Fathers of the Church

Letter LXX. to Eustathius, Bishop of Aegoe

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 commends to his fellow bishop a Libyan woman who, having been captured by barbarians and sold into slavery, had recently been ransomed by some Christian soldiers in Cyrus and now wished to return to her family.

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 story of the noble Mary is one fit for a tragic play. As she says herself, and as is attested by several others, she is a daughter of the right honourable Eudaemon. In the catastrophe which has overtaken Libya she has fallen from her father's free estate, and has become a slave. Some merchants bought her from the barbarians, and have sold her to some of our countrymen. With her was sold a maiden who was once one of her own domestic servants; so at one and the same time the galling yoke of slavery fell on the servant and the mistress. But the servant refused to ignore the difference between them, nor could she forget the old superiority: in their calamity she preserved her kindly feeling, and, after waiting upon their common masters, waited upon her who was reckoned her fellow slave, washed her feet, made her bed, and was mindful of other like offices. This became known to the purchasers. Then through all the town was noised abroad the free estate of the mistress and the servant's goodness. On these circumstances becoming known to the faithful soldiers who are quartered in our city (I was absent at the time) they paid the purchasers their price, and rescued the woman from slavery. After my return, on being informed of the deplorable circumstances, and the admirable intention of the soldiers, I invoked blessings on their heads, committed the noble damsel to the care of one of the respectable deacons, and ordered a sufficient provision to be made for her. Ten months had gone by when she heard that her father was still alive, and holding high office in the West, and she very naturally expressed a desire to return to him. It was reported that many messengers from the West are on the way to the fair which is now being held in your parts. She requested to be allowed to set out with a letter from me. Under these circumstances I have written this letter, begging your piety to take care of a noble girl, and charge some respectable person to communicate with mariners, pilots, and merchants, and commit her to the care of trusty men who may be able to restore her to her father. There is no doubt that those who, when all hope of recovery has been lost, bring the daughter to the father, will be abundantly rewarded.

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.