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Predestination and Divine Foreknowledge in the Sermons of Pope Leo the Great

  • Philip L. Barclift (a1)

Extract

During the fifth century of our common era the Latin church fathers struggled to explain how we humans are saved and why it seems that not all humans are saved. Most of these attempts pivoted on the writings of Augustine of Hippo. The fathers either borrowed from Augustine's thought, adapted it, or reacted to it. Beginning with the generation of theologians who thrived at the end of Augustine's life and just following his death, there arose a tendency in the western church to moderate his more extreme positions concerning grace and predestination by realigning them with accepted church tradition. This tradition includes those Christian doctrines which were held and promoted most widely by theologians—up to, but not including, Augustine himself—whom the early church accepted as orthodox.

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1. On the Semi-Pelagian doctrine of the initium fidei see Amann, E., “Semi-pélagiens,” Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 14 (Paris, 1941 ed.), col. 1810 and Chéné, J., “Que significait ≪initium fidei≫ et ≪affectus creduliatus≫ ?Recherches de science religieuse 35 (1948): 566588.

2. See Leo, epist. 1.3 (Migne, J.-P., Patrologia, Series Latina [PL] 54.595 [Paris, 1844-]): “Cumque omnes definitiones suas ad subrependi facilitatem, improbare se simulent atque deponere, noc sibi tota arte fallendi, nisi intellegantur, excipiunt, ut gratia Dei secundum merita dari accipientium sentiatur. Quae utique nisi gratis detur, non est gratia.”

3. Augustine, De dono perseverantiae ad Prosperum et Hilarium 17.42 (PL 45.1019).

4. Augustine, De correptione et gratia ad Valentinum 14.43 (PL 44.942).

5. Augustine, Opus imperfectum contra Iuliam 2.139 (PL 45.1199).

6. Augustine, De praedestinatione sanctorum ad Prosperum et Hilarium 8.14 (PL 44.971).

7. Ibid. 10.19 (PL 44.974); see also De dono perseverantiae 17.15, 34, 41 (PL 45.1002, 1015, 1018).

8. Augustine, De correptione 12.38 (PL 44.940); see also De diversis quaestionibus VII ad Simplicianum 1.2.13 (PL 40.118).

9. Ibid. 15.47 (PL 44.945); see also De praedestinatione 1–21 (PL 44.959–992).

10. See Chéné, J., “Que significait ≪initium fidei≫ ?” pp. 566588, and compare Augustine, , De praedestinatione 121 (PL 44.959–992).

11. De dono perseverantiae 17.42 (PL 45.1019).

12. See Altaner, Berthold, Patrology, trans. Graff, Hilda C. (Edinburgh, 1960), pp. 535537.

13. Solignac, Aime, “Prosper d'Aquitaine,” Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique (Beauchesne-Paris, 1990 ed.), col. 2447. See also Hamman, Adalbert, “Writers of Gaul,” in Angelo, di Berardino, ed., Patrology (Westminster, 1988), vol. 4, The Golden Age of Latin Patristic Literature from the Council of Nicaea to the Council of Chalcedon, p. 556.

14. Pope Celestine, epist. 21 (PL 50.528–530).

15. For a survey of the evidence that Prosper was behind the addition of the Capitula caelestini to Celestine's epistle 21 see Cappuyn's, D. M. article, “L'origine des capitula pseudo-célestiniens contre le sémipélagianisme,” Revue bénédictine 41 (1929): 156170.

16. See esp. De vocatione omnium gentium 1.1 (PL 51.649) and 2.2 (PL 51.687–688).

17. Prosper, De vocatione 2.19 (PL 51.703) and 1.25 (PL 51.686). Compare Czeslaw Bartnik's analysis of Prosper's De vocatione, “L'universalisme du salut dans le De vocatione,” Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 68 (1973): 731758. Bartnik does not address the question of authorship in this article, even though there is little debate concerning its origin.

18. De vocatione 1.9 (PL 51.659).

19. Ibid. 1.21–25 (PL 51.674–686); see also 1.12 (PL 51.663–665) and 2.3 (PL 51.688–689).

20. Ibid. 2.25 (PL 51.711): “Quae licet copiosius nunc quam ante praestetur; causas tamen distributionum suarum Dominus apud scientiam suam tenuit, et intra secretum potentissimae voluntatis occuluit: quae si omnibus uniformiter affluerent, non laterent; et quam nulla est ambiguitas de benignitate generali, tam de speciali misericordia nihil quod stupendum esset exsisteret: ac proinde ilia esset gratia, ista non esset.” See 2.1 (PL 51.685–687).

21. See nn. 58, 59, and 60, below.

22. De vocatione 2.26–28 (PL 51.711–715).

23. Ibid. 2.34–35 (PL 51.719). See Augustine, epist. 225.5 (PL 33.1004): “Tales aiunt perdi, talesque salvari quales futuros illos in annis majoribus, si ad activam servarentur aetatem, scientia divina praviderit.”

