Thursday, December 14, 2017

St. Augustine: The definition of a Christian

"He is a Christian who follows the way of Christ, who imitates Christ in all things, as is written: "He who says that he abides in Christ ought himself to walk just as He walked." He is a Christian who shows mercy to all, who is not disturbed by any injury, who does not permit the poor to be oppressed in his presence, who assists the needy and helps those in want, who sympathizes with the sorrowful and feels the grief of another as his own, whose goods all share and no one feels slighted, who serves God day and night, who reflects and meditates on His precepts at all times, who makes himself poor in this world to become rich in the eyes of God, who suffers himself to be despised among men that he may please God and the angels, who is seen to hold nothing concealed in his heart, whose soul is simple and spotless, whose conscience is faithful and pure, whose whole thought is directed to God, and whose whole hope is in Christ, who desires heavenly rather than earthly possessions, who contemns earthly goods in order to acquire divine. As for those who love this world and who are content and well pleased with this life, hear what the Scripture says to them: "Do you not know that the friendship of this world is enmity with God?" Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of this world becomes an enemy of God."

~St. Augustine

Saturday, December 9, 2017

St. Ambrose: "You have received a spiritual seal"

“REMEMBER that you have received a spiritual seal: the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of prudence and strength, the spirit of knowledge and piety, the spirit of holy fear. Therefore, preserve what you have received. God the Father has sealed you, Christ the Lord has confirmed you, and has given a foretaste of the Spirit in your heart, as you have learned from the teaching of the apostle.”

~St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 340–397)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Memorial of St. Ambrose

Advent: December 7th: Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

"St. Ambrose (340-397) was born at Treves in Gaul, a territory which embraced modern France, Britain, Spain, and part of Africa. He studied in Rome and later became governor of Liguria and Aemelia with residence at Milan. While supervising the election of a new bishop of Milan in 374, he himself was suddenly acclaimed the bishop. He was only a catechumen at the time. He was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop on Dec. 7. He wrote much on the Scriptures and Fathers, preached a homily every Sunday, resisted the interference of the secular powers with the rights of the Church, opposed the heretics, and was instrumental in bringing about the conversion of St. Augustine. He composed many hymns, promoted sacred chant, and took a great interest in the Liturgy." (from

Read from the writings of St. Ambrose at CCEL.

Emperor Theodosius Forbidden by St. Ambrose To Enter Milan Cathedral,
by Sir Anthony van Dyck. Oil on canvas, 1619-20; National Gallery, London. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Eusebius: "The only King of all creation"

“THE true Christ, the divine and heavenly Logos, the only High Priest of the world, the only King of all creation, the only Archprophet of prophets of the Father.”

~Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine (AD 260 - 340): Ecclesiastical History, I, 3, 8.

Monday, November 6, 2017

St. Gregory of Nyssa: "The purifying fire"

"IF a man distinguish in himself what is peculiarly human from that which is irrational, and if he be on the watch for a life of greater urbanity for himself, in this present life he will purify himself of any evil contracted, overcoming the irrational by reason. If he have inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions, using for the passions the cooperating hide of things irrational, he may afterward in a quite different manner be very much interested in what is better, when, after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire."

~St. Gregory of Nyssa: Excerpt from Sermon on the Dead. (A.D. 382)

11th century mosaic of St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


“What saint has ever won his crown without first contending for it?”
—St. Jerome: Letters, 22, 39.

“And if among all the saints some are more saintly than others, it is only because God dwells in them more abundantly.”
—St. Augustine: Letters 187.

Crucifixion and Saints, by Fra Angelico.
Fresco,1441-42; Convento di San Marco, Florence.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

St. Augustine: "God, towards whom faith rouses us"

 St. Augustine, by Vincenzo Foppa
"God, from whom to be turned away, is to fall: to whom to be turned back, is to rise again: in whom to abide, is to stand firm. God, from whom to go forth, is to die: to whom to return, is to revive: in whom to have our dwelling, is to live. God, whom no one loses, unless deceived: whom no one seeks, unless stirred up: whom no one finds, unless made pure. God, whom to forsake, is one thing with perishing; towards whom to tend, is one thing with living: whom to see is one thing with having. God, towards whom faith rouses us, hope lifts us up, with whom love joins us."
~St. Augustine: 
Soliloquies, I, 3.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

St. Gregory the Great: "Life of the Pastor"

St. Gregory the Great,
by Bicci di Lorenzo.
OFTEN, however, a spiritual director swells with pride by virtue of being placed in a position of authority over others. Because everything serves his needs and his orders are quickly performed according to his wishes and all of the laity praise him for the things he does well but have no authority to critique what goes wrong, and because they often praise what should really be rebuked, the mind of the priest is often seduced by the approval of those below him, and as a consequence he is exalted inordinately. And while he is outwardly encircled with immense favor, internally he loses his sense of truth. Forgetful of who he is, he scatters himself among the voices of others and believes what he hears them say about him rather than what he should discern about himself from within. [Such a leader] despises the laity and does not believe that they are his equal by nature. And those whom he surpassed by the accident of power, he believes himself to have transcended by the merits of his life. He estimates that he is wiser than those whom he sees himself to have surpassed in rank. Indeed, he constructs his own elated sense of self, and though he shares the same natural conditions as others, he disdains to regard others as his equal. Instead, he brings himself into equality with the one of whom it is written in Scripture: “He sees every high and is king over all the sons of pride.” [Job 41.25] the one who desired a singular height and despised a life in common with the angels said: “I will place my seat in the north and I will be like the Most High.” [Isa 14.13-14] Through a fitting judgment, this one came upon an internal downfall while he outwardly exalted himself on the height of power. In like manner, whenever someone disdains to be like other humans, it is as if he became an apostate angel.

Such was the case of Saul, who after cultivating the merit of humility, later became swollen with pride because of his temporal authority. For his humility he was preferred, for his pride he was rejected, as the Lord attests, saying: “When you were little in your own sight, did I not make you the head of the tribes of Israel?” [1 Sam 15.17] He had previously seen himself to be of little consequence, but after he received temporal authority, he began to think of himself as greater than everyone else. In a wonderful way, when he was small to himself, he was great to the Lord; but when he thought of himself as great, he became small to the Lord. For often when a soul is inflated because of the authority it holds over the laity, it becomes corrupted and moved to pride by the allure of power. In truth, one controls this power well if he knows how both to temper and to assert it. For he controls this power well if he knows how to use to gain a mastery over sin and also knows how to mingle with others as equals. For the human mind is subject to pride even when it is not propped up by a position of authority. How much more, then, does it exalt itself when it is combined with temporal power? But he dispenses his power over the laity rightly if he is careful to take what is useful and reject what is tempting and also if he uses it to realize his equality with others and put himself before sinners with an avenging zeal.

~St. Gregory the Great (c. 540 – 604)

Excerpted from The Book of Pastoral Rule: St. Gregory the Great (Popular Patristics Series), Part II.

“It is worth noting that Gregory was the only Latin author of the patristic era whose works were translated into Greek during his own lifetime. Most notably, after reading the Book of Pastoral Rule, the Byzantine emperor Maurice ordered the book to be translated and disseminated to every bishop in his empire.” (From the Introduction)

Friday, October 13, 2017

St. Isidore: On Heresy

“THEREFORE, heresy is so called from the Greek word meaning ‘choice,’ by which each chooses according to his own will what he pleases to teach or believe. But we are not permitted to believe whatever we choose, nor to choose whatever someone else has believed. We have the apostles of God as authorities, who did not themselves of their own will choose what they would believe, but faithfully transmitted to the nations the teaching received from Christ. So, even if an angel from heaven should preach otherwise, he shall be called anathema.”

~St. Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 636): Etymologies, 8, 3.

Statue of Isidore of Seville by José Alcoverro, 1892,
outside the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid.
(Photo credit: Luis García)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

St. Leo the Great: For the Feast of S. Laurence, Martyr

Sermon 85

On the Feast of S. Laurence the Martyr (Aug. 10).

