The Church Fathers On…



The Church

St. Clement of Rome (96AD):

The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus the Christ was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God, the Apostles from Christ: in both cases the process was orderly, and derived from the will of God….They [the Apostles] preached in country and town, and appointed their first fruits, after testing them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who were going to believe. And this was no novelty….Our Apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on the question of the bishop’s office. Therefore…they appointed the aforesaid persons and later made further provision that if they should fall asleep, other tested men should succeed to their ministry. (First Epistle to the Corinthians, xlii-xliv)

Tertullian (197AD):

The apostles, then, in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches—one after another—borrowed the tradition of the faith and the seeds of doctrine. And they are every day borrowing them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is only on this account that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic—as being the offspring of apostolic churches….Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church of the apostles—from which they all [spring].

We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different than theirs. This is our witness of truth. (3.252, 253).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (202AD):

By “knowledge of the truth” we mean: the teaching of the Apostles; the order of the Church as established from the earliest times throughout the world: the distinctive stamp of the Body of Christ, preserved through the Episcopal succession: for to the bishops the Apostles committed the care of the church which is in each place, which has come down to our own time, safeguarded without any written documents…. (Against Heresies, iv. xxxiii. 8)

The catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said (Against Heresies 1:10 [A.D. 189]).

St. Cyprian of Carthage (200-258):

“The episcopate is one….The Church is one….So also the Church, flooded with the light of the Lord, extends her rays over all the globe: yet it is one light which is diffused everywhere and the unity of the body is not broken up.” (On the Unity of the Catholic Church)

“This sacrament of unity [the Church], this bond of peace inseparable and indivisible, is indicated when in the Gospel the robe of the Lord Jesus Christ was not divided at all or rent, but they cast lots for the raiment…so the raiment was received whole and the robe was taken unspoilt and undivided.”

“…and the Church is made up of the people united to their priest, the flock cleaving to its shepherd. Hence you should know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop, and that if anyone is not with the bishop he is not in the Church…the Church is catholic and one, and may not be sundered or divided but should assuredly be kept together and united by the glue which is the mutual adherence of the priest.”

“Some of our colleagues, by a curious presumption, are led to suppose that those who have been dipped [baptized] among the heretics ought not to be baptized when they join us; because, they say, there is ‘one baptism’. Yes, but that one baptism is in the catholic Church. And if there is one Church, there can be no baptism outside it….Our assertion is that those who come to us from heresy are baptized by us, not re-baptized.”


St. John Cassian (commentary on 1 Cor. 15:10):

When he says ‘I labored,’ he shows the effort of his own will; when he says yet not I, but the grace of God, he points out the value of the Divine protection; when he says with me, he affirms that grace cooperates with him when he is not idle or careless, but working and making an effort. (Conferences, XIII, 13)[1]

…in all these (Scriptural quotations) there is a declaration both of the grace of God and the freedom of our will, because even of his own activity a man can be led to the quest of virtue, but always stands in need of the help of the Lord. (Conferences, XIII, 9)[2]

For these two, that is, both grace and free will, seem indeed to be contrary to each other; but both are in harmony. And we conclude that, because of piety, we should accept both, lest taking on of these away from man, we appear to violate the Church’s rule of faith (Conferences, XIII, 11)[3]

St. Maximos the Confessor:

“The divine Logos of God the Father is mystically present in each of His commandments….Thus, he who receives a divine commandment and carries it out receives the Logos of God who is in it; and he who receives the Logos through the commandments also receives through Him the Father who is by nature present in Him, and the Spirit who likewise is by nature in Him. ‘I tell you truly, he that receives whomever I send receives Me; and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me’ (John 13:20). In this way, he who receives a commandment and carries it out receives mystically the Holy Trinity.”

St. Seraphom of Sarov:

“Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. But mark, my son, only the good deed done for Christ’s sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. All that is not done for Christ’s sake, even though it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of God in this.

“As we see from the sacred narrative, the man who works righteousness is so pleasing to God that the Angel of the Lord appeared at the hour of prayer to Cornelius, the God-fearing and righteous centurion, and said: ‘Send to Joppa to Simon the Tanner; there shalt thou find Peter and he will tell thee the words of eternal life, whereby thou shalt be saved and all thy house.’ Thus the Lord uses all His divine means to give such a man in return for his good works the opportunity not to lose his reward in the future life. But to this end we must begin here with a right faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who came into the world to save sinners and Who, through our acquiring for ourselves the grace of the Holy Spirit, brings into our hearts the Kingdom of God and opens the way for us to win the blessings of the future life.

“That’s it, your Godliness [2]. In acquiring this Spirit of God consists the true aim of our Christian life, while prayer, vigil, fasting, almsgiving and other good works [3] done for Christ’s sake are merely means for acquiring the Spirit of God.”

“In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, when the foolish ones lacked oil, it was said: ‘Go and buy in the market.’ But when they had bought, the door of the bride-chamber was already shut and they could not get in….I think that what they were lacking was the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins practiced the virtues, but in their spiritual ignorance they supposed that the Christian life consisted merely in doing good works. By doing a good deed they thought they were doing the work of God, but they little cared whether they acquired thereby the grace of God’s Spirit.”

“Of course, every good deed done for Christ’s sake gives us the grace of the Holy Spirit, but prayer gives us it most of all, for it is always at hand, so to speak, as an instrument for acquiring the grace of the Spirit….Acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit also by practicing all the other virtues for Christ’s sake.”

“And if we were never to sin after our Baptism, we should remain for ever Saints of God, holy, blameless and free from all impurity of body and spirit. But the trouble is that we increase in stature, but do not increase in grace and in the knowledge of God as our Lord Jesus Christ increased; but on the contrary, we gradually become more and more depraved and lose the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God and become sinful in various degrees, and most sinful people. But if a man is stirred by the wisdom of God which seeks our salvation and embraces everything, and he is resolved for its sake to devote the early hours to God and to watch in order to find his eternal salvation [12], then, in obedience to its voice, he must hasten to offer true repentance for all his sins and must practice the virtues which are opposite to the sins committed. Then through the virtues practiced for Christ’s sake he will acquire the Holy Spirit Who acts within us and establishes in us the Kingdom of God. The word of God does not say in vain: The Kingdom of God is within you (Lk. 17:21), and it suffers violence, and the violent take it by force (Mat. 11:12) [13]. That means that people who, in spite of the bonds of sin which fetter them and (by their violence and by inciting them to new sins) prevent them from coming to Him, our Saviour, with perfect repentance for reckoning with Him, yet force themselves to break their bonds, despising all the strength of the fetters of sin—such people at last actually appear before the face of God made whiter than snow by His grace. Come, says the Lord: Though your sins be as purple, I will make them white as snow (Is. 1:18).

The grace of the Holy Spirit is the light which enlightens man. The whole of Sacred Scripture speaks about this. Thus our holy Father David said: Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path (Ps. 118:105)…. And in fact the Lord has frequently demonstrated before many witnesses how the grace of the Holy Spirit acts on people whom He has sanctified and illumined by His great inspiration [14]. Remember Moses after his talk with God on Mount Sinai. He so shone with an extraordinary light that people were unable to look at him. He was even forced to wear a veil when he appeared in public. Remember the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor. A great light encircled Him, and His raiment became shining, exceedingly white like snow (Mk. 9:3), and His disciples fell on their faces from fear. But when Moses and Elias appeared to Him in that light, a cloud overshadowed them in order to hide the radiance of the light of the divine grace which blinded the eyes of the disciples. Thus the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God appears in an ineffable light to all to whom God reveals its action.

