Chapter VII

Fourth Century. West



In 304 a group of Christians was arrested in Abitina (close to Medjez-el Bab in western Tunisia) and taken to Carthage to be questioned by Anulinus, the proconsul, namely, the provincial governor. The charge was that the thirty-one men and eighteen women had gathered to celebrate the Lord’s Day.

The account of their questioning or trial has come down to us in a Donatist recension.

CATH 1:38 * DHGE 1:129–31 * DPAC 1:10 * EEC 1:2 * NCES 1:90–91

2. At the time of Diocletian and Maximianus the devil waged war upon the Christians in the following way: the most holy writings on the Lord and the divine Scriptures were sought out and burned; churches were destroyed; it was forbidden to hold the sacred rites and the most holy assemblies. […] In the city of Abitina, in the house of Octavius Felix […] those celebrating the Lord’s Day as customary were apprehended by the magistrates who were accompanied by a detachment of soldiers. Among those arrested were the priest Saturninus with his four children: namely, his son Saturninus, a lector; Felix, also a lector; Mary, a consecrated virgin; and Hilarianus, a child. […] (862)

4. These martyrs of Christ were put in longed-for chains and from Abitina they were sent to Carthage. Throughout their whole journey they joyfully sang hymns and psalms to the Lord. […] (863)

10. […] The proconsul said, “Contrary to the order of the emperors and the Caesars, did you not bring all these together?” Saturninus the priest, inspired by the Lord’s Spirit, replied, “Without fear we celebrated the Lord’s Supper [dominicum].” “But why?” “Because,” replied Saturninus, “we cannot omit the Lord’s Supper.” […] (864)

12. The proconsul, going on to Emeritus, said, “Is it indeed in your house that the assemblies take place contrary to what the emperors have decreed?” Emeritus, full of the Holy Spirit, replied, “It is in my house that we have celebrated the Lord’s Supper.” “Why did you allow these to enter?” Emeritus answered, “Because they are my brethren, and I was unable to hinder them.” “But this is what you should have done.” “I could not do so because we cannot live without celebrating the Lord’s Supper.” Immediately the proconsul had him placed on a rack and tortured. […] (865)

14. […] Ampelius was the next to be questioned. He was the keeper of the law and the most faithful preserver of the divine Scriptures. The proconsul questioned him as to whether he was at the assembly [collecta]. Cheerful and unafraid, he eagerly replied, “I assembled with the brethren. I celebrated the Lord’s Supper. I have the Lord’s Scriptures with me but they are written on my heart. Praise to you, O Christ. Hear me, O Christ.” […] (866)

15. But the younger Saturninus, the venerable offspring of the priest Saturninus, […] was questioned by the proconsul. “And you, Saturninus, were you present?” “I am a Christian,” said Saturninus. “This is not what I asked. My question was whether you celebrated the Lord’s Supper.” To this Saturninus answered, “I did so because Christ is the Savior.” Hearing the word “Savior,” Anulinus became agitated and had a rack prepared for the father’s son. The proconsul addressed Saturninus, who was stretched out on the rack. “What did you profess? Look where you are. Do you have any of the Scriptures?” Saturninus replied, “I am a Christian.” “I am asking whether you were part of the assembly, whether you have the Scriptures.” […] “I have the Lord’s Scriptures, but they are written on my heart.” […] (867)


Relatively little is known concerning the details of Optatus’s life, whose date of birth is often given as ca. 320. He seems to have been a convert and was perhaps a rhetorician. As bishop of Milevis in Numedian Africa, he wrote his Against the Church of the Apostates, a work opposing the Donatists. The date of the bishop’s death appears to be ca. 385.

CPL nos. 244ff. * Altaner (1961) 435–36 * Altaner (1966) 371–72 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:491–95 * Bautz 6:1226–27 * Jurgens 2:139–41 * Labriolle (1947) 1:428–29 * Labriolle (1968) 294–95 * Quasten 4:122–27 * Steidle 183 * Tixeront 233–34 * CATH 10:103–5 * CE 11:262–63 * DCB 4:90–93 * DictSp 11:824–29 * DPAC 2:2549–52 * DTC 11.1:1077–84 * EC 9:449–51 * EEC 2:612–13 * EEChr 2:830–31 * LTK 7:1076–77 * NCE 10:706–7 * NCES 10:611–12 * ODCC 1185 * PEA (1894) 18.1:765–72 * PEA (1991) 8:1269–70 * TRE 25:300–302

T. Sagi-Bunič, “Controversia de Baptismate inter Parmenianum et s. Optatum Milevitanum,” Lau 3 (1962) 167–209. * A. Goda, “Les mots ‘fides’ et ‘fidelis’ chez Optat de Milève,” Rocz 19 (1972) 172–80 [in Polish with resume in French]. * A. Malunowiczówna, “Signification du mot ‘sacramentum’ chez Optat de Milève,” Rocz 19 (1972) 163–70. * M. Labrousse, “Le baptême des hérétiques d’après Cyprien, Optat et Augustin: Influences et divergences,” REAug 42 (1996) 223–42. * J.L. Gutiérrez-Martin, Iglesia y liturgia en el Africa romana del siglo IV: bautismo y eucaristía en los libros de Optato, obispo de Milevi, Bibliotheca Ephemerides Liturgicae. Subsidia 116 (Rome, 2001).

49-A. Against the Church of the Apostates

Also called Against Parmenian or On the Schism of the Donatists, this treatise, begun ca. 367 and often rambling in composition, originally consisted of six books. A seventh book was added ca. 385 as an appendix, perhaps by Optatus himself in a revised edition of the work.

The Donatists were a schismatic group, largely confined to Africa, who among other points rejected the efficacy of the sacraments when conferred “outside the Church.” Parmenian, the author of a treatise being refuted by Optatus, was the Donatist bishop of Carthage (362–391/392). In marked contrast to the attitude of most late fourth-century orthodox writers is the lenient approach Optatus takes in regard to the schismatics (not heretics, however).

II.II. […] You know that Peter received the first episcopal chair in the city of Rome, a fact you cannot deny. This chair was occupied by Peter, the first among the apostles, and so he is called Cephas. This one chair is the basis of the unity to be kept by all. The other apostles did not act in an independent manner. Anyone arranging another chair contrary to that single chair—whoever would do anything like this would already be a schismatic and a sinner. (868)

II.III. Peter, therefore, was the first to occupy this chair, and this was the first of his gifts. […] (869)

II.XX. Perfect happiness is not given by Christ our Savior; it is promised. For this reason God said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”1 And so God, who alone is perfect and holy, did not say, “You are holy,” but rather “You will be holy.” […] When you lead some astray, you promise that you will grant them the forgiveness of their sins. And when you desire to grant them the forgiveness of sins, you confess your own innocence. You forgive as if you yourselves had no sins. This is not presumption; it is deception. It is not truth; it is a lie. For shortly after you have imposed hands and forgiven sins, you will face the altar but you cannot omit the Lord’s Prayer wherein you say, “Our Father […] Forgive us our sins.” […] (870)

IV.VII. Heaven is opened.2 When God the Father anointed Christ, the spiritual oil immediately descended in the form of a dove and, resting upon his head, enveloped him. The oil was spread about. For this reason he came to be called the “Christ” since he was anointed by God the Father. Should he seem to lack the imposition of the hand, the voice of God was heard speaking from a cloud, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”3 (871)

V.IV. No one baptizes always and everywhere. There were those who baptized in times past; others do so now; still others will do so in the future. The person baptizing can be different but not the sacrament. As you can see, those who do the baptizing are the workers, not the lords. The sacraments are holy in themselves and are not made so by mere mortals. So what is it that you so insist upon for yourselves? What is it that you claim God rejects from what is divinely given? Acknowledge that God is in charge of what is his own. […] (872)

VI.I […] What is so sacrilegious as to break, scrape, remove God’s altars on which you yourselves had once offered, on which both the prayers of the people and the members of Christ had been held, where God Almighty has been invoked, where the Holy Spirit has been requested and has descended, from which many have received the pledge of eternal salvation, the safeguard of the faith, and the hope of resurrection? […] For what is an altar other than the resting place for Christ’s Body and Blood? […] Who among the faithful does not know that in celebrating the mysteries the wooden altar is covered by a linen cloth? During the rites themselves the covering can be touched but not the wood. […] (873)


50-A. Synod of Carthage (345–48)

The purpose of this synod, which took place sometime between 345 and 348, was to thank God that the schism of Donatism had ended—or at least so the bishops participating believed—and to draw up some useful rules, fourteen in all, for church discipline. The canons of this meeting form one of the earliest canonical collections that have come down to us.

Hefele (1871) 2:185–86 * EEC 1:146 * ODCC 3:293

Canon 1. Therefore if it pleases you, we will first consider the question of rebaptism. My question concerns someone who has gone down into the water and has been questioned regarding the Trinity according to the faith of the Gospel and the doctrine of the apostles and before God has acknowledged belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Should this person again be questioned concerning the same faith and again be washed in water? (874)

All the bishops responded: In no way! Rebaptism is not allowed.a We forbid it as being contrary to the true faith and to the Catholic Church. (875)

50-B. Synod of Carthage II (390)††

This general African synod, under the presidency of Bishop Genethlius of Carthage, enacted thirteen canons.

CPL no. 1765c * DDCon 1:255 * Hefele (1905) 2.1:76–78 * CATH 2:607 * DCA 1:38 * EEC 1:146 * ODCC 293

Canon 3. […] Presbyters may not consecrate chrisma or bless virgins;b nor may a presbyter grant public reconciliation.c (876)

Canon 4. […] If someone is in danger and seeks reconciliation at the holy altar and if the bishop is absent, the presbyter should consult the bishop and with his permission reconcile the sinner.d (877)

Canon 9. […] A presbyter officiating without the bishop’s permission is to be deprived of his rank. (878)

50-C. Synod of Hippo (393)

This first plenary African council took place on October 8, 393, in the Basilica of Peace at Hippo Regius. Its president was Aurelius, the archbishop of Carthage; Augustine (WEC 3:98) gave the opening speech. Although the meeting’s Acta have for the most part been lost, manuscript evidence gives us some glimpse of what transpired at the gathering.

DDCon 2:195–96 * Hefele (1905) 2.1:82–91 * Hefele (1871) 2:394–402 * CE 11:99 * DCA 1:38 * DHGE 24:621 * EEC 1:383 * ODCC 773

F.L. Cross, “History and Fiction in the African Canons,” JThSt, n.s., 12 (1961) 227–47. * B. Neunheuser, “’Cum altari adsistitur semper ad Patrem dirigatur oratio’: der canon 21 des Konzils von Hippo 393. Seine Bedeutung und Nachwirkung,” Aug 25 (1985) 105–19.

50-C-1. CANONS FOUND IN codex vercelli 165

Some fragments of the discussion appear to have survived in five canons found in a northern Italy manuscript, Codex Vercelli 165.

Canon 5. […] It pleases all that the Scriptures that are read are canonical;a the passions of the martyrsb may be read aloud in their particular churches. (879)

50-C-2. THE breviarium hipponense

In preparation for a later synod, one held in Carthage in 397, the bishops of Byzacene drafted a document, known as the Breviarium Hipponense, which gave a résumé of the canons previously enacted at Hippo in 393. This summary has come down to us through a number of manuscript traditions that incorporate various textual differences. There are two series of enactments, the first having five canons, the second having thirty-seven canons.

Series 1

Canon 1. All the provinces of Africa are to be guided by the church of Carthage regarding the feast of Easter,c concerning which an error has arisen. (880)

Series 2

Canon 1. a) Readers may not extend the greeting to the people. b) No one is to be ordainedd nor is any virgin to be blessed who is under twenty-five.e c) Because of the need to profess and defend the faith no one is to be made a cleric unless such a person has first been instructed in the holy Scriptures or from youth has been given a good education in them.f (881)

Canon 3. During the most holy days of the Pasch no other sacrament than the accustomed salt will be given to the catechumens because if during these days the faithful do not change the sacraments, so also the catechumens are to change nothing. (882)

Canon 4. a) The deceased are not to be given the Eucharistg nor are they to be baptized since the Lord said, “Take and eat.”1 Dead bodies can neither take nor eat. b) Since the Eucharist is not given to the deceased, care must be taken that no one mistakenly believes that the dead can be baptized. (883)

Canon 20. No one may be ordained who has not been approved either by an examination carried out by the bishop or by the testimony of the people.h (884)

Canon 21. a) In prayer no one shall address the Son rather than the Father, or the Father rather than the Son except at the altar when prayer is always to be addressed to the Father. b) No one shall use strange forms of prayer without having first consulted those brethren who are well-instructed.i (885)

Canon 23. a) At the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ nothing is to be offered other than what the Lord himself passed down, namely, bread and wine mixed with water.j b) The first-fruits, milk and honey, which on the one most solemn day are accustomed to be offered, even though offered upon the altar, have their own blessing so that they are distinguished from the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. Only what comes from grapes and grain is among the first fruits. (886)

Canon 28. The sacraments of the altar shall always be celebrated by those who are fasting except on the anniversary of their institution, namely, the Coena Domini.k For if a commendation of others is to be made in the afternoon, whether of bishops or of clerics or of others, this is to be done by prayer alone if those who do so have already eaten. (887)

Canon 30. a) The time of penance shall be determined by the bishop in proportion to the severity of the sin. b) Presbyters are not to reconcile penitentsl without the consent of the bishop unless the absence of the bishop requires this. c) A penitent whose sin is public and known to all and which disturbs the whole Church shall receive the imposition of the hand before the apse. (888)

Canon 32. Sick persons who are no longer able to speak but who testified that they would desire baptism should they be in danger are to be baptized. (889)

Canon 33. Actors and apostates who convert or return to the Lord will not be refused grace or reconciliation. (890)

Canon 34. A presbyter may not bless virgins without the consent of the bishop,m and he must never prepare the chrism.n (891)

Canon 36. a) Other than the canonical Scriptures nothing is to be read in the church under the title of “divine writings.”o b) The canonical books are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, 4 Books of Kings, 2 Books of Paralipomenon, Job, Psalms, 5 Books of Solomon, 12 Books of the Minor Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Tibias, Judith, Esther, 2 Books of Estrous, 2 Books of the Maccabees, and from the New Testament: 4 Books of the Gospels, 1 Book of the Acts of the Apostles, Fourteen Epistles of Paul the Apostle, 2 [Epistles] of Peter, 2 [Epistles] of John, 1 [Epistle] of Jude, 1 [Epistle] of James; the Apocalypse of John.p c) The church across the sea is to be consulted regarding this canon. d) It is permitted to read the acts of the martyrs on their anniversaries.q (892)

Canon 37. Still in effect is what former councils established, namely, that no Donatist cleric is to be received by us—salvation being denied to no one—except as a member of the laity—inasmuch as the African churches suffer the lack of ordained clerics so that some places are completely without them. The exception is those who were not rebaptized or who desire to go over to the Catholic communion with their people. […] (893)



Relatively little is known about Zeno. In a letter written ca. 380 Ambrose (WEC 2:53) refers to him as the “recently deceased bishop of Verona,” and this city’s tradition lists Zeno as its eighth bishop. Some believe that Zeno was of African origin. His death must have occurred between 375 and 380.

Zeno’s works show that he was well acquainted with the theological disputes of his time, both trinitarian and christological, especially those concerning the relationship between the Father and the Son.

CPL nos. 208ff. * Altaner (1961) 432 * Altaner (1966) 369 * Bardenhewer (1908) 418–19 * Bardenhewer (1910) 362–63 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:477–81 * Bardy (1930) 96 * Bautz 14:427–30 * Labriolle (1947) 1:435–36 * Labriolle (1968) 300–301 * Quasten 4:127–30 * Steidle 152 * Tixeront 231–32 * CATH 15:1530–32 * CE 15:754–55 * DCB 4:1213 * DictSp 16:1628–30 * DPAC 2:3627–28 * DTC 15.2:3685–90 * EC 12:1793–94 * EEC 2:884–85 * EEChr 2:1187 * LTK 10:1422–23 * NCE 14:1118 * NCES 14:917–18 * ODCC 1779–80 * PEA (1894) 10.1 (n.s.) 147–49

O. Perler, “Die Taufsymbolik der vier Jahreszeiten im Baptisterium bei Kelibia,” in Mullus: Festschrift Th. Klauser (Münster, 1964) 282–90. * G. de Apoli, “L’iniziazione cristiana nei ‘Sermoni’ di S. Zeno di Verona,” RL 54 (1967) 401–17. * E.J. Kelzenberg, “An Investigation of the Baptismal Writings of Zeno of Verona,” diss. (Notre Dame, 1967). * J. Doignon, “Réfrigerium et catéchèse à Verone,” in Hommages à M. Renard, vol. 3 (Brussels, 1969) 220–39. * G. Philippart, “La fête de S. Zénon de Vérone le 8 décembre,” AB 92 (1974) 347–48. * F. Segala, Il Culto di San Zeno nella liturgia medioevala fino al secolo XII, Studi e documenti di storia e liturgica 1 (Verona, 1982). * A. Galli, “Zénon de Vérone dans l’antiphonaire de Bangor,” RB 93 (1983) 293–301. * G. Jeanes, “Early Latin Parallels to the Roman Canon? Possible References to a Eucharistic Prayer in Zeno of Verona,” JThSt, n.s., 37 (1986) 427–31. * G.P. Jeanes, The Day Has Come! Easter and Baptism in Zeno of Verona, Alcuin Club Collections 73 (Collegeville, 1995). * M.A. Mascari, “Zeno, Gaudentius, and Chromatius: The Dynamics of Preaching in Northern Italy, 360–420,” diss. (Washington, D.C., 1996).

51-A. Sermons

Zeno’s work has come down to us in the form of sermons (tractatus), gathered into two collections. The first collection or book contains sixty-two texts, with the second containing thirty texts. Only thirty of the total are complete sermons, others being sketches, outlines, summaries, and the like. They treat a wide variety of subjects: exegesis (especially the Old Testament), morality, sacramental theology, and liturgical practice, including discourses on baptism and the Easter liturgy. The collections as such, which were very popular during the Middle Ages, appear to have been redacted after Zeno’s death.


1. […] After the delightful vigils of the night, the night that shines brightly due to its own sun, and after the life-giving bath that you took in the font from which honey flows forth, you have been led to the hope of immortal life. Upon coming out of the water, you, being of various ages and coming from diverse countries, suddenly seemed to be brothers and sisters sharing the same blood, as if all of you were twins to one another. […] (894)


Brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice and eagerly hasten to receive the heavenly gifts. The eternal font that gives birth to new life already invites you by its saving warmth. Our mother is anxious to bring you into the world but not according to the ordinary rules of childbirth. […] Your heavenly mother begets you with happiness, abundant joy, and willingly. She brings you forth free from the bonds of sin. You will be nourished not in foul-smelling cradles but at the aromatic railing of the holy altar. […] (895)


1. People of heaven, first fruits of Christ, rejoice. Always be vigilant. Take care not to stain in any way the brightness of your illustrious spiritual birth which took place today. What happened on this day cannot be repeated. Behold the boys, the adolescents, the young men, the old men, both males and females. You were guilty. You were soiled by this world’s impure birth. But now, freed from all sin, you are innocent children. What is especially wonderful and pleasing is that suddenly, in an instant, you, being of various ages, attained the same age. (896)


Brothers and sisters, enter the heavenly gates as quickly as possible. Do not believe that those who go down into this eternal pool produce eternal grace by their personal merits. Here it is that you decide to be reborn. You know that your nobility of soul is measured by the greatness of your faith. Be firm and faithful in laying aside the old self with its odoriferous garments.1 You will soon go forth as newly born, clothed in white, filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. (897)


Why are you waiting? Although birth, age, sex, and profession differentiate you, nonetheless, you will soon be one body. All of you, hasten to the sweet womb of your virgin mother. There you will be ennobled because of your faith. The greater your faith, the greater your happiness. It is a wonderful, holy, and truly divine birth where the mother does not suffer the pains of childbirth. The person born again knows no tears. Here is renewal, resurrection, and life eternal. Here is the mother of us all who gathers us from every race and nation, who brings us together to form us into one body. (898)


[…] Just as pagan temples are fitting for the unfeeling idols, so living temples are required by the living God. […] An incomparable glory, one truly worthy of God, is the fact that all—namely, the priest and the temple—turn to God with one accord and devotion as all pray for one another. And so, my brothers and sisters, rejoice. […] (899)


Damasus, said to be of Spanish origin, was born in Rome (305), where he became a member of that city’s clergy. While still a deacon he was elected (366) bishop of Rome, an election contested by a faction that selected Ursinus to be bishop. Violence on both sides ensued. Civil authority finally settled the dispute in favor of Damasus.

Damasus is especially noted for his love of the martyrs and their places of burial. He excavated, enlarged, and repaired many catacombs, making them more accessible to the increasing numbers of pilgrims coming to Rome. Furthermore, he composed numerous epigrams (tituli) honoring the martyrs (see WEC 2:57-A), these inscriptions being engraved on marble slabs by the noted calligrapher Furius Dionysius Filocalus. It has been estimated that the texts of fifty-nine such inscriptions and thirteen fragments are authentic, many of these still existing on their original marble. In addition to his work on the catacombs, Damasus constructed several churches.

Serving as the pope’s secretary from 382 to 384 was Jerome, the noted biblical scholar (WEC 3:145). As early as 376 Jerome had become a close friend of and adviser to Damasus, who encouraged Jerome to work on the Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate), Jerome’s translation of the Gospels being completed in 384, the year of the pope’s death.

Damasus was a strong proponent of the Petrine role enjoyed by the bishop of Rome and perhaps was the first to use Matthew 16:18 to support his position.

Found among the correspondence of Jerome exists a letter, although scholars generally consider it to be nonauthentic, to Damasus on the psalms and the Alleluia (CSEL 54:62–67).

It is conjectured that it was during the pontificate of Damasus that the language of the liturgy changed from Greek to Latin.

CPL nos. 1632ff. * Altaner (1961) 414–15 * Altaner (1966) 354–55 * Bardenhewer (1908) 421–22 * Bardenhewer (1910) 366 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:563–67, 588–91 * Bautz 1:1199–2000 * Hamell 131 * Jurgens 1:402–7 * Labriolle (1968) 451–52 * Quasten 4:273–78 * Steidle 145–46 * Tixeront 276 * CATH 3:429–31 * CE 4:613–14 * DCB 1:783–84 * DDC 4:1014–19 * DHGE 14:48–53 * DPAC 1:883–85 * DTC 4.1:28–36 * EC 4:1136–39 * EEC 1:218–19 * EEChr 1:316–17 * LTK 2:1385 * NCE 4:624–25 * NCES 4:503–5 * ODCC 448–49 * PEA (1894) 4.2:2048–50 * PEA (1991) 3:297

E. Vacanard, “Le pape Damase et le culte des saints,” RCF 67 (1911) 611–14. * P. Blanchard, “La correspondance apocryphe du pape s. Damase et de s. Jérôme sur le psautier et le chant d’Alleluia,” EphL 63 (1949) 376–88. * P. Borella, “S. Damaso e i canti della Messa didattica,” EphL 72 (1958) 223–29. * E. Griffe, “L’inscription damasienne de la catacombe de Saint-Sébastien,” BLE 6 s. 62 (1961) 16–25. * P.H. Lafontaine, Les conditions de l’accession aux ordres dans la première législation ecclésiastique (Ottawa, 1963) 301–3. * A. de Vogüé, “La Règle du Maitre et la lettre apocryphe de s. Jérôme sur le chant des psaumes,” SM 7 (1965) 357–67. * E. Griffe, “En relisant l’inscription damasienne ‘ad catacumbas,’” BLE 71 (1970) 81–91. * H.M. Shepherd, “The Liturgical Reform of Damasus I,” in Kyriakon: Festschrift Johannes Quasten, ed. P. Grandfield and J.A. Jungmann, vol. 2 (Munich, 1970) 847–63.

52-A. The Tome of Damasus

The Tome of Damasus (Tomus Damasi, also known as the Confessio fidei catholicae Damasi as well as the Epistula Damasi ad Paulinum Antiochum episcopum) is a collection of twenty-four anathemas or condemnations relating to various trinitarian and christological heresies of the fourth century. The document appears to have been the fruit of a Roman synod held in 377/382.

XXIV. Should anyone dare to say that the Father is God and that his Son is God and that the Holy Spirit is God—as if referring to “gods”—and calls them God not because of the one godhead which we know belongs to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit; or if they separate from God the Son or the Holy Spirit so as to believe that only the Father is God and in this way come to believe that God is one, let them be condemned as heretics. […] We are baptized only in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and not in the names of the archangels or angels as are the heretics, the Jews, or even the foolish pagans. […] (900)


Born at Trier in 337/339 (scholars disagree), Ambrose belonged to an aristocratic family. His father, also called Ambrose, was the Praetorian Prefect of Gaul and died at a young age, whereupon Ambrose’s mother, Monica, returned to Rome with her children.

Following the footsteps of his father, Ambrose embarked upon a career of public service, becoming the governor of Aemilia-Liguria with his headquarters at Milan. Upon the death of that city’s Arian bishop, Auxentius, great hostility broke out between the Arians and the Catholics in 373/374. Ambrose intervened and so impressed the populace that the people called upon him to become the next bishop. Still a catechumen, he initially rejected this proposal but soon consented. Being baptized, he was ordained bishop on December 7, 374.

As bishop Ambrose did not hesitate to involve himself in the civil and political world of his time when it concerned religious matters and the independence of the Church. He was both friend and mentor to several of the western rulers. In addition, he was a staunch opponent of Arianism. And Augustine (WEC 3:98) credits him with playing a part in his conversion. Ambrose died at Milan on April 4, 397, and ranks among the four “Latin Doctors of the Church.”

Drawing greatly on Greek Christian authors, Ambrose wrote extensive commentaries on Scripture, mostly on the Old Testament, apparently basing these on homilies he gave to the faithful in Milan. His other writings concern various moral, ascetic, and dogmatic topics. Especially valuable is the light he sheds on liturgical practice in Milan during the last years of the fourth century.

CPL nos. 122ff. * Altaner (1961) 443–57 * Altaner (1966) 378–89 * Bardenhewer (1908) 431–44 * Bardenhewer (1910) 374–84 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:498–547 * Bardy (1930) 90–95 * Bautz 1:142–44 * Hamell 132–36 * Jurgens 2:145–77 * Labriolle (1947) 380–414 * Labriolle (1968) 263–86 * Leigh-Bennett 290–303 * Quasten 4:144–80 * Seidle 152–56 * Tixeront 235–40 * Wright (1928) 173–209 * CATH 1:412–15 * CE 1:383–88 * CHECL 309–12 * DACL 1.1:1347–53 * DCB 1:91–99 * DHGE 2:1091–1108 * DictSp 1:425–28 * DPAC 1:147–56 * DTC 1.1:942–54 * EC 1:984–1000 * EEC 1:28–29 * EEChr 1:41–44 * LTK 1:495–97 * NCE 1:376–77 * NCES 1:337–40 * ODCC 49–50 * PEA (1894) 1.2:1812–14 * PEA (1991) 1:582–84 * RACh 1:365–73 * TRE 2:362–86


J. Schmitz, Gottesdienst im altchristlichen Mailand (Bonn, 1975). * T. Marsh, “The History of the Sacramental Concept,” MilS 3 (1979) 21–56.

De Mysteriis/De Sacramentis/INITIATION

G. Morin, “La sputation, rite baptismal de l’Eglise de Milan au IVe siècle, d’après un passage corrigé du ‘De mysteriis’ de s. Ambroise,” RB 16 (1899) 414–18. * Th. Schermann, “Die pseudoambrosianische Schrift ‘De Sacramentis’: ihre Ueberlieferung und Quellen,” RQ 17 (1903) 237–55. * G. Morin, “Pour l’authenticité du ‘De sacramentis’ et ‘l’Explanatio symboli’ de s. Ambroise,” JL 8 (1928) 86–106. * C. Atchley, “The Date of the De sacramentis,” JThSt 30 (1929) 281–86. * O. Faller, “Was sagen die Handschriften zur Echtheit der sechs Predigten s. Ambrosii de sacramentis,” ZkTh 53 (1929) 41–65. * F.J. Dölger, “Das Oktogon und die Symbolik der Achtzahl: die Inschrift des hl. Ambrosius im Baptisterium der Thekllakriche von Mailand,” AC 4 (1934) 153–65. * O. Faller, Ambrosius der Verfasser von De Sacramentis: die inneren Echtheitsgründe (Leipzig, 1940). * R.H. Connolly, The De sacramentis, a Work of St. Ambrose (Downside Abbey, 1943). * R.H. Connolly, “St. Ambrose and the Explanatio Symboli,” JThSt 47 (1946) 185–96. * F.R.M. Hitchcock, “The Explanatio Symboli ad initiandos compared with Rufinus and Maximus of Turin,” JThSt 47 (1946) 58–69. * O. Perler, “L’inscription du baptistère de s.-Thècla à Milan et le De sacramentis de s. Ambroise,” RAC 27 (1951) 145–66. * J. Quasten, “Baptismal Creed and Baptismal Act in St. Ambrose’s De mysteriis and De sacramentis,” in Mélanges Joseph de Ghellinck, vol. 1, Muséum Lessianum—Section Historique 13 (Gembloux, 1951) 223–34. * H.S. Medeiros, The De mysteriis and De sacramentis of St. Ambrose (Washington, D.C., 1952). * C. Mohrmann, “Le style oral du De sacramentis de s. Ambroise,” VC 6 (1952) 168–77. * G. Michiels, “L’initiation chrétienne d’après s. Ambroise,” QLP 34 (1953) 109–14, 164–69. * G. Lazzati, “L’authenticità del ‘De sacramentis’ e la valutazione letteraria delle opere di s. Ambrogio,” Aevum 29 (1955) 17–48. * F. Petit, “Sur les catéchèses postbaptismales de s. Ambroise: à propos de De sacramentis IV 29,” RB 68 (1958) 256–65. * A. Caprioli, “Battesimo e confermazione in s. Ambrogio: Studio storico sul Signaculum,” in Miscellanea C. Figini (Venegono Inferiore, 1964) 49–57. * K. Gamber, “Die Autorschaft von ‘De sacramentis,’” RQ 61 (1966) 94–104. * G.M. Signori, Battesimo e professione di fede: catechesi di Sant’Ambrogio, Letture ecumenici 8 (Bergamo, 1966). * K. Gamber, Die Autorschaft von De sacramentis (Regensburg, 1967). * K. Gamber, “Nochmals zu Frage der Autorschaft von ‘De sacramentis,’” ZkTh 91 (1969) 586–89. * E.J. Yarnold, “The Ceremonies of Initiation in the De sacramentis and the De mysteriis of St. Ambrose,” SP 10, TU 107 (Berlin, 1970) 453–63. * H.M. Riley, “The Rite of Christian Initiation: A Comparative Study of the Interpretation of the Baptismal Liturgy in the Mystagogical Writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Ambrose of Milan,” diss. (Regensburg, 1971). * C. Calcaterra, La catechesi pasquale di Ambrogio di Milano (Rome, 1972). * R. Johanny, “Du baptême à l’eucharistie selon s. Ambroise de Milan,” PP 9 (1972) 325–37. * E.J. Yarnold, The Awe-Inspiring Rites of Initiation: Baptismal Homilies of the Fourth Century (Slough, 1972). * E.J. Yarnold, “’Ideo et Romae fideles dicuntur qui baptizati sunt’: A Note on De sacramentis I 1,” JThSt 24 (1973) 202–7. * R.S. Campbell, “The Explanatio Symboli ad Initiandos of St. Ambrose of Milan: A Comparative Study,” diss. (Notre Dame, 1974). * H.M. Riley, Christian Initiation: A Comparative Study of the Interpretation of the Baptismal Liturgy in the Mystagogical Writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Ambrose of Milan, Studies in Christian Antiquity 17 (Washington, D.C., 1974). * E.J. Yarnold, “Did St. Ambrose Know the Mystagogic Catecheses of St. Cyril of Jerusalem?” SP 12 (1975) 184–89. * C. Mohrmann, “Observations sur ‘De sacramentis’ et ‘De mysteriis’ de s. Ambroise, SPMed 6 (Milan, 1976) 103–23. * D. Ramos-Lisson, “La tipologia de Jn. 9:6–7 en el De Sacramentis,” SPMed 6 (Milan, 1976) 336–44. * R. Iacoangeli, “La catechesi escatologica di s. Ambrogio,” Sal 41 (1979) 403–17. * A.G. Martimort, “Attualità della catechesi sacramentale di s. Ambrogio,” VetChr 18 (1981) 81–103. * D. Dufrasne, “Saint Ambroise de Milan: le Christ et les enfants,” ComL 66:5 (1984) 481–87. * W.R. Rusch, “Baptism of Desire in Ambrose and Augustine,” SP 15 (1984) 374–78. * E. Mazza, Mystagogy: A Theology of Liturgy in the Patristic Age (New York, 1989). * P. Jackson, “The Meaning of ‘spiritale signaculum’ in the Mystagogy of Ambrose of Milan,” EOr 7 (1990) 77–94. * J. Schmitz, “Die Taufe auf den Tod Jesu bei Ambrosius von Mailand: ein Beispiel für den Einfluss der Theologie auf die Liturgie,” EOr 12 (1995) 153–71. * C.A. Satterlee, “Ambrose of Milan’s Method of Mystagogical Preaching,” diss. (Notre Dame, 2000). * C.A. Satterlee, Ambrose of Milan’s Method of Mystagogical Preaching (Collegeville, 2002).


R.H. Connolly, “The ‘Irish’ and ‘Roman’ Texts of the Canon of the Mass,” JThSt 33 (1931–32) 27–33. * J. Quasten, “’Sobria ebrietas’ in Ambrosius ‘De Sacramentis,’” in Miscellanea Liturgica in Honorem L. Cuniberti Mohlberg, vol. 1 (Rome, 1948) 117–25. * Callewaert, “Histoire positive du Canon romain: une épiclèse à Rome?” SE 2 (1949) 95–110. * J. Daniélou, “Eucharistie et Cantique des Cantiques,” Ire 23 (1950) 257–77. * C. Mohrmann, “Quelques observations sur l’évolution stylistique du canon de la messe romaine,” VC 4 (1950) 1–19. * L. Lavorel, “La doctrine eucharistique selon s. Ambroise,” diss. (Lyons, 1956). * L. Lavorel, “Oblats et corps du Christ sur l’autel d’après s. Ambroise,” RTAM 24 (1957) 205–24. * E. Griffe, “Trois texts importants pour l’histoire du Canon de la messe,” BLE 59, 6th ser. (1958) 65–72. * L. Lavorel, “Que signifie l’expression ‘perfectiora sacramenta’ chez s. Ambroise?” RevSR 32 (1958) 251–54. * G. Segalla, “La conversione eucaristica in s. Ambrogio,” StP 14 (1967) 3–55, 161–203. * G. Segalla, La conversione eucaristica in s. Ambrogio (Pauda, 1967). * R. Johanny, L’Eucharistie, centre de l’histoire du salut chez Ambroise de Milan, Théologie historique 9 (Paris, 1968).


A. Lagarde, “La pénitence dans les Eglises d’Italie au cours des IVe et Ve siècles,” RHE 92 (1925) 108–47. * H. Frank, Ambrosius und die Büsseraussöhnung in Mailand (Münster, 1938). * G. Odoardi, La dottrina della penitenza in s. Ambrogio (Rome, 1941). * J. Romer, Die Theologie der Sünde und der Busse beim hl. Ambrosius (St. Gallen, 1968). * P.J. Riga, “Penance in St. Ambrose,” EgT 4 (1973) 213–26. * R. Marchioro, La prassi penitenziale nel IV secolo a Milano secondo s. Ambrogio (Rome, 1975). * V. Fattorini and G. Picenardi, “Le riconciliazione in Cipriano di Cartagine (‘Ep. 55’) e Ambrogio di Milano (‘De paenitentia’),” Aug 27 (1987) 377–406.


J. Lécuyer, “Le sacerdoce chrétien selon s. Ambroise,” RUO 22 (1952) 104–26. * E. Ferguson, “Ordination in the Ancient Church,” ResQ 5 (1961) 17–32, 67–82, 130–46. * R. Gryson, “Les degrés du clergé et leurs dénominations chez s. Ambroise de Milan,” RB 76 (1966) 119–27. * B. Studer, “Il sacerdozio dei fedeli in sant’Ambrogio di Milano” (Rassegna bibliografica 1960–1970), VetChr 7 (1970) 325–40. * P. Rousseau, “The Spiritual Authority of the ‘Monk-Bishop’: Eastern Elements in some Western Hagiography,” JThSt, n.s., 22 (1971) 380–419.


C. Callewaert, “Le carême à Milan au temps de s. Ambroise,” RB 32 (1920) 11–21. * C. Callewaert, “La Quaresima a Milano al tempo s. Ambrogio,” in Sacris Erudiri: Fragmenta … (Steenbrugge, 1940) 549–60. * H. Frank, “Das mailandische Kirchejahr in den Werken des hl. Ambrosius,” PB 51 (1940) 40ff. * R. Cantalamessa, “La concezione teologica della Pasqua in s. Ambrogio,” in Studi G. Lazzati, SPMed 10 (Milan, 1980) 362–75.


