Fathers of the Church
Letter CLXIX: to Leo Augustus
by Leo the Great in 460 | translated by Charles Lett Feltoe, M.A
Leo, the bishop, to Leo Augustus.
I. He heartily thanks the Emperor far what he has done, and asks him to complete the work in any way he can.
If we should seek to reward your Majesty's glorious resolution in defence of the Faith with all the praise that the greatness of the issue demands, we should be found unequal to the task of giving thanks and celebrating the joy of the universal Church with our feeble tongue. But His worthier recompense awaits your acts and deserts, in whose cause you have shown so excellent a zeal, and are now triumphing gloriously over the attainment of the wished-for end. Your clemency must know therefore that all the churches of GOD join in praising you and rejoicing that the unholy parricide has been cast off from the neck of the Alexandrine church, and that GOD's people, on whom the abominable robber has been so great a burden, restored to the ancient liberty of the Faith, can now be recalled into the way of salvation by the preaching of faithful priests, when it sees the whole hotbed of pestilence done away with in the person of the originator himself. Now therefore, because you have accomplished this by firm resolution and stedfast will, complete your tale of work for the Faith by passing such decrees as shall be well-pleasing to GOD in favour of this city's catholic ruler, who is tainted by no trace of the heresy now so often condemned: lest, perchance, the wound apparently healed but still lurking beneath. the scar should grow, and the Christian laity; which by your public action has been freed from the perversity of heretics, should again fall a prey to deadly poison.
II. Good works as well as integrity of faith is required in a priest.
But you see, venerable Emperor, and clearly understand, that in the person, whose excommunication is contemplated, it is not only the integrity of his faith that must be considered; for even, if that could be purged by any punishments and confessions, and completely restored by any conditions, yet the wicked and bloody deeds that have been committed can never be done away by the protestations of plausible words: because in GOD'S pontiff, and particularly in the priest of so great a church, the sound of the tongue and the utterance of the lips is not enough, and nothing is of avail, if GOD makes proclamation with His voice and the mind is convicted of blasphemy. For of such the Holy Ghost speaks by the Apostle, "having an appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof," and again elsewhere, "they profess that they know GOD, but in deeds they deny Him." And hence, since in every member of the Church both the integrity of the true Faith and abundance of good works is looked for, how much more ought both these things to predominate in the chief pontiff, because the one without the other cannot be in union with the Body of Christ.
III. Timothy's request for indulgence on the scare of orthodoxy must not be allowed.
Nor need we now state all that makes Timothy accursed, since what has been done through him and on his account, has abundantly and conspicuously come to the knowledge of the whole world, and whatever has been perpetrated by an unruly mob against justice, all rests on his head, whose wishes were served by its mad hands. And hence, even if in his profession of faith he neglects nothing, and deceives us in nothing, it best consorts with your glory absolutely to exclude him from this design of his L because in the bishop of so great a city the universal Church ought to rejoice with holy exultation, so that the true peace of the LORD may be glorified not only by the preaching of the Faith, but also by the example of men's conduct. Dated 17th of June, in the consulship of Magnus and Apollonius . (By the hand of Philoxenus agens in rebus.)
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/XII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.