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Fathers of the Church

Personal Letter LIII: Second Letter to Monks

Description

In his Epistula ad monachos Athanasius sees himself compelled to write to the solitaries "because there are certain persons who hold with Arius and go about visiting the monasteries with no other object save that under color of visiting you and returning from us they may deceive the simple." He asks his readers not to give occasion of scandal to the brethren and to shun those who entertain Arian views as well as those who, while they pretend not to hold with Arius, yet worship with the heretics. (Quasten)

Provenance

In both his public writings and his personal letters, Athanasius tirelessly opposed the Arians, who regarded him as their chief enemy and did everything to destroy him. (Quasten)

by Athanasius in Unknown | translated by Payne-Smith

Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria, to the Solitaries.

Athanasius to those who practise a solitary life, and are settled in faith in God, most beloved brethren, greeting in the Lord.

I thank the Lord who hath given to you to believe in Him, that ye too may have with the saints eternal life. But because there are certain persons who hold with Arius and go about the monasteries with no other object save that under colour of visiting you, and returning from us they may deceive the simple; whereas there are certain who, while they affirm that they do not hold with Arius, yet compromise themselves and worship with his party; I have been compelled, at the instance of certain most sincere brethren, to write at once in order that keeping faithfully and without guile the pious faith which God's grace works in you, you may not give occasion of scandal to the brethren. For when any sees you, the faithful in Christ, associate and communicate with such people, [or worshipping along with them], certainly they will think it a matter of indifference and will fall into the mire of irreligion. Lest, then, this should happen, be pleased, beloved, to shun those who hold the impiety [of Arius], and moreover to avoid those who, while they pretend not to hold with Arius, yet worship with the impious. And we are specially bound to fly from the communion of men whose opinions we hold in execration. [If then any come to you, and, as blessed John says, brings with him right doctrine, say to him, All hail, and receive such an one as a brother.] But if any pretend that he confesses the right faith, but appear to communicate with those others, exhort him to abstain from such communion, and if he promise to do so, treat him as a brother, but if he persist in a contentious spirit, him avoid. [I might greatly lengthen my letter, adding from the divine Scriptures the outline of this teaching. But since, being wise men, you can anticipate those who write, and rather, being intent upon self- denial, are fit to instruct others also, I have dictated a short letter, as from one loving friend to others, in the confidence] that living as you do you will preserve a pure and sincere faith, and that those persons, seeing that you do not join with them in worship, will derive benefit, fearing lest they be accounted as impious, and as those who hold with them.

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.