Today the church honors an important leader in the church that most church-goers have never even heard of, St. Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome and Mediator of the Church.
Long before the church was arguing about the nature of humans and their race and sexuality, the church set about arguing about the nature of Jesus. In the 5th Century, when Pope Leo was consecrated as the Bishop of Rome, the Catholic faith was being torn asunder by schisms over who Jesus was and how Jesus was.
Yes, you read that correctly: how Jesus was.
How was Jesus both Divine and human?
Pope Leo refocused the question on faith rather than nitty-gritty explanation. He affirmed the idea that Christ had two natures and, as he was enlarging the influence of the Papacy around the known world, issued his famous (at least to churchy-people) Tome to Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople that had the clearest articulation of Christ as human and yet Divine.
You still talk about this idea, by the way, every time you say the Nicene Creed.
At the time all sorts of schisms were going on inside the church, there were tons of wars being fought in real-time, too. St. Leo kept Rome safe from Attila the Hun in 452, and a legion of Vandals, whom he persuaded not to destroy Rome, in 455. He put restrictions on who (under what training) could enter the priesthood, and affirmed the goodness of “all matter,” rejecting the idea that the created world is evil and we need only wait for some heaven, lightyears away.
He was a devoted liturgist, and further developed the words of the Mass, shaping the words we say yet today.
St. Leo was wise, if not particularly brilliant. He understood how to use power effectively and for twenty-two years led with theological ability and personal resolve.
St. Leo is a reminder for me that wisdom and brilliance don’t always hold hands, and you can certainly be one without the other.
But of all the things that Pope Leo the Great is remembered for, the thing that struck me is how he looked at creation and without hesitation affirmed what Genesis had already said: “this is good.”
Why does it matter?
Because, Beloved, it articulates clearly that everything that is created, matters, and therefore we can’t just do what we want with it…
-historical bits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
-editorials by me