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December 15, 1961

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PAGE 6 THE OBSERVER FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1961 O . VATICAN CITY, (NC) -- Follow- ing is a text of the 7,000-word encycli- cal, "Aeterna Dei Sapientia," of His Holiness Pope John XXIII in which he invites all separated Christian bod- ies back to unity, Dated November 11, the encyclical commemorates the 15th centenary of the death of Pope Leo the Great and was released here on December 9. Introduction The eternal wisdom of God which "reaches from end to end mightily, and orders all things sweetly seems to have impressed His image with singular splendor upon the spirit of the Supreme Pontiff, St. Leo I. This "greatest among the great," as Our pl:edecessor Plus XII of venerable memory rightly called him, appeared to be gifted in extraordinary measure with intrepid strength and paternal goodness. We, called by Divine Providence to occupy the Chair of Peter, which St. Leo the Great made so illustrious with wis- dom of government, richness of doctrine, with magnanimity and with his inexhaustible charity, feel it Our duty, Venerable Brothers, on occasion of the fifteenth centenary of his blessed passing, to recall his virtues and im- mortal merits, certain as We are that it will contribute notably to the common advantage of souls and the exaltation of the Catholic religion. The true greatness of this Pontiff is not chiefly bound to the fearless act of courage with which he, unarmed and vested solely with the majesty of Supreme Priest, faced the fierce Attila, king of the Hurts, in the year 452, on the banks of the Mineio River and persuad- ed him to retreat beyond the Danube. It was undoubtedly a most noble gesture, especially worthy of the peaceful mission of the Roman pontificate. But in reality it represents only one episode and is only one indication of a life that was spent entirely for the religious and social welfare, not only of Rome and Italy, but of the universal Church. ST. LEO TH GREAT, R AN thought that it could not do better than en- trust the power of the "Vicar of Christ to the deacon Leo, who had shown himself to be as sound a theologian as he was a fine diplomat. He then received episcopal consecration on September 29, 440, and his pontificate was one of the longest of the ancient Christian Church and undoubtedly one of the most glorious. He died in November of 461 and was buried in the porch of the Basilica of St. Peter. In 688 Pope St. Sergius I had the remains of the holy pon- tiff transferred "to the rock .of Peter" after the new basilica had been built, and they now rest beneath the altar dedicated to him. Triumph over Enemies / Now, wishing simply to indicate the out- standing characteristic of his life, we can do no less than proclaim that the triumph of the Church of Christ over its spiritual enemies has rarely been so glorious as it was during the pontificate of St. Leo the Great. Truly, in the course of the fifth century he shown in the firmament of Christendom as a shining star. This can in no way be denied, particu- larly if one takes into consideration the doc- trinal field of the Catholic faith. His name is, in fact, certainly linked with those of St. Au- gustine of Hippo and St. Cyril of Alexandria in this field. If St. Augustine, as all know, stood against the heresy of Pelagius and indi- cated anew the absoIute necessity of grace to live honestly and achieve eternal salvation, and if St. Cyril of Alexandria defended against the erroneous affirmations of Nestorius the J divinity of Jesus Christ and the divine matern- ity of the Virgin Mary, then for all effects St. Leo is, on his part, heir of the doctrine of the two distinguished luminaries of the Church,of the east and the west, towers over all his con- temporaries in the clear affirmation of these fundamental truths of the Catholic faith. And, as St. Augustine is acclaimed in the Church as doctor of grace, and as St. Cyril is ac- claimed as doctor of the Incarnation, so St. Leo is celebrated above all as the doctor of the unity of the Church. Pastor of the true man, was born true God. complete in His divine properties, complete also in ours." Nor did he stop at this. Following his letter to Flavianus, in which he had broadly out- lined "all that the Cathefic Church believed and taught universally on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord," St. Leo condemned the Council of Ephesus of 449. In this council, in which recourse was had to unlawfulness and violence, there was an effort to make triumph the erroneous teaching of Eutychius who, being "very rash and too ignorant," was obstinate in not wishing to recognize any it other than the one single nature, the divine, in Jesus Christ. With good reason the Pope called this coun- cil "a theft," because it opposed the clear pro- visions of the Apostolic See and dared with every means to "damage the Catholic Faith" and to strengthen "the heresy which was com- pletely opposed to the Christian religion." The name of St. Leo is above all linked with the celebrated Council of Chalcedon of 451, the convocation of which, though requested by the Emperor Marcian, was accepted