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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters of St. Augustine > Letter 55

Letter 55 (A.D. 400)

Chapter 1

1. Having read the letter in which you have put me in mind of my obligation to give answers to the remainder of those questions which you submitted to me a long time ago, I cannot bear to defer any longer the gratification of that desire for instruction which it gives me so much pleasure and comfort to see in you; and although encompassed by an accumulation of engagements, I have given the first place to the work of supplying you with the answers desired. I will make no further comment on the contents of your letter, lest my doing so should prevent me from paying at length what I owe.

2. You ask, Wherefore does the anniversary on which we celebrate the Passion of the Lord not fall, like the day which tradition has handed down as the day of His birth, on the same day every year? and you add, If the reason of this is connected with the week and the month, what have we to do with the day of the week or the state of the moon in this solemnity? The first thing which you must know and remember here is, that the observance of the Lord's natal day is not sacramental, but only commemorative of His birth, and that therefore no more was in this case necessary, than that the return of the day on which the event took place should be marked by an annual religious festival. The celebration of an event becomes sacramental in its nature, only when the commemoration of the event is so ordered that it is understood to be significant of something which is to be received with reverence as sacred. Therefore we observe Easter in such a manner as not only to recall the facts of the death and resurrection of Christ to remembrance, but also to find a place for all the other things which, in connection with these events, give evidence as to the import of the sacrament. For since, as the apostle wrote, He was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification, Romans 4:25 a certain transition from death to life has been consecrated in that Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. For the word Pascha itself is not, as is commonly thought, a Greek word: those who are acquainted with both languages affirm it to be a Hebrew word. It is not derived, therefore, from the Passion, because of the Greek word πάσχειν, signifying to suffer, but it takes its name from the transition, of which I have spoken, from death to life; the meaning of the Hebrew word Pascha being, as those who are acquainted with it assure us, a passing over or transition. To this the Lord Himself designed to allude, when He said, He that believes in Me is passed from death to life. John 5:24 And the same evangelist who records that saying is to be understood as desiring to give emphatic testimony to this, when, speaking of the Lord as about to celebrate with His disciples the passover, at which He instituted the sacramental supper, he says, When Jesus knew that His hour had come, that He should depart from this world unto the Father. John 13:1 This passing over from this mortal life to the other, the immortal life, that is, from death to life, is set forth in the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord.

Chapter 2

3. This passing from death to life is meanwhile wrought in us by faith, which we have for the pardon of our sins and the hope of eternal life, when we love God and our neighbour; for faith works by love, Galatians 5:6 and the just shall live by his faith; Habakkuk 2:4 and hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:24-25 According to this faith and hope and love, by which we have begun to be under grace, we are already dead together with Christ, and buried together with Him by baptism into death; as the apostle has said, Our old man is crucified with Him; Romans 6:6 and we have risen with Him, for He has raised us up together, and made us sit with Him in heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 Whence also he gives this exhortation: If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:1-2 In the next words, For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory, Colossians 3:3-4 he plainly gives us to understand that our passing in this present time from death to life by faith is accomplished in the hope of that future final resurrection and glory, when this corruptible, that is, this flesh in which we now groan, shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:53 For now, indeed, we have by faith the first-fruits of the Spirit; but still we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body: for we are saved by hope. While we are in this hope, the body indeed is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. Now mark what follows: But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you. The whole Church, therefore, while here in the conditions of pilgrimage and mortality, expects that to be accomplished in her at the end of the world which has been shown first in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the first-begotten from the dead, seeing that the body of which He is the Head is none other than the Church. Colossians 1:18

Chapter 3

4. Some, indeed, studying the words so frequently used by the apostle, about our being dead with Christ and raised together with Him, and misunderstanding the sense in which they are used, have thought that the resurrection is already past, and that no other is to be hoped for at the end of time: Of whom, he says, are Hymenæus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:17 The same apostle who thus reproves and testifies against them, teaches nevertheless that we are risen with Christ. How is the apparent contradiction to be removed, unless he means that this is accomplished in us by faith and hope and love, according to the first-fruits of the Spirit? But because hope which is seen is not hope, and therefore if we hope for that we see not, we do with patience wait for it, it is beyond question that there remains, as still future, the redemption of the body, in longing for which we groan within ourselves. Hence also that saying, Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation. Romans 12:12

5. This renewal, therefore, of our life is a kind of transition from death to life which is made first by faith, so that we rejoice in hope and are patient in tribulation, while still our outward man perishes, but the inward man is renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 It is because of this beginning of a new life, because of the new man which we are commanded to put on, putting off the old man, Colossians 3:9-10 purging out the old leaven, that we may be a new lump, because Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; 1 Corinthians 5:7 it is, I say, because of this newness of life in us, that the first of the months of the year has been appointed as the season of this solemnity. This very name is given to it, the month Abib, or beginning of months. Exodus 23:15 Again, the resurrection of the Lord was upon the third day, because with it the third epoch of the world began. The first Epoch was before the Law, the second under the Law, the third under Grace, in which there is now the manifestation of the mystery, which was formerly hidden under dark prophetic sayings. This is accordingly signified also in the part of the month appointed for the celebration; for, since the number seven is usually employed in Scripture as a mystical number, indicating perfection of some kind, the day of the celebration of Easter is within the third week of the month, namely, between the fourteenth and the twenty-first day.

