Opinions of the Churches of Italy during the sixth century.


ONE of the first that can give us any information herein is Laurentius, who was translated from the bishopric of Novara to that of Milan, about the year 507, We have three of his pieces, which he reached upon his return to his see, after the destruction of Milan, and his own banishment.

The first is a sermon upon the Canaanitish woman, his design therein being to administer comfort to repenting sinners, and to assure them of the easiness of God’s mercy. Mabillon, who published them, tells us as much. I shall set down some of his propositions or doctrines which he borrowed from St. Chrysostom.

I. He requires nothing as necessary for the re- mission of sin, save only a lively compunction, without so much as one word of the Priest’s absolution, p. 24. Sed dicis, Feci peccata multa et magna: Et quis est de hominibus qui non peccet? Tu dic; Erravi super omnes homines, sufficit mihi in sacrioqcio ista confessio. Dic tu prius iniquitates tuas, ut justiferceris: cognosce quoniam peccator es; babe tristitiam cure converteris; esto ac si desperatus et moestus, sed et lachrymas compunctus effunde. Numquid aliud aliquid fuit in meretrice, quam lachrymarum effusio? et ex hac profusione invenit presidium, et accepta fiducia accessit ad fontem Dominum Jesum.

“But thou wilt say, I have committed many and great sins: and who is there amongst men that sinneth not? Say thou, I have sinned beyond all men; this confession is sufficient to me, for a sacrifice. Do thou first declare thy iniquities, that thou mayest be justified; acknowledge thyself to be a sinner: be full of sorrow in this thy conversion; yea, be grieved, and as without hope: moreover, pour forth tears of compunction. Do you find ought else in her that had been a common harlot, but shedding of tears? and by this her weeping she found help; and having received confidence, she drew near to the fountain, our Lord Jesus.”

He answers the unworthiness of sinners in these words, p. 25. Et quomodo ausa est mulier legis ignara, tam iniqua, sic abrupte accedere ad fontera salutis? Non petiit Jacobum, non rogavit Johanhem, non accessit ad Petrum; sed hoc intermittens, quid dicit? Non est mihi necessarius fidejussor: suscipit in se poenitentiae patrocinium, et sola currit, tenet eum in voce ac dicit, Miserere mei Domine fili David. Ideo descendisti, ideo carnem suscepisti, ut et ego loquar ad to et cure fducia petam, etc.

“But how durst a woman ignorant of the law, and besides so wicked, so abruptly draw near to the fountain of salvation? she did not entreat James, nor ask John, neither came she to Peter [to speak for her.] But leaving all this, what saith she? I have no need of a sponsor. And taking upon herself the patronage of her own repentance, she runs to him alone, stops him with her voice, and saith, Lord have mercy upon me, thou Son of David. Therefore it is that thou camest down [to us,] therefore thou tookest flesh upon thee, that even I also might speak to thee, and with confidence ask of thee, etc.”

See here a very exact imitation of St. Chrysostom, after Nectarius had taken away the use of penitentiary Priests. It is worth our taking notice how he speaks of prayers without attention, p. 35. Sunt multi quidera qui intrant in ecclesiam, et strepunt in oratione, confuse atque intemperata voce dispergunt verba sua, et egressi foras obliti sunt omma. Hi sunt qui labils hinniunt, et corde non concipiunt. Si tu ipsc dicta tua et preces ignoras; quomodo to exaudit Deus?

“There be many indeed that come into the church, and make a noise in prayer, scattering their words with a confused and rude bawling, who as soon as they are got abroad, quite forget all. These are they who neigh with their mouths, without conceiving in their hearts. If thou thyself dost not know what thou sayest or prayest, how shall God hear thee?”

