Questions of the Bulgars

Questions of the Bulgars

Pope Nicholas I: Responses to the Questions of the Bulgars A.D. 866 (Letter 99)

Note: previous chapters are available here and also here.

Chapter XXI.

If a servant leaves his lord in flight from his lord and is captured, he should be forgiven; otherwise let the decrees of the laws not be transgressed in this case. Nevertheless, this saying of the apostle Paul should always be kept before one’s eyes, when he said in salubrious admonition: Lord, give to your servants what is just and equitable, knowing that you are the Lord in heaven;[Col. 4:1] and elsewhere, when he ordered servants to obey their carnal lords,[cf. Eph. 6:5] he added: … knowing that whatever good each one of you does, whether servant or freeman, he seeks this from the Lord. And you, o lords, do likewise, leaving aside threats against them, knowing that their Lord and yours is in heaven, and that there is no acception of persons in the eyes of God.[cf. Eph. 6:8-9]

Chapter XXII.

Concerning those who take flight, when you set out for battle against the enemy, if compassion does not mercifully prevail, at least let the severity of the laws be tempered.

Chapter XXIII.

Concerning those who have been ordered to proceed to battle against the enemy and treat the order to prepare [for war] with contempt, we recommend the same thing.

Chapter XXIV.

What a parricide, i.e. someone who kills his mother or father or even kills his brother or sister, should suffer, the laws indicate. Furthermore, if he flees to a church, we think that you should do whatever the bishop or priest of the place, who has been constituted by God, has provided.

Chapter XXV.

You claim that it is part of the custom of your country that guards always stand on the alert between your country and the boundaries of others; and if a slave or freeman [manages to] flee somehow through this watch, the guards are killed without hesitation because of this. Now then, you are asking us, what we think about this practice. One should look through the laws concerning this matter. Nevertheless, far be it from your minds that you, who have acknowledged so pious a God and Lord, now judge so harshly, especially since it is more fitting that, just as hitherto you put people to death with ease, so from now on you should lead those whom you can not to death but to life. For the blessed apostle Paul, who was initially an abusive persecutor and breathed threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,[cf. Acts 9:1] later sought mercy and, converted by a divine revelation, not only did not impose the death penalty on anyone but also wished to be anathema for the brethren [cf. Rom. 9:3] and was prepared to spend and be spent most willingly for the souls of the faithful.[cf. II Cor. 12:15] In the same way, after you have been called by the election of God and illuminated by his light, you should no longer desire deaths but should without hesitation recall everyone to the life of the body as well as the soul, when any opportunity is found. [cf. Rom. 7:6] And just as Christ led you back from the eternal death in which you were gripped, to eternal life, so you yourself should attempt to save not only the innocent, but also the guilty from the end of death, according to the saying of the most wise Solomon: Save those, who are led to death; and do not cease freeing those who are brought to their destruction. [Prov. 24:11]

Chapter XXVI.

Concerning those who have slaughtered their kinsman, i.e. someone related by blood such as a brother, cousin or grandson, let the venerable laws keep their force. But if they have fled to a church, let them in fact be saved from the laws of death and let them submit without hesitation to the penance that the bishop or priest of the place has decided: I do not want the death of the sinner, sayeth the Lord, but rather wish that he be converted and live. [Ez. 33:11]

Chapter XXVII.

Concerning those, who hand their companion (socius) over to death, we think the same thing as above.

Chapter XXVIII.

Concerning a man, who has been apprehended with another man’s wife, you will find out what should be judged when you have read the laws. But if the adulterer should flee to a church, we think that the bishop should decide whatever it is clear the sacred canons have defined or the holy bishops of the apostolic see have established.

Chapter XXIX.

We also judge likewise concerning the man, who has intercourse with a female relative of his own blood. But truly we would direct the leprosy of so great a crime as this to the consideration and judgment of a priest (sacerdos).

Chapter XXX.