by the Pope only on condition that it be presided over by :there can be no stable structure outside of that rock which the Lord set as a foundation (cf. Mat. 16, 18). One who desires "that is not his due impairs his own r'~hts." The sad history of the schism, which subse- quently separated so many illustrious churches of the Christian East from the Apostolic See-- as one may gather from the cited passage-- goes to clearly demonstrate the well-founded fears of St. Leo regarding the future divisions in the heart of Christianity. Easter Date Our exposition of the pastoral zeal of St. Leo for the unity of the Catholic Chtlrch would be incomplete if We did not also recall, even though rapidly, his intervention in the ques- tion relating to the feast of Easter as well as his vigilant concern that the rela- tions between the Apostolic See and Christian princes be marked by mutual esteem, trust and cordiality. With the peace of the Church always in view;he frequently exhorted these princes to cooperate with the episcopate "for full Catholic unity," to merit from God "in addition to the royal crown, also the palm of the priesthood." and prolific exponent of Christian mysteries, conforming to the interpretations handed' down by the councils, the Fathers and, above all, by the pontiffs who preceded him. His style is simple and grave, lofty and per- suasive, certainly worthy of being considered a perfect model of classic eloquence. How- ever, he never sacrificed the accuracy of the truth, he wished to express for elegance of speech. He did not speak or write to be ad- mired, but to enlighten minds and inflame hearts to perfect conformity of the practices of life with the truths professed. Church Government In the letters, addressed in his capacity as Supreme Pastor to the bishops, princes, priests, deacons and monks of the universal Church, St. Leo shows exceptional gifts as a man of government, that is, an enlightened and supremely practical spirit, a will ready for action, firm in well matured decisions, a heart open to paternal understanding and full of that charity that St. Paul indicated to all Christians as "the better way." How can one not recognize that these senti- ments of justice and of mercy, of strength joined with clemency, were born in his heart precisely out of that same charity that the Lord required of Peter before entrusting to him the custody of His lambs and His sheep? He always strove to make of himself a faith- ful copy of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, as can be deduced from the following passage: "We have on the one hand meekness and clemency, and on the other strictness and justice. And since all the ways of the Lord are the result of mercy and truth (--fidelity) (cf. Ps. 24, 10), we are compelled by the good- ness which is proper to the Holy See to regu- late our decisions in such manner that--after having pondered the nature of the crimes, the measure of which varies--we consider that some may be absolved and others must be rooted out." Both the homilies and the letters-constitute, therefore, a most eloquent documentation of the thoughts and of the sentiments, of the words and of the actions of St. Leo, who was always anxious to insure the good of the Church, in truth, harmony and peace. Universal Church IF,It isenough, therefore, to pass rapidly over E FI.FTE NTH OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH The words of Holy Scripture can well be ap- plied to the life and activity of St. Leo: "The path of the just, as a shining light, goes for- ward and increases even to perfect day. They apply in considering the three distinct and characteristic aspects of his personality: as faithful servant of the Apostolic See, as Vicar of Christ on earth, and as Doctor of the uni- versal Church. Faithful Servant of the Apostolic See "Leo, Tuscan by birth, son of Quintianus," as the tiber Pontificalis informs us, was born toward the end of the fourth century. But, since he lived in Rome from his early youth, he could rightly call Rome his homeland. There, while still a young man, he was in- scribed among the Roman clergy and attained the diaconate. In the years 430 to 439 he ex- ercised a considerable influence in ecclesiasti- cal affairs, in the service of Pope Sixtus III. He had friendly relations with St. Prosperus of Aquitania and with Cassianus, founder of the celebrated Abbey of St. Victor in Mar- seilles. From the latter, who urged him to write "De incarnatione Domini" against the Nestorians, Leo received the truly exceptional praise for a simple deacon: "Honor of the Church and of the sacred ministry." the prodigious pastoral and writing activities of St. Leo in the long period of his pontificate to arrive at the conviction that he was the proclaimer and defender of the unity of the Church both in the fields of doctrine and disci- pline. Unity of Worship If one passes into the field of liturgy, it is easy to see that this most pious pontiff pro- moted the unity of worship, composing or at least inspiring some of the most elevated prayers, which are contained in the so-called Sacramentario Leoniano. He furthermore intervened with promptness and authority in the controversy over the one- ness or duplicity of nature in