I. The example of the martyrs is most valuable

Whilst the height of all virtues, dearly-beloved, and the fullness of all righteousness is born of that love, wherewith God and one's neighbour is loved, surely in none is this love found more conspicuous and brighter than in the blessed martyrs; who are as near to our Lord Jesus, Who died for all men, in the imitation of His love, as in the likeness of their suffering. For, although that Love, wherewith the Lord has redeemed us, cannot be equalled by any man's kindness, because it is one thing that a man who is doomed to die one day should die for a righteous man, and another that One Who is free from the debt of sin should lay down His life for the wicked (Rm 5:7-8): yet the martyrs also have done great service to all men, in that the Lord Who gave them boldness, has used it to show that the penalty of death and the pain of the cross need not be terrible to any of His followers, but might be imitated by many of them. If therefore no good man is good for himself alone, and no wise man's wisdom befriends himself only, and the nature of true virtue is such that it leads many away from the dark error on which its light is shed, no model is more useful in teaching God's people than that of the martyrs. Eloquence may make intercession easy, reasoning may effectually persuade; but yet examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.

II. The Saint's martyrdom described

And how gloriously strong in this most excellent manner of doctrine the blessed martyr Laurentius is, by whose sufferings today is marked, even his persecutors were able to feel, when they found that his wondrous courage, born principally of love for Christ, not only did not yield itself, but also strengthened others by the example of his endurance. For when the fury of the gentile potentates was raging against Christ's most chosen members, and attacked those especially who were of priestly rank, the wicked persecutor's wrath was vented on Laurentius the deacon, who was pre-eminent not only in the performance of the sacred rites, but also in the management of the church's property , promising himself double spoil from one man's capture: for if he forced him to surrender the sacred treasures, he would also drive him out of the pale of true religion. And so this man, so greedy of money and such a foe to the truth, arms himself with double weapon: with avarice to plunder the gold; with impiety to carry off Christ. He demands of the guileless guardian of the sanctuary that the church wealth on which his greedy mind was set should be brought to him. But the holy deacon showed him where he had them stored, by pointing to the many troops of poor saints, in the feeding and clothing of whom he had a store of riches which he could not lose, and which were the more entirely safe that the money had been spent on so holy a cause.

III. The description of his sufferings continued

The baffled plunderer, therefore, frets, and blazing out into hatred of a religion, which had put riches to such a use, determines to pillage a still greater treasure by carrying off that sacred deposit , wherewith he was enriched, as he could find no solid hoard of money in his possession. He orders Laurentius to renounce Christ, and prepares to ply the deacon's stout courage with frightful tortures: and, when the first elicit nothing, fiercer follow. His limbs, torn and mangled by many cutting blows, are commanded to be broiled upon the fire in an iron framework , which was of itself already hot enough to burn him, and on which his limbs were turned from time to time, to make the torment fiercer, and the death more lingering.

IV. Laurentius has conquered his persecutor

You gain nothing, you prevail nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from your devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, you are vanquished. The flame of Christ's love could not be overcome by your flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within. You but served the martyr in your rage, O persecutor: you but swelled the reward in adding to the pain. For what did your cunning devise, which did not redound to the conqueror's glory, when even the instruments of torture were counted as part of the triumph? Let us rejoice, then, dearly-beloved, with spiritual joy, and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord, "Who is wonderful in His saints," in whom He has given us a support and an example, and has so spread abroad his glory throughout the world, that, from the rising of the sun to its going down, the brightness of his deacon's light does shine, and Rome has become as famous in Laurentius as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen. By his prayer and intercession we trust at all times to be assisted; that, because all, as the Apostle says, "who wish to live holily in Christ, suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12)," we may be strengthened with the spirit of love, and be fortified to overcome all temptations by the perseverance of steadfast faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.
Source. Translated by Charles Lett Feltoe. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.)

Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, by Fra Angelico.
Fresco, 1147-49; Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

St. John Chrysostom: Homily 4 on Romans

Romans I. 26, 27
Byzantine mosaic of John Chrysostom
from the Hagia Sophia

"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another."

All these affections then were vile, but chiefly the mad lust after males; for the soul is more the sufferer in sins, and more dishonored, than the body in diseases. But behold how here too, as in the case of the doctrines, he deprives them of excuse, by saying of the women, that "they changed the natural use." For no one, he means, can say that it was by being hindered of legitimate intercourse that they came to this pass, or that it was from having no means to fulfil their desire that they were driven into this monstrous insaneness. For the changing implies possession. Which also when discoursing upon the doctrines he said, "They changed the truth of God for a lie." And with regard to the men again, he shows the same thing by saying, "Leaving the natural use of the woman." And in a like way with those, these he also puts out of all means of defending themselves by charging them not only that they had the means of gratification, and left that which they had, and went after another, but that having dishonored that which was natural, they ran after that which was contrary to nature. But that which is contrary to nature has in it an irksomeness and displeasingness, so that they could not fairly allege even pleasure. For genuine pleasure is that which is according to nature. But when God has left one, then all things are turned upside down. And thus not only was their doctrine Satanical, but their life too was diabolical. Now when he was discoursing of their doctrines, he put before them the world and man's understanding, telling them that, by the judgment afforded them by God, they might through the things which are seen, have been led as by the hand to the Creator, and then, by not willing to do so, they remained inexcusable. Here in the place of the world he sets the pleasure according to nature, which they would have enjoyed with more sense of security and greater glad-heartedness, and so have been far removed from shameful deeds. But they would not; whence they are quite out of the pale of pardon, and have done an insult to nature itself. And a yet more disgraceful thing than these is it, when even the women seek after these intercourses, who ought to have more sense of shame than men. And here too the judgment of Paul is worthy of admiration, how having fallen upon two opposite matters he accomplishes them both with all exactness. For he wished both to speak chastely and to sting the hearer. Now both these things were not in his power to do, but one hindered the other. For if you speak chastely you shall not be able to bear hard upon the hearer. But if you are minded to touch him to the quick, you are forced to lay the naked facts before him in plain terms. But his discreet and holy soul was able to do both with exactness, and by naming nature has at once given additional force to his accusation, and also used this as a sort of veil, to keep the chasteness of his description. And next, having reproached the women first, he goes on to the men also, and says, "And likewise also the men leaving the natural use of the woman." Which is an evident proof of the last degree of corruptness, when both sexes are abandoned, and both he that was ordained to be the instructor of the woman, and she who was bid to become an helpmate to the man, work the deeds of enemies against one another. And reflect too how significantly he uses his words. For he does not say that they were enamoured of, and lusted after one another, but, "they burned in their lust one toward another." You see that the whole of desire comes of an exorbitancy which endures not to abide within its proper limits. For everything which transgresses the laws by God appointed, lusts after monstrous things and not those which be customary. For as many oftentimes having left the desire of food get to feed upon earth and small stones, and others being possessed by excessive thirst often long even for mire, thus these also ran into this ebullition of lawless love. But if you say, and whence came this intensity of lust? It was from the desertion of God: and whence is the desertion of God? From the lawlessness of them that left Him; "men with men working that which is unseemly." Do not, he means, because you have heard that they burned, suppose that the evil was only in desire. For the greater part of it came of their luxuriousness, which also kindled into flame their lust. And this is why he did not say being swept along or being overtaken, an expression he uses elsewhere; but what? Working. They made a business of the sin, and not only a business, but even one zealously followed up. And he called it not lust, but that which is unseemly, and that properly. For they both dishonored nature, and trampled on the laws. And see the great confusion which fell out on both sides. For not only was the head turned downwards but the feet too were upwards, and they became enemies to themselves and to one another, bringing in a pernicious kind of strife, and one even more lawless than any civil war, and one rife in divisions, and of varied form. For they divided this into four new, and lawless kinds. Since (3 manuscripts "whence") this war was not twofold or threefold, but even fourfold. Consider then. It was meet, that the two should be one, I mean the woman and the man. For "the two," it says, "shall be one flesh." (Gen 2:24) But this the desire of intercourse effected, and united the sexes to one another. This desire the devil having taken away, and having turned the course thereof into another fashion, he thus sundered the sexes from one another, and made the one to become two parts in opposition to the law of God. For it says, "the two shall be one flesh;" but he divided the one flesh into two: here then is one war. Again, these same two parts he provoked to war both against themselves and against one another. For even women again abused women, and not men only. And the men stood against one another, and against the female sex, as happens in a battle by night. You see a second and third war, and a fourth and fifth; there is also another, for beside what have been mentioned they also behaved lawlessly against nature itself. For when the Devil saw that this desire it is, principally, which draws the sexes together, he was bent on cutting through the tie, so as to destroy the race, not only by their not copulating lawfully, but also by their being stirred up to war, and in sedition against one another.

