St Pope Leo the Great was Pope in a tough time. Think Vandals, Goths and Attila the Huns. He had been deacon to Pope Sixtus III and was in charge of the mosaic decorations of the beautiful arch in St Mary Major, which presents an anti-Manichean theology reflected in his later sermons as Pope. He point the exclamation point on correct Christology of the Council Chalcedon.
St. Leo’s Latin was terrific. It has the concision of the ancient Roman genius and it sparkles with polished tropes and clausulae, rhythmic endings of sentences. His Latin comes alive again when read aloud. The sermons are well structured with an introduction, examples, and exhortation.
Benedict XIV Lambertini (you can have your own Benedict XIV coffee mug HERE) named him Doctor of the Church in 1754.
Leo died in 461 and his tomb is in the Vatican Basilica. The great marble relief of him facing down Attila was recently cleaned and restored.
We have Leo’s Christmas sermons from 440-44 and 50-54. This sermon, the most famous because it is quoted in the nocturns of Matins for Christmas, was preached in the old basilica of St Peter on Christmas Day of 440. 1580 years ago today.
Let’s hear the English first, and then the Latin.
I hope its message of hope and joy and encouragement rings in your ears for this whole Christmas season.