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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Sec. II.—On Deacons and Deaconesses, the Rest of the Clergy, and on Baptism.

Let not therefore either a bishop, or a presbyter, or a deacon, or any one else of the sacerdotal catalogue, defile his tongue with calumny, lest he inherit a curse instead of a blessing; and let it also be the bishop’s business and care that no lay person utter any curse: for he ought to take care of all,—of the clergy, of the virgins, of the widows, of the laity. For which reason, O bishop, do thou ordain thy fellow-workers, the labourers for life and for righteousness, such deacons as are pleasing to God, such whom thou provest to be worthy among all the people, and such as shall be ready for the necessities of their ministration. Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. Thou shalt therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon shall anoint only their forehead with the holy oil, and after him the deaconess shall anoint them:29192919     [Compare Jas. v. 14.]   for there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men; but only in the laying on of hands the bishop shall anoint her head, as the priests and kings were formerly anointed, not because those which are now baptized are ordained priests, but as being Christians, or anointed, from Christ the Anointed, “a royal priesthood, and an holy nation, the Church of God, the pillar and ground of the marriage-chamber,”29202920     1 Pet. ii. 9; 1 Tim. iii. 15.   who formerly were not a people, but now are beloved and chosen, upon whom is called His new name29212921     The words from “upon whom” to the end of the chapter are omitted in one V. ms.   as Isaiah the prophet witnesses, saying: “And they shall call the people by His new name, which the Lord shall name for them.”29222922     Isa. lxii. 2    

Concerning the Sacred Initiation of Holy Baptism.

XVI. Thou therefore, O bishop, according to that type, shalt anoint the head of those that are to be baptized, whether they be men or women, with the holy oil, for a type of the spiritual baptism. After that, either thou, O bishop, or a presbyter that is under thee, shall in the solemn form name over them the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, and shall dip them in the water; and let a deacon receive the man, and a deaconess the woman, that so the conferring of this inviolable seal may take place with a becoming decency. And after that, let the bishop anoint those that are baptized with ointment.  

What is the Meaning of Baptism into Christ, and on What Account Everything is There Said or Done.

XVII. This baptism, therefore, is given into the death of Jesus:29232923     Vid Rom. vi. 3   the water is instead of the burial, and the oil instead of the Holy Ghost; the seal instead of the cross; the ointment is the confirmation of the confession; the mention of the Father as of the Author and Sender; the joint mention of the Holy Ghost as of the witness; the descent into the water the dying together with Christ; the ascent out of the water the rising again with Him. The Father is the God over all; Christ is the only-begotten God, the beloved Son, the Lord of glory; the Holy Ghost is the Comforter, who is sent by Christ, land taught by Him, and proclaims Him.  

Of What Character He Ought to Be Who is Initiated.

XVIII. But let him that is to be baptized be free from all iniquity; one that has left off to work sin, the friend of God, the enemy of the devil, the heir of God the Father, the fellow-heir of His Son; one that has renounced Satan, and the demons, and Satan’s deceits; chaste, pure, holy, beloved of God, the son of God, praying as a son to his father, and saying, as from the common congregation of the faithful, thus: “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one: for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”29242924     Matt. vi. 9, etc.    

What are the Characters of a Deacon.

XIX. Let the deacons be in all things unspotted, as the bishop himself is to be, only more active; in number according to the largeness of the Church, that they may minister to the infirm as workmen that are not ashamed. And let the deaconess be diligent in taking care of the women; but both of them ready to carry messages, to travel about, to minister, and to serve, as spake Isaiah concerning the Lord, saying: “To justify the righteous, who serves many faithfully.”29252925     Isa. liii. 11, LXX.   Let every one therefore know his proper place, and discharge it diligently with one consent, with one mind, as knowing the reward of their ministration; but let them not be ashamed to minister to those that are in want, as even our “Lord Jesus Christ came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.”29262926     Matt. xx. 28.   So therefore ought they also to do, and not to scruple it, if they should be obliged to lay down their life for a brother. For the Lord and our Saviour Jesus Christ did not scruple to “lay down His life,” as Himself says, “for His friends.”29272927     John xv. 13.   If, therefore, the Lord of heaven and earth underwent all His sufferings for us, how then do you make a difficulty to minister to such as are in want, who ought to imitate Him who underwent servitude, and want, and stripes, and the cross for us? We ought therefore also to serve the brethren, in imitation of Christ. For says He: “He that will be great among you, let him be your minister; and he that will be first among you, let him be your servant.”29282928     Matt. xx. 26, 27.   For so did He really, and not in word only, fulfil the prediction of, “serving many faithfully.”29292929     Isa. liii. 11.   For “when He had taken a towel, He girded Himself. Afterward He puts water into a bason; and as we were sitting at meat, He came and washed the feet of us all, and wiped them with the towel.”29302930     John xiii. 4, 5.   By doing this He demonstrated to us His kindness and brotherly affection, that so we also might do the same to one another. If, therefore, our Lord and Master so humbled Himself, how can you, the labourers of the truth, and administrators of piety, be ashamed to do the same to such of the brethren as are weak and infirm? Minister therefore with a kind mind, not murmuring nor mutinying; for ye do not do it on the account of man, but on the account of God, and shall receive from Him the reward of your ministry in the day of your visitation. It is your duty who are deacons to visit all those who stand in need of visitation. And tell your bishop of all those that are in affliction; for you ought to be like his soul and senses—active and attentive in all things to him29312931     The portions in italics are not in one V. ms.   as to your bishop, and father29322932     The portions in italics are not in one V. ms.   and master.  

That a Bishop Ought to Be Ordained by Three or by Two Bishops, But Not by One; For that Would Be Invalid.

XX. We command that a bishop be ordained by three bishops, or at least by two; but it is not lawful that he be set over you by one; for the testimony of two or three witnesses is more firm and secure. But a presbyter and a deacon are to be ordained by one bishop and the rest of the clergy. Nor must either a presbyter or a deacon ordain from the laity into the clergy; but the presbyter is only to teach, to offer, to baptize, to bless the people, and the deacon is to minister to the bishop, and to the presbyters, that is, to do the office of a ministering deacon, but not to meddle with the other offices.  


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