Concerning a person who has involuntarily killed someone, we have decreed what the sacred rules establish and it is fitting that the bishop, who has been placed with you, always have these rules with him in his hands.

Chapter XXXI.

Concerning animal thieves, let the provisions of the laws, if not mercy, be preserved.

Chapter XXXII.

We allow the same with regard to those who have kidnapped (rapuerint) a man or a woman.

Chapter XXXIII.

You indicated that hitherto, when you used to go into battle, you have carried the tail of a horse as your military emblem, and you ask what you should now carry in its place. What else, of course, but the sign of the cross? For it is the sign with which Moses divided the sea and killed Amalec, with which Gideon conquered the Madianites, and Christ our Lord not only conquered but also prostrated the devil, who held power over death. This is the sign which we carry on our foreheads and with it we are protected from all enemies and fortified against all attacks. This is the sign of the faith and the devil’s great terror, which Christian princes use in their times of need and with which kings following the truth religion often achieve celebrated triumphs over their enemies with Christ’s aid. But that you may know more plainly why it is more fitting that you should carry the sign of the cross as your military sign instead of that horse’s tail as you go forth in battle formation, we think that there are a few things to remember about the actions of Constantine, who was the most pious emperor of the Romans and the most famous of all propagators of Christianity. Indeed, when he led his army against Maxentius, the tyrant of Rome — in fact, even then he was a supporter of the Christian religion, though he had not yet received the sign of the Lord’s passion, as it is a solemn ritual to be initiated into our religion — in any event, as he made his journey, while turning over many matters concerning the demands of impending battle in his mind, he often turned his eyes to heaven and thence besought divine aid. And through his weariness he sees in the eastern part of the sky the sign of the cross shining with fiery brilliance. And although he was terrified by so great a vision and disturbed by its new appearance, he sees angels standing there saying: Constantine, in this sign conquer. Thereby rendered happy and sure about the victory, he marks the sign of the cross, which he had seen in the sky, on his forehead and marks this onto military standards, and adapts the labarum, as they call it, into the shape of the Lord’s cross. Thus provided with the armed standards of religion, he sets forth against the arms of the impious and without slaughtering the Roman people, just as he prayed to God, he miraculously triumphed over the tyrant Maxentius who drowned in the river.[12]

[12] Rufinus of Aquileia, Ecclesiastical History IX.9.

Chapter XXXIV.

You also asked, if, when a messenger arrives, you should set off immediately in order to get to the fighting or whether there are any days when it is not fitting to go forth into battle. On this matter we answer: there is no day which should be kept completely free from beginning or carrying out any kind of business, except (if too great a necessity does not compel you) the most celebrated days mentioned above, which are venerated by all Christians. But this is not because it is forbidden to do such a thing on these days. For our hope should be placed not in days nor determined by days, but all salvation should be expected absolutely from the true and living God alone. Rather it is because on these days, if the necessity is not unavoidable, one should spend time in prayer and the mysteries of so great a festival should be attended more zealously than usual; for when the Hebrews refused to bear arms against their enemies on the day of the Sabbath, because they were observing the former Sabbath and omnipotent God wished to show them that hope and strength were not to be located in themselves alone and in the observance of days, one thousand of their men were killed, so that the survivors, having been led to penance, would say to each other: If we do all things just as our brothers have done, and we do not fight against the nations for our souls and our justifications, they shall quickly drive us from the land.[I Macchabees 2:40]

Chapter XXXV.

