Wednesday, February 25, 2015

St. Leo the Great: Sermon On Lent (II)

Sermon 40

1. Progress and improvement always possible

Although, dearly-beloved, as the Easter festival approaches, the very recurrence of the season points out to us the Lenten fast, yet our words also must add their exhortations which, the Lord helping us, may be not useless to the active nor irksome to the devout. For since the idea of these days demands the increase of all our religious performances, there is no one, I am sure, that does not feel glad at being incited to good works. For though our nature which, so long as we are mortal, will be changeable, is advancing to the highest pursuits of virtue, yet always has the possibility of falling back, so has it always the possibility of advancing. And this is the true justness of the perfect that they should never assume themselves to be perfect, lest flagging in the purpose of their yet unfinished journey, they should fall into the danger of failure, through giving up the desire for progress.

And, therefore, because none of us, dearly beloved, is so perfect and holy as not to be able to be more perfect and more holy, let us all together, without difference of rank, without distinction of desert, with pious eagerness pursue our race from what we have attained to what we yet aspire to, and make some needful additions to our regular devotions. For he that is not more attentive than usual to religion in these days, is shown at other times to be not attentive enough.

2. Satan seeks to supply his numerous losses by fresh gains

Hence the reading of the Apostle's proclamation has sounded opportunely in our ears, saying, "Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation." For what is more accepted than this time, what more suitable to salvation than these days, in which war is proclaimed against vices and progress is made in all virtues? You had indeed always to keep watch, O Christian soul, against the enemy of your salvation, lest any spot should be exposed to the tempter's snares: but now greater wariness and keener prudence must be employed by you when that same foe of yours rages with fiercer hatred. For now in all the world the power of his ancient sway is taken from him, and the countless vessels of captivity are rescued from his grasp. The people of all nations and of all tongues are breaking away from their cruel plunderer, and now no race of men is found that does not struggle against the tyrant's laws, while through all the borders of the earth many thousands of thousands are being prepared to be reborn in Christ: and as the birth of a new creature draws near, spiritual wickedness is being driven out by those who were possessed by it. The blasphemous fury of the despoiled foe frets, therefore, and seeks new gains because it has lost its ancient right. Unwearied and ever wakeful, he snatches at any sheep he finds straying carelessly from the sacred folds, intent on leading them over the steeps of treasure and down the slopes of luxury into the abodes of death. And so he inflames their wrath, feeds their hatreds, whets their desires, mocks at their continence, arouses their gluttony.

3. The twofold nature of Christ shown at the Temptation

For whom would he not dare to try, who did not keep from his treacherous attempts even on our Lord Jesus Christ? For, as the story of the Gospel has disclosed , when our Saviour, Who was true God, that He might show Himself true Man also, and banish all wicked and erroneous opinions, after the fast of 40 days and nights, had experienced the hunger of human weakness, the devil, rejoicing at having found in Him a sign of possible and mortal nature, in order to test the power which he feared, said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread" (Mt 4:3). Doubtless the Almighty could do this, and it was easy that at the Creator's command a creature of any kind should change into the form that it was commanded: just as when He willed it, in the marriage feast, He changed the water into wine: but here it better agreed with His purposes of salvation that His haughty foe's cunning should be vanquished by the Lord, not in the power of His Godhead, but by the mystery of His humiliation. At length, when the devil had been put to flight and the tempter baffled in all his arts, angels came to the Lord and ministered to Him, that He being true Man and true God, His Manhood might be unsullied by those crafty questions, and His Godhead displayed by those holy ministrations. And so let the sons and disciples of the devil be confounded, who, being filled with the poison of vipers, deceive the simple, denying in Christ the presence of both true natures, while they rob either His Godhead of Manhood, or His Manhood of Godhead, although both falsehoods are destroyed by a twofold and simultaneous proof: for by His bodily hunger His perfect Manhood was shown, and by the attendant angels His perfect Godhead.

4. The Fast should not end with abstinence from food, but lead to good deeds

Therefore, dearly-beloved, seeing that, as we are taught by our Redeemer's precept, "man lives not in bread alone, but in every word of God," and it is right that Christian people, whatever the amount of their abstinence, should rather desire to satisfy themselves with the "Word of God" than with bodily food, let us with ready devotion and eager faith enter upon the celebration of the solemn fast, not with barren abstinence from food, which is often imposed on us by weakliness of body, or the disease of avarice, but in bountiful benevolence: that in truth we may be of those of whom the very Truth speaks, "blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Mt 5:6). Let works of piety, therefore, be our delight, and let us be filled with those kinds of food which feed us for eternity. Let us rejoice in the replenishment of the poor, whom our bounty has satisfied. Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered with needful raiment. Let our humaneness be felt by the sick in their illnesses, by the weakly in their infirmities, by the exiles in their hardships, by the orphans in their destitution, and by solitary widows in their sadness: in the helping of whom there is no one that cannot carry out some amount of benevolence. For no one's income is small, whose heart is big: and the measure of one's mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one's means. Wealth of goodwill is never rightly lacking, even in a slender purse. Doubtless the expenditure of the rich is greater, and that of the poor smaller, but there is no difference in the fruit of their works, where the purpose of the workers is the same.

5. And still further it should lead to personal amendment and domestic harmony

But, beloved, in this opportunity for the virtues' exercise there are also other notable crowns, to be won by no dispersing abroad of granaries, by no disbursement of money, if wantonness is repelled, if drunkenness is abandoned, and the lusts of the flesh tamed by the laws of chastity: if hatreds pass into affection, if enmities be turned into peace, if meekness extinguishes wrath, if gentleness forgives wrongs, if in fine the conduct of master and of slaves is so well ordered that the rule of the one is milder, and the discipline of the other is more complete. It is by such observances then, dearly-beloved, that God's mercy will be gained, the charge of sin wiped out, and the adorable Easter festival devoutly kept. And this the pious Emperors of the Roman world have long guarded with holy observance; for in honour of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection they bend their lofty power, and relaxing the severity of their decrees set free many of their prisoners: so that on the days when the world is saved by the Divine mercy, their clemency, which is modelled on the Heavenly goodness, may be zealously followed by us. Let Christian peoples then imitate their princes, and be incited to forbearance in their homes by these royal examples. For it is not right that private laws should be severer than public. Let faults be forgiven, let bonds be loosed, offenses wiped out, designs of vengeance fall through, that the holy festival through the Divine and human grace may find all happy, all innocent: through our Lord Jesus Christ Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns God for endless ages of ages. Amen.

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Source: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, V. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Greeting

The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium,  and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

Chapter 1. The subject of which we write

We have written to you, brethren, as to what relates to the martyrs, and especially to the blessed Polycarp, who put an end to the persecution, having, as it were, set a seal upon it by his martyrdom. For almost all the events that happened previously [to this one], took place that the Lord might show us from above a martyrdom becoming the Gospel. For he waited to be delivered up, even as the Lord had done, that we also might become his followers, while we look not merely at what concerns ourselves but have regard also to our neighbours. For it is the part of a true and well-founded love, not only to wish one's self to be saved, but also all the brethren.

Chapter 2. The wonderful constancy of the martyrs

All the martyrdoms, then, were blessed and noble which took place according to the will of God. For it becomes us who profess  greater piety than others, to ascribe the authority over all things to God. And truly,  who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?— who, when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them. But they reached such a pitch of magnanimity, that not one of them let a sigh or a groan escape them; thus proving to us all that those holy martyrs of Christ, at the very time when they suffered such torments, were absent from the body, or rather, that the Lord then stood by them, and communed with them. And, looking to the grace of Christ, they despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by [the suffering of] a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure; things “which ear has not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man,” (1 Cor 2:9) but were revealed by the Lord to them, inasmuch as they were no longer men, but had already become angels. And, in like manner, those who were condemned to the wild beasts endured dreadful tortures, being stretched out upon beds full of spikes, and subjected to various other kinds of torments, in order that, if it were possible, the tyrant might, by their lingering tortures, lead them to a denial [of Christ].

Chapter 3. The constancy of Germanicus. The death of Polycarp is demanded

For the devil did indeed invent many things against them; but thanks be to God, he could not prevail over all. For the most noble Germanicus strengthened the timidity of others by his own patience, and fought heroically  with the wild beasts. For, when the proconsul sought to persuade him, and urged him to take pity upon his age, he attracted the wild beast towards himself, and provoked it, being desirous to escape all the more quickly from an unrighteous and impious world. But upon this the whole multitude, marvelling at the nobility of mind displayed by the devout and godly race of Christians, cried out, “Away with the Atheists; let Polycarp be sought out!”

Chapter 4. Quintus the apostate

Now one named Quintus, a Phrygian, who was but lately come from Phrygia, when he saw the wild beasts, became afraid. This was the man who forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily [for trial]. Him the proconsul, after many entreaties, persuaded to swear and to offer sacrifice. Wherefore, brethren, we do not commend those who give themselves up [to suffering], seeing the Gospel does not teach so to do. (Mt 10:23) 

Chapter 5. The departure and vision of Polycarp

But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.”

