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Fathers of the Church

Letter CX. to Domnus, Bishop of Antioch

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) In this letter he gives Domnus his opinion about how to answer those who are trying to discredit Theodoret on the grounds of his having ordained bishop a man who had remarried after the death of his first wife.

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 Unknown | translated by Blomfield Jackson

When I read your letter I remembered the very blessed Susannah, who when she saw the famous villains, and believed that the God of all was present, uttered that remarkable cry, "I am straitened on every side;" but nevertheless preferred to fall into the snares of slander rather than to despise the just God. And I, sir, have two alternatives as I have often said, to offend God and wound my conscience, or to fall by man's unjust sentence. The most pious emperor, I think, knows nothing of this. For what hindered him from writing, and ordering the ordination to take place, if in truth it so pleased him? Why in the world do they utter threats without and cause alarm, and yet do not send letters openly ordering it? One of two things must be true; either the very pious emperor is not induced to write, or they are trying to make us break the law and afterwards be indicted by them for illegality. I have before me the example of the blessed Principius, for in that case, when they had given orders by writing, they punished him for obedience. Moreover the letters which I read on the very day of the letter-bearer's arrival are of a contrary tenour. For one of the holy monks has written to some one that he has received letters both from the very illustrious guardsman and the very glorious ex-magister stating that the case of the very godly lord bishop Irenaeus will stand more favourably, and in return for this good will they ask prayers on their behalf. I think therefore that a reply ought to be written to the clergy who have written from the imperial city to the effect that "in obedience to the sentence of the very godly bishops of Phoenicia, and knowing both the zeal and the magnanimity and love for the poor and all the other virtues of the very godly bishop Irenaeus, and in addition to this the orthodoxy of his opinions, I have ordained him. I am not aware that he has ever objected to apply to the holy Virgin the title 'Theotokos,' or has ever held any other opinions contrary to the doctrines of the Gospel. As to the question of digamy, I have followed my predecessors; for Alexander of blessed and sacred memory, the ornament of this apostolic see, as well as the very blessed Acacius, bishop of Beroea, ordained Diogenes of blessed memory who was a 'digamus;' and similarly the blessed Praylius ordained Domninus of Caesarea who was a 'digamus.' We have therefore followed precedent, and the example of men well known and illustrious both for learning and character. Proclus, bishop of Constantinople, of blessed memory well aware of this and many other instances, both himself accepted the ordination, and wrote in praise and admiration of it. So too did the leading godly bishops of the Pontic Diocese, and all the Palestinians.

"No doubt has been raised about the matter, and we hold it wrong to condemn a man illustrious for many and various noble actions." In my opinion it is becoming to write in these terms. If your holiness holds any other view, let what seems good to you be done. I, as they suppose, have undergone one punishment, and am ready by God's help to undergo yet another. Even a third and fourth, if they like, by the stay of God's grace I will endure, praising the Lord. If your holiness thinks right, let us see what answer comes from Palestine, and, after considering more exactly what course is to be taken, let us so write to Constantinople.

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.