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Fathers of the Church

Correspondence Between Celerinus and Lucian Concerning the Reconciliation of the Lapsed Christians With the Church

Description

In this first letter, Celerinus asks Lucian to grant pardon to his sisters in Rome who have denied their faith for fear of persecution. Lucian, in the second letter, promises an indulgence to Celerinus' sisters and anyone else who desires it, that they may be in communion with the Church.

Provenance

During the Decian persecution, Carthaginian clergymen were admitting large numbers of Christians who had denied their faith back into communion with the Church. The confessor Lucian began this practice by issuing an indulgence (allowing lapsed Christians to receive Communion without confessing or performing penance) to any who desired it. He received "permission" to do this from a Christian, Paulus, who was about to be martyred. Lucian also began granting pardons in the names of confessors who were still living. Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, admonished Lucian for this clear and serious abuse.

by Celerinus in Circa 250 A.D. | translated by Unknown

EPISTLE XX: CELERINUS TO LUCIAN.

[Argument.—Celerinus, on behalf of his lapsed sisters at rome, beseeches peace from the Carthaginian confessors.]

1. Celerinus to Lucian, greeting. In writing this letter to you, my lord and brother, I have been rejoicing and sorrowful,—rejoicing in that I had heard that you had been tried on behalf of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, and had confessed His name in the presence of the magistrates of the world; but sorrowful, in that from the time when I was in your company I have never been able to receive your letters. And now lately a twofold sorrow has fallen upon me; that although you knew that Montanus, our common brother, was coming to me from you out of the dungeon, you did not intimate anything to me concerning your wellbeing, nor about anything that is done in connection with you. This, however, continually happens to the servants of God, especially to those who are appointed for the confession of Christ. For I know that every one looks not now to the things that are of the world, but that he is hoping for a heavenly crown. Moreover, I said that perhaps you had forgotten to write to me. For if from the lowest place I may be called by you yours, or brother, if I should be worthy to hear myself named Celerinus; yet, when I also was in such a purple confession, I remembered my oldest brethren, and I took notice of them in my letters, that their former love was still around me and mine. Yet I beseech, beloved of the Lord, that if, first of all, you are Washed in that sacred blood, and have suffered for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ before my letters find you in this world, or should they now reach you, that you would answer them to me. So may He crown you whose name you have confessed. For I believe, that although in this world we do not see each other, yet in the future we shall embrace one another in the presence of Christ. Entreat that I may be worthy, even I, to be crowned along with your company.

2. Know, nevertheless, that I am placed in the midst of a great tribulation; and, as if you were present with me, I remember your former love day and night, God only knows. And therefore I ask that you will grant my desire, and that you will grieve with me at the (spiritual) death of my sister, who in this time of devastation has fallen from Christ; for she has sacrificed and provoked our Lord, as seems manifest to us. And for her deeds I in this day of paschal rejoicing, weeping day and night, have spent the days in tears, in sackcloth, and ashes, and I am still spending them so to this day, until the aid of our Lord Jesus Christ, and affection manifested through you, or through those my lords who have been crowned, from whom you are about to ask it, shall come to the help of so terrible a shipwreck. For I remember your former love, that you will grieve with all the rest for our sisters whom you also knew well—that is, Numeria and Candida,—for whose sin, because they have us as brethren, we ought to keep watch. For I believe that Christ, according to their repentance and the works which they have done towards our banished colleagues who came from you—by whom themselves you will hear of their good works,—that Christ, I say, will have mercy upon them, when you, His martyrs, beseech Him.

3. For I have heard that you have received the ministry of the purpled ones. Oh, happy are you, even sleeping on the ground, to obtain your wishes which you have always desired! You have desired to be sent into prison for His name's sake, which now has come to pass; as it is written, "The Lord grant thee according to thine own heart;" and now made a priest of God over them, and the same their minister has acknowledged it. I ask, therefore my lord, and I entreat by our Lord Jesus Christ, that you will refer the case to the rest of your colleagues, your brethren, my lords, and ask from them, that whichever of you is first crowned, should remit such a great sin to those our sisters, Numeria and Candida. For this latter I have always called Etecusa—God is my witness,—because she gave gifts for herself that she might not sacrifice; but she appears only to have ascended to the Tria Fata, and thence to have descended. I know, therefore, that she has not sacrificed. Their cause having been lately heard, the chief rulers commanded them in the meantime to remain as they are, until a bishop should be appointed. But, as far as possible, by your holy prayers and petitions, in which we trust, since you are friends as well as witnesses of Christ, (we pray) that you would be indulgent in all these matters.

