Leo the Great: letters 3


I. At the Vatican.

(a) Of the Sermons. (1) Codd. 3835 and 6 are two volumes in Roman Character of a Lectionary of about the 8th century; the second volume contains the “Tome” (which in the 8th and 9th centuries used to be read in the Church offices before Christmas): (2) 3828, a parchment (10th century), also a lectionary: (3) 1195, a parchment folio (11th century), a lectionary containing inter alia some of Leo’s homilies: (4) 1267, 8 and 9 of the same character (11th century): (5) 1270 contains the Sermon de Festo Petri cathedroe, (now 14,in Migne’s Appendix), from which Cacciari restored Quesnel’s imperfect edition of it to its present state: (6) 1271 and 2 are also lectionaries: (7) 4222 in Lombardic characters (9th century), a lectionary: (8) 5451 in Roman characters (12th century), a lectionary: (9) 6450 parchment (12th century): a lectionary containing the sermon de Festo Petri cathedroe  in the form found and printed by Quesnel; (10) 6451 similar: it contains sermons de Quadragesima  and others: (11) 6454 similar.

(b) Of the Letters: these are mostly rather later (i.e. about 12th or 13th century): but (1) 1322 is of an older date, and contains besides the epistles, all the acts of the Council of Chalcedon: (2) 5759 is earlier than the 9th century; it used to belong to the monastery of S. Columban at Bobbio, and contains 31 letters: (3) 5845 is very ancient, and according to Cacciari, Lombardic: it contains 24 letters

(g) Letters and Sermons together: of these there are nine collections in the Vatican, of which 548 and 9 contain the sermon de Absalom  which is condemned by Cacciari. the Regio-Vaticanus codex  139 is a fine collection of Leo’s works (12th century).

II. At other places:

(1) The codex Urbinas 65 is thought to be a copy of the Regio-Vaticanus 139 made in the 14th century.

(2) Codex Grimanicus14 is a ms. on which Quesnel lays great stress: Quesnel assigns it to the ninth century; it contains 107 letters, of which 28 had never been printed before Quesnel.

(3) The Thuanei; (a) 129 contains 123 letters: (b) 780 contains the Tome: (g) 729 contains the spurious de vocatione gentium and some epistles.

(4) The Corbienses are old.

(5) The Taurinensis 29 D. 4,is a fine 13th-century ms. containing 52 letters.

(6) The Florentinus codex belongs to the 13th century also.

(7) Ratisbonensis 113 DD. AA., in the monastery of S. Emeramus, contains 72 letters: it is said to date from about 750a.d.

(8) The two Bergonenses are of 12th century, and contain 12 sermons).

(9) Two Chigiani also of 12th century contain 4 sermons.

(10) The Padilironenses contain 9 sermons and the Tome.

(11) There are three Patavini, of which two contain the Tome.

(12) Vallicellani: these are a number of 11th or 12th-century codices.

There are also the Veneti, the Vercellenses, the Veronenses, &c.

N.B. The foregoing account is taken from Schönemann’s Notitia Historico-Literaria  (1794), and the translator has no means of knowing whether it is still correct (1890).

1. The earliest important edition is P. Quesnel’s (prêtre de l’oratoire), Paris, 1675, Lyons, 1700, of which Migne’s Dict. de Bibliogr. catholique says, ‘on reproche aux éditions du P. Quesnel un grand nombre de falsifications, par lesqelles le P. Quesnel se proposait notamment d’affaiblir l’autorité pontificale15 .... L’edition que l’on doit aujourd’hui préférer, est  (naturally enough!) celle qui a été publiée par M. l’abbé Migne sous le titre d

2). Oeuvres très complètes de Saint Leon le Grand publièes d’après l’édition des frères Ballerinii et celle de Paschase Quesnel enrichées de préfaces, d’avertissements et de commentaires, suivies des exercices de Cacciari sur toutes les oeuvres du saint docteur. Paris 1846.

3). P. Cacciari (a carmelite) brought out editions at Rome, 1751 and 1753-5, the latter with dissertations.