"And receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet." See how he goes again to the fountain head of the evil, namely, the impiety that comes of their doctrines, and this he says is a reward of that lawlessness. For since in speaking of hell and punishment, it seemed he would not at present be credible to the ungodly and deliberate choosers of such a life, but even scorned, he shows that the punishment was in this pleasure itself. (So Plato Theæt. p. 176, 7.) But if they perceive it not, but are still pleased, be not amazed. For even they that are mad, and are afflicted with phrenzy (cf. Soph. Aj. 265-277) while doing themselves much injury and making themselves such objects of compassion, that others weep over them themselves smile and revel over what has happened. Yet we do not only for this not say that they are quit of punishment, but for this very reason are under a more grievous vengeance, in that they are unconscious of the plight they are in. For it is not the disordered but those who are sound whose votes one has to gain. Yet of old the matter seemed even to be a law, and a certain law-giver among them bade the domestic slaves neither to use ointments when dry (i.e. except in bathing) nor to keep youths, giving the free this place of honor, or rather of shamefulness. Yet they, however, did not think the thing shameful, but as being a grand privilege, and one too great for slaves, the Athenian people, the wisest of people, and Solon who is so great among them, permitted it to the free alone. And sundry other books of the philosophers may one see full of this disease. But we do not therefore say that the thing was made lawful, but that they who received this law were pitiable, and objects for many tears. For these are treated in the same way as women that play the whore. Or rather their plight is more miserable. For in the case of the one the intercourse, even if lawless, is yet according to nature: but this is contrary both to law and nature. For even if there were no hell, and no punishment had been threatened, this were worse than any punishment. Yet if you say "they found pleasure in it," you tell me what adds to the vengeance. For suppose I were to see a person running naked, with his body all besmeared with mire, and yet not covering himself, but exulting in it, I should not rejoice with him, but should rather bewail that he did not even perceive that he was doing shamefully. But that I may show the atrocity in a yet clearer light, bear with me in one more example. Now if any one condemned a virgin to live in close dens (θαλομευομένην), and to have intercourse with unreasoning brutes, and then she was pleased with such intercourse, would she not for this be especially a worthy object of tears, as being unable to be freed from this misery owing to her not even perceiving the misery? It is plain surely to every one. But if that were a grievous thing, neither is this less so than that. For to be insulted by one's own kinsmen is more piteous than to be so by strangers: these I say (5 manuscripts "I consider") are even worse than murderers: since to die even is better than to live under such insolency. For the murderer dissevers the soul from the body, but this man ruins the soul with the body. And name what sin you will, none will you mention equal to this lawlessness. And if they that suffer such things perceived them, they would accept ten thousand deaths so they might not suffer this evil. For there is not, there surely is not, a more grievous evil than this insolent dealing. For if when discoursing about fornication Paul said, that "Every sin which a man does is without the body, but he that commits fornication sins against his own body" (1 Cor 6:18); what shall we say of this madness, which is so much worse than fornication as cannot even be expressed? For I should not only say that you have become a woman, but that you have lost your manhood, and hast neither changed into that nature nor kept that which you had, but you have been a traitor to both of them at once, and deserving both of men and women to be driven out and stoned, as having wronged either sex. And that you may learn what the real force of this is, if any one were to come and assure you that he would make you a dog instead of being a man, would you not flee from him as a plague? But, lo! You have not made yourself a dog out of a man, but an animal more disgraceful than this. For this is useful unto service, but he that has thus given himself up is serviceable for nothing. Or again, if any one threatened to make men travail and be brought to bed, should we not be filled with indignation? But lo! now they that have run into this fury have done more grievously by themselves. For it is not the same thing to change into the nature of women, as to continue a man and yet to have become a woman; or rather neither this nor that. But if you would know the enormity of the evil from other grounds, ask on what account the lawgivers punish them that make men eunuchs, and you will see that it is absolutely for no other reason than because they mutilate nature. And yet the injustice they do is nothing to this. For there have been those that were mutilated and were in many cases useful after their mutilation. But nothing can there be more worthless than a man who has pandered himself. For not the soul only, but the body also of one who has been so treated, is disgraced, and deserves to be driven out everywhere. How many hells shall be enough for such? But if you scoff at hearing of hell and believest not that fire, remember Sodom. For we have seen, surely we have seen, even in this present life, a semblance of hell. For since many would utterly disbelieve the things to come after the resurrection, hearing now of an unquenchable fire, God brings them to a right mind by things present. For such is the burning of Sodom, and that conflagration! And they know it well that have been at the place, and have seen with their eyes that scourge divinely sent, and the effect of the lightnings from above. (Jude 7) Consider how great is that sin, to have forced hell to appear even before its time! For whereas many thought scorn of His words, by His deeds did God show them the image thereof in a certain novel way. For that rain was unwonted, for that the intercourse was contrary to nature, and it deluged the land, since lust had done so with their souls. Wherefore also the rain was the opposite of the customary rain. Now not only did it fail to stir up the womb of the earth to the production of fruits, but made it even useless for the reception of seed. For such was also the intercourse of the men, making a body of this sort more worthless than the very land of Sodom. And what is there more detestable than a man who has pandered himself, or what more execrable? Oh, what madness! Oh, what distraction! Whence came this lust lewdly revelling and making man's nature all that enemies could? Or even worse than that, by as much as the soul is better than the body. Oh, you that were more senseless than irrational creatures, and more shameless than dogs! For in no case does such intercourse take place with them, but nature acknowledges her own limits. But you have even made our race dishonored below things irrational, by such indignities inflicted upon and by each other. Whence then were these evils born? Of luxury; of not knowing God. For so soon as any have cast out the fear of Him, all that is good straightway goes to ruin.

Now, that this may not happen, let us keep clear before our eyes the fear of God. For nothing, surely nothing, so ruins a man as to slip from this anchor, as nothing saves so much as continually looking thereto. For if by having a man before our eyes we feel more backward at doing sins, and often even through feeling abashed at servants of a better stamp we keep from doing anything amiss, consider what safety we shall enjoy by having God before our eyes! For in no case will the Devil attack us when so conditioned, in that he would be laboring without profit. But should he see us wandering abroad, and going about without a bridle, by getting a beginning in ourselves he will be able to drive us off afterwards any whither. And as it happens with thoughtless servants at market, who leave the needful services which their masters have entrusted to them, and rivet themselves at a mere haphazard to those who fall in their way, and waste out their leisure there; this also we undergo when we depart from the commandments of God. For we presently get standing on, admiring riches, and beauty of person, and the other things which we have no business with, just as those servants attend to the beggars that do jugglers' feats, and then, arriving too late, have to be grievously beaten at home. And many pass the road set before them through following others, who are behaving in the same unseemly way. But let not us so do. For we have been sent to dispatch many affairs that are urgent. And if we leave those, and stand gaping at these useless things, all our time will be wasted in vain and to no profit, and we shall suffer the extreme of punishment. For if you wish yourself to be busy, you have whereat you ought to wonder, and to gape all your days, things which are no subject for laughter, but for wondering and manifold praises. As he that admires things ridiculous, will himself often be such, and even worse than he that occasions the laughter. And that you may not fall into this, spring away from it immediately. For why is it, pray, that you stand gaping and fluttering at sight of riches? What do you see so wonderful, and able to fix your eyes upon them? These gold-harnessed horses, these lackeys, partly savages, and partly eunuchs, and costly raiment, and the soul that is getting utterly soft in all this, and the haughty brow, and the bustlings, and the noise? And wherein do these things deserve wonder? What are they better than the beggars that dance and pipe in the market-place? For these too being taken with a sore famine of virtue, dance a dance more ridiculous than theirs, led and carried round at one time to costly tables, at another to the lodging of prostitute women, and at another to a swarm of flatterers and a host of hangers-on. But if they do wear gold, this is why they are the most pitiable, because the things which are nothing to them, are most the subject of their eager desire. Do not now, I pray, look at their raiment, but open their soul, and consider if it is not full of countless wounds, and clad with rags, and destitute, and defenceless! What then is the use of this madness of shows? For it were much better to be poor and living in virtue, than to be a king with wickedness; since the poor man in himself enjoys all the delights of the soul, and does not even perceive his outward poverty for his inward riches. But the king, luxurious in those things which do not at all belong to him, is punished in those things which are his most real concern, even the soul, the thoughts, and the conscience, which are to go away with him to the other world. Since then we know these things, let us lay aside the gilded raiment, let us take up virtue and the pleasure which comes thereof. For so, both here and hereafter, shall we come to enjoy great delights, through the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom, and with Whom, be glory to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Source. Translated by J. Walker, J. Sheppard and H. Browne, and revised by George B. Stevens. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 11. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

