Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter VIII. The word “Duty” has been often used both by philosophers and in the holy Scriptures; from whence it is derived.
The word “Duty” has been often used both by philosophers and in the holy Scriptures; from whence it is derived.
25. Since, therefore, the person concerned is one fit to write on the Duties, let us see whether the subject itself stands on the same ground, and whether this word is suitable only to the schools of the philosophers, or is also to be found in the sacred Scriptures. Beautifully has the Holy Spirit, as it happens, brought before us a passage in reading the Gospel to-day, as though He would urge us to write; whereby we are confirmed in our view, that the word officium, “duty,” may also be used with us. For when Zacharias the priest was struck dumb in the temple, and could not speak, it is said: “And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his duty [officii] were accomplished, he departed to his own house.” 60 We read, therefore, that the word officium, “duty,” can be used by us.
26. 61 And this is not inconsistent with reason, since we consider that the word officium (duty) is derived from efficere (to effect), and is formed with the change of one letter for the sake of euphony; or at any rate that you should do those things which injure [officiant] no one, but benefit all.
Luke i. 23. The Vulgate has officii; the Greek text reads: τῆς λειτουργίας.5:61
In this section it is impossible to give the point in a translation, but the passage does not affect the argument. The text runs as follows: “Nec ratio ipsa abhorret, quandoquidem officium ab efficiendo dictum putamus, quasi efficium: sed propter decorem sermonis una immutata litera, officium nuncupari, vel certe, ut ea agas quæ nulli officiant, prosint omnibus.”
Next: Chapter IX. A duty is to be chosen from what is virtuous, and from what is useful, and also from the comparison of the two, one with the other; but nothing is recognized by Christians as virtuous or useful which is not helpful to the future life. This treatise on duty, therefore, will not be superfluous.
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