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Fathers of the Church

Letter LXXII. to Hermesigenes the Assessor (Festal)

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. It includes more than a dozen specimens, including the present letter, of a new and interesting literary genre, the Festal Letters, as Theodoret himself calls them. They have nothing to do with the Festal Letters of the patriarchs at Alexandria (see the letters of St. Athanasius). Apparently, it was the etiquette at Antioch and Cyrus to exchange good wishes with friends, both clergy and lay, on the occasion of the great liturgical feasts. Most of Theodoret’s were sent out, not before, but after the holiday, which he speaks of as already passed. (Quasten)

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

At the time when men were whelmed in the darkness of ignorance, all did not keep the same feasts, but celebrated distinct ceremonies in different cities. In Aeleis were the Olympian games, at Delphi the Pythian, at Sparta the Hyacinthian, at Athens the Panathenaic, the Thesmophoria, and the Dionysian. These were the most remarkable, and further some men celebrated the revel feast of some daemons and some of others. But now that those mists have been scattered by intellectual light, in every land and sea mainlanders and islanders together keep the feast of our God and Saviour, and whithersoever any one may wish to travel abroad, journey he either towards rising or towards setting sun, everywhere he will find the same celebration observed at the same time. There is no longer necessity, in obedience to the law of Moses which was adapted to the infirmity of the Jews, to come together into one city and keep the feast in memory of our blessings, but every town, every village, the country and the farthest frontiers, are filled with the grace of God, and in every spot divine shrines and precincts are consecrated to the God of all. So through every town we observe our several festivals and communicate with one another in the feast. It is the same God and Lord who is honoured in our hymns and to whom our mystic sacrifices are offered. On this account, as is well known, we neighbours address one another by letter and signify the joy that comes to us in the feast. So now do I to you and offer the festal salutation to your excellency. You will without doubt reply and honour the custom of the feast.

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.