Fathers of the Church

Letter XCVI. to Nomus the Patrician

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 Christian orthodoxy; Theodoret also reproaches Nomus for not answering his previous letters (cf. letter LXXXI), and asks whether he has offended in some way.

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

I have written to you two letters, indeed I think three, but without getting any answer. I had wished to say no more, but to know my own place and the greatness of dignities, and to beg you to inform me of the cause of your silence. Really I do not know what offence I can have given to your excellency. We err unwillingly as well as willingly, and sometimes are quite ignorant in what way we are transgressing. I therefore beg your greatness, remembering the divine laws which plainly charge us "If thy brother shall trespass against thee go and tell him his fault between him and thee alone" to deign to make plain to me the origin of the annoyance, that I may either prove myself innocent, or, made aware of where I was wrong, may beg your pardon. In my confidence in the evidence of my conscience I hope for the former. All men are adorned by magnanimity, and not least those who, following the example of your excellency, trained in outside education as well as instructed in divine principles, both hear the apostolic laws loudly exclaiming "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath" and remember the words of Homer

"In fit bounds contain thy mighty mind;
Benignity is best."

I have thus written not as though giving you information, but to remind one who is much occupied, and I do so in remembrance of the law of the Lord, who says "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift." In obedience to these words I have thought it right to salute your excellency by the most pious bishops, and to exhort you to give heed to the tranquillity of the churches. They are indeed overwhelmed by a great storm.

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.