Fathers of the Church

Letter LXXIX. to Anatolius the Patrician

Description

Theodoret’s letters are a mine of information for the history of the fifth century, of the author’s life and of the history of dogma in general. This large correspondence is distinguished for its unpretentious learning, felicitous diction and perfect grace of style. (Quasten) Here Theodoret writes Anatolius (also the recipient of letter XLV) concerning an imperial order confining Theodoret to Cyrus on the grounds that he has been disturbing orthodox Christians (see also letters LXXX and LXXXI); he asks Anatolius to intervene to remove any suspicion that has fallen on him. In letters LXXXII-LXXXIII he addresses the theological charges against him.

Provenance

Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393-466), the wise and zealous bishop of Cyrus, a small town near Antioch, was the last great theologian of the school of Antioch. Although he first considered Alexandrian Christology dangerous, and refused to condemn Nestorius until the Council of Chalcedon, his commitment to the correct doctrine of the Incarnation should not be questioned. As late as the 14th century more than 500 of his letters were extant, of which we still have 232. Letters LXXIX-CXI date from 448 and 449, and chronicle the growing agitation in the Eastern Church during the Monophysite crisis, including the slanders that led to Theodoret’s illegitimate deposition at the “Robber-Council” of Ephesus in 449.

by Theodoret in c. 448 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

The Lord God has given your excellency to us to be at the present time a source of very great comfort, and has afforded us a meet haven for the storm. We have therefore confidence in informing your lordship of our distress. Not long ago we acquainted your excellency that the right honourable Count Rufus had shewn us an order written in the imperial handwriting commanding the gallant general to provide with prudence and diligence for our residence at Cyrus, and not to suffer us to depart to another city, on the ground that we are endeavouring to summon synods to Antioch, and are disturbing the orthodox. Now I make known to you that in obedience to the imperial letter I have come to Cyrus. After an interval of six or seven days they sent the devoted Euphronius, the commander, with a letter begging me to acknowledge in writing that the imperial order had been shown me. I therefore promised to remain in Cyrus and its adjacent district, and to tend the sheep entrusted to my care. I therefore beseech your excellency to make exact enquiry, both whether these orders had really been issued, and for what reason. I am indeed conscious of many other sins, but I do not know that I have erred either against the Church of God, or against public order. And I write as I do, not because I take it ill to have to live at Cyrus, for in truth she is dearer to me than any of the most famous cities, because my office in her has been given me by God. But the fact of my being bound to her not by preference but by compulsion does seem somewhat grievous, and besides it does give a handle to the wicked to grow bold and to refuse to obey our exhortations.

Under these circumstances I beseech your lordship, if no order of the kind has really been issued, to let me know; but if the letter really comes from the victorious emperor, tell his pious majesty not readily to believe calumnies, nor give ear to accusers alone, but to demand an account from the accused. Though really the evidence of the facts alone was quite enough to persuade his piety that the charges against me were false. For when did I ever make myself offensive about anything to his serene majesty or his chief officers? Or when was I ever obnoxious to the many and illustrious owners here? It is on the contrary well known to your excellency that I have spent a considerable portion of my ecclesiastical revenues in erecting porticoes and baths, building bridges, and making further provision for public objects. But if any persons take it ill that I mourn over the ruin of the churches of Phoenicia, be it known to your lordship that it is impossible for me not to grieve when I see the horn of the Jews exalted on high and the Christians in tears and sorrow, though they send them to the very ends of the earth. We cannot fight against the apostolic decrees, for we remember the word of the Apostle which says, "We ought to obey God rather than men," and more terrible to us than any of the pains of this life is the "judgment seat of Christ" the Lord, before whom we shall all stand to render an account of our words and of our deeds. On account of that judgment seat the hardships of this present life must be endured. For them that suffer wrong the hope of what is to come is consolation enough, but to us the loving Lord has given further comfort in you, most excellent sir, whose life is bright with piety and faith.

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