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Fathers of the Church

Letter LXXX. to the Prefect Eutrechius

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 complains to Eutrechius (whom he had congratulated in letter LXVII on his appointment as prefect) concerning the imperial order confining him to Cyrus (see letter LXXIX). 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

I have been much astonished that no information has been sent me by your lordship of the plots against me. To counteract them would very likely have been a difficult matter to any one not having the means of convicting their promoters of lies; but to give information of what was going on needed not so much power as friendliness, and we had hoped that when your excellency had been summoned to the imperial city, and had been chosen to adorn the prefect's exalted seat, every tempest of the Church would be calmed down. But we suffer from such disturbances as we did not see even in the beginning of the dispute. The churches of Phoenicia are in trouble; in trouble are those of Palestine, as all unanimously report; and the distress is proved by the letters of the most pious bishops. All the saints among us groan and every pious congregation is lamenting. While looking for a cessation of our former troubles we have been afflicted with new ones. I myself have been forbidden to quit the coasts of Cyrus, if the dispatch is true which has been shewn me, and which is said to be an autograph of our victorious emperor. It runs as follows "Since so and so the bishop of this city is continually assembling synods and this is a cause of trouble to the orthodox, take heed with proper diligence and wisdom that he resides at Cyrus, and does not depart from it to another city." I have accepted the sentence, and remain still. Your lordship can bear witness to my sentiments, for you know how on my arrival at Antioch I departed in a hurry, on account of those who wished to detain me there. And those were unquestionably wrong who gave both their ears to my calumniators and would not keep one for me. Even to murderers, and to them that despoil other men's beds, an opportunity is given of defending themselves, and they do not receive sentence till they have been convicted in their own presence, or have made confession of the truth of the charges on which they are indicted. But a high priest who has held the office of bishop for five and twenty years after passing his previous life in a monastery, who has never troubled a tribunal, nor yet on any single occasion been prosecuted by any man, is treated as a mere plaything of calumny, without being allowed even the common privilege of grave-robbers of being questioned as to the truth of the accusations brought against them. Yet they have done wrong; I have done no wrong. But I am ready for even more serious troubles. Though they be ever so much annoyed at my bewailing the calamities of Phoenicia I shall not cease so to do so long as I behold them. The only judgment that is awful to me is the judgment of God. For them, nevertheless, I pray that from the God of all they may obtain forgiveness; for your excellency, that you may ever live in honour, excel in all good things, speak boldly against lies, and fight on the side of the truth. And let the contrivers of this plot know that, though I depart to the uttermost ends of the earth, God will not suffer the confirmation of impious doctrines, but will nod His head and destroy them that bow down to doctrines of abomination.

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.