Leo: Sermon 40.1

1. Progress and improvement always possible

Although, dearly-beloved, as the Easter festival approaches, the very recurrence of the season points out to us the Lenten fast, yet our words also must add their exhortations which, the Lord helping us, may be not useless to the active nor irksome to the devout. For since the idea of these days demands the increase of all our religious performances, there is no one, I am sure, that does not feel glad at being incited to good works. For though our nature which, so long as we are mortal, will be changeable, is advancing to the highest pursuits of virtue, yet always has the possibility of falling back, so has it always the possibility of advancing. And this is the true justness of the perfect that they should never assume themselves to be perfect, lest flagging in the purpose of their yet unfinished journey, they should fall into the danger of failure, through giving up the desire for progress.

And, therefore, because none of us, dearly beloved, is so perfect and holy as not to be able to be more perfect and more holy, let us all together, without difference of rank, without distinction of desert, with pious eagerness pursue our race from what we have attained to what we yet aspire to, and make some needful additions to our regular devotions. For he that is not more attentive than usual to religion in these days, is shown at other times to be not attentive enough.

Being a sorry back-slider, I for one, feel glad at being incited to good works… No martial metaphors here. Instead, a fair amount of reference to “the perfect”. I’m not sure how to read this. Being the postmodern that I am, I read it a little ironically, and assume that Leo is setting up a rhetoric ideal for us to measure ourselves against—and fall short. Thus, I see Leo making an appeal to our own spiritual self-seeking. This is perhaps a little questionable as methods for motivation go, but as a mentor (the Jumping One) once noted if you’re talking about virtues and other such habitual actions, even base motives can assist us in forming holy habits.

3 thoughts on “Leo: Sermon 40.1

  1. marshmk

    Derek, I may be reading into Leo’s writing my own recent post but I wonder if Leo might not be suggesting something akin to epektasis. Rather than setting up a rhetoric ideal perhaps he is describing the reality of a never ending journey into God?

  2. John-Julian, OJN

    I know that “perfecti” were the Prefects (as it were) of the Cathars — but twenty years or so ago I had a reference to some early Christian document which described the “perfecti” as those who remained celibate and prayed morning, noon, evening, and midnight (i.e., early semi-monastics) but for the life of me I cannot resurrect the source from my decaying memory. Did I make that up? Does it ring a bell for anyone?

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