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Cyprian of Carthage- De Lapsis

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Cole Proffitt

on 30 November 2012

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Transcript of Cyprian of Carthage- De Lapsis

Upbringing Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus was born in Carthage in the early third century to a wealthy pagan family.

Established himself as a professional teacher of rhetoric and a notable citizen before his conversion.

Took an interest in the Christian faith and was led to study scripture by a priest named Caecilianus, who later led Cyprian to his conversion at the age of 40. Confessors- The faithful who refused to denounce their faith under persecution.

"Christ libelli"- Letters of peace written to testify to the penitence of apostates, forgiving their sins, and petitions for their readmission to the Eucharistic community.

Consequently, apostates flocked to the cells of the imprisoned confessors and wept, flattered, and begged to obtain the "Christ libelli". Conflict What is to be done with those who
denied their faith but desire to become reunited to the church? Saint Cyprian of Carthage Controversy of the Lapsed Background Intro “There was no controversy over the absolute requirement that the church be holy; that was universally assumed and unanimously asserted by catholics, schismatics, and heretics alike.” Everything that Cyprian did as a Bishop, he did for the holiness of the church. Into the faith... Shortly after his conversion, Cyprian sold his properties to give to the poor and followed the road of chastity.

Cyprian quickly became a strong influence and leader in the Christian community, becoming Bishop of Carthage by 248 A.D. Less than 3 years after his conversion.

There was a resistance from a group of clerics who opposed his appointment as bishop because he had been a believer for such a short amount of time. This group would continue to give him grief and trouble. Background Heavily influenced by Tertullian, but his writings are even more focused on practical and disciplinary matters within the church.

When Cyprian became bishop in Carthage, the Christian church had seen a relative period of peace and toleration from the Roman Empire that had last for almost fifty years.

In 249 A.D., when Emperor Decius took rule, the persecution began again. Emperor Decius took power during a volatile period and he believed that if the entire empire were to offer worship to the Roman gods, to be enforced through libelli certificates, that they would grant divine aid and turn the situation around, allowing the empire to once again prosper. Controversy of the Lapsed Decius enacted the first empire wide persecution of the Church, and the Church responded in various ways.
1. Some remained faithful.
2. Others became so frightened at the threat of persecution that they turned from their faith before ever being questioned by Roman authorities.
3. Bribed authorities and priests to obtain a libelli certificate.
4. Flee into exile. Cyprian chose to abandon
his possessions and go into exile
from persecution, whereas many in his
flock either apostatized or found
other ways to avoid persecution
without confessing their faith. Controversy
of the
Lapsed Initially, Cyprian and the confessors did not have a problem. Both parties assumed that once the persecution was over and bishops were back to lead their flocks, councils would be held for each individual lapsed.

“The bishop must first speak, then comes peace.”

Cyprian held an exceedingly high view of the place of the Bishop in the Church.

"Nobody can have God as Father who has not the Church as Mother." Problems arose between Cyprian and a group of confessors, called “laxists”, who began offering communion to anyone with a letter without consulting the bishop, thus forming a schism.

This was unacceptable for Cyprian. “People coming back from the altars of Satan approach Our Lord’s sacred body, their hands still foul and reeking... they desecrate the body of the Lord, whereas Sacred Scripture cries aloud against them.”

Cyprian strongly writes that the sin that the lapsed committed was a grievous one and that they must not be deceived by the offer of easy reconciliation from the laxist. Cyprian's response to the controversy was influenced
by the writings of Tertullian.

Tertullian stated that no one who had received forgiveness from sin and experienced a spiritual rebirth should ever fall back into previous sins.

Precedence of this train of thought can be historically dated back to 150 A.D. where it had been accepted that the adulterer can only be received into the community after the first offense, the second cuts them off permanently. Cyprian had initially followed very closely to these views, yet after seeing and experiencing the fierceness of persecution against Christians as well as the varied responses from his congregation, he realized that his view must change.

Taking a practical approach, Cyprian responded in several different ways in his works titled "De Lapsis" & "De Unitade".
His first change was to forgive and readmit apostates who succumbed under threats and tortures, because they had not denied the Lord of their free will.
But this was certainly the minority group of apostates.
He looked to the Old Testament and the New Testament for guidance. Old Testament:
Warns seriously against idolatry and impiety.
New Testament:
Warns against denying Jesus Christ before men.
Specifically references Revelation 18:4, Matthew 6:20, as well as Matthew 10:32-33.

Cyprian also realized that throughout the Bible there is an undeniable ultimate mercy and covenant love for those who repent, and this hope should never be ignored regardless of sin. Cyprian's Response Cyprian came to the conclusion the lapsed should be reintegrated into the community only after careful consideration of each individual lapsed.
The sinner is re-accepted only after penitent prayer, good works on behalf of the poor, and acceptance of a temporary exclusion from the church.
Before God and fellow believers, this process shows that repentance was heartfelt and their desire to return to the church is sincere.
Those who refuse to do penance should not be forgiven, even on their deathbed. Cyprian viewed the Decius persecution as a test to the faith of Christians, but that the laxist are the true persecutors because they are not testing the church but are standing against scripture.

Cyprian urged the council of bishops that the laxists must be excommunicated because one who is not joined to the church is separated from the Gospel. In 251 A.D. the council of bishops followed the suggestions of Cyprian in regards to how the church should respond to the lapsed as well as the excommunication of the laxist schismatics.

While the schism did continue for a short period of time after the ruling of the council, this was the end of the controversy of the lapsed. Conclusion In 257 A.D. persecution began again under Decius' sucessor, Emperor Valerian.

At the beginning of 258 A.D. the Valerian persecution strengthened, requiring the immediate execution of bishops, priests, and deacons.

On September 14th, 258 A.D. Cyprian became the first bishop of Carthage to obtain the crown of martyrdom. Cyprian refused to offer worship to foreign gods and as his last act, he ordered that his executioner be given twenty-five gold pieces. St. Cyprian was generous, diligent, and faithful to both his teaching and his faith to the very end.

St. Cyprian was a defender of orthodoxy and a champion of the unity of the church, becoming an important facet of the historic development of the church.

Cyprian's leadership as a bishop lasted only nine years, but his influence and writings were pivotal for the future of the church due to real issues that required his action and response.
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