LEO I (the Great
On the Transfiguration

 Transfiguration Ducio

Sermon LI. A Homily Delivered on the Saturday Before the Second Sunday in LentOn the Transfiguration, PL Vol. 54:308c-313c [Leo I: S. Leonis Magni Pontificis Romani Sermones in Praecipuis Totius Anni Sermo 51 NPNF Second Series: Volume XII

[3.] The whole body realizes the change it is to receive

I. Peter’s Confession Shown to Lead Up to the Transfiguration.

I. Fidem veram Christum et Deum confiteri et hominem: quae in Petro magna potestate [0308C] remunerata est.---

THE Gospel lesson, dearly-beloved, which has reached the inner hearing of our minds through our bodily ears, calls us to the understanding of a great mystery, to which we shall by the help of God’s grace the better attain, if we turn our attention to what is narrated just before.

I. Evangelica lectio, dilectissimi, quae per [0309A] aures corporis interiorem mentium nostrarum pulsavit auditum, ad magni sacramenti nos intelligentiam vocat: quam aspirante gratia Dei facilius assequemur, si considerationem nostram ad ea quae  paulo superius sunt narrata, referamus.

The Savior of mankind, Jesus Christ, in founding that faith, which recalls the wicked to righteousness and the dead to life, used to instruct His disciples by admonitory teaching and by miraculous acts to the end that He, the Christ, might be believed to be at once the Only-begotten of God and the Son of Man. For the one without the other was of no avail to salvation, and it was equally dangerous to have believed the Lord Jesus Christ to be either only God without manhood, or only man without Godhead , since both had equally to be confessed, because just as true manhood existed in His Godhead, so true Godhead existed in His Manhood.

Salvator enim humani generis Jesus Christus condens eam fidem quae et impios ad justitiam et mortuos revocat ad vitam, ad hoc discipulos suos doctrinae monitis et operum miraculis imbuebat, ut idem Christus et unigenitus Dei et hominis Filius crederetur. Nam unum horum sine altero non proderat ad salutem, et aequalis erat periculi, Dominum Jesum Christum, aut Deum tantummodo sine homine, aut sine Deo solum hominem credidisse, cum utrumque esset pariter confitendum: quia sicut Deo vera humanitas, [0309B] ita homini inerat vera Divinitas.

To strengthen, therefore, their most wholesome knowledge of this belief, the Lord had asked His disciples, among the various opinions of others, what they themselves believed, or thought about Him: whereat the Apostle Peter, by the revelation of the most High Father passing beyond things corporeal and surmounting things human by the eyes of his mind, saw Him to be Son of the living God, and acknowledged the glory of the Godhead, because he looked not at the substance of His flesh and blood alone; and with this lofty faith Christ was so well pleased that he received the fullness of blessing, and was endued with the holy firmness of the inviolable Rock on which the Church should be built and conquer the gates of hell and the laws of death, so that, in loosing or binding the petitions of any whatsoever, only that should be ratified in heaven which had been settled by the judgment of Peter.

Ad confirmandam ergo hujus fidei  saluberrimam cognitionem interrogaverat discipulos suos Dominus, inter diversas aliorum opiniones quid ipsi de eo crederent, quidve sentirent: ubi Petrus apostolus per revelationem summi Patris, corporea superans et humana transcendens, vidit mentis oculis Filium Dei vivi, et confessus est gloriam Deitatis,  quia non ad solam respexit substantiam carnis et sanguinis. Tantumque in hac fidei sublimitate complacuit, ut beatitudinis felicitate donatus sacram inviolabilis petrae acciperet firmitatem, super quam fundata Ecclesia portis inferi et mortis legibus praevaleret, nec in solvendis aut ligandis quorumcumque causis aliud ratum esset in coelis quam quod Petri sedisset arbitrio.