[1] As quoted in “The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodoxy Church,” Fr. Seraphim Rose, St. Herman Press, 2007, p. 37.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

Salvation and Justification

The following quotes from the early Church Fathers clearly shows that they understood justification by faith differently than what was formulated at the time of the Protestant Reformation. They did not separate justification from obedience, righteousness and sanctification, but understood all as part and parcel of the life of faith. Keep in mind they read and understood the Greek of the Scriptures not only as their first language but as the very atmosphere in which they lived. To believe that the Church Fathers were unaware of some other “true” understanding of justification by faith is to believe that the most essential doctrine regarding man’s salvation was universally misunderstood or lost in a matter of one or maybe two generations.

For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he worked righteousness and truth through faith? St. Clement of Rome (30-96AD), 1.13.[1]

Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will be saved, but he that works righteousness.” For that reason, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another.” 2nd Epistle of Clement (c. 150), 7.518.

Therefore, brethren, by doing the will of the Father, and keeping the flesh holy, and observing the commandments of the Lord, we will obtain eternal life. 2nd Epistle of Clement (c. 150), 7.519.

Therefore, let us not be ungrateful for His kindness. For if He were to reward us according to our works, we would cease to be. St. Ignatius of Antioch, (c. 105, E), 1.63.

Faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. St. Ignatius of Antioch, (c. 105, E), 1.53.

Being convinced at that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it is now, through the kindness of God, graciously given to us. Accordingly, it is clear that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God. However, through the power of God, we can be made able. Letter to Diognetus (c. 125-200), 1.28.

Into this joy, many persons desire to enter. They know that “by grace you have been saved, not of works,” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ….But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise us also—if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness. St. Polycarp of Smynea (c. 135, E), 1.33.[2]

He will bestow on them the blessing which He has promised them, with much glory and joy, if only they will keep the commandments of God, which they have received in great faith. The Shepherd of Hermas (c. 150, W), 2.10.

‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin’ (Ps. 32:2). That is, having repented of his sins, he can receive remission of them from God. But this is not as you [Jews] deceive yourselves, and some others who resemble you in this. For they say, that even though they remain sinners, the Lord will not impute sin to them, because they know God. (St. Justin the Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.270)

For Abraham was declared by God to be righteous, not on account of circumcision, but on account of faith. St. Justin the Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.245.

If men by their works show themselves worthy of His design, they are deemed worthy of reigning in company with Him, being delivered from corruption and suffering. This is what we have received [from the Apostles]….Those who choose what is pleasing to Him are, on account of their choice, deemed worthy of incorruption and of fellowship with Him. St. Justin the Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.165.

Each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions. St. Justin the Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.166.

Let those who are not found living as He taught, be understood not to be Christians, even though they profess with the lips the teachings of Christ. For it is not those who make profession, but those who do the works, who will be saved. St. Justin the Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.168.

The Son of God has promised again to deliver us and invest us with prepared garments—if we do His commandments. St. Justin the Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.1257.

The Lord Himself, who is Emmanuel from the Virgin, is the sign of our salvation. It was the Lord Himself who saved them. For they could not be saved by their own instrumentality. Therefore, when Paul explains human infirmity, he says, “For I know that there dwells in my flesh no good thing” [Rom. 7:18]. He thus shows that the “good thing” of our salvation is not from us, but from God. And again: “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” [Rom. 7:24]….Here we see that we must be saved by the help of God, not by ourselves. St. Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 180, E/W), 1.450 (disciple of St. Polycarp).

To believe in Him is to do His will. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.468.

Those who believe God and follow His word receive that salvation that flows from Him. On the other hand, those who depart from Him, and despise His teachings, and by their deeds bring dishonor on Him, who made them…heap up against themselves most righteous judgment. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.511.

No one, indeed, while placed out of the reach of the Lord’s benefits, has power to procure himself the means of salvation. So the more we receive His grace, the more we should love Him. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.450.

These men [the prophets] did not impute unto us [the Gentiles] our transgressions, which we did before Christ was manifested among us. Therefore, it is not right for us to lay blame upon those who sinned before Christ’s coming. For “all men fall short of the glory of God,” and are not justified of themselves. Rather, they are justified by the coming of the Lord—those who earnestly direct their eyes towards His light. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.499.

However, they [the Gnostics] keep silent with regard to His judgments and all those things which will come upon those who have heard His words, but have not done them. For it would be better for them if they had not been born. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.501.

When a man is grafted in by faith and receives the Spirit of God, he certainly does not lose the substance of the flesh, but changes the quality of the fruit of his works. Ireanaeus, (c. 180 E/W), 1.536.

Rightly, then, to those who have believed and obey, grace will abound beyond measure. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.196.

“Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith.” It is therefore of no advantage to persons after the end of life, even if they do good works now, if they do not have faith. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.308

This is what it means to “be drawn by the Father”: It means to become worthy to receive the power of grace from God, so as to run without hindrance. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.435.

“For by grace we are saved”— but not, indeed, without good works. Rather, we must be saved by being molded for what is good, acquiring an inclination for it. And we must possess the healthy mind that is fixed on the pursuit of the good. For this, we have the greatest need of divine grace, of right teaching, of holy susceptibility, and of the drawing of the Father to Himself. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.445.

The same from the foundation of the world is each one who at different periods is saved, and will be saved by faith. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.446.

Into the impure soul, the grace of God finds no entrance. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.595.

To him who directs his eye to salvation and desires it, asking with boldness and vehemence for its bestowal, the good Father who is in heaven will give the true purification and the changeless life. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.604.

“Now the just will live by faith,” which is according to the covenant and the commandments. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.230.

It is the will of God that he who repents of his sins and is obedient to the commandments should be saved. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.363.

And he does not believe God, who does not do what God has commanded. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.416.

When we hear, “Your faith has saved you,” we do not understand Him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatever will be saved. For works must also follow. But it was to the Jews alone that He spoke this utterance. Those persons were Jews who kept the Law and lived blamelessly. All they lacked was faith in the Lord. No one, then, can be a believer and at the same time be licentious. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.505.

He who obtains the mastery in these struggles [against fleshly desires], and overthrows the tempter,…wins immortality….The one who has obeyed the directions of the trainer wins the day….We are born to obey the commandments, if we choose to be willing to be saved. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.528.

Salvation does not depend on external things—whether they are many or few, small or great, illustrious or obscure, esteemed or not esteemed. Rather, it depends on the virtue of the soul—on faith, hope, love, brotherliness, knowledge, meekness, humility, and truth, the reward for which is salvation. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.596.

It is for this reason that [the Gnostics] neither regard works as necessary for themselves, nor do they observe any of the calls of duty, eluding even the necessity of martyrdom on any pretense that may suit their pleasure. Tertullian (c. 200 W), 3.517.

