You lay down a prescription that this faith has its solemnities |appointed| by the Scriptures or the tradition of the ancestors; and that no further addition in the way of observance must be added, on account of the unlawfulness of innovation. Stand on that ground, if you can. For, behold, I impeach you of fasting besides on the Paschal-day, beyond the limits of those days in which |the Bridegroom was taken away;| and interposing the half-fasts of Stations; and you, (I find), sometimes living on bread and water, when it has seemed meet to each (so to do). In short, you answer that |these things are to be done of choice, not of command.| You have changed your ground, therefore, by exceeding tradition, in undertaking observances which have not been |appointed.| But what kind of deed is it, to permit to your own choice what you grant not to the command of God? Shall human volition have more licence than Divine power? I am mindful that I am free from the world, not from God. Thus it is my part to perform, without external suggestion thereto, an act of respect to my Lord, it is His to enjoin. I ought not merely to pay a willing obedience to Him, but withal to court Him; for the former I render to His command, the latter to my own choice.
But it is enough for me that it is a customary practice for the bishops withal to issue mandates for fasts to the universal commonalty of the Church; I do not mean for the special purpose of collecting contributions of alms, as your beggarly fashion has it, but sometimes too from some particular cause of ecclesiastical solicitude. And accordingly, if you practise tapeinophronesis at the bidding of a man's edict, and all unitedly, how is it that in our case you set a brand upon the very unity also of our fastings, and xerophagies, and Stations? -- unless, perhaps, it is against the decrees of the senate and the mandates of the emperors which are opposed to |meetings| that we are sinning! The Holy Spirit, when He was preaching in whatsoever lands He chose, and through whomsoever He chose, was wont, from foresight of the imminence either of temptations to befall the Church, or of plagues to befall the world, in His character of Paraclete (that is, Advocate for the purpose of winning over the judge by prayers), to issue mandates for observances of this nature; for instance, at the present time, with the view of practising the discipline of sobriety and abstinence: we, who receive Him, must necessarily observe also the appointments which He then made. Look at the Jewish calendar, and you will find it nothing novel that all succeeding posterity guards with hereditary scrupulousness the precepts given to the fathers. Besides, throughout the provinces of Greece there are held in definite localities those councils gathered out of the universal Churches, by whose means not only all the deeper questions are handled for the common benefit, but the actual representation of the whole Christian name is celebrated with great veneration. (And how worthy a thing is this, that, under the auspices of faith, men should congregate from all quarters to Christ! |See, how good and how enjoyable for brethren to dwell in unity!| This psalm you know not easily how to sing, except when you are supping with a goodly company!) But those conclaves first, by the operations of Stations and fastings, know what it is |to grieve with the grieving,| and thus at last |to rejoice in company with the rejoicing.| If we also, in our diverse provinces, (but) present mutually in spirit, observe those very solemnities, whose then celebration our present discourse has been defending, that is the sacramental law.