Leo the Great: Our Lord Jesus Christ made in Himself the beginning of a new creation Monday, Jan 2 2017 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeThe bodily Nativity therefore of the Son of God took nothing from and added nothing to His Majesty because His unchangeable substance could be neither diminished nor increased.

For that “the Word became flesh” does not signify that the nature of God was changed into flesh, but that the Word took the flesh into the unity of His Person.

And therein undoubtedly the whole man was received, with which within the Virgin’s womb fecundated by the Holy Spirit, whose virginity was destined never to be lost, the Son of God was so inseparably united that He who was born without time of the Father’s essence was Himself in time born of the Virgin’s womb.

For we could not otherwise be released from the chains of eternal death but by Him becoming humble in our nature, Who remained Almighty in His own.

And so our Lord Jesus Christ, being at birth true man though He never ceased to be true God, made in Himself the beginning of a new creation, and in the “form” of His birth started the spiritual life of mankind afresh, that to abolish the taint of our birth according to the flesh there might be a possibility of regeneration without our sinful seed for those of whom it is said, “Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).

What mind can grasp this mystery, what tongue can express this gracious act?  Sinfulness returns to guiltlessness and the old nature becomes new; strangers receive adoption and outsiders enter upon an inheritance.  The ungodly begin to be righteous, the miserly benevolent, the incontinent chaste, the earthly heavenly.

And whence comes this change, save by the right hand of the Most High?  For the Son of God came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and has so united Himself with us and us with Him that the descent of God to man’s estate became the exaltation of man to God’s.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 27, 2.

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Gregory the Great: “Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” Thursday, Oct 6 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThose that are at variance are to be admonished to know most certainly that, in whatever virtues they may abound, they can by no means become spiritual if they neglect becoming united to their neighbours by concord.

For it is written, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace (Gal. 5:22).  He then that has no care to keep peace refuses to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Hence Paul says, Whereas there is among you envying and strife, are ye not carnal (1 Cor. 3:3)?  Hence again he says also, Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

Hence again he admonishes, saying, Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace:  there is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling (Eph. 4:3-4).  The one hope of our calling, therefore, is never reached, if we run not to it with a mind at one with our neighbours.

But it is often the case that some, by being proud of some gifts that they especially partake of, lose the greater gift of concord; as it may be if one who subdues the flesh more than others by bridling of his appetite should scorn to be in concord with those whom he surpasses in abstinence.

But whoso separates abstinence from concord, let him consider the admonition of the Psalmist, Praise him with timbrel and chorus (Ps. 150:4).  For in the timbrel a dry and beaten skin resounds, but in the chorus voices are associated in concord.  Whosoever then afflicts his body, but forsakes concord, praises God indeed with timbrel, but praises Him not with chorus.

Often, however, when superior knowledge lifts up some, it disjoins them from the society of other men; and it is as though the more wise they are, the less wise are they as to the virtue of concord.

[…] To such it is rightly said through James, But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable (James 3:14, 15, 17).  Pure, that is to say, because its ideas are chaste; and also peaceable, because it in no wise through elation disjoins itself from the society of neighbours.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3, 22.

Leo the Great: I have become Son of Man that you might have power to be sons of God Friday, Jun 17 2016 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeThe Lord Jesus does, indeed, say to His disciples, as was read in the Gospel lection, if you loved Me, you would assuredly rejoice, because I go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

But those ears, which have often heard the words, I and the Father are One, and He that sees Me, sees the Father also, accept the saying without supposing a difference of Godhead or understanding it of that Essence which they know to be co-eternal and of the same nature with the Father.

Man’s uplifting, therefore, in the Incarnation of the Word, is commended to the holy Apostles also.

And they, who were distressed at the announcement of the Lord’s departure from them, are incited to eternal joy over the increase in their dignity; If you loved Me, He says, you would assuredly rejoice, because I go to the Father.

That is, if, with complete knowledge you saw what glory is bestowed on you by the fact that, being begotten of God the Father, I have been born of a human mother also, that being invisible I have made Myself visible, that being eternal in the form of God I accepted the form of a slave, you would rejoice because I go to the Father.

For to you is offered this ascension, and your humility is in Me raised to a place above all heavens at the Father’s right hand.

But I, Who am with the Father that which the Father is, abide undivided with My Father, and in coming from Him to you I do not leave Him, even as in returning to Him from you I do not forsake you.

Rejoice, therefore, because I go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. For I have united you with Myself, and have become Son of Man that you might have power to be sons of God.

And hence, though I am One in both forms, yet in that whereby I am conformed to you I am less than the Father, whereas in that whereby I am not divided from the Father I am greater even than Myself.

And so let the Nature, which is less than the Father, go to the Father, that the Flesh may be where the Word always is, and that the one faith of the Catholic Church may believe that He Whom as Man it does not deny to be less, is equal as God with the Father.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 77, 5.

