Fathers of the Church

Letter Cxl. to the Master Vincomalus

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 Vincomalus for intervening on his behalf despite the fact that they were not previously acquainted; 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

I have been much astonished to learn that your magnificence, though quite unacquainted with me and mine, and knowing only the wrong that had been done me, stood up as my advocate, and left no means untried to undo the results of the conspiracy against me. But your excellency will assuredly receive recompense from our bountiful Lord, for He who promised to give a reward for a little water will doubtless give greater recompense to the givers of greater gifts.

I have indeed endured such sufferings as none, or at least very few, of the ancients have undergone, and this not only from my open foes, but, as I apprehend, from my real friends. The former attacked me, the latter betrayed me.

Who in the world ever heard of such a trial? Who ever commanded a criminal to be tried in his absence after chaining him up at a distance of more than five and thirty stages? What judge has ever been so savage and inhuman as not only to try men, aye but to condemn men the sound of whose voice he has never heard, and this in most savage and inhuman fashion? The Lord has ordered the erring brother, who spurns advice, after a first, second and third admonition, to be treated as "an heathen man and a publican" Now these most equitable and righteous judges have not even given to them of the same faith with themselves the treatment which they give to heathen men and publicans. These indeed they do see and occasionally converse with, and that with all honour and deference where they appear to be of rank and dignity. But they have ordered me to be cut off from home, from water, from everything. This is the way in which they have wished to become imitators of our Father in heaven "Who maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." But of these men I will say no more. The tribunal of the Lord is at hand where is required not stage pretence but the reality of life. Now I beseech your excellency to express my thanks to the emperor, the lover of Christ and victorious, and to the very pious and godly Augusta, for having made true religion the firm root of their pious empire, and to implore their majesties to make the peace of the churches firm by commanding the assembling of a council, not of men of violence who throw the discussion into confusion, but of the lovers of the truth who confirm the apostolic teaching, and repudiate this new fangled and spurious heresy. And I pray that of these honourable endeavours you may reap the fruit at the hands of our loving Lord.

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.