Fathers of the Church

Letter CII. to Bishop Basilius

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) In this letter his reproaches a fellow bishop for failing to defend him against the slander of his enemies.

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

There is nothing remarkable in the reproaches that are directed against me being heard in silence by men who do not know me; but that your holiness should not refute the lies of my revilers, or at least should do so only to a certain extent, and with no great heartiness, passes the belief of any one who knows your character and conduct. And I say this not because friendship ought to be preferred to truth, but because the witness of truth is on the side of friendship. Your reverence has very often heard me preaching in church, and, in other assemblies where I have spoken on doctrinal questions; you have listened to what I have said, and I do not know of any occasion on which you have found fault with me for expressing unorthodox opinions. But what is the case at the present moment? Why in the world, my dear friend, do you not utter a word against falsehood, while you allow a friend to be calumniated and the truth to be assailed? If this is because you disregard the helpless and insignificant, remember the plain proclamation of the commandment of the Lord "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones which believe in me, for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." If however it is the influence of my calumniators which imposes silence upon you, you must listen to the other law which says "Thou shalt not honour the person of the mighty" and "Judge righteous judgment" and "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" and "He that shutteth his eyes from seeing evil and stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood." You may find innumerable similar passages in holy Scripture, which I have thought it needless to collect when writing to a man brought up in the divine oracles, and watering Christian people with his teaching. But this I will say, that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and shall give account of our words and deeds. I, who for every other reason dread this tribunal, now that I am encompassed with calumny, find my chief consolation in the thought of 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.