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Fathers of the Church

Letter XCIV. to Protogenes the Prefect

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) This letter informs the recipient, an imperial magistrate, of the bishops’ mission and asks him to use his influence in favor of orthodoxy.

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 LXXIX-CXI date from 448 and 449, and chronicle the growing agitation in the Eastern Church during the Monophysite crisis, including the slanders that led to Theodoret’s illegitimate deposition at the “Robber-Council” of Ephesus in 449. Among these, most or all of XCII-CIX were sent with a group of Antiochene bishops who had gone to Constantinople to defend themselves and especially Theodoret against charges of heresy.

by Theodoret in c. 449 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

The loving-kindness of the Lord has already given you an opportunity of carrying out your good intentions. He has given you a greater opportunity now, that your excellency may the more easily champion the cause of the truth that is assailed, bring lies to nought, and give the churches the calm for which they so intensely long. Your excellency has already learned from many other sources how great is the surge by which the churches in the East are overwhelmed, but you will acquire more accurate information concerning it from the very religious bishops who, on account of it, have undertaken their long journey in the winter, relying, next after the Grace of God, on the providence of your authority. Disperse for us, then, O Christian man, the storm, change the moonless night into clear sunshine, and bridle the tongues set wagging against us. We by God's grace are ever fighting for the apostolic decrees, and we preserve undefiled the faith laid down at Nicaea, and style impious all who dare to violate its dogmas. In evidence of the truth of what I say may be cited my catechumens, those who are from time to time baptized by me, and the hearers of my discourses in the churches. If they mean to accuse me in accordance with the law, they must convict the in my presence, not slander me in my absence. In this manner your excellency, when giving judgment in other cases, is wont to deliver your sentences, perceiving on which side lies the right from the pleadings both of the prosecution and of the defence.

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.