28 June 2023

St Leo II., Pope and Confessor

From Fr Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints.

HE was by birth a Silician, eminent for his piety, and perfectly skilled in the Latin and Greek tongues, in the church music, and both in sacred and polite literature. Pope Agatho dying on the 1st of December, 681, he was chosen to fill the pontifical chair. He confirmed, by the authority of St. Peter, as he says, (writing to the zealous emperor Constantine Pogonatus, 1) the sixth general council held at Constantinople, in which his predecessor St. Agatho had presided by his legates. In the censure of this council we find the name of Honorius, joined with the Monothelite heretics, Theodorus bishop of Pharan, and Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter of Constantinople. Pope Leo II. in his first letter to the bishops of Spain, 2 gives the reason, because Honorius “did not extinguish the flame of the heretical doctrine in its rise, as it became the apostolical authority, but fomented it by negligence.” And in his letter to king Ervigius 3 he makes the same distinction between Honorius and the others. It is evident from the very letters of Honorius himself, which are still extant, from the irrefragable testimony of his secretary who wrote those letters, and from others 4 that he never gave into the Monothelite error; though had he fallen into heresy, this would have only hurt himself; nor is the question of any other importance than as an historical fact. Favourers are sometimes ranked with principals. Honorius had by unwariness, and an indiscreet silence, temporized with a powerful heresy, before his eyes were opened to see the flame which he ought to have laboured strenuously to extinguish when the first sparks appeared. St. Leo reformed the Gregorian chant, composed several sacred hymns for the divine office, and did many things for the advancement of religion, though he was only pope one year and seven months. He pointed out the path to Christian perfection no less by the example of his life, than by his assiduous instructions, and zealous exhortations; and was in a particular manner the father of the poor, whom he diligently relieved, comforted, and instructed with a most edifying tenderness, charity, and patience. He passed to a better life on the 23rd of May, 683, and was buried in the Vatican church on the 28th of June; on which day he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology, that of Notker, and the ancient German Calendar published by Beckius. See Anastasius Biblioth. and his Epistles, Conc. t. 6.  1

Note 1. Conc. t. 6, p. 1817. [back]
Note 2. Conc. t. 6, p. 1257. [back]
Note 3. Ibid. p. 1252. [back]
Note 4. See Nat. Alex. Hist. Sæc. 7, Diss. de Honorio. Tournely, Tr. de Incarn. &c. [back]

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