SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM –
ON DATES AND SEASONS AND YEARS
AND ON SCHISMS*
(Homily III - Against the Jews –
On Those Keeping the First Paschal Fast)
Once again a necessary and pressing need has interrupted the sequence of my recent discourses. I must put aside my struggles with the heretics for today and turn my attention to this necessary business. For I was ready to address your loving assembly again on the glory of the only-begotten Son of God. But the untimely obstinacy of those who wish to keep the first paschal fast forces me to devote my entire instruction to their cure. For the good shepherd does more than drive away the wolves; he also is most diligent in caring for his sheep who are sick. What does he gain if the flocks escape the jaws of the wild beasts but are then devoured by disease?
(2) The best general is the one who not only repels the siege engines of the enemy but first puts down rebellion within his own city. He knows well that there will be no victory over an outside foe as long as there is civil war within. Do you not know that there is no more destructive force than rebellion and obstinacy? Listen to the words of Christ: "A kingdom divided against itself shall not stand." And yet, what is more powerful than a kingdom which possesses revenues of money, weapons, walls, fortresses, so large a number of soldiers, horses, and ten thousand other sources of strength?
(3) But even power as great as that is destroyed when it revolts against itself. Nothing produces weakness so effectively as contentiousness and strife; and nothing produces power and strength so effectively as love and concord. When Solomon grasped this truth he said: "A brother that is helped by his brother is like a strong city and kingdom bolted and barred." Do you see the great strength which comes from concord? And do you see the great harm caused by contentiousness? A kingdom in revolt destroys itself. When two brothers are bound together and united into one, they are more unbreakable than any wall.
(4) I know that, by God's grace, most members of my flock are free from this disease and that the sickness involves only a few. But this is no reason for me to relax my care. If only ten, or five, or two, or even one were sick, he must not be neglected. If there is only one worthless outcast, still he is a brother, and Christ died for him. And Christ made great account of the weak ones. He said: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the sea." And again: "As long as you did not do it for one of these little ones, you did not do it for me." And again: "It is not the will of your Father in heaven that a single one of these little ones should perish."
(5) Is it not absurd, when Christ shows such care for his little ones, that we should refuse to care for them? Do not say: "He is one person." Rather, you must say: "He is one, yes, but if we do not take care of him, he will spread the disease to the rest." Paul said: "A little leaven ferments the whole mass." And our neglect of the little ones is what overturns and destroys everything. Neglected wounds become serious, just as the serious wounds would easily become minor if they receive the proper care.
(6) Moreover, the first thing I have to say to the Judaizers is that nothing is worse than contentiousness and fighting, than tearing the Church asunder and rending into many parts the robe which the robbers did not dare to rip. Are not all the other heresies enough without our tearing each other apart? You must listen to Paul when he says: "But if you bite and devour one another, take heed or you will be consumed by one another."
(7) Tell me this. Do you stray outside the flock and have you no fear of the lion that prowls about outside the fold? "For your enemy, like a lion, goes about seeking whom he may seize." Here you see a shepherd's wisdom. He does not let the lion in among the sheep for fear the lion may terrify the flock. Nor does he drive the lion away from outside the fold. Why? So that he may gather all the sheep together inside the fold, because they are afraid of the wild beast outside. Do you have no reverence and respect for your father? Then fear your foe. If you separate yourself from the flock, your enemy will surely catch you.
(8) Christ, too, could have driven the enemy away from the outside of the fold. But to make you sober and watchful, to make you constantly run to your Mother for refuge, he permitted him to roar outside the fold. Why did he do this? So that when those within the fold hear his roar, they may take refuge together and be more closely bound to one another. Mothers who love their children also do this: when their children cry, they often threaten to throw them to the jaws of the wolves. Of course, they would not throw them to the wolves but they say they will to stop the children from bothering them. Everything Christ did was done to keep us bound together and living at peace with one another.
And so it was that Paul could have accused the Corinthians of many great crimes but he accused them of contentiousness before any other. He could have accused them of fornication, of pride, of taking their quarrels to the pagan courts, of banquets in the shrines of idols. He could have charged that the women did not veil their heads and that the men did. Over and above all tiffs, he could have accused them of neglecting the poor, of the pride they took in their charismatic gifts, and in the matter of the resurrection of the body. But since, along with these, he could also find fault with them because of their dissensions and quarrels with one another, he passed over all the other crimes, and corrected their contentiousness first.