You say that when you went forth into battle, you used to watch the days and hours and perform incantations, games, songs and some auguries, and you wish to be instructed on what you should do now. Regarding this matter, we would of course instruct you, if we did not think that you have been divinely instructed on this matter; for atop the divine foundation, we cannot build anything. Therefore, when you decide to go forth into battle, do not fail to do what you yourselves have recalled, i.e. go to the churches, carry out prayers, forgive sinners, be present at the solemnities of the Mass, offer oblations, make a confession of your sins to the priests, receive the reconciliation and communion, open the jails, loose the fetters and grant liberty to servants and especially to those who are broken and weak and captives, and distribute alms to the needy, so that you may fulfill what the Apostle admonishes when he says: Do everything, whether it be in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.[Col. 3:17] For the things which you mentioned, that is, the obervations of days and hours, the incantations, the games, iniquitous songs, and auguries are the pomp and workings of the devil, which you already renounced, thank God, in baptism and you cast off all these things completely along with the old man and his actions, when you put on the new.

Chapter XXXVI.

Regarding whether it is licit to walk or procede to war on Sunday or on the other feast days, when necessity calls, you can note our view in chapter thirty-four of these responses.

Chapter XXXVII.

Just as you asked, we have gladly given you the books that we think you need at present, and we desire to loan you many more through God’s largess.

Chapter XXXVIII.

You say that when you are in camp, you are unable to perform fitting and perfect prayers, and because of this you wish us to explain what you should do. Yet we would argue that, however much more the enemies rage and necessity and tribulation lay heavy upon you, so much the more readily should you devote your energy to prayer. For our fathers were victors more by praying than by fighting and gained what they prayed for more by entreaties than by battles. For example, Moses prayed and Joshua fought, but the former conquered more by praying than the latter did by fighting. It is therefore more fitting that one should cease from arms than from prayer.

Chapter XXXIX.

You asked about the consanguinity of the generations, so that you may clearly know which women you should marry. We have, however, already recalled what the laws allow on this matter but consider it worthwhile to recall it again in summary fashion. They say in fact: We cannot marry any and every women. Some unions have to be avoided. Marriage cannot be contracted between people in the relation of parent and child, such as father and daughter or grandfather and granddaughter, or mother and son or grandmother and grandson and so on up and down the line. A similar but less stringent regime applies to collaterals.[12] But we shall leave what the sacred canons and especially the decrees of the highest bishop Zacharias proclaim on this matter, for your bishop to explain to you.

[12] Justinian, Institutes I, 10, 1-2, trans. Birks & Macleod, p. 43.

Chapter XL.

You say that it is a custom of your country that, before you set out for battle, a most faithful and prudent man is sent by your lordship, who inspects all the arms, horses, and things which are necessary for battle; and if, at someone’s home, they are found to have been readied in a useless fashion, that person receives capital punishment: now you wish to know what we think should be done in this case. Truly we encourage you to turn all this [attention] to the arming of your spiritual weaponry and we advise you to turn the rigor of such great severity to the exercise of piety. For just as the preparation of arms and horses was hitherto investigated as to whether they were well suited to oppose the visible enemy, so now you should zealously inquire as to whether each person possesses their spiritual arms, i.e. good works, in readiness against the princes and the powers, against the worldly rulers of these shadows, against the spirits of iniquity in heaven.[Eph. 6:12] Finally, the horse is understood as the soul, obviously because just as a man is carried by his horse, so he is ruled by his soul; clearly then, whoever does not have their arms prepared against the enemy, perishes, because, as is written, Cursed be the man, who does the work of God with neglect.[Jer. 48:10] Concerning a horse which hasn’t been trained in its spirit, it is well said by the Psalmist: A man cannot trust his horse to save him, nor can it deliver him for all its strength.[Ps. 32:17] When he is prepared, in contrast, it is said: The horse may be ready for the day of battle; but the Lord give the safety.[Prov. 22:31] And so, what you have hitherto observed carnally and the arms which you have cruelly exacted from poor men who perhaps were not able to prepare them, now venerate spiritually and exhort great and small to prepare them piously and spiritually.

Chapter XLI.

