4 Biblical Reasons Mary Is The New Ark of the Covenant

An in depth biblical approach to Mary as the “New Ark of the Convenant.”

Listers, as with all Marian doctrine, a better understanding of Mary only serves to illuminate Christ Our Lord, because every grace she received and every role she held within salvation history  is rooted in Christ. Her role as the New Ark of the Covenant serves to reveal the true nature of Jesus Christ – one person with two natures: divine and human – and illuminate the purpose of the Incarnation within salvation history. The Old Testament is perfected by the New, and Mother Mary is the perfection of the old Ark of the Covenant.

“We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”
Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #94

Credit & Notable Marian Works
Those looking for a deeper understanding of the Virgin Mary should consult the following works: for an academic but spiritual treatment within the dominican tradition SPL suggests Mother of the Saviour: And Our Interior Life by the keen mind of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., and for a seminal Marian devotional we suggest The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by one of the most famous proponents of mariology, St. Louis de Montfort, and finally, for a biblical and basic introduction to the Blessed Virgin – and an excellent primer for protestants – SPL suggests Hail, Holy Queen:The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn. Overall, Hahn’s works offer Catholics and non-Catholics alike a wide-range of excellent theological primers, and his Hail, Holy Queen text greatly contributed to the last two points of this list.1

“The ark is verily the holy Virgin, gilded within and without, who received the treasure of universal sanctification. Arise, O Lord, from the Father’s bosom, to raise up again the ruined race of our first parent” (Orat. in Deip. Annunciat. Int. Opp. S. Greg. Thaumaturg) (Blessed Virgin, p. 89). St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213-c. 270)

“As Christ our priest was not chosen by hand of man, so neither was His tabernacle framed by men, but was established by the Holy Ghost; and by the power of God is that tabernacle protected, to be had in everlasting remembrance, Mary, God’s Virgin Mother” (S. Dionysius of Alexandria, Respons. ad Quoest. v. Pauli Samos) (Blessed Virgin, p. 81). St. Dionysius (died 264)

Both the Old Ark and the New Ark were “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit. “The Annunciation” – Andrea del Sarto

1. Hail, Full of Grace

The Old Ark Was the Physical Dwelling Place of the Shekinah Glory
The New Ark Was the Physical Dwelling Place of the Word Incarnate

The Ark of the Covenant was the point of contact for the presence of God within the Holy of Holies.2

And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel told Mother Mary she would be the Mater Dei, the Mother of God. In her womb God’s physical presence would dwell in a way never before seen: the second person of the Trinity was to take upon human nature, and become Incarnate.

And [the Archangel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greetings this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

How is Mary a More Perfect Ark?
The New Testament perfects the Old, and whereas the old Ark of the Covenant had been lost, God provided a new and more perfect one – an immaculate woman. The Ark moves from being a human artifact of wood and gold, to a the highest honored and highest human creature3 The presence of God is perfected insofar as the Second Person of the Trinity becomes Incarnate, and his mission is the forgiveness and satisfaction of mankind.

Why does the Angel say “Full of Grace?”
Entire bulwarks of the Catholic tradition are built upon this phrase, but a brief sketch is necessary to understand Mary’s unique role in salvation history. Grace – as we know it – did not exist before the victory of Christ; moreover, the Old Testament sacrifices forgave sins, but they could not offer proper satisfaction for them – they left man in an infinite debt due to sin. The angel stating “full of grace” points to Mary as Immaculate, the pure vessel of Christ’s Incarnation, the virgin and sinless flesh from which Christ would draw his human nature. Mary was “full of grace” because the was born without original sin and had remained sinless in order to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of God. It is important to note that Mary’s grace is still rooted in Christ, and is orientated toward the mission of salvation. Both Mary’s biblical roles as the New Ark of the Covenant and of the New Eve articulate a need for her to be perfect in relationship to Christ, not to mention the greatest need of all – it was from her Christ drew his humanity.

Tabernacle and Sacred Vessels 1728, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733), Wikicommons

2. The Contents of the Arks

Ark Contained the Commandments, Manna, & Aaron’s Rod
New Ark Contained Christ Our Lord: Logos, Bread of Life, King/Priest

The Old Testament Ark was said to contain three things: the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments carved by the finger of God, the priestly rod of Moses’ brother Aaron, and the heavenly manna that sustained Israel in post-Egyptian wandering.

While the old Ark is acacia wood wrapped in gold, the New Ark of the Covenant is the Immaculate Woman Mary. Since being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, her womb became the dwelling place of God on Earth until the birth of Christ. As the New Testament is a perfection and fulfillment of the Old, so too is Christ’s Incarnation in the Virgin Mary a perfection of the Old Ark of the Covenant. The contents of the New Ark perfect the contents of the Old Ark insofar as Christ the Lord takes upon himself the roles of the former objects: Word of God, Bread of Life, & Eternal Priest.

Old & New Contents

The Word of God in the Stone Tablets 4
The Word of God Incarnate

And he took the [tablets of the] covenant and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above on the ark;

Christ’s perfection of the Tablets of the Covenant or more commonly called the Tablets of the Ten Commandments is multifaceted. The most complete perfection is the overall understanding the the primary “Word of God” is not Scripture, but Christ. Christ is the Living Word, the Logos.5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. […] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

Moreover, the Tablets of the Covenant represented the old convenant and its laws. Christ comes and perfects those laws, most notably during his Sermon on the Mount.6 Changing the Laws requires the proper authority, and to change divine laws requires divine authority. Christ, as the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, obviously had the divine authority and he demonstrated it both as the Eternal King in the lineage of King David and as the Eternal Priest in the lineage of Melchizedek.7

 

Manna, the Life-giving bread of Heaven
Jesus Christ, the “Bread of Life”

It is fitting that the Book of Hebrews, which has at its core the goal to demonstrate the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament – especially in articulating Christ as our High Priest – would highlight the contents of the Old Ark.8

Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.

Concerning the Old Ark and manna, Christ our Lord is the perfect “Bread of Life.” In the Gospel of John, Christ gives his famous “Eucharistic Discourse.” The entire latter half of the chapter is an in depth discussion on the Eucharist and Christ’s body and blood as the life giving sacrament.9

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. […] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Christ’s “Eucharistic Discourse” paves the way for the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. In speaking to his disciples, Christ says the following:10

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

Biblically, it is very clear that the manna of the OT is perfected by the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, which is for us today the source and summit of the Catholic life, the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

 

Aaron’s Rod, the Sign of the Ancestral Priesthood
Christ, the Eternal Priest in the Order of Melchizedek

As in the aforesaid Hebrew’s verse, Aaron’s rod was placed within the Ark of the Covenant. The rod of Aaron was a sign of the priesthood. The book of Hebrews takes up as a main focus the eternal priesthood of Christ Jesus.11

So also Christ did no exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son, today I have begotten you;
As he says also in another place,

“You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

The subject of Christ as the Eternal Priest is exhausted by the book of Hebrews, and it speaks directly to the argument of how Christ’s priesthood could have perfected the ancestral lineage of the Old Testament priesthood – especially since Christ was not born into that lineage. The author highlights the High Priest Melchizedek, and the legitimacy of Christ’s eternal priesthood being rooted in the Order of Melchizedek.

King David plays the Harp before the Ark of the Covenant, source unknown.

