Leo the Great: letters 1168
(Rebuking them first for performing baptisms without due preparation or sufficient cause on ordinary saints’-days (Easter and Whitsuntide being the only recognized times), and secondly for requiring from penitents that a list of their offences should be read out publicly, a practice which is in many ways objectionable).
Leo, the bishop, to Leo Augustus.
I. He Heartily Thanks the Emperor Far What He Has Done, and Asks Him to Complete the Work in Any Way He Can.
If we should seek to reward your Majesty’s glorious resolution in defence of the Faith with all the praise that the greatness of the issue demands, we should be found unequal to the task of giving thanks and celebrating the joy of the universal Church with our feeble tongue. But His worthier recompense awaits your acts and deserts, in whose cause you have shown so excellent a zeal, and are now triumphing gloriously over the attainment of the wished-for end. Your clemency must know therefore that all the churches of God join in praising you and rejoicing that the unholy parricide has been cast off from the neck of the Alexandrine church, and that God’s people, on whom the abominable robber has been so great a burden, restored to the ancient liberty of the Faith, can now be recalled into the way of salvation by the preaching of faithful priests, when it sees the whole hotbed of pestilence done away with in the person of the originator himself. Now therefore, because you have accomplished this by firm resolution and stedfast will, complete your tale of work for the Faith by passing such decrees as shall be well-pleasing to God in favour of this city’s catholic ruler1 , who is tainted by no trace of the heresy now so often condemned: lest, perchance, the wound apparently healed but still lurking beneath. the scar should grow, and the Christian laity; which by your public action has been freed from the perversity of heretics, should again fall a prey to deadly poison.
II. Good Works as Well as Integrity of Faith is Required in a Priest.
But you see, venerable Emperor, and clearly understand, that in the person, whose excommunication is contemplated, it is not only the integrity of his faith that must be considered; for even, if that could be purged by any punishments and confessions, and completely restored by any conditions, yet the wicked and bloody deeds that have been committed can never be done away by the protestations of plausible words: because in God’s pontiff, and particularly in the priest of so great a church, the sound of the tongue and the utterance of the lips is not enough, and nothing is of avail, if God makes proclamation with His voice and the mind is convicted of blasphemy. For of such the Holy Ghost speaks by the Apostle, “having an appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” and again elsewhere, “they profess that they know God, but in deeds they deny Him2 .” And hence, since in every member of the Church both the integrity of the true Faith and abundance of good works is looked for, how much more ought both these things to predominate in the chief pontiff, because the one without the other cannot be in union with the Body of Christ.
III. Timothy’s Request Far Indulgence on the Scare of Orthodoxy Must Not Be Allowed.
Nor need we now state all that makes Timothy accursed, since what has been done through him and on his account, has abundantly and conspicuously come to the knowledge of the whole world, and whatever has been perpetrated by an unruly mob against justice, all rests on his head, whose wishes were served by its mad hands. And hence, even if in his profession of faith he neglects nothing, and deceives us in nothing, it best consorts with your glory absolutely to exclude him from this design of his3 , because in the bishop of so great a city the universal Church ought to rejoice with holy exultation, so that the true peace of the Lord may be glorified not only by the preaching of the Faith, but also by the example of men’s conduct. Dated 17th of June, in the consulship of Magnus and Apollonius (460). (By the hand of Philoxenus agens in rebus4 ).
1 This is another Timothy surnamed Solophaciolus, supposed to be the same as that Timotheos presbyter et oeconomus Ecclesioe, mentioned among the Eyptian refugees who petitioned the Emperor against Aelurus).
2 2Tm 3,5, and Tt 1,16,
3 Apparently to be allowed to reside in Constantinople (or perhaps at this stage to remain in Alexandria).
4 See Lett CLXII. n. 2a.
(Complaining of Timothy Aelurus having been allowed to come to Constantinople, and saying that there is no hope of his restitution).
1 (He had succeeded to the see on the death of Anatolius in 458.
Leo, the bishop, to Timothy, catholic bishop of the church of Alexandria.
I. He Congratulates Him on His Election, and Bids Him Win Back Wanderers to the Fold.
It is dearly apparent from the brightness of the sentiment quoted by the Apostle, that “all things work together for good to them that love God1 ,” and by the dispensation of God’s pity, where adversities are received, there also prosperity is given. This the experience of the Alexandrine church shows, in which the moderation and long suffering of the humble has laid up for themselves great store in return for their patience: because “the Lord is nigh them that are of a contrite heart, and shall save those that are humble in spirit2 ,” our noble Prince’s faith being glorified in all things, through whom “the right-hand of the Lord hath done great acts3 ,” in preventing the abomination of antichrist any longer occupying the throne of the blessed Fathers; whose blasphemy has hurt no one more than himself, because although he has induced some to be partners of his guilt, yet he has inexpiably stained himself with blood. And hence concerning that which under the direction of Faith your election, brother, by the clergy, and the laity, and all the faithful, has brought about, I assure you that the whole of the Lord’s Church rejoices with me, and it is my strong desire that the Divine pity will in its loving-kindness confirm this joy with manifold signs of grace, your own devotion ministering thereto in all things, so that you may sedulously win over, through the Church’s prayers, those also who have hitherto resisted the Truth, to reconciliation with God, and, as a zealous ruler, bring them into union with the mystic body of the catholic Faith, whose entirety admits of no division, imitating that true and gentle Shepherd, who laid down His life for His sheep, and, when one sheep wandered, drove it not back with the lash, but carried it back to the fold on His own shoulders.
II. Let Him Be Watchful Against Heresy and Send Frequent Reports to Rome.
Take heed, then, dearly beloved brother, lest any trace of either Nestorius’ or Eutyches’ error be found in God’s people: because “no one can lay any foundation except that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus4 ;” who would not have reconciled the whole world to God the Father, had He not by the regeneration of Faith adopted us all in the reality of our flesh5 . Whenever, therefore, opportunities arise which you can use for writing, brother, even as you necessarily and in accordance with custom have done in sending a report of your ordination to us by our sons, Daniel the presbyter and Timothy the deacon, so continue to act at all times and send us, who will be anxious for them, as frequent accounts as possible of the progress of peace, in order that by regular intercourse we may feel that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us6 .” Dated the 18th of August, in the consulship of Magnus and Apollonius (460).
1 Rm 8,28,
2 Ps 34,18, and Ps 118,16.
3 Ps 34,18, and Ps 118,16.
4 1Co 3,2,
5 Per fidei regenerationem omnes in nostroe carnis veritate susciperet. The doctrine of the Atonement in the light of the Incarnation is here expressed in a rather unusual way, and I have therefore translated the expression as literally as possible.
6 Rm 5,5.
(Inviting them to aid in confirming the peace of the Church, and in winning those who had given way to heresy).
(Congratulating them on the election of Timothy, and begging them to assist in maintaining unity and bringing back wanderers to the fold)).
Leo the Great: letters 1168