St. Augustine: Martyrs, "the reason why we pay such honors to their memory"

"We do not build temples, and ordain priests, rites, and sacrifices for these same martyrs; for they are not our gods, but their God is our God. Certainly we honor their reliquaries, as the memorials of holy men of God who strove for the truth even to the death of their bodies, that the true religion might be made known, and false and fictitious religions exposed. For if there were some before them who thought that these religions were really false and fictitious, they were afraid to give expression to their convictions. But who ever heard a priest of the faithful, standing at an altar built for the honor and worship of God over the holy body of some martyr, say in the prayers, I offer to you a sacrifice, O Peter, or O Paul, or O Cyprian? For it is to God that sacrifices are offered at their tombs—the God who made them both men and martyrs, and associated them with holy angels in celestial honor; and the reason why we pay such honors to their memory is, that by so doing we may both give thanks to the true God for their victories, and, by recalling them afresh to remembrance, may stir ourselves up to imitate them by seeking to obtain like crowns and palms, calling to our help that same God on whom they called."

~St. Augustine: The City of God, Book 8, Chap. 27.


St. John Chrysostom: On Sts. Peter and Paul

“NOT so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the city of Rome, sending out these two lights into all parts of the world. From thence will Paul be caught up, from thence Peter. Just bethink you, and shudder at the thought of what a sight Rome will see, when Paul arises suddenly from that deposit, together with Peter, and is lifted up to meet the Lord.  What a rose will Rome send up to Christ! What two crowns will the city have about it! What golden chains will she be girded with! What fountains possess! Therefore I admire the city, not for the much gold, not for the columns, not for the other display there, but for these pillars of the Church.”

~St. John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407): Homilies on Romans, 32.

Apostles Peter and Paul, by El Greco. Oil on canvas, c. 1592; The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Saint Irenaeus, Doctor of the Church

Feast: June 28

The writings of Irenaeus give him an honored place among the Fathers of the Church for they laid the foundations of Christian theology and, by refuting the errors of the Gnostics,[1] kept the youthful Catholic faith from the danger of corruption by the subtle, pessimistic doctrines of these philosophers. Irenaeus was born, probably about the year 125, in one of the maritime provinces of Asia Minor, where the memory of the Apostles was still cherished and where Christians were already numerous. His education was exceptionally liberal, for, besides a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, he had an acquaintance with Greek philosophy and literature. Irenaeus had also the privilege of sitting at the feet of men who had known the Apostles. Of these the one who made the deepest impression on him was St. Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna. All through his life, he told a friend, he could recall every detail of Polycarp's appearance, his voice, and the very words he used when telling what he had heard from John the Evangelist and others who had seen Jesus.

From early times commerce had been brisk between the ports of Asia Minor and the city of Marseilles, at the mouth of the Rhone River. In the second century of the Christian era Levantine traders were conveying their wares up the river as far as Lyons, the most populous city of Gaul and an important mart for all Western Europe. In the train of these Asiatic merchants, many of whom settled in Lyons, came Christian missionaries, who brought the Gospel to the pagan Gauls and founded a vigorous church. Here Irenaeus was sent to serve as priest under the bishop, Pothinus.

The high regard which Irenaeus earned for himself at Lyons was shown in the year 177, when he was chosen to go on a serious mission to Rome. He was the bearer of a letter to Pope Eleutherius, urging him to deal firmly with the Montanist[2] faction in faraway Phrygia, for heresy was now rampant in the East. This mission explains how it was that Irenaeus did not share in the martyrdom of his fellow Christians. A persecution broke out, and some of the leaders of the Lyons church were imprisoned; a few suffered martyrdom. This was in the reign of the philosophical pagan emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Since Lyons was a vital outpost of imperial power, adorned with temples and fine public buildings, the Roman officials perhaps thought it necessary to keep the new religion in check here. When Irenaeus returned from Rome it was to fill the now vacant bishopric. The brief period of persecution was over, and the twenty or more years of his episcopate were fairly peaceful. In addition to his pastoral duties at Lyons, Irenaeus is said to have extended the sphere of Christian influence by sending missionaries to other towns of Gaul-SS. Felix, Fortunatus, and Achilleus to Valence, and SS. Ferrutius and Ferreolus to Besancon. The bishop identified himself with his flock so completely as to speak habitually the native tongue instead of Latin or Greek, and to encourage all priests to do likewise.

The spread of Gnosticism in Gaul led Irenaeus to make a careful study of its tenets, not an easy matter since each Gnostic teacher was inclined to introduce subtleties of his own. He was, Tertullian tells us, "a curious explorer of all kinds of learning," and the task interested him. His treatise Against the Heresies, in five books, sets forth fully the doctrines of the main dissident sects of the day and then contrasts them with the words of Scripture and the teachings of the Apostles, as preserved not only in sacred writings but by oral tradition in the churches which the Apostles founded. Above all, he cites the authoritative tradition of the Church of Rome, handed down from Peter and Paul through an unbroken succession of bishops. In his theological works Irenaeus especially shows the influence of St. Paul and St. John. An humble, patient man, he writes of controversial matters with a moderation and courtesy unusual in this age of perfervid conviction.

An example of his method is his discussion of one type of Gnostic doctrine, that the visible world was created and is sustained and governed by angelic beings, but not by God, who remains unconnected with it, aloof and unmoved in his own inaccessible sphere. Irenaeus states the theory, develops it to a logical conclusion, and then by an effective reductio ad absurdum demonstrates its fallacy. The Christian doctrine of a close continuing relationship between the Triune God and the world He created Irenaeus describes thus: "The Father is above all, and He is the Head of Christ; the Word (Logos) is through all things and is Himself the Head of the Church, while the Spirit is in us all, and His is the living water which the Lord gave to those who believe in Him and love Him, and who know that there is one Father above all things and through all things." Irenaeus was convinced that the veil of mystery which enveloped Gnosticism was part of its attraction, and he was determined to "strip the fox," as he expressed it. His book, written in Greek and quickly translated into Latin, was widely circulated, and from this time on Gnosticism presented no serious threat.

Thirteen or fourteen years after his mission to Rome, Irenaeus attempted mediation between another Pope and a body of Christians in Asia Minor called the Quartodecimans,[3] who refused to fix the day of Easter by the method commonly used by Christians. Pope Victor had excommunicated them, and Irenaeus pleaded with him in a beautiful letter to raise the ban, pointing out that these Asiatics were only following their Apostolic tradition, and that the difference of opinion on this minor point had not prevented St. Polycarp and many others from staying in communion. At the end of the fourth century Jerome wrote that many Eastern bishops still adhered to the ancient Jewish calendar.

The date of the death of Irenaeus is usually given as about the year 203. According to a late and dubious tradition he suffered martyrdom under Septimius Severus. His book Against the Heresies has come down to us entire in its Latin version; and an Armenian translation of his Exposition of Apostolic Preaching has lately been discovered. Though the rest of his writings have perished, in these two works may be found the elements of a complete system of Catholic theology.

Excerpts from Against the Heresies

I. We have learned the plan of our salvation entirely from the men through whom the Gospel came to us. At first they proclaimed it abroad; then later, by the will of God, they wrote it down for us in the Scriptures to be the foundation and pillar of our faith....

2. But when we refute these people [the heretics] out of the Scriptures, they turn and accuse the very Scriptures, on the ground that they are mistaken or not authoritative or not consistent in their narrative, and they say that the truth cannot be learned from them by persons who do not know the tradition, and that that was not transmitted in writing but by word of mouth....