Chapter 6. Polycarp is betrayed by a servant

And when those who sought for him were at hand, he departed to another dwelling, whither his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they found him not, they seized upon two youths [that were there], one of whom, being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that he should continue hid, since those that betrayed him were of his own household. The Irenarch  then (whose office is the same as that of the Cleronomus ), by name Herod, hastened to bring him into the stadium. [This all happened] that he might fulfil his special lot, being made a partaker of Christ, and that they who betrayed him might undergo the punishment of Judas himself.

Chapter 7. Polycarp is found by his pursuers

His pursuers then, along with horsemen, and taking the youth with them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation  with their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber. (Mt 26:55) And having come about evening [to the place where he was], they found him lying down in the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped into another place; but he refused, saying, “The will of God  be done.” (Mt 6:10; Acts 21:14) So when he heard that they had come, he went down and spoke with them. And as those that were present marvelled at his age and constancy, some of them said. “Was so much effort  made to capture such a venerable man?” Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and drink should be set before them, as much indeed as they cared for, while he besought them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of God, so that he could not cease  for two full hours, to the astonishment of those who heard him, insomuch that many began to repent that they had come forth against so godly and venerable an old man.

Chapter 8. Polycarp is brought into the city

Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath. And the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes (both riding in a chariot ), met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavoured to persuade him, saying, “What harm is there in saying, Lord Cæsar,  and in sacrificing, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so make sure of safety?” But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, “I shall not do as you advise me.” So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter  words unto him, and cast him with violence out of the chariot, insomuch that, in getting down from the carriage, he dislocated his leg  [by the fall]. But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.

Chapter 9. Polycarp refuses to revile Christ

Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to your old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Cæsar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.”  Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?”

Chapter 10. Polycarp confesses himself a Christian

And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, “Swear by the fortune of Cæsar,” he answered,
Since you are vainly urgent that, as you say, I should swear by the fortune of Cæsar, and pretend not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines  of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and you shall hear them.
The proconsul replied, “Persuade the people.” But Polycarp said,
To you I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honour (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. (Rom 13:1-7; Titus 3:1) But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me. 
Chapter 11. No threats have any effect on Polycarp

The proconsul then said to him, “I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast you, unless you repent.”

But he answered, “Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil;  and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous.” 

But again the proconsul said to him, “I will cause you to be consumed by fire, seeing you despise the wild beasts, if you will not repent.”

But Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why do you tarry? Bring forth what you will.”

Chapter 12. Polycarp is sentenced to be burned

While he spoke these and many other like things, he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, “Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.” This proclamation having been made by the herald, the whole multitude both of the heathen and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable fury, and in a loud voice, “This is the teacher of Asia,  the father of the Christians, and the overthrower of our gods, he who has been teaching many not to sacrifice, or to worship the gods.” Speaking thus, they cried out, and besought Philip the Asiarch  to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. But Philip answered that it was not lawful for him to do so, seeing the shows  of wild beasts were already finished. Then it seemed good to them to cry out with one consent, that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For thus it behooved the vision which was revealed to him in regard to his pillow to be fulfilled, when, seeing it on fire as he was praying, he turned about and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, “I must be burnt alive.”

Chapter 13. The funeral pile is erected

This, then, was carried into effect with greater speed than it was spoken, the multitudes immediately gathering together wood and fagots out of the shops and baths; the Jews especially, according to custom, eagerly assisting them in it. And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals,— a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life,  he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned  with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, “Leave me as I am; for He that gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.”

Chapter 14. The prayer of Polycarp

They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said,
O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you, I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup  of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before You as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as You, the ever-truthful  God, have foreordained, have revealed beforehand to me, and now have fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen. 
Chapter 15. Polycarp is not injured by the fire

When he had pronounced this amen, and so finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire, shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour [coming from the pile], as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking  there.

Chapter 16. Polycarp is pierced by a dagger

At length, when those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through with a dagger. And on his doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth either has been or shall yet be accomplished.

Chapter 17. The Christians are refused Polycarp's body

But when the adversary of the race of the righteous, the envious, malicious, and wicked one, perceived the impressive  nature of his martyrdom, and [considered] the blameless life he had led from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the wreath of immortality, having beyond dispute received his reward, he did his utmost that not the least memorial of him should be taken away by us, although many desired to do this, and to become possessors of his holy flesh. For this end he suggested it to Nicetes, the father of Herod and brother of Alce, to go and entreat the governor not to give up his body to be buried, “lest,” said he, “forsaking Him that was crucified, they begin to worship this one.” This he said at the suggestion and urgent persuasion of the Jews, who also watched us, as we sought to take him out of the fire, being ignorant of this, that it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners ), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary  affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow disciples!

Chapter 18. The body of Polycarp is burned

The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body  in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified  than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course,  and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.

Chapter 19. Praise of the martyr Polycarp

This, then, is the account of the blessed Polycarp, who, being the twelfth that was martyred in Smyrna (reckoning those also of Philadelphia), yet occupies a place of his own  in the memory of all men, insomuch that he is everywhere spoken of by the heathen themselves. He was not merely an illustrious teacher, but also a pre-eminent martyr, whose martyrdom all desire to imitate, as having been altogether consistent with the Gospel of Christ. For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world. 

Chapter 20. This epistle is to be transmitted to the brethren

Since, then, you requested that we would at large make you acquainted with what really took place, we have for the present sent you this summary account through our brother Marcus. When, therefore, you have yourselves read this Epistle,  be pleased to send it to the brethren at a greater distance, that they also may glorify the Lord, who makes such choice of His own servants. To Him who is able to bring us all by His grace and goodness into his everlasting kingdom, through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, to Him be glory, and honour, and power, and majesty, for ever. Amen. Salute all the saints. They that are with us salute you, and Evarestus, who wrote this Epistle, with all his house.

Chapter 21. The date of the martyrdom

Now, the blessed Polycarp suffered martyrdom on the second day of the month Xanthicus just begun, the seventh day before the Kalends of May, on the great Sabbath, at the eighth hour. He was taken by Herod, Philip the Trallian being high priest, Statius Quadratus being proconsul, but Jesus Christ being King for ever, to whom be glory, honour, majesty, and an everlasting throne, from generation to generation. Amen.

Chapter 22. Salutation

We wish you, brethren, all happiness, while you walk according to the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with whom be glory to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of His holy elect, after whose example the blessed Polycarp suffered, following in whose steps may we too be found in the kingdom of Jesus Christ!

These things Caius transcribed from the copy of Irenæus (who was a disciple of Polycarp), having himself been intimate with Irenæus. And I Socrates transcribed them at Corinth from the copy of Caius. Grace be with you all.

And I again, Pionius, wrote them from the previously written copy, having carefully searched into them, and the blessed Polycarp having  manifested them to me through a revelation, even as I shall show in what follows. I have collected these things, when they had almost faded away through the lapse of time, that the Lord Jesus Christ may also gather me along with His elect into His heavenly kingdom, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
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Source: Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.




Golden Legend: Life of Saint Polycarp

Here followeth the Life of Saint Polycarp, martyr.

Saint Polycarp was disciple of Saint John the Evangelist, and Saint John ordained him bishop of Smyrna. And there were at Rome then two heretics, that one was called Marcian and that other Valentine, the which had deceived much people by their false doctrine. Then Saint Polycarp went to Rome on Easter-day, and there by his predication he brought again to the faith them that they had deceived. He wrote to the Philippians a much fair epistle, and much profitable, the which is yet read in Asia unto this day. It happened that in the time that Marcus Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius reigned, which was the year of grace one hundred and sixty-two, was made the fourth persecution on christian people, after the Emperor Nero, through all Asia.

Saint Polycarp heard how the people cried and was moved, he therefore was never moved, but abode without dread. And he was gracious and courteous in manners and pleasant in regard, and tarried always in the city as an hardy champion of God. He was so much required of the people that he departed from the city with their familiar friends, that he went to the field nigh unto the city, and there he prayed all the night for the peace of all holy church. And thereof had he a custom all the days of his life. It happed that three days before that he was taken, as he prayed in a night he had a vision, that seemed that his hair was burnt, and when he awoke he told to them that were with him the vision, and expounded it to them, saying that: For certain he should be burnt for love of God. When he saw that they approached him that would have taken him, he went to meet them and right gladly received them, whereof they were much abashed that they were commanded to take so good a man. And anon he laid the table to his enemies, and made to them as good cheer as they had been his friends, and gave to them largely wine and meat, and get of them leave to pray an hour, and all that hour he prayed much devoutly for all the state of holy church. When the hour was passed he mounted upon an ass, and was brought into the city, and as they led him, Herod came, which was provost of the country, and his father with him, and they took him into a chariot with them, and said to him much sweetly: Wherefore do ye not sacrifice as the others do? What harm is it to call Cæsar his lord, and to do sacrifice to the gods for to live surely? And when they saw that it availed not, and that always he was firm and constant in the law of God, they were much wroth with him and did to him much harm in the chariot, and as he approached the city a great multitude of people began to murmur against him. Anon a voice descended from heaven saying unto him: Polycarp be strong and constant. That voice was heard of many but none saw it. Then anon it was told to the provost all openly, that Polycarp had three times confessed to be christian. When these tidings were heard all the people of the city of Smyrna, paynims and Jews, began to cry in great ire: This is the master and doctor of all the christian people that be in Asia, and hath destroyed all our gods, we require that he be burnt all quick. Then the people assembled much wood and brought him to a stake. And when they brought him to the stake they would have bound him thereto, and nailed the bonds with great nails. Then he said to them: Let me alone, for he that hath ordained me to suffer this torment of fire shall give to me virtue of patience, without moving me from this place, for to endure and suffer the flame of the fire.

