Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXVI. to the Bishop Sabinianus

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 he reproaches a fellow bishop who, after being deposed from his see by the Monophysites, had appealed to them for reinstatement and thus failed to separate himself from their heretical teaching.

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 CXIV-CXXXII were written during his exile from Cyrus after the “Robber-Council” of Ephesus.

by Theodoret in 449-450 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

I praised your holiness on your quitting the envied see. Once it was venerable; now it is ridiculous, for we have made it a thing to be bought and sold. I was astounded to hear of your having appealed to the men who ejected you. You ought to have done just the contrary, and, on being invited to grasp the tiller, to have declined to do so, on the ground that your shipmates had become your foes. Are you not aware, most godly sir, what our Saviour, through His sacred apostles, taught us to preach? Do you not know what the heirs of the apostolic doctrines have just now laid down as objects of worship? For who of the old teachers from the time when the message was first preached down to the period of the darkness that now obtains, ever listened to any one preaching one nature of flesh and Godhead or dared at any time to call the nature of the only begotten passible? These doctrines in our day are by some men openly and boldly uttered, while among others their utterance is overlooked, and by silence men become participators in the blasphemy. What then, may well be asked, is the proper course to be taken by, those who abominate such doctrines? They have, I should reply, two alternatives before them; they may either come to close quarters, and prove the spuriousness of the doctrines, or they may decline communion with their opponents as openly impious.

I, indeed, have received the wrong done me as a divine blessing. I do not mean that I have thanked them that have wronged me; how could I thank fratricides, and men who have become followers of Cain?

But I praise my Master for thinking me worthy of the lot of them that suffer wrong, for separating me from wrong-doers and blasphemers, and for giving me my most delightful rest.

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.