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Fathers of the Church

Letter LXIII. Festal

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. It includes 14 specimens, including the present letter, of a new and interesting literary genre, the Festal Letters, as Theodoret himself calls them. They have nothing to do with the Festal Letters of the patriarchs at Alexandria (see the letters of St. Athanasius). Apparently, it was the etiquette at Antioch and Cyrus to exchange good wishes with friends, both clergy and lay, on the occasion of the great liturgical feasts. Most of Theodoret’s were sent out, not before, but after the holiday, which he speaks of as already passed. (Quasten)

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

We have enjoyed the wonted blessings of the Feast. We have kept the memorial Feast of the Passion of Salvation; by means of the resurrection of the Lord we have received the glad tidings of the resurrection of all, and have hymned the ineffable loving kindness of our God and Savior. But the storm tossing the churches has not suffered us to take our share of unalloyed gladness. If, when one member is in pain the whole body is partaker of the pang, how can we forbear from lamentation when all the body is distressed? And it intensifies our discouragement to think that these things are the prelude of the general apostasy. May your piety pray that since we are in this plight we may get the divine succour, that, as the divine Apostle phrases it, we may 'be able to withstand the evil day." But if any time remain for this life's business, pray that the tempest may pass away, and the churches recover their former calm, that the enemies of the truth may no more exult at our misfortunes.

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.