Leo the Great: The Lord’s Resurrection was not the ending, but the changing of the flesh Sunday, May 1 2016 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeContinued from here….

And hence that the disturbed minds of the disciples might not be racked by prolonged grief, He with such wondrous speed shortened the three days’ delay which He had announced, that by joining the last part of the first and the first part of the third day to the whole of the second, He cut off a considerable portion of the period, and yet did not lessen the number of days.

The Saviour’s Resurrection therefore did not long keep His soul in Hades, nor His flesh in the tomb; and so speedy was the quickening of His uncorrupted flesh that it bore a closer resemblance to slumber than to death, seeing that the Godhead, Which quitted not either part of the Human Nature which He had assumed, reunited by Its power that which Its power had separated.

And then there followed many proofs, whereon the authority of the Faith to be preached through the whole world might be based.

And although the rolling away of the stone, the empty tomb, the arrangement of the linen cloths, and the angels who narrated the whole deed by themselves fully built up the truth of the Lord’s Resurrection, yet did He often appear plainly to the eyes both of the women and of the Apostles not only talking with them, but also remaining and eating with them, and allowing Himself to be handled by the eager and curious hands of those whom doubt assailed.

For to this end He entered when the doors were closed upon the disciples, and gave them the Holy Spirit by breathing on them, and after giving them the light of understanding opened the secrets of the Holy Scriptures, and again Himself showed them the wound in the side, the prints of the nails, and all the marks of His most recent Passion, whereby it might be acknowledged that in Him the properties of the Divine and Human Nature remained undivided, and we might in such sort know that the Word was not what the flesh is, as to confess God’s only Son to be both Word and Flesh.

The Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, dearly-beloved, does not disagree with this belief, when he says, even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more.  For the Lord’s Resurrection was not the ending, but the changing of the flesh, and His substance was not destroyed by His increase of power. The quality altered, but the nature did not cease to exist: the body was made impassible, which it had been possible to crucify: it was made incorruptible, though it had been possible to wound it.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 71, 2-4.

Leo the Great: We must strive to be found partakers also of Christ’s Resurrection Tuesday, Mar 29 2016 

Saint_Leo_of_RomeIn my last sermon…we explained to you our participation in the cross of Christ, whereby the life of believers contains in itself the mystery of Easter, and thus what is honoured at the feast is celebrated by our practice.

And how useful this is you yourselves have proved, and by your devotion have learned, how greatly benefited souls and bodies are by longer fasts, more frequent prayers, and more liberal alms.

For there can be hardly anyone who has not profited by this exercise, and who has not stored up in the recesses of his conscience something over which he may rightly rejoice.

[…] Since, therefore, by our forty days’ observance we have wished to bring about this effect, that we should feel something of the Cross at the time of the Lord’s Passion, we must strive to be found partakers also of Christ’s Resurrection, and pass from death unto life (1 John 3:14), while we are in this body.

For when a man is changed by some process from one thing into another, not to be what he was is to him an ending, and to be what he was not is a beginning.

But the question is, to what a man either dies or lives: because there is a death, which is the cause of living, and there is a life, which is the cause of dying.

And nowhere else but in this transitory world are both sought after, so that upon the character of our temporal actions depend the differences of the eternal retributions.

We must die, therefore, to the devil and live to God: we must perish to iniquity that we may rise to righteousness.

Let the old sink, that the new may rise; and since, as says the Truth, no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), let not him be Lord who has caused the overthrow of those that stood, but Him Who has raised the fallen to victory.

Accordingly, since the Apostle says, the first man is of the earth earthy, the second man is from heaven heavenly. As is the earthy, such also are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such also are they that are heavenly.

As we have borne the image of the earthy, so let us also bear the image of Him Who is from heaven , we must greatly rejoice over this change, whereby we are translated from earthly degradation to heavenly dignity through His unspeakable mercy, Who descended into our estate that He might promote us to His, by assuming not only the substance but also the conditions of sinful nature, and by allowing the impassibility of Godhead to be affected by all the miseries which are the lot of mortal manhood.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 71, 1-2.

Gregory the Great: Wrestling Jacob Saturday, Mar 12 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistThe pursuit of the contemplative life is something for which a great and sustained effort on the part of the powers of the soul is required,

an effort to rise from earthly to heavenly things,

an effort to keep one’s attention fixed on spiritual things,

an effort to pass beyond and above the sphere of things visible to the eyes of flesh,

an effort finally to hem oneself in, so to speak, in order to gain access to spaces that are broad and open.

There are times indeed when one succeeds, overcoming the opposing obscurity of one’s blindness and catching at least a glimpse, be it ever so fleeting and superficial, of boundless light.

[…] We have a beautiful illustration of all this in the sacred history of the Scriptures where the story is told of Jacob’s encounter with the angel….