Some of the [heretics]…simply deny the Law and the Prophets for the sake of their lawless and impious doctrine. And under the pretense of grace, they have sunk down to the lowest abyss of perdition. Eusebius, quoting Caius (c. 215, W), 5.602.

The passage declares that before God, no living being will be justified. This shows that in comparison with God—and the righteousness that is in Him—no one (even of the most perfect saints) will be justified. We might take an illustration from another scenario, saying that no candle can give light before the sun. By that, we do not mean that the candle will not give out light, but only that it will not be seen when the sun outshines it. Origen (c. 223, E), 9.333.

Abraham believed in God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Assuredly, then, whoever believes in God and lives in faith is found righteous and is already blessed in faithful Abraham. St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250, W), 5.359.

To prophecy, to cast out devils, and to do great acts upon the earth—these are all certainly a sublime and an admirable thing. However, one does not attain the kingdom of heaven even though he is found in all these things, unless he walks in the observance of the right and just way. St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250, W), 5.426.

He that is freed owes obedience to his deliverer. St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250, W), 5.432.

If anyone follows unrighteousness and does those things that are contrary to the will of God—such a person will be considered by God the same as the disobedient unbeliever. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c. 390, E), 7.391.

[1] According to early church historians Clement was a disciple of St. Paul, and is the Clement mentioned in Phil. 4:3, his Epistle was considered as Scripture by many in the early Church.

[2] Polycarp, the saintly Bishop of Smynea, was a direct disciple of the Apostle John and was martyred for faith in Christ at age 86.

Scripture and Tradition

Is Scripture the sole rule of faith for Christians? Not according to the Bible. While we must guard against merely human traditions, the Bible contains numerous references to the necessity of clinging to apostolic or church tradition.

Thus Paul tells the Corinthians, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I have delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2), and he commands the Thessalonians, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15). He even goes so far as to order, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6).

To make sure that the apostolic tradition would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles, Paul told Timothy, “[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). In this passage he refers to the first four generations of apostolic succession—his own generation, Timothy’s generation, the generation Timothy will teach, and the generation they in turn will teach.

The early Church Fathers, who were links in that chain of succession, recognized the necessity of the traditions (church teaching, forms of worship, and practices) that had been handed down from the apostles and guarded them scrupulously, as the following quotations show.

Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis in Asia Minor (60-130AD):

“…I felt at home not with those who had a great deal to say, but with those who taught the truth….For I did not imagine that things out of the books would help me as much as the utterances of a living and abiding voice” [i.e. oral tradition]. (From Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History).

Hegesippus (110-180AD):

“When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the law, the prophets, and the Lord.” (Memoirs, cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:22 [A.D. 180]).

Letter to Diognetus (150-190AD):

“I am not speaking of things that are strange to me, nor is my undertaking unreasonable, for I have been a disciple of apostles, and now I am becoming a teacher of the Gentiles. The things that pertain to the tradition I try to minister fittingly to those who are becoming disciples of the truth.” (A Homily Concerning the Mystery of the Faith)

Irenaeus of Lyon (125-202AD):

“It is within the power of all, therefore, in every church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world.” (Against Heresies 3:3 [A.D. 189]).

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors to our own times….” (Ibid. 3:3 1-2 [A.D. 189])

“As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same” (Ibid.,1:10:2 [A.D. 189]).

“For although the languages of the world are different, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul.” (Ibid., 1.330, 331).*

“When, however, they [the Gnostics] are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn around and accuse these same Scriptures as if they were not correct….But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, which is preserved by means of the successions of presbyters in the churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles.” (Ibid., 1.415).*

“In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles and the preaching of the truth have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same life-giving faith, which has been preserved in the church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.” (Ibid 1.416)*

“In the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man

had seen the blessed apostles and had been conversant with them. Therefore, he might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears] and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone in this. For there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. (Ibid., 1.416)*

Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the Churches; which fact I have in the third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition from the apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father, and believe in the same dispensation regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, and are cognizant of the same gift of the Spirit, and are conversant with the same commandments, and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution, and expect the same advent of the Lord, and await the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body. And undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and steadfast, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the whole world. [Ibid., 5:20]

“Papias [A.D. 120], who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he, moreover, asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly, he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions [concerning Jesus]. . . . [There are] other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition” (fragment in Eusebius, Church History 3:39 [A.D. 312]).

Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD):

“Well, they preserving the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the fathers), came by God’s will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds. And well I know that they will exult; I do not mean delighted with this tribute, but solely on account of the preservation of the truth, according as they delivered it. For such a sketch as this, will, I think, be agreeable to a soul desirous of preserving from loss the blessed tradition” (Miscellanies 1:1 [A.D. 208]).

“The dogmas taught by strange sects will be brought forward. And against these dogmas will be opposed all those things that should be premised in accordance with the profoundest contemplation of the knowledge that will advance to our view, as we proceed to the renowned and venerable canon of tradition. (Ibid., 2.302).*

“It is necessary for men to abandon impious opinion and turn from there to the true tradition. (Ibid., 2.530).*

“He, who has spurned the ecclesiastic tradition and darted off to the opinions of heretical men—he has ceased to be a man of God and to remain faithful to the Lord. (Ibid., 2.551).*

“The tradition of the apostles was one. (Ibid., 2.555).* Tertullian (160-220AD):

For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions. [Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 19]

Error of doctrine in the churches must necessarily have produced various issues. When, however, that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same, it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition? [Tertullian, The Ibid., Ch. 28]

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, as many as walk according to the rule, which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures. [Ibid., Ch. 37]

Where diversity of doctrine is found, there, then, must the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing… What we are ourselves, that also the Scriptures are (and have been) from the beginning. Of them we have our being, before there was any other way, before they were interpolated by you… One man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition.” [Ibid., Ch. 38]

“We are in communion with the apostolic churches because there is no difference of doctrine….This test will be applied to those churches of a later date, which are daily being founded. Though they cannot therefore produce an Apostle or an apostolic man for their founder, still, if they unite in holding the same faith, they equally are reckoned apostolic because of the kinship of their teaching.” [Ibid.,]

“If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of the them….These instances, therefore, will make it sufficiently plain that you can

vindicate the keeping of even unwritten tradition established by custom. The proper witness for tradition is its demonstration by long-continued observance.” (Ibid., 3.95).*

“You [the church] lay down a rule that this faith has its solemnities appointed by either the Scriptures or the tradition of the forefathers. No further addition in the way of observance must be added, because innovation is unlawful.” (Ibid., 4.111).

Origen (185-254AD)

“The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the apostles and remains in the churches even to the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition” (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:2 [A.D. 225]).

Cyprian of Carthage (martyred 258AD):

“[T]he Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with Novatian [a schismatic], she was not with [Pope] Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way” (Letters 75:3 [A.D. 253]).

“Know that we do not depart from the tradition of the Gospel and of the apostles. Rather, with constancy and firmness, we…maintain the discipline of the church.” (5.357).

“The bishops who are set over the churches of the Lord by divine grace, throughout the whole world, maintain the plan of evangelical truth and of the tradition of the Lord. They do not depart, by human and novel institution, from that which Christ our Master both commanded and did.” (5.359).

“You must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us and almost throughout all the provinces.” (5371).

