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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter 8

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 8.—The Festival of the Birth-Day of Manichæus.

9.  In adding the words, "by the providence of God the Father," what else did Manichæus design but that, having got the name of Jesus Christ, whose apostle he calls himself, and of God the Father, by whose providence he says he was sent by the Son, we should believe himself, as the Holy Spirit, to be the third person?  His words are:  "Manichæus, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God the Father."  The Holy Spirit is not named, though He ought specially to have been named by one who quotes to us in favor of his apostleship the promise of the Paraclete, that he may prevail upon ignorant people by the authority of the gospel.  In reply to this, you of course say that in the name of the Apostle Manichæus we have the name of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, because He condescended to come into Manichæus.  Why then, I ask again, should you cry out against the doctrine of the Catholic Church, that He in whom divine Wisdom came was born of a virgin, when you do not scruple to affirm the birth by ordinary generation of him in whom you say the Holy Spirit came?  I cannot but suspect that this Manichæus, who uses the name of Christ to gain access to the minds of the ignorant, wished to be worshipped instead of Christ Himself.  I will state briefly the reason of this conjecture.  At the time when I was a student of your doctrines, to my frequent inquiries why it was that the Paschal feast of the Lord was p. 133 celebrated generally with no interest, though sometimes there were a few languid worshippers, but no watchings, no prescription of any unusual fast,—in a word, no special ceremony,—while great honor is paid to your Bema, that is, the day on which Manichæus was killed, when you have a platform with fine steps, covered with precious cloth, placed conspicuously so as to face the votaries,—the reply was, that the day to observe was the day of the passion of him who really suffered, and that Christ, who was not born, but appeared to human eyes in an unreal semblance of flesh, only feigned suffering, without really bearing it.  Is it not deplorable, that men who wish to be called Christians are afraid of a virgin’s womb as likely to defile the truth, and yet are not afraid of falsehood?  But to go back to the point, who that pays attention can help suspecting that the intention of Manichæus in denying Christ’s being born of a woman, and having a human body, was that His passion, the time of which is now a great festival all over the world, might not be observed by the believers in himself, so as to lessen the devotion of the solemn commemoration which he wished in honor of the day of his own death?  For to us it was a great attraction in the feast of the Bema that it was held during Pascha, since we used all the more earnestly to desire that festal day [the Bema], that the other which was formerly most sweet had been withdrawn.


Next: Chapter 9

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