Leo the Great: sermons 2012
I.restoration to the Divine Image in Which We Were Made is Only Possible by Our Imitation of God’s Will.
If, dearly beloved, we comprehend faithfully and wisely the beginning of our creation, we shall find that man was made in God’s image, to the end that he might imitate his Creator, and that our race attains its highest natural dignity, by the form of the Divine goodness being reflected in us, as in a mirror. And assuredly to this form the Saviour’s grace is daily restoring us, so long as that which, in the first Adam fell, is raised up again in the second. And the cause of our restoration is naught else but the mercy of God, Whom we should not have loved, unless He had first loved us, and dispelled the darkness of our ignorance by the light of His truth. And the Lord foretelling this by the holy Isaiah says, “I will bring the blind into a way that they knew not, and will make them walk in paths which they were ignorant of. I will turn darkness into light for them, and the crooked into the straight. These words will I do for them, and not forsake them2 .” And again he says, “I was found by them that sought Me not, and openly appeared to them that asked not for Me3 .” And the Apostle John teaches us how this has been fulfilled, when he says. “We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and may be in Him that is true, even His Son4 ,” and again, “let us therefore love God, because He first loved us5 .” Thus it is that God, by loving us, restores us to His image, and, in order that He may find in us the form of His goodness, He gives us that whereby we ourselves too may do the work that He does, kindling that is the lamps of our minds, and inflaming us with the fire of His love, that we may love not only Himself, but also whatever He loves. For if between men that is the lasting friendship which is based upon similarity of character notwithstanding that such identity of wills is often directed to wicked ends, how ought we to yearn and strive to differ in nothing from what is pleasing to God. Of which the prophet speaks, “for wrath is in His indignation, and life in His pleasure6 ,” because we shall not otherwise attain the dignity of the Divine Majesty, unless we imitate His will.
II. We Must Love Both God And Our Neighbour, and “Our Neighbour” Must Be Interpreted in Its Widest Sense.
And so, when the Lord says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, from all thy heart and from all thy mind: and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself7 ,” let the faithful soul put on the unfading love of its Author and Ruler, and subject itself also entirely to His will in Whose works and judgments true justice and tender-hearted compassion never fail. For although a man be wearied out with labours and many misfortunes, there is good reason for him to endure all in the knowledge that adversity will either prove him good or make him better. But this godly love cannot be perfect unless a man love his neighbour also. Under which name must be included not only those who are connected with us by friendship or neighbourhood, but absolutely all men, with whom we have a common nature, whether they be foes or allies, slaves or free. For the One Maker fashioned us, the One Creator breathed life into us; we all enjoy the same sky and air, the same days and nights, and, though some be good, others bad, some righteous, others unrighteous, yet God is bountiful to all, kind to all, as Paul and Barnabas said to the Lycaonians concerning God’s Providence, “who in generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. And yet He left Himself not without witness, doing them good, giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling our hearts with food and gladness8 .” But the wide extent of Christian grace has given us yet greater reasons for loving our neighbour, which, reaching to all parts of the whole world, looks down on9 no one, and teaches that no one is to be neglected. And full rightly does He command us to love our enemies, and to pray to Him for our persecutors, who, daily grafting shoots of the wild olive from among all nations upon the holy branches of His own olive, makes men reconciled instead of enemies, adopted sons instead of strangers, just instead of ungodly, “that every knee may bow of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth, and every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father10 .”
