Fathers of the Church

Letter CLII

Description

John of Antioch and his supporters begin by complaining of the high-handed behavior of Cyril of Alexandria and Memnon of Ephesus, who despite their own assurances and the emperor’s orders had convened the Council before the eastern bishops had arrived. For this reason, they continue, they have declared these two bishops deposed, and have excommunicated—pending a real council—all those who subscribe to Cyril’s twelve anathemas or Chapters against Nestorius. (Note: Because Cyril had been delegated by Pope Celestine and because other papal legates confirmed the proceedings afterwards, the meeting condemned in this letter was a genuine ecumenical council of the Church.)

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. Published and numbered among these, however, are a number of letters pertaining to the acts of the Council of Ephesus, only some of which are by Theodoret. The present letter is from the Antiochene bishops at Ephesus in 431 (including Theodoret), to Empress Theodosius II, who had summoned an ecumenical council to be held at Ephesu.

by Theodoret in 431 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

CLII. Report of the(bishops) of the East to the Emperor, giving information of their proceedings, and explaining the cause of the delay in the arrival of the bishop of Antioch.

In obedience to the order of your pious letter we have journeyed to the Ephesian metropolis. There we have found the affairs of the Church in confusion, and disturbed by internecine war. The cause of this is that Cyril of Alexandria and Memnon of Ephesus have handed together and mustered a great mob of rustics, and have forbidden both the celebration of the great feast of Pentecost, and the evening and morning offices.

They have shut the sacred churches and martyrs' shrines; they have assembled apart with the victims of their deceit; they have wrought innumerable iniquities, trampling under foot alike the canons of the holy Fathers, and your own decrees. And the action has been taken in face of the order given both in writing and by word of mouth by the most excellent count Candidianus, envoy of your Christ-loving majesty, that the council must await the arrival of the very holy bishops, coming from all quarters of the Empire, and then and not till then formally assemble in obedience to your piety's commands. Moreover Cyril of Alexandria had written to me, the bishop of Antioch, two days before the meeting of their synod, that the whole council was awaiting my arrival. We have therefore deposed both the aforenamed, Cyril and Memnon, and have excluded them from all the services of the church. The rest, who have participated in their iniquity, we have excommunicated, until they shall reject and anathematize the Chapters issued by Cyril, which are full of the Eunomian and Arian heresies, and shall, in obedience to your piety's command, assemble together with us, and shall in an orderly manner and with all exactitude, together with ourselves, examine into the questions at issue, and confirm the pious doctrine of the holy Fathers.

As to the delay in my own arrival be it known to your piety that, in consideration of the distance of the way by land,—and this was our route,- -I have come very quickly, I have travelled forty stages without pausing to rest on the way; so your Christian majesty may learn from the inhabitants of the towns on the route. Besides this I was detained many days in Antioch by the famine there; by the daily tumults of the people; and by the unusual severity of the rainy season, which caused the torrents to swell, and threatened danger to the town.

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.