MARCH 19, 416

[ad Decentium episc. Eugubinum]
To Decentius, Bishop of Eugubium.

[2] Who does not know or observe that it [the church order] was delivered by Peter the chief of the apostles to the Roman church, and is kept until now, and ought to be retained by all, and that nothing ought to be imposed or introduced which has no authority, or seems to derive its precedents elsewhere?--especially since it is clear that in all Italy, the Gauls, Spain, Africa, Sicily and the adjacent islands, no one formed these churches except those whom the venerable apostle Peter or his successors made priests. Or let them discover that any other apostle be found to have been or to have taught in these provinces. If not, they ought to follow that which the Roman church keeps, from which they undoubtedly received them first; but while they are keen on foreign statements, they seem to neglect the head of their institution.
(3) De consignandis vero infantibus manifestum est, non ab alio quam ab episcopo fieri licere. Nam presbyteri, licet secundi sint sacerdotes, pontificatus tamen apicem non habent. Hoc autem pontificium solis deberi episcopis, ut vel consignent, vel Paracletum Spiritum tradant, non solum consuetudo ecclesiastica demonstrat, verum et illa lectio Actuum Apostolorum, quae asserit Petrum et Ioannem esse directos, qui iam baptizatis traderent Spiritum Sanctum [cf. Act 8, 14-17]. Nam presbyteris, sive extra episcopum, sive praesente episcopo cum baptizant, chrismate baptizatos ungere licet, sed quod ab episcopo fuerit consecratum; non tamen frontem ex eodem oleo signare, quod solis debetur episcopis, cum tradunt Spiritum Paracletum. Verba vero dicere non possum, ne magis prodere videar, quam ad consultationem respondere.
(3) But in regard to the signing of little children, it is evident that it may not be done by any other than a bishop. For the presbyters, although they are second priests, nevertheless do not possess the crown of the pontificate. That this power of a bishop, however, is due to the bishops alone, so that they either sign or give the Paraclete the Spirit, not only ecclesiastical custom indicates, but also that reading in the Acts of the Apostles which declares that Peter and John were directed to give the Holy Spirit to those already baptized [cf. Acts 8:14-17]. For to presbyters it is permitted to anoint the baptized with chrism whenever they baptize, whether without a bishop or in the presence of a bishop, but (with chrism) that has been consecrated by a bishop; nevertheless (it is) not (allowed) to sign the forehead with the same oil; that is due to the bishops alone when they bestow the Spirit, the Paraclete. Indeed, I cannot say the words lest I seem to go further than to reply to the inquiry.
(8) Sane quoniam de hoc sicut de ceteris consulere voluit dilectio tua, adiecit etiam filius meus Caelestinus diaconus in epistola sua, esse a tua dilectione positum illud, quod in beati Apostoli Jacobi epistola conscriptum est: Si infirmus aliquis in vobis est, vocet presbyteros, et orent super eum, ungentes eum oleo in nomine Domini: et oratio fidei salvabit laborantem, et suscitabit illum Dominus, et si peccatum fecit, remittet ei [Iac 5, 14 sq]. Quod non est dubium de fidelibus aegrotantibus accipi vel intelligi debere, qui sancto oleo chrismatis perungi possunt, quod ab episcopo confectum, non solum sacerdotibus, sed et omnibus uti Christianis licet in sua aut in suorum necessitate ungendum. Ceterum illud superfluum esse videmus adiectum, ut de episcopo ambigatur quod presbyteris licere non dubium est. Nam idcirco presbyteris dictum est, quia episcopi occupationibus alii impediti ad omnes languidos ire non possunt. Ceterum si episcopus aut potest aut dignum ducit aliquem a se visitandum, et benedicere et tangere chrismate sine cunctatione potest, cuius est chrisma conficere. Nam paenitentibus istud infundi non potest, quia genus est sacramenti. Nam quibus reliqua sacramenta negantur, quomodo unum genus putatur posse concedi?
(8) Truly since your love has wished to take counsel regarding this just as concerning other (matters), my son Celestine, the deacon, has also added in his letter that what was written in the epistle of the blessed Apostle James has been proposed by your love: If anyone among you is sick, let him call the priests, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sufferer and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he has committed sin, he shall pardon him [Jas. 5:14 f.]. There is no doubt that this anointing ought to be interpreted or understood of the sick faithful, who can be anointed with the holy oil of chrism, which prepared by a bishop, is permitted not only to priests, but also to all as Christians for anointing in their own necessity or in the necessity of their (people). Moreover, we see that addition to be superfluous; that what is undoubtedly permitted the presbyters is questioned regarding bishops. For, on this account it was said to priests, because the bishops being hindered by other business cannot go to all the sick. But if a bishop, to whom it belongs to prepare the chrism, is able (to do it) or thinks someone is worthy to be visited by him, he can both bless and anoint with the chrism without delay. For, that cannot be administered to penitents, because it is a kind of sacrament. For, how is it supposed that one species (of sacrament) can be granted to those to whom the rest of the sacraments are denied?


[Epistle 25, to Dicentius, bishop of Eugubium (Si instituta).]

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