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Optatus of Milevis, Against the Donatists (1917) Book 6. pp.246-268.


In this Book it is shown that the Donatist Bishops wickedly destroyed altars, that they sold the Holy Vessels, and without Warrant stripped Nuns of their Veils.

I. The wickedness of the Donatists in breaking or scraping the altars.

Your wicked actions with regard to the Divine Sacraments 1 have----so it seems to me----been clearly shown up. I now have to describe things done by you, as you yourselves will not be able to deny, with cruelty and folly. For what so sacrilegious as to break, to scrape, to take away altars of God, upon which you too once offered sacrifice,2 upon which were laid both the prayers of the people, and the Members of Christ,3 where Almighty God was called upon, where the Holy Spirit descended in answer to prayer, from which many have received the pledge of everlasting salvation, and the safeguard of faith, and the hope of resurrection? Altars, I say, upon which the Saviour forbade the gifts of the brotherhood 4 to be laid, unless they should be seasoned with peace.5 |247 

'Lay down,' He said, 'thy gift before the altar,6 and go back, agree with thy brother, that the priest may be able to offer on thy behalf.' 7

For what is an altar excepting the seat of both the Body and the Blood of Christ? 8

All these altars you, in your madness, have either scraped, or broken, or taken away. Whatever reason you may have had prompting you to this wickedness (for which no atonement is possible), it should have been done in the same way [everywhere]. But in one place, the abundance of wood it was (as I think) that led to the altars being broken up, in other places the lack of timber caused them to be scraped, whilst yet again elsewhere it was partly the sense of shame, which induced men to take them away. But in each case a disgraceful wickedness was committed when you laid sacrilegious and impious hands upon so great a Thing.9

Why should I mention the hired mob of abandoned wretches, and the wine that was given as the pay of crime? 10 ----the wine, for which a fire was made out of |248 the broken remnants of the altars, that unclean lips might drink it [hot] with sacrilegious draughts? 11 If in your jaundiced judgement we seemed to you to be corrupt,12 what harm had God done you, God, who at those altars 13 was once habitually invoked? In what way had Christ offended you, whose Body and Blood were wont during determinate times there to dwell 14? In what way had you yourselves even offended yourselves, that you should break down those altars, upon which before us you had (as you think, with sanctity) offered sacrifice for long periods of time? In impiously attacking our hands there, where the Body of Christ used to dwell,15 you have also smitten your own.16

By thus acting you have imitated the Jews. They laid hands upon Christ on the cross; you have struck Him upon the altar.17 If you wished to attack Catholics at these altars, there 18 you might have spared at least your own former sacrifices.19

Thy 20 pride has now been manifested in that place |249 where formerly thou didst offer sacrifice with humility, there thou dost freely sin, where once thou wert accustomed to pray on behalf of the sins of many. After this fashion you 21 have, of your own accord, entered into the company of sacrilegious priests, and are associated with the crimes of wicked men, concerning whom Elijah the prophet makes his plaint before the Lord. For he has used these words (with which you too, amongst others, have deserved to be accused by him):

'O Lord,' he says, 'they have broken down Thine altars.' 22

When he says 'Thine,' he shows that the [altar] where any offering has been made to God by anyone whomsoever, belongs to God.23

It might have satisfied your madness, to have wounded the members of the Church, and to have divided by your beguilements the peoples of God, who were formerly placed in unity. Amongst all your other proceedings, you might at least have spared the altars. Why did you break, together with the altars themselves, the entreaties and longings of men? 24 For from them the people's prayer was wont to go up to the ears of God. Why did you cut to pieces the road of their prayers to Him? 25  With impious hands you have laboured in a sort of |250 fashion to draw away the ladder,26 that you might prevent supplication ascending in the accustomed way to God.

And though all of you shared in one conspiracy, still, in this matter, whilst your wrongdoing was the same, you carried it out by different methods.

If it was sufficient to move, it was not lawful to break; if it was right to break, it is a sin to have scraped. For if, as your assembly decreed, it was not lawful [to preserve the altars], that man who broke them up would seem to have acted rightly. In that case he is guilty who, by scraping, preserved the larger part of them.

