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A History Of The Church In Five Books by Theodoret

“CONSTANTINE AUGUSTUS to the churches.

“Viewing the common prosperity enjoyed at this moment, as the result of the great power of divine grace, I am desirous that the blessed members of the catholic church should be preserved in one faith, in sincere love, and in one form of religion, towards Almighty God. But, because no firmer or more effective measure could be adopted to secure this end, than that of submitting each holy mode of worship to the examination of all, or most of all, the bishops, I convened as many of them as possible, and took my seat among them as one of yourselves; for I will not deny that truth which is the source of the greatest joy to me, namely, that I am your fellow-servant. Every doubtful point obtained a careful investigation, until doctrines pleasing to God, and conducive to unity, were fully established, so that no room remained for division or controversy concerning the faith. The commemoration of the paschal feast being then debated, it was unanimously decided, that it should every where be celebrated upon the same day. What can be more lovely, or more reasonable, than that that festival by which we have received the hope of immortality, should be carefully celebrated by all with the same order, and in the same unvarying mode? It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because their hands are imbued in crime, and their minds blinded with defilement. By rejecting their custom, we substitute and hand down to succeeding ages one which is more reasonable, and which has been observed ever since the day of our Lord’s sufferings. Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries. Another way has been pointed out by our Saviour. A better and more lawful line of conduct is inculcated by our holy religion. Let us with one accord walk therein, my much-honoured brethren, studiously avoiding all contact with so evil a people. They boast that without their instructions we should be unable to commemorate the festival properly. This is extremely absurd: what truth can be held by those who, after having compassed the death of the Lord, have not been guided by reason, but by the deceitful aberrations of their own mind? In that very point they have so far lost sight of truth, by always acting according to their own misguided opinions, that they celebrate the Passover twice in one year. What motive can we have to follow those who are thus led astray by error, for we could never judge it right to celebrate it twice in one year. But, even if all these facts did not exist, your own sagacity would prompt you to watch with diligence and with prayer, lest your pure minds should become defiled by intercourse with a people so utterly depraved. It must also be borne in mind, that a difference of opinion upon so important a point as the celebration of a religious rite is unlawful. One day has been set apart by our Saviour, for a commemoration of our deliverance and of his most holy sufferings; he decreed that his catholic church should be one, and that the members, though dispersed throughout various parts of the world, should be one in spirit, and should be directed by the same divine command. Do exert your usual sagacity, and reflect how evil it would be, and how improper, that days devoted by some to fasting, should be spent by others in convivial feasting: and yet this is, in fact, the case. During the paschal feast, some are rejoicing in festivals and relaxations, while others are bowed down by long fastings. That this impropriety should be rectified, and that all these diversities of commemoration should be resolved into one form, is the will of divine Providence, as I am convinced you will all admit. Therefore, this irregularity must he corrected, in order that we may no more have any thing in common with the parricides and the murderers of our Lord. An orderly and excellent form of commemoration is observed in all the churches of the western, of the southern, and of the northern countries, and even in the eastern; this form being universally commended, I certified your readiness to adopt it likewise. Receive, then, willingly, the one regulation unanimously adopted in the city of Rome, throughout Italy, in all Africa, in Egypt, Spain, Gaul, Britain, Lybia, Greece, in the dioceses of Asia, and of Pontus, and in Cilicia. Reflect, that the churches of the places above-mentioned are not only greater in point of number, but also that their common mode of procedure rests upon accurate and well-founded arguments, and that we ought not to have any thing in common with the perjured Jews.

“I now proceed briefly to recapitulate the whole of the preceding. The judgment of all is, that the holy paschal feast should be held on one and the same day; for, in so holy a matter, it is not right that difference of custom should prevail. It is the more commendable to obey this decree, because it precludes all association with error and with sin. This being the case, receive with gladness the heavenly gift and sacred command; for all that is transacted in the holy councils of the bishops, is sanctioned by the Divine will. Therefore, when you have made known to all our beloved brethren the subject of this epistle, you will be bound to conform to the regular observance of this holy day, so that when, according to my long-cherished desire, I shall be with you, I may be able to celebrate with you this holy festival upon one and the same day; and that I may rejoice with you all in witnessing the cruelty of the devil, through Divine grace, destroyed by our efforts, and in perceiving that faith and peace and concord are every where in a flourishing condition. May God preserve you, beloved brethren.








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