L. Biraghi, Inni sinceri e carmi di s. Ambrogio (1862). * G.M. Dreves, “Aurelius Ambrosius, der Vater des Kirchgesangs: eine hymnologische Studie,” in Erganzungsheft zu den Stimmen aux Maria Laach 58 (Freiburg i. B., 1893). * J.-V. Bainvel, “Les hymnes de s. Ambroise; à propos d’un livre récent,” ERP 61 (1894) 635–63. * A. Steiner, Untersuchungen über die Echtheit der Hymnen des Ambrosius (Leipzig, 1903). * P.P. Trompeo, “Intorno alla composizione degli innin di Ambrogio,” Atene e Roma 16 (1903) 35–40. * G. Mercati, Paralipomena Ambrosiana, ST 12 (Rome, 1904). * J.B. van Bebbern, “Der Brevierhymnus: en clara vox redarguit, eine hymnologische Studie,” ThQ 89 (1907) 373–84. * A. Walpole, “Notes on the Texts of the Hymns of St. Ambrose,” JThSt 9 (1908) 428–36. * Kl. Blume, “Ursprung des ambrosianischen Lobgesanges,” Stimmen aus Maria Lach (1911) 274–87, 401–14, 487–503. * G. Ghedini, “L’opera di Biraghi e l’innologia ambrosiana,” SC 68 (1940) 160–70, 275–85. * R.E. Messenger, “The Classical Influence in the Hymns of St. Ambrose,” Folia 4 (1949–50) 5–9. * M. Simonetti, “Osservazioni cirtiche sul testo di alcuni inni ambrosiani,” Nuova Didaskaleion (1953–55) 45–48. * M.P. Cunningham, “The Place of the Hymns of St. Ambrose in the Latin Poetic Tradition,” Studies in Philology 52 (1955) 509–14. * M.M. Beyenka, “St. Augustine and the Hymns of St. Ambrose,” ABR 8 (1957) 121–32. * N. Corneanu, “Aspecte din lirica ambrozian,” Studii theologice 11 (1959) 443–52. * E. Bolisani, L’innologia cristiana antica, s. Ambrogio e i suoi imitatori (Padua, 1963). * G.M. Dreves, Aurelius Ambrosius, der Vater des Kirchengesanges: eine hymnologische Studie (Amsterdam, 1968). * J. Fontaine, “L’apport de la tradition poétique romaine à la formation de l’hymnodie latine chrétienne,” RELA 52 (1974) 318–55. * L. Szelestei-Nagy, “Zeitmass und Wortbetonung in den frühchristlichen Hymnen in lateinischer Sprache,” Annales Universitatis Budapestinensis 2 (1974) 75–89. * B.K. Braswell, “Kleine textkritische Bemerkungen zu frühchristlichen Hymnen,” VC 29 (1975) 222–26. * J. Fontaine, “Les origines de l’hymnodie chrétienne latine d’Hilaire du Poitiers à Ambroise de Milan,” LMD, no. 161 (1985) 33–74. * J. Perret, “Aux origines de l’hymnodie latine: l’apport de la civilisation romaine,” LMD, no. 173 (1988) 41–60. * M.-J. Julien, “Les sources de la tradition ancienne des hymnes attribuées à s. Ambroise,” Revue d’histoire des textes 19 (1989) 57–189. * J. Fontaine, ed., Hymnes / Ambroise de Milan: texte établi, traduit et annoté sous la direction de Jacques Fontaine par J.-L. Charlet … [et al.], Patrimoines. Christianisme (Paris, 1992). * M.-H. Jullien, “Le chant des hymnes dans l’antiquité chrétienne,” Résurrection, n.s., 44 (1993) 20–26. * A.A.R. Bastiaensen, “Les hymnes d’Ambroise de Milan: à propos d’une nouvelle édition,” VC 48 (1994) 157–69. * A. Franz, Tageslauf und Heilsgeschichte: Untersuchungen zum literarischen Text und liturgischen Kontext der Tagzeitenhymnen des Ambrosius von Mailand, Pietas liturgica: Studia 8 (St. Ottilien, 1994). * X. Frisque, “Le chant au Christ chez Ambroise: la foi de Nicée dans ses hymnes,” LMD, no. 221 (2000) 101–28.


G.M. Dreves, “Der Hymnus des hl. Ambrosius ‘Agnes beatae virginis,’” ZkTh 25 (1901) 356–65. * H. Vogels, “Hymnus ‘Splendor paternae gloriae,’” in Festschrift A. Knöpfler (Munich, 1907) 314–16. * R. Merkelbach, “’Errorum cohors’: zum Hymnus des Ambrosius ‘Aeterne rerun conditor,’” VC 40 (1986) 390–91. * J.-L. Charlet, “Richesse spirituelle d’une hymne d’Ambroise: ‘Aeterne rerum conditor,’” LMD, no. 173 (1988) 61–69. * G. Nauroy, “Le martyr de Laurent dans l’hymnodie et la prédication des IVe et Ve siècles et l’authenticité ambrosienne de l’hymne ‘Apostolorum supparem,’” REAug 35 (1989) 44–82. * M.J. Mans, “A Comparison between Ambrose’s ‘Aeterne rerum conditor’ and Prudentius’ ‘Cathemerinon I’ or ‘Hymnus ad Galli cantum,’” APB 1 (1990) 99–118. *


E. Soullier, “Causeries sur le plain-chant: s. Ambroise,” ERP 49 (1890) 263–79. * G. Morin, “Notes additionnelles à l’étude sur l’auteur du ‘Te Deum,’” RB 11 (1894) 337–45. * L. Brou, “L’antienne ‘Dignum namque est’ sa source littéraire,” SE 4 (1952) 217–25. * B. Fischer, “Ambrosius der Verfasser des osterlichen Exsultet?” ALW 2 (1952) 61–74. * P. Borella, “La valeur pastorale du Bréviaire ambrosien et l’oeuvre de s. Ambroise,” QLP 41 (1960) 143–57. * H. Leeb, Die Psalmodie bei Ambrosius, Wiener Beiträge zur Theologie 18 (Vienna, 1967). * M. Testard, “Virgile, s. Ambroise et ‘l’Exsultet’: autour d’un problème de critique verbale,” RELA 60 (1982) 283–97. * G. Nauroy, “Le martyr de Laurent dans l’hymnodie et la prédication des IVe et Ve siècles et l’authenticité ambrosienne de l’hymne ‘Apostolorum supparem,’” REAug 35 (1989) 44–82.


F.J. Dölger, “Die Inschrift des hl. Ambrosius im Baptisterium der Theklakirche von Mailand,” AC 4 (1934) 155–56. * J. Quasten, “Sobri ebrietas in Ambrosius De Sacramentis (ein Beitrag zur Echtheitsfrage),” in Miscellanea Liturgica in Honorem L. Cuniberti Mohlberg, vol. 1 (Rome, 1948) 117–25. * “Le dédicace de la basilique ambrosiènne par s. Ambroise (Saint Ambroise de Milan Lettre 22 à sa soeur Marcellina),” LMD, no. 70 (1962) 141–45. * A. Wilmart, “Saint Ambroise et le légende dorée,” EphL 50 (1936) 167ff. * G. Francesconi, Storia e simbolo: “mysterium in figura”: la simbolica storico-sacramentale nel linguaggio e nella teologia di Ambrogio di Milano, Publicazioni del Pontificio seminario lombardo in Roma, Ricerche di scienze teologiche 18 (Brescia, 1981). * A.M. Triaca, “’Christianus qui plenitudinem temporis agnovit’: Une prospettiva escatologica in sant’Ambrogio,” EOr 2:1 (1985) 31–65. * M.P. Ellebracht, “Today This Word Has Been Fulfilled in Your Midst,” Wor 60:4 (July 1986) 347–61. * K. Baus, Das Gebet zu Christus beim hl. Ambrosius: eine frömmigkeitsgeschichtliche Untersuchung, Theophaneia 35 (Berlin, 2000). * M. Heintz, “The Prologue of Ambrose of Milan’s Homilies on Luke,” Antiphon 8:2 (2003) 26–31.

53-A. On Cain and Abel

This work, probably dating from early in Ambrose’s ministry as bishop of Milan, appears to have a homiletic background, perhaps being a revision of a series of instructions for the catechumens.

I.V.19. Do you desire to eat? To drink? Then come to the banquet of Wisdom which invites all as it cries out, “Come and eat my bread and drink the wine I have mingled for you.”1 Do you delight in songs that calm the banqueter? Listen to the Church which exhorts and sings not only in songs but in the Canticle of Canticles: “Eat, friends; drink and be inebriated, my friends.”2 Yet this inebriation results in sobriety. It produces joy, not drunkenness. Nor should you fear that in the Church’s banquet there will be no pleasant odors nor delightful foods nor various kinds of drink. Noble guests and proper ministers will be present. Who is more noble than Christ who serves and is served in the Church’s meal? Find a place alongside him who reclines as a guest at that meal. Unite yourself to God. Do not disdain the banquet table which Christ selected, saying: “I have entered my garden, my sister, my spouse. I have gathered myrrh with my aromatic spices. I have eaten my bread with my honey, and I have drunk wine with my milk.”3 It is in the garden, namely, in paradise, that the Church’s feast takes place, the garden where we find Adam before he sinned, where Eve reclined before she succumbed to wrongdoing. There you will gather myrrh, namely, the burial of Christ so that as you are buried with him through baptism unto death, and just as he has risen from the dead, so you too may rise.4 There you will eat the bread that strengthens the human heart;5 there you will taste the honey that delights the tongue; there you will drink the wine together with the milk,6 namely, with splendor and sincerity. […] Approach, therefore, this banquet. […] (901)

I.VIII.31. […] It was in haste that our ancestors ate the paschal lamb, doing so with loins girded, sandals on their feet,7 and putting aside any bodily constraint, so as to be ready for the departure. […] The pasch is the passage [transitus] of the Lord from passion to the practice of virtue. Therefore it is said to be the pasch of the Lord because at that time the truth of the Lord’s passion was being announced in the type of the lamb; now its benefit is celebrated. […] (902)

53-B. On Virgins††

Completed before December 397, this treatise, perhaps originally a homily, was written in the form of a letter to Marcellina, Ambrose’s sister.

III.18. Frequent prayer also commends us to God. For if the prophet, although occupied with the affairs of the kingdom, says, “Seven times a day I have praised you,”1 what are we to do as we read, “Watch and pray that you not enter temptation”?2 Certainly our solemn prayers are to be offered with the giving of thanks, when we rise from sleep, when we go out, before and after eating, when the lamp is lighted, and when we finally retire to our bed-chambers. But in the bed-chamber itself I wish that you frequently alternate the psalms with the Lord’s Prayer, either when you awaken or before sleep overtakes your body so that as sleep begins, you, free from worrying about worldly affairs, may be meditating on the things of God. […] (903)

53-C. On Faith to Gratian

Gratian was the western Roman emperor from 375 to 383. This tract, written in reply to Gratian’s request to be instructed in the faith against Arianism, is composed of five books and was published by the end of 380.

IV.X.124. Then he [Christ] adds: “My flesh is indeed food and my blood is indeed drink.”1 You hear him speaking about flesh? You hear him speaking about blood? Do you know that he is speaking about the sacraments of the Lord’s death, and you misrepresent the divinity? Listen to what he says: “A ghost does not have flesh and bones.”2 As often as we receive the sacramental elements, which through the mystery of the holy prayer are transformed into flesh and blood, we proclaim the “death of the Lord.”3 (904)

53-D. On Elias and Fasting††

Homiletic in nature and rebuking the lifestyle of the wealthy, this work was written between 377 and 390.

X.34. Not all hunger, however, makes fasting acceptable. Only that undertaken by fear of the Lord. Consider, for a moment, that during Lent fasting takes place on all days except Saturdays and Sundays. The Lord’s Pasch concludes the fast, the day of the resurrection arrives, the elect are baptized, they come to the altar, they receive the sacrament; thirsting, they drink with all their veins.a Being refreshed with spiritual food and drink, rightly does each one say, “You have prepared a table before me, and how wonderful is your intoxicating cup.”1 […] (905)

XV.55. Not undeservedly, therefore, is woe to those who in the morning require an intoxicating drink, those who should be praising God; they should anticipate the daybreak and hasten to meet with prayer the Son of Justice who visits his own and rises for us if we rise for Christ and not for wine and strong beverage. Hymns are sung by the righteous, and do you hold a cithara? Psalms are sung, and do you take up the psaltery or drum? Rightly there is woe because you have forsaken salvation and chosen death. […] (906)

53-E. Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke

Based on various homilies, this is the only New Testament commentary by Ambrose. It appeared before 389.

I.28. But he [the angel] appeared at the right of the altar of sacrifice because he bore the mark of divine mercy; for “the Lord is at my right hand so that I not be shaken.”1 And elsewhere, “The Lord is your protection at your right hand.”2 It pleased God that we also, when we incense the altars, when we present the sacrifice, be assisted by the angel, or rather that the angel make himself visible. For you cannot doubt that the angel is there when Christ is there, when Christ is immolated; “Christ our paschal lamb has been immolated.”3 […] (907)

VIII.25. And it is not without reason that he [Christ] suffered on the Great Sabbath4 to signify the Sabbath on which death was destroyed by Christ. But if the Jews celebrate the Sabbath to the point of considering a month and a whole year as a Sabbath, how much more should we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection? Also, our ancestors taught us to celebrate all fifty days of Pentecost as belonging to Easter since Pentecost is the beginning of the eighth week. This is why the apostle as a disciple of Christ, a disciple who knew the changes of the seasons, wrote to the Corinthians, “Perhaps I will remain and spend the winter with you,”5 and further on, “I will remain in Ephesus till Pentecost since a door has opened for me.”6 Accordingly, he spent the winter with the Corinthians whose errors distressed him—it was their tepidity toward divine worship; he celebrated Pentecost with the Ephesians, gave them the mysteries, and relaxed his spirit because he saw them burning with the fervor of the faith. So throughout these fifty days of Pentecost the Church, as on Sunday which is the day of the Lord’s resurrection, does not fast; and these days are all like Sunday. (908)

53-F. On the Holy Spirit

This treatise, completed in 381, defends the divinity of the Holy Spirit and explains the place of the Spirit within the Trinity.

Prol. 18. Damasus did not cleanse. Nor did Peter. Nor did Ambrose. Nor did Gregory; ministries are ours, the sacraments are yours. No, it does not belong to human powers to grant what is divine. This, Lord, belongs to you and to the Father. […] (909)

I.III.42. […] [Baptism] is complete if you confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If you deny one, you undermine the whole. And just as if you mention only one in words, whether it be the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit, while in faith you deny neither Father nor Son nor Holy Spirit, then the sacrament of faith is complete; likewise, if you say Father and Son and Spirit but lessen the power of Father or Son or Holy Spirit, then the whole mystery is empty. […] (910)

I.VI.76. Since “we are baptized in water and the Spirit,”1 there are many who do not believe that water and the Spirit have distinct functions and so do not believe that they have separate natures. Nor does it strike them that we are buried in water so that we might rise up renewed through the Spirit.2 The image of death is in the water; the pledge of life is in the Spirit so that the “body of sin”3 may die through the water which encloses the body as a type of tomb. In this way we are to be renewed through the power of the Spirit from the death of sin. (911)

I.VI.77. Therefore, as John said, “these three witnesses are one, water, blood, and Spirit,”4 one in mystery, not in nature. Water, therefore, is a witness of burial, blood is a witness of death, the Spirit is a witness of life. Should there be grace in the water, it is not from the nature of water but from the presence of the Holy Spirit. (912)

I.VI.78. Is it really possible that we live in water as in the Spirit? Are we sealed in the water as in the Spirit? We live in the Spirit who is the “pledge of our inheritance,”5 as the apostle writing to the Ephesians said, “Believing in him you were sealed with the Holy Spirit which is the pledge of our inheritance.”6 Accordingly, we were signed with the Holy Spirit, not by nature but by God since it is written, “It is God who anointed us and who sealed us and gave the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.”7 (913)

I.VI.79. So we were sealed with the Spirit by God. Just as we die in Christ in order to be reborn, so we are also sealed with the Spirit that we might possess his brightness, likeness, and grace, for this certainly is our spiritual seal. Even though we are outwardly sealed on the body, nonetheless we are in truth sealed in the heart so that the Holy Spirit might express in us the likeness of the heavenly image.8 (914)

I.VI.80. Who can dare say that the Holy Spirit exists apart from God the Father and apart from Christ since it is through the Spirit that we merit the “image and likeness”9 of God and became, as Peter the Apostle says, “sharers in the divine nature”?10 Surely what is received is not something from the body; it is something spiritual, namely, adoption and grace. So that we might understand that this seal is more in our hearts than on our bodies, the prophet teaches us as he says, “The light of your countenance has been impressed on us, O Lord, you have gladdened my heart.”11 (915)

I.VII.88. In the Gospel you hear that “an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and the water was stirred up; whoever stepped in first was cured.”12 What did the angel announce in this type unless the future descent of the Holy Spirit, a descent that would occur in our own day, one invoked by the prayers of the priests and which would consecrate the waters? […] (916)

I.VIII.90. At the same time notice that God gives the Holy Spirit. This is not a human undertaking nor is the Spirit given by a human being; but the Spirit, invoked by the priest, is given by God; here is the work of God and the ministry of the priest. […] (917)

III.VI.112. How could it be that [the Holy Spirit] would not have all that pertains to God, seeing that the Spirit is named along with the Father and Son when priests baptize, is invoked in the offerings, is proclaimed along with the Father and the Son by the seraphim in heaven above. […] (918)

III.XVIII.137. […] Note well that it is through the Holy Spirit that sins are forgiven. Men show forth their ministry when forgiving sins, but they are not exercising any power that is theirs by right. It is not in their own name but in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit that they remit sins. They petition and the divinity forgives. A human being ministers, but the gift is from the Power above. (919)

53-G. On Penance

Written between 384 and 394, this treatise, divided into two books, is directed against the Novatians who denied that the Church had the power to forgive greater sins.

I.II.6. “But,” they [the Novatians] say, “we show respect to the Lord to whom alone we reserve the power to forgive sins.” But in truth none do more harm than those who wish to abrogate his commands and reject the functions entrusted to them. For the Lord Jesus Christ said in the Gospel, “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; and whose sins you retain, they will be retained.”1 Now who honors the most? Those who obey the Lord’s commands or those who resist doing so. (920)

I.II.7. The Church is obedient in both instances: when it retains sin as well as when it forgives sin. Heresy—harsh as to the former, disobedient as to the latter—wishes to retain what it will not forgive, and it does not wish to forgive what it has retained. By so doing it condemns itself; for the Lord desired that the right of forgiving and that of retaining go together since he sanctioned both in like circumstances. Consequently whoever does not have the authority to forgive does not have the authority to retain. According to the Lord’s instruction whoever possesses the right of retaining also has that of forgiving. And so what these people affirm strangles itself since by denying the power to forgive they should also deny themselves the power to retain. Now, I ask, can one be allowed and not the other? It is evident that both are permitted or it is certain that neither is permitted in the case both things have been granted. The Church can do both; heresy can do neither since this right is given only to priests. Correctly, then, does the Church claim this right, having as it does true priests. Heresy, lacking priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this right, heresy condemns itself because, not having priests, it cannot claim a priestly power for itself. So it is that in heresy’s shameless obstinacy we discover a shameful confession. (921)

I.VIII.36. Why, then, do you impose hands and believe that it is an effect of the blessing if perchance the sick person is restored to health? Why do you presume that you can purify someone from the contamination of the devil? Why do you baptize if sins cannot be forgiven through a human being? Surely the forgiveness of all sins is found in baptism. What difference does it make whether it be through penance or through baptism that priests claim the right given to them? In both cases the function is the same. (922)

I.VIII.37. “But in baptism,” you say, “the grace of the mysteries is at work.” Yet what about penance? Is not God’s name also at work here? When you so wish, you claim God’s grace for yourselves; and then again as you wish, you refuse it. But it is due to insolent presumption and not holy fear that you are scornful of those desiring to do penance. You cannot endure the tears of those who weep; your eyes cannot bear looking at their rough clothing, at the filth of those who are dirty. With proud eyes and a pompous heart each of you says with shocked voice, “My delicate ones,”2 “do not touch me because I am pure.”3 (923)

I.VIII.39. When the Lord Jesus was about to proclaim the forgiveness of our sins, John said to him, “It is I who should be baptized by you, and yet you come to me!” The Lord replied, “Allow it now since it is in this way that we fulfill all justice.”4 Although guilty of no sin the Lord went to a sinner; he desired to be baptized even though he had no need for purification. Who will bear with you when you believe that you do not need to be purified by means of penance since, as you claim, you are purified by grace, henceforth it being impossible for you to sin? (924)

I. XVI.90. If those who have hidden crimes should nonetheless zealously do penance out of love for Christ, how do they here receive anything if reconciliation [communio] is not extended to them? My desire is that the guilty hope to be pardoned; may they seek this with tears, seek it with groaning, seek it with the weeping of all the people; may they beg to be forgiven. And when for the second or third time their reconciliation has been differed, may they believe that their petition has been too weak; may they increase their tears; may they return later on in an even more pitiable condition; may their arms embrace the feet [of Jesus]; may they cover these feet with their kisses; may they wash them with their tears, and may they not let go of them5 so that Jesus might likewise say of them [what he said of the woman], “Her many sins are forgiven because she has loved much.”6 91. I have known certain penitents whose faces were furrowed with their tears, whose cheeks were hollowed by their constant weeping, who prostrated themselves in order to be stepped on by all, and who, with faces pale due to fasting, appear to be corpses in living bodies. (925)

II.II.12. […] When God so wills, he is powerful enough to pardon our sins, even those for which we believe that forgiveness cannot be granted. And so whatever appears to us as impossible to obtain, it is possible for God to give. For did it not seem impossible that sin could be washed away by water? And so did Naaman the Syrian not believe that he could be cleansed of leprosy by means of water?7 But what was impossible, God made possible, giving us such great grace. Likewise, it appeared impossible that sins could be forgiven by means of penance. Yet Christ granted this to his apostles, and from them it was handed down to be among the functions of the priests. What was judged impossible has accordingly become possible. […] (926)

II.III.19. And so the Lord’s teaching most clearly prescribes that even those guilty of the most serious sins are to receive the grace of the heavenly sacrament if they wholeheartedly do penance for their sins and confess them openly. Consequently there can certainly be no excuse [for remaining in sin]. (927)

II.VI.41. You see what God, your God8 demands of you: it is that you remember the grace you have received and that you not “boast as if you had not received it.”9 You see by which promise of pardon he has called you to confess. Take care not to resist the heavenly commandments lest you fall into the tepidity of the Jews to whom the Lord Jesus said, “We have sung for you, and you have not danced; we have lamented for you, and you have not cried.”10 (928)

II.VI.42. This saying is rather common, but the mystery is not. And so be watchful that no one, deceived by a superficial interpretation of this dictum, think that we are commanded to carry out the grotesque contortions of a lascivious dance and the foolishness of the stage; these are evil, even for the young. In truth, what Jesus commanded is the type of dance David performed before the ark of the Lord.11 Everything done for the sake of religion is fitting, and so we need not blush at any practice that renders homage to Christ and is due him. (929)

II.VI.43. Recommended, then, is not this dance, which is the companion of self-indulgence and dissipation, but the dance whereby each person raises up his or her body, a body full of energy, and does not allow one’s lazy members to drag along the ground or become stiff from walking slowly. Paul danced spiritually when, straining forward for our sake, forgetting all that previously occurred, and keeping his eyes focused on what would lie ahead, pressed on to the prize offered by Christ.12 You also, when you come for baptism, are told to lift up your hands, to move your feet, so that you may ascend toward things eternal. This is the dance associated with the faith, this is the dance that accompanies grace. (930)

II.VI.44. Such, then, is the mystery: “We have sung for you,” yes, sung the canticle of the New Testament, “and you have not danced,” that is, you have not lifted up your soul to spiritual grace. “We have lamented and you have not cried,” namely, you have not done penance. For this reason the Jewish people were forsaken: they did not do penance and they refused grace—penance [preached] by John, grace given by Christ. Christ gives grace, as is fitting for the Lord; John preaches repentance, as befits a servant. The Church retains both in that it obtains grace and at the same time does not reject penance. Grace is the gift of him who gives lavishly; penance is the remedy given to those who have sinned. (931)

II.IX.89. There are those who believe that penance consists in abstaining from the heavenly sacraments. These judge themselves too harshly. They inflict punishment on themselves; they refuse the remedy even though they should be mourning the punishment they are undergoing since it deprives them of heavenly grace. Others, because they hope to do penance, believe it is permissible to continue sinning although penance, being a remedy for sin, is not an invitation to sin. Medicine is necessary for the wound, not the wound for the medicine. We look for a remedy because we have a wound; we do not seek to be wounded in order to obtain a remedy. […] (932)

II.X.91. Would anyone be able to admit that you should blush to entreat God and not do so when entreating another person? That you should be ashamed to beseech God who knows everything you do, and that you are not ashamed to confess your sins to someone who does not know you? Do you avoid having witnesses and intimate friends associating themselves to your request when it concerns appeasing another person? Or do you avoid going around to find any number of people, when necessary, and asking them to graciously intervene as you cast yourself down at another’s knees, as you kiss his or her feet, and when you present to this person your children, who still don’t know anything related to the failing, so that they also may seek pardon on your behalf? And are you loath to do this in the Church when you beseech God to obtain for yourself the assistance of the holy people, a people among whom there is no reason for shame except not to confess since we are all sinners? Here the most praiseworthy are the most humble, the most righteous are those who most despise themselves. (933)

II.X.92. May Mother Church weep for you; may it wash away your sin with its tears; may Christ see you mourning so that he can say to you, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will rejoice.”13 Christ loves it when many people offer their prayers for one person. […] (934)

II.X.95. There are those who believe that penance can be done repeatedly. These “deliver themselves to debauchery in Christ.” For if they would seriously undertake penance, they would not believe it could be repeated a second time. Just as there is only one baptism, so there is only one penance, at least in regard to what takes place in public. We are to repent of our sins everyday, but penance in this case concerns lesser sins; in the former case the practice of penance pertains to sins that are greater. (935)

53-H. On Abraham

This work, containing two books, dates from 387. Book II appears to be based on homilies given to the newly baptized.

II.V.22. May we always be with him [Christ]; may we never depart from his temple, from his word. May we always read the Scriptures, meditate, pray, so that his word may always be working within us. Daily going to church or praying at home, may we begin and conclude our day with him. May each day of our entire life and the course of each day find its beginning and ending in him; just as it is salutary to believe in God and to be initiated in him from the beginning of life, so we must always persevere. […] (936)

II.XI.79. The Law commands that boys be circumcised on the eighth day—certainly by a mystical precept—because it is the Day of the Resurrection. The Lord Jesus arose on the Lord’s Day. Therefore, if the Day of the Resurrection finds us circumcised and set free from the remains of sin, washed of all filth, cleansed from bodily sins, so if you depart this world cleansed, you will rise cleansed. […] The Church was redeemed at the price of Christ’s blood. Therefore those who believe, whether Jew or Greek, should know that they are to be circumcised from sin in order to attain salvation. Both family members and foreigners, both the righteous and the sinner, all are to be circumcised unto the forgiveness of sins so that sin no longer is at work, for no one ascends to the kingdom of heaven unless through the sacrament of baptism. Nor will righteousness appear above if one has forsaken righteousness at the end of life. Therefore Paul says, “You have been purchased at a price; do not become slaves to humans.”1 These are contrary since slavery is contracted through sin, and sin is remitted at a price. (937)

II.XI.81. Well indeed does the Law command that infant males be circumcised at a very early age, also those of slaves, because just as sin exists from infancy so there is circumcision from infancy. No time should be without protection because no time is without sin. An infant is to be summoned back from sin that it not be defiled by the contagion of idolatry, that it not grow accustomed to adoring idols and kissing images, to dishonoring the parental home, to offending against righteousness. Likewise so that he not become proud, that he not seem righteous to himself, Abraham was commanded to be circumcised before he reached a more mature age. Neither an elderly person nor a proselyte nor the infant of a slave is exempted because every age is subject to sin, and therefore the sacrament is appropriate for every age. (938)

II.XI.84. […] “Unless one is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of God.”2 There are no exceptions here, not even infants; not even those prevented by some necessity. Perhaps due to some unrevealed exemption, these may escape punishment; yet I do not know whether they can attain the honor of the kingdom. […] (939)

53-I. Hexameron

The Hexameron, dated after 389, is a set of nine sermons on the six days of creation. This series was given during Holy Week: the first, third, and fifth days each having two sermons (one for the morning, the other for the afternoon), whereas only one sermon appears for the second, fourth, and sixth days.

V.XII.36 […] Can anyone having human feelings not be ashamed to conclude the day without the ceremonial singing of the psalms? Not even the smallest bird fails to anticipate the beginning of the day and night with its usual devotion of singing sweet songs. (940)

V.XXIV.90. The time has come when we ought to end our discourse. Now we should rather be silent or shed tears; it is a time during which the forgiveness of sins is celebrated. That mystical cock also crows for us in our rites just as the cock of Peter crowed in our sermon. May Peter, who so fittingly wept for himself, also weep for us, and may the holy face of Christ turn toward us. May the passion of the Lord Jesus come upon us, the passion that daily forgives our sins and brings about the work of pardon. (941)

V.XXIV.91. The good Lord does not desire to send away you who are fasting lest someone collapse on the road. Consider what he said, “I take pity on this crowd because they have been with me for three days and have no food, and I do not wish to send them away fasting lest they faint on the way.”1 Mary had these words in mind when she refused to make preparations for the meal.2 How much more should we consider that there are only a few who live by the word of God and that what people want is bodily refreshment. Certainly more exactly than what has happened during the past three days is what we propose for the day to come. (942)

53-J. Commentary on Psalm 118 (119)

This is a collection of twenty-two homilies, each homily commenting on one of the twenty-two stanzas of Psalm 118 (119). The work is dated between 386 and 390.

VIII.48. […] At midday you should enter the church where hymns are sung and where the sacrifice is offered. Prepare yourself so that, under [God’s] protection, you may eat the Body of the Lord Jesus which requests divine reconciliation and eternal protection. […] The evening office urges us never to forget Christ. Going to bed, you are not able to forget the Lord who has nourished the hungry with the goodness of his Body. […] (943)

XIX.32. […] Each morning hurry to the church. Bring with you the first fruits of your godly devotion. […] How delightful it is to return to your everyday affairs having begun the day with hymns and canticles, and with the Beatitudes which are found in the Gospel. […] (944)

53-K. Explanation of David the Prophet††

XII.43. […] We read that “with great power and with outstretched arm”1 God freed his people from the land of Egypt when he had them pass through the Red Sea,2 this being a figure of baptism.3 If therefore God’s great power was a figure of the sacraments, how much more is God’s mercy shown in their reality! And so rightly is a multitude of pardons requested here where there is a multitude of sinners. (945)

53-L. On the Mysteries

According to modern scholarship On the Mysteries, once considered of doubtful authenticity, is indeed the work of Ambrose. It has been suggested that the treatise is a compilation of earlier homiletic material, namely, instructions or catecheses given to the newly baptized on the days immediately following their baptism, the work, however, being edited for a general audience. Its date is often given as around 390.

I.1. Each day, when the deeds of the patriarchs and the maxims of Proverbs were read, we gave you a moral teaching. My purpose in doing so was that you, formed and instructed by these readings, might become accustomed to follow the way of those who have preceded us, to follow in their path, and to obey the divine commands. Thus, renewed by baptism, you might hold on to a type of life that is fitting for all who have been washed. (946)

I.2. Now is the appropriate time to speak of the mysteries and to explain the sacraments. If we would have given information on these before your baptism, at a time when you were not yet initiated, it might have been said that we were engaging in a betrayal rather than in an explanation. And so the light of the mysteries better penetrates among those who are not expecting it than if some explanation had been given them beforehand. (947)

I.3. Listen, then, and take in the pleasant odor of eternal life which has been inhaled by you through the gift of the sacraments. This is what we pointed out when, celebrating the mystery of the opening, we said to you, “Ephphatha, that is, Be opened”1 so that all who were about to come to grace might know what was being asked of them and might recall what they replied. (948)

I.4. This is the mystery Christ celebrated in the Gospel passage we read to you concerning his healing of the deaf mute. Christ touched the man’s mouth because he was healing a person who was deaf and dumb, someone who was a man: on the one hand, Christ wanted to open the mouth at the sound of his own voice; on the other hand, in the case of a man, touching was fitting although this would not be true for a woman. (949)

II.5. After this the Holy of Holies [the baptistery] was opened up for you; you entered into the sanctuary of rebirth. Recall what was asked of you; remember your answer. You renounced the devil, his works, the world with its excesses and pleasures. Your words are kept not in the tomb of the dead but in the book of the living. (950)

II.6. It was there that you saw the deacon,a you saw the priest; you saw the bishop.b Do not consider their external appearances but the grace of their ministries. In the presence of angels you said, as is written, that “the lips of a priest guard knowledge, and people seek the Law from his mouth, for he is the angel of the all-powerful Lord.”2 We cannot be mistaken; we cannot deny it; it is the angel who announces the kingdom of Christ and life eternal. Do not judge according to his appearance but according to what he does. Consider what he has given you; value what he has done; acknowledge the position he holds. (951)

II.7. And having entered so that you might encounter your enemy whom you believe should be renounced face to face, you turn toward the east since those who renounce the devil turn toward Christ in order to look directly at him. (952)

III.8. What did you see? Certainly water, but not only water. You saw the deacons ministering there as well as the bishop posing questions and consecrating. First of all, the apostle taught you not to “look at what you are able to see but at what you cannot see, for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”3 Elsewhere you have come to know that “ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they be, are understood and seen through what he has made.”4 This is why the Lord himself says, “Even though you do not believe me, believe my works.”5 Believe that the divine is present there. You believe in his action but not in his presence? But what is the origin of this action unless it is preceded by his presence? (953)

III.9. Consider, moreover, how old this mystery is and how it is prefigured in the origin of the world. In the very beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the spirit, he says, “swept over the waters.”6 Does he who swept over the waters not work over the waters? But what should I say? He was working. As to his presence, he swept over. Was not the one who was sweeping over also at work? Know that he was active from the world’s very creation since the prophet tells us that “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their power by the breath of his mouth.”7 Both depend on a prophetic witness: he swept along and he worked. Moses says that he swept along; David testifies that he was at work. (954)

III.10. Here is additional testimony. All flesh was corrupted by its iniquities. “My spirit,” God says, “will not remain in mortals because they are flesh.”8 By this God shows that spiritual grace is driven away by bodily impurity and by the stain of more serious sin. God, therefore, desiring to repair what was given, caused the flood and commanded that Noah, who was a just man, go up into the ark. When the flood waters were receding, Noah first released a raven; it did not return. Then he released a dove which, as we read, returned with an olive branch.9 You see water; you see the word; you look at the dove. And you doubt the mystery? (955)

III.11. It is water into which the flesh is immersed so as to wash away all bodily sin. All shame is buried there. The wood is that on which the Lord Jesus was hung as he suffered for us. It was under the form of a dove that the Holy Spirit descended, as you learned in the New Testament, to breathe into you peace of soul and tranquility of mind. The raven is the figure of sin which departs and does not return, provided that watchfulness and the example of the just also persevere in you. (956)

III.12. There is also a third testimony, for the apostle teaches that “our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”10 And then Moses himself says in his canticle, “You sent your spirit and the sea covered them.”11 Notice that the figure of holy baptism is already prefigured in this crossing by the Hebrews in which the Egyptian perished whereas the Hebrew escaped. What other teaching do we receive each day in this sacrament unless that sin is swallowed up and error is destroyed while righteousness and innocence continue on intact. (957)

III.13. You hear that our ancestors were under a good cloud which cooled the fire of bodily passions—a good cloud protecting those whom the Holy Spirit has visited. Finally the Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary and the power of the Most High overshadowed her12 when she begot redemption for the human race, a miracle prefigured by Moses. If the Spirit was prefigured, is the Spirit not truly present when Scripture tells you that “the Law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.”13 (958)

III.14. Marah was a bitter fountain into which Moses cast a piece of wood, and the fountain became sweet.14 For water without mention of Christ’s cross is useless for future salvation; but when water is consecrated by the mystery of the saving cross, then the water is altered for use as a spiritual bath and a saving drink. Therefore just as Moses, namely, the prophet, threw some wood into the fountain, so does the priest place into this fountain the mention of the Lord’s cross, and the water becomes sweet with grace. (959)

III.15. Do not believe, then, only with your bodily eyes. What is not seen is really seen since the object of human sight is what is temporal, whereas what cannot be seen is eternal, the eternal not being viewed by human eyes but by the spirit and the soul. (960)

III.16. Finally, may the reading from Kings, which we have just heard, instruct you.15 Naaman was a Syrian afflicted with leprosy, and no one was able to make him clean. Then a young girl from among the captives said that in Israel there was a prophet who could cleanse him from the infection of leprosy. It is said that Naaman, taking silver and gold, went to the king of Israel. The king, when he learned the reason for Naaman’s coming, tore his garments and said that this was, as it were, a test since what was being asked of him did not depend on his royal power. But Elisha told the king that he had sent the Syrian to him so that Naaman would know that God was dwelling in Israel. And when Naaman arrived, Elisha ordered him to plunge himself seven times into the Jordan River. (961)

III.17. Then Naaman began to reflect that the rivers of his own country had better waters, waters in which he often bathed without ever being purified of his leprosy. Remembering this, he did not obey the prophet’s commands. And yet, being advised and persuaded by his own servants, he consented and immersed himself. Immediately Naaman was made clean, and he understood that cleansing happens not by water but by grace. (962)

III.18. Now learn who the “young girl from among the captives” is. She is the young congregation of the Gentiles, that is, the Church of the Lord, the Church previously humiliated by the captivity of sin when it still did not possess the freedom of grace, at whose counsel this foolish people of the Gentiles heard the prophetic word which it long doubted. Then, however, once it came to believe it should obey, it was washed of all contagion of vices. Before being cured, Naaman doubted. You, however, are already cured and consequently should have no doubts. (963)

IV.19. For this reason you have already been told not to believe only what you have seen lest you also might say, “Is this the great mystery which ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived?’”16 I see water which I am accustomed to seeing every day. Can water purify me, water into which I often descended without ever being made clean? From this understand that water without the Spirit does not cleanse.17 (964)

IV.20. You have read, therefore, that the three witnesses in baptism are one: water, blood, and Spirit18 because if you remove one of them the sacrament of baptism exists no longer. What is water without the cross of Christ unless an ordinary element without any sacramental effect? Likewise, without water there is no mystery of rebirth: “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”19 Even catechumens believe in the cross of the Lord Jesus with which they are signed, but unless one has been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he or she can receive neither the forgiveness of sins nor the gift of spiritual grace. (965)

IV.21. And so this Syrian immersed himself seven times in the Law; you, however, have been baptized in the name of the Trinity. You confessed the Father—recall what you did—you confessed the Son, you confessed the Spirit. Retain the order of things. In this faith you died to the world; you arose for God; and as if entombed in that element of the world [water], being dead to sin you were revived unto life eternal. And so believe that the water is not without any effect. (966)

IV.22. This is why you were told, “The angel of the Lord went down at certain times into the pool, and the water was stirred up; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was cured of whatever infirmity afflicted that person.”20 This pool, in which one person was healed each year, was in Jerusalem, yet no one was healed till the angel came down into it. As a sign this had taken place the water was set in motion for the benefit of unbelievers. They had a sign; you have faith. For them an angel descended, for you it is the Holy Spirit. For them a creature was moved; for you Christ, the very master of creation, is at work. (967)