Eusebius of Caesarea (263-339AD):

“At that time [A.D. 150] there flourished in the Church Hegesippus, whom we know from what has gone before, and Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, and another bishop,

Pinytus of Crete, and besides these, Philip, and Apollinarius, and Melito, and Musanus, and Modestus, and, finally, Irenaeus. From them has come down to us in writing, the sound and orthodox faith received from tradition” (Church History 4:21).

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors to our own times—men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about.

Athanasius of Alexandria (293-373AD):

“Again we write, again keeping to the apostolic traditions, we remind each other when we come together for prayer; and keeping the feast in common, with one mouth we truly give thanks to the Lord. Thus giving thanks unto him, and being followers of the saints, ‘we shall make our praise in the Lord all the day,’ as the psalmist says. So, when we rightly keep the feast, we shall be counted worthy of that joy which is in heaven” (Festal Letters 2:7 [A.D. 330]).

“But you are blessed, who by faith are in the Church, dwell upon the foundations of the faith, and have full satisfaction, even the highest degree of faith which remains among you unshaken. For it has come down to you from apostolic tradition, and frequently accursed envy has wished to unsettle it, but has not been able” (ibid., 29).

Epiphanius of Salamis (320-403AD):

“It is needful also to make use of tradition, for not everything can be gotten from sacred Scripture. The holy apostles handed down some things in the scriptures, other things in tradition” (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 61:6 [A.D. 375]).

St. Basil the Great (On the Holy Spirit, Ch. 27) (born 330AD):

“Of the domas and sermons preserved in the Church, certain ones we have from written instruction, and certain ones we have received from the Apostolic Tradition, handed down in secret [i.e. private]. Both the one and the other have one and the same authority for piety, and no one who is even the least informed in the decrees of the Church will contradict this. For if we dare to overthrow the unwritten customs as if they did not have great importance, we shall thereby imperceptively do harm to the Gospel in its most important points. And even more, we shall be left with the empty name of the Apostolic preaching without content. For example, let us especially make note of the first and commonest thing: that those who hope in the

Name of our Lord Jesus Christ should sign themselves with the Sign of the Cross. Who taught this in Scripture? Which Scripture instructed us that we should turn to the east in prayer? Which of the saints left us in written form the words of invocation during the transformation of the bread of the Eucharist and the Chalice of blessing? For we are not satisfied with the words which are mentioned in the Epistles or the Gospels, but both before them and after them we pronounce others also as having great authority for the Mystery, having received them from the unwritten teaching. By what Scriptures, likewise, do we bless the water of Baptism and the oil of anointing [i.e. Chrism] and, indeed, the one being baptised himself? Is this not the silent and secret tradition? And what more? What written word has taught us this anointing with oil itself? Where is the triple immersion and all the rest that has to do with baptism, the renunciation of Satan and his angels to be found? What Scripture are these taken from? is it not from this unpublished and unspoken teaching which our Fathers have preserved in a silence inaccessible to curiosity and scrutiny, because they were thoroughly instructed to preserve in silence the sanctity of the Mysteries [i.e. Sacraments]? For what propriety would there be to proclaim in writing a teaching concerning that which it is not allowed for

the unbaptised even to behold?

Augustine (354-430AD):

“…just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists5:23[31] [A.D. 400]).

“But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from [oral] Tradition, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept, either by the apostles themselves or by plenary [ecumenical] councils, the authority of which is quite vital in the Church” (Letter to Januarius [A.D. 400]).

John Chrysostom (349-407):

“‘So then, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by Epistle of ours’ (2 Th. 2:15). Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no further.” (Homilies on Second Thessalonians)

Vincent of Lerins (died 445AD):

“I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the catholic Church. (Commonitory, Chapter II).

“But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason, – because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters.

For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of ecclesiastical and catholic interpretation.” (Commonitory, Chapter II).

“Moreover, in the catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense “catholic,” which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.” (Commonitory, Chapter II).

The Eucharist (Lord’s Supper)

St. Ignatius of Antioch

“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God…They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

St. Justin Martyr

“We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

St. Irenaeus of Lyon

“For as the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consists of two things, an earthly and a heavenly; so our bodies, after partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the eternal resurrection.” (Against Heresies 4:28 [A.D. 189])

“If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?” (ibid., 4:33–32).

“He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?” (ibid., 5:2).

Clement of Alexandria

“’Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children” (The Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 [A.D. 191]).

St. Cyprian of Carthage

“He [Paul] threatens, moreover, the stubborn and forward, and denounces them, saying, ‘Whosoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ [1 Cor. 11:27]. All these warnings being scorned and condemned—[lapsed Christians will often take Communion] before their sin is expiated, before confession has been made of their crime…[and so] violence is done to his body and blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with their hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord” (The Lapsed 15–16 [A.D. 251]).

“And we ask that this Bread be given us daily, so that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation, may not, by falling into some more grievous sin and then in abstaining from communicating, be withheld from the heavenly Bread, and be separated from Christ’s Body….” St. Cyprian of Carthage, 200-258, On the Lord’s Prayer, 18.

“He Himself warns us, saying, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you shall not have life in you.” Therefore do we ask that our Bread, which is Christ, be given to us daily, so that we who abide and live in Christ may not withdraw from His sanctification and from His Body.” (St. Cyprian, The Lord’s Prayer 18)

“Also in the priest Melchisedech we see the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Lord prefigured.” (St. Cyprian, Letters 63:4)

Aphraahat the Persian Sage

“After having spoken thus [at the Last Supper], the Lord rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his body as food and his blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was to be arrested. But he ate of his own body and drank of his own blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With his own hands the Lord presented his own body to be eaten, and before he was crucified he gave his blood as drink” (Treatises 12:6 [A.D. 340]).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

“The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ” (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).

“Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the body and blood of Christ…[Since you are] fully convinced that the apparent bread is not bread, even though it is sensible to the taste, but the body of Christ, and that the apparent wine is not wine, even though the taste would have it so,…partake of that bread as something spiritual, and put a cheerful face on your soul” (ibid., 22:6, 9).

After this [in the Eucharistic Liturgy] the Priest cries aloud, “Lift up your hearts.” For truly ought we in that most awful hour to have our heart on high with God, and not below, thinking of earth and earthly things. In effect therefore the Priest bids all in that hour to dismiss all cares of this life, or household anxieties, and to have their heart in heaven with the merciful God. Then ye answer, “We lift them up unto the Lord:” assenting to it, by your avowal (Catechetical Lecture 23:4).

St. Ambrose of Milan

“Perhaps you may be saying, ‘I see something else; how can you assure me that I am receiving the body of Christ?’ It but remains for us to prove it. And how many are the examples we might use!…Christ is in that sacrament, because it is the body of Christ” (The Mysteries 9:50, 58 [A.D. 390]).

“For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? … Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which was crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: “This Is My Body.” Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.” (On the Mysteries, 50-54).

Apostolic Constitutions (400AD)

You, therefore, O bishops, are to your people priests and Levites, ministering to the holy tabernacle, the holy Catholic Church; who stand at the altar of the Lord your God, and offer to Him reasonable and unbloody sacrifices through Jesus the great High Priest (Book 2:25).