III. We Must Be Thankful, and Show, Our Thankfulness for What We Have Received, Whethermuch or Little.
Accordingly, as God wishes us to be good, because He is good, none of His judgments ought to displease us. For not to give Him thanks in all things, what else is it but to blame Him in some degree. Man’s folly too often dares to murmur against his Creator, not only in time of want, but also in time of plenty, so that, when something is not supplied, he complains, and when certain things are in abundance he is ungrateful. The Lord of rich harvests thought scorn of his well-filled garners, and groaned over his abundant grape-gathering: he did not give thanks for the size of the crop, but complained of its poorness11 . And if the ground has been less prolific than its wont in the seed it has reared, and the vines and the olives have failed in their supply of fruit, the year is accused, the elements blamed, neither the air nor the sky is spared, whereas nothing better befits and reassures the faithful and godly disciples of Truth than the persistent and unwearied lifting of praise to God, as says the Apostle, “Rejoice alway, pray without ceasing: in all things give thanks. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus in all things for you12 .” But how shall we be partakers of this devotion, unless vicissitudes of fortune train our minds in constancy, so that the love directed towards God may not be puffed up in prosperity nor faint in adversity. Let that which pleases God, please us too. Let us rejoice in whatever measure of gifts He gives. Let him who has used great possessions well, use small ones also well. Plenty and scarcity may be equally for our good, and even in spiritual progress we shall not be east down at the smallness of the results, if our minds become not dry and barren. Let that spring from the soil of our heart, which the earth gave not. To him that fails not in good will, means to give are ever supplied. Therefore, dearly beloved, in all works of godliness let us use what each year gives us, and let not seasons of difficulty hinder our Christian benevolence. The Lord knows how to replenish the widow’s vessels, which her pious deed of hospitality has emptied: He knows how to turn water into wine: He knows how to satisfy 5,000 hungry persons with a few loaves. And He who is fed in His poor, can multiply when He takes what He increased when He gave.
1 That is the December or, as we should now call it, the Advent Embertide. Cf. Serm. XIX. chap. 2, where the four seasons, as arranged in Leo’s day, are clearly set forth).
2 Is 42,16, and Is 65,1.
3 Is 42,16, and Is 65,1.
4 1Jn 5,20 1Jn 4,19 ( the latter loosely).
5 1Jn 5,20 1Jn 4,19 ( the latter loosely).
6 Ps 30,5
7 Mt 22,37 Mt 22,39.
8 Ac 14,16-17. For gladness (loetitia) others read righteousness (iustitia).
9 Despectat : others desperat (despairs of).
10 Ph 2,10-11.
11 Viz. in Lc 12,16-20.
12 1Th 5,16.
IV. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving are the Three Comprehensive Duties of a Christian.
But there are three things which most belong to religious actions, namely prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in the exercising of which while every time is accepted, yet that ought to be more zealously observed, which we have received as hallowed by tradition from the apostles: even as this tenth month brings round again to us the opportunity when according to the ancient practice we may give more diligent heed to those three things of which I have spoken. For by prayer we seek to propitiate God, by fasting we extinguish the lusts of the flesh, by alms we redeem our sins: and at the same time God’s image is throughout renewed in us, if we are always ready to praise Him, unfailingly intent on our purification and unceasingly active in cherishing our neighhour. This threefold round of duty, dearly beloved, brings all other virtues into action: it attains to God’s image and likenessand unites us inseparably with the Holy Spirit. Because in prayer faith remains stedfast, in fastings life remains innocent, in almsgiving the mind remains kind. On Wednesday and Friday therefore let us fast: and on Saturday let us keep vigil with the most blessed Apostle Peter, who will deign to aid our supplications and fast and alms with his own prayers through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