II. The Same Continued.

II. Christum ob id maxime esse transfiguratum, ut veritatem et virtutem suae carnis comprobaret.

2. But this exalted and highly-praised understanding, dearly-beloved, had also to be instructed on the mystery of Christ’s lower substance, lest the Apostle’s faith, being raised to the glory of confessing the Deity in Christ, should deem the reception of our weakness unworthy of the impassible God, and incongruous, and should believe the human nature to be so glorified in Him as to be incapable of suffering punishment, or being dissolved in death.

II. [0309C] Haec autem, dilectissimi, laudatae intelligentiae  celsitudo instruenda erat de inferioris substantiae sacramento, ne apostolica fides ad gloriam confitendae in Christo Deitatis evecta, infirmitatis nostrae  receptionem indignam impassibili Deo atque incongruam judicaret, et ita jam  in ipso humanam crederet glorificatam esse naturam, ut nec supplicio posset affici, nec morte dissolvi.

And, therefore, when the Lord said that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and scribes and chief of the priests, and the third day rise again, (Mt. 16, 21, & 20, 17-19) the blessed Peter who, being illumined with light from above, was burning with the heat of his confession, rejected their mocking insults and the disgrace of the most cruel death, with, as he thought, a loyal and outspoken contempt, but was checked by a kindly rebuke from Jesus and animated with the desire to share His suffering.

Et ideo dicente Domino quod oporteret eum ire Jerosolymam, et multa pati a senioribus et scribis ac principibus sacerdotum, et occidi, et tertia die resurgere (Matth. XVI, 21, et XX, 17-19), cum beatus Petrus, qui superno illustratus lumine, de ardentissima Filii Dei confessione fervebat, contumelias 194 illusionum et crudelissimae mortis opprobrium religioso, [0309D] ut putabat, et libero fastidio respuisset, benigna a [0310A] Jesu increpatione correptus, et ad cupiditatem participandae cum eo passionis animatus est.

For the Savior’s exhortation that followed, instilled and taught this, that they who wished to follow Him should deny themselves. and count the loss of temporal things as light in the hope of things eternal; because he alone could save his soul that did not fear to lose it for Christ (Mt. 16, 25).

Subsequens  enim exhortatio Salvatoris hoc inspiravit, hoc docuit, ut volentes eum sequi, negarent se sibi, et pro spe aeternorum levissimum ducerent temporalium detrimentum: quia is demum animam suam salvam faceret, qui eam pro Christo perdere non timeret (Matth. XVI, 25).

In order, therefore, that the Apostles might entertain this happy, constant courage with their whole heart, and have no tremblings about the harshness of taking up the cross, and that they might not be ashamed of the punishment of Christ, nor think what He endured disgraceful for themselves (for the bitterness of suffering was to be displayed without despite to His; glorious power), Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John (Mt. 17, 1),, and ascending a very high mountain with them apart, showed them the brightness of His glory; because, although they had recognized the majesty of God in Him, yet the power of His body, wherein His Deity was contained, they did not know.

Ut ergo istam felicis constantiae fortitudinem toto apostoli corde conciperent, et nihil de suscipiendae crucis asperitate trepidarent, ut de supplicio  Christi non erubescerent, nec pudendam sibi eam patientiam crederent, quae sic subitura erat saevitiam passionis, ut non amitteret gloriam potestatis: Assumpsit Jesus Petrum, et Jacobum, et fratrem ejus Joannem (Matth. XVII, 1), et conscenso [0310B] cum eis seorsum monte praecelso, claritatem  illis suae gloriae demonstravit: quia licet intellexissent in eo majestatem Dei, ipsius tamen corporis, quo Divinitas tegebatur, potentiam nesciebant.

And, therefore, rightly and significantly, had He promised that certain of the disciples standing by should not taste death till they saw “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom (Mt. 16. 28),” that is, in the kingly brilliance which, as specially belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood, He wished to be conspicuous to these three men. For the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself which is reserved till eternal life for the pure in heart, they could in no wise look upon and see while still surrounded with mortal flesh.

