Pope Leo I
Pope Saint Leo I
Papacy began: 29 September 440
Papacy ended: 10 November 461
Predecessor: Sixtus III
Birth name: Leo
Born: c. 400 AD, Tuscany, Western Roman Empire
Died: 10 November 461, Rome, Western Roman Empire
Feast day: 10 November
Venerated in: Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion.
Attributes: Papal vestments, Papal tiara, Staff
Other popes named Leo
Pope Saint Leo I (c. 400 – 10 November 461), also known as Saint Leo the Great, was Pope from 29 September 440 to his death in 461.
O God, who never allow the gates of hell to prevail against your Church, firmly founded on the apostolic rock, grant her, we pray, that through the intercession of Pope Saint Leo, she may stand firm in your truth and know the protection of lasting peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Leo the Great, pope and doctor. He was an Italian aristocrat, and was the first Pope to have been called “the Great”. He is surnamed “the Great” and ranks among the most illustrious sovereigns that ever sat on the throne of St. Peter.
Of his life, we know little; with him the man seems to disappear before the Pope.
According to the Liber Pontificalis, he was a native of Tuscany. By 431, as a deacon, he occupied a sufficiently important position for Cyril of Alexandria to apply to him in order that Rome’s influence should be thrown against the claims of Juvenal of Jerusalem to patriarchal jurisdiction over Palestine unless the letter is addressed rather to Pope Celestine I. About the same time John Cassian dedicated to him the treatise against Nestorius written at his request. Near the end of the reign of Pope Sixtus III, Leo was dispatched at the request of Emperor Valentinian III to settle a dispute between Aëtius, one of Gaul’s chief military commanders, and the chief magistrate Caecina Decius Aginatius Albinus. These two men were the two highest officials in Gaul. Leo’s work helped to solidify political and religious unity in his area of the Roman Empire.
During his absence on this mission, Pope Sixtus III died (11 August 440), and Leo was unanimously elected by the people to succeed him. On 29 September, he entered upon a pontificate that was to be epoch-making for the centralisation of the government of the Roman Church.
He saw most clearly that one of his greatest tasks was to vindicate the primacy of the Roman bishop, St. Peter’s successor, and to raise the prestige of the Holy See before the entire world. Hardly any Pope in history has occupied a like position in the ecclesiastical and political world.
His Papacy And Works
As a writer, too, his name is famous. His sermons, which occur frequently in the Divine Office, belong to the finest and most profound in patristic literature. The Council of Chalcedon was held under his direction (451).
The Breviary tells us:
Leo I, an Etruscan, ruled the Church at the time when Attila, King of the Huns, who was called the Scourge of God, invaded Italy. After a siege of three years, he took, sacked and burned Aquileia, and then hurried on toward Rome. Inflamed with anger, his troops were already preparing to cross the Po, at the point where it is joined by the Mincio.
Here Attila was stopped by Leo (452). With God-given eloquence, the Pope persuaded him to turn back, and when the Hun was asked by his servants why, contrary to custom, he had so meekly yielded to the entreaties of a Roman bishop, he answered that he had been alarmed by a figure dressed like a priest that stood at Leo’s side; this individual was holding a drawn sword and acted as if he would kill him if he advanced farther. As a result Attila retreated to Pannonia.
Meanwhile, Leo returned to Rome, and was received with universal rejoicing. Some time later, the Vandal Genseric entered the city, and again Leo, by the power of his eloquence and the authority of his holy life, persuaded him to desist from atrocity and slaughter (455).
Leo was also active in matters liturgical. The so-called Leonine sacramentary, a compendium of Missal prayers, contains many of his compositions; some liturgists give him credit for the beautiful offices of Advent.
He is also a Doctor of the Church, most remembered theologically for issuing the Tome of Leo, a document which was a major foundation to the debates of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. The Council of Chalcedon (451), the fourth ecumenical council, dealt primarily with Christology, and elucidated the orthodox definition of Christ’s being as the hypostatic union of two natures, divine and human, united in one person, “with neither confusion nor division”. It was followed by a major schism associated with Monophysitism, Miaphysitism and Dyophysitism.
He died in 461, leaving many letters and writings of great historical value.
~St. Pope Leo The Great, Pray For Us!
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch and Wikipedia.