3. Joy Before the Ark

King David & the Ark
Elizabeth & the New Ark

One intriguing aspect of Hebrew literature is the fact it does not give unnecessary details. Understanding this facet can illuminate certain passages, especially when one notes that the Hebrews were not concerned with many of the attributes the modern western mind expects of stories and history. Along this note, the Catholic tradition observes several OT passages and NT passages that utilize the same details and phrases. The Early Church fathers were quick to extract many of these comparisons, especially in the more broad sense of parallel ideas, e.g., St. Augustine seeing the Creation in Genesis allegorically as the new birth of a Christian soul from “formless and void” to the abundant earth. Other comparisons are more nuanced and exist on noticing exact repetitions of words or phrases within similar circumstances. One such detailed pericope contains the story of when King David received the Ark of the Covenant.12

And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Ba’ale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.

The passage then recounts the unfortunate story of Uzzah, the man who amongst the merriment put his hand on the Ark after an oxen stumbled. Uzzah was smitten by God, and David became afraid. However, Scripture records the detail of how much time David spent waiting after the death of Uzzah, and that time was three months.

And David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” So David was not willing to take the ark of the LORD into the city of David; but David took it aside to the house of O’bed-e’dom the Gittite. […] So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of O’bed-e’dom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

In the Gospel of Luke, the evangelist records the story of when Mary went to visit Elizabeth. The passage utilizes some of the exact phrasing from the pericope in I Samuel, and even replaces the term “ark” with “mother of my Lord” when Elizabeth asks why Mary has come to her, as David did with the Ark.13 The similar language in both selections have been emboldened.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.

After Mary delivers her famous Magnificat, the passage ends telling the reader how much time has elapsed.

And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

The similarities between these two passages demand attention. Both begin with the same phrase “arose and went,” both dwelt in the hill country of Judah, David speaks of his unworthiness before the Old Ark as Elizabeth does before the New Ark (even replacing the work ark with “mother of my Lord”), David dances and leaps before the presence of the Lord and John the Baptist leaps in joy within Elizabeth’s womb (often seen as Christ’s presence anointing John to be a prophet), and both remain the same amount of time: three months.14 While comments on Mary as the New Ark abound in Early Church literature, the following quote by Ambrose is especially insightful.

“The prophet David danced before the Ark.  Now what else should we say the Ark was but holy Mary?  The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself.  The former contained in it the Law, the latter the Gospel.  The one had the voice of God, the other His Word.  The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity.  The one was adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly” (Serm. xlii. 6, Int. Opp., S. Ambrosii) (Blessed Virgin, p. 77). St. Ambrose (c. 339-397)

“Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy” offers no middle ground between protestant and Catholic theology. St. Stanislaus, Chicago.

4. The Apocalypse of St. John

The Old Was Lost
The New Ark is Found

Many are under the false impression that the Ark of the Covenant was in the Temple during the time of Christ. Commenting on this misunderstanding, biblical scholar and popular writer Scott Hahn states, “around 587 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah concealed the ark in order to preserve it from defilement when Babylonian invaders came to destroy the temple.15

And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated.”

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the Ark within Old Testament Judaism. Given its central role in worship and the fact it was lost, any mention of the Ark of the Covenant during the time it was lost was sure to be noteworthy. In St. John’s Revelation, he mentions the ark at the end of chapter eleven.16

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.

Scott Hahn delivers several astute observations regarding the mentioning of the Ark and the Jewish historical context in which St. John was writing. He says, “imagine you are a first -century reader, raised as a Jew. You have never seen the ark, but all your religious and cultural upbringing has taught you to long for its restoration in the temple… the dramatic tension [in John’s writing] becomes nearly unbearable. The reader wants to see the ark, as John sees it.”17 However as Hahn notes, St. John does not then go on to speak of the OT Ark (the switch in chapter from 11 to 12 should not import any concern, considering the original texts had no such distinctions). What John does begin to describe is a woman:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.

As with all Marian doctrine, Christ is the center and he is the key to understanding Revelation 12. Christ is the child born unto the woman.

She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,

The child is brought to God and his throne, which must be Christ. Moreover, the child rules with a “rod of iron,” which is a reference to King David, and Christ is the “Son of David” that will sit upon the Davidic throne forever.

The “Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy” is the largest Monstrance in the World.

Could the Woman be Israel?
While there could be certain traits – even beneficial ones – to understanding the woman as Israel, the Marian readings harmonizes best with the text and would still remain the primary reading. The latter half of St. John’s Revelation chapter reveals more about the woman.

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. […] Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.

Revelation 12 is an exhaustive Marian text, because Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant, the New Eve, and the New Queen of the Davidic Kingdom – and all three of those roles are demonstrated within the chapter as a whole. Within the given pericope, a special enmity is seen between the woman and the dragon, which recalls the reader’s mind to God’s words in Genesis regarding the enmity between Eve and the serpent. A “Israel” reading becomes confusing; Israel could be seen as the mother of Christ – though Mary has historically held the role of Mater Dei, Theotokos, the Mother of God without question – but it is a stretch to see Israel as the mother of Christians. If it is the “New Israel,” the Church, that could present an option, but again, the Church has never been referred to as the Mother of God – she is the Bride of Christ. Biblically speaking, Mother Mary fits the roles within Revelation 12, and for our purposes here, shows herself to be the New Ark of the Covenant.

“Be mindful of us, most holy virgin, who after childbirth didst remain virgin; and grant to us for these small words great gifts from the riches of they graces, O thou full of grace. Accept them as though they were true and adequate praises in they honor; and if there is in them any virtue and any praise, we offer them as a hymn from ourselves and from all creatures to thee, full of grace, Lady, Queen, Mistress, Mother of God, and Ark of sanctification” (Orat. In Deip. Annuntiat, nn. 13, 14. Int. Opp. S. Athanasii) (Blessed Virgin, p. 80). St. Athanasius (c. 296-373)

Mother Mary, New Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.
HHAmbrose

  1. Early Church Quotes on Mary as the New Ark of the Covenent: SOURCE []
  2. The Old Ark: Lev 16:2, RSV; Ex 25:10-22 – dimensions, look of the ark []
  3. Mary as the Highest Created Human: Often times protestants will errnoneously reject this claim based on Christ as the highest created human – this view is a heresy. The personhood of Christ already existed as the Second Person of the Trinity, and he took upon himself human nature; moreover, Christ’s personhood was not created. []
  4. Ex 40:20 []
  5. John 1:1, 14a []
  6. Matthew 5, 6, 7 []
  7. Christ as “Son of David” – Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48; Promise to King David –  I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31; Christ in the order of Melchizedek – Heb 4:14-5:10; 7; The ability, as the new Priest, to change the law: Heb 7:12 []
  8. The Contents of the Ark: Hebrews 9:4 (Tablets, Aaron’s Rod, Manna), however, I Kings 8:9 says only the tablets were inside the Ark. Contradiction theories aside, the discrepancy is easily explained by the fact I Kings was written early in the history of the People of Israel, and the rod and manna were simply added later. []
  9. Eucharistic Discourse: John 6:22-71 – There are protestant objections to this passage, which primarily try to state why Christ was not being literal. Outside the irony that this is one of the only passages the protestant tradition does not advocate a literal reading, the insistence of Christ and his disciples’ reaction to it is clear enough for a literal reading. Every time the disciples misunderstood a teaching, Christ scolded them, but he did not let them leave confused. At the end of this passage, many disciples leave Christ, and Christ not only lets them leave unhindered, but further presses the issue on his disciples. []
  10. Matthew 26:26 []
  11. Christ the High Priest: Hebrews 5:5,6 – 7:1-28 []
  12. King David and the Ark: II Sam 6:2-16 []
  13. Mary Visits Elizabeth: Gospel of Luke 1:39-56 []
  14. Comparison Credit: the comparison between II Sam 6 and Luke 1 is described in Scott Hahn’s work Hail Holy Queen (p.63-64), which is an excellent introduction to understanding the biblical roles of Mary, especially for those of the protestant ecclesial communities. []
  15. The Ark is Hidden: 2 Mac 2:5-8 []
  16. The Ark & Mary as the New Ark in Revelation: Revelation 11:19 – 12:17 []
  17. Hahn, 54 []