Jesus Christ, achieving the triumph of the true doctrine concerning the Incarnation of the Divine Word of God. By doing this, he immortalized his name for posterity. In this respect one must recall the famous Letter to Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople, in which St Leo outlined with admirable clarity and propriety the doctrine on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, in conformity with the teaching of the pro- phets, of the Gospel, of apostolic writings and of the formula of the Faith. Unity of Belief While he was in Gaul, where he was sent by the Pope on the suggestion of the court of Ravenna~ to settle the conflict between the patrician Ezio and the prefect Albino, Sixtus III died. It was then that the Church 1)f Rome From this letter it seems timely to note the following truly graphic expressions: "The pro- priety of both natures remaining therefore in- tegral, coming together in the single person, human nothingness was assumed by divine majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity; and in order to satisfy the debt of our condition, the inviolable nature was united to a susceptible nature, in such a manner that, as was indeed needed for our salvation, the one and irreplaceable mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, could indeed die according to one nature, but not accord- ing to the other. Therefore, the Word, though assuming the complete and perfect nature of his legate. This council, venerable brothers, constitutes one of the most glorious pages in the history of the Catholic Church. But We do not consider it necessary to recall it here in detail, since Our predecessor Plus XII dedi- cated one of his most famous encyclicals, on the 15th centenary of the event; to this great assembly, in the course of which there triumphed with equal splendor the true faith in the two natures of the Incarnate Word and the primacy of the magisterium of the Roman Pontiff. Eastern Churches- The solicitude of St. Leo for the unity and peace of the Church is evident~ from the fact that he hesitated to give his approval to the acts of the council. In reality, this hesitation is not to be ascribed either to negligence or to any motives of a doctrinal character, but--as he himself declared--to his intention of oppos- ing canon 28 of the acts of the council. In this canon the Fathers of the council, in spite of the protest of the papal legates and with the obvious wish to gain the favor of the emperor oi Byzantium, gave recognition to the primacy of the See of Constantinople over all the churches of the East. This decision appeared to St. Leo to be an affront to the privileges of other more ancient and illustrious churches, which were also recognized by the Fathers of the Council of Nicea. Furthermore, it prejudiced the prestige of the Apostolic See itself St. Leo clearly per- ceived that this danger lay more in the spirit which dictated it than in the words of canon 28 itself, as results clearly from two letters, one of which was addressed to him by the bishops of the council, and the other sent by him to the emperor. In the latter, refuting the arguments bf the Fathers of the council, he admonished the em- peror: "The order of the things of the world is one thing, and another those things of God; Doctor of the Church Besides being a most vigilant pastor of the flock of Christ and a courageous defender of the orthodox faith, St. Leo is celebrated through the centuries as a Doctor of the Church, that is, as an exponent and most ex- cellent champion of those divine 'truths of which every Roman Pontiff is custodian and interpreter. This is confirmed by the words of Our im- mortal predecessor Benedict XIV who, in the bull "Militantis Ecclesiae," with which he proclaimed St. Leo as a Doctor of the Church, formulated this splendid eulogy: "Through his eminent virtue, through his ~visdom, through his tireless zeal, he merited from the ancients the name of Leo the Great. The superiority of his doctrine, both m illustrating the ~ighest mysteries of our Faith {rod in defending them against the rise of errors, as well as in formu- lating disciplinary and moral directives, to which may be added a singular majesty and richness of priestly eloquence, stands out to such a degree and is distinguished, due to the praise of so many men and to the enthusiastic exaltations of the councils, the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, that a pontiff of such great wisdom is absolutely not to be placed second in fame and esteem to any of the holy doctors who flourished in the Church." Exponent of Mysteries His fame as doctor emerges from the homi- lies and letters which posterity has preserved for us in considerabIe numbers. The collection of homilies embraces different questions, al- most all connected with the cycle of the sacred liturgy. In these writings he reveals himself not so much as an exegete, dedicated to the exposition of a particular inspired book, nor as a theologian, a lover of deep speculations on divine truths, but rather as a faithful, acute INE CENT AND THE II VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL Venerable brothers, in the imminence of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in