Lex orandi lex credendi: Liturgy as Locus Theologicus in the Fifth Century?

Volume 11, Number 2 (Summer/Fall 2004): 130-151.

Daniel G. Van Slyke, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Theology at Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan.* Few Latin phrases have enjoyed as much note in post-Vatican II theological and liturgical studies as lex orandi lex credendi, “the law of praying is the law of believing.”(1) It has been used to make claims about the relationship between liturgy and doctrine and even about the dependence of doctrine upon liturgy.(2) In fact, the phrase is so often invoked that one might think it belongs to the regula fidei itself. Perhaps, however, the phrase is not as simple or ancient as it seems. In a frequently overlooked passage of Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII emphatically admonishes that the Church does not teach, the Church does not command, “that axiom lex orandi lex credendi.”(3) The pope’s repudiation of the axiom reflects a deeper appropriation of its patristic source than is exhibited by those who today propose that the lex orandi is the lex credendi. Nevertheless, none of the phrase’s commentators have grasped the very precise meaning intended by its original author. It is time it was subjected to a thorough historical-critical analysis.

Original Form and Context

In its origins the phrase is quite different from the transmogrified form familiar today. It occurs in a brief work known by various titles, including Indiculus de gratia Dei and Epistolae or Capitula Caelestini.(4) These titles indicate the thrust of the work as well as the early attribution of the phrase to Celestine I (422-432). The Indiculus is not about worship but rather the relationship between divine grace and human free will.

From the sixteenth century, editors were suspicious of its attribution to Celestine, and today it is recognized as a work of Prosper of Aquitaine.(5) Prosper wrote the Indiculus as a theological aid for Sixtus III shortly after Julian of Eclanum unsuccessfully pleaded his cause before the Roman pontiff in 439.(6) It contains a series of citations from popes Innocent I and Zosimus (Prosper does use the title papa), along with several canons from a synod of Carthage approved by the Roman see, all presented as authorities refuting the Pelagianism espoused by Julian.(7)

The first step toward discerning the intended meaning of the original phrase is to analyze the passage in which it appears, chapter eight of the Indiculus:

Besides the inviolable sanctions of the most blessed and apostolic see, with which the most pious fathers, having cast down the pride of the pestilential novel teaching, taught us to ascribe to the grace of Christ the origins of good will, the growth of commendable efforts, and perseverance in them to the end, let us also consider the sacraments of priestly prayers that, having been handed down by the apostles, are uniformly practiced throughout the whole world and in every Catholic church, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi. For when the bishops of the holy peoples observe the mandates committed to them by office in the presence of divine mercy, they plead the cause of the human race, and while the whole Church sighs deeply with them, they entreat and pray that faith may be given to unbelievers, that idol worshippers may be freed from the errors of their impiety, that the light of truth may appear to the Jews, the veil over their heart having been removed, that heretics may regain their senses by perception of the Catholic faith, that schismatics may receive the spirit of revived charity, that the remedies of penance may be granted to the lapsed, and finally that the court of heavenly mercy may be opened to catechumens when they are led to the sacraments of regeneration. The effect of these very things demonstrates that they are not asked from the Lord either vainly or in a perfunctory manner: seeing that God deigns to draw many out of every kind of error, whom delivered from the power of darkness he might transfer into the kingdom of the Son of his charity (Col 1:13), and from vessels of wrath he might make vessels of mercy (Rom 9:22). This is so much thought to be entirely divine work, that to the God accomplishing these things thanksgiving and praise are always rendered for the illumination or the correction of such people.(8)

As it appears here, then, the phrase is “ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi.” Pius XII labels this wording of the axiom, “renowned and venerable.”(9) The argument in which Prosper uses it can be summarized as follows: Throughout the world, Catholic priests (that is, sacerdotes) supplicate God, in accordance with the apostolic tradition, for the conversion of pagans, Jews, heretics, schismatics, penitents, and catechumens. God answers these prayers by drawing such people to himself, as we recognize by giving Him thanks and praise. The fact that God moves the hearts of these ignorant, weak, and wicked people who have no merits of their own indicates that every movement of the human will for good comes from the grace of God.

Prosper’s “lex supplicandi

What then is Prosper’s “lex supplicandi”? When the Indiculus is juxtaposed with a parallel passage in De vocatione omnium gentium, one can see that Prosper’s referent is very precise.(10) His “lex supplicandi” is Paul’s exhortation in 1 Timothy 2:1-4: “I beseech therefore that first supplications (obsecrationes), petitions, thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings, and for all who are in authority.... For this is good and acceptable before God our Savior, who wills that all men be saved, and come into knowledge of the truth.”(11) After quoting 1 Timothy 2:1-6 and calling the passage a rule of apostolic teaching (doctrinae apostolicae regula), Prosper goes on to explain:

But what does she [the Church] beg for them if not that they leave their errors and be converted to God, that they accept the faith, accept charity, and they be freed from the shadows of ignorance and come to the knowledge of the truth? They cannot do this by themselves: they are struggling under the weight of vicious habits and are ensnared by the bonds of Satan. They are powerless before their own deceptions; so stubbornly do they cling to them that they love falsehood in the measure truth should be loved. Hence the merciful and just Lord wishes to be supplicated (supplicari) for all men. When we see countless souls drawn out of such deep misery, we should have no doubt that God is granting a prayerful request. While thanking Him for those who are saved, we should hopefully pray that the same divine grace may deliver from the power of darkness those who are still without light and conduct them into the kingdom of God before they depart this life.(12)

Citing 1 Timothy 2:1-2 a second time, Prosper labels the Apostle Paul’s command—in reality a command of the Lord—a “law of supplication” (legem supplicationis). “Thus the devotion of all the priests and of all the faithful,” he writes, “harmoniously keeps that law of supplication, such that there is no part of the world in which prayers of this kind are not practiced by Christian peoples.”(13) From this perspective, Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” or “doctrinae apostolicae regula,” here designated “lex supplicationis,” is precisely the precept to pray for all found in 1 Timothy 2.(14) This type of language is not entirely unique to Prosper. Ambrosiaster refers to the same passage as an “ecclesiastical rule” (regula ecclesiastica) to pray (supplicare) kept by Christian priests (sacerdotes).(15)

Not all early Christian prayer, however, was liturgical prayer. The common assumption that Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” refers to the liturgy must be re-examined, for Prosper himself does not restrict the application of this rule to “liturgy”—a concept unknown to him, as will be discussed below. He rather conceives “lex supplicandi” as referring to prayer in general, perhaps but not necessarily including officially sanctioned and corporate prayer.

This thesis challenges the scholarly arguments that Prosper’s list of prayer requests represents an ancient universal prayer (oratio universalis) or prayer of the faithful within the Roman Mass. Louis Duchesne posited that the solemn prayers after the readings on Good Friday were the remnant of a set of prayers of the faithful that were formerly placed there within every Mass.(16) Several scholars expanded Duchesne’s theory, especially R. H. Connolly and M. Cappuyns.(17) Both discussed the relevant passages from Prosper within an argument that the solemn intercessions of Good Friday represented a prayer of the faithful that once constituted part of the ordinary of the Mass, placed between the Gospel and the Offertory.(18) Joseph Jungmann also ascribed to this hypothesis and further argued that the oratio universalis was eventually replaced by the intercessory prayers within the Canon and the Kyrie litany.(19) Finally, Paul De Clerk recapitulated these studies in his masterful work on the topic, which is taken as definitive today.(20) He followed up on Cappuyns to argue that Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” indeed reflects the solemn orations of Good Friday, but that these orations originally were not limited to Good Friday. They were, he continued, recited much more frequently; thus he equated them with a prayer of the faithful within the ordinary of the Mass.(21)

De Clerk claims that Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” has three levels of meaning. The first is the law, precept, or order in 1 Timothy 2. The second is the application of this law on the part of the Church “and concretely in the universal prayer.” The third is the formulation of this supplication or the categories of people mentioned.(22) The first and third meanings De Clerk proposes are indisputable, but this is not the case with the second. De Clerk claims, “it is clear that Prosper, by the petitions which he cites in his two texts, makes allusion to the content of the general intercessions as they were said at his time.”(23) In fact this is not clear at all. When this theory first began to be proposed, it found a formidable critic in Edmund Bishop. Among liturgists his opinion has been that of a minority, but it also has been powerful enough that proponents of the theory are continually impelled to note it.(24) More recently, Italian scholar Vincenzo Raffa has also questioned the theory that there was a prayer of the faithful in the early Roman Mass. As Raffa notes, there are a number of problems with the various attempts to see prayers of the faithful as a common feature of the Mass, especially on the basis of the Good Friday solemn orations, that manifestly did not occur within a Mass. He points out that many of the ancient passages invoked to support this theory could be explained as references to intercessions within the canon.(25)

Raffa helps to establish that Prosper is not referring to a practice in the ordinary of the ancient Roman Mass. Nevertheless he shares the assumption that Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” demands a liturgical context. That assumption becomes doubtful when one notes that the phenomenon to which Prosper refers is also distinct from the solemn orations of Good Friday. Allowing for a non-liturgical “lex supplicandi” eliminates the need to summarily dismiss Prosper’s contention that these prayers are performed “throughout the world and in every Catholic church,” given that the solemn orations are unique to the Roman rite.(26) Finally, Prosper elsewhere writes that the Church prays for her non-believing enemies daily (quotidie), in a passage that similarly lacks a liturgical context.(27) Surely petitions occurring once a year on Good Friday could not be considered “daily.”

