Fathers of the Church
Letter LXXXVI.(2) to Flavianus, Bishop of Constantinople
by Theodoret in 448-449 | translated by Blomfield Jackson
At the present time, most God-beloved lord, I have received many buffetings of billows, but I called upon the great Pilot, and have been able to stand firm against the storm; the attacks, however, now made upon me transcend every story in tragedy. In relation to the attacks which are being plotted against the apostolic faith, I thought that I should find an ally and fellow-worker in the most godly bishop of Alexandria, the lord Dioscorus, and so sent him one of our pious presbyters, a man of remarkable prudence, with a synodical letter informing his piety that we abide in the agreement made in the time of Cyril of blessed memory, and accept the letter written by him as well as that written by the very blessed and sainted Athanasius to the blessed Epictetus, and, before these, the exposition of the faith laid down at Nicaea in Bithynia by the holy and blessed Fathers. We exhorted him to induce those who are unwilling to abide by these documents at once to abide by them. But one of the opposite party, who keep up these disturbances, by tricking some of those who are on the spot and contriving countless calumnies against myself has stirred an iniquitous agitation against me.
But the very godly bishop Dioscorus has written us a letter such as never ought to have been written by one who has learnt from the God of all not to listen to vain words. He has believed the charges brought against me as though he had made personal enquiry into every one of them, and had arrived at the truth after questioning, and has thus condemned me. I however have bravely borne the calumnious charge, and have written him back a courteous letter, representing to his piety that the whole charge is false, and that not one of the godly bishops of the East holds opinions contrary to the apostolic decrees. Moreover the pious clergy whom he sent as messengers have been convinced by the actual evidence of the facts. These however he has dismissed unheeded, and, lending his ears to my calumniators, has acted in a manner quite incredible, were it not that the whole church bears witness to if. He put up with them that were crying Anathema against me; nay he stood up in his place and confirmed their words by adding his voice to theirs. Besides all this he sent certain godly bishops to the imperial city, as we learnt, in the hope of increasing the agitation against me. I in the first place have for champion Him who seeth all things, for it is on behalf of the divine decrees that I am wrestling— next after Him I invoke your holiness to fight in defence of the faith that is attacked, and do battle on behalf of the canons that are being trodden under foot. When the blessed Fathers were assembled in that imperial city in harmony with them that had sat in council at Nice, they distinguished the dioceses, and assigned to each diocese the management of its own affairs, expressly enjoining that none should intrude from one diocese into another. They ordered that the bishop of Alexandria should administer the government of Egypt alone, and every diocese its own affairs.
Dioscorus, however, refuses to abide by these decisions; he is turning the see of the blessed Mark upside down; and these things he does though he perfectly well knows that the Antiochene metropolis possesses the throne of the great Peter, who was teacher of the blessed Mark, and first and coryphaeus of the chorus of the apostles.
But I know the majesty of the see, and I know and take measure of myself. I have learnt from the first the humility of the Apostles. I beseech your holiness not to overlook the trampling underfoot of the holy canons, and to stand forward zealously as champion of the divine faith, for in that faith we have hope of our salvation and on its account are confident that we shall meet with mercy.
But that your holiness may not be ignorant of this, know, my lord, that he shewed his ill-will towards me from the time of my assenting, in obedience to the canons of the holy Fathers, to the synodical letters issued in your see in the time of Proclus of blessed memory; on this point he has chidden me once and again on the ground of my violating the rights of the church of Antioch and, as he says, of that of Alexandria. Remembering this, and finding, as he thinks, an opportunity, he has exhibited his hostility. But nothing is stronger than the truth. Truth is wont to conquer even with few words. I beseech your holiness to remember me in your prayers to the Lord that I may have power to prevail against the waves that are beating me hither and thither.
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.