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Fathers of the Church

Letter CLXXXI. Letter to Abundius, Bishop of Como

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 Theodoret acknowledges the importance of the western Fathers for the continued orthodoxy of the eastern Church. He gives his wholehearted assent to the Tome of Leo (Pope Leo’s dogmatic letter to Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople, which would be adopted by the council of Chalcedon in the following year), and indicates that bishops Ibas of Edessa and Aquilinus, who like Theodoret have been prominent victims of the Monophysites, also accept the Tome.

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. The present letter is to St. Abundius of Como. Abundius was a Greek priest who became bishop of Como, in northern Italy, and was one of two legates sent by Pope Leo the Great to Constantinople in 450, at the height of the Monophysite crisis. They brought with them a list of quotations from both eastern and western Church Fathers supporting orthodox teaching against the Monophysites.

by Theodoret in 450 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

To my dear lord and very holy brother Abundius Theodoretus sends greeting in the Lord. I have discovered that your piety religiously preserves the true and apostolic faith; and I have thanked Almighty God that the truth which was in peril has been renewed and brought to light by your holiness.

Of old, after the flood, it came to pass that Noah and his sons were left for seed of the human race. Just so in our own day are reserved the fathers of the West, that by them the holy churches of the East may be able to preserve that true religion which has been threatened with devastation and destruction by a new and impious heresy. Well may we quote those words of the prophet "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant we should have been as Sodom and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." So upon us from this impious heresy the wrath of God has fallen like a flood and invasion.

Now we acknowledge the presence of our Saviour in a human body, and one Son of God, His perfect Godhead and His perfect manhood. We do not divide our one Lord Jesus Christ into two sons for He is one; but we recognise the distinction between God and man; we know that one is of the Father, the other of the seed of David and Abraham, according to the divine Scriptures, and that the divine nature is free from passion, the body which was before subject to passion being now itself too free from passion; for after the resurrection it is plainly delivered from all passion.

This we have learnt from the letter of the very holy and religious Archbishop our lord Leo. For we have read what he wrote to Flavianus, of holy and blessed memory, and have thanked the loving-kindness of the Lord because we have found an advocate and defender of the truth. To this letter I have given my adhesion, and have subjoined a copy of it to my present epistle, which I have also subscribed and have thereby proved that I obey the apostolic rules, that is true doctrines; that I abide in them to this day, and am suffering in their cause.

Assent has also been given by my lord Ibas and my lord Aquilinus against whom the inventors of the new heresy have armed the imperial power.

It remains for you with your very holy colleagues to bring aid to the sacred Church, and to drive away the war that threatens it. Banish the impious party which has been roused against the truth; give back the churches their ancient peace; so will you receive from the Lord, Who has promised to grant this boon, the fruits of your apostolic labours.

All the very religious and godly presbyters and reverend deacons and brethren by your holiness I greet; and I and all who are with me salute your reverence.

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.