Thus, Prosper is not necessarily referring to any hieratic liturgical event when he writes that “the bishops of the holy peoples observe the mandates committed to them by office, they plead the cause of the human race, and ... the whole Church sighs deeply with them.”(28) He is rather reflecting the context of the letter of 1 Timothy, which is addressed not to an entire Christian community (as with Romans or Colossians) but rather to the leader of a community. This is why Prosper and Ambrosiaster view the precept as in some way priestly (sacerdotalis) or directed especially at priests (sacerdotes).

In Letter 194 Augustine interprets this passage as a reflection of the eucharistic liturgy. He is writing, however, in response to a series of exegetical conundrums posed by his fellow bishop Paulinus, who presumably has not yet found a satisfactory interpretation of the passage. More significantly, Augustine uses language that suggests this is his own interpretation, rather than a traditional or common one.(29) Other early authors interpret the precept in 1 Timothy as referring immediately not to liturgical prayer in particular, but to Christian prayer in general—including the private prayer of an individual. Origen provides a striking example. In his book On Prayer, he discusses the difference between the four things Paul asks Timothy to offer: supplications (obsecrationes), prayers (orationes), intercessions (postulatione), and thanksgivings (gratiarum actiones). In that order, examples he gives for each type include Zechariah’s supplication for a son (implicit in Lk 1:13), Hannah’s prayer for a child (1 Sm 1:10), Samson’s intercession for his death along with the Philistines’ (Jgs 16:30), and Christ’s thanks to the Father in Luke 10:21.(30) None of these examples is properly liturgical; they all depict individuals beseeching God. Closer to Prosper’s time John Chrysostom expounds on the precept in question, which he clearly perceives as referring to all prayer, both liturgical and non-liturgical. Hence Chrysostom mentions the liturgical act of praying for the whole world in morning and evening services, and then dwells at length on how the individual Christian should pray for his or her enemies.(31)

Prosper most likely had read the ninth Conference (written 425-429) of John Cassian.(32) There Cassian provides an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:1-2 that is patently non-liturgical. This is evident both in the examples he provides of each type of prayer from the words of Christ and in his discussion of how each type is most apt for a Christian at a certain stage of the spiritual journey.(33) Ambrosiaster’s above-mentioned “regula ecclesiastica” provides another example; there is no reason to suppose that he is speaking of the Mass or any other liturgical context.(34) Pelagius, perhaps Prosper’s ultimate bugbear, similarly gives no indication whatsoever of a liturgical referent in his exposition of the passage.(35) Eucherius of Lyons, an exact contemporary and compatriot of Prosper from his native Gaul, describes obsecrationes, orationes, postulationes, and gratiarum actiones without the slightest hint that such types of prayers must be or even are offered within the liturgy.(36) This can also be observed in a commentary under the name Primasius, which follows Eucherius’ interpretation to the point of literary dependency.(37)

Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” is like the protestations of earlier apologists that Christians pray for the emperor and other government employees; they do not require a referent in the public worship of the Christian community.(38) Several passages from Augustine provide parallel examples, in which he appeals to the universal non-liturgical (or not necessarily liturgical) prayer of Christians. To refute Pelagian positions, Augustine uses the prayers of Christians for their enemies and of Christian spouses for non-believing spouses—the former, like Prosper’s “lex supplicandi,” derived from a precept of the New Testament (Mt 5:44).(39)“For if faith pertains above all to free will, and is not given by God, then why,” he asks, “do we pray for those who do not will to believe, that they may believe?”(40) Once again, such prayer need not presuppose any specifically liturgical context.

Looking again at the words “ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi,” note that Prosper uses “supplicandi” (“of beseeching / entreating,” or more simply, “of petitioning”) rather than “orandi” (“of praying”). In the context of the Indiculus the word is very precise, for the argument is based on Christian prayers of intercession, beseeching from God the conversion of non-Catholics and sinners according to the precept in 1 Timothy 2. Intercession is a certain type of prayer that ought not to be confused with prayer in general.(41) The gradual separation of the phrase from its original context in the theology of grace and free will encouraged a transformation of “supplicandi” to the more generic “orandi,” as did its misapplication of Prosper’s “lex” to the liturgy. This transformation did not occur in the Patristic period.(42)

As a final consideration, any temptation to equate Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” with “liturgy” ought to be resisted. Commenting on Psalm 135, Augustine notes that Greek Christians call the “ministry or service” that is due to God alone “liturgia” or “latria.”(43) This is the sole occasion on which Augustine uses the word “liturgia.”(44) In City of God, he argues that the best term for describing the worship owed to God alone is the Greek “latria.” This word, he testifies, is usually translated as “servitus,” but in reality there is no adequate equivalent in the Latin language. Other possible contenders he discusses include “cultus,” “religio,” and “pietas,” but none of these has the precise content of “latria.”(45) Authors from late antiquity and the middle ages indicate what would today be called “liturgy” with such words as “munus,” “ministerium,” “servitus,” “cultus,” and “officium.”(46) In the passages scrutinized above, Prosper does not make use of any such terms approximating what today is called “liturgy.”

Prosper’s “legem credendi

This second term of Prosper’s phrase also has a very precise meaning in the mind of its original author. “Legem credendi” should not be confused with the rule of faith, which would be better expressed with the words “regula fidei.” This latter term is present at the dawn of Latin Christian literature, when Tertullian uses it to designate the norm of belief handed over orally during the catechumenate.(47) By Augustine’s time, the regula fidei “comprised all those doctrines on which the universal Church had attained certainty, basing its development on a deeper understanding of scripture, on the creeds, on tradition, liturgical practice, councils and the faith of the more mature ecclesial members.”(48) Hence Augustine famously uses the term to describe what he embraces upon his final conversion in the Confessions, with which Prosper is thoroughly familiar.(49)

Prosper does not refer to the “regula fidei” but to a “legem credendi”—something less encompassing and more precise, for he uses it to indicate the doctrine of utter dependence on divine grace for which he is arguing.(50) In other words, Prosper is not speaking about the law of belief in such a manner as to be articulating a general hermeneutical principle for discerning it; he is speaking rather about a particular law of belief, the one under discussion in the Indiculus.

The final step toward translating Prosper’s words “legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi” is to note that they appear in a subjunctive clause preceded by “ut.” One might interpret it as a pure clause of result, expressing “the result of the main verb in the form of a modifying clause.”(51) Thus the clause “ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi,” as a whole literary unit, expresses the results of the immediately preceding verb “celebrantur.” Prosper’s meaning, then, is this: “the sacraments of priestly prayers ... are practiced so that (with the result that) a law of supplication (that is, the precept in 1 Tim 2:1-2 continuously realized in the prayers of Christians perhaps within but certainly without the liturgy) places beyond dispute a law of belief (that is, Prosper’s doctrine on the relationship of grace and free will).”(52) Far from stating a hermeneutical principle, Prosper is positing that in this particular case an apostolic precept found in Scripture is so practiced that the result is a sure support for the doctrine he is defending against Julian’s Pelagian positions.(53)

Prayer and Liturgy in the Indiculus

Although the “lex supplicandi” is not properly speaking liturgical, the Indiculus does provide an indisputable example of a direct appeal to a liturgical rite for the purpose of bolstering a theological position. It is found in chapter nine, the final chapter before the conclusion. There Prosper appeals to the exorcisms and exsufflations that precede baptism even for infants as proof that the Pelagian position espoused by Julian is not in keeping with ecclesiastical rules (ecclesiasticis regulis). While Prosper claims that this practice is upheld throughout the Church, he does not assert that it is handed down by the apostles (ab apostolis tradita) as he does with the “lex supplicandi:”(54)

We do not without purpose look closely also at what the holy Church does uniformly throughout the world to those about to be baptized. When either little children or youths come to the sacrament of regeneration, they do not proceed to the font of life before the unclean spirit is driven from them by the exorcisms and exsufflations of clergymen; so that it may truly appear, how ‘the prince of this world is cast out’ (Jn 12:31), how ‘the strong one is first [prius] bound’ and then [deinceps] ‘his vessels are plundered’ (Mt 12:29), having been translated into the possession of the victor who ‘leads captivity captive’ (Ps 97:19) and ‘gives gifts to men’ (Eph 4:8). Therefore, by these ecclesiastical rules, and by documents endowed with divine authority, thus with the Lord helping, we are strengthened so that we profess God the author of all good desires and works, and of all good efforts, and of all virtues, by which from the beginning of faith one is drawn near to God.(55)

The adverbs “prius” and “deinceps” indicate the temporal sequence within the rites of initiation whereby the catechumen is first freed from the power of the devil through exorcisms, then reborn as a child of God through baptism.(56) Prosper is again picking up on an argument utilized by his master Augustine.(57) On numerous occasions Augustine appeals to the longstanding tradition of exorcising and exsufflating infant catechumens in order to confound the proponents of Pelagian anthropology, especially Julian.(58)

What place does this appeal to the liturgy occupy within the Indiculus? Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” does not encompass the catechumenal exorcisms for two reasons, the first being the very precise referent to 1 Timothy 2 discussed above. The second reason is that exsufflations and exorcisms are not supplications or prayers of any sort addressed to God, but rebukes and commands in Christ’s name addressed to the demon. According to Tertullian, Christians exorcize demons by their touch (probably the laying on of hands), by their breath, and by their command, all of which receive power from the name of Christ.(59) Exsufflations, which entail blowing into the face of the catechumen, can only be interpreted as imprecatory rebukes directed at the power of the demon. These rites simply cannot be interpreted as prayers. Hence the distinction between Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” in chapter eight of the Indiculus and the appeal to catechumenal exorcisms in chapter nine is firm. He in no way identifies “lex supplicandi” with the rites of the liturgy.