What is this new and foolish wisdom of yours to seek for that which is new in the very heart of that which is old 27? It is as though, after having removed some skin from the body, you were to look, as it were, for a second skin in that part of the body which lay hid under the part which you had cut away.28  The gift 29 which is proper to itself and, by reason of |251 its unity,30 is a whole in itself, may, after something has been taken from it, be lessened. Changed it cannot be. You have, it is true, scraped what seemed good to you, but what you hate is still there! Again, even though you have agreed,31 that whatever has been touched by us in the Name of God in His actual service,32 should be deemed by you to be unclean, which of the Faithful is there who is unaware that during the celebration of the Mysteries, the wood of the altar is itself covered with linen 33? During the sacred rites themselves,34 the covering can be touched, not the wood. Or, if the veils can be penetrated by the touch, then so can the wood; and, if the wood can be penetrated, then so can the earth. If you scrape the wood, you should also dig up the earth which is underneath, you should make a deep hole, whilst you are searching after that which you are pleased to judge to be purity.35 But take care lest you go down to those below,36 there to find Korah, Dathan and Abiram, the schismatics----your masters. It is, then, well known that you have both broken and scraped altars. How is it that in this matter your madness seems to have presently somewhat cooled down 37? For we see that afterwards you changed your plan, and that the altars were now no longer either broken or scraped by you, but only |252 moved. If this was enough, then you yourselves prove that what you did at first should by no means have been done.

II. That the Donatists sacrilegiously broke and sold the chalices.

But when you broke the very Chalices, which carry the Blood of Christ,38 you committed two horrible sins.39 For you have melted them down, thus making money for yourselves by abominable bargains.40 Nor in this business did you even trouble to select the purchasers, but were guilty of sacrilege in selling indiscriminately,41 and of avarice in selling at all. You also suffered 42 your own hands to be burned, with which you were accustomed, before us, to handle these same Chalices.43 Still you ordered the sale to take place everywhere. Perhaps wanton women |253 bought them for their own purposes; Pagans bought them, so that from them they might manufacture vessels, in which to burn incense to their idols. O shameful wickedness! O unheard-of crime! To take away something from God, that you might give it to idols----to steal something from Christ, that it might serve for a sacrilege.

III. Refutation of the Donatist pretext that the altars and sacred vessels had been contaminated through being used by Catholics.

But I perceive that, in this matter, in order to stir up undeserved hatred against us, you wish to have recourse to the book of the Prophet Haggai, where it has been written:

'Those things which have been touched by the defiled have been defiled.' 44

For those who are in anger, it is easy whilst the anger lasts to hurl abuse, but whenever an accusation is made, some clear proof is necessary.

Who then amongst us has ever entered the temples of idols? Who has watched the sacrilegious sacrifices? Men may be defiled by incense,45 odours,46 sacrileges, sacrifices, blood.47 But in this matter between us, who has entered the temple? Who has burnt incense to idols? Who has been stained by unclean odours 48? Who has looked upon the blood of an unclean beast, or of a man, poured forth? Whom can you prove to have given his advice for the perpetration of any |254 evil deed? Prove----if you can----that even one Bishop has been mixed up with any wrongdoing. You have your suspicions, about some Primate or other, who was at that time reported to have faltered.49 Suspicion is not a sufficient ground for accusation.50 Who has charged him? Who has convicted him? On what occasion was he ever ashamed, or put out of countenance? 51 Keep your suspicions to yourselves.52

So, as we have said above, if in this matter anything was done with severity,53 we have shown, when it is looked at in its commencement, that your fathers are responsible. Why then do you speak of Catholics, as though they were defiled? Is it because we have followed the Will and Command of God by loving peace, by communicating with the whole world, in union with those who live in the East, where Christ was born, where His holy footsteps touched the ground, where His adorable Feet have walked, where so many and such great miracles were worked by the Son of God Himself, where so many Apostles accompanied Him, where is the Sevenfold Church,54 on having been cut off from which, you do not merely fail to grieve, but in a sort of way rejoice? You call us defiled, because we have loved Unity well-pleasing to God. Because we have agreed with and hold communion with the Corinthians, Galatians, |255 Thessalonians, you call us defiled. You call us defiled, because we have not, together with you, read corrupt 55 books----deny, if you can, that you read books which differ [from those of the Church].56 How do you venture to read the Epistles written to the Corinthians, you who have refused to communicate with the Corinthians? To what purpose do you read aloud that which was written to Galatians or to Thessalonians, with whom you are not in communion? 57

Since it is certain that all these things are so, understand that you have been cut off from the holy Church, and that we are not defiled. What ground, therefore, have you for thinking that the prophet Haggai can be of any help to you?