4. The edition of the brothers P. and H. Ballerinii (Jesuists), Venice, 1753-7, was a recension of Quesnel’s second edition with copious dissertations and notes.

5). H. Hurter, S. J., has published selections of Sermons and Letters in vols. xiv., 25,and 26,of his SS. PP. opuscula selecta, 1871-4

14 Grimanus, from whom this Codex is named, was Cardinal of S. Mark, &c., in the 16th century.
15 That is to say, it upheld the Gallican opinions; and so it was condemned and put on the Index in 1682. But being too valuable a work to be altogether suppressed, Benedict XIV. enjoined the issue of (4), which rebutted and rectified Quesnel’s false deductions in its notes and excursuses.


1. Bright’s Leo on the Incarnation, London, 1862 (2nd edn. enlarged, 1886, in which the Tome is translated), consists of 18,sermons translated and the Tome in Latin, with many valuable notes.

2). Reithmayr’s Bibliothek  (1869) contains a German translation.

3). Dr. Neale’s History of the Alexandrian Patriarchate  embodies a translation of the Tome.

4. Dr. Heurtley published a version of the Tome in 1886.
Authorities and Materials.

The chief ancient and medieval authorities for the life and times of Leo the Great are such works as Prosper’s, and Idatius’ Chronicles, Iiornandes de rebus Geticis, Anastasius Bibliothecarius Historia de vitis Romanorum Pontificum (9th cent)., the Historia Miscella (10th cent), &c.

Among lives may be mentioned the following:-(1) La vie et religion de deux bons papes Léon premier et Gregoire premier par Pierre DU Moulin (the younger: a protestant theologian), Sedan, 1650. 12mo. (2) Quesnel’s valuable Dissertatio de vita et rebus gestis S. Leonis Magni, originally included in his edition of Leo and re-printed by Migne in Vol. 2,of his edition with the Ballerinii’s annotations and critical remarks, Paris, 1675, Lyons, 1700. (3) Histoire du Pontificat de Saint Léon le Grand par Monsr L. Maimbourg La Haye, 1687. (4) The Bollandists’ Life by Canisius (Acta Sanctorum), April, vol. 2,pp. 14-22. (5) Alphonsi Ciaconii Vitoe Pontificum (Tom 1, pp. 303-314), Rome, 1677, 4to. (6) LE Nain DE Tillemont, Memoires pour servir à l’hitoire Ecclesiastique (vol. 15,pp. 414-832, 885-934), Paris, 1711. (7) Breve Descrizione deila vita di S. Leone Primo di Gabrielle Bertazzolo: Mantova, 1727. (8) Memoire istoriche di Sa. Leone Papa da Teofilo Pacifico: Brescia, 1791, 8vo. (9) DU Pin, L. E., History of Ecc. writers (Eng Edn. vol. 1, pp. 464-480), Dublin, 1722. (10) C). Oudinus, de Scriptoribus Ecclesioe (vol. 1, pp. 1271-5), Leipzig, 1722. (11) Wilhelm Amadeus Arendt (Roman Catholic), Leo der Grosse und seine Zeit, Mainz, 1835, 8vo.(12) Eduard Perthel, Papst Leo’s I. Leben und Lehren, Jena, 1843, 8vo. (a counterblast to No. 11, and no less exaggerated and prejudiced in statement). (13) A. DE Saint-Chron, Histoire du pontificat de Saint Léon le Grand, Paris, 1846. (14) F. BÖHringer, die Kirche Xti und ihre Zeugen (vol. 1 part 4, pp. 170 - 309), Zürich, 1845. (15) Charles Gore’s Life of Leo the Great (S.P.C.K).; also his article in Smith’s Dict. of Christian Biogr. (16) The article in Herzog’s Real-Encyklopädie of which a condensed English edition was edited by Dr. Philip Schaff at New York in 1883. Other more general accounts of his times will be found in (1) l’abbé Fleury, Histoire du Xtianisme (vol. 2,pp.384 - 480), Paris, 1836. (2) Brights History of the Church from 313-451 (chaps. xiv., xv)., Oxford and London, 1860. (3) Milman’s Latin Christianity (Book 2,chap. 4), London, 1864. (4) R. J). Rohrbachers Histoire Universelle de l’Eglise catholique (15th edn., vol. 4, pp. 461-575), Paris, 1868.A short account of Leo’s writings is given in Alzog’s Grundriss der Patrologie, § 78, pp.368- 375: a most exhaustive one in Ceillier’s Histoire générale des Auteurs sacrés (new edition) (vol. X., pp. 169-276), 1858-1869. BÄHr’s Geschichte der Römischer Literatur-Supplement band II. Abtheilung (pp. 354-362), im Abendland, vol. 1, p.448, may also be consulted; and Ebert’s Allgemeine Geschichte der Literatur des Mittelalters.


