St Leo the Great on Mourning and Suffering

Today we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, pope and doctor of the Church known for faithfully guiding the Church, his theological knowledge, pastoral heart, and profound preaching.

As we continue to remember our loved ones who have passed from this life to the next this month, let us reflect on both the blessings of life in the Resurrection and on the joy found in mourning.

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St. Leo the Great, challenged the faithful to remember their role as partakers in Christ’s Passion to remember that we too are crucified, died, buried, and resurrected.

“And so, dearly-beloved, if we unhesitatingly believe with the heart what we profess with the mouth, in Christ we are crucified, we are dead, we are buried; on the very third day, too, we are raised. Hence the Apostle says, If you have risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting on God’s right hand: set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ, your life, shall have appeared, then shall you also appear with Him in glory Colossians 3:1-4 . But that the hearts of the faithful may know that they have that whereby to spurn the lusts of the world and be lifted to the wisdom that is above, the Lord promises us His presence, saying, Lo! I am with you all the days, even till the end of the age Matthew 28:20. For not in vain had the Holy Ghost said by Isaiah: Behold! A virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us.  Jesus, therefore, fulfils the proper meaning of His name, and in ascending into the heavens does not forsake His adopted brethren, though He sits at the right hand of the Father, yet dwells in the whole body, and Himself from above strengthens them for patient waiting while He summons them upwards to His glory.”

-Sermon 72

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So too, did he reflect on the role of suffering and mourning when he wrote:

“After the assertion of this most happy humility, the Lord has added, saying, Blessed are they which mourn, for they shall be comforted Matthew 5:4. This mourning, beloved, to which eternal comforting is promised, is not the same as the affliction of this world: nor do those laments which are poured out in the sorrowing’s of the whole human race make any one blessed. The reason for holy groanings, the cause of blessed tears, is very different. Religious grief mourns sin either that of others’ or one’s own: nor does it mourn for that which is wrought by God’s justice, but it laments over that which is committed by man’s iniquity, where he that does wrong is more to be deplored than he who suffers it, because the unjust man’s wrongdoing plunges him into punishment, but the just man’s endurance leads him on to glory.”

– Sermon 95

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As we continue to remember all those who have passed away, may we be comforted by the reminder that all are invited to share in both the sufferings and the glory of Christ.

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Father,

you promise to turn suffering into joy.

May all those mourning

find solace in the Church

and the knowledge of that Christ has been truly raised.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God forever and ever.