St Leo The Great: As Lent Begins

By St Leo The Great

Homilia 44 is taken from the book   Glimpses of the Church Fathers and it is part of St John's Homily 4 at the council of Ephesus

My dearest ones, The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord (Ps 32:5). And every faithful person finds in his own nature a doctrine which teaches him to honour God. Heaven and earth, the sea and everything it contains, proclaim the goodness and the omnipotence of their Author. And the admirable beauty of the elements placed at our service call for, from intellectual creatures, a merited act of thanksgiving. But when these days, which are especially marked out for the mystery of human redemption and immediately preceded the paschal feast, come around, we are bound to prepare ourselves more diligently with pious purification.

The life of many, in every age, is innocent and a great number of people are pleasing to God because of their good works. Nevertheless, no one can be confident of the integrity of his conscience and come to think that in the midst of scandals and temptations which constantly surround human fragility, there is nothing which can harm him. Did the great prophet not say: Who can say, "I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin"? (Prov 20:9). And further: Clean me from what is hidden, O Lord, forgive your servant from what does not befit him (Ps 18:13-14).


Experience shows that the person who resists concupiscence, who struggles against rushes of anger and comes to neutralize even his most secret thoughts, always finds something to correct when he comes to examine his heart; and, on the other hand, he falls often in unseen faults or finds himself burdened by those of the others. So, in this period it is necessary to examine more carefully what vices, illnesses or wounds need more severe treatment. In this way such people will not find themselves without the grace of this sacrament, whose effect is to destroy the works of the devil...

My dearest ones, what every Christian has to practise always, has now to be done with more faith and more love. In this way we will satisfy the apostolic instruction which commands us to fast for forty days. not only reducing our food intake, but principally abstaining from sin. As mortification has as its aim to cut out the focal points of carnal desires, no abstinence is so advantageous as the one which makes us abstemious of evil desires and free from immoral actions...

Good Works

Nothing unites more and gives greater fruit to a holy and reasonable fast than those good deeds which are almsgiving. Under the title 'works of mercy' come those praiseworthy actions of goodness, thanks to which the souls of tall the faithful can have the same value. Love, which is owed equally to God and to men, is never prevented by such obstacles as when it is not free to want the good. If the angels have said: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours (Luke 2:14), it is not only in virtue of kindness but also the good of peace, which brings happiness to those who, through their charity, feel sympathy for the misery which others suffer.

Good works are very varied, and this very variety gives true Christians, be they rich or poor, a part of the distribution of alms, in such a way that those who differ by the quantity of their good become equal at least through affections of the heart. Within sight of the Lord many throw into the collection boxes great amounts from their abundance, and a widow gives only two coins (cf Luke 21:2). Yet she deserves to be honoured with a testimony from Jesus Christ who said that such a small gift was preferred to the offerings of others, since in relation to the big amounts of those who were still left with a lot, what she gave was all she had, as she was so poor. And even if someone were to see himself reduced to such a poor situation that he could not give two coins to the poor, he will find in the Lord's precepts the way of carrying out these duties of charity. For he who gives a glass of water to the thirsty will receive his reward (cf Matt 10:42).

What opportunities the Lord has prepared for his servants so that they may obtain his kingdom, if just the giving of water, which is something common and free, receives such a reward! But the Lord does point out, and with good reason, that this glass of water has to be given in his name. For it is faith that makes precious these things which are ordinary in themselves; the gifts of the unfaithful, although they may be considerable, are useless for justification.

My dearest ones, you who want to celebrate the passover of the Lord, should carry out these holy fasts, so that you come to the most holy of all feasts free from all turmoil. Love of humility expels the spirit of pride, source of all sin, and meekness contains those whom presumption inflates. Those who, with their offences, have irritated the courageous, reconciled among themselves may seek to enter in harmonious unity: Do not repay anyone evil for evil (Rom 12:17), but Forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you (Col 3:13). Suppress human enmities with peace. and if some of your subordinates have deserved to go to prison or to be put in chains, let them mercifully be let loose. We, who daily need the remedy to indulgence, should pardon without difficulty the faults of others. If we say to the Lord, our Father: Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12), it is absolutely certain that when we forgive the offences of others, we prepare ourselves to receive divine clemency.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns or ever and ever. Amen

Glimpses of the Church Fathers:

In recent years there has been a growing awareness among lay people of the importance of Tradition within the Catholic Church. A primary source of this Tradition is the collection of what the Fathers of the Church had to say in Her early history. This selection of writings covers a wide range of topics, and is presented in easily readable units.

If You Enjoyed This Please Share it to   Social Media.

And Be Sure to Follow Us   on Facebook  or Instagram!