Letter I. To the Bishop of Aquileia.

I. Through the Negligence of the Authorities the Pelagian Heresy Has Been Spreading in His Province.

From the account of our holy brother and fellow-bishop Septimus which is contained in the subjoined letter1 , we have understood that certain priests and deacons and clergy of various orders2 in your province who have been drawn in by the Pelagian or Caelestian heresy, have attained to catholic communion without any recantation of their peculiar error being required of them; and that, whilst the shepherds set to watch were fast asleep, wolves clothed in sheep-skins but without laying aside their bestial minds have entered into the Lord’s sheep-fold: and that they make a practice of what is not allowed even to non-offenders by the injunctions of our canons and decrees3 : to wit that they should leave the churches in which they received or regained their office and carry their uncertainty in all directions, loving to continue wandering and never to remain on the foundations of the Apostles. For without being sifted by any test or bound by any previous confession of faith, they make a great point of their right to the privilege of going to one house after another under cover of their being in communion with the Church, and corrupting the hearts of many through men’s ignorance4 of their false name. And yet I am sure they could not do this, if the rulers of the churches had exercised their rightful diligence in the matter of receiving such, and had not allowed any of them to wander from place to place.

II. He Orders a Provincial Synod to Be Convened to Receive the Recantation of the Heretics in Express Terms.

Accordingly, lest this should be attempted any further, and lest this pernicious habit, which owes its introduction to certain persons’ negligence, should result in the overthrow of many souls, by this our authoritative injunction we charge you, brother, to give diligence that a synod of the clergy5 of your province be convened, and all, whether priests or deacons or clerics of any rank who have been re-admitted from their alliance with the Pelagians and the Caelestians into catholic communion with such precipitation that they were not first constrained to recant their error, be now at least forced to a true correction, which can advantage themselves and hurt no one, since their deceitfulness has in part been disclosed. Let them by their public confession condemn the authors of this presumptuous6 error and renounce all that the universal Church has repudiated in their doctrine: and let them announce by full and open statements, signed by their own hand, that they embrace and entirely approve of all the synodal decrees which the authority of the Apostolic See has ratified to the rooting out of this heresy. Let nothing obscure, nothing ambiguous be found in their words. For we know that their cunning is such that they reckon that the meaning of any particular clause of their execrable doctrine can be defended if they only keep it distinct from the main body of their damnable views7 ).

III. The Pelagian View of God’s Grace is Unscriptural.

 And when they pretend to disapprove of and give up all their definitions to facilitate evasion through their complete art of deception, unless their meaning is detected, they make exception of the dogma that the grace of God is given according to the merits of the recipient. And yet surely, unless it is given freely, it is not a gift8 , but a price and compensation for merits: for the blessed Apostle says, “by grace ye have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves but it is the gift of God; not of works lest any should perchance be exalted. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them9 .” Thus every bestowal of good works is of God’s preparing: because a man is justified by grace rather than by his own excellence: for grace is to every one the source of righteousness, the source of good and the fountain of merit. But these heretics say it is anticipated by men’s natural goodness for this reason, that that nature which(in their view) is before grace conspicuous for good desires of its own, may not seem marred by any stain of original sin, and that what the Truth says may be falsified: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost10 .”