(2) If you will not think I am making a nuisance of myself on this point, I shall clarify it from Paul's own words. He did give top priority to correcting the Corinthians' obstinacy and contentiousness. And he did this even though he could charge them with all those other crimes. Hear what he says about their fornication: "It is actually reported that there is lewd conduct among you." That they were puffed up and proud: "As if I were not coming to you, some are puffed up." Again, that they would plead their cases in the pagan courts: "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, bring your case to be judged before unbelievers?" That they ate meat offered to idols: "You cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils." Hear his words of reproach for the women who do not veil their heads and the men who do. "Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraces his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered, disgraces her head. He showed that they neglected the poor when he said: "One is hungry and another drinks over-much.And again: "or do you despise the church of God and put to shame the needy?" When they were all jumping for the more important charismatic gifts and no one was satisfied with the less important, he said: "Are all apostles? Are all prophets?" We can conclude that they were raising doubts about the resurrection because he says: "But someone will say: 'How do the dead rise? Or with what kind of body do they come?"
(3) Although he could make so many accusations, his first charge against the Corinthians was dissension and contentiousness. At the very beginning of his letter he said: "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, and that there be no dissensions among you." For he knew, he knew clearly, that this problem was more urgent than the others. If the fornicator, or the braggart, or a man in the grip of any other vice comes frequently to the church, he will quickly draw profit from the instruction, thrust aside his sin, and return to health.
(4) But when a man has broken away from this assembly, when he has withdrawn from the instruction of the fathers, when he has fled from the physician's clinic, even if he appears to be in good health, he will soon fall sick. The best physicians first quench the fires of fever and then cure the wounds and fractures. That is what Paul did. He first removed the dissension and then cured their wounds limb by limb. And so he spoke of dissension before the other sins, so that the Corinthians would not stand apart in strife, so that they would not choose the leaders whom they should follow, so that they would not divide up the body of Christ into many parts?
(5) But he was talking not only to the Corinthians; he was also speaking to those who would come after them and suffer from the same Corinthian disease. I would be glad to ask those of us who are sick with this illness: What is the Pasch; what is Lent? What belongs to the Jews: what belongs to us? Why does their Pasch come once each year; why do we celebrate ours each time we gather to celebrate the mysteries? What does the feast of unleavened bread mean? And I would like to ask them many more questions which contribute to understanding this subject.
(6) If I were to ask them, you would then clearly know how untimely the contentiousness of these men is. They cannot explain what they do. But they refuse to ask anybody, just as if they were wiser than anybody else. They deserve the strongest condemnation because they do not have the answers themselves, but they refuse to follow those who have been appointed to lead them. They have simply risked all they have on this silly practice and are throwing themselves head first down into the depths of danger.
When I have this to say against them, what argument of theirs will seem clever? They ask: "Did you not observe this fast before?" It is not your place to say this to me, but I would be justified in telling you that we, too, fasted at this time in earlier days, but still we put more importance on peace than on the observance of dates. And I say to you what Paul said to the Galatians: "Become like me, because I also have become like you." What does this mean? He was urging them to renounce circumcision, to scorn the sabbath, the feast days, and all the other observances of the Law. When he saw they were frightened and afraid that they might be subjected to chastisement and punishment for their transgression, he gave them courage by the example of his own actions when he said: "Become like me, because I also have become like you."
(2) For, he said, I did not come from the Gentiles, did I? I was not without experience of the Jewish way of life under the Law and the punishment set for those who transgress it, was I? "I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as regards the Law, a Pharisee; as regards zeal, a persecutor of the Church. But the things that were gain to me, these, for the sake of Christ, I counted loss." That is, once and for all I stood aloof from them. Therefore, become like me, for I, too, was as you are.
(3) But why do I speak on my own account? Three hundred Fathers or even more gathered together in the land of Bithynia and ordained this by law; yet you disdain their decrees. You must choose one of two courses: either you charge them with ignorance for their want of exact knowledge on this matter, or you charge them with cowardice because they were not ignorant, but played the hypocrite and betrayed the truth. When you do not abide by what they decreed, this is exactly the choice you must make. But all the events of the Council make it clear that they showed great wisdom and courage at that time. The article of faith they set forth at the Council show how wise they were, because they blocked up the mouths of heretics and, like an impregnable wall, they repelled the treachery of every hostile attack. They proved their courage during the war waged on the Churches and the persecution which had but lately come to an end.
