Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXXIX. to Aspar, Consular and Patrician

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 thanks Aspar for his role in issuing the imperial edict recalling Theodoret from exile; he asks him to thank the emperor and Augusta Pulcheria to and encourage them to call a new council in order to restore peace and unity to 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. The present letter was written shortly after Theodoret received from Emperor Marcian his recall from the exile imposed by Emperor Theodosius II at the instance of the Monophysites.

by Theodoret in 450-451 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

To the other good deeds of your excellency must be added your having acquainted our pious and most christian emperor, whom God's grace has appointed for the blessing of his subjects, of the enormous wrong done against me, and your having by a righteous edict annulled an edict which was nothing of the kind. Supported by divine Providence I have made what they reckoned a punishment a means of good, and I have welcomed my rest with delight; but none the less I have been wrongly and illegally treated, though in no single point guilty of the errors which the enemies of the truth slanderously laid at my door, but yet made to suffer the penalty of the greatest criminals. Nay, my fate has been yet harder than theirs. I was judged without a trial; I was doomed in my absence; when forbidden by the emperor's orders to go to Ephesus I received the most righteous sentence of my holy judges. All this has now been undone by his most serene majesty, through the active interposition of your excellency. I, for my part, feeling that I should be wrong to keep silent and not offer you my thanks, have availed myself of this letter, whereby I beseech your excellency to speak in warm terms in my behalf both to the victorious and Christian emperor and to the very godly and pious Augusta. On their behalf I implore our good Lord as earnestly as lies in my power to guard their empire in security, and to grant that it may be at once a source of loving protection for their subjects, and of terror to their foes, and establish honourable peace for all. May your excellency be induced to petition them completely to put an end to the agitation of the Church, and order the assembling of the council; not, like the last, of men who from their habits of unruliness throw the synod into confusion, but, in peace and quiet, of members instructed in divine things, and in the habit of confirming the apostolic decrees and rejecting what is spurious and at variance with the truth. And I express this hope to the end that your excellency may reap the good which such a course of conduct is likely to produce.

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.