Then the tyrants left the nails, and bound him with cords to the stake, and his hands bound behind him. And as in his passion he praised and blessed our Lord, and the fire was burning and a great flame shining, a much notable miracle was showed right there to much people, which God showed to the end that it should be showed unto all other. And the miracle was this, that the flame departed all about him in manner of a chamber by virtue of a sweet wind that came from heaven, and the body of the martyr was not as flesh burnt in the flame, but as fair as it had been purified in a furnace, and they that were about him felt an odour so sweet as it had been incense or precious ointment. When the tyrants saw that the fire might not consume the body of the glorious martyr, they made the ministers to approach and did them to smite him through the body with a spear, and then issued out of his glorious body so great abundance of blood that it quenched the fire. And when the people saw the miracle they departed, having much marvel that they did so much cruelty to the friends of God. And with this glorious martyr were twelve other martyrs martyred, for to get the joy of heaven. The which grant us the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

St. Polycarp: Epistle to the Philippians

Greeting

Polycarp, and the presbyters  with him, to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi: Mercy to you, and peace from God Almighty, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, be multiplied.

Chapter 1. Praise of the Philippians

I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example  of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days (Phil 1:5) long gone by, endures even until now, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] “whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave.”  “In whom, though now you see Him not, you believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” (1 Pt 1:8) into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that “by grace you are saved, not of works,” (Eph 2:8-9) but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

Chapter 2. An exhortation to virtue

“Wherefore, girding up your loins,” (1 Pt 1:13); (Eph 6:14) “serve the Lord in fear”  and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and “believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory,” (1 Pt 1:21) and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things (1 Pt 3:22); Phil 2:10) in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 17:31) His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him.  But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise  up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; “not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,” (1 Pt 3:9) or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: “Judge not, that you be not judged; (Mt 7:1) forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you;  be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; (Lk 6:36) with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again;” (Mt 7:2); Lk 6:38) and once more, “Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” 

Chapter 3. Expressions of personal unworthiness

These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because you have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom (2 Pt 3:15) of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, “is the mother of us all.” (Gal 4:26) For if any one be inwardly  possessed of these graces, he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that has love is far from all sin.

Chapter 4. Various exhortations

“But the love of money is the root of all evils.” (1 Tim 6:10) Knowing, therefore, that “as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out,” (1 Tim 6:7) let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; (Eph 6:11) and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God. Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually (1 Thess 5:17) for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil; knowing that they are the altar of God, that He clearly perceives all things, and that nothing is hid from Him, neither reasonings, nor reflections, nor any one of the secret things of the heart.

Chapter 5. The duties of deacons, youths, and virgins

Knowing, then, that “God is not mocked,” (Gal 6:7) we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory. In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ,  and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, (1 Tim 3:8) or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant (Mt 20:28) of all. If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live  worthily of Him, “we shall also reign together with Him,” (2 Tim 2:12) provided only we believe. In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things, being especially careful to preserve purity, and keeping themselves in, as with a bridle, from every kind of evil. For it is well that they should be cut off from  the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust wars against the spirit;” (1 Pt 2:11) and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” (1 Cor 6:9-10) nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience.

Chapter 6. The duties of presbyters and others

And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always “providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man;” (Rom 12:17); (2 Cor 8:31) abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; (Mt 6:12-14) for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and “we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself.” (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10) Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offense, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error.

Chapter 7. Avoid the Docetæ, and persevere in fasting and prayer

“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist;” (1 Jn 4:3) and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross,  is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan.  Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from (Jude 3) the beginning; “watching unto prayer,” (1 Pt 4:7) and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God “not to lead us into temptation,” (Mt 6:13; Mt 26:41) as the Lord has said: “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38) 

Chapter 8. Persevere in hope and patience

Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, “who bore our sins in His own body on the tree,” (1 Pt 2:24) “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,” (1 Pt 2:22) but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him. (1 Jn 4:9) Let us then be imitators of His patience; and if we suffer (Acts 5:41; 1 Pt 4:16) for His name's sake, let us glorify Him.  For He has set us this example (1 Pt 2:21) in Himself, and we have believed that such is the case.

Chapter 9. Patience inculcated

I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run (Phil 2:16; Gal 2:2) in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.

Chapter 10. Exhortation to the practice of virtue

Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, (1 Pt 2:17) and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because “alms delivers from death.” (Tob 4:10, Tob 12:9) Be all of you subject one to another (1 Pt 5:5) “having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles,” (1 Pt 2:12) that you may both receive praise for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed! (Is 52:5) Teach, therefore, sobriety to all, and manifest it also in your own conduct.

Chapter 11. Expression of grief on account of Valens

I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him [in the Church]. I exhort you, therefore, that you abstain from covetousness,  and that you be chaste and truthful. “Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:22) For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness,  he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord? “Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Cor 6:2) as Paul teaches. But I have neither seen nor heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of whom the blessed Paul laboured, and who are commended  in the beginning of his Epistle. For he boasts of you in all those Churches which alone then knew the Lord; but we [of Smyrna] had not yet known Him. I am deeply grieved, therefore, brethren, for him (Valens) and his wife; to whom may the Lord grant true repentance! And be then moderate in regard to this matter, and “do not count such as enemies,” (2 Thess 3:15) but call them back as suffering and straying members, that you may save your whole body. For by so acting you shall edify yourselves. (1 Cor 12:26) 

Chapter 12. Exhortation to various graces

For I trust that you are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted.  It is declared then in these Scriptures, “Be angry, and sin not,”  and, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Eph 4:26) Happy is he who remembers  this, which I believe to be the case with you. But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forbearance, and purity; and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints, and on us with you, and on all that are under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His Father, who “raised Him from the dead.” (Gal 1:1) Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings, (1 Tim 2:2) and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you, (Mat 5:44) and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that you may be perfect in Him.

Chapter 13. Concerning the transmission of epistles

Both you and Ignatius  wrote to me, that if any one went [from this] into Syria, he should carry your letter  with him; which request I will attend to if I find a fitting opportunity, either personally, or through some other acting for me, that your desire may be fulfilled. The Epistles of Ignatius written by him  to us, and all the rest [of his Epistles] which we have by us, we have sent to you, as you requested. They are subjoined to this Epistle, and by them you may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and all things that tend to edification in our Lord. Any  more certain information you may have obtained respecting both Ignatius himself, and those that were  with him, have the goodness to make known  to us.

Chapter 14. Conclusion

These things I have written to you by Crescens, whom up to the present  time I have recommended unto you, and do now recommend. For he has acted blamelessly among us, and I believe also among you. Moreover, you will hold his sister in esteem when she comes to you. Be safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you all.  Amen.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

St. Leo the Great: Sermon On Lent (1)

Sermon 39

I. The benefits of abstinence shown by the example of the Hebrews

In former days, when the people of the Hebrews and all the tribes of Israel were oppressed for their scandalous sins by the grievous tyranny of the Philistines, in order that they might be able to overcome their enemies, as the sacred story declares, they restored their powers of mind and body by the injunction of a fast. For they understood that they had deserved that hard and wretched subjection for their neglect of God's commands, and evil ways, and that it was in vain for them to strive with arms unless they had first withstood their sin. Therefore abstaining from food and drink, they applied the discipline of strict correction to themselves, and in order to conquer their foes, first conquered the allurements of the palate in themselves. And thus it came about that their fierce enemies and cruel taskmasters yielded to them when fasting, whom they had held in subjection when full. And so we too, dearly beloved, who are set in the midst of many oppositions and conflicts, may be cured by a little carefulness, if only we will use the same means. For our case is almost the same as theirs, seeing that, as they were attacked by foes in the flesh so are we chiefly by spiritual enemies. And if we can conquer them by God's grace enabling us to correct our ways, the strength of our bodily enemies also will give way before us, and by our self-amendment we shall weaken those who were rendered formidable to us, not by their own merits but by our shortcomings.