Does Prosper view liturgical rites as a source or equivalent of doctrine, as the frequent mis-citation “lex orandi lex credendi” implies? The place of Prosper’s appeal to the Pauline “lex supplicandi” and the catechumenal rites of exorcism is not evident when he sets forth the purpose of the Indiculus in the work’s preface. There he explains that this brief catalogue is written to rebuke those who erroneously

profess to follow and to admit only those things which the most holy see of the blessed apostle Peter, through the ministry of its prelates, sanctioned and taught against the enemies of God’s grace. It was necessary diligently to inquire what the rulers of the Roman Church had judged concerning the heresy which had arisen in their times and what they approved that should be held concerning the grace of God against the most injurious defenders of free will. Thus we also attached some judgments of African councils which the apostolic bishops certainly have made their own, since they have approved them.(60)

Prosper is appealing to the judgments of the bishop of Rome, and in this case to those judgments alone, as authoritative sources determining the true teaching on grace and free will. Hence he views the teachings of the African councils as authoritative insofar as they are sanctioned by that same Roman bishop. The lines with which Prosper concludes the Indiculus are similar:

For a profession of faith in the doctrine on the grace of God, from whose action and mercy nothing whatever may be withdrawn, we consider amply sufficient what the writings of the Apostolic See, as given above in these articles, have taught us. We cannot consider as in any way in keeping with the Catholic faith whatever is contrary to these propositions.(61)

Prosper reflects a type of theological approach first seen in the papal decretals of Siricius (384-399), Anastasius I (399-401), and Innocent I (401-417). Their conscious use of juristic words such as “decernimus,” “iudicamus,” and “pronuntiamus” illuminates the background in which the popes sought to establish legal jurisdiction over the entire Church.(62) The increasing authority of the Roman see was not simply a delusion of those who occupied it; Prosper certainly subscribed to it as well. Hence he appeals to the authority of the judgments or pronouncements of the apostolic see in these passages of the Indiculus.(63) Prosper’s polemical works are characterized by the “method of authority,” whereby he refutes opponents with citations from authorities, among whom the bishops of Rome are prominent.(64) In keeping with this character, Prosper appealed to Pope Celestine in an attempt to procure the condemnation of what he deemed Pelagianism among the monks of southern Gaul, and he continually upheld the see of Rome as a model for the whole Church.(65)

Moreover, neither the “lex supplicandi” in chapter eight of the Indiculus nor the appeal to pre-baptismal rites in chapter nine seem to qualify as judgments of the Roman see. Given the lack of mention of any category that obviously would include them as sources of doctrine in the introduction and the conclusion, one must ask how Prosper saw them as such. There are at least three possible explanations, which are not mutually exclusive. First, Prosper does not consider the Church’s prayer and liturgical rites as sources of doctrine but uses them to reaffirm the authority of his primary source on this issue, the Roman see. Second, Prosper believes that the Church’s prayer and liturgy are sources of doctrine insofar as they are sanctioned and practiced by the Roman see. “The ‘liturgical argument,’” writes one commentator on Indiculus, “is not restricted to prayer, nor is it distinct from the official citations. In other words, the authority of the popes and the authority of the church’s sacramental practice are as one.”(66) Third, Prosper believes the import of the Church’s prayer and liturgy are evident only in light of the authoritative teachings of the apostolic see. These various possible explanations demonstrate the difficulty of interpreting Prosper’s phrase. It is obscure, if not silent, on the very subject about which it is commonly taken as an authoritative statement.

Conclusions and Implications

After uttering his warning against the axiom “lex orandi lex credendi,” Pius XII goes on to cite Prosper’s phrase more accurately within a passage that raises a number of important points:

[W]henever there was question of defining a truth revealed by God, the Sovereign Pontiffs and the Councils, when they have drawn from the ‘theological sources,’ as they are called, have not seldom taken many an argument from this sacred discipline.... Similarly when some doubtful and controversial truth was being discussed, the Church and the Holy Fathers have not failed also to seek light from the venerable rites handed down from antiquity. Hence that well-known and venerable maxim is held: Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi. Therefore the sacred liturgy neither decides nor determines absolutely by its own power the Catholic faith; but rather, since it is also a profession of heavenly truths, which is subject to the supreme teaching authority of the Church, it can supply arguments and testimonies, not of any small moment, for the purpose of determining a particular point of Christian doctrine. But if we wish to differentiate and describe those reasons which intervene between faith and the sacred liturgy in absolute and general terms, it can be said justly and worthily, Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi.... From time immemorial the ecclesiastical hierarchy has exercised this right in liturgical matters, by organizing and regulating divine worship, and by enriching it constantly with new splendor and beauty, to the glory of God and the progress of Christians.(67)

Does the pope go too far when he inverts the original phrase to read “lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi”? Paul De Clerk thinks so, for he writes,

Here our adage is purely and simply turned upside down!... What is regrettable is that in rejecting a one-sided understanding of the dogma-liturgy relationship, the encyclical had purely and simply reversed it, in wrongfully calling upon a traditional adage which it made to say the opposite of its obvious meaning, and at the same time in not allowing itself to be instructed by the living tradition.(68)

It seems rather that it is De Clerk who goes too far. He too readily slips into the view that Prosper understands “lex supplicandi” as having temporal or logical priority over “lex credendi,” which in this case is a position on divine grace and human free will.(69) “Statuat” does not indicate such priority in this context.(70) Prosper perceives prayer (according to the scriptural apostolic precept) and doctrine (according to the teachings of the Roman see) as mutually informing one another. Indeed, Pius XII’s inversion of the phrase is a self-evident truth(71) to which Prosper certainly subscribes.

Prosper seeks to prove not only that the doctrine he supports is the teaching of the Church now, but that it has always been; just as he believes he is explaining what has always been the relationship between divine grace and human free will. For Prosper, the fact that the Pauline “lex supplicandi” has been in effect from apostolic times proves that his “lex credendi,” a particular position on grace and free will, also dates to apostolic times. The Church has always prayed this way because it has always believed this way.(72) Hence the ancient tradition of intercessory prayer in the Church confirms the antiquity of the doctrine articulated by the Roman pontiffs closer to Prosper’s time.

Where both Pius XII and De Clerk go astray is in assuming that Prosper’s “lex supplicandi” refers to the liturgy. In fact it refers first and foremost to intercessory prayer, and secondarily but not necessarily to that type of prayer within the liturgy. In the eighth chapter of the Indiculus, Prosper views the intercessory prayer of the Church as valuable for clarifying a particular point of Christian doctrine; in the ninth he sees particular liturgical rites as doing the same, yet he does not perceive these rites of chapter nine as falling within the “lex supplicandi” of chapter eight. Furthermore, both such intercessions and the particular practice of pre-baptismal exorcisms and exsufflations appear within the competence of what Prosper here cites as the teaching authority of the Church—the bishop of Rome. Thus the introduction and the conclusion of the Indiculus indicate that the primary source for doctrine on this difficult question of grace and free will is the judgment of the apostolic see. Even the normative force of the Pauline “lex supplicandi” in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 stems, in this context, from its approval by the bishop of Rome, along with its universal observance. Prosper’s “lex supplicandi,” then, is first a scriptural precept. He reads it as a “locus theologicus” in light of a “lex credendi” more clearly articulated by the teaching authority of the Roman see, which in turn is supported by the praxis of this apostolic “lex supplicandi.”(73) The two mutually witness to the truth of Prosper’s doctrinal positions. Neither has logical or temporal precedence over the other, and neither is intended to be seen as a broad category referring to anything more than the particular items under discussion.

One can consider Prosper’s phrase (“ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi”) a hermeneutical principle or statement of theological method only by taking it out of context. The axiom as it is commonly worded (“lex orandi lex credendi”) and understood is not a tradition handed down from early Christianity, but rather a recent theological invention of dubious merit. •


1. Technically, the axiom consists of two nouns in the nominative case, each with a gerund in the genitive. The gerund is a verbal noun with an active meaning—corresponding to the English gerund. So lex orandi can be translated simply but accurately as “the / a law of praying,” and lex credendi as “the / a law of believing.” Standing alone, the entire phrase demands the implied copulative verb est (is), so that lex orandi is lex credendi. Stating the phrase as a hermeneutical principle entails translating it with the definite article “the” rather than the indefinite article “a.”

