretend to disapprove of and give up all their definitions to facilitate evasion through their complete art of deception, unless their meaning is detected, they make exception of the dogma that the grace of God is given according to the merits of the recipient. And yet surely, unless it is given freely, it is not a gift [23] , but a price and compensation for merits: for the blessed Apostle says, "by grace ye have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves but it is the gift of God; not of works lest any should perchance be exalted. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them [24] ." Thus every bestowal of good works is of God's preparing: because a man is justified by grace rather than by his own excellence: for grace is to every one the source of righteousness, the source of good and the fountain of merit. But these heretics say it is anticipated by men's natural goodness for this reason, that that nature which (in their view) is before grace conspicuous for good desires of its own, may not seem marred by any stain of original sin, and that what the Truth says may be falsified: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost [25] ."

IV. Prompt measures are essential.

You must take heed, therefore, beloved, and with great diligence make provision that offences which have long been removed be not set up again through such men and that no seed of the same evil spring up in your province from a doctrine which has once been uprooted: for not only will it take root and grow, but also will taint the future generations of the Church with its poisonous exhalations. Those who wish to appear corrected must purge themselves of all suspicion: and by obeying us, prove themselves ours. And if any of them decline to satisfy our wholesome injunctions, be he cleric or layman, he must be driven from the society of the Church lest he deal treacherously by others' safety as well as forfeit his own soul.

V. The canons must be enforced against clerics who wander from one church to another.

We admonish you also to restore to full working that part of the discipline of the Church whereby the holy Fathers and we have often in former times decreed that neither in the grade of the priesthood nor in the order of the diaconate nor in the lower ranks of the clergy, is any one at liberty to migrate from church to church: to the end that each one may persevere where he was ordained without being enticed by ambition, or led astray by greed, or corrupted by men's evil beliefs: and thus that if any one, seeking his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ [26] , neglect to return to his own people [27] and church, he may be reckoned out of the pale both in respect of promotion and of the bond of communion. But do not doubt, beloved, that we must be somewhat sorely moved if, as we think not, our decrees for the maintenance of the canons and the integrity of the faith be neglected: because the short-comings of the lower orders [28] are to be laid at the door of none so much as of those slothful and remiss rulers who often foster much pestilence by shrinking from the application of a stringent remedy.


[16] It is to be supposed that the letter of Septimus, bp. of Altinum, was sent with this letter. See Lett. XVIII. n. 3. [17] Viz. members of the minor order as they are now called, subdeacons, exorcists, &c. [18] It has been the rule at least since the council of Nicæa (325) that the clergy should stay in the church (or "diocese" as we should call it) of their ordination, cf. Canons of Nicæa xxi. de his qui Ecclesias deserunt et ad alias transeunt, and xxii. de non suscipiendis alterius Ecclesiæ clericis. And we often find Leo insisting on the observance of the rule. [19] Inscientiam: the general reading being scientiam, the sense of which is not clear. [20] Sacerdotum: I am in doubt as to what this term here includes, but think it probable that all ranks of the clergy were to be summoned. The words sacerdos and antistes in early ecclesiastical Latin very often mean the bishop (episcopus) specifically rather than the presbyter (sacerdos secundi ordinis), because it was the bishop who offered the "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving" (i.e. the Eucharist), and the presbyter only in his default; but the term sacerdos does certainly often include the presbyters and also the deacons (sacerdotes tertii ordinis) when in connexion with the priests and bishops, and it seems likely that the whole body of the clergy of the province would be summoned to the synod: see Bright's note 110: also Bingham, Antiq., Bk. II., chap. xix., §§ 14, 15. [21] Superbi (proud): the epithet is well chosen and not a random one: for pride and presumption are at the root of the Pelagian views as birth-sin and baptismal grace: perfectionism is little in accordance with Christian humility. [22] For the same sentiment cf. Prosper, de ingratis, v. 188. [23] The reader need hardly be reminded that in the New Testament "grace" (Lat. gratia, Gk. charis) signifies "a free gift." [24] Eph. ii. 8-10. [25] S. Luke ix. 10. Between this and the next chapter some of the mss. and the earlier editions insert a passage from Augustine's Enchiridion, which thus formed chapter iv. [26] A reminiscence of Phil. ii. 21. [27] Plebem: this being the regular term for the "Laity" in early Christian Latin. [28] Sc. of the clergy.


Letter II.

To Septimus, Bishop of Altinum.

(Caution must be observed in receiving Pelagians back, and clergy must stay in the church of their ordination.)


Letter III.

From Paschasinus, Bishop of Lilybæum.

(About the keeping of Easter in 444; recommending the Alexandrine calculation.)


Letter IV.

To the Bishops appointed in Campania, Picenum, Etruria, and all the Provinces.

Leo, bishop of the city of Rome, to all the bishops appointed in Campania, Picenum, Etruria, and all the provinces, greeting in the Lord.

I. Introduction.

As the peaceful settlement of the churches causes us satisfaction, so are we saddened with no slight sorrow whenever we learn that anything has been taken for granted or done contrary to the ordinances of the canons and the discipline of the Church: and if we do not repress such things with the vigilance we ought, we cannot excuse ourselves to Him who intended us to be watchmen [29] , for permitting the pure body of the Church, which we ought to keep clean from every stain, to be defiled by contact with wicked schemers, since the framework of the members loses its harmony by such dissimulation.

II. Slaves and serfs (coloni) are not to be ordained.

Men are admitted commonly to the Sacred Order who are not qualified by any dignity of birth or character: even some who have failed to obtain their liberty from their masters are raised to the rank of the priesthood [30] , as if sorry slaves were fit for that honour; and it is believed that a man can be approved of God who has not yet been able to approve himself to his master. And so the cause for complaint is twofold in this matter, because both the sacred ministry is polluted by such poor partners in it, and the rights of masters are infringed so far as unlawful possession is rashly taken of them [31] . From these men, therefore, beloved brethren, let all the priests of your province keep aloof; and not only from them, but from others also, we wish you to keep, who are under the bond of origin or other condition of service [32] : unless perchance the request or consent be intimated of those who claim some authority over them. For he who is to be enrolled on the divine service ought to be exempt from others, that he be not drawn away from the Lord's camp in which his name is entered, by any other bonds of duty.

III. A man who has married twice or a widow is not eligible as a priest.

Again, when each man's respectability of birth and conduct has been established, what sort of person should be associated with the ministry of the Sacred Altar we have learnt both from the teaching of the Apostle and the Divine precepts and the regulations of the canons, from which we find very many of the brethren have turned aside and quite gone out of the way. For it is well known that the husbands of widows have attained to the priesthood: certain, too, who have had several wives, and have led a life given up to all licentiousness, have had all facilities put in their way, and been admitted to the Sacred Order, contrary to that utterance of the blessed Apostle, in which he proclaims and says to such, "the husband of one wife [33] ," and contrary to that precept of the ancient law which says by way of caution: "Let the priest take a virgin to wife, not a widow, not a divorced woman [34] ." All such persons, therefore, who have been admitted we order to be put out of their offices in the church and from the title of priest by the authority of the Apostolic See: for they will have no claim [35] to that for which they were not eligible, on account of the obstacle in question: and we specially claim for ourselves the duty of settling this, that if any of these irregularities have been committed, they may be corrected and may not be allowed to occur again, and that no excuse may arise from ignorance: although it has never been allowed a priest to be ignorant of what has been laid down by the rules of the canons. These writings, therefore, we have addressed to your provinces by the hand of Innocent, Legitimus and Segetius, our brothers and fellow-bishops: that the evil shoots which are known to have sprung up may be torn out by the roots, and no tares may spoil the Lord's harvest. For thus all that is genuine will bear much fruit, if that which has been wont to kill the growing crop be carefully cleared away.

IV. Usurious practices forbidden for clergy and for laity [36] .

This point, too, we have thought must not be passed over, that certain possessed with the love of base gain lay out their money at interest, and wish to enrich themselves as usurers. For we are grieved that this is practised not only by those who belong to the clergy, but also by laymen who desire to be called Christians. And we decree that those who have been convicted be punished sharply, that all occasion of sinning be removed.

V. A cleric may not make money in another's name any more than in his own.

The following warning, also, we have thought fit to give, that no cleric should attempt to make money in another's name any more than in his own: for it is unbecoming to shield one's crime under another man's gains [37] . Nay, we ought to look at and aim at only that usury whereby what we bestow in mercy here we may recover from the Lord, who will restore a thousand fold what will last for ever.

VI. Any bishop who refuses consent to these rules must be deposed.

This admonition of ours, therefore, proclaims that if any of our brethren endeavour to contravene these rules and dare to do what is forbidden by them, he may know that he is liable to deposition from his office, and that he will not be a sharer in our communion who refuses to be a sharer of our discipline. But lest there be anything which may possibly be thought to be omitted by us, we bid you, beloved, to keep all the decretal rules of Innocent of blessed memory [38] , and also of all our predecessors, which have been promulgated about the orders of the Church and the discipline of the canons, and to keep them in such wise that if any have transgressed them he may know at once that all indulgence is denied him.

Dated 10th of October, in the consulship of the illustrious Maximus (a second time) and Paterius (a.d. 443).


