Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VI/Peter of Alexandria/Canonical Epistle/Canon XI
For those who first, when the persecution waxed warm, leaped forth, standing around the judgment-seat, and beholding the holy martyrs who were hastening to the “prize of their high calling,” then, fired with a holy zeal, gave themselves up to this, using much boldness, and especially when they saw those who were drawn aside and lapsed, on their account they were roused mightily within, and, as it were by some inward voice, impelled to war down and subdue the adversary who was exulting; for this they earnestly contended, that he might not seem “to be wise in his own conceit,” on account of those things in which by reason of his subtlety they appeared to be inferior to him, even though it escaped his observation that he was overcome by those who with constancy endured the torments of the lash and scourge, and the sharp edge of the sword, the burning in the fire, and the immersion in the water. To those also who entreat that the prayers and supplications of faith should be made either in behalf of those who have been punished by imprisonment, and have been delivered up by hunger and thirst, or for those who out of prison have by the judges been tortured with whippings and scourgings, and afterwards have been overcome by the infirmity of the flesh, it is right to give our consent. For to sympathize with the sorrow and affliction of those who sorrow and mourn for those who in the contest have been overcome by the great strength of the evil-contriving devil, whether it be for parents, or brethren, or children, hurts no one. For we know that on account of the faith of others some have obtained the goodness of God, both in the remission of sins, and in the health of their bodies, and in the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, being mindful of the many labours and distresses which for the name of Christ they have sustained, since they have themselves also repented, and have bewailed that which was done by them through their being betrayed by the languor and mortification of the body; and since, besides this, they testify that in their life they have as it were been aliens from their city, let us pray together with them and entreat for their reconciliation, together with other things that are befitting, through Him who is “our Advocate with the Father, and makes propitiation for our sins.” “And if any man sin,” says he, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins.”
Balsamon. The saint having said before that those who of their own accord entered upon the contest and lapsed, and did not repent nor recant their error, would be covered with more shame, as being like men who did not go on with the building beyond the foundation, that is, did not perfect that which is good, now brings forward a confirmation of this and other matters, saying, Those who taking their stand in the fervour and vehemence of the persecution, seeing the holy martyrs, and with what divine zeal they contended to receive the celestial crown, gave themselves up to martyrdom with much boldness, and especially when they saw some drawn aside, that is, led astray and deluded by the devil, and lapsing or denying godliness; wherefore being inwardly inflamed, and with hearts enkindled, as hearing that they by this means should war down and subdue the proud adversary the devil, were eager to undergo martyrdom lest the devil should boast and seem “to be wise in his own conceit,” as having by his subtlety and malice overcome those who of their own accord sought martyrdom: even though it escaped him that he was rather overcome by those combatants who bravely withstood the torments. Therefore to the faithful who pray for those who are enduring punishment, and afflicted by it, it is right to assent or to concur in this, which is also decreed; and it can by no means be hurtful to sympathize in their sorrow and affliction with the parents or other relatives in behalf of those who have given their testimony and undergone martyrdom, but have lapsed by the arts and snares of the devil. For we know that many have obtained the goodness and compassion of God by the prayers of others. Therefore we will pray for them that remission of their sins be granted them by God; and with the others who have lapsed, and have afterwards recanted their error, and confessed godliness, we will communicate, being mindful of those contests which before their fall they sustained for God’s sake, and also of their subsequent worthy repentance, and that they testify that on account of their sin they have been as it were aliens from their city; and we will not only communicate with them, but pray also for their reconciliation, together with other things that are convenient, either with the good works which ought to be done by them—fasting, for instance, almsgiving, and penance; by which things He who is our Advocate makes the Father propitious towards us. Then he makes use of a passage of Holy Scripture, and this is taken from the first catholic epistle of the holy apostle and evangelist John.
Zonaras. The meaning of the present canon is as follows:—Those, he says, who set in the fervour of the persecution, that is, in its greatest height and most vehement heat, beheld the martyrdoms of the saints, and how eagerly they hastened to receive the celestial crown, fired with a holy emulation, gave themselves up to martyrdom, leaping as it were into the contest with much boldness, in imitation of the saints who suffered, and offered themselves readily for the confirming of the faith by their testimony; and on that account especially, because they behold many who were drawn aside, that is, led astray, denying their faith. Whereupon they being inflamed, that is, tired in heart, endeavoured to subdue the adversary that was hostile to them, that he might not, as a victor, exult over the godly. Although it escaped him that he was rather conquered by them, many even unto death showing forth constancy for the faith. They hastened, therefore, says he, to do this, but overcome by the violence of their torments, by reason of the infirmity of the flesh, being some of them evil entreated in prison, and others punished by decree of the judges, and not being able to endure their punishment. It is meet, therefore, to sympathize with those who mourn for their sakes. Now they mourn, says he, some the lapse of parents, others of brethren, and others of children. To mourn, therefore, with those who bewail the lapsed, hurts no one; neither to join in prayer and grief with those who pray for themselves, together with other things that are reasonable, namely, that they who have lapsed may show forth other things that are consistent with penitence; such as are fasting and tears and other humiliations, and observe the punishment inflicted on them, and, if their means allow, bestow money upon the poor; by which means He who is the Advocate in our behalf will render the Father propitious to us. Then he brings forward a passage from Holy Scripture, which is taken from the first epistle of the holy apostle and evangelist John.
- Philipp. iii. 14.
- Rom. xii. 16.
- 1 John ii. 1.