Bishop Cyprian of Carthage on the Unity of the Church (248 ad)

cropped-cropped-img_00551.jpgDoes he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church trust that he is in the Church, when Paul says, “There is one body, and one spirit, one hope of our calling…”

This unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church…. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood; let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication.

The Church is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams… so the unity is still preserved.

This sacrament of unity, this bond of a concord inseparably cohering , is set forth where in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided nor cut, but is received an an entire garment, and is possessed as an uninjured and undivided robe by those who cast lots concerning Christ’s garment, who should rather put on Christ…. He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ.

But because Christ’s people cannot be rent, his robe woven and united throughout, is not divided by those who posses it; undivided, united, connected, it shows the coherent concord of our people who put on Christ. By the sacrament and sign of his garment, he has declared the unity of the Church.

Who then, is so wicked and faithless, who is so insane with the madness of discord, that either he should believe that the unity of God can be divided, or should dare to rend it — the garment of the Lord — the Church of Christ?

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