3. Now it is within the power of anyone who cares to find out the truth, to know the tradition of the Apostles, professed throughout the world in every church. We can name those too who were appointed bishops by the Apostles in the churches and their successors down to our own time.... But inasmuch as it would be very tedious in a book like this to rehearse the lines of succession in every church, we will put to confusion all those who, either from waywardness or conceit or blindness or obstinacy combine together against the truth, by pointing to the tradition, derived from the Apostles, of that great and illustrious Church founded and organized at Rome by the two glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, and to the faith declared to mankind and handed down to our own time through its bishops in their succession. For with this Church, because of its more powerful leadership, every church, that is to say, the faithful from everywhere, must needs agree, and in it the tradition that springs from the Apostles has been continuously preserved by men from everywhere....

4. Seeing, therefore, that we have such testimony, we do not need to seek elsewhere the truth which it is easy to find in the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man at a bank, deposited lavishly with her all aspects of the truth, so that everyone, whoever will, may draw from her the water of life. For she is the door to life, and all others are thieves and robbers. For this reason we must shun them and love the things of the Church with the utmost diligence and keep hold of the tradition of the truth....

This is the course followed by the barbarian peoples[4] who believe in Christ and have salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit without paper or ink, but who guard carefully the ancient tradition. For they believe in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth and of all things therein through Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who for his surpassing love towards his creation underwent birth from a virgin, uniting man through himself to God, and who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again and was received up in splendor, and who shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved and the Judge of those who are judged, to send into eternal fire those who pervert the truth and despise his Father and his coming.


1. Gnostic is the name applied to a fluctuating set of Eastern dualist beliefs, older than Christianity, though they took over features from Christianity in the course of their spread westward. The Docetists of Ignatius' day may be regarded as a branch of the Gnostics. In general the latter took the view that the creator of the gross world of matter, the God of the Old Testament, was a dark and brutal deity, forever at war with the pure and spiritual God of light, depicted in the New Testament, from whom Jesus had been an emanation. Jesus, therefore, only appeared to be born and die and could never have suffered contamination by mortal flesh. The Gnostic movement, with its denial of Christ's humanity, vexed the Church in one form or another for several centuries. In the Middle Ages it was known as Manichaeism.

2. The Montanists, followers of a Phrygian priest, Montanus, were a set of Christians who believed in a speedy return of Christ to earth. They practiced a rigid asceticism and accepted as their only authority the revelations of God to each individual soul. They therefore presented serious obstacles to the setting up of an orderly church organization. They are not heard of after the second century.

3. The Quartodecimans observed Easter on the second day after the Passover of the Jews, that is, on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month Nisan, regardless of the day of the week on which it fell. The majority of Christians celebrated it on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring equinox

4. That is, the Gallic provincials among whom Irenaeus was living.

(The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, I [885].)
Source: Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

St. Irenaeus

Catholic Encyclopedia

Bishop of Lyons, and Father of the Church.

Information as to his life is scarce, and in some measure inexact. He was born in Proconsular Asia, or at least in some province bordering thereon, in the first half of the second century; the exact date is controverted, between the years 115 and 125, according to some, or, according to others, between 130 and 142. It is certain that, while still very young, Irenaeus had seen and heard the holy Bishop Polycarp (d. 155) at Smyrna. During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, Irenaeus was a priest of the Church of Lyons. The clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the Faith, sent him (177 or 178) to Rome with a letter to Pope Eleutherius concerning Montanism, and on that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits. Returning to Gaul, Irenaeus succeeded the martyr Saint Pothinus as Bishop of Lyons. During the religious peace which followed the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the new bishop divided his activities between the duties of a pastor and of a missionary (as to which we have but brief data, late and not very certain) and his writings, almost all of which were directed against Gnosticism, the heresy then spreading in Gaul and elsewhere. In 190 or 191 he interceded with Pope Victor to lift the sentence of excommunication laid by that pontiff upon the Christian communities of Asia Minor which persevered in the practice of the Quartodecimans in regard to the celebration of Easter. Nothing is known of the date of his death, which must have occurred at the end of the second or the beginning of the third century. In spite of some isolated and later testimony to that effect, it is not very probable that he ended his career with martyrdom. His feast is celebrated on 28 June in the Latin Church, and on 23 August in the Greek.

Irenaeus wrote in Greek many works which have secured for him an exceptional place in Christian literature, because in controverted religious questions of capital importance they exhibit the testimony of a contemporary of the heroic age of the Church, of one who had heard St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, and who, in a manner, belonged to the Apostolic Age. None of these writings has come down to us in the original text, though a great many fragments of them are extant as citations in later writers (Hippolytus, Eusebius, etc.). Two of these works, however, have reached us in their entirety in a Latin version:

● A treatise in five books, commonly entitled Adversus haereses, and devoted, according to its true title, to the "Detection and Overthrow of the False Knowledge" (see GNOSTICISM, sub-title Refutation of Gnosticism). Of this work we possess a very ancient Latin translation, the scrupulous fidelity of which is beyond doubt. It is the chief work of Irenaeus and truly of the highest importance; it contains a profound exposition not only of Gnosticism under its different forms, but also of the principal heresies which had sprung up in the various Christian communities, and thus constitutes an invaluable source of information on the most ancient ecclesiastical literature from its beginnings to the end of the second century. In refuting the heterodox systems Irenaeus often opposes to them the true doctrine of the Church, and in this way furnishes positive and very early evidence of high importance. Suffice it to mention the passages, so often and so fully commented upon by theologians and polemical writers, concerning the origin of the Gospel according to St. John (see GOSPEL OF SAINT JOHN), the Holy Eucharist, and the primacy of the Roman Church.

● Of a second work, written after the "Adversus Haereses", an ancient literal translation in the Armenian language. This is the "Proof of the Apostolic Preaching." The author's aim here is not to confute heretics, but to confirm the faithful by expounding the Christian doctrine to them, and notably by demonstrating the truth of the Gospel by means of the Old Testament prophecies. Although it contains fundamentally, so to speak, nothing that has not already been expounded in the "Adversus Haereses", it is a document of the highest interest, and a magnificent testimony of the deep and lively faith of Irenaeus.

Of his other works only scattered fragments exist; many, indeed, are known only through the mention made of them by later writers, not even fragments of the works themselves having come down to us. These are

● a treatise against the Greeks entitled "On the Subject of Knowledge" (mentioned by Eusebius);
● a writing addressed to the Roman priest Florinus "On the Monarchy, or How God is not the Cause of Evil" (fragment in Eusebius);
● a work "On the Ogdoad", probably against the Ogdoad of Valentinus the Gnostic, written for the same priest Florinus, who had gone over to the sect of the Valentinians (fragment in Eusebius);
● a treatise on schism, addressed to Blastus (mentioned by Eusebius);
● a letter to Pope Victor against the Roman priest Florinus (fragment preserved in Syriac);
● another letter to the same on the Paschal controversies (extracts in Eusebius);
● other letters to various correspondents on the same subject (mentioned by Eusebius, a fragment preserved in Syriac);
● a book of divers discourses, probably a collection of homilies (mentioned by Eusebius); and
● other minor works for which we have less clear or less certain attestations.

The four fragments which Pfaff published in 1715, ostensibly from a Turin manuscript, have been proven by Funk to be apocryphal, and Harnack has established the fact that Pfaff himself fabricated them.
Source: Poncelet, Albert. "St. Irenaeus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pius XII On St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria


Encyclical of His Holiness Pope Pius XII On St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria on April 9, 1944

To Our Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Ordinaries at Peace and in Communion with the Apostolic See

Venerable Brethren, Health and Our Apostolic Benediction

St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, glory of the Eastern Church and celebrated champion of the Virgin Mother of God, has always been held by the Church in the highest esteem, and We welcome the opportunity of recalling his merits in this brief Letter, now that fifteen centuries have passed since he happily exchanged this earthly exile for his heavenly home.

2. Our Predecessor St. Celestine I hailed him as 'good defender of the Catholic faith,'[1] as 'excellent priest,'[2] as 'apostolic man.'[3] The ecumenical Council of Chalcedon not only used his doctrine for the detecting and refuting of the latest errors, but went so far as to compare it with the learning of St. Leo the Great;[4] and in fact the latter praised and commended the writings of this great Doctor because of their perfect agreement with the faith of the holy Fathers.[5] The fifth ecumenical Council, held at Constantinople, treated St. Cyril's authority with similar reverence[6] and many years later, during the controversy about the two wills in Christ, his teaching was rightly and triumphantly vindicated, both in the first Lateran Council[7] and in the sixth ecumenical Council, against the false charge of being tainted with the error of Monothelitism. He was, as Our saintly Predecessor Agatho proclaimed, 'a defender of the truth'[8] and 'a consistent teacher of the orthodox faith.'[9]

3. We therefore think it proper in this Letter to give some account of his spotless life, faith, and virtue; and this for the benefit of all, but especially of those who belong to the Eastern Church and therefore have good reason to be proud of this luminary of Christian wisdom, this valiant hero of the apostolate.