Chapter 4

6. There is in this another mystery, and you are not to be distressed if perhaps it be not so readily perceived by you, because of your being less versed in such studies; nor are you to think me any better than you, because I learned these things in early years: for the Lord says, Let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24 Some men who give attention to such studies, have investigated many things concerning the numbers and motions of the heavenly bodies. And those who have done this most ably have found that the waxing and waning of the moon are due to the turning of its globe, and not to any such actual addition to or diminution of its substance as is supposed by the foolish Manichæans, who say that as a ship is filled, so the moon is filled with a fugitive portion of the Divine Being, which they, with impious heart and lips, do not hesitate to believe and to declare to have become mingled with the rulers of darkness, and contaminated with their pollution. And they account for the waxing of the moon by saying that it takes place when that lost portion of the Deity, being purified from contamination by great labours, escaping from the whole world, and from all foul abominations, is restored to the Deity, who mourns till it returns; that by this the moon is filled up till the middle of the month, and that in the latter half of the month this is poured back into the sun as into another ship. Amid these execrable blasphemies, they have never succeeded in devising any way of explaining why the moon in the beginning or end of its brightness shines with its light in the shape of a horn, or why it begins at the middle of the month to wane, and does not go on full until it pour back its increase into the sun.

7. Those, however, to whom I refer have inquired into these things with trustworthy calculations, so that they can not only state the reason of eclipses, both solar and lunar, but also predict their occurrence long before they take place, and are able to determine by mathematical computation the precise intervals at which these must happen, and to state the results in treatises, by reading and understanding which any others may foretell as well as they the coming of these eclipses, and find their prediction verified by the event. Such men,— and they deserve censure, as Holy Scripture teaches, because though they had wisdom enough to measure the periods of this world, they did not much more easily come, as by humble piety they might have done, to the knowledge of its Lord, Wisdom 13:9 — such men, I say, have inferred from the horns of the moon, which both in waxing and in waning are turned from the sun, either that the moon is illuminated by the sun, and that the farther it recedes from the sun the more fully does it lie exposed to its rays on the side which is visible from the earth; but that the more it approaches the sun, after the middle of the month, on the other half of its orbit, it becomes more fully illuminated on the upper part, and less and less open to receive the sun's rays on the side which is turned to the earth, and seems to us accordingly to decrease: or, that if the moon has light in itself, it has this light in the hemisphere on one side only, which side it gradually turns more to the earth as it recedes from the sun, until it is fully displayed, thereby exhibiting an apparent increase, not by the addition of what was deficient, but by disclosing what was already there; and that, in like manner, going towards the sun, the moon again gradually turns from our view that which had been disclosed, and so appears to decrease. Whichever of these two theories be correct, this at least is plain, and is easily discovered by any careful observer, that the moon does not to our eyes increase except when it is receding from the sun, nor decrease except when returning towards the sun.

Chapter 5

8. Now mark what is said in Proverbs: The wise man is fixed like the sun; but the fool changes like the moon. Sirach 27:12 And who is the wise that has no changes, but that Sun of Righteousness of whom it is said, The Sun of righteousness has risen upon me, and of which the wicked shall say, when mourning in the day of judgment that it has not risen upon them, The light of righteousness has not shone upon us, and the sun has not risen upon us? Wisdom 5:6 For that sun which is visible to the eye of sense, God makes to rise upon the evil and the good alike, as He sends rain upon the just and the unjust; Matthew 5:45 but apt similitudes are often borrowed from things visible to explain things invisible. Again, who is the fool who changes like the moon, if not Adam, in whom all have sinned? For the soul of man, receding from the Sun of righteousness, that is to say, from the internal contemplation of unchangeable truth, turns all its strength towards external things, and becomes more and more darkened in its deeper and nobler powers; but when the soul begins to return to that unchangeable wisdom, the more it draws near to it with pious desire, the more does the outward man perish, but the inward man is renewed day by day, and all that light of the soul which was inclining to things that are beneath is turned to the things that are above, and is thus withdrawn from the things of earth; so that it dies more and more to this world, and its life is hid with Christ in God.

9. It is therefore for the worse that the soul is changed when it moves in the direction of external things, and throws aside that which pertains to the inner life; and to the earth, i.e. to those who mind earthly things, the soul looks better in such a case, for by them the wicked is commended for his heart's desire, and the unrighteous is blessed. But it is for the better that the soul is changed, when it gradually turns away its aims and ambition from earthly things, which appear important in this world, and directs them to things nobler and unseen; and to the earth, i.e. to men who mind earthly things, the soul in such a case seems worse. Hence those wicked men who at last shall in vain repent of their sins, will say this among other things: These are the men whom once we derided and reproached; we in our folly esteemed their way of life to be madness. Wisdom 5:3-4 Now the Holy Spirit, drawing a comparison from things visible to things invisible, from things corporeal to spiritual mysteries, has been pleased to appoint that the feast symbolic of the passing from the old life to the new, which is signified by the name Pascha, should be observed between the 14th and 21st days of the month—after the 14th, in order that a twofold illustration of spiritual realities might be gained, both with respect to the third epoch of the world, which is the reason of its occurrence in the third week, as I have already said, and with respect to the turning of the soul from external to internal things—a change corresponding to the change in the moon when on the wane; not later than the 21st, because of the number 7 itself, which is often used to represent the notion of the universe, and is also applied to the Church on the ground of her likeness to the universe.

Chapter 6

10. For this reason the Apostle John writes in the Apocalypse to seven churches. The Church, moreover, while it remains under the conditions of our mortal life in the flesh, is, on account of her liability to change, spoken of Scripture by the name of the moon; e.g., They have made ready their arrows in the quiver, that they may, while the moon is obscured, wound those who are upright in heart. For before that comes to pass of which the apostle says, When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory, Colossians 3:4 the Church seems in the time of her pilgrimage obscured, groaning under many iniquities; and at such a time, the snares of those who deceive and lead astray are to be feared, and these are intended by the word arrows in this passage. Again, we have another instance in Psalm lxxxix., where, because of the faithful witnesses which she everywhere brings forth on the side of truth, the Church is called the moon, a faithful witness in heaven. And when the Psalmist sang of the Lord's kingdom, he said, In His days shall be righteousness and abundance of peace, until the moon be destroyed; i.e. abundance of peace shall increase so greatly, until He shall at length take away all the changeableness incidental to this mortal condition. Then shall death, the last enemy, be destroyed; and whatever obstacle to the perfection of our peace is due to the infirmity of our flesh shall be utterly consumed when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality. We have another instance in this, that the walls of the town named Jericho— which in the Hebrew tongue is said to signify moon— fell when they had been compassed for the seventh time by the ark of the covenant borne round the city. For what else is conveyed by the promise of the coming of the heavenly kingdom, which was symbolized in the carrying of the ark round Jericho, than that all the strongholds of this mortal life, i.e. every hope pertaining to this world which resists the hope of the world to come, must be destroyed, with the soul's free consent, by the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it was, that when the ark was going round, those walls fell, not by violent assault, but of themselves. There are, besides these, other passages in Scripture which, speaking of the moon, impress upon us under that figure the condition of the Church while here, amid cares and labours, she is a pilgrim under the lot of mortality, and far from that Jerusalem of which the holy angels are the citizens.

