Leo the Great: sermons 2062
I. The Mystery of the Passion Passes Man’s Comprehension.
The Feast of the Lord’s Passion1 that we have longed for and that the whole world may well desire, has come, and suffers us not to keep silence in the tumult of our spiritual joys: because though it is difficult to speak often on the same thing worthily and appropriately, yet the priest is not free to withhold from the people’s ears instruction by sermon on this great mystery of God’s mercy, inasmuch as the subject itself, being unspeakable, gives him ease of utterance, and what is said cannot altogether fail where what is said can never be enough. Let human frailty, then, succumb to God’s glory, and ever acknowledge itself unequal to the unfolding of His works of mercy. Let us toil in thought, fail in insight, falter in utterance: it is good that even our right thoughts about the Lord’s Majesty should be insufficient. For, remembering what the prophet says, “Seek ye the Lord and be strengthened: seek His face always2 ,” no one must assume that he has found all he seeks, lest he fail of coming near, if he cease his endeavours. And amidst all the works of God which weary out man’s wondering contemplation, what so delights and so baffles our mind’s gaze as the Saviour’s Passion? Ponder as we may upon His omnipotence, which is of one and equal substance with the Father, the humility in God is more stupendous than the power, and it is harder to grasp the complete emptying of the Divine Majesty than the infinite uplifting of the “slave’s form” in Him. But we are much aided in our understanding of it by the remembrance that though the Creator and the creature, the Inviolable God and the possible flesh, are absolutely different, yet the properties of both substances meet together in Christ’s one Person in such a way that alike in His acts of weakness and of power the degradation belongs to the same Person as the glory.
II. The Creed Takes Up S. Peter’s Confession as the Fundamental Doctrine of the Church.
In that rule of Faith, dearly-beloved, which we have received in the very beginning of the Creed, on the authority of apostolic teaching, we acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we call the only Son of God the Father Almighty, to be also born of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost. Nor do we reject His Majesty when we express our belief in His crucifixion, death, and resurrection on the third day. For all that is God’s and all that is Man’s are simultaneously fulfilled by His Manhood and His Godhead, so that in virtue of the union of the Possible with the Impossible, His power cannot be affected by His weakness, nor His weakness overcome by His power. And rightly was the blessed Apostle Peter praised for confessing this union, who when the Lord was inquiring what the disciples knew of Him, quickly anticipated the rest and said, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God3 .” And this assuredly he saw, not by the revelation of flesh or blood, which might have hindered his inner sight, but by the very Spirit of the Father working in his believing heart, that in preparation for ruling the whole Church he might first learn what he would have to teach, and for the solidification of the Faith, which he was destined to preach, might receive the assurance, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it4 .” The strength, therefore, of the Christian Faith, which, built upon an impregnable rock, fears not the gates of death, acknowledges the one Lord Jesus Christ to be both true God and true Man, believing Him likewise to be the Virgin’s Son, Who is His Mother’s Creator: born also at the end of the ages, though He is the Creator of time: Lord of all power, and yet one of mortal stock: ignorant of sin, and yet sacrificed for sinners after the likeness of sinful flesh.
III. The Devil’s Devices Were Turned Against Himself.
And in order that He might set the human race free from the bonds of deadly transgression, He hid the power of His majesty from the raging devil, and opposed him with our frail and humble nature. For if the cruel and proud foe could have known the counsel of God’s mercy, he would have aimed at soothing the Jews’ minds into gentleness rather than at firing them with unrighteous hatred, lest be should lose the thraldom of all his captives in assailing the liberty of One Who owed him nought. Thus he was foiled by his malice: he inflicted a punishment on the Son of God, which was turned to the healing of all the sons of men. He shed righteous Blood, which became the ransom and the drink for the world’s atonement. The Lord undertook that which He chose according to the purpose of His own will. He permitted madmen to lay their wicked hands upon Him: hands which, in ministering to their own doom, were of service to the Redeemer’s work. And yet so great was His loving compassion for even His murderers, that He prayed to the Father on the cross, and begged not for His own vengeance but for their forgiveness, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do5 .” And such was the power of that prayer, that the hearts of many of those who had said, “His blood be on us and on our sons6 ,” were turned to penitence by the Apostle Peter’s preaching, and on one day there were baptized about 3,000 Jews: and they all were “of one heart and of one soul7 ,” being ready now to die for Him, Whose crucifixion they had demanded.
