Fathers of the Church

Letter XVIII. to Neoptolemus

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 widower on the recent death of his wife.

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

Whenever I cast my eyes on the divine law which calls those who are joined together in marriage "one flesh," I am at a loss how to comfort the limb that has been sundered, because I take account of the greatness of the pang. But when I consider the course of nature, and the law which the Creator has laid down in the words "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return," and all that goes on daily in all the world on land and sea— for either husbands first approach the end of life or this lot first befalls the wives—I find from these reflections many, grounds of consolation; and above all the hopes that have been given us by our Lord and Saviour. For the reason of the accomplishment of the mystery of the incarnation was that we, being taught the defeat of death, should no more grieve beyond measure at the loss by death of those we love, but await the longed-for fulfilment of the hope of the resurrection. I entreat your Excellency to reflect on these things, and to overcome the pain of your grief; and all the more because the children of your common love are with you, and give you every ground of comfort. Let us then praise Him who governs our lives wisely, nor rouse His anger by immoderate lamentation, for in His wisdom He knows what is good for us, and in His mercy He gives it.

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.