In our first reading we find these words, “Rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of … hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:4-7)
Today we commemorate Leo, one of the great Bishops of Rome in the middle of the 5th Century, an important period for the Church.
The spirit of power and of love and of self discipline of which today’s Epistle reading spoke was very evident in Leo.
During his time as Bishop of Rome Leo saved that city twice from invading barbarian armies. He was a great preacher, uniting contrary images from Scripture in terms of prayer rather than dividing issues by debate.
Among other reasons, perhaps the greatest reason for remembering Leo, was the adoption by the Council of Chalcedon of a significant passage from Leo’s letter to Flavian, Bishop of Constantinople, defining the union of the divine and human natures of the person of Christ.
This was a theological milestone for the whole Church.
This definition, which is known as the “Tome of Leo”, can be found among the historical documents in the back of our Book of Common Prayer, (p. 864). The essence of that definition is that Jesus Christ, Son of God, born of Mary, was truly God, and by that birth was also truly human. When we comprehend this definition of the two natures of Jesus Christ, we can begin to understand how Jesus’ Cross and Death, Resurrection, and Ascension work for our salvation.
I first heard this definition at the age of 12 in Confirmation class at St. John’s Cathedral, Spokane, WA. I remember clearly Dean Charles McAllister telling us about Jesus’ two natures at our first class session.
My understanding of Jesus Christ was suddenly, at once, enlarged! Very soon my knowledge of the Holy Trinity and of the Church also grew deeper. All three of these are important for a vital faith.
Today’s Epistle reading ended with the words: “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us” (2 Tim. 1:14). The gift of Leo the Great to the Church was a clearer knowledge and understanding of the two natures of Jesus, Fully Human and Fully Divine. Do you have that understanding and that knowledge as part of your spiritual treasure?
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