Fathers of the Church

Letter XXXIII: to the Synod of Ephesus

Description

Although Leo himself was unable to attend the Synod, he sent the following letter commending the Emperor's reverence for the chair of Peter, and stating the double purpose of the synod: to condemn Eutyches' heresy and to hopefully restore him to the Church through his repentance. See also Letters XXIII-XXIV, XXVII-XXXVIII.

Provenance

Bishop Flavian of Constantinople had excommunicated the presbyter Eutyches for his adherence to the Monophysite heresy, which claimed that Christ had only one nature after the Incarnation. Emperor Theodosius Augustus convened a synod at Ephesus to determine whether the excommunication was just, and Leo agreed to it.

by Leo the Great in 449 | translated by Charles Lett Feltoe, M.A

Leo, bishop, to the holy Synod which is assembled at Ephesus.

I. He comments the Emperor's appeal to the chair of Peter.

The devout faith of our most clement prince, knowing that it especially concerns his glory to prevent any seed of error from springing up within the catholic Church, has paid such deference to the Divine institutions as to apply to the authority of the Apostolic See for a proper settlement: as if he wished it to be declared by the most blessed Peter himself what was praised in his confession, when the LORD said, "whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am 5?" and the disciples mentioned various people's opinion: but, when He asked what they themselves believed, the chief of the apostles, embracing the fulness of the Faith in one short sentence, said, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God :" that is, Thou who truly art Son of man art also truly Son of the living God: Thou, I say, true in Godhead, true in flesh and one altogether, the properties of the two natures being kept intact. And if Eutyches had believed this intelligently and thoroughly, he would never have retreated from the path of this Faith. For Peter received this answer from the Lord for his confession. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church: and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." But he who both rejects the blessed Peter's confession, and gainsays Christ's Gospel, is far removed from union with this building; for he shows himself. never to have had any zeal for understanding the Truth, and to have only the empty appearance of high esteem, who did not adorn the hoary hairs of old age with any ripe judgment of the heart.

II. The heresy of Eutyches is to be condemned though his full repentance may lead to his restitution.

But because the healing even of such men must not be neglected, and the most Christian Emperor has piously and devoutly desired a council of bishops to be held, that all error may be destroyed by a fuller judgment, I have sent our brothers Julius the bishop, Renatus the presbyter, and my son Hilary the deacon, and with them Dulcitius the notary, whose faith we have proved, to be present in my stead at your holy assembly, brethren, and settle in common with you what is in accordance with the Lord's will. To wit, that the pestilential error may be first condemned, and then the restitution of him, who has so unwisely erred, discussed, but only if embracing the true doctrine he fully and openly with his own voice and signature condemns those heretical opinions in which his ignorance has been ensnared: for this he has promised in the appeal which he sent to us, pledging himself to follow our judgment in all things. On receiving our brother and fellow-bishop Flavian's letter, we have replied to him at some length on the points which he seems to have referred to us: that when this error which seems to have arisen, has been destroyed, there may be one Faith and one and the same confession throughout the whole world to the praise and glory of God, and that "in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the LORD Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Fathers." Dated 13th June in the consulship of the illustrious Asturius and Protogenes .

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/XII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.