Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Fathers of the Church

Letter CXIX. to Anatolius the Patrician


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 is the fourth letter to Anatolius during the Monophysite crisis (see LXXIX, XCII, CXI). In it, he asks his friend to obtain for him from Emperor Theodosius permission to travel to Rome to appeal his condemnation, or at least to spend his exile in the monastery where he had lived before becoming bishop.


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. Letters CXIV-CXXXII were written during his exile from Cyrus after the “Robber-Council” of Ephesus.

by Theodoret in 449-450 | translated by Blomfield Jackson

Your excellency has been fully informed as to the acts of the most righteous judges at Ephesus, for their sound has gone out into all lands and their most just judgment to the ends of the world. What church has not felt the storm that has been raised by it? The one side wronged, the other were wronged, but they who neither suffered nor did the wrong share the distress of the wronged, and lament over them that so savagely and against all laws human and divine massacred their own members. Even house breakers caught in the very act are first tried and then punished by their judges; even murderers, violators of sepulchres, and adulterers, are first haled before the bench, and their accusers ordered to make their indictment, and the motive of the witnesses is tested to see that they are not giving evidence to curry favour with the prosecutors or are prejudiced against the defendants and after this they are bidden to make their defence to the charges brought against them. This is done twice, thrice; sometimes even four times; and then, and not till then, after the truth has been sought in the words of both accuser and accused, the sentence is given. As to how these men judged in the case of the rest I will say nothing, lest I may seem a meddler in what does not concern me. I am forced to speak on behalf of myself alone, for the unrighteous deed of violence compels me. The imperial order kept me at home, and prevented me from travelling beyond the bounds of the city placed under my pastoral care. The decision of the synod went against me, and a man was condemned who was five and thirty days' journey away.

Now the God of all said to the patriarch Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah: "Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is very great and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it which is come unto me; and if not, I will know." He knew quite well the wickedness of those men, and nevertheless He said, "I will go down and see," so teaching us to wait for the proof of facts. But these men never summoned me to trial, they never heard the sound of my voice, they refused to hear from me a statement of my opinions, and handed me over, as a victim to be slaughtered, to the rage of the enemies of the truth.

I, however, welcome my rest, and especially so at the present time, when the apostolic decrees have been by many destroyed, and the new heresy strengthened. But lest any one who does not know me should believe that the slanders uttered against me are true, and should be scandalized at the idea of my holding opinions other than those of the gospel, I implore your excellency to ask as a favour from the victorious sovereign that I may go to the West, and there plead my cause before the very godly and holy bishops; and if I be found transgressing in the least degree the rule of the faith, that I may be plunged into the midst of the deep sea. If he will not grant you this request, let him at least command me to inhabit my monastery, which is a hundred and twenty miles away from Cyrus, seventy- five from Antioch, and lies three miles away from Apamea.

Of these petitions, if possible, I ask the former; if not at least I implore that, through your excellency's interposition, the second may be granted me. I shall ever carry the memory of your kindness in my heart and on my lips, supplicating the Lord of hosts to requite your excellency as well with present as with future blessings. I am compelled to write to you in these terms because I have heard that certain persons are endeavouring to compass my removal from this place.

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.

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