Fathers of the Church

Letter XXXVIII. 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

The divine feast of salvation has brought us the founts of God's good gifts, the blessing of the Cross, and the immortality which sprang from our Lord's death, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which gives promise of the resurrection of us all. These being the gifts of the feast, such its exhibition of the bounty of divine grace, it has filled us with spiritual gladness. But encompassed as we are on every side by many and great calamities, the brightness of the feast is dimmed, and lamentation and wailing are mingled with our psalmody. Such sorrows does sin bring forth. It is sin which has filled our life with pangs; it is on account of sin that death is lovelier to us than life; it is on account of sin that when we think in imagination of that incorruptible tribunal we shudder even at the life to come. So may your piety pray that God's loving-kindness may light on us, and that this gloomy and terrible cloud may be dispersed and sunshine again quickly give us joy.

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.