Et ideo proprie signanterque promiserat quosdam de astantibus discipulis non prius gustare mortem, quam viderent Filium hominis venientem in regno suo (Matth. XVI, 28), id est in regia claritate, quam  specialiter ad naturam suscepti hominis pertinentem, his tribus viris voluit esse conspicuam. Nam illam ipsius Deitatis ineffabilem et  inaccessibilem visionem, quae in aeternam vitam mundis corde servatur, nullo modo mortali adhuc carne circumdati intueri poterant et videre.







III.the Object and the Meaning of the Transfiguration.
The Office of Readings, The Second Sunday of Lent

III. Ut etiam crucis scandalum tolleret, spemque Ecclesiae suae confirmaret.---

3. The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendor, that His face was like the sun’s brightness and His garments equaled the whiteness of snow.

III. Aperit ergo Dominus coram electis [0310C] testibus gloriam suam, et communem illam cum caeteris corporis formam tanto splendore clarificat, ut et facies ejus solis fulgori similis, et vestitus candori nivium esset aequalis (Matth. XVII, 2).

And in this Transfiguration the foremost object was to remove the offence of the cross from the disciple’s heart, and to prevent their faith being disturbed by the humiliation of His voluntary Passion by revealing to them the excellence of His hidden dignity. But with no less foresight, the foundation was laid of the Holy Church’s hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the [character] of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honor which had already shone forth in their Head. [cf.also Leo's Homilies on Ascension and Nativity]

In qua transfiguratione illud quidem principaliter agebatur, ut de cordibus  discipulorum crucis scandalum tolleretur; nec conturbaret eorum fidem voluntariae humilitas passionis, quibus revelata esset absconditae excellentia dignitatis. Sed non minore providentia spes sanctae Ecclesiae fundabatur, ut totum corpus Christi agnosceret quali esset commutatione donandumet ejus sibi honoris consortium 195 membra promitterent, qui in capite praefulsisset.

About which the Lord had Himself said, when He spoke of the majesty of His coming, “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in their Father’s Kingdom (Matt.13.43) ,” whilst the blessed Apostle Paul bears witness to the self-same thing, and says: “for I reckon that the sufferings of this age are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom.8.18):” and again, “for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory (Col.3.3).”

De quo idem Dominus dixerat, cum de adventus sui majestate loqueretur: Tunc justi fulgebunt sicut sol in regno [0310D]  Patris sui (Matth. XIII, 43); protestante hoc ipsum [0311A] beato Paulo apostolo, et dicente: Existimo enim quod non sunt condignae passiones hujus temporis ad futuram gloriam, quae revelabitur in nobis (Rom. VIII, 18); et iterum: Mortui enim estis, et vita vestra abscondita est cum Christo  in Deo. Cum enim Christus apparuerit vita vestra, tunc et vos apparebitis cum ipso in gloria (Coloss. III. 13).





IV. The Significance of the Appearance of Moses and Elias.

IV. Veteris et novi Testamenti de Christo concordiam per Moysis et Eliae apparitionem significari.

4. But to confirm the Apostles and assist them to all knowledge, still further instruction was conveyed by that miracle.

IV..Confirmandis vero apostolis et ad omnem scientiam provehendis, alia quoque in illo miraculo accessit instructio

For Moses and Elias, that is the Law and the Prophets, appeared talking with the Lord; that in the presence of those five men might most truly be fulfilled what was said: “In two or three witnesses stands every word (Dt. 19, 15; Mt. 18, 16; Jn. 8, 17; 2 Cor. 13, 1; Heb. 10, 28) .” What more stable, what more steadfast than this word, in the proclamation of which the trumpet of the Old and of the New Testament joins, and the documentary evidence of the ancient witnesses combine with the teaching of the Gospel? For the pages of both covenants corroborate each other, and He Whom under the veil of mysteries the types that went before had promised, is displayed clearly and conspicuously by the splendor of the present glory. Because, as says the blessed John, “the law was given through Moses: but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1, 17);,” in Whom is fulfilled both the promise of prophetic figures and the purpose of the legal ordinances: for He both teaches the truth of prophecy by His presence, and renders the commands possible through grace.