IV. Why Judas Could Not Obtain Forgiveness Through Christ.
To this forgiveness the traitor Judas could not attain: for he, the son of perdition, at whose right the devil stood8 , gave himself up to despair before Christ accomplished the mystery of universal redemption. For in that the Lord died for sinners, perchance even he might have found salvation if he had not hastened to hang himself. But that evil heart, which was now given up to thievish frauds, and now busied with treacherous designs, had never entertained aught of the proofs of the Saviour’s mercy. Those wicked ears had heard the Lord’s words, when He said, “I same not to call the righteous but sinners9 ,” and “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost10 ,” but they conveyed not to his understanding the clemency of Christ, which not only healed bodily infirmities, but also cured the wounds of sick souls, saying to the paralytic man, “Son, be of good cheer,thy sins are forgiven thee11 ;” saying also to the adulteress that was brought to Him, “neither will I condemn thee; go and sin no more12 ,” to show in all His works that He had come as the Saviour, not the Judge of the world. But the wicked traitor refused to understand this, and took measures against himself, not in the self-condemnation of repentance, but in the madness of perdition, and thus he who had sold the Author of life to His murderers, even in dying increased the amount of sin which condemned him.
V. The Cruelty of Christ’s Crucifixion is Lost in Its Wondrous Power.
Accordingly that which false witnesses, cruel leaders of the people, wicked priests did against the Lord Jesus Christ, through the agency of a coward governor and an ignorant band of soldiers, has been at once the abhorrence and the rejoicing of all ages. For though the Lord’s cross was part of the cruel purpose of the Jews, yet is it of wondrous power through Him they crucified. The people’s fury was directed against One, and the mercy of Christ is for all mankind. That which their cruelty inflicts He voluntarily undergoes. in order that the work of His eternal will may be carried out through their unhindered crime. And hence the whole order of events which is most fully narrated in the Gospels must be received by the faithful in such a way that by implicit belief in the occurrences which happened at the time of the Lord’s Passion, we should understand that not only was the remission of sins accomplished by Christ, but also the standard of justice satisfied. But that this may be more thoroughly discussed by the Lord’s help, let us reserve this portion of the subject till the fourth day of the week13 God’s grace, we hope, will be vouchsafed at your entreaties to help us to fulfil our promise: through Jesus Christ our Lord, &c. Amen.
1 Festivitas dominicoe passionis is at first sight a strange phrase, but in reality most suggestive.
2 Ps 105,4.
3 Mt 16,16 Mt 16,18.
4 Mt 16,16 Mt 16,18.
5 Lc 23,34.
6 Mt 27,25.
7 Ac 4,32,
8 Cf. Ps 109,6.
9 Mt 9,13.
10 Lc 19,10.
11 Mt 9,3.
12 Jn 8,11; this famous section therefore is recognized by S. Leo: see Bright’s note 69.
13 See Serm. LIV. chap. 6,n. 2.
I). God Those to Save Man by Strength Made Perfect in Weakness.
The glory, dearly-beloved, of the Lord’s Passion, on which we promised to speak again to-day, is chiefly wonderful for its mystery of humility, which has both ransomed and instructed us all, that He, Who paid the price, might also impart His righteousness to us. For the Omnipotence of the Son of God, whereby He is by the same Essence equal to the Father, might have rescued mankind from the dominion of the devil by the mere exercise of Its will, had it not better suited the Divine working to conquer the opposition of the foe’s wickedness by that which had been conquered, and to restore our nature’s liberty by that very nature by which bondage had come upon the whole race. But, when the evangelist says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt in us1 ,” and the Apostle, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself2 ,” it was shown that the Only-begotten of the Most High Father entered on such a union with human humility, that, when He took the substance of oar flesh and soul, He remained one and the same Son of God by exalting our properties, not His own: because it was the weakness, not the power that had to be reinforced, so that upon the union of the creature with the Creator there should be nothing wanting of the Divine to the assumed, nor of the human to the Assuming.