The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore… they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”

Listers, the Early Church was the Early Catholic Church. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians is an orthodox window into the infancy of the Church (AD 97) and particularly into the structure of the Church.1 The Early Church is not an ambiguous or mysterious time. It is a well recorded period with a great number of writings from the Early Church Fathers. Clement lived in Rome only a stone throw away from the Coliseum. He is seen as a successor to St. Peter and is considered the fourth Pope of Rome, following St. Peter, St. Linus and St. Anacletus.2 Pope St. Clement I’s epistle has a well-paced catechetical tone and is quite mild compared to St. Cyprian’s On the Unity of the Church. St. Cyprian states, those who start their own “churches” are “deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues” (AD 250).

Dear Protestants
St. Clement’s epistle to the faithful in Corinth is not a Catholic apologetics text or a work from the Counter-Reformation. The words come from a leader within the infancy of the Church of Christ – AD 97. One of the best hermeneutics when reading the Early Church Fathers is not only to pay attention to what they say, but to note well their assumptions about the faith. These assumptions are sometimes greater than their actual words, because the assumptions are the principles that are so ingrained into the Church that they are assumed truths, i.e., unquestioned and widely known. St. Clement’s epistle demonstrates this in a powerful way as he cannot envision “multiple churches” no more than he can imagine a Church outside the direct lineage of the apostles. An undercurrent in St. Clement’s writing and in all the Church Father’s is that perfect charity and perfect faith cannot exist in ecclesial and doctrinal disunity – there is only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. At the very least, one should read this text and think to themselves: does my “church” sound like the Early Church – and if not, why?

Pope Clement I, Vicar of Christ and martyr, pray for us.

1. Virtue Thwarts Schism

Chapter II continues the epistle’s early theme of lauding the Corinthians in their virtues and prepares the discussion for the topic of schism.

Perfect Charity and Faith Demand Unity
“You were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighbours: their deficiencies you deemed your own.”

 

2. Sts. Peter and Paul

In Chapter V, His Holiness Pope Clement I displays an important theme in early ecclesial thought: the remembrance of the Apostles. He turns first to his predecessor, St. Peter and his “numerous labours” in the faith until he “departed to the place of glory due to him.” Secondly, he calls to memory St. Paul who was “removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.” It is not surprising the saint chooses Sts. Peter and Paul. Rome itself was consecrated not only by St. Peter’s office as the Vicar of Christ, but also by St. Paul’s ministry and martyrdom. St. Clement also refers to the “extreme west” and maybe referring to St. Paul actually making it to Spain.

The whole first part of the letter is exhortation to overcome schism, sedition and factions through virtue. The saint exhorts his readers that if they are going to be true believers like Sts. Peter and Paul, then they must endure through envy, anger, pride and all other vices that lead to disunity.

More Ecclesial Lists
10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy
13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter Was the “Prince of the Apostles”
Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250

 

3. The Old Testament

After calling to memory Sts. Peter and Paul, His Holiness speaks in Chapter VIII about how repentance and penance are ecclesial and inseparable from the People of God. The history of Israel is riddled with times of sedition and schism, but through virtue and obedience the People of God would remain together. It is undeniable that in the Old Testament there could be no distinction between the structural and physical unity of Israel and their spiritual and doctrinal unity. So too did Christ charge his apostles in with the care and guidance of Holy Mother Church, in which true faith and charity cannot exist without true unity.3

The People of God Are Always United

“As I live, says the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance;” adding, moreover, this gracious declaration, “Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity.” Say to the children of my people, Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, and though they be redder than scarlet, and blacker than sack-cloth, yet if you turn to me with your whole heart, and say, Father! I will listen to you, as to a holy people. And in another place He speaks thus: “Wash you and become clean; put away the wickedness of your souls from before my eyes; cease from your evil ways, and learn to do well; seek out judgment, deliver the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and see that justice is done to the widow; and come, and let us reason together.”

 

4. St. Paul’s Corinthians

Skipping forward to Chapter XXXVII, the Bishop of Rome delves into analogies to explain the hierarchy of the Church. Pope Clement is writing to many of the same Corinthians to whom St. Paul wrote. Notice that His Holiness draws upon St. Paul’s own analogy of the Body of Christ and how this fits his constant theme of apostolic authority and exemplars.4

The Church Is Hierarchal

“Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy act the part of soldiers, in accordance with His holy commandments. Let us consider those who serve under our generals, with what order, obedience, and submissiveness they perform the things which are commanded them. All are not prefects, nor commanders of a thousand, nor of a hundred, nor of fifty, nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage. Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body.”

 

5. The Divine Order of the Church

Chapter XL begins a turn in the epistle. His Holiness argues that the Lord has given the Church an order and a proper way to do things. Worship of God and the roles therein are not done “thoughtlessly or irregular.” Moreover, the order of the Church is given by God, not man. The Church and the worship of God are not matters of opinion or individuality, but of obedience and uniformity.

No Man Has the Authority to Order the Church

“These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behooves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours. Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things, being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.”

 

6. A Ministry Is Given

Chapter XLI continues discussing the preservation of Church Order. Here Pope Clement I turns to the Jewish religion and their rituals and even their punishments if Jews deviated from their proper manner or role. He then pivots in this point and says, “that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed.” Also, notice that a man’s role in the Church – his ministry – is given to him. A strong assumption within Early Church texts is the notion that the order of the Church was given by God to man; thus, no man has the authority or capability to start his own “church.”

Danger Outside God’s Ecclesial Order

“Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. You see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed.”

 

7. The Apostle’s Appointed Bishops

Chapter XLII outlines a clear theology of succession from Christ to the Apostles to the Bishops of the Church. As an early Christian, how do you know if you belonged to the true Church? Well, does your community have a bishop? Did your bishop come from the Apostles who came from Christ our Lord who came from God the Father? It should be stressed this epistle is dated AD 97.

From God to the Apostles to Us

“The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”

 

8. Undeniable Apostolic Succession

In Chapter XLIV, St. Clement shuts the book on any doubt that the apostles chose and declared men to lead as bishops after their death. It is apostolic succession in a clear and practical manner articulated in AD 97.

Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore… they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

“Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.”

 

9. Rome Has Spoken

Chapter LIX reveals that Pope St. Clement I is not afraid to teach apostolic succession nor to utilize its authority as well. It is reminiscent of how St. Paul scolded the Churches he founded by an authority he traced to Christ and Sts. Peter and James.

Apostolic Authority

“If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; but we shall be innocent of this sin, and, instant in prayer and supplication, shall desire that the Creator of all preserve unbroken the computed number of His elect in the whole world through His beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom He called us from darkness to light.”

Notice His Holiness presupposes that the Corinthians must listen to him and if they do not they risk the penalty of transgression and serious danger. Corinth is a community founded by St. Paul who probably has a bishop in place, but notice that Clement as Bishop of Rome speaks with authority that comes with spiritual ramifications. Why is the Bishop of Rome sending a letter to the Church of Corinth if Rome has no spiritual authority over Corinth?