11. These foolish men who refuse to be changed for the better have no reason, however, to imagine that worship is due to those heavenly luminaries because a similitude is occasionally borrowed from them for the representation of divine mysteries; for such are borrowed from every created thing. Nor is there any reason for our incurring the sentence of condemnation which is pronounced by the apostle on some who worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Romans 1:25 We do not adore sheep or cattle, although Christ is called both a Lamb, John 1:29 and by the prophet a young bullock; Ezekiel 43:19 nor any beast of prey, though He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah; Revelation 5:5 nor a stone, although Christ is called a Rock; 1 Corinthians 10:4 nor Mount Zion, though in it there was a type of the Church. 1 Peter 2:4 And, in like manner, we do not adore the sun or the moon, although, in order to convey instruction in holy mysteries, figures of sacred things are borrowed from these celestial works of the Creator, as they are also from many of the things which He has made on earth.

Chapter 7

12. We are therefore bound to denounce with abhorrence and contempt the ravings of the astrologers, who, when we find fault with the empty inventions by which they cast other men down into the delusions where into they themselves have fallen, imagine that they answer well when they say, Why, then, do you regulate the time of the observance of Easter by calculation of the positions of the sun and moon?— as if that with which we find fault was the arrangements of the heavenly bodies, or the succession of the seasons, which are appointed by God in His infinite power and goodness, and not their perversity in abusing, for the support of the most absurd opinions, those things which God has ordered in perfect wisdom. If the astrologer may on this ground forbid us from drawing comparisons from the heavenly bodies for the mystical representation of sacramental realities, then the augurs may with equal reason prevent the use of these words of Scripture, Be harmless as doves; and the snake-charmers may forbid that other exhortation, Be wise as serpents; Matthew 10:16 while the play-actors may interfere with our mentioning the harp in the book of Psalms. Let them therefore say, if they please, that, because similitudes for the exhibition of the mysteries of God's word are taken from the things which I have named, we are chargeable either with consulting the omens given by the flight of birds, or with concocting the poisons of the charmer, or with taking pleasure in the excesses of the theatre—a statement which would be the clime of absurdity.

13. We do not forecast the issues of our enterprises by studying the sun and moon, and the times of the year or of the month, lest in the most trying emergencies of life, we, being dashed against the rocks of a wretched bondage, shall make shipwreck of our freedom of will; but with the most pious devoutness of spirit, we accept similitudes adapted to the illustration of holy things, which these heavenly bodies furnish, just as from all other works of creation, the winds, the sea, the land, birds, fishes, cattle, trees, men, etc., we borrow in our discourses manifold figures; and in the celebration of sacraments, the very few things which the comparative liberty of the Christian dispensation has prescribed, such as water, bread, wine, and oil. Under the bondage, however, of the ancient dispensation many rites were prescribed, which are made known to us only for our instruction as to their meaning. We do not now observe years, and months, and seasons, lest the words of the apostle apply to us, I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Galatians 4:1l For he blames those who say, I will not set out today, because it is an unlucky day, or because the moon is so and so; or, I will go today, that things may prosper with me, because the position of the stars is this or that; I will do no business this month, because a particular star rules it; or, I will do business, because another star has succeeded in its place; I will not plant a vineyard this year, because it is leap year. No man of ordinary sense would, however, suppose that those men deserve reproof for studying the seasons, who say, e.g., I will not set out today, because a storm has begun; or, I will not put to sea, because the winter is not yet past; or, It is time to sow my seed, for the earth has been saturated with the showers of autumn; and so on, in regard to any other natural effects of the motion and moisture of the atmosphere which have been observed in connection with that consummately ordered revolution of the heavenly bodies concerning which it was said when they were made, Let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years. Genesis 1:14 And in like manner, whenever illustrative symbols are borrowed, for the declaration of spiritual mysteries, from created things, not only from the heaven and its orbs, but also from meaner creatures, this is done to give to the doctrine of salvation an eloquence adapted to raise the affections of those who receive it from things seen, corporeal and temporal, to things unseen, spiritual and eternal.

Chapter 8

14. None of us gives any consideration to the circumstance that, at the time at which we observe Easter, the sun is in the Ram, as they call a certain region of the heavenly bodies, in which the sun is, in fact, found at the beginning of the months; but whether they, choose to call that part of the heavens the Ram or anything else, we have learned this from the Sacred Scriptures, that God made all the heavenly bodies, and appointed their places as it pleased Him; and whatever the parts may be into which astronomers divide the regions set apart and ordained for the different constellations, and whatever the names by which they distinguish them, the place occupied by the sun in the first month is that in which the celebration of this sacrament behooved to find that luminary, because of the illustration of a holy mystery in the renovation of life, of which I have already spoken sufficiently. If, however, the name of Ram could be given to that portion of the heavenly bodies because of some correspondence between their form and the name, the word of God would not hesitate to borrow from anything of this kind an illustration of a holy mystery, as it has done not only from other celestial bodies, but also from terrestrial things, e.g. from Orion and the Pleiades, Mount Zion, Mount Sinai, and the rivers of which the names are given, Gihon, Pison, Tigris, Euphrates, and particularly from the river Jordan, which is so often named in the sacred mysteries.