II). God’s Plan Was Always Partially Understood, and is Now of Universal Application.
This plan of God’s mercy and justice, though in the ages past it was in a measure enshrouded in darkness, was yet not so completely hidden that the saints, who have most merited praise from the beginning till the coming of the Lord, were precluded from understanding it: seeing that the salvation, which was to come through Christ, was promised both by the words of prophecy and by the significance of events, and this salvation not only they attained who foretold it, but all they also who believed their predictions. For the one Faith justifies the saints of all ages, and to the self-same hope of the faithful pertains all that by Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and man, we acknowledge done, or our fathers reverently accepted as to be done. And between Jew and Gentile there is no distinction, since, as the Apostle says, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of God’s commands3 ,” and if they be kept in entirety of faith, they make Christians the true sons of Abraham, that is perfect, for the same Apostle says, “For whosoever of you were baptized in Christ Jesus, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither slave nor free: there is neither male nor female. For ye are all one in Christ. But if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise4 .”
III. The Union of the Divine Head with Its Members Inseparable.
There is no doubt therefore, dearly-beloved, that man’s nature has been received by the Son of Go/3 into such a union that not only in that Man Who is the first-begotten of all creatures, but also in all His saints there is one and the self-same Christ, and as the Head cannot be separated from the members, so the members cannot be separated from the Head. For although it is not in this life, but in eternity that God is to be “all in all5 ,” yet even now He is the inseparable Inhabitant of His temple, which is the Church, according as He Himself promised, saying, “Lo! I am with you all the days till the en of the age6 .” And agreeably therewith the Apostle says, “He is the head of the body, the Church, which is the beginning, the first-begotten from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence, because in Him it was pleasing that all fulness (of the Godhead) should dwell, and that through Him all things should be reconciled in Himself7 .”
IV. Christ’s Passion Provided a Saving Mystery and an Example for Us to Follow.
And what is suggested to our hearts by these and many other references, save that we should in all things be renewed in His image Who, remaining “in the form of God8 ,” deigned to “take the form” of sinful flesh? For all our weaknesses, which come from sin, He took on Him without sharing in sin, so that He felt the sensation of hunger and thirst and sleep and fatigue, and grief and weeping, and suffered the fiercest pangs up to the extremity of death, because no one could be loosed from the snares of death, unless He in Whom alone all men’s nature was guileless allowed Himself to be slain by the hands of wicked men. And hence our Saviour the Son of God provided for all that believe in Him both a mystery and an example9 , that they might apprehend the one by being born again, and follow the other by imitation. For the blessed Apostle Peter teaches this, saying, “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that ye should follow His steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Who when He was reviled, reviled not: when He suffered, threatened not, but gave Himself up to His unjust judge. Who Himself bare our sins in His body on the tree, that being dead to sins, we may live to righteousness10 .”
V. Christ Not Destroyed, But Fulfilled and Elevated the Law.
As therefore there is no believer, dearly-beloved, to whom the gifts of grace are denied, so there is no one who is not a debtor in the matter of Christian discipline; because, although the severity of the mystic Law is done away, yet the benefits of its voluntary observance have increased, as the evangelist John says, “Because the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ11 .” For all things that, according to the Law, went before, whether in the circumcision of the flesh, or in the multitude of victims, or in the keeping of the Sabbath, testified of Christ, and foretold the grace of Christ. And He is “the end of the Law12 ,” not by annulling, but by fulfilling its meanings. For although He is at once the Author of the old and of the new, yet He changed the symbolic rites connected with the promises, because He accomplished the promises and put an end to the announcement by the coming of the Announced. But in the matter of moral precepts, no decrees of the earlier Testament are rejected, but many of them are amplified by the Gospel teaching: so that the things which give salvation are more perfect and clearer than those which promise a Saviour.