The altars, then, and the sacred vessels, which we have mentioned above, were formerly in both your hands and ours. If you slander our hands, why at those altars 58 condemn your own hands as well?

But you say that you have read:

'That, which one, who is defiled, has touched, is defiled.' 59

Suppose that anyone has been defiled, so that |256 the things which he has touched appear to be defiled----let it be granted, if there has only been the touch, that the things which the defiled has touched, without any invocation of the Name of God, may be contaminated----provided that silence has been kept about God. For if there be invocation of the Name of God, the invocation itself sanctifies even that which appeared to have been defiled. Thus when two hundred and fifty censers, which had been carried in the hands of sinners, remained cast away (after those sinners were swallowed up by the earth), as the Holy priest Aaron hesitated what to do about them, he heard the Voice of God, saying:

'Take up, O Aaron, these censers, and make plates of them and fasten them in the corners of the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, because, though those who carried them have sinned, nevertheless these vessels are holy, for My Name has been invoked with them, saith God.' 60

And surely to carry is more than to touch. Therefore it is quite clear that a thing can be made holy by the invocation of the Name of God, even though it be a sinner who invokes God. For the touch cannot have as much efficacy, as has the invocation of God's Name. And do you too, who count on your own sanctity, tell us whether the touch makes holy or the invocation. Surely it is the invocation not the touch. Otherwise if you rely upon the touch alone, touch a board, a stone, a garment----and let us see whether (if silence be kept about God) they can be sanctified. |257 

IV. That virgins consecrated to God were wrongfully stripped by the Donatists of the ornaments proper to their state.

Now consider what a foolish----what an empty thing it is for you to have exercised your will and your sham authority 61 by making God's virgins 62 learn to do Penance, so that they who had already made their Profession had afterwards by your orders to change the signs of their choice upon their heads,63 and were compelled to cast away their veils, and to receive others in their place.64 First tell us where there is any commandment that has been given concerning veils. For virginity is a matter of choice,65 not of necessity.

So Paul the Apostle, that famous innkeeper,66 to whose care was entrusted a people wounded with the wounds of their sins, had received two pence to lay out----that is, the two Testaments. These he, as it were, expended by his teaching, and taught how Christian husbands and wives ought to live; but, when he was asked what command he would give concerning virgins, he answered that nothing about |258 virginity had been commanded. He acknowledged that he had laid out the two Testaments, that is the two pence. In a certain way the commission was exhausted, but, inasmuch as Christ, who had entrusted the wounded man to his keeping, had promised that He would repay whatsoever over and above might be expended upon his care,67 Paul, after having laid out the two pence, gives not commandments, but a counsel with regard to virginity. He does not stand in the way of those who desire it,68 but neither does he drive or force those who desire it not.69

'He who has given his virgin, does well, and he who has not given her, does better.' 70

These are words of counsel, nor are any precepts joined to them, neither as to the kind of wool from which the veil should be made, nor with what sort of purple dye it should be stained. For virginity cannot be aided with this kind of garment,71 nor with it are quenched the heats of the soul,72 which sometimes are enkindled by the summer,73 nor by it is the mind |259 relieved, which from time to time is pressed down by the burdens of desires. For if it were otherwise, not one veil, but very many, would be placed on the virgin's head, that, whensoever the desires of the flesh should trouble 74 the soul, the number of veils might fight against the stings of the mind.75 The veil was thought of as a sign for the head, not as a remedy on behalf of chastity. So a garment of this kind may get old, and be gnawed through and worn out; and yet virginity, as long as it has suffered no damage, can be safe without a veil.

This kind of life 76 is a kind of spiritual marriage. They had already come to the nuptials of their Spouse by their choice and Profession; and had already loosed their hair,77 thus to show that they had given up worldly nuptials, and were joined to their spiritual Spouse. They had already celebrated heavenly nuptials. For what reason have you forced them to loose their hair a second time? For what reason is it, I say, that you have exacted of them a second Profession? Who is the second spiritual spouse whom they may wed a second time? When did He die, to whom they had been wedded, that they may marry again? You have laid heads once more bare, which had already received the veil. You have stripped them of the marks 78 of their Profession, which seem to have been introduced, as a protection |260 against abductors or suitors.79 The veil is a sign of their free choice ---- not an aid to chastity 80 ----lest the suitor should either continue to sue for, or the abductor dare to violate, that which had already been consecrated to God.

