Sunday, March 29, 2015

St. Ignatius of Antioch: Epistle to Polycarp


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 Thessalonians 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.” (Mt. 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, 1 Tim. 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.

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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.

 Ignatius of Antioch (AD c. 35 or 50 – 98 to 117.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

St. John Damascene: "This blessed woman"

"But this blessed woman, who was deemed worthy of gifts that are supernatural, suffered those pains, which she escaped at the birth, in the hour of the passion, enduring from motherly sympathy the rending of the bowels, and when she beheld Him, Whom she knew to be God by the manner of His generation, killed as a malefactor, her thoughts pierced her as a sword, and this is the meaning of this verse: "Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also" (Lk. 2:35)."

~St. John Damascene: An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. IV, Chap. 14.

Crucifixion with the Virgin, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdelene.
By Fra Angelico. Tempera and gold on panel, 1419-20; Private collection.

St. John Damascene: the Annunciation

Lent: March 25th — Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.

"SO then, after the assent of the holy Virgin, the Holy Spirit descended on her, according to the word of the Lord which the angel spoke, purifying her, and granting her power to receive the divinity of the Word, and likewise power to bring forth."

~St. John Damascene: An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. III, Ch. 2.

The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico.
Tempera on wood, 1430-32; Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Byzantine: the Annunciation

“TODAY is the crowning of our salvation, and the manifestation of the mystery which was from eternity. The Son of God becometh the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel giveth the good tidings of grace. Therefore with him let us cry to the Mother of God, Hail! Full of grace, the Lord is with thee.”

~Byzantine Menaea, Troparion for the Feast (Mar. 25). (ca. 6th cent.)

(Image from the Byzantine Gallery)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

St. Leo the Great: Sermon on the Passion (III)

Sermon 54

(On the Passion, III.; delivered on the Sunday before Easter.)

I. The two-fold nature of Christ set forth

Among all the works of God's mercy, dearly-beloved, which from the beginning have been bestowed upon men's salvation, none is more wondrous, and none more sublime, than that Christ was crucified for the world. For to this mystery all the mysteries of the ages preceding led up, and every variation which the will of God ordained in sacrifices, in prophetic signs, and in the observances of the Law, foretold that this was fixed, and promised its fulfilment: so that now types and figures are at an end, and we find our profit in believing that accomplished which before we found our profit in looking forward to. In all things, therefore, dearly-beloved, which pertain to the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Catholic Faith maintains and demands that we acknowledge the two Natures to have met in our Redeemer, and while their properties remained, such a union of both Natures to have been effected that, from the time when, as the cause of mankind required, in the blessed Virgin's womb, “the Word became flesh,” we may not think of Him as God without that which is man, nor as man without that which is God. Each Nature does indeed express its real existence by actions that distinguish it, but neither separates itself from connection with the other. Nothing is wanting there on either side; in the majesty the humility is complete, in the humility the majesty is complete: and the unity does not introduce confusion, nor does the distinctiveness destroy the unity. The one is passible, the other inviolable; and yet the degradation belongs to the same Person, as does the glory. He is present at once in weakness and in power; at once capable of death and the vanquisher of it. Therefore, God took on Him whole Manhood, and so blended the two Natures together by means of His mercy and power, that each Nature was present in the other, and neither passed out of its own properties into the other.

II. The two natures acted conjointly, and the human sufferings were not compulsory, but in accordance with the Divine will

But because the design of that mystery which was ordained for our restoration before the eternal ages, was not to be carried out without human weakness and without Divine power, both “form” does that which is proper to it in common with the other, the Word, that is, performing that which is the Word's and the flesh that which is of the flesh. One of them gleams bright with miracles, the other succumbs to injuries. The one departs not from equality with the Father's glory, the other leaves not the nature of our race. But nevertheless even His very endurance of sufferings does not so far expose Him to a participation in our humility as to separate Him from the power of the Godhead. All the mockery and insults, all the persecution and pain which the madness of the wicked inflicted on the Lord, was not endured of necessity, but undertaken of free-will: “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which had perished (Lk 19:10):” and He used the wickedness of His persecutors for the redemption of all men in such a way that in the mystery of His Death and Resurrection even His murderers could have been saved, if they had believed.

III. Judas' infamy has never been exceeded

And hence, Judas, you are proved more criminal and unhappier than all; for when repentance should have called you back to the Lord, despair dragged you to the halter. You should have awaited the completion of your crime, and have put off your ghastly death by hanging, until Christ's Blood was shed for all sinners. And among the many miracles and gifts of the Lord's which might have aroused your conscience, those holy mysteries, at least, might have rescued you from your headlong fall, which at the Paschal supper you had received, being even then detected in your treachery by the sign of Divine knowledge. Why do you distrust the goodness of Him, Who did not repel you from the communion of His body and blood, Who did not deny you the kiss of peace when you came with crowds and a band of armed men to seize Him. But O man that nothing could convert, O “spirit going and not returning,” you followed your heart's rage, and, the devil standing at your right hand, turned the wickedness, which you had prepared against the life of all the saints, to your own destruction, so that, because your crime had exceeded all measure of punishment, your wickedness might make you your own judge, your punishment allow you to be your own hangman.

IV. Christ voluntarily bartered His glory for our weakness

When, therefore, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19),” and the Creator Himself was wearing the creature which was to be restored to the image of its Creator; and after the Divinely-miraculous works had been performed, the performance of which the spirit of prophecy had once predicted, “then shall the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf shall hear; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be plain (Is. 35:5-6);” Jesus knowing that the time was now come for the fulfilment of His glorious Passion, said, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death (Mt 26:38-39);” and again, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me (Mt. 26:38-39).” And these words, expressing a certain fear, show His desire to heal the affection of our weakness by sharing them, and to check our fear of enduring pain by undergoing it. In our Nature, therefore, the Lord trembled with our fear, that He might fully clothe our weakness and our frailty with the completeness of His own strength. For He had come into this world a rich and merciful Merchant from the skies, and by a wondrous exchange had entered into a bargain of salvation with us, receiving ours and giving His, honour for insults, salvation for pain, life for death: and He Whom more than 12,000 of the angel-hosts might have served  for the annihilation of His persecutors, preferred to entertain our fears, rather than employ His own power.

V. St. Peter was the first to benefit by his Master's humiliation

And how much this humiliation conferred upon all the faithful, the most blessed Apostle Peter was the first to prove, who, after the fierce blast of threatening cruelty had dismayed him, quickly changed, and was restored to vigour, finding remedy from the great Pattern, so that the suddenly-shaken member returned to the firmness of the Head. For the bond-servant could not be “greater than the Lord, nor the disciple greater than the master,” and he could not have vanquished the trembling of human frailty had not the Vanquisher of Death first feared. The Lord, therefore, “looked back upon Peter,” and amid the calumnies of priests, the falsehoods of witnesses, the injuries of those that scourged and spat upon Him, met His dismayed disciple with those eyes wherewith He had foreseen his dismay: and the gaze of the Truth entered into him, on whose heart correction must be wrought, as if the Lord's voice were making itself heard there, and saying, Where are you going, Peter? Why do you retire upon yourself? Turn to Me, put your trust in Me, follow Me: this is the time of My Passion, the hour of your suffering is not yet come. Why do you fear what you, too, shall overcome? Let not the weakness, in which I share, confound you. I was fearful for you; be confident of Me.