2. For some examples of the uses to which theologians put the phrase, see Michael G. L. Church, “The Law of Begging: Prosper at the End of the Day,” Worship 73 (1999): 447-448. “The phrase,” Church notes, “is wrongly remembered and wrongly used” (453). Paul De Clerk protests against “l’agacement intellectuel provoqué par l’usage banal de l’adage,” in “Lex orandi, lex credendi: un principe heuristique,” La Maison-Dieu 222, no. 2 (2000): 61. For a very different perspective critiquing the use of the phrase by Modernists, particularly George Tyrrell, see Herman A. P. Schmidt, Introductio in liturgiam occidentalem (Rome: Herder, 1960), 134-136.

3. “Unde effatum illud: ‘Lex orandi, lex credendi’. Verumtamen non ita docet, non ita praecipit Ecclesia.” Pius XII, “Mediator Dei et hominum,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis 39 (1947): 540 (nos. 46-47). Only four years earlier Pius XII himself came close to endorsing the phrase while speaking of various sources for discerning the meaning of Scripture. His wording of the phrase is significantly different, however, and he wrote of it in such a way as to indicate that it is not universally applicable: “ubicumque rite adhiberi potest notum illud pronuntiatum: Lex precandi lex credendi est.” Pius XII, “Divino afflante Spiritu,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis 35 (1943): 311 (no. 26). Pius XI cited the phrase as it originally appeared in the fifth century, as shall be demonstrated shortly: “Quapropter Caelestinus I fidei canonem expressum esse censebat in venerandis liturgiae formulis; ait enim: ‘legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi.’” Pius XI, “Divini cultus,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis 21 (1929): 33. Elsewhere he altered only the mood of the verb: “in hac vero laudatione Christi Regis perpetua pulcherrimus nostrorum et orientalium rituum concentus facile deprehenditur, ut etiam hoc in genere valeat illud: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi.” Pius XI, “Quas primas,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis 17 (1925): 598 (no. 12). For a discussion on these and other documents in which Roman pontiffs addressed the relation between faith and the liturgy from the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth, see Herman A. P. Schmidt, “Lex orandi lex credendi in recentioribus documentis pontificiis,” Periodica de re morali canonica liturgica 40 (1951): 5-28. Schmidt discusses the striking instances of appeal to this relation in the solemn definitions of the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception (1854) and the Assumption (1950).

4. It is also known as Praeteritorum sedis apostolicae episcoporum auctoritates de gratia dei et libero voluntatis arbitrio; Regulae apostolicae sedis.

5. The nineteenth century editor J. P. Migne includes it in his volume of Prosper’s writings. Admonitio, PL 51:201-202. The arguments for Prosper’s authorship, however, are most convincingly put forth in D. M. Cappuyns, “L’origine des capitula pseudo-Célestiniens contre le semipélagianisme,” Revue Bénédictine 41 (1929): 156-170. Prosper’s English translator notes that Cappuyns “has established the Prosperian origin of the pseudo-Celestian captula,” and so includes it in a volume of Prosper’s writings. P. De Letter, Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine (Westminster MD: Newman Press, 1963), 232 n. 1. Arturo Elberti bolsters the case for the attribution by noting the Indiculus’ points of convergence with Prosper’s other works in terms of literary genre, selection of authorities cited, language, and style. Arturo Elberti, Prospero d’Aquitania: teologo e discepolo (Rome: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1999), 67-71.

6. “Siendo así las cosas, la presencia de Julián en Roma en 439 es la única históricamente contrastada y que proporciona un contexto adecuado para la elaboración de un opúsculo polémico antijulianeo en Roma con posterioridad a la primera expulsión de Italia del de Eclana.... Próspero elabora, según la [now lost] fuente de Focio, opúsculos polémicos contra la herejía; el Syllabus podría ser uno de ellos.” Raúl Villegas Marín, “En polémica con Julián de Eclanum: por una nueva lectura del Syllabus de gratia de Próspero de Aquitania,” Augustinianum 43 (2003): 117; see also 119-120. Marín convincingly argues for this contextualization of the Indiculus. He picks up on a theory initially set forth without much elaboration in Trevor Jalland, The Life and Times of Pope St. Leo the Great (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1941), 36-37. In his Chronicle Prosper records the condemnation of Julian of Eclanum in the year 439. Sixtus was pope at the time, but Leo assisted him in his capacity as a deacon. Prosperus, Epitoma chronicon 1336, Monumenta Germaniae historica inde ab anno Christi quingentesimo usque ad annum millesimum et quingentesimum: auctores antiquissimi, 15 vols. (Berlin: Weidmannos, 1877-1919), vol. 9, p. 477. On Julian’s rejection at Rome, and the role of the deacon who was to become Pope Leo the Great in it, see Josef Lössl, Julian von Aeclanum: Studien zu seinem Leben, seinem Werk, seiner Lehre und ihrer Überlieferung (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 319-321.

7. Neuner and Dupuis describe the Indiculus as “a summary of the doctrine of grace, based on papal pronouncements, the decrees of African Councils which had subsequently received papal approval, and the Church’s faith as expressed mainly in her liturgy.” J. Neuner and J. Dupuis, The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, 5th ed. (New York: Alba House, 1990), 602. For a more detailed description of the Indiculus that places it within the wider context of developments in Prosper’s thought during the semi-Pelagian controversy, see Rebecca Harden Weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996), 139-142. An overview of scholarship on the thought of Julian is presented by Mathijs Lamberigts, “Recent Research into Pelagianism with Particular Emphasis on the Role of Julian of Aeclanum,” Augustiniana 52 (2002): 185-193.

8. “Praeter beatissimae et apostolicae sedis inviolabiles sanctiones, quibus nos piissimi patres, pestiferae novitatis elatione dejecta, et bonae voluntatis exordia, et incrementa probabilium studiorum, et in eis usque in finem perseverantiam ad Christi gratiam referre docuerunt, obsecrationum quoque sacerdotalium sacramenta respiciamus, quae ab apostolis tradita, in toto mundo atque in omni catholica Ecclesia uniformiter celebrantur, ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi. Cum enim sanctarum plebium praesules mandata sibimet legatione fungantur apud divinam clementiam, humani generis agunt causam, et tota secum Ecclesia congemiscente, postulant et precantur ut infidelibus donetur fides, ut idololatrae ab impietatis suae liberentur erroribus, ut Judaeis, ablato cordis velamine, lux veritatis appareat, ut haeretici catholicae fidei perceptione resipiscant, ut schismatici spiritum redivivae charitatis accipiant, ut lapsis poenitentiae remedia conferantur, ut denique, catechumenis ad regenerationis sacramenta perductis, coelestis misericordiae aula reseretur. Haec autem non perfunctorie neque inaniter a Domino peti, rerum ipsarum monstrat effectus: quandoquidem ex omni errorum genere plurimos Deus dignatur attrahere, quos erutos de potestate tenebrarum transferat in regnum Filii charitatis suae (Coloss. I, 13), et ex vasis irae faciat vasa misericordiae (Rom. IX, 22). Quod adeo totum divini operis esse sentitur, ut haec efficienti Deo gratiarum semper actio, laudisque confessio, pro illuminatione talium vel correctione referantur.” Prosper of Aquitaine, Liber praeteritorum sedis apostolicae episcoporum auctoritates de gratia dei et libero voluntatis arbitrio VIII, PL 51:209-210, my translation. De Letter provides a rather loose translation in Defense of St. Augustine, 183-184; another problematic translation is found in Josef Neuner and Heinrich Roos, The Teaching of the Catholic Church, ed. Karl Rahner, trans. Geoffrey Stevens (New York: Alba House, 1967), 376-377.

9. Pius XII, Litterarum encyclicarum “Mediator Dei et hominum,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis 39 (1947): 541.

10. For an extended discussion on the authorship of De vocatione omnium gentium, see Elberti, Prospero d’Aquitania, 143-160. Elberti puts De vocatione in the same category as the Indiculus and the Epistula ad Demetriadem, which will be cited below: “Opere di probabile autenticità.”

11.“Obsecro igitur primo omnium fieri obsecrationes, postulationes, gratiarum actiones pro omnibus hominibus, pro regibus, et omnibus qui in sublimitate sunt: ut quietam et tranquillum vitam agamus in omni pietate et castitate. Hoc enim bonum est et acceptum coram Salvatore nostro Deo, qui omnes homines vult salvos fieri, et in agnitionem veritatis venire.” Prosper of Aquitaine, De vocatione omnium gentium I.12, PL 51:664, my translation. It is most apt to quote the passage as Prosper cites it.

