Saint Leo was born in Rome. He embraced the sacred ministry, was made Archdeacon of the Roman Church by Pope Saint Celestine, and under the same Vicar of Christ and Saint Sixtus III, had a large share in governing the Church. On the death of Sixtus, Leo was chosen Pope, and consecrated on September 29, 440 on the feast Saint Michael, amid great joy.
It was the time of terrible trial which preceded by thirty years the definitive fall of the Roman Empire. Vandals and Huns were wasting the provinces of the empire, and Nestorians, Pelagians, and other heretics wrought still more grievous havoc in souls. While Leo’s zeal was making headway against these perils, there arose the new heresy of Eutyches, who confounded the two natures of Christ. At once the vigilant pastor proclaimed the true doctrine of the Incarnation in his famous “tome”; but fostered by the Byzantine court, the heresy gained a strong hold upon the Eastern monks and bishops. After three years of unceasing toil, Saint Leo brought about its solemn condemnation by the Council of Chalcedon, the Fathers all signing his tome, and exclaiming, “Peter has spoken by Leo.”
Soon after, Attila with his Huns broke into Italy, and marched through its razed cities upon Rome. Leo went out boldly to meet him, and prevailed on him to turn back. His chieftains were astonished to see the terrible Attila, the “Scourge of God,” fresh from the sack of Aquileia, Milan and Pavia and with the rich prize of Rome within his grasp, turn his great host back to the Danube at the Saint’s word. They asked him why he had acted so strangely. He told them he had seen two venerable personages – who are generally supposed to be Saints Peter and Paul – standing behind Saint Leo; and impressed by this vision, he withdrew. Two years later the city fell a prey to the Vandals, but Leo saved it again from total destruction. He died in 461 after having ruled the Church for a little over twenty years.
The feast of this great Pope was transferred from the day of his death, November 10, 461 to April 11, the day on which his body was first laid in the tomb under the outer porch of the old St. Peter’s. He is called “Great,” not only for his learning, but also for his successful government of the Church by overcoming heretics and saving Rome from the invasion of Attila. The magnificent Offices of Advent are attributed to him and certainly several of his compositions are contained in the Leonine Sacramentary.
By his humility, mildness, and charity this great Pope won the love and reverence of emperors, princes, and people of every rank.
INTROIT Ecclesiasticus 15: 5
In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth: and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding: He clothed him with a robe of glory. Alleluia, alleluia! (Ps. 91: 2) It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy Name, O Most High. v. Glory be…etc
Look forgivingly on thy flock, Eternal Shepherd, and keep it in thy constant protection, by the intercession of blessed Leo thy Sovereign Pontiff, whom thou didst constitute Shepherd of the whole Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
EPISTLE 2 Timothy 4: 1-8
Lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to Timothy. Dearly beloved, I charge thee before God and Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the living and the dead, by His coming, and His Kingdom. Preach the word: be instant in season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience, and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but according to their own desires they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed; and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the Faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day; and not only to me, but to them also that love His coming.
Alleluia, alleluia! Eccl. 45:9 The Lord loved him well and ennobled him; he clothed him about with a robe of honour. Alleluia! Osee 14:6 A faithful man will burgeon like the lily, will blossom in the Lord’s sight for ever. Alleluia!
GOSPEL Matthew 5: 13-19
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples,”You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain can not be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house; so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in Heaven. Do not think that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil For, amen I say unto you, till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass of the law till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven: but he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.”
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 91:13
The innocent man will flourish as the palm-tree flourishes, he will grow to greatness as the cedars grow on Lebanon. Alleluia!
Grant, we entreat thee, Lord, that through the intercession of blessed Leo we may offer profit by this sacrifice, the offering of which, under thy ordinances, earns pardon for the sins of all mankind. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Luke 12:42
He was a faithful and wise servant, one whom his master entrusted with the care of his household, to give them their allowance of food at the appointed time. Alleluia!
O God, who for his merits didst make the blessed pontiff Leo the equal of thy saints; grant us this boon, that we who keep high festival in memory of him may also reproduce the pattern of his life. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. Amen