Moses enim et Elias, lex scilicet  et prophetae, apparuerunt cum Domino loquentes: ut verissime in illa quinque virorum praesentia compleretur quod dictum est: In duobus vel tribus testibus stat omne verbum (Deut. XIX, 15; Matth. XVIII, 16; Joan. VIII, 17; II Cor. XIII, 1; Heb. X, 28). Quid [0311B] hoc stabilius, quid firmius verbo, in cujus praedicatione veteris et novi Testamenti concinit tuba, et cum evangelica doctrina, antiquarum protestationum instrumenta concurrunt? Astipulantur enim sibi invicem utriusque foederis paginae; et quem sub velamine mysteriorum praecedentia signa promiserant, manifestum atque perspicuum praesentis gloriae splendor ostendit: quia, sicut ait beatus Joannes, lex per Mosen data est, gratia autem et veritas per Jesum Christum facta est (Joan. I, 17); in quo et propheticarum promissio impleta est figurarum et legalium ratio praeceptorum, dum et veram docet prophetiam per sui praesentiam, et possibilia facit mandata per gratiam.





5. S Peter’s Suggestion Contrary to the Divine Order.

V. Petri desiderium non improbum fuisse, sed inordinatum.

5. The Apostle Peter, therefore, being excited by the revelation of these mysteries, despising things mundane and scorning things earthly, was seized with a sort of frenzied craving for the things eternal, and being filled with rapture at the whole vision, desired to make his abode with Jesus in the place where he had been blessed with the manifestation of His glory. Whence also he says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will let us make three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” (Mt 17:4) But to this proposal the Lord made no answer, signifying that what he wanted was not indeed; wicked, but contrary [to the Divine order]: since the world could not be saved, except; by Christ’s death, and by the Lord’s example the faithful were called upon to believe that, although there ought not to be any doubt about the promises of happiness, yet we should understand that amidst the trials of this life we must ask for the power of endurance rather than the glory, because the joyousness of reigning cannot precede the times of suffering.

V. His ergo sacramentorum revelationibus [0311C] Petrus apostolus incitatus, mundana spernens et terrena fastidiens, in aeternorum desiderium quodam mentis rapiebatur excessu; et gaudio totius visionis impletus, ibi cum Jesu  optabat habitare, ubi manifestata ejus gloria laetabatur; unde et ait: Domine, bonum est nos hic esse: si vis, faciamus hic tria tabernacula, tibi unum, Moysi unum, et Eliae unum (Matth. XVII, 4). Sed huic suggestioni Dominus non respondit, significans non quidem improbum, sed inordinatum esse  quod cuperet; cum salvari mundus nisi Christi morte non posset, et exemplo Domini in hoc  vocaretur credentium fides, ut licet non oporteret  de beatitudinis promissionibus dubitari, intelligeremus tamen inter tentationes 196 hujus vitae prius nobis tolerantiam postulandam esse quam gloriam: quia [0311D] tempora patiendi non potest felicitas praevenire regnandi.





VI. The Import of the Father’s Voice from the Cloud.

VI. Hic est filius meus, etc. explicatur.---

6. And so while He was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” The Father was indeed present in the Son, and in the Lord’s brightness, which He had tempered to the disciples’ sight, the Father’s Essence was not separated from the Only-begotten: but, in order to emphasize the two-fold personality, as the effulgence of the Son’s body displayed the Son to their sight, so the Father’s voice from out the cloud announced the Father to their hearing.

