Fathers of the Church

Letter LXIX. to Eugraphia

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) Here he consoles a widow upon the recent death of her husband.

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

Had I not been unavoidably prevented, I should no sooner have heard that your great and glorious husband had fallen asleep than I should straightway have hurried to your side. I have enjoyed at your hands many and various kinds of honour, and I owe you full many thanks. When hindered, much against my will, from paying my debt, I deemed it ill-advised to send you a letter at the very moment, when your grief was at its height; when it was impossible for my messenger to approach your excellency, and when grief prevented you from reading what I wrote. But now that your reason has had time to wake from the intoxication of grief, to repress your emotion, and to discipline the license of sorrow, I have made bold to write and to beseech your excellency to bethink you of human nature, to reflect how common is the loss you deplore, and, above all, to accept the divine teaching, and not let your distress go beyond the bounds of your faith. For your most excellent husband, as the Lord Himself said, "is not dead but sleepeth"—a sleep a little longer than he was wont. This hope has been given us by the Lord; this promise we have received from the divine oracles. I know indeed how distressing is the separation, how most distressing; and especially so when affection is made stronger by sympathy of character and length of time. But let your grief be for a journey into a far country, not for a life ended. This kind of philosophy is particularly becoming to them that be brought up in piety, and it is of this philosophy that I beseech you, my respected friend, to seek the adornment. And I do not offer you this advice as a man labouring himself under insensibility; in truth my heart was grieved when I learnt of the departure of one I loved so well. But I call to mind the Ruler of the world and His unspeakable wisdom, which ordains everything for our good. I implore your holiness to take these reflections to heart, to rise superior to your sorrow, and praise God who is the Master of us all. It is with ineffable providence that He guides the lives of men.

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.