IV.23. At that time one person was cured; now all are healed; or, to be sure, one person—the Christian people—is healed. In some there is a deceitful water.21 Baptism conferred by those lacking faith does not cleanse; it pollutes. The Jews baptize pitchers and cups22 as if inanimate things are capable of receiving blame or grace. You, however, baptize your own cup, one that is human, one in which your good works shine, in which the splendor of your grace glitters. This pool is also a figure so that you might believe that divine power descends into it. (968)

IV.24. Furthermore, the paralytic was expecting a man. Who was this man unless the Lord Jesus born of a virgin, at whose coming no longer does the shadow heal each person one after the other, but the truth heals all at once? Awaited was the descent of Christ concerning whom God the Father said to John the Baptist, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and abide is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”23 It is concerning Christ that John the Baptist gave testimony, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove and remaining on him.”24 And why did the Spirit come down like a dove? Only to enable you to see and recognize that the dove sent forth by Noah, the just man from the ark,25 was an image of this dove and thus so that you might recognize the type of the sacrament? (969)

IV.25. Perhaps you might say, “Since the dove that was sent forth was a true dove and what descended here is ‘like a dove,’ how can we say that the former is a likeness and that here we have the truth since according to the Greeks it is written that the Spirit descended “in the likeness of a dove”?26 But what is so true as the divinity which remains forever? The creature is unable to be the truth but is a likeness which is easily broken and changed. At the same time, the simplicity of the baptized should not be in likeness but should be true. Therefore the Lord also says, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”27 And so it is right that the Spirit descends like a dove in order to remind us that we should be as simple as doves. But we also read, in regard to Christ, that form is to be taken for the truth: “being born in human form.”28 And in regard to God the Father, “You have never seen his form.”29 (970)

V.26. Is it still possible that you can doubt when the Father clearly calls out to you in the Gospel, saying, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased”?30 When the Son upon whom the Holy Spirit showed himself as a dove calls out? When the Holy Spirit who descended like a dove cries out? When David cries out, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters, the God of majesty thunders, the Lord over many waters”?31 When Scripture tells you that at Jerubbaal’s prayer fire descended from heaven,32 and when in response to the prayer of Elias, fire was sent to consecrate the sacrifice?33 (971)

V.27. Do not consider the merits of persons but the functions of the priests. And if you examine merits, just as you carefully regard Elias, also examine the merits of Peter or Paul who handed on to us this mystery which was received from our Lord Jesus. Visible fire was sent to them so that they might believe; for those of us who believe, what was at work was an invisible fire. For them it was a figure; for us it is to be an incitement. Therefore I believe that the Lord Jesus is present, invoked as he is by the prayers of the priest, the Lord Jesus who said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”34 How much more does he deign to make himself present where the Church is, where the mysteries are found. (972)

V.28. Then you went down [into the water]. Recall what you responded, namely, that you believe in the Father; you believe in the Son; you believe in the Holy Spirit. Your answer was not that you believe in a greater, in a lesser, and in a last. But by the same guarantee of your voice you are obliged to believe in the Son just as you believe in the Father, to believe in the Spirit just as you believe in the Son, with this one exception that you profess that it is necessary to believe in the cross of the one and only Lord Jesus. (973)

VI.29. After this you went up to the priest. Consider what happened next. Was it not as David says, “Like precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron”?35 Solomon also speaks of this oil, “Your name is a spreading perfume; therefore the maidens loved you and were drawn to you.”36 How many souls that have been renewed today have loved you, Lord Jesus, as they say, “Draw us after you, let us run to the scent of your garments”37 so that they might breathe in the odor of the Resurrection. (974)

VI.30. Understand why this was done: “The wise have eyes in their head.”38 This is why it runs down upon his beard; it is upon the grace of youth. It runs down the “beard of Aaron” so that you might become a “chosen race,”39 priestly and precious. For we are all anointed with spiritual grace to form the kingdom of God and the priesthood. (975)

VI.31. You came up from the pool. Recall the Gospel reading where our Lord Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and when he came to Simon Peter, Peter said, “You will never wash my feet.”40 Peter did not understand the mystery, and so he refused this service, believing that the lowly state of the servant would be made more burdensome if he patiently allowed the master to serve him. The Lord answered him, “Unless I wash your feet, you will have no part with me.” Hearing this, Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head.” The Lord answered, “One who is washed needs only to wash the feet to be completely clean.”41 (976)

VI.32. Peter was clean, and yet he still should have had his feet washed since he had the sin that came from the first man when the serpent tripped him up and led him into error. Therefore Peter’s feet were washed in order to remove hereditary sins. Our own are remitted through baptism. (977)

VI.33. At the same time understand that the mystery itself is carried out by humble service. For the Lord says, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet.”42 For since the author of salvation has redeemed us through his obedience, how much more should we, his servants, offer the service of humility and obedience. (978)

VII.34. Then you received the white garments as a sign that you have laid aside the covering of sin and put on the pure garments of innocence. It was concerning these that the prophet said, “Sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”43 According to both the Law and the Gospel, the person who has been baptized is purified: according to the Law since Moses sprinkled the blood of a lamb with a bouquet of hyssop;44 according to the Gospel since Christ’s garments were as white as snow45 when he showed, as the Gospel says, the glory of his resurrection. The person whose sin has been taken away has become whiter than snow. And so the Lord said through Isaiah, “Though your sins be like scarlet, I will make them white like snow.”46 (979)

VII.35. The Church, having put on these garments through “the waters of rebirth,”47 says in the Canticle of Canticles, “I am dark and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem.”48 Dark by reason of our frail human condition, beautiful by reason of grace; dark because I am composed of sinners, beautiful because of the sacrament of faith. Looking at these garments, the daughters of Jerusalem in amazement say, “Who is this who comes up being made white?”49 She was dark; how is it that she has suddenly become white? (980)

VII.36. For even the angels doubted when Christ arose. Likewise the heavenly powers when they saw flesh ascending into heaven. Then they said, “Who is this king of glory?” And when some others were saying, “Lift up the gates, you princes, be lifted up, O eternal doors, and the king of glory will enter,” others doubted and said, “Who is this king of glory?”50 Also in Isaiah you will find the powers of heaven having misgivings as they said: “Who is this that comes from Edom? The crimson of his garments is from Bozrah. He is beautiful in his white robe.”51 (981)

VII.37. Christ, however, seeing his Church in white garments—for whom, as you can read in the Book of Zechariah the Prophet, he put on “filthy clothes”52—or the soul made clean and washed by the bath of rebirth says, “How beautiful are you, my love, how very beautiful; your eyes are like those of a dove.”53 It was in the likeness of a dove that the Holy Spirit came down from heaven. As we already said, your eyes are beautiful because the Spirit descended like a dove. (982)

VII.38. And further on, “Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes which have come up from the washing, all with twins, and not one of them is barren. Your lips are like a scarlet thread.”54 This is not ordinary praise. First, because of the delightful comparison with the shorn sheep. Goats, as we know, graze in high places without danger; without fear they take their food in precipitous places. Then, once they have been shorn, they are relieved of what is not necessary. The Church is compared to a flock of these since the Church, in itself, possesses the virtues of many souls who because of the bath must put aside superfluous sins, offer to Christ the mystic faith and the grace of a moral life, both speaking of the cross of the Lord Jesus. (983)

VII.39. It is in these that the Church is beautiful. And so the Word God says to her, “You are completely beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you”55 because sin has been swallowed up. “You come here from Lebanon, my bride; you come here from Lebanon. You will come and pass from the beginning of faith.”56 Because, renouncing the world, she passed through time, she has come to Christ. And again the Word God says to her: “How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, in your delights. Your figure is like a palm tree, your breasts like clusters of grace.”57 (984)

VII.40. The Church responds to him: “O that you were like my brother, who nursed at my mother’s breasts? Finding you outside, I would kiss you and none would despise me. I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother and into the chamber of the one who gave me birth. You will teach me.”58 Do you notice how she, delighted with the gift of grace, desires to reach the inner mysteries and consecrate all her feelings to Christ? She is still searching; she is still arousing love and asking that love be stirred up for her by the daughters of Jerusalem59 with whose aid—that is, with that of the faithful souls—she desires that the spouse be roused to love her ever more richly. (985)

VII.41. So the Lord Jesus—invited by the devotion of so great a love, by its beautiful elegance and grace since no sins defile those who have been washed—says to the Church, “Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm,”60 namely, you are beautiful, my beloved; you are totally beautiful; you lack nothing.61 Place me like a seal upon your heart so that your faith may shine in the fullness of the sacrament. May your works also shine and manifest the image of God in whose likeness you were created. May your love not be diminished by persecution, a love which deep water cannot hinder or rivers engulf.62 (986)

VII.42. Recall, then, that you received the spiritual seal: “the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of piety, the spirit of holy fear,”63 and retain what you have received. God the Father signed you; the Lord Christ strengthened you; and, as the reading from the apostle taught, “he gave the Spirit into your hearts as a pledge.”64 (987)

VIII.43. The people, washed and rich with these adornments, hasten to Christ’s altar as they say, “And I shall go to the altar of God who gives joy to my youth.”65 The remains of the old error having been put aside and having renewed their youth like that of an eagle,66 the people hasten to the heavenly feast. And seeing the holy altar all arranged, they cry out, “You prepare a table before me.” These are the people David has speaking when he says: “He feeds me. There is nothing I shall want. He has me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.” He continues: “Even though I walk in the shadow of death, no evil will I fear for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. You have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you have anointed my head with oil. How good is your cup that inebriates me.”67 (988)

VIII.44. Let us now consider this lest perhaps someone seeing visible things—since what is invisible is neither seen nor capable of being understood by human eyes—perhaps may say: “God rained down manna upon the Jews, he rained down quail; whereas this is what he prepared for his beloved Church, ‘What eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him.’”68 Therefore, so that no one can say this, we wish to show with the greatest of care that the Church’s sacraments are older than those of the synagogue and are more excellent than manna. (989)

VIII.45. The reading from Genesis which we heard teaches us that the sacraments are older. The synagogue has its origin in the Law of Moses, but Abraham was much earlier. He conquered his foes, found his nephew, and enjoyed his victory. Then Melchizedek met him and brought out the things that Abraham received with respect.69 It was not Abraham who brought these out but Melchizedech who is introduced as being “without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days nor end, but like the Son of God” of whom Paul says to the Hebrews that he remains a “priest forever,” who in Latin is called the “king of righteousness, the king of peace.”70 (990)

VIII.46. Do you not recognize who this is? Can someone be a king of righteousness when he is hardly righteous? Can someone be a king of peace when he is hardly peaceful? As divine he is without a mother because he was begotten by God the Father from the same substance with the Father. He is without a father according to his incarnation because he was born of a virgin. Having neither beginning nor end, he is the beginning of all things, “the first and the last.”71 Therefore the sacrament you received is not a human gift; it is a divine gift brought by him who has blessed Abraham, the father of faith, by him whose grace and deeds you admire. (991)

VIII.47. It is a proven fact that the Church’s sacraments are older; now learn that they are more powerful. It is indeed wonderful that God rained down manna on the fathers and that they were nourished with this daily food. This is why it is written, “Mortals ate of the bread of angels.”72 Yet all who ate that bread in the desert are now dead. On the other hand, the food you receive, “this living bread that comes down from heaven,”73 furnishes the means of eternal life, and those who eat it “will live forever”74 since it is the Body of Christ. (992)

VIII.48. Consider which is more excellent: the bread of angels or the Body of Christ which certainly bestows life? The manna came down from heaven; this from above the heavens. The former was of heaven; the latter is of the Lord of the heavens; the former was exposed to corruption when kept for a second day; the latter is safe from all corruption since those reverently tasting it will not be able to undergo corruption.75 For them water flowed from a rock, for you blood flows from Christ. Water satisfied them for an hour; blood washes you forever. The Jew drinks and is thirsty; when you drink, you can no longer thirst. The former was in shadow; the latter is in truth. (993)

VIII.49. If what you admire is a shadow, how great is that whose shadow you admire? Hear that what took place among the fathers is a shadow: “They drank from the rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the desert. Now these things took place as a figure for us.”76 You have come to know the things that are more excellent: for light is stronger than shadows; truth is stronger than figure; the body of the Creator is stronger than manna from heaven. (994)

IX.50. Perhaps you might say: “I see something else. How can you allege that I will receive the Body of Christ?” This is what it remains for me to prove. Therefore we will use a great many examples to prove that the question here is not what nature has produced but what the blessing has consecrated, the power of the blessing being greater than that of nature because nature itself is changed by the blessing. (995)

IX.51. Moses, who was holding a rod, threw it down, and the rod became a serpent. He seized the tail of the serpent, and it reverted to the nature of a rod.77 And so you see that by the grace of the prophet nature was changed twice, into that of a serpent and into that of a rod. The Egyptian rivers flowed with streams of pure water. Suddenly blood began to burst forth from the veins of the springs; nor was there any drinkable water in the rivers.78 Once again, when the prophet prayed, blood ceased flowing and the nature of water returned. The Hebrew people were completely encircled, with the Egyptians besieging them on one side, the sea hemming them in on the other side. Moses lifted up his rod; the waters separated and hardened into something like walls so that between them there was a path on which to travel.79 The Jordan, contrary to its nature, returned to its source of origin.80 Is it not evident that the nature of the sea’s waves and the course of the river were altered? The people of the fathers were thirsty; Moses touched the rock and water flowed from it.81 Did not grace work in a way superior to that of nature so that the rock could produce something its very nature did not have? The Marah was a most bitter stream, so much so that thirsty people could not drink from it. Moses threw a stick of wood into its water and the nature of its water laid aside its bitterness which grace, suddenly poured in, calmed.82 At the time of Elisha the prophet it happened that one of his sons lost the head of his axe, and it immediately sank. He who had lost the axe sought help from Elisha who also threw some wood into the water, and the axe head rose to the surface.83 Certainly we know that this was contrary to nature: by nature iron is heavier than water, which is a liquid. (996)

IX.52. We notice, then, that grace can do more than nature can do; and yet till now we have only considered the blessing of a prophet. If a human blessing is capable of changing the nature of something, what are we to say about that divine consecration wherein our Lord and Savior’s very words are at work? For the sacrament you receive is the result of Christ’s word. If the word of Elijah was powerful enough to call down fire from heaven,84 would not Christ’s word have the power to change the nature of the elements? You have read in regard to the works of the whole world, “For he spoke, and they came to be; he commanded and they were created.”85 Cannot Christ’s word, which was able to make from nothing what was not, change what is into something it is not? For it is no less difficult to give a new nature to things than to change their nature. (997)

IX.53. But why are we using arguments? Let us use examples and establish the truth of the mystery by means of the mysteries of the Incarnation. Is it possible that the ordinary course of nature preceded the birth of the Lord Jesus from Mary? If we are seeking the natural way things happen, a woman usually has a child after a bodily encounter with a man. Consequently it is evident that it is beyond the order of nature for a virgin to give birth. And the body we make is that born of a virgin. Why do we here seek the order of nature in Christ’s body since the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin, namely, not according to nature. Certainly the true body of Christ was crucified and buried. Certainly, then, it is the sacrament of his Body. (998)

IX.54. The Lord Jesus himself says, “This is my Body.” Before the blessing by the heavenly words it is called something else; after the consecration the Body is signified. Jesus himself said that it was his Blood. Before the consecration it is called something else; after the consecration it is called Blood. And you say “Amen,” namely, “It is true.” May your heart within confess what your mouth says; may your soul feel what your word expresses. (999)

IX.55. Therefore it is by these sacraments that Christ nourishes his Church; through them the very being of the soul is strengthened; and, seeing that it is constantly progressing in grace, he says to it: “How beautiful are your breasts, my sister, my bride. How beautiful they have become from wine. The fragrance of your garments goes beyond that of all perfumes. Your lips make honey flow. Honey and milk are under your tongue; the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon. A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.”86 Here he shows that the mystery should remain sealed among you so that it not be violated by the works of a bad life and by the loss of chastity, that it not be divulged to those for whom it is not fitting, that it not be spread among unbelievers by garrulous talk. Therefore take good care of your faith so that the integrity of your life and of your silence remains unspotted. (1000)

IX.56. This is why the Church, observing the depth of the heavenly mysteries, repels violent wind storms and invites the sweetness of springtime grace; knowing that its garden cannot displease Christ, it calls upon its spouse, saying: “Awaken, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden that its fragrance may be wafted about. Let my brother go down into his garden and eat its choicest fruits.”87 For the Church has good and fruitful trees whose roots have been watered by the sacred fountain and which have shot up with a growth of new fecundity in order to produce good fruits: all this so that they now not be cut down by the prophet’s axe but be made to grow by the fullness of the Gospel. (1001)

IX.57. Then the Lord, pleased with their fertility, responds, “I entered my garden, my spouse and my bride; I gathered my myrrh with my spices; I have eaten food with my honey; I have drunk my drink with milk.”88 Understand, faithful one, why I spoke of food and drink. Just as you have read that the Lord said he is with us in prison,89 so there is no doubt that he eats and drinks with us. (1002)

IX.58. And so the Church, seeing so much grace, exhorts its children, exhorts those close to it, to assemble for the sacraments. It says, “Eat, my friends, and drink, and be drunk, my brothers.”90 What we eat, what we drink, the Holy Spirit expresses to you elsewhere through the prophet who says, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Happy are those who take refuge in him.”91 Christ is in this sacrament because it is the Body of Christ, and yet this is not bodily but spiritual food. The apostle also says about this type, “Our fathers ate the spiritual food and drank the spiritual drink.”92 For the body of God is a spiritual body; the body of Christ is the body of the divine Spirit because Christ is the Spirit, as we read, “The spirit before our face is Christ the Lord.”93 And in the Letter of Peter we read, “Christ died for you.”94 This food, therefore, strengthens our heart, and this drink “gladdens the human heart”95 as the prophet recalls. (1003)

IX.59. Having received everything, may we know that we have been born again. May we not ask: “How were we born again? Did we enter into the womb of our mother and then were reborn?96 I do not see nature at work here.” But nature is not at work here where there is the excellence of grace. Finally, the natural workings of nature do not always result in birth. We confess that Christ the Lord was born of a virgin, and thereby we deny the order of nature. For it was not from a man that Mary conceived, but she received from the Holy Spirit in her womb; as Matthew says, “She was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”97 If, then, the Holy Spirit coming upon the virgin brought about the conception and performed the work of generation, there should be no doubt that the Spirit, coming upon the font or upon those who present themselves for baptism, has truly brought about rebirth. (1004)

53-M. On the Sacraments

Like its companion work, On the Mysteries, these six catechetical lectures to the recently baptized were once thought not to be authentic. Today, however, they are generally held to be by Ambrose and are usually considered as dating from about the same time as On the Mysteries. Some believe that these six homilies may well be a rough draft of Ambrose’s instructions, the text written down either by Ambrose himself or by another person at a time after the lectures were actually given. Especially noteworthy here is Ambrose’s highly allegorical approach to Scripture. Although somewhat disjointed and repetitious, these instructions give much more information about Christian initiation at Milan than we find in On the Mysteries.

53-M-1. on the sacraments. CATECHESIS ONE

I.1. I will now explain the sacraments you have received. It was not appropriate for me to have done so earlier since, for the Christian, faith comes first. This is why at Rome the name “faithful” is given to the baptized; this is why it was by faith and not works that our father Abraham was justified.1 And so you have accepted baptism. You have believed. It would be wrong for me to judge otherwise since you would not have been called to grace unless Christ deemed you worthy of it. (1005)

I.2. What, then, did we do on Saturday? It was the “opening,” to be sure. These mysteries were celebrated when the bishopa touched your ears and nostrils. But what is the meaning of all this? In the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ, when the deaf mute was presented to him, touched the man’s ears and mouth: the ears because the man was deaf, the mouth because he was dumb. And Jesus said, “Ephphetha.”2 The Latin for this Hebrew word is adaperire [to open]. This is why the bishop touched your ears, namely, so that they might be open to all he would be saying to you. (1006)

I.3. But, you ask, why the nostrils? Since the man was dumb, Christ touched his mouth so that the man, unable to talk about the heavenly sacraments, might receive from Christ the ability to speak. In the Gospel account it was a man, but here women are baptized. And the purity of the servant is not as great as that of the Lord—what comparison can there be since the one forgives sins whereas, for the other, sins are forgiven?—therefore, out of respect for the grace given by his action and office, the bishop touches the nostrils and not the mouth. Why the nostrils? So that using the words of the holy apostle you might say, “we are the aroma of Christ before God,”3 and so that the fullness of faith and devotion might be in you. (1007)

II.4. Then we proceeded to the font. You entered and were anointed. Think about those you saw and about what you said. Do so carefully. A deaconb came to receive you; also a presbyter. Like an athlete of Christ you were anointed as if you were preparing for an earthly contest. You agreed to fight your opponent. The person who struggles has what is hoped for. Where there is a struggle, there is the crown.4 You struggle in this world, but you are crowned by Christ—you receive a crown for struggling in this world since, although the reward is found in heaven, what merits this reward is found here upon the earth. (1008)

II.5. What was your response when you were asked, “Do you renounce the devil and his works?” What did you answer? “I do renounce them.” What was your reply when you were asked, “Do you renounce the world and its pleasures?” “I do renounce them.” Remember what you said and never renege on the guarantee you have given. If you give your bond to someone, you are held liable so that you may receive that person’s money. You are strictly bound, and even if you seek to avoid your obligation, the money-lender holds you responsible. If you protest, you go before a judge where you are convicted by the guarantee you have made. (1009)

II.6. Think of the place where you promised or think of those to whom you promised. You saw a deacon, and yet he is a minister of Christ. You saw him serving at the altar. Your guarantee, therefore, is held not on earth but in heaven. Think of the place where you received the heavenly sacraments. Wherever the body of Christ is found, there also the angels are to be found: “Where the body is, there the eagles will be,”5 as you read in the Gospel. Where the body of Christ is, there also are the eagles who are accustomed to fly so that, fleeing earthly things, they strive for those of heaven. Why do I say this? Because all those on earth who announce Christ are also angels and seem to be called to take the place of angels? (1010)

II.7. And how? Just listen. John the Baptist, although born of a man and a woman, is also an angel [messenger]: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”6 Here is still another proof. The prophet Malachi said that “the lips of a priest guard knowledge, and people seek the Law from his mouth, for he is the angel of the all-powerful God.”7 This was said so that we might proclaim the glory of the priesthood, not that anything be attributed to our own personal merits. (1011)

II.8. So you have renounced the world; you have renounced the age in which we live. Be watchful. Whoever owes money always carefully looks over the bond. And you who are to keep faith with Christ, keep the faith which is much more valuable than money. Faith is an eternal possession whereas money is temporal. Furthermore, always remember what you promised: be more cautious. If you keep your promise, you will also keep your guarantee. (1012)

III.9. Then you came closer. You saw the font, and you saw the bishop presiding there. I have no doubt that there came into your mind what Naaman the Syrian was thinking. Even though he was purified, at first he doubted. And why? Listen, for I will tell you. (1013)

III.10. You entered; you saw the water; you saw the bishop; you saw the deacon. Perhaps, I fear, someone said, “Is this all there is?” Certainly this is all, for all innocence is there, all righteousness, all grace, all holiness. You saw what you were capable of seeing with your bodily eyes and with your human way of viewing things. You did not see what they effect but only what can be seen. What is not perceived is indeed greater than what is perceived because “what you can see is temporary, but what you cannot see is eternal.”8 (1014)

IV.11. Therefore let us say first—remember the guarantee of my word and demand its execution—we admire the mysteries of the Jews which were given to our ancestors: first, the age of their sacraments and then their holiness. But I assure you, the Christian sacraments are older and more godly than those of the Jews. (1015)

IV.12. What is more extraordinary than the passage of the Jewish people through the sea, and so we can now speak of baptism. Yet the Jews who did so all died in the desert.9 On the other hand, those who pass through this font, namely, from earthly to heavenly things—there is a passage here and therefore a pasch, namely, the passage of the baptized from sin to life, from fault to grace, from stain to holiness—such do not die but rise. (1016)

V.13. Naaman, therefore, was a leper.10 A female slave said to Naaman’s wife, “If my lord wishes to be made clean, let him go to the land of Israel and find there someone who can take away his leprosy.” The slave told this to her mistress, and the mistress in turn related it to her husband Naaman, who passed it on to the king of Syria. The king of Syria sent Naaman, as one of his esteemed subjects, to the king of Israel. When the king of Israel heard that Naaman was sent to him in order that Naaman be cleansed of leprosy, the king tore his garment. Then Elisha the prophet said to him, “Why did you tear your garment, as if there were no powerful God capable of cleansing a leper? Send him to me.” The king did so and, when Naaman arrived, the prophet said, “Go down into the Jordan, immerse yourself, and you will be cured.” (1017)

V.14. Naaman began to reflect on this and said, “Is this all? I came from Syria into Judea, and I was told, ‘Go to the Jordan, immerse yourself, and you will be cured.’ As if there were no better rivers in my own country!” His servants said to him, “Lord, why do you refuse to do what the prophet told you to do? Do it and see what happens.” So Naaman went into the Jordan, immersed himself, and came out cured. (1018)

V.15. Now what does this mean? You have seen water, and yet not all water cures, only that containing the grace of Christ. There is a difference between an element and its sanctification, between an action and its efficacy. Action takes place with water; efficacy comes from the Holy Spirit. Water does not cure unless the Holy Spirit has descended and sanctified this water. You have read that when our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the rite of baptism, he went to John, who said to him, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”11 Christ answered him, “Allow it now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”12 Notice that all righteousness is established in baptism. (1019)

V.16. Why, then, did Christ descend unless that flesh be purified, the flesh he took upon himself from our condition? Christ had no need for sins to be washed away since he “committed no sin,”13 but we need this washing since we remain subject to sin. Therefore if the rite of baptism has been instituted for us, then this rite has been given for our faith. (1020)

V.17. Christ descended; John who baptized stood by; and behold the Holy Spirit came down like a dove. A dove did not descend, but it was “like a dove.” Remember what I said: Christ assumed flesh, not something “like flesh” but true flesh; Christ has truly taken on flesh. The Holy Spirit descends from heaven not as a real dove but in the likeness of a dove. This is what John saw and believed. (1021)

V.18. Christ descends; the Holy Spirit also descends. Why did Christ descend first and only afterwards did the Holy Spirit do so, whereas in the usual rite of baptism the water is sanctified before the person who is to be baptized goes down into it? For as soon as the bishop enters there, he performs an exorcism over the creature water; then he gives an invocation, praying that the font be sanctified and that the eternal Trinity be present there. Christ descended first, to be followed by the Holy Spirit. And why? Not that the Lord Jesus seem, as it were, to have had the need for the mystery of sanctification, but that he himself might sanctify and that the Spirit also might sanctify. (1022)

V.19. Christ, therefore, descended into the water, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. Also, God the Father spoke from heaven.14 And so the Trinity was present there. (1023)

VI.20. According to the apostle there was a figure of this baptism in the Red Sea: “All our ancestors were baptized in the cloud and in the sea.”15 And he added, “These things happened to them as a figure.”16 As in a figure for them but in truth for us. Moses was holding a stick; the Jewish people were completely encircled: the Egyptian with his army was approaching on one side; on the other side the Hebrews were cut off by the sea. They could neither cross the sea nor return to face the enemy. And so it was that they began to complain. (1024)

VI.21. Take care not to be bothered by the fact that they were heard. Even though the Lord heard them, yet they were not faultless since they complained. When you are repressed, believe that you will escape. Do not complain. Ask, pray, and do not murmur. (1025)

VI.22. Moses, holding a stick, led the Hebrew people at night by means of a column of light, during the day by means of a column of a cloud.17 What is the fire unless it is the truth because the truth sheds a visible and clear light? What is the column of light unless it is Christ the Lord who has banished the darkness of unbelief and has poured into the human heart the light of truth and grace? But the column of a cloud is, to be sure, the Holy Spirit. The people were in the sea, and the column of light went before them; then came the column of a cloud as if it were an overshadowing by the Holy Spirit. You see that in the Holy Spirit and in water Christ has displayed a type of baptism. (1026)

VI.23. At a time when the mysteries of the Jews certainly did not exist, a type of baptism can also be found in the flood.18 And so if the rite of baptism thus came first, you can see that the Christian mysteries are older than those of the Jews. (1027)

VI.24. But for now, in light of my weak voice and the constraints of time, it suffices for today merely to have tasted the mysteries at the holy font. Tomorrow, if the Lord allows me to speak at length, I will treat the topic more fully. It is necessary that you, my holy ones, have attentive ears and even more readily disposed minds so that you can retain what I can gather from the Scriptures that are read and what I desire to impress on you so that you may have the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity to whom belongs the everlasting kingdom from the ages, now, and forever and ever. Amen. (1028)

53-M-2. on the sacraments. CATECHESIS TWO

I.1. Yesterday we began our explanation of how baptism is prefigured in the flood. But what is the flood unless that in which the just person is saved for nurturing righteousness, that in which sin dies? For this reason the Lord, seeing human sin proliferate, saved only the just man together with his descendants, while commanding the water to cover the mountain tops. And so all corruption of the flesh perished in that flood, whereas the family and image of the just man alone remained.1 What is this flood unless it is baptism in which all sins are washed away, in which only the spirit and grace of the just are revived? (1029)

I.2. There are many kinds of baptism, but there is only “one baptism,”2 as the apostle says. And why? The pagans possess baptisms, but these are not baptisms. There are washings, but these cannot be baptisms. The flesh is washed, but sin is not washed away. Indeed, sin is even contracted because of this washing. The Jews had baptisms; some were superfluous whereas others were a figure. And the figure itself assists us because it is a messenger of the truth. (1030)

II.3. What was read yesterday? You heard that “an angel went down at a certain time into the pool,” and as often as the angel went down, “the water was stirred up; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was cured of whatever infirmity afflicted that person.”3 This represents the figure of our Lord Jesus Christ who was to come. (1031)

II.4. But why an angel? Because Christ is the “angel of great counsel.”4 At a “certain time” because the angel waited till the last hour in order to overtake the day and even to prolong it. And so each time the angel went down, the water was moved. Perhaps you will say, “Why doesn’t the water move now?” For this reason: signs are for those who do not believe; faith is for those who do.5 (1032)

II.5. Whoever was the first to go down into the water was cured of all infirmity. But what does “first” mean? Does it refer to time or to dignity? You can understand it both ways. If “first” concerns time, whoever went down first was the first to be cured, namely, the Jewish people rather than the Gentiles. If “first” refers to dignity, the first who went down is whoever had fear of God, zeal for justice, the grace of love, love of purity. This person was the first choice to be healed. Yet at that time only one person was made well, and this was in figure. How much greater is the grace of the Church by which all who go down are cured. (1033)

II.6. But consider the mystery. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to the pool; many sick people were lying there, certainly a place where only one person was cured. Then Jesus says to this paralytic, “Go down.” The paralytic answers, “I have no one” [to put me into the pool].6 See where you were baptized. From where does baptism come if not from the cross of Christ, if not from the death of Christ. This is the whole mystery: he has suffered for you. In him you have been redeemed. In him you have been saved. (1034)

II.7. “I have no one,” the paralytic says. He says this because “death came through a human being and the resurrection through a human being.”7 Those who did not believe that our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh from a virgin were not able to go down and be cured. But the man who said “I have no one” was awaiting the “mediator between God and humankind,”8 namely, the man Jesus; he was awaiting the one of whom it is said, “And the Lord will send a man who will save him.”9 For this reason he deserved to be cured since he believed in the one to come. Yet it would have been better and more perfect if he believed that the one he was hoping for had already come. (1035)

III.8. Now consider the details. We said that a type was anticipated in the Jordan when Naaman the leper was purified. Was not the young girl from among the captives an image of the Church? Did she not represent its form? The pagans were held captive. They were prisoners. I do not speak of a captivity imposed by some hostile people, but I speak of a more terrible captivity when the devil, with his own, imposes a cruel power and subjects the necks of sinners to their captivity. (1036)

III.9. There you have one baptism; a second is in the flood. You have a third kind when our ancestors were baptized in the Red Sea. A fourth kind is found when the water was stirred up in the pool. Now I ask whether you should believe that the Trinity is present in this baptism by which Christ baptizes in his Church? (1037)

IV.10. And so the Lord Jesus in the Gospel says to the apostles, “Go therefore baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”10 This is what the Savior said. (1038)

IV.11. Now tell me, Elias called down fire from heaven, and fire came down.11 Elisha called upon the Lord’s name, and the head of the axe, which was submerged, rose to the surface of the water. This is another type of baptism. Why? Because before baptism every person, like the head of the axe, is pressed upon and submerged. But once baptized, this person is raised up not as the head of an axe but like a lighter type of wood from a fruit tree. There is, consequently, a second figure here. The pieces of wood were cut with an axe. The handle fell from the axe, namely, the iron head went down into the water. The son of the prophet did not know what to do; all he knew was to beseech the prophet Elisha and ask for a remedy. Elisha then threw some wood into the water, and the head of the axe rose to the surface.12 And so you see that all human infirmity is eased through the cross of Christ. (1039)

IV.12. There is another example, even though we are not following the sequence of events. For who can grasp everything that Christ did, as the apostle said?13 When Moses was in the desert the people, being thirsty, came to the pool of Marah where they wanted to have something to drink. As soon as Moses took some water, he sensed the water’s bitterness and was unable to drink it. So he threw some wood into the pool, and the water, which had been bitter, became sweet.14 (1040)

IV.13. What is the meaning of this except that every creature subject to corruption tastes like bitter water to everyone? Even if the water is sweet for a time, even if it is pleasing for a time, it is bitter since it cannot take away sin. As soon as you drink it, you thirst; as soon as you taste the sweetness of the liquid, you again taste its bitterness. So the water is bitter. But once it has received the cross of Christ, the heavenly sacrament, it begins to be sweet and pleasant. Rightly is it sweet since it removes sin. If, then, such baptisms are so great in figure, then how much greater is the power of true baptism. (1041)

V.14. Now consider this. The bishop comes, says a prayer at the font, invokes the name of the Father, the presence of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and uses heavenly words. The words are heavenly because they are the words of Christ who says that we are to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”15 If, then, the Trinity becomes present at human words, how much more is the Trinity present where the heavenly word is at work? Do you wish to be certain that the Spirit descends? You have heard that the Spirit descended in the likeness of a dove. Why in the likeness of a dove? So that unbelievers may be called to faith. In the beginning a sign was necessary; later on fulfillment was necessary. (1042)

V.15. Yet there is more. After the death of our Lord Jesus Christ the apostles came together in one place and were at prayer, it being the day of Pentecost. Suddenly there was a loud noise, like a violent wind, and there appeared divided tongues, as it were of fire.16 What does this mean unless the descent of the Holy Spirit who desires to reveal himself in a material way to unbelievers, namely, materially by means of a sign, spiritually by means of a sacrament? It is, therefore, a manifest proof of his coming; but we are offered the privilege of faith because in the beginning there were signs for unbelievers; we, however, who already live in the fullness of the Church, are to seize the truth not by means of a sign but by faith.17 (1043)

VI.16. Let us now examine the meaning of baptism. You came to the font; you went down into it; you saw the bishop; you saw the deacons and the presbyter there. Now what is baptism? (1044)

VI.17. In the beginning the Lord our God made us immortal so that, provided we did not sin, we would not die. Man, however, sinned, became subject to death, and was ejected from Paradise.18 But the Lord, desiring that his benefits endure and that all the snares of the serpent be destroyed by him, and also desiring to abolish whatever was harmful, first passed sentence on humankind, “You are dust, and unto dust you shall return”;19 and so we became subject to death. This was a divine sentence, unable to be undone by our human condition. Nonetheless, a remedy was given so that we might be able to die and then rise again. And why? So that what previously condemned us might now benefit us. What is this if not death? You ask how can this be because when death occurs, it puts an end to sin. For when we die, we have assuredly ceased sinning.20 So it seems that the sentence was being carried out since humankind, which had been created to live forever on condition that it not sin became mortal. Yet, so that God’s favor might continue without interruption, humankind died, but Christ initiated resurrection in order to restore the heavenly benefit that was lost through the serpent’s deceit. Both were for our benefit: death brings sin to an end, and the resurrection transforms our nature. (1045)

VI.18. Nevertheless, so that the devil’s deceit and snares not prevail in this world, baptism was devised. Hear what Scripture—or rather God’s Son—says about it: the “Pharisees,” who did not want to receive John’s baptism, “rejected God’s plan.”21 Therefore baptism is designed by God. How great is the grace where God’s plan is at work. (1046)

VI.19. Listen, now. So that the devil’s hold on this world might be broken, a way was found to have a living person die and to have that living person rise again. But what does it mean to be alive? It means living with the life of the body since this person can come to the font and be plunged into it. Where do we obtain water if not from the earth? Therefore the divine sentence is satisfied without the numbness brought by death. The fact that you are baptized serves the sentence: “You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”22 Once the sentence has been carried out, there is room for the heavenly kindness and remedy. Water thus comes from the earth. On the other hand, our human situation does not allow us to be covered by the earth and then to rise up from it. Consequently, earth does not wash; water does. And so the font is like a tomb. (1047)

VII.20. You were asked, “Do you believe in God the almighty Father?” You responded, “I believe.” And you were bathed, namely, buried. A second time you were asked, “Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in his cross?” You responded, “I believe,” and you were immersed—you were buried with Christ, for those who are buried with Christ rise with him. A third time you were asked, “Do you also believe in the Holy Spirit?” You answered, “I believe,” and you were immersed a third time so that the triple confession might forgive the numerous lapses of the past. (1048)

VII.21. Finally, may I give you an example. During the Lord’s passion the holy apostle Peter seemed to have fallen out of human weakness. To take away and repair this denial, Peter was thrice asked by Christ whether he loved him. Peter then said, “Lord, you know that I love you.”23 Peter responded for a third time in order to be forgiven a third time. (1049)

VII.22. This is how the Father forgives sin, how the Son forgives sin, and how the Holy Spirit forgives sin. Do not marvel that we have been baptized in one name, namely, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”;24 Christ spoke of only one name because there is only one substance, one divinity, and one majesty. This is the name of which it is said, “By this name we must be saved.”25 In this name you have all been saved; you have been restored to the grace of life. (1050)