which the Bishops, gathered about the Roman Pontiff and in intimate communion with him, will give to the whole world as more shining spectacle of Catholic unity, it is all the more instructive and comforting to recall to mind, even though rapidly, the high idea which St. Leo had of the unit of the Church. This re. minder will be at the same time an act of homage to the memory of the most wise Pon- tiff and, in the coming of the great event, a spiritual food for the souls of the faithful. The Unity of the Church in the Thought of St. Leo St. Leo teaches us above all that the Church is one, because its Spouse, Jesus Christ, is one: "The Church is the bride, united to Christ, her only Spouse, who admits of no error; so that in all the world we enjoy a sin- gle union, chaste and integral." The saint believes also that this admirable unity of the Church began with the birth of the Incarnate Word, as emerges from these words: "It is the hirth of Christ that deter- mines the origin of the Christian people the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body. Even if each one of those called (to the Faith) enters in his own turn, if all the chil. dren of the Church are distributed in. the suc- cession of time, yet the totality of the faithful, born at the baptismal font, are begotten with Him in His birth in the same way as they are s crucified with Christ in His Passion, raised up with Him in His Resurrection and placed at the right hand of the Father in His Ascen- sion." Mary participated intimately in the mysteri. ous birth of the "body of the Church," through her virginity which was made fruitful by tho work of the Holy Spirit. St. Leo exalted Mary as "Virgin, handmaid and mother of the Lord," as "Genetrix of God," and as perpetual Vir. gin. Spiritual Priesthood The sacrament of Baptism, St. Leo further- more observes, not only renders each Chris- tian a member of Christ, but renders him also a participant in His regality and His spiritual priesthood: "All those who were regenerated in Christ, are also made king with the sign of the cross and consecrated priest with the anointing of the Holy Spirit." The sacrament of Confirmation, which he calls "sanctifica. tion by chrism," strengthens this assimilation to Christ the Head, while in the Eucharist it finds its completion: "The participation in the Body and Blood of Christ does nothing less than transform us into that which we consume, and we bear with us, in flesh and in spirit, Him Himself in whom we died, were buried and were raised again." Unity of Faith But one must note well that for St. Leo~ there can be no perfect union of the faithful with Christ the Head, nor union among them- selves, as members of the same living and visi- ble organism, if to the spiritual links of virtue, worship and sacraments there is not added the external profession of the same Faith: "The integral and true Faith is a great bul- wark to which nothing can be added or taken from by anyone: if the Faith is not single, it does not exist at all." It is indispensable, however, to the unity of the Faith that there be union among the teachers of the divine truths, that is, the har- mony of bishops among themselves in com- munion and submission to the Roman Pon- tiff: "The compactness of the whole body is that which gives origin to its sanctity and beauty, and, though this compactness requires unanimity, it requires above all the harmony of its priests. These have priestly dignity in common, but they do not have the same de- gree of power; because also among the apostles there was equality of honor, but dif- ference of power, inasmuch as the grace of election was common to them all, but the right of preeminence over the others was granted only to one." The Bishop of Rome, Center of Visible Unity The center and fulcrum of all visibile unity of the Catholic Church, then, is the Bishop of Rome as successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Jesus Christ. The statements of St. Leo are only the faithful echo of the Gospel texts and constant Catholic tradition, as the following passage reveals: "In all the world only Peter is placed over the evangelization of all people, over all apostles and over all the Fathers of the Church, so that, although there are many pastors and priests in the midst of God's peo- ple, all are governed properly by Peter, as all are governed principally by Christ. In a great and marvelous way, oh beloved, the deigned to make this man partaker of His er; and if He wishes that others also should have something in common with Him, He grants all to the others always by means of him." St. Leo believes it is fitting to insist on this truth which is fundamental to Catholic unity, that is, the divine and indissoluble bond be- tween the power of Peter and that of the other apostles: "This power (to bind and to loose: cf. Matt. 14, 19) was certainly extended also to the other apostles, and it was transmitted to all the heads of the Church, but it was not without purpose that that which was to be communicated tO all the others was recom- mended to one person alone. In fact, this pow- er was entrusted to Peter particularly, exactly because the figure of Peter stands above all those who govern the Church."