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Cyprian already attests a tradition of praying for the dead Ep. 1,2, and in particular took great care to draw up lists of those who had died for the faith, to commemorate them Ep. 12,2, since there was a firm conviction that the prayer of that holy and awesome sacrifice is of great benefit to those for whom it is offered Cyr. of Jer., Cath. myst. 5,8. The inclusion of the names of living persons arose from the same conviction that prayer benefited them too, but it acquired another, deeper meaning: it expressed the communion that existed in the Christian community, even among persons far away from each another.

Dionysius the Areopagite observed: We exchange the holy kiss, and we make the mysterious and superterrestrial recitation of the names written on the tablets. Nor indeed is it possible for those divided from one another to be united with the One and participate in the pacific unity of the One Ecc. hier. III, 3,8: PG 3, 437A. The scholiast on Dionysius’s text notes that at that time they read only the tables of the dead; not, as now, those of the living too PG 4, 145A. For this reason, for the living or the dead to have their nomen in sacris diptycis scriptum Facundus of Her., Defens. 4,1: PL 67, 608 was a sign of communion with the persons named and a judgment of their orthodoxy hence it was sometimes called the liber vitae. When communion was entered with the bishops of another episcopal see, the act of nomen in diptyca recipere was performed Rusticus, ACO I, 4 p. 90.2; cf. Theodoret, HE 5,34,12; Atticus, Ep. 75 among Cyril’s letters: PG 77, 352B; Coll. cum don. 230: SC 224, 1170; Counc. of Chal., Acta 13, ACO II, 1.3, 49.36. Conversely, the removal of a name from the diptychs was a sign of condemnation Justinian, Conf.: PG 86, 1027C; Theodore Lect., fr.: PG 86, 220B; Evagr., HE 3,34: PG 86, 2674AB. This inclusion or removal could also be effected retrospectively, so that bishops judged to be heretics were removed and in some cases no longer read in later centuries Facundus of Her., Defens. 4,1: PL 67, 609; Mansi 8,1044 and 1051f.; cf. DACL 4, 1054.

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