Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume XII/Leo the Great/Sermons/Sermon 2
On his Birthday, II.: Delivered on the Anniversary of his Consecration.
I. The Lord raises up the weak and gives him grace according to his need.
The Divine condescension has made this an honourable day for me, for it has shown by raising my humbleness to the highest rank, that He despised not any of His own. And hence, although one must be diffident of merit, yet it is one’s bounden duty to rejoice over the gift, since He who is the Imposer of the burden is Himself the Aider in its execution: and lest the weak recipient should fall beneath the greatness of the grace, He who conferred the dignity will also give the power. As the day therefore returns in due course on which the Lord purposed that I should begin my episcopal office, there is true cause for me to rejoice to the glory of God, Who that I might love Him much, has forgiven me much, and that I might make His Grace wonderful, has conferred His gifts upon me in whom He found no recommendations of merit. And by this His work what does the Lord suggest and commend to our hearts but that no one should presume upon his own righteousness nor distrust God’s mercy which shines out more pre-eminently then, when the sinner is made holy and the downcast lifted
up. For the measure of heavenly gifts does not rest upon the quality of our deeds, nor in this world, in which “all life is temptation,” is each one rewarded according to his deserving, for if the Lord were to take count of a man’s iniquities, no one could stand before His judgment.
II. The mighty assemblage of prelates testifies to men’s loyal acceptance of Peter in Peter’s unworthy successor.
Therefore, dearly-beloved, “magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together,” that the whole reason of to-day’s concourse may be referred to the praise of Him Who brought it to pass. For so far as my own feelings are concerned, I confess that I rejoice most over the devotion of you all; and when I look upon this splendid assemblage of my venerable brother-priests I feel that, where so many saints are gathered, the very angels are amongst us. Nor do I doubt that we are to-day visited by a more abundant outpouring of the Divine Presence, when so many fair tabernacles of God, so many excellent members of the Body of Christ are in one place and shine with one light. Nor yet I feel sure, is the fostering condescension and true love of the most blessed Apostle Peter absent from this congregation: he has not deserted your devotion, in whose honour you are met together. And so he too rejoices over your good feeling and welcomes your respect for the Lord’s own institution as shown towards the partners of His honour, commending the well ordered love of the whole Church, which ever finds Peter in Peter’s See, and from affection for so great a shepherd grows not lukewarm even over so inferior a successor as myself. In order therefore, dearly beloved, that this loyalty which you unanimously display towards my humbleness may obtain the fruit of its zeal, on bended knee entreat the merciful goodness of our God that in our days He will drive out those who assail us, strengthen faith, increase love, increase peace and deign to render me His poor slave, whom to show the riches of His grace He has willed to stand at the helm of the Church, sufficient for so great a work and useful in building you up, and to this end to lengthen our time for service that the years He may grant us may be used to His glory through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- This sermon, which in the older editions used to be joined in one with the first, was separated by the Ballerinii and assigned to the (1st?) anniversary of his pontifical consecration. Quesnel, who did not go so far as to separate the two parts, saw that there were certain expressions in the first portion which did not suit the common title given to the whole in anniversario die assumptionis eius, proposed to alter it to in octava consecrationis eius (on the octave, &c.). I have adhered to the Ball.’s division, though I am not entirely convinced by their arguments.
- Provexit unwillingly altered by the Ball. from provehit, against all the mss., to suit their view.
- Oneris, others honoris (advancement).
- Ipse est, others (including Quesnel) ipse mihi fiet (future).
- Job. vii. 1 (LXX.).
- Ps. xxxiv. 3.
- The Ball. quote from several more or less contemporary authorities to prove that this concourse is more likely to have been on the anniversary than on the day of consecration itself and they say that such a celebration of the octave as Quesnel suggests is unknown to all antiquity.