  1. What books made the Bible? – There is a misconception that the books that were included in the Bible were simply all of the early Christian texts. The actual canon for Holy Scripture was formed by a need for the Church to show what was and what was not actually taught by the apostles; thus, the Church included all the works of the apostles and their closest companions. Many other good Catholic epistles existed, as I Clement, but they were not what was needed to defend the teaching of the apostles against the gnostics. []
  2. List of Popes []
  3. Old Testament Scripture: Ezekiel 33:11, Ezekiel 18:30, Isaiah 1:18 []
  4. Nature, Grace and Hierarch: Those familiar with Aquinas will know that man is by nature a political and social animal. Men are political animals that are naturally inclined to organize into communities, and as such hierarchy is also natural to man. If hierarchy is natural to man then ever more so would it be in the Church since grace perfects nature. []

Those Who Start Their Own Church Follow the Voice of Satan: 11 Teachings from St. Cyprian AD 250

“He [Satan] has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity.”

Listers, our Lord Jesus Christ is not returning to our world for a harem of “churches.” There is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it was founded by Christ and charged by him to St. Peter and the Apostles. However, there are now and always have been those groups that attempt to rend Christ from his Church – to recreate that which God gave us, the Church. In AD 250, St. Cyprian wrote an outstanding work entitled On the Unity of the Church. The epistle focuses especially on the topic of schism and those who would set themselves up as Church leaders and/or start their own “churches.” Without question, these groups are proto-protestant groups and the saint’s arguments apply just as much to our modern schismatic and heretical groups as they did to his ancient schismatic groups.1

Dear Protestant Readers
I ask you to consider the following a call to dialogue. St. Cyprian’s text is not a Catholic apologetic tract or a work from the Counter-Reformation, but an epistle from the Early Church. Growing up protestant there are simply certain questions that are never asked concerning the Christian faith, because those questions are outside the deeply rooted assumptions that support protestantism. Amongst those questions are ones concerning Christ and his Church. Protestants wonder how does one discern whether they are called to start a church? but rarely ask by what biblical authority does one start a church? Again, a distinction can be seen in asking what kind of church should we start? and the Catholic question of what type of Church did Christ intend to start? Asking biblical questions regarding Christ and his intention for his Spouse, the Church is the beginning of wisdom in discerning how God intended his charity and his salvation to be communicated to the world.

West, Expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise 1791

1. The New Voice of Satan

Pulling from Chapter III of St. Cyprian’s text, the saint teaches that those who call themselves “Christians” but leave the Catholic Church for a Christian sect are following the voice of Satan. Paganism was crumbling under the growth of the Church; thus, Satan started a “new way” to deceive.

The New Way of Satan
“He [Satan] has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity. Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way2, he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way3. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness.”

Still Call Themselves Christian
“So that, although they do not stand firm with the Gospel of Christ, and with the observation and law of Christ, they still call themselves Christians, and, walking in darkness, they think that they have the light, while the adversary is flattering and deceiving, who, according to the apostle’s word, transforms himself into an angel of light, and equips his ministers as if they were the ministers of righteousness, who maintain night instead of day, death for salvation, despair under the offer of hope, perfidy under the pretext of faith, antichrist under the name of Christ; so that, while they feign things like the truth, they make void the truth by their subtlety. This happens, beloved brethren, so long as we do not return to the source of truth, as we do not seek the head nor keep the teaching of the heavenly Master.”

This “new way” of Satan is the modus operandi that extends back to the garden. Satan does not tempt Adam and Eve with rebellion, but with being “like God.” Satan’s “new way” is to sell an incomplete and heretical faith to those seeking God.

St. Peter is the first Vicar of Christ and was given the keys of the Kingdom by Christ.

2. Founded upon the Apostles

In Chapter IV the saint moves to speaking of the “easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth.” He rests this proof upon Christ’s charge to St. Peter and the Apostles. Here a watershed issue enters between Catholic and Protestant thought. For protestantism to consider itself legitimate – not a schismatic heresy – it must interpret all these apostolic charges as general proclamations from to Christ to any believer at any time; therefore, any person who so deems could start a new “church” just as the Apostles founded the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

It should be sufficient to point out that Christianity believed in no such thing until the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s; thus, the concept is and was little more than rewriting biblical doctrine to serve and legitimate rebellious actions. Along with the biblical evidence and historical confirmation of Christ founding a structured apostolic Church, the protestant view hinges upon the idea that perfect faith and love can exist in disunity and dissent. Again, trying to navigate the incompatibility of love and faith with disunity, protestantism has – through centuries of in-fighting, splintering groups and cultural conformity – both boiled down the Christian faith to a fraction of apostolic and biblical existence and adopted the quasi-platonic stance that although all physical “ecclesiastical groups”4 exist in both hierarchical and doctrinal chaos they are unified by “Christ” in a mystical manner. In this scenario, Christ stops being a historical and divine person and become a malleable concept and/or term.

Upon This Rock
“There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, “Feed my sheep.”

Apostolic Authority
“And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.”

For St. Cyprian, the presence of St. Peter among the twelve provides a mark of ecclesial unity that safeguards the entire unity of the Church – where there is Peter, there is the Church. What schismatic groups fail to comprehend is that Christ founded a living breath physical Church. A study of Christ of the Son of David, the Old Testament motif of awaiting the New Davidic Kingdom, the Vicar role in the Kingdom of David and the Vicar of Christ as seen in St. Peter and other biblical realities help form the very core of understanding the Holy Catholic Church as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the will of Christ Jesus.

Christ Founded the Church Upon St. Peter
10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy
13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter Was the “Prince of the Apostles”

 

St Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, pray for us.

3. Bishops Protect the Church

Chapter V grants the reader both a practical and an analogous insight. The saint exhorts bishops of the Church to hold together the unity of the Church, and while this may not seem profound, it is a thwart to those who would try and state that the hierarchy of bishops did not exist in this time. The second insight is a well written analogy of the Sun and the Church.

Bishops
“And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole.”

The Analogy of the Sun
“The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree,—when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.”

 

There can be only one Church as we have only one God.

4. Church as Mother

In Chapter VI, the saint discusses the Church herself and delivers one of his most famous lines:

“He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

Can the Spouse of Christ Be Adulterous?
“The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

The Holy Catholic Church cannot be reduced to a simple hierarchy that can historically trace its lineage to Christ, but it is centered and held together by a sacramental unity and the Holy Spirit. The Sacraments and the Holy Spirit further the truth that charity and faith cannot exist in disunity.

 

Michelangelo's "Moses," who yes, does have horns.

5. The People of God Always Had Unity

Chapter VII gives us the example of the undivided Church and Christ’s undivided garment. Chapter VIII can be characterized by a movement into Eucharistic Unity. The saint utilizes biblical examples from the New and Old Testament to demonstrate that God has always held his people to unity.

No Eucharist Outside the Church
“Also, the sacrament of the passover contains nothing else in the law of the Exodus than that the lamb which is slain in the figure of Christ should be eaten in one house. God speaks, saying, “In one house shall ye eat it; ye shall not send its flesh abroad from the house.”

St. Cyprian pulls from St. John, St. Paul, Exodus and Joshua to show that never before in the history of the People of God as there ever been a time where God did not hold the people to both a spiritual and physical unity. From Moses to St. Peter, the People of God have never been allowed to separate doctrinal unity from structural unity.