Like anyone involved in such a contest, Jacob found his opponent, now stronger, now weaker than himself.

Let us understand the angel of this story as representing the Lord, and Jacob who contended with the angel as representing the soul of the perfect individual who in contemplation has come face to face with God.

This soul, as it exerts every effort to behold God as he is in himself, is like one engaged with another in a contest of strength.

At one moment it prevails so to speak, as it gains access to that boundless light and briefly experiences in mind and heart the sweet savour of the divine presence.

The next moment, however, it succumbs, overcome and drained of its strength by the very sweetness of the taste it has experienced.

The angel, therefore, is, as it were, overcome when in the innermost recesses of the intellect the divine presence is directly experienced and seen.

Here, however, it is to be noted that the angel, when he could not prevail over Jacob, touched the sciatic muscle of Jacob’s hip, so that it forthwith withered and shrank. From that time on Jacob became lame in one leg and walked with a limp.

Thus also does the all-powerful God cause all carnal affections to dry up and wither away in us, once we have come to experience in our mind and hear the knowledge of him as he is in himself.

Previously we walked about on two feet, as it were, when we thought, so it seemed, that we could seek after God while remain­ing at the same time attached to the world.

But having once come to the knowledge and experience of the sweetness of God, only one of these two feet retains its life and vigour, the other becoming lame and useless.

For it necessarily follows that the stronger we grow in our love for God alone, the weaker becomes our love for the world.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Homilies on Ezekiel, 1.12 (PL 76:955) from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.

 

Leo the Great: No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the Cross Thursday, Mar 10 2016 

leo1No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the Cross, nor is anyone beyond the help of the prayer of Christ.

Even his many tormentors received the benefit of Christ’s prayer; all the more powerfully will it avail those who turn to him in repentance.

Ignorance has been dispelled, ill-will restrained, and the flaming sword barring the way to the land of the living extinguished by the sacred blood of Christ.

The dark night of the past has yielded to the true light of day.

Christian people are now invited to enjoy the treasures of Paradise, and the way to their lost fatherland is open once more to all who have been reborn.

Provided they do not close off for themselves that way which could be opened by the faith of a thief.

As we celebrate the wonderful mystery of this Paschal Feast, dearly beloved, we must not allow the affairs of this present life to consume us with anxiety or pride, and so prevent us from striving with our whole heart to be like our Redeemer and to follow his example, since the sole aim of everything he did and suffered was our salvation, and the communication to his members of the power that belongs to him as Head.

Was anyone, from the very first, excluded from the mercy shown to the human race when God assumed our nature, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us? None but the unbeliever. Who, accepting Christ as the incarnate Word, does not share a common nature with him and is not born again of the same Spirit by which Christ himself was conceived?

Again, is there anyone whose own weakness is not recognizable in Christ’s? Surely in one who needed food and sleep, who was troubled and sorrowful and could be moved to tears, we can see the condition of our own servitude.

Because that nature of ours cried for the healing of its age-old wounds and the cleansing of its sinful stains, God’s only Son became the Son of Man, lacking neither the full reality of our humanity nor the plenitude of his Godhead.

The body that lay lifeless in the tomb was ours; the body that rose again on the third day was ours; the body that ascended above the heavens to the right hand of the Father’s majesty was ours.

If, then, we walk in the way of Christ’s commandments and are not ashamed to confess the price he paid for our salvation in bodily humiliation, we too shall be brought into the company of his glory.

Then all creation will see his promise fulfilled: Everyone who acknowledges me in the presence of men will be acknowledged by me in the presence of my heavenly Father.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 66, 3-4; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Tuesday of the Third Week in Lent, Year 1.

Leo the Great: The outer man will be the peaceful and unblemished possession of the inner man Saturday, Feb 6 2016 

leo1Continued from here….

After the assertion of this most happy humility, the Lord hath added, saying, “Blessed are they which mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

This mourning, beloved, to which eternal comforting is promised, is not the same as the affliction of this world.

Nor do those laments which are poured out in the sorrowings of the whole human race make any one blessed.

The reason for holy groanings, the cause of blessed tears, is very different.

Religious grief mourns sin either – that of others’ or one’s own.

Nor does it mourn for that which is wrought by God’s justice, but it laments over that which is committed by man’s iniquity.

For he that does wrong is more to be deplored than he who suffers it, because the unjust man’s wrongdoing plunges him into punishment, but the just man’s endurance leads him on to glory.

Next the Lord says:  “blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth by inheritance” (Matt. 5:5).

To the meek and gentle, to the humble and modest, and to those who are prepared to endure all injuries, the earth is promised for their possession.

And this is not to be reckoned a small or cheap inheritance, as if it were distinct from our heavenly dwelling, since it is no other than these who are understood to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The earth, then, which is promised to the meek, and is to be given to the gentle in possession, is the flesh of the saints, which in reward for their humility will be changed in a happy resurrection, and clothed with the glory of immortality, in nothing now to act contrary to the spirit, and to be in complete unity and agreement with the will of the soul.