I. The Prosperous Must Show Forth Their Thankfulness to God, by Liberality to the Floor and Needy.
The transcendant power of God’s grace, dearly beloved, is indeed daily effecting in Christian hearts the transference of our every n desire from earthly to heavenly things. But this present life also is passed through the Creator’s aid and sustained by His providence, because He who promises things eternal is also the the Supplier of things temporal. As therefore we ought to give God thanks for the hope of future happiness towards which we run by faith, because He raises us up to a perception of the happiness in store for us, so for those things also which we receive in the course of every year, God should be honoured and praised, who having from the beginning given fertility to the earth and laid down laws of bearing fruit for every germ and seed, will never forsake his own decrees but will as Creator ever continue His kind administration of the things that He has made. Whatever therefore the cornfields, the vineyards and the olive groves have bornefor man’s purposes, all this God in His bounteous goodness has produced: for under the varying condition of the elements He has mercifully aided the uncertain toils of the husbandmen so that wind, and rain, cold and heat, day and night might serve our needs. For men’s methods would not have sufficed to give effect to their works, had not God given the increase to their wonted plantings and waterings. And hence it is but godly and just that we too should help others with that which the Heavenly Father has mercifully bestowed on us. For there are full many, who have no fields, no vineyards, no olive-groves, whose wants we must provide out of the store which God has given, that they too with us may bless God for the richness of the earth and rejoice at its possessors having received things which they have shared also with the poor and the stranger. That garner is blessed and most worthy that all fruits should increase manifold in it, from which the hunger of the needy and the weak is satisfied from which the wants of the stranger are relieved, from which the desire of the sick is gratified. For these men God has in His justice permitted to be afflicted with divers troubles, that He might both crown the wretched for their patience and the merciful for their loving-kindness.
II. Almsgiving and Fasting are the Most Essential Aids to Prayer.
And while all seasons are opportune for this duty, beloved, yet this present season is specially suitable and appropriate, at which our holy fathers, being Divinely inspired, sanctioned the Fast of the tenth month, that when all the ingathering of the crops was complete, we might dedicate to God our reasonable service of abstinence, and each might remember so to use his abundance as to be more abstinent in himself and more open-handed towards the poor. For forgiveness of sins is most efficaciously prayed for with almsgiving and fasting, and supplications that are winged by such aids mount swiftly to God’s ears: since as it is written, “the merciful man doeth good to his own soul1 ,” and nothing is so much a man’s own as that which he spends on his neighbour. For that part of his material possessions with which he ministers to the needy, is transformed into eternal riches, and such wealth is begotten of this bountifulness as can never be diminished or in any way destroyed, for “blessed are the merciful, for God shall have mercy on them2 ,” and He Himself shall be their chief Reward, who is the Model of His own command.
III. Christians’ Pious Activity Has So Enraged Satan that He Has Multiplied Heresies to Wreak Them Harm.
But at all these acts of godliness, dearly-beloved, which commend us more and more to God, there is no doubt that our enemy, who is so eager and so skilled in harming us, is aroused with keener stings of hatred, that under a false profession of the Christian name he may corrupt those whom he is not allowed to attack with open and bloody persecutions, and for this work he has heretics in his service whom he has led astray from the catholic Faith, subjected to himself, and forced under divers errors to serve in his camp. And as for the deception of primitive man he used the services of a serpent, so to mislead the minds of the upright he has armed these men’s tongues with the poison of his falsehoods. But these treacherous designs, dearly beloved, with a shepherd’s care, and so far as the Lord vouchsafes His aid, we will defeat. And taking heed lest any of the holy flock should perish, we admonish you with fatherly warnings to keep aloof from the “lying lips” and the “deceitful tongue” from which the prophet asks that his soul should be delivered3 ; because “their words,” as says the blessed Apostle, “do creep as doth a gangrene4 .” They creep in humbly, they arrest softly, they bind gently, they slay secretly. For they “come,” as the Saviour foretold, “in sheeps’ clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves5 ;” because they could not deceive the true and simple sheep, unless they covered their bestial rage with the name of Christ. But in them all he is at work who, though he is really the enemy of enlightenment, “transforms himself into an angel of light6 .” His is the craft which inspires Basilides; his the ingenuity which worked in Marcion; he is the leader under whom Sabellius acted; he the author of Photinus’ headlong fall, his the authority and his the spirit which Arius and Eunomius served: in fine under his command and authority the whole herd of such wild beasts has separated from the unity of the Church and severed connexion with the Truth.