IV. Prompt Measures are Essential.

You must take heed, therefore, beloved, and with great diligence make provision that offences which have long been removed be not set up again through such men and that no seed of the same evil spring up in your province from a doctrine which has once been uprooted: for not only will it take root and grow, but also will taint the future generations of the Church with its poisonous exhalations. Those who wish to appear corrected must purge themselves of all suspicion: and by obeying us, prove themselves ours. And if any of them decline to satisfy our wholesome injunctions, be he cleric or layman, he must be driven from the society of the Church lest he deal treacherously by others’ safety as well as forfeit his own soul.

V.the Canons Must Be Enforced Against Clerics Who Wonder from One Church to Another.

We admonish you also to restore to full working that part of the discipline of the Church whereby the holy Fathers and we have often in former times decreed that neither in the grade of the priesthood nor in the order of the diaconate nor in the lower ranks of the clergy, is any one at liberty to migrate from church to church: to the end that each one may persevere where he was ordained without being enticed by ambition, or led astray by greed, or corrupted by men’s evil beliefs: and thus that if any one, seeking his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ11 , neglect to return to his own people12 and church, he may be reckoned out of the pale both in respect of promotion and of the bond of communion. But do not doubt, beloved, that we must be somewhat sorely moved if, as we think not, our decrees for the maintenance of the canons and the integrity of the faith be neglected: because the short-comings of the lower orders13 are to be laid at the door of none so much as of those slothful and remiss rulers who often foster much pestilence by shrinking from the application of a stringent remedy.

1 It is to be supposed that the letter of Septimus, bp. of Altinum, was sent with this letter. See Lett. XVIII. n. 3.
2 Viz. Members of the minor order as they are now called, subdeacons, exorcists, &c.
3 It has been the rule at least since the council of Nicaea (325) that the clergy should stay in the church (or “diocese” as we should call it) of their ordination, cf. Canons of Nicoea xxi.de his qui Ecclesias deserunt et ad alias transeunt, and 22,De non suscipiendis alterius Ecclesioe clericis.And we often kind Leo insisting on the observance of the rule.
4 Iiscientiam: the general reading being scientiam, the sense of which is not clear.
5 Sacerdotum: I am in doubt as to what this term here includes, think it probable that all ranks of the clergy were to be summoned. The words sacerdos and antistes in early ecclesiaslical Latin very often mean the bishop (episcopus)specifically rather than the presbyter (sacerrdos secundi ordinis), because it was the bishop who offered the “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” (i.e the Eucharist),and the presbyter only in his default; but the term sacerdos does certainly often include the presbyters and also the deacons (sacerdotes tertii ordinis) when In connexion with the priests and bishops, and it seems likely that the whole body of the clergy of the province would be summoned to the synod: see Bright’s note 110: also Bingham, Antiq., Bk. 11., chap. xix., §§ 14,15.
6 Superbi (proud): the epithet is well chosen and not a random one: for pride and presumption are at the root of the Pelagian views as birth-sin and baptismal grace: perfectionism is little in accordance with Christian humility.
7 For the same sentiment cf. Prosper, de ingratis, 5,188.
8 The reader need hardly be reminded that in the New Testement “grace” (Lat). Gratia, Gk). cari") signifies “a free gift.”
Ep 2,8-10.
10 Lc 9,10. Between this and the next chapter some of the mss. And the earlier editions insert a passage from Augustine’s Enchiridion, which thus formed chapter iv.
11 A reminiscence of Ph 2,21.
12 Plebem: this being the regular term for the “Laity” in early Christian Latin.
13 Sc. Of the clergy.

Letter II. To Septimus, Bishop of Altinum.


(Caution must be observed in receiving Pelagians back, and clergy must stay in the church of their ordination).

Letter III. From Paschasinus, Bishop of Lilybaeum.

(About the keeping of Easter in 444; recommending the Alexandrine calculation).

Letter IV. To the Bishops Appointed in Campania, Picenum, Etruria, and All the Provinces.

Leo, bishop of the city of Rome, to all the bishops appointed in Campania, Picenum, Etruria, and all the provinces, greeting in the Lord.