[29] Cf. Ezek. iii. 17. [30] Sacerdotii, see note 5 on Letter I. [31] Though no doubt S. Leo's language is here harsh and offensive to modern ears, it is not, I think, substantially out of agreement with S. Paul's own teaching (cf. Philemon 1; 1 Cor. vii. 21; Ephes. vi. 5; Col. iii. 22; Tit. ii. 9), and certainly not with the spirit of the age. The 73rd Apost. Canon forbids any slave to be ordained without his master's consent, and without previously obtaining his freedom. However, in the times of S. Jerome, S. Basil and S. Greg. Nazianzen, we find cases of slaves being ordained. However much we in the latter half of the nineteenth century regret to hear a great father of the Church speak in this way we must not forget that in the first half of this self-same century the very same opinion would have been held on the subject in many parts of the civilized world. [32] Qui originali (al. origini) aut alicui condicioni obligati sunt. The class of people alluded to were the coloni (serfs): such of them as were so by birth were called originarii: and there were other classes of them also (alicui condicioni obligati). The essential difference between all coloni and the ordinary servi was that the latter's service was personal, the former were servi terræ, adscripti glæbæ. Thus there is a strong resemblance between them and the villeins (villani) of medieval and modern Europe. For the order concerning them here given, cf. 2nd Council of Orleans (538), which ordains "ut nullus servilibus colonariisque condicionibus obligatus iuxta statuta sedis Apostolicæ ad honores ecclesiasticos admittatur nisi prius aut testamento aut per tabulas legitime constiterit absolutum. [33] 1 Tim. iii. 2, unius uxoris virum with the Vulgate, cf. Letter xii. 3. [34] Lev. xxi. 13, 14, cf. a letter of Innocent I. to Victricius, bishop of Rothomagus (Rouen) chap. v., ut mulierem (viduam) clericus non ducat uxorem: quia scriptum est: sacerdos virginem uxorem accipiat non eiectam," and for the former quotation, cf. ibid. chap vii. ne is qui secundam duxerit uxorem, clericus fiat: quia scriptum est unius virum. The 18th Apostolic Canon gives a similar order. All these rules would seem to refer to marriage before, not after, ordination. The latter was against the spirit of the early Church. [35] The older editions here add pro arbitrio (by dispensation), which Quesnel considers a gloss added later when dispensation was sometimes granted to digamous clerks. [36] The practice of usury and trading generally is often forbidden in the Canons, &c., for the clergy, but its prohibition for the laity is much more unusual: cf., however, Canon V. of the Council of Carthage (419), quod (sc. fenus accipere) in laicis, reprehenditur id multo magis debet et in clericis prædamnari. Scripture certainly is against the clergy participating in lucrative employments, though it was not easy always to prevent them: it had become, for instance, a common practice in S. Cyprian's day in the North African Church (cf. de laps. 6). But the secular laws certainly countenanced it in the laity (as Aug. Ep. 154 acknowledges). Leo the Emperor is said by Grotius to have been the first who "existimans omne fenus Christiano interdictum, lege id ipsum communi sanxit" (Quesnel). [37] Crimen suum commodis alienis impendere. I am not sure that this can mean what I say. [38] This was S. Innocent I., who was Pope from 402 to 417. One of his decretal letters was quoted from in note 1 to chap. iii. of this Letter.


Letter V.

To the Metropolitan Bishops of Illyricum.

(Appointing Anastasius of Thessalonica his Vicar in the province, and expressing his wishes about its government, for which see Letter VI.)


Letter VI.

To Anastasius, Bishop of Thessalonica.

Leo to his beloved brother Anastasius.

I. He is pleased to have been consulted by the bishops [39] of Illyricum on important questions.

The brotherly love of our colleagues makes us read with grateful mind the letters of all priests [40] ; for in them we embrace one another in the spirit as if we were face to face, and by the intercourse of such epistles we are associated in mutual converse [41] . But in this present letter the affection displayed seems to us greater than usual: for it informs us of the state of the churches [42] , and urges us to a vigilant exercise of care by a consideration of our office, so that being placed, as it were, on a watch-tower, according to the will of the Lord, we should both lend our approval to things when they run in accordance with our wishes, and correct, by applying the remedies of compulsion, what we observe gone wrong through any aggression: hoping that abundant fruit will be the result of our sowing the seed, if we do not allow those things to increase which have begun to spring up to the spoiling of the harvest.

II. Following the examples of his predecessors he nominates Anastasius Metropolitan of Illyricum.

Now therefore, dear brother, that your request has been made known to us through our son Nicolaus the priest, that you, too, like your predecessors, might receive from us in our turn authority over Illyricum for the observance of the rules, we give our consent and earnestly exhort that no concealment and no negligence may be allowed in the management of the churches situated throughout Illyricum, which we commit to you in our stead, following the precedent of Siricius of blessed remembrance, who then, for the first time, acting on a fixed method, entrusted them to your last predecessor but one [43] , Anysius of holy memory, who had at the time well deserved of the Apostolic See, and was approved by after events: that he might render assistance to the churches situated in that province whom he wished kept up to discipline. Noble precedents must be followed with eagerness that we may show ourselves in all things like those whose privileges we wish to enjoy. We wish you to imitate your last predecessor [44] but one as well as of your immediate predecessor who is known equally with the former to have both deserved and employed this privilege: so that we may rejoice in the progress of the churches which we commit to you in our stead. For as the conduct of matters progresses creditably when committed to one who acts well and carries out skilfully the duties of the priestly position, so it is found to be only a burden to him who, when power is entrusted to him, uses not the moderation that is due.

III. Ordinees must be carefully selected with especial reference to the Canons of the church.

And so, dear brother, hold with vigilance the helm entrusted to you, and direct your mind's gaze around on all which you see put in your charge, guarding what will conduce to your reward and resisting those who strive to upset the discipline of the canons. The sanction of God's law must be respected, and the decrees of the canons should be more especially kept. Throughout the provinces committed to thee let such priests be consecrated to the Lord as are commended only by their deserving life and position among the clergy. Permit no licence to personal favour, nor to canvassing, nor to purchased votes. Let the cases of those who are to be ordained be investigated carefully and let them be trained in the discipline of the Church through a considerable period of their life. But if all the requirements of the holy Fathers are found in them, and if they have observed all that we read the blessed Apostle Paul to have enjoined on such, viz., that he be the husband of one wife, and that she was a virgin when he married her, as the authority of God's law requires, [then ordain them [45] ]. And this we are extremely anxious should be observed, so as to do away with all place for excuses, lest any one should believe himself able to attain to the priesthood who has taken a wife before he obtained the grace of Christ, and on her decease joined himself to another after baptism. Seeing that the former wife cannot be ignored, nor the previous marriage put out of the reckoning, and that he is as much the father of the children whom he begot by that wife before baptism as he is of those whom he is known to have begotten by the second after baptism. For as sins and things which are known to be unlawful are washed away in the font of baptism, so what are allowed or lawful are not done away.

IV. The Metropolitans must not ordain hastily nor without consulting their Primate.

Let one be ordained a priest [46] throughout these churches inconsiderately; for by this means ripe judgments will be formed about those to be elected, if your scrutiny, brother, is dreaded. But let any bishop who, contrary to our command, is ordained by his metropolitan without your knowledge, know that he has no assured position with us, and that those who have taken on themselves so to do must render an account of their presumption [47] . But as to each metropolitan is committed such power that he has the right of ordaining in his province, so we wish those metropolitans to be ordained, but not without ripe and well-considered judgment. For although it is seemly that all who are consecrated priests should be approved and well-pleasing to God, yet we wish those to have peculiar excellence whom we know are going to preside over the fellow-priests who are assigned to them. And we admonish you, beloved, to see to this the more diligently and carefully, that you may be proved to keep that precept of the Apostles which runs, "lay hands suddenly on no man [48] ."

V. Points which cannot be settled at the provincial synod are to be referred to Rome.

Any of the brethren who has been summoned to a synod should attend and not deny himself to the holy congregation: for there especially he should know that what will conduce to the good discipline of the Church must be settled. For all faults will be better avoided if more frequent conferences take place between the priests of the Lord, and intimate association is the greatest help alike to improvement and to brotherly love. There, if any questions arise, under the Lord's guidance they will be able to be determined, so that no bad feeling remains, and only a firmer love exists among the brethren. But if any more important question spring up, such as cannot be settled there under your presidency, brother, send your report and consult us, so that we may write back under the revelation of the Lord, of whose mercy it is that we can do ought, because He has breathed favourably upon us [49] : that by our decision we may vindicate our right of cognizance in accordance with old-established tradition and the respect that is due to the Apostolic See: for as we wish you to exercise your authority in our stead, so we reserve to ourselves points which cannot be decided on the spot and persons who have made appeal to us.

VI. Priests and deacons may not be ordained on weekdays any more than bishops.

You shall take order that this letter reach the knowledge of all the brethren, so that no one hereafter find an opportunity to excuse himself through ignorance in observing these things which we command. We have directed our letter of admonition [50] to the metropolitans themselves also of the several provinces, that they may know that they must obey the Apostolic injunctions, and that they obey us in beginning to obey you, brother, our delegate according to what we have written. We hear, indeed, and we cannot pass it over in silence, that only bishops are ordained by certain brethren on Sundays only; but presbyters and deacons, whose consecration should be equally solemn [51] , receive the dignity of the priestly office indiscriminately on any day, which is a reprehensible practice contrary to the canons and tradition of the Fathers [52] , since the custom ought by all means to be kept by those who have received it with respect to all the sacred orders: so that after a proper lapse of time he who is to be ordained a priest or deacon [53] may be advanced through all the ranks of the clerical office, and thus a man may have time to learn that of which he himself also is one day to be a teacher. Dated the 12th of January, in the consulship of Theodosius (18th time) and Albinus (444).


