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Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXXV. to Bishop Romulus

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 encourages a weak bishop to return to the profession or orthodoxy now that the Monophysites are no longer in power.

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

You have reminded me of the ancient story, and remarked how the King of the Syrians, bethinking him of the loving kindness of the kings of Israel, assumed the form of a suppliant and failed not to obtain his petition. Remember therefore, sir, the divine wrath. God delivered Ahab to utter destruction for using mercy, and delivered his sentence through the mouth of the prophet, saying "Thy life shall go for his life and thy people for his people." We are thus commanded to temper mercy with justice, since not every kind of mercy is pleasing to the God of all. The present state of affairs specially requires prudent council; for we are contending on behalf of the divine doctrines, wherein we have the hope of our salvation. But herein, too, may be seen the great difference between man and man. Some men are verily infected with the common impiety; while others, without distinction, advance at one time one doctrine, and at another its opposite. Some who know the truth conceal it in the secret chambers of their soul, while they preach impiety with the rest; others again who are filled with envy have made their private ill-will an occasion of waging war against the truth, and wreak all kinds of mischief against the prophets of the truth. Again, there are who embrace the truth of the apostolic doctrines, and yet because they are afraid of the power of the dominant party are too cowed to proclaim it, and though they lament at the abundance of our misfortunes, nevertheless side with them that set the mighty surge a-rolling. It is in this last category that we place your reverence. We have believed you to be sound in the divine doctrines, and think that you keep your affection for me, and are borne along with the time for no other reason than your cowardice. Under these circumstances though I am not writing to any of the rest, I write to year holiness, and receive your reply. I see your drift and to some extent I pardon your pusillanimity. But the loving Lord has now removed all occasions of cowardice, by exhibiting the new-fangled impiety, and shewing the plain truth of the gospels. I, even though my mouths were as many as my hairs, cannot praise as I ought the loving-kindness of the Lord for compelling my strongest opponents openly to preach what has been preached by me. For I have heard that he who shares your holiness's roof, when he heard that anathemas had been published in the great cities, ceased to imitate the crooked gait of crabs, and, after disputing in a certain assembly about doctrines, walked in the straight road. Never must we suit our words to the season, but ever preserve the unbending rule of truth.

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.