I. Introduction.

As the peaceful settlement of the churches causes us satisfaction, so are we saddened with no slight sorrow whenever we learn that anything has been taken for granted or done contrary to the ordinances of the canons and the discipline of the Church: and if we do not repress such things with the vigilance we ought, we cannot excuse ourselves to Him who intended us to be watchmen1 , for permitting the pure body of the Church, which we ought to keep clean from every stain, to be defiled by contact with wicked schemers, since the framework of the members loses its harmony by such dissimulation.

II. Slaves and Serfs (Coloni) are Not to Be Ordained.

Men are admitted commonly to the Sacred Order who are not qualified by any dignity of birth or character: even some who have failed to obtain their liberty from their masters are raised to the rank of the priesthood2 , as if sorry slaves were fit for that honour; and it is believed that a man can be approved of God who has not yet been able to approve himself to his master. And so the cause for complaint is twofold in this matter, because both the sacred ministry is polluted by such poor partners in it, and the rights of masters are infringed so far as unlawful possession is rashly taken of them3 . From these men, therefore, beloved brethren, let all the priests of your province keep aloof; and not only from them, but from others also, we wish you to keep, who are under the bond of origin or other condition of service4 : unless perchance the request or consent be intimated of those who claim some authority over them. For he who is to be enrolled on the divine service ought to be exempt from others, that he be not drawn away from the Lord’s camp in which his name is entered, by any other bonds of duty.

III. A Man Who Has Married Twice or a Widow is Not Eligible as a Priest.

Again, when each man’s respectability of birth and conduct has been established, what sort of person should be associated with the ministry of the Sacred Altar we have learnt both from the teaching of the Apostle and the Divine precepts and the regulations of the canons, from which we find very many of the brethren have turned aside and quite gone out of the way. For it is well known that the husbands of widows have attained to the priesthood: certain, too, who have had several wives, and have led a life given up to all licentiousness, have had all facilities put in their way, and been admitted to the Sacred Order, contrary to that utterance of the blessed Apostle, in which he proclaims and says to such, “the husband of one wife5 ,” and contrary to that precept of the ancient law which says by way of caution: “Let the priest take a virgin to wife, not a widow, not a divorced woman6 .” All such persons, therefore, who have been admitted we order to be put out of their offices in the church and from the title of priest by the authority of the Apostolic See: for they will have no claim7 to that for which they were not eligible, on account of the obstacle in question: and we specially claim for ourselves the duty of settling this, that if any of these irregularities have been committed, they may be corrected and may not be allowed to occur again, and that no excuse may arise from ignorance: although it has never been allowed a priest to be ignorant of what has been laid down by the rules of the canons. These writings, therefore, we have addressed to your provinces by the hand of Innocent, Legitimus and Segetius, our brothers and fellow-bishops: that the evil shoots which are known to have sprung up may be torn out by the roots, and no tares may spoil the Lord’s harvest. For thus all that is genuine will bear much fruit, if that which has been wont to kill the growing crop be carefully cleared away.

IV. Usurious Practices Forbidden for Clergy and for Laity8 .

This point, too, we have thought must not be passed over, that certain possessed with the love of base gain lay out their money at in terest, and wish to enrich themselves asusurers. For we are grieved that this is practised not only by those who belong to the clergy, but also by laymen who desire to be called Christians. And we decree that those who have been convicted be punished sharply, that all occasion of sinning be removed.

V. A Cleric May Not Make Money in Another’s Name Any More Than in His Own.

The following warning, also, we have thought fit to give, that no cleric should attempt to make money in another’s name any more than in his own: for it is unbecoming to shield one’s crime under another man’s gains9 . Nay, we ought to look at and aim at only that usury whereby what we bestow in mercy here we may recover from the Lord, who will restore a thousand fold what will last for ever.

VI. Any Bishop Who Refuses Consent to These Rules Must Be Deposed.

This admonition of ours, therefore, proclaims that if any of our brethren endeavour to contravene these rules and dare to do what is forbidden by them, he may know that he is liable to deposition from his office, and that he will not be a sharer in our communion who refuses to be a sharer of our discipline. But lest there be anything which may possibly be thought to be omitted by us, we bid you, beloved, to keep all the decretal rules of Innocent of blessed memory10 , and also of all our predecessors, which have been promulgated about the orders of the Church and the discipline of the canons, and to keep them in such wise that if any have transgressed them he may know at once that all indulgence is denied him.