Blessed Augustine of Hippo

I am about to say what may appear strange, but be not astonished nor startled at it. The Offering [of the Eucharist] is the same, whether a common [sinful] man, or Paul or Peter offer it. It is the same which Christ gave to His disciples, and which the Priests now minister. This is nowise inferior to that, because it is not men that sanctify even this, but the Same who sanctified the one sanctifies the other also. For as the words which God spake are the same which the Priest now utters, so is the Offering the same, and the Baptism, that which He gave…. (Second Homily on 2 Timothy).

“I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table….That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).

“What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction” (ibid., 272).

Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus) (431AD)

“We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody sacrifice [Eucharist] in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his holy flesh and the precious blood of Christ the Savior of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his flesh, he made it also to be life-giving” (Session 1, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius [A.D. 431]).

* * *

Martin Luther on the Eucharist 

“Who ever read in the Scriptures, that “my body” is the same as “this is a sign of my body”?…. Not one of the Fathers, though so numerous…. ever said, “It is only bread and wine”; or,” the body and blood of Christ is not there present”. Surely it is not credible… that they should never… so much as once, say…. “It is bread only” or “ the body of Christ is not there”, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.“ (Luther’s Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7 p, 391)

Ordination and Priesthood

Ignatius of Antioch (1st c.)

“Now, therefore, it has been my privilege to see you in the person of your God-inspired bishop, Damas; and in the persons of your worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius; and my fellow-servant, the deacon, Zotion. What a delight is his company! For he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Magnesians 2 [A.D. 110]).

“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest” (ibid., 6:1).

“It is necessary also that the deacons, the dispensers of the mysteries [sacraments] of Jesus Christ, be in every way pleasing to all men. For they are not the deacons of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They must therefore guard against blame as against fire” (Letter to the Trallians 2:1–3 [A.D. 110]).

It was the Spirit who kept preaching these words, ‘Do nothing without the bishop, keep your body as the temple of God, love unity, flee from divisions, be imitators of Jesus Christ, as he was imitator of the Father’” (Letter to the Philadelphians 7:1–2 [A.D. 110]).

Polycarp of Smyraena (80-167AD)

“Since, therefore, these things are now clear to us and we have searched into the depths of the divine knowledge, we ought to do, in order, everything that the Master has commanded us to perform at the appointed times. Now he commanded the offerings and services to be performed diligently, and not to be done carelessly or in disorder, but at designated times and seasons. Both where and by whom he wants them to be performed, he himself has determined by his supreme will, so that all things, being done devoutly according to his good pleasure, might be acceptable to his will. Those, therefore, who make their offerings at the appointed times are acceptable and blessed: for those who follow the instructions of the Master cannot go wrong. For to the high priest [bishop] the proper services have been given, and to the priests [presbyters] the proper office has been assigned, and upon the Levites [deacons] the proper ministries have been imposed. The layman is bound by the layman’s rules” (40:1-5).

“The apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus the Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the apostles are from Christ. Both, therefore, came of the will of God in good order. Having therefore received their orders and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and full of faith in the Word of God, they went forth with the firm assurance that the Holy Spirit gives, preaching the good news that the kingdom of God was about to come. So, preaching both in the country and in the towns, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had tested them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons for the future believers” (42:1-4).

“Our apostles likewise knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife over the bishop’s office. For this reason, therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the officials mentioned earlier and afterwards they gave the offices a permanent character; that is, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry. Those, therefore, who were appointed by them or, later on, by other reputable men with the consent of the whole church, and who have ministered to the flock of Christ blamelessly, humbly, peaceably, and unselfishly, and for a long time have been well spoken of by all—these men we consider to be unjustly removed from their ministry. For it will be no small sin for us, if we depose from the bishop’s office those who have offered the gifts blamelessly and in holiness. Blessed are those presbyters who have gone on ahead, who took their departure at a mature and fruitful age, for they need no longer fear that someone might remove them from their established place” (40:1-5).

Irenaeus of Lyons (120-180AD)

And all the apostles of the Lord are priests, who do inherit here neither lands nor houses, but serve God and the altar continually (Book 4, 8:3).

Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD)

“A multitude of other pieces of advice to particular persons is written in the holy books: some for presbyters, some for bishops and deacons; and others for widows, of whom we shall have opportunity to speak elsewhere” (The Instructor of Children 3:12:97:2 [A.D. 191]).

“Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles and who have lived in complete righteousness according to the gospel” (Miscellanies 6:13:107:2 [A.D. 208]).

Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome (170-236 AD)

That a deacon may dispense the Eucharist to the people with permission of a bishop or presbyter (Canon 31).

As often as a bishop takes of the sacred mysteries [Eucharist], let the deacons and presbyters be gathered together, clothed in white robes, brilliant in the view of all the people; and in like manner with a reader (Canon 37).

Origen (184-253AD)

So, too, the apostles, and those who have become like apostles, being priests according to the Great High Priest and having received knowledge of the service of God, know under the Spirit’s teaching for which sins, and when, and how they ought to offer sacrifices, and recognize for which they ought not to do so (On Prayer, Ch. 18).

Cyprian of Carthage [200-270 AD]

But if [the apostolic succesion] was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honour of the priesthood, the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way. (Epistle 75:3)

Christ, who says to the apostles, and thereby to all chief rulers, who by vicarious ordination succeed to the apostles: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that heareth me, heareth Him that sent me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me, and Him that sent me” (Lk 10:16) (Epistle 68:4).

For which reason you must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us, and almost throughout all the provinces; that for [the proper celebration of ordinations] all the neighbouring bishops of the same province should assemble with that people for which a prelate is ordained (Epistle 67:5).

We have been informed by Crementius the sub-deacon, who came to us from you… (Epistle 2:1).

On which account it is fitting, that with full diligence and sincere investigation those should be chosen for God’s priesthood whom it is manifest God will hear (Epistle 67:2).

Eusebius of Caesarea Life of Constantine book (265-340AD)

Moreover, he made the priests of God his counselors, and deemed it incumbent on him to honor the God who had appeared to him with all devotion (Book 1:32).

Peter of Alexandria (260-311AD)

Since I have found out that Meletius acts in no way for the common good, for neither is he contented with the letter of the most holy bishops and martyrs… (Fragments 1)

Athanasius (296-373AD)

Added to this he (Saint Anthony) was tolerant in disposition and humble in spirit. For though he was such a man, he observed the rule of the Church most rigidly, and was willing that all the clergy should be honoured above himself. For he was not ashamed to bow his head to bishops and presbyters, and if ever a deacon came to him for help he discoursed with him on what was profitable, but gave place to him in prayer, not being ashamed to learn himself (Life of St Anthony, 67).

For if all were of the same mind as your present advisers, how would you have become a Christian, since there would be no bishops? Or if our successors are to inherit this state of mind, how will the Churches be able to hold together? (Letter 49:4).

Hilary of Poitiers (300-367 AD)

For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers. For in this way he [the Apostle Paul] points out that the essentials of orderliness and morals are only profitable for good service in the priesthood if at the same time the qualities needful for knowing how to teach and preserve the faith are not lacking, for a man is not straightway made a good and useful priest by a merely innocent life or by a mere knowledge of preaching. On the Trinity book 8:1

Council of Elvira (approx. 305AD)

“Bishops, presbyters, and deacons may not leave their own places for the sake of commerce….” (Canon 18).