[39] The letter to the college of bishops was written the same day, and forms No. 5 in the Leonine series (in Migne). [40] Sacerdotum here obviously = episcoporum, see Letter I. note 5. [41] quibus sermone epistolis mutuo commeantibus sociamur: notice the interlaced order of the words in the sentence which is not, I think, without design as quaintly expressing his meaning. [42] Sc. in your province. [43] Siricius was Bishop of Rome 384-398. Damasus, 366-384, is said by Innocent I. to have been the first to do this but not like Siricius, "acting on a fixed method," certa quadam ratione. [44] Prædecessoris tui. Anysius is said to have lived on into the time of Innocent. Anastasius' immediate predecessor, selected by Innocent (decessoris tui in the next line), was named Rufus. [45] These words are not found in the mss. apparently, but are necessary to the sense. For the requirement cf. Letter IV. chapter iii. [46] Here the word is antistes and no doubt it signifies "bishop," as the next sentence clearly shows. [47] The organization of the province then included (1) the bishops under (2) metropolitans of district under (3) one supreme primate of the province, who was in his turn responsible to the Bishop of Rome. [48] 1 Tim. v. 22. [49] The word is aspiraverit (the notion of which is to favour), not inspiraverit (to inspire), as we might have expected. [50] Viz., Letter V. [51] Circa quos par consecratio fieri debet. I take this as a valuable statement in the mouth of Leo, who so seldom refers specifically to the lower orders of the ministry. [52] There seems to be no canon on the point before Leo's time: but he alludes to the tradition again in Letter IX. chap. 1 and CXI. chap. 2 (q.v.). [53] Qui sacerdos (? secundi ordinis here) vel levita (= diaconus) ordinandus est.


Letter VII.

To the Bishops throughout Italy.

Leo to all the bishops set over the provinces of Italy greeting.

I. Many Manichæans have been discovered in Rome.

We call you to a share in our anxiety, that with the diligence of shepherds you may take more careful heed to your flocks entrusted to you that no craft of the devil's be permitted: lest that plague, which by the revealing mercy of the Lord is driven off from our flocks through our care, should spread among your churches before you are forewarned, and are still ignorant of what is happening, and should find means of stealthily burrowing into your midst, and thus what we are checking in the City should take hidden root among you and grow up. Our search has discovered in the City a great many followers and teachers of the Manichæan impiety, our watchfulness has proclaimed them, and our authority and censure has checked them: those whom we could reform we have corrected and driven to condemn Manichæus with his preachings and teachings by public confession in church, and by the subscription of their own hand, and thus we have lifted those who have acknowledged their fault from the pit of their iniquity by granting them room for repentance [54] . A good many, however, who had so deeply involved themselves that no remedy could assist them, have been subjected to the laws in accordance with the constitutions of our Christian princes, and lest they should pollute the holy flock by their contagion, have been banished into perpetual exile by public judges. And all the profane and disgraceful things which are found as well in their writings as in their secret traditions, we have disclosed and clearly proved to the eyes of the Christian laity [55] that the people might know what to shrink from or avoid: so that he that was called their bishop was himself tried by us, and betrayed the criminal views which he held in his mystic religion, as the record of our proceedings can show you. For this, too, we have sent you for instruction: and after reading them you will be in a position to understand all the discoveries we have made.

II. The bishops of Italy must not allow those Manichæans who have quitted the city to escape or lie concealed.

And because we know that a good many of those who are involved here in too close an accusation for them to clear themselves have escaped, we have sent this letter to you, beloved, by our acolyth: that your holiness, dear brothers, may be informed of this, and see fit to act with diligence and caution, lest the men of the Manichæan error be able to find opportunity of hurting your people and of teaching their impious doctrines. For we cannot otherwise rule those entrusted to us unless we pursue with the zeal of faith in the Lord those who are destroyers and destroyed: and with what severity we can bring to bear, cut them off from intercourse with sound minds, lest this pestilence spread much wider. Wherefore I exhort you, beloved, I beseech and warn you to use such watchful diligence as you ought and can employ in tracking them out, lest they find opportunity of concealment anywhere. For as he will have a due recompense of reward from God, who carries out what conduces to the health of the people committed to him; so before the Lord's judgment-seat no one will be able to excuse himself from a charge of carelessness who has not been willing to guard his people against the propagators of an impious misbelief. Dated 30 January, in the consulship of the illustrious Theodosius Augustus (18th time) and Albinus (444).


[54] Poenitentiam concedendo, i.e. we have not finally excommunicated them, but, dealing leniently, we have given them opportunity of reinstating themselves in the peace of the Church, by going through a due course of penance (satisfactio). It is important to explain this clearly to those who in the present day, are ignorant of the strict discipline of the early Church. And are liable to forget that penance was then a valuable means to repentance. [55] Plebei.


Letter VIII.

The Ordinance of Valentinian III. concerning the Manichæans.

(The Manichæans are to be turned out of the army and the City, and to lose all their rights as citizens.)


Letter IX.

To Dioscorus, Bishop of Alexandria.

Leo, the bishop, to Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, greeting.

I. The churches of Rome and Alexandria should be at one in everything.

How much of the divine love we feel for you, beloved, you will be able to estimate from this, that we are anxious to establish your beginnings on a surer basis, lest anything should seem lacking to the perfection of your love, since your meritorious acts of spiritual grace, as we have proved, are already in your favour. Fatherly and brotherly conference, therefore, ought to be most grateful to you, holy brother, and received by you in the same spirit as you know it is offered by us. For you and we ought to be at one in thought and act, so that as we read [56] , in us also there may be proved to be one heart and one mind. For since the most blessed Peter received the headship of the Apostles from the Lord, and the church of Rome still abides by His institutions, it is wicked to believe that His holy disciple Mark, who was the first to govern the church of Alexandria [57] , formed his decrees on a different line of tradition: seeing that without doubt both disciple and master drew but one Spirit from the same fount of grace, and the ordained could not hand on aught else than what he had received from his ordainer. We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught.

II. Fixed days should be observed for ordaining priests and deacons.

That therefore which we know to have been very carefully observed by our fathers, we wish kept by you also, viz. that the ordination of priests or deacons should not be performed at random on any day: but after Saturday, the commencement of that night which precedes the dawn of the first day of the week should be chosen on which the sacred benediction should be bestowed on those who are to be consecrated, ordainer and ordained alike fasting. This observance will not be violated, if actually on the morning of the Lord's day it be celebrated without breaking the Saturday fast: for the beginning of the preceding night forms part of that period, and undoubtedly belongs to the day of resurrection as is clearly laid down with regard to the feast of Easter [58] . For besides the weight of custom which we know rests upon the Apostles' teaching, Holy Writ also makes this clear, because when the Apostles sent Paul and Barnabas at the bidding of the Holy Ghost to preach the gospel to the nations, they laid hands on them fasting and praying: that we may know with what devoutness both giver and receiver must be on their guard lest so blessed a sacrament should seem to be carelessly performed. And therefore you will piously and laudably follow Apostolic precedents if you yourself also maintain this form of ordaining priests throughout the churches over which the Lord has called you to preside: viz. that those who are to be consecrated should never receive the blessing except on the day of the Lord's resurrection, which is commonly held to begin on the evening of Saturday, and which has been so often hallowed in the mysterious dispensations of God that all the more notable institutions of the Lord were accomplished on that high day. On it the world took its beginning. On it through the resurrection of Christ death received its destruction, and life its commencement. On it the apostles take from the Lord's hands the trumpet of the gospel which is to be preached to all nations, and receive the sacrament of regeneration [59] which they are to bear to the whole world. On it, as blessed John the Evangelist bears witness when all the disciples were gathered together in one place, and when, the doors being shut, the Lord entered to them, He breathed on them and said: "Receive the Holy Ghost: whose sins ye have remitted they are remitted to them: and whose ye have retained, they shall be retained [60] ." On it lastly the Holy Spirit that had been promised to the Apostles by the Lord came: and so we know it to have been suggested and handed down by a kind of heavenly rule, that on that day we ought to celebrate the mysteries of the blessing of priests on which all these gracious gifts were conferred.

III. The repetition of the Holy Eucharist on the great festivals is not undesirable.

Again, that our usage may coincide at all points, we wish this thing also to be observed, viz. that when any of the greater festivals has brought together a larger congregation than usual, and too great a crowd of the faithful has assembled for one church [61] to hold them all at once, there should be no hesitation about repeating the oblation of the sacrifice: lest, if those only are admitted to this service who come first, those who flock in afterwards, should seem to be rejected: for it is fully in accordance with piety and reason, that as often as a fresh congregation has filled the church where service is going on, the sacrifice should be offered as a matter of course. Whereas a certain portion of the people must be deprived of their worship, if the custom of only one celebration [62] be kept, and only those who come early in the day can offer the sacrifice [63] . We admonish you, therefore, beloved, earnestly and affectionately that your carefulness also should not neglect what has become a part of our own usage on the pattern of our fathers' tradition, so that in all things we may agree together in our beliefs and in our performances. Consequently, we have given this letter to our son Possidonius, a presbyter, on his return, that he may bear it to you, brother; he has so often taken part in our ceremonials and ordinations, and has been sent to us so many times that he knows quite well what Apostolic authority we possess in all things. Dated 21 June (? 445).


[56] Sc. in Acts iv. 32. [57] S. Mark, the evangelist and disciple of S. Peter, is the radional founder of the church of Alexandria. [58] That is to say, the weekly resurrection festival (Sunday) begins with the vespers of the preceding evening: this is notably the case in the yearly festival of Easter, at least in Western use. [59] Sacramentum regenerationis: the reference in the first part of the sentence seems to be S. Mark xvi. 15, and here in the latter part to S. Matt. xxviii. 19, and both these records seem to refer to the same manifestation. S. Matthew says it was to "the eleven disciples" in Galilee, in "the mountain where Jesus had appointed them," that He gave the command, if indeed vv. 16-20 of the xxviiith chapter form one continuous narrative. The author of S. Mark xvi. 9-20 says it was to the eleven "as they sat at meat." Is it possible that Leo took anakeimenois to mean as they were partaking of the Holy Eucharist? if not, what countenance is there for his assertion of its being on the first day of the week? [60] S. John xx. 22, 23. [61] Basilica, q.v. in Smith's Dict. of Christian Antiquities. [62] Missæ. [63] It can hardly escape notice that the people here are distinctly said "to offer the sacrifice" in the person of their representative and mouthpiece, the priest. And this is the language and intention of all Liturgies (ancient and modern) of the Church.