From whence we may easily judge how he would have approved of praying in an unknown tongue, which necessarily destroys attention. As concerning the place where we ought to pray, that we may be heard, he expresseth himself in this manner, as if he had designed to furnish the Waldenses with an answer, p. 36. Grandis sermo est, Miserere mei Deus, brevis quidera sed virtute plenus. Nam et si foris fueris, clama et dic, Miserere mei Deus. Clama, non voce, sed mente; ham et tacentes exaudit Deus. Nec tam locus queeritur, quantum sensus. Hieremias in careere conbrtatur; Daniel inter leones exultat; tres pueri in fomace tripudiant; Job nudus sub divo triumphat; Paradisum de cruce latro invenit. Quid ergo si fueris in publico foro? Ora intra te. Noli queerere locum, locus ipse es, ibi ubi fueris ora. Si fueris in balneo, ora, et ibi ternplum est.

“This is a great word, Lord have mercy upon me; short indeed, but full of virtue. For though thou art abroad, yet cry and say, Lord have mercy upon me. Cry, not with thy voice, but with thy mind, for God hears even those that are silent; neither does he regard the place where, but our mind and attention in prayer. Jeremiah receives comfort in the dungeon; Daniel rejoiceth in the lions’ den; the three young men leap in the midst of the fiery furnace; Job, naked and destitute, triumphs in the open air; the thief finds a Paradise upon the cross. What therefore, though thou art in the public market? pray within thyself; do not seek for another place, thou thyself art a place; wheresoever therefore thou art, there pray. If thou be in the bath, pray there, for there also is the church.” And p. 37. Nunquid homo est Deus, ut labore quceratur per loca diverseea? Deus est qui adest ubique? Si quaeris hominem, dicitur tibi non est hic, aut non illic vacat : non est sic in causa Dei; hoc tanturn est ut dicas, Miserere mei Deus, et ipse prope est ut to liberet, et adhuc loquente to dicit, Ecce adsum.

“What! is God a man then that thou must take pains to seek him in several places? It is God who is present every where. If indeed thou chancest to look for a man, thou art answered, He is not here, or he is not at leisure: but the case is not so with God.: Do thou only say, Lord have mercy upon me, and he is near thee to deliver thee, and whilst thou art yet speaking, saith to thee, Behold, here am I.”

The second homily published in the Bibliotheca Patrum, t. 3. utterly overthrows the pretended tribunal of penance, p. Mox ut ascendisti de fonte, vestitus es veste alba, et unctus es unguento mystico; facta est super to invocatio, et venit super to trina virtus, quam vas novurn hac nova perfundit doctrina, exinde teipsum tibi statuit judicem et arbitrum.

“As soon as thou art come up from the fountain, thou art clothed with white raiment, and anointed with the mystical ointment; prayers have been made over thee, and the threefold virtue is come upon thee; after that thy new vessel is once filled with this new doctrine, thenceforward he has constituted thee a judge and disposer for thyself.”

In the third homily, which treats of alms, he makes use of this expression; In Jordane Christus semel tinctus, sanctifcavit aquas; in pauperibus autem semper manet, et assidue abluit crimina largientium. “Christ being once dipped in the river Jordan, thereby sanctified the waters; but he always abides in the poor, and continually washeth away the sins of those that give to them.”

This notion of the presence of Jesus Christ in the poor sufficiently makes out the sense of the Fathers, when they speak Of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist; especially if we join with it that expression of his second homily, p. 127. B. Asperges me aqua Filii tui sacro sanguine mixta.

“Thou wilt sprinkle me with the water mingled with the holy blood of thy Son.”

The opinions of Ennodius, Bishop of Pavia, are evident in several of his works; we shall instance the following places.

We find in the Life of St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Pavia, writ by Ennodius, a representation of the manner how that Bishop did celebrate the Eucharist, which makes it apparent how far he was from adoring the Eucharist as his God. Junctis pedibus usque ad consummationera mystici operis stare se debere constituit, ira ut humore vestigiorum locum suum depingeret, et longe aspicientibus indicaret.

“He had purposed with himself,” saith he, “always to stand still, with his feet together, till he had finished that mystical work, so that the moisture of his footsteps deciphered the place of his standing, and might be seen by those who were at a considerable distance.”