VII.23. And so, as you heard in today’s reading, the apostle declares, “All who have been baptized were baptized into the death of Jesus.”26 But what is meant by “into the death”? It means that just as Christ died, so you also are to taste death; just as Christ has died to sin and lives for God, so you also have died to the former attractions of sin through the sacrament of baptism and have risen through the grace of Christ. So there is a death, but it is not a real bodily death but a likeness. For when you are bathed, you take upon yourself the likeness of death and burial; you receive the sacrament of the cross since Christ hung on the cross and his body was nailed to it. So you are crucified with him; you are joined to Christ; with nails you are attached to our Lord Jesus Christ so that the devil cannot separate you from him. May these nails of Christ hold you, whom the weakness of the human condition attempts to pull away. (1051)

VII.24. You were bathed. You approached the bishop. What did he say to you? He said, “God, the almighty Father, who gave new birth through water and the Holy Spirit and who forgave your sins, anoints you unto everlasting life.” See unto what you were anointed: as he says, “unto everlasting life.” Do not prefer the present life to everlasting life. If, for example, an enemy accosts you and wants to harm your faith, and if this person threatens to kill you so that you are not able to follow the right path, take care as to your decision. Do not opt for a life into which you were not anointed; rather, choose a life into which you were anointed so that you choose eternal life over temporal life. (1052)

53-M-3. on the sacraments.CATECHESIS THREE

I.1. Yesterday we spoke about the font whose appearance somewhat resembles that of a tomb. Into the font we are received and plunged as we express our belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Then we emerge, namely, we are restored to life. You receive the myron—the chrism—upon your head. And why upon the head? Because, according to Solomon, the head is the seat of a wise person’s senses.1 Wisdom lacking grace is lifeless; but where wisdom has received grace, the work of the wise person becomes perfect. This is called regeneration. (1053)

I.2. What is regeneration? In the Acts of the Apostles you will find a verse that is recited with Psalm 2: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”2 Seemingly this refers to the Resurrection, for this is how the holy apostle Petera interpreted it in the Acts of the Apostles: when the Son rose from the dead, the voice of the Father was heard to say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”3 This is why Christ is also called the “firstborn from the dead.”4 And so, following the apostle’s interpretation,5 if Christ’s resurrection was a regeneration, so this resurrection from the font is also a regeneration. (1054)

I.3. But what do you say about going down into water? Are you somewhat confused here? Do some doubts remain? We read, “May the earth bring forth vegetation, and may it produce seed-bearing fruit.”6 Likewise, in regard to the water you also read, “May the water bring forth animals and so animals were born.”7 These existed at the beginning of creation, but it was reserved for you that water regenerate you for grace just as it brought life to these other creatures. Imitate the fish which has obtained less favor, and yet it should cause you to be amazed. It is in the sea, and it is above the waters. The fish is in the sea, and it swims above the billows. A storm with its harsh-sounding winds rages at sea, but the fish swims on. It does not sink because it is accustomed to swimming. So for you this world is the sea. It has various currents, large waves, furious winds. You also are to be a fish so that the waves of this world may not submerge you. Rightly does the Father say to the Son, “Today I have begotten you,”8 namely, when you redeemed the people, when you called them to the kingdom of heaven, when you carried out my will, you proved that you are my Son. (1055)

I.4. What happened after you came up from the font? You heard the reading. The bishop tucked up his garments—although the presbyters did likewise, it was the bishop who began this service—it was, I say, the bishop who washed your feet after he pulled up his garments. But what about this mystery? You have heard, haven’t you, that the Lord after washing the feet of the other disciples came to Peter, who said to him, “You are going to wash my feet?”9 What Peter meant here was, “Are you, Lord, going to wash the feet of a servant? Are you who are without stain going to wash my feet? Will you, the creator of the heavens, wash my feet?” Elsewhere you find that the Lord went to John, and John said to him, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”10 I am a sinner and you have come to the sinner so that you, who are sinless, may—as it were—put off your sins. You see the fullness of justice;11 you see humility; you see grace; you see holiness. He says, “Unless I wash your feet, you will have no part with me.”12 (1056)

I.5. We are aware that the church at Rome does not practice this custom, even though we follow Rome’s example and customs in every respect. Nevertheless, Rome does not have the washing of the feet; perhaps it fell into disuse because of the large numbers of people being baptized. Yet there are some who try to offer excuses by saying that this is not to be done in the course of the mystery, not at baptism, not at the time of regeneration; and yet, they say, the feet of a guest may be washed. One is a matter of humility; the other concerns sanctification. Listen now. In short, the washing is a mystery and a sanctification: “Unless I wash your feet, you will have no part with me.”13 I say this not to criticize others but to point out what I am doing here. In all matters I wish to follow the Roman church, and yet we also are gifted with good sense. What is done elsewhere for the best of reasons, we will also do here for the best of reasons. (1057)

I.6. It is the apostle Peter whom we follow; we cling to his devotion. What does the Roman church respond to this? Yes, it is indeed the apostle Peter who gives authority to my claim, Peter who was the bishop of the Roman church. Peter himself said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head.”14 Look at Peter’s faith. His initial refusal came from humility; his subsequent acquiescence came from his fervor and faith. (1058)

I.7. Since Peter had spoken of hands and head, the Lord replied, “One who is washed needs only to wash the feet to be completely clean.”15 Why did the Lord say this? Because all sin is washed away in baptism. Sin, therefore, recedes, but feet are washed because Adam was tripped up by the devil whose poison was spread beneath his feet. The reason for the washing is so that sanctification may give greater protection to that place where the serpent lays in wait and so that he may not be able to trip you up again. You wash the feet in order to wash away the serpent’s poison. Doing so also benefits our own humility if we are not ashamed to do in mystery what we are ashamed to do by way of showing homage. (1059)

II.8. Next comes the spiritual sealing which you heard about in today’s reading. For after what took place at the font it remains to perfect all that has been done. This happens when the Holy Spirit is poured forth at the invocation by the bishop: “the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of piety, the spirit of holy fear.”16 These are, as it were, the seven virtues of the Spirit. (1060)

II.9. Certainly all virtues relate to the Spirit, but these virtues are—so to speak—the cardinal, principal ones. For what is as important as piety? As knowledge of God? As fortitude? As counsel of God? As holy fear? Just as fear of the world is a weakness, so holy fear is great strength. (1061)

II.10. These seven virtues are given when you receive the consignation. As the holy apostle says, because our Lord’s wisdom has many forms and “the wisdom of God has many forms,”17 so the Holy Spirit, who possesses a wide variety of virtues, has many forms. Thus God is called the “God of virtues,”18 and this can be applied to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Such, however, could be the topic of another discourse, one given at a future time. (1062)

II.11. What happens next? You were able to approach the altar. Doing so, you can now see what previously you could not see. It is the mystery you read about in the Gospel—I presume you have read about it or at least certainly heard about it. A blind man, in order to be cured, presented himself to the Savior who, by word and speech only, cured others and by his command restored sight to the blind. And yet in the Gospel of John—John more than others saw the great mysteries, called attention to them, and explained them—we find this mystery prefigured in the man who was blind. Certainly all the evangelists, all the apostles, were holy, the betrayer being the sole exception. Yet Saint John, who was the last one to write a Gospel and doing so as if he were a dear friend sought out and chosen by Christ, has proclaimed the eternal mysteries with a more powerful trumpet. What he says is a mystery. Others—Matthew, Luke, Mark—relate that the blind man was cured. But only John says, “He made some mud, wiped it on the man’s eyes, and said to him, ‘Go to Siloam.’ Then rising, he went and washed, and when he came back he could see.”19 (1063)

II.12. Also think about the eyes of your heart. With your bodily eyes you see what is corporeal. But sacramental things you were still unable to see with the eyes of the heart. So when you inscribed your name, he took some mud and smeared it on your eyes. And the meaning of this? That you have admitted your sins, examined your conscience, done penance for your sins, namely, you acknowledged the lot of the human race. For even though people coming for baptism do not confess sin, nonetheless, by this very fact they confess all their sins since they request baptism in order to be justified, that is, to pass from sin to grace. (1064)

II.13. Don’t think this is a waste of time. There are some, and I know at least one of them, who when we say, “At your age you have a greater obligation to be baptized,” would reply: “Why should I be baptized? I have no sin. Have I ever committed a sin?” People like this have no mud because Christ did not smear any on them, that is, Christ did not open their eyes. For no human being is sinless.20 (1065)

II.14. Those who seek refuge in the baptism of Christ recognize that they are human. So it is that Christ smeared mud upon you, namely, modesty, prudence, awareness of your frailty, and said to you, “Go to Siloam.” But what is Siloam? “It means,” John says, “sent,”21 namely, go to the font in which the cross of Christ is preached; go to the font in which Christ redeems the sins of all. (1066)

II.15. You went there; you washed; you came to the altar; you began to see what you did not see previously, that is, your eyes were opened through the font of the Lord and through the preaching of the Lord’s passion. Formerly you seemed to be blind in your heart, but now you begin to see the light of the sacraments. Therefore, most beloved, we have reached the altar. But since time does not allow, we cannot begin a full explanation, this topic requiring a more extensive treatment. What I said today is enough. Tomorrow, the Lord willing, we will treat the sacraments themselves. (1067)

53-M-4. on the sacraments.CATECHESIS FOUR

I.1. In the Old Testament it was customary for the priests to enter the outer tabernacle frequently. However, only once a year did the high priest go into the inner tabernacle. Evidently this is what Paul the apostle is explaining to the Hebrews as he recalls the provisions of the Old Testament, for the inner tabernacle contained manna, Aaron’s rod which had withered and afterwards blossomed, as well as the altar of incense.1 (1068)

I.2. What is the purpose of this? That you might understand what this inner tabernacle is, that tabernacle into which the priest led you, the tabernacle into which once each year the high priest was accustomed to enter, namely, into the baptistery where Aaron’s rod, formerly dry, has blossomed.2 You were dry and began to blossom in the flowing water of the font. Through sin you dried up because of your sins and misdeeds, and yet, “planted by streams of water,”3 you already begin to bear fruit. (1069)

I.3. But perhaps you say, “What did it mean to the people if the priest’s rod became dry and then blossomed again?” Are not the people a priestly people? To whom did Peter the apostle say, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”?4 Each of you is anointed for the priesthood, anointed for the kingdom, but it is a spiritual kingdom and a spiritual priesthood. (1070)

I.4. The inner tabernacle also contains the altar of incense, which customarily burns with a good odor. And so you also are the sweet fragrance of Christ; no stain of sin is in you, no odor of serious error. (1071)

II.5. After this you approached and came near the altar. The angels were looking on and saw you approaching. They saw this human condition, formerly stained with the dark squalor of sin, suddenly begin to shine brightly. They also asked, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness all clean?”5 The angels also marvel. And to what extent? Listen to Peter the apostle who says that “the angels long to look at”6 what has been given to us. Also, “No eye has seen,” he says, “no ear has heard what God has prepared for those who love him.”7 (1072)

II.6. Then acknowledge what you have received. David the holy prophet saw this grace in a figure and desired it. And to what extent? Listen once again, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”8 Why? Because snow, although white, quickly darkens with dirt and is spoiled. The grace you have received, provided you preserve it just as you have received it, will certainly continue to last forever. (1073)

II.7. And so you came, full of desire since you saw so much grace. With desire you came to the altar in order to receive the sacrament. Your soul says, “I shall go to the altar of God who gives joy to my youth.”9 You laid aside the old age of sin, and you clothed yourself with the youthfulness of grace. This is what the heavenly sacraments give you. Again, listen to what David says, “Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”10 You became a good eagle, seeking heaven and loathing the things of the earth. Good eagles encircle the altar, since “where the body is, there the angels will gather together.”11 The altar represents the body, and the Body of Christ is on the altar. You are eagles, renewed by being cleansed from sin. (1074)

III.8. You have approached the altar; you have directed your attention to the sacraments placed on it, and you marveled at what you saw although it is something common and familiar. (1075)

III.9. Perhaps someone might say: “God granted the Jews such a great grace; God rained down manna from heaven upon them.12 What more has God given to his faithful ones? What more has been given to those to whom he has promised more?” (1076)

III.10. Listen to what I have to say. The Christian mysteries are older than the Jewish mysteries; the Christian sacraments are older than those of the Jews. In what way? Just listen. When did the Jews begin to exist? Certainly at the time of Judah, the great-grandson of Abraham, or if you wish to understand it differently—at the time of the Law, that is, when they merited to receive “God’s Law.” And so from Abraham’s great-grandson they were called Jews at the time of saintly Moses. God then rained down manna upon the disgruntled Jews. But for you the figure of these sacraments came earlier, at Abraham’s time when he gathered together the 318 household retainers, went off in pursuit of his enemies, and rescued his nephew from captivity. Then he returned victorious. The priest Melchizedek met him and offered bread and wine.13 Who had the bread and wine? Not Abraham. But who, then? It was Melchizedek. And so Melchizedek is the source of the sacraments. Who is this Melchizedek whose name means “king of righteousness, king of peace”?14 Who is this king of righteousness? Who, then, is this king of righteousness unless it is the righteousness of God? Who is the peace of God, the “wisdom from God”?15 It is he who could say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”16 (1077)

III.11. And so, first of all, understand that the sacraments you receive are older than the sacraments claimed by the Jews as their own, and that the Christian people began to exist before the Jews did so: we existed in God’s plan; they existed in name. (1078)

III.12. So Melchizedek offered bread and wine. Who is Melchizedek? “Without father,” they say, “and without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but like the Son of God.”17 This is what the Epistle to the Hebrews says. “Without father,” it says, and “without mother.” The Son of God was born by divine generation, without a mother because he was born from God the Father alone. And again, he was born without a father since he was born of a virgin. He was not begotten of male seed, but he was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, coming forth from the virgin’s womb. Melchizedek, being in all things like the Son of God, was also a priest since Christ also is a priest of whom it is said, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”18 (1079)

IV.13. Who, then, initiated the sacraments if not the Lord Jesus? The sacraments came from heaven since all purpose19 comes from heaven. It is a great and divine miracle that God rained down manna from heaven and that the people ate without toiling for their food. (1080)

IV.14. Perhaps you say, “My bread is ordinary bread.” But such bread is bread before the sacramental words; only after the consecration does the bread become the Body of Christ. Let us prove this. How is it possible that bread becomes the Body of Christ? By whose words does the consecration take place? By whose expressions? Those of the Lord Jesus. Whatever is said before this, is said by the priest: one praises God, one prays to God, one petitions for the people, for kings, for others; but when it comes to bringing about a venerable sacrament, the priest uses not his own words but those of Christ. And so the word of Christ brings about the sacrament. (1081)

IV.15. What is this word of Christ? Certainly the word by which all things were created. The Lord commanded that the heavens be made, that the earth be made, that the seas be made, that every creature be born. Consequently you see how efficacious is Christ’s word. If there is such great power in the word of the Lord Jesus so that what lacked existence comes into being, how much more efficacious it is for changing what already exists into something else. The heavens did not exist; there was no sea, no earth. But listen to David as he says, “He spoke and it was made; he commanded and it was created.”20 (1082)

IV.16. To answer your question: before the consecration it was not Christ’s body, but after the consecration it is—I say to you—the Body of Christ. He spoke and it was done; he commanded and it was created. You yourself existed, but you were an old creature; after your consecration you began to be a new creature. You wish to know to what extent this creature is new? “Whoever,” he says, “is in Christ is a new creation.”21 (1083)

IV.17. Hear, then, how Christ’s word is wont to change every creature and how it changes, when he so desires, the laws of nature. You ask how. Just listen. Our first example will be that of Christ’s birth. A human being ordinarily comes into existence from a conjugal relationship between a man and a woman. But because the Lord wished, because he chose this mystery, it was from the Holy Spirit and the virgin that he was born, namely, the “one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus.”22 You see, then, that contrary to the laws and order of nature a man was born of a virgin. (1084)

IV.18. Here is another example. The Jewish people, attacked by the Egyptians, were cut off by the sea. At God’s command Moses touched the waters with his rod, and the waters parted,23 certainly not as nature is accustomed to do, but according to the grace of heavenly power. Another example. The people, being thirsty, came to a spring which was bitter. Moses threw a piece of wood into the spring, and the spring, formerly bitter, became sweet, that is, it changed its nature and received the sweetness of grace.24 A fourth example. The iron head of an axe fell into the water and, true to its nature as iron, sank to the bottom. Elisha cast a stick into the water and immediately the iron head rose up to the water’s surface.25 Obviously this went contrary to the very nature of iron since iron is heavier than water. (1085)

IV.19. And so from this do you not understand how much is brought about by the heavenly word? If this word has an effect on an earthly spring, if it has an effect on other things, does it not have an effect on the heavenly sacraments? You know, then, that the bread is changed into the Body of Christ and that the wine, which with water is poured into the cup, becomes Blood by means of the heavenly consecration. (1086)

IV.20. But perhaps you say, “I don’t see anything resembling blood.” But the likeness is there. For just as you have assumed the likeness of death, so you also drink the likeness of the precious Blood in order that no horror of blood be there and that the price of redemption take effect. And now you know that what you receive is the Body of Christ. (1087)

V.21. Do you wish to be convinced that the consecration takes place by means of the heavenly words? Listen to what the priest says: “Make this offering for us approved, spiritual, acceptable. It is a figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ who on the day before he suffered took bread into his holy hands, looked upward toward heaven, to you, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, and giving thanks, he blessed it and gave it to his apostles and disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat of this, all of you; for this is my Body which shall be broken for many.’”26 (1088)

V.22. Listen carefully now. “In like manner he also took the cup after the meal, on the day before he suffered; he looked upward to heaven, to you, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, and giving thanks, he blessed it and gave it to his apostles and disciples, saying, ‘Take and drink of this, all of you; for this is my Blood.’”27 Notice that the evangelist is the source of all the words up to “take” the body or the blood; from there on the words are those of Christ, “Take and drink, all of you, for this is my Blood.” (1089)

V.23. Notice each detail. “On the day before he suffered,” it says, “he took bread into his holy hands.” Before it is consecrated, it is bread; but once Christ’s words are added, it becomes the Body of Christ. Finally, hear him as he says, “Take and eat, all of you, for this is my Body.” Before Christ’s words are spoken, the cup is full of wine and water; but once his words are said, it becomes the Blood that redeemed the people. Notice the many ways Christ’s word can change things. Furthermore, the Lord Jesus himself has affirmed that we are to receive his Body and Blood. Are we to doubt the authority of his faith and of what he affirms? (1090)

V.24. Now return with me to the theme of my catechesis. It was indeed a great and venerable happening that manna rained down upon the Jews from heaven. But just think about it. Which is greater, manna from heaven or the Body of Christ? Surely it is the Body of Christ, who created heaven. Whoever ate the manna has died; whoever eats this Body will receive the forgiveness of sins and will never die.28 (1091)

V.25. Therefore it is not insignificant that you say “Amen,” recognizing in spirit that you receive the Body of Christ. When you went up to receive, the priest said to you, “The Body of Christ,” and you replied “Amen,” namely, “it is true.” What your tongue confesses, may your heart hold fast. Know that this sacrament was preceded by its figure. (1092)

V.26. Next, acknowledge how great a sacrament it is. Notice what he says, “As often as you do this, you do it in memory of me until I return.”29 (1093)

V.27. And the priest says: “Therefore we call to mind his most glorious passion, his resurrection from hell, and his ascension into heaven. We offer you this spotless sacrifice, this spiritual sacrifice, this unbloody sacrifice, this holy bread and the cup of eternal life. We beseech and pray that you accept this offering upon your altar on high through the hands of your angels, just as you deigned to accept the gift of your just son Abel and the sacrifice of Abraham our Father and what the high priest Melchizedek offered to you.” (1094)

V.28. What, then, does the apostle say to you each time you receive? “As often as we receive, we proclaim the death of the Lord.”30 If we proclaim his death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If each time that his blood is poured out, it is poured out for the forgiveness of sins, then I should always receive it so that the Lord may always forgive my sins. Since I always sin, I should always have a medicine. (1095)

V.29. Today we have gone on as far as possible in our explanation. But tomorrow and Saturday we will say something about the Lord’s Prayer and about the order of prayer, doing so as best we can. May our Lord God keep you in the grace that he gave you, and may he deign to enlighten more fully the eyes that have been opened through his only-begotten Son our King and Savior, our Lord God, by whom and with whom he has praise, honor, glory, magnificence, power, with the Holy Spirit, from the ages, now and always, forever and ever. Amen. (1096)

53-M-5. on the sacraments.CATECHESIS FIVE

I.1. Yesterday’s instruction went as far as the sacraments of the altar, and we learned that a figure of these sacraments had preceded them at the time of Abraham when saintly Melchizedek, “having neither beginning of days nor end of life,”1 offered sacrifice. Listen to what Paul the apostle said to the Hebrews. Where are those who say that the Son of God is of time? It is said that Melchizedek had neither beginning of days nor end of life.2 If Melchizedek had no beginning of days, could Christ have had such a beginning? But the figure is not greater than the reality. You see, then, that he is “the first and the last,”3 the first because he is the source of all things, the last not because he will have an end but because he completes all things. (1097)

I.2. We have said that the cup and bread are placed on the altar. What is poured into the cup? Wine. And what else? Water. Yet you say to me, “But why did Melchizedek offer wine and bread? Why is water mixed with wine?” Here is the reason. (1098)

I.3. First of all, what is the meaning of the figure which preceded at the time of Moses? When the Jewish people were thirsty and were complaining because they were unable to find water, God commanded Moses to touch the rock with his staff. Moses did so and the rock issued forth the greatest amount of water.4 As the apostle says, “They drank from the rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.”5 The rock was not immoveable since it followed the people. And you drink so that you may follow Christ. Look at the mystery. Moses, that is, the prophet, with his staff, that is, the word of God: with God’s word the priest touches the rock, water flows, and God’s people drink. The priest touches the cup, water abounds in the cup, it flows for eternal life,6 and God’s people, who have obtained divine grace, drink from it. (1099)

I.4. This is what you learned. Yet there is even more. During the Lord’s passion when the great Sabbath was approaching some individuals were sent to beat Jesus or the thieves because they were still alive. Upon arriving, they found that our Lord Jesus Christ was already dead. Then one of the soldiers with his lance pierced our Lord’s side, from which water and blood flowed forth.7 Why water? Why blood? Water in order to cleanse; blood in order to redeem. Why from the side? Because where grace originates, there guilt originates. Guilt came through a woman, grace through our Lord Jesus Christ.8 (1100)

II.5. You approached the altar. The Lord Jesus Christ calls you or your soul or the Church as he says, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”9 Do you wish to apply this to Christ? Nothing could be more appropriate. Do you want to apply it to your soul? Nothing could be more agreeable. (1101)

II.6. “Let him kiss me.” He sees that you are cleansed of all sin because your sins have been washed away. This is why he judges you to be worthy of the heavenly sacraments. This is why he invites you to the heavenly banquet. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” (1102)

II.7. Yet because of what follows, your soul or the human condition or the Church speaks, seeing itself purified from all sins and worthy of approaching Christ’s altar—for what is Christ’s altar unless the image of Christ’s body? Seeing the wonderful sacraments, it says, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,” that is, let Christ kiss me. (1103)

II.8. Why? “Because your breasts are better than wine,”10 that is, your thoughts, your sacraments are better than wine. This wine, although having a sweetness, a charm, a pleasing taste, contains a worldly joy, whereas in you is found spiritual happiness. And so it is already Solomon who introduces the wedding between Christ and his Church, or between the spirit and the flesh, or between the spirit and the soul. (1104)

II.9. And he adds, “Your name is perfume poured out; therefore the maidens love you.”11 Who are these maidens unless all the souls who have shed the old age of this body, all who have been renewed by the Holy Spirit? (1105)

II.10. “Draw us after you, let us run after the scent of your garments.”12 Listen to what he says. You cannot follow Christ unless Christ draws you after him. Furthermore, to convince you of this he says, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all things to myself.”13 (1106)

II.11. “The king has brought me into his chamber”14—the Greek has “into his storeroom” or “into his pantry” where there are good drinks, where there are good perfumes, the sweetest honeys, various fruits, where there are dishes of many kinds, so that your meal be composed of many delights. (1107)

III.12. So you approached the altar; you received the Body of Christ. Hear again what sacraments you have received. Listen to what holy David says. Under the action of the Spirit he foresaw these sacraments. He rejoiced and said that he lacked nothing. Why? Because those who have received the Body of Christ will never experience hunger.15 (1108)

III.13. How often have you heard Psalm 22 [23] without understanding it? See how well it applies to the heavenly sacraments. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul… . Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.”16 The rod is sovereign power; the staff is suffering, that is, Christ’s eternal divinity but also his bodily suffering. The one has created; the other has redeemed. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”17 (1109)

III.14. And so you approached the altar; you received the grace of Christ; you received the heavenly sacraments. The Church rejoices at the redemption of many and takes spiritual delight to see close by its family dressed in white. You can find this in the Canticle of Canticles.18 In its joy the Church calls upon Christ; it has prepared a feast which appears worthy of the heavenly feast. This is why the Church says, “Let my brother descend into his garden and gather the fruits of its trees.”19 But what are these fruit trees? You became dry wood in Adam, but now through Christ’s grace you shoot up like fruit trees. (1110)

III.15. Willingly has the Lord Jesus received, and with heavenly graciousness he has responded to his Church, “I have descended,” he says, “into my garden. I have gathered myrrh with my spices; I have eaten my bread with my honey. I have drunk my wine with my milk. My brothers,” he says, “eat and drink.”20 (1111)

III.16. “I have gathered my myrrh with my spices.” But what is this gathering? Know the vineyard, and you will know the gathering. “You brought a vine,” he says, “out of Egypt,”21 that is, God’s people. You are the vineyard; you are the gathering. You are planted, as it were, as a vineyard. You are the gathering. You produce fruit. “I have gathered myrrh with my spices,” that is, unto the sweet odor, the sweet odor you have received. (1112)

III.17. “I have eaten my bread with my honey.” You see that there is no bitterness in this bread; it is full of sweetness. “I have drunk my wine with my milk.” You see that this kind of joy is not polluted by any stain of sin. In fact, each time you drink, you receive the forgiveness of sins and are inebriated in spirit. This is why the apostle says, “Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.”22 Those inebriated with wine stagger and sway; those inebriated by the Spirit are rooted in Christ. Therefore excellent is the drunkenness that effects sobriety of the soul. This concludes our brief review of the sacraments. (1113)

IV.18. What remains is the topic of prayer. Do not think that knowing how to pray is of little importance. The holy apostles said to the Lord Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.” Then the Lord said this prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”23 Notice the brevity of the prayer, how it contains all the elements of prayer. How pleasing is its first phrase. (1114)

IV.19. You did not dare to look up toward heaven; you lowered your eyes toward the earth and suddenly you received Christ’s grace; all your sins were forgiven. From bad servants you became good children. Presume not, then, on what you yourself do but on the grace of Christ. As the apostle says, “By grace you have been saved.”24 This is not presumption but faith. To announce what you have received is not arrogance but devotion. Therefore lift up your eyes to the Father who begot you by the bath, to the Father who redeemed you through his Son, and say, “Our Father.” This is a good yet moderate presumption. Like children, you call him Father, but you do not desire anything special. He is the special Father of Christ alone, and for us he is a Father in common since he begot Christ alone whereas he created us. You, then, are to say through grace “Our Father” in order to merit to be God’s child. Commend yourself to the care and consideration of the Church. (1115)

IV.20. “Our Father in heaven.” But what does “in heaven” mean? Listen to what the Scripture says, “High is the Lord above all the heavens.”25 And everywhere you find that the Lord is in the highest heavens, as if the angels were not also in the heavens, as if the dominations were not also there. They are in the heavens of which it is said, “The heavens tell the glory of God.”26 Heaven is the place where sin has ceased, where shameful crimes are struck down, where there is no wound of death. (1116)

IV.21. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” What is to be made holy? As though we were to hope that he be made holy who said, “You shall be holy because I am holy,”27 as if our praise could increase God’s holiness. No, but may God be made holy in us so that his holiness may reach us. (1117)

IV.22. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.” As though God’s kingdom were not eternal. Jesus himself says, “I was born for this,”28 and you say to the Father, “Your kingdom come,” as if it has not come. Yet God’s kingdom arrived when you obtained grace. For he himself says, “The kingdom of God is within you.”29 (1118)

IV.23. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” All things, both in heaven and upon earth, were made peaceful by the blood of Christ.30 Heaven was made holy; the devil was cast down from there. The devil is active in that place where is found the man whom he deceived. May your will be done, namely, may there be peace on earth just as there is peace in heaven. (1119)

IV.24. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Recall what I said to you when I was explaining the sacraments. As I told you, what is present before the words of Christ is called bread. But once Christ’s words have been pronounced, no longer is it said to be bread, but it is called the Body. Why, therefore, do we say “our bread” in the Lord’s Prayer which follows immediately afterwards? Certainly the Lord said bread; yet he said pioúsios., namely, “substantial.” Bread does not enter the body but rather the bread of eternal life which strengthens the substance of our soul. Therefore in Greek it is called pioúsios. In Latin, however, this bread is called daily bread because the Greeks refer to tomorrow as . And so both the Latin and the Greek seem useful. The Greek uses one word to express both meanings; the Latin speaks of it as daily. (1120)

IV.25. If this bread is daily bread, why should you receive it only once a year as the Greeks in the East customarily do? Receive daily so that it can profit you daily. Live in such a way that you deservedly receive each day. Whoever does not merit to receive each day does not merit to receive after a year’s wait. Thus saintly Job daily offered a sacrifice for his sons lest they perhaps had sinned either in heart or in word.31 And so you hear it said that as often as the sacrifice is offered, the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension are signified, as well as the forgiveness of sins. And you do not receive this bread of life daily? Whoever is wounded requires medicine. Our wound is that we are subject to sin; our medicine is the heavenly and venerable sacrament. (1121)

IV.26. “Give us this day our daily bread.” If you receive [the Eucharist] each day, then for you daily is today. If Christ is for you today, then he rises for you daily. How? “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”32 Therefore it is today when Christ rises. As Paul the apostle says, “Yesterday and today he is.”33 Elsewhere he says, “The night has passed; the day approaches.”34 The night of yesterday has passed; the day of today comes near. (1122)

IV.27. Here is what follows. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” What is a debt except sin? So if you had not accepted the money of a stranger lending with interest, you would not be in want, and for this reason sin is imputed to you. You had money with which you should have been born rich. You were rich, created as you were in God’s image and likeness.35 You lost what you had, namely, humility. When you arrogantly desire to take vengeance, you have lost your money, making yourself nude like Adam. From the devil you received a debt that was not necessary. And for this reason you, formerly free in Christ, were in debt to the devil. The enemy held your bond, but the Lord crucified and erased it by means of his blood.36 He removed your debt and restored you to freedom. (1123)

IV.28. Rightly, therefore, does the Lord say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Listen closely to what you say, “As I forgive, so you forgive me.” If you forgive, you make yourself suitable for being forgiven. But if you do not forgive, how do you make it fitting for God to forgive you? (1124)

IV.29. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Listen to what he says, “Do not lead us into a temptation” that we cannot resist. He does not say, “Do not lead us into temptation,” but like an athlete he wishes a test that human nature can endure; he desires that each person be delivered from evil, that is, from the enemy, from sin. (1125)

IV.30. Furthermore, the Lord, who took away your sin and forgave your transgressions, is capable of guarding you and of protecting you from the snares of the devil your adversary so that the enemy, who customarily brings about sin, may not surprise you. But those who commit themselves to God do not fear the devil, “for if God is for us, who is against us?”37 So to God be praise and glory from the ages, now and always, forever and ever. Amen. (1126)

53-M-6. on the sacraments.CATECHESIS SIX

I.1. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God—not by grace as we are but as being the Son of God born from the very substance of the Father—so it is Christ’s true flesh, as Christ himself said, which we receive. It is Christ’s true blood which is our drink.1 (1127)

I.2. Yet you might perhaps say—as did Christ’s disciples when they heard his words “Whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood will not abide in me and will not have eternal life”2—”How can this be? Certainly I see something that looks like blood, but I do not see real blood.” (1128)

I.3. First of all, I already told you that Christ’s word acts so that it can change and transform the general laws of nature. I also told you that when Christ’s disciples did not believe his words—hearing him say that he would give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink—they turned away.3 It was Peter alone who said, “You have the words of eternal life; to whom shall I go?”4 So that many might not say the same thing due to a certain fear of blood and in order to retain the grace of redemption, you receive the sacraments in likeness, but you receive the grace and power of Christ’s true nature. (1129)

I.4. “I am,” Jesus says, “the living bread that has come down from heaven.”5 Flesh, however, does not come down from heaven. In other words, he took his flesh from a virgin on earth. In what way, therefore, does bread descend from heaven, and how is it living bread? Because our Lord Jesus Christ holds in common both divinity and a body, and you, receiving the flesh, share in the food of his divine nature. (1130)

II.5. You have, then, received the sacraments. You have a full grasp of everything. You were baptized in the name of the Trinity. In all that we have done the mystery of the Trinity is seen. Wherever the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are, there is one action, one sanctification, even if there seem to be some distinct traits. (1131)

II.6. How is this? God anointed you, and the Lord marked you with a seal and sent the Holy Spirit into your hearts.6 You have, therefore, received the Holy Spirit into your hearts. There is more. Just as the Holy Spirit is in your hearts, so Christ is also in your hearts. And how? In the Canticle of Canticles you find Christ saying to his Church, “Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm.”7 (1132)

II.7. Therefore God has anointed you; Christ has marked you with a seal. How? Because you have been marked with the sign of his cross, with the sign of his suffering. You received this sign so that you might resemble him, so that you might rise again unto his image, so that you might live as an example of one who is crucified to sin and who lives for God. And your old self, once it was submerged in the font, has been crucified to sin but has risen for God.8 (1133)

II.8. Elsewhere you find this in particular: it is God who has called you,9 whereas in baptism it is with Christ that you were crucified in a special way,10 and then there is something special when you receive the spiritual seal. You see that there is a distinction of persons; nonetheless, the whole mystery of the Trinity is linked together. (1134)

II.9. What did the apostle next say to you when you heard the reading two days ago? “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who is at work in all of them in each person.”11 The apostle says that God is active in all of them. But as to the Spirit of God, you heard it read that “one and the same Spirit distributes to each one individually just as he chooses.”12 Listen to the Scripture which says that the Spirit divides as the Spirit so desires and not as commanded. The Spirit, then, has divided grace for you as the Spirit wills and not as ordered to do so, and especially because the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit Paraclete himself. (1135)

II.10. The Arians believe that they diminish the Holy Spirit if they call him the Spirit Paraclete. But what is the Paraclete unless a consoler? As if one had not also read that the Father is the “God of consolation”?13 You see that they think the Holy Spirit is lessened by what proclaims the power of the eternal Father with tender affection. (1136)

III.11. Listen now as to how we are to pray. Prayer has many qualities. It is important to know where you should pray—this is not a minor detail. The apostle says, “I desire, then, that men should pray everywhere, lifting up pure hands without anger or argument.”14 And the Lord says in the Gospel, “Whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father.”15 Isn’t there a contradiction here? The apostle says, “Pray everywhere” whereas the Lord says, “Pray within your room.” Yet there is no contradiction. We will settle this question first. Then we will learn about how to begin prayer; the order in which to divide prayer; what should be added; how to conclude prayer; and then for whom you should pray. (1137)

III.12. First, where to pray. Paul seems to say one thing, the Lord another. But could Paul ever teach anything contrary to the precepts of Christ? Certainly not. And why not? Because Paul is not an adversary of Christ; he is an interpreter of Christ. Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”16 And so? You can pray everywhere, and you can always pray in your room. Your room is everywhere. Even if you find yourself among the pagans, among the Jews, you have your secret room everywhere. This room is your spirit. Even if you find yourself with other people, nonetheless, you have your hidden and secret room within you. (1138)

III.13. “When you pray, go into your room.” Well does he say “go into” so that you do not pray like the Jews of whom it was said, “This people honors me with their lips; their heart, however, is far from me.”17 And so may your prayer come forth not only from your lips. Give it all your attention; enter into the quiet place of your heart; enter there completely. May the one you wish to please not find you negligent. May God, seeing that you pray from the heart, deign to hear you praying from the heart. (1139)

III.14. “When you pray, go into your room.” Elsewhere you can read, “Come, my people, enter your rooms; hide yourselves for a little while till the Lord’s anger has passed.”18 The Lord said this through the prophet. But in the Gospel the Lord says, “Whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father.” (1140)

III.15. What does “close the door” mean? What door do we have? Understand that you have a door which you should close when you pray. Would that women understood this. As you already heard, saintly David taught you this when he said, “Set a guard over my mouth and a door to close my lips.”19 Elsewhere there is another door of which Paul the apostle speaks, “For me,” he says, “a door will be opened for the word so that we might proclaim the mysteries of Christ.”20 This means that when you pray, you are not to cry out in a loud voice, nor pray in all directions, nor broadcast your prayer throughout the people. Pray secretly, by yourself, being confident that God, who sees all and hears all, can hear you in secret. “Pray to your Father in secret, for your Father who sees in secret”21 hears your prayer. (1141)

IV.16. Let us ask what benefit derives from praying in secret rather than praying aloud? What reason is there for doing so? Listen to this example taken from ordinary life. If you ask something of a person who has good hearing, you don’t find it necessary to shout; rather, you speak in a normal tone. But if you ask something of a deaf person, do you not speak more loudly so that this individual can hear you? Accordingly, those who shout believe that this is the only way God can hear them; so when they petition God in this manner, they diminish God’s power. On the other hand, those who pray silently give proof of their faith and acknowledge that God scrutinizes “reins and hearts,”22 and hears their prayer even before it escapes their lips. (1142)

IV.17. Therefore consider this: “I wish that men pray everywhere.” Why did Paul say “men”? Obviously prayer is common to both women and men. I find no reason for this except perhaps that the holy apostle spoke of men lest women, making use of this and misunderstanding “everywhere,” begin to cry out everywhere even though we cannot endure having them do so in church. (1143)

IV.18. “I wish that men,” that is, those who can obey this precept “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands.” But what is the meaning of “lifting up holy hands”? Does it mean that when you pray you should show the Lord’s cross to the pagans? Surely the cross is a sign for courage, not for shame. However, you can pray by lifting up all that you do—not by making gestures. If you wish to lift up your hands, lift up hands that are pure through innocence. Do not lift them up everyday. Doing so once, it is not necessary for you to do so again. (1144)

IV.19. “I wish that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.” Nothing is more true. It is said that “anger brings ruin also to those who are wise.”23 So in every possible circumstance Christians are to restrain their anger as best they can, especially when they come to pray. So that indignation not trouble your soul, so that the fury of anger not hinder your prayer, dispose yourself for prayer; and when you approach, your heart is at peace. Why are you upset? Has your servant done something wrong? You pray so that your own wrongs be pardoned, and you are indignant at another! This, then, is the meaning of “without anger.” (1145)

V.20. Let us now consider disappointment in prayer. Very often someone engaged in business comes to pray: an avaricious person thinking about money; another thinking about profit; another about honors; still another about what he or she wants. And each believes that God hears the prayer. Therefore when you pray, take care that you prefer divine things to those that are human. (1146)

V.21. The apostle Paul desires that women pray without flaunting their ornaments or pearls.24 However, the apostle Peter says that the grace of a woman is very important, for her good conduct can change her husband’s disposition; so the disbeliever can be turned to the grace of Christ.25 Such is the influence of a woman’s seriousness, purity, and good conduct: she calls her husband to faith and to fervor, something the words of a prudent man often accomplish. And so a woman, he says, should not find her adornment in braiding her hair or in ornaments, but in prayer which arises from a pure heart, where is found the hidden character of the heart which is always rich in God’s sight.26 You have, therefore, the means to be rich. Your riches in Christ are purity and chastity; your ornaments are faith, fervor, and mercy. These are the treasures of justice, as the prophet recalls.a (1147)

V.22. Now, how should you begin your prayer? Listen carefully. Suppose you wish to request something of a person and you begin as follows, “Give me this; here is what I am requesting.” Would not your prayer appear to be presumptuous? Thus you should begin your prayer by praising God, beseeching the almighty God for whom all things are possible, the God who desires to grant what you ask. Petition follows, as the apostle taught when he said, “First of all, then, I urge that prayers, supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made.”27 The first part of a prayer should, therefore, contain praise of God; the second, supplication; the third, intercession; the fourth, thanksgiving. You should not begin your prayer like a famished person who speaks of food in order to obtain some, but begin your prayer by praising God. (1148)

V.23. Those who speak wisely have the following method for making a judge well-disposed toward them: they begin by praising him so that his decision will be favorable. Then, little by little, they request that the judge hear them patiently. Third, the object of their petition is made, namely, what is it that they are requesting. Fourthb … just as the prayer began with praise of God, it is necessary to conclude by praising and thanking God. (1149)

V.24. You can find this in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven.”28 God is praised because he is proclaimed as Father; the glory of paternal love is in him. The God who is praised dwells in heaven and not upon the earth. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” that is, may God make holy his servants. God’s name is made holy within us when people are proclaimed to be Christians. Therefore “hallowed be your name” expresses what is hoped for. “May your kingdom come.” Here we petition that Christ’s kingdom be in all. If God reigns in us, then the adversary can find no room there. Guilt does not reign, sin does not reign; but virtue reigns, modesty reigns, fervor reigns. Then: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” This is the greatest of all the requests. “And forgive,” he says, “our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Each day receive [the Eucharist?] so that each day you may receive forgiveness of your debt. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What comes next? Listen to what the priest says: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ in whom you possess and with whom you possess honor, praise, glory, majesty, power, with the Holy Spirit from the ages, now and always, forever and ever. Amen.” (1150)

V.25. A further point.c Even though there is only one book of the Psalms of David that contains the qualities of prayer we have spoken about above, nonetheless most often these qualities can be found even in one psalm, for example, Psalm 8 which begins as follows: “O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is your name in all the earth.” This is the beginning of the prayer. Then comes the entreaty: “Because I will see the heavens, the works of your fingers,” namely, I will see the heavens, “the moon and the stars which you have established.” He does not say, “I will see the heaven” but rather “I will see the heavens where grace begins to grow white with heavenly splendor.” The prophet promised that these heavens will be given to those who merit the Lord’s heavenly grace. “The moon and the stars which you have established”: the moon being the Church, the stars being the Church’s children who shine with the light of heavenly grace. Then notice his petition: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? You have made them little less than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor; you have made them masters of the works of your hands.” The thanksgiving follows. “You have placed all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,”29 and so on. (1151)

V.26. We have taught you—doing so to the utmost of our ability—what we perhaps have not really learned, and we have expressed it as best we are able. May your holiness, formed by priestly teaching, strive to retain what it has received. In this way may your prayer be acceptable to God and your offering be as a pure victim. May God always recognize in you his sign so that you also may obtain the grace and the rewards of virtue through our Lord Jesus Christ to whom is honor, glory, praise, eternity, from the ages, now and always, forever and ever. Amen. (1152)

53-N. An Explanation of the Creed

Although the authenticity of this homily to those preparing for baptism was long disputed, many today consider it a genuine work of Ambrose.

