St. Optatus on the Church and the Priesthood

St. Optatus of Milevis ca. 4th cent.

…[I]n vain do you claim for yourselves alone this name of the Church with her Endowments, which are rather with us than with you.

Now these Endowments are connected one with another, and are distinct, but in such a way, that it may be understood that one cannot be separated from another. For they are numerically distinct, but with one act of the mind we see them joined in their Body, as are the fingers on the hand; each of which we perceive to be removed by spaces from the others. Therefore he who possesses one, must possess them all, since not one of them can be apart from its fellows.

We may add that we possess, and that in the strictest sense, not one Endowment alone, but all.

So, of the above-mentioned Endowments, the Cathedra is, as we have said, the first, which we have proved to be ours, through Peter, and which draws to itself the ANGEL [the episcopate] — unless, perchance, you claim him for yourselves, and have him shut up somewhere or other. Send him out if you can, and let him exclude from his communion seven angels, our colleagues in Asia, to whose churches wrote the Apostle John — churches with which you cannot prove that you have any intercourse whatsoever.

On what ground, then, can you maintain that you possess an Angel able to move the Fountain, or one who, as such, can be numbered among the other Endowments of the Church?

Whatever is without the Seven Churches is alien. Supposing then that you really had even one Angel who belongs to the Church, through that one Angel you would be in communion with other Angels too, and through them with the above-mentioned Churches, and through these Churches with us also. If these things be as I have stated them, you have lost your case. (Against the Donatists Bk. 2.5-6)

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