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Fathers of the Church

Letter VIII. to Eugraphia

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 he encourages a recently widowed woman to look upon her husband’s death with a serenity based on both common sense and the hope of the resurrection.

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.

by Theodoret in Unknown | translated by Blomfield Jackson

It is needless for me to bring once more to bear upon your grief the spells of the spirit. The mere mention of the sufferings that wrought our salvation is enough to quench distress, even at its worst. Those sufferings were all undergone for humanity. Our Lord did not destroy death to make one body victorious over death, hut through that one body to effect our common resurrection, and make our hope of it a sure and certain hope. And if even while our holy celebrations are bringing you manifold refreshment of soul, you cannot overcome your sense of sorrow, let me beg you, my honoured friend, to read the very words of the marriage contract which follow on the mention of the dowry, and to see how the wedding is preceded by the reminder of death. Knowing as we do that men are mortal, and be thinking us of the peace of survivors, it is customary to lay down what are called conditions, and for no hesitation to be shewn at the mention of death before the joining together in marriage. These are the plain words "If the husband should die first it is agreed that so and so be done; if this lot should first fall to the wife, so and so." We knew all this before the wedding; we are waiting for it so to say every day. Why then take it amiss? The union must needs be broken either by the death of the husband or the departure of the wife. Such is the course of life. You know, my excellent friend, alike God's will and human nature; dispel then your despondency and wait for the fulfilment of the common hope of the just.

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.