1. Till now we have been celebrating the scrutinies. The object of a scrutiny is that uncleanness not adhere to anyone’s body. Through exorcism holiness not only of the body but also of the soul is sought and applied. Now is the time and the day to hand over the symbolum [the creed], which is a spiritual seal, the object of our heart’s meditation, and a safeguard that is always present. It is truly a spiritual treasury. (1153)

2. First, we should consider the reason for its name. In Greek it is called symbolum, in Latin conlatio [a bringing together]. Bankers especially are accustomed to speak of a symbolum when they bring together their money, and the sum gathered from what each brings is kept whole and inviolate so that no one tries to defraud another or the transaction itself. Thus among bankers themselves it is the custom that if someone commits fraud, that person is rejected as a defrauder. Therefore the holy apostles, coming together, composed a summary of the faith so that we might briefly understand the lineage of our faith. Brevity was necessary so that it always be remembered and kept in mind. I know that especially in parts of the East one has added to what was originally handed down by our ancestors, some as if by fraud, others out of zeal—heretics by fraud, Catholics out of zeal. […] (1154)

53-O. Duties of the Clergy

Perhaps of homiletic origin, the three books of the Duties of the Clergy, dating between 371 and 391, are meant to illustrate the difference between Christian and pagan morality.

I.L.239. […] In days past a lamb or a calf was offered. Now it is Christ who is offered, offered as a man and as one who suffered. Now, as a priest, he offers himself so that our sins be forgiven. Here he does so in an image but there in truth where he intercedes for us as our advocate with the Father. (1155)

I.L.249. As you well know, ministry is to be seen as something unimpaired and pure, not violated by any conjugal act. Do you not know this, you who have received the gift of holy ministry with pure bodies, unsullied modesty, and never having engaged in the marital act? I mention this because in many distant places there are those who upon entering the ministry or the priesthood itself acknowledge having children. This they defend by saying that they are following an old custom, one whereby the sacrifice was offered only at intervals of several days. Yet the people themselves observed continence for two or three days before they could approach the sacrifice without stain as we read in the Old Testament, “they wash their garments.”1 If such attention was paid to what was a figure, then how much more is to be paid to what is true! Learn, O priest and deacon, the meaning of washing your garments whereby you show that your body is pure for celebrating the sacraments. If the people were forbidden to approach the offering unless they had washed their garments, do you, if unclean in both mind and body, dare to intercede for others? To minister to others? (1156)

53-P. On the Patriarchs

Scholars do not agree as to whether this work, whose redaction took place after 390, has a homiletic origin.

9.38. […] The Lord Jesus was poor so that he might free us from want, as the apostle teaches, “Although he was rich, he became poor for your sake so that by his poverty you might become rich.”1 His poverty enriches; the hem of his garments cures;2 his hunger satisfies; his death gives life; his burial brings resurrection. Therefore he is a rich treasury, he whose bread is rich, indeed rich since whoever eats this bread will never experience hunger.3 He gave this bread to his apostles so that they might share it with a believing people,4 and today he gives to us the bread which he, the priest, daily consecrates using his [Christ’s] own words. Therefore this bread becomes the food of the holy ones. […] (1157)

53-Q. Commentaries on Twelve Psalms of David††

The homilies in this collection date from the latter years of Ambrose’s life.

Psalm 1. 9. […] What is more pleasing than psalmody? As David so very well says, “Praise the Lord because psalmody is a good thing; may joyful and fitting praise be given to our God.”1 Truly psalmody is a blessing of the people; it is praise of God, the approbation by the people, the applause of all, the language of the whole world, the voice of the Church, the melodious confession of faith, the full devotion of approval, the gladness of freedom, the cry of happiness, the sound of joy. It appeases anger, renounces anxiety, alleviates grief. It is protection for the night, guidance for the day, a shield against fear, a feast of holiness, an image of tranquility, a pledge of peace and harmony. It is like a lyre issuing forth one sound from diverse and different voices. A psalm echoes at day’s beginning; it resounds at day’s close. Although the apostle commands women to be silent in church,2 they do well to sing the psalms. Doing so in church is delightful for every age, fitting for each sex. Doing so the elderly, having put off the rigor of old age, sing; the mature who are sad respond with cheerful hearts; the young sing without harming themselves by licentiousness; adolescents sing without danger to their tender age, without any fear of being tempted to pleasure; young women sing psalms without harm to their modesty; little girls without forsaking their innocence sing a hymn to God with the sweetness of a moderated voice. Doing so, children eagerly desire to understand; in psalmody the young enjoy practicing whereas in other things they refuse to spend much time doing so; singing is more productive than rigid instruction. How much effort is undertaken in church so that there is silence when the lessons are read! If one person is chattering, all are disturbed; yet when a psalm is read, it produces silence for itself; all are singing and yet no one is disturbed. Kings without the arrogance of power echo the psalms; David took pleasure in being seen doing so. Emperors sing the psalms; the people rejoice in psalmody; individuals vie with one another in singing the psalms so that all may profit. Psalms are sung both at home and outside the home. Easily understood, they are retained with pleasure. The psalms unite those who disagree, bring together those who are at odds, and reconcile those who have been offended. For who cannot be pardoned when it is one voice that goes forth to God? Surely it is a great body of unity when a number of people are united into one choir. The lyre has various strings, but there is a harmony of sound. Even with very few strings do a musician’s fingers often make mistakes, but when the people sing, the artist, the Spirit, does not know how to err. Psalmody is the place of nightly work, the payment for daily relaxation, the method for instructing beginners, the support of those who are perfect, the activity of the angels, the military service of heaven, a spiritual offering. Psalms and rocks are related to each other: when psalms are sung, rock-like hearts are softened; we see those who are harsh in tears, those without mercy weeping. (1158)

Psalm 1. 10. In psalmody doctrine contends with grace. What we joyfully sing together is instruction so that we may learn. What is forcefully commanded does not last; however, what we receive in an agreeable manner, once it is infused into our hearts, usually does not disappear. Does this not happen to you when you sing the psalms? In the psalms I read a song for the beloved one,3 and I am excited with desire for holy love; in the psalms I recognize the wine-presses of the divine mystery, the kindness of those revealing; I review the witnesses of the resurrection, the obligations of promises; in the psalms I learn how to avoid sin; I learn not to be ashamed to do penance for sins. So great a king, so great a prophet has roused me by his example so that either I take pains to diminish the sin I have committed or I take care not to commit sin. (1159)

Psalm 36. 65. […] Those who pray are redeemed if they dutifully direct their thoughts to their prayers and are constant in prayer. May they anticipate the day, may they use the night, may they hasten to greet the early morning sun so that through Christ the sun rising over the earth may shine upon them. Those who sing the psalms are redeemed; those who are encouraged to do so are redeemed. (1160)

Psalm 38. 25. […] The discourses of the prophets contain a shadow of what we now celebrate in the Church. The shadow is found in the flood, in the Red Sea, when our others were baptized in the cloud and in the water, in the rock from which water flowed forth and followed the people.4 Does not the sacrament of this most holy mystery have a shadow? Is not water from the rock a shadow, as it were, of Christ’s blood which followed the fleeing people so that they might drink and not thirst,5 so that they might be redeemed and not perish? But the shadow of the night and of the darkness of the Jews has already departed; the day of the Church has arrived. Now we see what is good through an image, and we preserve the good things of the image. We see the high priest approaching us; we see and hear him offering his blood for us; as priests we follow in order to offer the sacrifice for the people; even though rightly weak, we are honorable in the sacrifice. Even though Christ is not now seen to be offering, yet he offers on earth because his body is offered. Certainly in us he is seen to offer, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered. […] (1161)

53-R. Sermons


Satyrus was the brother of Ambrose. The text actually combines two homilies given in 378, one preached during the funeral itself and the other seven days later.

I.43. What, then, should I say concerning his respect for divine worship? Before he was initiated into the more perfect mysteries, he was on a ship which, being dashed upon rocky shallows, was in danger of being broken up by waves coming in from all sides. Fearing not death but rather that he might depart this life without the mystery, Satyrus asked those whom he knew were initiated to give him the divine sacrament of the faithful, not so he could curiously look upon hidden things but to strengthen his faith. Wrapping it in a cloth which he placed around his neck, he jumped into the water. Not needing a board shaken loose from the ship’s structure on which to float till he could be rescued, he sought only the arms of faith. Thus believing that he was sufficiently protected and kept safe in this way, he sought no further assistance. (1162)


Valentinian II, one of the two Western emperors, was assassinated at Vienne in May 392 when he was only twenty years old. His body was returned to Milan, where Ambrose preached this sermon.

10. Blessed are they who, even when advanced in years, have corrected their error; blessed are they who, even when death is at hand, have turned from vices. “Blessed are they whose sins are covered”1 because it is written, “Cease from evil, do good, and you will live forever.”2 Therefore whoever—no matter at what age—ceases to sin and turns to better things will obtain the forgiveness of past sins, which have been confessed with a penitential spirit or have been rejected with the desire to amend. Yet in obtaining this pardon one shares in the fellowship of many, for there are many who in old age can call themselves back from the dangers of youth; rare, however, is the one who while a youth has carried the heavy yoke with restrained sobriety. […] (1163)

51. I hear you lamenting that he [Valentinian II] had not received the sacrament of baptism. Now tell me, what else do we have if not the desire, if not the request? For a long time he desired to be initiated so that upon arriving in Italy he would be initiated, and just recently he indicated that he desired to be baptized by me. Consequently for various reasons he thought I should go to him. And so does he not have the grace he desired, the grace he requested? Because he asked, he received. And so it is said, “By whatsoever death a just man shall be overtaken, his soul shall be at peace.”3 (1164)

52. […] Grant, I pray, to your servant Valentinian the gift he so desired, the gift he requested while in good health, while he was physically strong and unimpaired. If, afflicted with sickness, he had postponed it, yet he would not be completely lacking your mercy, he who was cheated by the swiftness of time and not by his own desire. […] (1165)

53. If you are disturbed that the mysteries [of initiation] were not solemnly celebrated, remember that neither martyrs if they are catechumens are crowned since they are not crowned unless they have been initiated. But if the martyrs are washed in their own blood [baptized], so his righteousness and desire have washed him also. (1166)

56. With your hands offer the holy mysteries; with pious affection may we request his repose. Celebrate the heavenly sacraments; with our offerings may we escort the soul of our son. My people, “lift up your hands to the holy place”4 with me so that at least by this service we might repay him for the good he has done. I will not sprinkle his grave with flowers, but I will suffuse his spirit with the odor of Christ. Others may scatter lilies by the basketfuls; Christ is our lily, and with this lily I will bless his remains; with this lily I will commend his favor. […] (1167)

53-S. Letters

The ninety-one extant letters of Ambrose (no. 23 is spurious) treat numerous aspects of ecclesial life in Milan and elsewhere. They are collected into ten books; according to some this collection is the work of Ambrose himself.


1. I knew that you would be experiencing great grief upon the death of your sister. […] (1168)

4. Therefore I believe she should not so much be mourned as accompanied with prayers, and I think you should not lament her with your tears but rather commend her soul to the Lord by your prayers. (1169)

53-S-2. LETTER 62 (19). TO VIGILIUS††a

2. […] Mesopotamia lies in the East and is bounded by the Euphrates and the Tigris, the two largest rivers in that area. They have their origins in Armenia and flow, though by different routes, into the Red Sea. The word “Mesopotamia” stands for the “Church.” It is the Church that waters the souls of the faithful with the great streams of wisdom and justice, granting them the grace of sacred baptism, typified by the Red Sea and the washing away of sins. Accordingly, instruct the people to seek the bonds of marriage not from among strangers but from the Christian household. […] (1170)


34. They [the Arians] also claim that the people were misled by singing my hymns. Clearly I do not deny this.b Nothing is more powerful than such sublime song, for what is more powerful than proclaiming the Trinity, than having all the people giving praise each day with their voices? Eagerly do all strive to confess the faith and know how to proclaim in verse the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this way all, who hardly were able to be pupils, became teachers. (1171)


4. On the following day, which was Sunday, after the readings and the homily, and once the catechumens had been dismissed, I was handing over the creed to some of the competentesa in the basilica’s baptistery. There I received news that some court officials had been sent from the palace to the Portiana basilica where they were hanging cloth draperies. Furthermore, I was told that some of the people were going there. I, however, remained at my post and began to celebrate Mass [missam]. (1172)

5. While offering, I learned that a certain Castulus, who according to the Arians was a priest, had been seized by the people, passers-by encountering him in the street. I began to weep most bitterly and to pray during the offering that [God] might provide help so that no one’s blood be shed on behalf of the Church, or at least that my blood be shed not only for the welfare of my own people but also for that of the ungodly. […] (1173)


1. Since I desire that nothing occurring here during your absence escape your knowledge, you should be aware that the bodies of certain martyrs have been discovered. (1174)

When about to dedicate a basilica, many began to say to us with one voice: “Dedicate a basilica as you did in Rome.” I replied, “I will do so if I find any relics of the martyrs.” Immediately I experienced a strong feeling that something was about to happen. (1175)

2. Need I use many words? The Lord looked upon us with favor. Terrified were the clerics whom I ordered to remove the earth found before the chancel of Saints Felix and Nabor.a I discovered suitable signs. When we called in some of those upon whom hands were to be imposed, the power of the holy martyrs became so evident that while I was still silent one woman was seized and thrown forward toward the holy tomb. We found two men [Gervasius and Protasiusb] of wonderful stature as was customary in days past. Their bones were all perfect; there was much blood. Throughout those two days a large group of people gathered. In short, we put everything in its place. Evening approaching, we transferred everything to the basilica of Fausta. Here an all-night vigil was held, and hands were imposed on some. On the following day we carried these relics into the basilica called Ambrosian. A blind man was cured during the transferral. (1176)

3. This is the sermon I then preached to the people. “In light of the very large and unprecedented number of you who have gathered and the gifts of divine grace which has shown forth in the holy martyrs, I confess that I judged myself unequal to this task, unable to express in words what we can hardly grasp with our minds or understand with our eyes. […] (1177)

13. “May these victorious victims ascend to the place where Christ is the victim. But he who suffered for all is upon the altar; they who are redeemed by his passion lie under the altar. I have already appointed this place for myself since it is right that a priest rest where he is accustomed to offer. But I yield the right side to the holy victims, this place being destined for the martyrs. Therefore may we deposit the most holy relics, carry them to their worthy dwelling places, and celebrate the whole day with faithful devotion.” (1178)


65. How I resisted ordination! But finally, being compelled, I at least attempted to have my ordination delayed, but what was prescribed gave way to popular pressure. By their decision the bishops of the West approved my ordination; those in the East did likewise. […] (1179)

66. But if other churches pay such great attention to the ordination of a priest, how much care is to be exercised in the church of Vercelli where two things seem to be demanded of the bishop: monastic self-control and church discipline? Eusebius of happy memory was the first bishop in western lands to bring these together: while living in the city he both obeyed monastic regulations and governed the church with the sober fasting. Much assistance is given to the grace of the priesthood if the bishop obliges young men to practice abstinence and to observe the rule of purity, and—even if they reside in the city—to reject urban practices and conduct. (1180)

53-T. Hymns

Called the “Father of Western Hymnody,” Ambrose not only promoted hymn singing at Milan but also composed numerous hymn texts. Popular in nature and easy to remember, they were written in iambic dimeters (eight syllables) grouped in verses of four lines each. By the seventh century a large corpus of hymns written in this style had come into use, all called “Ambrosian.” Recent scholarship seems to agree that at least four of the texts ascribed to Ambrose are certainly authentic, testimony being found in the writings of Augustine (WEC 3:98). Moreover, other scholars attribute even more hymn texts to the bishop of Milan, e.g., the Splendor paternae gloriae.

53-T-1. aeterne rerum conditor

Reference to this morning hymn is found in Augustine’s Corrections 1.21. In the Roman Breviary it was long used at Sunday Lauds from the octave of the Epiphany to the first Sunday in Lent and from the Sunday nearest the first day of October till Advent. In the present Ambrosian liturgy it is sung at every Matins.

Eternal Lord the world that made, (1181)

Who hides the day in night’s black shade

And fixes hour on hour, that we

May never faint or weary be.

Hark to the herald of the morn,

Who vigil through the dark has borne,

Still separating night from night,

To travellers a pledge of light.

The day star hears, and at the call

Looses the sky from night’s grim thrall,

While roaming bandits at the word

From mischief cease and sheathe the sword.

His ringing notes the sailors cheer,

The angry waves less would appear;

And he on whom the Church is built

When the cock crew confessed his guilt. […]

53-T-2. deus creator omnium††

Augustine refers to this evening hymn in his Confessions IX.XII.32 (WEC 3:2515). It appears at Vespers in the present Ambrosian Liturgy of the Hours.

God who all things did create (1182)

And the heavens dost moderate,

Who doth clothe the day with light,

With benefit of sleep the night.

Which may our weakened senses make

Able new toils to undertake,

And all our minds from anguish ease

And our distempered griefs appease.

Day sinks; we thank thee for thy gift,

Night comes; to thee again we lift

Our prayers and vows and hymns, that we

Against all ills defended be.

Thee let our inmost hearts acclaim,

Thee let our tuneful voices name,

To thee our chaste affections cling,

Thee sober reason adores as king. […]

53-T-3. jam surgit hora tertia

This hymn on Christ’s death on the cross is attested by Augustine in his De natura et gratia 63. It begins Terce on Sunday in the present Ambrosian Liturgy of the Hours.

Behold the hour of terce draws nigh (1183)

When Christ went to the cross to die.

Let no proud thoughts distract our mind

That shall in prayer in solace find.

The heart where Christ is all in all

Shall ne’er be led by sense in thrall,

But by continual prayer within

In depths the Holy Ghost shall win.

This is the hour that once did send

To sin’s old lethargy its end.

Death’s realm his victory must own;

The crimes of earth are overthrown.

From hence by grace of Christ began

A time of happiness for man;

And on the churches from the sky

Was shed the faith of verity. […]

53-T-4. intende qui regis israel††

Augustine in Sermon 372 quotes this Christmas hymn, which in the Roman Liturgy is sung before Christmas during the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Listen, all who rule Israel, (1184)

all who sit above the Cherubim,

appear before Ephraim,

awaken your power and come.

O come, Redeemer of the earth,

and manifest thy virgin birth.

Let every age in wonder fall:

such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will

but of the Spirit, Thou art still

The Word of God in flesh arrayed,

the promised fruit to man displayed.

The Virgin’s womb that burden gained,

its virgin honor still unstained.

The banners there of virtue glow;

God in his temple dwells below.


Filaster (Philaster) became bishop of Brescia in northern Italy toward the end of the fourth century. Before his ordination he was a wandering preacher; as bishop he attended the anti-Arian synod of Aquileia in 381. Otherwise, little is known of his life. He died ca. 397.

CPL nos. 121ff. * Altaner (1961) 432 * Altaner (1966) 369 * Bardenhewer (1908) 430–31 * Bardenhewer (1910) 373–74 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:481–85 * Labriolle (1947) 1:432–34 * Labriolle (1968) 297–300 * Quasten 4:130–33 * Steidle 152 * Tixeront 234–35 * CATH 4:1277–78 * DHGE 16:1473–74 * DPAC 1:1357–58 * DTC 12.2:1398–99 * EC 5:1291–92 * EEC 1:323–24 * EEChr 1:426 * LTK 3:1279 * ODCC 1273–74 * PEA (1991) 9:783

54-A. Book of Heresies

Written between 385 and 391, the Diversarum haereseon liber or Liber de haeresibus lists a total of 156 heretics, 28 from Jewish times, 128 from the Christian era. The author utilized previous works of this genre, and his treatise was in turn used by Augustine (WEC 3:98-Q). Filaster’s writing is far from faultless: for example, he fails to distinguish between heresy and schism; and among the heretics he places certain Old Testament protagonists as well as various doctrinal statements with which he disagreed.

LXXVII. (49). Other heretics are the so-called Aquarians. In the heavenly sacraments they offer water, something the Catholic and apostolic Church is not accustomed to do. (1185)

CXL. (112). 1. There are certain heretics who cast doubt upon the day of our Lord and Savior’s Epiphany, a day celebrated on the VIII ides of January [6 January]. They say that they are to celebrate only the Lord’s birth on the VIII calends of January [25 December], and are not to celebrate the Epiphany, forgetting that under the law and according * * * the Savior in the flesh so brought himself to perfection that he was born and then appeared on the VIII calends of January in order to show himself to the Magi twelve days later * * * in the temple, so that what was true would not be hidden but would be adored by the Magi. (1186)

CXL. (112). 2. A yearly series of four major feasts has been established for our salvation: the first feast is the day on which Christ was born; then there is the day on which he appeared, namely, the twelfth day afterwards; then [after] the day on which he suffered, namely, the Pasch; then the day close to Pentecost on which he ascended into heaven, this indeed being the completion of the victorious One. (1187)

CXL. (112). 3. Whoever ignores one of these days is neglectful and can also have doubts concerning the other days, lacking as they do the fullness of truth since such are without the diverse joys that four times a year spring up to us from Christ the Lord, namely, the day of his birth; then the day on which he appeared; third, the day on which he suffered, rose, and was seen; and fourth, the day on which he ascended into heaven. (1188)

CXL. (112). 4. Generally we always and joyfully celebrate these days throughout the year; we observe them, all of them, keeping them inviolate. Some believe that the Epiphany is the day of baptism; others that it is the day of the transfiguration on the mountain. (1189)

CXLIX. (121). 3. The Church celebrates four fasts during the year: first, a fast at Christ’s birth;a then at the Pasch;b the third at the Ascension;c and the fourth at Pentecost. A fast is observed at the birth of our Lord and Savior; in like manner for forty days prior to the Pasch; also at the ascension into heaven on the fortieth day after the Pasch; then for ten days till Pentecost or afterward [aut postea]. (1190)

CXLIX. (121). 4. This was done by the apostles who after the ascension fasted and prayed1 when, as written, they merited to obtain at Pentecost the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and when, already equipped with heavenly arms and all previous doubts having been laid aside, they hastened to become invincible teachers and glorious martyrs of the Lord. (1191)

CXLIX. (121). 6. Others, however, believe the fast should be observed according to the four seasons of the year. […] (1192)


Elected bishop of Rome in 384, Siricius is especially noted for expanding papal power and authority by stressing the bishop of Rome’s primacy over and responsibility for all other churches. He was a friend of Ambrose (WEC 2:53), who eclipsed him in popularity, influence, and literary skills.

Presiding over Roman synods (386 and again in 390–92), Siricius did not hesitate to condemn heretics, for example, the Priscillianists (a heretical group very influential in Gaul) and the monk Jovinian (d. ca. 405), who denied among other things the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary.

Siricius died on November 26, 399.

CPL no. 1637 * Altaner (1961) 415–16 * Altaner (1966) 355 * Bardenhewer (1908) 444 * Bardenhewer (1910) 385 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:591–92 * Bautz 10:530–31 * Labriolle (1947) 2:687 * Quasten 4:580–81 * Steidle 146 * Tixeront 276 * CATH 14:128–29 * CE 14:26–27 * DCB 4:696–702 * DPAC 2:3239 * DTC 14.2:2171–74 * EC 11:756–57 * EEC 2:782–83 * EEChr 2:1064 * LTK 9:631 * NCE 13:258–59 * NCES 13:166–67 * ODCC 1506

J. Janini, S. Siricio y las Cuatro émporas: una investigación sobre las fuentes de la … (Valencia, 1958). * P.H. Lafontaine, “Remarques sur le prétendu rigorisme pénitentiel du pape Sirice,” RUO 28 (1958) 31–48. * P.H. Lafontaine, Les conditions positives de l’accession aux ordres dans la première législation ecclésiastique (300–492) (Ottawa, 1963).

55-A. Letters

Among this pope’s seven letters that have come down to us, the one to Bishop Himerius of Tarragona in Spain, written in 385, is historically the most important. The Spanish bishop earlier sent a set of questions to Pope Damasus (WEC 2:52), the predecessor of Siricius, but the letter arrived only after the pope’s death in 384. So in a set of fifteen replies to fifteen questions, Siricius, once secretary to Damasus and now bishop of Rome, responded. This letter is usually considered the first decretal, namely, a papal letter responding to one or more particular questions.


I. –2. On the first page of your letter you indicated that many who have been baptized by the godless Arians are hastening to the Catholic faith and that some of our brothers wish to baptize them anew. This practice is forbidden by the apostle,1 prohibited by the canons, and condemned by the council of Ariminuma whose general decrees were sent to the provinces by Liberius,b my predecessor of happy memory. It is through the invocation alone of the seven-fold Spirit and through the imposition of the bishop’s hand that we reconcile the Novatiansc and other heretics to the body of Catholics, as the synod determined and is observed by both East and West. So it is henceforth proper that you not deviate from this path if you do not wish to be separated from us by the synod’s decision. (1193)

II. –3. There is also the confusion caused by baptizing people whenever it is so desired. This is due to our brother priests who—not because of any authority but by rashness alone—presume to baptize indiscriminately and with no restrictions. They do so, as you say, on Christmas, on the Epiphany, as well as on the feasts of the apostles and martyrs. This is not approved and is to be corrected since among us and among all the churches the law maintains that baptism is to take place only on Pentecost and on the Pasch. These are the only days of the year when the sacraments in their entirety are given to those flocking to the faith; yet this pertains only to the elect who enroll their names forty or more days previously and atone for their sins by means of exorcisms, daily prayers, and fasting. In this way is fulfilled the apostle’s command that the old dough is to be cleared out, replaced by new dough.2 Just as reverence for the Pasch is not to be diminished, so we desire that the water of holy baptism be given with all speed to infants who are still too young to speak out or to those for whom a necessity exists. Our souls will risk destruction if, denying the saving font to those desiring it, someone leaving this world should lose both the kingdom and life itself. Also, those suffering the peril of shipwreck, hostile attack, the uncertainty of siege, or the hopelessness of any type of bodily weakness, and demand to be assisted by the one and only help of belief, at the very time of their request they are to receive the rewards of the desired regeneration. There has been enough error in this matter. All priests who do not wish to be separated from the solidarity of the apostolic rock, upon which Christ built the universal Church,3 are to observe the above rule. (1194)

III. –4. At the end of life pardon of sins is not to be denied to apostates, namely, to those who separate themselves from the Body of Christ. You also added that some Christians, becoming apostates—something terrible to hear—were profaned by worshiping idols and by the pollution of sacrifices. We order that these be separated from Christ’s Body and Blood through which, not long ago, they were redeemed by being reborn. And if perhaps they begin to grieve, they are to do penance for the rest of their lives; at the end they may be granted the grace of reconciliation because, as the Lord has said, we do not desire the death of the sinner but that he or she convert and live.4 (1195)

IV. –5. As to marriage, you asked whether a man may marry a woman who is engaged to someone else. In no way is this to happen because the blessing given by the priest to the engaged woman is, when violated in any way, considered by the faithful to be a type of sacrilege. (1196)

V. –6. It was not improper for you, beloved, to believe that you should consult the apostolic see as to those who, having performed acts of penance, return like dogs and swine to their former vomit and pigsties; once again they long for the sword-belt, for pleasures of the theater, for new marriages, and for prohibited romances whose acknowledged incontinence is shown by the offspring born after absolution. Since these can no longer rightly do penance, we decree that they can be present within the church but only to pray with the faithful. They can also be present for the celebration of the holy mysteries even though they are unworthy of them. However, they are excluded from sharing at the table of the Lord’s Supper. In such a way, reproached by at least this restriction, they reprove their own sins and provide an example to others in that they are separated from their evil desires. Since their fall was due to human weakness, we desire that as they begin their journey to the Lord they may be strengthened by a gift for the journey [Viaticum] through the grace of Communion. We believe that such an arrangement is also applicable to women who after doing penance have attached themselves to such uncleanliness. (1197)

IX. –13. Those who from infancy are vowed to serve the Church are to be baptized before the years of puberty and be associated with the ministry of readers. At the onset of adolescence such a person is to become an acolyte and subdeacon, remaining so till his thirtieth year and provided he lives in an upright fashion, having one wife who was a virgin at the time of their marriage when a public blessing was given by the priest. Afterwards he may advance to the diaconate if he first proves himself worthy and excels in continence. On condition that he has laudably served as a deacon for more than five years, he may go on to the priesthood. Then, after ten years, he can be ordained bishop if throughout these years he has demonstrated integrity of faith and life. (1198)

X. –14. An older person who is called to pursue a higher way of life and wishes to leave the lay state for that of a cleric will not attain the fruit of his desire unless at baptism he is immediately enrolled among the readers or exorcists; it must be evident that he either had or has one wife, she being a virgin at the time of marriage. Two years after his initiation he can become an acolyte or a subdeacon. After five years he can be promoted to the diaconate if during this time he is judged worthy. Then when the time is at hand and after being chosen by the clergy and people, he can rightly obtain the presbyteral or episcopal office. (1199)

XIV. –18. We must also see to it that just as no cleric is to do penance, so no member of the laity after penance and reconciliation is to become a cleric. Although they have been cleansed from the contagion of all sin, nonetheless, those who recently were vessels of vice are not to handle the vessels [instrumenta] used during the sacraments. (1200)


3. […] Indeed we accept and do not reject the wedding vows; we are present for the veiling. Yet we give higher honor to the virgins devoted to God, virgins who are the fruit of such marriages. […] (1201)


Three sermons, presumably given in Rome on Thursday of Holy Week for the reconciliation of the penitents, have come down to us. Found among the Augustinian corpus, they are nonetheless regarded as the work of a fourth-century Roman archdeacon.

CPL no. 238 * Quasten 4:565

56-A. Sermon 2. On Penance††

I. “This is the acceptable time, the day of salvation.”1 May the tears of the penitents move you, Holy Father, to grant forgiveness to those who desire it through you by him who dwells within you. Indeed they come to him, prostrating before him. They ask the Lord who created them to wipe away what they have done and to restore what he once made. (1202)

II. The Lord turns away from sins but not from those who have sinned. May he not look upon those doing evil so that their “remembrance may perish from the earth.”2 But may his eyes always be upon those doing penance, those who are thirsty, “and may he hear their prayers.”3 By means of the body they have sinned, and for this reason they afflict the body. They require punishment for the evil they have done, and so God’s merciful pardon is required. They are angry at themselves so that they might placate God, and they punish themselves to avoid his punishment. (1203)

III. “As a sacrifice” they offer him “an afflicted spirit”4 so that he who “resists the proud” and who “gives grace to the humble”5 may not spurn a “contrite and humble heart.”6 Baptism made them new; may penance heal those who have been wounded. They have not retained what they once professed; may the sins they confessed not be retained. They have not requested freedom; they do not pay off a debt. They have shown mercy; may they be worthy of mercy. They have remitted; may it be remitted to them. They have given; may it be given to them. (1204)

IV. The vast amount of earthly evils—evils that burden them in the darkness of their conscience—is shattered by the voice of Christ. By confessing they emerge from the tomb into the light. Release them and allow them to go, for you have the keys whereby “whatsoever you loose upon earth will be loosed in heaven.”7 By sin their members served the tyrant; now they are restored to the just conqueror. Eyes once deceived by the allurements of sin now pour forth tears. (1205)

V. Ears that were receptive to ungodly sounds are now struck by the groaning of those shedding tears for themselves. The tongue that gloried in its perverse freedom is now humbled as it makes its request. Hands once uselessly at work now make supplication as they seek medicine. We see feet that once hastened toward sin now changing their direction. And the whole body, previously guilty of sin, is now seen to be prostrate in tears. (1206)

VI. By these outward signs Christ appears as the victor within. The enemy, having been expelled, is in torment. The stronger one, who commanded that those who are bound should be loosed, has snatched away the armor of the strong one. Sorrow is found in the confession of the penitents, and the Lord is close to those who crush the heart. Sorrow like this is medicine, not a penalty. He who said, “Test my heart and my reins,”8 desired the hand of a physician. Sorrow like this is an enemy of decay, not of salvation. (1207)

VII. “God does not desire the death of the sinner but that the sinner live.”9 “Those in good health do not need a physician, but the sick.”10 Therefore Christ did not come “to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”11 Not that sinners are to rejoice over the fact that they have sinned. Rather, they are to acknowledge their sins by mourning. They are to hate in themselves what God hates so that, saved by God, they might merit to please God. For just as a physician does not simply desire to cure but actually cures a sick person, so Christ is the healer of sin, not the lover of sin. (1208)

XIII. They who stand should take care that they fall not.12 They join their sorrow to the wounds of the penitents so that all may share in a common state of well-being. They prostrate themselves so that they might rise because the penitents themselves do so in order to rise. “God works in all things,”13 for “God is love.”14 And so may the love of all—the love which more honorably dwells in you—move you so that through your intercession the prayers and lamentations for one’s own sins and for the sins of others may be heard by the Lord so that all may share in the same salvation. Although not sharing the same wounds, may all, after experiencing together the same sorrow, rejoice in the fellowship of Christ’s body. […] (1209)

56-B. Sermon 3. On Penance

6. All petition that the penitents may receive [forgiveness]; that it may be opened to them; all are sorrowful when the penitents bear their burden; all rejoice when the penitents are healed. […] (1210)


57-A. Epigraph of Saint Tarcisius

The following inscription, composed by Pope Damasus (WEC 2:52), is found upon the tomb of Tarcisius in the mausoleum of Pope Zephyrinus (198–217).

