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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters (Leo the Great) > Letter 79

Letter 79

Leo, bishop of the city of Rome to Pulcheria Augusta.

I. He rejoices at Pulcheria's zeal both against Nestorius and Eutyches.

That which we have always anticipated concerning your Grace's holy purposes, we have now proved fully true, viz. that, however varied may be the attacks of wicked men upon the Christian Faith, yet when you are present and prepared by the Lord for its defence, it cannot be disturbed. For God will not forsake either the mystery of His mercy or the deserts of your labours, whereby you long ago repelled the crafty foe of our holy religion from the very vitals of the Church: when the impiety of Nestorius failed to maintain his heresy because it did not escape you the handmaid and pupil of the Truth, how much poison was instilled into simple folk by the coloured falsehoods of that glib fellow. And the sequel to that mighty struggle was that through your vigilance the things which the devil contrived by means of Eutyches, did not escape detection, and they who had chosen to themselves one side in the twofold heresy, were overthrown by the one and undivided power of the Catholic Faith. This then is your second victory over the destruction of Eutyches' error: and, if he had had any soundness of mind, that error having been once and long ago routed and put to confusion in the person of his instigators, he would easily have been able to avoid the attempt to rekindle into life the smouldering ashes, and thus only share the lot of those, whose example he had followed, most glorious Augusta. We desire, therefore, to leap for joy and to pay due vows for your clemency's prosperity to God, who has already bestowed on you a double palm and crown through all the parts of the world, in which the Lord's Gospel is proclaimed.

II. He thanks her for her aid to the Catholic cause, and explains his wishes about the restoration of the lapsed bishops.

Your clemency must know, therefore, that the whole church of Rome is highly grateful for all your faithful deeds, whether that you have with pious zeal helped our representatives throughout and brought back the Catholic priests, who had been expelled from their churches by an unjust sentence, or that you have procured the restoration with due honour of the remains of that innocent and holy priest, Flavian, of holy memory, to the church, which he ruled so well. In all which things assuredly your glory is increased manifold, so long as you venerate the saints according to their deserts, and are anxious that the thorns and weeds should be removed from the Lord's field. But we learn as well from the account of our deputies as from that of my brother and fellow bishop, Anatolius, whom you graciously recommend to me, that certain bishops crave reconciliation for those who seem to have given their consent to matters of heresy, and desire Catholic communion for them: to whose request we grant effect on condition that the boon of peace should not be vouchsafed them till, our deputies acting in concert with the aforesaid bishop, they are corrected, and with their own hand condemn their evil doings; because our Christian religion requires both that true justice should constrain the obstinate, and love not reject the penitent.

III. He commends certain bishops and churches to her care.

And because we know how much pious care your Grace deigns to bestow on Catholic priests, we have ordered that you should be informed that my brother and fellow bishop, Eusebius, is living with us, and sharing our communion, whose church we commend to you; for he that is improperly asserted to have been elected in his place, is said to be ravaging it. And this too we ask of your Grace, which we doubt not you will do of your own free will, to extend the favour which is due as well to my brother and fellow bishop, Julian, as to the clergy of Constantinople, who clung to the holy Flavian with faithful loyalty. On all things we have instructed your Grace by our deputies as to what ought to be done or arranged. Dated April 13, in the consulship of the illustrious Adelfius (451).

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Source. Translated by Charles Lett Feltoe. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3604079.htm>.

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