Fathers of the Church

Letter CCXXXVII

Description

This letter was omitted from the printed edition for its length and lack of general interest. The editors’ comments have been reproduced in place of the text.

Provenance

The extant correspondence of St. Augustine includes more than 270 letters, including well over 200 written by him. Those numbered 232-269 cannot be dated with precision.

by Augustine of Hippo in Uncertain | translated by J. G. Cunningham

[This letter was addressed to Ceretius, a bishop, who had sent to Augustin certain apocryphal writings, on which the Spanish heretical sect called Priscillianists rounded some of their doctrines. Ceretius had especially directed his attention to a hymn which they alleged to have been composed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and given by Him to His disciples on that night on which He was betrayed, when they sang an "hymn" before going out to the Mount of Olives. The length of tile letter precludes its insertion here, but we believe it will interest many to read the few lines of this otherwise long-forgotten hymn, which Augustin has here preserved. They are as follows :—]

"Salvare volo et salvari volo;
Solvere volo et solvi volo;
Ornare volo et ornari volo;
Generari volo;
Cantare volo, saltate cuncti:
Plangere volo, tundite vos omnes:
Lucerna sum tibi, ille qui me vides;
Janua sum tibi, quicunque me pulsas;
Qui rides quod ago, tace opera mea;
Verbo illusi cuncta et non sum illusus in totum."

[The reader who ponders these extracts, and remembers the occasion on which the hymn is alleged to have been composed, will agree with us that Augustin employs a very unnecessary fulness of argument in devoting several paragraphs to demolish the claims advanced on its behalf as a revelation more profound and sacred than anything contained in the canonical Scriptures. Augustin also brings against the Priscillianists the charge of justifying perjury when it might be of service in concealing their real opinions, and quotes a line in which, as he had heard from some who once belonged to that sect, the lawfulness of such deceitful conduct was taught:—]

"Jura, perjura, secretum prodere noli."

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. (NPNF I/I, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.