Epistle of Vigil of the Ascension

Ephesians 4:7-13

To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal. Thus it says: Ascending on high, He led away captives; He gave gifts to men. Now this: He ascended, what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He Who descended, He it is Who ascended also above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He Himself gave some men as apostles, and some as prophets, others again as evangelists, and others as pastors and teachers, in order to perfect the saints for a work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the deep knowledge of the Son of God, to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.


Verse 7. To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. That is, as it hath pleased Christ to bestow his free gifts upon us; to shew, says S. Chrys. that it was not according to any merit of ours. The words also shew that Christ is the giver and author of graces, and consequently the true God. Wi. — We must endeavour by all means in our power to preserve this unity, especially by avoiding jealousy, or being envious of the graces which have been given to our neighour; considering that they all proceed from the same God, who divides to each one as he pleaseth. Tirinus.

Verse 8. He led captivity captive. S. Jerom and others expound these words of Christ’s delivering the pious souls that had died before his ascension, and which were detained in a place of rest which is called Limbus Patrum. — He gave gifts to men. Having delivered men from the captivity of sin, he bestowed upon them his gifts and graces. Wi. — Wherefore he, David, in Ps. lxvii. makes use of these words, in order to shew that these gifts were gratuitous, and that no person had a right to complain that another had received more: after this the apostle proceeds to shew that Christ even descended to the lower parts of the earth, in order to teach us humility; whence he concludes that we ought to be humble and live in union with our brethren, which is the chief subject of the present chapter. Tirinus.

Verse 9. Into the lower parts of the earth. This cannot signify into the grave only, especially since in that which we look upon as the apostles’ creed, we first profess to believe that he was buried, and afterwards that he descended into hell. Wi.

Verse 11. Some indeed he gave to be apostles, &c. It is said (1 Cor. xii. 28.) that God (even with the Greek article) gave some to be apostles, &c. and here it is said of Christ: another proof that Christ is the true God. Wi.

Verse 13-14. Unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ; that is, according to the measure of the full and perfect age of Christ. Of the ancient interpreters, some expound this of what shall happen in the next world, after the resurrection, when all the elect shall have bodies every way perfect; and as some conjecture, (when all who rise by a happy resurrection) shall seem to be about thirty, of the stature and age of Christ when he suffered. But others, especially the Greek interpreters, understand this verse of a spiritual perfection in this life, by which the members of Christ’s mystical body meet in the unity of faith, and increase in grace and virtue by imitating Christ, and following his doctrine and example. And this seems more agreeable to what follows: that we may not now be children, tossed to and fro by the wickedness, of men. The Greek word, as S. Jerom observes, may signify by the deceit or fallacy of men; by illusion, says S. Aug. And S. Chrys. tells us it is spoken by a metaphor, taken from those who cheat at dice, to gain all to themselves, to draw men into errors and heresies. Such, about that time, were the disciples of Simon the magician. Wi. — Every one must labour to become perfect in the state in which he is placed, by increasing in the knowledge and love of God, which knowledge and love of God constitute the full measure of a Christian. S. Chrysostom. — S. Austin also admits to another interpretation of this place, but prefers the former. According to him, it may mean: that all people, at the resurrection, will be raised in such a state as they would have had if they lived to the age of Christ, viz. thirty-three years. S. Thomas. — This text of the apostle, assuring to the one true Church a perpetual and visible succession of pastors, in the ministry, successors of the apostles, warranted the holy Fathers in the early ages of the Church, as it does Catholics of the present day, to try all seceders by the most famous succession of the popes or bishops of Rome. See this in S. Irenæus, l. iii. c. 3. Tertul. in præscript. Optatus. l. ii. cont. Parmen. S. Austin, cont. ep. Manic. c. iv. Ep. 165 & alibi. S. Epiphan. hæres. 27.


140: The Grace of God

The Catalog or the Authoritative Statements of the Past
Bishops of the Holy See Concerning the Grace of God

That also, which the holy Church uniformly does in the whole world with regard to those to be baptized, we do not observe with indifferent respect. Since whether children or youths come to the sacrament of regeneration, they do not approach the fountain of life, before the unclean spirit is driven away from them by the exorcisms and the breathings upon them of the priests; so that then it is truly manifest howthe prince of this world is sent forth [John 12:31], and how the strong[man] is first bound [Matt. 12:29], and thereafter his vessels are plundered [Mark 3:27], having been transferred to the possession of the victor, who leads captivity captive [Eph. 4:8] and gives gifts to man [Ps. 67:19].

189: Grace comes from Christ

ST. FELIX III 526-530
Confirmed by Boniface II
(against the Semipelagians)

Can. 16. “Let no one glory in that which he seems to possess, as if he did not receive (it), or think that he has received (it) for this reason, because the sign appeared from without, either that it might be read, or sounded that it might be heard. For thus says the Apostle: If justice (is) through the law, then Christ died for nothing [Gal. 2:21]: ascending on high he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men [Eph. 4:8; cf. Ps. 67:19]. Whoever has, has from Him, but whoever denies that he has from Him, either does not truly possess, or that, which he possesses, is taken away from him [Matt. 25:29]” [St. Prosper].

960: The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and Ordination

PIUS IV 1559-1565
(July 15, 1563)

But since in the sacrament of orders, as also in baptism and in confirmation, a sign is imprinted [can. 4], which can neither be effaced nor taken away, justly does the holy Synod condemn the opinion of those who assert that the priests of the New Testament have only a temporary power, and that those at one time rightly ordained can again become laymen, if they do not exercise the ministry of the word of God [can. 1]. But if anyone should affirm that all Christians without distinction are priests of the New Testament, or that they are all endowed among themselves with an equal spiritual power, he seems to do nothing else than disarrange [can. 6] the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is “as an army set in array” [cf. Song. 6:3], just as if, contrary to the teaching of blessed Paul, all were apostles, all prophets, all evangelists, all pastors, all doctors [cf. 1 Cor. 12:29; Eph. 4:11]. Accordingly, the holy Synod declares that besides the other ecclesiastical grades, the bishops who have succeeded the Apostles, belong in a special way to this hierarchial order, and have been “placed (as the same Apostle says) by the Holy Spirit to rule the Church of God” [Acts 20:29], and that they are superior to priests, and administer the sacrament of confirmation, ordain ministers of the Church, and can perform many other offices over which those of an inferior order have no power [can. 7]. The holy Synod teaches, furthermore, that in the ordination of bishops, priests, and of other orders, the consent, or call, or authority of the people, or of any secular power or magistrate is not so required for the validity of the ordination; but rather it decrees that those who are called and instituted only by the people, or by the civil power or magistrate and proceed to exercise these offices, and that those who by their own temerity take these offices upon themselves, are not ministers of the Church, but are to be regarded as “thieves and robbers, who have not entered by the door” [cf. John 10:1; can. 8]. These are the matters which in general it seemed well to the sacred Council to teach to the faithful of Christ regarding the sacrament of order. It has, however, resolved to condemn the contrary in definite and appropriate canons in the following manner, so that all, making use of the rule of faith, with the assistance of Christ, may be able to recognize more easily the Catholic truth in the midst of the darkness of so many errors, and may adhere to it.

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