Fathers of the Church
Letter CIV: to Marcian Augustus
by Leo the Great in 452 | translated by Charles Lett Feltoe, M.A
Leo, the bishop, to Marcian Augustus.
I. He congratulates the Emperor on his share in the triumph of the catholic Faith.
By the great bounty of God's mercy the joys of the whole catholic Church were multiplied when through your clemency's holy and glorious zeal the most pestilential error was abolished among us; so that our labours the more speedily reached their desired end, because your God-serving Majesty bad so faithfully and powerfully assisted them. For although the liberty of the Gospel had to be defended against certain dissentients in the power of the Holy Ghost, and through the instrumentality of the Apostolic See, yet God'S grace has shown itself more manifestly (than we could have hoped) by vouchsafing to the world that in the victory of the Truth only the authors of the violation of the Faith should perish and the Church restored to her soundness. Accordingly the war which the enemy of our peace had stirred up, was so happily ended, the Lord's right hand fighting for us, that when Christ triumphed all His priests shared in the one victory, and when the light of Truth shone forth, only the shades of error, with its champions, were dispelled. For as in believing the LORD'S own resurrection, with a view to strengthen the beginnings of Faith, confidence was much increased by the fact that certain Apostles doubted of the bodily reality of our LORD Jesus Christ, and by examining the prints of the nails and the wound of the spear with sight and touch removed the doubts of all by doubting; so now, too, while the misbelief of some is refuted, the hearts of all hesitaters are strengthened, and that which caused blindness to some few avails for the enlightenment of the whole body. In which work your clemency duly and rightly rejoices, having faithfully and properly provided that the devil's snares should do no hurt to the Eastern churches, but that to propitiate God everywhere more acceptable holocausts should be offered; seeing that through the mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, one and the self-same creed is held by people, priests, and princes, O most glorious son and most clement Augustus.
II. Considering all the circumstances Anatolius might have been expected to show more modesty.
But now that these things, about which so great a concourse of priests assembled, have been brought to a good and desirable conclusion, I am surprised and grieved that the peace of the universal Church which had been divinely restored is again being disturbed by a spirit of self-seeking. For although my brother Anatolius seems necessarily to have consulted his own interest in forsaking the error of those who ordained him, and with salutary change of mind accepting the catholic Faith, yet he ought to have taken care not to mar by any depravity of desire that which he is known to have obtained through your means. For we, having regard to your faith and intervention, though his antecedents were suspicious on account of those who consecrated him, wished to be kind rather than just towards him, that by the use of healing measures we might assuage all disturbances which through the operations of the devil had been excited; and this ought to have made him modest rather than the opposite. For even if he had been lawfully and regularly ordained for conspicuous merit, and by the wisest selection yet without respect to the canons of the Fathers, the ordinances of the Holy Ghost, and the precedents of antiquity, no votes could have availed in his favour. I speak before a Christian and a truly religious, truly orthodox prince (when I say that) Anatolius the bishop detracts greatly from his proper merits in desiring undue aggrandizement.
III. The City of Constantinople, royal though it be, can never be raised to Apostolic rank.
Let the city of Constantinople have, as we desire, its high rank, and under the protection of God's right hand, long enjoy your clemency's rule. Yet things secular stand on a different basis from things divine: and there can be no sure building save on that rock which the Lord has laid for a foundation. He that covets what is not his due, loses what is his own. Let it be enough for Anatolius that by the aid of your piety and by my favour and approval he has obtained the bishopric of so great a city. Let him not disdain a city which is royal, though he cannot make it an Apostolic See; and let him on no account hope that he can rise by doing injury to others. For the privileges of the churches determined by the canons of the holy Fathers, and fixed by the decrees of the Nicene Synod, cannot be overthrown by any unscrupulous act, nor disturbed by any innovation. And in the faithful execution of this task by the aid of Christ I am bound to display an unflinching devotion; for it is a charge entrusted to me, and it tends to my condemnation if the rules sanctioned by the Fathers and drawn up under the guidance of God's Spirit at the Synod of Nicaea for the government of the whole Church are violated with my connivance (which God forbid), and if the wishes of a single brother have more weight with me than the common good of the Lord's whole house.
IV. He asks the Emperor to express his disapproval of Anatolius' self- seeking spirit.
And therefore knowing that your glorious clemency is anxious for the peace of the Church and extends its protection and approval to those measures which conduce to pacific unity, I pray and beseech you with earnest entreaty to refuse all sanction and protection to these unscrupulous attempts against Christian unity and peace, and put a salutary check upon my brother Anatolius' desires, which will only injure himself, if he persists: that he may not desire things which are opposed to your glory and the needs of the times, and wish to be greater than his predecessors, and that it may be free for him to be as pre-eminent as he can in virtues, in which he will be partaker only if he prefer to be adorned with love rather than puffed up with ambition. The conception of this unwarrantable wish he ought indeed never to have received within the secret of his heart, but when my brothers and fellow-bishops who were there to represent me withstood him, he might at least have desisted from his unlawful self-seeking at their wholesome opposition. For both your gracious Majesty and his own letter affirm that the legates of the Apostolic See opposed him as they ought with the most justifiable resistance, so that his presumption was the less excusable in that not even when rebuked did it restrain itself.
V. And to try to bring him to a right mind.
And hence, because it becomes your glorious faith that, as heresy was overthrown, God acting through you, so now all self-seeking should be defeated, do that which beseems both your Christian and your kingly goodness, so that the said bishop may obey the Fathers, further the cause of peace, and not think he had any right to ordain a bishop for the Church of Antioch, as he presumed to do without any precedent and contrary to the provisions of the canons: an act which from a longing to re- establish the Faith and in the interests of peace we have determined not to cancel. Let him abstain therefore from doing despite to the rules of the Church and shun unlawful excesses, lest in attempting things un-favourable to peace he cut himself off from the universal Church. I had much liefer love him for acting blamelessly than find him persist in this presumptuous frame of mind which may separate him from us all. My brother and fellow- bishop, Lucian, who with my son, Basil the deacon, brought your clemency's letter to me, has fulfilled the duties he undertook as legate with all devotion: for he must not be reckoned to have failed in his mission, the course of events having rather failed him. Dated the 22nd of May in the consulship of the illustrious Herculanus .
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.