Concerning those who refuse to receive the good of Christianity and sacrifice and bend their knees to idols, we can write nothing else to you than that you move them towards the right faith by warnings, exhortations, and reason rather than by force, proving that what they know in vain, is wrong: [cf. Jer. 1:16] namely that, although they are people with capable intellects, they nevertheless adore works of their own hands and senseless elements, or rather they bow their necks and sacrifice to demons. For as the apostle teaches: We know that an idol is nothing, but whatever the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons.[I Cor. 8:4; 10:20] But if they do not listen to you, you should neither take food nor have any communion at all with them, but rather remove them from your service and friendship (familiaritas) as if they were foreign and polluted, in order that, once pierced by such confusion, they may be converted with God’s inspiration to Him Who is the true and not the false God, creator and not created, unmade but maker of all. For as the Lord commanded, the Christian should not only not take the food, but [should also shake] the dust from his feet from the house of someone who does not believe,[cf. Mt. 10:14] so much so that the disciples, who were unaware of what had happened, bore it very badly when their leader Peter approached Cornelius, whom he had, at God’s command, made the first Christian from among the gentiles.[cf. Acts 10, 11:2-3] Therefore, no communion should be shared with those who do not believe and who adore idols. Yet, violence should by no means be inflicted upon them to make them believe. For everything which is not voluntary, cannot be good; for it is written: Willingly shall I sacrifice to you,[Ps. 53:8] and again: Make all the commands of my mouth your will,[Ps. 118:108] and again, And by my own will I shall confess to Him.[Ps. 27:7] Indeed, God commands that willing service be performed only by the willing. But if you ask about what should be judged concerning perfidious persons of this sort, listen to the apostle Paul who, when he wrote to the Corinthians, says: Why indeed is it my business to judge concerning those who are outside? Do you not judge concerning those who are inside? God will judge those who are outside. Remove the evil from yourselves.[I Cor. 5:12-13] It is as if he said: Concerning those who are outside our religion, I shall judge nothing, but I shall save them for the judgment of God, Who is going to judge all flesh. Nevertheless, remove the evil from yourselves, lest, while it remains with you, it creep along like a cancer[cf. I Tim. 11:29] and lest, when it sees the faithful communicating with it, it think that they also commune with its vanity and consequently consider its sect truer and more holy than our religion. Therefore, for the sake of one’s conscience, communion with those who worship idols should be greatly avoided in every way; for he who communicates with idolaters, appears to communicate with the idols, nay the demons themselves. All the gods of the nations are demons,[Ps. 95:5] and the Apostle says: Whatever the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice it to demons and not to God, and adds, I do not want you to become friends of demons.[I Cor. 10:20]

Chapter XLII.

You state that when your king sits down in his throne (sedilis) at the table to eat, no one, not even his wife, may recline with him; rather you sit far away on stools and eat on the ground; hence, you desire to know what we command you to do regarding this. Therefore, because what is done is not against the faith — though it goes very much against good behavior — we exhort you, not so much commanding as persuading, that you pay attention to those who observe the Christian religion as leaders and after considering the evidence of their humility, cast aside everything superfluous which has no use; for they have read in the Gospel the Lord saying, Learn from me, because I am meek and humble in heart, and you shall find rest in your souls.[Mt. 11:29] For the ancient kings, many of whom merited the company of the saints and therefore they were truly called kings because they were found to be saints, are remembered to have lived together with their friends, indeed their servants; indeed, the King of kings and the Lord of lords Himself is described not only as having reclined with servants and his friends,[cf. I Tim. 6:15] that is, the apostles, but also as having reclined and eaten with publicans and sinners.[cf. Mt. 9:10-11]

Chapter XLIII.

