A Leonine Lent

Ok—after consulting my NPNF, I have decided on a schema for holy reading for Lent. I’ll be reading through the sermons for Lent from Leo the Great as translated in the venerable NPNF series. Rather than doing a sermon a day, I’ll be doing a section a day. I’ll be posting them—so feel free to read along…

My plan is to go through all of the sermons for Lent, then to read specific sections of his Passiontide/Holy Week sermons to fill out the rest of the time. I’m doing selections because, while they contain many gems of spiritual wisdom, Leo the Great’s sermons on Holy Week are an afront to Christian charity and partake deeply of the sin of anti-Semitism.

I’m not being overly sensitive here lest you wonder—he says some really vile things.

As a result, I’ll not be meditating on the more offensive sections as their only value towards edification is in examining the depths of our own sin and seeing how sin has entrenched itself within our ecclesial institutions.  While I do think there is value in this, enough of his anti-Semitism remains in sections that I will be present that we will have an opportunity to name it, condemn it, and—hopefully—root out similar failings on our own lives…

That having been said, Leo was termed “the Great” for a reason and is a tremendous preacher. In particular, Leo is strong on the disciplines of penitence, explaining how the three great Lenten disciplines of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer interrelate and lead us to a deeper following of Christ.

We start on Ash Wednesday.

2 Replies to “A Leonine Lent”

  1. I have just a few editions from the NPNF (Nyssa and Cassian). I have a series of four books called “The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers.” It is keyed to the old, one-year lectionary, but the index has a list of the Scripture citations (so one can mach it up with the RCL lectionary). These are wonderful books with many of Leo the Great’s sermons. I am a layperson and I benefit from studying these sermons (as a way to prepare myself for Sunday Eucharist). For Lent I will be reading “Christ on Trial: How he Gospel Unsettles Our Judgement” by Archbishop Rowan Williams. Whenever I encounter rants against Jews in our tradition it troubles me. I remember reading an awful piece by Martin Luther “On the Jews and Their Lies.” In the Canadian Book of Alternative Services, the Good Friday liturgy includes this poignant and fitting reproach: “I grafted you into the tree of my chosen Israel and you turned on them with persecution and mass murder. I made you joint heirs with them of my covenants but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt.” (pg. 316)

  2. That sounds like a great set, Marko—thanks for mentioning it! (Here it is at Amazon.) These rants against the Jews are a sordid part of our history that we have to confront, learn from, and forswear.

    Indeed, one of my teachers was responsible for that redrafting of the Reproaches (it’s also the one in the Priest’s Handbook) that helps clarify the purpose of the reproaches for modern congregations. I.e., this isn’;t about the bad things that those Jews did to Jesus, rather, this is how the people of God continually fall short of their calling. If we personally are not implicated in them, then they have not fulfilled their purpose…

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