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Author Topic: Pope Leo's 445 letter to Dioscorus of Alexandria  (Read 1850 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 19, 2012, 10:56:51 PM »

This letter is being discussed in the free for all section:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.ii.iv.ix.html

According to the editors it was written around 445, which would place it before the events surrounding Ephesus II.

If I read the letter correctly, Pope Leo seems to say three things:

1.  Alexandria should conform its practices to those of Rome.

2.  Priests should be ordained on Saturday night.

3.  On feast days, churches should have more than one liturgy.


Someone correct me if I am reading it wrong.


I am wondering:

1.  What was the context in which this letter was written? 

2.  What was St. Dioscorus' response?


Also,--and this could be due to my bias as an OO--it seems to me that Pope Leo thinks he is in a position to tell St. Dioscorus what to do.  He seems to refer to himself as "the teacher," and to St. Dioscorus as "the taught":

Quote
We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught.

And in his very last sentence, it seems to me that Pope Leo is claiming a sort of exclusive Apostolic authority. 

Again, someone let me know if I am way off on this.  And again, I would like to know if St. Dioscorus ever responded to this particular insinuation.

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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2012, 12:31:17 AM »

This is just one possible way of undestanding the letter. But then again, Rome did have a tendency to assert it's position as "first" when it was ranked "first among equals".

1.  Alexandria should conform its practices to those of Rome.

The first paragraph could be interpreted simply to mean that because both Rome and Alexandria (through St Mark) trace their discipleship back to St Peter, their doctrine and practice should be in agreement with each other as both being in continuation of the common teacher that they had in St Peter. This would make St Peter the teacher and Popes St Leo and Discorus to both be his students and having received the same tradition.

Quote
2.  Priests should be ordained on Saturday night.

He seems to be saying that the sacrament itself of ordination should properly be done on the Lord's day, and seems to be defending the prior evening (saturday evening) as properly belonging to the Lord's day because that's when the day begins liturgically.

Quote
3.  On feast days, churches should have more than one liturgy.

He seems to be saying that pastoral care should be taken to ensure that major feast days are celebrated in such a manner that everyone receives the opportunity to celbrate the feast and that no one be deprived of the opportunity to celebrate the feast. If there are too many people to fit in the church at once, that the liturgy be served more than once in order to provide the entire flock with the opportunity to celebrate the feast. Some of our churches do this using multiple altars and priests to preside in order to accomplish this while still maintaining one liturgy per priest and per altar per day.


Quote
1.  What was the context in which this letter was written? 

2.  What was St. Dioscorus' response?

I honestly don't know.

Quote
And in his very last sentence, it seems to me that Pope Leo is claiming a sort of exclusive Apostolic authority.

Not exclusive. He refers to Dioscorus as "brother" and uses the phrase "throughout the churches over which the Lord has called you to preside". He appeals to the testimony of a priest concerning his experience in Rome to verify that they are faithful "in all things" to the apostolic tradition that was handed down.
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2012, 01:08:19 AM »

I echo Melodist's statements, and also:

1.  Alexandria should conform its practices to those of Rome.

I think he might be making an argument for his way of doing things, yes. I do have to wonder what prompted St. Leo to write this letter? It doesn't say, and he really makes no diplomatic or introductory remarks, only a salutation. Go figure.

2.  Priests should be ordained on Saturday night.

I think he's actually making an argument for ordaining clergy on the Lord's Day, and is simply including Saturday evening in the keeping of the Lord's Day, as that is the ancient custom even up to the present day. St. Leo writes, "...that those who are to be consecrated should never receive the blessing except on the day of the Lord’s resurrection, which is commonly held to begin on the evening of Saturday,"

I do have to wonderful if, in Rome, their clergy were ordained during the Liturgy at the time St. Leo's was pope? I don't think they do currently (someone please correct me if I'm wrong), but I have no idea about back then. If they did not, then St. Leo could be making an argument for ordaining clergy on Saturday evening after Vespers, which would be liturgically Sunday.

3.  On feast days, churches should have more than one liturgy.

Now, I do know that today's Roman Catholic Church doesn't hold to the "one liturgy per priest per altar per day." rule. Their rubrics sometimes actually call for multiple Masses to be served on the same day, such as certain Solemnities. For example, I believe they hold something like four Masses on Christmas day (midnight, morning, afternoon and evening...or something like that). I think on any given day, at least two Masses may be served. Again, I do not know if this was the case during St. Leo's time, but it's interesting to think about.

1.  What was the context in which this letter was written?  

2.  What was St. Dioscorus' response?

Yeah, no idea on both counts here.  Undecided I'd like to know myself! I'll see if I can find more information on this letter, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow...it's past midnight here and I'm crashing soon!

Also,--and this could be due to my bias as an OO--it seems to me that Pope Leo thinks he is in a position to tell St. Dioscorus what to do.

I don't know. I think he's advocating his way of doing things and that he thinks its proper. He's not ordering him to follow these practices, though.


He seems to refer to himself as "the teacher," and to St. Dioscorus as "the taught":

Quote
We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught.

And in his very last sentence, it seems to me that Pope Leo is claiming a sort of exclusive Apostolic authority.  

Again, someone let me know if I am way off on this.  And again, I would like to know if St. Dioscorus ever responded to this particular insinuation.

I think he's making an argument for unity here, saying that St. Mark (founding bishop of Alexandria) should be in agreement with the Tradition has it was passed down from St. Peter, since he was his disciple. I think he's making an argument for Alexandria to adopt the practices of Rome. Why? No idea. However, I don't think he's referring to any exclusive authority of Rome, I think he's just making an appeal for the shared Petrine origins of both Rome and Alexandria, as I said in the Free-For-All thread you've referenced.