(4) Like champions in battle who have set up many memorials of victory and have suffered many wounds, so, too, these champions of the Churches, who could count the many tortures they had endured for their confession of the faith, came together from every side, bearing on their bodies the marks of Christ's wounds. Some could tell of their hardships in the mines, others of the confiscation of all their possessions, and still others of starvation and continuous floggings. Some could show where the flesh had been torn from their ribs, some where their backs had been broken, some where their eyes had been dug out, and still others where they had lost some other part of their bodies for the sake of Christ. At that time the whole synodal gathering, welded together from these champions, along with their definition of what Christians must believe, also passed a decree that they celebrate the paschal feast in harmony together. They refused to betray their faith in those most difficult times [of persecution]; would they sink to pretense and deceit on the question of the Easter observance?
(5) Look what you do when you condemn Fathers so great, so courageous, so wise. If the Pharisee lost all the blessings he possessed because he condemned the publican, what excuse will you have, what defense will you make for rising up against these great teachers beloved of God, especially since your attack is so unjust and irrational? Did you not hear Christ himself say: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them? But if Christ is in their midst where two or three are gathered together, was not his presence all the more pervasive among the more than three hundred Fathers at Nicaea? Christ was present there, it was Christ who formulated and passed the laws. Yet you condemn not only the Council Fathers but the whole world which approved their judgment.
(6) Do you consider that the Jews are wiser than the Fathers who came from everywhere in the world? How can you do that when the Jews have been driven from their ancestral commonwealth and way of life and have no sacred festival to celebrate? I hear many say that the Pasch and the feast of unleavened bread are one. But there is no feast of unleavened bread among them, nor is there a Pasch. Why is there no feast of unleavened bread among them? Hear the words of the Lawgiver: "You may not sacrifice the Passover in any one of the cities which the Lord your God gives you, but only in the place in which His name shall be invoked." And Moses was here speaking of Jerusalem.
(7) Do you see how God confined the festival to one city, and later destroyed the city so that, even if it was against their wills, he might lead them away from that way of life? Surely, it is clear to everybody that God foresaw what would come to pass. Why, then, did he bring them together to that land from all over the world if he foresaw that their city would be destroyed? Is it not very obvious that he did this because he wished to bring their ritual to an end? God did bring the ritual to an end, but you go along with the Jews, of whom the prophet said: "Who is blind but my children, or deaf but those who lord it over them?"
(8) And against whom did they show their want of sense and feeling? Was it not against the apostles, the prophets, and their teachers? Why must I mention teachers and prophets when they slaughtered their own children? For they did sacrifice their sons and daughters to demons. When they ignored the voice of nature, were they going to observe the festival days? Tell me this. Did they not trample kinship under foot, did they not forget their children, did they not forget the very God who created them? Moses said: "You have forsaken the God that begot you, and have forgotten the God that nurtured you." Were they going to keep the festivals after they had forsaken God? Who could say that?
(9) Christ did keep the Pasch with them. Yet he did not do so with the idea that we should keep the Pasch with them. He did so that he might bring the reality to what foreshadowed the reality. He also submitted to circumcision, kept the sabbath, observed the festival days, and ate the unleavened bread. But He did all these things in Jerusalem. However, we are subject to none of these things, and on this Paul spoke out loud and clear: "If you be circumcised, Christ shall be of no advantage to you." And again, speaking of the feast of unleavened bread, he said: "Therefore let us keep festival, not with the old leaven, not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." For our unleavened bread is not a mixed flour but an uncorrupted and virtuous way of life.
Why did Christ keep the Pasch at that time? The old Pasch was a type of the Pasch to come, and the reality had to supplant the type. So Christ first showed the foreshadowing and then brought the reality to the banquet table. Once the reality has come, the type which foreshadowed it is henceforth lost in its own shadow and no longer fills the need. So do not keep pleading this excuse, but show me that Christ did command us to observe the old Pasch. I am showing you quite the opposite. I am showing you that Christ not only did not command us to keep the festival days but even freed us from the obligation to do so.
(2) Hear what Paul had to say. And when I speak of Paul, I mean Christ; for it is Christ who moved Paul's soul to speak. What, then, did Paul say? "You are observing days, and months, and seasons, and years. I fear for you, lest perhaps I have labored in vain among you." And again: "As often as you shall eat this bread and drink this cup, you shall proclaim the death of the Lord." When he said: "As often as," Paul gave the right and power to decide this to those who approach the mysteries, and freed them from any obligation to observe the festival days.