Regarding which animals or birds it is permitted to eat, as far as I am concerned, the Lord shows this plainly when, after the Flood, He gave all the animals to be eated by Noah and his children, saying: All the fish of the sea have been given into your hands. And everything which moves and lives, shall be for you as food like the oil of the vine;[Gen. 9: 2-3] and when all the animals had been divinely shown to Peter upon that dish (although this should be understood to have a higher meaning), it is said: Kill and eat.[Acts 10:13] Thus, every animal whose food is shown not to be harmful to the body and human society admits as food, is not forbidden to be eaten; for as the holy and most articulate teacher Augustine writes: As for eating animals that die of themselves, the custom of men does not allow it because the flesh, not of animals that have been killed but of those which have died of themselves is diseased and not fit for the health of the body, for the sake of which we consume food.[13] Moreover, the Lord Himself destroyed the opinion of those who claim that there is something unclean in food, when he said: It is not what enters the mouth which pollutes a person, but rather it is that which procedes from his mouth, that pollutes him;[Mt. 15:11] and it is said divinely to the apostle Peter: What God has sanctified, do not call common,[Acts 10:15] i.e. unclean; and his fellow apostle Paul writes, saying: All things are clean to the clean, but nothing is clean to the polluted and the unfaithful.[Tit. 1:15] Nonetheless, lest someone wish to demonstrate on the basis of the Old Testament that certain animals are prohibited and to coerce you away from eating them, it should be noted that the pig is among those things which were prohibited. Concerning this prohibition the aforemention saint Augustine, although remaining silent for the time being concerning the others, recalls this animal when he writes, saying: When someone asks why these statements, in which the Apostle says: “All things are clean to the clean, etc.”(Tit.1:15) and: “All God’s creation is good” are not contrary to the Old Testament where certain types of meat are prohibited, they should recognize, if they can, that the Apostle was speaking about the natures of things, while the letter told them[the Jews] — because of certain prefigurations appropriate to that time —that certain animals were unclean not by nature, but by signification. So, for the sake of example, if one asks about the pig or the lamb, both are clean by nature, because “All of God’s creation is good”(I Tim.4:4); but by a certain signification, the lamb is clean, the pig is unclean. It is as if you said “fool” and “wise.” Clearly both of these words are clean in the nature of the utterance, letters, and syllables; on this we are agreed; but in terms of their signification, one of these words, which is called “fool”, can be said to be unclean, not because of its nature, but because it signifies something unclean. And perhaps a pig is among the figures of reality what a fool is in reality; and both that animal and these two syllables, which are pronounced “stult-us” (fool), signify one and the same thing. Indeed, the pig has been classified as unclean in the law because it does not ruminate; but this is not its vice, but its nature. But the men who are signified by this animal, are unclean by their own vice, not by their nature; for although they willingly listen to the words of wisdom, afterwards they do not think about them at all. To summon up, in the sweetness of recollection, something useful you have heard from the intestine of your memory to the mouth of your thought — what else is this than to ruminate spiritually in a certain way? Those who do not do this, are figured in the type of those animals; as a result, the very abstinence from such meats warns us to beware of such a vice. For in another passage, it is written concerning this cleanness of ruminating as follows: “The desireable treasure rests in the mouth of the wise man, the fool gobbles it down.” (Prov.21:20) These similarities of things in their expressions and in their observable figures move rational minds gently and usefully. But many such things are ordered not only to be heard by the former people, but also observed. For there was a time, in which it was necessary to prophesy the things which were to be revealed at a later time, not only in words but also in deeds. But when these things were revealed through Christ and in Christ, the burdens of observation were not imposed upon the religion of the gentiles, though the authority of the prophecy was commended.[14]

[13] Augustine, Against Faustus XXXII §13.

[14] Ibid. VI §7.

Chapter XLIV.

No rationale permits hunting during Lent; for hunters capture nothing but meat. Therefore, lest you be seen to follow anything carnal, you should appropriately abstain from the flesh of captured beasts especially during Lent. For however much you attend more closely to the divine services in a time of fasting, by so much should you move farther away from all the harmful delights of the world, especially since sacred history shows that no one but the reprobate participate in hunts.

Chapter XLV.

You wish to know from us whether or not judgments should be carried out or anyone sentenced to death during Lent. In this matter, know that we say the same thing to this question about Lent as we are known to have already responded concerning feast days in a chapter of these responses of ours.[15]

[15] Cf. above Chapter XXXIV.