Letter X.

To the Bishops of the Province of Vienne. In the matter of Hilary, Bishop of Arles [64] .

To the beloved brothers, the whole body of bishops of the province of Vienne, Leo, bishop of Rome.

I. The solidarity of the Church built upon the rock of S. Peter must be everywhere maintained.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of mankind, instituted the observance of the Divine religion which He wished by the grace of God to shed its brightness upon all nations and all peoples in such a way that the Truth, which before was confined to the announcements of the Law and the Prophets, might through the Apostles' trumpet blast go out for the salvation of all men [65] , as it is written: "Their sound has gone out into every land, and their words into the ends of the world [66] ." But this mysterious function [67] the Lord wished to be indeed the concern of all the apostles, but in such a way that He has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the Apostles [68] : and from him as from the Head wishes His gifts to flow to all the body: so that any one who dares to secede from Peter's solid rock may understand that he has no part or lot in the divine mystery. For He wished him who had been received into partnership in His undivided unity to be named what He Himself was, when He said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church [69] :" that the building of the eternal temple by the wondrous gift of God's grace might rest on Peter's solid rock: strengthening His Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it. But this most holy firmness of the rock, reared, as we have said, by the building hand of God, a man must wish to destroy in over-weaning wickedness when he tries to break down its power, by favouring his own desires, and not following what he received from men of old: for he believes himself subject to no law, and held in check by no rules of God's ordinances and breaks away, in his eagerness for novelty, from your use and ours, by adopting illegal practices, and letting what he ought to keep fall into abeyance.

II. Hilary is disturbing the peace of the Church by his insubordination.

But with the approval, as we believe, of God, and retaining towards you the fulness of our love which the Apostolic See always, as you remember, expends upon you, holy brethren we are striving to correct these things by mature counsel, and to share with you the task of setting your churches in order, not by innovations but by restoration of the old; that we may persevere in the accustomed state which our fathers handed down to us, and please our God through the ministry of a good work by removing the scandals of disturbances. And so we would have you recollect, brethren, as we do, that the Apostolic See, such is the reverence in which it is held, has times out of number been referred to and consulted by the priests of your province as well as others, and in the various matters of appeal, as the old usage demanded, it has reversed or confirmed decisions: and in this way "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace [70] " has been kept, and by the interchange of letters, our honourable proceedings have promoted a lasting affection: for "seeking not our own but the things of Christ [71] ," we have been careful not to do despite to the dignity which God has given both to the churches and their priests. But this path which with our fathers has been always so well kept to and wisely maintained, Hilary has quitted, and is likely to disturb the position and agreement of the priests by his novel arrogance: desiring to subject you to his power in such a way as not to suffer himself to be subject to the blessed Apostle Peter, claiming for himself the ordinations of all the churches throughout the provinces of Gaul, and transferring to himself the dignity which is due to metropolitan priests; he diminishes even the reverence that is paid to the blessed Peter himself with his proud words: for not only was the power of loosing and binding given to Peter before the others, but also to Peter more especially was entrusted the care of feeding the sheep [72] . Yet any one who holds that the headship must be denied to Peter, cannot really diminish his dignity: but is puffed up with the breath of his pride, and plunges himself into the lowest depth.

III. Celidonius has been restored to his bishopric, the charges against him having been found false.

Accordingly the written record of our proceedings shows what action we have taken in the matter of Celidonius [73] , the bishop, and what Hilary said in the presence and hearing of the aforesaid bishop. For when Hilary had no reasonable answer to give in the council of the holy priests, "the secrets of his heart [74] " gave vent to utterances such as no layman could make and no priest listen to. We were grieved, I acknowledge, brothers, and endeavoured to appease the tumult of his mind by patient treatment. For we did not wish to exasperate those wounds which he was inflicting on his soul by his insolent retorts, and strove rather to pacify him whom we had taken up as a brother, although it was he who was entangling himself by his replies, than to cause him pain by our remarks. Celidonius, the bishop, was therefore acquitted, for he had proved himself wrongfully deposed from the priesthood, by the clear replies of his witnesses made in his own presence: so that Hilary, who remained with us, had no opposition to offer. The judgment, therefore, was rescinded, which was brought forward and read to the effect that, as the husband of a widow [75] , he could not hold the priesthood. Now this rule we, maintaining the legal constitutions [76] , have wished scrupulously adhered to, not only in respect of priests but also of clergy of the lower ranks: that those who have contracted such a marriage, or those who are proved not to be the husbands of only one wife contrary to the apostle's discipline, should not be suffered to enter the sacred service [77] . But though we decree that those, whom their own acts condemn, must either not be admitted at all, or, if they have, must be removed, so those who are falsely so accused we are bound to clear after examination held, and not allow to lose their office. For the sentence pronounced would have remained against him, if the truth of the charge had been proved. And so Celidonius, our fellow-bishop, was restored to his church and to that dignity which he ought not to have lost, as the course of our proceedings, and the sentence which was pronounced by us after holding the inquiry testifies.

IV. Hilary's treatment of Projectus does not redound to his credit.

When this business was so concluded, the complaint of our brother and fellow-bishop, Projectus [78] , next came before us: who addressed us in a tearful and piteous letter, about the ordaining of a bishop over his head. A letter was also brought to us from his own fellow-citizens, corroborated by a great many individual signatures, and full of the most unpleasant complaints against Hilary: to the effect that Projectus, their bishop, was not allowed to be ill, but his priesthood had been transferred to another without their knowledge, and the heir brought into possession by Hilary, the intruder as if to fill up a vacancy, though the possessor was still alive [79] . We should like to hear what you, brothers, think on the point: although we ought not to entertain any doubt about your feelings, when you picture to yourselves a brother lying on a sick-bed and tortured, not so much by his bodily weakness as by pains of another kind. What hope in life is left a man who is visited with despair about his priesthood whilst another is set up in his place? Hilary gives a clear proof of his gentle heart when he believed that the tardiness of a brother's death is but a hindrance to his own ambitious designs. For, as far as in him lay, he quenched the light for him; he robbed him of life by setting up another in his room, and thus causing him such pain as to hinder his recovery. And supposing that his brother's passage from this world was brief, but after the common course of men, what does Hilary seek for himself in another's province, and why does he claim that which none of his predecessors before Patroclus possessed? whereas that very position which seemed to have been temporarily granted to Patroclus by the Apostolic See was afterwards withdrawn by a wiser decision [80] . At least the wishes of the citizens should have been waited for, and the testimony of the people [81] : the opinion of those held in honour should have been asked, and the choice of the clergy--things which those who know the rules of the fathers are wont to observe in the ordination of priests: that the rule of the Apostle's authority might in all things be kept, which enjoins that one who is to be the priest of a church should be fortified, not only by the attestation of the faithful but also by the testimony of "those who are without [82] ," and that no occasion for offence be left, when, in peace and in God-pleasing harmony with the full approval of all, one who will be a teacher of peace is ordained.

V. Hilary's action was very reprehensible throughout, and we have restored Projectus.

But Hilary came upon them unawares and departed no less suddenly, accomplishing many journeys with great speed, as we have ascertained, and traversing distant provinces with such haste that he seems to have coveted a reputation for the swiftness of a courier rather than for the sobriety of a priest [83] . For these are the words of the citizens in the letter that has been addressed to us:--"He departed before we knew he had come." This is not to return but to flee, not to exercise a shepherd's wholesome care, but to employ the violence of a thief and a robber, as saith the Lord: "he that entereth not by the door into the sheep-fold [84] , but climbeth up some other way, is a thief and a robber." Hilary, therefore, was anxious not so much to consecrate a bishop as to kill him who was sick, and to mislead the man whom he set over his head by wrongful ordination. We, however, have done what, as God is our Judge, we believe you will approve: after holding counsel with all the brethren we have decreed that the wrongfully ordained man should be deposed and the Bishop Projectus abide in his priesthood: with the further provision that when any of our brethren in whatsoever province shall decease, he who has been agreed upon to be metropolitan of that province shall claim for himself the ordination of his successor.

These two matters, as we see, have been settled, though there are many other points in them which seem to have violated the principles of the Church, and ought to be visited with just censure and judgment. But we cannot linger on them any further, for we are called off to other matters on which we must carefully confer with you, holy brethren.

VI. Hilary's practice of using armed violence must be suppressed.

A band of soldiers, as we have learnt, follows the priest through the provinces and helps him who relies upon their armed support in turbulently invading churches, which have lost their own priests. Before this court [85] are dragged for ordination men who are quite unknown to the cities over which they are to be set. For as one who is well known and approved is sought out in peace, so must one who is unknown, when brought forward, be established by violence. I beg and entreat and beseech you in God's name prevent such things, brethren, and remove all occasion for discord from your provinces. At all events we acquit ourselves before God in beseeching you not to allow this to proceed further. In peace and quietness should they be asked for who are to be priests. The consent of the clergy, the testimony of those held in honour, the approval of the orders and the laity should be required [86] . He who is to govern all, should be chosen by all [87] . As we said before, each metropolitan should keep in his own hands the ordinations that occur in his own province, acting in concert with those who precede the rest in seniority of priesthood, a privilege restored to him through us. No man should claim for himself another's rights. Each should keep within his own limits and boundaries, and should understand that he cannot pass on to another a privilege that belongs to himself. But if any one neglecting the Apostle's prohibitions and paying too much heed to personal favour, wishes to give up his precedence, thinking he can pass his rights on to another, not he to whom he has yielded, but he who ranks before the rest of the priests within the province in episcopal seniority, should claim to himself the power of ordaining. The ordination should be performed not at random but on the proper day: and it should be known that any one who has not been ordained on the evening of Saturday, which precedes the dawn of the first day of the week [88] , or actually on the Lord's day cannot be sure of his status. For our forefathers judged the day of the Lord's resurrection [89] as alone worthy of the honour of being the occasion on which those who are to be made priests are given to God.