(3) Now our Pasch and Lent are not one and the same thing: the Pasch is one thing, Lent another. Lent comes once each year; our Pasch is celebrated three times each week, sometimes even four times, or rather as often as we wish. For the Pasch is not a fast but the offering and sacrifice which is celebrated at each religious service. That you may know that this is true, listen to Paul when he says: "For Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed," and again: "As often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord.
(4) So as often as you approach the sacrificial banquet with a clean conscience, you celebrate the Pasch. You celebrate it not when you fast but when you share in that sacrifice. "For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord." Our Pasch is the proclamation of the Lord's death. The sacrifice which we offer today, that which was offered yesterday, and each day's sacrifice is alike and the same as the sacrifice offered on that Sabbath day; the sacrifice offered on that Sabbath is no more solemn than today's, nor is today's of less value than that; they are one and the same, alike filled with awe and salvation.
(5) Why, then, do we fast for forty days? In the past, and especially at the time when Christ entrusted to us these sacred mysteries, many a man approached the sacrificial banquet without thought or preparation. Since the Fathers realized that it was harmful for a person to approach the mysteries in this heedless fashion, they came together and marked out forty days for people to fast, pray, and gather together to hear the word of God. Their purpose was that we might all scrupulously purify ourselves during this time by our prayers, almsgiving, fasting, vigils, tears, confessions, and all the other pious practices, so that we might approach the mysteries with our consciences made as clean as we could make them.
(6) And they did well when they came to our aid and established for us the practice of this lenten fast. This is clear because, if we keep shouting and proclaiming a fast the whole year through, no one listens to what we say. But as soon as the season of Lent draws near, even the laziest of men rouses himself, even though no one counsels or advises him. Why? He gets advice and counsel from the season of Lent.
(7) So if a Jew or pagan ask you why you are fasting, do not tell him that it is because of the Pasch or because of the mystery of the cross. If you tell him that, you give him an ample grip upon you. Tell him we fast because of our sins and because we are going to approach the mysteries. The Pasch is not a reason for fasting or grief; it is a reason for cheerfulness and joy. The cross has taken away sin; it was an expiation for the world, a reconciliation for the ancient enmity. It opened the gates of heaven, changed those who hated into friends; it took our human nature, led it up to heaven, and seated it at the right hand of God's throne. And it brought to us ten thousand other blessings.
(8) There is no need, then, to grieve or be downcast: we must rejoice and glory in all these things. This is why Paul said: "But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." And again: "But God commends his charity towards us, because when as yet we were sinners, Christ died for us." John put it like this: "God so loved the world. Tell me, how did God love the world? John passed over all the other signs of God's love and put the cross in first place. For after he said: "God so loved the world," he said:"That he gave his only-begotten Son," that he be crucified, "that those who believe in him may not perish but may have life everlasting." If, then, the cross is the basis and boast of love, let us not say that it is a cause for grief. Heaven forbid that we grieve because of the cross. We grieve for our sins, and this is why we fast.
Although the catechumen keeps the fast each year, he does not celebrate the Pasch since he does not share in the sacrifice. But even though a man is not observing the lenten fast, he does celebrate the Pasch as long as he comes to the altar with a clean conscience and shares in the sacrifice—whether it be today, tomorrow, or any day whatsoever. The best time to approach the myster ies is determined by the purity of a man's conscience and not by his observance of suitable seasons.
(2) Yet we do just the opposite. We fail to cleanse our conscience and, even though we are burdened with ten thousand sins, we consider that we have celebrated the Pasch as long as we approach the mysteries on that feast day. But this is certainly not the case. If you approach the altar on the very day of the Sabbath and your conscience be bad, you fail to share in the mysteries and you leave without celebrating the Pasch. But if you wash away your sins and share in the mysteries today, you do celebrate the Pasch in precisely the proper way.
(3) Therefore you must safeguard this exactness and vigor of spirit, not in the observance of the proper times but in your approach to the altar. Now you would elect to endure all things rather than change this practice. So, too, you must disdain it and choose to do or suffer anything so as not to approach the mysteries when you are burdened with sins.