Ephriam of Syria on Epiphany (307-373AD)

“…to the priest who has toiled in baptizing, let there come the crown of righteousness!” (On Epiphany, 19).

Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386AD)

Consider, I pray, of each nation, Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, Solitaries, Virgins, and laity besides; and then behold their great Protector, and the Dispenser of their gifts;–how throughout the world He gives to one chastity, to another perpetual virginity, to another almsgiving, to another voluntary poverty, to another power of repelling hostile spirits (Catechetical Lecture 16:22).

Council of Nicaea I (325AD)

It is by all means desirable that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops of the province. But if this is difficult because of some pressing necessity or the length of the journey involved, let at least three come together and perform the ordination… (Paragraph 4).

Deacons must remain within their own limits, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and subordinate to the presbyters. (Paragraph 18).

Gregory of Nyssa (325-386AD)

…the man who ungrudgingly spent upon the poor his patrimony even before he was a priest, and most of all in the time of the famine, during which he was a ruler of the Church, though still a priest in the rank of presbyters (Against Eunomius, Book 1:10).

Basil the Great(329-379AD)

The first separatists [schismatics] had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain (Letter 188:1).

Ambrose of Milan on Repentance book 1 par 6-7 (340-397AD)

Rightly, therefore, does the Church claim it, which has true priests; heresy, which has not the priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this power heresy pronounces its own sentence, that not possessing priests it cannot claim priestly power (Book 1:7).

John Chrysostom (347-407AD)

Think, how good it is, when with all quietness the priest presents himself in the Church, that he may draw near unto God, and say prayers for the village, day by day, and for its owner! Say, is it a small matter, that even in the Holy Oblations evermore thy name is included in the prayers, and that for the village day by day prayers are made unto God (Homily 18 on Acts 7).

… what power and strength, thinkest thou, does the Priest need so as to be able to tear his soul away from every defilement, and to keep its spiritual beauty unsullied? (On the Priesthood, Book 6:2).

For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious? (On the Priesthood, Book 3:5).

The office of a Teacher and that of a Priest is of great dignity, and to bring forward one that is worthy requires a divine election (Fifth Homily on 1 Timothy).

“[In Philippians 1:1 Paul says,] ‘To the co-bishops and deacons.’ What does this mean? Were there plural bishops of some city? Certainly not! It is the presbyters that [Paul] calls by this title; for these titles were then interchangeable… (Homily 1 on Philippians).

John Cassian (360-435AD)

But sometimes it creates a wish to take holy orders, and a desire for the priesthood or diaconate. And it represents that if a man has even against his will received this office, he will fulfill it with such sanctity and strictness that he will be able to set an example of saintliness even to other priests; and that he will win over many people, not only by his manner of life, but also by his teaching and preaching (Institutes, Book 11:14).

Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD)

To the words, “In them the second death hath no power,” are added the words, “but they shall be priests of God and Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” [Rev. 20:6]; and this refers not to the bishops alone, and presbyters, who are now specially called priests in the Church; but as we call all believers Christians on account of the mystical chrism, so we call all priests because they are members of the one Priest (City of God, Book 20:10).

Thou didst grant her then another answer, by a priest of Thine, a certain bishop, reared in Thy Church and well versed in Thy books (Confessions, Book 3, 7:21).

Sozomen (375-477AD)

During the consulate of Constantine Caesar and Crispus Caesar, Silvester governed the Church of Rome; Alexander, that of Alexandria; and Macarius, that of Jerusalem. Not one, since Romanus had been appointed over the Church of Antioch on the Orontes; for the persecution it appears, had prevented the ceremony of ordination from taking place (Ecclesial History Book 2:2).

While they [the First Council of Nicea] were deliberating about this, some thought that a law ought to be passed enacting that bishops and presbyters, deacons and subdeacons, should hold no intercourse with the wife they had espoused before they entered the priesthood; but Paphnutius, the confessor, stood up and testified against this proposition; he said that marriage was honorable and chaste, and that cohabitation with their own wives was chastity, and advised the Synod not to frame such a law, for it would be difficult to bear, and might serve as an occasion of incontinence to them and their wives; and he reminded them, that according to the ancient tradition of the church, those who were unmarried when they took part in the communion of sacred orders, were required to remain so, but that those who were married, were not to put away their wives (Ecclesial History Book 2, 23).

Theodoret (393-457AD)

Was it that I ordained to the priesthood men of character and of honourable life? (Letter 81).

Apostolic Constitutions (400AD)

You, therefore, O bishops, are to your people priests and Levites, ministering to the holy tabernacle, the holy Catholic Church; who stand at the altar of the Lord your God, and offer to Him reasonable and unbloody sacrifices through Jesus the great High Priest (Book 2:25).

Patrick of Ireland (5th c.)

“I, Patrick, the sinner. . . had for my father Calpornius, a deacon, a son of Potitus, a priest, who belonged to the village of Bannavem Taberniae. . . . At that time I was barely sixteen years of age . . . and I was led into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of persons, in accordance with our deserts, for we turned away from God, and kept not his commandments, and were not obedient to our priests, who were wont to admonish us for our salvation” (Confession of St. Patrick 1 [A.D. 452]).

“I, Patrick, the sinner, unlearned as everybody knows, avow that I have been established a bishop in Ireland. Most assuredly I believe that I have received from God what I am. And so I dwell in the midst of barbarous heaths, a stranger and an exile for the love of God” (Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus 1 [A.D. 452]).

Ordination Prayer of Saint Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome 215AD:

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Father of mercies and God of all consolation, 
you who live in the highest, but regard the lowest,
you who know all things before they are,
you who gave the rules of the Church through the word of your grace,
who predestined from the beginning the race of the righteous through Abraham,
who instituted princes and priests,
and did not leave your sanctuary without a minister; 
who from the beginning of the world has been pleased 
to be glorified by those whom you have chosen, 
pour out upon him the power which is from you, the princely Spirit, 
which you gave to your beloved Son Jesus Christ, 
which he gave to your holy apostles, 
who founded the Church in every place as your sanctuary, 
for the glory and endless praise of your name.
Grant, Father who knows the heart, 
to your servant whom you chose for the episcopate, that he will feed your holy flock, 
that he will wear your high priesthood without reproach, 
serving night and day, incessantly making your face favorable, 
and offering the gifts of your holy church; 
in the spirit of high priesthood having the power to forgive sins according to your command;
to assign lots according to your command; 
to loose any bond according to the authority which you gave to the apostles; 
to please you in mildness and a pure heart, offering to you a sweet scent,
through your son Jesus Christ,
through whom to you be glory, power, and honor,
Father and Son, 
with the Holy Spirit,
in the Holy Church,
now and throughout the ages of the ages.

Ordination Prayer of a Priest in the Orthodox Church:

O God, who hast no beginning and no ending, who art older than every created thing, who crownest with the name of Priest those whom thou deemest worthy to serve the world of thy truth in the divine ministry of this degree: Do thou, the same Lord of all, deign to preserve in pureness of life and in unswerving faith this man, also, upon whom, through me, thou hast graciously been pleased to lay hands. Be favorably pleased to grant unto him the great grace of thy Holy Spirit, and make him wholly thy servant, in all things acceptable unto thee, and worthily exercising the great honors of the priesthood which thou hast conferred upon him by thy prescient power. For thine is the might and thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen.

