Western Piety And Thought In The
In the century following Augustine, the dogmatic interest of the Church
was chiefly absorbed in the Christological controversies in the East.
There were, however, some discussions in the West arising from the
manifest difficulty of reconciling the doctrine of predestination, as
drawn from Augustine, with the efficacy of baptism. For the adjustment of
the teaching of Augustine to the sacramental system of the Church and to
baptism more particularly, see the Council of Orange, A. D. 529, of which
the principal conclusions are given above (§ 85). In the sixth century and
in the early part of the seventh, doctrines were clearly enunciated which
had been abundantly foreshadowed by earlier writers, but had not been
fitted into an intelligible and practical system. These were especially
the doctrine of purgatory and the sacrifice of the mass. The doctrine of
purgatory completed the penitential system of the early Church by making
it possible to expiate sin by suffering in a future existence, in the case
of those who had died without completely doing penance here. By the
sacrifice of the mass the advantages of Christ's death were constantly
applied, not merely to the sin of the world in general, but to specified
objects; the believer was brought into closest contact with the great act
of redemption, and a centre was placed around which the life of the
individual and the authority of the hierarchy could be brought into
Additional source material: The works of Gregory the Great, PNF.
(a) Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 104. (MSL, 39:1947, 1949.)
Caesarius presided at the Council of Orange A. D. 529. He died in
543. Not a few of his sermons have been mixed up with those of
Augustine, and this sermon is to be found in Appendix to the works
of Augustine in the standard editions of that Father. It should be
noted that this conception of purgatory is not wholly unlike that
of St. Augustine; see his Enchiridion, chs. 69, 109 (v. supra,
§ 84); also De Civ. Dei, 20:25; 21:13.
Ch. 4. By continual prayers and frequent fasts and more generous alms, and
especially by forgiveness of those who sin against us, we diligently
redeem our sins, lest by chance when collected together against us at once
they make a great mass and overwhelm us. Whatsoever of these sins shall
not have been redeemed by us is to be purged by that fire concerning which
the Apostle said: "Because it will be revealed by fire, and if any man's
work is burned he will suffer loss" (I Cor. 3:15). If in tribulation we do
not give thanks to God, if by good works we do not redeem our sins, we
will remain so long in that fire of purification(268) until the little,
trifling sins, as hay, wood, and stubble are consumed.
Ch. 8. All saints who serve God truly strive to give themselves to reading
and prayer, and to perseverance in good works, and building no mortal sins
and no little sins, that is, wood, hay, and stubble, upon the foundation
of Christ; but good works, that is, gold, silver, and precious stones,
will without injury go through that fire of which the Apostle spoke:
"Because it will be revealed by fire." But those who, although they do not
commit capital sins, yet are prone to commit very little sins and are
negligent in redeeming them, will attain to eternal life because they
believed in Christ, but first either in this life they are purified by
bitter tribulation, or certainly in that fire of which the Apostle speaks
they are to be tormented, that they may come to eternal life without spot
or wrinkle. But those who have committed homicide, sacrilege, adultery and
other similar sins, if there does not come to their aid suitable
penitence, will not deserve to go through that fire of purification to
life, but they will be thrown into death by eternal fire.
(b) Gregory the Great, Dialogorum libri IV, de Vita et Miraculis Patrum
Italicorum, IV, 56. (MPL, 77:425.)
The sacrifice of the mass.
See also the selection below on the doctrine of purgatory.
It should be considered that it is safer to do to men, while one is
living, the good which one hopes will be done by others after one's death.
It is more blessed to depart free than to seek liberty after chains. We
ought, with our whole mind, despise the present world, especially since we
see it already passing away. We ought to immolate to God the daily
sacrifice of our tears, the daily offerings of His flesh and blood. For
this offering peculiarly preserves the soul from eternal death, and it
renews to us in a mystery the death of the Only begotten, who, although
being risen from the dead, dieth no more, and death hath no more dominion
over Him (Rom. 6:9); yet, while in Himself He liveth immortal and
incorruptible, for us He is immolated again in this mystery of the sacred
oblation. For it is His body that is there given, His flesh that is
divided for the salvation of the people, His blood that is poured, no
longer into the hands of unbelievers, but into the mouths of the faithful.
For this let us ever estimate what this sacrifice is for us, which for our
absolution ever imitates the passion of the only begotten Son. For what
one of the faithful can have any doubt that at the very hour of the
offering [immolatio], at the word of the priest, the heavens are opened,
the choirs of angels are present at the mystery of Jesus Christ, the
lowest things are united to the highest, earthly things with heavenly, and
from the invisible and the visible there is made one?
(c) Gregory the Great, Dialog., IV, 39. (MSL, 77:393.)
The doctrine of purgatory.
Gregory hardly adds anything to Augustine more than a clearer
definition after the lines laid down by Caesarius of Arles.
From these sayings [John 12:35; II Cor. 6:2; Eccles. 9:10] it is evident
that as one left the earth so one will appear before the judgment. Yet
still it is to be believed that for certain slight sins there is to be
before that judgment a fire of purification, because the Truth says that,
if one utters blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, his sin will be forgiven
him neither in this world nor in the future [Matt. 12:31]. From this
saying one is given to understand that some sins can be forgiven in this
life, others in a future life.
(d) Gregory the Great, In Evangelia, II, 37, 8. (MSL, 76:1279.)
The application of the sacrifice of the mass to persons in
Not long before our time the case is told of a certain man who, having
been taken captive, was carried far away [cf. Dialog., IV, 57], and
because he was held a long time in chains his wife, since she had not
received him back from that captivity, believed him to be dead and every
week she had the sacrifice offered for him as already dead. And as often
as the sacrifice was offered by his spouse for the absolution of his soul,
the chains were loosed in his captivity. For having returned a long time
after, greatly astonished he told his wife that on certain days each week
his chains were loosed. His wife considered the days and hours, and then
knew that he was loosed when, as she remembered, the sacrifice was offered
for him. From that perceive, my dearest brothers, to what extent the holy
sacrifice offered by us is able to loose the bonds of the heart, if the
sacrifice offered by one for another can loose the chains of the body.
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