The veil, accordingly, is a sign, not a sacrament. You have then found virgins of this kind, who had already been wedded spiritually----these you forced to second nuptials, and ordered once more to loose their hair.

This is not suffered even by those women who enter upon a natural marriage.81 For if it should have chanced to any one of them to change her husband,82 after widowhood has befallen her, the great secular festivity is not repeated; she is not puffed up to the skies; there is no great assemblage of people provided. Therefore, you have not taken away ornaments from their heads, but (as we have said above) the proofs of the choice of the better part. You have sprinkled the hair, which had been already consecrated to God, with unclean ashes.83 You even gave orders that they should be washed with salt water.

And would that you had quickly restored that which you had taken away. You lengthened out delays, so that some who were dragged back to [the world] remained a long time in their original dress, after you had removed the outward signs, with which they had fortified themselves against suitors and |261 abductors. For when men saw that you had removed the barrier which formerly stood in their way, instead of suitors they became abductors. Nor did anyone seem to himself to have sinned, in carrying off one who was such as he had seen her to be, at the time when he was looking for a wife.84

V. That the sacred books and vessels were taken away forcibly from the Catholics by the Donatists.

In this business how great were the injuries that you did to God, how great were the gains that you won for the Devil. You impiously melted down Chalices, you savagely 85 broke and foolishly 86 scraped altars, you forced wretched maidens (not without disgrace) to take a second veil, although nothing can be read in Scripture 87 about the first. And I cannot pass over a thing, which neither is pleasing to God, nor can be excused by your adherents, nor be defended by any man. You judged that by civil courts 88 and public laws the books of the Divine Law should, through the action of officials,89 be torn away from very many, wishing to have for themselves alone that which before the schism the Church had held for all in common.90 I do not fear, as a Christian, to state a fact of which, through your accusations, the pagan officers could not be unaware.91 You seized with |262 violence the altar cloths and books belonging to the Lord,92 which formerly had been possessed in common. You also seized the palls 93 and the manuscripts. In your proud judgement you thought that in each case they had been defiled. If I mistake not, you made haste to purify all these things. Without doubt you washed the palls. Tell us what you did with the manuscripts. If you are to act wisely you must pass the same judgement in all things. Either wash both, or leave both alone. If you act differently, you will have tainted your own efforts.94 The pall you wash; the manuscript you wash not. If you do well on one side, you do evil on the other. You are unable to deny that you give scandal on the one hand, if you do well on the other; and if you rejoice to seem full of respect for religion 95 in one matter, you ought also to bewail that you are held to be guilty of sacrilege in the other.

VI. The folly of the Donatists in washing the walls.

Now, what kind of thing have you done when you determined in many places to have even the walls washed,96 and ordered the whole interior 97 to be sprinkled with salt water? 98 |263 

O Water, which by God wert created sweet, over which the Holy Spirit was borne before the very birth of the world! 99 O Water, which, that thou mightest make the land pure, hast washed the earth! O Water, which, in the days of Moses, after thou hadst been sweetened by wood,100 so that thou mightest lose the bitterness that is natural to thee, didst satiate by thy most sweet draughts the hearts of so many people 101! It has remained for thee, after so high an office, to receive no slight degradation! 102 In the presence of Moses bitterness dies in thee, and to-day thy sweetness, together with the Catholic people, is harassed by schismatics.103 Together we suffer the conflict, together we look for the vengeance of God.104

Tell us, my brother Parmenian, what injury the place had done you, what injury the very walls that they should suffer such things as these at your hands? Is it because within them God was entreated? Or, that there Christ was praised? Or, that there was invoked the Holy Ghost? Or, that there, though you were absent, the books of the Prophets and the Holy Gospels were read aloud? Or, that there the minds of brethren, who had once been at strife, had been brought into harmony? Or, that unity, well pleasing to God, had found there a house, wherein to dwell? |264 Point out to us what it is that you have found to wash. If it be the footsteps of Catholics----we have trodden both street and square 105 ----why do you not cleanse them all? 106 For you and we, in order to care for our bodies, have cleansed them in the same baths, and many of ours have often used them before you. If you think that everything should be purified after us----wash the water also, if you can. Or, if, as we have just said, our footsteps seem to you to be defiled, it might be enough to wash the earth. Why, then, have you thought fit to wash the walls also, on which the footsteps of men cannot be placed? We could not tread the walls, but have only been able to see them. But if you think that what has been touched even by our looks should be washed, why have you left other things unwashed? We see the roof; we also see the heavens. They cannot be washed by you! Have you deserved well of God by washing the one? In that case you would seem to have committed a sin, for which there is no expiation, in not washing the other. As, then, you wish to appear full of a sort of diligence in one quarter, you have been found to have been negligent in another. Your diligence, however, should be termed folly, or----to call it by its true name----vanity----unless, indeed, in thus acting you have perhaps inspired the uneducated populace with terror, making them think that, since the pillar in the church has been washed, so also should be their bodies.107 If you have had this cunning design, |265 you have craftily deceived the wretched people; if you have acted as you have done without thought, then your dulness 108 has been exposed. Those whom you have led astray know that your conduct in these matters has been stupid,109 and this you will not yourselves be able to deny.