I don't believe this letter can be used to support the idea of Papal Supremacy as dogma, or that St. Leo is even trying to exercise some form of supremacy.
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2012, 01:13:44 AM »

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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2012, 01:20:28 AM »

I'm wondering if Alexandria or any other patriarchate ever wrote to Rome suggesting that Rome conform its practices to theirs.  I'm just wondering how common this sort of thing was.  Does anyone know of an example of that happening?
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2012, 01:28:22 AM »

Interestingly enough, on a controversy between the Pope of Rome and St. Cyprian on "rebaptism," St. Dionysius of Alexandria seems to be an arbiter in this case, as opposed to later traditions of Rome trying to be arbiters of cases between archbishops:

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/dionysius_alexandria_letters.htm

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DURING the years 254-258 there was a controversy between the see of Rome on the one hand and the Asiatic and African churches on the other as to the validity of baptisms administered by heretics. Pope Stephen maintained that those who had, in an heretical medium, been baptised either in the name of Jesus Christ alone, or in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ought, after a bishop had laid hands on them, to be admitted to communion; whereas Cyprian of Carthage and Firmilian of Caesarea maintained that heresy on the part of the baptiser rendered baptism null and void. The pope accused his antagonists of rebaptising (a)nabapti/zein), thereby to some extent begging the question at issue, and excommunicated them both in Asia and in Africa. In this controversy Dionysius, patriarch of Alexandria, intervened, and wrote, as Euse-bius relates in the seventh book of his Ecclesiastical History, one letter to Pope Stephen and as many as three to his successor Xystus (257-8). Eusebius has also preserved to us brief extracts from the one letter to Stephen, and from the first and second to Xystus.
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2012, 03:20:57 AM »

Also,--and this could be due to my bias as an OO--it seems to me that Pope Leo thinks he is in a position to tell St. Dioscorus what to do.  He seems to refer to himself as "the teacher," and to St. Dioscorus as "the taught":

Quote
We do not therefore allow it that we should differ in anything, since we confess ourselves to be of one body and faith, nor that the institutions of the teacher should seem different to those of the taught.

As I referenced in the other thread, it seems clear to me that 'the teacher' is St. Peter, and 'the taught' is St. Mark. His point is that what St. Mark (the taught, the ordained, the disciple) 'instituted' at Alexandria should not differ from what St. Peter (St. Mark's teacher, ordainer, master) instituted at Rome.
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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 03:26:08 AM »

I'm wondering if Alexandria or any other patriarchate ever wrote to Rome suggesting that Rome conform its practices to theirs.  I'm just wondering how common this sort of thing was.  Does anyone know of an example of that happening?

Nothing occurs to me off the top of my head--but St. Leo was certainly not the first Roman Patriarch to do this. St. Ireneus documents St. Anicetus of Rome's attempt to convince St. Polycarp to switch to the Roman tradition of calculation of Paschas in the 2nd century, and Pope St. Stephen's attempt to get St. Cyprian of Carthage (among many others) to adopt the Roman practice on reception of schismatics in the 3rd century is well-documented. My guess would be that St. Leo's letter was probably no more effective than St. Anicetus or St. Stephen's attempts had been.
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2012, 04:59:31 AM »

I believe that this was part of a correspondence between Leo and Dioscorus which took place on the consecration of Dioscorus as Archbishop of Alexandria.

I have always read it as a well-meaning expression of Leo's universalist papal views which were properly ignored by Dioscorus.
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« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2013, 11:06:43 PM »

I'm wondering if Alexandria or any other patriarchate ever wrote to Rome suggesting that Rome conform its practices to theirs.  I'm just wondering how common this sort of thing was.  Does anyone know of an example of that happening?
For one thing, eventually Rome adopted the Alexandrian Paschalion.
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« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2013, 01:47:08 AM »

I'm wondering if Alexandria or any other patriarchate ever wrote to Rome suggesting that Rome conform its practices to theirs.  I'm just wondering how common this sort of thing was.  Does anyone know of an example of that happening?
For one thing, eventually Rome adopted the Alexandrian Paschalion.

When and under what circumstances?
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« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2013, 08:09:13 AM »

I'm wondering if Alexandria or any other patriarchate ever wrote to Rome suggesting that Rome conform its practices to theirs.  I'm just wondering how common this sort of thing was.  Does anyone know of an example of that happening?
For one thing, eventually Rome adopted the Alexandrian Paschalion.

Was it at Nicea I, that Alexandria was given the honor to announce the date for Pascha and send out the paschal letter?
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« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2013, 10:11:34 AM »

I'm wondering if Alexandria or any other patriarchate ever wrote to Rome suggesting that Rome conform its practices to theirs.  I'm just wondering how common this sort of thing was.  Does anyone know of an example of that happening?
For one thing, eventually Rome adopted the Alexandrian Paschalion.

Was it at Nicea I, that Alexandria was given the honor to announce the date for Pascha and send out the paschal letter?
Yes.
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« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2013, 10:12:48 AM »

I'm wondering if Alexandria or any other patriarchate ever wrote to Rome suggesting that Rome conform its practices to theirs.  I'm just wondering how common this sort of thing was.  Does anyone know of an example of that happening?
For one thing, eventually Rome adopted the Alexandrian Paschalion.

When and under what circumstances?
Sixth century.  St. Dionysius, the same BC-AD guy, was largely responsible.  It was one of the Scythian monk reforms.
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