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Saint Leo I (The Great)

Saint Leo I (The Great)
  • Century: 5th Century
  • Patronage: -
  • Feast Day: November 10th

St. Leo I, also known as St. Leo the Great, was a native of Tuscany.  He occupied a very significant position for Cyril of Alexandria as a Deacon, by 431.  It was entrusted to him to oversee the treatise against Nestorius. Records clearly show the confidence felt in him about his being chosen by the emperor to settle the dispute between Aetius and Caecina Decius Aginatius Albinus, the two highest officials in Gaul.  During his absence on this mission, Pope Sixtus III died on August 11, 440, and Leo was unanimously elected by the people to succeed him On September 29, 440, he entered upon a pontificate which was to be for the centralization of the government of the Roman Church.  

He was an Italian aristocrat, and was the first pope to have been called “The Great”.  He is perhaps best known for having met Attila the Hun in 452 and persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy.  He is also a Doctor of the Church, most remembered theologically for issuing the Tome of Leo, a document that was foundational to the debates of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.  

The Council of Chalcedon, the fourth ecumenical council, dealt primarily with Christology, and explained the orthodox definition of Christ’s being as the hypostatic union of two natures – Divine and Human – united in one person, “with neither confusion nor division”.  This ecumenical council was followed by a major schism associated with Monophysitism, Miaphysistism, and Dyophysitism.  

In his “Nativitate Domini” in the Christmas Day sermon, “Christian, Remember your Dignity”.  Leo appears to articulate a fundamental and inclusive human dignity and equality, “The Saint, the Sinner, and the Unbeliever are all equal as sinners, and none is excluded in the call to happiness”.  He proclaimed the “Equality and Dignity” of every person regardless of their state in life.  According to the Martyrology he died on November 10th, 461.  His feast day remains celebrated on this day in the Catholic Church.   

Practical Take Away

St. Leo the Great was a Pope of the Catholic Church, between Pope Sixtus III and Pope Hilarius.   He became the first Pope to be called “The Great” and his work on the fourth ecumenical council earned for him the title, “Doctor of the Church”.  He declared the theology of Christology – the hypostatic union of two natures, “Divine and Human” united in one person.  He also taught extensively on the “equality and dignity” of every person.  His revelations and teachings are upheld to this day, and are an important part of our faith.