 

The Schismatics of Dante's Inferno by Gustave

6. Schism Creeps Like Cancer

Chapter X pulls no punches. After laying a foundation for understanding the true hierarchical and sacramental unity of the Church, the saint speaks candidly about those who decide – for any reason, even the infamous “God told me…” – to appoint themselves a pastor and/or start their own church.

Those Who Start Their Own Church Vomit Poison
“These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent’s tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.”

 

The Catholic Church is founded upon the person of Christ, the true Word of God.

7. The Person of Christ

Chapter XII address a mainstay argument of both ancient and modern schismatic groups: Isn’t the Church where two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ?

Gathered to One Christ
“For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them;” showing that most is given, not to the multitude, but to the unanimity of those that pray. “If,” He says, “two of you shall agree on earth:” He placed agreement first; He has made the concord of peace a prerequisite; He taught that we should agree firmly and faithfully. But how can he agree with any one who does not agree with the body of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be assembled together in Christ’s name, who, it is evident, are separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us; and since heresies and schisms have risen subsequently, from their establishment for themselves of diverse places of worship, they have forsaken the Head and Source of the truth.”

Heretical and schismatic groups – which include protestantism – cannot be gathered together to the true Christ, because their doctrines, beliefs and actions all point to a pantheon of “Christs.” To wit, protestantism is gathered around the term “Jesus Christ,” not the person.5 The same theme can be seen in Chapter XII:

Priests and Sacrifice6
“What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?”

 

A section of the "Martyrdom of St. Peter" by Leonello Spada (1576–1622)

8. Non-Catholics Are Not Martyrs

Chapter XIV addresses a topic that our “modern sensibilities” find unsettling. The question at hand is whether or not schismatic or heretical individuals who die in the name of Christ are martyrs. Since we’ve seen that Christ is not amongst them because they gather around a term not a person, the answer of martyrdom will inevitably be no. The saint explains:

Blood Does Not Wash the Stain of Schism
“Even if such men were slain in confession of the Name, that stain is not even washed away by blood: the inexpiable and grave fault of discord is not even purged by suffering. He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he cannot attain unto the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there.”

They Can Be Killed, Not Crowned
“They cannot dwell with God who would not be of one mind in God’s Church. Although they burn, given up to flames and fires, or lay down their lives, thrown to the wild beasts, that will not be the crown of faith, but the punishment of perfidy; nor will it be the glorious ending of religious valour, but the destruction of despair. Such a one may be slain; crowned he cannot be. He professes himself to be a Christian in such a way as the devil often feigns himself to be Christ, as the Lord Himself forewarns us, and says, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” As he is not Christ, although he deceives in respect of the name; so neither can he appear as a Christian who does not abide in the truth of His Gospel and of faith.”

 

"Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding." - Martin Luther

9. Rebels Against Christ’s Sacrifice

Chapter XVII makes clear that there is no unity in Christ without unity with the Church. Again, notice that he speaks of priests in this paragraph and spoke of bishops, apostles and St. Peter previously. Any notion that the Catholic Church was a medieval invention or developed later in history is simply historically false.

Enemies of the Altar
“Does he think that he has Christ, who acts in opposition to Christ’s priests, who separates himself from the company of His clergy and people? He bears arms against the Church, he contends against God’s appointment. An enemy of the altar, a rebel against Christ’s sacrifice, for the faith faithless, for religion profane, a disobedient servant, an impious son, a hostile brother, despising the bishops, and forsaking God’s priests, he dares to set up another altar, to make another prayer with unauthorized words, to profane the truth of the Lord’s offering by false sacrifices, and not to know that he who strives against the appointment of God, is punished on account of the daring of his temerity by divine visitation.”

 

The Pope is the "Advocate of Christian Memory."

10. The Spouse of Christ Cannot be Torn

Chapter XXIII returns to the reality of the Church as Body of Christ, the Spouse of Christ and the Mother of All Who Live in Christ; therefore, how could this Sacred Body be torn apart via schism and heresy?

The Church is One
“God is one, and Christ is one, and His Church is one, and the faith is one, and the people is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces, with its entrails wrenched asunder by laceration. Whatever has proceeded from the womb cannot live and breathe in its detached condition, but loses the substance of health.”

 

"The Last Judgment" - Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564)

11. Christ Comes Back for the Church

Chapter XXVII concludes the saints work On the Unity of the Church by asking: How will Christ know who to come back for? St. Cyprian’s answer is that He will come for his Bride, the Church.

Let Our Faith Be on Watch
“Let our light shine in good works, and glow in such wise as to lead us from the night of this world to the daylight of eternal brightness. Let us always with solicitude and caution wait for the sudden coming of the Lord, that when He shall knock, our faith may be on the watch, and receive from the Lord the reward of our vigilance. If these commands be observed, if these warnings and precepts be kept, we cannot be overtaken in slumber by the deceit of the devil; but we shall reign with Christ in His kingdom as servants that watch.”

  1. Novatian: Another impetus of the epistle was the first “anti-pope” who attempted to claim he was holier than the rest of the Church and claimed moral superiority, especially in not wanting to ever extend forgiveness to sins post-baptism. []
  2. Paganism []
  3. Christian Heresy and Schism []
  4. Are Protestant groups churches? As taught by tradition and Vatican II, protestant groups are not referred to as “churches” but “ecclesial communities.” []
  5. When Cyprian Was Wrong: Chapter XI – St. Cyprian’s faltered on the issue of whether or not people should be “re-baptized,” e.g., if a heretic baptized someone in the name of the Trinity, he advocated re-baptism. This was later seen as wrong – but was a legitimate point in the argument since doctrine had not been clarified yet – and the Pope issued that all Trinitarian baptisms are valid, but if done is schismatic groups, etc. then they must later reclaim their baptism via penance. []
  6. Reformation & Priests: The term Priest denotes Sacrifice. It is for this reason Catholic clergy are foremost referred to as priests above other titles, e.g., pastor, reverend, etc. However, since the schismatics and heretics of the Reformation denied the true presence of the Eucharist and as such stopped calling their clergy priests. []

Our Guide Through Modernism: 12 Teachings from Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas

“The main reason for this appreciation is not only explained by the content of his teaching but also by the method he used, especially his new synthesis and distinction between philosophy and theology.”

Listers in his second lesson on the Angelic Doctor, Pope Benedict XVI moves past the basic biography of Aquinas and into the more fundamental theological and philosophical changes the saint brought to Holy Mother Church.

The Vicars of Christ beg us to study Aquinas:
Patrimony of Wisdom: St. Pius X’s Exhortation to study Aquinas
The Sun that Warms the World – St. Thomas Aquinas

 

1. Vatican II Recommends Aquinas

“Today I would like to continue the presentation of St Thomas Aquinas, a theologian of such value that the study of his thought was explicitly recommended by the Second Vatican Council in two documents, the Decree Optatam totius on the Training of Priests, and the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, which addresses Christian Education. Indeed, already in 1880 Pope Leo XIII, who held St Thomas in high esteem as a guide and encouraged Thomistic studies, chose to declare him Patron of Catholic Schools and Universities.”

