Fathers of the Church

Letter CXI. 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) In the present letter he defends himself and Domnus, the bishop of Antioch, against some Edessene critics of Bishop Ibas of Edessa, who was a prominent defender of Antiochene Christology against the Monophysites. (The synod to which he refers appears to be that held in November of 448, at which the Monophysite Eutyches was condemned for heresy; perhaps this synod coincided with the Antiochene delegation to Constantinople mentioned frequently in letters XCII to CIX.)

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

Your excellency will be recompensed for the kindness you have shewn me by the God of all, for all that is done for His sake has its reward. I laugh at all my slanderers. The bodies of them who are most severely scourged do not feel the pain, because the scourged flesh is deadened. Still I lament over them whose unrestrained mouths utter such lies. In what way have the accusers of the godly bishop Ibas been wronged by me that they should utter such calumnies against me? To begin with, I was not even one of the judges, for in obedience to the imperial decree I was living at Cyrus. Moreover, as I have heard from many, they all along treated my absence as a grievance, for I had arranged for their partaking of the Holy Communion at the Easter feast of salvation, and as they often expressed a wish to meet me, I received them with kindness and advised them as to the proper course to take. But that I may also speak in the defence of the very godly bishop the lord Domnus, what was the proper course for him to take? He was openly attacked; he saw men deposed by a synodical sentence sent into another diocese, and resuming their priestly functions in violation of the laws of the Church; he saw things holy and divine laughed at and turned into ridicule by the enemies of the Church; what was he to do? When he knew this he handed over the case to others, and not only to the very godly lord Ibas, but also to the holy lord bishop Symeon of Amida, that the metropolitans of the two provinces might hear the charges. What fairness is there in charging the same persons with cruelty and kindness? If we excommunicate, we run into danger; if we do not excommunicate, we do not escape it. We alone of all the world are objects of attack. Other dioceses are at peace. We alone are exposed to calumniators,—specially I myself, though I took no part in the trial, and am absolutely without responsibility in the matter.

Thus have I been forced to write on reading your lordship's letter, and on learning from it how for these reasons a great commotion has been made against me, a man confined to my diocese; a man of peace; one not even deliberating with the godly bishops of the province. As a matter of fact, although there have been already two episcopal ordinations in our province, I took part in neither. Were I not restrained by the imperial decree I would have gone away, and spent the remainder of my days in some remote spot. I am faint for the plots hatched against me. I am sure those Edessenes never put together their slander against me of their own accord. They were prompted to these attacks on me by their truly truthful neighbours. I thank our Saviour that he has deemed me worthy of the beatitudes of the Gospel, all unworthy though I be. For this reason I have gladly accepted the sentence of relegation. I am ready for exile, and, for the sake of the "hope laid up for me," welcome whatever fate they may inflict. I pray without ceasing for your excellency, and beseech all the saints to share in my petitions.

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.