IV. Of All Heresies Manicheism is the Worst and Foullest.
But while he retains this ever-varying supremacy over all the heresies, yet he has built his citadel upon the madness of the Manichees, and found in them the most spacious court in which to strut and boast himself: for there he possesses not one form of misbelief only, but a general compound of all errors and ungodlinesses. For all that is idolatrous in the heathen, all that is blind in carnal Jews, all that is unlawful in the secrets of the magic art, all finally that is profane and blasphemous in all the heresies is gathered together with all manner of filth in these men as if in a cesspool7 . And hence it is too long a matter to describe all their ungodlinesses: for the number of the charges against them exceeds my supply of words. It will be sufficient to indicate a few instances, that you may, from what you hear, conjecture what from modesty we omit. In the matter of their rites, however, which are as indecent morally as they are religiously, we cannot keep silence about that which the Lord has been pleased to reveal to our inquiries, lest any one should think we have trusted in this thing to vague rumours and uncertain opinions. And so with bishops and presbyters sitting beside me, and Christian nobles assembled in the same place, we ordered their elect men and women to be brought before us. And when they had made many disclosures concerning their perverse tenets and their mode of conducting festivals, they revealed this story of utter depravity also, which I blush to describe but which has been so carefully investigated that no grounds for doubt are left for the incredulous or for cavillers. For there were present all the persons by which the unutterable crime had been perpetrated, to wit a girl at most ten years old, and two women who had nursed her and prepared her for this outrage. There was also present the stripling who had outraged her, and the bishop, who had arranged their horrible crime. All these made one and the same confession, and a tale of such foul orgies8 was disclosed as our ears could scarcely bear. And lest by plainer speaking we offend chaste ears, the account Of the proceedings shall suffice, in which it is most fully shown that in that sect no modesty, no sense of honour, no chastity whatever is found: for their law is falsehood, their religion the devil, their sacrifice immorality.
V. Every One Should Abjure Such Men, and Give All the Information They Possess About Them to the Authorities.
And so, dearly beloved, renounce all friendship with these men who are utterly abominable and pestilential, and whom disturbances in other districts have brought in great numbers to the city9 : and you women especially refrain from acquaintance and intercourse with such men, lest while your ears are charmed unawares by their fabulous stories, you fall into the devil’s noose, who, knowing that he seduced the first man by the woman’s mouth, and drove all men from the bliss of paradise through feminine credulity, still lies in watch for your sex with more confident craft that he may rob both of their faith and of their modesty those whom he has been able to ensnare by the servants of his falseness. This, too, dearly beloved, I entreat and admonish you loyally to inform us10 , if any of you know where they dwell, where they teach, whose houses they frequent, and in whose company they take rest: because it is of little avail to any one that through the Holy Ghost’s protection he is not caught by them himself, if he takes no action when he knows that others are being caught. Against common enemies for the common safety all alike should exercise the same vigilance lest from one member’s wound other members also be injured, and they that think such men should not be given up, in Christ’s judgment be found guilty for their silence even though they are not contaminated by their approval.
1 Pr 11,17,
2 Mt 5,7.
3 Ps 120,2,
4 2Tm 2,17,
5 Mt 7,15.
6 2Co 11,14,
7 Strong as this language undoubtedly is, it is perhaps almost justifiable, if the story which he proceeds to indicate is not only true but characteristic of the sect).
8 Exsecramentum, cf. Serm. LXXV. chap 7, ad illa non sacra sed exsecramenta perveniunt, quoe propter communem verecundiam non sunt nostro sermone promenda.
9 The Ball. quote Aug. (Conf. 5,chap. 10) to show that Rome had long ago been infested with Manichees. They identify the disturbances Leo here speaks of with Genseric’s invasion of Africa and occupation of Carthage in 438.