More on Vatican II & Aquinas: What Vatican II Actually Said About Aquinas

2. The Philosophy of the Church Fathers

“The main reason for this appreciation is not only explained by the content of his teaching but also by the method he used, especially his new synthesis and distinction between philosophy and theology. The Fathers of the Church were confronted by different philosophies of a Platonic type in which a complete vision of the world and of life was presented, including the subject of God and of religion. In comparison with these philosophies they themselves had worked out a complete vision of reality, starting with faith and using elements of Platonism to respond to the essential questions of men and women. They called this vision, based on biblical revelation and formulated with a correct Platonism in the light of faith: “our philosophy”. The word “philosophy” was not, therefore, an expression of a purely rational system and, as such, distinct from faith but rather indicated a comprehensive vision of reality, constructed in the light of faith but used and conceived of by reason; a vision that naturally exceeded the capacities proper to reason but as such also fulfilled it.”

3. The Father’s Philosophy Needed to be Rethought

“For St Thomas the encounter with the pre-Christian philosophy of Aristotle (who died in about 322 b.c.) opened up a new perspective. Aristotelian philosophy was obviously a philosophy worked out without the knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, an explanation of the world without revelation through reason alone. And this consequent rationality was convincing. Thus the old form of the Fathers’ “our philosophy” no longer worked. The relationship between philosophy and theology, between faith and reason, needed to be rethought. A “philosophy” existed that was complete and convincing in itself, a rationality that preceded the faith, followed by “theology”, a form of thinking with the faith and in the faith. The pressing question was this: are the world of rationality, philosophy conceived of without Christ, and the world of faith compatible? Or are they mutually exclusive?”

4. The “Surprise” of Aquinas

“Elements that affirmed the incompatibility of these two worlds were not lacking, but St Thomas was firmly convinced of their compatibility indeed that philosophy worked out without the knowledge of Christ was awaiting, as it were, the light of Jesus to be complete. This was the great “surprise” of St Thomas that determined the path he took as a thinker. Showing this independence of philosophy and theology and, at the same time, their reciprocal relationality was the historic mission of the great teacher.”

5. Aquinas the Guide Through Modernism

“And thus it can be understood that in the 19th century, when the incompatibility of modern reason and faith was strongly declared, Pope Leo XIII pointed to St Thomas as a guide in the dialogue between them. In his theological work, St Thomas supposes and concretizes this relationality. Faith consolidates, integrates and illumines the heritage of truth that human reason acquires. The trust with which St Thomas endows these two instruments of knowledge faith and reason may be traced back to the conviction that both stem from the one source of all truth, the divine Logos, which is active in both contexts, that of Creation and that of redemption.”

6. Faith & Reason 101

“Together with the agreement between reason and faith, we must recognize on the other hand that they avail themselves of different cognitive procedures. Reason receives a truth by virtue of its intrinsic evidence, mediated or unmediated; faith, on the contrary, accepts a truth on the basis of the authority of the Word of God that is revealed. St Thomas writes at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae:

We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of the intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science, because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed (ia, q. 1, a.2).

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, whose virtue warms the world.

7. Faith Protects Reason

“This distinction guarantees the autonomy of both the human and the theological sciences. However, it is not equivalent to separation but, rather, implies a reciprocal and advantageous collaboration. Faith, in fact, protects reason from any temptation to distrust its own abilities, stimulates it to be open to ever broader horizons, keeps alive in it the search for foundations and, when reason itself is applied to the supernatural sphere of the relationship between God and man, faith enriches his work. According to St Thomas, for example, human reason can certainly reach the affirmation of the existence of one God, but only faith, which receives the divine Revelation, is able to draw from the mystery of the Love of the Triune God.”

8. Threefold Service of Reason to Faith

“Moreover, it is not only faith that helps reason. Reason too, with its own means can do something important for faith, making it a threefold service which St Thomas sums up in the preface to his commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius:

“Demonstrating those truths that are preambles of the faith; giving a clearer notion, by certain similitudes, of the truths of the faith; resisting those who speak against the faith, either by showing that their statements are false, or by showing that they are not necessarily true” (q. 2, a.3).

The entire history of theology is basically the exercise of this task of the mind which shows the intelligibility of faith, its articulation and inner harmony, its reasonableness and its ability to further human good. The correctness of theological reasoning and its real cognitive meaning is based on the value of theological language which, in St Thomas’ opinion, is principally an analogical language. The distance between God, the Creator, and the being of his creatures is infinite; dissimilitude is ever greater than similitude (cf. DS 806). Nevertheless in the whole difference between Creator and creatures an analogy exists between the created being and the being of the Creator, which enables us to speak about God with human words.”

9. Grace Perfects Nature

“This fundamental agreement between human reason and Christian faith is recognized in another basic principle of Aquinas’ thought. Divine Grace does not annihilate but presupposes and perfects human nature. The latter, in fact, even after sin, is not completely corrupt but wounded and weakened. Grace, lavished upon us by God and communicated through the Mystery of the Incarnate Word, is an absolutely free gift with which nature is healed, strengthened and assisted in pursuing the innate desire for happiness in the heart of every man and of every woman. All the faculties of the human being are purified, transformed and uplifted by divine Grace.”

10. The Role of the Holy Spirit

“An important application of this relationship between nature and Grace is recognized in the moral theology of St Thomas Aquinas, which proves to be of great timeliness. At the centre of his teaching in this field, he places the new law which is the law of the Holy Spirit. With a profoundly evangelical gaze he insists on the fact that this law is the Grace of the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in Christ. The written and oral teaching of the doctrinal and moral truths transmitted by the Church is united to this Grace. St Thomas, emphasizing the fundamental role in moral life of the action of the Holy Spirit, of Grace, from which flow the theological and moral virtues, makes us understand that all Christians can attain the lofty perspectives of the “Sermon on the Mount”, if they live an authentic relationship of faith in Christ, if they are open to the action of his Holy Spirit.”

11. All Men May Perceive Natural Law

“However, Aquinas adds, “Although Grace is more efficacious than nature, yet nature is more essential to man, and therefore more enduring” (Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, a. 6, ad 2), which is why, in the Christian moral perspective, there is a place for reason which is capable of discerning natural moral law. Reason can recognize this by considering what it is good to do and what it is good to avoid in order to achieve that felicity which everyone has at heart, which also implies a responsibility towards others and, therefore, the search for the common good. In other words, the human, theological and moral virtues are rooted in human nature. Divine Grace accompanies, sustains and impels ethical commitment but, according to St Thomas, all human beings, believers and non-believers alike, are called to recognize the needs of human nature expressed in natural law and to draw inspiration from it in the formulation of positive laws, namely those issued by the civil and political authorities to regulate human coexistence.”

12. The True Concept of Human Reason

“To conclude, Thomas presents to us a broad and confident concept of human reason: broad because it is not limited to the spaces of the so-called “empirical-scientific” reason, but open to the whole being and thus also to the fundamental and inalienable questions of human life; and confident because human reason, especially if it accepts the inspirations of Christian faith, is a promoter of a civilization that recognizes the dignity of the person, the intangibility of his rights and the cogency of his or her duties. It is not surprising that the doctrine on the dignity of the person, fundamental for the recognition of the inviolability of human rights, developed in schools of thought that accepted the legacy of St Thomas Aquinas, who had a very lofty conception of the human creature. He defined it, with his rigorously philosophical language, as “what is most perfect to be found in all nature – that is, a subsistent individual of a rational nature” (Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 29, a. 3).”

“Souls Falling Into Hell Like Snowflakes” – 10 Saintly Quotes on Hell

“I saw souls falling into hell like snowflakes.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Listers, the following saintly quotes focus on the narrow path of salvation and the fewness of those who will apparently achieve the heavenly reward. In an era that consistently opines a broad if not universal path to salvation, it is difficult but necessary to remind ourselves of the grim reality of hell.