12. “Quid autem pro istis petit, nisi ut, relictis erroribus suis, convertantur ad Deum, accipiant fidem, accipiant charitatem, et de ignorantiae tenebris liberati in agnitionem veniant veritatis? Quod quia ipsi praestare sibi nequeunt, male consuetudinis pondere oppressi et diaboli vinculis alligati, neque deceptiones suas evincere valent, quibus tam pertinaciter inhaeserunt, ut quantum amanda est veritas, tantum diligant falsitatem: misericors et justus Dominus pro omnibus sibi vult hominibus supplicari, ut cum videmus de tam profundis malis innumeros erui, non ambigamus Deum praestitisse quod ut praestaret oratus est; et gratias agentes pro his qui salvi sunt, speremus etiam eos qui necdum illuminati sunt, eodem divinae gratiae opere eximendos de potestate tenebrarum, et in regnum Dei, priusquam de hac vita exeant, transferendos.” Prosper of Aquitaine, De vocatione omnium gentium I.12, PL 51:664-665; translated by P. De Letter, St Prosper of Aquitaine: The Call of All Nations (Westminster MD: Newman Press, 1952), 52-53. I have slightly changed the translation in order to render supplicari more literally. Cappuyns, “L’origine des capitula pseudo-Célestiniens,” 169, first cited the parallel of thought and ideas between this passage and the passage in question in the Indiculus as evidence of its Prosperian authorship.

13. “Praecepit itaque Apostolus, immo per Apostolum Dominus qui loquebatur in Apostolo, fieri obsecrationes, postulationes, gratiarum actiones pro omnibus hominibus, pro regibus, ac pro his qui in sublimitate sunt. Quam legem supplicationis ita omnium sacerdotum, et omnium fidelium devotio concorditer tenet, ut nulla pars mundi sit in qua hujusmodi orationes non celebrentur a populis Christianis.” Prosper of Aquitaine, De vocatione omnium gentium I.12, PL 51:664, my translation. Cf. “sincerissime credendum atque profitendum est Deum velle ut omnes homines salvi fiant. Siquidem Apostolus, cujus ista sententia est (I Tim. II, 4), sollicitissime praecipit, quod in omnibus Ecclesiis piisime custoditur, ut Deo pro omnibus hominibus supplicetur.” Prosper, Responsiones ad capitula objectionum Vincentianarum II, PL 51:179.

14. Those scholars who have subjected the passage to careful analysis agree with this interpretation, including the following: Karl Federer, Liturgie und Glaube: Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi (Tiro Prosper von Aquitanien), eine theologiegeschichtliche Untersuchung (Freiburg, Schweiz: Paulusverlag, 1950), 15-16; Bernard Capelle, “Authorité de la liturgie chez les Pères,” Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 21 (1954): 6-7; Paul De Clerk, “La prière universelle, expression de la foi,” in La liturgie expression de la foi: Conférences Saint-Serge, XXVe semaine d’études litugiques (Paris 1978), Bibliotheca Ephemerides Liturgicae Subsidia 16 (Rome: Edizioni Liturgiche, 1979), 134-136; De Clerk, “Un principe heuristique,” 68.

15. “Haec regula ecclesiastica est tradita a magistro gentium, qua utuntur sacerdotes nostri, ut pro omnibus supplicent deprecantes pro regibus huius saeculi, ut subiectas habeant gentes, ut in pace positi in tranquillitate mentis et quiete deo nostro servire possimus, orantes etiam pro his, quibus sublimis potestas credita est.” Ambrosiaster, Ad Timotheum prima 2.1, CSEL 81.3:259.

16. See Louis Duchesne, Christian Worship: Its Origin and Evolution: A Study of the Latin Liturgy up to the Time of Charlemagne, trans. M. L. McClure, 4th ed. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1912), 162-173. Duchesne’s arguments were in part based upon an analogy with the eucharistic liturgies of eastern communities.

17. Connolly seems to be the first to set forth a detailed argument including a number of citations attempting to demonstrate that the orationes solemnes of Good Friday are the orationes fidelium or oratio communis mentioned primarily by Augustine. R. H. Connolly, “Liturgical Prayers of Intercession,” Journal of Theological Studies 21 (1920): 219-232; M. Cappuyns, “Les ‘orationes sollemnes’ du vendredi saint,” Questions liturgiques et paroissiales 23 (1938): 18-31; Idem., “Liturgie et Théologie,” Questions liturgiques et paroissiales 19 (1934): 249-272.

18. “Ces textes, ne l’oublions pas, ont vu le jour à Rome. Ils font certainement écho à un formulaire liturgique, d’un type d’ailleurs bien connu: oremus ... pro ... ut.” Cappuyns, “Orationes sollemnes,” 23. At about the same time another scholar used these passages from Prosper to bolster Duchesne’s theory: V. L. Kennedy, The Saints of the Canon of the Mass (Vatican City: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, 1938), 31-32. Sometimes the existence of such a litany is posited without much argument. For an influential example, see Ildefonso Schuster, The Sacramentary, vol. 2, trans. Arthur Levelis-Marke (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1925), 207, 210-211.

19. Joseph A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development (Missarum sollemnia), vol. 1, trans. Francis A. Brunner (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1951), 481-482. Jungmann largely bases his theory on analogies with eastern services.

20. Paul De Clerk developed his arguments most thoroughly in his doctoral thesis, entitled La ‘prière universelle’ dans les liturgies latines anciennes: témoignages patristiques et textes liturgiques, Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen 62 (Münster: Aschendorff, 1977). He set forth an abbreviated and popularized version of his thesis in “La prière universelle,” 129-146.

21. De Clerk, “La prière universelle,” 135; Idem., La ‘prière universelle’ dans les liturgies, 88-95. In this latter work De Clerk amasses an impressive collection of passages from ecclesiastical authors and liturgical books to the sixth century in order to prove the existence of the universal prayer. This is both the work’s strength and its weakness. Not one text obviously proves what he sets out to prove, and his juxtaposition of a variety of sources from a variety of locations and times is problematic. Moreover, he is also unable to provide one clear example of the phenomenon for which he is arguing, as he admits in his conclusions: “La première chose à rappeler, c’est qu’aucun des textes étudiés dans cette deuxième partie (sauf les OS) n’est présenté dans les sources comme un formulaire de prière universelle. L’affirmation la plus importante de notre travail est bien de soutenir qu’ils remplirent cette fonction-là.” La ‘prière universelle’ dans les liturgies, 296.

22. De Clerk, “La prière universelle,” 135; Idem., “Un principe heuristique,” 69. In the second, more recent work, De Clerk does not specify the universal prayer on the second level.

23. De Clerk, “Lex orandi, lex credendi: The Original Sense and Historical Avatars of an Equivocal Adage,” Studia Liturgica 25 (1994): 189. This article is a translation of “Lex orandi, lex credendi: Sens originel et avatars historiques d’un adage équivoque,” Questions liturgiques 59 (1978): 193-212.

24. After reviewing the evidence, Bishop struck at the heart of many of these theories by noting, “there is no analogy between the Good Friday Roman prayers and those eastern prayers of the faithful of which the Kyrie eleison is the very essence.” Edmund Bishop, “Kyrie Eleison: A Liturgical Consultation,” Downside Review 18 (1899): 301. Bishop reprinted this article with some notes updating it in Liturgica historica: Papers on the Liturgy and Religious Life of the Western Church (Oxford: Clarendon, 1918), 116-125. Bishop’s opinion is cited in Jungmann, Mass of the Roman Rite, vol. 1, 482 n. 14; Cappuyns, “Orationes sollemnes,” 19 n. 2; De Clerk, La ‘prière universelle’ dans les liturgies, 309 n. 2.

25. “I sacerdoti con queste preghiere assolvono un mandato apostolico, anche se i fedeli stessi ne sono coinvolti. Si è già detto prima che anche le orationes solemnes erano sacerdotali. Però la liturgia romana in pratica, almeno dal tempo del gelasiano, le colloca nel giorno in cui non c’è la liturgia eucharistica. Che una volta fossero componente di tutte le messe è stato affermato, ma non provato.” Vincenzo Raffa, Liturgia eucaristica: mistagogia della messa: dalla storia e dalla teologia alla pastorale pratica (Rome: CLV, 1998), 304.

26. Such a dismissal is seen in Connolly, “Liturgical Prayers of Intercession,” 221.

27. “Aut quod Ecclesia quotidie pro inimicis suis orat, id est, pro his qui necdum Deo crediderunt, numquid non ex Spiritu Dei facit? Quis hoc dixerit, nisi qui hoc non facit, aut qui putat fidem non esse Dei donum? Et tamen quod pro omnibus petitur, non pro omnibus obtinetur.” Prosper, Liber Contra Collatorem 12.3, PL 51:245.