II. Use Lent to vanquish the enemy, and be thus preparing for Eastertide

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, that we may be able to overcome all our enemies, let us seek Divine aid by the observance of the heavenly bidding, knowing that we cannot otherwise prevail against our adversaries, unless we prevail against our own selves. For we have many encounters with our own selves: the flesh desires one thing against the spirit, and the spirit another thing against the flesh. And in this disagreement, if the desires of the body be stronger, the mind will disgracefully lose its proper dignity, and it will be most disastrous for that to serve which ought to have ruled. But if the mind, being subject to its Ruler, and delighting in gifts from above, shall have trampled under foot the allurements of earthly pleasure, and shall not have allowed sin to reign in its mortal body, reason will maintain a well-ordered supremacy, and its strongholds no strategy of spiritual wickednesses will cast down: because man has then only true peace and true freedom when the flesh is ruled by the judgment of the mind, and the mind is directed by the will of God. And although this state of preparedness, dearly-beloved, should always be maintained that our ever-watchful foes may be overcome by unceasing diligence, yet now it must be the more anxiously sought for and the more zealously cultivated when the designs of our subtle foes themselves are conducted with keener craft than ever. For knowing that the most hallowed days of Lent are now at hand, in the keeping of which all past slothfulnesses are chastised, all negligences alerted for, they direct all the force of their spite on this one thing, that they who intend to celebrate the Lord's holy Passover may be found unclean in some matter, and that cause of offense may arise where propitiation ought to have been obtained.

III. Fights are necessary to prove our Faith

As we approach then, dearly-beloved, the beginning of Lent, which is a time for the more careful serving of the Lord, because we are, as it were, entering on a kind of contest in good works, let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations, and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But "stronger is He that is in us than He that is against us (1 Jn 4:4)", and through Him are we powerful in whose strength we rely: because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid. For He conquered the adversary, as you have heard , by quotations from the law, not by actual strength, that by this very thing He might do greater honour to man, and inflict a greater punishment on the adversary by conquering the enemy of the human race not now as God but as Man. He fought then, therefore, that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly-beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight. And therefore the most wise Solomon says, "My son in approaching the service of God prepare your soul for temptation (Si 2:1)." For He being a man full of the wisdom of God, and knowing that the pursuit of religion involves laborious struggles, foreseeing too the danger of the fight, forewarned the intending combatant; lest haply, if the tempter came upon him in his ignorance, he might find him unready and wound him unawares.

IV. The Christian's armour is both for defence and for attack

So, dearly-beloved, let us who instructed in Divine learning come wittingly to the present contest and strife, hear the Apostle when he says, "for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this dark world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things (Eph 6:12)," and let us not forget that these our enemies feel it is against them all is done that we strive to do for our salvation, and that by the very fact of our seeking after some good thing we are challenging our foes. For this is an old-standing quarrel between us and them fostered by the devil's ill-will, so that they are tortured by our being justified, because they have fallen from those good things to which we, God helping us, are advancing. If, therefore, we are raised, they are prostrated: if we are strengthened, they are weakened. Our cures are their blows, because they are wounded by our wounds' cure. "Stand, therefore," dearly-beloved, as the Apostle says, "having the loins of your mind girt in truth, and your feet shod in the preparation of the gospel of peace, in all things taking the shield of faith in which you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one, and put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph 6:14-17)." See, dearly-beloved, with what mighty weapons, with what impregnable defences we are armed by our Leader, who is famous for His many triumphs, the unconquered Master of the Christian warfare. He has girt our loins with the belt of chastity, He has shod our feet with the bonds of peace: because the unbelted soldier is quickly vanquished by the suggester of immodesty, and he that is unshod is easily bitten by the serpent. He has given the shield of faith for the protection of our whole body; on our head has He set the helmet of salvation; our right hand has He furnished with a sword, that is with the word of Truth: that the spiritual warrior may not only be safe from wounds, but also may have strength to wound his assailant.

V. Abstinence not only from food but from other evil desires, especially from wrath, is required in Lent

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us: so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from food alone desirable. For it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed. When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights. Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and search severely into his inmost heart: let him see that no discord cling there, no wrong desire be harboured. Let chasteness drive incontinence far away; let the light of truth dispel the shades of deception; let the swellings of pride subside; let wrath yield to reason; let the darts of ill-treatment be shattered, and the chidings of the tongue be bridled; let thoughts of revenge fall through, and injuries be given over to oblivion. In fine, let "every plant which the heavenly Father has not planted be removed by the roots (Mt 15:13)." For then only are the seeds of virtue well nourished in us, when every foreign germ is uprooted from the field of wheat. If any one, therefore, has been fired by the desire for vengeance against another, so that he has given him up to prison or bound him with chains, let him make haste to forgive not only the innocent, but also one who seems worthy of punishment, that he may with confidence make use of the clause in the Lord's prayer and say, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." Which petition the Lord marks with peculiar emphasis, as if the efficacy of the whole rested on this condition, by saying, "For if you forgive men their sins, your Father which is in heaven also will forgive you: but if you forgive not men, neither will your Father forgive you your sins.

VI. The right use of Lent will lead to a happy participation in Easter

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, being mindful of our weakness, because we easily fall into all kinds of faults, let us by no means neglect this special remedy and most effectual healing of our wounds. Let us remit, that we may have remission: let us grant the pardon which we crave: let us not be eager to be revenged when we pray to be forgiven. Let us not pass over the groans of the poor with deaf ear, but with prompt kindness bestow our mercy on the needy, that we may deserve to find mercy in the judgment. And he that, aided by God's grace, shall strain every nerve after this perfection, will keep this holy fast faithfully; free from the leaven of the old wickedness, in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Co 5:8), he will reach the blessed Passover, and by newness of life will worthily rejoice in the mystery of man's reformation through Christ our Lord Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

+ + +

Pope St. Leo I (the Great)

Source: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.


St. Leo Magnus, by Francisco de Herrera el Mozo (1622-1685).
Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.

Shepherd of Hermas: Fasting

"WHILE fasting and sitting on a certain mountain, and giving thanks to the Lord for all His dealings with me, I see the Shepherd sitting down beside me, and saying, “Why have you come hither [so] early in the morning?” “Because, sir,” I answered, “I have a station.” “What is a station?” he asked. “I am fasting, sir,” I replied. “What is this fasting,” he continued, “which you are observing?” “As I have been accustomed, sir,” I reply, “so I fast.” “You do not know,” he says, “how to fast unto the Lord: this useless fasting which you observe to Him is of no value.” “Why, sir,” I answered, “do you say this?” “I say to you,” he continued, “that the fasting which you think you observe is not a fasting. But I will teach you what is a full and acceptable fasting to the Lord."

"Listen,” he continued: “God does not desire such an empty fasting. For fasting to God in this way you will do nothing for a righteous life; but offer to God a fasting of the following kind: Do no evil in your life, and serve the Lord with a pure heart: keep His commandments, walking in His precepts, and let no evil desire arise in your heart; and believe in God. If you do these things, and fear Him, and abstain from every evil thing, you will live unto God; and if you do these things, you will keep a great fast, and one acceptable before God.” "

~The Shepherd of Hermas, Bk. III, Similitude (Parable) 5, Ch. 1.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
From the Catacombs of St. Callixtus (ceiling); Rome.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

St. Ignatius of Antioch: The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp

Greeting

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [wishes] abundance of happiness.

Chapter 1. Commendation and exhortation

Having obtained good proof that your mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock, I loudly glorify [His name] that I have been thought worthy [to behold] your blameless face, which may I ever enjoy in God! I entreat you, by the grace with which you are clothed, to press forward in your course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Maintain your position with all care, both in the flesh and spirit. Have a regard to preserve unity, than which nothing is better. Bear with all, even as the Lord does with you. Support all in love, as also you do. Give yourself to prayer without ceasing. (1 Thess 5:17) Implore additional understanding to what you already have. Be watchful, possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to every man separately, as God enables you. Bear the infirmities of all, as being a perfect athlete [in the Christian life]: where the labour is great, the gain is all the more.

Chapter 2. Exhortations

If you love the good disciples, no thanks are due to you on that account; but rather seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome. Every kind of wound is not healed with the same plaster. Mitigate violent attacks [of disease] by gentle applications. Be in all things "wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove." (Matt 10:16) For this purpose you are composed of both flesh and spirit, that you may deal tenderly with those [evils] that present themselves visibly before you. And as respects those that are not seen, pray that [God] would reveal them unto you, in order that you may be wanting in nothing, but may abound in every gift. The times call for you, as pilots do for the winds, and as one tossed with tempest seeks for the haven, so that both you [and those under your care] may attain to God. Be sober as an athlete of God: the prize set before you is immortality and eternal life, of which you are also persuaded. In all things may my soul be for yours, and my bonds also, which you have loved.

Chapter 3. Exhortations

Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, (1 Tim 1:3, 6:3) fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.

Chapter 4. Exhortations

Let not widows be neglected. Be, after the Lord, their protector and friend. Let nothing be done without your consent; neither do anything without the approval of God, which indeed you do not, inasmuch as you are steadfast. Let your assembling together be of frequent occurrence: seek after all by name. Do not despise either male or female slaves, yet neither let them be puffed up with conceit, but rather let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they may obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not long to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires.

Chapter 5. The duties of husbands and wives

Flee evil arts; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church. (Eph 5:25) If any one can continue in a state of purity, to the honour of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckon himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honour of God. (1 Cor 10:31)

Chapter 6. The duties of the Christian flock

Give heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please Him under whom you fight, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!

