Pope Leo's soteriology: Sacramental recapitulation

Philip Lawrence Barclift, Marquette University


Pope Leo's soteriology has been comparatively ignored in modern literature. Furthermore, when his soteriology is studied, scholars tend to address it with the wrong models presupposed. Scholars typically attempt to use Augustinian models of grace in which "redemption" and "salvation" are virtual synonyms. Pope Leo uses a different model of our salvation, the sacramentum-exemplum paradigm, which he also gleans from Augustine. The sacramentum comprises all the acts of the triune godhead by which the salvability of the entire human race was achieved. But the sacramentum has no effect on the salvation of human individuals until each human being imitates Christ's exemplum, through which the individuals interiorize the sacramentum and complete the process of their own salvation. I studied certain key terms, such as sacramentum, mysterium, redemptio, salus, and exemplum, and the correlation between Leo's use of Adam and Christ or the first and the second Adam. Furthermore, in order to locate the place of Pope Leo's soteriology within the history of the development of that doctrine in the fathers, I attempted to ascertain the development of key elements that bear on Leo's doctrine. The pope borrows eclectically from a wide array of sources, and he tries to hold them together with his understanding of the sacramental presence of Christ in the church. The bulk of my dissertation relies on the systematic analysis of Pope Leo's sermons in an attempt to piece together his soteriology. Through this analysis I discovered that, in Leo's eyes, it is not enough to say that we are saved through the church or that the church is the vessel of our salvation. We are saved in the church, precisely because it is the body of Christ; and the saving power of the sacramentum Christi is engaged only in this place through the operation of the Holy Spirit. As a direct result of the sacramental economy established by Christ in the church, the means of our salvation in the church is celebration, comprising a twofold remedy: a sacramentum and an exemplum. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

Recommended Citation

Barclift, Philip Lawrence, "Pope Leo's soteriology: Sacramental recapitulation" (1992). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9227115.