Confession and Repentance

The Didache

“Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure” (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]).

The Letter of Barnabas

“You shall judge righteously. You shall not make a schism, but you shall pacify those that contend by bringing them together. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light” (Letter of Barnabas 19 [A.D. 74]).

St. Ignatius of Antioch

“For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 [A.D. 110]).

“For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop” (ibid., 8).

St. Irenaeus of Lyon

“[The Gnostic disciples of Marcus] have deluded many women. . . . Their consciences have been branded as with a hot iron. Some of these women make a public confession, but others are ashamed to do this, and in silence, as if withdrawing from themselves the hope of the life of God, they either apostatize entirely or hesitate between the two courses” (Against Heresies 1:22 [A.D. 189]).


“[Regarding confession, some] flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness” (Repentance 10:1 [A.D. 203]).

St. Hippolytus of Rome

“[The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Pour forth now that power which comes from you, from your royal Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles . . . and grant this your servant, whom you have chosen for the episcopate, [the power] to feed your holy flock and to serve without blame as your high priest, ministering night and day to propitiate unceasingly before your face and to offer to you the gifts of your holy Church, and by the Spirit of the high priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command” (Apostolic Tradition 3 [A.D. 215]).


“[A final method of forgiveness], albeit hard and laborious [is] the remission of sins through penance, when the sinner . . . does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord and from seeking medicine, after the manner of him who say, ‘I said, “To the Lord I will accuse myself of my iniquity”’” (Homilies on Leviticus 2:4 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“The apostle [Paul] likewise bears witness and says: ‘ . . . Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ [1 Cor. 11:27]. But [the impenitent] spurn and despise all these warnings; before their sins are expiated, before they have made a confession of their crime, before their conscience has been purged in the ceremony and at the hand of the priest . . . they do violence to [the Lord’s] body and blood, and with their hands and mouth they sin against the Lord more than when they denied him” (The Lapsed 15:1–3 (A.D. 251]).

“Of how much greater faith and salutary fear are they who . . . confess their sins to the priests of God in a straightforward manner and in sorrow, making an open declaration of conscience. . . . I beseech you, brethren, let everyone who has sinned confess his sin while he is still in this world, while his confession is still admissible, while the satisfaction and remission made through the priests are still pleasing before the Lord” (ibid., 28).

“[S]inners may do penance for a set time, and according to the rules of discipline come to public confession, and by imposition of the hand of the bishop and clergy receive the right of Communion. [But now some] with their time [of penance] still unfulfilled . . . they are admitted to Communion, and their name is presented; and while the penitence is not yet performed, confession is not yet made, the hands of the bishop and clergy are not yet laid upon them, the Eucharist is given to them; although it is written, ‘Whosoever shall eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord’ [1 Cor. 11:27]” (Letters 9:2 [A.D. 253]).

“And do not think, dearest brother, that either the courage of the brethren will be lessened, or that martyrdoms will fail for this cause, that penance is relaxed to the lapsed, and that the hope of peace [i.e., absolution] is offered to the penitent. . . . For to adulterers even a time of repentance is granted by us, and peace is given” (ibid., 51[55]:20).

“But I wonder that some are so obstinate as to think that repentance is not to be granted to the lapsed, or to suppose that pardon is to be denied to the penitent, when it is written, ‘Remember whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works’ [Rev. 2:5], which certainly is said to him who evidently has fallen, and whom the Lord exhorts to rise up again by his deeds [of penance], because it is written, ‘Alms deliver from death’ [Tob. 12:9]” (ibid., 51[55]:22).

And again, in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the apostles alone, saying, “Whosoever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whosoever sins ye retain they are retained.” Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ordination. (Epistle 74:16).

St. Aphrahat the Persian

“You [priests], then, who are disciples of our illustrious physician [Christ], you ought not deny a curative to those in need of healing. And if anyone uncovers his wound before you, give him the remedy of repentance. And he that is ashamed to make known his weakness, encourage him so that he will not hide it from you. And when he has revealed it to you, do not make it public, lest because of it the innocent might be reckoned as guilty by our enemies and by those who hate us” (Treatises 7:3 [A.D. 340]).

St. Basil the Great

“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. Those doing penance of old are found to have done it before the saints. It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist [Matt. 3:6], but in Acts [19:18] they confessed to the apostles” (Rules Briefly Treated 288 [A.D. 374]).

St. John Chrysostom

“Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’ Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive,’ he says, ‘they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21–23]. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven” (The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).

St. Ambrose of Milan

“For those to whom [the right of binding and loosing] has been given, it is plain that either both are allowed, or it is clear that neither is allowed. Both are allowed to the Church, neither is allowed to heresy. For this right has been granted to priests only” (Penance 1:1 [A.D. 388]).

St. Jerome

“If the serpent, the devil, bites someone secretly, he infects that person with the venom of sin. And if the one who has been bitten keeps silence and does not do penance, and does not want to confess his wound . . . then his brother and his master, who have the word [of absolution] that will cure him, cannot very well assist him” (Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:11 [A.D. 388]).

Intercession of the Departed Saints

Hermas [80AD][1]

“[The Shepherd said:] ‘But those who are weak and slothful in prayer, hesitate to ask anything from the Lord; but the Lord is full of compassion, and gives without fail to all who ask him. But you, [Hermas,] having been strengthened by the holy angel [you saw], and having obtained from him such intercession [before God], and not being slothful, why do not you ask of the Lord understanding, and receive it from him?’” (The Shepherd 3:5:4 [A.D. 80]).

Clement of Alexandria [208AD]

“In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]” (Miscellanies 7:12 [A.D. 208]).

Origen [233AD]

“But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep” (Prayer 11 [A.D. 233]).

Early Christian Prayer to the Virgin Mary [Prior to 250AD]

“Under your compassion we take refuge, Theotokos; do not overlook our prayers in the midst of tribulation, but deliver us from danger, O only pure, only blessed one.” (Rylands Papyri, Egypt)[2]

Cyprian of Carthage [253AD]

“Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy” (Letters 56[60]:5 [A.D. 253]).

Anonymous Catacomb Inscriptures [300-350AD]

“Atticus, sleep in peace, secure in your safety, and pray anxiously for our sins” (funerary inscription near St. Sabina’s in Rome [A.D. 300]).

“Pray for your parents, Matronata Matrona. She lived one year, fifty-two days” (ibid.).

“Mother of God, [listen to] my petitions; do not disregard us in adversity, but rescue us from danger” (Rylands Papyrus 3 [A.D. 350]).

Methodius, Bishop of Olympus [died 311AD]

“Hail to you for ever, Virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for to you do I turn again. You are the beginning of our feast; you are its middle and end; the pearl of great price that belongs to the kingdom; the fat of every victim, the living altar of the Bread of Life [Jesus]. Hail, you treasure of the love of God. Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man. . . . You gleamed, sweet gift-bestowing Mother, with the light of the sun; you gleamed with the insupportable fires of a most fervent charity, bringing forth in the end that which was conceived of you . . . making manifest the mystery hidden and unspeakable, the invisible Son of the Father—the Prince of Peace, who in a marvelous manner showed himself as less than all littleness” (Oration on Simeon and Anna 14 [A.D. 305]).