VII. That the Donatists raged even against the dead.

Why should I also mention that great act of irreverence which arose from your conspiracy to seize the temples for this purpose,110 that you might claim the cemeteries for yourselves alone, and not permit the bodies of Catholics to be buried? To terrify the living, you do wrong even to the dead and refuse them a place for their funeral rites. If you had been at war with them whilst they were living, at least the death of your foe might appease your hatreds. Now that man is silent, with whom a moment ago you were in conflict, why insult his obsequies? Why interfere with his burial? To what purpose do you enter into strife with the dead? You have lost the fruit of your malice.111 And if you are not willing that bodies should rest together,112 you will not be able to separate their souls, set together 113 before God.

VIII. The Donatists compared to bird-catchers.

To make an end----it is impossible fully to narrate |266 all the evil things that you have done; but we may take them for granted in you, who are the leaders of this wrongdoing. Still who could keep silence about those who are now yours----those, that is, whom you have succeeded in drawing to your faction either by party-spirit or by subtle craft 114 ----not only men, but also women? From sheep they have been suddenly made wolves, from being faithful they have become faithless, from being patient full of rage, from lovers of peace lovers of strife, from lovers of simplicity full of craft, from lovers of modesty without shame, once gentle now they are savage, once innocent now they are doers of evil.

After persons of either sex have fallen away to you,115 they grieve that others are still there, where they were born 116; they urge those who are standing firm 117 to follow them in their fall. If they knew that they had gained glory,118 they would have enjoyed their own happiness in silence.119 But, desiring to have some consolation for their own wicked departure, they invite others to fall in like manner,120 and accuse those who are resting 121 in the bosom of Mother Church as |267 though they were slothful and slow.122 For they are not ashamed to use these words:

'Gaius, Seius, or Gaia, Seia,123 how long are you staying where you are?'

That is to say:

'You ought now to follow me in my error, you ought now to desert the truth. How long are you staying where you are?'

That is to say:

'Imitate me in my fall, imitate me in my shameful passing over.124 How long will you be called one of the Faithful? Now desert the Faith. Now learn to do Penance.'

You are bird-catchers, and these men or women are the birds. For there is not only one kind of bird-catchers.

Some there are who with an art that is not artful 125 go to trees resting on deep roots, which are to be found in front of a grove, where the birds fly naturally and sit on real boughs. Amongst them you will find no frauds, no wily devices. These men rely only upon their art and skill in bird-catching.

But I say that you resemble the bird-catcher, who, unlike the rest, is not content to go, after night has departed, before sunrise, to real trees. He carries his tree with him, and makes up into a bundle what will be his grove. Out of which, with all kinds of devices, he fashions a tree that has neither pith nor |268 roots. On this he places false boughs. So that, which had been lately cut down, now receives strange leaves in place of those which it had lost. Some birds he carries with him shut up in a cage. Upon the false branches he places others that have been stuffed to look as though they were alive. The living birds are hid in their cages, the others are seen, like living birds upon the branches. A double fraud is united by the craft of one man.126 And to deceive the simplicity of the birds that are alive and flying about, those which are certainly dead seem to stretch out their necks and sing, whilst those which are out of sight in their prison are thought to be singing from the throats of the others. Between the appearance on the trees and the sound from the cage one crafty mind does its work. The birds that were already captured capture those that are free, and the birds that are dead slay those that are alive.127 Such are they whom you have wounded either by re-baptising them, or by making them submit to Penance. These men and women strive with great zeal and labour, that other men and women may perish with them----for fear lest they should perish alone. 

[Footnotes moved to the end and renumbered]

1. 1  in divinis Sacramentis quid nefarie feceritis.

2. 2  in quibus et vos obtulistis.

