Monday, July 12, 2010


Caesarius of Arles (470-542)

[These posts on arboricide are notes to myself for a book I'm writing.]

Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 14.4, text in Sancti Caesarii Arelatensis Sermones, ed. G. Morin, Pars I, Editio 2 (Turnholt: Brepols, 1953 = Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 103), pp. 71-72; tr. Mary Magdeleine Mueller in St. Caesarius, Sermons, Volume I (1-80) (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1956; rpt. 2004 = The Fathers of the Church, 31), pp. 82-83:
I also advise you to destroy all the temples which you find. Do not make vows to trees or pray to fountains. Avoid enchanters as poison of the Devil. Do not hang on yourself and your family diabolical phylacteries, magic letters, amber charms, and herbs. Whoever does this evil should not doubt that he has committed a sacrilege. If anyone knows that near his home there are altars or a temple or profane trees where religious promises are made, he should be eager to destroy them by pulling or cutting them down. If anyone fails to do this, on judgment day he will have to render the whole account for the souls of however many come there and commit dreadful crimes.

Iterum admoneo vos omnia fana destruere, ubicumque inveneritis. Nolite ad arbores vota reddere; nolite ad fontes orare. Praecantatores quasi venenum diaboli fugite. Phylacteria diabolica, caracteres, sucinos et herbas nolite vobis et vestris appendere: quia qui hoc malum fecerit, sacrilegium se non dubitet admisisse. Quicumque iuxta domum suam aras aut fanum aut arbores profanas ubi vota reddantnr, esse cognoverit, studeat confringere, dissipare atque succidere; quia, si hoc facere dissimvlauerit, quanticumque ibi venerint, et sacrilegia nefanda commiserint, totum hoc de illius anima exacturus est .... in die iudicii.
Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 53.1-2, text Morin, pp. 233-234; tr. Mueller pp. 263-264:
(1) It is a source of pleasure to us, dearly beloved, to see you faithfully coming to church, and for this we give the greatest thanks to God. Truly, this is becoming and proper for Christans, to hasten like good sons to their mother the Church with the greatest longing and true piety. But, although we rejoice at this, dearly beloved, to see you hasten faithfully to church, we are sad and we grieve because we know that some of you rather frequently go over to the ancient worship of idols like the pagans who have no God or grace of baptism. We have heard that some of you make vows to trees, pray to fountains, and practice diabolical augury. Because of this there is such sorrow in our hearts that we cannot receive any consolation. What is worse, there are some unfortunate and miserable people who are not only unwilling to destroy the shrines of the pagans but even are not afraid or ashamed to build up those which have been destroyed. Moreover, if anyone with a thought of God wants to burn the wood of those shrines or to tear to pieces and destroy the diabolical altars, they become angry, rave with fury, and are excited with excessive frenzy. They even go so far as to dare to strike those who out of love for God are trying to overthrow the wicked idols; perhaps they do not even hesitate to plan their death. What are those unfortunate, miserable people doing? They are deserting the light and running to darkness; they reject God and embrace the Devil. They desert life while they follow after death; by repudiating Christ they proceed to impiety. Why, then, did those miserable people come to church? Why did they receive the sacrament of baptism—if afterwards they intended to return to the profanation of idols? Truly in them is fulfilled what was written: 'The dog is returned to his vomit: and the pig to his wallowing in the mire.' They do not fear what the Lord said through His Prophet: 'He that sacrificeth to gods shall be put to death, save only to the Lord'; moreover, in the psalms: 'All the gods of the Gentiles are devils, but the Lord made the heavens'; and again: 'Let them be all confounded that adore graven things, and that glory in their idols.'

(2) Therefore, brethren, whoever you are that have not done such wrong to the loving Christ, see to it that you never do so. Be careful lest those desperate, wicked men overwhelm you, and lest after Christ's sacraments you return to the poison of the Devil. Rather, rebuke whomever you recognize as such, admonish them quite harshly, chide them if you can; if they are not corrected thus, pull their hair. If they still continue, tie them with bonds of iron, so that a chain may hold those whom Christ's grace does not hold. Then, do not permit them to restore the shrine, but endeavor to tear to pieces and destroy them wherever they are. Cut the impious wood down to the roots, break up the altars of the Devil. Moreover, know this, dearly beloved, that when he is baptized every man is separated from the following and army of the Devil. However, if later on there is a return to the practice of that impiety which we mentioned before, Christ is immediately deserted and the Devil again takes hold. It would have been a less serious matter not to come to Christ than afterwards to desert Him, according to what the Apostle Peter says about the matter: 'It were better for them not to have known the way of justice than, having known it, to turn back.'