VII. Hilary is deposed not only from his usurped jurisdiction, but also from what of right belongs to him, and is restricted to his own single bishopric.

Let each province be content with its own councils, and let not Hilary dare to summon synodal meetings besides, and by his interference disturb the judgments of the Lord's priests. And let him know that he is not only deposed from another's rights, but also deprived of his power over the province of Vienne which he had wrongfully assumed. For it is but fair, brethren, that the ordinances of antiquity should be restored, seeing that he who claimed for himself the ordinations of a province for which he was not responsible, has been shown in a similar way in the present case also to have acted so that, as he has on more than one occasion brought on himself sentence of condemnation by his rash and insolent words, he may now be kept by our command in accordance with the clemency of the Apostolic See [90] to the priesthood of his own city alone. He is not to be present then at any ordination: he is not to ordain because, conscious of his deserts, when he was required to answer for his action, he trusted to make good his escape by disgraceful flight, and has put himself out of Apostolic communion, of which he did not deserve to be a partaker [91] : and we believe this was by God's providence, who brought him to our court, though we did not expect him, and caused him to retire by stealth in the midst of holding the inquiry, that he should not be a partner in our communion [92] .

VIII. Excommunication should be inflicted only on those who are guilty of some great crime, and even then not hastily.

No Christian should lightly be denied communion [93] , nor should that be done at the will of an angry priest which the judge's mind ought to a certain extent unwillingly and regretfully to carry out for the punishment of a great crime. For we have ascertained that some have been cut off from the grace of communion for trivial deeds and words, and that the soul for which Christ's blood was shed has been exposed to the devil's attacks and wounded, disarmed, so to say, and stript of all defence by the infliction of so savage a punishment as to fall an easy prey to him. Of course if ever a case has arisen of such a kind as in due proportion to the nature of the crime committed to deprive a man of communion, he only who is involved in the accusation must be subjected to punishment: and he who is not shown to be a partner in its commission ought not to share in the penalty. But what wonder that one who is wont to exult over the condemnation of priests, should show himself in the same light towards laymen.

IX. Leontius is appointed in Hilary's room.

Wherefore, because our desire seems very different to this (for we are anxious that the settled state of all the Churches and the harmony of the priests should be maintained,) exhorting you to unity in the bond of love, we both entreat, and consistently with our affection admonish you, in the interests of your peace and dignity, to keep what has been decreed by us at the inspiration of God and the most blessed Apostle Peter, after sifting and testing all the matters at issue, being assured that what we are known to have decided in this way is not so much to our own advantage as to yours. For we are not keeping in our own hands the ordinations of your provinces, as perhaps Hilary, with his usual untruthfulness, may suggest in order to mislead your minds, holy brethren: but in our anxiety we are claiming for you that no further innovations should be allowed, and that for the future no opportunity should be given for the usurper to infringe your privileges. For we acknowledge that it can only redound to our credit, if the diligence of the Apostolic See be kept unimpaired among you, and if in our maintenance of Apostolic discipline we do not allow what belongs to your position to fall to the ground through unscrupulous aggressions. And since seniority is always to be respected, we wish Leontius [94] , our brother and fellow-bishop, a priest well approved among you, to be promoted to this dignity, if it please you that without his consent no further council be summoned by you, holy brethren, and that he may be honoured by you all as his age and good fame demands, the metropolitans being secured in their own dignity and rights. For it is but fair, and no injury seems to accrue to any of the brethren, if those who come first in seniority of the priesthood should, as their age deserves, have deference paid to them by the rest of the priests in their own provinces. God keep you safe, beloved brethren.


[64] Cf. Introduction p. vi. [65] Per Apostolicam tubam in salutem universitatis (Gk. tes oikoumenes) exiret, cf. Letter IX. Chap. ii. apostoli a Domino prædicandi omnibus gentibus evangelii tubam sumunt. [66] Ps. xix. 4. [67] Huius muneris sacramentum, his mind is running forward to his favourite sacramentum, that of Peter as the rock-man of the Church. [68] Cf. Letter XXVIII. chap. v. a principali petra (B. Petrus), soliditatem et virtutis traxit et nominis, etc.: also Cyprian de unit. eccl. chapt. iv. [69] S. Matt. xvi. 18. [70] Eph. iv. 3. [71] Phil. ii. 21. [72] Cui cum præ (Quesnel conj. pro) cæteris solvendi et ligandi tradita sit potestas, pascendarum tamen ovium cura specialius mandata est. Cf. S. John xxi. 15-17. [73] Celidonius was probably either bishop of Vienne or of Vesontis (Besançon): see Perthel, p. 25. [74] Quesnel well refers this phrase to 1 Cor. xiv. 25. [75] Cf. Letter IV. chap. iii. [76] Servantes legalia constituta, these are taken to be not so much the canons of the Church as the provisions of the Mosaic Law, e.g. Lev. xxi. 14; Ezek. xliv. 22. [77] Militiam (lit. military service). [78] Projectus was perhaps a bishop of the province of Gallia Narbonensis I.: Perthel, p. 27. [79] Quod Projecto episcopo suo ægrotare liberum non fuisset, eiusque sacerdotium in alium præter suam notitiam esse translatum, et tamquam in vacuam possessionem ab Hilario pervasore hæredem viventis inductum. The construction is changed from quod....fuisset, to the ordinary accus. and infin. [80] Patroclus had been Bishop of Arles circ. 416, and the then Bishop of Rome, Zosimus, had granted him metropolitan rights over the provinces of S.E. Gaul, which did not gain the acceptance of the other chief bishops in the district, and Boniface I. (Ep. 12), in 422, seems to have withdrawn the rights granted by Zosimus (Schaff, I, p. 297). [81] Civium: populorum. The former are apparently called lower down fidelium, and the latter, qui foris sunt. [82] 1 Tim. iii. 7. [83] Gloriam de scurrili velocitate potius quam de sacerdotali moderatione captasse. [84] In cortem ovium: the low Latin word (cors) is in the Vulgate changed to ovile. [85] Ante hoc officium. [86] Cf. Cypr. Ep. lv. cap. vii., factus est Cornelius episcopus de Dei et Christi eius iudicio, de clericorum pæne omnium testimonio, de plebis, quæ tunc adfuit, suffragio et sacerdotum antiquorum et bonorum virorum collegio. [87] Quesnel appositely quotes Pliny (Paneg. Traiani) imperaturus omnibus eligi debet ex omnibus. [88] Quod lucescit in prima sabbati; the phrase is repeated from Letter IX., chap. ii., to which refer to the whole passage. [89] Viz., Sunday. [90] Pro apostolicæ sedis pietate, or "as loyalty to the Apostolic See demands." [91] This does not mean that Hilary is excommunicated, but that he is to have no share in episcopal privileges as a successor of the apostles. [92] These words of course refer to Hilary's journey on foot to Rome, and his subsequent escape from something very much like prison: see Introduction, p. vi.: for his degradation, cf. Letter XII., chap. ix., where a similar punishment is enacted. [93] Here, no doubt, excommunication pure and simple is meant. Cf. note 4, supr. [94] Leontius seems to have had little but his age to recommend him for this promotion: the name of his bishopric is unknown, and the weakness of the appointment may, I think, be gathered from Leo's insisting so strongly on the principle of seniority both here and in chap vi. above.


Letter XI.

An Ordinance of Valentinianus III.

(Confirming Leo's sentence upon Hilary.)


Letter XII.

Leo, bishop of the city of Rome, to all the bishops of Mauritania Cæsariensis in Africa, greeting the Lord.

I. The disorderly appointments of bishops which have been made in the province are reprehensible.

Inasmuch as the frequent accounts of those who visited us made mention of certain unlawful practices among you with regard to the ordination of priests, the demands of religion required that we should strive to arrive at the exact state of the case in accordance with that solicitude which by the Divine command we bestow on the whole Church: and so we delegated the charge of this to our brother and fellow-priest, Potentius, who was setting out from us: and who, according to what we wrote and addressed to you by him, was to make inquiry as to the facts about the bishops whose election was said to be faulty, and to report everything faithfully to us. Wherefore, because the same Potentius has most fully disclosed all to our knowledge, and has by his truthful account made clear to us, under what and what manner of governors some of Christ's congregations are placed in certain parts of the province of (Mauritania) Cæsariensis, we have found it necessary to open out the grief wherewith our hearts are vexed for the dangers of the Lord's flocks, by sending this letter also to you beloved: for we are surprised that either the over-bearing conduct of intriguers or the rioting of the people had so much weight with you in a time of disorder, that the chief pastorate and governance of the Church was handed over to the unworthiest persons, and such as were farthest removed from the priestly standard. This is not to consult but harm the peoples' interests: and not to enforce discipline but to increase differences. For the integrity of the rulers is the safeguard of those who are under them: and where there is complete obedience, there the form of doctrine is sound. But an appointment which has either been made by sedition or seized by intrigue, even though it offend not in morals or in practice, is nevertheless pernicious from the mere example of its beginning: and it is hard for things to be carried to a good issue which were started with a bad beginning.

