Opinions of the diocese of Italy during the seventh century.
I Know only of two or three authors that can instruct us in this matter; the one is Maurus, Bishop of Ravenna, who flourished in the midst of the seventh century; the other Mansuetus, Bishop of Milan, who flourished towards the end of it, viz. from the year 677. Of the first of these we have an Epistle against the Monothelites, which has been inserted in the Council of Lateran, under Martin the First, in the year 649. Act. I. Of the second we: have an Epistle to the Emperor Constantine, set down in the same Council. The union of them both with the Bishops of Rome, for the defense of the faith against the Monothelites, is a strong assurance of their purity in the faith. Their opinions are these that follow.
Maurus, who styles himself Servus servorum Dei, precisely observes, that the Pope had invited him to be present at Rome at the council, but as a Bishop without his diocese; for otherwise he might, as being one of his suffragans, by his authority have summoned him thither. And indeed, instead of going to Rome in person, he sent in his place Maurus, Bishop of Cesena, with one of the Priests of Milan. ibid p. 601. He declares that the only means of preserving the purity of the faith is, to keep to the doctrine of the Apostles, which the Fathers had followed, with respect had to the fifth general Council. The words he useth are these, T. 6. Conc. p. 96. Unicum omnibus et singulare est Redemptoris Dei, et Domini nostri Jesu Christi concessum remedium ad animarum nostrarum salutem, ut ea quae per Apostolorum prcedicationem percepimus, et Patrum doctrinam, proculdubio teneamus.
“The only and particular remedy granted to all for the salvation of our souls, by God our Redeemer, and the Lord Jesus Christ, is, that, without all doubt, we hold fast the things we have received by the preaching of the Apostles, and the doctrine of the Fathers.” He declares that he owns and admits the five general Councils, and that he condemns that which was held at Constantinople in favor of the Monothelites, being supported by the credit of the emperors.
Maximus, Bishop of Aquileia, expresseth the same opinions; and moreover expressly condemns by name the Monothelite Bishops, Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paul, p. 97.
Mansuetus, in his Epistle to the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, declares, first, that it was Constantine the Great who convened the Council of Nice, which at this day is very stiffly contested by the Church of Rome; that the Emperor Theodosius called together the second Council of Constantinople; and that the Emperor Martianus did the same with regard to the Council of Chalcedon, and Justinian to the fifth general Council.
He declares, that the whole faith of his Church is contained in the Apostles’ Creed; whereof the confession of faith by him sent to the Emperor is only an explication. Which makes it evident, that the Church of Milan, and his diocese, under the reigns of Pertharit and Cunibert, kings of the Lombards, did not own any other doctrine to belong to the faith and of necessary belief, save only what was contained in the Apostles’ Creed; much less did his Church own that heap of doctrines which Pius the
Fourth thought good of his own head to superadd to it.
True it is that he praiseth the ancient doctors of the Church, Leo I. St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Basil, etc. Quicquid hi docuerunt, saith he, sapuerunt, prosdicaverunt, vel defensores extiterunt, nos eorum acta vel statuta omni devotione suscipimus.
“Whatsoever they have taught, judged, preached, or defended, all that we received with all devotion.”
Yet however this is not so general as it seems to be, because his words have a particular reference to their explications concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, against the heresies of the fourth and fifth century, which was the only matter in question then.
It is worth our while to take notice of the singular eulogy he gives to St. Ambrose, whom he calls Veneranda Corona Christi Confessor dembrosius Mediolanensis Ecclesios Preesul;
“The venerable Crown of Christ, Ambrosius the Confessor, Bishop of the Church of Milan.”
What I have here mentioned of Mansuetus is the more considerable, because it was done by him presiding in the synod of his diocese. Lastly, We may observe that the deputies of Mansuetus condemned Honorius, Bishop of Rome, Act. 13. for being a Monothelite; and the matter at this time is no longer questioned, notwithstanding Baronius, and some after him, have endeavored to make it pass for doubtful: whence it appears that in Italy they held it for an inviolable maxim:
First, That the Pope was liable to become an heretic.
Secondly, That none were to continue in communion with him, save only so far as he continued united to Jesus Christ, as a true believer; so far were they from supposing themselves bound to cleave to the Church of Rome, as they would continue in the communion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But though we have but few particular authors that might inform us of the opinions and worship that took place in that diocese; yet have we something that seems more authentic, viz. the Liturgy which bears the name of St. Ambrose. And forasmuch as this piece was made use of before this century, and that since that time it has served for a model of the devotion of that diocese, it will be of some importance carefully to examine the same, and the rather, because though I speak of it only in this place, yet the observations drawn from thence may and ought to be applied to the foregoing ages, as well as those that follow after.