VI. The Present Effect of Christ’s Passion is Daily Realized by Christians, Especially in Hall, Baptism.
All therefore that the Son of God did and taught for the world’s reconciliation, we not only know as a matter of past history, but appreciate in the power of its present effect. It is He Who, born of the Virgin Mother by the Holy Ghost, fertilizes His unpolluted Church with the same blessed Spirit, that the birth of Baptism an innumerable multitude of sons may be born to God, 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 God13 .” It is He, in Whom the seed of Abraham is blessed by the adoption of the whole world14 , and the patriarch becomes the father of nations by the birth. through faith not flesh, of the sons of promise. It is He Who, without excluding any nation, makes one flock of holy sheep froth every nation under heaven, and daily fulfils what He promised, saying, “Other sheep also I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My: voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd15 .” For though to the blessed Peter first and foremost He says, “Feed My sheep16 ;” yet the one Lord directs the charge of all the shepherds, and feeds those that come to the rock with such glad and well-watered pastures, that countless sheep are nourished by the richness of His love, and hesitate not to perish for the Shepherd’s sake, even as the good Shepherd Himself was content to lay down His life for His sheep. It is He whose sufferings are shared not only by the martyrs’ glorious courage, but also in the very act of regeneration by the faith of all the new-born. For the renunciation of the devil and belief in God17 , the passing from the old state into newness of life, the casting off of the earthly image, and the putting on of the heavenly form—all this is a sort of dying and rising again, whereby he that is received by Christ and receives Christ is not the same after as he was before he came to the font, for the body of the regenerate becomes the flesh of the Crucified18 .
VII. The Good Works of Christians are Only Part of Christ’s Good Works.
This change, dearly-beloved, is the handiwork of the Most High19 , Who “worketh all things in all,” so that by the good manner of life observed in each one of the faithful, we know Him to be the Author of all just works, and give thanks to God’s mercy, Who so adorns the whole body of the Church with countless gracious gifts, that through the many rays of the one Light the same brightness is everywhere diffused, and that which is well done by any Christian whatsoever cannot but be part the glory of Christ. This is that true which justifies and enlightens every man. This it is that rescues from the power of darkness and transfers us into the Kingdom of the Son of God. This it is that by newness of life exalts the desires of the mind and quenches the lusts of the flesh. This it is whereby the Lord’s Passover is duly kept “With the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” by the casting away of “the old leaven of wickedness20 ” and the inebriating and feeding of the new creature with the very Lord. For naught else is brought about by the partaking of the and Blood of Christ than that we pass into that which we then take21 , and both in spirit and in body carry everywhere Him, in and with Whom we were dead, buried, and rose again, as the Apostle says, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ, your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory22 .” Who with the Father, &c.
1 Jn 1,14.
2 2Co 5,19.
3 1Co 7,19,
4 Ga 3,27-29.
5 1Co 15,28,
6 Mt 28,20.
7 Col 1,18-20: the word Divinitatis (of the Godhead) is omitted by some of the mss. here.
8 Cf. Ph 2,6-7.
9 Sacramentum (with its saving efficacy) et exemplum (with its spur to exertion), see Bright’s n. 74.
10 1P 2,21-24: notice the reading of the Vulgate indicanti se iniuste for the correct tw` krivnonti dikaivw" (namely God).
11 Jn 1,17.
12 Rm 10,4.
13 Jn 1,13.
14 Cf. Gn 22,18.
15 Jn 10,16.
16 Jn 21,17.
17 The renouncing of the Devil and all his works and the professing of faith in GOD have always preceded the rite of Baptism: see Bright’s notes 78 and 142.