15. But who can fail to perceive how great is the difference between useful observations of the heavenly bodies in connection with the weather, such as farmers or sailors make; or in order to mark the part of the world in which they are, and the course which they should follow, such as are made by pilots of ships or men going through the trackless sandy deserts of southern Africa; or in order to present some useful doctrine under a figure borrowed from some facts concerning heavenly bodies—and the vain hallucinations of men who observe the heavens not to know the weather, or their course, or to make scientific calculations, or to find illustrations of spiritual things, but merely to pry into the future and learn now what fate has decreed?

Chapter 9

16. Let us now direct our minds to observe the reason why, in the celebration of Easter, care is taken to appoint the day so that Saturday precedes it: for this is peculiar to the Christian religion. The Jews keep the Passover from the 14th to the 21st of the first month, on whatever day that week begins. But since at the Passover at which the Lord suffered, it was the case that the Jewish Sabbath came in between His death and His resurrection, our fathers have judged it right to add this specialty to their celebration of Easter, both that our feast might be distinguished from the Jewish Passover, and that succeeding generations might retain in their annual commemoration of His Passion that which we must believe to have been done for some good reason, by Him who is before the times, by whom also the times have been made, and who came in the fullness of the times, and who when He said, Mine hour is not yet come, had the power of laying down His life and taking it again, and was therefore waiting for an hour not fixed by blind fate, but suitable to the holy mystery which He had resolved to commend to our observation.

17. That which we here hold in faith and hope, and to which by love we labour to come, is, as I have said above, a certain holy and perpetual rest from the whole burden of every kind of care; and from this life unto that rest we make a transition which our Lord Jesus Christ condescended to exemplify and consecrate in His Passion. This rest, however, is not a slothful inaction, but a certain ineffable tranquillity caused by work in which there is no painful effort. For the repose on which one enters at the end of the toils of this life is of such a nature as consists with lively joy in the active exercises of the better life. Forasmuch, however, as this activity is exercised in praising God without bodily toil or mental anxiety, the transition to that activity is not made through a repose which is to be followed by labour, i.e. a repose which, at the point where activity begins, ceases to be repose: for in these exercises there is no return to toil and care; but that which constitutes rest— namely, exemption from weariness in work and from uncertainty in thought— is always found in them. Now, since through rest we get back to that original life which the soul lost by sin, the emblem of this rest is the seventh day of the week. But that original life itself which is restored to those who return from their wanderings, and receive in token of welcome the robe which they had at first, is represented by the first day of the week, which we call the Lord's day. If, in reading Genesis, you search the record of the seven days, you will find that there was no evening of the seventh day, which signified that the rest of which it was a type was eternal. The life originally bestowed was not eternal, because man sinned; but the final rest, of which the seventh day was an emblem, is eternal, and hence the eighth day also will have eternal blessedness, because that rest, being eternal, is taken up by the eighth day, not destroyed by it; for if it were thus destroyed, it would not be eternal. Accordingly the eighth day, which is the first day of the week, represents to us that original life, not taken away, but made eternal.

Chapter 10

18. Nevertheless the seventh day was appointed to the Jewish nation as a day to be observed by rest of the body, that it might be a type of sanctification to which men attain through rest in the Holy Spirit. We do not read of sanctification in the history given in Genesis of all the earlier days: of the Sabbath alone it is said that God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it. Genesis 2:3 Now the souls of men, whether good or bad, love rest, but how to attain to that which they love is to the greater part unknown: and that which bodies seek for their weight, is precisely what souls seek for their love, namely, a resting-place. For as, according to its specific gravity, a body descends or rises until it reaches a place where it can rest—oil, for example, falling if poured into the air, but rising if poured into water—so the soul of man struggles towards the things which it loves, in order that, by reaching them, it may rest. There are indeed many things which please the soul through the body, but its rest in these is not eternal, nor even long continued; and therefore they rather debase the soul and weigh it down, so as to be a drag upon that pure imponderability by which it tends towards higher things. When the soul finds pleasure from itself, it is not yet seeking delight in that which is unchangeable; and therefore it is still proud, because it is giving to itself the highest place, whereas God is higher. In such sin the soul is not left unpunished, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6 When, however, the soul delights in God, there it finds the true, sure, and eternal rest, which in all other objects was sought in vain. Therefore the admonition is given in the book of Psalms, Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

19. Because, therefore, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us, Romans 5:5 sanctification was associated with the seventh day, the day in which rest was enjoined. But inasmuch as we neither are able to do any good work, except as helped by the gift of God, as the apostle says, For it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure, Philippians 2:13 nor will be able to rest, after all the good works which engage us in this life, except as sanctified and perfected by the same gift to eternity; for this reason it is said of God Himself, that when He had made all things very good, He rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made. For He, in so doing, presented a type of that future rest which He purposed to bestow on us men after our good works are done. For as in our good works He is said to work in us, by whose gift we are enabled to work what is good, so in our rest He is said to rest by whose gift we rest.

Chapter 11

20. This, moreover, is the reason why the law of the Sabbath is placed third among the three commandments of the Decalogue which declare our duty to God (for the other seven relate to our neighbour, that is, to man; the whole law hanging on these two commandments). Matthew 22:10 The first commandment, in which we are forbidden to worship any likeness of God made by human contrivance, we are to understand as referring to the Father: this prohibition being made, not because God has no image, but because no image of Him but that One which is the same with Himself, ought to be worshipped; and this One not in His stead, but along with Him. Then, because a creature is mutable, and therefore it is said, The whole creation is subject to vanity, Romans 8:20 since the nature of the whole is manifested also in any part of it, lest any one should think that the Son of God, the Word by whom all things were made, is a creature, the second commandment is, You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11 And because God sanctified the seventh day, on which He rested, the Holy Spirit— in whom is given to us that rest which we love everywhere, but find only in loving God, when His love is shed abroad in us, by the Holy Ghost given unto us Romans 5:5 — is presented to our minds in the third commandment, which was written concerning the observance of the Sabbath, not to make us suppose that we attain to rest in this present life, but that all our labours in what is good may point towards nothing else than that eternal rest. For I would specially charge you to remember the passage quoted above: We are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope. Romans 8:24

