Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Cyprian/The Epistles of Cyprian/Part 32
To the Clergy and People, About the Ordination of Aurelius as a Reader.
Argument.—Cyprian Tells the Clergy and People that Aurelius the Confessor Has Been Ordained a Reader by Him, and Commends, by the Way, the Constancy of His Virtue and His Mind, Whereby He Was Even Deserving of a Higher Degree in the Church.
1. Cyprian to the elders and deacons, and to the whole people, greeting. In ordinations of the clergy, beloved brethren, we usually consult you beforehand, and weigh the character and deserts of individuals, with the general advice. But human testimonies must not be waited for when the divine approval precedes. Aurelius, our brother, an illustrious youth, already approved by the Lord, and dear to God, in years still very young, but, in the praise of virtue and of faith, advanced; inferior in the natural abilities of his age, but superior in the honour he has merited,—has contended here in a double conflict, having twice confessed and twice been glorious in the victory of his confession, both when he conquered in the course and was banished, and when at length he fought in a severer conflict, he was triumphant and victorious in the battle of suffering. As often as the adversary wished to call forth the servants of God, so often this prompt and brave soldier both fought and conquered. It had been a slight matter, previously to have engaged under the eyes of a few when he was banished; he deserved also in the forum to engage with a more illustrious virtue so that, after overcoming the magistrates, he might also triumph over the proconsul, and, after exile, might vanquish tortures also. Nor can I discover what I ought to speak most of in him,—the glory of his wounds or the modesty of his character; that he is distinguished by the honour of his virtue, or praiseworthy for the admirableness of his modesty. He is both so excellent in dignity and so lowly in humility, that it seems that he is divinely reserved as one who should be an example to the rest for ecclesiastical discipline, of the way in which the servants of God should in confession conquer by their courage, and, after confession, be conspicuous for their character.
2. Such a one, to be estimated not by his years but by his deserts, merited higher degrees of clerical ordination and larger increase. But, in the meantime, I judged it well, that he should begin with the office of reading; because nothing is more suitable for the voice which has confessed the Lord in a glorious utterance, than to sound Him forth in the solemn repetition of the divine lessons; than, after the sublime words which spoke out the witness of Christ, to read the Gospel of Christ whence martyrs are made; to come to the desk after the scaffold; there to have been conspicuous to the multitude of the Gentiles, here to be beheld by the brethren; there to have been heard with the wonder of the surrounding people, here to be heard with the joy of the brotherhood. Know, then, most beloved brethren, that this man has been ordained by me and by my colleagues who were then present. I know that you will both gladly welcome these tidings, and that you desire that as many such as possible may be ordained in our church. And since joy is always hasty, and gladness can bear no delay, he reads on the Lord’s day, in the meantime, for me; that is, he has made a beginning of peace, by solemnly entering on his office of a reader. Do you frequently be urgent in supplications, and assist my prayers by yours, that the Lord’s mercy favouring us may soon restore both the priest safe to his people, and the martyr for a reader with the priest. I bid you, beloved brethren in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, ever heartily farewell.
- Oxford ed.: Ep. xxxviii. a.d. 250.
- [Note again this principle of the Cyprianic freedom and evangelical discipline. Acts xv. 22; Matt. xviii. 17.]
- Aurelius not being able to discharge the functions of his office in public, because of the persecution, in the meantime read for Cyprian; which is said to be an augury or beginning of future peace.
- [That is himself. Compare Phil. i. 26.]