While thinking of hell, let us call to mind the Fatima prayer:

Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.

Catechism of the Catholic Church: On Hell

Catholic Encyclopedia: On Hell

Gustave Dore's rendition of the Gluttonous in Dante's Inferno

The Small Number

St. Louis Marie de Montfort

Be one of the small number who find the way to life, and enter by the narrow gate into Heaven. Take care not to follow the majority and the common herd, so many of whom are lost. Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow; the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.

Falling into Hell Like Snowflakes

St. Teresa of Avila

I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to Hell, especially those Lutherans. […] I saw souls falling into hell like snowflakes.

Wheat & Chaff

St. Augustine

The Lord called the world a “field” and all the faithful who draw near to him “wheat.” All through the field, and around the threshing-floor, there is both wheat and chaff. But the greater part is chaff; the lesser part is wheat, for which is prepared a barn not a fire. […] The good also are many, but in comparison with the wicked the good are few. Many are the grains of wheat, but compared with the chaff, the grains are few.

The Burning Wicked

Pope St. Gregory the Great

The more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer with them in patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried into the barns, but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire.

The Many

St. Francis Xavier

How many souls turn away from the road to glory, and go to hell!

Gustave Dore's depiction of the traitorous souls frozen in Cocytus.

Even Those Within Our Walls

Pope St. Gregory the Great

There are many who arrive at the faith, but few who are led into the heavenly kingdom. Behold how many are gathered here for today’s Feast-Day: we fill the church from wall to wall. Yet who knows how few they are who shall be numbered in that chosen company of the Elect?

Slaves of the Devil

St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori

The greater number of men still say to God: Lord we will not serve Thee; we would rather be slaves of the devil, and condemned to Hell, than be Thy servants. Alas! The greatest number, my Jesus – we may say nearly all – not only do not love Thee, but offend Thee and despise Thee. How many countries there are in which there are scarcely any Catholics, and all the rest either infidels or heretics! And all of them are certainly on the way to being lost.

The 80,000

St. Anthony Mary Claret

A multitude of souls fall into the depths of Hell, and it is of the faith that all who die in mortal sin are condemned for ever and ever. According to statistics, approximately 80,000 persons die every day. How many of these will die in mortal sin, and how many will be condemned! For, as their lives have been, so also will be their end.

The Self-Determined

St. Augustine

As a man lives, so shall he die.

The Living Damned

St. Vincent de Paul

Ah! A great many persons live constantly in the state of damnation!

7 Things Every Catholic Should Know about St. Ambrose

Bees, Roman Emperors, and Doctors of the Church, the life of St. Ambrose is a stunning display of political prudence and Catholic fidelity.

Listers, St. Ambrose is a man of keen intellect and ecclesial effrontery. Amongst the reasons for his adulations are a tome of wondrous theological treatises, his role in the conversion of the great St. Augustine, and his bravery in denying the Roman Emperor the Eucharist.

The Church celebrates the feast of St. Ambrose on December 7th.

 

A Doctor of the Church

“Bishop of Milan from 374 to 397; born probably 340, at Trier, Arles, or Lyons; died 4 April, 397. He was one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and fitly chosen, together with St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Athanasius, to uphold the venerable Chair of the Prince of the Apostles in the tribune of St. Peter’s at Rome.”1

St. Ambrose is one of the four Saints upholding the Chair of St. Peter

The Legend of the Bees

“There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. For this reason, bees and beehives often appear in the saint’s symbology.”2

 

An Accomplished Statesman & Roman Governor

“After the early death of his father, Ambrose followed his father’s career. He was educated in Rome, studying literature, law, and rhetoric. Praetor Anicius Probus first gave him a place in the council and then in about 372 made him consular prefect or “Governor” of Liguria and Emilia, with headquarters at Milan, which was then (beside Rome) the second capital in Italy.”

“Ambrose was the Governor of Aemilia-Liguria in northern Italy until 374 when he became the Bishop of Milan. He was a very popular political figure, and since he was the Governor in the effective capital in the Roman West, he was a recognizable figure in the court of the Emperor Valentinian I. Ambrose never married.”3

 

Elected a Bishop of the Church and Was Not Even a Catholic

The Church was awash in the Arian heresy. The good and virtuous Bishop Dionysius had suffered exile, and a new heretical Arian bishop had replaced him. The Arian persecuted those who held to orthodoxy. In AD 374 the ecclesial tyrant died, and the people were free from twenty years of hardships.

The election of a bishop in the dawning years of the Church differed greatly than how it is gone today. Then it was popular for the people to elect a candidate or for the Emperor to nominate one. Assuming the man was upright and just, Rome would consent. However, in this situation the other bishops of the area begged Emperor Valentinian to simply appoint one by imperial edict, because they feared the choice and possible violence a choice of the people could precipitate. The Emperor rejected their plea, and it fell to Milian’s Governor, Ambrose, to make sure the election proceded with order.

“Proceeding to the basilica in which the disunited clergy and people were assembled, [Ambrose] began a conciliatory discourse in the interest of peace and moderation, but was interrupted by a voice (according to Paulinus, the voice of an infant [young child]) crying, “Ambrose, Bishop”. The cry was instantly repeated by the entire assembly, and Ambrose, to his surprise and dismay, was unanimously pronounced elected.”4

The Body of St. Ambrose – Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio, Milan

Ambrose was not even a Catholic. He was however an unbaptized catechumen interested in the Catholic faith, and was known to already be a staunch defender of the Nicene Creed. His political prudence and his nascent orthodox faith made him the perfect candidate for Bishop of Milan. Still, Ambrose did not want the post.

“At any rate his efforts were unsuccessful. Valentinian, who was proud that his favourable opinion of Ambrose had been so fully ratified by the voice of clergy and people, confirmed the election and pronounced severe penalties against all who should abet him in his attempt to conceal himself. The Saint finally acquiesced, received baptism at the hands of a Catholic bishop, and eight day later, 7 December 374, the day on which East and West annually honour his memory, after the necessary preliminary degrees was consecrated bishop.”5

It is said that upon his consecration as a bishop, Ambrose used his rhetoric and political prudence to stamp our Arianism in his diocese.

 

St. Ambrose is accredited with converting Emperor Theodosius to the Faith

St. Ambrose & The Roman Emperors

“Candid and fearless no matter how strong the opposition, Ambrose was directed to confront Maximus, the murderer of the Emperor Gratian. When Maximus refused to do penance, Ambrose excommunicated him.”

“Later he denied Emperor Theodosius [whom he had converted to Catholicism] entrance into church for his massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica. It was on this occasion that allusion was made to [King] David as a murderer and adulterer, and Ambrose retorted: “You have followed him in sin, now follow him in repentance.” Humbly, Theodosius accepted the penance imposed.”6

 

St. Ambrose denying Emperor Theodosius even the ability to enter the Church until he does penance for his crimes.

St. Ambrose & the Conversion of St. Augustine

The part St. Ambrose played in the conversion of St. Augustine was mainly one of being an exemplar. The ancient world prized orations and rhetorical skills, and St. Augustine thought all Catholics to be poor speakers – until he met Bishop Ambrose. Moreover, St. Augustine’s Confessions highlights the saints struggle with lust. He observed the bishop – who never married – and watched how he handled the burden of celibacy. Furthermore, Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, had pleaded with Ambrose to speak with Augustine and convince him of the faith. Ambrose wisely denied, not wanting to bet the faith on a rhetorical sparring match between he and Augustine, but to let Augustine work out his own salvation in fear and trembling. It is recorded in Confessions that the young Augustine went to the bishop several times to talk with and observe the holy man.