21. For the feeding and fanning of that ardent love by which, under a law like that of gravitation, we are borne upwards or inwards to rest, the presentation of truth by emblems has a great power: for, thus presented, things move and kindle our affection much more than if they were set forth in bald statements, not clothed with sacramental symbols. Why this should be, it is hard to say; but it is the fact that anything which we are taught by allegory or emblem affects and pleases us more, and is more highly esteemed by us, than it would be if most clearly stated in plain terms. I believe that the emotions are less easily kindled while the soul is wholly involved in earthly things; but if it be brought to those corporeal things which are emblems of spiritual things, and then taken from these to the spiritual realities which they represent, it gathers strength by the mere act of passing from the one to the other, and, like the flame of a lighted torch, is made by the motion to burn more brightly, and is carried away to rest by a more intensely glowing love.

Chapter 12

22. It is also for this reason, that of all the ten commandments, that which related to the Sabbath was the only one in which the thing commanded was typical; the bodily rest enjoined being a type which we have received as a means of our instruction, but not as a duty binding also upon us. For while in the Sabbath a figure is presented of the spiritual rest, of which it is said in the Psalm, Be still, and know that I am God, and unto which men are invited by the Lord Himself in the words, Come unto Me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: so shall you find rest unto your souls; Matthew 11:28-29 as to all the things enjoined in the other commandments, we are to yield to them an obedience in which there is nothing typical. For we have been taught literally not to worship idols; and the precepts enjoining us not to take God's name in vain, to honour our father and mother, not to commit adultery, or kill, or steal, or bear false witness, or covet our neighbour's wife, or covet anything that is our neighbour's, Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21 are all devoid of typical or mystical meaning, and are to be literally observed. But we are not commanded to observe the day of the Sabbath literally, in resting from bodily labour, as it is observed by the Jews; and even their observance of the rest as prescribed is to be deemed worthy of contempt, except as signifying another, namely, spiritual rest. From this we may reasonably conclude, that all those things which are figuratively set forth in Scripture, are powerful in stimulating that love by which we tend towards rest; since the only figurative or typical precept in the Decalogue is the one in which that rest is commended to us, which is desired everywhere, but is found sure and sacred in God alone.

Chapter 13

23. The Lord's day, however, has been made known not to the Jews, but to Christians, by the resurrection of the Lord, and from Him it began to have the festive character which is proper to it. For the souls of the pious dead are, indeed, in a state of repose before the resurrection of the body, but they are not engaged in the same active exercises as shall engage the strength of their bodies when restored. Now, of this condition of active exercise the eighth day (which is also the first of the week) is a type, because it does not put an end to that repose, but glorifies it. For with the reunion of the body no hindrance of the soul's rest returns, because in the restored body there is no corruption: for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:53 Wherefore, although the sacramental import of the 8th number, as signifying the resurrection, was by no means concealed from the holy men of old who were filled with the spirit of prophecy (for in the title of Psalms [vi. and xii.] we find the words for the eighth, and infants were circumcised on the eighth day; and in Ecclesiastes it is said, with allusion to the two covenants, Give a portion to seven, and also to eight ); nevertheless before the resurrection of the Lord, it was reserved and hidden, and the Sabbath alone was appointed to be observed, because before that event there was indeed the repose of the dead (of which the Sabbath rest was a type), but there was not any instance of the resurrection of one who, rising from the dead, was no more to die, and over whom death should no longer have dominion; this being done in order that, from the time when such a resurrection did take place in the Lord's own body (the Head of the Church being the first to experience that which His body, the Church, expects at the end of time), the day upon which He rose, the eighth day namely (which is the same with the first of the week), should begin to be observed as the Lord's day. The same reason enables us to understand why, in regard to the day of keeping the passover, on which the Jews were commanded to kill and eat a lamb, which was most clearly a foreshadowing of the Lord's Passion, there was no injunction given to them that they should take the day of the week into account, waiting until the Sabbath was past, and making the beginning of the third week of the moon coincide with the beginning of the third week of the first month; the reason being, that the Lord might rather in His own Passion declare the significance of that day, as He had come also to declare the mystery of the day now known as the Lord's day, the eighth namely, which is also the first of the week.

Chapter 14

24. Consider now with attention these three most sacred days, the days signalized by the Lord's crucifixion, rest in the grave, and resurrection. Of these three, that of which the cross is the symbol is the business of our present life: those things which are symbolized by His rest in the grave and His resurrection we hold by faith and hope. For now the command is given to each man, Take up your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 But the flesh is crucified, when our members which are upon the earth are mortified, such as fornication, uncleanness, luxury, avarice, etc., of which the apostle says in another passage: If you live after the flesh, you shall die; but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. Romans 8:13 Hence also he says of himself: The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Galatians 6:14 And again: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Romans 6:6 The period during which our labours tend to the weakening and destruction of the body of sin, during which the outward man is perishing, that the inward man may be renewed day by day—that is the period of the cross.

