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Fathers of the Church

Personal Letter VIII: Second Letter to Orsisius

Description

Athanasius first states with confidence that the deceased Theodorus is already blessed in heaven. He then tells Orsisius that he should take Theodorus' place as abbot.

Provenance

Orsisius was chosen abbot of Tabenne in Upper Egypt, a.d. 347, in succession to Petronius. Presently, however, he resigned in favour of Theodorus, the favourite disciple of Pachomius. It was not till Theodorus' death (c. 380) that Orsisius, advised by St. Athanasius, accepted the office of hegumen (abbot). (See Letter VII)

by Athanasius in 364 | translated by Payne-Smith

'BUT the most holy Archbishop Athanasius, when he heard about our father Theodorus, was grieved, and sent this letter to the Abbat Orsisius and the brethren to console them for his decease, as follows:'—

Athanasius to Orsisius, Abbat, father of monks, and to all with him who practise the solitary life, and are settled in faith in God, beloved brethren most longed for in the Lord, greeting.

I have heard about the decease of the blessed Theodorus, and the tidings caused me great anxiety, knowing as I did his value to you. Now if it had not been Theodorus, I should have used many words to you, with tears, considering what follows after death. But since it is Theodorus whom you and I have known, what need I say in my letter save 'Blessed is' Theodorus, 'who hath not walked in the council of the ungodly? ' But if 'he is blessed that feareth the Lord,' we may now confidently call him blessed, having the firm assurance that he has reached as it were a haven, and has a life without care. Would that the same had also befallen each one of us; would that each of us in his running might thus arrive; would that each of us, on his voyage, might moor his own bark there in the stormless haven, so that, at rest with the fathers, he might say, 'here will I dwell, for I have a delight therein.' Wherefore, brethren beloved and most longed-for, weep not for Theodorus, for he 'is not dead, but sleepeth.'

Let none weep when he remembers him, but imitate his life. For one must not grieve over one that is gone to the place where grief is not. This I write to you all in common; but especially to you, beloved and most longed for Orsisius, in order that now that he is fallen asleep, you may take up the whole charge, and take his place among the brethren. For while he survived, you two were as one, and when one was away, the work of both was carried on: and when both were there you were as one, discoursing to the beloved ones what made for their good. Thus act, then, and so doing write and tell me of the safety of yourself and of the brotherhood. And I exhort you all to pray together that the Lord may grant further peace to the Churches. For we now kept festival with joy, both Easter and Pentecost, and we rejoice in the benefits of the Lord. I write to you all. Greet all who fear the Lord. Those with me greet you. I pray that you may be well in the Lord, beloved and much-longed-for 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.