Monday, November 10, 2014

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe, Bishop and Early Church Father

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (also known as Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius), a Latin Father of the Church, was born around 465 A.D. at Telepte, Carthage. He was born to a Roman senatorial family, and was well educated.

His father Claudius, died while Fulgentius was still quite young. His mother, Mariana taught him to speak Greek and Latin. He became so good at Greek, that he spoke it like a native, and committed all of Homer to memory. He was also well trained in Latin literature.

As he grew older, he managed his house wisely in subjection to his mother, and Fulgentius quickly gained wide respect for his conduct of the family affairs. This reputation helped him to acquire a post as a civil servant in the government of Rome, as a procurator of Byzacena.

He quickly grew tired of the provincial life. This, together with his studies of religion, particularly a sermon of Saint Augustine of Hippo on Psalm 36, led to his being attracted to a religious life, and he soon entered a monastery, became a monk, then was ordained, and became abbot.

At the time, the Arian persecutions had ceased, but the election of Catholic bishops was forbidden. In 508 it became necessary to defy the law, and bishops were consecrated, Fulgentius being chosen for Ruspe (modern Kudiat Rosfa, Tunisia). He was exiled with 60 other bishops to Sardinia. There they built a monastery, and continued to write, pray, and study.

Fulgentius was invited back to Carthage by the Arian king Thrasimund to hold a debate with his Arian replacement around 515, and so successfully refuted his Arian opponents that he was exiled again in 518.

King Hilderic succeeded Thrasimund in 523, and permitted the exiles to return. Peace finally being restored to the African church, Fulgentius returned to his diocese. Saint Fulgentius preferred to return to his monastery and resume his studies, but he was such a popular preacher, he was kept busy in the pulpit until his death.

Some letters and eight sermons survive by Fulgentius. Fulgentius's work shows knowledge of Greek and a strong agreement with Saint Augustine of Hippo. He wrote frequently against Arianism and Pelagianism.

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe died of natural causes around 533 at Ruspe. Some of his relics are located at Bourges, France.

Below are a few quotations from Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe.

Hold most firmly and never doubt that the same Holy Spirit, who is the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeds from the Father and the Son. For the Son says, 'When the Spirit of Truth comes, who has proceeded from the Father,' where he taught that the Spirit is his, because he is the Truth. From Letter to Peter on the Faith

The spiritual building up of the body of Christ is achieved through love. As Saint Peter says: Like living stones you are built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And there can be no more effective way to pray for this spiritual growth than for the Church, itself Christ’s body, to make the offering of his body and blood in the sacramental form of bread and wine. For the cup we drink is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ. Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, since we all share the same bread. And so we pray that, by the same grace which made the Church Christ’s body, all its members may remain firm in the unity of that body through the enduring bond of love. From The Sacrament of Unity and Love

Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches. From a sermon on The Feast of Saint Stephen

Let everyone, therefore, who does not wish to be condemned to the endless punishment of the second death now hasten to share in the first resurrection. For if any during this life are changed out of fear of God and pass from an evil life to a good one, they pass from death to life and later they shall be transformed from a shameful state to a glorious one. From a treatise on forgiveness.

We do not, however, only say “your Son” when we conclude our prayer. We also say, “who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit”. In this way we commemorate the natural unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is clear, then, that the Christ who exercises a priestly role on our behalf is the same Christ who enjoys a natural unity and equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit. From a letter.

God makes the Church itself a sacrifice pleasing in his sight by preserving within it the love which his Holy Spirit has poured out. Thus the grace of that spiritual love is always available to us, enabling us continually to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to him for ever. From The Sacrament of Unity and Love

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together. From a sermon on The Feast of Saint Stephen

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