25. These are, it is true, good works, having rest for their recompense, but they are meanwhile laborious and painful: therefore we are told to be rejoicing in hope, that while we contemplate the future rest, we may labour with cheerfulness in present toil. Of this cheerfulness the breadth of the cross in the transverse beam to which the hands were nailed is an emblem: for the hands we understand to be symbolic of working, and the breadth to be symbolic of cheerfulness in him who works, for sadness straitens the spirit. In the height of the cross, against which the head is placed, we have an emblem of the expectation of recompense from the sublime justice of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life. Romans 2:6-7 Therefore the length of the cross, along which the whole body is extended, is an emblem of that patient continuance in the will of God, on account of which those who are patient are said to be long-suffering. The depth also, i.e. the part which is fixed in the ground, represents the occult nature of the holy mystery. For you remember, I suppose, the words of the apostle, which in this description of the cross I aim at expounding: That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height. Ephesians 3:17-18

Those things which we do not yet see or possess, but hold in faith and hope, are the things represented in the events by which the second and third of the three memorable days above mentioned were signalized [viz. the Lord's rest in the grave, and His resurrection]. But the things which keep us occupied in this present life, while we are held fast in the fear of God by the commandments, as by nails driven through the flesh (as it is written, Make my flesh fast with nails by fear of You ), are to be reckoned among things necessary, not among those which are for their own sakes to be desired and coveted. Hence Paul says that he desired, as something far better, to depart and to be with Christ: nevertheless, he adds, to remain in the flesh is expedient for you Philippians 1:23-24 — necessary for your welfare. This departing and being with Christ is the beginning of the rest which is not interrupted, but glorified by the resurrection; and this rest is now enjoyed by faith, for the just shall live by faith. Habakkuk 2:4 Do you not know, says the same apostle, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism unto death. Romans 6:3-4 How? By faith. For this is not actually completed in us so long as we are still groaning within ourselves, and waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body: for we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees why does he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

26. Remember how often I repeat this to you, that we are not to think that we ought to be made happy and free from all difficulties in this present life, and are therefore at liberty to murmur profanely against God when we are straitened in the things of this world, as if He were not performing what He promised. He has indeed promised the things which are necessary for this life, but the consolations which mitigate the misery of our present lot are very different from the joys of those who are perfect in blessedness. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, says the believer, Your comforts, O Lord, delight my soul. Let us not therefore murmur because of difficulties; let us not lose that breadth of cheerfulness, of which it is written, Rejoicing in hope, because this followspatient in tribulation. Romans 12:12 The new life, therefore, is meanwhile begun in faith, and maintained by hope: for it shall only then be perfect when this mortal shall be swallowed up in life, and death swallowed up in victory; when the last enemy, death, shall be destroyed; when we shall be changed, and made like the angels: for we shall all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. Again, the Lord says, They shall be equal unto the angels. Luke 20:36 We now are apprehended by Him in fear by faith: then we shall apprehend Him in love by sight. For while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: for we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 Hence the apostle himself, who says, I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus, confesses frankly that he has not attained to it. Brethren, he says, I count not myself to have apprehended. Philippians 3:12-13 Since, however, our hope is sure, because of the truth of the promise, when he said elsewhere, Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, he adds these words, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 We walk, therefore, in actual labour, but in hope of rest, in the flesh of the old life, but in faith of the new. For he says again: The body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you.

27. Both the authority of the Divine Scriptures and the consent of the whole Church spread throughout the world have combined to ordain the annual commemoration of these things at Easter, by observances which are, as you now see, full of spiritual significance. From the Old Testament Scriptures we are not taught as to the precise day of holding Easter, beyond the limitation to the period between the 14th and 21st days of the first month; but because we know from the Gospel beyond doubt which days of the week were signalized in succession by the Lord's crucifixion, His resting in the grave, and His resurrection, the observance of these days has been enjoined in addition by Councils of the Fathers, and the whole Christian world has arrived unanimously at the persuasion that this is the proper mode of observing Easter.

Chapter 15

28. The Fast of Forty Days has its warrant both in the Old Testament, from the fasting of Moses Exodus 34:28 and of Elijah, 1 Kings 19:8 and in the Gospel from the fact that our Lord fasted the same number of days; Matthew 4:2 proving thereby that the Gospel is not at variance with the Law and the Prophets. For the Law and the Prophets are represented in the persons of Moses and Elijah respectively; between whom also He appeared in glory on the Mount, that what the apostle says of Him, that He is witnessed unto both by the Law and the Prophets, Romans 3:21 might be made more clearly manifest. Now, in what part of the year could the observance of the Fast of Forty Days be more appropriately placed, than in that which immediately precedes and borders on the time of the Lord's Passion? For by it is signified this life of toil, the chief work in which is to exercise self-control, in abstaining from the world's friendship, which never ceases deceitfully caressing us, and scattering profusely around us its bewitching allurements. As to the reason why this life of toil and self-control is symbolized by the number 40, it seems to me that the number ten (in which is the perfection of our blessedness, as in the number eight, because it returns to the unit) has a like place in this number [as the unit has in giving its significance to eight]; and therefore I regard the number forty as a fit symbol for this life, because in it the creature (of which the symbolic number is seven) cleaves to the Creator, in whom is revealed that unity of the Trinity which is to be published while time lasts throughout this whole world—a world swept by four winds, constituted of four elements, and experiencing the changes of four seasons in the year. Now four times ten [seven added to three] are forty; but the number forty reckoned in along with [one of] its parts adds the number ten, [as seven reckoned in along with one of its parts adds the unit,] and the total is fifty—the symbol, as it were, of the reward of the toil and self-control. For it is not without reason that the Lord Himself continued for forty days on this earth and in this life in fellowship with His disciples after His resurrection, and, when He ascended into heaven, sent the promised Holy Spirit, after an interval of ten days more, when the day of Pentecost was fully come. This fiftieth day, moreover, has wrapped up in it another holy mystery: for 7 times 7 days are 49. And when we return to the beginning of another seven, and add the eighth, which is also the first day of the week, we have the 50 days complete; which period of fifty days we celebrate after the Lord's resurrection, as representing not toil, but rest and gladness. For this reason we do not fast in them; and in praying we stand upright, which is an emblem of resurrection. Hence, also, every Lord's day during the fifty days, this usage is observed at the altar, and the Alleluia is sung, which signifies that our future exercise shall consist wholly in praising God, as it is written: Blessed are they who dwell in Your house, O Lord: they will be still (i.e. eternally) praising You.