VI. The mad counsel of the Jews was turned to their own destruction

“And when morning had come all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death (Mt. 27:1).” This morning, O you Jews, was for you not the rising, but the setting of the sun, nor did the wonted daylight visit your eyes, but a night of blackest darkness brooded on your naughty hearts. This morning overthrew for you the temple and its altars, did away with the Law and the Prophets, destroyed the Kingdom and the priesthood, turned all your feasts into eternal mourning. For you resolved on a mad and bloody counsel, you “fat bulls,” you “many oxen,” you “roaring” wild beasts, you rabid “dogs,” to give up to death the Author of life and the Lord of glory; and, as if the enormity of your fury could be palliated by employing the verdict of him, who ruled your province, you lead Jesus bound to Pilate's judgment, that the terror-stricken judge being overcome by your persistent shouts, you might choose a man that was a murderer for pardon, and demand the crucifixion of the Saviour of the world. After this condemnation of Christ, brought about more by the cowardice than the power of Pilate, who with washed hands but polluted mouth sent Jesus to the cross with the very lips that had pronounced Him innocent, the licence of the people, obedient to the looks of the priests, heaped many insults on the Lord, and the frenzied mob wreaked its rage on Him, Who meekly and voluntarily endured it all. But because, dearly-beloved, the whole story is too long to go through today, let us put off the rest till Wednesday, when the reading of the Lord's Passion will be repeated.  For the Lord will grant to your prayers, that of His own free gift we may fulfil our promise: through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

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

Taking of Christ, by Caravaggio.
Oil on canvas, c. 1602; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

Monday, March 23, 2015

St. Augustine: Of Christ's crucifixion, burial, and resurrection

"ALL THE EVENTS, then, of Christ's crucifixion, of His burial, of His resurrection the third day, of His ascension into heaven, of His sitting down at the right hand of the Father, were so ordered, that the life which the Christian leads here might be modelled upon them, not merely in a mystical sense, but in reality. For in reference to His crucifixion it is said: “They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” And in reference to His burial: “We are buried with Him by baptism into death.” In reference to His resurrection: “That, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” And in reference to His ascension into heaven and sitting down at the right hand of the Father: “If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”" 

~St. Augustine: The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love,  Chap. 53.

DOMINE QUO VADIS? By Annibale Carracci.
Oil on panel, 1601-02; National Gallery, London.

Augustine Catechism:
Enchiridion on Faith Hope and Charity

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

St. Cyril of Jerusalem: On Christ Crucified and Buried

Excerpts from Catechetical Lecture 13

On the words, Crucified and Buried.

Isaiah 53:1, 7.

Who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?...He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, etc.

1. Every deed of Christ is a cause of glorying to the Catholic Church, but her greatest of all glorying is in the Cross; and knowing this, Paul says, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Christ. (Gal 6:14) For wondrous indeed it was, that one who was blind from his birth should receive sight in Siloam; but what is this compared with the blind of the whole world? A great thing it was, and passing nature, for Lazarus to rise again on the fourth day; but the grace extended to him alone, and what was it compared with the dead in sins throughout the world? Marvellous it was, that five loaves should pour forth food for the five thousand; but what is that to those who are famishing in ignorance through all the world? It was marvellous that she should have been loosed who had been bound by Satan eighteen years: yet what is this to all of us, who were fast bound in the chains of our sins? But the glory of the Cross led those who were blind through ignorance into light, loosed all who were held fast by sin, and ransomed the whole world of mankind.

2. And wonder not that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf. Moreover one man's sin, even Adam's, had power to bring death to the world; but if by the trespass of the one death reigned over the world, how shall not life much rather reign by the righteousness of the One (Rm. 5:17-18)? And if because of the tree of food they were then cast out of paradise, shall not believers now more easily enter into paradise because of the Tree of Jesus? If the first man formed out of the earth brought in universal death, shall not He who formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, being Himself the Life? If Phinees, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom (1 Tim 2:6), put away the wrath which is against mankind?

3. Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it. For the word of the Cross is unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness, but to us salvation: and to them that are perishing it is foolishness, but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God. For it was not a mere man who died for us, as I said before, but the Son of God, God made man. Further; if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer (Ex. 12:23) far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save? If any disbelieve the power of the Crucified, let him ask the devils; if any believe not words, let him believe what he sees. Many have been crucified throughout the world, but by none of these are the devils scared; but when they see even the Sign of the Cross of Christ, who was crucified for us, they shudder. For those men died for their own sins, but Christ for the sins of others; for He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. It is not Peter who says this, for then we might suspect that he was partial to his Teacher; but it is Esaias who says it, who was not indeed present with Him in the flesh, but in the Spirit foresaw His coming in the flesh. Yet why now bring the Prophet only as a witness? Take for a witness Pilate himself, who gave sentence upon Him, saying, I find no fault in this Man (Lk 23:14): and when he gave Him up, and had washed his hands, he said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person. (Mt 27:24) There is yet another witness of the sinlessness of Jesus—the robber, the first man admitted into Paradise; who rebuked his fellow, and said, "We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing amiss; for we were present, both you and I, at His judgment."

4. Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion , otherwise our redemption is an illusion also. His death was not a mere show , for then is our salvation also fabulous. If His death was but a show, they were true who said, We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I rise again. (Mt 27:63) His Passion then was real: for He was really crucified, and we are not ashamed thereat; He was crucified, and we deny it not, nay, I rather glory to speak of it. For though I should now deny it, here is Golgotha to confute me, near which we are now assembled; the wood of the Cross confutes me, which was afterwards distributed piecemeal from hence to all the world. I confess the Cross, because I know of the Resurrection; for if, after being crucified, He had remained as He was, I had not perchance confessed it, for I might have concealed both it and my Master; but now that the Resurrection has followed the Cross, I am not ashamed to declare it.

5. Being then in the flesh like others, He was crucified, but not for the like sins. For He was not led to death for covetousness, since He was a Teacher of poverty; nor was He condemned for concupiscence, for He Himself says plainly, Whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already (Mt 5:28); not for smiting or striking hastily, for He turned the other cheek also to the smiter; not for despising the Law, for He was the fulfiller of the Law; not for reviling a prophet, for it was Himself who was proclaimed by the Prophets; not for defrauding any of their hire, for He ministered without reward and freely; not for sinning in words, or deeds, or thoughts, He who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not (1 Pet. 2:22-23); who came to His passion, not unwillingly, but willing; yea, if any dissuading Him say even now, Be it far from You, Lord, He will say again, Get behind Me, Satan (Mt. 16:22-23).

6. And would you be persuaded that He came to His passion willingly? Others, who foreknow it not, die unwillingly; but He spoke before of His passion: Behold, the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. But do you know wherefore this Friend of man shunned not death? It was lest the whole world should perish in its sins. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed, and shall be crucified ; and again, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. (Lk 9:5) And would you know certainly, that the Cross is a glory to Jesus? Hear His own words, not mine. Judas had become ungrateful to the Master of the house, and was about to betray Him. Having but just now gone forth from the table, and drunk His cup of blessing, in return for that drought of salvation he sought to shed righteous blood. He who did eat of His bread, was lifting up his heel against Him; his hands were but lately receiving the blessed gifts, and presently for the wages of betrayal he was plotting His death. And being reproved, and having heard that word, You have said (Mt. 26:25), he again went out: then said Jesus, The hour has come, that the Son of man should be glorified. (Jn 12:23) Do you see how He knew the Cross to be His proper glory? What then, is Esaias not ashamed of being sawn asunder, and shall Christ be ashamed of dying for the world? Now is the Son of man glorified. (Jn 13:31) Not that He was without glory before: for He was glorified with the glory which was before the foundation of the world. He was ever glorified as God; but now He was to be glorified in wearing the Crown of His patience. He gave not up His life by compulsion, nor was He put to death by murderous violence, but of His own accord. Hear what He says: I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again: I yield it of My own choice to My enemies; for unless I chose, this could not be. He came therefore of His own set purpose to His passion, rejoicing in His noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of mankind; not ashamed of the Cross, for it was to save the world. For it was no common man who suffered, but God in man's nature, striving for the prize of His patience.