For then the outer man will be the peaceful and unblemished possession of the inner man.

Then the mind, engrossed in beholding God, will be hampered by no obstacles of human weakness nor will it any more have to be said “The body which is corrupted, weigheth upon the soul, and its earthly house presseth down the sense which thinketh many things” (Wisdom 9:15).

For the earth will not struggle against its tenant, and will not venture on any insubordination against the rule of its governor.

For the meek shall possess it in perpetual peace, and nothing shall be taken from their rights, “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53), that their danger may turn into reward, and what was a burden become an honour.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 95, 4-5.

Gregory the Great: How the humble and the haughty are to be admonished Wednesday, Feb 3 2016 

St-Gregory-the-DialogistDifferently to be admonished are the humble and the haughty.

To the former it is to be insinuated how true is that excellence which they hold in hoping for it.

To the latter it is to be intimated how that temporal glory is as nothing which, even when embracing it, they hold not.

Let the humble hear how eternal are the things that they long for, how transitory the things which they despise.

Let the haughty hear how transitory are the things they court, how eternal the things they lose.

[…] The pride…of the devil became the occasion of our perdition, and the humility of God has been found the argument for our redemption.

For our enemy, having been created among all things, desired to appear exalted above all things.

But our Redeemer, remaining great above all things, deigned to become little among all things.

Let the humble, then, be told that, when they abase themselves, they ascend to the likeness of God.

Let the haughty be told that, when they exalt themselves, they fall into imitation of the apostate angel.

What, then, is more debased than haughtiness, which, while it stretches itself above itself, is lengthened out beyond the stature of true loftiness?

And what is more sublime than humility, which, while it depresses itself to the lowest, conjoins itself to its Maker who remains above the highest?

There is, however, another thing in these cases that ought to be carefully considered; that some are often deceived by a false show of humility, while some are beguiled by ignorance of their own haughtiness.

For commonly some who think themselves humble have an admixture of fear, such as is not due to men; while an assertion of free speech commonly goes with the haughty.

And when any vices require to be rebuked, the former hold their peace out of fear, and yet esteem themselves as being silent out of humility; the latter speak in the impatience of haughtiness, and yet believe themselves to be speaking in the freedom of uprightness.

Those the fault of timidity under a show of humility keeps back from rebuking what is wrong; these the unbridled impetuosity of pride, under the image of freedom, impels to rebuke things they ought not, or to rebuke them more than they ought.

Whence both the haughty are to be admonished not to be free more than is becoming, and the humble are to be admonished not to be more submissive than is right; lest either the former turn the defence of righteousness into a display of pride, or the latter, while they study more than needs to submit themselves to men, be driven even to pay respect to their vices.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Pastoral Rule, 3, 17.

Leo the Great: Today those joys must be entertained in our hearts which existed in the breasts of the three magi Sunday, Jan 3 2016 

leo1Today those joys must be entertained in our hearts which existed in the breasts of the three magi, when, aroused by the sign and leading of a new star, which they believed to have been promised, they fell down in presence of the King of heaven and earth.

For that day has not so passed away that the mighty work, which was then revealed, has passed away with it, and that nothing but the report of the thing has come down to us for faith to receive and memory to celebrate; seeing that, by the oft-repeated gift of God, our times daily enjoy the fruit of what the first age possessed.

And therefore, although the narrative which is read to us from the Gospel properly records those days on which the three men, who had neither been taught by the prophets’ predictions nor instructed by the testimony of the law, came to acknowledge God from the furthest parts of the East, yet we behold this same thing more clearly and abundantly carried on now in the enlightenment of all those who are called.

The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled when he says, “the Lord has laid bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the nations upon earth have seen the salvation which is from the Lord our God.” And again, “and those to whom it has not been announced about Him shall see, and they who have not heard, shall understand” (Isaiah 52:10, 15).

Hence when we see men devoted to worldly wisdom and far from belief in Jesus Christ brought out of the depth of their error and called to an acknowledgment of the true Light, it is undoubtedly the brightness of the Divine grace that is at work.

And whatever of new light illumines the darkness of their hearts, comes from the rays of the same star:  so that it should both move with wonder, and going before lead to the adoration of God the minds which it visited with its splendour.

But if with careful thought we wish to see how their threefold kind of gift is also offered by all who come to Christ with the foot of faith, is not the same offering repeated in the hearts of true believers?

For he that acknowledges Christ the King of the universe brings gold from the treasure of his heart; he that believes the Only-begotten of God to have united man’s true nature to Himself, offers myrrh; and he that confesses Him in no wise inferior to the Father’s majesty, worships Him in a manner with incense.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 36, 1.

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