II. In no case ought bishops to be ordained hastily.

But if in every grade of the Church great forethought and knowledge has to be employed, lest there be any thing disorderly or out of place [95] in the house of the Lord: how much more carefully must we strive to prevent mistakes in the election of him who is set over all the grades? For the peace and order of the Lord's whole household will be shaken, if what is required in the body be not found in the head. Where is that precept of the blessed Apostle Paul uttered through the Spirit of God, whereby in the person of Timothy the whole number of Christ's priests are instructed, and to each one of us is said: "Lay hands hastily on no one, and do not share in other men's sins [96] ?" What is to lay on hands hastily but to confer the priestly dignity on unproved men before the proper age [97] , before there has been time to test them, before they have deserved it by their obedience, before they have been tried by discipline? And what is to share in other men's sins but for the ordainer to become such as is he who ought not to have been ordained by him? For just as a man stores up for himself the fruit of his good work, if he maintains a right judgment in choosing a priest: so one who receives an unworthy priest into the number of his colleagues, inflicts grievous loss upon himself. We must not then pass over in the case of any one that which is laid down in the general ordinances: nor is that advancement to be reckoned lawful which has been made contrary to the precepts of God's law.

III. The Apostolic precept about the marriage of the clergy based upon the marriage of Christ with the Church of which it is a figure.

For as the Apostle says that among other rules for election he shall be ordained bishop who is known to have been or to be "the husband of one wife," this command was always held so sacred that the same condition was understood as necessary to be observed even in the wife [98] of the priest-elect: lest she should happen to have been married to another man before she entered into wedlock with him, even though he himself had had no other wife. Who then would dare to allow this injury to be perpetrated upon so great a sacrament [99] , seeing that this great and venerable mystery is not without the support of the statutes of God's law as well, whereby it is clearly laid down that a priest is to marry a virgin, and that she who is to be the wife of a priest [100] is not to know another husband? For even then in the priests was prefigured the Spiritual marriage of Christ and His Church: so that since "the man is the head of the woman [101] ," the spouse of the Word may learn to know no other man but Christ, who did rightly choose her only, loves her only, and takes none but her into His alliance. If then even in the Old Testament this kind of marriage among priests is adhered to, how much more ought we who are placed under the grace of the Gospel to conform to the Apostle's precepts: so that though a man be found endowed with good character, and furnished with holy works, he may nevertheless in no wise ascend either to the grade of deacon, or the dignity of the presbytery, or to the highest rank of the bishopric, if it has been spread abroad either that he himself is not the husband of one wife, or that his wife is not the wife of one husband.

IV. Premature promotions are to be avoided.

But when the Apostle warns and says: "and let these also first be proved, and so let them minister [102] ," what else do we think must be understood but that in these promotions we should consider not only the chastity of their marriages, but also the deserts of their labours, lest the pastoral office be entrusted to men who are either fresh from baptism, or suddenly diverted from worldly pursuits? for through all the ranks of the Christian army in the matter of promotions it ought to be considered whether a man can manage a greater charge. Rightly did the venerable opinions of the blessed Fathers in speaking of the election of priests reckon those men fit for the administration of sacred things who had been slowly advanced through the various grades of office, and had given such good proof of themselves therein that in each one of them the character of their practices bore witness to their lives [103] . For if it is improper to attain to the world's dignities without the help of time and without the merit of having toiled, and if the seeking of office is branded unless it be supported by proofs of uprightness, how diligently and how carefully ought the dispensing of divine duties and heavenly dignities to be carried out, lest in aught the apostolic and canonical decrees be violated, and the ruling of the Lord's Church be committed to men who being ignorant of the lawful constitutions and devoid of all humility wish not to rise from the lowest grade, but to begin with the highest: for it is extremely unfair and preposterous that the inexpert should be preferred to the expert, the young to the old, the raw recruits to those who have seen much service. In a great house, indeed, as the Apostle explains [104] , there must needs be divers vessels, some of gold and of silver, and some of wood and of earth: but their purpose varies with the quality of their material, and the use of the precious and of the cheap kinds is not the same. For everything will be in disorder if the earthen ware be preferred to the golden, or the wooden to the silver. And as the wooden or earthen vessels are a figure of those men who are hitherto conspicuous for no virtues; so in the golden or silver vessels they no doubt are represented who, having passed through the fire of long experience, and through the furnace of protracted toil have deserved to be tried gold and pure silver. And if such men get no reward for their devotion, all the discipline of the Church is loosened, all order is disturbed, while men who have undergone no service obtain undeserved preferment by the wrongful choice of the electing body.

V. He distinguishes between laymen who have been raised to the bishoprics and digamous clerks, forgiving the former and not the latter.

Since then either the eager wishes of the people or the intrigues of the ambitious have had so much weight among you that we understand not only laymen, but even husbands of second wives or widows have been promoted to the pastoral office, are there not the clearest reasons for requiring that the churches in which such things have been done should be cleansed by a severer judgment than usual, and that not only the rulers themselves, but also those who ordained them should receive condign punishment? But there stand on our one hand the gentleness of mercy, on our other the strictness of justice. And because "all the paths of the Lord are loving-kindness and truth [105] ," we are forced according to our loyalty to the Apostolic See so to moderate our opinion as to weigh men's misdeeds in the balance (for of course they are not all of one measure), and to reckon some as to a certain extent [106] pardonable, but others as altogether to be repressed. For they who have either entered into second marriages or joined themselves in wedlock with widows are not allowed to hold the priesthood, either by the apostolic or legal authority: and much more is this the case with him who, as it was reported to us, is the husband of two wives at once, or him who being divorced by his wife is said to have married another, that is, supposing these charges are in your judgment proved. But the rest, whose preferment only so far incurs blame that they have been chosen to the episcopal function from among the laity, and are not culpable in the matter of their wives, we allow to retain the priesthood upon which they have entered, without prejudice to the statutes of the Apostolic See, and without breaking the rules of the blessed Fathers, whose wholesome ordinance it is that no layman, whatever amount of support he may receive, shall ascend to the first, second, or third rank in the Church until he reach that position by the legitimate steps [107] . For what we now suffer to be to a certain extent [108] venial, cannot hereafter pass unpunished, if any one perpetrates what we altogether forbid: because the forgiveness of a sin does not grant a licence to do wrong, nor will it be right to repeat an offence with impunity which has partly [109] been condoned.

VI. Donatus, a converted Novatian, and Maximus, an ex-Donatist, are retained in their episcopal office.

Donatus of Salacia, who, as we learn, has been converted from the Novatians [110] with his people, we wish to preside over the Lord's flock, on condition that he remembers he must send a certificate of his faith to us, in which he not only condemns the error of the Novatian dogma, but also unreservedly confesses the catholic truth. Maximus, also, although he was culpably ordained when a layman, yet if he is now no longer a Donatist, and has abjured the spirit of schismatic depravity, we do not depose from his episcopal dignity, which he has obtained irregularly, on condition that he declare himself a catholic by drawing up a certificate for us.

VII. The case of Aggarus and Tyberianus (ordained with tumult) is referred to the bishops.

But concerning Aggarus and Tyberianus, whose case is different from the others who were ordained from among the laity, in this that their ordination is reported to have been accompanied by fierce riots and savage disturbances, we have entrusted the whole matter to your judgment, that relying upon your investigation of the case, we may know what to decide about them.

VIII. Maidens who have suffered violence are not to compare themselves with others.

Those handmaids of God who have lost their chastity by the violence of barbarians, will be more praiseworthy in their humility and shame-fastness, if they do not venture to compare themselves to undefiled virgins. For although every sin springs from the desire, and the will may have remained unconquered and unpolluted by the fall of the flesh, still this will be less to their detriment, if they grieve over losing even in the body what they did not lose in spirit.

IX. These injunctions to be carried out without contentiousness.

And so now that you see yourselves, beloved, fully instructed through David, our brother and fellow-bishop, who is approved to us both by his personal character and his priestly worth, on [nearly] [111] all the points which our brother Potentius' account contained, it remains, brothers, that you receive our healthful exhortations harmoniously, and that doing nothing in rivalry, but acting unanimously with entire devotion and zeal, you obey the constitution of God and His Apostles, and in nothing suffer the well-considered decrees of the canons to be violated. For what we from the consideration of certain reasons have now relaxed must henceforward be guarded by the ancient rules, lest, what we have on this occasion with merciful lenity conceded, we may hereafter have to visit with condign punishment [112] , acting with special and direct vigour against those who in ordaining bishops have neglected the statutes of the holy fathers, and have consecrated men whom they ought to have rejected. Wherefore if any bishops have consecrated such an one priest as ought not to be, even though in some measure they have escaped any loss of their personal dignity, yet they shall have no further right of ordination, nor shall ever be present at that sacrament which, neglecting the judgment of God, they have improperly conferred.

X. The appointment of bishops over too small places is inexpedient and must be discontinued.

That of course which pertains to the priestly dignity we wish to be observed in common with all the statutes of the canons, viz., that bishops be not consecrated in any place nor in any hamlet [113] , nor where they have not been consecrated before; for where the flocks are small and the congregations small, the care of the presbyters may suffice, whereas the episcopal authority ought to preside only over larger flocks and more crowded cities, lest contrary to the divinely-inspired decrees of the holy Fathers the priestly office be assigned over villages and rural estates [114] or obscure and thinly-populated townships, and the position of honour, to which only the more important charges should be given, be held cheap from the very number of these that hold it. And this bishop Restitutus has reported to have been done in his own diocese, and he has with good reason requested that when the bishops of those places where they ought not to have been ordained die in the natural course, the places themselves should revert to the jurisdiction of the same prelate to whom they formerly belonged and were attached. It is indeed useless for the priestly dignity to be diminished by the superfluous multiplications of the office through the inconsiderate complaisance of the ordainer.