Chapter XLVI.

Now then, it should not be necessary to explain to you whether, if some necessity demands it or if no necessity demands it, it is permitted to go to war during Lent, since you can now gather for yourselves what is appropriate for you to do from the answers to the previous question even if we say nothing. Certainly the struggles of battles and wars as well as the beginning of every quarrel are revealed by the fraud of the diabolic art, and the person who is desirous of expanding his kingdom and the lover of anger or envy or some other vice is proven to concentrate and take delight in these things alone. Therefore, if no necessity compels you, you should abstain from battles not only during Lent, but at all times. But if some unavoidable event drives you, you should without hesitation spare no preparation for war in defense of not only yourself but also your country and the laws of your fathers, lest man seem to tempt God, if he has the wherewithal and does not take care to take counsel for his own safety and the safety of others and does not take precautions against damage to the holy religion.[cf. Deut. 6:16] In the end, the walls of Jericho were knocked to the ground when the sons of Israel, who had already accepted that the Sabbath was to be observed, surrounded the city even on the Sabbath and the trumpets blew.[cf. Josh. 6:20]

Chapter XLVII.

You ask whether it is permitted to play games during Lent. This is not permitted to Christians not only during Lent but also at any other time. But because we cannot yet persuade you to abstain from games at all times, since you, weak as you are, cannot yet ascend to the mountain to receive the highest commandments of God but are located in the plains like the former children of Israel[cf. Ex.19:12] so that you can at least receive some of the simple and lesser commands, you should at least spend more time more intent upon prayer, abstinence and every kind of penance during Lent and at times of fasting, as we have explained at length above, and stay away from games, empty conversation, scurrility, and idle chatter, which do not belong to the occasion. For as the Lord says in the Gospel: What men have said, let them render an account for it,[Mt. 12:36] and if for the idle word, so much the more for the harmful or criminal word! Therefore, do not let the vanity of any pleasure or game be able to seduce you, especially in a time of fasting; for lamentations do not accord with games, and a false, deceptive happiness cannot produce real tears in your neighbor. Furthermore, there is the judge who says: Woe unto you, who laugh now, because you shall moan and weep;[Lk. 6:25] on this Solomon says: Laughter shall be mixed with sorrow and sadness sits at the end of joy;[Prov. 14:13] and he again says: I thought laughter an error and I said to joy: Why do you deceive in vain?[Eccl. 2:2] On this he again says: The heart of the wise, there is sadness, and the heart of fools, there is happiness;[Eccl. 7:5] for the sacrifice which is pleasing to God is affliction against sin, as the Psalmist attests, who says: The contrite spirit is a sacrifice to God.[Ps. 50:19]

Chapter XLVIII.

Consequently we judge that one can in no way take a wife nor hold celebrations during Lent. But you may know what the sacred canons says about this, when your bishop teaches you.

Chapter XLIX.

Furthermore, you ask whether you are permitted to show your wives gold, silver, cattle, horses, etc. before [the marriage] since it is for the dowry. Because it is no sin and the laws do not prohibit it, we, too, do not forbid t to happen; and not only this, but whatever else you did before baptism, you are completely allowed to do now. For we know that Peter was a fisherman, and Matthew a tax-gatherer, after their conversion Peter returned to fishing, but Matthew did not go back to the business of tax-gathering, since it is one thing to seek sustenance through fishing, it is another to increase wealth through the gains from tax-gathering. For there are some businesses which can be performed without sin scarcely or not at all. Therefore to those alone, which implicate one in sin, is it necessary that after conversion, the mind not return. But whatever someone did without sin before conversion, it is no fault to do this again after conversion.[16]

[16] Gregory I, Homily XXIV on the Gospels, trans. D. Hurst, Gregory the Great. Forty Gospel Homilies XXIV, pp.180-86 at 180.