18 Corpus regenerati fiat caro crucifixi an almost unduly strong assertion of the union between Christ, the Head and the members of His body, the Church effected by Holy Baptism : see Hooker, (Qo Pol. 5,60. 2, quoted by Bright, n. 79.
19 Cf. Ps 77,10 (LXX). and 1Co 17,6.
20 1Co 5,8,
21 ut in id, quod sumimus, transeamus. He uses the same strong expression in Letter LIX. 2, ut accipientes virtutem coelestis cibi, in carnem ipsius qui caro nostra factus est, transeamus.
22 Col 3,3-4.
I. The Contemplation of the Prophecies of Christ’s Suffering are a Great Source of Pious Delight.
The minds of the faithful, beloved, ought indeed always to be occupied with wonder atGod’s works and their reasoning faculties devoted particularly to those reflexions by which they may gain increase of faith. For so long as the pious heart’s attention is directed either to the benefits which all enjoy, or to special gifts of His grace, it keeps aloof from many vanities and retires from bodily cares into a spiritual seclusion. But this must be the more eagerly and thoroughly done at the season of the Lord Passion, that what is then read in the sacred lections may surely be received with the ears of understanding, and that the themes which are great in word may be seen to be yet greater from the mysterious realities which underlie them. For the first reason for our lifting up our hearts1 is that the voices of the prophets have sung of the things which the truth of the Gospel has also narrated, not as destined to happen, but as having happened, and that what man’s ears had not yet learnt was to be accomplished, was already being proclaimed as fulfilled by the (Holy2 ) Spirit. For King David, whose seed according to the flesh is Christ, completed his lifetime more than 1,1003 years before the day of the Lord’s Crucifixion, and endured none of those punishments which he relates as inflicted upon himself. But because by his mouth One spoke Who was to take suffering flesh of his stock, the story of the cross is tightly anticipated in the person of him who was the bodily ancestor of the Saviour. For David truly suffered in Christ, because Jesus was truly crucified in the flesh which He had from David.
II. The Divine Foreknowledge Does Not Account for the Jews’wickedness So as to Excuse Them.
Since then all things which Jewish ungodliness committed against the Lord of Majesty were foretold so long before4 , and the language of the prophets is concerned not so much with things to come as with things last, what else is thereby revealed to us but the unchangeable order of God’s eternal decrees, with Whom the things which are to be decided are already determined, and what will be is already accomplished? For since both the character of our actions and the fulfilment of all our wishes are fore-known to God,. how much better known to Him are His own works? And He was rightly pleased that things should be recorded as if done which nothing could hinder from being done. And hence when the Apostles also, being full of the Holy Ghost, suffered the threats and cruelty of Christ’s enemies, they said to God with one consent, “For truly in this city against Thy holy Servant Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were gathered together to do what Thy hand and Thy counsel ordained to come to pass5 .” Did then the wickedness of Christ’s persecutors spring from God’s plan, and was that unsurpassable crime prefaced and set in motion by the hand of God? Clearly we must not think this of the highest Justice: that which was fore-known in respect of the Jews’ malice is far different, indeed quite contrary to what was ordained in respect of Christ’s Passion. Their desire to slay Him did not proceed from the same source as His to die: nor were their atrocious crime and the Redeemer’s endurance the offspring of One Spirit. The Lord did not incite but permit those madmen’s naughty hands: nor in His foreknowledge of what must be accomplished did He compel its accomplishment, even though it was in order to its accomplishment that He had taken flesh.
