Tertullians Letter on Patience

Tertullian on Patience
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But you have come to the prison for the very purpose of trampling upon him right in his own house. For you have engaged him in battle already outside the prison and trampled him underfoot. Let him, therefore, not say: 'Now that they are in my domain, I will tempt them with base hatreds, with defections or dissensions among themselves. Do not allow him the good fortune in his own kingdom of setting you against one another, but let him find you fortified by the arms of peace among yourselves, because peace among yourselves means war with him.

Some, not able to find this peace in the Church, are accustomed to seek it from the martyrs in prison. For this reason, too, then, you ought to possess, cherish and preserve it among yourselves that you may perhaps be able to bestow it upon others also. Chapter 2 Other attachments, equally burdensome to the spirit, may have accompanied you to the prison gate; so far your relatives, too, may have escorted you.

From that very moment on you have been separated from the very world. How much more, then, from its spirit and its ways and doings? Nor let this separation from the world trouble you. For, if we reflect that it is the very world that is more truly a prison, we shall realize that you have left a prison rather than entered one. The world holds the greater darkness, blinding men's hearts. The world puts on the heavier chains, fettering the very souls of men.

The world breathes forth the fouler impurities--human lusts. Finally, the world contains the larger number of criminals, namely, the entire human race. In fact, it awaits. Wherefore, O blessed consider yourselves as having been transferred from prison to what we may call a place of safety. Darkness is there, but you are light; fetters are there, but you are free before God.

It breathes forth a foul smell, but you are an odor of sweetness. There the judge is expected at every moment, but you are going to pass sentence upon the judges themselves. There sadness may come upon the man who sighs for the pleasures of the world The Christian, however even when he is outside the prison, has renounced the world and, when in prison, even prison itself.

It does not matter what part of the world you are in, you who are apart from the world. And if you have missed some of the enjoyments of life, remember that it is the way of business to suffer one losses in order to make larger profits.

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I say nothing yet about the reward to which God invites the martyrs. Meanwhile, let us compare the life in the world with that in prison to see if the spirit does not gain more in prison than the flesh loses there. In fact, owing to the solicitude of the Church and the charity of the brethren, the flesh does not miss there what it ought to have, while, in addition, the spirit obtains what is always beneficial to the faith: you do not look at strange gods; you do not chance upon their images; you do not, even by mere physical contact, participate in heathen holidays; you are not plagued by the foul fumes of the sacrificial banquets, not tormented by the noise of the spectacles, nor by the atrocity or frenzy or shamelessness of those taking part in the celebrations; your eyes do not fall on houses of lewdness; you are free from inducements to sin, from temptations, from unholy reminiscences, free, indeed, even from persecution.

The prison now offers to the Christian what the desert once gave to the Prophets. Our Lord Himself quite often spent time in solitude to pray there more freely, to be there away from the world.

In fact, it was in a secluded place that He manifested His glory to His disciples. Let us drop the name 'prison' and call it a place of seclusion. Though the body is confined, though the flesh is detained, there is nothing that is not open to the spirit. In spirit wander about, in spirit take a walk, setting before yourselves not shady promenades and long porticoes but that path which leads to God. As often as you walk that path, you will not be in prison.

The leg does not feel the fetter when the spirit is in heaven. The spirit carries about the whole man and brings him wherever he wishes. And where your heart is, there will your treasure be also. There, then, let our heart be where we would have our treasure. CHAPTER 3 Granted now, O blessed, that even to Christians the prison is unpleasant--yet, we were called to the service in the army of the living God in the very moment when we gave response to the words of the sacramental oath.

No soldier goes out to war encumbered with luxuries, nor does he march to the line of battle from the sleeping chamber, but from light and cramped tents where every kind of austerity, discomfort, and inconvenience is experienced. Even in time of peace soldiers are toughened to warfare by toils and hardships: by marching in arms, by practicing swift maneuvers in the field, by digging a trench, by joining closely together to form a. Everything is set in sweating toil, lest bodies and minds be frightened at having to pass from shade to sunshine, from sunshine to icy cold, from the tunic to the breastplate, from hushed silence to the warcry, from rest to the din of battle.

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In like manner, O blessed, consider whatever is hard in your present situation as an exercise of your powers of mind and body. You are about to enter a noble contest in which the living God acts the part of superintendent and the Holy Spirit is your trainer, a contest whose crown is eternity, whose prize is angelic nature, citizenship in heaven and glory for ever and ever.

And so your Master, Jesus Christ, who has anointed you with His Spirit and has brought you to this training ground, has resolved, before the day of the contest, to take you from a softer way of life to a harsher treatment that your strength may be increased. For athletes, too, are set apart for more rigid training that they may apply themselves to the building up of their physical strength.

They are kept from lavish living, from more tempting dishes, from more pleasurable drinks. They are urged on, they are subjected to torturing toils, they are worn out: the more strenuously they have exerted themselves, the greater is their hope of victory. And they do this, says the Apostle, to win a perishable crown. As mentioned above, Francis pointed towards the example of Aeneas bearing his father on his shoulders and walking towards the mountain full of the future.

Trying Patience

Thus, the patient person gazes at the mountain, which steadies his feet and strengthens his arms. The resurrection also provides an additional answer to the question: why is patience a witness of holiness and a spiritual sign? When a Christian practices patience in all but impossible circumstances, this ultimately witnesses to his or her belief in the resurrection, i.

Wright, in his latest work, St. Paul: A Biography , makes a helpful distinction between optimism and hope that can illuminate the point that the patient Christian witnesses to something. It is a sense that things will turn out well.

Tertullian’s Apologetic and Practical Treatises | Logos Bible Software

It can be very hard to maintain in trying circumstances. In early Christian belief hope is not just a feeling, but a virtue. The Christian must practice it and cultivate it through prayer and liturgy. In a similar manner, a person who remains patient despite arduous circumstances witnesses to something. One can tell that he or she has grounded his or her life in something other than the needs of the moment. In the most impossible circumstances, the patient person shows for his or her belief in the resurrection.

As noted above, Francis exhorts the Christian populace that this virtue is especially needed today.

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Technology has in some ways contributed to the impatience of society, since people receive information instantly. As a society, we have grown impatient. Patience, especially in trying circumstances, points towards a person being centered in something other than the fast-paced demands of the moment. Patience thereby witnesses to something divine. Brendan Lupton is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and an assistant professor at University of St. Mary of the Lake: Mundelein Seminary, where he has been teaching patristics and historical theology since With Francis, I have lost all patience!

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He is an occasion of sin, at least for me, and seems to be so for many others as well. All rights reserved. Since About Contact Advertise Submissions. Brendan Lupton. Patience and Hope When the Holy Father speaks of patience, he often connotes that the patient person is in some ways renewed or energized by its practice. What Makes Patience a Christian Sign? Tertullian the Trailblazer Tertullian was a trailblazer and he accomplished many firsts as a leading Latin theologian, such as helping to develop a Latin theological vocabulary.

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Comments Peter says:. January 26, at pm. Frederick Dempsey says:. Shortly after his conversion, Tertullian set himself to defending the Catholic faith against non-Christians and heretics, and is highly regarded among all Christian traditions today. Format: Digital.

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Confess to the Lord my God that I certainly have courage, not to say presumption, to have dared to write on patience, a virtue which I am utterly unfit to practice. Of Patience Generally; And Tertullian's Own Unworthiness to Treat of It at every bitter message, that man uttered nothing out of his mouth but thanks to God .

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