The Tome is a letter written by Leo to his brother Flavian, which addresses the current scandal within the church. This controversy began with the dishonoring implications of a monk named Eutyches that sparked uproar between church officials concerning the true nature of our Lord. The question of whether the Son of God is divine or human in nature, forced church officials to decide His true essence, while attending the Council of Chalcedonian in the year 451. Providing evidence for the Council, the Tome diminishes the foundation and basis of Eutyches’s argument of “Two Natures” and offers complete support to Flavian. At the time of its composition, this document was considered an accurate portrayal of the common faith, hence establishing its immense importance to the church.
Although Leo’s declaration of the Gospel of God and man in Christ appears to be flawless in its interpretation, the tome proves to be vaguely insufficient considering its sporadic utilization of philosophical speculation. This factor is eroded by the dominatingly persuasive and stressed voice of the piece, which is considered by theologians to be “a fine specimen of the straightforwardness and clarity of the Latin mind” (359). The Tome proves to be both influenced by and later affecting the once youthful tradition of the Roman Liturgy.
The actual text is written in the form of a response to a previously received letter concerning the Eutyches’s defiance of the integrity of faith. Once considered a presbyter, or wise elder, his status is diminished by the unwavering opinion of Leo. The disgraceful new standing is based on the proposal that Eutyches is exceedingly inconsiderate and pathetically uneducated regarding his views of the church and the nature of Christ. The letter inadvertently accentuates the importance of redefining Christianity as a product of defense. Leo accomplishes this by providing evidence to counter the argument of the opposing force.
Leo’s first argument results from an accusation offered by Eutyches and other heretics, which questions the incarnation of the Word of God. In the defense of Christianity, Leo retorts that it should be apparent to all believers that the obscurity of and response to this query can be resolved in the ritual of Confession, the Holy Scriptures, and most evidently in the Apostles’ Creed, which is reiterated at every mass.
Eutyches’s complication with understanding the common faith expands to another topic, through which the Tome’s response results in the affirmation of the human and divine nature of Christ. As stated in the Apostles’ Creed, the acknowledgement of one God as both the Father and Almighty is essential in understanding the depths of the religion. Heretics have difficulty recognizing this statement as valid because of the immense contrast between the definition of a father and one who is almighty. As a response to this struggle of defining the power and compassion of our Lord, Leo explains that the Son does not differ from the Father and they are unified eternally. To prove that He is Almighty, the Creed offers evidence that it was His intention to restore mankind by providing the Son that was born of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Ghost. These factors contribute to the confirmation that Jesus is both the “Son of God” and the “Son of Man”, which the Heretics also found to be debatable.
The main purpose of the letter becomes most evident by the repetitive tools that Leo uses to establish an accurate interpretation of the true essence of the Jesus Christ as both a man and God. Divine and human natures are components of Christ that succeed without division, implying that He is also an inseparable combination of Word and flesh. Leo provides further evidence to enhance the interpretation of the true nature of Christ, while unifying the contrary parts into one common deity. Water, blood, and spirit (also known as truth) bear witness and offer verification that God is one.
The miracles provided in the context of the Bible and the teachings of the Apostles, prove that Jesus Christ is unquestionably divine. Leo offers many examples of the His works, including the feeding of five thousand men with five loaves of bread, which can be found in the Book of Matthew. He also emphasizes the holiness of one who can walk on water without His feet sinking and offers drink that prevents one from ever thirsting again.
The most evident revelation of God as both blessed and human can be found in the birth and death of Jesus Christ. Leo reveals that, “The Virgin’s child-bearing is an indication of divine power the greatness of the highest is declared by the voices of angels” (368). Jesus’ nativity established a “new order” or method of birth, in which one who is most sacred can be born with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, instead of through natural order. As Leo has acknowledged, the unity of the two parts of God cannot be divided, therefore it is necessary to consider the human qualities, which Christ had possessed at the time of his birth. Human nature can be observed in the fact that the infant was born in flesh from the womb of his mother and later exhibited in the humiliation of swaddling clothes. In an effort to preserve unity, it was the decision of God to take on human form, without muting or diminishing his sanctity.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ proves to be both human and divine without division or confusion of the components. The execution of our Lord is portrayed in the Scriptures with intensely violent and appalling descriptions that are intended to create an understanding of the incredible suffering He endured for his people. After taking on human form, Jesus felt it necessary to tolerate the pain and humiliation of His sacrifice by being nailed to the cross. Blood and water poured from the wound of Jesus’ side, which distinguishes Him with human characteristics. The sacredness of Christ at the time of his death cannot be weakened by these factors. With the result of Jesus’ resurrection, the divinity of God is once again proven to be a component of His nature.
Eutyches’ view of the essence of Christ is an opposing view of “Two Natures”, which was provided by Cyril of Alexandria (Catholic Encyclopedia). This is the understanding that our Lord was of two natures before union, but after the union He is of only one nature. Leo attacks Eutyches’ analysis of the nature of God by stating,
It is as impious to say that the only-begotten Son of God was of two natures before the incarnation as it is shocking to affirm that, since the word became flesh, there has been in him one nature only. (368)
Along with this irate reply, Leo considers this view perverse, blasphemous, and ridiculously foolish. He also embellishes on Eutyches’ weakening argument that results from his brother, Flavian’s, words of persuasion that enhanced his own disbelief. Flavian is said to have cornered Eutyches, which causes him to recognize his argument as intolerably incorrect and deserving of condemnation. This factor deems victorious for Leo and Flavian, as well as those favoring the belief that the unity of divine and human characteristics coexist in the true nature of God. As a result of this triumph, the Tome was one of the documents approved as a statement of Orthodox teaching, as well as a definition of the common faith at the second session of the Council of Chalcedonian.
My personal interpretation of the Tome of Leo may seem inexact because of the tools of repetition used by Leo in describing the nature of God. Although he offers exhausting evidence that can be found throughout the entirety of the Bible to support his declaration, the various findings offer the same evidence. The most evident example of this reiteration of facts is the miracle of the Virgin Mary conceiving the Son of God, which is used constantly to define the Lord’s divinity. The Immaculate Conception is first mentioned in the context of Apostles Creed. Leo again displays the same information using the evidence provided in Isaiah, then used again while citing the works of Matthew, and so on (361, 362, 365). The purpose of this repetition remains somewhat questionable to me, although I have determined my one reasoning based on the tone of the text.