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36. Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it, having made a show of them openly (Col. 2:15); for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift; out for this the rather honour your Benefactor.

37. And if you ever fall into disputation and have not the grounds of proof, yet let Faith remain firm in you; or rather, become thou well learned, and then silence the Jews out of the prophets, and the Greeks out of their own fables. They themselves worship men who have been thunderstricken : but the thunder when it comes from heaven, comes not at random. If they are not ashamed to worship men thunderstricken and abhorred of God, are you ashamed to worship the beloved Son of God, who was crucified for you? I am ashamed to tell the tales about their so-called Gods, and I leave them because of time; let those who know, speak. And let all heretics also be silenced. If any say that the Cross is an illusion, turn away from him. Abhor those who say that Christ was crucified to our fancy only; for if so, and if salvation is from the Cross, then is salvation a fancy also. If the Cross is fancy, the Resurrection is fancy also; but if Christ be not risen, we are yet in our sins. (1 Cor 15:17) If the Cross is fancy, the Ascension also is fancy; and if the Ascension is fancy, then is the second coming also fancy, and everything is henceforth unsubstantial.

38. Take therefore first, as an indestructible foundation, the Cross, and build upon it the other articles of the faith. Deny not the Crucified; for, if you deny Him, you have many to arraign you. Judas the traitor will arraign you first; for he who betrayed Him knows that He was condemned to death by the chief-priests and elders. The thirty pieces of silver bear witness; Gethsemane bears witness, where the betrayal occurred; I speak not yet of the Mount of Olives, on which they were with Him at night, praying. The moon in the night bears witness; the day bears witness, and the sun which was darkened; for it endured not to look on the crime of the conspirators. The fire will arraign you, by which Peter stood and warmed himself; if you deny the Cross, the eternal fire awaits you. I speak hard words, that you may not experience hard pains. Remember the swords that came against Him in Gethsemane, that you feel not the eternal sword. The house of Caiaphas will arraign you, showing by its present desolation the power of Him who was erewhile judged there. Yes, Caiaphas himself will rise up against you in the day of judgment, the very servant will rise up against you, who smote Jesus with the palm of his hand; they also who bound Him, and they who led Him away. Even Herod shall rise up against you; and Pilate; as if saying, Why do you deny Him who was slandered before us by the Jews, and whom we knew to have done no wrong? For I Pilate then washed my hands. The false witnesses shall rise up against you, and the soldiers who arrayed Him in the purple robe, and set on Him the crown of thorns, and crucified Him in Golgotha, and cast lots for His coat. Simon the Cyrenian will cry out upon you, who bore the Cross after Jesus.
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Read the complete Catechetical Lectures.

Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, born about 315; died probably 18 March, 386. In the East his feast is observed on the 18th of March, in the West on the 18th or 20th. Little is known of his life. We gather information concerning him from his younger contemporaries, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Rufinus, as well as from the fifth-century historians, Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret. Cyril himself gives us the date of his "Catecheses" as fully seventy years after the Emperor Probus, that is about 347, if he is exact. Constans (d. 350) was then still alive. Mader thinks Cyril was already bishop, but it is usually held that he was at this date only as a priest. St. Jerome relates (Chron. ad ann. 352) that Cyril had been ordained priest by St. Maximus, his predecessor, after whose death the episcopate was promised to Cyril by the metropolitan, Acacius of Caesarea, and the other Arian bishops, on condition that he should repudiate the ordination he had received from Maximus. He consented to minister as deacon only, and was rewarded for this impiety with the see. Maximus had consecrated Heraclius to succeed himself, but Cyril, by various frauds, degraded Heraclius to the priesthood. So says St. Jerome; but Socrates relates that Acacius drove out St. Maximus and substituted St. Cyril.

A quarrel soon broke out between Cyril and Acacius, apparently on a question of precedence or jurisdiction. At Nicaea the metropolitan rights of Caesarea had been guarded, while a special dignity had been granted to Jerusalem. Yet St. Maximus had held a synod and had ordained bishops. This may have been as much as the cause of Acacius' enmity to him as his attachment to the Nicene formula. On the other hand, Cyril's correct Christology may have been the real though veiled ground of the hostility of Acacius to him. At all events, in 357 Acacius caused Cyril to be exiled on the charge of selling church furniture during a famine. Cyril took refuge with Silvanus, Bishop of Taraus. He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the Semi-Arian party was triumphant. Acacius was deposed and St. Cyril seems to have returned to his see. But the emperor was displeased at the turn of events, and, in 360, Cyril and other moderates were again driven out, and only returned at the accession of Julian in 361. In 367 a decree of Valens banished all the bishops who had been restored by Julian, and Cyril remained in exile until the death of the persecutor in 378. In 380, St. Gregory of Nyssa came to Jerusalem on the recommendation of a council held at Antioch in the preceding year. He found the Faith in accord with the truth, but the city a prey to parties and corrupt in morals. St. Cyril attended the great Council of Constantinople in 381, at which Theodosius had ordered the Nicene faith, now a law of the empire, to be promulgated. St. Cyril then formally accepted the homoousion; Socrates and Sozomen call this an act of repentance. Socrates gives 385 for St. Cyril's death, but St. Jerome tells us that St. Cyril lived eight years under Theodosius, that is, from January 379. 


The extant works of St. Cyril of Jerusalem include a sermon on the Pool of Bethesda, a letter to the Emperor Constantius, three small fragments, and the famous "Catecheses". The letter describes a wonderful cross of light, extending from Calvary to the Mount of Olives, which appeared in the air on the nones of May, after Pentecost, toward the beginning of the saint's episcopate. The catechetical lectures are among the most precious remains of Christian antiquity. The include an introductory address, eighteen instructions delivered in Lent to those who were preparing for baptism, and five "mystagogical" instructions given during Easter week to the same persons after their baptism. They contain interesting local references as to the finding of the Cross, the position of Calvary in relation to the walls, to the other holy places, and to the great basilica built by Constantine in which these conferences were delivered. They seem to have been spoken extempore, and written down afterwards. The style is admirably clear, dignified, and logical; the tone is serious and full of piety. The subject is thus divided:
1. Hortatory.
2. On sin, and confidence in God's pardon.
3. On baptism, how water receives the power of sanctifying: as it cleanses the body, so the Spirit seals the soul.
4. An abridged account of the Faith.
5. On the nature of faith. 6-18. On the Creed:
6. On the monarchy of God, and the various heresies which deny it.
7. On the Father.
8. His omnipotence.
9. The Creator.
10. On the Lord Jesus Christ.
11. His Eternal Sonship.
12. His virgin birth.
13. His Passion.
14. His Resurrection and Ascension.
15. His second coming.
16-17 On the Holy Ghost.
18. On the resurrection of the body and the Catholic Church.
The first mystagogical catechesis explains the renunciations of Satan, etc. which preceded baptism; the second is on the effects of baptism, the third on confirmation, the fourth on Holy Communion, and the fifth on holy Mass for the living and the dead. The hearers are told to observe the disciplina arcani; Rom. they must repeat nothing to heathens and catechumens; the book also has a note to the same effect.  