24. Ibid. 2.35–37 (PL 51.719–722).

25. Ibid. 2.26–28 (PL 51.711–715).

26. See Altaner, , Patrology, pp. 535536.

27. See Rondet, Henri, who considers Pope Leo to be one of the purist Augustinians, The Grace of Christ: a Brief History of the Theology of Grace, trans. Guzie, Tad (Amsterdam, 1967), pp. 171172.

28. See for example sermons 58.4; 59.2, 5; 61.5; 62.4; 63.5–6; 67.2; 74.5. All texts of Pope Leo's sermons are derived from the critical edition by Antoine Chavasse, Sancti Leonis Magni. Romani Pontificis tractatus septem et nonaginta (CCL 138; Turnholti Prepol Editores Pontificii, , 1973). Because of the relative brevity of each sermon, no additional notation is necessary. Also see serm. 71.4: “ex quo, inquit, initium nobis factum est resurrectionis in Christo, ex quo in eo qui pro omnibus mortuus est, totius spei nostrae forma praecessit. Non haesitamus diffidentia, nee incerta expectatione suspendimur, sed accepto promissionis exordio, fidei oculis quae sunt futura iam cernimus, et naturae prouectione gaudentes, quod credimus iam tenemus.”

29. Serm. 22.1: “inluxit dies redemptionis nouae, praeparationis antiquae.”

30. Ibid.: “Reparatur enim nobis salutis nostrae annua reuolutione sacramentum, ab initio promissum, in fine redditum, sine fine mansurum. In quo dignum est nos sursum erectis cordibus diuinum adorare mysterium, ut quod magno Dei munere agitur, magnis Ecclesiae gaudiis celebretur. Deus enim omnipotens et clemens, cuius natura bonitas, cuius uoluntas potentia, cuius opus misericordia est, statim ut nos diabolica malignitas ueneno suae mortificauit inuidiae, praedestinata renouandis mortalibus pietatis suae remedia inter ipsa mundi primordia praesignauit.”

31. Ibid. 22.2: “Aduenientibus ergo temporibus, dilectissimi, quae redemptioni hominum fuerant praestituta … noua natiuitate generatus.”

32. Serm. 29.2: “Natalem igitur, dilectissimi, diem Domini celebrantes, qui ex omnibus praeteritorum temporum diebus electus est, licet dispensatio actionum corporalium, sicut aeterno consilio fuerat praeordinata.” Serm. 82.5: “tropeum crucis Christi Romanis arcibus inferebas, quo te diuinis praeordinationibus anteibant et honor potestatis et gloria passionis.”

33. On serm. 22.1, see n. 30, above. Serm. 59.5: “Simon quidam Cyrenaeus inuentus est, in quern lignum supplicii transferretur a Domino, ut etiam tali facto praesignaretur gentium fides.”

34. Serm. 67.5: “Quod igitur in tempore praestituto, secundum propositum uoluntatis suae lesus Christus crucifixus est et mortuus ac sepultus.”

35. Serm. 67.2: “Cum ergo omnia quae in Dominum maiestatis iudaica admisit impietas, tanto ante praedicta sint, et non tam de futuris quam de praeteritis propheticus sit sermo contextus, quid aliud nobis quam sempiternarum dispositionum Dei incommutabilis ordo reseratur, apud quem et discernenda iam diiudicata, et futura iam facta sunt? Cum enim et qualitates actionum nostrarum et effectus omnium uoluntatum scientia diuina praeueniat, quanto magis nota sunt Deo opera sua! Et recte placuit quasi facta recoli, quae non poterant omnino non fieri.”

36. Ibid.: “Numquid iniquitas persequentium Christum ex Dei est orta consilio, et illud facinus quod omni maius est crimine manus diuinae praeparationis armauit? Non hoc plane de summa iustitia sentiendum est, quia multum diuersum multumque contrarium est id quod in Iudaeorum malignitate praecognitum, et quod in Christi est passione dispositum. Non inde processit uoluntas interficiendi, unde moriendi, nee de uno extitit spiritu atrocitas sceleris et tolerantia Redemptoris. Impias furentium manus non inmisit in se Dominus, sed admissit, nee praesciendo quod faciendum esset, coegit ut fieret, cum tamen ad hoc carnem suscepisset ut fieret.”

37. Serm. 54.5: “Respexit igitur Dominus Petrum … illis turbatum discipulum conuenit oculis, quibus eum praeuiderat esse turbandum.”

38. Serm. 58.3.

39. Ibid.: “qui [Judas] in uoluntaria erat impietate praescitus. Ipse enim sibi fuit materia ruinae et causa perfidiae, sequens diabolum ducem, et nolens Christum habere rectorem.”

40. Ibid.: “Redi in integrum, et deposito furore resipisce. Clementia inuitat, salus pulsat, uita te reuocat.”

41. See serm. 59.4.

42. See sermons 12.1, 34.2, 51.7, 54.1, 55.2, 55.3, 60.3, 65.3, 75.1.

43. See serm. 32.2.

44. Serm. 4.2: “uniuersarum gentium uocationi.”

45. For example, see sermons 32.4; 33.5; 35.1–4; 36.2; 38.1, 7.

46. Serm. 35.1

47. Ibid. 35.2: “Permanet igitur … sicut euidenter apparet, mysticorum forma gestorum, et quod imagine inchoabatur, ueritate completur.”