“Therefore, we pray [ask] you, the most excellent among women, who glories in the confidence of your maternal honors, that you would unceasingly keep us in remembrance. O holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate the memory, which will ever live, and never fade away” (ibid.).

“And you also, O honored and venerable Simeon, you earliest host of our holy religion, and teacher of the resurrection of the faithful, do be our patron and advocate with that Savior God, whom you were deemed worthy to receive into your arms. We, together with you, sing our praises to Christ, who has the power of life and death, saying, ‘You are the true Light, proceeding from the true Light; the true God, begotten of the true God’” (ibid.).

Cyril of Jerusalem [350AD]

“Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition . . . ” (Catechetical Lectures 23:9 [A.D. 350]).

Hilary of Poitiers [365AD]

“To those who wish to stand [in God’s grace], neither the guardianship of saints nor the defenses of angels are wanting” (Commentary on the Psalms 124:5:6 [A.D. 365]).

Ephraim the Syrian [370AD]

“You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him” (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).

“Remember me, you heirs of God, you brethren of Christ; supplicate the Savior earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day” (The Fear at the End of Life [A.D. 370]).

“Blessed Virgin, immaculate and pure you are the sinless Mother of your Son, the mighty Lord of the universe. You are holy and inviolate, the hope of the hopeless and sinful; we sing your praises. We praise you as full of every grace, for you bore the God-Man. We all venerate you; we invoke you and implore your aid…Holy and immaculate Virgin…be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment…you are holy in the sight of God, to Whom be honor and glory, majesty, and power forever.

St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea [373AD]

“By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name” (Liturgy of St. Basil [A.D. 373]).

“God has ordained that she should assist us in everything!”

St. Athanasius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria (373AD)

“It becomes you to be mindful of us, as you stand near Him Who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God Master Who was born of you. For this reason you are called ‘full of Grace’…”.

St. Jerome

“Mary not only comes to us when called, but even spontaneously advances to meet us.

Pectorius [375AD]

“Aschandius, my father, dearly beloved of my heart, with my sweet mother and my brethren, remember your Pectorius in the peace of the Fish [Christ]” (Epitaph of Pectorius [A.D. 375]).

Gregory of Nazianzus [380AD]

“May you [Cyprian] look down from above propitiously upon us, and guide our word and life; and shepherd this sacred flock . . . gladden the Holy Trinity, before which you stand” (Orations 17[24] [A.D. 380]).

“Yes, I am well assured that [my deceased father’s] intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind . . . ” (ibid., 18:4).

Gregory of Nyssa [380AD]

“[Ephraim], you who are standing at the divine altar [in heaven] . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom” (Sermon on Ephraim the Syrian [A.D. 380]).

John Chrysostom [392-6AD]

“He that wears the purple [i.e., royalty] . . . stands begging of the saints to be his patrons with God, and he that wears a diadem begs the tentmaker [Paul] and the fisherman [Peter] as patrons, even though they be dead” (Homilies on Second Corinthians 26 [A.D. 392]).

“When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies . . . but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power [in God]” (Orations 8:6 [A.D. 396]).

Ambrose of Milan [393AD]

“May Peter, who wept so efficaciously for himself, weep for us and turn towards us Christ’s benign countenance” (The Six Days Work 5:25:90 [A.D. 393]).

Jerome [406AD]

“You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard. . . . But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?” (Against Vigilantius 6 [A.D. 406]).

Augustine [400-419AD]

“There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended” (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).

“At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps” (Homilies on John 84 [A.D. 416]).

“Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ” (The City of God 20:9:2 [A.D. 419]).

“Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanksgiving for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent? …accept then such poor thanks as we have to offer, unequal though they be to your merits. Receive our gratitude and obtain by your prayers the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to bring about our peace with God…Holy Mary, help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful, pray for your people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God. May all who venerate you, feel now your help and protection. …Make it your continual care to pray for the people of God, for you were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world, who lives and reigns for ever.

[1] The early Christian document entitled, the Shepherd of Hermas, was held in very high esteem from earliest times. It was considered Holy Scripture by many.

[2] A description of the discovery and dating of an ancient fragment with this prayer is found in Frederica Mathewes-Green’s, “The Lost Gospel of Mary,” Paraclete Press, 2007, p. 83-88.

Veneration of the Virgin Mary

St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (130AD)

“As Eve was seduced by the speech of an angel…so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the angel’s speech…being obedient to this word….that of the virgin Eve, the virgin Mary might become the advocate and as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved….” (Against Heresies, 3, 19).

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (270AD)

“…you are the vessel and tabernacle containing all mysteries. You know what the Patriarchs never knew; you have experienced what was never revealed to the Angels; you have heard what the Prophets never heard. In a word, all that was hidden from preceding generations was made known to you; even more, most of these wonders depended on you.”

St. Ephraim the Syrian (+373AD)

“Blessed Virgin…You are holy and inviolate, the hope of the hopeless and sinful; we sing your praises. We praise you as full of every grace, for you bore the God-Man. We all venerate you; we invoke you and implore your aid…Holy and immaculate Virgin…be our intercessor and advocate at the hour of death and judgment…you are holy in the sight of God, to Whom be honor and glory, majesty, and power forever.

St. Athanasius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria (+373AD)

“It becomes you to be mindful of us, as you stand near Him Who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God Master Who was born of you. For this reason you are called ‘full of Grace’…”.

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (430AD)

“Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanksgiving for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent? …accept then such poor thanks as we have to offer, unequal though they be to your merits. Receive our gratitude and obtain by your prayers the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to bring about our peace with God…Holy Mary, help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful, pray for your people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God. May all who venerate you, feel now your help and protection….Make it your continual care to pray for the people of God, for you were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world, who lives and reigns for ever

* * *

Mary and the Protestant Reformers:

The Church’s appropriate practice of the veneration and honor of Mary was not lost on the Protestant Reformers. Most Protestants, and certainly Evangelical Christians, do not hold the position of their fathers in the faith.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. (Sermon, September 1, 1522).

[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537).

Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent’s head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing. (Sermon, Whittenburg, 1546: Weimar edition of Martin Luther’s Works, English translation edited by J. Pelikan [Concordia: St. Louis], Volume 51, 128-129.)

Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees. If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529.)

She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin – something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. (Personal [“Little”] Prayer Book, 1522).

John Calvin (1509-1564):

“To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son”. (A Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke (St. Andrew’s Press, Edinburgh, 1972), p.32.)

“It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honor.” (Calvini Opera [Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900], Volume 45, 348.)

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531):

God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels – it was her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow. (Zwingli, G.R. Potter, Cambridge University Press, 1976, p. 89.)

“The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow.”  Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.

“It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God.” (In Evang. Luc., Opera Completa [Zurich, 1828-42], Volume 6, I, 639)

“I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.” (E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., (Rome, 1962), 456.)

“It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother.” ((E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., (Rome, 1962), 456.)