A few points may be noted. The mythical origin of the Septuagint is told, and the story of the phoenix, so popular from Clement onwards. The description of Mass speaks of the mystical washing of the priest's hands, the kiss of peace, the "Sursum Corda", etc., and the Preface with its mention of the angels, the Sanctus, the Epiclesis, the transmutation of the elements by the Holy Ghost, the prayer for the whole Church and for the spirits of the departed, followed by the Paternoster, which is briefly explained. Then come the "Sancta Sanctis" and the Communion. "Approaching do not come with thy palms stretched flat nor with fingers separated. But making thy left hand a seat for thy right, and hollowing thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, responding Amen. And having with care hallowed thine eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, take it, vigilant lest thou drop any of it. For shouldst thou lose any of it, it is as though thou wast deprived of a member of thy own body." "Then after Communion of the Body of Christ, approach the Chalice of His Blood, not extending thy hands, but bending low, and with adoration and reverence saying Amen, sanctify thyself by receiving also the Blood of Christ. And while thy lips are yet wet, touch them with thy hands, and sanctify thy eyes and thy forehead and thy other senses" (Cat. Myst., v, 22, 21-22). We are to make the sign of the cross when we eat and drink, sit, go to bed, get up, talk, walk, in short, in every action (Cat. iv, 14). Again: "if thou should be in foreign cities, do not simply ask where is the church (kyriakon), for the heresies of the impious try to call their caves kyriaka, nor simply where is the Church (ekklesia), but where is the Catholic Church, for this is the proper name of this holy Mother of all" (Cat. xviii, 26). 


St. Cyril's doctrine is expressed in his creed, which seems to have run thus: 
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten by the Father true God before all ages, God of God, Life of Life, Light of Light, by Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He was crucified . . . and buried. He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and sat at the right hand of the Father. And He cometh in glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. And in one Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, Who spake by the prophets; and in one baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and in one holy Catholic Church, and in the resurrection of the body, and in life everlasting. 
The italicized words are uncertain. St. Cyril teaches the Divinity of the Son with perfect plainness, but avoids the word "consubstantial", which he probably thought liable to misunderstanding. He never mentions Arianism, though he denounces the Arian formula, "There was a time when the Son was not". He belonged to the Semi-Arian, or Homoean party, and is content to declare that the Son is "in all things like the Father". He communicated freely with bishops such a Basil of Ancyra and Eustathius of Sebaste. He not only does not explain that the Holy Trinity has one Godhead, but he does not even say the Three Persons are one God. The one God for him is always the Father. "There is one God, the Father of Christ, and one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the only God, and one Holy Ghost, Who sanctifies and deifies all things" (Cat. iv, 16). But he rightly says: "We do not divide the Holy Trinity as some do, neither do we make a melting into one like Sabellius" (Cat. xvi, 4). Cyril never actually calls the Holy Ghost God, but He is to be honoured together with the Father and the Son (Cat. iv, 16). There is therefore nothing incorrect in his doctrine, only the explicit use of the Nicene formulae is wanting, and these, like St. Meletius and others of his party, he fully accepted at a later date. 

St. Cyril's teaching about the Blessed Sacrament is of the first importance, for he was speaking freely, untrammelled by the "discipline of the secret". On the Real Presence he is unambiguous: "Since He Himself has declared and said of the bread: This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any more? And when He asserts and says: This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate and say it is not His Blood?" Of the Transformation, he argues, if Christ could change water into wine, can He not change wine into His own Blood? The bread and wine are symbols: "In the type of bread is given thee the Body, in the type of wine the Blood is given thee"; but they do not remain in their original condition, they have been changed, though the senses cannot tell us this: "Do not think it mere bread and wine, for it is the Body and Blood of Christ, according to the Lord's declaration". "Having learned this and being assured of it, that appears to be bread is not bread, though perceived by the taste, but the Body of Christ, and what appears to be wine is not wine, though the taste says so, but the Blood of Christ . . . strengthen thy heart, partaking of it as spiritual (food), and rejoice the face of thy soul". It is difficult not to see the whole doctrine of Transubstantiation in these explicit words. Confirmation is with blessed chrism: "As the bread of the Eucharist after the invocation of the Holy Ghost is not bread, but the Body of Christ, so this holy myrrh is no longer simple, as one might say, after the invocation, but a gift of Christ and capable by the presence of the Holy Ghost of giving His divinity" (ii, 4). St. Peter and St. Paul went to Rome, the heads (prostatai) of the Church. Peter is ho koryphaiotatos kai protostates ton apostolon. The Faith is to be proved out of Holy Scripture. St. Cyril, as the Greek Fathers generally, gives the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament omitting the deutero-canonical books. But yet he often quotes them as Scripture. In the New Testament he does not acknowledge the Apocalypse. 

There have been many editions of St. Cyril's works:—(Vienna, 1560); G. Morel (Paris, 1564); J. Prévot (Paris, 1608); T. Milles (London, 1703); the Benedictine edition of Dom Touttée (Paris, 1720; reprinted at Venice, 1763); a new edition from manuscripts, by G.C. Reischl, 8vo (Munich, 1848; 2nd vol. by J. Rupp, 1860); Migne gives the Bened. ed. in P.G., XXXIII; Photius Alexandrides (2 vols., Jerusalem, 1867-8); Eng. tr. in Library of the Fathers (Oxford).  

TILLEMONT, Mémoires pour servir, etc., VIII; TOUTTEE in his edition, and REISCHL; Acta SS., March, II; DELACROIX, Saint-Cyrille de Jerusalem (Paris, 1865); MADER, Der hl. Cyrillus, Bischof von Jerusalem (Einsiedeln, 1901).

Article source: Chapman, J. (1908). St. Cyril of Jerusalem. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. (with minor formatting changes here)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Patrick

Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 493.[?] 

He had for his parents Calphurnius and Conchessa. The former belonged to a Roman family of high rank and held the office of decurio in Gaul or Britain. Conchessa was a near relative of the great patron of Gaul, St. Martin of Tours. Kilpatrick still retains many memorials of Saint Patrick, and frequent pilgrimages continued far into the Middle Ages to perpetuate there the fame of his sanctity and miracles. 

In his sixteenth year, Patrick was carried off into captivity by Irish marauders and was sold as a slave to a chieftan named Milchu in Dalriada, a territory of the present county of Antrim in Ireland, where for six years he tended his master's flocks in the valley of the Braid and on the slopes of Slemish, near the modern town of Ballymena. He relates in his "Confessio" that during his captivity while tending the flocks he prayed many times in the day: "the love of God", he added, 
and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me. 
In the ways of a benign Providence the six years of Patrick's captivity became a remote preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption, and, as his master Milchu was a druidical high priest, he became familiar with all the details of Druidism from whose bondage he was destined to liberate the Irish race. 