Chapter 7. Request that Polycarp would send a messenger to Antioch

Seeing that the Church which is at Antioch in Syria is, as report has informed me, at peace, through your prayers, I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may attain to God, so that, through your prayers, I may be found a disciple [of Christ]. It is fitting, O Polycarp, most blessed in God, to assemble a very solemn council, and to elect one whom you greatly love, and know to be a man of activity, who may be designated the messenger of God; and to bestow on him this honour that he may go into Syria, and glorify your ever active love to the praise of Christ. A Christian has not power over himself, but must always be ready for the service of God. Now, this work is both God's and yours, when you shall have completed it to His glory. For I trust that, through grace, you are prepared for every good work pertaining to God. Knowing, therefore, your energetic love of the truth, I have exhorted you by this brief Epistle.

Chapter 8. Let other churches also send to Antioch

Inasmuch as I have not been able to write to all the Churches, because I must suddenly sail from Troas to Neapolis, as the will [of the emperor] enjoins, [I beg that] you, as being acquainted with the purpose of God, will write to the adjacent Churches, that they also may act in like manner, such as are able to do so sending messengers, and the others transmitting letters through those persons who are sent by you, that you may be glorified by a work which shall be remembered for ever, as indeed you are worthy to be. I salute all by name, and in particular the wife of Epitropus, with all her house and children. I salute Attalus, my beloved. I salute him who shall be deemed worthy to go [from you] into Syria. Grace shall be with him for ever, and with Polycarp that sends him. I pray for your happiness for ever in our God, Jesus Christ, by whom continue in the unity and under the protection of God, I salute Alce, my dearly beloved. Fare well in the Lord.

+ + +
Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)

See St. Ignatius of Antioch


The San Barnaba Altarpiece (detail), by Sandro Botticelli. Tempera on wood, c. 1488; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. On the left of the Virgin is St. John the Baptist, St. Ignatius of Antioch as a bishop, and St. Michael the archangel.

Tertullian: To His Wife

Book I

Chapter 1. Design of the Treatise. Disavowal of Personal Motives in Writing It

I have thought it meet, my best beloved fellow-servant in the Lord, even from this early period,  to provide for the course which you must pursue after my departure from the world, if I shall be called before you; (and) to entrust to your honour  the observance of the provision. For in things worldly we are active enough, and we wish the good of each of us to be consulted. If we draw up wills for such matters, why ought we not much more to take forethought for our posterity  in things divine and heavenly, and in a sense to bequeath a legacy to be received before the inheritance be divided—(the legacy, I mean, of) admonition and demonstration touching those (bequests) which are allotted  out of (our) immortal goods, and from the heritage of the heavens? Only, that you may be able to receive in its entirety  this feoffment in trust  of my admonition, may God grant; to whom be honour, glory, renown, dignity, and power, now and to the ages of the ages!

The precept, therefore, which I give you is, that, with all the constancy you may, you do, after our departure, renounce nuptials; not that you will on that score confer any benefit on me, except in that you will profit yourself. But to Christians, after their departure from the world,  no restoration of marriage is promised in the day of the resurrection, translated as they will be into the condition and sanctity of angels.  Therefore no solicitude arising from carnal jealousy will, in the day of the resurrection, even in the case of her whom they chose to represent as having been married to seven brothers successively, wound any one  of her so many husbands; nor is any (husband) awaiting her to put her to confusion.  The question raised by the Sadducees has yielded to the Lord's sentence. Think not that it is for the sake of preserving to the end for myself the entire devotion of your flesh, that I, suspicious of the pain of (anticipated) slight, am even at this early period  instilling into you the counsel of (perpetual) widowhood. There will at that day be no resumption of voluptuous disgrace between us. No such frivolities, no such impurities, does God promise to His (servants). But whether to you, or to any other woman whatever who pertains to God, the advice which we are giving shall be profitable, we take leave to treat of at large.

Chapter 2. Marriage Lawful, But Not Polygamy

We do not indeed forbid the union of man and woman, blest by God as the seminary of the human race, and devised for the replenishment of the earth  and the furnishing of the world, and therefore permitted, yet singly. For Adam was the one husband of Eve, and Eve his one wife, one woman, one rib.  We grant, that among our ancestors, and the patriarchs themselves, it was lawful not only to marry, but even to multiply wives. There were concubines, too, (in those days.) But although the Church did come in figuratively in the synagogue, yet (to interpret simply) it was necessary to institute (certain things) which should afterward deserve to be either lopped off or modified. For the Law was (in due time) to supervene. (Nor was that enough:) for it was meet that causes for making up the deficiencies of the Law should have forerun (Him who was to supply those deficiencies). And so to the Law presently had to succeed the Word  of God introducing the spiritual circumcision. Therefore, by means of the wide licence of those days, materials for subsequent emendations were furnished beforehand, of which materials the Lord by His Gospel, and then the apostle in the last days of the (Jewish) age, either cut off the redundancies or regulated the disorders.

Chapter 3. Marriage Good: Celibacy Preferable

But let it not be thought that my reason for premising thus much concerning the liberty granted to the old, and the restraint imposed on the later time, is that I may lay a foundation for teaching that Christ's advent was intended to dissolve wedlock, (and) to abolish marriage talons; as if from this period onward  I were prescribing an end to marrying. Let them see to that, who, among the rest of their perversities, teach the disjoining of the “one flesh in two;” denying Him who, after borrowing the female from the male, recombined between themselves, in the matrimonial computation, the two bodies taken out of the consortship of the self-same material substance. In short, there is no place at all where we read that nuptials are prohibited; of course on the ground that they are “a good thing.” What, however, is better than this “good,” we learn from the apostle, who permits marrying indeed, but prefers abstinence; the former on account of the insidiousnesses of temptations, the latter on account of the straits of the times.  Now, by looking into the reason thus given for each proposition, it is easily discerned that the ground on which the power of marrying is conceded is necessity; but whatever necessity grants, she by her very nature depreciates. In fact, in that it is written, “To marry is better than to burn,” what, pray, is the nature of this “good” which is (only) commended by comparison with “evil,” so that the reason why “marrying” is more good is (merely) that “burning” is less? Nay, but how far better is it neither to marry nor to burn? Why, even in persecutions it is better to take advantage of the permission granted, and “flee from town to town,” than, when apprehended and racked, to deny (the faith).  And therefore more blessed are they who have strength to depart (this life) in blessed confession of their testimony. I may say, What is permitted is not good. For how stands the case? I must of necessity die (if I be apprehended and confess my faith.) If I think (that fate) deplorable, (then flight) is good; but if I have a fear of the thing which is permitted, (the permitted thing) has some suspicion attaching to the cause of its permission. But that which is “better” no one (ever) “permitted,” as being undoubted, and manifest by its own inherent purity. There are some things which are not to be desired merely because they are not forbidden, albeit they are in a certain sense forbidden when other things are preferred to them; for the preference given to the higher things is a dissuasion from the lowest. A thing is not “good” merely because it is not “evil,” nor is it “evil” merely because it is not “harmful.” Further: that which is fully “good” excels on this ground, that it is not only not harmful, but profitable into the bargain. For you are bound to prefer what is profitable to what is (merely) not harmful. For the first place is what every struggle aims at; the second has consolation attaching to it, but not victory. But if we listen to the apostle, forgetting what is behind, let us both strain after what is before, and be followers after the better rewards. Thus, albeit he does not “cast a snare upon us,” he points out what tends to utility when he says, “The unmarried woman thinks on the things of the Lord, that both in body and spirit she may be holy; but the married is solicitous how to please her husband.” But he nowhere permits marriage in such a way as not rather to wish us to do our utmost in imitation of his own example. Happy the man who shall prove like Paul!

Chapter 4. Of the Infirmity of the Flesh, and Similar Pleas

But we read “that the flesh is weak;” and hence we soothe ourselves in some cases. Yet we read, too, that “the spirit is strong;” for each clause occurs in one and the same sentence. Flesh is an earthly, spirit a heavenly, material. Why, then, do we, too prone to self-excuse, put forward (in our defence) the weak part of us, but not look at  the strong? Why should not the earthly yield to the heavenly? If the spirit is stronger than the flesh, because it is withal of nobler origin, it is our own fault if we follow the weaker. Now there are two phases  of human weakness which make marriages  necessary to such as are disjoined from matrimony. The first and most powerful is that which arises from fleshly concupiscence; the second, from worldly concupiscence. But by us, who are servants of God, who renounce both voluptuousness and ambition, each is to be repudiated. Fleshly concupiscence claims the functions of adult age, craves after beauty's harvest, rejoices in its own shame, pleads the necessity of a husband to the female sex, as a source of authority and of comfort, or to render it safe from evil rumours. To meet these its counsels, do you apply the examples of sisters of ours whose names are with the Lord, — who, when their husbands have preceded them (to glory), give to no opportunity of beauty or of age the precedence over holiness. They prefer to be wedded to God. To God their beauty, to God their youth (is dedicated). With Him they live; with Him they converse; Him they “handle”  by day and by night; to the Lord they assign their prayers as dowries; from Him, as oft as they desire it, they receive His approbation  as dotal gifts. Thus they have laid hold for themselves of an eternal gift of the Lord; and while on earth, by abstaining from marriage, are already counted as belonging to the angelic family. Training yourself to an emulation of (their) constancy by the examples of such women, you will by spiritual affection bury that fleshly concupiscence, in abolishing the temporal  and fleeting desires of beauty and youth by the compensating gain of immortal blessings.