28. See note 8.

29. “Sed eligo in his uerbis hoc intellegere, quod omnis uel paene omnis frequentat ecclesia, ut precationes accipiamus dictas, quas facimus in celebratione sacramentorum, antequam illud, quod est in domini mensa, incipiat benedici, orationes, cum benedicitur et sanctificatur et ad distribuendum comminuitur, quam totam petitionem fere omnis ecclesia dominica oratione concludit. ad quem intellectum etiam uerbi Graeci origo nos adiuuat.” Augustine, Epistula CXLIX 2.16, CSEL 44:362. This text is a key to De Clerk’s arguments; he fails to note how unique it is. De Clerk, La ‘prière universelle’ dans les liturgies, 39-40. Augustine’s Latin version of 1 Timothy 2:1 differs from Prosper’s. Although early scribes might have introduced changes into the Indiculus, and a crticial edition is still wanting, different translations were in circulation, and Augustine notes the difference between his version and that of his addressee Paulinus. “Illa plane difficillime discernuntur, ubi ad Timotheum scribens ait: Obsecro itaque primum omnium fieri obsecrationes, orationes, interpellationes, gratiarum actiones.... proinde alii codices, in quibus et nostri sunt, non habent ‘obsecrationes’ sed ‘deprecationes’.” Augustine, Epistula CXLIX 2.12, CSEL 44:359. For a discussion on Augustine’s textual analysis of these terms see Vittorino Grossi, “L’analisi agostiniana di 1 Tim. 2,1-9 (Ep. 149, 2,12-17),” in Oratio: Das Gebet in patristischer und reformatorischer Sicht, ed. Emidio Campi et al., Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte 76 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 75-79.

30. Origen, Libellus de oratione 14, PG 11:459-464.

31. John Chrysostom, Homilia VI in epistolas primam et secundam ad Timotheum, PG 62:529-534.

32. Prosper’s Contra Collatorem is a refutation of Cassian’s thirteenth conference. Prosper, De gratia et libero arbitrio liber contra collatorem, PL 51:214-276.

33. “prima ad incipientes uidetur peculiarius pertinere, qui adhuc uitiorum suorum aculeis ac memoria remordentur, secunda ad illos qui in profectu iam spiritali adpetituque uirtutum quadam mentis sublimitate consistunt, tertia ad eos qui perfectionem uotorum suorum operibus adinplentes intercedere pro aliis ... quarta ad illos qui iam poenali conscientiae spina de cordibus uulsa securi iam munificentias domini ac miserationes, quas uel in praeterito tribuit uel in praesenti largitur uel praeparat in futuro, mente purissima retractantes ad illam ignitam et quae ore hominum nec conprehendi nec exprimi potest orationem feruentissimo corde raptantur.” John Cassian, Conlationes IX.15, CSEL 13:263. The examples from the life of Christ are found in Conlationes IX.17, CSEL 13:264-265. Grossi sees Augustine’s attempt to frame the passage within the eucharistic service in Epistula CXLIX as a reaction against the monastic view of prayer imported from the east to southern Gaul in the fifth century and particularly expounded by Cassian. Grossi, “L’analisi agostiniana di 1 Tim. 2,1-9,” 80-84, 86. Grossi’s study does not vitiate my contention that Augustine’s interpretation is unique for his time; he rather provides a possible explanation for why it appears when it does.

34. Ambrosiaster, Ad Timotheum prima 2.1, CSEL 81.3:259. “Però l’Ambrosiastro non specifica il momento preciso nel quale si dicevano, anzi neppure se si dicevano nella messa.” Raffa, Liturgia Eucharistica, 301.

35. The brackets in this passage are the editor’s of the original document. “Primum ergo omnium hortare fieri [obsecrationes]. [Obsecratio impensior est oratio. Orationes, in gratiarum actionem]. Pro eo quod nos dignos fecit etiam pro aliis impetrare. Pro omnibus hominibus. Etiam pro his qui nos persequuntur et tribulant. Pro regibus et omnibus qui in sublimitate sunt. Ut cognoscant deum. Siue: Ut subiectas habeant gentes: in illorum enim pace] quies et] tranquillitas nostra consistit, sed et si Christiani sint, persecutionibus a nobis [et per]turbatio et omnis inquietudo cessabit.” Pelagius, Expositio in I Timotheum, ed. Alexander Souter, Pelagius’s Expositions of Thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), 479.

36. “Obsecrationes fiunt pro peccatis praeteritis uel praesentibus, orationes pro adipiscendis quae speramus, postulationes cum pro aliis interuenimus, gratiarum actiones, cum ea quae poscimus inpetramus, uel certe cum pro inmensis dei beneficiis gratias laudesque rependimus.” Eucherius of Lyons, Instructiones, I ad Timotheum, CSEL 31:132.

37. “Obsecro igitur primo omnium fieri obsecrationes, orationes, postulationes. Obsecratio firmior oratione est. Item aliter: Obsecrationes fiunt pro peccatis praeteritis, vel praesentibus: orationes pro adipiscendis quae speramus: postulationes, cum pro aliis intervenimus: gratiarum actiones, eum ea quae poscimus, impetramus; vel certe, eum pro immensis Dei beneficiis gratias laudesque referimus. Gratiarum actiones. Gratias agamus ei qui nos dignos fecit etiam pro aliis impetrare. Pro omnibus hominibus. Etiam pro persecutoribus orare. Pro regibus et omnibus qui in sublimitate sunt, ut quietam et tranquillam vitam agamus in omni pietate et castitate. Ut cognoscant Deum, sive, ut subjectas habeant gentes: in illorum enim pace quies nostra consistit: si enim Christiani sunt, cessabit persecutionis impetus.” Primasius, In epistolam I ad Timotheum commentaria II, PL 68:662-663. Dekkers believes the set of commentaries to which this one belongs is a re-working of Pelagius’ commentaries on the Pauline epistles by Cassiodorus. Dekkers, Clavis, 296 (no. 902).

38. “de pectore oramus, precantes sumus semper pro omnibus imperatoribus. Vitam illis prolixam, imperium securum, domum tutam, exercitus fortes, senatum fidelem, populum probum, orbem quietum.” Tertullian, Apologeticum 30, ed. T. R. Glover, Tertullian, Minicius Felix (London: Putnam, 1931), 150-152. “Who ought more justly to receive what they request than men like ourselves, who pray for your reign that the succession to the kingdom may proceed from father to son, as is most just, and that your reign may grow and increase as all men become subject to you?” Athenagoras, Legatio 32, ed. and trans. William R. Schoedel, Legatio and De resurrectione (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 86-87. For further examples, see Justin Martyr, Apologia Maior XVII.3, ed. Miroslav Marcovich, Iustini Martyris Apologiae pro christianis, Patristische Texte und Studien 38 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994), 58; Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum I.11, SC 20:82; Origen, Contra Celsum VIII.73, SC 150:344-346, again citing 1 Tm 2:1-2.

39. “Nonne pro inimicis suis orat Ecclesia? Quid orat, obsecro? si ut eis suae voluntatis retribuatur pretium, quid eis orat, nisi grande supplicium? Quod jam contra eos est non pro eis; orat autem pro eis: non ergo quia est illis voluntas bona, sed ut convertatur in bonam voluntas mala.” Augustine, Contra Julianum Pelagianum IV.15, PL 44:744. “Quando enim non oratum est in Ecclesia pro infidelibus atque inimicis ejus ut crederent? Quando fidelis quisquam amicum, proximum, conjugem habuit infidelem, et non ei petivit a Domino mentem obedientem in christianam fidem? Quis autem sibi unquam non oravit, ut in Domino permaneret? ... Sicut ergo in his orationibus, ita et in hac fide nata est, et crescit, et crevit Ecclesia, qua fide creditur gratiam Dei non secundum merita accipientium dari.” Augustine, Liber de dono perseverantiae XXIII.63, PL 45:1031. The ellipsis skips a section where Augustine mentions the prayer the priest says over the assembled faithful; it differs from the passage reproduced inasmuch as it does indeed indicate a liturgical context. For more on Augustine’s use of Christian prayer in general as a source for doctrinal arguments against Pelagians, see Germán Mártil, La tradición en san Agustín: a través de la controversía pelagiana (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1943), 109-114.

40. “Nam si fides liberi est tantummodo arbitrii, nec datur a Deo, propter quid pro eis qui nolunt credere, oramus ut credant? Quod prorsus faceremus inaniter, nisi rectissime crederemus, etiam perversas et fidei contrarias voluntates omnipotentem Deum ad credendum posse convertere.” Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio I.29, PL 44:898, my translation.

41. De Clerk too readily equates lex supplicationis with lex orandi in “Un principe heuristique,” 68. Church, “Law of Begging,” 451, looks at the meaning of supplicatio in the ancient world and chooses to translate it as “begging.” This is closer but still admits of improvement because Church does not take into account the reference to 1 Tm. In ancient orations of the Roman Missal, supplicare tends to mean “to beg humbly,” and supplicatio means “prayer, entreaty, intercession.” The latter is used to indicate prayer in general, but also intercessory prayer, as Prosper uses it. Mary Pierre Ellebracht, Remarks on the Vocabulary of the Ancient Orations in the Missale Romanum, Latinitas Christianorum Primaeva 18 (Utrecht: Dekker & Van de Vegt, 1963), 149-150.

42. It may have been coined first by Prosper Guéranger, although De Clerk is unclear on this point. De Clerk, “The Original Sense and Historical Avatars,” 193-194. A search of the Patrologia Latina database finds no instances of “lex orandi lex credendi” in a rather extensive collection of Latin ecclesiastical texts up to the twelfth century.

