Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Cyprian/The Epistles of Cyprian/Part 36
To the Clergy, Bidding Them Show Every Kindness to the Confessors in Prison.
Argument.—He Exhorts His Clergy that Every Kindness and Care Should Be Exercised Towards the Confessors, as Well Towards Those Who Were Alive, as Those Who Died, in Prison; That the Days of Their Death Should Be Carefully Noted, for the Purpose of Celebrating Their Memory Annually; And, Finally, that They Should Not Forget the Poor Also.
1. Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, his brethren, greeting. Although I know, dearest brethren, that you have frequently been admonished in my letters to manifest all care for those who with a glorious voice have confessed the Lord, and are confined in prison; yet, again and again, I urge it upon you, that no consideration be wanting to them to whose glory there is nothing wanting. And I wish that the circumstances of the place and of my station would permit me to present myself at this time with them; promptly and gladly would I fulfil all the duties of love towards our most courageous brethren in my appointed ministry. But I beseech you, let your diligence be the representative of my duty, and do all those things which behove to be done in respect of those whom the divine condescension has rendered illustrious in such merits of their faith and virtue. Let there be also a more zealous watchfulness and care bestowed upon the bodies of all those who, although they were not tortured in prison, yet depart thence by the glorious exit of death. For neither is their virtue nor their honour too little for them also to be allied with the blessed martyrs. As far as they could, they bore whatever they were prepared and equipped to bear. He who under the eyes of God has offered himself to tortures and to death, has suffered whatever he was willing to suffer; for it was not he that was wanting to the tortures, but the tortures that were wanting to him. “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven,” saith the Lord. They have confessed Him. “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved,” saith the Lord. They have endured and have carried the uncorrupted and unstained merits of their virtues through, even unto the end. And, again, it is written, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” They have persevered in their faithfulness, and stedfastness, and invincibleness, even unto death. When to the willingness and the confession of the name in prison and in chains is added also the conclusion of dying, the glory of the martyr is consummated.
2. Finally, also, take note of their days on which they depart, that we may celebrate their commemoration among the memorials of the martyrs, although Tertullus, our most faithful and devoted brother, who, in addition to the other solicitude and care which he shows to the brethren in all service of labour, is not wanting besides in that respect in any care of their bodies, has written, and does write and intimate to me the days, in which our blessed brethren in prison pass by the gate of a glorious death to their immortality; and there are celebrated here by us oblations and sacrifices for their commemorations, which things, with the Lord’s protection, we shall soon celebrate with you. Let your care also (as I have already often written) and your diligence not be wanting to the poor,—to such, I mean, as stand fast in the faith and bravely fight with us, and have not left the camp of Christ; to whom, indeed, we should now show a greater love and care, in that they are neither constrained by poverty nor prostrated by the tempest of persecution, but faithfully serve with the Lord, and have given an example of faith to the other poor. I bid you, brethren beloved, and greatly longed-for, ever heartily farewell; and remember me. Greet the brotherhood in my name. Fare ye well.
- Oxford ed.: Ep. xii. a.d. circa 251.
- Matt. x. 32.
- Matt. x. 22.
- Rev. ii. 10.
- [The tract of Archbishop Ussher shows what these commemorations were. See vol. iii. p. 701, and Elucidation, p. 706, also vol. i. p. 484.]