10 For a like injunction, cf. Serm. X., chap 4, where the presbyters are to be told).
VI. Zeal in Rooting Out Heresy Will Make Other Pious Duties More Acceptable.
Display then a holy zeal of religious vigilance, and let all the faithful rise in one body against these savage enemies of their souls. For the merciful God has delivered a certain portion of our noxious foes into our hands in order that by revelation of the danger theutmost caution might be aroused. Let not what has been done suffice, but let us persevere in searching them out: and by God’s aid the result will be not only the continuance in safety of those who still stand, but also the recovery from error of many who have been deceived by the devil’s seduction. And the prayers, and alms, and fasts that you offer to the merciful God shall be the holier for this very devotion, when this deed of faith also is added to all your other godly duties. OnWednesday and Friday, therefore, let us fast, and on Saturday let us keep vigil in the presence of the most blessed Apostle Peter; who, as we experience and know, watches unceasingly like a shepherd over the sheep entrusted to him by the Lord, and who will prevail in his entreaties that the Church of God, which was rounded by his preaching, may be free from all error, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I. The Duty of Fasting is Based on Both the Old and New Testaments, and is Closely Connected with the Duties of Prayer and Almsgiving.
The teaching of the Law, dearly beloved, imparts great authority to the precepts of the Gospel, seeing that certain things are transferred from the old ordinances to the new, and by the very devotions of the Church it is shown that the Lord Jesus Christ “came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law1 .” For since the cessation of the signs by which our Saviour’s coming was announced, and the abolition of the types in the presence of the Very Truth, those things which our religion instituted, whether for the regulation of customs or for the simple worship of God, continue with us in the same form in which they were at the beginning, and what was in harmony with both Testaments has been modified by no change. Among these is also the solemn fast of the tenth month, which is now to be kept by us according to yearly custom, because it is altogether just and godly to give thanks to the Divine bounty for the crops which the earth has produced for the use of men under the guiding hand of supreme Providence. And to show that we do this with ready mind, we must exercise not only the self-restraint of fasting, but also diligence in almsgiving, that from the ground of our heart also may spring the germ of righteousness and the fruit of love, and that we may deserve God’s mercy by showing mercy to His poor. For the supplication, which is supported by works of piety, is most efficacious in prevailing with God, since he who turns not his heart away from the poor soon turns himself to hear the Lord, as the Lord says: “be ye merciful as your Father also is merciful .... release and ye shall be released2 .” What is kinder than this justice? what more merciful than this retribution, where the judge’s sentence rests in the power of him that is to be judged? “Give,” he says, “and it shall be given to you3 .” How soon do the misgivings of distrust and the puttings off of avarice fall to the ground, when humanity4 may fearlessly spend what the Truth pledges Himself to repay.
II. He that Lends to the Lord Makes a Better Bargain Than He that Lends to Man.
Be stedfast, Christian giver: give what you may receive, sow what you may reap, scatter what you may gather. Fear not to spend, sigh not over the doubtfulness of the gain. Your substance grows when it is wisely dispensed. Set your heart on the profits due to mercy, and traffic in eternal gains. Your Recompenser wishes you to be munificent, and He who gives that you may have, commands you to spend, saying, “Give, and it shall be given to you.” You must thankfully embrace the conditions of this promise. For although you have nothing that you did not receive, yet you cannot fail to have what you give. He therefore that loves money, and wishes to multiply his wealth by immoderate profits, should rather practise this holy usury and grow rich by such money-lending, in order not to catch men hampered with difficulties, and by treacherous assistance entangle them in debts which they can never pay, but to be His creditor and His money-lender, who says, “Give, and it shall be given to you,” and “with what measure ye measure, it shall be measured again to you5 .” But he is unfaithful and unfair even to himself, who does not wish to have for ever what he esteems desirable. Let him amass what he may, let him hoard and store what he may, he will leave this world empty and needy, as David the prophet says, “for when he dieth he shall take nothing away, nor shall his glory descend with him6 .” Whereas if he were considerate of his own soul, he would trust his good to Him, who is both the proper Surety7 for the poor and the generous Repayer of loans. But unrighteous and shameless avarice, which promises to do some kind act but eludes it, trusts not God, whose promises never fail, and trusts man, who makes such hasty bargains; and while he reckons the present more certain than the future, often deservedly finds that his greed for unjust gain is the cause of by no means unjust loss.