4. Born of distinguished family, he was raised to the See of Alexandria ─ so tradition tells us ─ in the year 412. His first conflict was with the Novatians and others who attacked the integrity and purity of the faith, and against these he preached, wrote, and issued decrees, ever alert, ever fearless. Later, when the blasphemous heresy of Nestorius began to spread gradually through the East the watchful Pastor was quick to perceive the growth of these new errors and zealous in protecting his flock against them. Throughout this stormy period, and especially at the Council of Ephesus, he showed himself the invincible champion and learned teacher of the divine maternity of the Virgin Mary, of the hypostatic union in Christ, and of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. But the leading part which St. Cyril played in these important events has already been admirably described and explained by Our immediate Predecessor of happy memory Pius XI, in the Encyclical Lux Veritatis[10] with which in the year 1931 he celebrated the fifteenth centenary of that ecumenical Council, and therefore it would be superfluous to enter into the details of it here.

5. For Cyril, however, it was not enough to fight vigorously against heresies as they arose, not enough to guard the integrity of Catholic doctrine with energy and solicitude and throw the fullest possible light upon it; he was also untiring in his labors to recall his erring brethren to the straight path of the truth. For when the Bishops of the Province of Antioch were still refusing to recognize the authority of the holy Council of Ephesus, it was due to his efforts that they were at length, after long vicissitudes, brought to complete agreement. And it was only after he had succeeded with God's help in accomplishing this happy reunion and in guarding and securing it against misconceptions that, being now ripe for the reward of everlasting glory, he was taken up to heaven in the year 444, mourned by all men of good will.

6. The faithful of the Eastern rite not only count St. Cyril among the 'ecumenical Fathers,' but also honor him with the deepest veneration in their liturgical prayers. Thus the Greeks chant in the Menaia of the 9th June:

Enlightened in mind by the flames of the Holy Spirit, thou hast uttered oracles even as the sun sends forth its rays. To the ends of the earth and to all the faithful thy teaching has gone forth, O most blessed Saint, illuminating all sorts and conditions of men, and dispelling darkness of heresy by the power and strength of that Light who was born of the Virgin.

7. And the sons of the Eastern Church have every right to rejoice and take pride in this holy Father as one who is peculiarly and especially their own. For he is above all pre-eminent in those three qualities which have so greatly distinguished the other Fathers of the East: an outstanding sanctity of life, marked by a specially ardent devotion to the august Mother of God; exceptional learning, such that the Sacred Congregation of Rites, by a decree of the 28th July, 1882, declared him a Doctor of the Universal Church; and finally an energetic zeal in fearlessly repelling the attacks of heretics, in asserting the Catholic faith, and in defending and spreading the Gospel to the full extent of his power.

8. But our great joy in the deep veneration which all the Christian peoples of the East have for St. Cyril is mingled with an equal regret that not all of them have come together into that desired unity of which he was the ardent lover and promoter. And especially do We deplore that this should be so at the present time, when it is above all necessary that all Christ's faithful ones should labor together in heart and endeavor for union in the one Church of Jesus Christ, so that they may present a common, serried, united, and unyielding front to the daily growing attacks of the enemies of religion.

9. For this to be brought about it is absolutely necessary that all should take St. Cyril as their model in striving for a true harmony of souls, a harmony established by that triple bond which Christ Jesus, the Founder of the Church, willed to be the supernatural and unbreakable link provided by Him for binding and holding together: the bond of one faith, of one charity towards God and all men, and of one obedience and rightful submission to the hierarchy established by the Divine Redeemer Himself. As you know full well, Venerable Brethren, these three bonds are so necessary that, if any one of them be lacking, true unity and harmony in the Church of Christ is unthinkable.

10. Throughout the troubled times of his life on earth the Patriarch of Alexandria taught all men, both by word and by conspicuous example, how this true harmony is to be achieved and steadfastly maintained ─ and We would have him do this also today.

11. And first, as regards the unity of the Christian faith, St. Cyril's untiring energy and unyielding tenacity in guarding it are well known.

We (he writes), to whom the truth and the doctrines of truth are most dear, refuse to follow these (heretics); we, taking the faith of the holy Fathers as our guide, will guard against all errors the divine revelation committed to our trust.[11]

12. In this cause he was prepared to fight even to death and at the cost of the greatest sufferings:

For the faith that is in Christ (he says) it is my greatest wish to toil, to live, and to die.[12] Only let the faith be kept safe and untarnished . . . and no insults, no injuries, no reproaches can move me.[13]

13. And he expressed his valiant and noble desire for the palm of martyrdom in these generous words:

I have made up my mind that for the faith of Christ I will undergo any labor, suffer any torments, even those tortures which are counted most grievous, until I am granted the joy of dying for this cause.[14] . . . For if we are deterred by the fear of suffering some misfortune from preaching God's truth for His glory, with what countenance can we preach to the people in praise of the sufferings and triumphs of the holy martyrs?[15]

14. Animated discussions about the new Nestorian heresy were going on in the monasteries of Egypt, and the watchful Bishop writes to warn the monks of the fallacies and dangers of this doctrine, not, however, in order to foment dissensions and controversies, but (he says, so that if any should chance to attack you, you may be able to oppose their vanities with the truth, and so not only yourselves be saved from the disaster of error but also be able fraternally to convince others with suitable arguments, and thus help them to preserve forever in their hearts the pearl of that faith was delivered through the holy Apostles to the Churches.[16]

15. Moreover, he plainly saw ─ as may be gathered easily from a reading of his letters on the subject of the Antiochene Bishops ─ that this Christian faith, which we must at all costs preserve and protect, has been delivered to us through the Sacred Scriptures and through the teaching of the Holy Fathers,[17] and is clearly and authentically set forth by the living and infallible teaching authority of the Church. Thus, when the Bishops of the Province of Antioch claimed that for the restoration and maintenance of peace it was enough if they kept the faith of the Council of Nicaea, St. Cyril, while himself firmly adhering to the Nicene Creed, also required of his brethren in the Episcopate, as a condition of reunion, that they should reject and condemn the Nestorian heresy. For he quite well understood that it is not enough to accept willingly the ancient pronouncements of the teaching office of the Church, but that it is also necessary to believe humbly and loyally all that is subsequently enjoined upon our faith by the Church in virtue of her supreme authority.

16. Even on the plea of promoting unity it is not allowed to dissemble one single dogma; for, as the Patriarch of Alexandria warns us, 'although the desire of peace is a noble and excellent thing, yet we must not for its sake neglect the virtue of loyalty in Christ.'[18] Consequently, the much desired return of erring sons to true and genuine unity in Christ will not be furthered by exclusive concentration on those doctrines which all, or most, communities glorying in the Christian name accept in common. The only successful method will be that which bases harmony and agreement among Christ's faithful ones upon all the truths, and the whole of the truths, which God has revealed.

17. Let Cyril of Alexandria be a model to all in the energy and fortitude with which he defended the faith and kept it inviolate. No sooner did he discover the error of Nestorius than he wrote letters and other works in refutation of it, appealed to the Roman Pontiff and, acting in his name at the Council of Ephesus, crushed and condemned the growing heresy with admirable learning and unflinching courage. The result was that, when Cyril's 'dogmatic' letter had been publicly read, all the Fathers of the Council acclaimed it by solemn verdict as being in complete accordance with the true faith.

18. His apostolic energy led to his being unjustly deposed from his episcopal see, insulted by his brethren, condemned by an illegitimate council, and subjected to prison and many hardships; but he bore all with unruffled and invincible courage. And not only did he oppose the Bishops who had gone astray from the path of truth and unity; he did not hesitate, in the conscientious discharge of his holy duty, openly to resist even the Emperor himself. In addition to all this, as everybody knows, he wrote countless works in support and defense of the Christian faith, works which bear striking testimony to his extraordinary learning, his intrepid courage, and his pastoral zeal.