On the other hand, this worldly concupiscence (to which I referred) has, as its causes, glory, cupidity, ambition, want of sufficiency; through which causes it trumps up the “necessity” for marrying—promising itself, forsooth, heavenly things in return— to lord it, (namely,) in another's family; to roost on another's wealth; to extort splendour from another's store to lavish expenditure which you do not feel! Far be all this from believers, who have no care about maintenance, unless it be that we distrust the promises of God, and (His) care and providence, who clothes with such grace the lilies of the field; who, without any labour on their part, feeds the fowls of the heaven; who prohibits care to be taken about tomorrow's food and clothing, promising that He knows what is needful for each of His servants— not indeed ponderous necklaces, not burdensome garments, not Gallic mules nor German bearers, which all add lustre to the glory of nuptials; but “sufficiency,” which is suitable to moderation and modesty. Presume, I pray you, that you have need of nothing if you “attend upon the Lord;” nay, that you have all things, if you have the Lord, whose are all things. Think often on things heavenly, and you will despise things earthly. To widowhood signed and sealed before the Lord nought is necessary but perseverance.

Chapter 5. Of the Love of Offspring as a Plea for Marriage

Further reasons for marriage which men allege for themselves arise from anxiety for posterity, and the bitter, bitter pleasure of children. To us this is idle. For why should we be eager to bear children, whom, when we have them, we desire to send before us (to glory) (in respect, I mean, of the distresses that are now imminent); desirous as we are ourselves, too, to be taken out of this most wicked world, and received into the Lord's presence, which was the desire even of an apostle? To the servant of God, forsooth, offspring is necessary! For of our own salvation we are secure enough, so that we have leisure for children! Burdens must be sought by us for ourselves which are avoided even by the majority of the Gentiles, who are compelled by laws, who are decimated by abortions; burdens which, finally, are to us most of all unsuitable, as being perilous to faith! For why did the Lord foretell a “woe to them that are with child, and them that give suck,” except because He testifies that in that day of disencumbrance the encumbrances of children will be an inconvenience? It is to marriage, of course, that those encumbrances appertain; but that (“woe”) will not pertain to widows. (They) at the first trump of the angel will spring forth disencumbered— will freely bear to the end whatsoever pressure and persecution, with no burdensome fruit of marriage heaving in the womb, none in the bosom.

Therefore, whether it be for the sake of the flesh, or of the world,  or of posterity, that marriage is undertaken, nothing of all these “necessities” affects the servants of God, so as to prevent my deeming it enough to have once for all yielded to some one of them, and by one marriage appeased  all concupiscence of this kind. Let us marry daily, and in the midst of our marrying let us be overtaken, like Sodom and Gomorrha, by that day of fear!  For there it was not only, of course, that they were dealing in marriage and merchandise; but when He says, “They were marrying and buying,” He sets a brand  upon the very leading vices of the flesh and of the world, which call men off the most from divine disciplines— the one through the pleasure of rioting, the other though the greed of acquiring. And yet that “blindness” then was felt long before “the ends of the world.”  What, then, will the case be if God now keep us from the vices which of old were detestable before Him? “The time,” says (the apostle), “is compressed. It remains that they who have wives  act as if they had them not.”

Chapter 6. Examples of Heathens Urged as Commendatory of Widowhood and Celibacy

But if they who have (wives) are (thus) bound to consign to oblivion what they have, how much more are they who have not, prohibited from seeking a second time what they no longer have; so that she whose husband has departed from the world should thenceforward impose rest on her sex by abstinence from marriage— abstinence which numbers of Gentile women devote to the memory of beloved husbands! When anything seems difficult, let us survey others who cope with still greater difficulties. How many are there who from the moment of their baptism set the seal (of virginity) upon their flesh? How many, again, who by equal mutual consent cancel the debt of matrimony— voluntary eunuchs  for the sake of their desire after the celestial kingdom! But if, while the marriage-tie is still intact, abstinence is endured, how much more when it has been undone! For I believe it to be harder for what is intact to be quite forsaken, than for what has been lost not to be yearned after. A hard and arduous thing enough, surely, is the continence for God's sake of a holy woman after her husband's decease, when Gentiles,  in honour of their own Satan, endure sacerdotal offices which involve both virginity and widowhood!  At Rome, for instance, they who have to do with the type of that “inextinguishable fire,”  keeping watch over the omens of their own (future) penalty, in company with the (old) dragon  himself, are appointed on the ground of virginity. To the Achæan Juno, at the town Ægium, a virgin is allotted; and the (priestesses) who rave at Delphi know not marriage. Moreover, we know that widows minister to the African Ceres; enticed away, indeed, from matrimony by a most stem oblivion: for not only do they withdraw from their still living husbands, but they even introduce other wives to them in their own room— the husbands, of course, smiling on it— all contact (with males), even as far as the kiss of their sons, being forbidden them; and yet, with enduring practice, they persevere in such a discipline of widowhood, which excludes the solace even of holy affection. These precepts has the devil given to his servants, and he is heard! He challenges, forsooth, God's servants, by the continence of his own, as if on equal terms! Continent are even the priests of hell!  For he has found a way to ruin men even in good pursuits; and with him it makes no difference to slay some by voluptuousness, some by continence.

Chapter 7. The Death of a Husband is God's Call to the Widow to Continence. Further Evidences from Scripture and from Heathenism

To us continence has been pointed out by the Lord of salvation as an instrument for attaining eternity,  and as a testimony of (our) faith; as a commendation of this flesh of ours, which is to be sustained for the “garment of immortality,” which is one day to supervene; for enduring, in fine, the will of God. Besides, reflect, I advise you, that there is no one who is taken out of the world  but by the will of God, if, (as is the case,) not even a leaf falls from off a tree without it. The same who brings us into the world  must of necessity take us out of it too. Therefore when, through the will of God, the husband is deceased, the marriage likewise, by the will of God, deceases. Why should you restore what God has put an end to? Why do you, by repeating the servitude of matrimony, spurn the liberty which is offered you? “You have been bound to a wife,” says the apostle; “seek not loosing. You have been loosed from a wife; seek not binding.” For even if you do not “sin” in re-marrying, still he says “pressure of the flesh ensues.” Wherefore, so far as we can, let us love the opportunity of continence; as soon as it offers itself, let us resolve to accept it, that what we have not had strength (to follow) in matrimony we may follow in widowhood. The occasion must be embraced which puts an end to that which necessity commanded. How detrimental to faith, how obstructive to holiness, second marriages are, the discipline of the Church and the prescription of the apostle declare, when he suffers not men twice married to preside (over a Church ), when he would not grant a widow admittance into the order unless she had been “the wife of one man;” for it behooves God's altar to be set forth pure. That whole halo  which encircles the Church is represented (as consisting) of holiness. Priesthood is (a function) of widowhood and of celibacies among the nations. Of course (this is) in conformity with the devil's principle of rivalry. For the king of heathendom,  the chief pontiff,  to marry a second time is unlawful. How pleasing must holiness be to God, when even His enemy affects it!— not, of course, as having any affinity with anything good, but as contumeliously affecting what is pleasing to  God the Lord.

Chapter 8. Conclusion

For, concerning the honours which widowhood enjoys in the sight of God, there is a brief summary in one saying of His through the prophet: “Do justly to the widow and to the orphan; and come, let us reason, says the Lord.” These two names, left to the care of the divine mercy, in proportion as they are destitute of human aid, the Father of all undertakes to defend. Look how the widow's benefactor is put on a level with the widow herself, whose champion shall “reason with the Lord!” Not to virgins, I take it, is so great a gift given. Although in their case perfect integrity and entire sanctity shall have the nearest vision of the face of God, yet the widow has a task more toilsome, because it is easy not to crave after that which you know not, and to turn away from what you have never had to regret. More glorious is the continence which is aware of its own right, which knows what it has seen. The virgin may possibly be held the happier, but the widow the more hardly tasked; the former in that she has always kept “the good,” the latter in that she has found “the good for herself.” In the former it is grace, in the latter virtue, that is crowned. For some things there are which are of the divine liberality, some of our own working. The indulgences granted by the Lord are regulated by their own grace; the things which are objects of man's striving are attained by earnest pursuit. Pursue earnestly, therefore, the virtue of continence, which is modesty's agent; industry, which allows not women to be “wanderers;” frugality, which scorns the world. Follow companies and conversations worthy of God, mindful of that short verse, sanctified by the apostle's quotation of it, “Ill interviews good morals do corrupt.” Talkative, idle, winebibbing, curious tent-fellows, do the very greatest hurt to the purpose of widow-hood. Through talkativeness there creep in words unfriendly to modesty; through idleness they seduce one from strictness; through winebibbing they insinuate any and every evil; through curiosity they convey a spirit of rivalry in lust. Not one of such women knows how to speak of the good of single-husbandhood; for their “god,” as the apostle says, “is their belly;” and so, too, what is neighbour to the belly.