(4) Be sure that God takes no account of such observance of special seasons. Hear him as he passes judgment on those at his right hand: "You saw me hungry and gave me to eat; you saw me thirsty and gave me to drink; you saw me naked and you covered me." But he charged with quite different conduct those on his left hand. At another time he brought forward another man in a parable and castigated him because He remembered the evil the man had done. For he said: "You wicked servant, I forgave you all the debt. Should not you then have had compassion also on your fellow servant, even as I had compassion on you?" Again, when the virgins had no oil in their lamps, he locked them out of the bridechamber. And he cast out another man who came into the feast without a wedding garment because this man was garbed in filthy clothes and was wearing the cloak of his fornication and uncleanness, but no one was ever punished or accused because he observed the Pasch in this or that month.
(5) But why speak of ourselves since we have been set free from all such necessity? We are citizens of a city above in heaven, where there are no months, no sun, no moon, no circle of seasons. If you wish to give exact attention to the matter, you will see that, even among the Jews, little account was made of the season of the Pasch, but they cared greatly about the place for it, namely, Jerusalem. Some men came up to Moses and said to him: "We are unclean through touching the dead body of a man. How shall we avoid failing in the Lord's offering?" He said to them: "Wait here and let me report it to God." Then, after he reported it, he brought back the law which says: "If any man be unclean through touching a dead body, or be afar on a journey and be unable to keep the Pasch in the first month, he shall keep it in the second."
(6) And so is not the observance of the time annulled among the Jews so that the Pasch may be observed in Jerusalem? Will you not show greater concern for the harmony of the Church than for the season? So that you may seem to be observing the proper days, will you outrage the common Mother of us all and will you cut asunder the Holy Synod? How could you deserve pardon when you choose to commit sins so enormous for no good reason?
(7) But why must I speak of the Jews? No matter how eagerly and earnestly we wish it, it is not altogether possible for us to observe that day on which He was crucified. This will make it clear. Let us suppose the Jews had not sinned, that they were not hard of heart, nor senseless, nor indifferent, nor despisers; suppose they had not fallen from their ancestral way of life but were still carefully observing it. Even if this was the case, we could not, by following in their footsteps, put our finger on the very day on which He was crucified and fulfilled the Pasch. Let me tell how this is the case. When He was crucified it was the first day of the feast of unleavened bread and the day of preparation.
(8) But it is not possible for both of these to fall always on the same day. This year the first day of the feast of unleavened bread falls on Sunday, and the fast must still last for a whole week; According to this, after Passiontide, after the cross and resurrection have come and gone, we are still fasting. And it has often happened that, after the cross and resurrection, our fast is still being observed because the week is not yet over. This is why no observance of the exact time is possible.
Let us not quarrel, let us not say: "After fasting these many years, am I to change now?" Change for that very reason. Since you have been so long severed from the Church, come back now to your Mother. No one says: "After I lived as her enemy so long a time, I am ashamed to be reconciled now." You have grounds for shame if you do not change for the better but persist in your untimely contentiousness. That is what destroyed the Jews. While they always kept looking for the old customs and life, these were stripped from them and they turned to impiety.
(2) But why do I speak of fasting and the observance of special days? Paul continued to observe the Law and to endure many a toil; he patiently put up with many journeys and hardships; he surpassed all his contemporaries in the exact observance of that way of life. But after he achieved the heights of that life and came to realize that he was doing all this for his own hurt and destruction, he immediately changed. He did not say to himself: "What is this? Am I to lose the reward for this great zeal of mine? Am I to waste all this work?" Rather he was the quicker to change for the very reason that he might continue to suffer that loss. He scorned justification by the Law so that he might receive the justification of faith. And so he loudly proclaimed: "The things that were gain to me I have counted as loss for Christ. And Christ said: "If you offer your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has anything against you, go first and be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift."
(3) What do you mean? If your brother has something against you, Christ does not permit you to offer your sacrifice until you are reconciled to your brother. When you have the whole Church and so many Fathers against you, do you have the hardihood to dare to approach the divine mysteries before you put aside that unseemly enmity? Since this is the way you feel, how could you celebrate the Pasch?
(4) I say this not only to those who are sick but also to you who are in good health. When you who are well see how many are sick, you will show them great care and kindness, you will pick them out, gather them together, and bring them back to their Mother. Whatever they say against us, however they jump at us, no matter what else they do to us, we must not grow weary and stop until we win them back. For there is nothing comparable to peace and harmony.