43. “Si ergo nusquam [sic] in eloquis divinis reperitur sanctos Angelos appellatos deos, ea mihi causa potissimum occurrit, ne isto nomine homines ad hoc adificarentur, ut ministerium vel servitium religionis, quae graece liturgia, vel latria dicitur, sanctis Angelis exhiberent; quod nec ipsi exhiberi ab hominibus volunt, nisi illi Deo qui et ipsorum et hominum Deus est.” Augustine, Enarratio In Psalmum CXXXV, PL 37:1757.

44. Up to the seventh century I have found only one other instance in which the word “liturgia” appears in the writings of Latin authors. It is probably a translation of a letter originally written by Pope Julius I (337-352) in Greek: “Ex hujus autem dictis hoc nos consequenter observamus: qui fieri potuit ut is, qui pone januam aeger decumberet, tunc stererit, liturgiam celebrarit, ac oblationem fecerit?” Epistula Julii ad Antiochenus XII, PL 8:896.

45. Augustine, De civitate Dei X.1, CCSL 47:271-273.

46. Only in the sixteenth century did Latin scholars begin to use the word. It became more common from the end of the nineteenth century, when it also became a focus of theological reflections. J. H. Miller et al., “Liturgy,” in New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 8, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2003), 727. “L’entrée dans la langue ecclésiastique latine du grec ... (liturgia), à partir du 16e siècle, et son emploi de plus en plus généralisé depuis la fin du 19e siècle auraient pu fournir occasion à l’élaboration d’une théologie de la liturgie.” Réginald Grégoire, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique, vol. 9 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1976), 932.

47. L. William Countryman, “Tertullian and the regula fidei,” The Second Century 2 (1982): 208-227. Countryman’s thesis is refined by Paul M. Blowers, “The regula fidei and the Narrative Character of Early Christian Faith,” Pro Ecclesia 6 (1997): 206-209. “Regula est autem fidei ut iam hinc quid defendamus profiteamur, illa scilicet qua creditur,” says Tertullian before laying out his version of that regula in De praescriptione haereticorum XIII, CCSL 1:197. He sets forth two other versions in De virginibus velandis I, CCSL 2:1209, and Adversus Praxean II, CSEL 47:228-230.

48. S. Grech, “The regula fidei as a Hermeneutical Principle in Patristic Exegesis,” in The Interpretation of the Bible: The International Symposium in Slovenia, ed. Joze Krasovec, JSOT Supplement Series 289 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 596. Grech supports this statement with a series of references to Augustine’s writings on pp. 594-597.

49. “convertisti enim me ad te, ut nec uxorem quaererem nec aliquam spem saeculi huius, stans in ea regula fidei in qua me ante tot annos ei revelaveras.” Augustine, Confessiones VIII.12.30, ed. J. J. O’Donnell, Augustine Confessions, vol. 1: Introduction and Text (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 102; see also the description of Monica’s dream in Confessiones III.11.19-20, ed. O’Donnell, 31-32. “Comment Monique a-t-elle compris le symbolisme de la règle? Règle de l’orthodoxie catholique ou règle des bonnes mœurs à laquelle, selon sa mère, contrevient également Augustin? Les deux, probablement.” Martine Dulaey, Le rêve dans la vie et la pensée de saint Augustin (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1973), 162. See also, Leo C. Ferrari, “Monica on the Wooden Ruler (Conf. 3.11.19),” Augustinian Studies 6 (1975): 193-205; Idem., “Christus via in Augustine’s Confessions,” Augustinian Studies 7 (1976): 47-58.

50. As an illuminating parallel, Prosper seems to use lex fidei to indicate the moral law followed by Christians when commenting on Psalm 118. “Viam iniquitatis amove a me, et de lege tua miserere mei. Ne lex factorum, per quam abundavit peccatum, ad iniquitates me adducat infirmum (Rom. V, 20); lege, inquit, tua, hoc est, lege fidei (Rom. III, 27), miserere mei; ut per gratiam tuam faciam quod per me ipsum implere non valeo.” Expositio Psalmorum CXVIII.29, PL 51:341. “Quomodo dilexi legem tuam, Domine? tota die meditatio mea est. Sic, inquit, dilexi legem fidei quae per dilectionem operatur (Gal. V, 6).” Expositio Psalmorum CXVIII.97, PL 51:351; see also CXVIII.92, PL 51:351. On the other hand, in this work lex Domini, lex Dei, or veritas lex appear to indicate sacred Scripture, in keeping with the context of Psalm 118, but allowing for that Scripture to be written in the heart.

51.J. B. Greenough et al., ed., Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges (Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing, 2001), 336 (no. 537).

52. The most obvious translation of statuat in this context is “establishes” (in the subjunctive mood). Among the appropriate definitions of “establishes” are “achieves permanent acceptance for” and “places beyond dispute.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, ed. H. W. Fowler, F. G. Fowler, and R. E. Allen, 8th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 400.

53. The following translation, based on possible meanings of the words “celebro,” “sacramentum,” “lex,” and “statuo,” and the context in which they fit together, takes the key phrase as a clause of purpose after the hortatory subjunctive “respiciamus.” If I put it in the text of this article I might be accused of begging the question, but it demonstrates the difficulties involved in interpreting the passage: “let us also consider the sacred duties of priestly prayers, which, handed down from the apostles, are uniformly fulfilled throughout the world and in every Catholic church, so that the accepted manner and mode in which we pray might lend support to the accepted manner and mode in which we believe.”

54. Augustine similarly claims the practice is a very ancient tradition kept throughout the world, but he does not claim for it the status of an apostolic tradition: “hos [Cyprian and Ambrose] iste audeat dicere Manichaeos et antiquissimam ecclesiae traditionem isto nefario crimine aspergat, qua exorcizantur, ut dixi, et exsufflantur paruuli, ut in regnum Christi a potestate tenebrarum, hoc est diaboli et angelorum eius, eruti transferantur.” Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia II.29.51, CSEL 42:308. “Ac sic accusat Ecclesiam toto orbe diffusam, in qua ubique omnes baptizandi infantuli non ob aliud exsufflantur, nisi ut ab eis princeps mundi mittatur foras (Joan. XII, 31): a quo necesse est vasa irae possideantur, cum ex Adam nascuntur, si in Christo renascantur, et in ejus regnum per gratiam facta vasa misericordiae transferantur.” Ibid., II.33, PL 44:455.

55. “Illud etiam quod circa baptizandos in universo mundo sancta Ecclesia uniformiter agit, non otioso contemplemur intuitu. Cum sive parvuli, sive juvenes ad regenerationis veniunt sacramentum, non prius fontem vitae adeunt, quam exorcismis et exsufflationibus clericorum spiritus ab eis immundus abigatur; ut tunc vere appareat, quomodo princeps mundi hujus mittatur foras (Joan. XII, 31), et quomodo prius alligetur fortis, et deinceps vasa ejus diripiantur (Matt. XII, 29; Marc. III, 27), in possessionem translata victoris, qui captivam ducit captivitatem (Psal. XCVII, 19), et dat dona hominibus (Ephes. IV, 8). His ergo ecclesiasticis regulis, et ex divina sumptis auctoritate documentis, ita adjuvante Domino, conformati [Forte confirmati] sumus, ut omnium bonorum affectuum, atque operum, et omnium studiorum, omniumque virtutum, quibus ab initio fidei ad Deum tenditur, Deum profiteamur auctorem, et non dubitemus ab ipsius gratia omnia hominis merita praeveniri, per quem fit ut aliquid boni et velle incipiamus et facere.” Prosper of Aquitaine, Liber praeteritorum sedis apostolicae episcoporum auctoritates de gratia dei et libero voluntatis arbitrio IX, PL 51:210, my translation.

56. Marín, “En polémica con Julián de Eclanum,” 94. In a strikingly similar passage Prosper more explicitly explains the link he assumes here between bondage to the prince of the world and the inability of fallen human nature to accomplish anything good without the grace of God: “Sed quia Filius Dei venit ut solveret opera diaboli, et ut quaereret ac salvaret quod perierat, manifestum est omnes in Adam damnationi obnoxios esse nascendo nisi in Christo liberati fuerint renascendo.... Vasa irae in vasa misericordiae transferuntur, et in corpus Christi convertitur caro peccati. De impiis iusti, de captivis liberi, de filiis hominum fiunt filii Dei, qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate viri, neque ex voluntate carnis, sed ex Deo nati sunt” (Jn 1:13). Epistula ad Demetriadem de vera humilitate 11, in M. Kathryn Clare Krabbe, ed., Epistula ad Demetriadem de vera humilitate: A Critical Text and Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Patristic Studies 97 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1965), 176. Krabbe argues that this work is written by Prosper (pp. 47-52). Dekkers nonetheless considers Prosper’s authorship doubtful, but the similarities between these two passages testify in favor of it. Eligius Dekkers, Clavis patrum latinorum, 3rd ed. (Steenbrugis: In Abbatia Sancti Petri, 1995), 186 (no. 529). This Epistula ad Demetriadem should not be confused with Pelagius’ Epistula ad Demetriadem, found in PL 33:1099-1121. On satan’s title as “princeps hiuis mundi” (Jn 12:31) in the debate between Augustine and Julian see Marín, “En polémica con Julián de Eclanum,” 95 n. 43.