(1) Gratum nobis est, fratres dilectissimi, et maximas Deo gratias agimus, quia vos ad ecclesiam fideliter venire videmus: quia et re vera hoc decet et expedit christianis, ut <ad> matrem suam ecclesiam quasi boni filii cum summo desiderio et vera pietate concurrant. Et licet hinc gaudeamus, fratres carissimi, quia vos ad ecclesiam videmus fideliter currere, contristamur tamen et dolemus, quia aliquos ex vobis cognoscimus ad antiquam idolorum culturam frequentius ambulare, quomodo pagani sine deo et sine baptismi gratia faciunt. Audivimus aliquos ex vobis ad arbores vota reddere, ad fontes orare, auguria diabolica observare: de qua re tantus dolor est in animis nostris, ut nullam possumus consolationem recipere. Sunt enim, quod peius est, infelices et miseri, qui paganorum fana non solum destruere nolunt, sed etiam quae destructa fuerant aedificare nec metuunt nec erubescunt. Et si aliquis deum cogitans aut arbores fanaticos incendere aut aras diabolicas voluerit dissipare atque destruere, irascuntur et insaniunt et furore nimio succenduntur; ita ut etiam illos, qui pro Dei amore sacrilega idola conantur evertere, aut caedere praesumant, aut forsitan de illorum morte cogitare non dubitent. Quid faciunt infelices et miseri? Lucem deserunt, et ad tenebras currunt: contemnunt deum, amplectuntur diabolum: vitam deserunt, mortem sequuntur: Christum repudiant, et ad sacrilegia vadunt. Ut quid miseri ad ecclesiam venerunt? ut quid sacramentum baptismi acceperunt, si postea ad idolorum sacrilegia redituri erant? Impletur enim in illis illud quod scriptum est: CANIS REVERSUS AD VOMITUM SUUM, ET PORCUS AD VOLUTABRUM SUUM. Non timent illud quod dixit dominus per prophetam: SACRIFICANS IDOLIS ERADICABITUR, NISI DOMINO SOLI; et in psalmis: OMNES DII GENTIUM DAEMONIA, DOMINUS VERO CAELOS FECIT; et iterum: CONFUNDANTUR OMNES QUI ADORANT SCULPTILIA, QUI GLORIANTUR IN SIMULACRIS SUIS.

(2) Vos ergo, fratres, quicumque estis, qui tantum malum Christo propitio non fecistis, videte ne aliquando faciatis, videte ne vos circumveniant homines perditi atque perversi, ut post Christi sacramenta ad diaboli venena redeatis; sed magis castigate quoscumque tales cognoscitis, admonete durius, increpate severius. Et si non corriguntur, si potestis, caedite illos; si nec sic emendantur, et capillos illis incidite. Et si adhuc perseverant, vinculis ferreis adligate: ut quos non tenet Christi gratia, teneat vel catena. Fanum ergo reparare nolite permittere; immo magis, ubicumque fuerit, destruere et dissipare contendite. Arbores etiam sacrilegas usque ad radicem incendite, aras diaboli comminuite. Et hoc scitote, fratres carissimi, quia omnis homo, quando baptizatur, de grege diaboli et ab exercitu illius separatur. Quod si postea ad ista quae supra diximus sacrilegia celebranda redierit, statim <a> Christo deseritur, et iterum a diabolo occupatur. Levius illi fuerat ad Christum non venire, quam postea Christum deserere, secundum quod de talibus dicit Petrus apostulus: MELIUS, inquid, ILLIS FUERAT NON COGNOSCERE VIAM IUSTITIAE, QUAM POST COGNITIONEM RETRORSUM CONVERTI.
Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 54.5, text Morin, p. 239; tr. Mueller, p. 269:
Therefore, Christians should not fulfill vows to trees or adore fountains, if by God's grace they desire to be free from eternal punishment. So, if a man has any kind of shrines on his land or in his country house, trees or altars near his estate where miserable men are wont to fulfill such vows, if he does not destroy them and cut them down, he will doubtless be a participant in those impious practices which are carried on there. How is it that when those trees where vows are fulfilled are cut down no one takes the wood of them to his hearth? See the misery and foolishness of men: they pay honor to a dead tree, but despise the commands of the living God. They do not dare to throw the branches of a tree into the hearth, but by their wickedness they cast themselves into hell.

Pro qua re nec ad arbores debent christiani vota reddere, nec ad fontes adorare, si se volunt per dei gratiam de aeterno supplicio liberari. Et ideo quicumque in agro suo, aut in villa, aut iuxta villam aliquas arbores aut aras vel quaelibet fana habuerit, ubi miseri homines solent aliqua vota reddere, si eas non destruxerit atque succiderit, in illis sacrilegiis, quae ibi facta fuerint, sine dubio particeps erit. Nam et illud quale est, quod, quando arbores illae ubi vota redduntur ceciderint, nemo sibi ex illis arboribus lignum ad focum adfert? Et videte miseriam vel stultitiam generis humani: arbori mortuae honorem inpendunt, et dei viventis praecepta contemnunt; ramos arboris non sunt ausi mittere in focum, et se ipsos per sacrilegium praecipitant in infernum.


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