Fathers of the Church

Festal Letter XVII

Description

We notice in the Festal Letters the same simplicity of style, vigor and warmth that pervades Athanasius’s other writings. Naturally the coming Easter season occupies a prominent place and a tone of joy predominates. (Quasten) This brief letter serves only to tell the faithful which day the Easter feast will be.

Provenance

During the third century it had become a custom with the bishops of Alexandria to announce the beginning of Lent and the correct date of Easter each year to the suffragan sees by a letter issued usually shortly after Epiphany. Such a pastoral contained in addition a discussion of current ecclesiastical affairs or problems of Christian life and exhortations to observe the fast, to almsgiving and the reception of the sacraments. Dionysius of Alexandria is the first known to have sent such Easter Letters. Athanasius remained loyal to this tradition, even when he was in exile. Shortly after his death these letters were brought together by one of his friends and the collection was given wide distribution. (Quasten) At the time of publication only the first thirteen of these letters were extant, in Syriac; others have since been discovered. For many of the letters, further information about the circumstances of composition may be found in the early Index to the Festal Letters.

by Athanasius in 345 | translated by Payne-Smith

Coss. Amantius, Albinus; Praef. Nestorius of Gaza; Indict. iii; Easter-day, vii Id. Apr., xii Pharmuthi; Moon 19; Aera Dioclet. 61.

ATHANASIUS to the Presbyters and Deacons of Alexandria, and to the beloved brethren, greeting in Christ.

According to custom, I give you notice respecting Easter, my beloved, that you also may notify the same to the districts of those who are at a distance, as is usual. Therefore, after this present festival, I mean this which is on the twentieth of the month Pharmuthi, the Easter-day following will be on the vii Id. April, or according to the Alexandrians on the twelfth of Pharmuthi. Give notice therefore in all those districts, that Easter-day will be on the vii Id. April, or according to the Alexandrian reckoning on the twelfth of Pharmuthi. That you may be in health in Christ, I pray, my beloved brethren.

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. (NPNF II/IV, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.