It is but too visible here, that St. Epiphanius and Ennodius knew nothing of those prostrations which now are used before the Sacrament; because the one of them prescribed this constant form to himself, in celebrating the Eucharist; and the other commends him for it, as a mark of his piety. At the end of the said Life, Ennodius gives us an account of the death of St. Epiphanius, much like that of a Protestant Bishop. He had only this word in his mouth, Mihi vivere Christus est, et mori lucrum;

“To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He was heard to repeat nothing but Psalms of consolation, such as the eighty-eighth Psalm; and he breathed his last in these words, In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiriturn meum;

“Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit;” taken out of Psalm 30. He tells us in plain terms, that his soul returned to heaven, ad sedem suam coelestis anima remeavit; “his heavenly soul returned to its own place.”

All which serves to make out, that prayer for the dead had not as yet the belief of purgatory for its foundation, as it hath at this day. And it was in the same mind that he composed the epitaph of St. Victor, Bishop of Noarre, where we read these verses:


Hic reddens tumulis cineres, ad celsa vocatus

Spiritus, aetherea congaudet lucidus arce.


Having bequeathd his dust to dust,

His soul is calld on high;

There bright and glorious, to partake

Those joys which never die.”


And forasmuch as we see that he in diverse places; commends St. Ambrose and his successors for orthodox Bishops, I shall not trouble myself to quote any more of his writings; and the rather, because the most part of his works were letters or poems, relating rather to outward affairs than any matters of religion.

I know they are wont to cite a passage of Ennodius, to prove that the Pope cannot be judged by any one but God. We find nothing more frequent since the time of Gratian and the canonists, than to quote these words of his Apology for Symmachus; Aliorum horninure causas Deus voluit per homines terminari, sed Romanos sedis prossulem, suo, sine qucestione, reservavit arbitrio.

“Other men’s cases God was willing should be determined by men, but as for the Bishop of Rome, he has reserved his case for his own cognizance, without exposing it to a judicial trial.”

But they signify nothing less, than what they seem to express thus separate from the rest of the discourse. What Ennodius by these terms would declare, is simply this; that Pope Symmachus’s adversaries, not having been able to convince him of the horrible crimes whereof they had accused him before king Theodoric, and afterwards before the synod assembled by Theodoric, for examining his accusation, his case had been remitted to the judgment of God, as was customary, when persons could not be convicted by the ordinary course of judiciary proceedings. De Launoy hath so solidly proved that this was Ennodius’s meaning, though of a long time it hath been disguised, that there is no need to insist further upon it. T. 1. Epist. 9.

Dacius, Bishop of Milan, has left so little in writing, that it may seem needless to speak of it; only it may be to the purpose to observe the carriage of Justinian towards him, who, finding him at Constantinople, would make him (as well as the Pope’s referendary) subscribe the edict which he had published: which shows that he looked upon himself as the head of a diocese, which was as exempt and separate from the Pope of Rome’s jurisdiction, as the dioceses of the Patriarchs of the East were. Baronius ad annum 546. Section. 46.

In the year 590 the Bishops of Italy and of the Grisons, to the number of nine, rejected the Communion of the Pope, as of an heretic, who had consented to the abolishing of the Council of Chalcedon, consenting under Justinian to the condemnation of the three chapters, as may be seen from their letter to the Emperor Mauritius, set down by Baronius, ad h. annum, n. 29. That Emperor having ordered them to be present at the Council of Rome, they were dispensed with by the same Emperor, upon their 47 protesting that they could not communicate with Pope Gregory the First. This schism had already continued from the year 553, and lasted near as long after; so little were they persuaded at that time of the Pope’s infallibility, that to lose communion with them was to lose the communion of the Church, or that they held their ordinations from the hand of the Popes, and from the Bishops, subjected to their jurisdiction. Let us proceed now to the belief of the following century.


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