Dated 10th of October, in the consulship of the illustrious Maximus(a second time) and Paterius(a.d. 443).

1 Cf.
Ez 3,17.
2 Sacerdotii see note 5 on Letter 1.
3 Though no doubt S. Leo’s language is here harsh and offensive to modern ears, it is not. I think, substantially out of agreement with S. Paul’s own teaching (cf. Philemon: 1Co 7,21 or Ep 6,5 Col 3,22 Tt 2,9), and certainly not with th spirit of the age. The 73rd Apost. Canon forbids any slave to be ordained without his master’s consent, and without previously obtaining his freedom. However, in the times of S. Jerome S. Basil and S. Greg. Nazianzen, we find cases of slaves being ordained. However much we in the latter half of the nineteenth century regret to hear a great father of the Church speak in this way we must not forget that In the first half of this self-same century the very same opinion would have been bold on the subject in many parts of the civilized world.
4 Qui originali (al. Origini) aut alicui condicioni obligati sunt). The class of people alluded to were the coloni (serfs): such of them as were so by birth were called originarii and there were other classes of them also (alicui condicioni obligati). The essential difference between all coloni and the ordinary servi was that the latter’s service was personal. the former were servi terroe, adscripti glaeboe. Thus there is a strong resemblance between them and the villeins (villani) of medieval and modern Europe. For the order concerning them here given, cf. 2nd Council of Orleans (538), which ordains “ut nullus servilibus colonariisque condicibus obligatus iuxta statuta sedis Apostolicoe ad honeres ecclesiasticos admittatur nisi prius aut testamento aut per tabulas legitime constiterit absolutum.
5 1Tm 3,2 unius uxoris virum with the Vulgate, cf. Letter xii.
6 Lv 21,13-14, cf. a letter of Innocent I. to Victricius bishop of Rothomagus (Rouen) chap. 5,, ut mulierem (viduam) clericus non ducat uxorem: quia scriptum est: sacerdos virginem uxorem accipiat non eiectam," and for the former quotation, cf. Ibid. chap 7,(Ne is qui secundam duxerit uxorem, clericus fiat: quia scriptum est unius virum). The 18th Apostolic Canon gives a similar order. All these rules would seem to refer to marriage before, not after, ordination. The latter was against the spirit of the early Church.
7 The older editions here add pro arbitrio (by dispensation). which Quesnel considers a gloss added later when dispensation was sometimes granted to digamous clerks.
8 The practice of usury and trading generally is often forbidden In the Canons, &c., for the clergy, but its Prohibition for the laity is much more unusual: cf., however, Canon V. of the Council ofCarthage (4 19), quod (sc. Fenus accipere in laicis, reprehenditur id multo magis debet et in clericis praedamnari. Scripture certainly is against the clergy participating in lucrative employments, though it was not easy always to prevent them: it had become, for Instance. a common practice in S. Cyprian’s day in the North African Church (cf. de laps. 6). But the secular laws certainly countenanced it in the laity (As Aug. Ep 154 acknowledges). Leo the Emperor is said by Crotius to have been the first who “existimans omne fenus Christiano interdictum, lege id ipsum communi sanxit”(Quesnel).
9 Crimen suum commodis alienis impendere.I am not sure that this can mean what I say.
10 This was S. Innocent 1.. who was Pope from 402 to 417. One of his decretal letters was quoted from in note 1 to chap. 3,Of this Letter).

Letter V. To the Metropolitan Bishops of Illyricum.

(Appointing Anastasius of Thessalonica his Vicar in the province, and expressing his wishes about its government, for which see Letter VI).

Letter VI. To Anastasius, Bishop of Thessalonica.

Leo to his beloved brother Anastasius.