3. 3  in quibus et vota populi et Membra Christi portata sunt. 

4. 4 fraternitatis munera.

5. 5 de pace condita.

6. 1  Matt. v, 24.

7. 2  This is the most extraordinary instance of St. Optatus' habit of quoting the Scriptures from memory. That he should, however, have added the words 'ut possit pro te sacerdos offerre' and applied them to the Christian priest and sacrifice shows how unquestioned at the time was the Catholic doctrine on the Mystery of the altar. Had it been otherwise, he would necessarily have been more careful. No one can imagine that such carelessness would be possible at any period when the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice was questioned amongst Christians.

8. 3  Quid est enim altare nisi sedes et Cor ports et Sanguinis Christi?

9. 4  tantae rei, sc. the altar of God.

10. 5  quid perditorum conductam referam multitudinem et vinum in mercedem sceleris datum?

11. 1 quod ut immundo ore sacrilegis haustibus biberetur, calida de fragmentis altarium facta est.

12. 2 sordidi.

13. 3 illic.

14. 4 cuius illic per certa momenta Corpus et Sanguis habitabat.

15. 5 dum impie persequimini manus nostras, illic, ubi Corpus Christi habitabat.

16. 6 feristis et vestras. The Donatist excuse for sacrilegiously destroying the altars was that Mass had been celebrated there by the hands of Catholics (Betrayers, as they called them); but Mass had been celebrated at those same altars by their own hands as well.

17. 7  hoc modo Iudaeos estis imitati; illi iniecerunt Christo manus in cruce, a vobis percussus est in altari.

18. 8  illic.

19. 9 vel vestris antiquis oblationibus.

20. 10 St. Optatus now, using the singular number, addresses Parmenian personally.

21. 1  St. Optatus here suddenly reverts from the singular to the plural number----apparently from Parmenian in particular to the Donatists in general.

22. 2  3 Kings xix, 10.

23. 3 res est Dei.

24. 4 cur vota et desideria hominum cum ipsis altaribus confregistis? 

25. 5 cur concidistis precibus viam?

26. 1  In this chapter St. Optatus calls the altar successively: 'That which carries the prayers of the people and the members of Christ,' 'the place of the gifts of the brotherhood,' 'the seat of both the Body and Blood of Christ,' 'the dwelling-place during fixed periods of the Body and Blood of Christ,' 'the dwelling place of the Body of Christ,' 'the possession of God,''the place whence the prayer of the people was wont to go up to the ears of God,' 'the Way,' and 'the Ladder' to God.

27. 2  novitatem quaerere in visceribus vetustatis. It has been suggested to read maiestatis instead of vetustatis. But this supposed emendation takes away the contrast with novitatem and the whole point of the analogy, which is sufficiently explained by that which follows immediately.

28. 3  in latenti corpore cutem quasi alteram quaerere.

29. 4  donum, sc. consecrationis.

30. 1  quod unum est. The gift of consecration is bestowed upon the altar as a whole, and in it all its parts. It possesses a unity which may be likened to that of the Church.

31. 2  quodsi sic coniurastis.

32. 3 in ipso ministerio.

33. 4 linteamine.

34. 5 inter ipsa sacramenta.

35. 6 dum pro vestro arbitrio quaeritis puritatem.

36. 7 ad inferos.

37. 8 quasi languere.

38. 1  Christi Sanguinis portatores (RB portitores).

39. 2  hoc tamen inmane facinus a vobis geminatum est.

40. 3  quorum species revocastis in massas, merces nefariis nundinis procurantes.

41. 4  inconsiderate = passim.

42. 5  passi estis. Casaubon conjectures passi essetis = in your avarice you would even have suffered.

43. 6  This is simply a sarcastic retort. Albaspinaeus and Du Pin find here a mysterious identification between the chalices and the hands of the priests who used them. When the chalices were melted down, so metaphorically were the hands of the priests who had touched them. In so far as this was true, it held good not of Catholics only, but also of Donatists who had said Mass at the same altars with the same chalices. It seems however to me that the thought of St. Optatus may be expressed more simply. If the Donatists imagined that by burning the chalices which they considered to have been polluted through the touch of Catholic priests, they were burning away that touch----in the concrete, those hands----they should remember that at the same time they were burning away their own touch----their own hands----for they too had touched the chalices which they burned. The drift of the argument is sufficiently clear, but to us it must seem laboured and far-fetched (cf. note 4, p. 255).