Admonished by an angel he after six years fled from his cruel master and bent his steps towards the west. He relates in his "Confessio" that he had to travel about 200 miles; and his journey was probably towards Killala Bay and onwards thence to Westport. He found a ship ready to set sail and after some rebuffs was allowed on board. In a few days he was among his friends once more in Britain, but now his heart was set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred ministry. We meet with him at St. Martin's monastery at Tours, and again at the island sanctuary of Lérins which was just then acquiring widespread renown for learning and piety; and wherever lessons of heroic perfection in the exercise of Christian life could be acquired, thither the fervent Patrick was sure to bend his steps. No sooner had St. Germain entered on his great mission at Auxerre than Patrick put himself under his guidance, and it was at that great bishop's hands that Ireland's future apostle was a few years later promoted to the priesthood. It is the tradition in the territory of the Morini that Patrick under St. Germain's guidance for some years was engaged in missionary work among them. When Germain commissioned by the Holy See proceeded to Britain to combat the erroneous teachings of Pelagius, he chose Patrick to be one of his missionary companions and thus it was his privilege to be associated with the representative of Rome in the triumphs that ensued over heresy and Paganism, and in the many remarkable events of the expedition, such as the miraculous calming of the tempest at sea, the visit to the relics at St. Alban's shrine, and the Alleluia victory. Amid all these scenes, however, Patrick's thoughts turned towards Ireland, and from time to time he was favoured with visions of the children from Focluth, by the Western sea, who cried to him: "O holy youth, come back to Erin, and walk once more amongst us." 

Pope St. Celestine I, who rendered immortal service to the Church by the overthrow of the Pelagian and Nestorian heresies, and by the imperishable wreath of honour decreed to the Blessed Virgin in the General Council of Ephesus, crowned his pontificate by an act of the most far-reaching consequences for the spread of Christianity and civilization, when he entrusted St. Patrick with the mission of gathering the Irish race into the one fold of Christ. Palladius had already received that commission, but terrified by the fierce opposition of a Wicklow chieftain had abandoned the sacred enterprise. It was St. Germain, Bishop of Auxerre, who commended Patrick to the pope. The writer of St. Germain's Life in the ninth century, Heric of Auxerre, thus attests this important fact: "Since the glory of the father shines in the training of the children, of the many sons in Christ whom St. Germain is believed to have had as disciples in religion, let it suffice to make mention here, very briefly, of one most famous, Patrick, the special Apostle of the Irish nation, as the record of his work proves. Subject to that most holy discipleship for 18 years, he drank in no little knowledge in Holy Scripture from the stream of so great a well-spring. Germain sent him, accompanied by Segetius, his priest, to Celestine, Pope of Rome, approved of by whose judgement, supported by whose authority, and strengthened by whose blessing, he went on his way to Ireland." It was only shortly before his death that Celestine gave this mission to Ireland's apostle and on that occasion bestowed on him many relics and other spiritual gifts, and gave him the name "Patercius" or "Patritius", not as an honorary title, but as a foreshadowing of the fruitfulness and merit of his apostolate whereby he became pater civium (the father of his people). Patrick on his return journey from Rome received at Ivrea the tidings of the death of Palladius, and turning aside to the neighboring city of Turin received episcopal consecration at the hands of its great bishop, St. Maximus, and thence hastened on to Auxerre to make under the guidance of St. Germain due preparations for the Irish mission. 

It was probably in the summer months of the year 433, that Patrick and his companions landed at the mouth of the Vantry River close by Wicklow Head. The Druids were at once in arms against him. But Patrick was not disheartened. The intrepid missionary resolved to search out a more friendly territory in which to enter on his mission. First of all, however, he would proceed towards Dalriada, where he had been a slave, to pay the price of ransom to his former master, and in exchange for the servitude and cruelty endured at his hands to impart to him the blessings and freedom of God's children. He rested for some days at the islands off the Skerries coast, one of which still retains the name of Inis-Patrick, and he probably visited the adjoining mainland, which in olden times was known as Holm Patrick. Tradition fondly points out the impression of St. Patrick's foot upon the hard rock — off the main shore, at the entrance to Skerries harbour. Continuing his course northwards he halted at the mouth of the River Boyne. A number of the natives there gathered around him and heard with joy in their own sweet tongue the glad tidings of Redemption. There too he performed his first miracle on Irish soil to confirm the honour due to the Blessed Virgin, and the Divine birth of our Saviour. Leaving one of his companions to continue the work of instruction so auspiciously begun, he hastened forward to Strangford Loughand there quitting his boat continued his journey over land towards Slemish. He had not proceeded far when a chieftain, named Dichu, appeared on the scene to prevent his further advance. He drew his sword to smite the saint, but his arm became rigid as a statue and continued so until he declared himself obedient to Patrick. Overcome by the saint's meekness and miracles, Dichu asked for instruction and made a gift of a large sabhall (barn), in which the sacred mysteries were offered up. This was the first sanctuary dedicated by St. Patrick in Erin. It became in later years a chosen retreat of the saint. A monastery and church were erected there, and the hallowed site retains the name Sabhall (pronounced Saul) to the present day. Continuing his journey towards Slemish, the saint was struck with horror on seeing at a distance the fort of his old master Milchu enveloped in flames. The fame of Patrick's marvelous power of miracles preceeded him. Milchu, in a fit of frenzy, gathered his treasures into his mansion and setting it on fire, cast himself into the flames. An ancient record adds: "His pride could not endure the thought of being vanquished by his former slave". 

Returning to Saul, St. Patrick learned from Dichu that the chieftains of Erin had been summoned to celebrate a special feast at Tara by Leoghaire, who was the Ard-Righ, that is, the Supreme Monarch of Ireland. This was an opportunity which Patrick would not forego; he would present himself before the assembly, to strike a decisive blow against the Druidism that held the nation captive, and to secure freedom for the glad tidings of Redemption of which he was the herald. As he journeyed on he rested for some days at the house of a chieftain named Secsnen, who with his household joyfully embraced the Faith. The youthful Benen, or Benignus, son of the chief, was in a special way captivated by the Gospel doctrines and the meekness of Patrick. Whilst the saint slumbered he would gather sweet-scented flowers and scatter them over his bosom, and when Patrick was setting out, continuing his journey towards Tara, Benen clung to his feet declaring that nothing would sever him from him. "Allow him to have his way", said St. Patrick to the chieftain, "he shall be heir to my sacred mission." Thenceforth Benen was the inseparable companion of the saint, and the prophecy was fulfilled, for Benen is named among the "comhards" or sucessors of St. Patrick in Armagh. 

It was on 26 March, Easter Sunday, in 433, that the eventful assembly was to meet at Tara, and the decree went forth that from the preceeding day the fires throughout the kingdom should be extinguished until the signal blaze was kindled at the royal mansion. The chiefs and Brehons came in full numbers and the druids too would muster all their strength to bid defiance to the herald of good tidings and to secure the hold of their superstition on the Celtic race, for their demoniac oracles had announced that the messenger of Christ had come to Erin. St. Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane, at the opposite extremity of the valley from Tara, on Easter Eve, in that year the feast of the Annunciation, and on the summit of the hill kindled the Paschal fire. The druids at once raised their voice. "O King", (they said) "live for ever; this fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished." By order of the king and the agency of the druids, repeated attempts were made to extinguish the blessed fire and to punish with death the intruder who had disobeyed the royal command. But the fire was not extinguished and Patrick shielded by the Divine power came unscathed from their snares and assaults. On Easter Day the missionary band having at their head the youth Benignus bearing aloft a copy of the Gospels, and followed by St. Patrick who with mitre and crozier was arrayed in full episcopal attire, proceeded in processional order to Tara. The druids and magicians put forth all their strength and employed all their incantations to maintain their sway over the Irish race, but the prayer and faith of Patrick achieved a glorious triumph. The druids by their incantations overspread the hill and surrounding plain with a cloud of worse than Egyptian darkness. Patrick defied them to remove that cloud, and when all their efforts were made in vain, at his prayer the sun sent forth its rays and the brightest sunshine lit up the scene. Again by demoniac power the Arch-Druid Lochru, like Simon Magus of old, was lifted up high in the air, but when Patrick knelt in prayer the druid from his flight was dashed to pieces upon a rock.  