I. He is Pleased to Have Been Consulted by the Bishops1 Illyricum an Important Questions.

The brotherly love of our colleagues makes us read with grateful mind the letters of all priests2 ; for in them we embrace one another in the spirit as if we were face to face, and by the intercourse of such epistles we are associated in mutual converse3 . But in this present letter the affection displayed seems to us greater than usual: for it informs us of the state of the churches4 , and urges us to a vigilant exercise of care by a consideration of our office, so that being placed, as it were, on a watch-tower, according to the will of the Lord, we should both lend our approval to things when they run in accordance with our wishes, and correct, by applying the remedies of compulsion, what we observe gone wrong through any aggression: hoping that abundant fruit will be the result of our sowing the seed, if we do not allow those things to increase which have begun to spring up to the spoiling of the harvest.

II. Following the Examples of His Predecessors He Nominates Anastasius Metropolitan of Illyricum.

Now therefore, dear brother, that your request has been made known to us through our son Nicolaus the priest, that you, too, like your predecessors, might receive from us in our turn authority over Illyricum for the observance of the rules, we give our consent and earnestly exhort that no concealment and no negligence may be allowed in the management of the churches situated throughout Illyricum, which we commit to you in our stead, following the precedent of Siricius of blessed remembrance, who then, for the first time, acting on a fixed method, entrusted them to your last predecessor but one5 , Anysius of holy memory, who had at the time well deserved of the Apostolic See, and was approved by after events: that he might render assistance to the churches situated in that province whom he wished kept up to discipline. Noble precedents must be followed with eagerness that we may show ourselves in all things like those whose privileges we wish to enjoy. We wish you to imitate your last predecessor6 but one as well as of your immediate predecessor who is known equally with the former to have both deserved and employed this privilege: so that we may rejoice in the progress of the churches which we commit to you in our stead. For as the conduct of matters progresses creditably when committed to one who acts well and carries out skilfully the duties of the priestly position, so it is found to be only a burden to him who, when power is entrusted to him, uses not the moderation that is due.

III. Ordinees Must Be Carefully Selected with Especial Reference to Thecanons of the Church.

And so, dear brother, hold with vigilance the helm entrusted to you, and direct your mind’s gaze around on all which you see put in your charge, guarding what will conduce to your reward and resisting those who strive to upset the discipline of the canons. The sanction of God’s law must be respected, and the decrees of the canons should be more especially kept. Throughout the provinces committed to thee let such priests be consecrated to the Lord as are commended only by their deserving life and position among the clergy. Permit no licence to personal favour, nor to canvassing, nor to purchased votes. Let the cases of those who are to be ordained be investigated carefully and let them be trained in the discipline of the Church through a considerable period of their life. But if all the requirements of the holy Fathers are found in them, and if they have observed all that we read the blessed Apostle Paul to have enjoined on such, viz., that he be the husband of one wife, and that she was a virgin when he married her, as the authority of God’s law requires,[then ordain them7 ]. And this we are extremely anxious should be observed, so as to do away with all place for excuses, lest any one should believe himself able to attain to the priesthood who has taken a wife before he obtained the grace of Christ, and on her decease joinedhimself to another after baptism. Seeing that the former wife cannot be ignored, nor the previous marriage put out of the reckoning, and that he is as much the father of the children whom he begot by that wife before baptism as he is of those whom he is known to have begotten by the second after baptism. For as sins and things which are known to be unlawful are washed away in the font of baptism, so what are allowedor lawful are not done away.

IV. The Metropolitans Must Not Ordain Hastily Nor Without Consultingtheir Primate.

Let one be ordained a priest8 throughout these churches inconsiderately; for by this means ripe judgments will be formed about those to be elected, if your scrutiny, brother, is dreaded. But let any bishop who, contrary to our command, is ordained by his metropolitan without your knowledge, know that he has no assured position with us, and that those who have taken on themselves so to do must render an account of their presumption9 . But as to each metropolitan is committed such power that he has the right of ordaining in his province, so we wish those metropolitans to be ordained, but not without ripe and well-considered judgment. For although it is seemly that all who are consecrated priests should be approved and well-pleasing to God, yet we wish those to have peculiar excellence whom we know are going to preside over the fellow-priests who are assigned to them. And we admonish you, beloved, to see to this the more diligently and carefully, that you may be proved to keep that precept of the Apostles which runs, “lay hands suddenly on no man10 .”