44. 1 Hagg. ii, 14.

45. 2 fumis.

46. 3  nidoribus (cf. infra 'immundis nidoribus' and iii, 8: 'immundis arae fumabant nidoribus').

47. 4 fumis, nidoribus, sacrilegiis, sacrificiis, sanguine. Casaubon thinks that Optatus wrote fumi sacrilegis nidoribus, sacrilego sacrificii sanguine.

48. 5  immundis nidoribus.

49. 1  ambulare ( = ire opposite of stare).

50. 2  suspicio non est idoneum crimen.

51. 3  ubi vel erubuit vel confusus est?

52. 4  servate vobis suspiciones vestras.

53. 5 id est, by Macarius.

54. 6 Septiformis Ecclesia. The Seven Churches of Asia which (mystically) were interpreted as the whole. (Cf. note 2, p. 79.)

55. 1  furtivas lectiones = falsified versions of Holy Scripture.

56. 2  alienas lectiones. If the Donatists denied that they used corrupt versions, at least (writes St. Optatus) they will not be able to deny that they use alienas lectiones. Ziwsa writes that alienas here = diversas, and so I have translated it. But may it not mean books to which, as schismatics, you have no right? (Cf. ii, 6: Extra septem Ecclesias quicquid foris est, alienum est.)

57. 3  St. Augustine (Ep. clxv) also uses this argument: 'Quid autem perversius et insanius quam lectoribus easdem epistulas legentibus dicere, Pax tecum, et ab earum Ecclesiarum Pace separari, quibus ipsae epistulae scriptae sunt? '

58. 4  si infamatis manus nostras, quare illic damnatis et vestras? Cf. note 6, p. 252.

59. 5 Hagg. ii, 14.

60. 1 Cf. Num. xvi, 37, 38.

61. 1  quasi dignitatem vestram.

62. 2  Nuns who had deserted the Catholic Church for the Donatist schism.

63. 3  ut iamdudum professae signa voluntatis capitibus . . . immutarent. Casaubon thinks that there should be a comma after professae, and conjectures that the word imposita has fallen out after capitibus. He remarks that the words profiteri and professae were already quite common, but that he knows no other instance of the phrase capite profiteri signa voluntatis, whereas Optatus proceeds very soon to write of veils capiti impositae. But signa voluntatis for veils sounds quite Optatian. The word signum for a Nun's veil is traditional in the Church. Thus the consecrated virgin on receiving the veil is bidden by the Pontifical straightway to stand up and to sing 'Posuit signum in faciem meam.'

64. 4 ut mitellas alias proicerent et alias accepissent. For the first alias RBv read aureas.

65. 5 voluntatis.

66. 6 stabularius ille.

67. 1  quicquid in curam amplius erogasset. As St. Optatus understands by the two pence of the parable the two Testaments, i.e. the Commandments of God, so by 'whatever thou shalt spend over and above' (Luke x, 35) he understands works of supererogation, v.g. the Counsels of Perfection.

68. 2  nec impedimenta est volentibus.

69. 3  This passage, from 'For virginity is a matter of choice' to 'who desire it not,' is incorporated, as it stands, by St. Fulgentius. (Cf. ii, ad Monimum, cap. 13.)

70. 4  Cf. 1 Cor. vii, 25-38.

71. 5 hoc panno.

72. 6  aestus animi.

73. 7  aestas, so Rv. G has aetas. This is adopted by Ziwsa, but is it not possible that Optatus used aestas metaphorically in juxtaposition with aestus (summer heats) just before, according to his custom of playing upon words?

74. 1 pungerent.

75. 2 impugnationem mentis.

76. 3  hoc genus, sc. voluntary profession of virginity.

77. 4  Nuns, like married women, of old 'put up' their hair. It was not, as now, cut off.

78. 5 indicia.

79. 1 raptores aut petitores.

80. 2 non castitatis auxilium.

81. 3 quae carnaliter nubunt.

82. 4 maritum mutate.

83. 5 sc. the ashes of Penance, inflicted by the Donatists.

84. 1 dum talem rapuit, qualem viderat, quando, ut uxorem acciperet, postulabat.

85. 2 crudeliter.

86. 3 inconsulte.

87. 4 in lectione.

88. 5  per iudicia saecularia. Under Julian the Apostate the churches and sacred books were taken from the Catholics and given to the Donatists by imperial decree and process of law.