III. Christ Was in No Sense the Author of His Murderer’s Guilt.
In fact, the case of the Crucified is so different from that of His crucifiers that what Christ undertook could not be reversed, while what they did could be wiped out. For He Who came to save sinners did not refuse mercy even to His murderers, but changed the evil of the wicked into the goodness of the believing, that God’s grace might be the more wonderful, being mercifully put in force, not according to men’s merits, but according to the multitude of the riches of God’s wisdom anti knowledge, seeing that they also who had shed the Saviour’s blood were received into the baptismal flood. For, as says the Scripture, which contains the Apostles’ acts when the preaching of the blessed Apostle Peter pierced the hearts of the Jews, and they acknowledged the iniquity of their crime, saying, “what shall we do, brethren?” the same Apostle said, “Repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For to you is the promise, and to your sons, and to all that are afar off, whomsoever our Lord God has called,” and soon after the Scripture goes on to say: “they therefore that received his word were baptized, and there were added on that day about 3,000 souls6 .” And so, in being willing to suffer their furious rage, the Lord Jesus Christ was in no way the Author of their crimes; nor did He force them to desire this, but permitted them to be able, and used the madness of the blinded people just as He did also the treachery of His betrayer, whom by kindly acts and words He vouchsafed to recall from the awful crime he had conceived, by taking him for a disciple, by promoting him to be an apostle, by warning him with signs, by admitting him to the revelation of holy mysteries7 , that one who had lacked no degree of kindness to correct him, might have no pretext for his crime at all).
IV. The Enormity Ofjudas’ Crime is Set Forth.
But O ungodliest of men, “thou seed of Chanaan and not of Juda8 ,” and no longer “a vessel of election,” but “a son of perdition” and death, thou didst think the devil’s instigations would profit thee better, so that, inflamed with the torch of greed, thou wert ablaze to gain 30 pieces of silver and sawest not what riches thou wouldst lose. For even if thou didst not think the Lord’s promises were to be believed, what reason was there for preferring so small a sum of money to what thou hadst already received? Thou wast wont to command the evil spirits, to heal the sick, to receive honour with the rest of the apostles, and that thou mightest satisfy thy thirst for gain, it was open to thee to steal from the box that was in thy charge9 . But thy mind, which lusted after forbidden things, was more strongly stimulated by that which was less allowed: and the amount of the price pleased thee not so much as the enormity of the sin. Wherefore thy wicked bargain is not so detestable merely because thou countedst the Lord sO cheap, but because thou didst sell Him Who was the Redeemer, yea, even thieve, and badst no pity on thyself10 . And justly was thy punishment put into thine own hands because none could be found more cruelly bent on thy destruction than thyself.
V. Christ’s Passion Was for Our Redemption by Mysteryand Example.
The fact, therefore, that at the time appointed, according to the purpose of His will, jesus Christ was crucified, dead, and buried was not the doom necessary to His own condition, but the method of redeeming us from captivity. For “the Word became flesh” in order that from the Virgin’s womb He might take our suffering nature, and that what could not be inflicted on the Son of God might be inflicted on the Son of Man. For although at His very birth the signs of Godhead shone forth in Him, and the whole course of His bodily growth was full of wonders, yet had He truly assumed our weaknesses, and without share in sin had spared Himself no human frailty, that He might impart what was His to us and heal what was ours in Himself. For He, the Almighty Physician, had prepared a two-fold remedy for us in our misery, of which the one part consists of mystery and the other of example11 , that by the one Divine powers may be bestowed, by the other human weaknesses driven out12 . Because as God is the Author of our justification, so man is a debtor to pay Him devotion.
VI.we Can Only Attain to Christ’s Perfection by Following in His Steps.
Therefore, dearly-beloved, by this unspeakable restoration of our health no place is left us for pride or for idleness: because we have nothing which we did not receive13 , and we are expressly warned not to treat the gifts of God’s grace with negligence14 . For He that comes so timely to our aid justly urges us with precept, and He that leads us to glory mercifully incites us to obedience. Wherefore the Lord Himself is rightly made our way, because save through Christ there is no coming to Christ. But through Him and to Him does he take his way who treads the path of His endurance and humiliation, and on that road you may be sure there are not wanting the heats of toil, the clouds of sadness, the storms of fear. The snares of the wicked, the persecutions of the unbelieving, the threats of the powerful, the insults of the proud are I there; and all these things the Lord of hosts and King of glory passed through in the form of our weakness and in the likeness of sinful flesh, to the end that amid the danger of this present life we might desire not so much to avoid and escape them as to endure and overcome them.
