Action Alert!

Fathers of the Church

Letter LXXXV. to the Bishop Basil

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. Most important are those letters that, like the present, take part in the theological controversies of the time, and so are valuable sources for the history of the Eastern Church. (Quasten) The present letter, to a fellow bishop, concerns their effort to maintain orthodoxy Christology among believers.

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. 448-449 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

The chief good is said by the divine Paul to be love, and by love he ordered the nurslings of the faith to be fed. Of this love your piety possesses great wealth, and so has told me what was befitting and given me pleasant news. For to them that fear the Lord what can be pleasanter than the health and harmony of the doctrines of the truth? Be well assured, most godly sir, that we were much delighted to hear the intelligence of our common friend; and in proportion to our previous distress at hearing that he described the nature of flesh and of Godhead as one, and openly attributed the passion of salvation to the impossible Godhead, so were all rejoiced to read the letters of your holiness, and to learn that he maintains in their integrity the properties of the natures and denies both the change of God the Word into flesh, and the mutation of the flesh into the nature of Godhead, maintaining on the contrary that in the one Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word made man, the properties of either nature abide unconfounded. We praise the God of all for the harmony of divine faith. We have however written to either Cilicia, although our intelligence is imperfect, as to whether there are really any opponents of the truth, and have charged the godly bishops to search and examine if there are any who divide the one Lord Jesus Christ into two sons, and either to bring them to their senses by admonition, or cut them off from the roll of the brethren. For in fact we equally repudiate both those who dare to assert one nature of flesh and Godhead, and those who divide the one Lord Jesus Christ into two sons and strive to go beyond the definitions of the Apostles.

But let your holiness be well assured that we are disposed to peace. For if the prophet says, "With them that hate peace I was peaceful." much more readily do we welcome the peace of God.

Some of those men who have been fed on lies have hurried to Alexandria and patched up calumnies against me, with the result that the godly bishop of that city, led away by their statements, although he had been fully informed by my letters, has sent a pious bishop to the imperial city. I beg you therefore to shew your accustomed kindness to him, and to confront falsehood with the truth.

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.