VI. Adhuc itaque eo loquente ecce nubes lucida obumbravit eos, et ecce vox  de nube dicens: [0312A] Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui, ipsum audite (Ibid., 5). Praesens quidem erat in Filio Pater, et in illa Domini claritate, quam ad discipulorum temperarat aspectum, non separabatur ab Unigenito Genitoris essentia; sed ad commendandam proprietatem utriusque personae, sicut visui  significavit Filium splendor ex corpore, sic auditui Patrem vox nuntiavit ex nube.

And when this voice was heard, “the disciples fell upon their faces, and were sore afraid,” trembling at the majesty, not only of the Father, but also of the Son: for they now had a deeper insight into the undivided Deity of Both: and in their fear they did not separate the One from the Other, because they doubted not in their faith. That was a wide and manifold testimony, therefore, and contained a fuller meaning than struck the ear. For when the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased,” was it not clearly meant[:]

Qua voce accepta, discipuli  quod in faciem ceciderunt et timuerunt valde, non de Patris tantum, sed et de Filii majestate tremuerunt: altiori enim sensu unam utriusque intellexerunt Deitatem: et quia in fide non erat haesitatio, non fuit in timore discretio.  Latum ergo illud et multiplex testimonium fuit, et plus in verborum virtute quam  in sono vocis auditum est. [0312B] Dicente enim Patre: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui, ipsum audite; nonne evidenter auditum est:

“This is My Son,” Whose it is to be eternally from Me and with Me? Because the Begetter is not anterior to the Begotten, nor the Begotten posterior to the Begetter.

Hic est Filius meus, cui ex me et mecum esse, sine tempore est? Quia nec Genitor Genito prior, nec Genitus est Genitore posterior.

“This is My Son,” Who is separated from Me, neither by Godhead, nor by power, nor by eternity.

. Hic est Filius meus, quem a me non separat Deitas, non dividit potestas, non discernit aeternitas.

“This is My Son,” not adopted, but true-born, not created from another source, but begotten of Me: nor yet made like Me from another nature, but born equal to Me of My nature.

Hic est Filius meus, non adoptivus, sed proprius; non aliunde creatus, sed ex me genitus; nec de alia natura mihi factus  comparabilis, sed de mea essentia mihi natus aequalis

“This is My Son,” “through Whom all things were made, and without Whom was nothing made (Jn 1.3 & cf. 10.38, Phil. 2.6)” because all things that I do He doth in like manner: and whatever I perform, He performs with Me inseparably and without difference: for the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son (Jn 1.3 & cf. 10.38,  Phil. 2.6), and Our Unity is never divided: and though I am One Who begot, and He the Other Whom I begot, yet is it wrong for you to think anything of Him which is not possible of Me.

Hic est Filius meus, per quem omnia facta sunt, et sine quo factum est nihil (Joan. I, 3): quia omnia quae facio similiter facit, et quidquid operor,  inseparabiliter mecum atque indifferenter operatur. In Patre enim est Filius, et in Filio [0312C] Pater (Joan. V, 19), nec umquam unitas nostra dividitur. Et cum alius ego sim qui genui, alius ille quem genui, non aliud tamen de illo vobis cogitare fas est, quam de me sentire possibile est..

“This is My Son,” Who sought not by grasping, and seized not in greediness (Jn 1.3 & cf. 10.38,  Phil. 2 6), that equality with Me which He has, but remaining in the form of My glory, that He might carry out Our common plan for the restoration of mankind, He lowered the unchangeable Godhead even to the form of a slave.

Hic est Filius meus, qui eam quam mecum habet aequalitatem non rapina appetiit (Philip. II, 6), nec usurpatione praesumpsit; sed manens in forma gloriae meae, ut ad reparandum genus humanum exsequeretur commune consilium, usque ad formam servilem inclinavit incommutabilem Deitatem





VII. Who It is We Have to Hear.

VII. Ipsum audite expenditur.

7. “Listen to Him,” therefore, unhesitatingly, in Whom I am throughout well pleased, and by Whose preaching I am manifested, by Whose humiliation I am glorified; because He is “the Truth and the Life (Jn 16.6: 1Cor.1.24),” He is My “Power and Wisdom (Jn 16.6: 1Cor.i.24).”

