Consecrandus

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Nunc de sacrificio ipso pauca dicemus. “ebur” inquit Plato “non castum donum Deo.” [cf. Nomoi 12.956a] quid ergo? picta scilicet ex texta pretiosa? immo vero non castum donum Deo, quidquid corrumpi, quidquid subripi potest. sed sicut hoc vidit, non oportere viventi offerre aliquid, quod sit ex mortuo corpore, cur illud non vidit, non debere incorporali corporale munus offerri? quanto melius et verius Seneca: “vultisne vos” inquit “deum cogitare magnum et placidum, et maiestate leni verendum, amicum et semper in proximo, non immolationibus et sanguine multo colendum—quae enim ex trucidatione immerentium voluptas est?—, sed mente pura, bono honestoque proposito? non templa illi congestis in altitudinem saxis exstruenda sunt: in suo cuique consecrandus est pectore.” [Seneca Minor, fr. 123] vestes igitur et gemmas et cetera quae habentur in pretio si quis putet Deo cara, is plane quid sit Deus nescit: cui putat voluptati esse eas res quas etiam homo si contempserit, iure laudabitur. quid ergo castum, quid Deo dignum, nisi quod ipse in illa divina lege sua poposcit? duo sunt, quae offerri debeant, donum et sacrificium, donum in perpetuum, sacrificium ad tempus. verum apud istos, qui nullo modo rationem divinitatis intellegunt, donum est quidquid auro argentoque fabricatur, item quidquid purpura et serico texitur, sacrificiumque victima et quaecumque in ara cremantur. sed utroque non utitur Deus, quia et ipse incorruptus est et illud totum corruptibile. itaque Deo utrumque incorporale offerendum est, quo utitur. donum est integritas animi, sacrificium laus et hymnus; si enim Deus non videtur, ergo his rebus coli debet quae non videntur. nulla igitur alia religio vera est nisi quae virtute ac iustitia constat.
(Lactantius, Div. Inst. 6.25.1-7)

Let us now say a few words about sacrifice. ‘Ivory,’ says Plato, ‘is not a chaste offering to a god.’ Well? Are paintings and cloth precious then? There is no chaste offering to be made to God out of anything that can be spoilt or stolen. But if Plato could see that nothing should be offered to a living being made of dead matter, why did he not see that no corporeal offering should be made to the incorporeal? Seneca put it much better, and more truly: ‘Do you people want to think of god as great, peaceful, reverend in an easy majesty, as a friend and always close by, not someone to worship with sacrificial beasts and quantities of blood—what pleasure is there in the slaughter of the undeserving?—but with a pure heart and a good and honest determination? He needs no temples built with stone piled high; each man must keep him sacred in his heart.’ Anyone thinking that God values clothes and jewels and the other stuff treated as precious clearly does not know what God is; he thinks God finds pleasure in things that a mere man would rightly be praised for disdaining. There is no chaste offering and none worthy of God except what he has required in his famous holy commandment. There are two things which are due as offerings, gifts and sacrifices: a gift is for ever and a sacrifice is for the while. For those people who have no notion of the nature of divinity, a gift is anything made of gold and silver or anything woven of purple and silk, and a sacrifice is a victim and anything burnt upon an altar. But God has use for neither, because he himself is uncorrupt and all that stuff is corruptible. God must therefore be offered the pair of incorruptibles: that pair he can use. Integrity of soul is the gift, and praise and hymns are the sacrifice. Since God is not visible, he must be worshipped with things invisible. The only true religion is the one founded on virtue and justice. (tr. Anthony Bowen & Peter Garnsey)

 

Caeleste

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Iam mota inter eos fuerant arma civilia. et quamvis se Maxentius Romae contineret, quod responsum acceperat periturum esse, si extra portas urbis exisset, tamen bellum per idoneos duces gerebatur. plus virium Maxentio erat, quod et patris sui exercitum receperat a Severo et suum proprium de Mauris atque Gaetulis nuper extraxerat. dimicatum, et Maxentiani milites praevalebant, donec postea confirmato animo Constantinus et ad utrumque paratus copias omnes ad urbem propius admovit et a regione pontis Mulvii consedit. imminebat dies quo Maxentius imperium ceperat, qui est a.d. sextum Kalendas Novembres, et quinquennalia terminabantur. commonitus est in quiete Constantinus, ut caeleste signum dei notaret in scutis atque ita proelium committeret. facit ut iussus est et transversa X littera, summo capite circumflexo, Christum in scutis notat. quo signo armatus exercitus capit ferrum. procedit hostis obviam sine imperatore pontemque transgreditur, acies pari fronte concurrunt, summa vi utrimque pugnatur: neque his fuga nota neque illis.
(Lactantius, Mort. Pers. 44.1-6)

And now a civil war broke out between Constantine and Maxentius. Although Maxentius kept himself within Rome, because the soothsayers had foretold that if he went out of it he should perish, yet he conducted the military operations by able generals. In forces he exceeded his adversary; for he had not only his father’s army, which deserted from Severus, but also his own, which he had lately drawn together out of Mauritania and Italy. They fought, and the troops of Maxentius prevailed. At length Constantine, with steady courage and a mind prepared for every event, led his whole forces to the neighbourhood of Rome, and encamped them opposite to the Milvian bridge. The anniversary of the reign of Maxentius approached, that is, the sixth of the kalends of November [i.e. the 27th of October], and the fifth year of his reign was drawing to an end. Constantine was directed in a dream to cause the heavenly sign to be delineated on the shields of his soldiers, and so to proceed to battle. He did as he had been commanded, and he marked on their shields the letter Χ, with a perpendicular line drawn through it and turned round thus at the top, being the cipher of Christ. Having this sign (☧), his troops stood to arms. The enemies advanced, but without their emperor, and they crossed the bridge. The armies met, and fought with the utmost exertions of valour, and firmly maintained their ground. (tr. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson)

Differendum

Itaque cum simul proposita sint homini bona et mala, considerare unumquemque secum decet, quanto satius sit, perpetuis bonis mala brevia pensare, quam pro brevibus et caducis bonis mala perpetua sustinere. nam sicut in hoc saeculo, cum est propositum cum hoste certamen, prius laborandum est, ut sis postmodum in otio; esuriendum, sitiendum, aestus, frigora perferenda, humi quiescendum, vigilandum, periclitandum est ut, salvis pignoribus et domo et re familiari, et omnibus pacis ad victoriae bonis perfrui possis: sin autem praesens otium malueris quam laborem, malum tibi maximum facias necesse est; praeoccupabit enim adversarius non resistentem; vastabuntur agri, diripietur domus, in praedam uxor ac liberi venient, et tu ipse interficiere aut capiere: quae omnia ne accidant, praesens commodum differendum est, ut maius longiusque pariatur.
(Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones 6.4)

Since, therefore, good and evil things are set before man at the same time, it is befitting that every one should consider with himself how much better it is to compensate evils of short duration by perpetual goods, than to endure perpetual evils for short and perishable goods. For as, in this life, when a contest with an enemy is set before you, you must first labour that you may afterwards enjoy repose, you must suffer hunger and thirst, you must endure heat and cold, you must rest on the ground, must watch and undergo dangers, that your children, and house, and property being preserved, you may be able to enjoy all the blessings of peace and victory; but if you should choose present ease in preference to labour, you must do yourself the greatest injury: for the enemy will surprise you offering no resistance, your lands will be laid waste, your house plundered, your wife and children become a prey, you yourself will be slain or taken prisoner; to prevent the occurrence of these things, present advantage must be put aside, that a greater and more lasting advantage may be gained. (tr. William Fletcher)