Thus was the final blow given to paganism in the presence of all the assembled chieftains. It was, indeed, a momentous day for the Irish race. Twice Patrick pleaded for the Faith before Leoghaire. The king had given orders that no sign of respect was to be extended to the strangers, but at the first meeting the youthful Erc, a royal page, arose to show him reverence; and at the second, when all the chieftains were assembled, the chief-bard Dubhtach showed the same honour to the saint. Both these heroic men became fervent disciples of the Faith and bright ornaments of the Irish Church. It was on this second solemn occasion that St. Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock from the sward, to explain by its triple leaf and single stem, in some rough way, to the assembled chieftains, the great doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. On that bright Easter Day, the triumph of religion at Tara was complete. The Ard-Righ granted permission to Patrick to preach the Faith throughout the length and breadth of Erin, and the druidical prophecy like the words of Balaam of old would be fulfilled: the sacred fire now kindled by the saint would never be extinguished. 

The beautiful prayer of St. Patrick, popularly known as "St. Patrick's Breast-Plate", is supposed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over Paganism. The following is a literal translation from the old Irish text:

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

St. Patrick remained during Easter week at Slane and Tara, unfolding to those around him the lessons of Divine truth. Meanwhile the national games were being celebrated a few miles distant at Tailten (now Telltown) in connection with the royal feast. St. Patrick proceeding thither solemnly administered baptism to Conall, brother of the Ard-Righ Leoghaire, on Wednesday, 5 April. Benen and others had already been privately gathered into the fold of Christ, but this was the first public administering of baptism, recognized by royal edict, and hence in the ancient Irish Kalendars to the fifth of April is assigned "the beginning of the Baptism of Erin". This first Christian royal chieftain made a gift to Patrick of a site for a church which to the present day retains the name of Donagh-Patrick. The blessing of heaven was with Conall's family. St. Columba is reckoned among his descendants, and many of the kings of Ireland until the eleventh century were of his race. St. Patrick left some of his companions to carry on the work of evangelization in Meath, thus so auspiciously begun. He would himself visit the other territories. Some of the chieftains who had come to Tara were from Focluth, in the neighbourhood of Killala, in Connaught, and as it was the children of Focluth who in vision had summoned him to return to Ireland, he resolved to accompany those chieftains on their return, that thus the district of Focluth would be among the first to receive the glad tidings of Redemption. It affords a convincing proof of the difficulties that St. Patrick had to overcome, that though full liberty to preach the Faith throughout Erin was granted by the monarch of Leoghaire, nevertheless, in order to procure a safe conduct through the intervening territories whilst proceeding towards Connaught he had to pay the price of fifteen slaves. On his way thither, passing through Granard he learned that at Magh-Slecht, not far distant, a vast concourse was engaged in offering worship to the chief idol Crom-Cruach. It was a huge pillar-stone, covered with slabs of gold and silver, with a circle of twelve minor idols around it. He proceeded thither, and with his crosier smote the chief idol that crumbled to dust; the others fell to the ground. At Killala he found the whole people of the territory assembled. At his preaching, the king and his six sons, with 12,000 of the people, became docile to the Faith. He spent seven years visiting every district of Connaught, organizing parishes, forming dioceses, and instructing the chieftains and people. 

On the occasion of his first visit to Rathcrogan, the royal seat of the kings of Connaught, situated near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon, a remarkable incident occurred, recorded in many of the authentic narratives of the saint's life. Close by the clear fountain of Clebach, not far from the royal abode, Patrick and his venerable companions had pitched their tents and at early dawn were chanting the praises of the Most High, when the two daughters of the Irish monarch — Ethne, the fair, and Fedelm, the ruddy — came thither, as was their wont, to bathe. Astonished at the vision that presented itself to them, the royal maidens cried out: "Who are ye, and whence do ye come? Are ye phantoms, or fairies, or friendly mortals?" St. Patrick said to them: "It were better you would adore and worship the one true God, whom we announce to you, than that you would satisfy your curiosity by such vain questions." And then Ethne broke forth into the questions:

"Who is God?"
"And where is God?"
"Where is His dwelling?"
"Has He sons and daughters?"
"Is He rich in silver and gold?"
"Is He everlasting? is He beautiful?"
"Are His daughters dear and lovely to the men of this world?"
"Is He on the heavens or on earth?"
"In the sea, in rivers, in mountains, in valleys?"
"Make Him known to us. How is He to be seen?"
"How is He to be loved? How is He to be found?"
"Is it in youth or is it in old age that He may be found?"

But St. Patrick, filled with the Holy Ghost, made answer: 

"God, whom we announce to you, is the Ruler of all things."
"The God of heaven and earth, of the sea and the rivers."
"The God of the sun, and the moon, and all the stars."
"The God of the high mountains and of the low-lying valleys."
"The God who is above heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven."
"His dwelling is in heaven and earth, and the sea, and all therein."
"He gives breath to all."
"He gives life to all."
"He is over all."
"He upholds all."
"He gives light to the sun."
"He imparts splendour to the moon."
"He has made wells in the dry land, and islands in the ocean."
"He has appointed the stars to serve the greater lights."
"His Son is co-eternal and co-equal with Himself."
"The Son is not younger than the Father."
"And the Father is not older than the Son."
"And the Holy Ghost proceeds from them."
"The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are undivided."

"But I desire by Faith to unite you to the Heavenly King, as you are daughters of an earthly king."

The maidens, as if with one voice and one heart, said: "Teach us most carefully how we may believe in the Heavenly King; show us how we may behold Him face to face, and we will do whatsoever you shall say to us." 

And when he had instructed them he said to them: "Do you believe that by baptism you put off the sin inherited from the first parents." 

They answered: "We believe." 

"Do you believe in penance after sin?" 

"We believe."

"Do you believe in life after death?" Do you believe in resurrection on the Day of Judgement?"

"We believe."

"Do you believe in the unity of the Church?"

"We believe." 

Then they were baptized, and were clothed in white garments. And they besought that they might behold the face of Christ. And the saint said to them: "You cannot see the face of Christ unless you taste death, and unless you receive the Sacrifice." They answered: "Give us the Sacrifice, so that we may be able to behold our Spouse." And the ancient narrative adds: "when they received the Eucharist of God, they slept in death, and they were placed upon a couch, arrayed in their white baptismal robes." 

In 440 St. Patrick entered on the special work of the conversion of Ulster. Under the following year, the ancient annalists relate a wonderful spread of the Faith throughout the province. In 444 a site for a church was granted at Armagh by Daire, the chieftain of the district. It was in a valley at the foot of a hill, but the saint was not content. He had special designs in his heart for that district, and at length the chieftain told him to select in his territory any site he would deem most suitable for his religious purpose. St. Patrick chose that beautiful hill on which the old cathedral of Armagh stands. As he was marking out the church with his companions, they came upon a doe and fawn, and the saint's companions would kill them for food; but St. Patrick would not allow them to do so, and, taking the fawn upon his shoulders, and followed by the doe, he proceeded to a neighbouring hill, and laid down the fawn, and announced that there, in future times, great glory would be given to the Most High. It was precisely upon that hill thus fixed by St. Patrick that, a few years ago, there was solemnly dedicated the new and beautiful Catholic cathedral of Armagh. A representative of the Holy See presided on the occasion, and hundreds of priests and bishops were gathered there; and, indeed, it might truly be said, the whole Irish race on that occasion offered up that glorious cathedral to the Most High as tribute to their united faith and piety, and their never-failing love of God. 

