Let’s have some more of the canons of Hippo. Dull as they are, they provide context as to what we can expect of a set of canons.
25. Ut primae sedis episcopus non appelletur princeps sacerdotum, aut summus sacerdos, aut aliquid huiusmodi, sed tantum primae sedis episcopus.
That the bishop of the first see shall not be called “chief of the priests” or “highest priest” or something of this sort, but only bishop of the first see.
This also reappears as canon 39 in the Register of canons in the council of Carthage of 419.
26. Ut clerici edendi vel bibendi causa tabernas non ingrediantur, nisi peregrinationis necessitate.
That clergy shall not enter taverns for the purpose of eating or drinking except from the necessity of a journey.
So does this; canon 40.
27. Ut episcopi trans mare non proficiscantur, nisi consulto primae sedis episcopo suae cuiusque provinciae, ut ab eo praecipue possint formatas accipere. Hinc etiam dirigendae litterae concilii ad transmarinos episcopos.
That bishops shall not travel overseas, except after consulting the bishop of the first see of his own province**, so that from him they shall chiefly be able to receive letters of recommendation**. From now on also the letters of the council (sing) that need to be sent (gerundive) to overseas bishops.
The “cuiusque” bit is a bit of a guess. It means “of each”, and is singular, so must line up with suae provinciae. The “formata” is from Niemeyer, who gives this meaning based on … a canon from an African council! A bit circular, but the idea of a letter of authorisation is probably right. Another canon then says that clergy who turn up overseas without such a letter should be shown the door. Clearly Aurelius of Carthage did not intend to let people bypass him; and other archbishops thought the same.
28. Ut sacramenta altaris nonnisi a jejunis hominibus celebrentur, excepto uno die anniversario quo Cena Domini celebratur. Nam si aliquorum postmeridiano tempore defunctorum sive episcoporum sive clericorum sive ceterorum commendatio facienda est, solis orationibus fiat, si illi qui faciunt iam pransi inveniantur.
That the sacraments of the altar shall not be celebrated except by men fasting, except on the one anniversary day** on which the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. For if a service of commendation of some of the dead, whether bishops or clergy, is to be made in the afternoon, let it be with prayers only, if those who shall be available** have already had breakfast.**
“excepto… anniversario” seems to be an ablative absolute. “inveniantur” is present subjunctive, so we’re rendering all these subjunctives as “shall”, with an eye to a future action. “faciunt” is present indicative, but refers to a time before the time when people are available to officiate at the service. I hope that’s right!
There’s a definite air in some of these canons of an exasperated archbishop saying, “OK you bums, listen up and listen gooood….” It’s noticeable how almost everything is about the clergy, and the laity are almost invisible. We are not really in the early church any more, but well on our way to the medieval church.
3 thoughts on “Canons 25-28 of the breviarium of the Council of Hippo (393)”
There is a summary on letters of recommendation in W. Smith, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, with sources (see Commendatory Letters, also Dimissory Letters, Koinonikon):
And more in-depth in C. Fabricius, “Die Litterae Formatae im Frühmittelalter” (1926):
But there may be more recent studies.
The section on Commendatio is also interesting, isn’t it?