Does anyone believe that this unity which comes from divine strength, which is closely connected with the divine sacraments, can be broken asunder in the Church and be separated by the divisions of colliding wills? He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.
St. Cyprian of Carthage
“The Unity of the Catholic Church”
Christ is Risen!
The Godly minded Cyprian, the great defender of the faith, whose memory is celebrated by the church on Aug 31/Sept 13, was an early apologist and defender of the Orthodoxy and Catholicity in the Church.
The Hieromartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, was born in about the year 200 in the city of Carthage (Northern Africa), where all his life and work took place. Thascius Cyprianus was the son of a rich pagan senator, and received a fine secular education becoming a splendid orator, and a teacher of rhetoric and philosophy in the school of Carthage. He often appeared in the courts to defend his fellow citizens.
Cyprian afterwards recalled that for a long time “he remained in a deep dark mist.., far from the light of Truth.” His fortune, received from his parents and from his work, was spent on sumptuous banquets, but they were not able to quench in him the thirst for truth. He became acquainted with the writings of the Apologist Tertullian, and became convinced of the truth of Christianity. The holy bishop later wrote that he thought it was impossible for him to attain to the regeneration promised by the Savior, because of his habits.
He was helped by his friend and guide, the presbyter Cecilius, who assured him of the power of God’s grace. At 46 years of age the studious pagan was received into the Christian community as a catechumen. Before accepting Baptism, he distributed his property to the poor and moved into the house of the presbyter Cecilius.
When St Cyprian was finally baptized, he wrote in the Treatise To Donatus: “When the water of regeneration cleansed the impurity of my former life, a light from on high shone into my heart… and the Spirit transformed me into a new man by a second birth. Then at once, in a miraculous manner, certainty replaced doubt, mysteries were revealed, and darkness became light…. Then it was possible to acknowledge that what was born of the flesh and lived for sin was earthly, but what the Holy Spirit had vivified began to be of God…. In God and from God is all our strength…. Through Him we, while living upon the earth, have a hint of future bliss.”
In the life of Saint Cyprian we witness a common theme of transformation and evolution. For in the waters of Baptism the scales of disbelief and worldliness are washed from our eyes. In the waters of regeneration we are restored to the royal path, to which man was always intended. This path is one of enlightenment and understanding. By God’s grace divine things are revealed to us. Saint Cyprian demonstrates this quite clearly in his epic work The Unity of the Catholic Church. Before going much further, an important clarification is necessary. Orthodox Christians understand the word “catholic” to mean “whole, complete, lacking in nothing.” Understanding this helps us to see the intent of the Holy Fathers and the point to which Saint Cyprian is addressing. This understanding of complete also helps us to more clearly see the link between unity/completeness and love of God. It is the fulfilling of the law.
Saint Cyprian writes:
He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God
To wit, in the divine Scriptures we read the following,
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10
What is this law? How do we find it and how do we fulfill it? It has been said that we cannot truly love God if we do not love our neighbor. One could argue conversely that we cannot love our neighbor if we do not love God. The two are one. In loving our Lord, we fulfill His will. We do not seek after the praise of men but only to please God. We do not seek to “go along to get along”, which is the slogan of these times. Unity of faith (Catholicity) is impossible if we do not love God, earnestly and truly. This longing and zeal leads us on the path of humility, casting aside our selfish will and pride. Perhaps the greatest sin of Arius, Nestorius, Balaam, et al, was their pride and insistence on rejecting the teaching and catholicity of the Church. In seeking Truth, we shall find it if our search is true. Behold the Prophet Solomon the wise:
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. Proverbs 8:17
Solomon truly was wise, repenting of his sins before his death. He recognized the greatest wealth is to “own God” metaphorically speaking. God was his treasure, his wealth, his strength.
Love is not conditional, it is total, we cannot hold anything back. Anything less that 100% is foolishness and pride.
The great Apostle John, the Divine, unlocks the great mysteries in the Word of God and teaches us of the love of God:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1 John 4:7
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:12
The Church is the Bride of Christ and dwells in the love of God. This love cannot be divided as the Church cannot be divided. Only men are divided and separate themselves from the Church due to human weakness and lack of true godly love. Without this true godly love, we are not perfected and the garment of Christ is rent by Schisms in the Church. He who loves God, seeks to be united with Him forever. If we do not seek unity in the Church, how can we seek unity with God? “He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.”
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!