Chapter 16

29. The fiftieth day is also commended to us in Scripture; and not only in the Gospel, by the fact that on that day the Holy Spirit descended, but also in the books of the Old Testament. For in them we learn, that after the Jews observed the first passover with the slaying of the lamb as appointed, 50 days intervened between that day and the day on which upon Mount Sinai there was given to Moses the Law written with the finger of God; and this finger of God is in the Gospels most plainly declared to signify the Holy Spirit: for where one evangelist quotes our Lord's words thus, I with the finger of God cast out devils, Luke 11:20 another quotes them thus, I cast out devils by the Spirit of God. Matthew 12:28 Who would not prefer the joy which these divine mysteries impart, when the light of healing truth beams from them on the soul to all the kingdoms of this world, even though these were held in perfect prosperity and peace? May we not say, that as the two seraphim answer each other in singing the praise of the Most High, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts, Isaiah 6:3 so the Old Testament and the New, in perfect harmony, give forth their testimony to sacred truth? The lamb is slain, the passover is celebrated, and after 50 days the Law is given, which inspires fear, written by the finger of God. Christ is slain, being led as a lamb to the slaughter as Isaiah testifies; Isaiah 53:7 the true Passover is celebrated; and after 50 days is given the Holy Spirit, who is the finger of God, and whose fruit is love, and who is therefore opposed to men who seek their own, and consequently bear a grievous yoke and heavy burden, and find no rest for their souls; for love seeks not her own. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Therefore there is no rest in the unloving spirit of heretics, whom the apostle declares guilty of conduct like that of the magicians of Pharaoh, saying, Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest to all men, as theirs also was. 2 Timothy 3:8 For because through this corruptness of mind they were utterly disquieted, they failed at the third miracle, confessing that the Spirit of God which was in Moses was opposed to them: for in owning their failure, they said, This is the finger of God. Exodus 8:19 The Holy Spirit, who shows Himself reconciled and gracious to the meek and lowly in heart, and gives them rest, shows Himself an inexorable adversary to the proud and haughty, and vexes them with disquiet. Of this disquiet those despicable insects were a figure, under which Pharaoh's magicians owned themselves foiled, saying, This is the finger of God.

30. Read the book of Exodus, and observe the number of days between the first passover and the giving of the Law. God speaks to Moses in the desert of Sinai on the first day of the third month. Mark, then, this as one day of the month, and then observe what (among other things) the Lord said on that day: Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day; for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai. Exodus 19:10-11 The Law was accordingly given on the third day of the month. Now reckon the days between the 14th day of the first month, the day of the passover, and the 3d day of the third month, and you have 17 days of the first month, 30 of the second, and 3 of the third— 50 in all. The Law in the Ark of the Testimony represents holiness in the Lord's body, by whose resurrection is promised to us the future rest; for our receiving of which, love is breathed into us by the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit had not then been given, for Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:39 Hence that prophetic song, Arise, O Lord, into Your rest, You and the ark of Your strength [holiness, LXX.]. Where there is rest, there is holiness. Wherefore we have now received a pledge of it, that we may love and desire it. For to the rest belonging to the other life, whereunto we are brought by that transition from this life of which the passover is a symbol, all are now invited in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 17

31. Hence also, in the number of the large fishes which our Lord after His resurrection, showing this new life, commanded to be taken on the right side of the ship, there is found the number 50 three times multiplied, with the addition of three more [the symbol of the Trinity] to make the holy mystery more apparent; and the disciples' nets were not broken, John 21:6-11 because in that new life there shall be no schism caused by the disquiet of heretics. Then [in this new life] man, made perfect and at rest, purified in body and in soul by the pure words of God, which are like silver purged from its dross, seven times refined, shall receive his reward, the denarius; Matthew 20:9-10 so that with that reward the numbers 10 and 7 meet in him. For in this number [17] there is found, as in other numbers representing a combination of symbols, a wonderful mystery. Nor is it without good reason that the seventeenth Psalm is the only one which is given complete in the book of Kings, because it signifies that kingdom in which we shall have no enemy. For its title is, A Psalm of David, in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. For of whom is David the type, but of Him who, according to the flesh, was born of the seed of David? Romans 1:3 He in His Church, that is, in His body, still endures the malice of enemies. Therefore the words which from heaven fell upon the ear of that persecutor whom Jesus slew by His voice, and whom He transformed into a part of His body (as the food which we use becomes a part of ourselves), were these, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? Acts 9:4 And when shall this His body be finally delivered from enemies? Is it not when the last enemy, Death, shall be destroyed? It is to that time that the number of the 153 fishes pertains. For if the number 17 itself be the side of an arithmetical triangle, formed by placing above each other rows of units, increasing in number from 1 to 17, the whole sum of these units is 153: since 1 and 2 make 3; 3 and 3, 6; 6 and 4, 10; 10 and 5, 15; 15 and 6, 21; and so on: continue this up to 17, the total is 153.

32. The celebration of Easter and Pentecost is therefore most firmly based on Scripture. As to the observance of the forty days before Easter, this has been confirmed by the practice of the Church; as also the separation of the eight days of the neophytes, in such order that the eighth of these coincides with the first. The custom of singing the Alleluia on those 50 days only in the Church is not universal; for in other places it is sung also at various other times, but on these days it is sung everywhere. Whether the custom of standing at prayer on these days and on all the Lord's days, is everywhere observed or not, I do not know; nevertheless, I have told you what guides the Church in this usage, and it is in my opinion sufficiently obvious.

Chapter 18

33. As to the feet-washing, since the Lord recommended this because of its being an example of that humility which He came to teach, as He Himself afterwards explained, the question has arisen at what time it is best, by literal performance of this work, to give public instruction in the important duty which it illustrates, and this time [of Lent] was suggested in order that the lesson taught by it might make a deeper and more serious impression. Many, however, have not accepted this as a custom, lest it should be thought to belong to the ordinance of baptism; and some have not hesitated to deny it any place among our ceremonies. Some, however, in order to connect its observance with the more sacred associations of this solemn season, and at the same time to prevent its being confounded with baptism in any way, have selected for this ceremony either the eighth day itself, or that on which the third eighth day occurs, because of the great significance of the number three in many holy mysteries.

