The most significant and important point of all is that the Pope St. Leo himself saw no attack on the Privilegia Petri in the canon. The principle on which the bishops based the canon did come under his notice; for amongst the many reasons he gave for rejecting it was this, that the See of Constantinople ought not to deprive Alexandria and Antioch of their place as second and third sees, because it was not an Apostolic foundation and they were. The See of Alexandria, he tells Anatolius, cannot be stripped of the dignity which it had received on account of Mark, the disciple of Peter, notwithstanding the apostacy of Dioscorus; nor could Antioch, where Peter preached and where the Christian name first arose, lose its rank as third. And yet in none of his letters, in which he recites the many objections to the “innovation,” does he take any exception to the words which assert that his own See of Rome owed its rank to the secular greatness of the city: “Etenim sedi senioris Romae” (or, “throno antiquae Romae”) “propter Imperium civitatis illius” (or, “quod privilegia tribuerunt” (reddiderunt) – so run the Latin versions of these oft-quoted words. “Leo himself,” says the late Canon Bright, who failed to perceive the immense significance of the admission, “was content to denounce it, not on account of St. Peter’s prerogatives, but in the name of the Council of Nicaea.” And the late Canon Carter, a leading Anglican authority, also says: “Rome did not oppose the decree as derogatory to herself.” These admissions appear to concede our point, which is that the decree neither denied nor was intended to deny the Petrine privilege of the Holy See, and that therefore it did not and could not mean that the Pope’s position was based merely on ecclesiastical consent.
No one can doubt that Leo would have denounced the canon with uncompromising rigour as an attack on the Apostle himself, had he detected in it any assault on the Apostle himself, had he detected in it any assault on the Apostolic origin of the headship bequeathed to the See of Rome. As he have already noticed, the Pope did object to the infringement of the Petrine prerogatives of Alexandria and Antioch. Yet he does not censure the words in which the canon speaks of the privileges of Rome. The only possible inference is that the Pope understood the words, and was meant to understand them as conveying the same meaning as his own recent utterance: that is, the sermon (1 in Natal. Petri et Pauli) preached by him not long before the Council met.
In this celebrated discourse the Pope had made the same statement as the canon, and in very similar terms. In fact, the entire sermon was devoted to the theme that Rome had been chosen by her Fathers and founders to be the Head See of the Church because she was the Imperial City; and the famous sentence of the canon would have made an admirable text for the Pope’s own sermon. There are some interesting parallels in this sermon to the actual language of the canon, but the point on which we lay especial stress is the identity of thought. “Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostolic Order, received for his lot the citadel of the Roman Empire (arcem Romani imperii), that the light of the Truth, which was being revealed for the salvation of all nations, might be shed more efficaciously through the whole body of the world from its head (efficacius se ab ipso capite per totum mundi corpus effunderet).” The reason given in this passage from the Pope’s sermon is the reason given in the canon: Peter received Rome for his lot because it was the head of the world. “Rome, which was the mistress of error, has become the disciple of the Truth.” The same thought is brought out with much eleoquence of beauty of language in that part of the sermon which is read as the Fifth Lection in the Second Nocturn of June 29th in the Roman Breviary. It begins: “Isti (sc. Petrus et Paulus) sunt Patres tui et veri pastores,” and contrasts the two Apostles with the brothers Romulus and Remus, the “patres et pastores” of secular Rome. “These are thy fathers and true pastors,” exclaims the Pope, “who by planting thee in the heavenly realms founded thee under much better and happier auspices” than the twin brothers. “These are they who have raised thee to this glory (qui te ad hanc gloriam provexerunt), that being made by the Holy See of Blessed Peter, the head of the world, as a holy nation, an elect people, a sacerdotal and royal city, thou mightest rule more widely by divine religion than with an earthly sway. For though, increased by many victories, thou hast extended thy empire by land and sea, nevertheless, it is a smaller realm that the toil of war has subdued to thee, than that which has been made thy subject by the Christian peace.”
The resemblance of the famous words of the canon to this majestic utterance is so remarkable that they may be called a concise summary of it. The parallels are very striking; and though we will not press them too far, we may fairly place them side by side, and declare that the author of the sermon might well refrain from objection to the words of the canon.
|St. Leo.||The “Canon” of Chalcedon.|
|Isti sunt Patres tui||Patres|
|te ad hanc gloriam provexerunt||privilegia reddiderunt|
|multis aucta victoriis jus Imperii tui
terra marique protuleris.
|propter Imperium Civitatis.|
Again, “It was especially befitting to the divine work,” continues the Pope, “that many kingdoms should be united in one empire (ut multa regna tuo confoederarentur imperio) and that the rule of a single city (regimen unius civitatis) should open up vast populations to the rapid and universal proclamation of the Truth.” This city, whose dominion was well-nigh universal, was the slave of error; it was, therefore, the spot where error should be overthrown. Hither, therefore, came Peter, hither came Paul; “and,” concludes the Pope, “while we commemorate all the saints, we must rightly rejoice with greater exultation in the excellence of these Fathers” (in horum excellentia Patrum merito est exsultantius gloriandum) whom God has so advanced “as to make them like the light of the two eyes in that Body, the Head of which is Christ.” It matters little what part of this wonderful sermon we read. Throughout it the main thought, the theme of the Pope is that the two Apostles (and especially St. Peter) “gave Rome the primacy because she was the Imperial City.”
It is interesting to note that St. Leo applies to the two Apostles the term “Patres” used in the canon. We do not mean that the hagioi pateres of the first sentence in the canon and the hoi pateres of the sentence under discussion may be therefore defined to mean Peter and Paul, and nobody else. As we shall see later on, it certainly includes them; and, indeed, it may be more than a mere accident that the word used thus twice over in the canon, once in the nominative and once in the genitive, should have been previously used twice over in the Pope’s sermon, in the same connection and in the same two cases. We do not press this unduly, as we have no liking for over-refinements in such an argument. We do say, however, that when so many parallelisms occur in the language of two different authorities, dealing with the subject from entirely different standpoints, and when one of those authorities is especially desirous of conciliating the other, a suspicion naturally arises that it is more than a mere coincidence. But while the standpoints are different, the identity of thought is beyond question.
In this connection, it is worthy while to remember that Julian, Bishop of Cos, the Pope’s resident at Constantinople, was certainly an authority on the Pope’s sentiments, and may not unreasonably be supposed to have possessed a copy of the sermon. The Festival was a great event in Rome, all the bishops of Italy being invited, and Leo’s commissary must certainly have learned all that went on. Julian was won over by the party of Anatolius to support their appeal to the Pope to ratify the canon. We venture to conjecture – for of course this is conjecture – that this may account for the remarkable resemblance of phraseology which we have noticed. Certainly it shows that Julian too saw no attack in the canon upon St. Leo’s teaching and the immemorial tradition of the Roman Church.
To be continued …