Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXXIV. to Theoctistus, Bishop of Beroea

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 recalls the wrong done him by the Monophysites, while rejoicing that orthodoxy has begun to regain the upper hand.

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 was written after the ascension of Emperor Marcian had begun to restore peace to the Eastern Church, but before Marcian recalled Theodoret from exile.

by Theodoret in 450 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

Our Saviour, Lawgiver, and Lord, was once asked, "What is the first commandment?" His reply was "Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." And He added "This is the first commandment: and the second is like unto it, Thou shall love the neighbour as thyself." Then He said further "On these two commandments bang all the law and the prophets."

He then who keeps these, according to the definition of the Lord, plainly fulfils the Law; and he who transgresses them is guilty of transgressing the whole Law. Let us then examine, before the exact and righteous tribunal of our conscience, whether we have fulfilled the divine commandments. Now the first is kept by him who guards the faith given by God in its integrity, who abominates its assailants as enemies of the truth and hates heartily all those who hate the beloved; and the second by him who most highly esteems the care of his neighbour and who, not only in prosperity but also in apparent misfortunes, observes the laws of friendship. They, on the other hand, who look after their own safety, as they suppose, who on its account make little of the laws of friendship and take no heed of their friends when assaulted and attacked, are reckoned to belong to the number of the wicked and of them that are without. The Lord of all requires better things at the hands of His disciples. "Love" He says "your enemies, for if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? for the sinners and the publicans do this." I, however, have not received even such kindness as publicans receive. Publicans, do I say? I have not even received the consolation given to murderers and wizards in their dungeons. If every one had imitated this cruelty, nothing else would have been left then for me in my life time but to be wasted by want, and, at my death, instead of being committed to a tomb, to be made meat for dogs and wild beasts. But I have found support in those who care nought for this present life, but await the enjoyment of everlasting blessings, and these furnish me with manifold consolation. But the loving Lord "caused judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment." But the wicked shall perish. The falsehood of the new heresy has been proscribed, and the truth of the divine Gospels is publicly proclaimed. I for my part exclaim with the blessed David, "Blessed be the Lord God whet only doeth wondrous things, and blessed be His glorious name: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; amen and amen."

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.