34. I am surprised at your expressing a desire that I should write anything in regard to those ceremonies which are found different in different countries, because there is no necessity for my doing this; and, moreover, one most excellent rule must be observed in regard to these customs, when they do not in any way oppose either true doctrine or sound morality, but contain some incentives to the better life, viz., that wherever we see them observed, or know them to be established, we should not only refrain from finding fault with them, but even recommend them by our approval and imitation, unless restrained by fear of doing greater harm than good by this course, through the infirmity of others. We are not, however, to be restrained by this, if more good is to be expected from our consenting with those who are zealous for the ceremony, than loss to be feared from our displeasing those who protest against it. In such a case we ought by all means to adopt it, especially if it be something in defence of which Scripture can be alleged: as in the singing of hymns and psalms, for which we have on record both the example and the precepts of the Lord and of His apostles. In this religious exercise, so useful for inducing a devotional frame of mind and inflaming the strength of love to God, there is diversity of usage, and in Africa the members of the Church are rather too indifferent in regard to it; on which account the Donstists reproach us with our grave chanting of the divine songs of the prophets in our churches, while they inflame their passions in their revels by the singing of psalms of human composition, which rouse them like the stirring notes of the trumpet on the battlefield. But when brethren are assembled in the church, why should not the time be devoted to singing of sacred songs, excepting of course while reading or preaching is going on, or while the presiding minister prays aloud, or the united prayer of the congregation is led by the deacon's voice? At the other intervals not thus occupied, I do not see what could be a more excellent, useful, and holy exercise for a Christian congregation.

Chapter 19

35. I cannot, however, sanction with my approbation those ceremonies which are departures from the custom of the Church, and are instituted on the pretext of being symbolic of some holy mystery; although, for the sake of avoiding offense to the piety of some and the pugnacity of others, I do not venture to condemn severely many things of this kind. But this I deplore, and have too much occasion to do so, that comparatively little attention is paid to many of the most wholesome rites which Scripture has enjoined; and that so many false notions everywhere prevail, that more severe rebuke would be administered to a man who should touch the ground with his feet bare during the octaves (before his baptism), than to one who drowned his intellect in drunkenness. My opinion therefore is, that wherever it is possible, all those things should be abolished without hesitation, which neither have warrant in Holy Scripture, nor are found to have been appointed by councils of bishops, nor are confirmed by the practice of the universal Church, but are so infinitely various, according to the different customs of different places, that it is with difficulty, if at all, that the reasons which guided men in appointing them can be discovered. For even although nothing be found, perhaps, in which they are against the true faith; yet the Christian religion, which God in His mercy made free, appointing to her sacraments very few in number, and very easily observed, is by these burdensome ceremonies so oppressed, that the condition of the Jewish Church itself is preferable: for although they have not known the time of their freedom, they are subjected to burdens imposed by the law of God, not by the vain conceits of men. The Church of God, however, being meanwhile so constituted as to enclose much chaff and many tares, bears with many things; yet if anything be contrary to faith or to holy life, she does not approve of it either by silence or by practice.

Chapter 20

36. Accordingly, that which you wrote as to certain brethren abstaining from the use of animal food, on the ground of its being ceremonially unclean, is most clearly contrary to the faith and to sound doctrine. If I were to enter on anything like a full discussion of this matter, it might be thought by some that there was some obscurity in the precepts of the apostle in this matter whereas he, among many other things which he said on this subject, expressed his abhorrence of this opinion of the heretics in these words: Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:1-5 Again, in another place, he says, concerning these things: Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. Titus 1:15 Read the rest for yourself, and read these passages to others— to as many as you can— in order that, seeing that they have been called to liberty, they may not make void the grace of God toward them; only let them not use their liberty for an occasion to serve the flesh: let them not refuse to practise the purpose of curbing carnal appetite, abstinence from some kinds of food, on the pretext that it is unlawful to do so under the promptings of superstition or unbelief.

37. As to those who read futurity by taking at random a text from the pages of the Gospels, although it is better that they should do this than go to consult spirits of divination, nevertheless it is, in my opinion, a censurable practice to try to turn to secular affairs and the vanity of this life those divine oracles which were intended to teach us concerning the higher life.

Chapter 21

38. If you do not consider that I have now written enough in answer to your questions, you must have little knowledge of my capacities or of my engagements. For so far am I from being, as you have thought, acquainted with everything, that I read nothing in your letter with more sadness than this statement, both because it is most manifestly untrue, and because I am surprised that you should not be aware, that not only are many things unknown to me in countless other departments, but that even in the Scriptures themselves the things which I do not know are many more than the things which I know. But I cherish a hope in the name of Christ, which is not without its reward, because I have not only believed the testimony of my God that on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets; Matthew 22:40 but I have myself proved it, and daily prove it, by experience. For there is no holy mystery, and no difficult passage of the word of God, in which, when it is opened up to me, I do not find these same commandments: for the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned; 1 Timothy 1:5 and love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10

39. I beseech you therefore also, my dearly beloved, whether studying these or other writings, so to read and so to learn as to bear in mind what has been most truly said, Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies; 1 Corinthians 8:1 but charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up. Let knowledge therefore be used as a kind of scaffolding by which may be erected the building of charity, which shall endure for ever when knowledge fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4, 8 Knowledge, if applied as a means to charity, is most useful; but apart from this high end, it has been proved not only superfluous, but even pernicious. I know, however, how holy meditation keeps you safe under the shadow of the wings of our God. These things I have stated, though briefly, because I know that this same charity of yours, which vaunts not itself, will prompt you to lend and read this letter to many.

About this page

Source. Translated by J.G. Cunningham. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102055.htm>.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

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