4. I entreat, therefore, beloved lord Lucian, be mindful of me, and acquiesce in my petition; so may Christ grant you that sacred crown which he has given you not only in confession but also in holiness, in which you have always walked and have always been an example to the saints as well as a witness, that you will relate to all my lords, your brethren the confessors, all about this matter, that they may receive help from you. For this, my lord and brother, you ought to know, that it is not I alone who ask this on their behalf, but also Statius and Severianus, and all the confessors who have come thence hither from you; to whom these very sisters went down to the harbour and took them up into the city, and they have ministered to sixty-five, and even to this day have tended them in all things, For all are with them. But I ought not to burden that sacred heart of yours any more, since I know that you will labour with a ready will. Macharius, with his sisters Cornelia and Emerita, salute you, rejoicing in your sanguinary confession, as well as in that of all the brethren, and Saturninus, who himself also wrestled with the devil, who also bravely confessed the name of Christ, who moreover, under the torture of the grappling claws, bravely confessed, and who also strongly begs and entreats this. Your brethren Calphurnius and Maria, and all the holy brethren, salute you. For you ought to know this too, that I have written also to my lords your brethren letters. which I request that you will deign to read to them.

EPISTLE XXI: LUCIAN REPLIES TO CELERINUS.

[Argument.—Lucian assents to the petition of Celerinus.]

1. Lucian to Celerinus, his lord, and (if I shall be worthy to be called so) colleague in Christ, greeting. I have received your letter, most dearly beloved lord and brother, in which you have so laden me with expressions of kindness, that by reason of your so burdening me I was almost overcome with such excessive joy; so that I exulted in reading, by the benefit of your so great humility, the letter, which I also earnestly desired after so long a time to read, in which you deigned to call me to remembrance, saying to me in your writing, "if I may be worthy to be called your brother," of a man such as I am who confessed the name of God with trembling before the inferior magistrates. For you, by God's will, when you confessed, not only frightened back the great serpent himself, the pioneer of Antichrist, (but) have conquered him, by that voice and those divine words, whereby I know how you love the faith, and how zealous you are for Christ's discipline, in which I know and rejoice that you are actively occupied. Now beloved, already to be esteemed among the martyrs, you have wished to overload me with your letter, in which you told us concerning our sisters, on whose behalf I wish that we could by possibility mention them without remembering also so great a crime committed. Assuredly we should not then think of them with so many tears as we do now.

2. You ought to know what has been done concerning us. When the blessed martyr Paulus was still in the body, he called me and said to me: "Lucian, in the presence of Christ I say to you, If any one, after my being called away, shall ask for peace from you, grant it in my name." Moreover, all of us whom the Lord has condescended in such tribulation to call away, by our letters, by mutual agreement, have given peace to all. You see, then, brother, how (I have done this) in part of what Paulus bade me, as what we in all cases decreed when we were in this tribulation, wherein by the command of the emperor we were ordered to be put to death by hunger and thirst, and were shut up in two cells, that so they might weaken us by hunger and thirst. Moreover, the fire from the effect of our torture was so intolerable that nobody could bear it. But now we have attained the brightness itself. And therefore, beloved brother, greet Numeria and Candida, who (shall have peace) according to the precept of Paulus, and the rest of the martyrs whose names I subjoin: viz., Bassus in the dungeon of the perjured, Mappalicus at the torture, Fortunio in prison, Paulus after torture, Fortunata, Victorinus, Victor, Herennius, Julia, Martial, and Aristo, who by God's will were put to death in the prison by hunger, of whom in a few days you will hear of me as a companion. For now there are eight days, from the day in which I was shut up again, to the day in which I wrote my letter to you. For before these eight days, for five intervening days, I received a morsel of bread and water by measure. And therefore, brother, as here, since the Lord has begun to give peace to the Church itself, according to the precept of Paulus, and our tractate, the case being set forth before the bishop, and confession being made, I ask that not only these may have peace, but also (all) those whom you know to be very near to our heart.

3. All my colleagues greet you. Do you greet the confessors of the Lord who are there with you, whose names you have intimated, among whom also are Saturninus, with his companions, but who also is my colleague, and Maris, Collecta, and Emerita, Calphurnius and Maria, Sabina, Spesina, and the sisters, Januaria, Dativa, Donata. We greet Saturus with his family, Bassianus and all the clergy, Uranius, Alexius, Quintainus, Colonica, and all whose names I have not written, because I am already weary. Therefore they must pardon me. I bid you heartily farewell, and Alexius, and Getulicus, and the money-changers, and the sisters. My sisters Januaria and Sophia, whom I commend to you, greet you.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland beginning in 1867. (ANF 5, Roberts and Donaldson). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.