These considerations, dearest fellow-servant, I commend to you thus early,  handled throughout superfluously indeed, after the apostle, but likely to prove a solace to you, in that (if so it shall turn out ) you will cherish my memory in them.

Book II

Chapter 1. Reasons Which Led to the Writing of This Second Book

Very lately, best beloved fellow-servant in the Lord, I, as my ability permitted, entered for your benefit at some length into the question what course is to be followed by a holy woman when her marriage has (in whatever way) been brought to an end. Let us now turn our attention to the next best advice, in regard of human infirmity; admonished hereto by the examples of certain, who, when an opportunity for the practice of continence has been offered them, by divorce, or by the decease of the husband, have not only thrown away the opportunity of attaining so great a good, but not even in their remarriage have chosen to be mindful of the rule that “above all  they marry in the Lord.” And thus my mind has been thrown into confusion, in the fear that, having exhorted you myself to perseverance in single husbandhood and widowhood, I may now, by the mention of precipitate marriages, put “an occasion of falling” in your way. But if you are perfect in wisdom, you know, of course, that the course which is the more useful is the course which you must keep. But, inasmuch as that course is difficult, and not without its embarrassments,  and on this account is the highest aim of (widowed) life, I have paused somewhat (in my urging you to it); nor would there have been any causes for my recurring to that point also in addressing you, had I not by this time taken up a still graver solicitude. For the nobler is the continence of the flesh which ministers to widowhood, the more pardonable a thing it seems if it be not persevered in. For it is then when things are difficult that their pardon is easy. But in as far as marrying “in the Lord” is permissible, as being within our power, so far more culpable is it not to observe that which you can observe. Add to this the fact that the apostle, with regard to widows and the unmarried, advises them to remain permanently in that state, when he says, “But I desire all to persevere in (imitation of) my example:” but touching marrying “in the Lord,” he no longer advises, but plainly bids. Therefore in this case especially, if we do not obey, we run a risk, because one may with more impunity neglect an “advice” than an “order;” in that the former springs from counsel, and is proposed to the will (for acceptance or rejection): the other descends from authority, and is bound to necessity. In the former case, to disregard appears liberty, in the latter, contumacy.

Chapter 2. Of the Apostle's Meaning in 1 Cor. VII. 12-14.

Therefore, when in these days a certain woman removed her marriage from the pale of the Church, and united herself to a Gentile, and when I remembered that this had in days gone by been done by others: wondering at either their own waywardness or else the double-dealing  of their advisers, in that there is no scripture which holds forth a licence of this deed,— “I wonder,” said I, “whether they flatter themselves on the ground of that passage of the first (Epistle) to the Corinthians, where it is written: If any of the brethren has an unbelieving wife, and she consents to the matrimony, let him not dismiss her; similarly, let not a believing woman, married to an unbeliever, if she finds her husband agreeable (to their continued union), dismiss him: for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband; else were your children unclean.” It may be that, by understanding generally this monition regarding married believers, they think that licence is granted (thereby) to marry even unbelievers. God forbid that he who thus interprets (the passage) be wittingly ensnaring himself! But it is manifest that this scripture points to those believers who may have been found by the grace of God in (the state of) Gentile matrimony; according to the words themselves: “If,” it says, “any believer has an unbelieving wife;” it does not say, “takes an unbelieving wife.” It shows that it is the duty of one who, already living in marriage with an unbelieving woman, has presently been by the grace of God converted, to continue with his wife; for this reason, to be sure, in order that no one, after attaining to faith, should think that he must turn away from a woman who is now in some sense an “alien” and “stranger.” Accordingly he subjoins withal a reason, that “we are called in peace unto the Lord God;” and that “the unbeliever may, through the use of matrimony, be gained by the believer.” The very closing sentence of the period confirms (the supposition) that this is thus to be understood. “As each,” it says, “is called by the Lord, so let him persevere.” But it is Gentiles who “are called,” I take it, not believers. But if he had been pronouncing absolutely, (in the words under discussion,) touching the marriage of believers merely, (then) had he (virtually) given to saints a permission to marry promiscuously. If, however, he had given such a permission, he would never have subjoined a declaration so diverse from and contrary to his own permission, saying: “The woman, when her husband is dead, is free: let her marry whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” Here, at all events, there is no need for reconsidering; for what there might have been reconsideration about, the Spirit has oracularly declared. For fear we should make an ill use of what he says, “Let her marry whom she wishes,” he has added, “only in the Lord,” that is, in the name of the Lord, which is, undoubtedly, “to a Christian.” That “Holy Spirit,” therefore, who prefers that widows and unmarried women should persevere in their integrity, who exhorts us to a copy  of himself, prescribes no other manner of repeating marriage except “in the Lord:” to this condition alone does he concede the foregoing  of continence. “Only,” he says, “in the Lord:” he has added to his law a weight— “only.” Utter that word with what tone and manner you may, it is weighty: it both bids and advises; both enjoins and exhorts; both asks and threatens. It is a concise,  brief sentence; and by its own very brevity, eloquent. Thus is the divine voice wont (to speak), that you may instantly understand, instantly observe. For who but could understand that the apostle foresaw many dangers and wounds to faith in marriages of this kind, which he prohibits? And that he took precaution, in the first place, against the defilement of holy flesh in Gentile flesh? At this point some one says, “What, then, is the difference between him who is chosen by the Lord to Himself in (the state of) Gentile marriage, and him who was of old (that is, before marriage) a believer, that they should not be equally cautious for their flesh?— whereas the one is kept from marriage with an unbeliever, the other bidden to continue in it. Why, if we are defiled by a Gentile, is not the one disjoined, just as the other is not bound?” I will answer, if the Spirit give (me ability); alleging, before all (other arguments), that the Lord holds it more pleasing that matrimony should not be contracted, than that it should at all be dissolved: in short, divorce He prohibits, except for the cause of fornication; but continence He commends. Let the one, therefore, have the necessity of continuing; the other, further, even the power of not marrying. Secondly, if, according to the Scripture, they who shall be “apprehended”  by the faith in (the state of) Gentile marriage are not defiled (thereby) for this reason, that, together with themselves, others also are sanctified: without doubt, they who have been sanctified before marriage, if they commingle themselves with “strange flesh,” cannot sanctify that (flesh) in (union with) which they were not “apprehended.” The grace of God, moreover, sanctifies that which it finds. Thus, what has not been able to be sanctified is unclean; what is unclean has no part with the holy, unless to defile and slay it by its own (nature).

Chapter 3. Remarks on Some of the “Dangers and Wounds” Referred to in the Preceding Chapter

If these things are so, it is certain that believers contracting marriages with Gentiles are guilty of fornication,  and are to be excluded from all communication with the brotherhood, in accordance with the letter of the apostle, who says that “with persons of that kind there is to be no taking of food even.” Or shall we “in that day” produce (our) marriage certificates before the Lord's tribunal, and allege that a marriage such as He Himself has forbidden has been duly contracted? What is prohibited (in the passage  just referred to) is not “adultery;” it is not “fornication.” The admission of a strange man (to your couch) less violates “the temple of God,” less commingles “the members of Christ” with the members of an adulteress. So far as I know, “we are not our own, but bought with a price;” and what kind of price? The blood of God.  In hurting this flesh of ours, therefore, we hurt Him directly. What did that man mean who said that “to wed a 'stranger' was indeed a sin, but a very small one?” whereas in other cases (setting aside the injury done to the flesh which pertains to the Lord) every voluntary sin against the Lord is great. For, in as far as there was a power of avoiding it, in so far is it burdened with the charge of contumacy.

Let us now recount the other dangers or wounds (as I have said) to faith, foreseen by the apostle; most grievous not to the flesh merely, but likewise to the spirit too. For who would doubt that faith undergoes a daily process of obliteration by unbelieving intercourse? “Evil confabulations corrupt good morals;” how much more fellowship of life, and indivisible intimacy! Any and every believing woman must of necessity obey God. And how can she serve two lords — the Lord, and her husband— a Gentile to boot? For in obeying a Gentile she will carry out Gentile practices—personal attractiveness, dressing of the head, worldly  elegancies, baser blandishments, the very secrets even of matrimony tainted: not, as among the saints, where the duties of the sex are discharged with honour (shown) to the very necessity (which makes them incumbent), with modesty and temperance, as beneath the eyes of God.

Chapter 4. Of the Hindrances Which an Unbelieving Husband Puts in His Wife's Way

But let her see to (the question) how she discharges her duties to her husband. To the Lord, at all events, she is unable to give satisfaction according to the requirements of discipline; having at her side a servant of the devil, his lord's agent for hindering the pursuits and duties of believers: so that if a station is to be kept, the husband at daybreak makes an appointment with his wife to meet him at the baths; if there are fasts to be observed, the husband that same day holds a convivial banquet; if a charitable expedition has to be made, never is family business more urgent. For who would suffer his wife, for the sake of visiting the brethren, to go round from street to street to other men's, and indeed to all the poorer, cottages? Who will willingly bear her being taken from his side by nocturnal convocations, if need so be? Who, finally, will without anxiety endure her absence all the night long at the paschal solemnities? Who will, without some suspicion of his own, dismiss her to attend that Lord's Supper which they defame? Who will suffer her to creep into prison to kiss a martyr's bonds? Nay, truly, to meet any one of the brethren to exchange the kiss? To offer water for the saints' feet? to snatch (somewhat for them) from her food, from her cup? To yearn (after them)? To have (them) in her mind? If a pilgrim brother arrive, what hospitality for him in an alien home? If bounty is to be distributed to any, the granaries, the storehouses, are foreclosed.

