Fathers of the Church

Letter CXLI. to Marcellus, Archimandrite of the Acoemetae

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) This letter conveys Theodoret’s esteem for one who, like himself, had been persecuted by the Monophysites for his defense of orthodoxy.

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 Theodoret’s recall from exile and before the Council of Chalcedon.

by Theodoret in 450-451 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

Bright is made your holiness by your goodly life, exhibiting on earth the image of the conversation of the angels, but it is made still brighter by your zeal for the apostolic faith. As keel to boat, as corner-stone to house, so to them that choose to live in piety is the truth of the doctrines of the Gospel. For this truth when assailed you have bravely fought, not striving to protect it as though it were weak, but shewing your godly disposition; for the teaching of our Master Christ is gifted with stability and strength, in accordance with the promise of the same Saviour, "that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." It is the loving and bountiful Lord who has thought right that I too should be dishonoured and slain on behalf of this doctrine. For truly we have reckoned dishonour honour, and death life. We have heard the words of the apostle "For unto us it is given by God not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." But the Lord arose like the sleeper, and stopped the mouths of them that uttered blasphemy against God and injustice against me. But He has made the tongues of the pious pour forth their fountains in their wonted message. I, however, am gathering the delightful fruits of rest; as I look at the agitation of the churches I am grieved, but I rejoice and am glad at being freed from cares. I have ever been gratified at your admirable piety, but heretofore I have not written, not from any lack of regard for the dictates of charity, but because I have waited for some suitable occasion. Just now, having fallen in with the most pious and prudent monks who have been sent by your holiness on other business, I have lost no time in carrying out my wish. I salute your godliness. I beg you in the first place to support me with your prayers, and further to cheer me by a letter, for by God's grace I have been attacked for the Gospel's sake.

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.