Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Fathers of the Church

Letter CXXV. to Aphthonius, Theodoritus, Nonnus, Scylacius, Apthonius, Joannes, Magistrates of the Zeugmatensis


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 is a brief review of orthodox Christology intended to encourage the recipients in their faith.


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

I know the strength and stability of your faith, and have been filled with the greatest possible delight, for, since we worshippers of the eternal Trinity constitute one body, it is only natural that together with the members that are sound the rest of the members should rejoice. So says the divine Apostle; "Whether one member be honoured all the members rejoice with it." I therefore rejoice with you in your struggles on behalf of the apostolic doctrines and your following of the famous Naboth in more excellent things. Naboth for his vineyard's sake suffered most unrighteous slaughter, because he would not give up the heritage of his fathers. You are fighting not for vineyards, but for divine doctrines, and reject this new-fangled and spurious heresy as blackening the brightness of the teaching of the gospel; you do not suffer the number of the blessed Trinity to be diminished or increased. For it is diminished by those who ascribe the passion of the only begotten to the Godhead; it is increased by those who have the audacity to introduce a second son. You believe in one only begotten, as you do in one Father and in one Holy Ghost. In the only begotten made flesh you behold the assumed nature which He took from us and offered on our behalf. The denial of this nature puts our salvation far from us; for if the Godhead of the only begotten is impassible, as the nature of the Trinity is impassible, and we refuse to acknowledge that which is by nature adapted to suffer, then the preaching of a passion which never happened is idle and vain. For if that which suffers has no existence how could there be a passion? We declare that the divine nature is impassible;—a doctrine confessed by our opponents as well as by ourselves. How then could there be a passion when there is no subject capable of suffering? The great mystery of the oeconomy will appear an appearance, a mere seeming instead of the reality. This is the fable started by Valentinus, Bardesanes, Marcion and Manes. But the teaching handed down to the churches from the beginning recognises, even after the incarnation, one Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and confesses the same to be everlasting God, and man made at the end of days; made man not by the mutation of the Godhead but by the assumption of the manhood. For suppose the divine nature to have undergone mutation into the human nature, then it did not remain what it was; and if it is not what it was, they who have these objects of worship are false in calling Him God. We, on the contrary, recognise the only begotten Son of God to be immutable as God, and Son of the very God. For we have learnt from the divine Scripture that being in the form of God He took the form of the servant; and took on Him the seed of Abraham, not was changed into Abraham's seed; and shared just as we do both in flesh and blood and in a soul immortal and immaculate. Preserving these for our sinful bodies He offered His sinless body and for our souls His soul free from all stain. It is for this reason that we have the hope of the common resurrection for the race will assuredly share with its first fruits, and as we have shared with Adam in his death, so too with Christ our Saviour shall we be sharers in His life. This the divine Apostle has plainly taught us, for "now" he says "is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

I write thus not to inform you but to remind you. I have tried to be brief, but I fear I have transgressed the limits of a letter. I was however urged to write by the very reverend and godly presbyter and archimandrite Mecimas, who, in obedience to the law of love, has undertaken so long a journey, told us of your excellency's zeal, and begged us to inflame it by a letter. I have therefore granted his supplication, and written my letter, and I implore the Lord of all to keep you safe in the faith and make stronger than him who sifts us.

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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