From “Sermon 2, For Lent” (ca.455)
None of us, dear friends, is so perfect and holy as to make reflection and improvement unnecessary. All of us, regardless of rank or dignity, should be concerned to embark on the race that is set before us with fresh determination this Lent, making an effort over and above the norm.
Certainly, we need to be on our guard all the year round against the enemy of our salvation, never leaving any vulnerable spot exposed to the tempter’s art; but during Lent greater wariness and keener prudence are called for, because Satan is raging against us with fiercer hatred. The reason why vigilance is necessary is because our enemy’s ancient power is being actively broken: countless numbers of people are being removed from his clutches. People of all nations and languages are breaking away from his tyranny. Literally, thousands of thousands are being prepared for baptism, to be reborn in Christ at Easter, and always, as the birth of a new creature draws near, we can expect the power of evil to raise its head. Against whom would not Satan compete, given that he did not balk at trying to overthrow our Lord Jesus Christ himself when he was in the wilderness?
When we reflect on the temptations which assailed our Lord, we should ponder in particular our Redeemer’s precept: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Whatever degree of personal abstinence we observe this Lent, it is vital that all of us should desire above all to feast upon the word of God, entering upon this solemn fast not with a barren abstinence of food which may impose upon our recalcitrant body or in an attempt to treat the disease of greed, but instead with a spirit of generous self-giving. In truth, let the Truth speak to us, saying, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Let works of justice, therefore, be our delight. Let us fill ourselves with the kinds of food that will feed us for eternity. Let us rejoice in the feeding of the poor and the clothing of the destitute. Let our humanity receive outward expression of tenderness toward the sick, the housebound, refugees, orphans, and widows. Let no Christian say he does not have the resources to help such needy folk. No one’s income ins small whose heart is big. The measure of mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of our means. Wealth of goodwill should never be lacking in a Christian, even in those whose purses are modest.
This season, therefore, let faults be forgiven, let bonds be loosed, let offenses be wiped clean, let plans for vengeance fall through, that through the divine and human grace of Christ, the holy festival of Easter may find us all happy and innocent.
St. Leo the Great (ca. 400-461) was a Roman cleric and theologian. He served as a diplomat for the papal court and became Bishop of Rome in 440, exercising pastoral care during the depredations of the Huns and the Vandals. His Tome, a clear defense of the the teaching that the one person of Christ has two natures, divine and human, was adopted by the Council of Chalcedon as a crucial marker of orthodoxy. His feast day is November 10.