Fathers of the Church

Letter Xl. to Theodorus the Vicar (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 custom of the feast bids me write a festal letter, but the cloud of our calamities suffers me not to gather the usual happy fruit from it. Who is so stony-hearted as not to be shocked and affrighted at the anger and grief of the Lord? Who is not stirred to the memory of faults? Who does not look for the righteous sentence? All this dims the brightness of the feast, but the Lord is frill of loving-kindness, and we trust He will not actually fulfil His threats, but will look mercifully on us, scatter our sadness, open the springs of mercy, and shew His wonted long suffering. I salute your greatness, and beseech you to send me news of the health I sincerely trust you are enjoying.

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.