Fathers of the Church
Letter CIX: to Julian, Bishop of Cos
by Leo the Great in 452 | translated by Charles Lett Feltoe, M.A
Leo, the pope, to Julian, the bishop.
I. He laments over the recent rioting in Palestine.
The information which you give, brother, about the riotous doings of the false monks is serious and to no slight degree lamentable; for they are due to the war which the wicked Eutyches by the madness of deceivers is waging against the preaching of the Gospel and the Apostles, though it will end in his own destruction and that of his followers but this is delayed by the long-suffering of God, in order that it may appear how greatly the enemies of the cross of Christ are enslaved to the devil; because heretical depravity, breaking through its ancient veil of pretence can no longer restrain itself within the limits of its hypocrisy, and has poured forth all its long-concealed poison, raging against the disciples of the Truth not only with pen but also with deeds of violence, in order to wrest consent from unlearned simplicity or from panic-stricken faith. But the sons of light ought not to be so afraid of the sons of darkness, as being sane to acquiesce in the ideas of madmen or to think that any respect should be shown to men of this kind; for, if they would rather perish than recover their senses, provision must be made lest their escape from punishment should do wider harm, and long toleration of them should lead to the destruction of many.
II. The ringleaders must be removed to a distance.
I am not unaware what love and favour is due to our sons, those holy and true monks, who forsake not the moderation of their profession, and carry into practice what they promised by their vows. But these insolent disturbers, who boast of their insults and injuries to priests, are to be held not the slaves of Christ, but the soldiers of Antichrist, and must be chiefly humiliated in the person of their leaders, who incite the ignorant mob to uphold their insubordination. And hence, seeing that our most merciful Prince loves the catholic Faith with all the devotion of a religious heart, and is greatly offended at the effrontery of these rebel heretics, as is everywhere reported, we must appeal to his clemency that the instigators of these seditions be removed from their mad congregations; and not only Eutyches and Dioscorus but also any who have been forward in aiding their wrongheaded madness, be placed where they can hold no intercourse with their partners in blasphemy: for the simpleness of some may chance to be healed by this method, and men will be more easily recalled to soundness of mind, if they be set free from the incitements of pestilential teachers.
III. He sends a letter of S. Athanasius to show that the present heresy is only a revival of former exploded heresies.
But lest the instruction necessary for the confirmation of faithful spirits or the refutation of heretics should be wanting or not expressed, I have sent the letter of bishop Athanasius of holy memory addressed to bishop Epictetus, whose testimony Cyril of holy memory made use of at the Synod of Ephesus against Nestorius, because it has so clearly and carefully set forth the Incarnation of the Word', as to overthrow both Nestorius and Eutyches by anticipation in the heresies of those times. Let the followers of Eutyches and Dioscorus dare to accuse such an authority as this of ignorance or of heresy, who assert that our preaching goes astray from the teaching and the knowledge of the Fathers. But it ought to avail for the confirmation of the minds of all the Lord's priests, who, having been already detected and condemned of heresy in respect of the authorities they followed, now begin more openly to set forth their blasphemous dogma, lest, if their meaning were hid beneath the cloke of silence it might still be doubtful whether the triple error of Apollinaris, and the mad notion of the Manichees was really revived in them. And as they no longer seek to hide themselves but rise boldly against the churches of Christ, must we not take care to destroy all the strength of their attempts, observing. as I have said, such discrimination as to separate the incorrigible from the more docile spirits: for "evil conversations corrupt good manners," and "the wise man will be sharper than the pestilent person who is chastised;" in order that in whatever way the society of the wicked is broken up, some vessels may be snatched from the devil's hand? For we ought not to be so offended at scurrilous and empty words as to have no care for their correction.
IV. He expresses a hope that Juvenal's timely acknowledgment of error will be imitated by the rest.
But bishop Juvenal, whose injuries are to be lamented, joined himself too rashly to those blasphemous heretics, and by embracing Eutyches and Dioscorus, drove many ignorant folk headlong by his example, albeit he afterwards corrected himself by wiser counsels. These men, however, who drank in more greedily the wicked poison, have become the enemies of him, whose disciples they had been before, so that the very food he had supplied them was turned to his own ruin: and yet it is to be hoped they will imitate him in amending his ways, if only the holy associations of the neighbourhood in which they dwell will help them to recover their senses. But the character of him who has usurped the place of a bishop still living cannot be doubted from the character of his actions, nor is it to be disputed that he who is loved by the assailants of the Faith must be a misbeliever. Meanwhile, brother, do not hesitate to continue with anxious care to keep me acquainted with the course of events by more frequent letters. Dated November 25th in the consulship of Herculanus.
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. (LNPF II/XII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.