III. Money-Lending at High Interest is in All Respects Iniquitous.
And hence, whatever result follow, the money-lender’s trade is always bad, for it is sin either to lessen or increase the sum, in that if he lose what he lent he is wretched, and if he takes more than he lent he is more wretched still. The iniquity of money-lending must absolutely be abjured, and the gain which lacks all humanity must be shunned. A man’s possessions are indeed multiplied by these unrighteous and sorry means, but the mind’s wealth decays because usury of money is the death of the soul8 . For what God thinks of such men the most holy Prophet David makes clear, for when he asks, “Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle, or who shall rest upon thy holy hill9 ?” he receives the Divine utterance in reply, from which he learns that that man attains to eternal rest who among other rules of holy living “hath not given his money upon usury10 :” and thus he who gets deceitful gain from lending his money on usury is shown to be both an alien from God’s tabernacle and an exile from His holy hill, and in seeking to enrich himself by other’s losses, he deserves to be punished with eternal neediness.
1 Mt 5,17.
2 Lc 6,36-38.
3 Lc 6,36-38.
4 Humanitas: one ms. reads humilitas (mans humility), but humanitas occurs again in chap. 3,lucrum quod omni caret humanitate.
5 Lc 6,38.
6 Ps 49,17,
7 Fide iussor one of Leo’s legal terms.
8 Faenus pecunioe funus est animoe, the epigrammatic play on words will not escape notice.
9 Ps 15,1 Ps 15,5.
10 Ps 15,1 Ps 15,5.
IV. Let Us Avoid Avarice, and Share God’s Benefits with Others.
And so, dearly beloved, do ye who with the whole heart have put your trust in the Lord’s promises, flee from this unclean leprosy of avarice, and use God’s gift piously and wisely. And since you rejoice in His bounty, take heed that you have those who may share in your joys. For many lack what you have in plenty, and some men’s needs afford you opportunity for imitating the Divine goodness, so that through you the Divine benefits may be transferred to others also, and that by being wise stewards of your temporal goods, you may acquire eternal riches. On Wednesday and Friday next, therefore, let us fast, and on Saturday keep vigil with the most blessed Apostle Peter, by whose prayers we may in all things obtain the Divine protection through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I. Self-Restraint Leads to Higher Enjoyments.
When the Saviour would instruct His disciples about the Advent of God’s Kingdom and the end of the world’s times, and teach His whole Church, in the person of the Apostles, He said, “Take heed lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and care of this life1 .” And assuredly, dearly beloved, we acknowledge that this precept applies more especially to us, to whom undoubtedly the day denounced is near, even though hidden. For the advent of which it behoves every man to prepare himself, lest it find him given over to gluttony, or entangled in cares of this life. For by daily experience, beloved, it is proved that the mind’s edge is blunted by over-indulgence of the flesh, and the heart’s vigour is dulled by excess of food, so that the delights of eating are even opposed to the health of the body, unless reasonable moderation withstand the temptation and the consideration of future discomfort keep from the pleasure. For although the flesh desires nothing without the soul, and receives its sensations from the same source as it receives its motions also, yet it is the function of the same soul to deny certain things to the body which is subject to it, and by its inner judgment to restrain the outer parts from things unseasonable, in order that it may be the oftener free from bodily lusts, and have leisure for Divine wisdom in the palace of the mind, where, away from all the noise of earthly cares, it may in silence enjoy holy meditations and eternal delights. And, although this is difficult to maintain in this life, yet the attempt can frequently be renewed, in order that we may the oftener and longer be occupied with spiritual rather than fleshly cares; and by our spending ever greater portions of our time on higher cares, even our temporal actions may end in gaining the incorruptible riches.