XI. Virgins violated against their will are to be treated as somewhat different to the others, but not to be denied Communion.

Now concerning those who, having made a holy vow of virginity [as we said above, chap. viii.], have suffered the violence of barbarians, and have lost their spotless purity not in spirit but in body, we consider such mode ration ought to be observed that they should be neither degraded to the rank of widows [115] nor yet reckoned in the number of holy and undefiled virgins: yet, if they persevere in the virgin life, and in heart and mind guard the reality of chastity, participation in the sacraments is not to be denied them, because it is unfair that they should be accused or branded for what their wishes did not surrender, but was stolen by the violence of foes.

XII. The care of Lupicinus is in part dealt with and in part referred to them.

The case also of bishop Lupicinus [116] we order to be heard there, but at his urgent and frequent entreaties we have restored him to communion for this reason, that, as he had appealed to our judgment, we saw that while the matter was pending he had been undeservedly suspended from communion. Moreover there is this also in addition, that it was clearly rash to ordain one over his head who ought not to have been ordained until Lupicinus, having been placed before you or convicted, or having at least confessed, had opportunity to submit to a just sentence, so that, according to the requirements of ecclesiastical discipline, he who was consecrated might receive his vacant place.

XIII. All disputes to be dealt with on the spot first and then referred to the Apostolic See.

But whenever other cases arise which concern the state of the Church and the harmony of priests, we wish them to be first sifted by yourselves in the fear of the Lord, and a full account of all matters settled or needing settlement sent to us, that those things which have been properly and reasonably decided, according to the usage of the Church, may receive our corroborative sanction also. Dated 10th August.


[95] Nihil sit inordinatum nihilque præposterum: the two words are well chosen (as usual), and bearing a distinct meaning: the former expressing "disorder" in the sense of want of the divine commission, the latter "disorder" in the sense of choosing the younger over the old, the inferior over the superior, &c.; the same two epithets occur in Lett. XIX., chap. i. [96] 1 Tim. v. 22. [97] Ante ætatem maturitatis. The Council of Carthage (a.d. 397), c. 4, fixed the downward limit for deacons at 25, and for priests at 30: and we may presume that that was the general rule in Leo's time, for we find the same ages ordained afterwards in the Novellæ of Justinian (535-565) and elsewhere. [98] Cf. Letter IV., chap ii., and elsewhere. [99] No one will by this time be surprised to find Leo calling Sacred Orders either a sacramentum, as here, or mysterium, as in the next sentence: the two terms are indeed in his usage almost equivalents. [100] Lev. xxi. 13. [101] Eph. v. 23. [102] 1 Tim. iii. 10. [103] The shorter edition of this letter, which is extent, gives this sentence in a very different form: the qualifications are much more exactly defined, e.g., bishops are to have spent their lives in orders a puerilibus exordiis usque ad provectiores annos. I think Quesnel is right in considering this a later version and alteration the better to inculcate the usage of the Church. For although no doubt people were often mere boys [Readers (lectores) for instance: see Bright's note 46] when they entered minor orders, yet the fact that one was an adult layman before taking orders could not ipso facto have precluded a man from becoming bishop, however desirable the rule and general principle might be: in fact Cyprian at least is evidence to the contrary. [104] Sc. 2 Tim. ii. 20. [105] Ps. xxv. 10. [106] Utcumque. [107] Per legitama augmenta, cf. n. 7 above. This passage makes it clear what is there required is not the puerilia exordia of the shorter edition of this letter, but the multum tempus of this longer edition. [108] Utcumque again. [109] Aliqua ratione. [110] In the case of these two noted African schisms it is hardly necessary to do more than refer the reader to Smith's or any other standard dictionary. [111] Fere here added probably to account for the long tail of extraneous or repeated matter tacked on to the letter. [112] Here the shorter edition of the letter breaks off, and there are certainly difficulties in considering that the long coda or repetitions and fresh matter here attached formed part of the original draft of the letter. Is it possible that two letters (the one later than the other) have been welded into one? [113] Castellis. Cf. Liv. xxi. chaps. 33, 34, where the word is used of the Alpine villages. In the Vulgate it represents the Gk. kome (e.g. S. Mark vi. 6; S. Luke v. 17.) [114] Possessionibus. [115] Cyprian (de hab. Virg.) speaks of women who have lost their virginity by their own fault as viduæ antequam nuptæ, and S. Jerome, using the same expression (Lett. to Eustochius on the preservation of Virginity), implies that they very often dressed like widows (plerasque viduas antequam nuptas infelicem conscientiam mentita tantum veste protegere): this will account for Leo's here providing that these unhappy women are not deiici in viduarum gradum. Ball. [116] The case of Lupicinus seems somewhat similar to that of Projectus in Lett. X., chap. iv, and was similarly referred to local experts.


Letter XIII.

To the Metropolitan Bishops in the Provinces of Illyricum.

Leo congratulates them on accepting the authority of Anastasius over them (given in Lett. IV.).


Letter XIV.

To Anastasius, Bishop of Thessalonica.

Leo, bishop of the City of Rome, to Anastasius, bishop of Thessalonica.

I. Prefatory.

If with true reasoning you perceived all that has been committed to you, brother, by the blessed apostle Peter's authority, and what has also been entrusted to you by our favour, and would weigh it fairly, we should be able greatly to rejoice at your zealous discharge of the responsibility imposed on you [117] .

II. Anastasius is taxed with exceeding the limits of his vicariate, especially in his violent and unworthy treatment of Atticus.

Seeing that, as my predecessors acted towards yours, so too I, following their example, have delegated my authority to you [118] , beloved: so that you, imitating our gentleness, might assist us in the care which we owe primarily to all the churches by Divine institution, and might to a certain extent make up for our personal presence in visiting those provinces which are far off from us: for it would be easy for you by regular and well-timed inspection to tell what and in what cases you could either, by your own influence, settle or reserve for our judgment. For as it was free for you to suspend the more important matters and the harder issues while you awaited our opinion, there was no reason nor necessity for you to go out of your way to decide what was beyond your powers. For you have numerous written warnings of ours in which we have often instructed you to be temperate in all your actions: that with loving exhortations you might provoke the churches of Christ committed to you to healthy obedience. Because, although as a rule there exist among careless or slothful brethren things which demand a strong hand in rectifying them; yet the correction ought to be so applied as ever to keep love inviolate. Wherefore also it is that the blessed Apostle Paul, in instructing Timothy upon the ruling of the Church, says: "an elder rebuke not, but intreat him as a father: the young men as brethren: old women as mothers: young women as sisters in all purity [119] ." And if this moderation is due by the Apostle's precept to all and any of the lower members, how much more is it to be paid without offence to our brethren and fellow-bishops? in order that although things sometimes happen which have to be reprimanded in the persons of priests, yet kindness may have more effect on those who are to be corrected than severity: exhortation than perturbation: love than power. But they who "seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's [120] ," easily depart from this law, and finding pleasure rather in domineering over their subjects than in consulting their interests, are swoln with the pride of their position, and thus what was provided to secure harmony ministers to mischief. That we are obliged to speak thus causes us no small grief. For I feel myself in a certain measure drawn into blame, on discovering you to have so immoderately departed from the rules handed down to you. If you were careless of your own reputation, you ought at least to have spared my good name: lest what only your own mind prompted should seem done with our approval. Do but read, brother, our pages with care, and peruse all the letters sent by holders of the Apostolic See to your predecessors, and you will find injunctions either from me or from my predecessors on that in which we learn you have presumed.

For there has come to us our brother Atticus, the metropolitan [121] bishop of Old Epirus, with the bishops of his province, and with tearful pleading has complained of the undeserved contumely he has suffered, in the presence of your own deacons who, by giving no contradiction to these woeful complaints, showed that what was impressed upon us did not want for truth. We read also in your letter, which those same deacons of yours brought, that brother Atticus had come to Thessalonica, and that he had also sealed his agreement in a written profession, so that we could not but understand concerning him that it was of his own will and free devotion that he had come, and that he had composed the statement of his promise of obedience, although in the very mention of this statement a sign of injury was betrayed. For it was not necessary that he should be bound in writing, who was already proving his obedience by the very dutifulness of his voluntary coming. Wherefore these words in your letter bore witness to the bewailings of the aforesaid, and through his outspoken account that which had been passed over in silence is laid bare, namely that the Præfecture of Illyricum had been approached, and the most exalted functionary among the potentates of the world [122] had been set in motion to expose an innocent prelate: so that a company was sent to carry out the aweful deed who were to enlist all the public servants in giving effect to their orders, and from the church's holy sanctuary charged with no crime, or at best a false one, was dragged a priest, to whom no truce was granted in consideration of his grievous ill-health or the cruel winter weather: but he was forced to take a journey full of hardships and dangers through the pathless snows. And this was a task of such toil and peril that some of those who accompanied the bishop are said to have succumbed [123] .

I am quite dumb-founded, beloved brother, yea and I am also sore grieved that you brought yourself to be so savagely and violently moved against one about whom you had laid no further information than that when summoned to appear he put off and excused himself on the grounds of illness; especially when, even if he deserved any such treatment, you should have waited till I had replied to your consulting letter. But, as I perceive, you thought too well of my habits, and most truly foresaw how fair-minded [124] an answer I was likely to make to preserve harmony among priests: and therefore you made haste to carry out your movements without concealment, lest when you had received the letter of our forbearance dictating another course, you should have no licence to do that which is done. Or perhaps some crime had reached your ears, and metropolitan [125] bishop that you are, the weight of some new charge pressed you hard? But that this is not consistent with the fact, you yourself make certain by laying nothing against him. Yet even if he had committed some grave and intolerable misdemeanour, you should have waited for our opinion: so as to arrive at no decision by yourself until you knew our pleasure. For we made you our deputy, beloved, on the understanding that you were engaged to share our responsibility, not to take plenary powers on yourself. Wherefore as what you bestow a pious care on delights us much, so your wrongful acts grieve us sorely. And after experience in many cases we must show greater foresight, and use more diligent precaution: to the end that through the spirit of love and peace all matter of offence may be removed from the Lord's churches, which we have commended to you: the pre-eminence of your bishopric being retained in the provinces, but all your usurping excesses being shorn off.