O Reader, whosoever you are who does read this, know that both those to whom, after their reward, Damasus dedicated these lines, were equal in merit. The Jews crushed Stephen under a rain of stones when he would have taught them the better way. The faithful levite triumphed over his enemies, snatching from them the palm of martyrdom. (1211)

When he carried the holy sacrament of Christ, an impious man stretched out his hand to take it from him and to expose it to the scorn of unbelievers. Tarcisius preferred to be struck down and to give up his spirit rather than deliver to mad dogs the Body of Christ. (1212)

57-B. Epigraph in the Ambrosian Baptistery††

This inscription, often attributed to Ambrose (WEC 2:53) but of uncertain origin, was once found in the baptistery of the cathedral of Saint Tecla in Milan.

This temple of eight niches was built for holy use; (1213)

an octagonal font is worthy of this gift.

It was fitting that on this number

the hall of holy baptism

was built, by which true salvation has returned to the people

in the light of Christ rising again.

For he who was freed from the prison

of death frees the dead from their tombs,

frees from every stain of guilt those who confess their sins,

and washes them in the stream of the purifying font.

May they come quickly to this place.

Let those who want to discard the faults of a shameful life

here wash their hearts and bear pure breasts.

Even though in darkness

may one dare to approach,

for one will depart shining whiter than snow.

The holy ones hasten to this place

because no one just is able to shun the waters.

In these [waters] is the reign and purpose of God,

and the glory of [God’s] justice.

For what is more divine than this,

that in an instant the sin of a people falls away.

57-C. Epigraph of Flavius Latinus

Flavius Latinus was the bishop of Brescia in northern Italy.

To Flavius Latinus, who was bishop for three years seven months; priest for fifteen years; exorcist for twelve years; and to Latinilla and to Flavius Macrinus, lector; Flavius Paulina, his granddaughter, put this up to his good memory. (1214)

57-D. Epigraph of Postumius Eutenion††

Postumius Eutenion, a believer, who obtained holy grace the day before his birthday at a very late hour and died. He lived six years and was buried on 11 July, the day of Jupiter on which he was born. His soul is with the saints in peace. […] (1215)



Born of a wealthy pagan family in Poitiers ca. 315, Hilary became a convert and, although married and with a daughter, was elected bishop of Poitiers ca. 353. He soon became one of the leading opponents of Arianism during the fourth century, even being called the “Athanasius of the West.”

As bishop of Poitiers Hilary organized resistance against the Arian-leaning Saturinus of Arles and ca. 356 was consequently deposed and exiled by the emperor Constantius to Phrygia in central Asia Minor. During this time of banishment Hilary continued his struggle against Arianism, especially through his literary activity. He returned to his see in 360 and eventually obtained the excommunication of Severinus. Through his theological expositions, exegetical writings, and various hymn texts, he was a central figure in the gradual demise of Arianism in the West.

CPL nos. 427ff. * Altaner (1961) 423–28 * Altaner (1966) 361–66 * Bardenhewer (1908) 402–12 * Bardenhewer (1910) 348–56 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:365–93 * Bardy (1930) 83–87 * Bautz 2:835–40 * Hamell 128–30 * Jurgens 1:372–89 * Labriolle (1947) 1:344–61 * Labriolle (1968) 238–50 * Leigh-Bennett 161–77 * Quasten 4:33–61 * Steidle 188–91 * Tixeront 227–30 * CATH 5:731–34 * CE 7:349–50 * CHECL 302–5 * DCB 3:54–66 * DHGE 24:449–50 * DictSp 7.1:466–99 * DPAC 2:1748–53 * DTC 6.2:2388–2462 * EEC 1:381–82 * EEChr 1:527–28 * LTK 5:100–102 * NCE 6:1114–16 * NCES 6:828–30 * ODCC 769–70 * PEA (1991) 5:557–59 * TRE 15:315–22

A.S. Walpole, “Hymns Attributed to Hilary of Poitiers,” JThSt 6 (1904–5) 599–603. * A. Wilmart, “Le prétendu ‘Liber Officiorum’ de s. Hilaire et l’Avent,” RB 27 (1910) 500–513. * T. Michels, “The Synodal Letter of Rimini and the Roman Canon,” Tra 2 (1944) 486–91. * M. Pellegrino, “La poesia di sant’Ilario di Poitiers,” VC 1 (1947) 201–26. * L. Malunowicz, De voce “sacramenti” apud s. Hilarium Pictaviensem (Lublin, 1956). * J. Fontaine, “L’apport de la tradition poétique romaine à la formation de l’hymnodie latine chrétienne,” RELA 52 (1974) 318–55. * J. Fontaine, “Les origines de l’hymnodie chrétienne latine d’Hilaire de Poitiers à Ambroise de Milan,” LMD, no. 161 (1985) 33–74.

58-A. On the Gospel of Matthew

Probably written between 353 and 355 before Hilary’s exile and known by Jerome (WEC 3:145), the thirty-three chapters of this book aim at what the author calls a “deeper” understanding of the Gospel.

2.6. […] At his baptism, when he [Jesus] heard the opening of the heavens, the Holy Spirit was sent and was seen under the visible form of a dove. In this way he was anointed with the anointing of the Father’s grace. The voice then spoke from heaven, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”1 […] In like fashion […] after the water bath the Holy Spirit descended upon us from the gates of heaven, we were anointed with the anointing of the heavenly glory. […] (1216)

58-B. On the Trinity††

Considered Hilary’s masterpiece and one of the fourth century’s leading treatises against Arianism, this work, which in antiquity was known under various titles, uses Greek thought in defense of Christ’s divinity.

VIII.14. It is not in a human or worldly way that we are to speak of the things of God. […] Unless we have been taught by Christ, all that we say in regard to his divine nature within us is foolishness and impiety. Christ himself said, “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”1 As to the reality of his Body and his Blood, there is no room for doubt. Both the Lord’s affirmation and our own faith testify that it is indeed flesh and indeed blood. When the flesh is received and when the blood is taken as drink, they bring it about that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Isn’t this true? […] (1217)

58-C. On the Psalms

Although he may have written more commentaries on the psalms, only fifty-six such works admitted as authentic have come down to us. They are usually dated ca. 365. Hilary uses both the LXX and the Latin translations as the basis for his writing.

Psalm 64:12. […] The greatest sign of God’s mercy is the Church taking delight in its morning and evening hymns. The day is begun with the prayers of God; it is concluded with the hymns of God. […] (1218)

Psalm 118 Zain 6. […] The spirit is not to hand itself over to a dangerous relaxation when it observes the night vigils but is to occupy itself with prayers, supplications, and confession of sins, so that, especially when an occasion to satisfy bodily vices presents itself, then especially these same vices may be subdued by the memory of God’s law. (1219)


59-A. Synod of Arles I (314)††

Summoned by Constantine, a large number of western bishops met at Arles on August 1, 314. They discussed the problems brought about by the Donatist schism and issued twenty-two canons on various topics of ecclesiastical discipline.

CPL no. 1776a * Jurgens 1:272–74 * Hefele (1871) 1:180–99 * Hefele (1905) 1.1:275–98 * CATH 1:837–38 * CE 1:727 * DACL 1.2:2914–15 * DCA 1:141–42 * DDCon 1:83 * DPAC 1:364–65 * EC 1:1949–50 * EEC 1:79 * ODCC 105

J.M. O’Donnel, “The Canons of the First Council of Arles, 314 A.D.,” diss., Studies in Sacred Theology Series 2, no. 127A (Washington, D.C., 1961). * G. Lusseaud, “Tradition conciliaire de la première église orthodoxe des Gaules: le grand concile d’Arles de 314,” PrO 20–21 (1972–73) 56–62. * P. Nautin, “Le canon du Concile d’Arles de 314 sur le remariage après divorce,” RSR 61 (1973) 353–62. * E. Vanneufville, “L’Eglise en Provence du Ve au VIIIe siècles,” MSR 53, no. 4 (1996) 61–81.

Canon 6. Concerning those who fall sick and wish to believe; they are to receive the imposition of the hand. (1220)

Canon 9. Concerning the Africans who follow their own law and again baptize; if any come from heresy to the Church, they will be questioned in regard to the creed, and if it is determined that they were certainly baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, then only the hand will be placed on them. But if being questioned on the creed, they do not respond by proclaiming this Trinity, rightly may they be baptized. (1221)

Canon 15. Concerning deacons whom we have known to offer [the Eucharist?] in many places; this must never happen again. (1222)

Canon 20. Concerning those who take it upon themselves alone to ordain a bishop; no one should presume to ordain unless he has seven other bishops with him, and if this is not possible, there should be no less than three bishops. (1223)

Canon 22. Concerning apostates who never present themselves to the Church and who have never sought to do penance and then, once fallen ill, request Communion. This, however, is not to be given them unless they recover and carry out works that are worthy of penance. (1224)

59-B. Synod of Valence (374)

Meeting on July 12, 374, at Valence in southeastern Gaul, the thirty bishops at this interprovincial synod issued four disciplinary canons.

CPL no. 1776a * Hefele (1871) 2:289 * Hefele (1905) 1.2:982 * DCA 2:2010 * DPAC 2:3538 * EEC 2:858 * NCE 14:515 * ODCC 1675

Canon 3. As to those who after the one and holy baptismal bath degrade themselves either by profane sacrifices to the devils or by sinful baths, we have decided that they should be censured as follows: conforming to the Council of Nicaea [WEC 2:71-C], access to satisfaction is not to be denied them nor is the door of consolation to be closed to the tears of these unfortunate ones, and this so that they not despair. They should do penance up to the day of their death but not without the expectation of forgiveness which they should fully hope from the One who alone maintains what is right and yet shows himself so rich in mercy that no person should despair: “God, in fact, does not cause death and does not rejoice in the loss of the living.”1 a (1225)

59-C. Synod of Nîmes (394)††

Although meeting to discuss various doctrinal issues, the twenty bishops who convened in southern Gaul at Nîmes in 394 (more probably) or 396 issued a number of disciplinary norms that remained unknown till their discovery in 1743.

Hefele (1871) 2:402–6 * Hefele (1905) 2:91–97 * DACL 12.1:1322–28 * DDCon 3:198–99 * DPAC 2:2406 * EEC 1:597

L. Lévêque, “Le concile de Nîmes à la fin du IVe siècle,” RQH 30 (1881) 549–61.

Canon 2. Likewise, some have indicated that contrary to apostolic discipline something has happened that is unheard of till now. We know not where, but some women appear to have been elevated to the diaconal ministry.a Ecclesiastical discipline, as is publicly known, does not permit this practice. May such an ordination, which is contrary to good sense, be considered void, and may no one in the future dare act in this way. (1226)



Little is known of the life of Pacian (d. before 392), bishop of Barcelona and honored by the Church as a saint. It was to Pacian’s son, Flavius Dexter, that Jerome (WEC 3:145) dedicated his On Illustrious Men. Jerome also says that Pacian’s life was more illustrious than his (i.e., Pacian’s) words.

Although much of Pacian’s writing has been lost, two tracts, one on baptism and the other on penance, have survived as well as three letters to an otherwise unknown Simpronian. An opponent of Novatianism that rejected penance after baptism and a strong proponent of the ecclesial role in the penitential process, Pacian, however, is perhaps best remembered for the adage, “My [first] name is Christian; my surname is Catholic” (Letter 1. To Simpronian IX).

CPL nos. 561ff. * Altaner (1961) 433–34 * Altaner (1966) 369–70 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:401–3 * Bardy (1930) 115–16 * Bautz 6:1423–26 * Hamell 131 * Jurgens 2:141–44 * Labriolle (1947) 1:430–31 * Labriolle (1968) 296–97 * Quasten 4:135–38 * Steidle 197–98 * Tixeront 233 * CATH 10:376–77 * DCB 4:171 * DictSp 12.1:17–20 * DPAC 2:2560–61 * DTC 11.2:1718–21 * EC 9:504–5 * EEC 2:628 * EEChr 2:846 * LTK 7:1255–56 * NCE 10:854 * NCES 10:743–44 * ODCC 1207 * PEA (1894) 18.2:2077–79 * PEA (1991) 9:132

B. Poschmann, Die abendländische Kirchenbusse im Ausgang des christlichen Altertums (Munich, 1928) 144–47. * S. González, “La disciplina penítencial de la Iglesia española en el siglo IV,” RET 1 (1940) 339–60. * C. McAuliffe, “The Mind of Saint Pacianus on the Efficacy of the Episcopal Absolution,” TS 2 (1941) 19–34. * C. McAuliffe, “Absolution in the Early Church: The View of St. Pacianus,” TS 6 (1945) 51–61. * S. González, La penitencia en la primitiva iglesia española (Salamanca, 1950) 73–79. * A. Martínez Sierra, “Teología penitencial de S. Paciano de Barcelona,” Miscelánea Comillas 47–48 (1967) 75–94. * J.-C. Fredouille, “Du ‘De paenitentia’ de Tertullien au ‘De paenitentiae institutione’ du Pacien,” REAug 44 (1998) 13–23. * P. Mattei, “Baptême hérétique, ecclésiologie et Siracide 34, 25: Note sur l’influence de Cyprien dans un texte de Pacien de Barcelone,” RTL 30 (1999) 180–94.

60-A. On Baptism

Addressed to the whole community and not just to the catechumens, this sermon relies on the teaching of Paul and on the Gospels, especially the Gospel according to John. Pacian here attests what is known as the doctrine of original sin.

I. My purpose is to show how we are born in baptism and how it renews us.1 I will express myself using the Lord’s words, brethren, so that you may not believe that I am intoxicated by the elegance of my literary style and so that you can understand the reality of the mystery. Would that I be able to persuade you that I do not desire glory2 since glory belongs to God alone.3 What motivates me is the concern I have for you and especially for the catechumens so that we can understand the “scrutiny” that leads to such great happiness. Therefore I will show what paganism was, what faith offers, and who is forgiven by baptism. And if, as I believe, this will penetrate your hearts, you, my brethren, can judge whether till now any preaching has been more beneficial to you. Dearly beloved, learn about the death in which people found themselves before baptism. Certainly you are acquainted with the ancient account of how Adam was assigned to the earth, his origin,4 how this condemnation imposed on him the law of eternal death,5 as well as how the same law imprisoned all his descendants.6 This death reigned over all “from Adam to Moses.”7 Yet through Moses a people8 was chosen, namely, the descendants of Abraham9 with the hope that they could observe the commandments of righteousness.10 During this time all of us were under the bondage of sin11 so that we were the fruits of death,12 destined to eat husks and to watch over pigs13—namely, unclean works—through the doing of the bad angels; under their domination it was impossible to practice or to know righteousness. The state of slavery itself forced us to obey such masters. How did we obtain freedom from these powers and from this death? Listen carefully. (1227)

II. After Adam sinned, as I said, the Lord declared, “You are dust and unto dust you will return,”14 and Adam was condemned to die, a sentence extended to the whole human race, “for all have sinned.”15 Henceforth all are dust by their very nature, as the apostle [Paul] states, “Because through one man sin has entered the world and through sin came death, and so death reached all because all have sinned.”16 Sin therefore rules,17 and by its bonds we, like captives, were drawn to death,18 namely, to eternal death.19 But previous to the Law this sin was not recognized, as the apostle says, “Before the Law there was no sin in the world,”20 namely, it was not seen; with the coming of the Law sin came to be recognized:21 it was in fact made apparent so that it could be seen. But to no use, for almost no one obeyed it. In effect the Law was saying, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not covet,”22 and yet covetousness persists23 together with all the vices. So it was that previously the Law killed sin with a concealed sword;24 under the Law it brandished the sword. Is there any hope for the human race? Without the Law people perished because they were unable to recognize sin; under the Law they perished because they threw themselves into what they saw. Who could deliver them from the destruction? Listen to the apostle: “Miserable man that I am! Who will free me from this body of death? Grace,” he says, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”25 (1228)

III. What is grace? It is the forgiveness of sin, namely, it is a gift.26 Grace, in fact, is a gift.27 Thus Christ by his coming and by assuming human nature presented to God a man pure and free from the power of sin.28 Isaiah says, “The virgin shall be with child and bring forth a son, and you will name him Emmanuel. He will eat curds and honey before he rejects what is bad and chooses what is good.”29 And again in this regard, “He who has not sinned and in his mouth no falsehood has been found.”30 Protected by his innocence Christ undertook in sinful flesh itself the defense of humankind.31 Immediately the father of sin and disobedience,32 who once had deceived the first parents,33 began to make haste, to fume, to fear; he was to be overcome through the repeal of the law of sin34 through which he subdued or was able to subdue humankind. Arming himself for spiritual battle against the Immaculate One, he first attacked—by means of the ruse he used in Paradise to conquer Adam35—the false appearance of greatness. As if being solicitous of heavenly power, he said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”36 His hope was that Christ would be ashamed to conceal that he is God’s Son or, not wishing to hide this, that Christ would comply with the tempter’s orders. But the devil still was not silent; he suggested that if Christ would throw himself down from on high, he would be caught by the hands of the angels whom the Father had ordered to carry him on their shoulders so that he not dash his foot against a stone;37 the devil hoped that Christ, willing to prove that he was the one to whom the Father had given this order, might do what the tempter was urging. Vanquished at last, the serpent, as if backing off, promised what he snatched from the first man, namely, the kingdoms of the world.38 The devil hoped that the advocate of humankind,39 thinking himself a victor since he received the dominion which he was defending, might give in to the dignity of the impious and commit sin. To be sure, in all this the enemy was vanquished40 and destroyed by the heavenly power41 as the prophet said when speaking to the Lord, “You have silenced the enemy and the one seeking vengeance, and I will see the heavens, the work of your hands.”42 (1229)

IV. The devil should have retreated, and yet he did not stop,43 for by his well-known snares he bribed the scribes, the Pharisees, and this whole troop of impious ones as he stirred them up with his madness. After every type of scheme44 and with deceitful hearts,45 they—like the serpent46—thought they could trick the Lord under the guise of being gracious to him.47 Stopping at nothing,48 they—like bandits—attacked him openly49 and inflicted on him the cruelest of sufferings. Their hope was that the indignity of the treatment he was receiving or that the pain of punishment would lead him to do or say something unjust, and thus he would lose the humanity he had assumed, with his soul being sent to hell.50 Their only law was to hold him as a sinner: “The sting of death is sin.”51 (1230)

Christ, therefore, remained firm: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth,”52 as we have said, not even when he was being led away to be punished.53 Victory is found in this, to be condemned without having sinned.54 For the devil had received power against sinners, a power he claimed for himself over the Just One,55 and so the devil himself was conquered56 by applying to the Just One57 measures he was not allowed to take by the law he had received. And as the Prophet said to the Lord, “May you be justified in your words and conquer when you are judged.”58 As the apostle says, “The powers having been disarmed, Christ has condemned sinful flesh, nailing this to the cross and revoking the decree of death.”59 For this reason God did not abandon “his soul to the nether world and has not allowed his holy one to see destruction.”60 This is why, after treading on the stings of death,61 Christ came forth on the third day62 in the flesh,63 reconciling this flesh with God64 and conferring eternity upon it once sin had been conquered and removed. (1231)

V. Yet if it is Christ alone who has conquered, then what has he brought to others? In short, listen! Adam’s sin passed into the whole human race. As the apostle says, “Through one man sin was introduced and through sin death; and so death reached all.”65 It is therefore necessary that Christ’s justice pass to the human race and that, just as Adam through sin caused the ruin of his posterity, so Christ by justice gives life to the whole human race. This is what the apostle stresses: “Just as through the disobedience of one all were made sinners, so also by the obedience of one to the word, many are made just; likewise just as sin reigns unto death, so also grace reigns by justice unto eternal life.”66 (1232)

VI. Perhaps someone will say to me, “But Adam’s sin rightly passed to his descendants since they were born from him. But have we not been born through Christ so that we might be saved by him?” Do not think according to the flesh; you will now see how we are born through the paternity of Christ. In these last times Christ certainly took a soul as well as a body from Mary;67 it is body that he came to save,68 that he freed from sin,69 that he has not consigned to hell,70 that he has joined to his own spirit,71 and that he has made his own. This is the marriage of the Lord, his union to one body so that, conforming to this great mystery, the two of them, Christ and the Church,72 become one body. Christians are born from this marriage; the Spirit of the Lord comes from on high,73 and immediately heavenly seeds are spread through the substance of our souls and are mixed with them. We develop in the belly of our mother and from her are born, receiving life from Christ.74 The apostle says, “The first Adam was created a living soul; the last Adam is a life-giving spirit.”75 So it is that Christ gives birth in the Church, doing so through his priests, as the same apostle has said, “It is in Christ that I brought you forth.”76 The seed of Christ,77 namely, God’s Spirit, produces a new person,78 formed within the mother and received by the hands of the priest at the life-giving font, faith being the maid of honor. However, I do not see how an unbeliever can be received into the Church or how someone who has not received Christ’s Spirit can be born of Christ.79 We must believe, then, that we can be born [spiritually]. This is what Philip says, “If you believe, it is possible.”80 Christ is to be received in order to give birth since the apostle says, “To all who have received him he has given the power to become children of God.”81 This can only happen through the mystery of the bath and of the anointing by the bishop. Sins, in effect, are washed away by the bath; by the anointing the Holy Spirit is poured down from on high; both are obtained through the actions and words of the bishop. Thus it is that the whole person is reborn82 and renewed83 in Christ, for “just as Christ has risen from the dead, so we will walk in newness of life,”84 In other words, having abandoned the errors of our former life—the service of idols, cruelty, fornication, lust, and other bodily vices85—it is through the Holy Spirit that we follow a new path in Christ, one of faith, modesty, innocence, chastity.86 “And just as we have borne the image of the earth, let us bear that of heaven”87 since “the first man, taken from the earth, is earthly; the second, taken from heaven, is heavenly.”88 Beloved, doing this, we will die no more even if our body disintegrates.89 We will live in Christ just as he himself tells us, “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.”90 Finally, on the testimony of the Lord himself91 we are certain that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the saints live for God; concerning them the Lord says, “All live for him, for God is the God of the living and not of the dead.”92 The apostle says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is a gain; I desire to depart and to be with Christ.”93 Also, “While we are in this body, we are walking apart from the Lord, for we are walking by faith, not by what can be seen.”94 (1233)

VII. Beloved, this is what we believe. For the rest, “if it is only in this life that we place our hope, then we are the most pitiable of all.”95 In this world the life of cattle, of wild beasts and of birds is, as you yourselves see, like our own or even longer. Proper to us is what Christ has given us through his Spirit: everlasting life provided we sin no more. For just as death is acquired through sin and is avoided through virtue, so life is lost through sin and is regained through virtue. “The wages of sin are death; but God’s gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”96 Above all, my little ones, remember this: in days past all the pagans, as we mentioned earlier, were handed over to the princes and powers of darkness.97 Now they are free through the victory of Jesus Christ our Lord.98 It is Christ, yes Christ, who has redeemed us, “forgiving all our sins,” says the apostle, “and destroying the bond of disobedience which stood against us; because he has taken it away, nailing it to a cross, divesting himself of the flesh, he has openly disarmed the powers and triumphed over them.”99 He has freed those who were in fetters and has broken our bonds, for as David said, “The Lord raises up the down-trodden; the Lord frees prisoners; the Lord gives sight to the blind.”100 And elsewhere, “You have broken my bonds; I will offer you a sacrifice of praise.”101 And so, delivered from our bonds, we gather at the Lord’s standard through the mystery of baptism; let us renounce the devil and all his angels,102 whom we previously served. Freed through Christ’s blood and Christ’s name,103 no longer do we work for them. Those who later on, forgetful of themselves and ignoring their redemption, return to the service of these angels and to the “weak and needy elements of the world,”104 will be bound by the fetters and chains of the past, namely, by the shackles of sin; and for them the “last state has become worse than the first.”105 Not only the devil, acting like a conquered deserter, will bind them still more brutally,106 but Christ will not be able to suffer for them, “for whoever rises from among the dead will die no more.”107 And so, beloved, we are washed one time only;108 we are freed one time only; we receive the immortal kingdom one time only.109 “Happy are those whose iniquities have been forgiven and whose sins have been covered.”110 Courageously hold on to what you have received; conserve it with joy; sin no more;111 keep yourselves pure and immaculate112 for the day of the Lord.113 Grace and infinite rewards are given to those who remain faithful: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the human heart.”114 May you receive your works of righteousness and your spiritual desires. Amen. (1234)

60-B. On the Penitents

In this sermon (Paraenesis ad paenitentiam) Pacian addresses himself to those who refuse to admit their sinfulness as well as to sinners who acknowledge their guilt and yet refuse to submit to the penitential discipline of the time.

I. Although I have several times spoken, albeit somewhat disjointedly, on the healing of the penitents, nonetheless, I am mindful of the care shown by the Lord who, for the sake of one lost sheep, did not spare his neck and shoulders1 by bringing the timid stray back to the flock, now once again made complete.2 Insofar as I am able, I will attempt to follow so wonderful an example. With my modest talents as a servant I will imitate the Lord’s labor and zeal. However, I have only one fear, beloved. It is by pointing out what should not be done that I encourage people to sin rather than turn them away from sin. Perhaps it would be better, following the example of Solon the Athenian,a to be silent about great sins rather than to warn against them, seeing that the customs of our time have reached such a point that people believe themselves encouraged to do something when it is forbidden. In fact, I think that recently this has been the effect of The Fawnb—in that the more the festival was thoroughly censured, the more it was observed. Censuring shameful acts, describing and thinking about them, seem not to have repressed dissipation but rather taught it. Unhappy am I! What transgression have I committed? I believe that people would not have learned how to keep the feast of the Fawn if I had not shown them how to do so by criticizing it. Let’s admit it! Those who have denied God or those who have been placed outside the Church are irritated by the wound of punishment, indignant that anyone can disapprove of their behavior. […] (1235)

II. My brethren, recall that the Lord said, “Reprove the wise and they will love you; reprove the foolish and they will hate you.”3 Also, “Those whom I love I correct and reprove.”4 Therefore I, your brother and your priest, have zealously undertaken this task according to God’s will,5 doing so with mildness and solicitude. Believe that it is a sign of love rather than of strictness. Follow along with good spirits. Do not resist with obstinacy. Additionally, no one should think that this discourse on the penitential institution is directed only to the penitents, and therefore those not belonging to this category may disregard as addressed to others all that I will say, even though this type of clasp designates the discipline of the whole Church. In fact it is necessary to take care that the catechumens do not enter there, that the faithful do not return there; we are to work that the penitents themselves quickly obtain the fruit of their journey. My discourse will proceed as follows. First, I will speak of the classification of sins so that no one can believe that the greatest punishment is applied to all sins without exception. Then I will speak of those faithful who, blushing at the remedy that is fitting for them and wrongly understanding their shame, receive Communion with an impure body and a sullied soul. Very timid before others but greatly impudent before God, with impious hands and sullied mouth they profane the very altar that is feared by the saints and the angels. Third, we will consider those who, having properly confessed and revealed their sins, ignore or reject the remedies of penance and the acts of exomologesisc they are to perform. Finally, we will attempt to show as clearly as possible the punishment imposed on those failing to do penance or who do so negligently and thus die with their wounds and their pride. On the other hand, we will consider what is the crown, the reward of those who wash the stains of their conscience by a confession that is correct and according to the rule. (1236)

III. First, as we have said, we will discuss the classification of sinners, carefully examining what is a sin, what is a crime, so that no one think that by reason of innumerable faults, whose shame afflicts all, I, failing to make distinctions, submit the whole human race to the same law of penance. With Moses and the ancients, even the smallest sins and, so to speak, the most minute details, were rolled up in the same streams of evil: those who profaned the Sabbath,6 those who touched impure objects,7 those who tasted forbidden foods,8 those who grumbled,9 those who with their household walls stained10 and their garments sullied11 entered the temple of the highest king, those who, guilty of the same deviations, touched the altar with their hands or grazed it with their garments.12 It would have been much easier to ascend into heaven or prefer death rather than observe all these things. The Lord’s blood13 has freed us from these and many other vices of the flesh so that we, who have been redeemed from the slavery of the law14 and dedicated to the freedom of faith, might more easily reach our goal. For this reason the apostle Paul says, “You have been called to freedom.”15 Such freedom consists in this: we are no longer bound to everything that constrained the ancients. A forest of sins, so to speak, is forgiven us, and the clemency of remedies is appointed for us. We are subject to only a few rules, indispensable yet easy for believers to observe and keep. Those failing to observe even these few cannot deny that they truly deserve hell. But let us see what these rules are. (1237)

IV. After the Lord’s passion the apostles, having examined and discussed everything, sent a letter to the pagans who had become believers. The thought expressed was as follows: “Greetings to the brethren, the apostles, and the presbyters, of Gentile origin, from Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. We have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you by their words …”16 And further on, “It has seemed both to the Holy Spirit and to us that no other burden should be laid upon you other than these: abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, and from fornication. You will do well to keep yourselves from these. Farewell.”17 Thus a complete summary of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit, who has accepted many things, has left us these by assigning capital punishment to them. Other sins are cured by the reparation of good works, but these three crimes are to be feared like the breath of a basilisk, like a poisonous cup, like a deadly arrow, for they do not just injure the soul but kill it. Thus austerity will be redeemed by goodness, harm repaired by apologizing, sadness by joy, severity by kindness, levity by seriousness, falsehood by honesty. Everything, corrected by its opposite, is profitable. But what about the person who shows contempt for God or who has spilled the blood of another? What remedy is available to the fornicator? Can the Lord be appeased by a deserter or by those who have spilled the blood of another so as to preserve their own life? Can God’s temple be restored by someone who has profaned it through fornication?18 These, my brethren, are capital sins; they are deadly sins. Listen now to John and if possible remain confident: “If you know that your brother has committed a sin that is not deadly, pray for him and the Lord will give him life; this only applies to a sin that is not deadly. There is, however, such a thing as a deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.”19 (1238)

V. If you will, listen to what is said about each of these in particular. It was to Moses praying for the blaspheming people that God said, “Should anyone sin before me, I will blot that person out of my book.”20 And on the subject of murder the Lord pronounced this judgment, “Whoever kills by the sword will die by the sword.”21 And as to the fornicator, the apostle says, “Do not profane God’s temple which you are; God will destroy whoever profanes his temple.”22 All this, beloved, has been written and engraved in imperishable letters, engraved—I do not say on wax, on papyrus, or on bronze, not with the pen—but in the book of the living God: “Heaven and earth will pass away but not one letter or stroke of a letter will pass away before all these things have come to pass.”23 So is it necessary to die? Numerous are those who, at least in thought, have fallen into these sins; numerous are those guilty of having spilled blood; numerous are the slaves of idols; numerous are the adulterers. I add this: punished are not only the hands that have murdered but also all who give advice leading to the death of another. Likewise falling under the penalty of death are not only those who have burned incense upon impious tables, but also whoever * * * will have destroyedd * * *, and also whoever seeks carnal pleasure outside the marriage bed and seeks illicit embraces. Those who do these things after becoming believers will not see God’s face. Are those guilty of such great crimes to yield to despair? What have I done to you? Was it not in your power to avoid this? Did no one warn you? Did no one admonish you? Did the Church remain silent? Did the Gospel have nothing to say? Did not the apostles give warning?24 Did not the priest pray? Why are you so late in seeking help? This must be done when it is possible. This saying is hard,25 but “those who call you happy lead you into error and destroy the path that you should walk.”26 Whoever flatters evildoers after they have done wrong indicates the way of sin to the innocent. (1239)

VI. “And so,” one asks, “will we perish? Where is the merciful God who did not invent death and ‘who does not rejoice in the death of the living’?27 Are we, then, to die in our sins?28 And you, O priest, what will you do? By what gains will you compensate for so many losses to the Church?” Receive the remedy if you are beginning to despair, if you recognize that you are miserable, if you are fearful. The presumptuous person is unworthy of this: “Upon whom shall I look,” says the Lord, “if it is not upon the lowly and the afflicted one who trembles at my words?”29 First, I address you, my brethren, who after having given in to sin reject penance. You are cowardly after shamelessness, full of human respect after sin! You are not ashamed to sin, and yet you are ashamed to acknowledge it! With a bad conscience you touch God’s holy things and do not fear the Lord’s altar! You approach the hands of the priest under the gaze of the angels and with the boldness of innocence! You insult divine patience! You impose a soiled soul and a profaned body on God, who keeps silent as if he were unknowing. Listen to what the Lord has done, and then to what he has said. When the Hebrew people brought the Lord’s ark to Jerusalem from the house of Aminadab the Israelite, Ozas,30 who inadvertently had touched one side of the ark, was killed even though he did not approach it to take anything. He did so to restrain the ark when it slipped following the misstep of a young bull. So great was the divine reverence due to the ark that it could not tolerate a rash hand, not even a helpful one. This same Lord proclaims and says, “Whoever is pure may eat flesh, and whoever touches the flesh of the sacrifice of salvation and its impurity will disappear from among the people.”31 Do not these things from the past also occur today? Has God ceased to be concerned about our affairs? Or has God, having retreated from the world’s view, ceased to look down upon us from heaven? Or is God’s patience nothing more than ignorance? “In no way,” you say. God still sees what we do, but God especially waits, is patient, allowing time for penance. It is because of Christ that the redeemed do not suddenly perish. Do you, O sinner, understand this? The Lord looks upon you, and you can appease him if you so desire. (1240)

VII. Yes, as we admit, forbidding the impure to approach God’s table was a past practice. But look through the writings of the apostles and see what is more recent. In his First Letter to the Corinthians Paul says, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the Lord’s cup unworthily will be guilty of the Lord’s Body and Blood.”32 Likewise further on, “Those who eat or drink unworthily eat and drink judgment against themselves, not discerning the Body of the Lord. This is why many among you are weak and infirm, and why many are asleep. If you judge us, we will not be judged at all, but when we are judged, we are corrected by the Lord so that we not be condemned with this world.”33 Have you trembled at these words or not? “They will be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.”34 Can murderers be absolved? Can those who profane the Lord’s Body escape this guilt? “Those who eat and drink unworthily eat and drink judgment against themselves.”35 Awake, O sinner, if you have done anything like this. Be afraid from your very depths. “This is why many among you are weak and infirm and why many are asleep.”36 Thus if there is no fear regarding the future, there should at least be fear regarding the present sickness, the present death. “When we are judged, we are corrected by the Lord so that we may not be condemned with this world.”37 Rejoice, O sinner, if at present you are carried away by death or consumed with sickness, so that you not be punished after this age. Understand what a great sin is committed by those who unworthily approach the altar since their remedies are the sufferings of sickness or destruction by death. (1241)

VIII. Even if you believe that your soul has no value, spare the people, spare the priests. The apostle writes, “A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.”38 What will you do since the whole batch is corrupted because of you? Because of you will the whole community suffer? Will you live, guilty of the loss of so many souls? Will you be vindicated when the innocent impute to you their condemnation? When the Church declares you to be the source of its ruin? This is what the apostle said to the priest: “Do not lay hands on anyone with haste and do not participate in the sins of another.”39 What will you do after deceiving the priest? After you lead him astray because he is in ignorance or confounding him when his knowledge is incomplete because it is difficult to prove something? Therefore, my brethren, I ask you by the Lord from whom nothing is kept secret,40 to cease concealing the wounds of your conscience. When reasonable people are sick, they do not fear the doctor even when he cuts or cauterizes the body’s private parts. We recall that certain people, not being ashamed of their intimate organs, have allowed these to endure fire, cutting, and stinging powder. What is gained by all this? Is not the sinner fearful? Is not the sinner ashamed to have obtained eternal life at the price of present shame? Will such sinners conceal their badly covered wounds from the Lord who is extending his hand? Can anything shame a person who has offended the Lord? Or is it better for such a one to perish so that you, fearful of shame, will not die without having felt shame? In not making room for shame, you acquire more of the damage suffered by someone for whom it were better to perish in your place. If you are ashamed before your brethren, do not fear those who share your unhappiness. No human body rejoices at the sorrow of one of its members. On the contrary, it feels the same sorrow and assists by bringing a remedy.41 In each the Church is present,42 and the Church is Christ.43 This is why those who are not silent about their sins to their brethren, when supported by the Church’s tears, are absolved by the prayers of Christ.44 (1242)

IX. I now wish to speak to those who, although rightly and wisely acknowledging their wounds for the sake of penance, know neither what penance is nor what it is that will heal their wounds. They resemble those who discover their wounds and their tumors, and acknowledge them to their doctors who arrive at their bedside, and yet, made aware of the remedies, they neglect what should be applied and reject what they should drink. It is as if one would say, “I am sick. I have a wound, but I do not wish to have my stomach cured!” Listen to what is even more stupid! A second sickness is joined to the first; another wound is added. All sorts of inadvisable medicines are applied; a person drinks dangerous liquids. This is the evil a community endures when new sins are added to old ones. It is thus impetuously hurled down into vice and is tortured by the most deadly decay. What, then, am I to do, being a priest who is constrained to heal? It is late for that. Yet if any of you can endure the knife and the iron, I can still do it. Here is the prophetic scalpel: “Return to your Lord, and at the same time rend your hearts with fasting, tears, and mourning.”45 […] (1243)

X. I will still apply fire from the cauterizing iron. See whether you can tolerate it. “In spirit I am with you by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ; you are to hand him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit might be saved on the day of the Lord.”46 Penitents, what do you say? Where is the destruction of your flesh?47 During the time of penance are you going to walk with ever more opulence, sated by feasting, made beautiful by the bath, arrayed with elegance? Behold here is someone who once was frugal, somewhat needy, and dirty under a cheap garment but now is well dressed, wealthy, carefully adorned, as if blaming God for not being able to serve him, and reviving one’s dying soul through bodily pleasures. Happily we are a people of moderate means. Otherwise we also would do what certain of the well-to-do are not ashamed of: living in a marble house, being weighed down by gold, dripping with silk, gleaming with scarlet. The dusky powder sparkling on our eyebrows, the artificial reddening on our cheeks, the false rouge on our lips! Perhaps you have nothing like this? Yet you do not lack gardens or seaside villas, nor exquisite wines, nor opulent feasts, nor whatever cleans away old age. Thus take action, give thought while you are still alive. My brethren, I can no longer endure it. Daniel with his companions, covered with sackcloth and ashes and also exhausted by fasting,48 says, “We have sinned; we have committed a crime; we have acted impiously; we have broken your precepts and commandments.”49 As to Azariah, the Holy Scriptures say the same: “Standing, Azariah prayed, spoke, and did penance,”50 together with his companions. David himself says, “Each night I wet my bed; I soak my couch with my tears.”51 As for ourselves, do we do this or anything like it? I will not speak of the surplus we have amassed in trafficking, in doing business, in stealing, in awaiting profits without and pleasures within, in simply doing nothing, in giving nothing to the poor or to one’s brethren.52 We do not even do things that a priest can see or a bishop, witnessing them, can praise: weeping in the presence of the Church, lamenting while clothed in poor garments, fasting, praying, prostrating. If invited to the baths, we refuse this amenity; if invited to a feast, we say, “Affairs like this are for those who are happy, but I have sinned against the Lord and am in danger of perishing for eternity. Of what importance are banquets to me as someone who has offended the Lord?” Furthermore, to grasp the hand of the poor, to ask for the prayers of the widow, to attempt all else rather than to perish. […] (1244)

XII. Brethren, remember that among the dead53 there is no exomologesis; no longer will any opportunity be granted for doing penance since the time for this has ended. Hasten while you are still alive, while you are still on the way with the adversary.54 Here the fires of this world frighten us and the iron nails of the executioners scare us; compare these to the eternal hands of those who will torture and to the tips of the flames that will never die. I address you, brethren, by the faith of the Church, by my solicitude, by the souls common to all. I entreat you, I beseech you, not to be ashamed of this task, not to be slow in throwing yourself as soon as possible on the appropriate remedies of salvation: to sadden one’s spirit by mourning, to wrap the body in sackcloth, to cover it with ashes, to wear it down through fasting, to overcome it with grief, to be assisted by the prayers of many. To the extent that you have not spared punishing yourselves, so God will spare you, “for he is sweet and patient, rich in kindness, and it is he who lightens judgments that have been done out of evil.”55 This I promise. This I pledge if you return to your Father by means of a true satisfaction,56 without afterwards being led astray,57 without adding anything to your former sins, and speaking these humble and compassionate words, “Father, we have sinned in your presence; we are no longer worthy to be called your children.”58 As soon as you put distance between yourself and this unclean flock and its pods,59 then upon your return you will be clothed with a garment, honored with a ring,60 and the Father will again embrace you.61 It is the Father who says, “I do not desire the death of sinners but that they return and live.”62 He also says, “Will not the one who has fallen rise up, and will not the adversary be converted?”63 And the apostle says, “God has the power to let him stand.”64 The Apocalypse likewise threatens the seven churches65 unless they do penance. Obviously it does not threaten those who fail to do penance unless it also pardons the penitent. Furthermore, God says, “Remember from where you have fallen and do penance.”66 And again, “When you return and grieve, then you will be saved and will know where you have been.”67 Do not so despair as to the worthlessness of a person’s sinful soul that you believe this person to be of no importance to God, for God desires that none among you be lost.68 Even the humble and the little ones are to be sought out. If you do not believe such to be true, then pay attention to this. The Gospel relates how a drachma was searched for and, once found, was shown to the neighbors.69 The little sheep, it relates, is not heavy when placed around the neck of the shepherd.70 Over a single sinner who does penance the angels in heaven rejoice,71 and the heavenly choir exults. Yes, O sinner, do not cease to implore! You see where there is rejoicing over your return. Amen. (1245)

60-C. Letters

Simpronian apparently had sent Pacian a treatise that defended the Novatian position of rigorism in regard to the forgiveness of sins. Apparently Novatianism was flourishing in Spain at the time. We have Pacian’s response in three letters.