II. The Teaching of the Four Yearly Fasts is that Spiritual Self-Restraint is as Necessary as Corporeal.
This profitable observance, dearly beloved, is especially laid down for the fasts of the Church, which, in accordance with the Holy Spirit’s teaching, are so distributed over the whole year that the law of abstinence may be kept before us at all times. Accordingly we keep the spring fast in Lent, the summer fast at Whitsuntide, the autumn fast in the seventh month, and the winter fast in this which is the tenth month, knowing that there is nothing unconnected with the Divine commands, and that all the elements serve the Word of God to our instruction, so that from the very hinges on which the world turns, as if by four gospels we learn unceasingly what to preach and what to do. For, when the prophet says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork: day unto day uttereth speech, and night showeth knowledge2 ,” what is there by which the Truth does not speak to us? By day and by night His voices are heard, and the beauty of the things made by the workmanship of the One God ceases not to instil the teachings of Reason into our hearts’ ears, so that “the invisible things of God may be perceived and seen through the things which are made,” and men may serve the Creator of all, not His creatures3 . Since therefore all vices are destroyed by self-restraint, and whatever avarice thirsts for, pride strives for, luxury lusts after, is overcome by the solid force of this virtue, who can fail to understand the aid which is given us by fastings? for therein we are bidden to restrain ourselves, not only in food, but also in all carnal desires. Otherwise it is lost labour to endure hunger and yet not put away wrong wishes; to afflict oneself by curtailing food, and yet not to flee from sinful thoughts. That is a carnal, not a spiritual fast, where the body only is stinted, and those things persisted in, which are more harmful than all delights. What profit is it to the soul to act outwardly as mistress and inwardly to be a captive and a slave, to issue orders to the limbs and to lose the right to her own liberty? That soul for the most part (and deservedly) meets with rebellion in her servant, which does not pay to God the service that is due. When the body therefore fasts from food, let the mind fast from vices, and pass judgment upon all earthly cares and desires according to the law of its King
III. Thus Fasting in Mind as Well as Body, and Giving Alms Freely, We Shall Win God’s Highest Favour.
Let us remember that we owe love first to God, secondly to our neighbour, and that all our affections must be so regulated as not to draw us away from the worship of God, or the benefiting our fellow slave. But how shall we worship God unless that which is pleasing to Him is also pleasing to us? For, if our will is His will, our weakness will receive strength from Him, from Whom the very will came; “for it is God,” as the Apostle says, “who worketh in us both to will and to do for (His) good pleasure4 .” And so a man will not be puffed up with pride, nor crushed with despair, if he uses the gifts which God gave to His glory, and withholds his inclinations from those things, which he knows will harm him. For in abstaining from malicious envy, from luxurious and dissolute living, from the perturbations of anger, from the lust after vengeance, he will be made pure and holy by true fasting, and will be fed upon the pleasures of incorruptible delights, and so he will know how, by the spiritual use of his earthly riches, to transform them into heavenly treasures, not by hoarding up for himself what he has received, but by gaining a hundred-fold on what he gives. And hence we warn you, beloved, in fatherly affection, to make this winter fast fruitful to yourselves by bounteous alms, rejoicing that by you the Lord feeds and clothes His poor, to whom assuredly He could have given the possessions which He has bestowed on you, had He not in His unspeakable mercy wished to justify them for their patient labour, and you for your works of love. Let us therefore fast on Wednesday and Friday, and on Saturday keep vigil with the most blessed Apostle Peter, and he will deign to assist with his own prayers our supplications and fastings and alms which our Lord Jesus Christ presents, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Lc 21,34.
2 Ps 19,1-2.
3 Cf. Rm 1,20 Rm 1,25.
4 Ph 2,13,
Leo the Great: sermons 2012