Chapter L.

What should be judged concerning the man who has intercourse with his wife during Lent, we entrust to be considered and defined by the judgment of your bishop or the priest who is constituted by him, since they can know the behavior of individuals and shall have to decide or moderate the cases of each one of you after weighing the persons and the circumstances. Finally, it would be completely licit for a man to sleep with his wife without contamination, if fire and chaff could have communion without harm or if the tricks of diabolic fraud were unknown. For wherever a man lives together with a woman, it is difficult for the treachery of the ancient enemy not to be present, treachery which, of course, was not absent from the place where a brother and a sister, namely Ammon and Thamar, lived alone together for the briefest of times.[cf. II Kings 13:8-14]

Chapter LI.

You ask if you are permitted to have two wives at the same time; and if this is not permitted, you wish to know what the person in this situation should do at this point. Neither the origin of the human condition nor any Christian law allows a man to have two wives at the same time. For God, Who made the human being, made one male from the beginning and only one female. Obviously, He could have given him two wives if He had wished, but He did not wish it; indeed, it is written: Because of this, a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife.[Gen. 2:24] He did not say: to his wives. Or again: There shall be two, namely male and female, in one flesh, and not: three or more. And so, in whosever household two wives are found at the same time, that man shall be forced to send away the later wife, while keeping the earlier. Furthermore, he shall be compelled to accept the penance which the priest of the place provides. For this is so inhuman a sin, that the sin of murder, which Cain committed against Abel his brother, was avenged by the Flood in the seventh generation, but the sin of adultery, which Lamech first perpetrated on two wives,[cf. Gen. 4:19-24] was not wiped clean except with the blood of Christ, who came into the world in the seventy-seventh generation according to the gospel of Luke.[cf. Lk. 3:23-28]

Chapter LII.

If you wish to know what you should judge concerning those who make someone into a eunuch, turn the pages of the laws.

Chapter LIII.

You ask if you are allowed to place the standard of the holy cross over a table and to eat at a table, from which a priest or deacon is absent. You are undoubtedly permitted to do this, for all of us are allowed to protect our things from the plots of the devil with this sign and to emerge triumphant in the name of Christ from all his attacks. It remains only to say that when a more powerful man is present, an inferior should not dare to arrogate this to himself, unless ordered to do so, because the disciple is not above the master[Mt. 10:24] and again the Apostle commands, saying: In honor, preferring one another.[Rom.12:10]

Chapter LIV.

You say that the Greeks claim that whoever stands in church without his hands bound to his chest incurs the gravest of sin. Yet, unless we are mistaken, we find that this command has never been issued, and therefore, if it is not done, there is no sin, unless perchance the person adamantly refuses to do what he sees everyone else doing. For certain people do one thing, others do another, now these people show forth this kind of humility, now they show that kind. But this and many other things are done in different places as a sign of humility, and when this is done, it is not done except for the sake of humility, and truly it is written: The prayer of those who humble themselves shall penetrate the clouds;[Eccles. 35:21] consequently, neither this nor any other act of humility a person can think up should be reproached, since according to the Gospel, he who humbles himself, shall be exalted.[Lk. 18:14] For if, when someone comes before a mortal prince, he stands, speaks, and approaches with complete reverence and fear, how much more fitting is it that the person who comes before God, Who is eternal, terrible, and all high, not only stand in complete fear and trembling but also present himself humbly like a servant in His sight; and because in the Gospel, the hands and feet of certain reprobates are ordered to be bound,[cf. Mt. 22:13] what else do these people do, who bind their hands before the Lord, except say to God in a particular way: “Lord, do not order my hands to be bound, that I be cast into the outer darkness, because I have already bound them and behold, I am prepared for my beating? This is why we, too, beat our breasts, namely to indicate whatever we have iniquitously done to displease ourselves and God, we smite this in ourselves before God smites us, and we punish what has been committed with worthy penance, before the last punishment comes.

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