VII. Christ Cry of “Forsaken” On the Cross Was to Teach Us the Insufficiency of the Human Nature Without the Divine.
Hence it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, our Head, representing all the members of His body in Himself, and speaking for those whom He was redeeming in the punishment of the cross, uttered that cry which He had once uttered in the psalm, “O God, My God, look upon Me: why hast Thou forsaken Me15 ?” That cry, dearly-beloved, is a lesson, not a complaint. For since in Christ there is oneperson of God and man, and He could not have been forsaken by Him, from Whom He could not be separated, it is on behalf of us, trembling and weak ones, that He asks why the flesh that is afraid to suffer has not been heard. For when the Passion was beginning, to cure anti correct our weak fear He had said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will but as Thou;” and again, “Father, if this cup cannot pass except I drink it, Thy will be done16 .” As therefore He had conquered the tremblings of the flesh, and had now accepted the Father’s will, and trampling all dread of death under foot, was then carrying out the work of His design, wily at the very time of His triumph over such a victory does He seek the cause and reason of His being forsaken, that is, not heard, save to show that the feeling which He entertained in excuse of His human fears is quite different from the deliberate choice which, in accordance with the Father’s eternal decree, He had made for the reconciliation of the world? And thus the very cry of “Unheard” is the exposition of a mighty Mystery, because the Redeemer’s power would have conferred nothing on mankind if our weakness in Him had obtained what it sought. Let these words dearly-beloved, suffice to-day, lest we burden you by the length of our discourse: let us put off the rest till Wednesday. The Lord shall hear you if you pray that we may keep our promise through the bounty of Him Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Erigendi sursum nostri cordis the liturgical allusion is the same as that noticed in Sermon LXXIV. 5, n. 6).
2 The epithet sanctus is of doubtful genuineness here.
3 This calculation is based apparently on that of Prosper’s Chronicon, which again, follows that of Eusebius.
4 There is another reading here, ut (for et) non tam de futuris quam de proesentibus (for proeteritis) , &c., which the Ballerinii probably do right to reject. Trans. "foretold so long before that the language of the prophets is concerned not so much with the future as with the present."
5 Ac 4,27-28; it is perhaps worth noticing that Leo does not strictly follow the Biblical account in saying that the Apostle’s were “full of the Holy Ghost” at the time of uttering this prayer: 5,31 says they were so filled afterwards.
6 Ac 2,37-41.
7 Consecrando mysteriis I think he has, as so often, the institution of the Holy Eucharist especially in his mind together, of course, with other sacramental ordinances (such as Holy Baptism and matrimony) which our Saviour blessed with His sanction and made the means of holiness to His disciples).
8 Apocrypha, Hist. of Susanna, 5,56: said by Daniel to one of the two elders; cf. also Ac 9,15, and Jn 17,12.
9 This last privilege which Leo, with curious sarcasm, co-ordinates with the other three is spoken of twice by S. John, viz. Jn 12,6, and Jn 13,29.
10 Redemptorem etiam tuum ne tibi parceres, vendidisti. It seems to me that Leo’s preaching power is nowhere better shown than in the passages where he draws out the heinousness of Judas’ guilt: cf Sermon LVIII. chaps. 3 and 4, and Sermon LXII. chap. 4.
11 Aliud est in sacramento, aliud in exemplo, cf. Serm. LXIIL chap. 4. n. 7.
12 Exigantur: another reading perhaps more in keeping with the context and Leo’s usual language is erigantur (raised): cf. Lett. XXVIII. (Tome), chap. 3, humana augens, divina non minuens, etc.
13 Cf. 1Co 4,7, and 1Tm 4,14.
14 Cf. 1Co 4,7, and 1Tm 4,14.
15 Ps 22,1.
16 Mt 26,39 Mt 26,42.
Leo the Great: sermons 2062