Leo delivered a sermon on the Lord's Passion during Holy Week, breaking it up into parts over a couple of days, as he himself explained: "These things that I have put into your devout ears are enough today, dearly beloved, lest the weariness caused by too many words distress you. What still needs to be added we promise to give you on Wednesday, God willing, since he who has given what we have said, will give, we believe, what to say then, through Jesus Christ our Lord" ( Serm. 52.5). Upon resuming that particular sermon, Leo states: "Fidelity demands, dearly beloved, that we should return to that part of the sermon which we promised concerning the Lord's Passion, he himself helping us, and I do not doubt that you are helping us in this with your prayers as well" ( Serm. 53.1).
Within this series of sermons, Leo touches on many aspects of the Passion--from the Last Supper all the way through the Resurrection. Some of his deepest reflections on the mystery of Redemption come from this collection, a fact that brings us to regret very much the loss of sermons from 446 to 451 and from 455 to 461. Leo explains to the congregation--simply, clearly, but sublimely--his personal insights into the real meaning of every person, place, and thing involved in the Passion--from the foreshadowings of the Old Testament to the realities of the New. He urges them continually to meditate upon the Passion because "never can enough be said [about it]" ( Serm. 62.1).
While the specific incidents upon which he chooses to focus vary throughout these sermons, Leo always manages to reiterate the truth about the Incarnation--generally with a view to refuting current heresies. "We should not let either of these groups make it seem that what has been done for us, not only humbly but sublimely as well, would be either impossible (with respect to human beings) or unworthy (with respect to God). But both should be accepted, both believed. No human being can be saved except through both" ( Serm. 56.1).
Leo often remarks that the Passion continues to be real for all believers, as real as it was to those who were actually present during it. Leo's eloquence waxes as he becomes personally involved in the events, directly addressing the participants and thereby increasing the pathos. "Return[, o Judas,] to your former state. Abandon your fury. Come to your senses. Kindness invites you. Your salvation demands it. Life calls you back to life" ( Serm. 58.3). "From what fountain of error, o
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Publication information: Book title: Sermons. Contributors: Jane Patricia Freeland - Translator, Agnes Josephine Conway - Translator, Pope Leo I - Author. Publisher: Catholic University of America Press. Place of publication: Washington, DC. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 225.