57. William Harmless, “Christ the Pediatrician: Infant Baptism and Christological Imagery in the Pelagian Controversy,” Augustinian Studies 28 (1997): 28.

58. The following passage is one example among many from the Operis imperfecti contra Julianum: “Ante me erat Ambrosius, qui non erat Manicheus, ante ipsum Hilarius, Gregorius, ante hos Cyprianus et ceteri ... qui non erant Manichei. Et tamen ecclesiam docuerunt, quod in ecclesia didicerunt, trahere parvulos originale peccatum et exsufflandos in exorcismis, ut eruantur de potestate tenebrarum et in regnum sui salvatoris et domini transferantur” (Col 1:13). Opus imperfectum contra Julianum I.117, CSEL 85.1:134. Marín, “En polémica con Julián de Eclanum,” 92. Augustine’s debates in the Pelagian controversy centered on original sin and baptism. B. R. Rees, Pelagius: A Reluctant Heretic (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1988), 55. On Augustine’s use of the ceremonies of Christian initiation in the controversy, including exorcisms, see Jean-Albert Vinel, “L’argument liturgique opposé par saint Augustin aux Pélagiens,” Questions Liturgiques 68 (1987): 215-224; see also Mártil, Tradición en san Augustín, 101-109.

59. “At quin omnes haec nostra in illos domination et potestas de nominatione Christi ualet et de commemoratione eorum, quae sibi a Deo per arbitrum Christum imminentia exspectant : Christum timentes in Deo et Deum in Christo, subiciuntur seruis Dei et Christi. Ita de contactu deque afflatu nostro, contemplatione et repraesentatione ignis illius correpti etiam de corporibus nostro imperio excedunt inuiti et dolentes et uobis praesentibus erubescentes.” Tertullian, Apologeticum XXIII.15-16, CCSL 1:132-133.

60. “obloquuntur, eaque tantummodo sequi et probare profitentur, quae sacratissima beati apostoli Petri sedes contra inimicos gratiae Dei, per ministerium praesulum suorum sanxit, et docuit: necessarium fuit diligenter inquirere, quid rectores Romanae Ecclesiae, de haeresi, quae eorum temporibus exorta fuerat, judicarint, et contra nocentissimos liberi arbitrii defensores, quid de gratia Dei sentiendium [sic] esse censuerint: ita ut etiam Africanorum conciliorum quasdam sententias jungeremus, quas utique suas fecerunt apostolici antistites, cum probarunt [sic].” Prosper of Aquitaine, Liber praeteritorum sedis apostolicae episcoporum auctoritates de gratia dei et libero voluntatis arbitrio Praef., PL 51:205-206, my translation.

61. “Quia ad confitendam gratiam Dei, cujus operi ac dignationi nihil penitus subtrahendum est, satis sufficere credimus, quidquid secundum praedictas regulas apostolicae sedis nos scripta docuerunt, ut prorsus non opinemur catholicum, quod apparuerit praefixis sententiis esse contrarium.” Prosper of Aquitaine, Liber praeteritorum sedis apostolicae episcoporum auctoritates de gratia dei et libero voluntatis arbitrio IX, in PL 51:212, trans. De Letter, Defense of St. Augustine, 185.

62. W. Ulmann, Gelasius I (492-496): Das Papsttum an der Wende der Spätantike zum Mittelalter (Stuttgart: A. Hiersemann, 1981), 20-34, esp. 24-25.

63. In a passage directly reflecting the methodology of the Indiculus, Prosper similarly appeals to the authority of several Roman bishops and the African councils, significantly noting that Pope Zosimus added his authority to those councils: “quando Africanorum conciliorum decretis beatae recordationis papa Zosimus sententiae sua robur annexuit, et ad impiorum detruncationem gladio Petri dexteras omnium armavit antistitum.” Prosper, Contra collatorem XXI.1, PL 51:271.

64. For a description of this method and examples, see L. Valentin, Saint Prosper D’Aquitaine: étude sur la littérature latine ecclésiastique au cinquième siècle en Gaule (Toulouse: Édouard Privat, 1900), 320-338. Although dated in many respects, this work remains the most thorough monograph on Prosper.

65. On this episode see Weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency, 120-121; Rees, Pelagius, 106. Speaking of Pelagianism, Prosper writes, “Et non solum docti quique pontifices, verum etiam universales ecclesiae plebes, apostolicae sedis exemplo, insaniam novi dogmatis horruerunt.” De vera humilitate 10, ed. Krabbe, 172. I have been unable to obtain a doctoral dissertation that promises to shed more light on this topic: Pearce James Carefoote, “Augustine, the Pelagians and the Papacy: An Examination of the Political and Theological Implications of Papal Involvement in the Pelagian Controversy” (diss., Leuven, 1995).

66. Church, “Law of Begging,” 449.

67. “Hac de causa, quotiescumque de aliqua definienda veritate divinitus data actum est, Summi Pontifices ac Concilia, cum ex ‘fontibus Theologicis’, quos vocant, haurirent, ex sacra etiam hac disciplina haud raro argumenta duxere; quemadmodum verbi gratia Decessor Noster imm. mem. Pius IX fecit, cum immaculatam Mariae Virginis conceptionem decrevit. Atque eodem fere modo Ecclesia ac SS. Patres, cum de aliqua veritate dubia controversaque disceptabatur, a venerandis etiam ritibus ex antiquitate traditis lumen petere non praeteriere. Itaque notum et venerandum illud habetur effatum: ‘Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi’. Sacra igitur Liturgia catholicam fidem absolute suaque vi non designat neque constituit; sed potius, cum sit etiam veritatum caelestium professio, quae Supremo Ecclesiae Magisterio subicitur, argumenta ac testimonia suppeditare potest, non parvi quidem momenti, ad peculiare decernendum christianae doctrinae caput. Quodsi volumus eas, quae inter fidem sacramque Liturgiam intercedunt, rationes absoluto generalique modo internoscere ac determinare, iure meritoque dici potest: ‘Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi’.... Nullo non tempore Ecclesiastica Hierarchia hoc in rebus liturgicis iure usa est, divinum instruendo ordinandoque cultum, eumque novo semper, ad Dei gloriam christianorumque profectum, splendore ac decore ditando.” Pius XII, “Mediator Dei et hominum,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis 39 (1947): 540-541 (nos. 48-49), my translation.

68. De Clerk, “The Original Sense and Historical Avatars,” 198-199; he repeats the accusation in “Un principe heuristique,” 62-63. This is a contrast with De Clerk’s more positive mention of Mediator Dei in “La prière universelle,” 136. Mary M. Schaefer holds that the “axiom is reversed” by Protestant as well as Catholic ecclesiastical authorities in “Lex orandi, lex credendi: Faith, Doctrine and Theology in Dialogue,” Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses 26 (1997): 472.

69. “Prosper’s axiom ought not to be taken to suggest that the authority of worship precedes the authority either of Scripture or magisterium, but that orthodox prayer and orthodox teaching both proclaim the urgent necessity of grace, and that this orthodox proclamation is in fact universally held among Christians.” Church, “Law of Begging,” 450.

70. Hence it ought not to be translated, “The law of worshiping founds the law of believing,” as does Aidan Kavanagh, “Response [to Geoffrey Wainwright]: Primary Theology and Liturgical Act,” Worship 57 (1983): 323.

71. As is noted by Schmidt, “Lex orandi in documentis pontificiis,” 22. See also Charles R. Hohenstein, “Lex orandi, lex credendi: Cautionary Notes,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 32 (1997): 141. While this study focuses on American Methodism, its conclusions are widely applicable.

72. In this mode of argument Propser is once again following Augustine, who wrote: “Ille itaque dicat Ecclesiam aliquando in fide sua non habuisse veritatem praedestinationis hujus et gratiae, quae nunc contra novos haereticos cura diligentiore defenditur: ille, inquam, hoc dicat, qui dicere audet aliquando eam non orasse, vel non veraciter orasse, sive ut crederent infideles, sive ut perseverarent fideles. Quae bona si semper oravit, semper ea Dei dona esse utique credidit.” Augustine, De dono perseverantiae XXIII.65, PL 45:1032-1033.

73. The expression “locus theologicus” was first used in theological discourse in the sixteenth century. By the eighteenth century liturgy was seen as one of these loci. Grossi contrasts the polemical use of liturgy as such a locus during this period with the patristic attitude, “che ci danno una visione meno polemica della teologia e indicano nella liturgia una categoria comprensiva dell’intero mistero cristiano.” Vittorino Grossi, “I Padri della Chiesa e la teologia liturgica,” Rassegna di Teologia 24 (1983): 130. While Prosper also shares this integrated view, he nonetheless makes explicitly polemical use of liturgy in the Indiculus.

 *Biographical information is true at time of publication.