V. Points Which Cannot Be Settled at the Provincial Synod are to Be Referred to Rome.

Any of the brethren who has been summoned to a synod should attend and not deny himself to the holy congregation: for there especially he should know that what will conduce to the good discipline of the Church must be settled. For all faults will be better avoided if more frequent conferences take place between the priests of the Lord, and intimate association is the greatest help alike to improvement and to brotherly love. There, if any questions arise, under the Lord’s guidance they will be able to be determined, so that no bad feeling remains, and only a firmer love exists among the brethren. But if any more important question spring up, such as cannot be settled there under your presidency, brother, send your report and consult us, so that we may write back under the revelation of the Lord, of whose mercy it is that we can do ought, because He has breathed favourably upon us11 : that by our decision we may vindicate our right of cognizance in accordance with old-established tradition and the respect that is due to the Apostolic See: for as we wish you to exercise your authority in our stead, so we reserve to ourselves points which cannot be decided on the spot and persons who have made appeal to us.

VI. Priests and Deacons May Not Be Ordained on Weekdays Any More Than Bishops.

You shall take order that this letter reach the knowledge of all the brethren, so that no one hereafter find an opportunity to excuse himself through ignorance in observing these things which we command. We have directed our letter of admonition12 to the metropolitans themselves also of the several provinces, that they may know that they must obey the Apostolic injunctions, and that they obey us in beginning to obey you, brother, our delegate according to what we have written. We hear, indeed, and we cannot pass it over in silence, that only bishops are ordained by certain brethren on Sundays only; but presbyters and deacons, whose consecration should be equally solemn13 , receive the dignity of the priestly office indiscriminately on any day, which is a reprehensible practice contrary to the canons and tradition of the Fathers14 , since the custom ought by all means to be kept by those who have received it with respect to all the sacred orders: so that after a proper lapse of time he who is to be ordained a priest or deacon15 may be advanced through all the ranks of the clerical office, and thus a man may have time to learn that of which he himself also is one day to be a teacher. Dated the 12th of January, in the consulship of Theodosius(18th time) and Albinus(444).

1 The letter to the college of bishops was written the same day, and forms No. 5 in the Leonine series(in Migne).
2 Sacerdotum here obviously = episcoporum, see Letter 1. note 5.
3 quibus sermone epistolis mutuo commeant bus sociamur. notice the interlaced order of the words in the sentence which is not, I think, without design as quaintly expressing his meaning.
4 Sc. In your province.
5 Siricius was Bishop of Rome 384-398. Damasus, 366-384, is said by Innocent 1. to have been the first to do this but not like Siricius, “acting on a fixed method,” certa quadam ratione.
6 Proedecessoris tui. Anysius is said to have lived on into the time of Innocent. Anastasius’ immediate predecessor, selected by Innocent (decessoris tui in the next line), was named Rufus.
7 These words are not found in the mss. apparently, but are necessary to the sense. For the requirement cf. Letter IV. chapter iii.
8 Here the word is antistes and no doubt it signifies “bishop,” as the next sentence clearly shows.
9 The organization of the province then included(1)the bishops under (2) metropolitans of district under (3) one supreme primate of the province, who was in his turn responsible to the Bishop of Rome.
1Tm 5,22,
11 The word is as, aspiraverit (the notion of which is to favour), not inspiraverit (to Inspire), as we might have expected).
12 Viz., Letter V.
13 Circa quos par consecratio fieri debet. I take this as a valuable statement in the mouth of Leo, who so seldom refers specifically to the lower orders of the ministry.
14 There seems to be no canon on the point before Leo’s time: but he alludes to the tradition again in Letter IX. Chap. 1 and CXI. Chap. 2 (q.v)..
15 Qui sacerdos (? Secundi ordinis here) vel levita (=diaconus)ordinandus est.

Leo the Great: letters 3