Sermon LXXXIV 1173 .
Concerning the Neglect of the Commemoration.
I. The Churchmen of Rome are in danger of forgetting past judgments and mercies, and becoming ungrateful to God.
The fewness of those who were present has of itself shown, dearly-beloved, that the religious devotion wherewith, in commemoration of the day of our chastisement and release, the whole body of the faithful used to flock together in order to give God thanks, has on this last occasion been almost entirely neglected: and this has caused me much sadness of heart and great fear. For there is much danger of men becoming ungrateful to God, and through forgetfulness of His benefits not feeling sorrow for the chastisement, nor joy for the liberation. Accordingly I fear, dearly-beloved, lest that utterance of the Prophet be addressed in rebuke to such men, which says, “thou hast scourged them and they have not grieved: thou hast chastised them, and they have refused to receive correction. 1174 ” For what amendment is shown by them in whom such aversion to Gods service is found? One is ashamed to say it, but one must not keep silence: more is spent upon demons than upon the Apostles, and mad spectacles draw greater crowds than blessed martyrdoms 1175 . Who was it that restored this city to safety? that rescued it from captivity? the games of the circus-goers or the care of the saints? surely it was by the saints prayers that the sentence of Divine displeasure was p. 197 diverted, so that we who deserved wrath, were reserved for pardon.
II. Let them avail themselves betimes of Gods long-suffering and return to Him.
I entreat you, beloved, let those words of the Saviour touch your hearts, Who, when by the power of His mercy He had cleansed ten lepers, said that only one of them all had returned to give thanks 1176 : meaning without doubt that, though the ungrateful ones had gained soundness of body, yet their failure in this godly duty arose from ungodliness of heart. And therefore, dearly-beloved, that this brand of ingratitude may not be applied to you, return to the Lord, remembering the marvels which He has deigned to perform among us; and ascribing our release not, as the ungodly suppose, to the influences of the stars, but to the unspeakable mercy of Almighty God, Who has deigned to soften the hearts of raging barbarians, betake yourselves to the commemoration of so great a benefit with all the vigour of faith. Grave neglect must be atoned for by yet greater tokens of repentance. Let us use the Mercy of Him, Who has spared us, to our own amendment, that the blessed Peter and all the saints, who have always been near us in many afflictions, may deign to aid our entreaties for you to the merciful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
There is some doubt as to the exact occasion of this sermon. It seems to have been connected with the yearly commemoration (not the first or second from the language Leo uses), of that 14 days pillage of Rome by Genseric (in 455) and of the citys subsequent liberation, in which Leo took so important a part. But the date ascribed to the sermons delivery (the octave of SS. Peter and Paul, i.e. July 6) does not tally well with its allusions to the ludi Circenses as counter-attractions to the recent Church functions. A reference to Serm. IX. n. 6, will remind the reader that it was the ludi Apollinares that, at least in the past, were associated with that date: perhaps Leos phrase ludus Circensium is only a general description and would include the Apollinarian games as being still held in Circo as well as others. The ludi Circenses themselves were held Sept. 4–12.196:1174
Jer. v. 3.196:1175
Martyria, which the Ball. here consider means the churches built in honour (? on the scene) of the martyrdoms.197:1176
Cf. S. Luke xvii. 18.