From Ulster St. Patrick probably proceeded to Meath to consolidate the organization of the communities there, and thence he continued his course through Leinster. Two of the saint's most distinguished companions, St. Auxilius and St. Iserninus, had the rich valley of the Liffey assigned to them. The former's name is still retained in the church which he founded at Killossy, while the latter is honoured as the first Bishop of Kilcullen. As usual, St. Patrick's primary care was to gather the ruling chieftains into the fold. At Naas, the royal residence in those days, he baptised two sons of the King of Leinster. Memorials of the saint still abound in the district — the ruins of the ancient church which he founded, his holy well, and the hallowed sites in which the power of God was shown forth in miracles. At Sletty, in the immediate neighborhood of Carlow, St. Fiacc, son of the chief Brehon, Dubthach, was installed as bishop, and for a considerable time that see continued to be the chief centre of religion for all Leinster. St. Patrick proceeded through Gowran into Ossory; here he erected a church under the invocation of St. Martin, near the present city of Kilkenny, and enriched it with many precious relics which he had brought from Rome. It was in Leinster, on the borders of the present counties of Kildare and Queen's, that Odhran, St. Patrick's charioteer, attained the martyr's crown. The chieftain of that district honoured the demon-idol, Crom Cruach, with special worship, and, on hearing of that idol being cast down, vowed to avenge the insult by the death of our apostle. Passing through the territory, Odhran overheard the plot that was being organized for the murder of St. Patrick, and as they were setting out in the chariot to continue their journey, asked the saint, as a favour, to take the reins, and to allow himself, for the day, to hold the place of honour and rest. This was granted, and scarcely had they set out when a well-directed thrust of a lance pierced the heart of the devoted charioteer, who thus, by changing places, saved St. Patrick's life, and won for himself the martyr's crown. 

St. Patrick next proceeded to Munster. As usual, his efforts were directed to combat error in the chief centres of authority, knowing well that, in the paths of conversion, the kings and chieftains would soon be followed by their subjects. At "Cashel of the Kings" he was received with great enthusiasm, the chiefs and Brehons and people welcoming him with joyous acclaim. While engaged in the baptism of the royal prince Aengus, son of the King of Munster, the saint, leaning on his crosier, pierced with its sharp point the prince's foot. Aengus bore the pain unmoved. When St. Patrick, at the close of the ceremony, saw the blood flow, and asked him why he had been silent, he replied, with genuine heroism, that he thought it might be part of the ceremony, a penalty for the joyous blessings of the Faith that were imparted. The saint admired his heroism, and, taking the chieftain's shield, inscribed on it a cross with the same point of the crozier, and promised that that shield would be the signal of countless spiritual and temporal triumphs. 

Our apostle spent a considerable time in the present County of Limerick. The fame of his miracles and sanctity had gone before him, and the inhabitants of Thomond and northern Munster, crossing the Shannon in their frail coracles, hastened to receive his instruction. When giving his blessing to them on the summit of the hill of Finnime, looking out on the rich plains before him, he is said to have prophesied the coming of St. Senanus: "To the green island in the West, at the mouth of the sea [i.e., Inis-Cathaigh, now Scattery Island, at the mouth of the Shannon, near Kilrush], the lamp of the people of God will come; he will be the head of counsel to all this territory." At Sangril (now Singland), in Limerick, and also in the district of Gerryowen, the holy wells of the saint are pointed out, and the slab of rock, which served for his bed, and the altar on which every day he offered up the Holy Sacrifice. On the banks of the Suit, and the Blackwater, and the Lee, wherever the saint preached during the seven years he spent in Munster, a hearty welcome awaited him. The ancient Life attests: "After Patrick had founded cells and churches in Munster, and had ordained persons of every grade, and healed the sick, and resuscitated the dead, he bade them farewell, and imparted his blessing to them." The words of this blessing, which is said to have been given from the hills of Tipperary, as registered in the saint's Life, to which I have just referred, are particularly beautiful:

A blessing on the Munster people — 
Men, youths, and women; 
A blessing on the land 
That yields them fruit.

A blessing on every treasure 
That shall be produced on their plains, 
Without any one being in want of help, 
God's blessing be on Munster.

A blessing on their peaks, 
On their bare flagstones, 
A blessing on their glens, 
A blessing on their ridges.

Like the sand of the sea under ships, 
Be the number in their hearths; 
On slopes, on plains,
On mountains, on hills, a blessing.

St. Patrick continued until his death to visit and watch over the churches which he had founded in all the provinces in Ireland. He comforted the faithful in their difficulties, strengthened them in the Faith and in the practice of virtue, and appointed pastors to continue his work among them. It is recorded in his Life that he consecrated no fewer than 350 bishops. He appointed St. Loman to Trim, which rivalled Armagh itself in its abundant harvest of piety. St. Guasach, son of his former master, Milchu, became Bishop of Granard, while the two daughters of the same pagan chieftan founded close by, at Clonbroney, a convent of pious virgins, and merited the aureola of sanctity. St. Mel, nephew of our apostle, had the charge of Ardagh; St. MacCarthem, who appears to have been patricularly loved by St. Patrick, was made Bishop of Clogher. The narrative in the ancient Life of the saint regarding his visit to the district of Costello, in the County of Mayo, serves to illustrate his manner of dealing with the chieftains. He found, it says, the chief, Ernasc, and his son, Loarn, sitting under a tree, "with whom he remained, together with his twelve companions, for a week, and they received from him the doctrine of salvation with attentive ear and mind. Meanwhile he instructed Loarn in the rudiments of learning and piety." A church was erected there, and, in after years, Loarn was appointed to its charge. 

The manifold virtues by which the early saints were distinguished shone forth in all their perfection in the life of St. Patrick. When not engaged in the work of the sacred ministry, his whole time was spent in prayer. Many times in the day he armed himself with the sign of the Cross. He never relaxed his penitential exercises. Clothed in a rough hair-shirt, he made the hard rock his bed. His disinterestedness is specially commemorated. Countless converts of high rank would cast their precious ornaments at his feet, but all were restored to them. He had not come to Erin in search of material wealth, but to enrich her with the priceless treasures of the Catholic Faith. 

From time to time he withdrew from the spiritual duties of his apostolate to devote himself wholly to prayer and penance. One of his chosen places of solitude and retreat was the island of Lough Derg, which, to our own day, has continued to be a favourite resort of pilgrims, and it is known as St. Patrick's Purgatory. Another theatre of his miraculous power and piety and penitential austerities in the west of Ireland merits particular attention. In the far west of Connaught there is a range of tall mountains, which, arrayed in rugged majesty, bid defiance to the waves and storms of the Atlantic. At the head of this range arises a stately cone in solitary grandeur, about 4000 feet in height, facing Clew Bay, and casting its shadow over the adjoining districts of Aghagower and Westport. This mountain was known in pagan times as the Eagle Mountain, but ever since Ireland was enlightened with the light of Faith it is known as Croagh Patrick, i.e. St. Patrick's mountain, and is honoured as the Holy Hill, the Mount Sinai, of Ireland. 