VII. Hunc ergo, in quo  mihi per omnia bene complaceo, et cujus praedicatione manifestor, cujus humilitate clarificor, incunctanter audite: quia ipse est veritas et vita, ipse virtus mea [0312D] atque sapientia.

“Listen to Him,” Whom the mysteries of the Law have foretold, Whom the mouths of prophets have sung.

Ipsum audite, quem legis mysteria praenuntiaverunt, quem prophetarum ora cecinerunt.

“Listen to Him,” Who redeems the world by His blood, Who binds the devil, and carries off his chattels, Who destroys the bond of sin, and the compact of the transgression.

Ipsum audite, qui sanguine suo mundum redimit, qui diabolum ligat, et vasa ejus rapit, qui peccati chirographum [0313A] et praevaricationis  pacta dirumpit.

“Listen to Him,” Who opens the way to heaven, and by the punishment of the cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom?

Ipsum audite, qui viam aperit ad coelum, et per crucis supplicium gradus vobis ascensionis parat ad regnum.

Why do you tremble at being redeemed? why are you afraid to be healed of your wounds? Let that happen which Christ wills and I will. Cast away all fleshly fear, and arm yourselves with faithful constancy; for it is unworthy that you should fear in the Savior’s Passion what by His good gift you shall not have to fear even at your own end.

Quid trepidatis redimi? quid pavetis saucii liberari?  Fiat quod me volente vult Christus. Abjicite carnalem formidinem, et fideli vos armate constantia: indignum est enim, ut in Salvatoris passione timeatis, quod ipsius munere nec in vestro fine metuetis.





VIII. The Father’s Words Have a Universal Application to the Whole Church.

VIII. Hoc testimonio Patris omnium infirmitatem roborari.

8. These things, dearly-beloved, were said not for their profit only, who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learnt all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men’s faith then be established, according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ’s cross, through which the world was redeemed.

VIII. Haec, dilectissimi, non ad illorum tantum utilitatem dicta sunt, qui ea propriis auribus audierunt, sed in illis tribus apostolis universa Ecclesia didicit quidquid eorum et aspectus vidit et auditus accepit. Confirmetur ergo secundum praedicationem sacratissimi Evangelii omnium fides, et nemo de Christi cruce, per quam mundus redemptus est, [0313B] erubescat.

And let not any one fear to suffer for righteousness’ sake, or doubt of the fulfillment of the promises, for this reason, that through toil we pass to rest and through death to life; since all the weakness of our humility was assumed by Him, in Whom, if we abide in the acknowledgment and love of Him, we conquer as He conquered, and receive what he promised, because, whether to the performance of His commands or to the endurance of adversities, I the Father’s fore-announcing voice should always be sounding in our ears, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him:” Who lives and reigns, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Nec ideo quisquam aut pati pro justitia timeat, aut de promissorum retributione diffidat, quia per laborem ad requiem, et per mortem transitur ad vitam: cum omnem humilitatis nostrae infirmitatem ille susceperit, in quo si in confessione et  in dilectione ipsius permaneamus, et quod vicit vincimus, et quod promisit accipimus. Quia sive ad facienda mandata, sive ad toleranda adversa, praemissa Patris vox debet semper auribus nostris  insonare dicentis: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui: ipsum audite:  qui vivit et regnat cum Patre et Spiritu sancto in saecula saeculorum. Amen.






(Chapters 1-7: Antony the young ascetic)






















CHAPTER 1. Of the vigils which we endured. 1. De uigiliis quas pertulimus.






Youth and





































CHAPTER 1. Of the vigils which we endured. 1. De uigiliis quas pertulimus.






































































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