Literae FormâtAe

Literae Formâtae or simply FORMATAE, are the epistles of bishops and churches to others of like character, and are so called because they are framed after certain prescribed canonical rules. There have been needless discussions over the fitness of the expression formata, and some would have it to be formalis (Suetonius, Domitian, 13); others will derive it forma, τύπος, seal (hence formata, τετυπωμένη, equivalent to sigillata), etc. Originally they were termed τετυπωμμένη, canonicae, but afterwards formatae. The adoption of a particular form was early necessary, in order to prevent the alteration of and tampering with letters, of which Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (t c.a. 167), complained, according to Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. lib. 4, cap. 23), as also Cyprian (Epist. 3). From the earliest times the brotherly union of the churches was cultivated by means of a regular correspondence, of which Optatus of Mileve says in the middle of the fourth century: "Totus orbis commercio formatarum in una communionis societate concordat." The holy Scriptures themselves, namely, the epistles of the apostles, served as the first models. Letters of introduction and recommendation of brethren to the different churches were in the infancy of the Church the chief subject of this correspondence; these were called by the apostles συστατικαὶ ἐπιστολαί (2Co 3:1), literae commendatitiae. They are mentioned by Tertullian (Adversus haereses, cap. 20), Gregory of Nazianzum (Oratio, 3), and Sozomen (Hist. Eccl. lib. 5, cap. 16), etc. The demand for such letters of recommendation became so numerous that it was necessary to frame regulations determining who was and who was not entitled to them, and in what form they should be written. The Council of Elvira, a. 305 (? 310), c. 25, that of Aries, a. 314, c. 9, etc., decided that bishops alone should be authorized to write them. Every traveler, whether laic or clerical, was to provide himself with one. It is said, cap. 32 (al. 34): "Nullus episcopus peregrinorum aut presbyterorum aut diaconorum sine commendatitiis recipiatur epistolis; et cum scripta detulerint, discutiantur attentius, et ita suscipiantur, si praedicatores pietatis extiterint; sin minus, haec quae sunt necessaria subministrantur eis, et ad communionem nullatenus admittantur, quia per subreptionem multa proveniunt" (see Conc. Antioch. a. 341 [? 332], c. 7, in c. 9, dist. 71; African. 1, a. 506, 100:2 [100:21, dist. 1], 100:5). The defense of the right of these members of the clergy to officiate was often withdrawn, as by the Conc. Chalcedon. a. 451, c. 13, in c. 7, dist. 71, etc. The form of the writings was taken from the apostolic models. Atticus, bishop of Constantinople, stated in the Council of Chalcedon, 451, that there was a formula established by the Council of Niceca, 325: "Nicaes.... constitutum, ut epistola formatae hanc calculationis sen supputationis habeant rationem, id est, ut assumantur in supputationem prima Graeca elementa Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, hoc est π. υ. α. quae elementa octogenarium, et quadringentesimum, et primum significant numerum. Petri quoque apostoli prima litera, id est π... : ejus quoque, qui scribit, episcopi prima litera; cui scribitur secunda litera; accipientis tertia litera; civitatis quoque, de qua scribitur, quarta: et indictionis, quecunque est illius temporis, numerus assumatur. Atque ita his omnibus Graecis literis.... in unum ductis, unam, quaecunque fuerit collecta, summam epistola teneat, hanc qui suscipit omni cum cautela requirat expresse. Addat praeterea separatim in epistola etiam nonagenarium et nonunm numerum, qui secundum Graeca elementa significat ἀμήν." From these letters of recommendation must be distinguished the εἰρηνικαὶ ἐπιστολαί, literae pacificae, a kind of letters of dismission (hence also called ἀπολυτικαί), stating that the giver was privy to the bearer's intention of traveling (c. 7, 8, Conc. Antioch. a. 382, c. 11; Conc. Chaelced. 451; Conc. Trullan. a. 672, c. 17, etc.). Formatae also contained the communications of one community to another, such as the information concerning the election of bishops, etc. (γράμματα ἐνθρονιστικά. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. lib. 7, cap. 30; Evagrius, Hist. Eccl. lib. 4, cap. 4); notices of festivals, particularly Easter, etc. (γράμματαἐορταστικά, πασχάλια, epistolae festales, paschales, etc.; Conc. Arelat. 1, a. 314, c. 1; Carthag. 5, a. 401, c. 7; Bracar. 2, a. 572, c. 7; Gratista. c. 24-26. dist. 3, "de consecr."). The publication of ordinations was also made by formate as circulars, ἐγκύκλια, ἐπιστολαί, circulares, tractorice. See.Du Fresne, Glossar. Lat.; Suicer, Thesaur. eccl. s.v. εἰρηνικός; F.B. Ferrarii, De antiquo epistolarum ecclesiasticarum genere (Meliol. 1613; and edit. (Th. Meier, Helmstadt, 1678, 4to); Philippians Priorii, De literiis canonicis diss. cum appendiae de tractoriis et synodicis (Paris, 1675); J.R. Kiesling, De stabli primitivae ecclesiae ope literarum communicatoriarum connubio (Lipsiae. 1745, 4to); Gonzalez Tellez, Kommentar z. d. Decretalen (lib. 2, tit. 22, "De clericis peregrinis," cap. 3); Rheinwald, Kirchliche Archäologie (Berlin, 1830). — Herzog, Real- Encykolop. s.v.

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