19. But faith must be accompanied by charity, charity which unites us all with one another and with Christ; charity which, under the inspiration and motion of the Divine Spirit, welds the members of the Mystical Body of the Redeemer together by an unbreakable bond.

20. This charity, however, must not refuse to embrace also those who have gone astray from the path of truth; and of this we may see an example in St. Cyril's remarkable conduct. Vigorously though he fought against the heresy of Nestorius, yet such was the ardent charity which animated him that, as he openly declared, he yielded to none in his love for Nestorius himself.[19] And in this he was right. Those who wander from the straight path are to be considered as ailing brethren, and treated with gentle and loving care. The Patriarch of Alexandria's prudent advice on this point is worth quoting:

This is a matter calling for the greatest moderation.[20] . . . In many cases a violent clash only drives people to insolence; and it is better to treat your opponents with kindness than to make them suffer by applying the rigor of the law. If they were physically ill you would handle their bodies gently; so in like manner prudence is the best medicine to use in the treatment of ailing souls. Gradually they too will be brought to a proper state of mind.[21] And elsewhere he adds:

21. We followed the example of skillful doctors, who do not immediately apply the drastic remedies of fire and steel as soon as disease or hurt have appeared in the human body; first they soothe the wound with milder liniments, only when the proper time has come do they use cautery and the knife.[22] Filled with this spirit of compassion and loving-kindness towards erring souls, he professes that he is 'the friend of peace and altogether averse to controversy and quarrels; a man, in short, who desires to love everybody and to be loved by everybody in return.'[23]

23. The Holy Doctor's ready inclination for peace was shown especially when he mitigated his earlier severity and devoted his energies to bringing about reunion with the Bishops of the Province of Antioch. Referring to their ambassador he writes:

He was probably expecting great difficulty in persuading us that it was needful to unite the Churches in peace and harmony, to deprive the heterodox of the excuse for mockery, and to repel the forces of diabolical malice. He found us, on the contrary, so much disposed to this course that he met with no difficulty whatever. For we are mindful of our Savior's words: 'My peace I give to you, my peace I leave unto you.'[24]

24. Among the obstacles to this reunion were the twelve 'Chapters' which St. Cyril had drawn up at the Synod of Alexandria, and which were rejected by the Antiochene Bishops as unorthodox because they spoke of a 'physical union' in Christ. With the utmost readiness the Patriarch, while not withdrawing or repudiating these writings ─ for the doctrine they contained was orthodox ─ nevertheless wrote several letters to explain his meaning and remove any possibility of misunderstanding, and so clear the way to peace and harmony. These explanations he gave to the Bishops, treating them 'as brethren, and not as adversaries.'[25] 'For the sake of the peace of the Churches,' he says elsewhere, 'and to prevent them from being divided by difference of opinion, it is worthwhile to waive one's dignity.'[26] In this way St. Cyril's charity bore in abundance the desired fruits of peace; and when at last it was granted him to see the dawn of that reconciliation, when the Bishops of the Province of Antioch had condemned the Nestorian heresy and he was able to embrace them as brothers, he exclaimed with holy joy:

'Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad.' For the middle wall of partition has been broken down; that which had caused us grief is now at peace; every matter of contention has now been removed; Christ, the Savior of us all, has granted peace to His Churches.[27]

25. As it was in those times long past, Venerable Brethren, so will it be also today. More effective than anything else for promoting that reunion of all our separated sons with the one Church of Christ for which all good men are striving, will be a sincere and practical goodwill, with the help and inspiration of God. The fruit of such goodwill is mutual understanding, an understanding which Our Predecessors have sought so earnestly to foster and increase by various means, in particular by founding in Rome the Pontifical Institute of Higher Oriental Studies.

26. This goodwill implies also a proper respect for those traditions which are the special heritage of the peoples of the East, whether these be concerned with the sacred liturgy and the hierarchical Orders or with other observances of the Christian life, so long as they are in keeping with the true faith and with the moral law. Each and every nation of Oriental rite must have its rightful freedom in all that is bound up with its own history and its own genius and character, saving always the truth and integrity of the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

27. We would have this to be known and appreciated by all, both by those who were born within the bosom of the Catholic Church, and by those who are wafted towards her, as it were, on the wings of yearning and desire. The latter especially should have full assurance that they will never be forced to abandon their legitimate rites or to exchange their own venerable and traditional customs for Latin rites and customs. All these are to be held in equal esteem and equal honor, for they adorn the common Mother Church with a royal garment of many colors. Indeed this variety of rites and customs, preserving inviolate what is most ancient and most valuable in each, presents no obstacle to a true and genuine unity. It is especially in these times of ours, when the strife and discord of war have estranged men's hearts from one another nearly all the world over, that all must be impelled by the stimulus of Christian charity to promote union in Christ and through Christ by every means in their power.

28. But the work of faith and charity would remain incomplete and powerless to establish unity firmly in Christ Jesus, unless it rested upon that unshaken rock upon which the Church is divinely founded, that is, upon the supreme authority of Peter and his Successors.

29. And this fact is proved clearly by the Patriarch of Alexandria's conduct in this important matter. Both in his work of repressing the Nestorian heresy and in that of reconciling the Bishops of the Province of Antioch, he remained constantly in close union with this Apostolic See.

30. As soon as the watchful Prelate perceived that the errors of Nestorius were spreading and growing, with increasing danger to the orthodox faith, he wrote to Our Predecessor St. Celestine I in the following terms:

Since God requires us to be vigilant in these matters, and since the ancient custom of the Church persuades us that questions of this kind should be communicated to Your Holiness, I write, driven by necessity.[28]

31. In reply the Roman Pontiff writes that 'he had embraced Cyril as though present in his letter,' since it was clear that 'they were of one mind concerning the Lord.'[29] So orthodox was the faith of this Doctor that the Sovereign Pontiff delegated to him the authority of the Apostolic See, in virtue of which he was to give effect to the decrees which had already been issued against Nestorius in the Synod of Rome. And it is evident, Venerable Brethren, that at the Council of Ephesus the Patriarch of Alexandria acted as the legal representative of the Roman Pontiff; for, although the latter also sent his own Legates, the chief instruction he gave them was that they should support the action and the authority of St. Cyril. It was therefore in the name of the Sovereign Pontiff that he presided at this holy Council, and he w as the first to sign its proceedings. Indeed, so manifest was the agreement between the Apostolic See and that of Alexandria that, after the public reading of St. Celestine's letter in the second session of the Council, the Fathers exclaimed:

This judgment is just. To Celestine, a new Paul; to Cyril, a new Paul; to Celestine, guardian of the faith; to Celestine, who is of one mind with the Synod, the whole of this Synod gives thanks. One Celestine, one Cyril, one faith of the Synod, one faith of the whole world.[30]

32. No wonder, then, that Cyril could write shortly afterwards:

To my orthodox faith the Roman Church has borne witness, and so too has a holy Synod gathered together, so to speak, from the whole of the earth that is under heaven.[31]

33. The same constant union of St. Cyril with the Apostolic See is clearly apparent in all that he did to effect and consolidate reunion with the Bishops of the Province of Antioch. Although Our Predecessor St. Celestine approved and ratified all that the Patriarch of Alexandria had done at the Council of Ephesus, he made an exception for the sentence of excommunication which the President of the Council, together with the other Fathers, had passed upon the Antiochenes. The Sovereign Pontiff wrote:

With regard to those who appear to have been of one mind and one impiety with Nestorius, . . . We have read the sentence you have passed upon them. Nevertheless, We also decree what seems to Us opportune. In these cases many circumstances have to be considered which the Apostolic See has always borne in mind . . . Should the Bishop of Antioch offer hope of being corrected, We would have Your Fraternity come to some Agreement with him by letter.... We must trust that by the divine mercy all may return to the way of truth.[32]

And it was in obedience to this instruction of the Roman See that St. Cyril began to take measures for bringing about reunion with the Bishops of the Province of Antioch.