48. Ibid. 35.3: “Considerantes itaque, dilectissimi, ineffabilem erga nos diuinorum munerum largitatem, cooperatores simus gratiae Dei operantis in nobis.”

49. Ibid.: “qui nobis nullis operum meritis suffragantibus, et Sacramento consuluit et exemplo, ut in adoptionem uocatos per illud proueheret ad salutem, per hoc imbueret ad laborem” (emphasis added).

50. Ibid. 35.4: “Inter haec autem permanet super omnes benignitas Dei, et nulli misericordiam suam denegat, cum indiscrete uniuersis bona multa largiatur, eosque quos merito subderet poenis, mauult inuitate beneficiis.”

51. See Prosper, De vocatione 2.26–28 (PL 51.711–717).

52. See Pope Leo's serm. 30.4.

53. On Leo's doctrine of the general redemption, see serm. 62.4: “quam sacramentum Christus generalis redemptionis impleret. Nam mortuo pro omnibus impiis Domino, potuisset etiam forte hic consequi remedium, si non festinasset ad laqueum” (emphasis added). See also sermons 20.3, 22.2, 27.6, 28.3, 33.1–2, for example.

54. See serm. 53.3. Compare Fernandez's, C. lengthy analysis of this aspect of Pope Leo's doctrine of grace in La Grâcia según San León el Grande (Mexico City, 1951), pp. 9097.

55. Serm. 12.1: “Ad quam utique nos cotidie reparat gratia Saluatoris, dum quod cecidit in Adam primo, erigitur in secundo. Causa autem reparationis nostrae non est nisi misericordia Dei, quern non diligeremus, nisi 'nos prior ipse diligeret' (1 John 4:10).… Diligendo itaque nos Deus ad imaginem suam reparat, et ut in nobis formam suae bonitatis inueniat, dat unde ipsi quoque quod operatur operemur, accendens scilicet mentium nostrarum lucernas et igne nos suae caritatis inflammans, ut non solum ipsum, sed etiam quidquid diligit diligamus,… quia non aliter in nobis erit dignitas diuinae maiestatis, nisi imitatio fuerit uoluntatis.”

56. See also serm. 53.3.

57. See for example serm. 43.1: “Gratiae igitur Dei oboedientia se humana non subtrahat, nee ab illo bono sine quo non potest bona esse, deficiat.”

58. John Cassian, Collationes 13.7 (PL 49.909): “Praesto est quotidie Christi gratia, quae dum vult omnes homines salvos fieri cunctos absque ulla exceptione convocat.”

59. Ibid. 13.8 (PL 49.912): “Tanta est erga creaturam suam pietas Creatoris ut non solum comitetur sed etiam praecedat jugi providentia.”

60. Ibid.: “qui cum in nobis ortum quemdam bonae voluntatis inspexerit, illuminant eam confestim atque confortat et incitat ad salutem, incrementum tribuens ei quem vel ipse plantavit, vel nostro conatu viderit emersisse.”

61. Ibid. 13.3 (PL 49.899–901). See also 13.15–17.

62. Pope Leo, serm. 72.1: “Crux enim Christi, quae saluandis est impensa mortalibus, et sacramentum est et exemplu; sacramentum, quo uirtus impletur diuina; exemplum, quo deuotio incitatur humana, quoniam captiuitatis iugo erutis, etiam noc praestat redemptio, ut earn sequi possit imitatio.”

63. Serm. 39.3: “quia ob hoc se Dominus temptari a temptatore permisit, ut cuius munimur auxilio, eius erudiremur exemplo.… Pugnauit ergo ille tune, ut et nos postea pugnaremus, uicit ille, ut et nos similiter uinceremus … si uolumus superare, pugnandum est.”

64. Serm. 51.4: “possibilia facit mandata per gratiam.”

65. See serin. 53.3: “ad eius imaginem, qui deformitati nostrae conformis factus est, formemur; et ut resurrectionis eius mereamur esse consortes, humilitati et patientiae ipsius per omnia congruamus.”

66. Serm. 43.1: “Gratiae igitur Dei oboedientia se humana non subtrahat, nee ab illo bono sine quo non potest bona esse, deficiat.” See also sermons 35.4 and 39.1.

67. Serm. 32.4: “Quamuis enim omnium bonorum sit ipse largitor, etiam nostrae tamen fructum quaerit industriae. Non enim dormientibus prouenit regnum caelorum, sed in mandatis Dei laborantibus atque uigilantibus.”

68. Augustine, Retractationes 2.1 (PL 32.629).

69. Indeed, I suspect even Cassian considered himself a faithful Augustinian, though he was intent on saving Augustine from what Cassian considered Augustine's overstatements on grace and predestination. Cassian continued to cite Augustine's authority in other matters even after the latter's death, as he did in De incarnatione Christi 7.27.

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Church History
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