St. Patrick, in obedience to his guardian angel, made this mountain his hallowed place of retreat. In imitation of the great Jewish legislator on Sinai, he spent forty days on its summit in fasting and prayer, and other penitential exercises. His only shelter from the fury of the elements, the wind and rain, the hail and snow, was a cave, or recess, in the solid rock; and the flagstone on which he rested his weary limbs at night is still pointed out. The whole purpose of his prayer was to obtain special blessings and mercy for the Irish race, whom he evangelized. The demons that made Ireland their battlefield mustered all their strength to tempt the saint and disturb him in his solitude, and turn him away, if possible, from his pious purpose. They gathered around the hill in the form of vast flocks of hideous birds of prey. So dense were their ranks that they seemed to cover the whole mountain, like a cloud, and they so filled the air that Patrick could see neither sky nor earth nor ocean. St. Patrick besought God to scatter the demons, but for a time it would seem as if his prayers and tears were in vain. At length he rang his sweet-sounding bell, symbol of his preaching of the Divine truths. Its sound was heard all over the valleys and hills of Erin, everywhere bringing peace and joy. The flocks of demons began to scatter. He flung his bell among them; they took to precipitate flight, and cast themselves into the ocean. So complete was the saint's victory over them that, as the ancient narrative adds, "for seven years no evil thing was to be found in Ireland." 

The saint, however, would not, as yet, descend from the mountain. He had vanquished the demons, but he would now wrestle with God Himself, like Jacob of old, to secure the spiritual interests of his people. The angel had announced to him that, to reward his fidelity in prayer and penance, as many of his people would be gathered into heaven as would cover the land and sea as far as his vision could reach. Far more ample, however, were the aspirations of the saint, and he resolved to persevere in fasting and prayer until the fullest measure of his petition was granted. Again and again the angel came to comfort him, announcing new concessions; but all these would not suffice. He would not relinquish his post on the mountain, or relax his penance, until all were granted. At length the message came that his prayers were heard:

• many souls would be free from the pains of purgatory through his intercession; 
• whoever in the spirit of penance would recite his hymn before death would attain the heavenly reward; 
• barbarian hordes would never obtain sway in his Church; 
• seven years before the Judgement Day, the sea would spread over Ireland to save its people from the temptations and terrors of the Antichrist; and 
• greatest blessing of all, Patrick himself should be deputed to judge the whole Irish race on the last day.

Such were the extraordinary favors which St. Patrick, with his wrestling with the Most High, his unceasing prayers, his unconquerable love of heavenly things, and his unremitting penitential deeds, obtained for the people whom he evangelized. 

It is sometimes supposed that St. Patrick's apostolate in Ireland was an unbroken series of peaceful triumphs, and yet it was quite the reverse. No storm of persecution was, indeed stirred up to assail the infant Church, but the saint himself was subjected to frequent trials at the hands of the druids and of other enemies of the Faith. He tells us in his "Confessio" that no fewer than twelve times he and his companions were seized and carried off as captives, and on one occasion in particular he was loaded with chains, and his death was decreed. But from all these trials and sufferings he was liberated by a benign Providence. It is on account of the many hardships which he endured for the Faith that, in some of the ancient Martyrologies, he is honoured as a martyr. 

St. Patrick, having now completed his triumph over Paganism, and gathered Ireland into the fold of Christ, prepared for the summons to his reward. St. Brigid came to him with her chosen virgins, bringing the shroud in which he would be enshrined. It is recorded that when St. Patrick and St. Brigid were united in their last prayer, a special vision was shown to him. He saw the whole of Ireland lit up with the brightest rays of Divine Faith. This continued for centuries, and then clouds gathered around the devoted island, and, little by little, the religious glory faded away, until, in the course of centuries, it was only in the remotest valleys that some glimmer of its light remained. St. Patrick prayed that the light would never be extinguished, and, as he prayed, the angel came to him and said: "Fear not: your apostolate shall never cease." As he thus prayed, the glimmering light grew in brightness, and ceased not until once more all the hills and valleys of Ireland were lit up in their pristine splendour, and then the angel announced to St. Patrick: "Such shall be the abiding splendour of Divine truth in Ireland." 

At Saul (Sabhall), St. Patrick received the summons to his reward on 17 March, 493(?). St. Tassach administered the last sacraments to him. His remains were wrapped in the shroud woven by St. Brigid's own hands. The bishops and clergy and faithful people from all parts crowded around his remains to pay due honour to the Father of their Faith. Some of the ancient Lives record that for several days the light of heaven shone around his bier. His remains were interred at the chieftan's Dun or Fort two miles from Saul, where in after times arose the cathedral of Down. 

Writings of St. Patrick

The "Confessio" and the "Epistola ad Coroticum" are recognized by all modern critical writers as of unquestionable genuineness. The best edition, with text, translation, and critical notes, is by Rev. Dr. White for the Royal Irish Academy, in 1905. The 34 canons of a synod held before the year 460 by St. Patrick, Auxilius, and Isserninus, though rejected by Todd and Haddan, have been placed by Professor Bury beyond the reach of controversy. Another series of 31 ecclesiastical canons entitled "Synodus secunda Patritii", though unquestionably of Irish origin and dating before the close of the seventh century, is generally considered to be of a later date than St. Patrick. Two tracts (in P.L., LIII), entitled "De abusionibus saeculi", and "De Tribus habitaculis", were composed by St. Patrick in Irish and translated into Latin at a later period. Passages from them are assigned to St. Patrick in the "Collectio Hibernensis Canonum", which is of unquestionable authority and dates from the year 700 (Wasserschleben, 2nd ed., 1885). This "Collectio Hibernensis" also assigns to St. Patrick the famous synodical decree: "Si quae quaestiones in hac insula oriantur, ad Sedem Apostolicam referantur." (If any difficulties arise in this island, let them be referred to the Apostolic See). The beautiful prayer, known as "Faeth Fiada", or the "Lorica of St. Patrick" (St. Patrick's Breast-Plate), first edited by Petrie in his "History of Tara", is now universally accepted as genuine. The "Dicta Sancti Patritii", or brief sayings of the saint, preserved in the "Book of Armagh", are accurately edited by Fr. Hogan, S.J., in "Documenta de S. Patritio" (Brussels, 1884). The old Irish text of "The Rule of Patrick" has been edited by O'Keeffe, and a translation by Archbishop Healy in the appendix to his Life of St. Patrick (Dublin, 1905). It is a tract of venerable antiquity, and embodies the teaching of the saint.


The Trias thaumaturga (gol., Louvain, 1647) of of the Franciscan COLGAN is the most complete collection of the ancient Lives of the saint. The Kemare Life of Saint Patrick (CUSACK, Dublin, 1869) presents from the pen of HENNESSY the translation of the Irish Tripartite Life, with copious notes. WHITLEY STOKES, in the Rolls Series (London, 1887), has given the text and translation of the Vita Tripartita, together with many original documents from the Book of Armagh and other sources. The most noteworthy works of later years are SHEARMAN, Loca Patriciana (Dublin, 1879); TODD, St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland (Dublin, 1864); BURY, Life of St. Patrick (London, 1905); HEALY, The Life and Writings of St. Patrick (Dublin, 1905).

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Source: Moran, P.F. (1911). St. Patrick. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

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