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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:
The Letters and Sermons of Leo the Great.: Letter CXXIII

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Letter CXXIII.

To Eudocia Augusta 507 , about the Monks of Palestine 508 .

Leo, the bishop, to Eudocia Augusta.

I.  A request that she should use her influence with the monks of Palestine in reducing them to order.

I do not doubt that your piety is aware how great is my devotion to the catholic Faith, and with what care I am bound, God helping me, to guard against the Gospel of truth being withstood at any time by ignorant or disloyal men.  And, therefore, after expressing to you my dutiful greetings which your clemency is ever bound to receive at my hands, I entreat the Lord to gladden me with the news of your safety, and to bring aid evermore and more by your means to the maintenance of that article of the Faith over which the minds of certain monks within the province of Palestine have been much disturbed; so that to the best of your pious zeal all confidence in such heretical perversity may be destroyed.  For what but sheer destruction was to be feared by men who were not moved either by the principles of God’s mysteries 509 , or by the authority of the Scriptures, or by the evidence of the sacred places themselves 510 .  May it advantage then the Churches, as by God’s favour it does advantage them, and may it advantage the human race itself which the Word of God adopted at the Incarnation, that you have conceived the wish to take up your abode in that country 511 where the proofs of His wondrous acts and the signs of His sufferings speak to you of our Lord Jesus Christ as not only true God but also true Man.

II.  They are to be told that the catholic Faith rejects both the Eutychian and the Nestorian extremes.  He wishes to be informed how far she succeeds.

If then the aforesaid revere and love the name of “catholic,” and wish to be numbered among the members of the Lord’s body, let them reject the crooked errors which in their rashness they have committed, and let them show penitence 512 for their wicked blasphemies and deeds of bloodshed 513 .  For the salvation of their souls let them yield to the synodal decrees which have been confirmed in the city of Chalcedon.  And because nothing but true faith and quiet humility attains to the understanding of the mystery of man’s salvation, let them believe what they read in the Gospel, what they confess in the Creed, and not mix themselves up with unsound doctrines.  For as the catholic Faith condemns Nestorius, who dared to maintain two persons in our one Lord Jesus Christ, so does it also condemn Eutyches and Dioscorus 514 who deny that the p. 91 true human flesh was assumed in the Virgin Mother’s womb by the only-begotten Word of God.

If your exhortations have any success in convincing these persons, which will win for you eternal glory, I beseech your clemency to inform me of it by letter; that I may have the joy of knowing that you have reaped the fruit of your good work, and that they through the Lord’s mercy have not perished.  Dated the 15th of June, in the consulship of the illustrious Opilio (453).



See Letter CXVII., chap. iii., n. 8.


See Letter CIX. above.


Ratio sacramentorum, it cannot be too often repeated that to Leo and other early Fathers, all nature, and all its phenomena, and all God’s dealings with mankind are sacramenta, and capable of a sacramental (i.e. higher, inner) interpretation:  the particular sacramentum he is thinking of here is the incarnation, which he speaks of just below, as often elsewhere, as the sacramentum salutis humanæ (the sacrament or mystery whereby man is saved).


Viz., the places in Palestine where these monks themselves lived, which trustworthy history or tradition connects with the various incidents in our Lord’s life.


Eudocia had just made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.


Agant pœnitentiam:  this is the regular and very expressive translation in the Latin Versions and among the Fathers of the Greek μετανοεῖν.


They had seized Jerusalem, and deposed Juvenal, the Bishop, setting up a partisan of their own in his stead.


Leo not unfrequently joins these two together as equally responsible (e.g. Lett. CIX. 3).

Next: To the Monks of Palestine.

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