Chapter 5. Of Sin and Danger Incurred Even with a “Tolerant” Husband

“But some husband does endure our (practices), and not annoy us.” Here, therefore, there is a sin; in that Gentiles know our (practices); in that we are subject to the privity of the unjust; in that it is thanks to them that we do any (good) work. He who “endures” (a thing) cannot be ignorant of it; or else, if he is kept in ignorance because he does not endure (it), he is feared. But since Scripture commands each of two things— namely, that we work for the Lord without the privity of any second person,  and without pressure upon ourselves, it matters not in which quarter you sin; whether in regard to your husband's privity, if he be tolerant, or else in regard of your own affliction in avoiding his intolerance. “Cast not,” says He, “your pearls to swine, lest they trample them to pieces, and turn round and overturn you also.” “Your pearls” are the distinctive marks  of even your daily conversation. The more care you take to conceal them, the more liable to suspicion you will make them, and the more exposed to the grasp of Gentile curiosity. Shall you escape notice when you sign your bed, (or) your body; when you blow away some impurity;  when even by night you rise to pray? Will you not be thought to be engaged in some work of magic? Will not your husband know what it is which you secretly taste before (taking) any food? And if he knows it to be bread, does he not believe it to be that (bread) which it is said to be? And will every (husband), ignorant of the reason of these things, simply endure them, without murmuring, without suspicion whether it be bread or poison? Some, (it is true,) do endure (them); but it is that they may trample on, that they may make sport of such women; whose secrets they keep in reserve against the danger which they believe in, in case they ever chance to be hurt: they do endure (wives), whose dowries, by casting in their teeth their (Christian) name, they make the wages of silence; while they threaten them, forsooth, with a suit before some spy  as arbitrator! Which most women, not foreseeing, have been wont to discover either by the extortion of their property, or else by the loss of their faith.

Chapter 6. Danger of Having to Take Part in Heathenish Rites, and Revels

The handmaid of God dwells amid alien labours; and among these (labours), on all the memorial days  of demons, at all solemnities of kings, at the beginning of the year, at the beginning of the month, she will be agitated by the odour of incense. And she will have to go forth (from her house) by a gate wreathed with laurel, and hung with lanterns, as from some new consistory of public lusts; she will have to sit with her husband ofttimes in club meetings, oft-times in taverns; and, wont as she was formerly to minister to the “saints,” will sometimes have to minister to the “unjust.” And will she not hence recognise a prejudgment of her own damnation, in that she tends them whom (formerly) she was expecting to judge? whose hand will she yearn after? Of whose cup will she partake? What will her husband sing  to her, or she to her husband? From the tavern, I suppose, she who sups upon God  will hear somewhat! From hell what mention of God (arises)? What invocation of Christ? Where are the fosterings of faith by the interspersion of the Scriptures (in conversation)? Where the Spirit? Where refreshment? Where the divine benediction? All things are strange, all inimical, all condemned; aimed by the Evil One for the attrition of salvation!

Chapter 7. The Case of a Heathen Whose Wife is Converted After Marriage with Him Very Different, and Much More Hopeful

If these things may happen to those women also who, having attained the faith while in (the state of) Gentile matrimony, continue in that state, still they are excused, as having been “apprehended by God” in these very circumstances; and they are bidden to persevere in their married state, and are sanctified, and have hope of “making a gain” held out to them. If, then, a marriage of this kind (contracted before conversion) stands ratified before God, why should not (one contracted after conversion) too go prosperously forward, so as not to be thus harassed by pressures, and straits, and hindrances, and defilements, having already (as it has) the partial sanction of divine grace? Because, on the one hand, the wife  in the former case, called from among the Gentiles to the exercise of some eminent heavenly virtue, is, by the visible proofs of some marked (divine) regard, a terror to her Gentile husband, so as to make him less ready to annoy her, less active in laying snares for her, less diligent in playing the spy over her. He has felt “mighty works;” he has seen experimental evidences; he knows her changed for the better: thus even he himself is, by his fear, a candidate for God. Thus men of this kind, with regard to whom the grace of God has established a familiar intimacy, are more easily “gained.” But, on the other hand, to descend into forbidden ground unsolicited and spontaneously, is (quite) another thing. Things which are not pleasing to the Lord, of course offend the Lord, are of course introduced by the Evil One. A sign hereof is this fact, that it is wooers only who find the Christian name pleasing; and, accordingly, some heathen men are found not to shrink in horror from Christian women, just in order to exterminate them, to wrest them away, to exclude them from the faith. So long as marriage of this kind is procured by the Evil One, but condemned by God, you have a reason why you need not doubt that it can in no case be carried to a prosperous end.

Chapter 8. Arguments Drawn Even from Heathenish Laws to Discountenance Marriage with Unbelievers. The Happiness of Union Between Partners in the Faith Enlarged on in Conclusion

Let us further inquire, as if we were in very deed inquisitors of divine sentences, whether they be lawfully (thus condemned). Even among the nations, do not all the strictest lords and most tenacious of discipline interdict their own slaves from marrying out of their own house?— in order, of course, that they may not run into lascivious excess, desert their duties, purvey their lords' goods to strangers. Yet, further, have not (the nations) decided that such women as have, after their lords' formal warning, persisted in intercourse with other men's slaves, may be claimed as slaves? Shall earthly disciplines be held more strict than heavenly prescripts; so that Gentile women, if united to strangers, lose their liberty; ours conjoin to themselves the devil's slaves, and continue in their (former) position? Forsooth, they will deny that any formal warning has been given them by the Lord through His own apostle! 

What am I to fasten on as the cause of this madness, except the weakness of faith, ever prone to the concupiscences of worldly  joys?— which, indeed, is chiefly found among the wealthier; for the more any is rich, and inflated with the name of “matron,” the more capacious house does she require for her burdens, as it were a field wherein ambition may run its course. To such the churches look paltry. A rich man is a difficult thing (to find) in the house of God;  and if such an one is (found there), difficult (is it to find such) unmarried. What, then, are they to do? Whence but from the devil are they to seek a husband apt for maintaining their sedan, and their mules, and their hair-curlers of outlandish stature? A Christian, even although rich, would perhaps not afford (all) these. Set before yourself, I beg of you, the examples of Gentiles. Most Gentile women, noble in extraction and wealthy in property, unite themselves indiscriminately with the ignoble and the mean, sought out for themselves for luxurious, or mutilated for licentious, purposes. Some take up with their own freedmen and slaves, despising public opinion, provided they may but have (husbands) from whom to fear no impediment to their own liberty. To a Christian believer it is irksome to wed a believer inferior to herself in estate, destined as she will be to have her wealth augmented in the person of a poor husband! For if it is “the poor,” not the rich, “whose are the kingdoms of the heavens,”  the rich will find more in the poor (than she brings him, or than she would in the rich). She will be dowered with an ampler dowry from the goods of him who is rich in God. Let her be on an equality with him on earth, who in the heavens will perhaps not be so. Is there need for doubt, and inquiry, and repeated deliberation, whether he whom God has entrusted with His own property  is fit for dotal endowments?  Whence are we to find (words) enough fully to tell the happiness of that marriage which the Church cements, and the oblation confirms, and the benediction signs and seals; (which) angels carry back the news of (to heaven), (which) the Father holds for ratified? For even on earth children  do not rightly and lawfully wed without their fathers' consent. What kind of yoke is that of two believers, (partakers) of one hope, one desire,  one discipline, one and the same service? Both (are) brethren, both fellow servants, no difference of spirit or of flesh; nay, (they are) truly “two in one flesh.” Where the flesh is one, one is the spirit too. Together they pray, together prostrate themselves, together perform their fasts; mutually teaching, mutually exhorting,  mutually sustaining. Equally (are they) both (found) in the Church of God; equally at the banquet of God; equally in straits, in persecutions, in refreshments. Neither hides (ought) from the other; neither shuns the other; neither is troublesome to the other. The sick is visited, the indigent relieved, with freedom. Alms (are given) without (danger of ensuing) torment; sacrifices (attended) without scruple; daily diligence (discharged) without impediment: (there is) no stealthy signing, no trembling greeting, no mute benediction. Between the two echo psalms and hymns;  and they mutually challenge each other which shall better chant to their Lord. Such things when Christ sees and hears, He joys. To these He sends His own peace.  Where two (are), there withal (is) He Himself. Where He (is), there the Evil One is not.

These are the things which that utterance of the apostle has, beneath its brevity, left to be understood by us. These things, if need shall be, suggest to your own mind. By these turn yourself away from the examples of some. To marry otherwise is, to believers, not “lawful;” is not “expedient.”

See Tertullian 

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Source: Translated by S. Thelwall. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.)

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