Thursday, 7 February 2019
Matthew J J Hoskin: Law as Theology in the Letters of Leo the Great
The letters of Leo the Great are major sources for the canon law of the western church as well as expositing western Christology, especially in Epp. 28 and 165, the two so-called ‘Tomes’. When we recall that canon law was not a distinct discipline from theology before the mid-1100s, we realise that we should look again at all earlier canon law documents from the perspective of theology, and those of figures such as Leo in particular. To this end, I will consider the decreta of Leo, Epp. 9, 14, and 16, as sources for theology, not simply as what medieval Christians will call ‘decretals’ for discipline. When read as theology, we see that Leo’s rulings on church order and the sacraments reflect a vision of the cosmos that is united through hierarchy, where grace descends from one level to another, and where time interpenetrates eternity in particular ways that cannot be recapitulated at any other time. Time, for Leo, is a sacred entity, and church order reflects a universe ruled by the Emperor-God and redeemed by the God-Man.