III. It is my understanding that the Novatians take their name from Novatusa or from Novatian.b But it is the sect, not the name, that I accuse; nor has anyone reproached Montanusc or the Phrygiansd for their names. “But,” you will say, “at the time of the apostles no one was called ‘Catholic.’” This may be true, but grant me this: when, after the apostles, heresies appeared and under various names were attempting to tear apart and divide God’s dove1 and queen,2 did not the apostolic people require its own name? A surname distinguishing the unity of an unspotted people so that the error of some would not tear asunder the members of God’s sinless virgin?3 Was it not necessary that the original source be designated by its own name? Suppose that today I enter a populous city where I discover Marcionites,e Apelleites,f Cataphrygians,g Novatians, and others of the same type, all calling themselves Christians. But by what surname might I recognize the assembly of my own people unless it is called “Catholic”? Come now! Who has bestowed so many names on these other people? Why is it that so many towns, so many nations, each have their own descriptive name? Even those who inquire about the name “Catholic” are ignorant of the origin of their own name should I inquire about this. Where have I received the name “Catholic”? Surely a name that has lasted for so many centuries did not come from a man. The name “Catholic” echoes neither that of Marcion, nor that of Apelles, nor that of Montanus, nor does it originate with any heretical author. The Holy Spirit, whom God sent4 to the apostles from heaven5 as the Paraclete6 and teacher,7 has taught us many things:8 reason, as Paul says,9 and honesty, and, as he also says, nature itself.10 And so are we to place little value on the authority of the followers of the disciples? That of the first priests? That of blessed Cyprian,h the doctor and martyr? Or do we wish to instruct the teacher? Are we more learned than he? Or does our carnal spirit desire to be puffed up with pride in opposition to him whose shedding of noble blood and whose crown of illustrious suffering made him a witness of the eternal God? What about the large number of priests who stand with us in this, priests who are united throughout the world with this same Cyprian in church unity? Why so many venerable bishops, so many martyrs, so many confessors? If these in adopting this name were not qualified authorities for using this name, are we qualified to reject it? Are the fathers to follow our authority? Is the antiquity of the saints to be changed? Will the present age, already corrupted by sin, shave away the grey hairs of apostolic antiquity? (1246)

IV. Do not be disturbed, my friend, that my [first] name is “Christian” and that my surname is “Catholic.” The first gives me a name; the second specifies. The first attests to what I am; the second sets me apart. And if it is necessary to explain the word “Catholic” and on the basis of the Greek, giving it a Latin translation, “Catholic” signifies “one throughout” or, as the more knowledgeable believe, “obedience to all,” namely, to all God’s commandments. Whence the apostle says, “If you are obedient in all things.”11 And also, “For just as through the disobedience of one person many have been made sinners, so by the attention of one person to the word, many will be made righteous.”12 Therefore whoever is Catholic is obedient; whoever is obedient is a Christian; and so to be a Catholic is to be a Christian. This is why our people, when called Catholic, are by this name set apart from those designated as heretics. […] (1247)

V. As to penance, may God grant what is necessary to each member of the faithful. Let those who have been assisted by the sacred rite of the font not throw themselves into the pit13 of death. May priests not be forced to present or to teach [baptism’s] later consolations so as not to open up the path of sin by proposing remedies that strengthen the sinner in sin. God’s mercy, as is clear, is for the wretched, not for the blessed; not before sin but after sins; it is not for those in good health but “for those who are sick”14 —being for these that we make known this medicine. If evil spirits15 can do nothing against the baptized, if nothing can be done by the serpent’s deception16 which brought about the fall of the first human and which has stamped on his descendants so many marks of domination; if the serpent has withdrawn from the world, if we have already begun to rule,17 if no evil deed surprises our eyes, our hands,18 or our thoughts—then let this gift of God be rejected; let there be no help, no exomologesis, no lamenting, and let a haughty righteousness despise every remedy. But if the Lord himself has provided such things for us, and if the same Lord rewards the upright and provides remedies to the fallen,19 then cease accusing the divine goodness. Cease hammering away under the pretext of strictness at so many marks of heavenly clemency. Cease warding off by your implacable harshness the good things given us by the Lord. We do not grant these things of ourselves. “Return to me,” says the Lord, “and at the same time rend your hearts by fasting, tears, and mourning.”20 Also, “Let the impious abandon their ways and the criminals their thoughts; may they return to the Lord and obtain mercy.”21 The prophet likewise says, “God is good, sweet, and patient, and it is he who turns back the sentence brought against our evils.”22 Does not the serpent23 have a lasting poison? Does not Christ have a remedy? If the work of the devil is to destroy the world, then is not the work of Christ to cure the world? Certainly disgust should be experienced when sinning but not while doing penance. There should be aversion to undergoing danger yet not at being delivered from it. Who will yank away a plank from a shipwrecked person, thus removing a means of escape? Who will refuse to heal wounds? Did not David say, “Each night I wet my bed; I soak my couch with my tears”?24 And, “I acknowledge my sin and did not hide my iniquity.”25 Also, “I said I will confess my sin before God, and you have remitted the guilt of my heart.”26 When David, guilty of murder and adultery because of Bethsabee,27 did penance, did not the prophet say, “The Lord has taken away your sin”?28 Did not exomologesis free the king of Babylon,29 who was condemned after so many sins of idolatry? And what about the words of the Lord, “Will not the fallen one get up again? Will not those who stray return?”30 What do the subjects of so many of the Lord’s parables teach us? What about the woman who found the drachma and rejoiced at having done so?31 And the shepherd carrying the lost sheep?32 The son who returned home33 after squandering all his goods in the company of prostitutes and courtesans? His father going out to meet him with tenderness and rebuking a jealous brother, saying, “My son here was dead and has returned to life; he was lost and has been found”?34 What about the healing of the man injured on the road, the man whom the Levite and the priest passed by?35 Think back to what the Spirit says to the churches, reproaching the Ephesians for abandoning love,36 the people of Thyatira for indulging in fornication,37 those in Sardis for failing to work,38 those in Pergamum39 for teaching dissident doctrines, and also those in Laodicea40 because of their riches. Yet it is all who are invited to penance, to satisfaction.41 What did the apostle have in mind when he said to the Corinthians, “I fear that when I return, I might have to weep over many of those who previously sinned and have not done penance for what they have done: fornication and impure actions.”42 Once again, what is meant when the Spirit said to the Galatians, “If anyone has fallen into some sin, you who are spiritual are to instruct that person in a spirit of gentleness, taking care that you yourselves are not tempted”?43 And then, is the father of a family in a large house to have only objects made of silver and gold?44 Does he not keep things made of clay, of wood, objects that are composites or that have been repaired? “Now,” says the apostle, “I rejoice because your sadness caused you to do penance.”45 Again, “Because according to God sadness produces a penitence that leads to lasting salvation.”46 (1248)

VI. “But penance,” you say, “is not allowed.” No one, however, orders unlucrative labor. “Laborers, in fact, deserve their pay.”47 God would never threaten those who fail to do penance if God did not grant pardon to those doing penance. “God alone,” you say, “can do this.”48 True enough! Yet even what is done by God’s priests is the work of God’s own power. This is the meaning of what was said to the apostles: “What you bind upon earth will also be bound in heaven; and all that you loose upon earth will also be loosed in heaven.”49 Now why did he say this if men were not permitted to loose and to bind? Or were only the apostles allowed to do this? If so, then only they could baptize, only they could confer the Holy Spirit, only they could wash away the sins of the pagans, since only the apostles were ordered to do these things. But if one and the same text confers both the sacramental power and the right to loosen bonds, then all the attributes and powers of the apostles have been passed down to us, or indeed none of them have. “I will lay the foundation; another will build upon it.”50 And so the apostolic teaching is the foundation upon which we build. Finally, bishops are also called apostles, as Paul shows when speaking to Epaphroditus: “My brother and fellow soldier, your apostle.”51 If the power of washing and anointing—more important gifts—has descended to the bishops, then the power of loosening and binding has equally accompanied it. Even though our sins make it presumptuous, God, who has even given bishops the name of his only Son, will not deny them this power since they are holy ones who hold the chair of the apostles. (1249)

VII. I could write more, my brother, were I not pressed by the urgent return of your servant, and were I not reserving fuller explanations for an occasion when you might be present, or when you might share all your thinking with me. A bishop should not be looked down upon as being a mere man. Remember that the apostle Peter called our Lord “bishop”: “But now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”52 Will anyone deny that the bishop acts in the name of God? Certainly a bishop would be held accountable if he did evil or if he judged wrongly due to corruption or impiety. God is not hindered from suppressing the work of a bad builder. Yet if a bishop’s ministry is godly, then he continues to collaborate in the works of God. This is what the apostle writes to the laity: “If you forgive anyone anything, so do I. For what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, it is for your sake and in the name of Christ, so that we not be possessed by Satan whose wiles we are not to forget.53 The apostle says that he has pardoned what the regular faithful can pardon. So how can you reject a bishop who does likewise? Neither the anointing, nor baptism, nor the remission of sins, nor the renewal of the body have been conceded to the holy power of the bishop. All flow from apostolic right; he expropriates nothing. Know, my brother, that this penitential pardon is not indiscriminately given to all, nor is it granted before the divine will has been made manifest or some type of testing has taken place. It happens only after a serious and detailed consideration, after numerous lamentations and outpourings of tears, after the prayers of the whole Church. In such a way pardon is not refused to true penance without prejudice to the future judgment of Christ.54 My brother, if you write me more clearly regarding your thinking, I will instruct you more fully. (1250)


I. My brother Simpronian, every treatise concerning the Novatiansa that you have sent me—all of these gathering together statements of every kind—contains the following: penance is not allowed after baptism; the Church lacks the power to forgive serious sin; furthermore, the Church itself perishes by receiving sinners. […] (1251)

II. […] You say, and rightly so, that “the Church is a people reborn by water and the Holy Spirit,1 a people who do not deny2 the name of Christ; the Church is the temple3 and the house of God,4 ‘the pillar and support of truth,’5 the holy virgin6 with the most chaste feelings, the spouse7 of Christ taken ‘from his bone and from his flesh,’8 ‘having neither stain nor blemish,’9 completely observing the laws of the Gospel.” Who among us denies this? Even more, we add that the Church is the “queen wearing a golden garment, one of many colors,”10 “a fruitful virgin within the house of the Lord,”11 “the mother of innumerable daughters, the beautiful and only dove, the one preferred by her mother, the flawless one.”12 She is the mother of all, “built upon the foundations of the prophets and the apostles with Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone,”13 a huge house,14 one rich with a large variety of vessels. (1252)

III. But let us postpone this till later. Meanwhile, may we examine what you say. “The Church is a people reborn of water and the Holy Spirit.”15 Good enough! Who has refused me entrance to the font of God? Who has snatched away the Holy Spirit? In fact, it is among us that there is living water,16 water poured forth from Christ. But you, separated as you are from the eternal source, where were you born? From where did the Spirit, which has not departed the original mother, come to you? Unless, perhaps, following someone who sows discord and forsaking so many priests, the Spirit is content with a non-consecrated home and takes pleasure in a weakened cistern17 fed by a polluted font. Whence does the Holy Spirit come to your people, a people who have not been sealed by an anointed priest? What is the source of their water, they who have separated themselves from the womb? Whence comes the restoration of those who have lost the cradle of nuptial peace? “The Church is a people who do not deny18 the name of Christ.” Among us is there any confessor, any martyr, any stainless and upright priest who has not undergone prison, chains, fire, the sword? “There have been such,” you will say, “but they perished because they received those who denied the faith.” I remain silent! I will not even mention the treatise on pardoning those who renounce the faith or the lapsed, the treatise written by your Novatian at a time when he was still in the Church; supporting this practice, he had the treatise read aloud. Meanwhile, whom will you be able to convince that the whole Church has fallen by receiving the lapsed, that those who by admitting penitents have become, as it were, themselves renegades? If some community has been too indulgent, have not other communities, not approving such a course of action and remaining attached to custom and to peace, also lost the name “Christian”? […] (1253)

IV. To continue, “The Church is the body of Christ.”19 Certainly a body, not a member, a body whose numerous members and parts are made one, for as the apostle says, “The body is not a single member but many.”20 The Church, therefore, is a complete body, firm and presently spread throughout the whole world, “as a city,” it is said, “whose parts form a whole,”21 and not, as is true in your case, Novatians, one type of an arrogant little group, a swelling in one place which is separated from the rest of the body. “The Church is the temple of God.”22 It is indeed a spacious temple, “a large house,” certainly possessing “vessels of gold and silver” but also vessels of clay and wood; some are held in honor,23 many are truly magnificent, destined for multiple uses in various tasks. “The Church is a holy virgin24 with the most chaste feelings, the spouse25 of Christ.” A virgin, it is true, but also a mother. Clearly a spouse but also a wife and helper, “taken from her husband,” and thus “bone from bone and flesh from flesh.”26 It is about her that David says, “Your wife is like a fruitful virgin from within your house; your sons like young olive plants around your table.”27 Numerous times has this virgin given birth, and numerous are her descendants. They fill up the whole world like a populous swarm of bees buzzing around in the hive that encloses them. Great is this mother’s care for her children; sweet is her affection: the good are honored; the proud are corrected; the sick are cured; no one perishes;28 no one is despised; her offspring remain safe under the great tenderness of the mother. (1254)

“The Church ‘has neither stain nor blemish.’”29 This means that no heresy is found within her, neither that of the Valentiniansb nor that of the Cataphrygiansc nor that of the Novatians. Within the Church there surely are stained and blemished folds that harm the splendor of its precious garments. Yet sinners and penitents do not stain the Church since persons who sin and fail to do penance are placed outside the Church; once they cease sinning, they are already cured. The heretic, however, tears asunder the garment of Christ, the Church of Christ, killing, corrupting, and staining it. “Since there are divisions and disputes among you,” the apostle says, “are you not of flesh and do you not walk according to human ways?”30 Also, “Their words spread like gangrene.”31 This is a blot, a blemish upon unity. Finally, when the apostle speaks of these things, he calls our attention to Christ’s love and affection. “As Christ,” he says, “has loved the Church and handed over himself for it.”32 This is to warn heretics, who do not know how to love. Otherwise, why say this to the unhappy penitent who hopes to love and to be loved? (1255)

V. “The Church obeys all the laws of the Gospel.” All of them, to be sure, because it does so fully. The faithful are rewarded in the Church, where the tears of the unfortunate are not repulsed, where the tears of suppliants are heard, where wounds are bandaged,33 where the sick are cured, where arrogant health and jealous righteousness claim nothing for themselves, where an ever-watchful love perseveres, “believing all things, hoping for all things, supporting all things.”34 Whence come the words of the apostle, “Someone is weak; am I not weak? Someone has fallen; am I not indignant?”35 Where the whole community supports its burdens, suffering in common, secure in mutual affection, “all supporting one another in love, doing what is necessary to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,”36 there is found the Church, Simpronian, my brother. There is found a people reborn of water and the Holy Spirit37 in Christ. “I do not know,” you say, “whether bishops can forgive sins since the Lord has said, ‘Whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my Father who is in heaven.’”38 Why did your Novatian support such a practice when he was still a priest, before he had assumed a false episcopacy, long before Cornelius, whose priesthood he envied, had become the bishop of Rome? You have the testimony of Cyprian whose reputation you have never been able to sully. Somewhere he wrote to Antonian,d “It was added”—Novatian was then writing and reciting aloud what he had written, and Moses, then a confessor and now a martyr, was countersigning—”that it was necessary to reconcile the lapsed who were sick and near death. This letter was sent to the whole world and brought to the knowledge of all the churches.”e So what do you say about such a matter, my brother Simpronian? Novatian wrote this and, in order to join to it the submission of his strong will, he also read it aloud once it was written. As a witness there was his uplifted right hand, the hand that wrote it. At this time Cornelius, against whom all your jealousy rages, was not a bishop. As the same Cyprian relates, it was much later when Cornelius along with numerous bishops, with numerous confessors, and soon to be martyrs, gave his assent. If it is never allowed to reconcile the lapsed, to refuse them access to penance, then Novatian is in sin since he wrote in favor of the practice and had his writing read aloud. Where, then, was his inflexible rigor? His arrogant judgment? If no one had preferred Cornelius to Novatian, then the authority of Novatian’s writing would have remained. […] (1256)

VII. […] “But,” you will say, “you forgive the sins of those doing penance, whereas it is only in baptism that sins can be remitted.” I am not allowed to do this; it belongs to God alone39 who in baptism forgives sins and who does not spurn the tears of those doing penance. For the rest, what I do is done not on my own authority but on that of the Lord: “We are all God’s collaborators,” he says, “God does the building.”40 And again, “I have planted, Apollos has watered, but God has given the growth. And so neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God gives the growth.”41 This is why when we baptize, when we have someone do penance, or when we grant pardon to the penitents, we do so by reason of Christ’s authority. It is up to you to see whether Christ can do this, whether Christ has done this. (1257)

VIII. “If we could grant the remission of sins to penitents,” you say, “baptism would not be necessary.” What a stupid comparison! Baptism, in effect, is the sacrament of the Lord’s passion; the pardon granted to penitents is the reward for confessing. The former is something all can obtain since it is a gift of God’s grace,42 namely, a freely given gift. The latter, however, is the fruit of the effort of a small number of those who rise up after falling, who regain strength after being wounded, who are assisted by their tearful cries, who regain life by the destruction of their flesh.43 “It is useless,” you affirm, “that I cite as an example what God said, ‘I prefer that a sinner do penance rather than die.’”44 But suppose I add the words of Isaiah, “When you have returned and lamented, then you will be saved, and you will know where you have been.”45 And from the Apocalypse, “Remember how far you have fallen; do penance; and do the works you did previously.”46 According to you these words were spoken to the Gentiles before their baptism. But listen to what the apostle says, “But we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law.”47 Consequently, those living without the Law were not obliged to do penance. But if they would have done penance, they would have done so willingly and not because the Law obligated them to do so. (1258)

IX. Next let us consider what you say: “If God commands that we are frequently to do penance, then God allows us,” you say, “to sin frequently.” What do you mean here? That whoever frequently points out a remedy for sin thereby gives instruction on how to sin? And that a doctor who constantly cures teaches how to inflict injury? God does not want us to sin, not even once, for God delivers us from sin. While doing so, God in no way teaches us how to sin, just as a person who rescues someone from a fire does not give a demonstration on how to set something on fire. Whoever pulls a shipwrecked person off the rock does not put this person in peril. It is one thing to be delivered from danger, another to be placed in danger. Perhaps I might believe this to be true if penance were considered pleasurable. But penance demands so great an effort that it calls for the destruction of the flesh,48 constant tears, unending lamentations. Does a person who has been cured desire to be cut again? To be cauterized a second time? Will such a one desire to sin again and do penance again since it is written, “Do not add sin upon sin lest something worse happen”?49 Also, “I will not show mercy toward the one who sins constantly.”50 (1259)

But if, as you say, “one is led to sin by being shown the remedy of penance,” then what will a person do who is forbidden penance itself, one whose wound is reopened without any hope for a remedy, one whose access to new life is completely denied? “In baptism,” you say, “we die once and for all as the apostle says, ‘Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we also will walk in newness of life.’”51 Does this shock you? The teaching of the apostle is that we were renewed so that we do not sin; yet it follows that whoever has sinned is to do penance. One person is to live intact, the other as having been cured; the innocent is to win the crown, the penitent is to obtain pardon; the former has received a reward, the latter a remedy. […] (1260)

XXI. What do you gain by appearing so callous, so proud, so arrogant? What do you gain by stiffening your neck, by contorting your face, by closing your eyes and ears before those unhappy ones? And you, I ask, have you never fallen? Has there never been a stain upon your conscience? No spot in your eyes?52 “Who can boast of having a chaste heart or of being free from sin?”53 You, I presume, are righteous, kind, restrained; your members are all healthy, your body intact; you have no need for a doctor54 or a remedy for sickness. Then enter immediately into heaven; the sword being lowered,55 pass into paradise. Forbid so many people of ours, who confess the one God, access to the gifts that are yours. Yet even if it is far different than your unappeased rigidity in all things and your inhumanity would have us believe, you already understand, O Novatians, that God can show pity, that a remedy, however late, is offered to the pitiable brethren who confess what is past, that the wounded man whom the Levites and the priest passed by56 can be cured by Christ, that the Church’s prayers should not be refused, that the priest should extend his hands to those who deserve pity. […] (1261)

XXIV. […] Finally, look at this passage you cited from Scripture, “They alone will be saved.”57 Who are “they”? Certainly those who pray for sinners do not harm themselves. Why do you, then, condemn the Church? Why do you forbid praying for penitents if we may make requests on behalf of those for whom such petitions will not be granted? Read more attentively what my Cyprian has written. Read his whole letter On the Lapsed.f Also the letter he wrote to Antoniang in which he pressures Novatian with so many examples. Then you will know what Cyprian has to say regarding the healing of penitents. I say that Cyprian opposes your opinions and maintains Catholic rules. Listen to Tertullian—not Tertullian the heretic from whom you borrow much—but the Tertullian who, in a letter published when he was still a Catholic,h acknowledged that the Church can forgive sins. […] (1262)


Known to Jerome (WEC 3:145) as the author, still living, of several tractatus (sermons), “ordinary in style yet elegant in faith” (De viris illustribus, 105), Gregory was bishop of Elvira (Iliberis) near Granada. Many of his works, strongly anti-Arian in content, were actually known to scholars but attributed to others till the end of the twentieth century. Gregory died sometime after 392.

CPL nos. 546ff. * Altaner (1961) 434–35 * Altaner (1966) 370 * Bardenhewer (1908) 415 * Bardenhewer (1910) 359–60 * Bardenhewer (1913) 3:396–99 * Bautz 2:330–31 * Jurgens 1:392–94 * Labriolle (1968) 257–59 * Quasten 4:84–89 * Tixeront 232–33 * CATH 5:253–54 * CE 7:9–10 * DCB 2:739–41 * DHGE 21:1501 * DictSp 6:923–27 * DPAC 2:1696–98 * DTC 6.2:1838 * EC 6:1085–86 * EEC 1:363 * EEChr 1:491 * LTK 4:1000 * NCE 6:790 * NCES 6:513 * ODCC 711 * PEA (1894) 7.2:1864–67 * PEA (1991) 4:1216

61-A. Sermons on the Books of the Holy Scriptures

These sermons (Tractatus de Libris Sanctarum Scriptuarum) were first published in 1900 as Tractatus Origenis. Of the twenty pieces in this series, nineteen are on selections from the Hebrew Scriptures; one, based on Acts 1–2, concerns the Holy Spirit. The author uses various events and figures as being “types” that prefigure the actions and persons of the Christian Scriptures.

61-A-1. SERMON 15

7. Perhaps a person who is ignorant of the heavenly sacraments might ask, “Why was Christ, who was divine, baptized since God grants the grace of baptism only for the forgiveness of sins? Christ, however, was without sin since ‘no guile was found in his mouth.’”1 (1263)

8. Listen to the reason for this. Understand that our Lord desired to be baptized by John not for the remission of sin—Christ being sinless—but that the Lord might sanctify the water by being baptized in it. In this way whoever is baptized in his name might, as a member of his body, merit to be made an adopted child of God, namely, a person reborn by water and by the power from on high. (1264)

9. Furthermore, elsewhere we find a foretelling of the sacrament of Christ’s baptism. In Exodus we read that the bitter waters of Marah “became sweet and fresh”2 after a piece of wood was thrown into them. The prophets sought no useless remedy for water, only what came from Christ. That piece of wood clearly showed forth the mystery of the Lord’s suffering, a suffering from which the thirsty are able to benefit by drinking the sweet waters of baptism. The Lord had the thirsty in mind when, standing in the temple, he said, “If any thirst, let them come to me and drink.”3 (1265)

10. And so when the people in the desert were undergoing the test of being thirsty, Moses with a rod—namely, a piece of wood—struck the rock and immediately water flowed forth abundantly. This indicated the sacrament of baptism. That the rock was the figure of Christ is proved by the holy apostle who says, “They all drank from the same spiritual rock that followed them, the rock being Christ.”4 (1266)

11. There is no doubt that the rock is a type of our Lord’s body, a body struck by the wood of the cross and providing the thirsty with living water, as is written, “Out of his side flow streams of water.”5 The apostle said this in regard to the Holy Spirit whom those believing in our Lord would soon receive. (1267)

12. In like manner these waters, coming from the rock, were the streams flowing from Christ’s side and were a type of the beneficial drink that was to be granted to all who suffer from thirst. (1268)

13. Remember when our Lord, who is the source of the living waters that produce life, was hanging on the cross. Who does not know that, in addition to the blood that issued forth from the wound in his side, much water also flowed from the same wound? This shows that his spouse the Church, like a cart with two wheels, is formed from his side just as he created Eve from Adam’s rib.6 The Church possesses two baptisms, one given by water, the other given by blood. It is by these that the Church’s faithful and martyrs are made. (1269)


62-A. Synod of Elvira (ca. 300)

The synod that convened in Elvira, a town close to the modern city of Granada in southern Spain, brought together some nineteen bishops and twenty-four presbyters throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Much discussion has taken place regarding the year of the meeting—it took place on May 15 and was certainly after 295 and probably ca. 300 or perhaps ca. 306. At any rate, the eighty-one canons (some being quite rigorous) issued by the bishops in less than elegant Latin give us a good insight into the numerous problems facing the Church at that time in Spain.

Jurgens 1:253–58 * Hefele (1871) 1:131–72 * Hefele (1905) 1.1:212–64 * CATH 4:33–35 * CE 5:395–96 * DCA 1:606 * DDCon 2:41–42 * DHGE 15:317–48 * DPAC 1:1144–45 * DTC 4.2:2378–97 * EC 5:266–67 * EEC 1:270 * EEChr 1:370 * LTK 3:614 * NCE 5:289–90 * NCES 5:178 * ODCC 542

A.W.W. Dale, The Synod of Elvira and Christian Life in the Fourth Century: A Historical Essay (London, 1882). * P. Batiffol, “La prima cathedra episcopatus du concile d’Elvire,” JThSt 23 (1921–22) 263–70; 26 (1924–25) 45–49. * S. González, “Tres maneras de penitencia: la disciplina penitencial de la Iglesia espánola desde el siglo V al sigli VIII,” RET 1 (1942) 985–1019. * M. Meigne, “Concile ou collection d’Elvire?” RHE 70 (1975) 361–87. * R. Grigg, “Aniconic Worship and the Apologetic Tradition: A Note on Canon 36 of the Council of Elvira,” CH 45 (1976) 428–33.

Canon 1. Any adult who after salutary baptism approaches the temple of an idol in order to offer sacrifice and actually does so is not to receive Communion,a not even at the end since this is a capital crime; it is the greatest of sins.b (1270)

Canon 6. If anyone kills another by means of magic—this crime being impossible to commit without idolatry—Communion is not to be granted, not even at the end. (1271)

Canon 7. If any of the faithful have perhaps committed adultery and after the appointed time for doing penance then commit fornication, they will not receive Communion, not even at the end. (1272)

Canon 14. Virgins who have lost their virginity, if they marry and keep as husbands those who violated them, have broken only the nuptial law, they are to be reconciled after a year without penance. But if they have known other men and have committed adultery with them, they are admitted to Communion after the appropriate penance has been done for five years. (1273)

Canon 21. Should someone living in the city not attend church for three Sundays,c that person is to abstain [from the Eucharist?] for a short time so that the punishment is public. (1274)

Canon 23. Superpositionesd of the fast are to be observed each month except, due to the weakness of some, during the two months of July and August. (1275)

Canon 26. An error [in our present practice] is to be corrected. We will now observe a superpositio on every Saturday.e (1276)

Canon 28. It is not permitted to accept the giftsf of those who will not receive Communion. (1277)

Canon 29. The names of the energumens,g namely, those agitated by a wild spirit, are not to be read at the altar with the names of those presenting the offering nor are the energumens permitted to minister in the church. (1278)

Canon 32. Those who by a serious lapse fall into grave sin are not to receive penance from a presbyter but from a bishop;h if forced by serious illness, they may receive Communion from a presbyter or, if a bishop [sacerdos] so commands, from a deacon.i (1279)

Canon 33. Bishops, presbyters, deacons, and all clerics who minister at the altar are to refrain from their wives and not beget children; those failing to do so are to be deprived of their clerical dignity.j (1280)

Canon 34. It is not permitted to light candles during the day in the cemeteryk so that the spirits of the holy ones [sanctorum] not be disturbed. Those who do not obey are to be denied communion with the Church.l (1281)

Canon 35. Women are not to keep night vigils in the cemeterym since under the pretext of prayer they often commit hidden sins. (1282)

Canon 36. Pictures are not to be placed in churches so that what is on the wall does not become the object of worship and adoration. (1283)

Canon 37. It is permitted to baptize those harassed by unclean spiritsn if they are at the point of death; if they have been baptized, they may be given Communion. They are not, however, permitted to light in public the lamps in the church. Those breaking this prohibition are to be denied Communion. (1284)

Canon 38. When sailing abroad and when in a place where there is no church nearby, a member of the faithfulo whose baptism has been kept untarnished and who has not committed bigamy may baptize a sick catechumen when it is necessary; if the catechumen recovers, he or she is led to the bishop in order to be perfected through the imposition of the hand. (1285)

Canon 39. Heathens who request the imposition of the hand when they are sick may receive it and become Christians provided they have been living upright lives. (1286)

Canon 42. Those living good lives who desire to become members of the faithful are to be baptized after two years except in cases of sickness when baptism may more quickly be given to seriously ill persons who request it. (1287)

Canon 43. To be corrected is the disapproved practice [of celebrating the fortieth rather than the fiftieth day after Easter]. In accord with the authority of the Scriptures Pentecost is to be celebrated. Those not doing so are considered as having brought about a new heresy. (1288)

Canon 45. A catechumen who has not gone to church for quite some time may be baptized if a member of the clergy attests that this person is a Christian or if one of the faithful does so and it appears that the catechumen has put off the old self. (1289)

Canon 47. Should a baptized married man who has often committed adultery be at the point of death, he should be questioned as to whether he will amend his ways. If he promises to do so, Communion may be granted him. But as to a man who upon recovery continues to commit adultery, [it was decided] that he no longer be able to mock the Communion of peace. (1290)

Canon 48. To be changed is the custom whereby those being baptized place coins into the [baptismal] shell. In this way the priest does not appear to be selling what he has received gratis.p The feet of the newly baptized are not to be washed by priests or by clerics.q (1291)

Canon 52. To be condemned are those who have written satirical verses in the church. (1292)

Canon 53. A person excommunicated by a bishop can only be reconciled by the bishop who issued the condemnation.r […] (1293)

Canon 77. If, in the absence of a bishop or presbyter a deacon is in charge of a people and has baptized some of them,s the bishop should then perfect themt through his blessing. But if they die before this can happen, then they can indeed be regarded as justified by their faith. (1294)

62-B. Synod of Saragossa (ca. 380)

Twelve bishops attended this synod in northeastern Spain where in eight canons they condemned various practices of Priscillianism.

Hefele (1905) 1.2:986–87 * Hefele (1871) 292–93 * CE 13:469 * DACL 15.1:763–66 * DCA 2:1842 * DPAC 2:3097 * EEC 2:755

Canon 2. Whoever fasts on Sundaya because of the season, because of persuasion or superstition or is absent from church during Lentb […] is anathema. (1295)

Canon 3. Whoever fails to consume the holy Eucharist given in churchc is anathema. (1296)

Canon 4. During the three weeks before the Epiphany all are to attend church every day; no one is to remain at home, withdraw to the country, head to the mountains, nor walk around with bare feet. […] (1297)

Canon 8. No virgin under forty years of age, as established by the presbyter, may take the veil.d (1298)



Sardica, now Sofia, in Bulgaria was the city in which some hundred western bishops and about seventy eastern bishops gathered, hopefully to settle several issues regarding the Arians. However, an impasse arose as to who could take part in the discussions. As a result the bishops of the East departed the city. The westerners, however, continued to work and eventually issued a series of disciplinary canons, which have come down to us in both Greek and Latin versions.

CPG 4: nos. 8560ff. * Hefele (1871) 2:86–166 * Hefele (1905) 1:737–812 * Jurgens 1:307–9 * CATH 13:835–36 * CE 13:473 * DCA 2:1842–43 * DPAC 2:3152–53 * DTC 14.1:1109–14 * EC 10:1922–23 * EEC 2:757 * EEChr 2:1034–35 * LTK 9:71–72 * NCE 12:1086–87 * NCES 12:692 * ODCC 1455

H. Hess, The Canons of the Council of Sardica, A.D. 343: A Landmark in the Early Development of Canon Law, Oxford Theological Monographs 1 (Oxford, 1958). * E. Ferguson, “Ordination in the Ancient Church,” ResQ 5 (1961) 17–32, 67–82, 130–46. * R. Gryson, “Les élections épiscopales en Orient au IVe siècle,” RHE 74 (1979) 301–45.

Canon 11. […] Remember that our elders have already directed that a layperson who is staying in a town and does not appear at the divine services for three Sundaysa shall be excommunicated. If this is ordered for the laity, then no bishop can be allowed to absent himself for a longer time from his church or leave the people entrusted to him, other than for reasons of necessity or urgent business. (1299)


Found at Salona, the capital of Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea (present-day Croatia), is the following fourth-century burial inscription.

Flavia received the grace of the glorious font in the usual way on the salutary day of Easter and lived on for five months after baptism; her life-span was three years, ten months, and seven days. (1300)

Translated from P.F. de’ Cavalieri, Note agiografiche, vol. 8, ST 65 (Rome, 1935) 50ff.

Translated from S. Optati Milevitani Libri VII, ed. C. Ziwsa (Vienna, 1893) 36ff.

1. Lev 11:45. 2. See Matt 3:16. 3. Matt 3:17; Luke 9:35; 2 Pet 1:17.

Canons translated from Concilia Africae à 345 à 525, ed. C. Munier, CCL 149 (Turnhout, 1974) 3–4.

a. See Orleans III (538) can. 34 (WEC 4:4614); Toledo III (589) ser. 1 can. 15 (WEC 4:4764).

†† Canons translated from CCL 149:13–17.

a. See Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 34 (WEC 2:891); Toledo I (400?) can. 20 (WEC 3:3172); Braga I (561) ser. 2 can. 19 (WEC 4:4752).

b. See Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 1 (WEC 2:881); Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 34 (WEC 2:891); Saragossa (ca. 380) can. 8 (WEC 2:1298); Riez (439) can. 4 (WEC 3:3122); Agde (506) can. 19 (WEC 4:4555).

c. See Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 30-b (WEC 2:888); Elvira (ca. 300) can. 32 (WEC 2:1279); Agde (506) can. 15 (WEC 4:4552); Toledo III (589) ser. 2 cap. 11 (WEC 4:4766).

d. See note c above.

