Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Third Ecumenical Council: The Council of Ephesus.: The Letter of Pope Cœlestine to the Synod of Ephesus.
The Letter of Pope Cœlestine to the Synod of Ephesus.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. III., col. 613. Also Migne, Pat. Lat., Tom. L, col. 505. 260 )
Cœlestine the bishop to the holy Synod assembled at Ephesus, brethren beloved and most longed for, greeting in the Lord.
A Synod of priests gives witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit. For true is that which we read, since the Truth cannot lie, to wit, the promise of the Gospel; “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” And since this is so, if the Holy Spirit is not absent from so small a number how much more may we believe he is present when so great a multitude of holy ones are assembled together! Every council is holy on account of a peculiar veneration which is its due; for in every such council the reverence which should be paid to that most famous council of the Apostles of which we read is to be had regard to. Never was the Master, whom they had received to preach, lacking to this, but ever was present as Lord and Master; and never were those who taught deserted by their teacher. For he that had sent them was their teacher; he who had commanded what was to be taught, was their teacher; he who affirms that he himself is heard in his Apostles, was their teacher. This duty of preaching has been entrusted to all the Lords priests in common, for by right of inheritance we are bound to undertake this solicitude, whoever of us preach the name of the Lord in divers lands in their stead for he said to them, “Go, teach all nations.” You, dear brethren, should observe that we have received a general command: for he wills that all of us should perform that office, which he thus entrusted in common to all the Apostles. We must needs follow our predecessors. Let us all, then, undertake their labours, since we are the successors in their honour. And we shew forth our diligence in preaching the same doctrines that they taught, beside which, according to the admonition of the Apostle, we are forbidden to add aught. For the office of keeping what is committed to our trust is no less dignified than that of handing it down.
They sowed the seed of the faith. This shall be our care that the coming of our great father of the family, to whom alone assuredly this fulness of the Apostles is assigned, may find fruit uncorrupt and many fold. For the vase of election tells us that it is not sufficient to plant and to water unless God gives the increase. We must strive therefore in common to keep the faith which has come down to us to-day, through the Apostolic Succession. For we are expected to walk according to the Apostle. For now not our appearance (species) but our faith is called in question. Spiritual weapons are those we must take, because the war is one of minds, and the weapons are words; so shall we be strong in the faith of our King. Now the Blessed Apostle Paul admonishes that all should remain in that place in which he bid Timothy remain. The same place therefore, the same cause, lays upon us the same duty. Let us now also do and study p. 221 that which he then commanded him to do. And let no one think otherwise, and let no one pay heed to over strange fables, as he himself ordered. Let us be unanimous, thinking the same thing, for this is expedient: let us do nothing out of contention, nothing out of vain glory: let us be in all things of one mind, of one heart, when the faith which is one, is attacked. Let the whole body grieve and mourn in common with us. He who is to judge the world is called into judgment; he who is to criticise all, is himself made the object of criticism, he who redeemed us is made to suffer calumny. Dear Brethren, gird ye with the armour of God. Ye know what helmet must protect our head, what breast-plate our breast. For this is not the first time the ecclesiastical camps have received you as their rulers. Let no one doubt that by the favour of the Lord who maketh twain to be one, there will be peace, and that arms will be laid aside since the very cause defends itself.
Let us look once again at these words of our Doctor, which he uses with express reference to bishops, saying, “Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, over which the Holy Ghost has placed you as bishop, that ye rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his blood.”
We read that they who heard this at Ephesus, the same place at which your holiness is come together, were called thence. To them therefore to whom this preaching of the faith was known, to them also let your defence of the same faith also be known. Let us shew them the constancy of our mind with that reverence which is due to matters of great importance; which things peace has guarded for a long time with pious understanding.
Let there be announced by you what things have been preserved intact from the Apostles; for the words of tyrannical opposition are never admitted against the King of Kings, nor can the business of truth be oppressed by falsehood.
I exhort you, most blessed brethren, that love alone be regarded in which we ought to remain, according to the voice of John the Apostle whose reliques we venerate in this city. Let common prayer be offered to the Lord. For we can form some idea of what will be the power of the divine presence at the united intercession of such a multitude of priests, by considering how the very place was moved where, as we read, the Twelve made together their supplication. And what was the purport of that prayer of the Apostles? It was that they might receive grace to speak the word of God with confidence, and to act through its power, both of which they received by the favour of Christ our God. And now what else is to be asked for by your holy council, except that ye may speak the Word of the Lord with confidence? What else than that he would give you grace to preserve that which he has given you to preach? that being filled with the Holy Ghost, as it is written, ye may set forth that one truth which the Spirit himself has taught you, although with divers voices.
Animated, in brief, by all these considerations (for, as the Apostle says: “I speak to them that know the law, and I speak wisdom among them that are perfect”), stand fast by the Catholic faith, and defend the peace of the Churches, for so it is said, both to those past, present, and future, asking and preserving “those things which belong to the peace of Jerusalem.”
Out of our solicitude, we have sent our holy brethren and fellow priests, who are at one with us and are most approved men, Arcedius, and Projectus, the bishops, and our presbyter, Philip, that they may be present at what is done and may carry out what things have been already decreed be us (quæ a nobis antea statuta sunt, exequantur).
To the performing of which we have no doubt that your holiness will assent when it is seen that what has been decreed is for the security of the whole church. Given the viij of the Ides of May, in the consulate of Bassus and Antiochus.
This letter we know was originally written in Latin, and that it was translated into Greek and then read afterwards in that language to the Council. There would seem to be no doubt that the Greek text we now find in the Acts is that first translation, but whether the Latin is the original or whether it is a translation back again from the Greek is not known, so far as I am aware. Certainly the Latin is of the most extraordinary character, and suggests that it was the work of one not skilled in that tongue. The text in several places is manifestly corrupt and the Greek and Latin do not always agree. If I may venture to express an opinion I should say that the Greek was more lucid. Although in nineteen places Labbe considers the true reading uncertain.
Next: Extracts from the Acts. Session II. (Continued.)
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