Fathers of the Church

Letter CXVI. to the Presbyter Renatus

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) Along with his letter to Pope Leo (CXIII), Theodoret sent this shorter parallel letter to a presbyter in Rome, asking him to intercede with Leo.

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 CXIV-CXXXII were written during his exile from Cyrus after the “Robber-Council” of Ephesus.

by Theodoret in 449-450 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

We have heard of the warm and righteous zeal of your holiness, and the just and lawful boldness of speech which you employed in condemning the audacious proceedings at Ephesus. Nor is this known to us alone, but the fame of your orthodoxy has gone out into all lands, and all men are celebrating your righteousness, your zeal, your boldness, and your denunciation of my unfair treatment. And your holiness took this course after seeing one massacre. If you had seen the others which took place after your departure you would perhaps have emulated the fervour of the famous Phinehas. I am one of those who was subsequently condemned, being forbidden by the imperial order to attend the council, and sentenced in my absence.

Six and twenty years have I been a bishop; innumerable labours have I undergone; I have struggled hard for the truth; I have freed tens of thousands of heretics from their errors and brought them to the Saviour; and now they have stripped me of my priesthood; they are exiling me from the city. For my old age, for my hairs grown gray in the truth, they have no respect. Wherefore, I beseech your sanctity, persuade the very sacred and holy archbishop to bid me hasten to your council. For that holy see has precedence over all churches in the world, for many reasons; and above all for this, that it is free from all taint of heresy, and that no bishop of heterodox opinion has ever sat upon its throne, but it has kept the grace of the apostles undefiled. Confident in your justice I shall accept your decisions, whatever they may be, and shall claim to be judged by my writings. More than thirty books have I written against Arius and Eunomius, against Marcion, against Macedonius, against the heathen and against Jews; I have interpreted the holy Scriptures, and any one who likes may easily learn that I have followed in the steps of the apostles, proclaiming the one Son, one Father, and one Holy Ghost; one Godhead of the Trinity, one sovereignty, one power, eternity, immutability, impassibility, one will; that the Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect, perfect the manhood taken for our salvation and for our sakes delivered unto death. I do not know one Son of man and another Son of God, but one and the same, Son of God and God begotten of God, and Son of man, through the form of the servant, of the seed of Abraham and David. These and like doctrines I continue to teach; these also I have found in the writings of the most holy and sacred lord archbishop Leo, and I praise the Lord of all that I agree with his apostolic doctrines. Receive, I beseech you, my supplication, and do not overlook the wrongs under which I suffer. On this account I have sent to your holiness the godly presbyters Hypatius and Abramius, chorepiscopi, and Alypius exarch of our monks, adorned as they are by good lives, and able by word of mouth to give you exact information as to the affairs of my insignificant self.

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.