III. The rights of the metropolitans under the vicariate of Anastasius are to be observed.

Therefore according to the canons of the holy Fathers, which are framed by the spirit of God and hollowed by the whole world's reverence, we decree that the metropolitan bishops of each province over which your care, brother, extends by our delegacy, shall keep untouched the rights of their position which have been handed down to them from olden times: but on condition that they do not depart from the existing regulations by any carelessness or arrogance.

IV. The negative qualifications of a bishop determined.

In cities whose governors [126] have died let this form be observed in filling up their place: he, who is to be ordained, even though his good life be not attested, shall be not a layman, not a neophyte, nor yet the husband of a second wife, or one who, though he has or has had but one, married a widow. For the choosing of priests is of such surpassing importance that things which in other members of the Church are not blame-worthy, are yet held unlawful in them.

V. Continence is required even in sub-deacons.

For although they who are not within the ranks of the clergy are free to take pleasure in the companionship of wedlock and the procreation of children, yet for the exhibiting of the purity of complete continence, even sub-deacons are not allowed carnal marriage: that "both those that have, may be as though they had not [127] ," and those who have not, may remain single. But if in this order, which is the fourth from the Head [128] , this is worthy to be observed, how much more is it to be kept in the first, or second, or third, lest any one be reckoned fit for either the deacon's duties or the presbyter's honourable position, or the bishop's pre-eminence, who is discovered not yet to have bridled his uxorious desires.

VI. The election of a bishop must proceed by the wishes of the clergy and people.

When therefore the choice of the chief priest is taken in hand, let him be preferred before all whom the unanimous consent of clergy and people demands, but if the votes chance to be divided between two persons, the judgment of the metropolitan should prefer him who is supported by the preponderance of votes and merits: only let no one be ordained against the express wishes of the place: lest a city should either despise or hate a bishop whom they did not choose, and lamentably fall away from religion because they have not been allowed to have whom they wished.

VII. Metropolitans are to refer to their Vicar: the mode of electing metropolitans is laid down.

However the metropolitan bishop should refer to you, brother, about the person to be consecrated bishop, and about the consent of the clergy and people: and he should acquaint you with the wishes of the province: that the due celebration of the ordination may be strengthened by your authority also. But to right selections it will be your duty to cause no delay or hindrance, lest the Lord's flocks should remain too long with their shepherd's care.

Moreover when a metropolitan is defunct and another has to be elected in to his place, the bishops of the province must meet together in the metropolitical city: that after the wishes of all the clerics and all the citizens have been sifted, the best man may be chosen from the presbyters of that same church or from the deacons, and you are to be informed of his name by the priests of the province, who will carry out the wishes of his supporters on ascertaining that you agree with their choice [129] . For whilst we desire proper elections to be hampered by no delays, we yet allow nothing to be done presumptuously without your knowledge.

VIII. Bishops are to hold provincial councils twice a year.

Concerning councils of bishops we give no other instructions than those laid down for the Church's health by the holy Fathers [130] : to wit that two meetings should be held a year, in which judgment should be passed upon all the complaints which are wont to arise between the various ranks of the Church. But if perchance among the rulers themselves a cause arise (which God forbid) concerning one of the greater sins, such as cannot be decided by a provincial trial, the metropolitan shall take care to inform you, brother, concerning the nature of the whole matter, and if, after both parties have come before you, the thing be not set at rest even by your judgment, whatever it be, let it be transferred to our jurisdiction.

IX. Translation from one see to another is to be prohibited.

If any bishop, despising the insignificance of his city, shall intrigue for the government of a more populous place, and transfer himself by whatever means to a larger flock, he shall first be driven from the chair he has usurped, and also shall be deprived of his own: so shall he preside neither over those whom in his greed he coveted, nor over those whom in his arrogance he spurned. Therefore let each be content with his own bounds, and not seek to be raised above the limits of his present post.

X. Bishops are not to entice or receive the clergy of another diocese.

A cleric from another diocese let no (bishop) accept or invite against the wishes of his own bishop: but only when giver and receiver agree together thereupon by friendly compact. For a man is guilty of a serious injury who ventures either to entice or withhold from a brother's church that which is of great use or high value. And so, if such a thing happen within the province, the metropolitan shall force the deserting cleric to return to his church: but if he has withdrawn himself still further off, he shall be recalled by your authoritative command: so that no occasion be left for either desire of gain or intrigue.

XI. When the Vicar shall require a meeting of bishops, two from each province will be sufficient.

In summoning bishops to your presence, we wish you to show great forbearance: lest under a show of much diligence you seem to exult in your brethren's injuries. Wherefore if any greater case arise for which it is reasonable and necessary to convene a meeting of brethren, it may suffice, brother, that two bishops should attend from each province, whom the metropolitans shall think proper to be sent, on the understanding that those who answer the summons be not detained longer than fifteen days from the time fixed.

XII. In case of difference of opinion between the Vicar and the bishops, the bishop of Rome must be consulted. The subordination of authorities in the Church expounded.

But if in that which you believed necessary to be discussed and settled with the brethren, their opinion differs from your own wishes, let all be referred to us, with the minutes of your proceedings attested, that all ambiguities may be removed, and what is pleasing to God decided. For to this end we direct all our desires and pains, that what conduces to our harmonious unity and to the protection of discipline may be marred by no dissension and neglected by no slothfulness. Therefore, dearly beloved brother, you and those our brethren who are offended at your extravagant conduct (though the matter of complaint is not the same with all), we exhort and warn not to disturb by any wrangling what has been rightfully ordained and wisely settled. Let none "seek what is his own, but what is another's," as the Apostle says: "Let each one of you please his neighbour for his good unto edifying [131] ." For the cementing of our unity cannot be firm unless we be bound by the bond of love into an inseparable solidity: because "as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office; so we being many are one body in Christ, and all of us members one of another [132] ." The connexion of the whole body makes all alike healthy, all alike beautiful: and this connexion requires the unanimity indeed of the whole body, but it especially demands harmony among the priests. And though they have a common dignity, yet they have not uniform rank; inasmuch as even among the blessed Apostles, notwithstanding the similarity of their honourable estate, there was a certain distinction of power, and while the election of them all was equal, yet it was given to one [133] to take the lead of the rest. From which model has arisen a distinction between bishops also, and by an important ordinance it has been provided [134] that every one should not claim everything for himself: but that there should be in each province one whose opinion should have the priority among the brethren: and again that certain whose appointment is in the greater cities should undertake a fuller responsibility, through whom the care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter's one seat, and nothing anywhere should be separated from its Head. Let not him then who knows he has been set over certain others take it ill that some one has been set over him, but let him himself render the obedience which he demands of them: and as he does not wish to bear a heavy load of baggage, so let him not dare to place on another's shoulders a weight that is insupportable. For we are disciples of the humble and gentle Master who says: "Learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden light [135] ." And how shall we experience this, unless this too comes to our remembrance which the same Lord says: "He that is greater among you, shall be your servant. But he that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted [136] ."


[117] De iniunctæ tibi sollicitudinis devotione (an obscure expression). [118] See Letter IV., where it will be remembered the appointment of Anastasius, as Vicar of Illyricum, was made. [119] 1 Tim. v. 1, 2. [120] Phil. ii. 21. [121] Some for metropolitanus here read Nicopolitanus, Bishop of Nicopolis, the metropolitan see of old Epirus. Quesnel. [122] The language is, I think, intentionally exaggerated and high-flown: parturiunt montes nascetur ridiculus mus. [123] Anastasius seems to have arraigned Atticus before the civil court of the Prefect of Illyricum: he sent his apparitors, who violently dragged him out of the church, and brought him in midwinter across country to be tried. [124] The word is civilia, in which Brissonius thinks he sees an allusion either to the opposition between civil law and prætor's law (to which Anastasius had appealed), or else to the technical meaning of the word in jurisprudence as equivalent to `Legitimate' or `fair'. The latter is more likely. [125] Quesnel here accepts Nicopolitanum instead of metropolitanum (see n. 7 above), but with little reason. [126] Rectores. [127] 1 Cor. vii. 29. A reference to this passage will show that S. Paul does not limit himself to the clergy in what he says: for an interesting note on the text (written, of course, from the Roman standpoint), the reader is referred to Hurter's edition in loc., who adduces some valuable illustrations from Epiphanius, Jerome, &c. [128] Quartus a Capite, i.e. from Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, or perhaps from the Bishop of Rome, His soi-disant representative on earth (cf. chap. xii, below). [129] This method of electing the metropolitan will at once strike the reader: the electors apparently are (1) the bishops of the province (who are not eligible for the office); (2) the clergy of the diocese (who alone are eligible); and (3) the laity of the diocese. Only if one remembers how limited each diocese was in extent, can one realise the working of the method. [130] The Council of Nicæa (325) fixed two councils a year, one ante quadragesimam Paschæ (i.e. before Eastertide), the other circa tempus autumni. [131] Phil. ii. 4, and Rom. xv. 2. [132] 1 Cor. xii. 12, &c.: the quotation is loose, cf. Rom. xii. 5. [133] Viz., S. Peter. [134] Magna ordinatione provisum est. [135] S. Matt. xi. 29, 30. [136] Ibid. xxiii. 11, 12.

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