89. 6  executione officiorum. 'Officia pro officialibus, ut ministeria pro ministris et sexcenta huius generis' (Casaubon).

90. 7  quod Pax in commune possederat.

91. 8  quod vobis postulantibus gentilis executio non potuit ignorare. Ziwsa points out that postulare here = criminari (cf. iii, 3: 'postulabant utique contra episcopos').

92. 1  velamina et instrumenta dominica extortistis. For velamina Cochlaeus suggested volumina---- a suggestion adopted by Casaubon.

93. 2  pallas. Casaubon thinks that pallas has crept in for pallia and quotes Victor Uticensis, who has written of velaminum pallia and of pallia altaris. But Pope Innocent I (De Mysteriis Missae, ii, 55) writes: 'Duplex est palla quae dicitur corporalis; una quam Diaconus super altare totum extendit, altera, quam super calicem plicatam imponit.'

94. 3  corrupisti diligentiam tuam. RB concupisti.

95. 4 religiosus.

96. 5  sc. of churches that had been used by Catholics.

97. 6 inclusa spatia aqua salsa spargi praecepistis. For inclusa RBv read in caussa, Cochlaeus conjectured sine caussa.

98. 7 St. Optatus could not have written in the strain of the next paragraph, had he known anything of the later usage of mixing

salt with water, to make Holy Water; much less had he known of the salt, water, ashes and wine prescribed, for certain purifications, in the Pontifical.

99. 1  Cf. Gen. i, 2.

100. 2  indulcata ligno. Indulcare = γλυκαίνειν. Cf. Martius 'Prudenter edulcare convenit vitam.'

101. 3  tot populorum pectora suavissimis haustibus satiasti. (Cf. Ex. xv, 23, 25.)

102. 4 restabat tibi post promotionem non leviter degradari.

103. 5 a scismaticis hodie cum Catholicorum turba dulcedo tua vexatur.

104. 6 paves patimur bellum, pares expectamus vindicem Deum.

105. 1  et in vico et in platea, CG plateis.

106. 2  quare non omnia emendatis? (emendare ---- rebaptisare: i, 5 'post vos non emendamus'; v, 11 'Sanctitas vestra emendet, si potest, mortuos.' Cf. iii, 10: 'emendate voluntatem Dei, si potestis,')

107. 3  sc. by Rebaptism.

108. 1 vestra hebetudo.

109. 2 haec vos stulta fecisse.

110. 3  Even in places where the Donatists had a church of their own, they were empowered by the Edict of Julian to seize the church of the Catholics. St. Optatus here suggests that they did this in order to deprive Catholics of the privilege of burial amongst their fellow Catholics in the cemeteries which were attached to every Catholic church.

111. 4  perdidisti malitiae fructum.

112. 5 in unum.

113. 6 in uno.

114. 1 quos aut factione aut subtilitate, ut vestros faceretis, seducere potuistis.

115. 2 post quod ad vos delapsi stint aut delapsae.

116. 3 sc. in the Catholic Church.

117. 4 bene stantes, sc. in Ecclesia Catholica. Cf. iii, 9: 'Aut stetit frater, sorore migrante.'

118. 5  si scirent se gloriam consecutos. Cf. v, 7: 'Quod quasi ad gloriam vestram a vobis semper auditur.'

119. 6 Nothing, of course, could have been easier to the Donatists than to retort this observation.

120. 7  nunc autem perditos transitus suos consolari cupientes ceteros, ut similiter labantur, invitant. Consolari = to divert their attention from their own mistake and thus get some consolation. Du Pin places a comma after perditos, thus making it agree with the ceteros that follows.

121. 8 residentes.

122. 1  quasi pigros. In iii, 8 St. Optatus has called the schismatic Donatists pigri.

123. 2  Gai Sei vel Gaia Seia (cf. iii, 11).

124. 3  transitus turpes. Evidently it was inconceivable to St. Optatus that any deserters from the Catholic Church should invite others to join their schism from any sense of duty.

125. 4 arte simplici.

126.  1  iungitur una geminata fraude calliditas.

127. 2  A friend has been kind enough to give me the following information:----In the Shahabad District of Bengal, there are bird-catchers to this day who place a light woodwork frame on their heads covered with small branches and leaves. Armed with a long thin pole with a small two-pronged fork at the end, which is bird-limed, they catch birds sitting on the trees high above them. The man under the cover cannot be seen by the birds, whilst he can see the birds through two small eye-holes in the cover.

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Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts