(d. 258)

LETTER 1 (to Donatus)


English tr. mod., based on E. Wallis: The Ante-Nicene Fathers v. V.
The Letter to Donatus
(Letter 1), pp. 279-280 (PL 4, 219a -223a;)






1.13. OR do you believe that even those are secure,—that those at least are safe with some stable permanence among the chaplets of honour and vast wealth, whom, in the glitter of royal palaces, the safeguard of watchful arms surrounds? They have greater fear than others. A man is constrained to dread no less than he is dreaded.

XIII. An tu vel illos putas tutos, illos saltem inter honorum infulas et opes largas stabili firmitate securos, quos regalis aulae splendore fulgentes armorum excubantium tutela circumstat? Major illis quam caeteris [0219B] metus est. Tam ille timere cogitur quam timetur.

Exaltation exacts its penalties equally from the more powerful, although he may be hedged in with bands of satellites, and may guard his person with the enclosure and protection of a numerous retinue. Even as he does not allow his inferiors to feel security, it is inevitable that he himself should want the sense of security. The power of those whom power makes terrible to others, is, first of all, terrible to themselves. It smiles to rage, it cajoles to deceive, it entices to slay, it lifts up to cast down. With a certain usury of mischief, the greater the height of dignity and honours attained, the greater is the interest of penalty required. Exigit poenas pariter de potentiore sublimitas, sit licet satellitum manu septus , et clausum [0220A] ac protectum latus numeroso stipatore tueatur. Quam securos non sinit esse subjectos, tam necesse est non sit et ipse securus. Ante ipsos terret potestas sua quos facit esse terribiles. Arridet ut saeviat, blanditur ut fallat, illicit ut occidat, extollit ut deprimat. Foenore quodam nocendi, quam fuerit amplior summa dignitatis et honorum, tam major exigitur usura poenarum.




1.14. HENCE, then, the one peaceful and trustworthy tranquillity, the one solid and firm and constant security, is this, for a man to withdraw from these eddies of a distracting world, and, anchored on the ground of the harbour of salvation, to lift his eyes from earth to heaven; and having been admitted to the gift of God, and being already very near to his God in mind, he may boast, that whatever in human affairs others esteem lofty and grand, lies altogether beneath his consciousness. [...]

XIV. Una igitur placida et fida tranquillitas, una solida et firma et perpetua securitas, si quis, ab his inquietantis saeculi turbinibus extractus, salutaris portus statione fundatus, ad coelum oculos tollat a terris, et ad Domini munus admissus, ac Deo suo mente jam proximus, quicquid apud caeteros in rebus humanis sublime ac magnum videtur, infra [0220B] suam jacere conscientiam glorietur.

 lectio divina


LECTIO DIVINA is contemplative



We are constrained to have more love for what we shall be,

Plus amare conpellimur, quod futuri sumus,

by being allowed to know and to condemn what we were.

dum et scire conceditur et damnare, quod eramus.

Neither for this purpose is it necessary to pay a price either in the way of bribery or of labor; so that human elevation or dignity should be engendered with elaborate effort; but it is a gratuitous gift from God, and it is accessible [ to all].

Nec ad hoc pretiis aut ambitu aut manus opus est, ut hominis summa uel dignitas uel potestas elaborata mole pariatur: et gratuitum de Deo munus et facile est.

AS the sun shines spontaneously,

     as the day gives light,

     as the fountain flows,

     as the shower yields moisture,

so does the heavenly Spirit infuse itself into us

Vt sponte sol radiat,

dies luminat,

 fons rigat,

 imber inrorat,

ita se spiritus caelestis infundit.

When the soul, in its gaze into heaven, has recognized its Author, it rises higher than the sun, and far transcends all this earthly power, and begins to be that which it believes itself to be.

Postquam auctorem suum caelum intuens anima cognouit, sole altior et hac omni terrena potestate sublimior id esse incipit, quod esse se credit.


1.15. DO you, however, whom the celestial warfare has enlisted in the spiritual camp, only observe a discipline uncorrupted and chastened in the virtues of religion.

 (15)  Tu tantum, quem iam spiritalibus castris caelestis militia signauit, tene incorruptam, tene sobriam religiosis uirtutibus disciplinam.

BE constant as well


as in READING;

Sit tibi uel




now speak with God,

now let God [speak] with you,

let Him instruct you in His precepts,

  let Him direct you. 

Nunc cum Deo loquere,

nunc Deus tecum.

Ille te praeceptis suis instruat,

ille disponat.

WHOM He has made rich,

     none shall make poor;

for, in fact, there can be no poverty to him

whose breast has once been supplied with heavenly food.

Quem ille diuitem fecerit,

nemo pauperam faciet

Penuria esse nulla iam poterit,

cum semel pectus caelestis sagina saturauit.

   TO you, then, ceilings enriched with gold, and houses adorned with mosaics of costly marble, will seem cheap, now that you know that it is you yourself who are rather to be perfected, you who are rather to be adorned; and that that dwelling in which God has dwelt as in a temple, in which the Holy Spirit has begun to make His abode, is of more importance than all others.

Iam tibi auro distincta laquearia et pretiosi marmoris crustis uestita domicilia sordebunt, cum scieris te excolendum magis, te potius ornandum, domum tibi hanc esse, quam Dominus insedit templi uice in qua Spiritus sanctus coepit habitare.


 lectio divina


On Psalmody with Prayer



1.16. These things, dearest Donatus, briefly for the present. For although what you profitably hear delights your patience, indulgent in its goodness, your well-balanced mind, and your assured faith—and nothing is so pleasant to your ears as what is pleasant to you in God,—yet, as we are associated as neighbours, and are likely to talk together frequently, we ought to have some moderation in our conversation; and since this is a holiday rest, and a time of leisure, whatever remains of the day, now that the sun is sloping towards the evening,14 let us spend it in gladness, nor let even the hour of repast be without heavenly grace.

XVI. Haec interim brevibus, Donate charissime: [0222B] nam, etsi facilem de bonitate patientiam , mentem solidam , fidem tutam salutaris auditus oblectat, nihilque tam tuis auribus gratum est quam quod in Deo gratum est, moderari tamen dicenda debemus simul juncti et saepius collocuturi . Et, quoniam feriata nunc quies ac tempus est otiosum, quicquid inclinato jam sole in vesperam diei superest, ducamus hanc diem laeti, nec sit vel hora convivii gratiae coelestis immunis.

Let the temperate meal resound with psalms;15 and as your memory is tenacious and your voice musical, undertake this office, as is your wont. You will provide a better entertainment for your dearest friends, if, while we have something spiritual to listen to, the sweetness of religious music charm our ears. Sonet psalmos [0223A] convivium sobrium; et ut tibi tenax memoria est, vox canora, aggredere hoc munus ex more . Magis charissimos pasces, si sit nobis spiritalis auditio, prolectet aures religiosa mulcedo.




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