Canons translated from CCL 149:21–44.

a. See Laodicea (between 343 and 381) cans. 59–60 (WEC 2:2002–3).

b. See Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 36-d (WEC 2:892).

c. See Nicaea I (325) (WEC 2:1459); Antioch (341) can. 1 (WEC 2:1947); Statuta (5th c.) can. 78 (WEC 3:3103); Orleans IV (541) can. 1 (WEC 4:4615).

d. See Neo-Caesarea (ca. 320) can. 11 (WEC 2:1443); Agde (506) can. 17 (WEC 4:4553); Arles IV (524) can. 1 (WEC 4:4589); Orleans III (538) can. 6 (WEC 4:4605).

e. See Carthage II (390) can. 3 (WEC 2:876); Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 34 (WEC 2:891); Saragossa (ca. 380) can. 8 (WEC 2:1298); Riez (439) can. 4 (WEC 3:3122); Agde (506) can. 19 (WEC 4:4555).

f. See Narbonne (589) can. 11 (WEC 4:4658).

g. See Auxerre (late 6th or early 7th c.) can. 12 (WEC 4:4637).

h. See Laodicea (between 343 and 381) can. 13 (WEC 2:1965); Statuta (5th c.) can. 10 (WEC 3:3072); Capitula Martini (after 561) can. 1 (WEC 4:4675).

i. See Carthage VI (407) can. 103 (WEC 3:2748); Milevis (416) can. 12 (WEC 3:2750).

1. 1 Cor 11:24.

j. See Orleans IV (541) can. 4 (WEC 4:4618); Auxerre (late 6th or early 7th c.) can. 8 (WEC 4:4633).

k. See Dvin (527) can. 24 (WEC 4:4850); Auxerre (late 6th or early 7th c.) can. 19 (WEC 4:4642); Braga II (572) can. 10 (WEC 4:4762); Mâcon II (585) can. 6 (WEC 4:4655).

l. See Carthage II (390) cans. 3–4 (WEC 2:876–77); Elvira (ca. 300) can. 32 (WEC 2:1279); Statuta (5th c.) can. 20 (WEC 3:3077); Agde (506) can. 15 (WEC 4:4552); Toledo III (589) ser. 2 cap. 11 (WEC 4:4766).

m. See Carthage II (390) can. 3 (WEC 2:876); Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 1 (WEC 2:881); Riez (439) can. 4 (WEC 3:3122); Agde (506) can. 19 (WEC 4:4555).

n. See Carthage II (390) can. 3 (WEC 2:876); Toledo I (400?) can. 20 (WEC 3:3172); Braga I (561) ser. 2 can. 19 (WEC 4:4752); Capitula Martini (after 561) can. 51 (WEC 4:4686).

o. See Laodicea (between 343 and 381) cans. 59–60 (WEC 2:2002–3).

p. See Laodicea (between 343 and 381) can. 60 (WEC 2:2003).

q. See Hippo (393) Cod. Ver. can. 5 (WEC 2:879).

Translated from Tractatus, ed. B. Löfstedt, CCL 22 (Turnhout, 1971) 71.

†† Translated from CCL 22:83.

††† Translated from CCL 22:105.

Translated from CCL 22:123.

1. See Col 3:9.

†† Translated from CCL 22:130.

††† Translated from CCL 22:168–69.

Translated from PL 13:364.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 1, ed. C. Schenkl, CSEL 32.1 (Vienna, 1897) 355–56, 366.

1. Prov 9:5. 2. Cant 5:1. 3. Ibid. 4. See Luke 23:56; Rom 6:4. 5. See Ps 104:15. 6. See Cant 4:10ff. 7. See Exod 12:11.

†† Translated from PL 16:225.

1. Ps 119:64. 2. Matt 26:41.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 8, ed. O. Faller, CSEL 78 (Vienna, 1962) 201.

1. John 6:55. 2. Luke 24:39. 3. See 1 Cor 11:26.

†† Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 2, ed. C. Schenkl, CSEL 32 (Vienna, 1897) 430, 444–45.

a. The vein was at times considered as the vessel that conveyed food and drink.

1. Ps 23:5.

Translated from Expositio in evangelium S. Lucae, vol. 1, ed. G. Tissot, SChr 45 (Paris, 1956) 61; vol. 2, ed. G. Tissot, SChr 52 (Paris, 1958) 110–11.

1. Ps 16:8. 2. Ps 121:5. 3. 1 Cor 5:7. 4. See Matt 27:62; Luke 23:54. 5. 1 Cor 16:6. 6. 1 Cor 16:8.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 9, ed. O. Faller, CSEL 79 (Vienna, 1964) 23ff.

1. John 3:5. 2. See Rom 6:4; Col 2:12–13. 3. Rom 6:6. 4. 1 John 5:8. 5. Eph 1:14. 6. Eph 1:13–14. 7. 2 Cor 1:21–22.

8. See 1 Cor 15:49. 9. Gen 1:26. 10. 2 Pet 1:4. 11. Ps 4:6–7. 12. John 5:4.

Translated from De paenitentia, ed. R. Gryson, SChr 179 (Paris, 1971) 56ff.

1. John 20:22–23.

2. Bar 4:26. 3. John 20:17. 4. Matt 3:14–15.

5. See Luke 7:38. 6. Luke 7:47. 7. See 2 Kgs 5:11–12. 8. See Ps 45:8. 9. 1 Cor 4:7.

10. Luke 7:32. 11. See 2 Sam 6:12–23. 12. See Phil 3:13–14.

13. Matt 5:4; Luke 6:21.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 1, ed. C. Schenkl, CSEL 32.1 (Vienna, 1897) 579ff.

1. 1 Cor 7:23. 2. John 3:5.

Translated from CSEL 32.1. This homily was apparently preached during a service on Thursday evening.

1. Matt 15:32. 2. See Luke 10:39–40.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 5, ed. M. Petschenig, CSEL 62 (Vienna, 1913) 180, 438–39.

†† Translated from Apologia David, ed. M. Cordier, SChr 239 (Paris, 1977) 128.

1. 2 Kgs 17:36.

2. See Exod 14:15–31. 3. See 1 Cor 10:1–2.

Translated from De sacramentis; de mysteriis; nouvelle édition, ed. B. Botte, SChr 25 bis (Paris, 1961).

1. Mark 7:34.

a. Ambrose uses the word levita for deacon.

b. Ambrose uses the phrase summus saceerdos for bishop.

2. Mal 2:7. 3. 2 Cor 4:18. 4. Rom 1:20. 5. John 10:38. 6. Gen 1:2. 7. Ps 33:6. 8. Gen 6:3.

9. See Gen 8:6–11. 10. 1 Cor 10:1–2. 11. Exod 15:10. 12. See Luke 1:35. 13. John 1:17. 14. See Exod 15:23–25.

15. See 2 Kgs 5:1–14. 16. 1 Cor 2:9. 17. See John 3:5. 18. See 1 John 5:8. 19. John 3:5.

20. John 5:4. 21. See Jer 15:18. 22. See Mark 7:4, 8. 23. John 1:33. 24. John 1:32. 25. See Gen 8:8. 26. Luke 3:22.

27. Matt 10:16. 28. Phil 2:7. 29. John 5:37. 30. Matt 3:17. 31. Ps 29:3. 32. See Jdt 6:21. 33. See 1 Kgs 18:38. 34. Matt 18:20. 35. Ps 133:2. 36. Cant 1:3. 37. Cant 1:4.

38. Eccl 2:14. 39. 1 Pet 2:9. 40. John 13:8. 41. John 13:9–10. 42. John 13:14. 43. Ps 51:7. 44. See Exod 12:22. 45. See Matt 17:2. 46. Isa 1:18. 47. Titus 3:5. 48. Cant 1:5.

49. Cant 8:5. 50. Ps 24:7–8. 51. Isa 63:1. 52. Zech 3:3. 53. Cant 4:1. 54. Cant 4:2–3. 55. Cant 4:7. 56. Cant 4:8. 57. Cant 7:7–8. 58. Cant 8:1–2.

59. See Cant 5:8. 60. Cant 8:6. 61. See Cant 4:7. 62. See Cant 8:7. 63. Isa 11:2–3. 64. See 2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5. 65. Ps 43:4. 66. See Ps 103:5. 67. Ps 23:5, 1–2, 4–5. 68. 1 Cor 2:9.

69. See Gen 14:14–18. 70. Heb 7:2–3. 71. Rev 1:17; 22:13. 72. Ps 78:25. 73. See John 6:50. 74. John 6:51. 75. See John 6:50. 76. 1 Cor 10:4–6.

77. See Exod 4:3–4. 78. See Exod 7:19–21. 79. See Exod 14:21–22. 80. See Josh 3:16. 81. See Exod 17:1–7. 82. See Exod 15:22–25. 83. See 2 Kgs 6:5–6. 84. 1 Kgs 18:38.

85. Ps 33:9. 86. Cant 4:10–12. 87. Cant 4:16.

88. Cant 5:1. 89. See Matt 25:36. 90. Cant 5:1. 91. Ps 34:8. 92. 1 Cor 10:3–4. 93. Lam 4:20, LXX. 94. 1 Pet 2:21. 95. Ps 104:15. 96. See John 3:4. 97. Matt 1:18.

All catecheses are translated from De sacramentis; De mysteriis; nouvelle édition, ed. B. Botte, SChr 25 bis (Paris, 1961) 60ff.

a. Ambrose uses the phrase summus sacerdos for bishop.

b. Ambrose uses the word levita for deacon.

1. See Rom 4:1–22. 2. Mark 7:34. 3. 2 Cor 2:15.

4. See 1 Cor 9:24–25. 5. Matt 24:28. 6. Matt 11:10. 7. Mal 2:7.

8. 2 Cor 4:18. 9. See John 6:49, 58. 10. 2 Kgs 5:1–14.

11. Matt 3:14. 12. Matt 3:15. 13. 1 Pet 2:22. 14. See Matt 3:16–17. 15. 1 Cor 10:2. 16. 1 Cor 10:11.

17. See Exod 13:21. 18. See 1 Pet 3:21.

1. See Gen 7:17–23. 2. Eph 4:5.

3. John 5:4. 4. Isa 9:5, LXX. 5. See 1 Cor 14:22. 6. John 5:6–7. 7. 1 Cor 15:21. 8. 1 Tim 2:5. 9. Isa 19:20, LXX.

10. Matt 28:19. 11. See 1 Kgs 18:38. 12. See 2 Kgs 6:5–6. 13. See John 21:25. 14. See Exod 15:22–25.

15. Matt 28:19. 16. See Acts 2:1–3. 17. See 1 Cor 14:22. 18. See Gen 3:17–23. 19. Gen 3:19. 20. See Rom 6:7.

21. Luke 7:30. 22. Gen 3:19. 23. John 21:15–17. 24. Matt 28:19. 25. Acts 4:12. 26. Rom 6:3.

a. It was really Paul and not Peter who was speaking.

1. See Eccl 2:14. 2. Acts 13:33. 3. Ibid. 4. Col 1:18. 5. See Rom 6:3–11. 6. Gen 1:11. 7. Gen 1:20.

8. Ps 2:7. 9. John 13:6. 10. Matt 3:14. 11. See Matt 3:15. 12. John 13:8. 13. Ibid.

14. John 13:9. 15. John 13:10. 16. Isa 11:2. 17. Eph 3:10. 18. Ps 80:4, 7, 14, 19.

19. John 9:6–7. 20. See Job 14:4, LXX; Rom 3:23. 21. John 9:7.

1. See Heb 9:2–7.

2. See Num 17:8. 3. Ps 1:3. 4. 1 Pet 2:9. 5. Cant 8:5. 6. 1 Pet 1:12. 7. 1 Cor 2:9. 8. Ps 51:7. 9. Ps 43:4. 10. Ps 103:5. 11. Matt 24:28.

12. See Exod 16:13–15. 13. See Gen 14:14–18. 14. Heb 7:2. 15. 1 Cor 1:30. 16. John 14:27. 17. Heb 7:3. 18. Ps 110:4; Heb 7:17.

19. See Luke 7:30. 20. Ps 33:9; see Ps 148:5. 21. 2 Cor 5:17. 22. 1 Tim 2:5. 23. See Exod 14:21.

24. Exod 15:23–25. 25. See 2 Kgs 6:5–6. 26. See Matt 26:26–28; Luke 22:19–20; 1 Cor 11:23–25. 27. Ibid.

28. See John 6:49–50. 29. See 1 Cor 11:26. 30. Ibid.

1. Heb 7:3. 2. Ibid. 3. Rev 1:17; see 22:13. 4. See Exod 17:1–6. 5. 1 Cor 10:4. 6. See John 4:14. 7. See John 19:31–34. 8. See John 1:17. 9. Cant 1:2.

10. Ibid. 11. Cant 1:3. 12. Cant 1:4. 13. John 12:32. 14. Cant 1:5, LXX; see 1:4 in Vulgate. 15. See John 6:35. 16. Ps 23:1–4, New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition. 17. Ps 23:5, New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition.

18. See Cant 8:5, LXX. 19. Cant 4:16, LXX. 20. Cant 5:1. 21. Ps 80:9. 22. Eph 5:18. 23. Luke 11:1–4; Matt 6:9–13.

24. Eph 2:5. 25. Ps 113:4. 26. Ps 19:1. 27. Lev 19:2. 28. John 18:37. 29. Luke 17:21. 30. See Col 1:20.

31. See Job 1:5. 32. Ps 2:7. 33. Heb 13:8. 34. Rom 13:12. 35. See Gen 1:26–27. 36. See Col 2:14.

37. Rom 8:31.

1. See John 6:56. 2. John 6:53–54. 3. See John 6:61–62. 4. John 6:68. 5. John 6:41. 6. See 2 Cor 1:21–22.

7. Cant 8:6. 8. See Rom 6:4–6, 10. 9. See Gal 1:6. 10. See Rom 6:6. 11. 1 Cor 12:4–6. 12. 1 Cor 12:11. 13. 2 Cor 1:3. 14. 1 Tim 2:8. 15. Matt 6:6.

16. 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1. 17. Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8. 18. Isa 26:20. 19. Ps 141:3. 20. Col 4:3. 21. Matt 6:6.

22. Ps 7:9. 23. Prov 15:1, LXX. 24. See 1 Tim 2:9. 25. See 1 Pet 3:1.

a. The phrase “treasures of justice” (thesauri iustitiae) is not found in the Bible.

b. There is probably something missing in the text.

26. See 1 Pet 3:3–4. 27. 1 Tim 2:1. 28. Matt 6:9.

c. Dom Botte, the editor of the text from which this translation has been made, surmises that this section is incomplete (SChr 251 bis:153).

29. Ps 8:1–7.

Translated from De sacramentis; De mysteriis; nouvelle édition, ed. B. Botte, SChr 25 bis (Paris, 1961) 46–47.

Translated from Ambrose: De officiis, vol. 1, ed. I.J. Davidson (Oxford, 2001) 255, 261, 263.

1. Exod 19:10.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 2, ed. C. Schenkl, CSEL 32.2 (Vienna, 1897) 146–47.

1. 2 Cor 8:9. 2. See Matt 9:20–22; 14:34–36. 3. See John 6:35. 4. See Matt 15:36.

†† Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 6, ed. M. Petschenig, CSEL 64 (Vienna, 1919) 7ff.

1. Ps 147:1. 2. See 1 Cor 14:34.

3. Ps 45.

4. See 1 Cor 10:1–4. 5. See John 4:13.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 7, ed. O. Fallers, CSEL 73 (Vienna, 1955) 232–33.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 7, ed. O. Faller, CSEL 73 (Vienna, 1955) 335ff.

1. Ps 32:1. 2. Ps 37:26. 3. Wis 4:7. 4. Ps 134:2.

Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 10.1, ed. O. Faller, CSEL 82.1 (Vienna, 1968) 66, 68. The enumeration of these letters generally follows that given in CSEL, with numbers found in parenthesis being those according to PL 16.

†† Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 10.2, ed. O. Faller, CSEL 82.2 (Vienna, 1968) 122.

a. Vigilius: bishop of Trent 385–405.

††† Translated from Sancti Ambrosii Opera, vol. 10.3, ed. M. Zelzer, CSEL 82.3 (Vienna, 1968) 105.

a. Anysius: the bishop of Alonika in Greece. Auxentius: the Arian bishop of Dorostoruno in Moesia.

b. Namely, the fact that people were singing Ambrose’s hymns.

Translated from CSEL 82.3, 109–11.

a. Competentes: members of the catechumenate preparing for baptism at the next Paschal Vigil.

†† Translated from CSEL 82.3, 126–28, 134.

a. Felix and Nabor: early Milanese martyrs, perhaps of African origin.

b. Gervasius and Protasius: the protomartyrs of Milan who probably died in the late second century.

Translated from PL 16:1206–7. Not found in CSEL 82.

a. Vercelli: located in northwest Italy, west of Milan.

Translation from Wright (1928), 186.

†† Translation (modified) from Wright (1928), 185.

Translation from Wright (1928), 181.

†† Translation of verses two, three, and four by J.M. Neale (1818–66).

Translated from Eusebii Vercellensis Episcopi Quae Supersunt, ed. V. Bulhart, CCL 9 (Turnhout, 1957) 249, 304, 312.

* * * = corrupt text.

a. Some understand in natale as indicating a fast previous to Christmas; others as a fast during the Christmas season.

b. Some understand in pascha as indicating a forty-day fast between Easter and the Ascension; others as indicating forty days of fasting before Easter.

c. Certain manuscript traditions read “in Epiphania,” which would certainly be out of sequence here.

1. See Acts 1:14; 14:23.

Translated from PL 13:1133–37, 1142–45.

a. Today the city of Rimini; this synod took place in 359.

b. Liberius: bishop of Rome 352–66.

1. See Eph 4:5.

c. Novatians: members of a rigorous schismatic community in Rome.

2. See 1 Cor 5:7. 3. See Matt 16:18. 4. See Ezek 18:32.

Translated from PL 13:1171.

†† Translated from Eusebii Vercellensis Episcopi Quae Supersunt, ed. V. Bulhart, CCL 9 (Turnhout, 1957) 358–60.

1. 2 Cor 6:2. 2. Ps 34:16. 3. Ps 34:15. 4. Ps 51:19. 5. Jas 4:6. 6. Ps 51:17.

7. Matt 16:19; 18:18. 8. Ps 26:2. 9. Ezek 33:11. 10. Matt 9:12. 11. Luke 5:32; see Matt 9:12; Mark 2:17. 12. See 1 Cor 10:12. 13. 1 Cor 12:6. 14. 1 John 4:8.

Translated from CCL 9:362.

Translation (modified) from I. Schuster, The Sacramentary (Liber Sacramentorum): Historical and Liturgical Notes on the Roman Missal, trans. A. Levelis-Marke, vol. 5 (New York, 1930) 56.

†† Translation from S.A. Stauffer, On Baptismal Fonts: Ancient and Modern, Alcuin/GROW Liturgical Study 29–30 (Bramcote, Nottingham, 1994) 24.

Translation from J.S. Northcote, Epitaphs of the Catacombs (London, 1878) 119.

†† Translation from E. Ferguson, “Inscriptions and the Origin of Christian Baptism,” JThSt, n.s., 30 (1979) 41.

Translated from PL 9:927.

1. Matt 3:17.

†† Translated from La Trinité. Hilaire de Poitiers, trans. G.M. de Durand and others, ed. P. Smulderg, SChr 448 (Paris, 2000) 398.

1. John 6:55–56.

Translated from S. Hilarii Episcopi Pictaviensis. Tractatus super Psalmos, ed. A. Zingerle, CSEL 22 (Vienna, Prague, and Leipzig, 1891) 244, 253. The numeration of the psalms is that of the LXX.

†† Canons translated from Concilia Galliae à 314 à 506, ed. C. Munier, CCL 148 (Turnhout, 1963) 10–13.

Translated from CCL 148:39.

a. See Elvira (ca. 300) can. 1 (WEC 2:1270); Ancyra (314) cans. 1–12 (WEC 2:1422–30); Nicaea I (325) cans. 8, 11, 14 (WEC 2:1449, 1451, 1454); Arles II (between 442 and 506) cans. 10–11 (WEC 3:3141–42); Epaon (517) can. 29 (WEC 4:4584).

1. Wis 1:13.

†† Translated from Conciles gaulois du IVe siècle, trans. and ed. J. Gaudemet, SChr 241 (Paris, 1977) 126–29.

a. See Nicaea I (325) can. 19 (WEC 2:1456); Laodicea (between 343 and 381) can. 11 (WEC 2:1964); Statuta (5th c.) can. 100 (WEC 3:3119); Orange I (441) can. 25 (WEC 3:3136); Chalcedon (451) can. 15 (WEC 3:3379); Epaon (517) can. 21 (WEC 4:4577); Dvin (527) can. 17 (WEC 4:4844); Orleans II (533) can. 18 (WEC 4:4600).

Translated from Ecrits. Pacien de Barcelone, trans. C. Epitalon and M. Lestienne, ed. C. Granado, SChr 410 (Paris, 1995) 148–65.

1. See Titus 3:5. 2. See John 7:18; 8:50. 3. See John 5:44; Rom 16:27; Eph 3:21; Rev 1:6; Isa 42:8; 48:11. 4. See Gen 3:19. 5. See Gen 2:17; 3:3. 6. See Rom 5:12, 18. 7. Rom 5:14. 8. See Deut 7:6; 10:14–15; 14:2. 9. See John 8:33; Rom 9:7; Gal 3:16, 29. 10. See John 8:34ff. 11. See Rom 3:10; Gal 3:22. 12. See Rom 7:5. 13. See Luke 15:16.

14. Gen 3:19. 15. Rom 3:23. 16. Rom 5:12. 17. See Rom 5:21. 18. See Rom 6:16. 19. See Phil 2:8. 20. Rom 5:13. 21. See Rom 7:9. 22. See Exod 20:14; 13:17; Deut 5:18; 17:21. 23. See Rom 7:7ff. 24. See Rom 7:11. 25. Rom 7:24–25. 26. See Rom 7:25. 27. See Eph 2:8. 28. See Eph 5:27; Col 1:22. 29. Isa 7:14–15. 30. Isa 53:9; see 1 Pet 2:22. 31. See Rom 8:3. 32. See John 8:44. 33. See Gen 3:13; 2 Cor 11:3. 34. See Rom 8:2. 35. See Gen 3:1–7; 2 Cor 11:3. 36. Matt 4:3.

37. See Matt 4:6; Ps 91:11–12. 38. See Matt 4:8–9. 39. See 1 John 2:1; John 14:16. 40. See 2 Pet 2:19. 41. See 1 John 3:8. 42. Ps 8:3–4. 43. See Luke 4:13, 22; 3:53; John 13:2, 27. 44. See Luke 11:53–54. 45. See Isa 59:13. 46. See Gen 3:1ff. 47. See Luke 20:20ff. 48. See Luke 20:26; 22:2. 49. See Luke 22:47ff. 50. See Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27. 51. 1 Cor 15:56. 52. 1 Pet 2:22; see Isa 53:9. 53. See Isa 53:7; Acts 8:32. 54. See 1 Pet 2:22; 2 Cor 5:21; John 8:46. 55. See 1 Pet 1:19; 2:22. 56. See 2 Pet 2:19. 57. See 1 John 2:1. 58. Ps 51:6. 59. Col 2:15; Rom 8:3; Col 2:14.

60. See Ps 16:10; Acts 2:27. 61. See 1 Cor 15:56. 62. See Mark 9:31. 63. See Luke 24:39; 1 Tim 3:16. 64. See Col 1:20, 22; 2 Cor 5:18–19. 65. Rom 5:12. 66. Rom 5:19, 21. 67. See Gal 4:4. 68. See Luke 19:10. 69. See Matt 1:21; Gal 4:31. 70. See Ps 16:10. 71. See 1 Cor 6:17. 72. See Eph 5:31–32; Gen 2:24. 73. See Luke 1:35; John 3:5ff. 74. See 1 Cor 15:22; Rom 8:11. 75. 1 Cor 15:45. 76. 1 Cor 4:15. 77. See 1 John 3:9. 78. See Eph 4:24. 79. See Rom 8:9. 80. Acts 8:37.

81. John 1:12. 82. See John 3:5. 83. See 2 Cor 5:17. 84. Rom 6:4. 85. See Gal 5:19–21; Eph 4:22; 5:3–5; Col 3:8ff. 86. See Gal 6:22ff. 87. 1 Cor 15:49. 88. 1 Cor 15:47. 89. See 2 Cor 5:1. 90. John 11:25. 91. See Matt 22:31ff.; Mark 12:26ff.; Luke 20:37ff. 92. Luke 20:38. 93. Phil 1:21, 23. 94. 2 Cor 5:6–7. 95. 1 Cor 15:19. 96. Rom 6:23. 97. See Col 1:13; Eph 5:8ff.; 6:12. 98. See 1 Cor 15:54–57; John 16:33. 99. Col 2:13–15.

100. Ps 146:7–8. 101. Ps 116:16–17. 102. See Matt 25:41. 103. See Rom 3:25; 5:9; Eph 1:7; 2:13; Col 1:14; 1 John 1:7. 104. Gal 4:9; see Gal 4:3; Col 2:8, 20. 105. 2 Pet 2:20; see Luke 11:26. 106. See Luke 11:22. 107. Rom 6:9. 108. See John 13:10. 109. See Heb 12:28. 110. Rom 4:7; Ps 32:1. 111. See 1 Cor 15:34. 112. See Col 1:22; 2 Pet 3:14. 113. See 1 Cor 3:13; 1 Thess 5:2. 114. 1 Cor 2:9; see Isa 64:3.

Translated from SChr 410:118–47.

1. See Luke 15:5. 2. See John 10:16.

a. Solon: an Athenian lawgiver (638?–559 B.C.).

b. This work by Pacian has been lost.

c. Literally, “confession,” yet in early Christianity the term often designates the whole penitential process.

3. Prov 9:8. 4. Rev 3:19. 5. See Matt 18:15–17.

6. See Exod 35:2; Num 15:32–36. 7. See Lev 11:24ff.; Num 19:11–16. 8. See Lev 11:4–8; Deut 14:4–21. 9. See Exod 15:24; 16:2–8; 17:2–3; Num 14:2ff. 10. See Lev 11:33ff.; 14:55. 11. See Lev 13:47–59. 12. See Lev 21:16ff. 13. See Rom 5:9; Eph 1:7; 2:13; 1 John 1:7. 14. See Gal 3:13. 15. Gal 5:13. 16. Acts 15:23–24. 17. Acts 15:28–29.

d. The text here is corrupt.

18. See 1 Cor 3:17. 19. 1 John 5:16. 20. Exod 32:33. 21. Matt 26:52. 22. 1 Cor 3:17. 23. Matt 5:18. 24. See 1 Cor 6:9–10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5. 25. See John 6:60. 26. Isa 3:12.

27. Wis 1:13; see Ezek 18:32; 33:11. 28. See John 8:24. 29. Isa 66:2. 30. See 2 Sam 6:3–7. 31. Lev 7:20. 32. 1 Cor 11:27.

33. 1 Cor 11:29–32. 34. 1 Cor 11:27. 35. 1 Cor 11:29. 36. 1 Cor 11:30. 37. 1 Cor 11:32. 38. Gal 5:9; see 1 Cor 5:6. 39. 1 Tim 5:22. 40. See Rom 2:16.

41. See 1 Cor 12:26. 42. See Matt 18:20. 43. See Col 1:24. 44. See Rom 8:34; 1 John 2:1. 45. Joel 2:12–13. 46. 1 Cor 5:3–5. 47. See 1 Cor 5:5. 48. See Dan 9:3.

49. Dan 9:5. 50. Dan 3:25. 51. Ps 6:7. 52. See Matt 18:35. 53. See Ps 6:6. 54. See Matt 5:25. 55. Joel 2:13. 56. See Luke 15:18. 57. See Luke 15:13. 58. Luke 15:18–19, 21. 59. See Luke 15:15–16. 60. See Luke 15:22. 61. See Luke 15:20. 62. Ezek 18:23; 33:11.

63. Jer 8:4. 64. Rom 14:4. 65. See Rev 2–3. 66. Rev 2:5. 67. Isa 30:15. 68. See 2 Pet 3:9. 69. See Luke 15:8–9. 70. See Luke 15:5. 71. See Luke 15:7, 10.

Translated from SChr 410:170–85.

a. Novatus: a priest who was part of the Novatian (see note b below) community in Carthage.

b. Novatian: a Roman priest (d. 257/258) who, disappointed with the election of Cornelius as bishop of Rome, had himself ordained bishop of this city. In regard to penance, his attitude and that of his followers was one of rigorism, allowing after baptism no pardon for serious sin.

c. Montanus: a second-century founder of a rigorist religious movement whose adherents rejected any leniency in regard to the penitential discipline.

d. Phrygians: followers of the Montanist heresy who lived in Phrygia, which was situated in what is now Turkey.

e. Marcionites: followers of Marcion (d. ca. 160), a heretic who rejected the Church of his time as having departed from a more primitive purity.

f. Apelleites: members of a Gnostic sect who believed that salvation came from faith alone.

g. Cataphrygians: an alternative designation for followers of Montanus.

h. Cyprian: bishop of Carthage (WEC 1:27).

1. See Cant 6:9. 2. See Ps 45:10. 3. See 2 Cor 11:2. 4. See John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. 5. See John 14:26. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid. 8. See 1 Pet 1:12. 9. See Rom 2:14–15. 10. See 1 Cor 11:14.

11. 2 Cor 2:9. 12. Rom 5:19. 13. See Matt 15:14; Luke 6:39. 14. Matt 9:12. 15. See Eph 6:12. 16. See Gen 3. 17. See 1 Cor 4:8. 18. See Matt 5:28–30. 19. See Rom 14:4. 20. Joel 2:12. 21. Isa 55:7. 22. Joel 2:13. 23. See Gen 3:15.

24. Ps 6:7. 25. Ps 32:5. 26. Ibid. 27. See 2 Sam 11:2–27. 28. 2 Sam 12:13. 29. See Dan 4:25ff. 30. Jer 8:4. 31. See Luke 15:8–9. 32. See Luke 15:4–6. 33. See Luke 15:22ff. 34. Luke 15:32. 35. See Luke 10:30ff. 36. See Rev 2:1–4. 37. See Rev 2:18, 21. 38. See Rev 3:1ff. 39. See Rev 2:12, 15. 40. See Rev 3:14. 41. See Rev 2:5, 16, 22; 3:3, 19. 42. 2 Cor 12:21. 43. Gal 6:1. 44. See 2 Tim 2:20. 45. 2 Cor 7:9. 46. 2 Cor 7:10. 47. Luke 10:7; 1 Tim 5:18. 48. See Mark 2:7.

49. Matt 18:18. 50. 1 Cor 3:10. 51. Phil 2:25. 52. 1 Pet 2:25. 53. 2 Cor 2:10–11.

54. See 2 Tim 4:1.

Translated from SChr 410:206–65.

a. See above, 60-C-1, note b.

1. See John 3:5. 2. See Matt 10:33; Luke 12:9. 3. See 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16. 4. See 1 Titus 3:15. 5. 1 Titus 3:15. 6. See 2 Cor 11:2. 7. See Eph 5:22–32. 8. Eph 5:30. 9. Eph 5:26. 10. Ps 45:10. 11. Ps 128:3. 12. Cant 6:9. 13. Eph 2:20. 14. See Titus 2:20. 15. See John 3:5. 16. See John 4:10. 17. See Jer 2:13.

b. Valentinians: followers of Valentinus, a second-century Gnostic theologian.

c. See above, 60-C-1, note g.

18. See Matt 10:33; Luke 12:9. 19. See 1 Cor 12:27. 20. 1 Cor 12:14. 21. Ps 122:3. 22. See 1 Cor 3:16–17; 2 Cor 6:16. 23. 2 Tim 2:20. 24. 2 Cor 11:2. 25. See Eph 5:22–32. 26. Gen 2:23. 27. Ps 128:3. 28. See John 17:12. 29. Eph 5:27.

d. Antonian: a North African bishop who supported both Cyprian and Pope Cornelius against the Novatians.

e. Cyprian, Letter 55:V.

30. 1 Cor 3:3. 31. 2 Tim 2:17. 32. Eph 5:25. 33. See Luke 10:33ff. 34. 1 Cor 13:7. 35. 2 Cor 11:29. 36. Eph 4:2–3. 37. See John 3:5. 38. Matt 10:33.

39. See Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21. 40. 1 Cor 3:9. 41. 1 Cor 3:6–7. 42. See Eph 2:8. 43. See 1 Cor 5:5. 44. Ezek 18:23; 33:11. 45. Isa 30:15. 46. Rev 2:5. 47. Rom 3:19.

48. See 1 Cor 5:5. 49. John 5:14. 50. Sir 12:3. 51. Rom 6:3–4. 52. See Matt 7:3–5. 53. Prov 20:9. 54. See Matt 9:12. 55. See Gen 3:24.

f. WEC 1:27-B.

g. WEC 1:27-E-11.

h. WEC 1:26-H.

56. See Luke 10:30ff. 57. Ezek 14:20.

Translated from Gregorii Liberritani Episcopi Quae Supersint, ed. V. Bulhart and M. Simonetti, CCL 69 (Turnhout, 1967) 114–18.

1. 1 Pet 2:22. 2. Exod 15:25. 3. John 7:37; see Rev 22:17. 4. 1 Cor 10:4. 5. John 7:38. 6. See Gen 2:21–22.

Canons translated from La colección canónica hispana, vol. 4, ed. G. Martinez Diez and F. Rodriguez (Madrid, 1984) 148–67.

a. Although some might understand “communion” to be “reconciliation” with the community of the faithful, that is, ecclesial communion, most probably the term signifies eucharistic Communion—here, Viaticum, namely, Communion received as a preparation shortly before death. See Ancyra (314) cans. 16, 22 (WEC 2:1432, 1435); Nicaea I (325) can. 13 (WEC 2:1453); Rome (488) Letter 7, can. 3 (WEC 3:2959); Statuta (5th c.) cans. 20–21 (WEC 3:3077–78); Orange I (441) can. 3 (WEC 3:3125); Vaison (442) can. 2 (WEC 3:3137); Arles II (between 442 and 506) can. 28 (WEC 3:3149); Agde (506) can. 15 (WEC 4:4552); Epaon (517) can. 36 (WEC 4:4587); Orleans III (538) cans. 6, 28 (WEC 4:4605, 4609); Capitula Martini (after 561) can. 82 (WEC 4:4699); Gerunda (517) can. 9 (WEC 4:4722); Barcelona I (ca. 540) can. 9 (WEC 4:4732).

b. See Ancyra (314) cans. 1–12 (WEC 2:1422–30); Nicaea I (325) cans. 8, 11, 14 (WEC 2:1449, 1451, 1454); Valence (374) can. 3 (WEC 2:1225); Arles II (between 442 and 506) cans. 10–11 (WEC 3:3141–42); Epaon (517) can. 29 (WEC 4:4584).

c. See Sardica (ca. 343) can. 11 (WEC 2:1299).

d. A superpositio was a prolongation of the fast beyond its accustomed duration, beyond supper, thus fasting for the entire day.

e. See Agde (506) can. 12 (WEC 4:4549); Dvin (527) can. 38 (WEC 4:4853); Orleans IV (541) can. 2 (WEC 4:4616).

f. See Statuta (5th c.) cans. 49, 69 (WEC 3:3087, 3100); Lerida (546) can. 13 (WEC 4:4735).

g. See Statuta (5th c.) cans. 62–63 (WEC 3:3094–95); Orange I (441) cans. 13–15 (WEC 3:3129–31).

h. See Carthage II (390) cans. 3–4 (WEC 2:876–77); Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 30-b (WEC 2:888); Statuta (5th c.) can. 20 (WEC 3:3077); Agde (506) can. 15 (WEC 4:4552); Toledo III (589) ser. 2 cap. 11 (WEC 4:4766).

i. See Statuta (5th c.) can. 58 (WEC 3:3091); Arles II (between 442 and 506) can. 15 (WEC 3:3144).

j. The Latin is faulty: prohibere abstinere et non generare.

k. See Elvira (ca. 300) can. 34 (WEC 2:1281); Laodicea (between 343 and 381) can. 9 (WEC 2:1962).

l. This canon admits of various interpretations depending on the translation of sanctorum (i.e., the “faithful,” the “deceased,” the “priests who do holy things”).

m. See note j above.

n. See Elvira (ca. 300) can. 29 (WEC 2:1278); Statuta (5th c.) cans. 62–63 (WEC 3:3094–95); Orange I (441) cans. 13–15 (WEC 3:3129–31).

o. See Statuta (5th c.) can. 41 (WEC 3:3086); Dvin (527) can. 10 (WEC 4:4840).

p. See Braga II (572) can. 7 (WEC 4:4760).

q. One manuscript tradition has “but by the clerics.”

r. See Epaon (517) can. 28 (WEC 4:4583).

s. See Orleans I (511) can. 12 (WEC 4:4565); Dvin (527) can. 18 (WEC 4:4845).

t. See Laodicea (between 343 and 381) can. 48 (WEC 2:1994); Toledo I (400?) can. 20 (WEC 3:3172); Orange I (441) can. 2 (WEC 3:3124); Braga II (572) can. 4 (WEC 4:4757); Rome (ca. 400?) can. 11 (WEC 3:2958); Capitula Martini (after 561) can. 51 (WEC 4:4686).

Canons translated from Canones Apostolorum, vol. 2, ed. H.Th. Bruns (Berlin, 1829) 13–14.

a. See Gangra (ca. 345) can. 18 (WEC 2:1955); Statuta (5th c.) can. 77 (WEC 3:3102); Agde (506) can. 12 (WEC 4:4549); Orleans IV (541) can. 2 (WEC 4:4616); Braga I (561) ser. 1 can. 4 (WEC 4:4737); Capitula Martini (after 561) can. 57 (WEC 4:4692).

b. See Dvin (527) can. 29 (WEC 4:4851); Orleans IV (541) can. 2 (WEC 4:4616).

c. See Toledo I (400?) can. 14 (WEC 3:3171).

d. See Carthage II (390) can. 3 (WEC 2:876); Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 1 (WEC 2:881); Hippo (393) Brev. Hipp. ser. 2 can. 34 (WEC 2:891); Riez (439) can. 4 (WEC 3:3122); Agde (506) can. 19 (WEC 4:4555).

Translation (modified) from Hefele (1871) 2:145.

a. See Elvira (ca. 300) can. 21 (WEC 2:1274).

†† Translation from R. Cabié and others, The Church at Prayer, vol. 3, The Sacraments, new edition (Collegeville, 1987) 62–63, note 207.

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