34. Meanwhile, after St. Celestine's holy death, a report having been spread that his Successor St. Xystus III had objected to the deposition of Nestorius from his episcopal see, the Patriarch of Alexandria refuted these rumors: '(Xystus) has written in terms agreeing with the holy Synod,' he said; 'he has ratified all its proceedings and is of one mind with Us.'[33]

35. All this shows plainly enough that St. Cyril was in perfect accord with this Apostolic See and that Our Predecessors regarded his measures as their own, and gave them their complete approval. Thus St. Celestine, after other numerous proofs of his confidence in St. Cyril and his gratitude towards him, writes as follows:

We rejoice in the vigilance shown by Your Holiness, wherein you surpass even the example set by your predecessors, themselves always defenders of the orthodox faith.... You have laid bare all the wiles of crafty teachers.... This is indeed a great triumph that you have won for our faith, in asserting our truth so valiantly and thus overcoming opposition to it by the testimony of Holy Writ.[34]

36. And when St. Xystus III, his successor in the Papacy, had received news from the Patriarch of Alexandria that peace and reconciliation had been established, he wrote to him joyfully as follows:

Behold-while We were suffering great anxiety ─ for We would have none to perish ─ Your Holiness' letter brought Us news that the Body of the Church has been made whole again. Now that the structure of its members has been fitted together again, We see none outside or gone astray, for their one faith testifies that all are at their places within.... The whole brotherhood has now come to agreement with the blessed Apostle Peter; behold here an auditorium befitting the hearers, befitting the things heard therein.... Our brethren are come back to us, to us whose common aim had been to attack the disease that we might bring health to souls.... Rejoice, beloved Brother, rejoice in triumph over the return of our brethren to us. The Church had been seeking those whom she has now received back again. If we would not have any even of the little ones to perish, how much more must we rejoice now that their rulers are safe.[35]

37. It was with the consolation which he derived from these words of Our Predecessor that the Prelate of Alexandria, this invincible champion of the orthodox faith, this most earnest promoter of Christian unity, passed to his rest in the peace of Christ.

38. And We, Venerable Brethren, as We celebrate the fifteenth centenary of this heavenly birthday, have no more earnest desire than to see all who can be called Christians take St. Cyril as their model, and work ever more and more zealously for the happy return of our separated brethren in the East to Us and to the one Church of Jesus Christ. Let there be in all one faith inviolate; in all one charity, uniting all together in the mystical Body of Jesus Christ; in all one earnest and practical loyalty to the See of Blessed Peter.

39. The furtherance of this worthy and meritorious work must be the special endeavor of those who live in the East and who, by mutual esteem, by friendly intercourse, and by the example of their spotless life, can more easily induce our separated brethren, and especially their clergy, to become reunited with the Church. But all the faithful, besides, can contribute by their prayers and supplications that God may establish throughout the world the one Kingdom of the divine Redeemer and His one fold for all.

40. Indeed, to all alike We recommend in a particular way that most effective aid, which in any work for the saving of souls must take the first place both in order of time and efficacy: fervent, humble, and confident prayer to God. And We would have them invoke the most powerful patronage of the Virgin Mother of God, that, through the gracious intercession of this most loving Mother of us all, the Divine Spirit may enlighten the minds of Eastern peoples with His heavenly light, and that all of us may be one in the one Church which Jesus Christ founded, and which that same Spirit, the Paraclete, nourishes with an unceasing rain of graces and stirs to sanctity.

41. To seminarists and to pupils of other colleges We specially commend the observance of the 'Day for the East'; on that day let prayers more than usually fervent be made to the Divine Shepherd of the whole Church, and let the hearts of the young be stimulated to a burning zeal for the achievement of this holy unity. Finally, let all, alike those who are in Sacred Orders and those who, as members of Catholic Action and other associations, are co-operating with the hierarchy of the Church, perseveringly direct their prayers, their writings, their discourses, to promoting this desired union of all Easterns with the common Father.

42. And God grant that this Our fatherly and urgent appeal may be given a friendly hearing by those separated Bishops and their flocks who, though divided from Us, yet admire and venerate the Patriarch of Alexandria as a hero of their own land. Let this great Doctor's teaching and example move them to restore peace by means of that triple bond which he himself so strongly urged as indispensable, and by which the divine Founder of the Church willed all His sons to be united together. Let them remember that We, by the Providence of God, to-day occupy that same Apostolic See to which the Patriarch of Alexandria felt bound in conscience to appeal, when he wanted to provide a sure defense of the orthodox faith against the errors of Nestorius, and to set a divine seal, so to speak, upon the reconciliation achieved with his separated brethren. And let them be assured that the same charity which inspired Our Predecessors inspires Us too; and that the chief object of Our constant desires and prayers is that the age-old obstacles between us may be happily removed, and the day dawn at last when there shall be one flock in one fold, all obedient with one mind to Jesus Christ and to His Vicar on earth.

43. We address a particular appeal to those of Our separated sons in the East who, though they hold St. Cyril in great veneration, yet refuse to acknowledge the authority of the Council of Chalcedon, because it solemnly defined that there are two natures in Jesus Christ. Let these bear in mind that the decrees which were later issued by the Council of Chalcedon as new errors arose are in no way contrary to the teaching of the Patriarch of Alexandria. As he himself clearly says,

Not everything that heretics say is to be denied and rejected out of hand, for they profess much of what we also assert.... So it is also with Nestorius. He is not wrong in saying that there are two natures in Christ, so far as he means that the flesh is distinct from the Word of God; for the nature of the Word is indeed distinct from the nature of flesh. But he does not profess the union of the natures as we do.[36]

44. Moreover, there is reason to hope that the modern followers of Nestorius also, if they examine St. Cyril's writings with unprejudiced mind and study them carefully, may see the path of truth Iying open before them and, through the inspiration and help of God, feel themselves called back to the bosom of the Catholic Church.

45. It only remains for Us now, Venerable Brethren, on the occasion of this fifteenth centenary of St. Cyril, to implore the most powerful patronage of this Holy Doctor for the whole Church, and especially for all those in the East who glory in the Christian name, imploring for our separated brethren and children that blessing which he himself once so joyfully described:

Behold the sundered members of the Body of the Church are reunited once again, and no further discord remains to divide the ministers of the Gospel of Christ.[37]

46. Sustained by this happy hope, We grant most lovingly in the Lord to each and every one of you, Venerable Brethren, and to the flocks committed to your care, as a pledge of heavenly blessings and in token of Our fatherly goodwill, Our Apostolic Benediction.

Given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the 9th day of April, Easter Sunday, in the year 1944, the sixth of Our Pontificate. 


1. Ep. 12,4: Migne, 50, col. 467.
2. Ep. 13, 2: ib., 471.
3. Ep. 25, 7: ib., 552.
4. Cf. Mansi, Vl, 953, 956-7; VII, 9.
5. Cf. Ep. ad Im., Theodosium: Migne P.L.., 54, col. 891.
6. Cf. Mansi, IX, 231 so,.
7. Cf. Mansi, X, 1076 sq.
8. Cf. mansi, XI, 270 so,.
9. Cf. ib., 262 sq.
10. A.A.S., XXIII (1931), pp. 493 sq.
11. Cf. In Joannem, lib. x: Migne, P.G., 74, col. 419.
12. Ep. 10; Migne, P.G., 77, col. 78.
13. Ep.9:ib.,62.
14. Ep. 10: ib., 70.
15. Ep. 9: ib., 63.
16. Ep. 1: ib., 14.
17. Ep. 55: ib., 202-203.
18. Ep. 61: ib., 325.
19. Cf. Ep. 9: ib., 62.
20. Cf. Ep. 57: ib., 322.
21. Ep. 58: ib., 322.
22. Ep. 18: ib., 123-126.
23. Cf.Ep.9:ib.,62.
24. Ep. 39: ib., 175.
25. Ep. 39: ib., 175.
26. Ep. 33: ib., 161.
27. Ep. 39: ib., 174.
28. Ep. 11: ib., 79.
29. Cf. Ep. ad Cyrillum: ib., 90.
30. Mansi, IV, 1287.
31. Apol. ad Theodos.: Migne, P.G., 76, col, 482.
32. Ep. 22: P.L., 50, col. 542-543.
33. Ep. 40: Migne, P.G., 77, col. 202.
34. Ep. 4, 1-2: Migne, P.L., 50. col. 561.
35. Ep. 5, 1, 3, 5: ib., 602-604.
36. Ep. 44: P.G., 77, col. 226.
37. Ep. 49: ib., 254.

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