Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Cyprian/The Epistles of Cyprian/Part 46
Cyprian’s Answer to Cornelius, Congratulating Him on the Return of the Confessors from Schism.
Argument.—He Congratulates Him on the Return of the Confessors to the Church, and Reminds Him How Much that Return Benefits the Catholic Church.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. I profess that I both have rendered and do render the greatest thanks without ceasing, dearest brother, to God the Father Almighty, and to His Christ the Lord and our God and Saviour, that the Church is thus divinely protected, and its unity and holiness is not constantly nor altogether corrupted by the obstinacy of perfidy and heretical wickedness. For we have read your letter, and have exultingly received the greatest joy from the fulfilment of our common desire; to wit, that Maximus the presbyter, and Urbanus, the confessors, with Sidonius and Macarius, have re-entered into the Catholic Church, that is, that they have laid aside their error, and given up their schismatical, nay, their heretical madness, and have sought again in the soundness of faith the home of unity and truth; that whence they had gone forth to glory, thither they might gloriously return; and that they who had confessed Christ should not afterwards desert the camp of Christ, and that they might not tempt the faith of their charity and unity, who had not been overcome in strength and courage. Behold the safe and unspotted integrity of their praise; behold the uncorrupted and substantial dignity of these confessors, that they have departed from the deserters and fugitives, that they have left the betrayers of the faith, and the impugners of the Catholic Church. With reason did both the people and the brotherhood receive them when they returned, as you write, with the greatest joy; since in the glory of confessors who had maintained their glory, and returned to unity, there is none who does not reckon himself a partner and a sharer.
2. We can estimate the joy of that day from our own feelings. For if, in this place, the whole number of the brethren rejoiced at your letter which you sent concerning their confession, and received this tidings of common rejoicing with the greatest alacrity, what must have been the joy there when the matter itself, and the general gladness, was carried on under the eyes of all? For since the Lord in His Gospel says that there is the highest “joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth,” how much greater is the joy in earth, no less than in heaven, over confessors who return with their glory and with praise to the Church of God, and make a way of returning for others by the faith and approval of their example? For this error had led away certain of our brethren, so that they thought they were following the communion of confessors. When this error was removed, light was infused into the breasts of all, and the Catholic Church has been shown to be one, and to be able neither to be cut nor divided. Nor can any one now be easily deceived by the talkative words of a raging schismatic, since it has been proved that good and glorious soldiers of Christ could not long be detained without the Church by the deceitfulness and perfidy of others. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
- Oxford ed.: Ep. li. a.d. 251.
- Some read, “might not be tried by the faith of their charity and unity.”
- Some old editions read, “of that thing.”
- Luke xv. 7.