After what has become known as the dramatic garden scene in his Confessions, Augustine presented himself and his son to Ambrose to be baptized. Both Ambrose and St. Augustine are doctors of the Church, and St. Augustine is the most quoted saint in the Catechism of the Catholic Church – with St. Thomas Aquinas a close second.

 

The Bishop of Milan pictured with a Bee Hive

Patronage & Symbolism

Patron: bee keepers; bees; candlemakers; chandlers; domestic animals; French Commissariat; learning; Milan, Italy; schoolchildren; students; wax melters; wax refiners.

Symbols: Scourge; beehive; tower; dove; cope and mitre; human bones; scroll with staff of music; pen book and pen; cross; chalice; bull; knotted scourge; two scourges; goose; writing tablet and stylus; heart surmounted with flame; scroll with quotation from writings.
Often Portrayed As: Bishop holding a church in his hand; beehive; man arguing with a pagan; with Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine of Hippo.7

St. Ambrose, pray for us.

  1. Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Ambrose []
  2. Wiki: St. Ambrose []
  3. Wiki: St. Ambrose []
  4. Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Ambrose []
  5. Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Ambrose []
  6. Catholic Culture: St. Ambrose []
  7. Catholic Culture: St. Ambrose []

6 More Early Church Quotes on Infant Baptism

“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic.”

Listers, SPL would like to further display the practice of infant baptism as an explicit act of the Early Church. Let us see infant baptism as an act of love, dedication, and as the visible sign of an invisible grace.

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond.”

Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400])

“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic.”

Augustine (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408])

“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born.”

Augustine (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412])

“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration.”

Augustine (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412])

“Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians.”

Council of Carthage V (Canon 7 [A.D. 401])

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration.”

Council of Mileum II (Canon 3 [A.D. 416])

The Early Church Baptized Infants: 17 Quotes from Early Church Fathers

“Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. No one is excepted, not [even] the infant.” – St. Ambrose

Listers, consider the words of St. Ambrose, the mentor of St. Augustine:

“Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. No one is excepted, not [even] the infant.”

St. Ambrose (“Concerning Repentance,” c. 387 A.D.)

SPL Introduction to Infant Baptism:
The baptism of infants was viewed as the New Testament perfection of infant circumcision. The parents of ancient Israel would have their infant circumcised in order to bring him into the People of God. It was an act of faith and dedication on the parents part, which in turn was extended to the child. Later on, the child would be responsible for his own faith and participation in God’s Chosen People.

Similarly, Catholics – and many other Christian groups – baptize their infants in order to bring them into God’s people and dedicate them to teachings of the Christ’s Church. Moreover, baptism is a sacrament – a visible sign of an invisible grace. The grace conferred at baptism is the removal of the guilt of original sin. And just as the maturing Jewish child, the young Roman Catholic will have to make his own choice at First Communion and Confirmation.1

The “Baptism of Faith” we see in certain Protestant factions was not a Christian concept until after the Reformation. Even then, it was a highly contested issue amongst the Protestant groups. Today, as the Christian religion is ever being watered down, the practice of baptizing young children into God’s Family has fallen into disuse. It is a tragedy. Infant baptism is more than an act of dedicating a child to God, it is the removal of the child’s guilt of original sin and their acceptance into the People of God.

Pope Benedict XVI baptises a newborn baby in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel

Early Church Father Quotes:

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age”

St. Irenaeus (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189])

 

“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]”

St. Irenaeus (Fragment34 [A.D. 190])

 

“Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.”

St. Hippolytus of Rome (“The Apostolic Tradition,” 215 A.D.)

 

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous”

Origen (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248])

 

“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit”

Origen (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248])

 

“In respect of the case of infants, you say that they should not be baptized within the second or third day after their birth – that the law of circumcision should be regarded. So you think that one who has just been born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day. However, we all thought very differently in our council…. Rather, we all believe that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to anyone born of man…. As far as we can, we must strive that no soul be lost, if at all possible. For what is lacking to him who has once been formed in the womb by the hand of God?”

St. Cyprian of Carthage (“Epistle 58,” c. 250 A.D.)

 

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born”

St. Cyprian of Carthage (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253])

 

“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another”

St. Cyprian of Carthage (ibid., 64:5)

 

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith! `Well enough,’ some will say, `for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated.”

St. Gregory Nazianzus (“Oration On Holy Baptism,” c. 388 A.D.)

 

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members”

St. John Chrysostom (Baptismal Catechese in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388])

 

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond.”

St. Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400])

 

“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic.”

St. Augustine (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408])

 

“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born.”

St. Augustine (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412])

 

“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration.”

St. Augustine (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412])

 

“Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians.”

Council of Carthage V (Canon 7 [A.D. 401])

 

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration.”

Council of Mileum II (Canon 3 [A.D. 416])


Other Early Church Fathers

  1. Eastern Baptism: The Eastern Catholics have infant baptism, but certain Eastern rites also practice infant Eucharist & Confirmation, which while valid, differs slight from the analogous OT model. []

The Early Church on Abortion: 8 Quotes Before AD 400

“You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born.” – The Didache (c. 80-140 A.D.)

Listers, the issue of abortion did not rise amongst the technological advances of modernism. It is a tragedy that has plagued humanity for millennia. The following are quotes from our Early Church Fathers. As the modern world is embracing a neo-paganism,  let us stand against the revitalization of the old atrocities our forefathers worked tirelessly to eradicate.

Let us pray for an end to abortion.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

“You shall not kill the child by obtaining an abortion. Nor, again, shall you destroy him after he is born.” 
St. Barnabas (“Epistle of St. Barnabas,” c. 70-100 A.D.)

“You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born.”
“The Didache [The Teaching Of The Twelve Apostles]” (c. 80-140 A.D.)

“Women who were reputed believers began to resort to drugs for producing sterility. They also girded themselves around, so as to expel what was being conceived. For they did not wish to have a child by either slave or by any common fellow – out of concern for their family and their excessive wealth. See what a great impiety the lawless one has advanced! He teaches adultery and murder at the same time!” St. Hipploytus (“Refutation Of All Heresies,” c. 225 A.D.)

“He [the schismatic Novatian] struck the womb of his wife with his heel and hurried an abortion, thereby causing parricide.”
St. Cyprian of Carthage (“Epistle 52 To Cornelius,” c. 251 A.D.)

The Precious Blood of Christ was poured out for all human life - no matter how small or vulnerable.

“A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder. And any fine distinction as to its being completely formed or unformed is not admissible amongst us.”
St. Basil the Great (“Epistle 138,” c. 375 A.D.)

“Others drink for sterility and commit murder on the human not yet sown. Some when they sense that they have conceived by sin, consider the poisons for abortion, and frequently die themselves along with it, and go to Hell guilty of three crimes: murdering themselves, committing adultery against Christ, and murder against their unborn child.”
St. Jerome (“Epistle 22,” c. 380 A.D.)

“The rich women, to avoid dividing the inheritance among many, kill their own fetus in the womb and with murderous juices extinguish in the genital chamber their children.”
St. Ambrose (“On the Hexaemeron,” c. 386 A.D.)

“To destroy the fetus ‘is something worse than murder.’ The one who does this ‘does not take away life that has already been born, but prevents it from being born.'”
St. John Chrysostom (“Homilies on Romans,” c. 391 A.D.)