(5) It is for this reason that, when the Father enters the church, he does not mount to this chair until he has prayed for all of you; when he rises from this chair, he does not begin his instruction until he has first given the peace to all. And when the priests are going to give the blessing, they first pray for peace for you and then begin the blessing.
(6) And when the deacon bids you to pray all together, he also enjoins you in his prayer to ask for the Angel of Peace, and that everything which concerns you be blessed with peace. As he dismisses you from the assembly, he petitions for you and says: "Go in peace." And without this peace, it is altogether impossible for us to say or do anything. For peace is our nurse and mother. She is very careful to cherish us and foster us. I am not speaking of what is merely called by the name of peace, nor of the peace which comes from sharing meals together, but of the peace which accords with God, the peace which comes from the harmony sent by the Spirit. Many are now tearing this peace asunder by destroying us and exalting the Jews. These men consider the Jews as more trustworthy teachers than their own Fathers; they believe the account of Christ's passion and death which is given by those who slew Him. What could be more unreasonable than this?
(7) Do you not know that their Passover is the type, while our Pasch is the truth? Look at the tremendous difference between them. The Passover prevented bodily death: whereas the Pasch quelled God's anger against the whole world; the Passover of old freed the Jews from Egypt, while the Pasch has set us free from idolatry; the Passover drowned the Pharaoh, but the Pasch drowned the devil; after the Passover came Palestine, but after the Pasch will come heaven.
(8) Why, then, do you sit beside a lamp after the sun has appeared? Why do you wish to nourish yourself on milk when solid food is being given to you? You were nourished with milk so that you might not remain satisfied with milk: the lamp shone for you that it might guide you and lead you by the hand into the light of the sun. Now that the era of more perfect things has come, let us not run back to the former times, let us not observe the days and seasons and years: rather, let us everywhere be careful to follow the Church by paying heed to charity and peace before all things.
(9) Suppose the Church were to be tripped up and fall. The accurate computation of dates would not succeed in making her slip as much as this division and schism would deserve the blame. But I make no account of the exact date, since God makes no account of it, as I proved when I devoted many discourses to this subject. But the one thing I seek is that we do all things in peace and concord. If we do so, you will not stay home and get drunk while we are fasting with the rest of the people, and the priests are praying together for the whole world.
(10) Note well that this is of the devil's doing and that it is not a single sin, nor two, nor three, but far more than three. It cuts you off from the flock, it makes you ready to hold so many Fathers in scorn, it hurls you into contentiousness, it thrusts you over to the Jews, and furthermore it makes you a scandal both to your own family and to strangers. How can we blame the Jews for waiting for you in their houses when it is you who go running to them?
(11) These sins are not the only problem. During those days of the fast great harm could come to you from your failure to take advantage of the Scripture readings, the religious meetings in the church, the blessing, and the prayers said in common. Great harm could come to you while you and your bad conscience are spending this whole time in fear and dread that, like some foreigner or stranger, you may be caught in your sinful act. And during all this time, in common with the Church, you should be discharging all your religious duties in a spirit of confidence, pleasure, good cheer, and full freedom.
(12) The Church does not recognize the exact observance of dates. In the beginning the Fathers decided to come together from widely separated places and to fix the Easter date; the Church paid respect to the harmony of their thinking, loved their oneness of mind, and accepted the date they enjoined. My earlier remarks have proved adequately that it is impossible for us or you or any other man to arrive at the exact date of the Lord's day. So let us stop fighting with shadows, let us stop hurting ourselves in the big things while we are indulging our rivalry over the small.
(13) Fasting at this or that time is not a matter for blame. But to rend asunder the Church, to be ready for rivalry, to create dissension, to rob oneself continuously of the benefits of religious meetings—these are unpardonable, these do demand an accounting, these do deserve serious punishment.
(14) I could have said much more than this. What I have said is enough for those who heed me; those who fail to heed my words will not be helped even if I should have much more to say. So let me finish my discourse at this point. and let us all pray together that our brothers come back to us. Let us pray that they cling fondly to peace and stand apart from untimely rivalry. Let us pray that they scorn this sluggish spirit of theirs and find a great and lofty understanding. Let us pray that they be set free from this observance of days so that all of us, with one heart and with one voice, may give glory to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power now and forever, world without end. Amen.
(Homily III - Against the Jews –
On Those Keeping the First Paschal Fast)